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Pregnancy Without Your Mama

For the past 22 weeks, I have thoroughly enjoyed my pregnancy. Though this pregnancy has not been the easiest on my body and health, it has been the most beautiful season of my life. I still cannot believe I have been chosen to be these two little miracles’ mama, and I welcome and relish every change within my own body. I am blown away at each of their milestones; each ultrasound, and I cannot believe the amount of love I can hold in my heart for these two little beings.

I won’t lie, though, there is something missing. My mama.

She’s not here to guide me when I am deciding whether or not to go to the ER. She isn’t here to help me pick out colors for the nursery. She isn’t here to plan my baby shower (though this is WELL taken care of by my loving friends and family!). She isn’t here to feel my babies kick and move. She isn’t here to see my belly swell with life. She isn’t here to offer Jimmy advice. She isn’t here to talk to my brothers about the excitement of becoming uncles. And, she won’t be here to teach my babies how to make her famous chocolate chip cookies…like she always wanted and talked about.

These are devastating facts when you lose your mother, your guiding light, so young. But I know she is here with me in spirit each day, and I do believe she was fostering and loving my babies in Heaven before they were sent to me. And for that, I am so grateful.

The other day I confided in Jimmy how much I am missing my mama. It’s not a topic that is easy for me to talk about, because this is such a joyous season, and the thought of not sharing it with her physically is so debilitating. Per usual, his response was perfect. One of his favorite moments of this pregnancy was when I shared the news with him, and he said that another thing that makes it so perfect was that my mom knew first. She shared that moment with us, and knew it was going to happen before we did. The way Jimmy describes this feeling is so comforting.

sneaksHer legacy also lives on through the thoughtfulness of other people. Recently, my cousin and his wife sent me a pair of little girl sneakers. The shoes have certainly been lived in; there are many stories and miles that come with them. But, they are so special because my mom had sent them along as a gift when they were expecting their daughter. Matt and Kylee don’t know this part, but I actually remember my mom buying them. She got them this particular pair of shoes because they reminded her of the Airwalk style sneakers Matt used to wear. My mom never just bought a gift; never just crossed something off her shopping list in desperation. There was always thought and love behind each gift, and these cute little pink sneakers are no exception to that. I haven’t been able to find the words to say thank you to Matt and Kylee yet, but I hope they understand how appreciated their gesture is. Any story or thought shared of my mom is important and special to me.

To sum up this incomplete thought…it’s really hard to go through life’s most beautiful moments without your mama. Especially when the one you were blessed with was just so wonderful. If you have a story to share of my beautiful mama, please feel free to leave it here. She lives on in each memory <3

Infertility-Our Struggle: IVF #4…The Secret Cycle

Infertility(2)

As mentioned in Hoping for Twins, Jimmy and I decided to keep this cycle to ourselves. The thought of disappointing our family and friends, and having to answer cycle questions was too overwhelming.

 

 

Before we could begin IVF #4, I had to have another surgery. HSG, polypectomy, surgeryendometrial scratch, and D&C. It was not a fun day. I had planned on having the surgery and then attending a dear friend’s wedding that night, but unfortunately I was kidding myself. Between the blood, the pain, the nausea, and the overall level of crappiness, another wedding was missed due to infertility. We were just hoping this would be the cycle it would all be worth it.

After my recovery from my surgery, I wanted to get started on our cycle right away. Luckily, my doctor agreed; she wanted to proceed before my polyps had time to grow back, and while my endometrium was nice and clear. As soon as I got my period, the scheduling began, and luckily my transfer day was set (without manipulation) when my doctor was in the OR. We also decided that this round we were going to use “embryo glue”. (It’s not really glue; to learn more, click here.) I was feeling more confident than ever that this was it. I was still channeling my power of positivity, and methods from A Nonwestern Approach, to stay calm, cool, and collected. I think the anti-anxiety meds were a big help, too.

On our way to the transfer, I turned off the radio, and spoke to Jimmy about a study I had read about women undergoing IVF in Israel. In the study, after embryos were transferred, a medical clown was sent in to make the couples laugh. In a nutshell, the theory is that the more relaxed and calm a woman is after her transfer, the more the embryo will want to nuzzle in. I told Jimmy I wanted to try our own version of this study, and have YouTube videos prepared that were sure to make us laugh. While I was filling my bladder we chose our videos, and got ready to laugh and relax.

camera micOnce I was uncomfortably full, we went into the same room we had been in three other times in hopes of starting our family. I could hear the same drip drop of the leaky faucet; I played with the same light that I pretended was my microphone, every time without fail; I felt the same tattered edges of my mom’s Red Sox sweatshirt I wear to my transfers; I listened to the same spiel from the nurses and ultrasound tech; I waited for the same “READY!” announcement from the embryologist; Jimmy and I watched the same procedure of our little embryos being placed inside their new home; we heard the same “CLEAR!” announcement from the embryologist. While the procedure was the same, and we felt like old pros, our excitement level was at an all time high. We were just SO READY to be parents! As the stream of people were leaving the room, I told my doctor we would like the room for a little while, and sorry for any inconvenience in scheduling that might cause. Jimmy and I watched our YouTube videos, laughed, held each other’s hand, prayed together, snuggled, and laughed some more. It was the most calm we felt leaving that room. This. Was. It.

I stayed calm, collected and at peace throughout the next couple of days. On May 21st, 2016, a mere 3 days after our transfer, Jimmy and I celebrated 10 years together. It was fun reigniting our dating anniversary, and marveling that this may be the last one childless…

That night, after my trusty intramuscular injection of progesterone, I went to sleep and had a VERY VIVID dream. You may remember from previous cycles (such as IVF #2) that usually after transfers I would have nightmares. This dream, however, was beautiful. The whole dream was just thousands of positive pregnancy tests. I’m talking thousands. One after the other, after the other. I’m getting teary and goosebumps just recalling the dream. It was wonderful. I drifted out of sleep with a smile on my face at 5:30am. I felt so peaceful, and so happy. At 9:30 I started nudging Jimmy awake…I knew it was probably too early to pee on a stick, but after a dream like that, how could I possibly hold off? I had one pregnancy test stashed away, in the deep dark corner of a bathroom drawer. As soon as Jimmy left the room, I got to work.

I quietly, but oh so excitedly, tore off the pink wrapper and uncapped the test. There was no1st stick doubt in my mind that it would be positive (mind you, I did not trigger this cycle so I knew if it was positive, it was real). I watched as the dye spread. Usually, the dye just goes straight to the control line, and if it is positive, a second line will appear after a few minutes. Not this time. As soon as the dye spread, TWO FUCKING BEAUTIFUL, INCREDIBLE, AMAZING LINES were visible. It was not a squinter; it was a REAL fucking positive test!!! FOUR DAYS after our transfer!! A million thoughts started racing through my mind…but first things first I had to tell Jimmy. I could NOT wait. And, I couldn’t believe that ball was in my court. We weren’t waiting by the phone for a nurse to deliver the news; I could do something special. I could tell him in a way “normal” couples got to share their news. I had a plan.

I got out of the house in record time. When Jimmy asked where I was going I said “you’ll see”. My first stop was to a local golf academy. I got him a gift certificate for a golf lesson he had been asking for. Remember when I said our dating anniversary was the night before? It was the perfect ruse to give him a little gift. Next stop: CVS. I got him a card, and all of the usual gift accoutrement. Oh, and about a hundred something dollars worth of pregnancy tests. All different kinds, as they all measure different levels of the hormone HCG.

On my drive back home, I reflected on the fact that I was the only person who knew I was pregnant. The revelation brought a huge smile to my face. Just you two and me, babes; let’s go tell your daddy I thought happily to myself. I was continually praying to let this be real, and let me carry them to term. As there was no doubt in my mind this morning that my test would be positive, there was also no doubt in my mind that I was carrying twins. I just knew it.

Once I got home, I gathered a few poppy seeds from the kitchen and disappeared to get his gift together. I taped two of the poppy seeds inside a wad of tissue paper, and placed that at the bottom of the bag. Then I lined a wasteful amount of tissue paper inside the bag (sorry mom), and put the card and lesson towards the top. Then, it was time for the presentation. I was excitedly anxious. I couldn’t wait to tell him.

He opened the gift, and thanked me for the lesson. He went to put the bag away, with the real gift still inside, but he could tell by my shit-eating-grin there was more. What? he asked. There’s more! I said excitedly. No there isn’t, he argued. I rolled my eyes and motioned to keep looking. FINALLY (after what seemed like an hour) he got to the seeds. What’s this? You cooking something weird? he asked.

No, I said. That’s the size of our babies.

I waited for an excited reaction, but all I got was “cool” as he put everything back in the bag. He CLEARLY didn’t get it.

Jimmy! I’M PREGNANT!!!!!!

“Let’s hope so” he said. He clearly wasn’t understanding.

No, Jimmy, I am actually pregnant RIGHT NOW!!

He stared at me, dumbfounded. He couldn’t understand how I could know that at that moment. Our blood test wasn’t for nine more days, and he couldn’t comprehend how I could know that right now. I showed him the test. He agreed that he could clearly see the line, but remained cautious. He just couldn’t grasp it. He told me to send it to our doctor and see what she said. When she sent her congratulations, it sunk in a little. Jimmy then started asking rapid fire questions. It had still not sunk in, and he was still not sold. I took another test, darker line, still not sold. I told my doctor I would be coming in the next day for blood work; I needed to know where we stood!

The next morning, boom, darker line! Jimmy was starting to come around to the idea that this might be real. We got our number that afternoon, 54, and then it really started to sink in. WE WERE PREGNANT!

It really REALLY started to sink in as the tests got darker and our numbers continued to rise. They were:

5/23/16        54

5/25/16       197

5/27/16       418

6/2/16        4,893

Every day was like living a dream. We went through the motions of life, all the while only really able to focus on the fact that I was growing life inside me.

049

Then, it started. The blood. If I didn’t know I was pregnant, I would have been pumped. I would have thought it was implantation bleeding for sure. But, since I was already confirmed pregnant, it was absolutely terrifying. I called my doctor and went in for an emergency ultrasound. Fearing the worst, but trying desperately to remain optimistic, I just said a constant string of prayers as the wand went in.

You transferred two? The ultrasound tech asked.

You can SEE THEM?!? I squealed and immediately started hysterically sobbing. Eventually she asked me if these were happy or sad tears, because I couldn’t get it together. She had to wait for me to calm down before she could finish her exam. Everything looked perfect. My babies were measuring wonderfully, and she guessed that the blood was old blood being shed, from either my surgery or implantation. I left with pictures, which just looked like two little empty bubbles, and couldn’t wait to tell Jimmy that I was right: we were pregnant with twins.

After a few more similar scares, we finally saw their heartbeats together. It was the most beautiful sight. Watching their little hearts beat, with tears in our eyes, and the most joy in our hearts. This really was it; this was the real deal. We were pregnant with TWINS.

~

wedding2And that brings us to today. Because as of now, as I write this, I am 13 weeks pregnant with these beautiful miracle babies. Jimmy and I could not express the joy in our hearts if we tried. We know we have a long way to go, but seeing them on ultrasound yesterday squirming and moving around nonstop, and hearing their beautiful little bump bumping heartbeats is just incredible.

Thank you for being on this journey with us. I have a hard time sharing this news not only because I am still scared of the unknown, but also because I know these announcements can be difficult to hear for those who are struggling. I hope that our story brings hope to everyone trying to start their own family.

Below is a little collage of all the fun we’ve had telling people; bumpdates; ultrasounds; and all of the wonderful moments we have waited so long to enjoy. We even had a professional photo shoot with my friend at Sherry Hopper Photography. Love to you all <3

Sherry Hopper Photography

Sherry Hopper Photography

Sherry Hopper Photography

Sherry Hopper Photography

sharethenews

ultrasounds

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Infertility-Our Struggle: IVF #3…Hoping for Twins!

InfertilityYou are forewarned: TMI is abundant in this entry. I share way more than I am comfortable with. If you don’t want to know, stop reading, but I am here to keep it real.

As I mentioned in IVF #2, I was not in a good place throughout the whole cycle. I knew I needed to get my mind, body, and soul back to center before we could proceed with another cycle. And, I knew I needed to advocate for myself, and ask for modifications to my treatment schedule. So at my “what the fuck” follow-up appointment from my second failed cycle, I told my doctor I wanted to be more aggressive. I wanted to have more embryos. I was doing everything in my power to produce better quality embryos, and wanted a little assistance with increasing the number. And this time, we wanted to implant two little embryos. Twins were a thought that used to absolutely terrify me, but now the thought of having two, and knowing that if it did work it may be the only opportunity for us to have biological children, was thrilling. We were ready to take on the challenge of 0-2, and so excited for the opportunity.

So, I asked for a more aggressive stim cycle. Because this was going to be my second fresh cycle, we were starting from the beginning in terms of meds. My doctor upped the doses accordingly, and said that I would need to be monitored closely (more ultrasounds and blood work, yah!) to avoid ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome (OHSS). I was willing to do whatever it took to achieve better results. I also told her it was time to switch to injectable progesterone. Enough of this crinone bullshit. Just like how clomid was not the right drug for me, crinone was in some ways worse. Though I was not absolute batshit crazy like on clomid, the physical side effects of crinone were horrible. The gel leaks, and easily soaks through a pantiliner, so I was constantly checking to see if it looked like I wet myself. And, I never knew the absolute joy of having a hemorrhoid until my body was introduced to crinone (eye roll). And the itch. I want to dig at my cooter just thinking about how uncomfortable that was. I would much rather take a two inch needle to the love handles every day than ever put that suppository back in my body. It’s by far the worst thing I have ever had between my legs.

Aside from switching it up with my meds, I decided I needed to go back to methods from A Non-Western Approach to get back on track. This time, I added reiki to the regime. I also added the supplement ubiquinol, which is a more potent form of CoQ10, to improve my egg health. I was completely back on track with my diet, and even dined (almost) solely on organic soup from homemade bone broth during the cycle and two week wait. (Not during the AGC Gala, though. That day I ate whatever I wanted, and even had a half glass of wine!) After the gala I also felt empowered that I could succeed in my journey; I was destined to be a mother, and now was my time!

Remember in IVF #1 when I could tell you my daily med doses, how my lining was measuring, how many follicles I had per day, and all of those other details? Ya…I don’t have that information from this cycle. You reach a point in your infertility journey where your protective instincts kick in, and you become a form of indifferent. Not indifferent about the outcome, but rather indifferent about the process. It’s a way to protect yourself from the outcome you cannot control. You also form amnesia. When people who go through IVF after you have had a few rounds, and ask you specific questions, it’s really hard to remember what you went through at that time in your life. It’s like when I discuss a birth with a client, and tell her how proud I was when she got through XYZ, and she doesn’t really remember what I am talking about. It’s amazing how your brain tries to protect you from the pains that come with life.

ouchSpeaking of the pains that come with life, during this cycle I had the pleasure of having a blood draw that resulted in some (thankfully temporary) nerve damage. When the needle went into my arm, I knew something wasn’t right, and voiced that it was really uncomfortable. The phlebotomist (not my usual AMAZING friend in my practice since it was the weekend) apologized that I was uncomfortable, and continued with the draw. After a few minutes (this draw should NOT take that long), and the phlebotomist continually phishing around inside my “vein”, I told her she needed to take the needle out before I passed out. She did, with an eye roll, and I felt like I was going to faint for a while. For the next couple of weeks, it felt like I hit my funny bone, and it was hard to hold things in my left hand. It wasn’t until after my retrieval that I noticed I had bruising on the inside of my elbow, and spider like bruising up the backside of my arm (faint in the picture above). I mention this not to give you a scary horror story, but rather if a draw feels off while you’re going through treatment, to be more firm than I was about starting again. After hundreds of blood draws, you know when something isn’t right, and you need to advocate for your care so you do not get injured. I digress…

When it came time to trigger, I only had 8 measurable follicles. This was a pretty devastating blow as I knew that not all of them would be mature enough to be retrieved. A new panic started to set in that maybe I was going through early menopause. With an increase in dosage, and my age, many more eggs should have been ready for the reaping. Just add premature ovarian failure to the list of things to worry about.

I reached out to my support group and was reminded that quality is better than quantity. And, it was beyond my control at this point. All I could do was pray that all 8 would be retrieved, fertilized, and ready for implantation.

Vincent

This cycle, we had decided to keep close friends and family in the loop with our process. So,pineapples we went in on Saint Patrick’s Day with the support of our loved ones (and special pineapple socks from a TTC friend), our good luck stuffed animal, Vincent (above), who stayed with our dear friends’ daughter during her NICU stay, and prayed for the best. I felt REALLY good about the cycle, and felt like this was the one. I kept using techniques I learned at reiki to keep myself relaxed and optimistic. We were ready for our babies!

When I woke up from the procedure, the results were less than ideal. Only 6 eggs were retrieved. I had a minute of panic, as most of the time not all eggs will fertilize, but then turned back to my relaxation techniques. My 6 little eggs needed positivity from their mama, and a good home to grow in. I needed to stay on track.

six retrieved

The next day I was excited to learn that 5 of the 6 eggs fertilized. We now had 5 chances for a baby!

The next day the count was down to 4, but those 4 were rockstars. We received the best quality report we had ever gotten, and were told we would be having a day 5 transfer. I was on top of the world when they told me that. That meant my little ones were strong enough to make it five days in this world; why not a lifetime to follow?

The next fertilization report was even better. Our embryos were all still with us and THRIVING (thank you JuicePlus and ubiquinol!). We were so looking forward to our five day transfer, and having our babies back in their home.

luckysocksWhen transfer day came, I left the house feeling so excited. So ready to be a mother. So ready for the craziness of IVF to yield the result we desired. So ready to see Jimmy as a daddy. Donned in an AGC support group friend’s lucky socks from her transfer on Saint Patrick’s Day, we drove to the facility laughing, singing, dancing, and ready for our miracle.

I decided this time around to take the Valium offered. I wanted to stay as relaxed as possible in hopes of having a successful procedure. I drank the water until my bladder was uncomfortably full, and for the third time, Jimmy and I watched as our two little embryos found their way into their new home. We were told we had two more “perfect” embryos going in to be frozen. I felt so blessed that four of our five embryos made it this far. I was so happy, and so ready for success. On our way home “Welcome to My House” by Flo Rida came on the radio and I BLARED it and welcomed my babies to their new house. I felt so relaxed and at peace. I just knew a positive outcome was waiting for us from this cycle.

With the start of my progesterone injections came the pregnancy symptoms. Last cycle I had felt like the symptoms were so cruel because I knew it was not going to work. This round, I excitedly told Jimmy about all of them, and we waited for our positive blood test. We had decided this round I wasn’t going to pee on 300 sticks a day, and we were going to wait for our results from the blood test.

The problem is, waiting did not help my anxiety. The two week wait is always torturous. After about a week of feeling great, super positive, and pregnant AF, the unwelcome doubt started to sneak back in. That little bit of doubt turned to anxiety. And after a few bad dreams, that anxiety turned to full-fledged panic. I tried SO hard to pray the anxiety away, and repeat my mantras, and try to come back to center, but nothing was working. A part of me already knew I had failed. And, this time I knew that it was my fault. We had perfect embryos, the best of the best, and it was my body that was failing.

This entry should have been titled “The Cycle that Broke Me”.

My doubts were confirmed with a point zero something HCG blood pregnancy test. I sat in silence as I was transferred to make my “what the fuck” follow up appointment. “Hi Mary, how are you?” what a cruel question to be asked when your heart is literally shattered, to the point where your chest feels tight, and you feel detached from everything except the pain. “You shouldn’t ask that question to someone in my position” I blurted out, coolly. It didn’t even sound like my voice. Everything about me seemed foreign. After hanging up the phone, I just sat. Empty. Unable to even cry. I am glad I don’t have words to express the devastation; the grief; the feeling of hopelessness. At some point I realized that hot, angry tears were rolling down my face. How long had I been crying? And then I had to face the reality that I had to tell Jimmy. Happy Fucking Birthday, Bud, my body sucks and can’t do it’s job. You did everything right, and I am just incompetent…

It’s really hard when you have the most amazing, supportive, loving, caring people in your life, and you are constantly disappointing them with something that is beyond your control. Their love, while appreciated beyond belief, became so overwhelming. Answering questions about next steps, hearing the meant-to-be-encouraging “it just wasn’t your time”, and having to relive the pain with every loving person we had to tell was too much. I plunged into a deep depression. I couldn’t get out of bed. I couldn’t stop crying. I couldn’t stop blaming myself; blaming my body. I couldn’t stop thinking about the torture I was putting Jimmy through, and the devastation I was causing my family. It was too much. This is really, REALLY hard to share, but I knew I needed professional help.

At my WTF appointment I completely broke down. We got through the next steps part (another surgery, HSG, polypectomy, endometrial scratch, and possible D&C) for which I was very quiet and compliant (not my usual inquisitive self). Then, she asked if I was ok. I started sobbing uncontrollably to the doctor I had been working with for years, telling her I needed help, and that I couldn’t handle this anxiety on my own. She recommended seeing a therapist and my PCP, and that sertraline would be her recommendation, and safe to take through pregnancy. I decided against talking to a therapist, and instead leaned heavily on my support group, and started taking the sertraline after yet another breakdown at my PCP when she asked me if I felt guilty. I held it together until that question. The guilt weighed so heavily on me that I couldn’t bear it. I just needed. some. relief.

It took a while to feel any difference, as I was adamant about taking the lowest dosage possible (against the dosage that was recommended), and the side effects were real shitty (literally), but eventually it didn’t hurt as bad. The feelings were still there, but the edge had been taken off. While it was difficult, I found myself getting out of bed. I found myself getting my act together at work. I found myself looking forward to meeting with my clients. I found myself wanting to see my friends again. I found myself wanting some romance. I found myself feeling sad, but not DEPRESSED. Negatively, though, I found that I had lost my creativity, lost my voice when it came to writing. I figured it would come back, though, and I hope it has.

Being slightly medicated also gave me the opportunity to reflect on the last cycle. Before I could only think of it angrily, but this gave me the opportunity to think about what I had learned, what I could do better, what I could do differently. That is when we made the decision that for our next cycle, for our next set of perfect embryos, we were going to keep everything to ourselves. I couldn’t handle yet another round of disappointing the ones I love. Which brings us to the next chapter: Infertility-Our Story: IVF #4…The Secret Cycle.

Infertility-Our Struggle: IVF #2 FET

Infertility-Our Struggle_IVF #2(1)

To start, FET stands for frozen embryo transfer. If you remember from the result, the only thing that kind of helped get us through the devastation of the first round, was that we had this embryo waiting for us.

Unfortunately, it just didn’t fucking work. I had a bad feeling about it the whole time, followed by nightmares, and I just never felt like it was going to happen. I was not in a good place throughout the whole process. And, our official pregnancy test was on the anniversary of my mother’s passing. The worst of the worst.

That’s it. Disappointed? You shoulda been there.

The next cycle though, I have plennnnnty to talk about. Up next: IVF #3…Hoping for Twins!

Interview Questions to Ask a Potential Doula

Interview Questions to Ask a Potential DoulaYou’re pregnant; congratulations!! Whether planned or not, pregnancy can be an extremely overwhelming time. Below are some questions to ask a potential doula to take the stress out of the planning process. Less stress makes this journey so much more enjoyable!

*With what agency did you receive your training to become a doula?*

-There are many acceptable answers for this question: ProDoula, DONA International, CAPPA, Childbirth International, and the list goes on. The only thing I would want to know when selecting a doula, is that she (or he! There are man doulas on the rise!) is trained through a professional doula organization. I am sure that there are many wonderful doulas who are not professionally trained, but I would want to know that mine was.

*Do you only help women who want an unmedicated birth?*

-The answer here should most certainly be NO! (Even if you want an unmedicated delivery!) A doula’s role is to support the client with her birthing decisions. Doulas are trained in all types of birthing scenarios to be able to provide an individualized support to each family she assists. If a doula answers YES to this question, she is pushing her own birthing agenda, rather than listening to and understanding her clients’ wishes.

*Why did you become a doula?*

-I suggest this questions because you are not just looking for a support person, you are looking for YOUR support person. This answer is very telling of the doula, and can say a lot about her personality. Your doula is going to be with you through a very personal, intimate life experience; you want a personality match.

*What happens if you can’t make it to my birth?*

-Answers here differ, as there are a lot of variables. The key is that your potential doula thinks about different scenarios, and has a plan. Maybe she works in an agency. Maybe she works closely with a back-up doula. Maybe she offers some sort of refund if you progress too quickly and there just isn’t enough time to make it. Whatever her answer may be, it should leave you feeling comfortable.

*Do you offer any other services?*

-If you are looking for a postpartum doula, placenta encapsulator, lactation counselor, photographer, or any other type of professional service, it may be more convenient for you to hire one person. The doula may even offer packages or discounts on multiple services.

*What tools do you find most effective during labor and delivery?*

-Again, answers to this question may vary, but should leave you feeling confident in your support. The tools I myself find most effective are: my hands, my heart, my ears, my compassion, my knowledge, and getting to know the needs of the mother before we hit the delivery room. I have a “bag full of tricks” but for some births it doesn’t need to be opened, and for others, every object is tested.

The key to interviewing your potential doula is to learn about her experience, and see if her personality is a fit for you. The interview should feel more like a friendly conversation than a sterile interview.

There are also a few questions that many potential clients ask…that the doula may not have an answer to:

-How many births have you attended?

I could answer this question…if I looked back in my files and counted, but off the top of my head, I have no idea. I stopped tallying after around 10 or 15 births when I became busier and had more clients at one time.

-What was your favorite birth?

I have many favorites, for many different reasons, but I could not answer this question. There are so many memorable birth moments, and I could pick out those moments from each birth I have attended.

-What was the scariest thing you’ve seen in labor and delivery?

This one I just plain don’t want to answer. The last thing a pregnant woman needs to hear are horror stories. When this question comes up I usually answer with something like: “I have been through many different birthing scenarios, but I like to focus on the positives of birth”. When scary things happen in the delivery room, it effects me deeply, and hurts to think about.

 What other questions were you happy you asked your doula during your initial interview?

Infertility-Our Struggle: IVF #1 the Result

The result

If you’re just joining, may I suggest you read the first part of this entry

…I couldn’t believe my eyes!! The second line wasn’t even a squinter, or a break the test apart to see it better, or a hold it up at the exactly perfect angle to see the positive line. IT WAS POSITIVE! A noise exited my body…something between a moan, a scream, a squeal, and a cry, and I just immediately starting praying and giving thanks. I couldn’t believe it! I WAS PREGNANT!!

The news was so exciting, I just had to take another. BOOM. POSITIVE! And DARKER. All of the excitement made me feel faint, and I lay in bed just staring at the two sets of two lines. The joy I felt is really indescribable, and I couldn’t wait to share the news with Jimmy.

But, I decided to wait until the morning, test again, and see if it was really true. Just in case I was a freak who stored the trigger shot longer than a normal person. We stayed at my in-laws that night, and I don’t think I slept a wink. I kept randomly crying, praying, and the smile on my face was permanent.

New day, new test. POSITIVE again! And darker! And showed up almost instantly. I felt so so lucky. I could not believe IVF worked for us on our first try! All of the needles, ultrasounds, even the friggin Crinone suppositories, all so worth it. I could not have been more thankful.

I was rushed to get ready to go pick pumpkins with my family, and didn’t have a good opportunity to tell Jimmy yet. I decided to wait until we got home to MA, and tell him how I had always planned. It would be worth the wait. I felt giddy every time I thought about telling him. And, I felt so wonderful knowing that just my embryo and I knew the little secret. The whole time picking pumpkins and chasing my nephews around, I was filled with so much joy knowing that I had their little cousin growing inside me. That next year I would be carrying our baby in a little sling at the pumpkin patch. I watched pregnant women, and little families of all kinds go by. I felt a part of something brand new and exciting; I was going to know their joy soon. Again, I spent the day randomly crying, laughing, and really just floating around.

We got back to my in-laws house, and I started playing like crazy (like I always do) with my nephews. This time, though, I started to feel a little dizzy. Is this my first pregnancy symptom? How exciting! I listened to my body and took a rest, smiling away at my secret I couldn’t wait to share.

That night I tested again. A moment of panic washed over me as the line was not as dark as it was in the morning. Not to worry, I thought, it’s going to be darkest at FMU (first morning urine). Another sleepless night as I waited for morning to come to test again.

I tested again in the morning, and the panic stuck around. The line was darker than the night before, but not as dark as the previous morning. The whole day I talked myself into not testing that night. That the sticks were driving me insane, and I had no control of the outcome. I held strong, and decided to hold off on telling Jimmy.

The next morning I tested again. The line was still there, but fainter still. The joy I had felt was slowly turning to anger and a deep, deep sadness. I tried to talk myself into staying positive, that the embryo needed me to be positive and not stressed. Try as I may, I could feel myself slowly drifting into a dark place. I fumbled through the day, randomly crying, but this time at the loss I was already feeling.

The next morning I tested again. I got a squinter. A fucking squinter. Barely visible. If another person looked at it I am not sure if they would be able to see it, or think I was crazy. I could not believe it. Deeper into the darkness I fell.

I decided to come clean with Jimmy. I showed him every stick, and took him through my journey. He was angry I had tested, and didn’t really know how to react. He told me they weren’t real positives; it was just the trigger that stayed in my system. Now I understand his point of view, but at that time, it was not what I needed to hear, and deeper I fell.

I had my beta test, and for some reason, hope returned as I waited for the phone call. I prayed the whole day as I waited and waited. Just like how the two week wait feels like an eternity, the 8 hour wait for your beta results feels even longer. When I finally got the call I ran out of work to hear the news. As soon as I heard the nurse’s voice, though, I knew. I knew it was not good. She told me I still had HCG in my blood, but not enough to qualify as a positive result. She instructed me to stop all meds, and she would see me again next week.

I just sat the in my car, numb, for I don’t know how long. At some point anger kicked in, and hot furious tears streamed down my face as I screamed and hit the steering wheel. I had a friend from work drop my things at the end of the end of the stairs, and I sped home. The radio can be so cruel during times of need. “Like I’m Gonna Lose You” mocked me through the sound waves, and I fell apart deeper. When I got home, I vomited, then lay in bed. I sent Jimmy a text asking him to come home. Jimmy likes to talk through situations, while I DO NOT; I need time to think things through before I am ready to talk. He tried to call a few times, and every time I just text him to come home. I sent my boss an email explain my absence, and really struggled with how to put it into words. The whole situation didn’t feel real yet.

When Jimmy got home he held me, and tried to comfort me. Sounds were escaping from me that I hadn’t heard since I found my mom. They seemed so foreign. Jimmy tried to say all the right things, and be the strong one. I could hear him, but I couldn’t process the words. I felt like there was nothing behind my eyes, and my mind and body had shut off. All I wanted to do was sleep.

A couple of days later, it started. I remember putting on a front, and going to a neighbor’s Halloween party with Jimmy (he was great about trying to get me to do “normal” things). So many times I just sat there wondering which glob of tissue (periods after cycling are the WORST) was my baby. Why my body couldn’t hold the pregnancy. Why the cycle hadn’t worked. Why I tested positive. Why I even tested in the first place. Why I couldn’t feel anything except for grief. Why I was so angry. Why I felt betrayed by everyone, everything, and especially by my own body.

I wondered who he or she was. I wondered what he or she would have looked like. I wondered who he or she would have been friends with. I wondered if he or she was athletic. I wondered if he or she had Jimmy’s smile. I wondered if he or she would have the softest skin like my mama did.

Most of all, I thought about how much happiness he or she was bringing my mama in Heaven. How my mama was happily parading him or her around.

Looking back now, I am so thankful that if it was going to end the way it did, that it did so early. Before being able to be seen on ultrasound. Before hearing a heartbeat. Despite being grateful for these things, and despite scientific jargon about what I actually lost, to me, I lost a child. You may call it a clump of cells, but to me, it was the closest I have ever been to being a mother. The blow was all-consuming. You can’t really understand what it is like unless you have gone through it…and it is not a feeling that I want any single reader of this blog to feel.

Amidst the darkness, there was a little glimmer of hope. We still had our one frozen embryo. We wasted no time getting started on the next chapter: Infertility-Our Struggle: IVF #2 FET.

 

 

Combatting Common Pregnancy Symptoms with Nutrition

Photo courtesy of Friends, Food, Family blogger Tricia White...recipe below!

Photo courtesy of Friends, Food, Family blogger Tricia White…recipe below!

**We have a SPECIAL TREAT on the blog today! My nutrition-minded, talented, knowledgeable friend, Danielle Bolea, took some time to write an entry about nutrition and pregnancy. Double bonus: her mom, Tricia White (who is like a second mom to me), is a food blogger for Friends Food Family, so she has linked up her suggestions with some recipes. What a dynamic duo; enjoy!**

 

 

Food plays a significant role in one’s pregnancy. During this time it is important to maintain a healthy diet; however, many women run into symptoms that make it difficult to uphold proper nutrition. Yes, I’m talking about morning sickness, heartburn, and constipation. Here are some helpful tips and recipes that may help alleviate symptoms with home remedies.

Due to an increase in hormones, many pregnant women face morning sickness within their first trimester; although, sometimes the symptoms can prolong throughout an entire pregnancy. If you are experiencing signs of morning sickness (nausea/vomiting), try these tips to ease back into a normal eating pattern:

  • Avoid foods and smells that trigger your nausea.
  • Eat dry/bland foods that are low in fat such as rice, toast, crackers or a baked potato. Gradually introduce foods as you feel better.
  • Keep water, ginger ale, or crackers by your bedside. Try eating/drinking a little bit before getting up. Allow some time for digestion and rise slowly.
  • Eat smaller meals throughout the day (5-6) rather than three large meals.
  • Drink less water with your meals and obtain the rest of your needs throughout the day.

Another common symptom amongst pregnant women is heartburn. Hormones released during pregnancy relax the stomach muscles that keep acid from moving into the esophagus; thus, creating acid reflux/heartburn. Eliminating some of the foods below may help manage/avoid your discomfort.

  • High-fat, fried, rich foods
  • Spicy foods (foods made with paprika, chili, vinegar, jalapeno, hot sauce)
  • Tomatoes and tomato products
  • Citrus fruit and juice (lemons, limes, oranges, grapefruit)
  • Chocolate
  • Peppermint/spearmint

For relief, try eating low-fat yogurt or drink a glass of low-fat milk; you want to make sure these dairy items are low in fat since high-fat products tend to cause heartburn. Be sure not to lie down for 30 minutes after consuming your meals; this will only contribute to your symptoms. These remedies work for different individuals, and may not provide you instant relief. It’s important to recognize the foods that trigger your heartburn, and eliminate them from your diet.

The growing of your uterus during pregnancy places pressure on other organs within the body, including the intestines. This compression can often cause constipation making it a common symptom amongst most pregnant women. It is important to exercise routinely, drink plenty of fluids, and incorporate high fiber foods into your diet. Need help distinguishing which foods are rich in fiber? Here is a helpful list:

  • Whole Grains (mix it up!): bran cereal (Raisin Bran), oatmeal, granola (Kashi bars), brown rice, quinoa, barley, faro, whole wheat pasta. Recipe idea: Quinoa, mango and black bean salad (pictured above).
  • Fruits and vegetables: avocados, raspberries, blueberries, blackberries, strawberries, apples, pears, grapes, broccoli, brussels sprouts, artichokes, leafy greens (spinach, kale – although, they don’t have as much fiber as some of the foods listed prior). Recipe idea (substitute a pregnancy-friendly cheese, if you so desire): Green apple, avocado, and chicken salad.
  • Beans: lentils, black beans, lima beans, split peas, kidney beans. Recipe idea: Chunky beef and bean chili (the beer in it is just a tease!).
  • Nuts and seeds: almonds, walnuts, flaxseed. Recipe idea: Epicurious’ Shaved Summer Squash Salad.
corn black bean

Photo courtesy of Tricia White

Here are some recommendations for incorporating fiber into your everyday meals:

  • Add fruit OR flaxseed to your oatmeal/cereal – (ex: oatmeal with raspberries or blueberries and sliced almonds). Or, substitute whole wheat flour and try this recipe for blackberry oatmeal breakfast bars.
    blackberry

    Photo courtesy of Tricia White

    (pictured right)

  • Add flaxseed, spinach/kale, or almond milk to a smoothie.
  • Spread avocado on sandwiches or whole wheat toast for breakfast.
  • Add beans to your salads and soups.
  • Make whole grain salads with quinoa, barley, or faro. Mexican style: corn, beans, tomato, red onion, cilantro, lime juice, avocado, shredded chicken (your choice of meat) – add refried beans, salsa, or your choice of dressing (ranch). Recipe idea: Roasted corn and black bean salad (pictured above, just add your favorite whole grain!).
greek

Photo courtesy of Tricia White

Mediterranean style: red/green peppers, scallions, (black or Kalamata) olives, tomato, lemon juice, parsley, shredded chicken (choice of meat) Recipe idea: Greek Pasta Salad (substitute quinoa or whole wheat pasta and a pregnancy-friendly cheese for best results-pictured left).

*  Enjoy a simple salad of spinach, red onion, almonds, dried cranberries, balsamic vinaigrette

* Try kale, roasted sweet potatoes, beets (marinated), balsamic dressing

A little about Danielle:

Darni

Photo courtesy of Danielle Bolea

Danielle is a graduate from Keene State College with a degree in Nutrition. She currently works as an Executive Assistant to the Chief of Radiation Oncology at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. Nutrition is still her passion, and she thoroughly enjoys cooking and modifying recipes so they’re easier to make and healthier for you. Breakfast is her favorite meal to cook and is a hobby she looks forward to on the weekends (and I can tell you from experience IT’S DELICIOUS). Danielle enjoys educating others about nutritional lifestyles and guiding them in a healthy direction.

Thank you Danielle! Thank you Tricia! Please let us know how these recipes turn out :)

Infertility-Our Struggle: A Non-Western Approach

InfertilityOur StruggleAfter the Clomid Crazies hit, I was ready to take a different approach. We knew that more invasive, drug-induced processes were in our future, but we needed a little break from the craziness. I needed to be centered and focused so I could better handle the raging hormones.

**Disclaimer: I am not prescribing that you should or should not make the following changes. I am merely sharing my experience, and what I felt was right for my body and circumstance. I am happy and available to answer any questions you have to the best of my ability :-)

First, I changed my diet. I wanted to eliminate as many chemicals as possible, so I switched to an organic, grass-fed type of lifestyle. I cut back on refined sugars and carbs, and made veggies (like the ones pictured below from Friends Food Family’s garden!) and lean meats the focus of my diet. Per my acupuncturist’s recommendation, whenever cycling, I stay away from raw veggies, and go for steamed or roasted. I also added better fats, like avocado, grass-fed butter, and coconut oil, and cut back on my most enjoyable fats, like gallons of ice cream. For my mental health, I decided not to go too crazy with this lifestyle, and give myself a break when I craved something not on the diet. I would say that I am currently on an 80/20 overall with this lifestyle (80% of the food I eat is on the good list, 20% on the naughty list). But, some weeks are more like 50/50, and potato chips are still my kryptonite.

veggies

I also added Juice Plus+ to my diet. My friend Laura had reached out to me about the health benefits, and I appreciate their limited ingredient approach to vitamin intake (30 fruits and vegetables). My prenatals have always made me nauseous, so I decided to give Juice Plus+ a try. Their motto is “one simple change” and I like that approach to good health. When you make one little change at a time, you take control of your health and just overall feel better. (Fast forward to present-day in our struggle and we had our first “A” quality embryo when my husband starting taking JP+!)

Next, I welcomed fitness back into my life. I try to take 10,000 steps a day, and am obsessed with my FitBit (challenge me!). It’s easy to let the stress, hormonal changes, weight fluctuation, isolation, etc. of infertility take you out of your fitness routine, and sometimes it still does, but I have made a conscious effort to incorporate exercise into my daily routine (somehow). If I don’t make it to the gym, I try to do an on-demand workout, or at least take a walk. I will say that through this struggle with infertility, I am afraid to go 100% at the gym like I did in college, or when I was “shedding for the wedding”, but staying active and healthy is a major goal of mine.

I also added weekly acupuncture treatments (with occasional cupping, not during tank top season, though) to my health regimen. Chace Acupuncture came highly recommended to me, and he did not disappoint. I went to acupuncture to be treated for infertility, in hopes of getting my body in balance before IVF, but I was pleasantly surprised at the other health benefits I experienced from acupuncture. Including, but not limited to, improvement in sleep, mood elevation, anxiety reduction. I love to sleep, I always have, but after acupuncture I get “acustoned”. I feel calm, relaxed, and I sleep like a baby. Sometimes, I may be a little too calm. Like, the time I came home from acupuncture to my finished basement being flooded and I couldn’t understand why my husband was freaking out about something we couldn’t control. Namaste. Oh, also, now I know how to breathe “correctly”. You’d be surprised how different it feels to know how to do that; the only way I can describe it is calming and centering.

acupuncture and cupping

Along with acupuncture, I added reflexology treatments whenever possible. My aunt is a licensed reflexologist, at Yoursole Reflexology, and, in my opinion, the best in the business. She let’s your feet do the talking, and works on your energy to get you back in balance. After my first session, as soon as I started to drive away, I burst into tears. I called to ask her what was happening and she explained that my emotions needed work that day, and to embrace the tears, acknowledge and work through them, and move on. She works wonders, and I highly recommend her. If you’d like her contact information, please let me know as she is by appointment only, out of North Attleboro, MA. Side note: she has also worked on some of my clients who were very ready to go into labor. All went into labor within 12 hours. Seriously, she’s awesome.

Another big change was that when I became a regular employee at my day job, I was blessed with better health care coverage. So, I gradually weeded out some jobs, as I had been working 80+ hours a week between 4 jobs to save for IVF. I certainly miss the extra cash, but not being so stressed out, always worrying about scheduling, and having a little extra time at home has been wonderful.

I was [secretly] hoping that making all of these changes would result in an “unexpected” natural pregnancy. We weren’t so lucky. But, we are blessed with healthcare coverage, and making these changes really got my body ready for what was to come next: IVF#1.

What changes did you make while trying to conceive, or to get ready for infertility treatment? Please comment below with your suggestions!

**You may have noticed that I stopped numbering these entries. Why? Because it’s fucking depressing to be in double digits of telling the story of our struggle with infertility. When I started this journey, I thought it might be a three part series, max. But hey, onward and upward.**

 

 

Infertility – Our Struggle Part IX: The Clomid Crazies

Infertility (3)

A sock.

When a sock is enough to make you crazy, you know you’re on the wrong drug. Clomid is a miracle worker for some people: unfortunately I am not one of them. Instead of it working wonders, it made me a fucking nut job.

I will get back to being crazy in a second. But first, I will let you know that while on this treatment plan, my mom passed away. (You can read about how special she was to me here.) It was certainly the worst year of my life, which could have also impacted my mental health.

I also found out through the genetic testing that I am a carrier for Cystic Fibrosis. Luckily, Jimmy is not. It was certainly an agonizing wait to figure that out.

Back to clomid. God, I have never felt so alone. I alienated myself from everyone and everything. I didn’t like myself, I didn’t like my thoughts, and I didn’t like what it was doing to my relationships. But, this is what was prescribed. So that’s what you have to do, right?

That’s how I thought about it until the sock. Jimmy hates this story, but I think it’s important for people to understand how different this drug made me. Lucky for me, our doctor had warned us both that some people have extreme effects. If not, I don’t know how he could have stayed with me.

Like I said, I felt very alone. I was the one taking the drug. I was the one taking my temperature every morning, before my feet hit the ground, at the exact same time, everyday. I was the one peeing on ovulation sticks every morning. Obviously, Jimmy couldn’t do any of these things for me. But I still thought: “What the fuck. He isn’t doing ANYTHING to contribute!” Aside from having sex with me, on demand. Which even now, I don’t know how he did it considering how I treated the world.

sock

Then one day, he had the NERVE to leave a sock. In the living room. On the FLOOR. Of all places. It was clear to me during that time that he no longer cared about me. Like, not even a little bit. It was obvious that he intentionally left his sock there just to hurt me. HOW COULD HE?! I couldn’t even comprehend how he could do this to me. I fell to my knees and sobbed. Sobbed that our marriage was basically over; that we would never be able to come back from something like this. I mean, really, how could we? How could he? Why was the world so wrong.

I confronted him about the sock, and the undeniable end of our marriage. I remember seeing confusion. Shock. Sadness. Emotion in his eyes that I wasn’t expecting. He obviously didn’t care about me, so why did it seem like he cared now? His reply? “This isn’t you. This is the drug talking. It’s ok. It’s just a sock.” JUST A SOCK? I saw red. I had to take myself out of the situation so that I wouldn’t hit him. HOW COULD HE?!?

As I laid in bed, I cried out for my mom. Loudly; as if there was an audience. To make him see how he had wronged me. I prayed to God to help put my marriage back together and help us through this dark time. And, I kept replaying his words over and over. This isn’t you. The more I said it to myself, the more I appreciated him saying it. This wasn’t me. I’m a laid back person, so who was this person who cared about the sock? I do not keep this meticulous house in which a sock would make or break hours of hard work a day. It really was “just a sock“. The realization was confusing to me. If I knew it was “just a sock” now, why hadn’t I realized it when it happened? How many other “sock” moments had I had along the way? How many people had I unintentionally hurt with my piss poor attitude and self-loathing? It was too much to handle.

So, we decided it was our last month with clomid. We said goodbye, and never looked back. I needed to emotionally heal, and get out of my pity-party funk, so we decided to take a different approach. Which leads me to our next chapter: Infertility-Our Struggle Part X: A Non-Western Approach.

Infertility – Our Struggle Part VIII: Our Diagnosis

Infertility- (3)

 

The moment we had been waiting for…

 

We sat silently in the car heading to our appointment. This is it! We can finally figure out what’s going on, and come up with a plan to fix it. I put my hand over Jimmy’s on the gear, and rode to a sense of nervous anticipation.

“Mary.”

Our turn. I excitedly raised my eyebrows a couple of times at Jimmy, and he rolled his eyes and smiled. This is it.

The doctor sat down and started firing out our results. I had no idea what the hormone levels meant. No idea how much of each category was good or bad. There was a scale for each category and she went over the scale of what’s normal. Aside from my FSH being on the low side of normal, my prognosis sounded ok, I think?

Then Jimmy’s turn. Ok, still not really sure what these things mean. Aside from knowing the literal definition of the word, I wasn’t sure what “morphology” meant in terms of sperm. Morphology was just below normal, but other than that, everything sounded ok, I think?

We both sat there kind of stunned. When you’re waiting to find out the bad news, and you don’t hear it, it’s confusing. She started talking about treatment options, and I started to feel more confused. If there’s not a problem, how do you treat it?

I interrupted: “Wait…what are we treating? Did I miss our diagnosis?”

“You fall into the “unexplained” category.”

She went back to treatment options while I sat there, confused. What…the fuck? After all that testing, all the blood work, all the ultrasounds, the HSG, the semen analysis…nothing?

I interrupted, again: “So there’s nothing wrong with us?”

She went back to the numbers. Explained again how the FSH was on the low side of normal, and the morphology was just below normal.

“Does that mean we couldn’t get pregnant on our own?”

“Not necessarily.”

She went back to explaining the different methods for treatment. Boy, was it hard to concentrate while trying to dissect the information we had just been given. There was a pause in the information she was providing, and I just couldn’t let it go:

“So…how do we choose a method without a diagnosis?”

She explained that “unexplained” is a diagnosis. She explained that we didn’t fall into a certain category because of the things they test for, nothing was glaringly wrong. That didn’t mean there wasn’t something wrong, we just “passed” this round of tests.

I couldn’t wrap my head around it.

In high school you learn that if you have unprotected sex, you will get pregnant. You don’t learn that someday you may be faced with clomid, IUI, IVF, ICSI, adoption, surrogacy, years of peeing on a million different sticks just praying to see a +, or anything of the like. I felt totally unprepared to make a decision for the next step. I think I had just assumed it would be clearer; easier. But, it wasn’t and there was a lot to think about.

She recommended genetic testing. Ok, fine. Then she recommended monitored clomid with timed intercourse. Basically, coming in every day for an ultrasound and blood work until ovulation, and then they send you home to have sex.

I felt like we could do all that on our own, and I could forego the daily ultrasound and time out of work. Because, that was the other doozy. So far, aside from some preliminary blood work, all of our care was an out-of-pocket expense. We are lucky enough to live in Massachusetts where companies are mandated to have infertility coverage…but that doesn’t mean it has to be good coverage. Ours was 10% coverage after an $8,000 deductible. Yes, you read that right.

So, we decided to go with unmonitored clomid, and I would pee on some more sticks to test for ovulation. But, something was still bugging me:

“But…I ovulate regularly.”

As I had done at every appointment before, I took out my diligently mapped fertility apps. BBT faithfully recorded, showing dips and spikes in the correct places; days entered when I got a positive pee stick; little hearts on the days we had timed intercourse; and monthly, regular periods.

She began telling us how clomid works; how it  effects the brain and hormone levels. By this point I was burnt out, and just started “yessing” everything so we could leave. We had more blood drawn for the genetic testing, and off we went. Confused, frustrated, and also a little glad that there didn’t seem to be anything “unfixable”. We left totally unprepared for our next chapter: Infertility – Our Story Part IX: The Clomid Crazies.