4/27/2017

Listen Up: When A Mother-in-Law Steps In To Be A Gestational Carrier

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.

Walking into my gynecologist office and sitting down with my parents, I prayed this was not happening.

This was my first gynecologist appointment, how could there be something wrong?

As the words “tumor” “probable cancer” and “prepare for the worst” came out of my doctor’s mouth I sat in silence.

I can count on my hand the number of times I have seen my father cry and that was one of those days.
At the age of 17, I had a hysterectomy.

I healed from the surgery, but the emotional scar ran deep.

I went through the next years of my life tucking the thought of never being able to carry a child away until I was 20 years old and I was in love.

I remember being so scared to tell Cody. I was so afraid he would not want to spend his life with someone “broken.”

I can recall on several occasions crying and telling Cody I would understand if he left me. I would understand that if he had to leave because being with me meant he may never have children. I felt like I was less valuable to him then a woman that could give him a child.

He of course told me I was crazy and he was not going anywhere.
When A Mother-in-Law Steps In To Be A Gestational Carrier
We married in 2012. Now he is stuck with me forever.

Before we even married, I began researching gestational surrogacy.

I defiantly had sticker price shock. I honestly saw no way that Cody and I would ever be able to afford surrogacy.

As each year went by, my urge to become a mother became stronger and stronger.

My heart began to break with each pregnancy announcement I saw.

Jealously began to overwhelm me.

I began to give up hope that it would ever happen for us.

I begin praying that if I was not attended to be a mother, that God would take this desire away from me.

Then in 2016, we had an offer from a gestational surrogate.
When A Mother-in-Law Steps In To Be A Gestational Carrier
My mother in law, Patty, offered to carry our child! Talk about mother in law of the year!

Patty had joked around about being our surrogate for several years, but I never took her serious or thought it would be possible.

After digging into the internet, news articles of other grandmothers giving birth began to give us hope.

I am so thankful those woman shared their story.

Sometimes the answers to our prayers is right in our face.

We had a heartbreaking failed transfer earlier this year, but we will be transferring again today.

I grew up thinking this would never be a possibility for me.

We have made it this far and I am not giving up now.

Some days I wonder why God has placed us on this path, but I must be still and know that he has me exactly where he needs me to be.

All of our journeys are different; but we are in this together.

1:8 of us struggle with infertility and many of us struggle silently. I stayed silent for many years because I felt, for a long time, that being infertile made me less of a “woman.”

Being infertile does not make us any less valuable and I have finally overcome that feeling (most days anyways).

Infertility is HELL, but we will be stronger from it.


Kayla Jones of Texarkana, Arkansas, had a hysterectomy at age 17. She knew her path to motherhood would be non-traditional, but never imagined her future mother-in-law would be her child's gestational carrier. To follow Kayla and her husband's journey, visit their Facebook page here

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4/26/2017

Listen Up: Nevertheless, I Am A Mama

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.
My infertility journey is still so vivid in my mind and I wonder if it will ever fade.

The countless doctor’s appointments, the injections, the devastating news over and over, the fleeting sense of hope, the depleted bank account, the fertile pregnancy announcements, and of course the never ending tears.

These memories surface in a flash and I am transported back to a time that was full of pain, fear, resentment and most of all loneliness.

From the moment I found out I was pregnant with my lucky twin girls, I joked that now I suffered from post-traumatic infertility disorder because I could not and still can’t let the pictures of my past go.

I don’t mean to be dramatic, but my infertility journey was imprinted on my soul.

For so long, my diagnosis of diminished ovarian reserve embarrassed me.

I felt less than and unworthy of everything life had to offer.

Nowadays, I am trying to be more open and brave about my infertility… especially when people ask if twins run in my family or if I plan on having more children.

I used to just say no, smile and end the conversation, but now I tell people it took me 3 years, countless IUIs and 6 IVFs to get pregnant.

That because of my diminished ovarian reserve I hardly produced any eggs and even if I made it to retrieval they didn’t always fertilize.

That after 4 transfers and negative pregnancy results, it is hard to keep going.

Yet I did and now I am a Mama to Lucy and Gracie.

What still keeps me awake sometimes, is knowing that Lucy and Gracie are here because of luck.

Sure, I had money to pay for my treatments, resources to locate the best doctor knowledgeable about my condition, flexible job, lovely home and a very supportive husband.

However, none of those things guarantee a pregnancy with a baby at the end.

I chewed vitamin concoctions, drank wheatgrass, went to acupuncture, eliminated sugar and alcohol and still did not get pregnant.

Most days, I knew I was a good person and used positive imagery of me holding babies to will myself pregnant – which of course did not work.

I don’t know why the pregnancy test turned pink that last time.

And twins?  Double luck?

Did I get pregnant because I had quit acupuncture and reintroduced sugar and alcohol?

Even now, I visit the message boards and see so many women who want to be Mamas, and I think why me and not them?

Luck.

I was 31 years old when I visited my first reproductive endocrinologist and 34 when I was finally discharged to an obstetrician.

What scares me the most is thinking about how I would have handled not getting a chance to be a Mom because I had already lost so much of myself over the course of three years.

The never ending grief and not knowing how to make a life for myself without the identification as a Mom was something that I came so close to answering.

For some reason, it still feels hard and those feelings linger below the surface.


Nevertheless, I am a Mama.
My twin girls are beautiful, happy and healthy.

They love to listen to music, play with dolls, search for doggies, and race cars.

I celebrate the joy and laughter that they bring to me, my husband and our extended family on a daily basis.

Every day I am so grateful for my good luck.

Elizabeth Hill resides in Baltimore, Maryland. She is a mother of twins after being diagnosed with Diminished Ovarian Reserve.

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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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