This post is for my fellow IVF warriors and those trying to conceive and working hard to create or expand their family.
As you guys know, I have been working hard to wean Luna off of breastfeeding so we can begin treatment for our next IVF transfer (my doctor has recommended she finish nursing before we start medications that could potentially come through my breastmilk... and also to allow my prolactin hormone levels from breastfeeding to come down).
It's been a rough road to be honest, for both me and her, to let go. I think I am probably having a harder time letting go than she is. When Ben reminds me I am nearly there I feel a tinge of panic. Not only do I love our special bonding time and feeling how she needs me (because I need her just as much), but weaning her completely means it's time to begin hormones again. And it's very bittersweet.
While I can't say the idea of starting up meds again excites me, I am also feeling ready to expand our family and give Luna a sibling. It's definitely been a bit of an internal battle for me. I am not getting any younger and who the heck knows how long it will take to get pregnant this go around (it took us four and a half years just to have Luna). But our doctor is amazing and after our two heartbreaking back-to-back miscarriages, the silver lining is that I think he has figured out not only what works to get me pregnant, but what works to help me stay pregnant. And for that reason, I am hopeful and trying to stay positive.
But what also haunts me is going from four and a half years of IVF hormones, to pregnancy hormones to postpartum and nursing hormones right back into IVF hormones.
Wouldn't it just be so nice to have some time for me? To feel like myself? To be myself? To work harder and lose a little extra IVF weight that accumulated over several years of treatments that have been so stubborn? To, I don't know, maybe get some botox, get my eyebrows microbladed and use a retinol again to get rid of this melasma? Basically all the things I can't do while pregnant or nursing or even while gearing up to be pregnant.
But I have to remind myself that I could honestly find (at least) a million reasons why IVF sucks. But for every million, there is that ONE reason why it's utterly worth it, and that single reason TOTALLY outweighs the million: a precious miracle baby. That miracle blows everything else out of the water. By a long shot.
Luna was worth every pinch. Every prick. Every bruise. Every lump. Every hot flash. Every bone ache. Every pound gained. Every pill swallowed. Every hormone. Every brown spot (melasma). Every zit. Every surgery. Every set back. Every loss. Every tear. And every (vaginal) tear. Because without ALL of that, we wouldn't have her.
I know I can do this. I have more strength within me than I know. My dark days made me prove that already.
But sometimes it's so hard to stay positive during the process of IVF treatments. The set-backs seem endless and the pain feels unbearable. But I promise you girls (and guys), YOU CAN DO IT.
One of the most common questions I get asked via email and DM is how to stay positive. And I really do love being there for you guys. Mostly because I know firsthand how scary and alone it can feel, even with an army of friends and family behind you. So I guess today I wanted to be there for all of you today and share what has worked for us.
How to Stay Positive While Trying to Conceive
Learn To Accept The Things You Cannot Change
When you're trying to conceive it is so easy to get caught up in the little things. Believe me, I know. From tracking your cycles and ovulation each month like a mad woman to daily blood draws to monitor hormone levels, it's really easy to focus on (and fret) the small stuff.
I remember DREADING 8pm every night because that's when we would do our shots. It was like a doomsday clock countdown as I kept rechecking the time. 7:48... 7:49... (as I bit the crap out of my nails).
But eventually, I just rolled with it. Like water off a ducks back. It was our new norm and just a part of every day life. And once I learned to just accept it and allow it to be part of our daily routine, it became something that I no longer thought about but we just did. Kind of like brushing your teeth.
And once I had let the dread go, I felt a whole lot better.
And guess what? I had better results too. So do what you have to do to relax and accept your new norm. I promise, this too shall pass. But for now, it is what it is. But it isn't forever.
Keep Your Eye on the Prize
Have you ever tried to focus on something directly in front of you on the road instead of staring down the line? I don't know about you but I can't keep my car straight when I am focusing in on, say, the pavement lines ten feet in front of me. I have to look far ahead to keep a smooth ride otherwise I am all over the place and throwing on my brakes at the last minute. There's a reason you are supposed to stare a few miles down the road... yes, to anticipate what's ahead... but also, to stay centered. I feel like that applies in life as well.
If I am too focused on all the little bumps in the road it's easier to get derailed, so-to-speak. And I get frustrated. I'll probably cry, shout some obscenities and continue to get angrier. But guess what? While it might help every now and then to cry it out and shout and scream, in the long run, it won't help you get anywhere any faster. I find it's better to focus on the light at the end of the tunnel rather than get lost in the darkness. So keep your eye on the prize: that precious little miracle you're working so hard for.
If it helps, visualization can be a powerful tool. I always would visualize myself getting pregnant. Holding my growing belly. Taking maternity photos. Delivering my miracle. And holding her in my arms. Believe me, I had plenty of pretend conversations in the mirror with pretend people about how I was "18 weeks" while smiling, haha. Whatever, you do you girl. If it works, go for it!
And remember to every now and then give yourself some perspective. Don't focus on the mountain that lies ahead. Turn around every now and then and remind yourself how far you've come. How hard you're working. And celebrate the little wins when they come. I remember when, after several (four to be exact) very painful endometrial "scrapings" (basically where the doctor scratched the hell out of my uterus in order to damage the tissue so it would rebuild and, thus, thicken) that, IT WORKED! My uterine lining was at a 12.5 thickness! Um, HECK YES! I drove back home that day blasting my happy song and smiling so so huge! I'll never forget that day. It's the little things that really can make a huge difference and be a little rainbow in the storm.
So do what you have to do to find the light. I always reminded myself that, 'this shot brings me that much closer to bringing home my baby.' And when I thought of it that way, it was like, BRING IT ON!
Don't let fertility treatments consume you
This goes hand-in-hand with the section above. If you have chosen to pursue fertility treatments, it can be hard not to allow them to consume you.
First, I recommend going into it with the understanding that it may take some time. I have said it before and I will say it again: IVF is the worlds most expensive test. And that's exactly what it is: a test.
On your first round, your doctor pretty much has no idea how it's going to turn out because they have no idea how the meds will affect YOU. So enter into your treatments with the knowledge that with each round, doctors get smarter. For example, on our first round, our doctor didn't go too intense with the meds because, again, he wasn't sure how my body would respond. After learning that my body didn't really respond to that cocktail of meds, he changed things up and hit it
a little a lot harder on my second egg retrieval. But guess what? That didn't end well either. While my body decided to make double the amount of eggs from round one on round two, less than half were "mature" and we only ended up with one "normal" embryo. Meaning, we had to do it all. over. AGAIN. Yippie! Haha, not! And yeah, it sucked. But in the end, it was worth it because round three we hit the nail on the head and got TWELVE "normal" embryos!
So just understand that it may take some time. But that's ok. Because in the end, it's worth it.
Second, don't stop doing the things you enjoy. I know when you are first starting up fertility treatments it feels like your entire life is being turned upside down. Suddenly, it's all you can focus on. Friends invite you out? 'Sorry, I have to shoot up with hormones at that time.' Bestie invite you to an all-out abdominal bootcamp? 'Sorry, I don't want to twist an ovary.'
Believe me, I get it. It's easy to say 'no' and wallow in self pity. But don't. If you stop doing the things you love it will end up just being a constant reminder of all that you don't have and can't do. And it WILL consume you. I know because I have been there.
So if it's part of your normal life to have coffee in the morning and it's a ritual you don't want to give up. Then trust me, have the coffee. It's ok. And if you want that glass of wine with dinner because it's been a hell of a day and you need to de-stress? Then go for it! Do what you need to do to be happy and relax. Because, in the end, those endorphins have far more benefits than not enjoying that coffee or not enjoying that glass of wine.
And third, it's ok to feel sad. Or mad. Or crazy. Or all of the above. And it's even more ok to laugh about it.
When you're trying to conceive emotions are running high and you're pretty much sucked into a spinning whirlpool of sadness and obsession. You feel terrified it might not happen for you and lonely as if you're the only one struggling while every one around you is seemingly getting pregnant at the snap of their fingers.
Add fertility treatments and a whole army of needles (aka hormones) on top of all of that and you have one giant recipe for ALL THE FEELS. And not the good kind. We're talking mood swings. Sobbing sagas. Anger bouts. Jealousy fits. Pity party's. You name it.
And THAT'S OK. It's all a part of the process. I promise you're not the only one. So when you feel like you're exploding with emotion (rage, jealousy, sadness, anger), take a step back and remind yourself that it's not you, it's them (the hormones). I remember one time I was snuggling with my dog Mini (pretty much in a you-can't-ever-leave-me-chokehold) and my mom said something about how he was getting so old. In .2 seconds flat I went from being a normal human to sobbing snot bubbles. And then my husband looked at me and started laughing, so I started laughing.
My point is, take a step back for a moment and laugh at the situation when you can. Because we could all use a little more laughter in our lives.
Count Your Blessings
When you're trying to conceive, it's SO easy to reside in the mindset of 'poor me.' We've all been there. I can't even tell you how many times I sobbed to Ben, 'why is this happening to us?' And on that note, it's hard to also not feel anger towards others that it seems so easy for: 'why is it happening for her and not me?'
I think these feelings stem from trying to find ways to cope. Sometimes it's easier to feel anger ('why me') or jealousy ('why her and not me?') than it is to accept and acknowledge our pain and sadness.
But guess what? It's ok to feel sad. Just try to avoid feeling sorry for yourself because, guess what? Whether you can see or feel it or not, YOU'RE LUCKY. Yup, you read that right. YOU'RE LUCKY.
Want to know why? Because you have options. IUI's, IVF, donor eggs, donor sperm, surrogates, adoption etc... Science is truly a miracle. Without it, we wouldn't have Luna. When push came to shove, I knew that one way or another I was going to be a mom. I was determined to make it happen. But I also knew that if it never happened for us, I still had my incredibly loving and supportive husband, Ben. And my awesome family.
So count your blessings. For a lot of people, children aren't even in the cards. For some, their bodies decided for them. For others, fertility treatments aren't available in their country. For many, they can't afford it.
And had you been born thirty-five years earlier... it wouldn't even be an option for you either. The first child successfully conceived through IVF didn't occur until 1978.
Fertility treatments, through all its faults, is a BLESSING. It's a fighting chance that you would not have had otherwise. So count your blessings for that chance. For science. For your body. And your health. For your partner. For your family.
Focus on Your Relationship With Your Partner
My husband touched on this in this post, but trying to conceive has a tendency to be a little all-consuming. It's like, (pee stick in hand), 'quick I'm ovulating... let's get it on so I can lay here with my legs in the air afterwards.' Or... "no can do honey, IVF got me back on that 'pelvic rest' life." Basically, you're thrown into a schedule and it can put a damper on the romance. So it's understandable to feel like your relationship is on the back burner.
But there is nothing more important than your spouse. You are working so hard to create your family and bring your children into this world and you want to be able to give them the world... but the best thing you could ever give them is a strong relationship with your partner. So put them first.
Take the time to romance each other. Leave sticky notes around the house letting you know how much you love and appreciate them. Send them random texts throughout the day expressing how grateful you are for their support. Do whatever you can to be there for one another.
One thing Ben and I really tried to focus on (and change) was spending more time together. We had gotten into this routine where Ben would leave for work before I was even awake. That meant I was waking to an empty bed (hello lonely) and wasn't seeing him until he got home from work around 7pm everyday. Not to mention the time we were spending together wasn't quality (us on our computers in front of the TV). So we needed to shake things up.
First, I started waking with Ben in the mornings. We'd shower together, have breakfast together, and then we'd drive (separately) to our local Starbucks and have coffee together. Ben would head from there to work while I'd head back home. It was a nice break from our normal routine and felt amazing to have that little extra time together - even if it meant less sleep for me. It was worth it. And guess what? We still do that to this day (Luna comes along for the ride now).
And I try to get what work needs to get done in the day so that when he gets home from work, we aren't spending it on technology. But rather, we cook dinner together, feed Luna together, snuggle up on the couch together and talk about our days. It honestly has made a world of difference in both our mentalities and I think has helped our relationship grow even stronger. How do you spell love? T-I-M-E.
I think we all need that reminder every now and again.
Get a dog or cat
And last but not least, if you're feeling alone, maybe consider getting a dog or cat. I know, I know, this might not be practical for everyone... but it really helped us I think.
I think I desperately needed to feel like a mom. To something. Someone. We'd been fighting so hard for so long and I just really needed some extra snuggles and hugs.
One Sunday morning, after scrolling through Instagram, I happened upon a a sponsored post for pet adoption (so creepy that our phones know us, right?!). Anyway, it was for the cutest, fuzziest little maltipoo and I just knew we had to have him. I didn't know who he was or where he came from but I just knew I wanted to give him a loving home. I rolled over and handed my phone to Ben (who was still asleep mind you) and
told him yelled, 'THIS IS THE ONE!' Thank God he went with me on this one because Wookie has been a little godsend to our family.
He was there for me when I felt alone and Ben was at work. He was my comforting snuggle buddy who I buried my face into every night when Ben had to give me shots. He was there, happy and excited, to see me every morning when I woke up. His playful demeanor put a smile on my face every single day. He was a reason to get up and get out of the house.
And I think, when you're trying to conceive, we could all use some extra smiles. Some extra hugs. Some extra snuggles. Some extra comfort. Some extra love. And excuses to get outside.