Cry Pretty: My Infertility Story

I appreciate everyone reading and sharing my blog posts. I am going to be writing and sharing a series of different stories in the near future! Thank you for all your support. Here is my own personal story:

The day a baby is born is considered a miracle. You prepare for nine months to bring this child into the world. It’s a whole process of joy. The nursery gets painted, the crib gets assembled, the baby showers happen, the late night pregnancy cravings are fulfilled and then the labor and delivery starts. After hours of labor, your beautiful bundle of joy arrives into the world and you are now a new family. What happens when infertility happens? The stork forgets your address.

My infertility journey began when I was 12. I woke up in the middle of the night and noticed my period came. (Thank the lord it was the middle of the night.) I went to get my mom to tell her what happened – she gave me some feminine supplies, put me back to bed, and she congratulates me on becoming a woman. A few hours later – I woke up again. This time the bleeding was worse; It was heavier and I had blood clots happening. I figured this was normal. As I went to get my mom to tell her I needed her help, I got out of bed, and I had clots falling out of my body. These clots were large in size – about the size of my fist. I remember trying to clean this mess up off the carpet and trying to get my mom’s attention. She came into the bedroom and she had a concerned look on her face. She helped me get cleaned up and we went down to the hospital. I remember thinking that most girls probably don’t go to the hospital on the first day of their periods.

I was a healthy teenage girl, a competitive swimmer. One of the nurses in the emergency room was one of the mothers from the swim team. She has told me to this day, she still remembers my story and that visit. When we got there, I had a male doctor. The doctor and nurses did everything they needed to do that day, we just didn’t get any good answers. I had my first pelvic exam that day, which can be very traumatic for a young girl who just got her period a couple of hours earlier. By the end of that morning, I was half a day older, a woman and I had a gynecologist. The bleeding didn’t stop for forty days. It took two different types of birth control to get the bleeding to end. One of the birth controls given to me was Depo-Provera. It’s an injectable that contains the hormone progestin. It’s designed to stop your cycle.

Every year I was instructed by my pediatrician to see my gynecologist. I was the tween sitting in the OB-GYN lobby with her mother. I’m sure everyone was thinking I was a knocked up teenager. I got my yearly check-ups, took my birth control, ate well, exercised, and controlled all my symptoms and pain the best way I could. I remember asking every year at my appointments if I would ever have problems having a baby in the future, the answer was always no. At 31 years old, I was told I had endometriosis, adenomyosis, uterine fibroids and lower progesterone levels. I lost my uterus, my cervix and my fallopian tubes that same year. I would never have a baby, and I never had one positive pregnancy test.

I believe most women wish to have a baby of their own. It was my dream. Infertility happens to 1 in 8 couples. I believe I was born with a bad uterus. I was never meant to have a baby of my own. I spent years doing fertility treatments that failed. It took almost twenty years to diagnose my reproductive issues. We did so many interventions to get pregnant. We decided not to pursue IVF or adoption because we did not believe in IVF, and with adenomyosis, you have a high risk of miscarriage. (our opinion on IVF is just personal, I support anyone who attempts IVF.) The embryo can have a difficult time implanting, and I did not want to spend $40,000 on a miscarriage. I do have a stepdaughter – she is such a joy. I felt adoption would feel the same as having a stepchild. I made the choice to love and care for a child that isn’t biologically mine.

Infertility crushes the soul. the grief takes over your life. We need to support one another, we need to speak up and re-define infertility. We need to be our own advocate. There is a stigma about infertility that needs to be lifted – You are not alone. There are many different resources that I have used as my support system: Doctors, therapy, support groups, family, friends, blogging, and my dogs. I have never experienced pain like infertility. I have gone through many trials – death and divorce have been a close second to my infertility. I lost everything in my divorce. Infertility was the cherry on the cake.

I am still standing, I am still living, and I am still thriving. I had been suffering since the age of 12 with an illness I didn’t even know I had. I thought, and was told I was normal. I know many others can relate to my story in some way, shape or form. My husband is my greatest support system. I couldn’t have survived a day without his constant support and love. I am a stepmom, godmom, dogmom, and an auntie.

You can pretty lie and say it’s okay
You can pretty smile and just walk away
Pretty much fake your way through anything
But you can’t cry pretty

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Adoption Stories: La Familia Gellona Lyons

Adoption stories can help you get an idea of what you’re in for if you are interested in adoption. No two adoption stories are alike. Whether you are struggling creating a family, or if your family just appears on your doorstep, I hope my best friend’s story brings love and joy to your journey. Sarah, Piero, and Leidy live in Santiago, Chile. This is Sarah’s story about their daughter Leidy:

Adopting was never in my plans. I suppose that having kids was, but even that wasn’t a high priority. So when a 5-year-old Haitian girl was abandoned at my door 3 years ago, I had a lot to think about and even more to learn.

First I had to decide what to do with her; I could turn her over to the Chilean version of CPS, or I could file paperwork to try to keep her. I wasn’t thinking about having a child at this point, and I certainly hadn’t considered adopting, much less a child that could already walk, and talk and had a head full of memories. Nonetheless, after spending a few days with her, there was no doubt that I couldn’t leave her to a life of orphanages and foster care, knowing that 5-year-olds aren’t usually adopted very easily. That is when I decided to fight to keep her.

Then I had to learn how to raise her. What can 5-year-olds do? What do they know? Where should she go to school? What do I do with her afro-braided hair? How do I communicate with her if her Spanish is minimal and my creole is nothing?  I started little by little, with a lot of support from friends and family, and a whole lot of Google for help. She’s still alive today, and even more than that she is happy, healthy, energetic, loving and witty, so I must be doing something right (although I think her personality has a lot to do with it!). She gets good grades in school (we could improve on her chatting in class though!), speaks better Spanish now than I do, is rocking awesome purple hair extensions currently, and has so many friends in her school and our neighborhood.

Through the days, weeks, months and now years, we have gotten to know each other, love each other and form what most would consider a totally normal family. It isn’t usually until someone else points out that she is black and I am white (which is often.. racism is alive and kicking in Chile) that I remember that there are some physical differences between us. It is amazing how often people make comments like this or ask us questions that I don’t know how to answer, but at the same time know that adoption is sometimes a hard thing to understand, especially in a country where it isn’t very common.  “But where are her parents?” We are right here, raising her and loving her every day. She doesn’t think of anyone else as her parents, and neither do we, so we are right here. “Do you think you’ll love your own kids more than you love her?” I think it takes a lot of courage to love a child that you haven’t loved since before their birth, so no, I don’t think that I will love my other children (not “my own”, because she is my own) more than I love her.

It is also awesome to see how naturally she reacts to everything. She often says that we are so alike, that we walk and talk alike, that we have the same mannerisms, so “maybe people will get us confused when I am a little bit older. ” Or when people comment on how tall she is, she always says it is because her mom is tall, as if she had my genes. She has even learned how to avoid all of the typical questioning that we get. A few months ago we went to a water park. As we walked in she could barely contain her excitement, so she walked up to the counter and told the man “Hi. We are a different type of family. I am from Haiti, my dad is from Chile and my mom is from the US. I am adopted. Now we would like 3 tickets please to the water park.” No time for questions, sir.

As a family are currently living a totally new experience as we await another baby at the beginning of next year. She can’t wait to be a big sister– only if it is a girl though. She has taken it so naturally, is very excited and not an ounce of doubt or fear exists in her that this baby will replace her or be loved any more being my biological child.

I know that adoption is a big decision, and can be long and costly. In our case it has all been worth it. It has been so natural, so fun and so rewarding to have Leidy join our family.

“Adopting one child wont change the world. But for that one child the world will change.”

“However motherhood comes to you – it’s a miracle.” Much love to my best friend and her growing family. ♥️

Broken Body: Endometriosis & Adenomyosis

What the hell is Endometriosis and Adenomyosis?

Let’s start off with Endometriosis. Endometriosis occurs when the cells from the uterine lining plants in areas outside of the uterus. They thicken, break down and bleed each month. Here is the problem – the implants have no way to leave the body. Laparoscopy typically allows the doctor to make the most thorough evaluation of the condition, and how extensive it is. Endometriosis can occur at any stage in a women’s reproductive years. I fully believe I had Endometriosis starting in my teenage years. I wasn’t diagnosed until the age of 31.

Adenomyosis occurs when endometrial cells exist and grow into the walls of the uterus. The cells are affected each month with a woman’s period. The result of these periods can be an enlarged uterus, pelvic pain and heavy bleeding. A doctor may suspect Adenomyosis based on an evaluation which could include a pelvic exam, ultrasound, or an MRI. It is said that Adenomyosis can only be truly diagnosed after a hysterectomy. When I went in for my 100th evaluation, I was suspecting Endometriosis. The doctor told me he believed I had Adenomyosis. The Endometriosis was found with a Laparoscopic procedure, and my Adenomyosis was discovered after my total hysterectomy was completed. Adenomyosis commonly affects women in their forties and fifties. It can also occur among teenagers. I believe I was affected as a teenager, and I believe this is the main reason I could not have a baby.

What does Endometriosis and Adenomyosis feel like?

While these two conditions are similar; Endometriosis is on the outside of the uterus, and Adenomyosis grows into the uterine wall. One is on the outside, the other is inside. Both can cause pain, but endometriosis doesn’t always cause the heavy bleeding like Adenomyosis does. The best way to describe my symptoms was severe cramping, heavy and prolonged bleeding and sharp, knifelike pain. While the conditions are not life-threatening, they can diminish quality of life.

What does this have to do with fertility?

If I am questioned about my journey or my infertility, I will usually respond with “I had a broken uterus.” I was diagnosed with Endometriosis, Adenomyosis and Uterine Fibroids. My wonderful uterus had all 3 conditions. How was a baby suppose to implant, grow and thrive in that environment? I have heard of success stories, but I never had a positive pregnancy test in my reproductive life. When I was diagnosed with Endometriosis, and after years of trying to get to that diagnosis, we decided not to pursue IVF. My doctor felt that I had Adenomyosis too, and with that I wouldn’t even attempt IVF. Even if the embryo implanted – there is double the chance of miscarriage. This was a personal choice. There is always hope that a miracle will happen, I am not trying to discourage anyone from giving up just because of a diagnosis.

On average, it takes 10 years for a woman to be diagnosed with Endometriosis. 1 in 10 women are affected by Endometriosis. 30% to 50% of women with Endometriosis may experience infertility. 27 years old is the average age women are diagnosed. 176 million women in the world have Endometriosis.

Adenomyosis – My uterus is trying to kill me. The only surgery that cures Adenomyosis is a hysterectomy. Adenomyosis is poorly understood and is often under-diagnosed. This condition can lead to anemia. Anemia can cause fatigue, dizziness and irritability. More research and knowledge needs to be obtained because There is no known cause for this condition.

Be your own advocate! That is always my number one rule of advice. It took me almost 20 years to get the correct diagnosis. I suffered for years and years, and in the end I couldn’t do the one task my reproductive system was suppose to do – create life!

Ask questions, make the appointment, find the solutions. There is no current cure for these conditions, but there is hope that one day they will find one!

The Childless Stepmom

As you may have read in my previous post, I am a childless stepmom. I have a stepdaughter with no biological children. My husband is about 12 years older than I am, and his daughter was born from his previous marriage. When we met, we had planned on having a child together, not knowing that I was infertile. I saw a fertility doctor about 3 years into trying. We weren’t married yet, so I wasn’t in a rush. I saw a doctor the summer before we got married, and I wanted to have a baby before or by the time my husband turned 40 years old. We also wanted a sibling for my stepdaughter before she became a teenager. We didn’t want too much of a gap between the two kids. As everyone has read, our plans didn’t become a reality, and I am a bonus mom without children.

When I had started to date my husband, I had just gone through a divorce. I obviously didn’t have children from my previous marriage. I hesitated when my husband told me he had a daughter. I was very traditional, and didn’t know if I wanted a blended family. I went into the relationship thinking it would work out because I knew even if my family was blended, I would have biological children of my own. As fate would have it, we have my stepdaughter and 5 dogs.

The role of a stepmother is a difficult one. I never even had an idea of how difficult it would be. My husband and I dated for about four years before we got married, giving us plenty of time to work through our journey before we made the big commitment. I love my stepdaughter very much, she has become a huge part of my life. In a way, she has saved me. After we got married, we did about 2 years of fertility treatments. I honestly can say I was terrified. I was scared that we wouldn’t have children together and I would resent my husband. I was worried I would be jealous of what him and his daughter have and that it would never happen for me. I was having a hard time accepting that he had a child with someone else, and I would never be able to have that with him. We had spent about 6 years trying to have a baby. We waived the white flag in 2016 when I had a hysterectomy. My new normal was my blended family and my dogs.

We had 3 dogs when we came together as a couple. 3 dogs and one kid. Our agreement was if my last medicated round of fertility treatments failed, I could get a puppy. of course they failed and I got the biggest puppy I could find–a Great Dane. If my husband had his daughter, I was going to pick this puppy out and he would be all mine! I found a breeder, I picked the gender, the name, and when he/she was born, I would pick out “the one.” This brought excitement back into my life again. When our puppy was born, I let my stepdaughter pick him out from the litter. When I was trying to create my own moment, it became a family moment instead – just as it always should have been. Dubnyk Jake is almost 3 years old now. Jake is my Dad’s nickname.

When the time came that I knew I was never going to be a mother or a grandmother, I didn’t really know what my purpose was. How and what is my role with my stepdaughter? I didn’t give birth to her, but she is in my life, and I am helping raise her. I don’t know what it feels like to have a child of any kind. I am a stepmother and not a mother? I don’t know how to raise a child – especially one that hasn’t started out in my life as a baby. I met my stepdaughter when she was 8 years old going on 9 years old. I never got to experience the baby/toddler years with her, but I have been able to watch her grow from a child to a tween, a teen and a young woman. She just turned 17 years old this month. We have one more year, and she will be an adult.

I feel fortunate to have been able to watch her grow, learn and thrive. I wasn’t there the day she was born, but I was there for a lot of other moments. I won’t be able to see my own child grow, but I did get to start with my stepdaughter from about the 4th grade. You crave to be a mother, but you have to step back and just be a role model for your stepchildren. you are not their parent, but you are there to help guide and raise them. It can be a very hard position to be in. I love you as I believe I would love my own child, but you are not my child. Watching my husband when she was little gave me a lot of hope, but when I knew my baby journey was over, it wasn’t as easy. I wanted someone to call me Mommy. I wanted that bond and love. I have a very close friendship with my stepdaughter, I want to be the best role model I can for her. I know I am not her mother. She doesn’t call me Mom, I never would want her to call me anything else but my first name. When she was little, I would correct others for thinking I was her mom. Deep down I was wishing I was a mom, but I wasn’t. I have always known my place. When I was in therapy before my hysterectomy, I told my therapist I was worried about being known as the “childless stepmom.” I didn’t want that title, I didn’t want my stepdaughter to feel bad, I didn’t want her to think I didn’t love her. I didn’t want my husband to feel badly or to have a feeling of guilt. It’s been almost 2 years since my hysterectomy and I am not “childless.” I have a 17 year old stepdaughter and we have 5 dogs. I am known as “mama” to my pups, but to my stepdaughter I will always just be Tia.

Please know there are a lot of resources for blended families and especially stepmoms. StepMomMagazine.com was my very first guide. Eventually I needed an infertility support group too, but support and love are the best tools you can find.

This is my life, and I am living it the best way I know how. A big thank you to my stepdaughter for allowing me to have a glimpse of what motherhood is all about.

Husbands Are Hurting Too

Women are not the only ones that struggle with the infertility process. Men can have fertility factors themselves. Our husbands are hurting with this journey too. If they are healthy–they still have to take on the support and love for their spouses. My husband is writing his perspective on this week’s blog. He has a biological child of his own from a previous marriage, but we had to live with the pain of not being able to create life together in our marriage due to my infertility. Here is his story:

First a little about my history. I have a child who is now 17 years old. My only child. She was pretty much my whole world. I coached her sports, I went to the park with her, I gave her pony tails and learned how to do all those from the time she was 2 years old. I never even scheduled baby sitters when I had her. I was as much of a full-time Dad as I could be. And believe me, those things are what drives people to be parents, to be the best they can be for another little human being. I was truly blessed. She brought joy to us while we endured the struggle. The fun things we all did. Well mostly the fun things they were able to do while I was working out-of-town a lot. But I felt some comfort in knowing that they were able to share something real and genuine. For my wife it may have just brought up thoughts of never doing that with her own child someday. So while it was wonderful to see I know it also caused her to think all of the “what ifs?”

When we first dated I was open to having another child. I also had moments where I wasn’t sure. I wavered for quite a while. Partly because I didn’t want to have my daughter think she was going to be replaced. Partly because I was getting older and worried about the energy and silly things like that. Things that deep down would have been just fine. I see myself as a really good Dad and I feel I’ve done a good job with my daughter. I thought long and hard about another child. It goes so fast and it’s rewarding, and I thoroughly enjoyed every aspect of it so I decided, yes, I could do it again and be able to double up my efforts on being the same good dad I had always been. The beginning of it all was as normal as the next couple, aside from knowing my wife was not able to conceive to that point and knowing her history and monthly pain she’d go through. It really wasn’t until she started having the testing and procedures that we learned things may not happen as we thought.

I had no idea what Secondary Infertility meant or how it would become to define a part of me. I never had to think about it on those terms because I had a child. And that’s where our story kind of begins. The road that we have traveled to this point has had its ups and downs but I wouldn’t have traded it. Secondary Infertility is something that most people probably don’t even know exists or that it is an actual term. What happens when bad things happen that are out of your control? What happens when someone you love is hurting so bad that every aspect of their life seems like one failure after another? It’s moments like those where you learn the depths of your faith. Faith that things will always turn out ok. Sometimes waiting and working for things to be OK is a long journey. Infertility is such a journey. The ups and the downs. I tried to control what little I could. I tried to remain calm and positive thinking it would help my wife. Some days I think it did. Some probably not. And then there were the appointments, medications and monthly disappointment I’d see on her face affected me more than I ever let on. I didn’t show it often at all. But the helpless feeling I would get is not something I was used to. There were no words to make it “ok”. There were no gifts to give that would turn it all around. It’s was month after month of those same feelings. Inside of me was the thought of never being able to help her raise another child. And that is what affected me most. That I had been able to watch my daughter grow and share all those moments and that she may never have that chance.

It’s often said that men hold their feelings in and try not to display too much emotion. Or you can show emotion if it is a happy thing. For me that tends to be true. I consider myself a guy who keeps things as even as possible. I’m laid back, to a fault sometimes. All of that doesn’t mean guys don’t feel emotion or go through periods of pain and hurt. For us we have always been taught to be tough and strong. This was different. On one hand I had a child and on the other there was also a sense of impending loss. It’s hard to really describe what it all felt like. To me it was frustrating to see this process unfold the way it was. Something that shouldn’t that hard was becoming impossible and dealing with that was difficult. And it was increasing as the weeks went by.

The day came when everything had run its course. The hysterectomy day arrived. We had decided together that we had done all we could do both emotionally and financially. We were together on our decisions and we moved forward together knowing the outcome. There was still hope that last pregnancy test would look different. That somehow a miracle would happen. We always had that bit of hope. You have to. But alas it did not happen. We had been through a lot. I hurt for her. I would have taken all that pain and hurt and put it on me. She not only had the emotional pain but also the physical pain of all the procedures and finally the last procedure. I tried to be supportive and present knowing there wasn’t a lot I could do to make it go away or really nothing I could do to fix it. That’s where a lot of the hurt and sadness comes from. I’m supposed to protect and make things better, safe and happy. When you can’t do that it makes you feel helpless and inadequate. Still, I kept things in check and tried to continue to be positive and focused.

The journey is truly never-ending. There are days I know it hurts. It may always be that way. I have been sad and angry. Thinking I won’t have another opportunity to use what I’ve learned again. Am I thankful for what we have? There’s no doubt. We are exceedingly blessed in many ways. Could things have been worse for us? Absolutely. It doesn’t mean there are days where you tend to focus more on the things you could have had. I think every person in this situation does the same. There truly is no ending, only another day and another day and another day. You take a positive and turn it into two. There are days that are really bad and as time goes on there are more and more good days. Does time heal? In a sense it truly does.

How do you turn something sad and hurtful into a positive? By always remaining together. By being present for your wife when she’s at the bottom. By hurting right along with her. By not minimizing her feelings to try to make her feel better. By letting her grieve. By grieving alongside her. To be open about it. I confess I don’t share my feelings very often. Most important you always have hope When the light starts to come in little spurts is when you grasp a hold of that. To see some sort of light at the end of the tunnel. At first there isn’t much light at all. But after time goes by it does get a little bit better. It gets a little less painful. It gets a little brighter. You always hold on to hope. No matter what is going on, no matter what happens in any given day.  I was once told that when you wake up every morning YOU choose whether you are going to have a good day.  Nobody can choose that for you.  Nobody can take that from you.  Nobody can make you have a bad day.  That is all your choice.  While we did not have a child together we were able have my daughter and be able to do many wonderful things along the way.  Perhaps that is why we met?  That I had a young enough daughter to be there through all of this.  To be able to watch her grow.  We had both been blessed.

My point is there will always be other ways, new ways and new technologies as time goes on and as long as you have hope than anything is possible.

How to talk to your partner about infertility

When you think about the future, infertility usually doesn’t come to mind. When you make the choice to commit to someone, and you talk about getting married, buying a house or having children, do you also have the “infertility talk?”

Couples may not even know they are infertile. The topic of infertility may not come up until you have been trying to conceive for 12 months or more. One of the greatest fears facing infertility is disappointing your partner. The key is knowing what steps to take to have a healthy, open, and honest conversation.

The best tips I can offer are: focus on each other, go on infertility free dates, do not keep secrets, make an agreement on how far you will go, and talk!

Infertility stress can kill the romance. There would be weeks where I would only focus on a schedule. There is nothing worse than your husband flying home for the weekend from a work trip and you have to make the ovulation calendar the priority.

I believe the blame game comes into many infertile relationships. Who’s fault is it? You don’t have control over male or female infertility factors. Its good to be honest in your opinions. Talk about the pros, the cons, and the costs. It can be easy to feel bitter and have resentment towards your partner. Depending how long your journey is, feelings may change over time. Make sure you over communicate and stay connected to each other.

Focus on yourselves and be kind to each other. Find an outlet for your emotions. Take a break!! Take a mind off your fertility issues. Find ways to love and support your partner. Infertility is half agony, and half hope. For better or for worse, you can get through it–together.