Infertility

Making Our Baby: The Details

Just like our post about how we planned on “making a baby” naturally as our last-ditch effort before moving on to infertility treatments, I will preface this by saying that we don’t plan on giving the nitty gritty about the actual process of creating the baby (wink wink), but we will share what we did differently this time around in hopes that it could give people ideas, a starting place, or just some hope in the face of infertility.

Now, truth be told, we were only officially TWO DAYS into our Making Babies three-month program when we conceived our child, but there were things we started long before this that probably had the greatest impact.

 

Charting/Ovulation Tests in Order to Time Conception

My last cycle started on April 29.  Someone recommended the Kindara app to me, so I tried it.  Before that cycle, I had tried temping until my doctor told me to stop (she claimed it would only make me crazy, which is valid, but it was helpful this last cycle but I’m not sure I would do it long-term if it wasn’t helping us to be successful).  This cycle, I took my temperature most mornings and started taking ovulation tests about four days after my period ended.  I had been taking ovulation tests almost every month for quite a while, so that was nothing new.  This was my chart from that last cycle.

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I really thought I was going to ovulate around day 14, which is why we tried so much around that date, and then we didn’t see each other much on days 15 and 16 of our cycle, so I was convinced I had ovulated early or the ovulation predictor tests hadn’t picked up my LH surge because it happened later than when I tested.  However, on day 17 of my cycle (the day I typically ovulated other cycles but just must not have been thinking clearly), the morning ovulation test was positive.  Instead of waiting until later in the day when we had more time, we decided to try in the morning, which I think was key (although we might have conceived with one of the times we had tried a couple days earlier since sperm can live a few days).  You never truly know how many hours you have of a window when you receive a positive ovulation test, so it is best to try right away.  Ideally, we would have tried for two more days after that, but due to work schedules and a loss of hope, we didn’t.  10 days later, I took a pregnancy test and the rest is history!

 

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Supplements

Immediately after learning about male-factor infertility, San began taking a series of vitamins listed in this post. We simply researched what doctors recommend people with low morphology take and the urologist also confirmed this cocktail of vitamins.  San was taking these daily for over two months before we conceived.  About a month before we conceived, he also stopped taking his protein powder and BCAA’s before and after this workouts.  The thought behind this was that we would just cut out anything that could possibly have anything to do with infertility.  Our acupuncturist also prescribed a ton of herbs that San took for about two weeks close to the time we conceived our child, so this definitely could have come into play as well.

 

At-Home Stress Reduction

I only did this one time prior to conceiving, but I did it the day before I ovulated, so I have to include it in something that may have contributed to our success.  Doctors and anyone with an opinion on infertility will usually tell a couple not to stress out and to relax.  I do believe stress can be negative to someone’s body, but at the same time, I do not believe stress was what caused our infertility.  I’m a very Type-A, overacheiving, perfectionist type of person (just being honest) and that leads to lots of stress, but I also am very healthy, know how to deal with my stress most of the time, and express my emotions quickly so the stress doesn’t stay pent up inside for long periods of time.  That being said, because I had heard from so many people that stress could affect fertility, I decided to really work on reducing stress during our three-month program.  One way I did this is through self-massage and visualization.

The day before I ovulated (although I didn’t know it was the day before I ovulated at the time – I was just trying to remain hopeful that I would receive a positive ovulation test), I started by visualizing the sperm meeting the egg.  I sat at our dining room table with my feet on the ground, my eyes closed, and my arms resting at my side.  I never realized just how emotional this would make me.  I sat there, really trying to picture the egg breaking from the follicle, being pulled into the fallopian tube, and tons of little sperm waiting there to fertilize it.  However, what’s interesting looking back, is that I just couldn’t picture the sperm fertilizing the egg.  We had tried for seventeen months to get pregnant with no success.  I was told that my husband’s sperm could not fertilize an egg or even swim to the egg, so to try to picture it was extremely discouraging.  However, I kept going, tears flowing out of my closed eyes, and me clinging to the last bit of hope I could find.  At the end of the visualization, I was to picture myself standing beneath a waterfall that was washing away all my fear, anxiety, worries, doubts, anger, frustration, and discouragement.  I’ve never been a big meditator/visualizer, but I absolutely loved this part.  I was feeling so sad in that moment that imagining myself beneath that waterfall was very cathartic and calming.

After that, I laid down and did the self-massage, which at that point in my cycle, involved very lightly massaging the skin and muscles covering the ovaries to promote blood-flow to those areas.  It was very calming and it was pretty cool to learn more about my own anatomy and where all the parts are located.

I’m not sure this really affected our fertility, but the next day, we conceived our child, so it’s safe to assume it didn’t hurt our chances!

 

Acupuncture

Timing really is funny, and it is very hard to assume that this month the stars aligned when there were lots of little things we did differently during or in preparation for my last cycle.  My last cycle started on April 29th.  On May 3, 12 days before we conceived our child, I did a round of acupuncture.  It was very calming, it gave me a surge of energy and hope, and it was targeting the key areas to promote fertility.  About a week later, just days before we conceived, San did a round of acupuncture as well to promote high levels in all male fertility aspects.  Sure enough, we got pregnant right after so it’s hard to argue with its effectiveness!

 

Counseling

In preparation for our three-month program, I had begun seeing an infertility-focused therapist.  She herself had gone through the struggles of infertility and had done a lot of research on couples suffering from infertility.  The main reason behind seeking counseling through our program was to reduce stress and to maintain hope.  It was extremely helpful to let out all my doubts, fears, and worries in a safe environment and have them validated with a sense of hope that things will work out one way or another.  She even had her dog there, and if you know anything about how much we love our dogs, it is pretty obvious that having a dog there would help calm me and make me happy.  I’m not sure the counseling impacted our success, but it certainly didn’t harm our chances.

 

Prayer

Even with all the little changes and additions we made leading up to our eventual successful cycle, it is very hard to deny the power of prayer that occured.  On April 22, we shared our infertility story publicly on our blog and posted it to our Facebook and Instagram pages in hopes that it would raise awareness about infertility and help those suffering from it.  We received the largest outpouring of love from everyone around us immediately.  It was overwhelming in the best way.  It gave us hope, it gave us strength, and it helped us to keep going.  So many people shared their own stories with us, and we were determined to fight to be successful not just for ourselves, but for all those struggling looking for answers and stories of hope.

Coincidence or not (we definitely think not), just three weeks later, on our very next cycle, we conceived our child.  If that’s not proof of the power of prayer, I don’t know what is.  So, although we did things differently and made some changes, we fully believe this baby was an answered prayer thanks to all of those who prayed for us.  We are so grateful and completely humbled that so many helped our greatest wish come true.

 

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What About Diet and Exercise?

We definitely did not lie about changing our diet.  We did change our diet and exercise for the three-month program.  I started about a week and a half before we conceived and San started two days before we conceived.  We continued for a couple weeks until we realized we were pregnant.  The reason we are not including diet and exercise in the things we change to help us conceive, is because we started it only days and a week before becoming pregnant that we really don’t believe that short of a time span of changes would have time to impact our fertility for the better.

 

Did the Numbers Change?

After learning we were pregnant, I immediately begged our doctor to allow us to do another semen analysis.  I wanted to know if the morphology percentage actually went up or if it truly was a miracle and nothing more that we conceived naturally.  However, it took some time to get our doctor to agree (since they typically only order semen analyses for patients struggling with infertility not those who are pregnant), and San really just wanted to have some beer, stop giving up gluten/dairy/coffee/etc., and be able to celebrate the pregnancy.  After watching him pop 15-30+ vitamins per day every day for months and worry about his manhood, I wasn’t about to tell him to keep up with the program until we took a semen analysis a couple weeks later.  So, we ended up canceling the analysis, since I didn’t see any point in paying $100 for results that would have been inconclusive due to changing everything right before taking it.

In the future, we plan on trying for a little bit just tracking ovulation, and will go through the more expensive and difficult changes if that is not successful.

We hope this post helps anyone struggling with infertility, especially male-factor with low morphology, to know there are starting places to begin with before going the invasive route.  We know what we did won’t work for everyone and may not even work for us again, but it sure feels good to know you are trying somethinganything different besides the same old routine for months and months with no success.

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Sharing the Baby Raisin Love

Unlike many couples who keep their pregnancy news a secret for weeks and even months from their family and friends, we were in a different situation and could not wait even more than a day to share!  After sharing news of our infertility so publicly, we felt compelled to share news of our pregnancy with all those who knew about our infertility before we went completely public.  Many close friends and family members were filled in on our infertility journey before we shared the news on a public level, so we didn’t feel right withholding news of our pregnancy when so many we know and loved were worried about us and prayed for us often.

We thought we would dedicate a post sharing how we told those closest to us and share some of their reactions we got on film!  These will always be so precious to us and I’m still trying to figure out a way to pass these memories on to Baby Raisin when he or she is old enough to understand.

We learned about our pregnancy for the first time on May 25th, or 10 days past ovulation (DPO for short).  I had been having some symptoms, but nothing out of the ordinary.  The only really strange thing was that my bra was feeling very tight during the day and not just at the end of the day like normal.  I tried not to get my hopes up like I had so many times before, but part of me really started thinking I could be pregnant, moreso than any other cycle.  The morning of the 25th, I laid in bed and researched how effective a pregnancy test would be if I were pregnant ten days past ovulation.  A website shared there was a 75% chance the test would read positive if pregnant and a 25% chance it would read negative even if we were pregnant.

I woke San up and asked if we should take one even if it might be a false negative.  He wanted to, so I ran to the bathroom, peed on the stick, and got back into bed with a timer set for three minutes.  Those long three minutes were spent holding hands, praying, and just hoping we could wish ourselves pregnant, but also reminding ourselves it was going to be negative so we wouldn’t be devastated.  Sure enough, after grabbing it and letting out a big sigh as we looked at it, it was negative.  However, it was dark in our room, so I decided for some weird reason, to look at it under the light, something I had NEVER done before.  I still find it odd that I was so compelled to double check.  As I held it under my bedside lamp, I saw the faintest of faint lines making the test read positive.  I though perhaps I was having some kind of infertility-related mirage, so I had San check and he agreed.  I took multiple pictures of it, manipulated the pictures, and posted them on various forums which all responded with a resounding, “Congratulations!  It’s positive!”

We let ourselves cry at the possibility that maybe it was actually positive, but went about our day knowing if there was a baby growing inside of me, the line would be darker the next day.  The next day, it was definitely darker and visible in all lighting, so we celebrated and decided to share the news with our closest friends and family that day!

For my parents, we wanted to do something creative and fun since we wouldn’t be able to share the news in person.  Because my parents were up at our house almost every weekend for seven months to help renovate it last year, we thought a renovation themed surprise would be perfect.  I crafted an email that I sent to their email inboxes just as they picked up the phone.  We talked for a few minutes before I shared that we were ready to work on the “office” and had a few ideas that we wanted their feedback on.  I told them I sent a few photos of ideas for what we were thinking and needed them to look at them so they could help us figure out how to execute our vision for the room.

This is what the email contained:

Hi Mom and Dad!
San and I wanted your feedback on our newest house project.  We are hoping to work on this room:


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We want to include these items:
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It may be a little urgent . . .

It needs to be completed by February 2015.

Scroll down . . .

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Thanks for all the prayers!  They worked!

Here is a video of us sharing with my parents, San’s parents, and my friend Courtney, who has two darling little boys and has been waiting for us to get pregnant for a long time!

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The Worst and Best Year of Our Lives

It’s been three months since we began the Making Babies three-month program.  We are overjoyed and so humbled to be able to finally announce that two days after officially starting the program, we did, indeed, make a baby who is now expected to arrive on February 3, 2015!

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On February 5, 2014, we learned the devastating news that my husband had 0% morphology, meaning that there was basically a 100% chance that we would never conceive a child on our own because no sperm could either swim to an egg or fertilize one.  We spent the next few months doing more testing, crying, picking each other back up, falling down again, before finally deciding on a treatment plan that involved three months of lifestyle changes before moving on to insemination which would likely never work.

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On April 22, we shared our infertility story publicly.  The outpouring of love, support, and prayers we received was overwhelming in the best way.  I have never felt such a sense of community, so far from isolated, and so understood by those around me.  It was what I thought was the silver lining to this whole situation (and it was a glorious silver lining at that time).  That outpouring led to me finally coming to acceptance that we would likely never conceive our own child.  I started meeting with and writing to those who had adopted.  We were still going to go ahead with our plan, but I was almost certain adoption was going to be our path to a family.

I finally understood what I believe God was trying to teach me through our infertility struggle.  I learned that I was happier than I had been in a long time because I had been sadder than I had ever been in my life.  I felt more support than I ever have because I had previously felt so isolated and lonely.  I could sense God’s presence strongly because I had been feeling completely devoid of it for months.  I finally understood that in God’s own way, he would provide for us according to his plan, his timing, and our needs which he knew.  I knew he put a desire for a family in our hearts and instead of forcing it to happen, we would do our best and wait patiently.  Do I believe God caused our infertility?  That’s a tough question, but I believe God is all-good, so I would say no, but I believe he allowed our infertility to cross our path to teach us something, which it did.

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On May 13, we officially started our three month plan for our last effort for conceiving on our own.  Just two days later, on May 15, we conceived our child.  On May 25, we saw our first faint line on a pregnancy test.  On May 26, we knew for sure by the line getting progressively darker that the impossible, the longed-for, the miracle had occurred.  Two blood draws at the doctor confirmed that our dream had come true.

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We are now close to 13 weeks along and can finally share this news with everyone who prayed for us, who rooted for us, and who supported us.  Medically-speaking, there are a few things that probably could have impacted our success this time (which we will share in a separate post), 17 cycles into trying, but we owe this miracle baby, this light of our whole world, to God who answered countless prayers.  It is no coincidence to us that not even one month after sharing our story, we conceived our child.  We could not feel more grateful to all of you who prayed for us, because without your prayers and God’s never-ending love that we so do not deserve,  I believe we would be preparing for insemination or adoption right now, not sitting here with a full womb and overflowing hearts.

I know our story is not everyone’s story.  It took me quite a while to truly get worked up with joy toward this pregnancy because the thoughts of those still waiting crushed me.  I know exactly how it feels to wait with a horrible diagnosis and keep trying anyway, even when the odds are completely against you.  However, I do not know what it is like to go through multiple rounds of insemination, IVF, adoption papers, etc. only to be let down.  We have not been faced with the pain of deciding we cannot have children because we cannot afford treatment or adoption.  I have not been pumped full of drugs only to be told I didn’t have enough follicles.  We have never endured the gut-wrenching desperation of a miscarriage.  The thought completely shakes me to my core.  My heart is still shattered for all those still suffering with infertility.  I cry as I write this post because my heart is so full while also being simultaneously broken for all those who, just like we were, are waiting for their miracle baby that may never come.  It is a nasty, devastating trial for anyone to go through, and my heart goes out to you.  I pray so often for those I know specifically struggling as well as for a cure because it can completely wreck a person’s purpose, self-worth, marriage, and so much more.  We had only a small taste of it, but that taste was enough to shake my world in monstrous proportions to the point where I was bawling in the bathroom on a daily basis and had pulled away from God because I felt unworthy of his love and as though we were denied something we had such a strong desire and heart for.  It’s not pretty and part of me will still from time to time feel a trace of sadness when I think of our baby because I don’t understand why we were so fortunate and others are not.

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When people ask me how I feel, I say I feel completely and totally lucky and grateful.  Someone close to me pointed out that I should use the word “blessed” instead of lucky because the baby is a gift from God, but I hesitate to use that word in this situation.  Is our baby a gift from God?  The greatest gift we could have ever been given, no doubt.  Are we blessed to have this baby?  Of course.  However, that word to me leaves me feeling devastated in this particular situation because we in no way deserve this baby any more than all those longing for a baby.  It leaves me wondering why are we blessed when others are not?  Why did I, the woman who couldn’t pray to God with an open heart for months, get pregnant when all the odds were against us?  Certainly I am far beyond grateful, but I don’t like the word blessed in this situation because it reminds me of all those who aren’t blessed with a baby and makes me question why.  Part of faith is believing God is good and knowing we may never understand this world, so I am clinging to that instead of using a word that really makes me question our creator.

Despite the sadness I feel and my reluctance to share our pregnancy so openly, I believe our story has touched many people and allowed them to hold on to hope, and I believe sharing this amazing news will hopefully allow others to know that it is possible, it all will be worth it, and to not lose hope or faith in God because he will provide in one way or another.  I look back, and I would never ask to take away the pain of the last year and a half of trying and failing and reliving our diagnosis all over again.  I’m so grateful for that experience because without it, we would not realize how miraculous this child is or how truly difficult it can be to do what our bodies were supposed to be designed for.  We would not have the strength within our marriage that we do now without being at rock bottom together, just clawing at some kind of hope to get us through.  We would not have an amazing story to tell our child about when he or she is old enough.  I cannot wait to share our infertility story with our baby when old enough so he or she can learn just how miraculous God is, how much we desired him or her in our lives, and how powerful prayer is.  I don’t need to tell our child through detached stories or metaphors about God’s love and faithfulness; he or she will be living proof.

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Now, we fully understand that we are insanely lucky right now.  This baby is far more than a blessing to us.  No words truly describe it.  However, we know that this may be our only child conceived naturally.  Infertility doesn’t usually just miraculously go away, so we are happy to be open about it before conceiving this child so we can be open about it in the future if we are unable to conceive again.  We are all about helping others, inspiring hope, and coming up with new ideas, so as much as we hope we have no trouble conceiving more children, that will likely not be the case, so we will be able to continue on with our infertility conversation down the road if things don’t work out like we hope they will.

We plan on posting regular pregnancy-related posts and videos for those interested, but mostly for us to document this rare and beautiful time in our marriage.  Our intent is surely not to rub our fertility success in anyone’s face, so if you have been reading our blog following our infertility story because you are suffering from it yourself, we fully expect to lose readers and completely understand if our posts become too much for your heart to bear.  However, I know at times, reading about others’ successes, especially those with male-factor infertility, gave me hope that we would be parents one day, so feel free to use our posts in that way to help yourself cope.  I hope to always be a voice for infertility and am grateful we have become part of the community and can continue to raise awareness about it.

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Thank you again to anyone who supported us and prayed for us.  This baby wouldn’t be here without your help and support.  We can’t wait to meet our child and to become parents.  I’ve joked in the last couple months that I know everything there is to know about getting pregnant, but I came into this pregnancy knowing virtually nothing about actually being pregnant, so I appreciate any advice any mothers out there are willing to give me!

And final note, we are calling the baby “Baby Raisin” until we know the gender, or perhaps even until we deliver the baby.  Raisin is kind of a funny name comprised of the fact that we have always talked about our “redheaded Asian” children (we know they will likely not have red hair, but it’s been a running joke since the time we started dating in high school between us and our friends).  Redhead + Asian = Raisin, well sort of.  Plus, at the time we picked the name, the baby was the size of a raisin and it’s cute, so it stuck!  We can’t wait to find out Baby Raisin’s gender in a couple months and are so happy to finally be able to share this news!

A big thank you goes out to Leah Fontaine for taking such beautiful photos of this special moment in our life!  You are the best!

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How & Why We Prep Meals

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If you have been following myself or Sarah on social media lately, you’ve been seeing those little black to-go containers full of food, neatly packed together, in a methodical, yet practical fashion.   Did we order 5 of the same entrees from our favorite restaurant? Even better friends. We made those meals ourselves, with a widely known method called “meal-prep”.

Meal-prep has been around longer than most people think and not just something bodybuilding goons do so they can get their meals or calories in for the day.  Meal-prep is a just a simple way of planning  your meals for the week for whatever meal period and having a corresponding entree.  It is a matter of picking a protein, a carb source, and a vegetable that you wouldn’t mind eating for a couple of meals.

Depending on your goals, whether it is to lose or gain weight, maintain, or just to simply have a lunch packed everyday, meal-prepping ensures you are always prepared.  Remember; failing to plan is planning to fail.

 

Why We Prep Meals for the Week

Last September, I started intermittent fasting with the goal of losing weight.  I was researching meal-prep ideas and learning a little about nutrition until I finally decided to start planning our meals for the week.

By doing meal-prep, Sarah and I are able to control each portion of food, down to the last ounce.  It allows us to eat healthier while we are out working or when we are at home on our days off.  It helps save us money because it reminds us we have a meal ready to go versus having to eat fast food .  It also eliminates making  bad choices at work like having fried, greasy food.

Since Sarah and I are on a “fertility-diet” so to speak, meal-prepping allows us to know what ingredients go into each meal and allows us to know what goes into our bodies as well.

 

How We Prep Meals for the Week

It all begins with a grocery list. We research recipe ideas beforehand so we can get some ideas floating around. We start with a couple of proteins (like beef, chicken, pork, etc.) and then decide on the starch (sweet potatoes, brown rice, quinoa, etc.).  We usually have a lot of frozen veggies on hand, but we also pick up a few more bags because we go through them so quickly. Depending on the recipes we chose, we may pick up some barbecue sauce or some salsa too.  We go through many bottles a month!

Once we have all the groceries ready to go, we cook the starch while cooking the protein.  We love using our crockpot for our proteins because it allows us to just throw the ingredients in and forget about it for a couple of hours.  We usually bake our sweet potatoes or boil up some rice with some herbs and spices and coconut oil.  So, our meat can be cooking in the crockpot while the carbohydrates are cooking in the oven or on the stovetop.  We love multi-tasking for saving time!

Once everything is cooked and cooled down slightly, we portion each meal accordingly.  Sarah usually can’t eat as much as I do so I usually opt for more protein than her. I usually don’t like too many veggies so we load her meals up with those. Once they are portioned, we simply refrigerate them on separate shelves so we know whose is whose. It’s usually easier to determine when both of us have different proteins/starches/veggies too.

This is all done in one day, usually in just a few minutes of prep time and a few hours of cook time while we are doing other things.

 

Our Meals for this Week

Items from the grocery store:

This past week we picked up some chicken thighs, lean ground beef, a large jug of salsa, sweet potatoes and green beans.

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Salsa chicken:

Using our slow cooker and liners, this is the easiest way to make salsa chicken.

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We first put the chicken thighs in the lined slow-cooker.

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Next, we put a generous cup or two of salsa.

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We then throw in whatever spices we feel like.

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A generous shake of paprika, a dash of red pepper flakes, a few sprinkles of meat magic and chili powder and a cap full of Mrs. Dash

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Can you tell that this has gotten a lot of use?

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After a  5-6 hours on low, the chicken is easy to shred and looks amazing. Drool.  This recipe makes for SUCH juicy chicken!

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Meatballs:

We started with some nice lean ground beef.

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Next, some Italian seasonings. I never have measurements, I usually just wing it!

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Since we are trying our best to avoid gluten and dairy, we used about a half-cup coconut flour for this recipe instead of all-purpose or whole wheat flour.

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We then added 4 eggs to this particular recipe.

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 Coconut flour, seasonings, and eggs, all together.

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Next, we mixed all the seasonings together until they were fully incorporated in the meat.

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Using a small 2 oz. ice cream scoop, we portioned out each meat ball.

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Making sure the meatballs didn’t stick to our pans, we used coconut spray.

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All the meatballs – portioned and ready to go into a hot oven.

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We set the oven to 375 degrees (F) and covered the meatballs.

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We cooked them covered for 30 minutes, removed the foil and let them brown up for an additional 10 minutes.

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Roasted sweet potatoes:

We first washed and cubed up the sweet potatoes.

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After it was cubed up , we tossed it in a large bowl.

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We drizzled some olive oil,  salt and pepper, and cinnamon on the potatoes.

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Next,we lined a  baking pan with foil, sprayed it with some coconut oil spray and laid out the potatoes. We baked it at 375 (F) for 40 minutes (or until they are fork tender)

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The final product:

Here’s what the meals look like when they are all done and portioned out. I chose green beans for my meals as the veggie.  I drizzled some barbecue sauce on the meatballs for flavor.

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Sarah was having the salsa chicken and she decided on corn for her meals
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By doing meal-prep, we have saved a lot of time, and it has helped us eat healthier by controlling not only the portions, but the ingredients as well.

Sarah and I dedicated an entire afternoon to make these meals. It took us a couple of hours to have  ten meals prepared for the week.  With our busy schedules and time spent away from home, it’s nice knowing that we have a home-cooked meal waiting for us whenever we need it.

Have you ever tried meal prepping? Did you see a benefit in your health and  your time?

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Infertility, with a Side of Guilt, Anger, and Loss of Identity, Please!

I’m sure many women have experienced the dreaded negative pregnancy test at some point on their journey to start a family or add to their family.  Each negative is sad on its own, but added to the sadness is the thought and secret fear many women have: what if we can’t get pregnant on our own?  That fear was on my mind more and more as each negative pregnancy test seemed to laugh at me month after month.  Many of my friends have commented to me at one point in our lives that it is their fear, too.  However, even I just brushed it off during our first year of trying.  No, it’s just stress.  No, it’s just the timing.  No, God doesn’t have it in the cards for us this month.  No, it’s probably better that it happens next month.

 

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During January of this year, when we had reached the point where we could no longer just sit around and wait for a positive test, this fear was on my mind a lot.  Why can most couples get pregnant within a year without timing it and yet we timed it so many times and here we are?  Do I need to exercise more?  Is there something wrong with me?  Is my body a toxic environment?  What if there is something wrong with San?  What would happen to our marriage if we can’t have kids?  What will we do?  Will I be able to handle it?  We spent much of our time researching all the possibilities and we hoped that if there was anything wrong, it would be something very minor that the doctors could fix.  Even after seriously thinking about it and imagining what it would feel like to learn that getting pregnant naturally would be rare for us, nothing in the world could have prepared me for the emotional shock that would kick in upon learning the results from our testing.

I think so many women think they know what it would feel like, but I have learned through this that there is no way you can fully comprehend the struggle an infertile couple goes through unless you are experiencing it first hand.  I was not prepared for the many levels of sadness, the way it infiltrated all areas of my life, and the looming pessimism that would follow me everywhere.

I would like to paint a picture for those of you who haven’t experienced infertility (and I’m so glad that 7/8 people will never experience this) of what the roller coaster of infertility is really like, so that you may begin to understand what a couple is going through, what you might be able to say to them, and perhaps so that you may feel the urge to advocate for those suffering from infertility as well.

 

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As a person currently going through this, I have spent a lot of time researching what is normal to feel because at times, I thought perhaps I was going crazy.  I have read articles that state that learning about one’s infertility often brings up similar emotions and cycles of emotions that someone would feel when diagnosed with cancer or losing a loved one.  Some may read that and think it is being dramatic, but although I have never been diagnosed with cancer or lost one of my closest loved ones, I can’t imagine myself feeling much sadder than I did during the first few weeks of learning about our infertility.

When a couple learns they can’t have children on their own, they go through the five stages of grief (denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance).  Personally, I have felt all over the board with my emotions depending on the day, if something triggers the emotions such as a pregnancy announcement, what information we received from the doctors, and probably based on my normal womanly hormones as well.

Here are some of the emotions and thoughts I have had throughout the last few months.  I apologize in advance if these thoughts and emotions offend anyone.  At times, I was even surprised by my own thoughts because I work really hard at being non-judgmental and loving, but yet these thoughts can be overwhelming at times.  I just want to be honest about what I went through and continue to go through.  This is a very long post, but I tried to include as many emotions/thoughts I could recall from the past four months or so since we learned we are infertile.

 

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 Anger

When I got the call with the results that changed everything for us, really the whole course of our life from that point forward, I felt sadness mixed with a huge amount of anger.  I was so angry at the teenagers randomly getting pregnant.  I couldn’t even think about those having abortions.   I was furious at the people who just started dating who were now pregnant and posting photos with their dogs and their ultrasounds.  If I were a violent person, I would have probably punched my laptop when reading about celebrities who were pregnant and not married.  It wasn’t godly, it wasn’t like me, and it wasn’t a pretty thing, but it was real.  I was so angry that San and I had waited so many years to start a family as a married couple only to have it ripped away from us.   It wasn’t that I wanted to take those babies away from those who were pregnant, but I was just so angry that we had “followed the rules” so to speak and our reward was not waiting for us in a nice little easy package back on month one of trying.

 


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Loss of Identity

This is probably the hardest thing I am still dealing with.  My entire life, just ask my parents, I have placed my identity on being a mom.  As a little girl, I had my kids’ names all picked out.  I dreamed of my future family daily.  As I grew older, I kept a list of favorite names and all the cool ideas I found that I wanted to do with my kids (before the days of Pinterest).  When San was in the picture, we would talk about our future family often.  I started collecting photos of nurseries.  I just could not wait to be a mom.  My whole life has been spent waiting for that one role that I was waiting to fill that I believed would finally fill in the part of me that is not yet complete.   Learning that I may never experience pregnancy, birth, breastfeeding, and the magical bond a mother feels the first time the baby is placed in her arms, has shook my world into disarray.  I feel that I no longer know who I am.  This has led to me not knowing what I am doing or where I am going because I have no clue who I even am.

 

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Loss of Purpose

Piggybacking off of a loss of identity, infertility has led to a loss of purpose.  I dramatically quit my teaching job last year, and I sobbed uncontrollably as I told the principal that I was leaving.  Actually, he had to ask me if that was what I was trying to say because he couldn’t understand me through my sobs and rambling.  It was the scariest thing I ever did, to walk away from a career I prepared for for five years, spent way too much money on, and invested so much of my life into.  I quit because I just could not see how I could be the mom I want to be with the amount of time I was spending on teaching, planning, grading, and all the other extras that go into teaching.  It ate up so much of my life that I decided a family was worth so much more to me than a career as a teacher, so I quit.  I now nanny full-time and was hoping to take my photography business full-time once this nanny job is over and we have a family to raise.  Now that children don’t look like they are on the horizon for us any time soon, I feel as though I have no idea where I am going.  My job no longer feels like it has a purpose.  Each day, I wonder what the point is because I don’t know where I am headed.  I am such a diligent planner who loves to get things done and work toward goals, and now my ultimate goal has been compromised and I am left feeling as though I am wandering aimlessly through life.  It’s completely terrifying for me.

 

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Wishing I Were Ignorant

A couple weeks ago, I looked through our wedding photos while the tears flowed continuously into my lap.  I hope one day I can look at those photos and feel the happiness I did for the first year of marriage, but right now, they are completely bittersweet to me.  They remind me of the dream that was so real to us, probably more so on that day than any other.  Finally, we could try to be parents because we were married!  Finally, we could hold our babies in our arms.  Finally, we could give some of the love that was overflowing between us to another human.  Finally, our time had come.  Except, it didn’t.  All I see now when I look at those photos is the tragic unfolding of events that was our infertility diagnosis.  My heart breaks all over again just thinking about how sweet and innocent the desires of our hearts were on our wedding day and how deeply we would be crushed come two years later.  Sometimes I forget that we ever had the dream to get pregnant naturally without all of this infertility stuff in my mind.  It’s sad to have to relive it all again.

What is the point?

I won’t lie.  I have definitely asked myself this question a few times.  Now that we are heading down a path that could last for just a few months or possibly many years, it is hard to remember why we are doing all this.  There are no guarantees for an infertile couple.  I’ve read about marriages destroyed, failed cycle after failed cycle, bankruptcies due to infertility treatments, hollow shells of people at the end of it all, failed adoptions, you name it.  I sometimes wonder if perhaps it would be better to just give up while we are “still ahead,” when still ahead means behind but the alternative is much scarier.  I still have hope, but some days, I do wonder if I will look back and wish we had just decided to remain childless before starting treatment.

 

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Do I really even want a family?

This seems like a crazy question, but after all of this heartache, I have found myself wondering if I really even want a family anymore.  Of course I do, when I am thinking logically, but gone are the days of imagining what our children will look like, decorating their nursery in my head, and strolling through the baby aisles with a smile on my face.  All of those things reminded me that a family is what I want more than anything.  Now that I don’t do those things because it hurts too much, I often forget that I even want a family at all.  I figure it is a protective mechanism to keep more sad news from devastating me all over again, but it is scary to start to wonder if the very desire that started all of this was not a real desire at all.

 

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Why do our children have priced tags attached?

I would not have been surprised if, during the IVF seminar we attended a couple months ago, I had run out and gotten sick in the girls restroom.  That seminar made me completely lose it emotionally because I just could not believe how much the procedure costs that is most likely our only ticket to a biological family.  The thought of children now brings up images of dollar signs rather than pink and blue bundles of cuteness.  I can’t help but wonder if we will ever pay off our student loans when it may cost as much as our student loan debt to have a child.  How could we ever afford that?  Is having a baby in the face of infertility a rich couple’s dream?  Could we possibly never meet our biological children (or any children to call our own) because of money?  And that leads to anger again when I think of all the people who conceive babies for free.  It just doesn’t seem right that all of this is so expensive, but I could write a whole other post on that subject!

 

What if we choose the wrong thing?

One of the common misconceptions about infertility is that adoption is cheaper and easier than the other options.  So many people will say, “Well, why don’t they just adopt?” when learning that a couple is going to go through infertility treatment.  What many don’t consider is that even if a couple is willing to adopt or wanted to adopt anyway down the road, adoption is often the most expensive option given to infertile couples.  There are so many things a couple can try that are cheaper than adoption, but, nobody knows if those other options will work.  I have spent a lot of time worrying about whether x, y, or z will work when we are throwing money at various treatments.  No one wants to spend money on something that won’t work because that’s money that could have been used for whatever will work.  Except, nobody knows what will work.  It’s so frustrating that there are so many options, but so many of them could lead to losing precious money and time.  Beyond the pressure a couple feels when they go through a treatment of whether it will work or not because they want a family, is the pressure of the financial piece of all of this.

 

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Loss of our “Asian Redheads”

As much as we would love to adopt one day, I would be lying if I said it doesn’t hurt to think that we may never meet our biological children.  I love my husband unconditionally so much that sometimes it makes me cry because I feel so grateful to have him in my life.  I have dreamed of our children for so long and I have been so excited to see his beautiful heart inside of them.  I’ve stared at baby pictures of him, hoping our kids would look just like him.  Our kids, in my mind, will love to cook just like him, will get his sense of humor, and all I care about on my end is that I might get some redheaded grandchildren one day.  It sounds silly, but what parent doesn’t love seeing their own and their spouse’s best traits passed down to their children?  In college, I minored in Family Studies, and whenever I could, I wrote research papers on multicultural children.  I could not wait to raise half-Lao, half-English-Irish-German-Scottish children.  I couldn’t wait to show them all the different aspects of their history.  Now, a big piece of what made me so excited to have kids has been compromised.

 

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Damn baby commercials

Especially right after learning the news of our infertility, I could not go anywhere without being smacked in the face with our current reality.  Everywhere I would go, there would be babies smiling at me, packages with families on them, baby clothes, little kid shopping carts, slogans about family, etc.  It would turn up in places I least expected it.  I went to see Jillian Michaels on her Maximize Your Life Tour in March and in the intro before she came on stage, she showed a video of two realities.  The first was a dark video with genetic mutations, smog, death, disease, war, etc that represented our life if we don’t eat right, exercise, and maximize our full potential.  The second reality was much lighter and happier that represented a happy, full, complete life.  I kid you not, every video clip in the second reality portion of the video was filled with children running to their parents, babies being born, parents playing with their kids, and other family-oriented clips.  It was so hard to watch that I actually looked away and clenched my eyes shut because I just couldn’t take it anymore.  I started to wonder, is that what I am faced with?  If I don’t have a family, basically my life is filled with disease, pollution, and oil spills?  The point she was trying to make was lost on me because I was so clouded by the perpetual family = happiness message.  It is really hard to not think about the infertility and to cope with it when there are reminders of our lack of a baby everywhere we look.

 

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What’s going to happen to our marriage?

As strong as our marriage is, and as committed as San and I are to maintaining a strong marriage, we can’t predict the future.  It scares me often that our infertility is changing us on an individual level and that could mean some scary things for our marriage.  We are desperately clinging to one another, hoping that we won’t become a statistic.  We have a no-divorce policy in our marriage, but that doesn’t mean our marriage won’t become a loveless one.  It’s just such a scary thought.  Infertility puts a huge strain on a couple emotionally, physically (stress, eating habits, etc.), and dare I say sexually.  When so many parts of a marriage are strained, it is very difficult to keep that once well-oiled machine running.

 

Are we being punished?

Although I know the hits that come in life are often not justified, it is hard for us to not feel like we are being punished.  I’ve started to feel like a bad person and have magnified the small things I’ve messed up in my life (which we all mess up from time to time as humans).  It’s hard not to wonder why this is happening to us when we’ve done A, B, C, D, E, etc. “right.”  But, “right” doesn’t really matter when it comes to these kinds of hardships.

 

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The biological clock is ticking

Although we are only 24 (just barely as my birthday is in June) and 25, we still feel very pressured to figure this out quickly because we know we only have so much time to conceive a baby.  Also, adoption is much harder to do as an older couple when competing with younger couples.  If we had a whole lifetime (however long that will be) to have children, I think the pressure would be lessened, but considering we probably have about ten years to really give this our best shot when so much time seems wasted on researching, saving money, testing, etc., it is very hard not to let the stress of our biological clocks get the best of us.

 

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Will there be anything left of me when we finally have a family?

Considering all the emotions I’ve felt in just this over three month journey, I have wondered what will be left of me at the end of all of this, if we ever reach an end.  I already don’t recognize myself sometimes when I am feeling things I have never felt before and thinking mean things that just aren’t like me.  I worry that all that will be left of me will be a hollow shell and I won’t even be the great mom I’ve always dreamed of being.  I won’t even appreciate the child I am blessed with.  I won’t even have the life that we worked so hard to have because I am no longer the girl that dreamed of this life.  We are working hard to stay strong emotionally so this doesn’t happen, but I can see this journey slowly taking away some tiny parts of me, and that can add up over time.

 

We wanted a big family

I can’t help but worry, as a future-thinker, about not just our first child but our children after that.  It might seem selfish to not think one is enough given our circumstances, but what person who wants to have kids doesn’t think about what size of family they want?  It’s funny to me how infertile couples are labeled as “selfish” for desiring the same things that so many others do who are able to obtain them easily and naturally.  You are “selfish” for not choosing adoption right away when most people don’t adopt that can have children naturally.  You are “selfish” if you are sad you can’t have more kids when it was a tremendous amount of work to have just one, and yet nobody is called selfish for having a large family naturally.  Anyway, San and I decided early on we wanted 3-5 kids.  Three was the minimum.  We didn’t want any fewer than that.  Now, I can’t help but wonder how that would even be possible if we end up spending as much as so many do with infertility on our first.  I will feel so blessed and grateful for any child we have, but we are definitely also dealing with coming to terms with the idea that our dream of a big family, of large parties, crazy game nights, many grandkids, etc. may never happen.

 

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 How am I going to do this over and over again?

Something that is very hard for people struggling with infertility is being happy for those who are blessed with the things they desire to be blessed with.  It’s so strange to explain this to someone who hasn’t experienced this.  Obviously, when I find out someone I know is pregnant, I am genuinely happy for them.  I would never wish for anyone else to not have children because we might not be able to.  However, seeing someone else pregnant reminds me that I am not and makes me very sad.  Baby showers are very hard because no matter how happy we are for the other person, we are still going through a very emotional journey and the baby shower is filled with triggers that bring up all of those emotions again.  I have often wondered how I am going to deal with friends getting pregnant over and over again.  Will I turn into a bad friend?  Will I have any friends left?  Will anyone even want to tell me anything anymore?  It’s so hard to be a good friend while also trying to guard myself from spiraling right back to the bottom that I just picked myself up from.

 

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The Worst Roller Coaster Ever

What I have found really draining and exhausting is the fact that these emotions are cyclical.  A woman’s cycle is just that: a cycle.  Every period so far has led to despair.  That despair will eventually fade into a little hope as we try for yet another time, and that little hope turns into, “The next two weeks are going to be really hard.  Do you think it will actually work this time?  I’m going to try not to think about it.”  That turns into, “Was that a sign?  Is that implantation bleeding?  Oh my goodness, I feel like I’m pregnant!  Maybe it finally worked!!!!” and then back to a negative pregnancy test and Aunt Flo laughing hysterically.  It’s viscous and no matter how many times I’ve gone through it, it always happens all over again, even though every time the hope is kicked down a notch.  If this was something permanent and concrete that we couldn’t change or resolve, coping would be different.  But, infertility is a constant process that never seems to go away, so it is constantly showing up and bringing back the same emotions over and over again.

I was hesitant about sharing the photo, but I think it is helpful to see a real photo of a real person going through this.  As much as all of this hurts and is so hard to deal with, I don’t ever want to forget it.  I don’t ever want to take our children for granted or forget how much we wanted them.

 

Every emotion comes with a side of guilt

I never imagined at the start of all of this that guilt would be attached to everything I felt.  It is hard enough going through each emotion on its own, but adding guilt to it makes me question myself constantly and makes me feel like a bad person.  I find out someone is pregnant and I get sad.  Then, guilt comes because I should feel no sadness and be totally happy for her.  I am angry at another episode of Teen Mom.  Guilt comes because that teenager is probably having a rough time and it is not my place to judge.  I worry about our marriage.  Guilt comes because I’m lucky to have such a wonderful marriage in the first place.  I worry about the ten years we have to try.  Guilt comes because so many people are faced with infertility in their late 30’s and don’t have years like we do.  I feel sad that we may never meet our biological children.  Guilt comes because we will be lucky with any child we have.  It just never ends!  Guilt is tied to everything and makes it even worse by making us feel as though we are bad people for even being emotional about infertility.  It really doesn’t seem to make sense, but it’s such a huge piece of what someone goes through when dealing with infertility.

 

There are lots of other things I’ve thought about over the course of the last four months, but I think this is a pretty good list.  This is not easy to post because I’ve been really worried about coming off like I’m feeling sorry for myself.  We want people to know what it is actually like because simply imagining it does not uncover the multiple levels of pain, questioning, and confusion that arises when a couple is struggling with infertility.  I encourage anyone suffering with infertility to pass this on to your loved ones if you agree with what I posted.  I hope it helps them understand what you are going through.  I hope it also can help you feel less alone in this isolating period of your life.  I pray that everyone desiring a child into a welcoming home is able to hold their little one without going through any pain.  I hope we can all rise up and raise awareness about this so that we can work to make some changes happen in our medical field and within the insurance companies.

I also want to say that what this post doesn’t talk about is how we are coping.  God, our family and friends, our pets, each other, etc. all have a role in coping.  These feelings are just what I felt in the moment throughout this journey.  That doesn’t mean I feel them all the time or am feeling them at the moment (right now, I’m doing really well). I definitely have brought these thoughts to God, but I wanted to share how it felt in the heat of it all when my thoughts were flowing freely.  These are the downs, but there have been ups along the way.  Life keeps going and we continue to look for and cling to the good.  However, I think it is important for us to share the bad as well.

Photo sources: 1(mine), 2, 3(mine), 4, 5, 6,  7, 8, 910, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15(mine is photo on right)

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Making a Baby: Our Three-Month Program

Before the title scares you away, I will preface this post by giving you some relief (or perhaps letting you down if you are creepy or just insanely curious) that I will not be detailing the intimate details surrounding “making a baby.”  I think we all know the fundamentals.  Instead, I am going to share pretty much everything beyond the actual making of a baby that we are doing to facilitate the fertilization of an egg (AKA: the starting of the family we have been desperately longing for).  There may be some personal details, but I’m sharing this in hopes that it could give someone else some ideas of things to try before going the “extreme” route.

To go back to our story that I shared two weeks ago, the doctors have told us that conceiving without IVF will be very rare.  Rare, however, gives us some hope that it could happen.  Impossible would have probably made us choose a different course, but rare we can work with temporarily.  IVF, for us, would cost anywhere from $15,000 – $30,000  starting depending on what financial options we chose and how successful we were from round to round.  Let’s be real here.  San is 25.  I am 24.  We have more student loan debt than I would ever care to share (I’m still kicking the 18 year old version of myself).  We don’t have high-paying jobs.  IVF is not our first option, if it is even an option for us at all, which right now I’m hoping it is not.  And please don’t even say, “Well, why don’t you just adopt?”  Adoption is most likely the most expensive option.  Trust me, if it were a whole lot cheaper, I’m pretty sure the paperwork would already be started.

So, we are trying to start a family in the most natural, affordable, and efficient way possible.  I’m not going to lie and say we don’t want biological children.  We do.  I’d love a mix of biological and adopted, but right now, I’m not sure what is in the cards for us.  I do know that if we could conceive naturally or with insemination, we would save A LOT of money, time, stress, and our life.  I’m all for it!  Plus, I would get to know what it is like to be pregnant, to give birth, and to share that immensely special time with the man of my dreams.  There is no price on that, but it is our goal to be able to do that without shelling out thousands of dollars.

Immediately following our one negative test result, I started scouring the library for books that could help me emotionally.  A friend recommended I read Making Babies: A Proven 3-Month Program for Maximum Fertility.  I scoffed at it at first, thinking we had already tried everything and that it would tell me nothing new, but since it was available at the local library, I picked it up and read it.  Let me just say that this book may be the only reason I still have hope for conceiving naturally or even through insemination.  The book was written by a reproductive endocrinologist and an acupuncturist/Chinese medicine expert who together have helped thousands of couples get pregnant when they didn’t think they would be able to.  The book outlines all kinds of things that promote fertility as well as including different “fertility types” with specific recommendations for each type based on symptoms, cycles, libido, stress level, etc.  I figure if we are going to do anything for three months, we might as well do so with the help of a book written by people who know what they are talking about.  Go big or go home is the motto for our three month program!

We will basically be doing anything and everything we can in the natural lifestyle realm to promote fertility in both of us (since we aren’t sure what exactly is causing the low number in San and there could theoretically be something going on with me as well that doctors do not yet have a test for).  Plus, I want my body to be as ready for pregnancy as possible. This is our plan in a nutshell:

 

For those that would like more information, I will break down everything we are doing.  I would encourage any couple who wants to know more about any of these steps to read the book Making Babies because there are millions of recommendations for virtually any possible test, symptom, lifestyle, fertility type, gender, age, etc.  These are the things we are doing that the book recommended based on our specific situation.

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Charting

I have already been well acquainted with dipping little pieces of paper in my morning urine.  Ew.  It’s gross, but it’s something I’ve done for 1-2 weeks every month for a few months.  I’ve tried Basal Body Temping as well, but now I will be doing both!  The book provided a chart I could mark, but I find it much easier to use an app.  I’m using the Kindara app.  Every morning, as soon as my alarm goes off, I stick a special thermometer in my mouth (the book recommends the mouth but I’ve read about other recommendations to stick it in other parts…) for about a minute and it reads my temperature to the first decimal place.  Then, I plug it into my phone.  After doing this for three months, I will know my body a lot better, know if there is potentially an issue with my reproductive system based on the temperature changes, and will know when I am ovulating.  Doing BBT only tells you that you already ovulated.  I’m using ovulation predictor kits starting the day after my period ends to see when my LH surge is, which then alerts me that I am hours away from ovulating.

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Just Keep Trying, Just Keep Trying . . .

So many articles and books tell couples so many different tactics when it comes to when to try, how to try, and how often to try before and after a woman ovulates.  In the past, we have tried two days spaced one day apart leading up to ovulation.  We’ve tried on the day of ovulation.  We’ve tried after ovulation.  We’ve tried every other day for a month.  Now, based on the book’s recommendation, we are going to try every day during my fertile window.  I’m not going to wait for the shift in temperature or the positive ovulation test (although those will help me know when we don’t need to try every day any longer).  Instead, we don’t see any harm in trying every day just to up our numbers and ensure we are not missing my ovulation.  Trying before ovulation is definitely the key since sperm can live typically a few days, but we are up for trying after a couple days just in case the predictor kit and my temperature were inaccurate.  Some articles will tell a couple not to try it every day, but with male factor infertility, we figure our odds are much better by doing it more often instead of waiting a day or two in between.

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Diet

At the beginning of the year, I gave up gluten and dairy for a month to see if I showed any intolerance when introducing them back in.  San swore he would never give up either of those things because he is a chef and chefs love all foods.  Coincidentally, now he will be giving up both of them for three month but will also throw in some of his other favorites such as coffee, water flavorings, and beer.  Poor guy!  We are going to do our best to find delicious recipes that won’t make us feel like we are giving up our favorites.  Here is a list of all of our dietary dos and don’ts: We should eat:

We should not eat:

 

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Supplements

Before starting this program, San would typically take a high-quality pre-workout supplement with BCAA’s and a post-workout high-quality whey protein shake.  There is very little information that is consistent about whether these things would be bad, good, or neutral toward fertility.  Some say good things, some say bad.  However, we are trying to eliminate as many possible denominators as possible, so he will not be taking those during the three months.  After the first semen analysis, we looked up every possible vitamin we could that could help his number that was significantly low and he started taking them.  The number rose very slightly, but it gives us hope that maybe that is working.  His urologist also suggested taking the vitamins to help promote fertility.  In addition to a multivitamins (a regular one for San and a prenatal one for me), San will be taking the following supplements:

 

Exercise

San has been very into exercising for a few years.  He has lost 50 pounds and is overall in great health.  I used to be a huge health/exercise nut until I started working more than full-time and have a hard time fitting it in.  Based on the recommendations of the book, I will be doing low-impact exercises three to five days per week for no more than thirty minutes.  I plan on taking our dogs for a walk/jog after work three to five days a week for thirty minutes.  San will have to actually tone down his workouts by doing less intense workouts up to five times a week for only forty minutes.  He was focusing on losing some more weight and building muscle, but during this three-month program, we both will be focusing on getting exercise without really exerting ourselves or overheating our bodies.

At-Home Stress Reduction

I am a very stressed out person by nature.  I put too much on my plate, become overly ambitious, only to realize that I’m stressing myself out.  It’s very hard for me to balance because I am an introvert and crave some alone, relaxation time at home on the weekends and yet I usually fill my weekends up with things to do because I work so much and commute pretty far during the week.  So, for these three months, I will be doing a lot to keep stress down while at home.  Daily, I will be doing self-massages based on where I am at in my cycle as well as visualization exercises, which are both taken straight from the book.  I will also be setting parameters for keeping my stress as low as possible during these three months.  I feel kind of selfish, but we really want to start a family and we are hoping this will work, so I suppose we can be selfish for three months. I will also be following stress-relieving rules I have set up for myself:

 

Acupuncture

Acupuncture is also a great stress reliever and can promote blood flow to different parts of the body so they work better.  The book really persuaded us to try it.  We have done one session so far.  Due to finances and time, we may not do it as often as we wanted to.  We wanted to do acupuncture weekly for ten weeks because our insurance provider told us it would be covered with a small copay, but like everything with infertility, we learned that is not covered, and because it would cost about $150 per week if we both went weekly and San got the herbs we want him to have, that’s just not feasible at $600 a month for almost three months.  We are rethinking it now.  Our acupuncturist recommended San go at least four times.  I will maybe go every other week or once a month during this time.  As helpful as it could be, like everything, sometimes finances get in the way.

Counseling

Due to the overwhelming amount of stress infertility has brought to my life, the sadness of it all, and the way it has shocked my whole world (identity, purpose, etc.), San and I decided I should get some professional help for a while before it could ever escalate to a drastic level.  It was really important to me to talk to someone who specializes in infertility because that is where all this stemmed from.  We want help knowing we are really thinking through our decisions and coping with this well, and we feel that would be best done with someone who works with couples like us all the time.  It is just nice to have someone to talk to who has been through this, helped others before, and knows what this feels like.

Finances

As I stated in the beginning, this is our cheapest option at this point.  However, this option is by far not free.  We will definitely be spending significantly more each month on things we usually don’t buy than we have done previously.  Here are the things we will be spending extra money on:

 

And there will also be extra time spent doing these things that we won’t be paying for with money but we will be paying for with our extra time we won’t have.  Overall, we are hoping it is worth it, but it is important that we share the reality that even this kind of treatment has its cost.   We plan to check in after each month to share our progress, what is going well, what is not going well, and any changes we have made.  We appreciate any prayers that this works!  Every step forward with treatment may also result in a step backward emotionally, so are really hoping this works so we can reclaim our hope and inspire others as well!

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The Many Pathways to Starting a Family

Some of you reading know a lot about infertility and the many options an “infertile” couple can choose for trying to start a family.  Some of you know a lot because you’ve been down this path yourself.  Some of you know someone who has struggled to make this choice.  And some of you have never had your eyes opened to what lies ahead after a couple has been diagnosed with infertility.  Wherever you are coming from when you read this, I hope this post can help you feel as though you are not alone (if you are struggling with infertility like us), can help you be better prepared to support the people you know who are struggling with infertility, and/or can help you understand a little bit of what a couple goes through when weighing their options.

 

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There are many options available to a couple diagnosed with infertility, but many of them leave a couple feeling sad, helpless, and hopeless because the majority of them don’t involve making love, a positive pregnancy test, and happy tears.  Most of them involve medications, doctor’s appointments, bruises, scars, therapy, lots of waiting, tons of money, and no guarantee that all of this will result in a family.

A quick Google search can teach you all about the different options out there for helping an infertile couple start a family, so instead of telling you just what each thing is, I want to walk you through our opinions on what the pros and cons are of each one.  Please keep in mind that I would never judge anyone for choosing any of these options.  This is a completely personal choice.  I also don’t feel like any of these options are inherently “bad” or “wrong.”  Some of them just aren’t for us, and that’s okay.  Everyone tells a different story of how they started a family, and I have to look at that as a beautiful thing in order to hold on to hope throughout this process.

I may overlook some of the options, and I apologize for that.  I simply am sharing what we considered given our specific diagnosis.  For couples who know they are dealing with female factor infertility, there may be some other options, but since we are dealing with male factor/unexplained infertility, these are the options we considered.  I’m leaving out things like surgery and treatments of underlying conditions because the doctors found no underlying condition causing our infertility, and thus, there is no surgery or treatment related to “curing” whatever is causing our infertility.  Also, I’m sharing the pros and cons for us or that we know of, and some may not agree that something is a “pro” or “con,” but please keep in mind that these are our opinions based on the facts.

 

Lifestyle Changes

When a couple is diagnosed with infertility, chances are, they have already tried everything related to their lifestyle to help their odds (not drinking alcohol often or at all, laying in bed for twenty minutes after intercourse, wearing loose boxers, not using laptops on laps, etc.).  They have scoured websites, talked to friends, and listened to talk shows that revealed the latest tip or trick for getting pregnant quickly.  However, there are some things a couple can do to possibly increase their odds of conception:

None of these things are proven to always increase fertility, but changing these things has happened prior to people getting pregnant, so some couples may try these things and see if it changes anything before choosing a more invasive/costly option.

 

Pros of Lifestyle Changes:

Cons of Lifestyle Changes:

 

Fertility Drugs

Any couple diagnosed with infertility has heard doctors talk about all kinds of fertility drugs that could help them conceive.  If hormone levels are in the normal range, the two drugs that a woman can take to help her ovulate and increase chances of conception are Clomid and Femara.   Men can also go on clomid, but it is not recommended unless they have a hormonal imbalance.  Fertility drugs may be tried as a couple tries on their own to conceive naturally or with other treatment options (which I’ll discuss later in this post).

Pros of Fertility Drugs

Cons of Fertility Drugs

 

Intrauterine Insemination (IUI) with Fertility Drugs

Intrauterine Insemination (IUI) is the first invasive treatment option most couples will consider when diagnosed with infertility.  It involves a semen sample collection which is usually washed and injected into the woman’s uterus where fertilization can then occur.  IUI is most often used by couples with male factor infertility when the sperm are low in numbers or may have trouble swimming to the egg, as well as those with unexplained infertility.  There are no tests for how well a  man’s sperm can swim up to the woman’s egg, so by bypassing that part of the process, it is thought that this can help if there are any problems with cervical mucus or sperm.  IUI can be done with or without fertility drugs.  We are considering doing it with fertility drugs just to hopefully increase our odds.  It also can be done with or without monitoring.  The monitoring allows the doctor to place the sperm in the woman’s uterus when the follicle as of optimum size and maturity.

Pros of IUI:

Cons of IUI:

 

In-Vitro Fertilization (IVF) with Intra-Cytoplasmic Sperm Injection (ICSI)

In-Vitro is the most invasive treatment option and the most expensive.  Regular IVF involves monitoring and medications to increase the amount of folicles the woman produces per cycle.  The hope is to retrieve as many folicles as possible to increase the odds of multiple healthy embryos at the time of transfer.  The egg is then put in a dish with the sperm and fertilization is hoped to occur. For our situation, we would use ICSI which is when the sperm is injected directly into the egg.  This is done most often with male factor infertility when there is a chance the sperm may not be able to fertilize the egg.  Over the course of a few days, some of the fertilized eggs usually will not make it, leaving only a few embryos left.  The couple and the doctor usually decide before the process how many embryos they will transfer into her uterus (usually they choose the lowest practical amount to decrease the chances of multiples because multiples involve a high-risk pregnancy).  If there are enough healthy embryos, the chosen amount will be transferred to the woman’s uterus with the hope that at least one will continue to thrive into a healthy pregnancy.  Any leftover embryos are often frozen in case none of the transferred ones survive or the couple chooses to do IVF for future children (this ensures that the embryos were created with younger sperm and egg than when the couple ages a few years and desires another child when their current sperm and eggs may be deteriorating due to age).

I don’t know about other states, but in Minnesota, there are warranty programs a couple can use to pay for IVF.  The typical warranty runs about $25,000-$30,000 and offers the couple up to three rounds of IVF (including frozen embryos from each of the three rounds, so this could potentially lead to many, many transfers depending on how many embryos survive).  If at the end of the three rounds, they do not have a live birth plus thirty days, they will receive all or most of the money back.  If the couple conceives on the first try (and sometimes on the second), they will be out thousands of dollars.  If they choose not to use a warranty program and it takes more than one or two cylces to reach success, they will be out a lot more money than they would if they chose the warranty program.  As far as I know, a couple cannot switch between cycles to a warranty program and count the prior failed cycle.  The decision needs to be made before starting which is very hard to predict.

Pros of IVF:

Cons of IVF:

 

Donor Sperm with Intrauterine Insemination or In-Vitro Fertilization (IVF)

When a couple is faced with male factor infertility, they may consider using donor sperm which would then be injected into the woman’s uterus just as it would be for regular IUI or used to fertilize the egg just as it would be for regular IVF.  Couples typically can read some general information about the donor (race, skin color, height, weight, eye color, blood type, education level, etc.) and choose which donor they would like.  Contrary to popular belief, most clinics will refuse to mix donor sperm with the male partner’s sperm (which sometimes helps couples feel better about doing donor sperm because there is always the possibility that the egg was fertilized by the male partner and not the donor).

Pros of Donor Sperm:

Cons of IUI:

 

Adoption

Most people are familiar with adoption.  Adoption can be done locally or internationally.  Both are often rigorous, time-consuming, and expensive, but they allow a couple to parent a child who was born into not the best of circumstances.  For us, we have always dreamed of adopting.  If finances were unlimited, we would already have started the process while hoping we get pregnant in the future but allowing us to do what we have always wanted to do anyway in the meantime.  We have said that since we are already an interracial couple, we would love to have a family of all different shapes, sizes, and colors.  Unfortunately, finances are not unlimited, so this is more of a “last resort” option for us right now, although not because we don’t like the idea of it, but because it is expensive.

Pros of Adoption:

Cons of Adoption:

 

Childlessness

A couple choosing childlessness after learning they are infertile do so often with very different reasons than a couple who chooses to remain childless due to personal reasons without ever trying to start a family.  A couple may choose to remain childless despite their desire to have children for multiple reasons.  The two most common reasons are that the couple cannot afford (financially as well as physically or mentally) to undergo any more treatments (or any treatments at all) and that the couple has come to accept that their odds are not good and decide that perhaps their destiny in life is to remain childless.

Pros of Childlessness:

Cons of Childlessness:

 

I know that was really long, but even if you just skimmed it, I think you are better off because of it!  Deciding what to do is just the beginning of the battle, and often a couple will revisit their options often throughout the course of their treatment when things fail, ideas change, or finances/emotions become stronger or weaker.  It is important that you recognize that each option has many pros and cons, and many of the pros and cons are subjective.  Trust me, an infertile couple thinks long and hard about their path toward a family, and that path is never easy, so judging them without walking in their shoes is not advisable.  I support any decision a couple makes, even if it differs from our own, because I know just how personal and emotional the decision is.  No two couples have the same diagnosis, life, personality, emotions, financial state, etc., so no two couples will ever make the same exact choice for the same exact reason.  Please keep that in mind if you are ever listening to a loved one’s plan for starting a family.  Please don’t judge, just listen and give feedback if it seems like a good idea, but respect their choice.

Now, our plan at this point in time is pretty complicated and detailed, so I will devote a whole post to it but give a brief description here.  We hope to conceive a child in the least expensive way possible.  Least expensive meaning financially, emotionally, and physically.  Truthfully, our odds would be best and possibly our only way of conceiving a biological child is through IVF with ICSI, but right now, that is not an option we are willing to try.  That may change, but right now, it is off the table.  I read an amazing book I will share about in the full post on our plan, but it gave me some hope that perhaps making some lifestyle changes in conjunction with IUI with fertility drugs may work.  We will try that probably up to three times before most likely moving forward with adoption.  Like I stated, this is our plan right now, but our thoughts may change as we move forward with our plan.

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The Silent Suffering of Infertility

Warning: This post is going to be long and it will have personal fertility-related information. Read on at your own risk. We hope you do with an open mind!

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It is National Infertility Awareness Week, so this post is a timely one. San and I have gone back and forth for months on whether to write a post about this topic. If you have been wondering why we were posting so much at the beginning the year and then dropped off the face of the earth, this post will answer that for you.

Before we jump into it, I want to share our motivations for writing about this with “the world.” We want to make it very clear that we are not sharing this so we can have a pity party. We made sure to wait until we were emotionally stable and no longer at rock bottom emotionally before sharing this. We know people have far better things to do then sit around and feel sorry for us. In fact, I have written three different versions of this post and have scrapped them all because emotionally I was not ready to share and the posts were coming off extremely “Woe is me. My life is horrible. There is no hope.” I’m no longer at that place emotionally and can now share this for the real reasons we have in mind.

Reason 1: To Give Support to Those Suffering in Silence

First, we want to share this to give support to all the other people out there suffering from infertility. This topic remains mute territory for so many people because there are stigmas and judgments attached to it. People often give unwanted and uneducated advice such as “stand on your head after” or “just check your temperature daily and then you will know when you are ovulating.” Obviously, this advice is given with love, but when people find out they are infertile, they have already tried everything and more, gone through testing, and are looking for support rather than advice for the average person who usually can conceive within a few months. We want to help those suffering in silence know they are not alone. Some people don’t want to share and that is just fine, but we are willing to share and want to give hope and support to those who choose not to.

Reason 2: So We Don’t Have to Hide It Anymore

Second, we are very tired of feeling isolated, ashamed, and afraid. When people ask us about when we are going to have kids, it is so hard to answer. We don’t want to lie, but we also don’t want to turn a sweet conversation sour by dumping our news on them. We feel by being open about it, most people will know (we have already shared with those in our life closest to us) and we can be open about it in most situations rather than feeling like it is something we caused that we have to hide. Just as people share the big news that they can have kids, it is a huge part of our life we are hiding if we don’t share that we aren’t able to have kids. As someone who cares for others, I hate knowing someone is suffering in silence after the fact. Obviously, it is a person’s right to keep things private, but often people are silent and look back wishing they had told people so they could have had help, support, or just a listening ear from time to time. We aren’t looking for people to rally around us, but if I knew someone going through this, I would want to be there to support them (even if I wasn’t close with them) in some way, so we are being open and giving that opportunity to anyone if they would like by not keeping them in the dark. We are always open to and appreciative of prayers!

Reason 3: To Raise Awareness Among Those Who Haven’t Been Affected by It

Third, we want to raise awareness for this topic. We have a lot of opinions about insurance, people’s perceptions of infertility, help for those suffering, support for those suffering, and even the medical world related to infertility. Because 7/8 couples never deal with infertility, the majority of people are not slapped in the face with this reality that 1/8 of couples are reminded of every day. Just as people raise awareness for breast cancer and work to support it even if they have never had it and sometimes don’t know anyone who has, we think infertility is a social issue that many don’t know very much about and therefore have no clue about supporting it or why it is an important cause to support. We feel that if we are going to go through something this heart-wrenching and life-altering (which are not exaggerations in the slightest), we want to be able to make an impact for the future. It all starts with this post and we are excited to see where it goes from there.

Reason 4: To Advocate for Strong Marriages in the Midst of Suffering

Fourth, we are huge advocates for marriage. It’s what I built my photography business around. It’s what I get worked up about. It’s what I would write a book about if I had enough experience at it. We knew very well going into our marriage that we would face at least one horrible thing in our marriage. It seems inevitable. Often, the hits just keep on coming in a normal marriage. We knew that if we deny the facts that marriage is hard and the divorce rates are high for a reason, we would end up part of the statistics. So, by sharing this, we want to show that marriages can endure hard times. A couple can have their lifelong dreams crushed and still stick together as a team. Infertility doesn’t have to break a couple up or make their marriage weak. If we can’t inspire people about infertility, we want to at least inspire them about marriage and love.

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Our Story

So, as you can see, San and I learned this year that we are “infertile.” I put that in quotes because that is a very loose and undefineable term (from my perspective). The medical field defines “infertile” as anyone under 35 who has tried to conceive for one year with no success (and that just means not using protection; it doesn’t mean timing it correctly) or anyone 35 or over who has tried for six months with no success (because they have less time before the eggs become unusable so they should go in sooner). However, so many “infertile” people go on to have kids and so much of infertility is unexplained, so the term just doesn’t seem as all-encompassing as one may assume.

At this point, San and I have tried to have a baby for close to a year and a half. I could probably write a novel at this point about the whole process (not of the trying itself, of course, but of the emotions and what was going on at the time), how much we want a family, the emotions, etc., but not all of that is important and they can be shared at another time.

What we will share is that we have been together for eight and a half years, and married for almost three of those years. We started dating when we were sixteen, and although it is hard for even us to imagine sometimes, we pretty much knew we would be together forever and we started dreaming about our family right away. I’ve always been a future-oriented person, so dreaming is nothing knew for me, but this dream took on a life of its own as we got closer and closer to marriage. I have never seen a man so excited to have kids. In fact, I was the one telling San we needed to wait, as he was ready to start trying on our wedding day! I let graduate school, teaching, and my photography business (as well as people’s opinions) get in the way and we kept pushing the date back until San finally convinced me that a baby will be worth moving our schedules around for. We desired a child so much. In fact, for me, my identity my entire life has been placed in motherhood. Although I’m not a mother right now, it’s always been the role I thought would define me in ways I am undefined right now. I still believe what I have since birth: that motherhood is my calling, my purpose, and my passion. Imagine having that ripped away. It’s not an easy thing to deal with.

I can still remember when we decided to start trying. It was such a beautiful time in our marriage. We felt like a team more than we ever had and we went crazy thinking about names, gender reveal photo sessions, nurseries, personality traits, what our little “Asian redhead” (as those at our wedding called our future child when they gushed about what he or she would look like) would look like, and pregnancy. Month after month, we pictured that positive pregnancy test and every month we cried at the one pink line that told us that dream would have to be postponed. Eventually, hope dwindled and the routine became less exciting and more hard work. Slowly, that voice in my head that said, “Infertility won’t be part of our story. We are healthy,” changed to, “Maybe something’s wrong….”

After ten months of trying, we went to the doctor who put me on birth control for a month in hopes that it would “regulate” my “irregular” cycle. Come to find out it wasn’t irregular at all, but we followed the doctor’s orders and our hope was reset as we tried for three more months. We were certain last December that we were pregnant. I was set to ovulate on Christmas, which seemed like a sign that it was meant to be. If God could make Mary pregnant, surely we could get pregnant! I did everything I could to not let the stress of the season get to me because I fully believed an egg was implanting inside of me. A few days before I could test, I started downloading pregnancy apps, following pregnancy blogs, and reading everything I could. A friend of mine said she “just knew” that she was pregnant, so I was sure I was because I believed I “just knew” too.

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 Photo on left: the art we bought for the nursery when we first started trying.  Photo on right: the pregnancy test and note I almost left for San in January when I was “sure” I was pregnant.  I didn’t want to wake him up bawling, but I felt so alone, so I ended up waking him up instead of letting him wake up to that note.

I cannot describe to you the devastation we felt when I woke up to yet another negative. It was our rock bottom before the rock bottoms that were still yet to come. Being proactive people, we immediately scheduled an appointment at a different clinic that we heard through the grapevine was really good at helping people diagnose infertility.

And then, we spent the next three months playing a gut-wrenching, tear-filled waiting game as we underwent testing. As much as we hoped for normal tests, at the same time, we wanted there to be something the doctors could fix. All of my uncomfortable (and sometimes painful) tests came back normal. San’s, however, did not. At this time, we don’t want to share with the world exactly what the results showed, but we learned from his testing right away that our chances of conceiving naturally were pretty much zero. The only reason we are even sharing that we are dealing with most likely male-factor infertility is because we want to raise awareness that infertility is not just a woman’s issue, that men need support as well, and that the stigma should be banished because infertility is in most cases not someone’s fault. The sad part is that the doctors sugar coated what our chances are at first, so we had to learn that through research online before the doctor confirmed our suspicions two months later. We waited two months to get in to see a urologist, two months that were filled with a mixture of hope that something would be fixable and dread that there was nothing the urologist could do, which was the stronger of the two emotions after days and days of research on the topic.

About twenty minutes with the urologist and our fears were confirmed: he’s healthy. That’s such a strange thing to say because throughout the whole process, I was worried that he was not healthy and that something was seriously wrong, but we both clung to hope that there was something very minor the doctor could do to fix it. Knowing that everything was “normal” meant there is nothing the doctors can do for us.

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So, now we are on the other end of testing. I’m sure we’ll post about the emotions that I skimmed over in this post. This has seriously been the most dramatic and painful experience our marriage has faced (not to mention how bad it has been on an individual level), and it could possibly be the hardest thing it will face. We aren’t sure. However, we have vowed to put our marriage first through anything life throws at it, so this is no different. I’ve personally hit rock bottom many days throughout the last few months. I’ve lost hope and I’ve gained it back. Over and over again. What we have clung to is faith, knowing that no matter what we will have children some way or another, and considering that perhaps this story is meant to be shared to help others.

We are now at the point of moving forward. I think we will save our plan for a different post. We think it could really help people move forward, learn about the process (what options are available, cost, etc.), and give couples suffering with infertility hope if out plan of attack ends up working, so we hope to share it eventually.

This is why we haven’t posted in a few months. We have done a lot to our house and other various projects in that time and have wanted to share, but we were giving ourselves some time to grieve the loss of this dream. Whether we end up getting pregnant naturally or not, the dream is still dead in a lot of ways. Our eyes have been opened to a whole new kind of pain, and while that is good because we are no longer ignorant, it also takes away the allure of the dream to start a family and makes that dream very bittersweet. Getting over that has not been easy, but we are currently at a really good place emotionally, considering what we have learned and gone through.

This is only the beginning of our journey. We are just like so many married couples out there. We want to start a family. We hope we have shown that although it usually happens easily for couples, that is not always the case. Please be cautious when you ask people about their plans for a family. Please be gentle when listening to them share their story if they open up to you about infertility. Even if a couple has no medical history of ANYTHING (like us), fertility isn’t something everyone is blessed with. More than ever, we view children as the most miraculous gift and we believe that pregnancy is a gift not everyone will experience, no matter how much they desire it. And please, think long and hard about giving an infertile couple advice. I really hope we can continue to share this journey and we hope our sharing is viewed in the way we meant for it to be. We apologize to anyone who finds out through this or future posts and feels like they should have been told in person. It has been very hard for us to share this and part of us still feels like perhaps we should keep it between just the two of us, but by posting this, we hope our intentions will be visible as well as why we were apprehensive and chose this route for getting the word out as opposed to telling everyone we know personally.

Here are some links if you are interested: