4/25/2017

Listen Up: Living Through Loss

National Infertility Awareness Week is April 23-29. This guest post was submitted as part NIAW's theme: "Listen Up." For more stories and features on infertility and NIAW, click HERE.

It seems unimaginable that one journey could span over nine years and encapsulate so much – so much change, so much loss, so much energy and time and money -- and still be unresolved.

But it can.

And that’s our story.

My husband and I began trying to build our family in February of 2008.

My parents struggled with infertility, their own journey inclusive of two confirmed miscarriages, starting the adoption process, my sister, Amanda, who was stillborn in 1981, and then finally me in 1984.

So while disappointed, I wasn’t shocked when nine months went by without success, despite the fact we were only 24 years old.

I was diagnosed with atypical PCOS and prescribed Metformin but could not tolerate the necessary dosage.

We tried several medicated IUI cycles in 2009 but the closest we got was a chemical pregnancy in June.

And then, the unexpected: my diagnosed-at-birth congenital heart condition that had never posed a problem, suddenly was problematic.

While taking the fertility meds, I began experiencing heart palpitations but we thought it was just a reaction to the medication and something we could easily remedy.

To be safe, my local cardiologist referred me to a specialist at UCLA and we were hit with news few are prepared for, especially at age 25: I needed open heart surgery and soon.

The three weeks that followed were a blur of appointments and insurance clearances and readying our life for something we felt absolutely unprepared for.

But somehow, we did it and I underwent surgery on October 29, 2009 to correct my VSD gone rogue.

Several months later, I had a pacemaker implanted due to the development of bradycardia.

Overcoming the hardship of this major surgery at a young age felt like a grueling battle within an already grueling battle against infertility and we were so discouraged.

But we just kept putting one foot in front of the other and in late 2010 (after moving to a new city for my husband’s master’s degree), I was deemed healthy once again and given medical clearance to resume trying to conceive.

The move to a new city also meant a new fertility clinic.

Though we had been told that IVF may be in our future, we weren’t ready to take that path. So, we tried IUI again and finally, in September of 2011, we conceived.

Sadly, the excitement was short lived, as I miscarried in mid-October.

Fast forward another few IUIs, a move across the country for my husband to pursue his doctorate, and yet another clinic.

In 2015, we decided it was time to take the plunge and move on to IVF, and on our 4th and final cycle, we were blessed with another pregnancy.

After eight long years, our pregnancy felt miraculous.

The joy we felt was absolute, and this time, we got to hear the heartbeat.

We passed through the first trimester and sailed in to the second.

It truly didn’t feel real.

I was healthy, our baby girl was healthy; we chose a name and set up our registry.

We planned my shower and decorated her nursery.

And then, the bottom fell out of our world.
Living Through Loss with Infertility
On August 15, 2016, I went in to preterm labor and our Evelyn was born via emergency C-section at 23 weeks 3 days gestation.

From the massive hemorrhaging and the sudden onset of labor, it was determined I had suffered a spontaneous complete placental abruption.

Our tiny warrior fought for 8 hours and 43 minutes but ultimately passed away in her daddy’s arms at 5:05am the following morning.

We will never be the same.
Living Through Loss with Infertility
Evelyn will always be our miracle, and we will love her as fiercely in death as we would have in life.

Somehow, we must find the strength and courage to carry on, with our daughter in our hearts instead of in our arms where she belongs.

Evie is our inspiration, each and every day, to be better, do better, and love harder.

With her help, and with a lot of time, patience, love and support, we will find a path forward.

One day, one moment, one step at a time.

Melissa N. of Bloomington, Indiana, is an Unexplained Infertility Warrior. She honors her daughter and blogs about surviving the hardships of building a family HERE.

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Listen Up: Infertility Never Ends

National Infertility Awareness Week is April 23-29. This guest post was submitted as part NIAW's theme: "Listen Up." For more stories and features on infertility and NIAW, click HERE.

I am on the other side of an infertility battle....kind of.

See, my husband and I struggled to conceive. Our battle was made difficult by my diagnosis of poly-cycstic ovarian syndrome (PCOS).

But, we got lucky. Clomid was our friend and we were able to conceive during the first cycle.

We lived on pins and needles for about 9 months and finally welcomed our daughter, Ellen, into the world.

She is now 3, almost 4. She is the joy of our lives. We call her the blonde bombshell, my father calls her the tornado.

She is curious about life.

She loves Paw Patrol, reading books, helping in the kitchen, and tormenting our 2 dogs.

And despite wanting to be a mom for a really long time, there are moments I still suck at mothering.

I am the worst kind of parent two times a day: as we're trying to get out of the house to head to preschool, and bedtime.

I turn into this Sybil-like monster and fear I am doing my daughter irreversible damage by finally giving up sweetly asking and instead demanding that she put shoes on.

Not long ago, we were having one of "those" kinds of mornings.

We had woken up late (stupid sleep button that looks like the off button) and Ellen was on her own time line.

She wanted to get dressed as slow as possible. Eat breakfast as slow as possible. Descend down our stairs like molasses. We moved a glacial speed.

I was already in a fine mood as we headed out the door to the garage when she said (innocently) "'K' is getting a little brother or sister! His mommy has a baby in her tummy." 'K' is one of her preschool friends. Then, as only a 3 year old can, she looked up at me with her big brown eyes and said, "Mommy? When will you have a baby in your tummy?" 

Not this. Not today. Not now, Sybil.

And what do I say in that moment?

How do I tell a 3 year old that she is a miracle without giving her a complex?

How do I explain that the clomid was a blessing but the side effects were horrible?

How do I tell her that her birth went nothing like I planned and I long to "fix" it but probably will never be able to do that.

We had a plan (like all pregnant people) but that plan didn't go....well....as planned.

Ellen arrived via unscheduled c-section.

For the longest time, I felt like less of a woman, less of a mother, because I didn't deliver her vaginally.

How do you explain that to a 3 year old?

Do I tell her about the nights I spent crying and begging her to latch on to my breast but she just wouldn't?

How do I tell her about the post-partum depression?

What kid wants to hear that her mother doesn't remember the first 3 months of her life thanks to PPD and sleep deprivation.

How do I tell her that my age now makes me an "at risk" pregnant person?

How do I explain preeclampsia??

Do I tell her that there are moments that I want another and then I look at her, our life, my job, her dad, all of it and wonder how in the hell we could handle another?

So what I said was, "Oh honey. Mommy probably won't have another baby in her tummy again. You're my only baby."

For that moment, it was an okay answer. But, I'm sure she'll ask again.

People always ask, don't they?

Curious, well meaning people, always ask.

And in my line of work as a Pastor, they ask a lot. Because what church doesn't love to have babies! And in some churches, the assumption is that the pastor (or the pastor's wife) will be the one to have ALL THE BABIES!! That's not the case where I serve. But, I have been asked, "Pastor, don't you think it's time to add another?" Or, "Pastor, you're such a good mom. You could handle one more." My favorite is, "Don't you think Ellen needs a brother or sister?" What they are really asking is, "Are you having sex?" I don't think they realize this.

The kicker is this: I've been very transparent about our infertility issues. But people still ask.

And even though we have Ellen, it still hurts to know the trials we would need to go through to have another.

Before having Ellen, there were times when I felt like less of a woman because I didn't (and for a while, thought I couldn't) have a baby.

Now, I have a baby...well, toddler. I had no idea that I would be made to feel like less of a mom because I only have one!


I wish I would have known that my battle with infertility wouldn't end with the birth of our daughter.

Because now I have become an infertility advocate.

I support those who are fighting.

I am a listening ear for my fellow warriors undergoing testing.

I pray aloud in church for those suffering from infertility. I refuse to make this a conversation that is had in hushed tones in dark corners.

I was part of the 10%, and I still am.

Jealaine M. is a wife. mother and pastor in Iowa. She is an infertility survivor and an advocate for those who have struggled to grow their family. Read more from her HERE

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4/24/2017

Listen Up: Learning to Embrace The Struggle of Infertility

National Infertility Awareness Week is April 23-29. This guest post was submitted as part NIAW's theme: "Listen Up." For more stories and features on infertility and NIAW, click HERE.
Learning to Embrace The Struggle of Infertility
Photo: Leah Marie Photography
Calendars, ovulation kits, pregnancy tests...hope, worry, doubt...weeks, months, years.

After our 1st wedding anniversary, my husband and I decided to “start trying” for a baby.

This just happened to be 3 months after my mom was diagnosed with stage 4 ovarian cancer.

Todd and I  were both teachers and eager to have a family of our own.

After a year of negative pregnancy tests, we found out that IVF was the route we needed to take to try to conceive a child.

What?

Just like that, we were submerged in hormones, injections, patches, invasive ultrasounds and uncomfortable procedures.

Naively positive that it would work the first time, we anxiously awaited the call after my blood work, 10 days post embryo transfer.

My cell phone rang while we were on the 2nd floor of Barnes and Noble and immediately I knew it wasn’t positive by the sound of the poor nurses voice.

Round 1 yielded no baby or remaining embryos.

Onto Round 2, this time I started acupuncture, but still, I got the dreaded phone call of no baby, while at the mall food court.

However, we had 4 high quality embryos that were frozen.

By this point, I needed a break...physically, but more so emotionally, and so did my husband.

The highs and lows were extreme, yet each time we came out stronger as a couple.

Ready to tackle a frozen embryo transfer, we implanted 2 embryos on September 27, 2012.

I, again, received acupuncture, but this time Todd prayed with me, out loud, in the cold, stark clinic room just minutes before the transfer.

This time, while sitting at my desk at school, I got the call we were dreaming about...we were pregnant!
Learning to Embrace The Struggle of Infertility
Photo: Leah Marie Photography
Our prayers were answered with our precious daughter, Priya Nadine, born June 7, 2013.

My mother, Nadine, died on August 25, 2014, but I am so happy that she was able to spoil and love her only grandchild for a year.

We tried on our own for nearly 3 more years for another child, but again, with no success.

With 2 remaining embryos, we gave it one last shot on June 3, 2016.
Learning to Embrace The Struggle of Infertility
Photo: Leah Marie Photography
Miraculously, I answered one more positive call while watching our sweet Priya at swimming lessons that June day.
Learning to Embrace The Struggle of Infertility
Photo: Leah Marie Photography
Our strong son, Camden Kelson, completed our family on February 7, 2017.

Fertility treatments gave us our children and such a profound respect for life...it is so precious and unpredictable.

It is hard and unfair, but remember that everyone is fighting a battle.

Embrace the struggles you face and you will come out stronger than ever before.

Talk to those you love and be as open as you can.

Whenever I share with others that we have IVF babies, I am amazed at the number of people that have also experienced infertility, and a bond is instantly formed between us. A bond that neither of us had in our life plans, but it has forever shaped who we are.

We all have a cross to bear, so carry your cross, don’t drag it.

Jenna Hucka is a mom from Harlan, Iowa. She and her husband resolved their male-factor infertility diagnosis with the help of a fertility clinic in Des Moines, IA. 

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4/23/2017

Listen Up: Grieving Infertility While Others Are Pregnant

National Infertility Awareness Week is April 23-29. This guest post was submitted as part NIAW's theme: "Listen Up." For more stories and features on infertility and NIAW, click HERE.
Grieving Infertility When Others Are Pregnant
I hated who I had become: the person people didn’t want to tell they were pregnant.

FaceTime rang on my phone declaring that my sister (in-law) was calling. She is one of my very best friends.

Not knowing why nervousness ensued, my sweaty palm answered the call.

We chatted a bit and I watched her 16-month daughter do what she does best: be wild.

She has short dark thin hair, deep brown eyes, a smile to steal anyone's soul. A fearless sort of girl.

My sister mentioned a doctor visit and a weight of coal dropped in my stomach.

I hated the weight of coal more than I hated my possible-infertility -- it resembled the confusing emotions that made up the mess that was me, it reminded me I was not handling this journey well.

She responded with a “no” when I did my best to enthusiastically and uncomplicatedly ask her if she had any exciting news.

About three minutes after our FaceTime call I received a long text message explaining that she was indeed pregnant and wanted to give me time to process before coming back to the states. I would see her in less than 24 hours. I felt honored she would share with me, loved and well-thought of. And yet, I hurt in the deepest parts of me.

A sob escaped my throat as tears stung my eyes; I felt the ugly cry threatening my trembling lips.

My heart pounded as more blood rushed to my cheeks, teeth clenched, body tense.

I looked in the eyes of my friend and her husband and they clearly knew I need time to myself. But it also felt like their eyes laid into me like an oppressive weight threatening to crush me, begging the question: am I ever going to get passed this?

But they had no idea what this is like, this waiting and trying everything and being completely out of control of conceiving and carrying - how could they?

How could I expect or want them to understand?

I was crumbling beneath the weight of this plague that wasn’t being lifted.

This disease of infertility, desolation, isolation.

This hoping for pregnancy.

The physical pain of endometriosis constantly reminded me that my body is so very broken and I was not handling it beautifully nor what most Christians would deem heroically.

The phrase, “This must be His plan” was bouncing around my head like a beach ball and I wanted to pop it with my sorrow, I wanted to vomit on it, I wanted to blow up the phrase with fiery anger.

The barrenness of my womb and soul threatened any hope, creating in me a hunger, opening me up wide for needing Him.

Barrenness always endangers hope and joy.

But it also creates a space for Him to move, to reside, to become salve for our desolate, tired souls.

I wanted so desperately to be purely and only happy for my brother and best friend, but my wounds were gushing a thickness of sorrow, bloody and hell-like, separating me from pure happiness.

I didn’t know if these wounds would ever heal.

These wounds of waiting and wondering.

Confusing thoughts coursed through me feeling selfish and self-centered, while simultaneously happy for them, but continuing to wonder if I could have permission to honestly grieve my broken body.

Wounded and weeping, unable to even pray, I called my sweet husband.

He suggested we see a fertility specialist and begin low-key interventions.

It was much less expensive than beginning the adoption journey and we still had thousands to add to our adoption savings.

In those moments, I loved him so much more than I ever had.

He was willing to enter an even more pain-filled journey to grow our family and experience the miracle of pregnancy. A place of humiliation and costly interventions.

Nervous and scared, I saw a spark of hope sprouting out of the dirty soil of my weary heart.

I wanted so badly to cling to Jesus, not placing my hope in a baby or a pregnancy.

But I also so desperately wanted to grow our family.
Grieving Infertility When Others Are Pregnant
Natalie lives in Portland, Oregon with her husband Loren. They are privileged to being mama and daddy to two boys by both love (adoption) and blood (biological), not quite 5 months apart. Natalie is a writer, photographer, mom, and wife. This excerpt is from her book which will be released this September. You can download Natalie’s ebook for free: Wholeness Despite the Brokenness

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4/20/2017

SURPRISE! It's A....!

Surprise! Gender Reveal With Kids
Boy, oh boy! Talk about a SURPRISE!
Surprise! Gender Reveal With Kids
Chris and I thought we owned the hashtag #GirlDad and #GirlMom...
Surprise! Gender Reveal With Kids
Little did we know this fourth miracle that's been tumbling around in my belly was A BABY BOY!
Surprise! Gender Reveal With Kids
It was fun to have Chris' parents, my sister and niece here when we popped the confetti -- they were the official screamers and photographers!
Surprise! Gender Reveal With Kids
We video-chatted with my parents to let them know their granddaughter streak is officially OVER!
Surprise! Gender Reveal With Kids
To say we are thrilled and surprised and grateful is an understatement.
Surprise! Gender Reveal With Kids
Now let's hope this baby boy can handle three big sisters swooning over him 24/7. It'll be a bonus if he likes pink and all things glitter ;) 

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