Monday, February 26, 2018

2018 Goals

Well, here it is, the very end of February, and I am just now writing this post! Better late than never, I guess? Honestly, I don't feel like I am much of a blogger anymore, but some things you just need to get down!

Every year I make new year's resolutions. I know a lot of people who do this and a lot of people who don't. A lot of people are kind of anti- new year's resolutions, saying they set goals throughout the year. Truth be told, I should probably be more like those people! I wonder if they stick to their goals better than us new year resolutioners. This is just how I've always been. I absolutely love a new year. I often face depression during December (mainly because it's another year without a baby), but come January 1st, my perspective has changed entirely. I feel hope again when January gets here, and that's putting it mildly. I am pretty much bursting with hope and excitement for a new year.

So I have some goals for this year. Some are big and some are small. They aren't too extreme, because I know goals like that are the reason so many of them fail. I set ones that I feel are within my control and are realistic. I am not someone who gives up after a month (except when it comes to the health ones, that is something I always struggle with! But it's also the one I keep coming back to throughout the year). So I set ones that I fully intend on accomplishing! Honestly some of these are so reachable for some of you, it will be laughable!

2018 Goals/Resolutions
-Pursue a keto way of eating
-Return to IVF down 30-50 pounds
-Stick to Bible in a Year plan
-Read 6 books minimum
-Plant a flower bed!
-Paint door & shutters
-Organize/clean out/declutter
-Finish Living Room updates
-Go to NYC!

I want to share my thoughts on these. I'll start from the bottom of the list and work my way up!

Does this count as a new year's resolution? Probably not! But thought I would list it as a goal since it's something we've got to save up for. I've said for years that on our ten year anniversary I would like to go on a real vacation with my husband. We haven't done a whole lot of traveling. We did our honeymoon and we've done a couple of bed and breakfasts in neighboring cities. In 2015 we went to Georgia with good friends of ours, and that was a blast! But that's it. He is fine with wherever I want to go, so it took me awhile to decide on a place. So many places to see! But I decided on New York City. I've been once for one day... I went with my church music team to Connecticut and we took the train to NYC for a day. It was fun but not even close to being enough time! Plus, this was back when I was engaged, and I can remember thinking "I wish Brad was here!" the entire time. So NYC it is! I'm excited and hoping we can make this happen!

Lately I've really wanted to change up some things in our living room. The furniture will stay the same, but I fell in love with a rug at Pier One. I want to get pillows & an accent chair that coordinate with it. I also want to change up the pictures above our couches, adding more artwork and a putting up a grid wall gallery. Nothing wrong with how it is now, I'm just tired of it & ready to change it up a bit! This means I'll move some of the frames that are above our couches now to a mini wall gallery in our entryway! I also want to finally put some curtains up! Lots to do, but stuff that could easily be knocked out if I just get moving! I am nothing if not a procrastinator...

I've already gotten a start on this. Right after Christmas I got rid of all kinds of things that we don't use or need anymore. I also reorganized our pantry and the closet in my office which had become quite a mess! Next up is our bedroom closets! Organization isn't my least favorite thing, so I think it is safe to say that this one will get done! It is just something I will have to revisit throughout the year!

Y'all. This is not my forte. This is not my thing! At all! I dread doing this! Honestly I would rather go to the dentist, and I'm not even joking. However, our front lawn is one of the least attractive lawns in our neighborhood...sad, I know. But it's the truth. If our neighbors judge us based on what our flower beds look like, then Lord only knows what they think of us! It's not about what people think, I know, but it's not just that. I really do want it to look nice! And it's time. I've wanted this since we moved in 3 years ago... it's time to just buckle down and get it done! My family has agreed to come help me and we have it on the calendar! So hopefully I'll have some before & after pics for you soon!

I mean, might as well do this too, right?! This seems like one of those things that would be easy to put off year after year. But I've wanted it for awhile now, so why not just make it happen in 2018?! I think fresh paint (like this or like this) would help the outside of our house look so much better! So I'm hoping we can make that happen. I'll have to get hubby on board. Wish me luck!

Are you laughing yet?!? Hahahaha. I'm thinking of two friends in particular (AHEM, Erika & Shelley), who read like a bazillion books every year! HOW in the world do they do it?!). They are both probably snickering right now at my tiny little goal of 6 whole books, but I told you I set realistic goals! 6 books is one every other month, and considering I read one, mayyyyybe two, books last year, I'm thinking 6 should be my goal! If I beat that, then great! Hopefully I will!

I've always been a bookworm. I love to read. My mom brags that I was reading at 3 years old. And I can remember getting in trouble many times for getting caught with a book and a flashlight way past my bedtime! I also remember getting fussed at for having my nose in a book on roadtrips (instead of paying attention to the scenery outside my window!). I mean, I am the type of kid who - on the rare occasion that I got grounded (haha) - I got grounded from books! I have always loved to read! But a few years ago I got in some sort of reading funk. I just couldn't get through a single book to save my life. People say maybe I was choosing the wrong books, but no. I don't think it's that at all. I know what kind of books I like, I know the authors I love. This was all me. Getting preoccupied with my phone & the internet. It's ridiculous! I really miss being a bookworm and want to get back to that place! This year I've finished one book and am more than halfway through the next! So I am on the right track and hopefully I'll get my groove back when it comes to reading. Hashtag reading is cool.

This year for Christmas I got the She Reads Truth Bible and I LOVE IT SO MUCH. They have a Bible-in-a-year plan and I am following it. Let me be clear - I am not going to read all four chapters every day. It's not going to happen. To say that I will and set a goal like that is for sure setting myself up for failure! But as much as I can, and so far it is happening at least a few days a week, I read a day's worth of scripture. This may mean I finish it up in April or June 2019 - I'm okay with that. The important thing to me is that I am reading it consistently. So far so good, but I want to keep that going!

Maybe I should have started with this, the heavy stuff. This is where I am struggling. I need prayers. I need help. Let me be completely transparent with you. I dropped 10 pounds last August when I did a whole30. I gained it all back. When I started out 2018, I weighed exactly the same that I weighed when I started whole30 last year. So in January I started keto, and I loved it. I did so well on it. In one month, I dropped 11 pounds. I was so proud. But as is so typical of me, I fell off the wagon in February & if I'm not careful I will gain it all back again! Going two steps forward three steps back with weightloss is the norm with me, but I desperately need that to change. This isn't about self-hate or bad body image for me. Yes, there are many more pounds on this body than is healthy but I don't stare in the mirror and loathe myself. This isn't about that. It's about my health, of course. However, my biggest reason why is so that I can go back to my fertility clinic having lost a decent amount of weight. Ideally I'd like to have lost 30-50 pounds. And I would like to go back this summer. And listen, I know that even if I lost 100 pounds, it still may not work. I know that. But losing weight can only help my chances, so I'm trying. It is the only thing my doctor can come up with as to why this hasn't worked, from a medical standpoint. My labs are perfect, my embryos are high grade. It isn't that he thinks my weight is to blame, not at all, but if it is a contributing factor to why this hasn't worked yet, then of course I want to do whatever I can to increase my chances of success next time. The truth is I've had plenty of time to lose that and then some, but instead I lose it and gain it over and over. It's hard. The struggle IS real. And while I'm feeling optimistic today, there are many days where I think it is impossible. But I know it's not. Please pray for me if you get the chance! This is so important to me, yet I keep failing. I have started seeing a therapist for the first time in my life... why? Because if there is a mental/emotional connection to why I never can lose the weight then I want to get to the bottom of it. And maybe there's not. Maybe it's just a combination of having PCOS, insulin resistance, and loving food a little too much! But maybe it's something deeper. So I really hope this is something I accomplish; some days I have my doubts. One thing is for sure, I won't quit trying and finding my way. I just am desperate to make some headway in this area soon! I am so ready to go back to our RE and transfer our remaining embryos, in hopes that I can finally become a mom.

So there you have it, my goals for this year, written down. Thanks for reading!

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Our IVF Journey (frozen embryo transfer #2 & moving forward)

I wrote two posts in 2017. Three, counting this one. WOW.

I knew my blogging game had seriously fallen, but GRACIOUS.

See? This is the archive section of my blog, the black number is how many posts I wrote that year. There has been quite a decline! Honestly, blogging doesn't seem to be my thing anymore, and I'm okay with that. I do, however, apologize for leaving anyone in the dark about what was going on with me, with us, with our IVF adventure. If you follow me on instagram, though, you've been kept in the loop. I think Instagram is to blame for my lack of blogging. There is just such a strong infertility community there, and it is so easy to tell a quick story! 

Anyway. Seeing as how it is the end of the year, I decided to finally update this blog. I don't want to just leave it hanging, you know? This will be as brief as possible! 

If you go back to my other posts from this year, you'll see that after doing our egg retrieval in October of 2016, that we had our first embryo transfer in January. That one technically worked but it was a chemical pregnancy (meaning I miscarried before we even got to an ultrasound).

At our embryo transfer in May.
Our embaby
 In May, we had our second frozen embryo transfer. It was not successful. I was pretty devastated.

For me, this one was harder on me than any of the previous ones, not counting my two losses. Miscarriage is unlike anything else, and if you've wished you've miscarried just so you know you can get pregnant, you don't realize what you're saying. I've had girls say that to me, and it made me sick. You don't wish that... you think you wish that, but you don't know how devastating it is to miscarry, especially after waiting and praying and hoping for so long. Anyway, other than those two losses, this negative was harder than the previous 6 years of negatives, including the 6 IUIs. I know that has to be because of all of the money you spend and all that you put your body and emotions through when you do IVF... not to mention the loss of another beautiful embryo (or two, depending on how many were transferred). All of that seems like it is for nothing when it doesn't work. It is devastating and horrifying... how could it not work?! How could it possibly not work? How come so many get pregnant on their honeymoon or by accident?! How come undeserving people get pregnant so dang easily? Why not us? It is hard not to grow bitter.
An awesome card a friend gave me after our BFN. 
But in June we met with my doctor to talk about why it didn't work. I had been praying about dropping some weight before our next round. It isn't that i think my weight is why it didn't work before. I am sure a lot of people think that, but it isn't really the case. I could lose 150 pounds and it still not work. I can name for you probably 20 friends right off the bat whose IVF transfers were negative and they're all in great shape. It isn't all about my weight, there are other factors involved. For the most part, I believe this is beyond my control. That being said, I want to give our remaining embryos their best chance of making it.

So much love from friends after our failed transfer.
So I prayed on the way to my consult that whatever our doctor suggested would be the right path for me. I didn't really think he would mention my weight because he has said before, he disagrees with having a weight restriction for IVF as some doctors have. He sees many overweight women conceive and have healthy pregnancies. But what do you know... after praying what I did on the way to our consult, the first thing out of my doctor's mouth after saying he was so sorry it didn't work was that the only thing he would suggest is that I try to lose weight before our next round. Now, I know some people would die if their doctor said that, but I know that my weight is a problem, and he is able to suggest things like weightloss without making you feel horrible about yourself. Truly, he talks about it in the same way he might tell someone they need to get a routine mammogram or have their blood pressure checked. I am fine with talking about it, especially since he is able talk about it without making me feel like crap! All of that to say, I wasn't upset when he said that. It was simply confirmation in my heart after already feeling like that was where God was leading me.

Gorgeous flowers from a sweet support group friend.
So since then I have been on a break. I jumped into a whole30 & dropped ten pounds. I jumped into theater again, which I had missed tremendously & which had brought so much joy to my life before. Theater isn't really something I can do while doing IVF so it was a gift to be able to do that while on break from treatment. I stage managed Footloose with the young actor's program and I auditioned for Sister Act and performed as a nun in the ensemble. It was an absolutely blast that I will cherish forever! Then we celebrated our 9th anniversary and then the holidays began! I fell way off the eating well wagon, though. It is just so hard to keep it going, even when you have the very best reasons for changing your lifestyle. 

I got to be in a show again!!!
BUT very soon we will start a new year, and I love a new year. And in 2018 I will start a new lifestyle and work harder than ever at losing weight. My doctor said even if i didn't lose weight, he would do another transfer when I was ready. But I myself know that this is what I need to do. I am not trying to get to an ideal weight right now. I just want to try to lose a good amount of weight in 3 to 6 months before returning to IVF. Some have said, "so you're going to do it again?" as if that is completely insane. Yes. Yes, of course, we are going to do it again. We have four embryos left. Four precious embryos. Those are our babies!!! I desperately want our rainbow baby and I believe with all my heart that our baby (or babies!) is in that group of four.

Photo by Amanda Blythe Photography
So please pray for me as I press on & give my all once again to getting healthier. There are many reasons I've tried to lose weight in the past, and they're all good reasons. But right now I have one goal in mind. I covet your prayers.

In 2018 we will reach 7 years of trying to conceive. Also in 2018, I will turn 40. For me, this is our last year to give this a go. We are getting older and frankly, I am weary of the battle. I am ready to receive what I believe the Lord has for us. Over the past 7 years we have tried naturally, we have done temping and charting and tests and labwork. We have done 6 IUIs, 1 egg retrieval and 2 embryo transfers. I have had two early miscarriages. I am ready for all of that to be in the past and for 2018 to be the start of an entirely new journey for us... something I have looked forward to my entire life, even as a child: Motherhood.

The night Brad came to see me in Sister Act.
I hope to continue blogging but if the last year is any indication, you should probably follow me on instagram if you want to follow along. I am not sure how soon I will return to IVF but it is very likely that I will instagram all about it when I do.

Love you all! Thank you for your many prayers throughout our journey.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Our IVF Journey {frozen embryo transfer #1}

Well, hi! Apparently I left you all on a little cliffhanger there. Sorry about that! I just thought it was a good stopping point, but it seems people wanted the novel version. :) So here I am picking up where I left off in our IVF journey. (If you are just tuning in & missed part one, go ahead & read it here.)

Being a member of an infertility support group, I have heard a LOT about IVF over the years, straight from people who were in the thick of it. I heard about the painful shots. I heard about the insane cost of meds. I heard about the terrible side effects. And I heard about the frustrating setbacks. So I prepared myself for all of it. I wasn't excited about any of that, but I was prepared to do whatever I had to do. My support group girls gave me a ton of tips, and that helped tremendously.

Preparing for the big PIO injection! I ended up not even needing the lidocaine patches or the heating pad, but I sure was glad to have it ready just in case. I did use several of my friends' suggestions and they helped so much!
All of that to say, the entire experience leading up to and including my egg retrieval was a much easier one than I anticipated. I did have a polyp on my uterus which required surgery. And Brad did have a scary result after our infectious disease tests (which turned out to be a false positive!). But after that it was pretty smooth sailing. Yes, it's a lot... the schedule of injections plus the constant appointments are just a LOT. But still, it wasn't as awful as I imagined. I didn't have any major side effects from the drugs. The shots didn't bother me. Even the dreaded PIO (progesterone in oil) shots before my transfer were fine! Every monitoring appointment (ultrasound and labs) leading up to my retrieval showed I was right where I needed to be. It went so well, far better than I expected. I felt extremely lucky and thankful. I know so many people who had a much worse experience with it all. And it isn't because I'm some kind of champ; it's just that everyone's body responds differently to this stuff.

Lupron injections to start things off!
Patches that were traded out every few days. These were to stabilize my lining to be the ideal size for transfer.
Laying everything out for my early morning estradiol shot!
I keep going on and on, but what I am trying to say is that for me, the hard part of this wasn't the physical aspect. It was the emotional aspect after it was all over. It was the two week wait after my embryo transfer as I waited for results, and it was even the weeks after I got results, that really took a toll on me. I wasn't prepared for how much this would take out of me emotionally (although I don't think it's something you can really prepare for). And again, I'm not even talking about the process leading up to my egg retrieval. I am talking about the emotions that came into play after my egg retrieval and again after the embryo transfer. Both times were about waiting for results. And while my egg retrieval yielded good results with 8 high-grade embryos, it was still a nerve-wracking time, to say the least! The worst part for me, though, was waiting on results from my transfer to find out if I was pregnant or not. And what came after that is what I pray I never have to experience again. But I'm getting ahead of myself. 

This is before my first estradiol valerate injection, and let's just say I saw the needle & was feeling a little anxious!
Look at that needle! I was so proud of me! And really proud of Brad! I didn't even feel it!
Brad preparing my PIO injection. PIO day 3! He is a champ!
Because of my doctor's wait list, my first embryo transfer wasn't until January. So there were two full months without that crazy appointment and injection schedule. When I started my period in January, I called my nurse and it all began again. Birth control pills (sounds counterintuitive I know), Lupron injections, estradiol patches, estradiol shots, and the lovely PIO, as mentioned above. I always thought all of that started at the same time, but there were a few days to get used to one drug before having to add the next one. I was happy about that.

A picture of our embaby
On January 24th, we went in for the transfer! I was excited and nervous. We had a pair of embryos frozen to be transferred at the same time. I was worried about them surviving the thaw, but he came in and told me both survived the thaw beautifully. I breathed a sigh of relief. He had us sign some consents, and he gave us a picture of one of our embryos, our baby. Then the nurse came in and gave me a robe and Brad some scrubs.

Could he be any cuter?! :)

Excited and ready!
The transfer process is a lot different from the egg retrieval. Brad was able to go in with me, and I wasn't put under anesthesia for it. We went in a room that looked like an ultrasound room. I got set up in a chair/bed thing just like ones in an ultrasound room. The process itself is very quick and painless, much like an IUI. I could see on the screen when my little embryos dropped into my uterus. It was a surreal moment; it took my breath away. After it was done, the ultrasound tech and my doctor waited in complete silence for the embryologist to let them know it was a good transfer. The embryologist yelled through the connecting door, "all good!", everyone sighed with relief, and we were done. I was wheeled out again, and Brad drove us home. Actually, we stopped so he could run in and pick up Zoe's for lunch. I also talked him into running into Barnes & Noble next door to pick up a book I had been wanting! Thought it would help me pass the time during my two week wait. Not quite two weeks, and yet the most intense two week wait of this infertility journey so far. My doctor puts his patients on bed rest for three days after the embryo transfer. I was lucky to have visitors to help pass the time! The first week wasn't too terrible. The second week my emotions were all over the place. 

Stork socks from a sweet infertility sister & prayer partner... so cute!
Mom & sister visit!
I am normally not one to take pregnancy tests at home. They're always negative, and that is just the worst. I would honestly rather find out I'm not pregnant by starting my period. However, my blood test was early Friday morning, meaning they would be calling me that afternoon with the results. I didn't want to find out at work if the results were negative. So I decided to take a pregnancy test the night before my beta. That way, if negative, I could react however I needed to react in the privacy of my own home. I grew antsy and ended up taking a test at home a day or two before I had planned. I was, in a word, terrified. Absolutely terrified. I can honestly say in all of my years of infertility, in all of my two week waits, and after all of my IUI procedures, I have never felt quite like that. I think because it felt like the closest we had ever been to our miracle. And I felt like if the results were negative, I would be sick to my stomach. I so desperately wanted this to be our YES. 

 I remember taking the test. Afterwards, I grabbed it without looking and got in bed so Brad could give me my PIO injection. He didn't know I had taken it. I gave it a few minutes then looked. I didn't see two lines. I felt my heart plummeting. I looked again about ten seconds later and saw a faint second line. So faint that I had to show Brad and get him to tell me if there was actually a faint line or if I was just imagining one. He confirmed there was indeed a second line. I texted a picture to my infertility sister Lindsay and she confirmed there was definitely a second line! I would not say I was excited at that point. I got excited yes, but the first emotions were more along the lines of shock and disbelief. But it kept sinking in deeper and deeper. I allowed myself to feel that joy, and of course I felt so thankful. Because I already had a miscarriage three years ago. Surely God wouldn't allow me to go through that again, would He? 

I took this selfie the day before my blood test, because I was convinced I was pregnant and had no real reason to believe yet that I would miscarry. There are happy tears in those eyes & that is probably the biggest smile I've had in a long time.
That Friday I went for my blood test. By this point, I had taken several home pregnancy tests, which all showed positive results. My nurse called that afternoon and told me I was indeed pregnant and that I needed to come back in a couple of days for another blood draw. That is nothing unusual, they do check every few days to make sure your hcg is doubling as it should. Then I asked her what my hcg level was. She said it was 31.6. My heart dropped. I said, "oh, that's not good is it?", and she assured me, "no, it's okay, it just needs to have doubled when you come back on Tuesday.". So I continued to hope and pray. I realized the embryo could have implanted late, as sometimes happens with frozen embryo transfers (as opposed to fresh). I got in touch with a friend who I had heard had an initial hcg of 20, but kept increasing, and she gave birth to a full term baby boy. She helped reassure me. We told our parents and siblings and a few friends we were pregnant. We were excited. I was still terrified, but had to believe the best. 

On our fridge
That weekend was agony, as you can probably imagine. But I kept praying and trusting and hoping. This baby would be due in October, which is the same month our first angel baby was due. So to be pregnant again with a baby due at the same time, to me, felt like coming full circle. It felt like redemption. And yet, when I went back on Tuesday for another blood test, my hcg had dropped down to 24. I was thankful to receive that news on my lunch break. I had just sat down to eat when my phone rang. My nurse sounded heartbroken. She told me when to come back for another blood draw, because at that point they have to make sure it gets back to zero. I hung up the phone and the tears began to fall, as I felt a mixture of hurt, anger and heartbreak. I couldn't eat my lunch. I called Brad, and then I texted a few people who were waiting to hear. I couldn't call them because I knew if I had to say out loud what was happening, I would start sobbing. I had to go back to work, so I had to let them know but I couldn't talk about it. So I sent them a text telling them I was so sorry to have to tell them this but that the pregnancy wasn't viable. I told them I was sorry because these are people who want to be grandparents to our children and who want to be aunts to our children. It was a few friends who had been praying for me for this entire infertility journey. These are people who wanted this to be a viable pregnancy for me as badly as we wanted it. So I had to let them know and not keep them waiting. But then I got myself together and went back to work. I registered patients for the rest of the day while inside my heart was shattered. I texted the coworkers that knew so they would know without me having to say anything. I couldn't tell them even though they were there, because I had to keep it together. I had no paid time off to miss more work, so I had to just make it through the rest of the day. I don't remember that night though. I just remember crying all the way home. 

Over the next few weeks my hcg would not drop to zero. It would go up and down and up and down again, but never up enough to show a viable pregnancy. It was strange, because when I miscarried three years before, my first hcg was high and it doubled every time just as it should. I didn't know then until an ultrasound that I would miscarry. And then once I miscarried, my hcg gradually and fairly quickly dropped to zero. But this time the number started low, so I thought getting to zero would be a quick process. But no. It wouldn't go down. I was concerned I would have to have surgery or be put on methotrexate injections, which I did not want to have to do. This is all a really hard reality when you are waiting to miscarry, because it feels impossible to move on emotionally when your body is stuck physically. They were concerned the embryo was stuck in my tubes. This process of waiting for my hcg to drop was as every bit as emotional and difficult as my wait to find out about our embryos after my egg retrieval and as my wait to find out if I was pregnant after the transfer. Different hard, but equally hard. I definitely grieved. And even as I write this, a few months later, when I am doing so much better spiritually and emotionally, reliving it as I write it brings it all back. It was hard and it is still hard and I am still grieving as anyone would. 

So we are moving forward. The upside of all of this is that I do have remaining embryos, so I do not have to start all over. I have friends who have had to and are having to start all over with another egg retrieval because they had one embryo and their transfer didn't work. I never would want them to to think that I think my pain is in any way worse than their pain. It is all tremendous pain. So I am very thankful for our remaining embryos, and I hope and pray with all my heart that our next transfer will make us parents. I covet your prayers as well.

Today is Day 1 of National Infertility Awareness Week, so I will be posting about it throughout the week as much as I can. Usually when I write about our journey, I am asked why we don't consider adoption or surrogacy. While those are beautiful options, we are confident that we are walking this out exactly as the Lord has directed us to do. I do hope to share with you soon why we have chosen this route and why we are not taking other avenues in our journey to parenthood, if I can get up the courage. :) Love you all and appreciate you reading my story and praying for us.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Our IVF Journey {egg retrieval}

Well, it's been quite awhile since I've written anything here. Every time I go to write, I just don't know where to begin! I guess that's what happens when you stop blogging... life happens and then there is just so much to say, you can't figure out where to start! Last time I wrote was 8 months ago and that's just ridiculous. A lot has happened since then in our infertility journey. A LOT. A whole lot! So I thought I would start blogging again by updating you. If you want the bullet point version, feel free to click at the infertility tab at the top of my blog; I have updated it! But here I'll give you the long-winded version. :)

The last time I wrote about our infertility story was in April 2015. We had done 3 IUIs and had gotten pregnant on our third one after 3 years of trying to conceive. We were heading back for more treatment the last time I wrote. I did continue with IUIs, because honestly that is all we could afford. IVF was financially out of the question. And since our third IUI worked, we both felt strongly that it could happen again. So we did three more IUIs in the summer of 2015, and they all failed.

(IUI = Intrauterine Insemination. To put it simply, this is when they get a sample of the husband's sperm & inject it directly into the wife's uterus when she is ovulating. More details here.)

IVF consult, July 2016

Fast forward to October of 2016. At this point, we had been trying to conceive for over five years. I was seeing a new doctor since mine had retired. When he told us my chances of success with IVF versus IUI, I started really desiring to do IVF - for the first time in our entire journey. I wasn't ready before, but suddenly I was, and God provided a way for us to do it at the same time. A few days after our consult, a close family member offered to pay for a round. To say this was a blessing is a huge understatement, and I definitely do not take it for granted! My insurance doesn't cover anything infertility-related, and it was hard enough saving money for each IUI. I know plenty of people who have had to take out loans, but that really wasn't an option for us. So we are truly thankful! We did end up paying a nice chunk of it out of our own pockets, but we never would have even gotten started if it wasn't for this person. So grateful! I fully believe this was God's plan for us, so He made it possible.

(IVF = Invitro Fertilization. This is when the eggs and sperm are put together and fertilized in a lab. That is extremely simply put because that's not what this post is about. I just am usually asked the difference when telling our story, so I thought I would include a quick definition. If you are interested, it explains it in more detail here.) 

Surgery Day, October 3rd

My doctor has his patients do a saline ultrasound before an IVF retrieval. At mine, a polyp was discovered on my uterus. He told me it was best to remove it surgically because it can interfere with implantation. Well, by all means! Don't want anything interfering with that! I had the surgery on October 3rd, and it went very smoothly. In surgery, he found multiple polyps that weren't seen on the ultrasound, all of which he removed. The surgery experience start to finish was a very positive one. I had never had surgery before, so I didn't know what to expect, but the nurses that took care of me were outstanding!

Shots Shots Shots! (Preparing for egg retrieval.)
Lots and lots of monitoring appointments to make sure your body is responding to the meds as it should.
I had planned for Brad to give me ALL my shots, I just didn't think I could give one to myself! But I had to work late once so I brought it to work with me! I was excited & proud of myself for getting it done without any trouble! Ha!
Brad was a champ in all of this! He gave me the majority of my shots & he always mixed up the menopur for me (shown here). I couldn't have done all of this without his help & support!
I once had to give myself a shot while at support group. I got my friend Lauren to join me for some moral support! And honestly, to make sure I was doing it right! I believe it was the menopur which requires mixing powders and such.

In late October, I had my egg retrieval after weeks of shots! I was so nervous about it because at this point I was 38 years old, and I was well versed in how your age affects your eggs - both quantity & quality. My body had been responding so well to the drugs, but that didn't guarantee good eggs. So I was incredibly overjoyed and grateful when my doctor retrieved 15 eggs. When I was wheeled out of surgery in a wheelchair, my doctor was waiting & he said, "15?!!!" and gave me a high five. Felt good knowing he was as excited about that as we were!

Exciting night - I got the trigger shot. This is done when your body is ready for ovulation. The shot causes you to ovulate at the exact right time so that your eggs are being released when the doctor goes in to retrieve them.
Egg socks for egg retrieval day! :)
Retrieval day!
The next few days were full of anxiety and hope, as I waited to hear how my embryos were doing. And it's not like I was busy at work; my retrieval was on a Friday so I took the weekend to rest. So I was home with not a whole lot to do besides wait for the phone to ring! You cannot even imagine how this feels unless you have been through IVF. Not just infertility, but IVF. It's a whole new ballgame. I am not downplaying the emotions that play into IUIs because they're certainly real and intense too. But good grief. Waiting to hear results on your precious embryos is, in a word, terrifying. Those are your BABIES, and I don't think you realize the fullness of that until you are at that point. I remember they told me that I would hear from them on Saturday. When I didn't, I basically went hysterical. Ha. I laugh now but it's true, and it's not just me. They called me early Sunday morning at which point I cried from relief. It took five days to get our final results, with updates about every other day. Nerve-wracking is putting it lightly. But we ended up with eight high-grade frozen embryos. We were both thrilled with that number, and so incredibly grateful.

To Be Continued...

Sorry to end abruptly, but this is too long already and it's a good stopping point. Everything leading up to our egg retrieval went very well. Next I'll tell you about our first embryo transfer. Stay tuned!

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Baby Steps 2016 | Team Believable | November 12, 2016

For the past three years, Brad & I have participated in an event that raises money for Sarah's Laughter, spreads infertility awareness, and awards prizes such as a free IVF cycle & a $10k family building grant. For those who don't know, for every person who joins our team, we get an extra ticket in the IVF/$10k grant drawing. The more people on our team, the more chances we have of winning! Since insurance covers no part of fertility treatments, winning would obviously be a tremendous blessing! It isn't just about winning, though. I have never felt more supported than I have felt on Baby Steps day. It is truly an amazing feeling to have family & friends show up to support you, your husband, and your dream to be parents!

US at Baby Steps 2014
We are hoping to have an even bigger team this year! I wanted to post about it on the blog to have a reference point to send people if they have questions about the race!

When: Saturday, November 12th, 2016 in the morning
Where: The Lamar Dixon Expo Center in Gonzales, Louisiana
How: Join our team OR make a donation to Sarah's Laughter on behalf of our team!

Our Team - Baby Steps 2015
We are going with the same team name as last year, because "believe" is my word, y'all!

"For we know whom we have BELIEVED & we are sure that He is ABLE!" 2 Timothy 1:12

My favorite pic from Baby Steps 2014. Nothing like having supportive girlfriends in your life!

A few differences from last year + answers to frequently asked questions:
-It is a 1 mile fun run, not a 5k this year.
-No, you do NOT have to run. You can walk it (with me)! 
-It is at the Lamar Dixon Expo Center in Gonzales, LA this year. This is so if we have a monsoon (like last year) we can move it indoors!
-You do not have to attend for us to get our chance to win! (Although we would LOVE to see you there!)
-Your kids can come & they do not have to be registered.

To join our team, go here! Make sure at the bottom, under "choose your events" it has Team Believable selected!

If you are unable to attend, but want to help, you can either join our team as above, or simply donate to Sarah's Laughter on behalf of our team. For every $250 donated, we get 10 extra tickets in the drawing. To do that, go here!

With our tickets for the drawing in 2014!
Thanks so much for considering coming! If you are unable to be a part of it, of course we understand. We love and appreciate all of the love, prayers & support we have received for the past 5 years. 

Hope to see you there!

Thursday, August 4, 2016

A Broken Truster, My Due Date & the Faithfulness of God

Hard to believe, but it's true. Most of this post was written on what would have been my due date, October 23, 2014. Nearly two years ago. When I wrote it, I wasn't in a very good place. I was hurting. I felt completely broken and devastated. I kept it how it is because it's raw and real, and changing it to past tense takes away from that, I think. Thankfully, today I find myself in a much better place, a place of renewed hope and even excitement. I can't wait to share with you what God has been doing in my life.

Today, however, I wanted to share this old post with you. I wanted to add an intro, finish it up, and hit publish. So as you read these words, just remember that a lot of this is my voice two years back. Doesn't mean things aren't still hard, but there are a lot more smiles than tears here lately. I mainly want to share this for the testimony at the end. I hope it speaks to your heart.

  *  *  *  *  *  *  *

February 17, 2014. The day I found out we were actually, finally pregnant. After 3 years of trying, after countless doctor appointments, needles, & tests, and after 3 procedures, I was pregnant. It was all worth it now. The dream I'd had since childhood would finally be realized: I would be a mom in just 9 months.

I remember the absolute shock, disbelief, and then overwhelming JOY. I remember calling my sister. I remember running to Brad's parent's house and then mine to tell them the news. I remember telling the friends who had supported me most through my infertility journey. I remember downloading the pregnancy apps - yes, three of them. I remember writing my due date in my calendar. October 23. I would have a baby before Christmas!

I remember going in for our first ultrasound, only to find out that I was possibly having an ectopic pregnancy, and that all we could do was wait and see. I remember the nurse telling me to call them immediately if I had any pain or bleeding over the weekend, even if it was the middle of the night.

I remember the sick feeling I got. I remember being terrified. I remember the doctor leaving the room for a minute, and me looking at Brad and saying, "I cannot lose this baby. PLEASE do not tell me I am going to lose this baby!" I remember the panic.

I remember the weekend, and the peace that came in, like a wave washing over my fearful heart. I remember realizing that it was probably just too early, that I would go back in on Monday and everything would be fine. I remember going out for my birthday on Sunday, and being able to relax a little and enjoy the day, knowing everything was going to be okay. This had to be a mistake.

I remember waking up very early Monday morning with extremely painful cramping...and bleeding. I called my doctor. It was surreal. It felt like it was happening to someone else, and I was just watching it all unfold. He had me explain the kind of cramps I was having, and he said it sounded like a miscarriage, not an ectopic pregnancy. He told me to come in at 7 in the morning instead of my 8 o'clock appointment. I went in and it was confirmed. I was miscarrying.

I spent three days at home. I slept, I cried, I prayed, and I screamed. I was in so much pain, physically and emotionally. How could this have happened? Why? Why me?

I remember knowing some days would be harder than others ... days like Mother's Day. Days like my due date.

October 23, 2014. Today is my due date. I woke up and had a card from Brad. So sweet. I had a few texts from friends before I even got to work, to let me know they were praying for me. The workday was very busy, so it passed by quickly and I didn't really have to think too much about it being my due date. I also got some cards in the mail. After work, I went to support group, which I so desperately needed. I spilled my heart there. I spilled it all - everything I have been feeling about this path I am on. I left feeling like a weight had been lifted. Some of what I shared there I'm going to share with you.

I had a major breakdown on Monday. I had just left work, and nothing bad happened at work or anything, but the second I got in my car to leave, I felt such a heaviness. I cried the whole way home. I came home and cried myself to sleep. So broken. Tuesday and Wednesday were fine, and Thursday - my due date - went okay, too. This song was on in my car on my way to work & these lyrics speak to me so much right now. I posted this as my status on Facebook. I hesitated at first, but decided to go ahead and post it.

Lord over all
You will be my rescue
You will never fail
Lord, through it all
I will choose to trust You
You will never fail

--Kari Jobe 

My due date was today. And as much as I wish things had gone differently, and as much as my heart still feels completely shattered much of the time, I am choosing to believe in His word and His faithfulness. Prayers appreciated today.

My truster is broken. I said before that Kari Jobe talked at her concert about sometimes our truster is broken - we cannot trust God - and that is a tough place to be as a Christian. And she's right, it's tough. It is where I am right now. I feel like I can be open and honest here, so you might want to run if you don't want to know how I really feel. But I feel like He let me down. I feel like He gave me a baby only to snatch it away. I feel hurt by Him. Don't worry or freak out. It's okay for me to say this, He isn't going to strike me dead. Don't you think He knows how I feel anyway? He does. He knows, and He understands.

And don't worry. I can say all I want that He let me down, that I don't trust Him right now, and even while I say it, I know He is good. I know He is faithful. It's just that trust is earned and when you feel like someone broke your trust (even if you're wrong), you have to work on being able to trust again. So yeah, I am choosing to trust Him, no matter what. This isn't a blind faith... this isn't me trusting in something that isn't true. I already know it's true. I've already seen Him at work. I already know He is writing my story, and He is the best storyteller. I am just telling you where I am right now in that story. Right now, I feel He has let me down. Right now, I'm not angry at Him, just disappointed. Let down. And you know, brokenhearted. Devastated. I wasn't exaggerating in my facebook status when I said my heart feels shattered most of the time. If you ask me how I'm doing, I'll probably say fine, because what am i supposed to say? "My heart is breaking"? This is too hard.

Seeing pregnancy updates from people also due in October has been hard for me. Because I know that's where I should be. Oh, I would be finding out the baby's gender now, oh we would be having our baby shower about now, oh, we would probably be doing maternity photos now too. But October 23: We should be having our baby right about now. 

I try not to think about it too often. Infertility, my miscarriage - those things are never off of my mind, but I can't let myself think too long about What Could Have Been/What Should Have Been. I try not to think about the fact that if things had been different, I would have a baby right now. If I think about it too long, I get sad. I get resentful. I get angry.

This is the most difficult thing I have ever walked through! It is devastation. It is grief. It is uncertainty. It is PAIN, so much pain, pain that chokes you, that overwhelms you. Some days, the pain feels like something really heavy is sitting on my chest. Some days I see someone's status of happy mommy/baby things & it makes me smile. Other days it makes me weep.

*  *  *  *  *  *  * 

But there is something else. My testimony. You see, I never had the story that some former "rebels" have. I never had that testimony of  "I committed all these terrible sins and then I met Jesus and I never turned back". I met Jesus when I was 5. I loved Him then. I started following Him then. And I FULLY surrendered (knowing what that meant) around age 16. So I never had what people would call an earth-shaking, incredible testimony. Nothing wrong with those, those are awesome, but at times I felt like mine was nothing in comparison. Thankfully, I came to understand that I did have a pretty awesome testimony. It goes like this: For many many years, throughout my teens and early twenties, I was unhappy. Not just unhappy, though. I was broken. I was hurting. I had low self-esteem, I hated myself, I was afraid of everything. But GOD suddenly came in & rescued me, He set me free, He turned my sorrow into complete & utter JOY. He filled my heart with joy, and I was never the same. And He showed me this verse, which became my testimony verse:

"For you turned my wailing into dancing
You removed my sackcloth & covered me with joy
That my heart may sing to You and not be silent.
Oh, Lord, my God, I will give you thanks forever."
-Psalm 30:11-12

That was MY verse. It was my testimony. I shared it, I believed in it passionately. THIS is what God can do for you - give you SO MUCH JOY! It was my story.

And then God did it for me again. I was single for all of my twenties. It was just fine for me, in fact, I had kind of a soapbox about how much better it was to be single anyway...until i reached about 26...and then I was over it. I wanted a husband. Give me a husband already!!!! I would say to God. He didn't. I spent my twenties a single woman, and in my late twenties all i wanted was a husband. Around 28, I was so frustrated with this. I begged God to bring me a husband. I felt so alone and I felt that I needed that person in my life. I remember when Brad came back into my life after 11 years. I was 29, so of course it crossed my mind that maybe God was bringing him back into my life for a reason. I remember when, after the third date after all those years, walking away realizing it was not going to happen. Good of him to see if there was something there, but we were clearly headed down two different paths and it wasn't going to work. I remember being upset about it, and frustrated with God. I mean, it's one thing for me to still be single, but to wait until I am really just crying out for a partner in life, and then bring back my first boyfriend, my first and only love? Only to take him away again? Not to sound ridiculous, but I truly felt like the dog who has someone dangling a treat in front of his face only to yank it away. Like I was being teased and not in a funny way. Why bring Brad into my life if it isn't going to work anyway? Just to take him away again? Why would you do that to me, God? Why would you hurt my heart that way? On purpose!

Well, you know what happened? I remember telling my roommate how I felt, but then just a few weeks later, she came home from a date and peeked in my bedroom where I was sitting on my bed with my laptop. I had just read an email from Brad, the third in a series of back and forth emails. She asked how my night was, and I looked away from the computer screen and up at my roommate in shock, because I had just realized that God was answering my prayer. I said, "Aimie. I'm going to marry this man. He's the one." She probably thought I was crazy, since I had just recently told her it wasn't happening! Ha! What followed that night was such complete joy, a beautiful love story that only God could write, and a marriage that has been far more than I had ever dreamed of or imagined.

So after all of this... after our years of infertility but before my miscarriage...one day I was listening to a song that reminded me of the scripture verses above. For you turned my mourning into dancing... I remembered these situations in my life where God turned my sorrow into joy. And I very strongly felt that God spoke to my heart right then by saying, "What I did before, I will do again. What I was faithful to do before, I will be faithful to do for you again." That was it. But it was clear. In that moment He gave me the strength to continue believing and a peace in knowing that He is going to answer our prayers. And I know He is. That was more than two years ago, but I am reminded of it every time I want to give up. And if you have ever wondered why we don't just give up, thinking obviously parenthood isn't in the cards for us, here's your answer. I'm not giving up any time soon. He is going to give me my miracle. Faithful He has been. Faithful He will be.

I don't write these things for me. I hope people read them and whether it is infertility or something else, I hope they can see the goodness of God at work, and believe Him for miracles in their own stories and in their own situations. He is faithful. 

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

I Did This Thing! (Sarah's Laughter stuff)

I feel like I have so much to share that is going on in the Sarah's Laughter world!
Some of my Sarah's Laughter girls!

For those who don't know what Sarah's Laughter is (& I am guessing since I am extremely vocal about infertility/support group/Sarah's Laughter, that this would only be people who accidentally find this post by googling something!), Sarah's Laughter is a ministry that helps women (& men!) who are going through infertility, or facing miscarriage or infant loss.

So let's get right to it.

First of all, I DID A PODCAST! What? Do you listen to podcasts? I didn't either until Sarah's Laughter started recording them. A bunch of current & past members of Sarah's Laughter support group recorded one to share their story & they have been releasing them on Mondays.  They are so good & worth listening to whether you are going through infertility yourself or know someone going through it and want to understand their situation better.

My friend, Mary Claire, asked me told me we were going to record a podcast together. Beth and Jason had already begun recording them, and I wasn't even considering volunteering myself. I thought it would be one of those things that makes me nervous, like an audition or an interview. But Mary Claire sweetly insisted. And she really didn't have to twist my arm. I thought at least it wouldn't be by myself. We would be doing one together! We did it and it was so much fun!

Me, Mary Claire & Beth, ready to go!

Mary Claire was my first support group friend. We met at an infertility workshop (put on by Sarah's Laughter) in 2013 & started attending group after that. We were instant friends, close friends, I basically felt like someone had cut off my right arm if I was at a meeting that she couldn't make. But usually we were both there. We hit it off, and she is one of the reasons I am thankful for infertility. She is my soul sister & my worship buddy. After going to group together for almost two years, Mary Claire conceived twins. Our podcast is about how our friendship remained strong after she "graduated" from group while I continued to struggle with infertility.

You can download our podcast here, and all of the other posts that have been recorded so far are there also!

*  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  

Let's see, what else? Well. Sarah's Laughter is putting on an infertility workshop in a month, and GUESS WHO THE GUEST SPEAKER IS??? (Sorry to shout.) It is Elisha from Waiting for Baby Bird. Yes, I'm serious. Some of you are wishing you could attend, some of you are wondering who that is, which is shocking to me, because she is basically a celebrity. But anyway... if you are going through infertility, go to her blog, or go to her facebook, because she basically spews out loving, encouraging, powerful words all day long. I am so thankful for this girl who I have never met BUT WILL GET TO MEET IN A MONTH! (Again, sorry to shout. I'm just excited!)

I also just realized I say "basically" a lot. Ha!

 Pssst. You can come too. Sign up here and come down to Louisiana! :)

*  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  * 

I guess the last thing is that Baby Steps is coming up. That is the 5k I participated in last year and the year before. It is a WONDERFUL event that helps raise infertility awareness, and honestly we have felt SO supported in our journey on that day. 

First Baby Steps 5k - 2014

2nd Annual Baby Steps - 2015
I haven't set up my team yet, but there are a few changes for this year's Baby Steps. I wanted to give you a heads up! First of all, it will be in Gonzales, not Baton Rouge. I really hope this doesn't keep you from joining us! It will be held at the Lamar Dixon Expo Center, mainly because there is a covered area in case of a downpour (so we aren't all huddled under someone's tent we don't even know, like last year!). Another difference is that it is a 1 mile Fun Run, not a 5k. And no, you do NOT have to run. Most people don't, honestly. I sure won't be. Haha!

The other main difference is that this year we really do want to win the $10,000 grant for fertility treatments or the IVF giveaway (assuming that is still one of the prizes; it hasn't been announced yet). That's not to say we didn't want to win last year or the year before, but at those events I was not thinking IVF would be our path. I thought if we won, then we would take it as a sign! I truly felt God would choose the right winners and I know He did. This year, I still will be fine with whoever wins. God is in control, and He will bless the person that He sees fit! However, since IVF *IS* our path now, I would be thrilled to win. God will pick the winner, but I would love for it to be us. :) This year, it is our plan, and we are moving forward, and to win would be a huge blessing! So if you want to come... I will be sharing more details later. It is November 12th, so mark your calendars! 

I guess that's it for now, but I do have a lot on my mind that I have been wanting to share! Stay tuned!