Wednesday, October 1, 2014

If You Are Not Challenged Then You Are Not Changed

Last week I heard the phrase, "If you are not challenged then you are not changed."  Granted it was from my gym instructor but it really got me thinking about how true that statement is.  I think we have a tendency to become complacent when things are going well or our lives are in kind of a status quo state.  At least I know that is true for me.  When things are all rainbows and sunshine I think we tend to go about our lives without any regards to why we are the way we are.  We often take things for granted when we don't have to work for them.

I realized that the last seven years of my life have been full of challenges and every one of them ultimately changed me in some way.  I'm not saying that I am over the moon that we had so many struggles but in a way I am thankful for them because they have changed me for the better.  My cancer diagnosis forced me to take a long hard look at my life and my health.  It forced me to make some physical changes and lose a substantial amount of weight if I were to have a chance at having a biological child.  Infertility also changed me.  This was a harder challenge to accept because it lasted for years, caused lots of tears and most of all too much loss.  So how could all those things change me for the good?  First off, my son is more loved because I know what a true blessing he is. Because of those struggles I am a better mother.  I find that I can take those tantrums, irritations and annoyances that come with being a mom in stride because I am so thankful just to be experiencing them.  I am a better wife because I know what G has gone through and has never left my side.  Most of all the losses we experienced make me that much more thankful for life and everyday that I have with the people I love most.  Each day is a gift and I'm not going to waste it!

Really when you stop to think about it I bet there are challenges early in your life that changed or shaped you into the person you are today.  I began to think a little more about who I am and how I got to this place in my life and I realized that I can pinpoint the moment in my life that I knew I wanted to be a mother and the type of mom I wanted to be.  My parents divorced when I was very young.  My father basically left our lives for good with the exception of a quick pop in every few years or so.  That left my mom to take care of two children on her own.  Thankfully she had amazing parents who helped out in anyway they could, which often meant taking care of us.  I idolized the "room mom" while I was growing up because she was able to be there and help the teacher with parties, field trips, etc.  I wanted that so badly with my mom but because she was raising two kids on her own she was not able to be there as much as I know she wanted.  It was at that point that I knew what kind of mom I wanted to be.  It was from then on that I had the deep desire to have a family and raise children at home.  I know that probably seems old fashioned to many of you but to me it is a way of life that I want for my son.  I don't ever want him to question where his father is.  I don't ever want him to wonder if his mom will be at his ball game, school assembly or awards ceremony.  Don't get me wrong, my mother is amazing and she and I are very close because of what we went through and that too I would not change.  So you see, my challenges early in life changed me for the good in the way that I parent as well as the closeness in my relationship with my mother.

I guess my instructor was are not changed if you are not challenged.  I for one am grateful for the challenges in my life because of the person I am today, the family I have and the life I live.  I will carry the scars of those challenges for the rest of my life but I will display them proudly because they are wounds that gave me my son!

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Hiding Behind A Smile

I am deeply saddened by the recent news of Robin Williams' death.  He was such an amazing man and gave so much to the world that he didn't have anything left for himself.  My heart breaks knowing that he felt that he had no other options but to take his own life.  That news really got me thinking about depression and my own life.

Through the years I have suffered from what I call situational depression. I have had bouts of depression caused by life events at that time, such as my husband's deployment to the middle east and the death of my grandfather.  I was very fortunate to be able to overcome the fears and sadness with a little support. However, after many many years of cancer and infertility that depression grew and I realized that I needed more support than I really wanted to admit. It's very hard for me to share publicly that I suffered from depression.  Like infertility I think depression is often considered a taboo subject that people don't want to talk about. Nobody wants to admit that they are having difficulties coping with their lives and the world around them. Nobody wants to admit that they are weak and need help.  Far too often we are so worried about what others think that we hide our true feelings through smiles, jokes and laughter.  I know this all too well.  For most of my life I have used jokes and laughter as a defense mechanism and to hide my true feelings.  If I was laughing and making jokes at my own expense then it didn't hurt as much when others did.  If I could just smile on the outside no one would know just how much I was hurting on the inside.  If I faked I was happy nobody would know that I just had a miscarriage or we were suffering with infertility.  Do I suffer from chronic depression? No.  Have I suffered from severe depression at times? Yes.  If I am no longer experiencing depression why do I bring this up now?  Why would I share my personal history of depression with the world?  Because we lost an amazing man this week that was always smiling, always laughing and always joking on the outside. The facade he showed to the world was hiding what he was truly feeling on the inside.  As a survivor of cancer and infertility I know the pains, the heartache, the tears, the sorrow and the angst that come with diagnosis and treatments.  I know all too well how easy it is to blame yourself, to feel that you are worthless and to feel that the world is a far better place without you in it.  I remember after my first miscarriage having trouble getting out of my bed let alone leaving my house.  I repeatedly told my husband that he should just leave me and give himself a shot at a better life with another woman.  I even had those moments of darkness where I wondered what the world would be like if I wasn't in it.  Was I thinking of taking my life? No, but thankfully, my husband recognized that I was spinning in the wrong direction.  My smiles were few and far between in those days and I needed help.  I needed a professional equipped with the tools to help talk me through those feelings of sadness and hopelessness.  Dr. M offered me the support I needed to grieve those losses, talk to my husband and find peace and happiness in my life again.  I am thankful that I got out of my own way and listened to G that I did indeed need help.

I encourage those who are suffering through infertility to reach out to others and get the support you need to help get through an extremely trying and emotional time.  Its OK to admit that you can't do it on your own.  It's OK to ask for help.  It's OK to be sad, but it's not OK to let it consume you or control your life.  I also encourage those who have loved ones in the infertility trenches or facing that diagnosis to reach out to them.  Don't try and "fix" them just give them a soft place to vent.  Let them know that it is normal and it's OK to get help if they need a little more than an ear of a loved one.

Monday, August 4, 2014

(Guest Post) Resting

I sit here after eighteen hours of hospital time.  For those who have sat through hospital time, you know that a hospital minute is even longer than a microwave minute.  Today was a long day, but a good one.  I'm glad to say that C's surgery went well and early pathology reports were firmly in the category of what you hope for.  She is resting now, maybe not peacefully, but any rest at this point is welcome.  Delays in the start time led to idle thoughts which are rarely happy ones in such situations.  Thanks for all the texts, tweets, pokes and emails of encouragement that helped keep us both in good, well, better spirits.  Thanks again, G

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

D Day Commeth

We often hear the phrase, "What a difference a year makes."  Right now that has never been more true for me.  As I am gearing up for my hysterectomy tomorrow I just can't help but think back to what I was doing this time last year.  I was 27 weeks pregnant and had just breathed a sigh of relief because I knew that if J was born then he had a good chance of survival.  It was a huge milestone for us and one we weren't sure we'd ever see.  I finally relaxed enough to start registering and planning for my baby shower.  It really wasn't until then that I could actually enjoy my pregnancy.  I still can't believe that one year ago I was having a baby and tomorrow everything required to conceive and carry a child will be removed from my body.  To take it a little further what a difference two years makes.  Two years ago at this same time G and I were mourning the loss of yet another pregnancy and wondering if we could even continue on our infertility journey.  I remember thinking to myself last year around this same time how things can change in just a short period.  I went from losing a baby to a year later more than half way to having one.  Seriously, in the span of two years I was losing a baby, having a baby and now losing all the parts required to make a baby.  This is all so crazy to me. 

I had no clue all the prep needed before having the surgery.  During the talks of having a hysterectomy five years ago all that was required was making sure I had time off of work and mentally preparing for the end of my fertility.  Now with J there is an entirely different dynamic in the preparation.  I have had to figure out who was going to take care of him while G and I were at the hospital.  I needed to make sure that we had plenty of diapers, wipes, formula, food and clean laundry to help G out while he is on solo parent and mommy watching duty.  G had to work out what the schedule would be with friends and family to make sure that someone was here to help while he is working because I can't lift the baby for four weeks...FOUR WEEKS!  Ahhhh, no holding my son for four weeks.  We are so blessed that G's work and our friends and family have stepped up to help out.  And good God nobody told me that I would basically have to evacuate any and everything that I have eaten or drank in the last 38 years of my life before having the surgery tomorrow.  Good times!  All that leaves now is the trying to remove the fears that are swimming in my head and reconcile that the absolute finality of our infertility story is coming to a close.  I am sure that I will get all kinds of sleep tonight. 

Many of you have sent personal messages, comments and emails with your thoughts, prayers as well as asking for an update after my surgery.  G has agreed that he will provide a blog, Twitter and Facebook update once I am safe and sound out of surgery.  On a personal note, since my surgery is being done with the Da Vinci please pray that tomorrow is not the day that the robots rise up and take over the world!!

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Countdown to D Day

My eyes watered as I kissed J and left for my pre-op appointment. As I made the 30 minute drive to the hospital my head began swimming with thoughts of both the past and the future. This road has been so long and difficult; it's hard to believe that it's coming to an end. Honestly, I guess I never really believed that the end to our fertility journey would be mandated by my oncologist. After almost four years being cancer free, I thought the decision would actually be mine and G's based on whether we thought we could handle trying again. Yet, there I was, driving to the hospital where my impending doom is to take place.

I sat in the reception area waiting to be called by the nurse, gripping my purse strap, and thinking that this was it; I'm never having a biological child again. I've continued to hear over the last few weeks some of those dreaded comments which I remember all too well from our days in the infertility trenches. "You can still adopt." "Everything happens for a reason." "At least you have one." You know, this time around it is different. Yes, I am very blessed that I have one. J is perfect and the fact that he is our only child makes him that much more special and I love him dearly. Yes, I know everything happens for a reason but no, you telling me that does not make me feel better. And yes, I know that we have a valid home study and can still adopt. The problem is that all the emotions and dreams of an almost seven year journey to have children don't magically disappear because my doctor says I physically can't continue on that path. I still have to mourn the loss of those dreams and the children I can't carry. I still have to make peace with what is happening both physically and emotionally with my body.

When I was faced with the possibility of a hysterectomy five years ago, the fears and emotions were the same, yet different. There are still the same desires when it comes to the outcome...I still want children and want to be a mom again. Somehow now it just feels different. I adored being pregnant. I loved feeling every movement J made inside me. After he was born I had these strange feelings as if he were still inside kicking me. I told G it was almost like phantom limb syndrome. I miss those feelings and I miss knowing that there was another human being growing inside me. A human being that G and I created. I wonder, had I never been pregnant would these feelings be quite as strong as they are now.

Dread poured over me as the nurse called my name. It finally felt real. This is happening. What new hell am I in for now? Oh, there it is...punch number one! "Is there any chance that you are pregnant?" Ouch! My heart sank. I did the standard pee in a cup and blood draw then moved on to the next obstacle in my little hell, x-rays. Punch number two, "Are you sure you aren't pregnant?" ! Shit people! I'm having a hysterectomy do you think I'm pregnant? I continued on until all my little obstacles were done and then I got my final blow. "Mrs. W, just so you know, they will require you to have a pregnancy test again on Monday before your surgery." Are you freaking kidding me? (I decided I better clean that up since this is a family blog) I'm having the end all be all of my ability to create life removed from my body but lets add a little more insult to injury and make me pee on a stick first.

Well I guess there's no fighting it. Pre-op is done and the date and time are set. This time next week I will officially be done with our infertility journey!

Monday, July 21, 2014

Infertility is a Cruel, Cruel Bitch!

I have had the privilege to meet some amazing women that are still in the trenches of their infertility journeys.  Talking with them about their specific stories has really brought about some of those same feelings in me that I thought I had moved past or tucked away.  Everyone assumes that once you have a child you suddenly develop infertility amnesia and are "fixed".  Having a child is amazing and I'm not going to lie, it does lessen the pain of some of those experiences, but it definitely doesn't make you forget what you have been through. 

Infertility does more than take a toll on you physically, it takes a toll on you emotionally.  The severity, length of time and type of procedures utilized during the infertility journey play a big part in the damage it does to ones body and mind.  I know, for me, infertility was more painful emotionally than physically.  I could heal from my surgeries within a few days or weeks but every setback, every failed cycle, every more advanced or expensive treatment and every loss cut a little deeper into my emotional well being.  Knowing that the reasons for our infertility lay solely in my body I felt a greater responsibility for the turmoil that was happening in our lives.  Everyday of this journey chipped a little more at my self-esteem.  You wouldn't think that having a child or not could effect your entire life but for me it did just that.  It caused me to question my abilities at my job, my relationships with my friends/family and most of all my marriage.  I felt so unworthy of anything as if the ability to not create life somehow made me inadequate at life in general.  I even went so far as to tell G he could leave me if he wanted so he could have the chance of a biological child with someone else.  If you have never struggled with infertility you may not understand this and it may seem ridiculous to you but I assure you for anyone that has been in the war zone of ultrasounds, IUIs, IVFs and FETs they get it.

As I begin to prepare for the ultimate finality in our infertility journey these feelings have come to the forefront of my thoughts.  I have once again begun to question my self-worth.  I feel as if my body has failed me one more time.  Had I never struggled with infertility, had I just ovulated like any "normal" woman, had I seen a doctor sooner would the outcome be different?  I feel as if once again I dangled the baby rattle in front of G's face only to rip it away like a cruel joke.  Now I wonder what this new life, without any of the things that allow me to biologically have a child, will be like.  Am I going to be good enough for my husband?  Will this change me as a woman?  Had I just done this or that could I have prevented's all my fault. 

So where does this leave me now?  Hmm...I am not sure, maybe an even slightly more anxious basket case?  G may argue that I am just as nuts as before just my focus is on a new fear.  I hate that we infertiles have put so much of our self worth into having a child.  I hate that it allows people who I know are amazing people to question themselves and their abilities.  I hate that it took a horrible disease to bring such an amazing group of people into my life.  However, because of this same disease I know that I can get through anything with my husband, my son and those friends.  Oh infertility you are a BITCH!  You have taken too much time and joy from my life over the years.  I think its time for you to pack up my uterus and go.  You don't belong here anymore.  I'm ready for the next chapter of my life!

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

G's Guest Post - I need you to please hurry home!!!!

In a moment, life can freeze.  For me, this time it came in the form of a text.  "I need you to please hurry home!!!!"  If you have never felt the elasticity of time that comes with a message such as this, be glad.  If you have, you know the feeling I describe.  In that moment your heart stops, your breath catches, sound fades and then the adrenaline hits as your heart careens towards maximum throughput and your lungs stretch towards capacity, twice as fast as normal.  When C received the call from Dr. L, I was luckily already near at hand, having run just around the corner for a few minutes.  In all, it took less than five minutes for me to get home.  However, those were five very long minutes.

Thoughts pounded through the decision tree that is my mind.  "Ok brain, should I call?" No, if she could talk she would have called me instead of texting back, besides you are almost home. Yeah, one thought path complete.  Next instruction set.  "Ok, brain, what could be the problem?"  It could be... At this, my brain reacted like a computer dumping every random bit of text on the screen at once.  I processed scenarios, each one worse than the last, so quickly I only had time to feel a growing sense of doom.  Now that J is mobile, you can imagine the number of things that I envisioned him getting in.  As I came rushing in the house, the downstairs was silent, but I saw immediately the video baby monitor was on and J was peacefully napping in his crib, right where he was when I left.  I felt silly for a moment, relief flooded through me as I realized all of those "J did this" scenarios were idle worries.  Boom, it hit me like a ton of bricks.  I knew what it had to be.  As I walked into our bedroom and saw C's tear streaked face, all she said was "It's back".  I'm not sure how long I sat just holding her but J awoke before I had let go.

Fast forward, now that there has been time to process, I am just so glad that we were given the miracle that is J, and that C's doctors have stayed on top of the cancer so that even now it is it's earliest stages.  I'll let C talk about what is to come, and how we will cope with it, but for now I wanted to remind everyone that miracles can happen.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Tick, Tick, Tick, BOOM!

I'm not sure what it is about babies that start your biological clock ticking. Maybe they release some sort of pheromone that makes you yearn to procreate. There's something about their smell and those tiny little fingers and toes that just tug at your uterus. After everything that we went through to get J, I wasn't sure I would ever get to the point where I could remotely consider throwing myself back into the uncertain world of infertility. About 2 months ago, I was packing up J's little clothes that he'd outgrown and donating some things to a friend when it hit me.  I was getting very emotional at how quickly he was growing up and the thought of him being our only child. It wasn't until we visited some old friends who have a baby girl a few months younger than J that it really drove home. She was so sweet and so tiny unlike our little haus. It was then that I realized I could definitely do it again.

G and I talked about it for the last two months and both felt like we could dip our toes back into the infertility waters one more time and see what happens. If it worked great! If not we have J and we will happily live as a family of three. We visited Dr. L last week and let him know about our plans and I had my six month precautionary biopsy. We were doing this! No more birth control, throwing caution to the wind and letting God decide. I was starting to get excited thinking about the possibility of a sibling for J. Tick, tick, tick...BOOM! My reality just got shaken by the boom of my biological clock exploding. My seemingly innocent routine biopsy came back and the results weren't good. Looks like my cancer is back. Once again my baby train is being derailed!

My first thoughts were total sadness of not having a brother or sister for J. Those thoughts quickly shifted to my own life and being around for my son. I still have those desires for more children but I am beyond blessed to have the most amazing son. Being healthy for him far outweighs having another child. This new road is a scary one for a whole other set of reasons. I'm afraid of how I will change after having a hysterectomy. Will I feel the same? Will G still find me attractive? Will I feel like less of a woman? What if I never see J again or hold him in my arms? Nope, more children is the farthest thing from my mind at this point. My main concern is being here for the little miracle I do have!

As I sit here and think about the last seven years, it's amazing that I even made it to this point. Think about it. After trying to have a baby for a year and a half I was diagnosed with uterine cancer and told I needed a hysterectomy. One year later I was pregnant. I would conceive three more times over the next two years and actually carry one of those pregnancies to full term. Something doctors weren't sure I'd ever be able to do. I was cancer free for almost four years during which time I gave birth to the most amazingly perfect little boy. Talk about miracle!

Seeing Dr. B hold my son for the first time today was pure joy!  This woman saved my fertility almost four years ago and now she was holding the miracle that she helped us create!  So yes, I'm sad about not having any more biological children but I am much more happy because of two wonderful doctors who cared enough to help my dreams come true I have J. Being able to wake up every morning to his hugs and smiles make this new chapter of my life something I know I can get through. Once again, not the path I would have chosen for my life but how can I complain when I have my own little miracle that surprised us all?

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Life Changes After Having Kids

I can't remember the number of times people "warned" us that our lives were going to change once we had a baby.  It's like people feel that they must make sure you are aware of just how your life will differ once you have kids.  "Say goodbye to sleeping in."  "You better enjoy the peace and quiet while you can before that baby gets here."  "You'll never have privacy again."  "Once they start talking they never shut up."  To say that my life has changed since the birth of J would be a total understatement!  The funny thing is I don't think everyone sees those changes the same way G and I do.

Everyone knows that once you bring a new baby into your home the possibility of getting more than a few hours sleep at a time during the first months is slim to none.  It's a gimme that you could be an extra on The Walking Dead from the shear lack of sleep.  The waste line that expanded even more than the usual fluff you had prior to conception now comes with wider hips, saggy boobs and extra rolls and wiggles where your beautiful baby once lived for nine months. There are the ever fluctuating hormones that can induce waterfalls of tears for no reason that we come to expect after giving birth. We all have at least some minute concept of changes to expect after having a child.  For me, I think it's the little things that we take for granted that surprised me most; like showering.  My life before having a child consisted of a long peaceful shower every day; if not two on days I worked out.  Now I'm lucky to get a five minute shower before G walks out the door for work or trying to squeeze a quick one in between getting chores done around the house while J naps.  Hot meal...what's that?  My meal time routine now consists of preparing meals while singing, dancing, clapping or making funny faces long enough to keep my eight month old entertained and not burn dinner.  Once we sit down and get him fed we then have to play keep away to prevent our ever moving child from taking something off our plates or table while picking up whatever item he thinks is funny to drop on the floor for mommy to get.  My wardrobe has been severely downsized.  Not just because I don't have the same body that I did prior to becoming pregnant, but my daytime and night time attire now consists of pretty much the same ensemble... yoga pants and one of G's old t-shirts; likely covered in spit-up or some other food product put there by J.  I am What Not To Wear's worst nightmare.  Going to the grocery store is no longer a quick outing.  I have to pack the diaper bag for any event that may occur, change his diaper, make sure he's been fed and get him loaded into the carseat all at the exact right moment to get to the store and back before he falls asleep in the car.

Yes, I think it is safe to say that my life has been changed since having J.  Yes, those 4:30am feedings followed by a 6:00am wake up call are exhausting.  Yes, it would be nice to have some more "me" time, but I can honestly say none of that matters to me.  I see all those changes and things that we "gave up" as blessings.  When I'm tired and feeling a little put out with the chores, errands and every day life I just have to take one look at that toothy grin from J and none of it matters.  Maybe it's all the struggles we went through to have a child that make those things so unimportant to me.  Maybe I've just learned more patience.  Who knows.  All I know is that I wouldn't give up one sleepless night of my life right now!

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Another Mother's Day with Tears

Mother's Day has long been a day of tears and sadness for me.  Like many struggling with infertility, it's a special day of torture and constant reminders that yet another year has passed and your uterus remains empty. There's family and friend brunches celebrating all the moms while all the dads dote lovingly on their deserving wives.  The TV and radio are running commercial after commercial reminding us Mother's Day is just three days away, while stores are having massive sales honoring mothers with that much needed trinket. And of course, the ultimate sucker punch to your heart and uterus, those well intentioned ceremonies at church that present a rose to ALL the women in the congregation because we've all been "like a mother" to someone at some point. Screw that! I don't want to be like a mother...I want to BE a mother!
For years I prayed for a child of my own.  I dreamt of cards with little fingers and toes saying "I love you mommy!"  I longed to feel those little arms wrapped tightly around my neck. Four years ago I was gearing up for yet another surgery to try and remove more cancerous cells.  If you would have asked me then if I ever thought I'd be a mom I don't think I could have said yes.  I wanted to have faith that my day was coming, but as I was facing another surgery and another round of hormone therapy my hopes were not high.  That Mother's Day was difficult but the next two were beyond brutal.  Mother's Day hit an all time low after my miscarriages.  Not only did I struggle with the idea of never having a child but now it was tainted with the what might have been.  Last Mother's Day I had a glimmer of hope.  I was pregnant once again and had finally made it out of my first trimester.  I refused to celebrate for fear of "jinxing" things.  I didn't want to let myself hope too much just in case.  It's amazing how infertility affects your mind.
Fast forward one year.  Today, I sat down with my beautiful and amazingly perfect son (yes, I know I'm biased) making gifts for our mom's.  Once again my eyes began to fill with tears for Mother's Day.  Only this time they were true tears of happiness.  I realized that my dreams had finally become a reality.  My miracle was in my arms hugging me tight as I played with those little feet.  I didn't need the card...I had the real thing! What a difference a year truly makes!

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Do You Know The One in Eight?

I can’t believe that it has been almost six months since my beautiful son was born.  I look at him every day and am still amazed that we created him.  There are those moments where I wonder if my life is just a dream and in that moment, I'm afraid of waking up and it being gone.  It took a lot of soul searching and courage to come out of the closet, so to speak, about my cancer and infertility diagnosis a few years ago. The almost seven year difficult, painful and very emotional journey of treatments and losses to get our little miracle remains ever present in my mind.  I am forever grateful and humbled to have him in my life and he makes every obstacle worth it.  Though we made it through the trials and got to bring J home, I know that there are many more couples out there still waiting for their hopes and dreams to come true.  Recent studies show that there are 7.3 million people with infertility in the United States alone.  For those of you who don’t want to do the math let me break it down for you; that’s 1 in 8 couples who are facing an infertility diagnosis.  That means there’s a high probability that the 1 in 8 is someone you know.  In honor of National Infertility Awareness Week (NIAW) I’ve decided to dedicate this post to promote awareness to the growing epidemic of infertility.

I recently read an article about an Australian study on infertility.  It stated that infertility will be the third most serious health condition after cancer and cardiovascular disease this century.  Australian fertility expert Dr. Clare Boothroyd says, “Infertility can be compared to cancer and cardiovascular disease because of the impact it has on a desperate family’s quality of life.”  Speaking as someone who has been through both cancer and infertility, I absolutely believe that is an accurate statement.  When I was diagnosed with cancer there were so many things that went through my mind.  Was I going to die? Will I ever be able to have the child I dreamed of?  What was this going to do to my marriage? How is this going to affect us financially?  Will my husband resent me for not giving him a biological child?  The list goes on and on.  The funny thing is, once my cancer was gone and I was officially an “infertile” the list was very much the same.  Most of those fears where still there if not even stronger.  A cancer diagnosis was very scary and stressful but the ironic thing was that the infertility treatments took a bigger toll on my marriage and our finances than the cancer.

With my cancer treatments there were times that I could mentally detach myself from the diagnosis and be able to enjoy doing things without fear of constant reminders.  My doctor’s appointments were few and sometimes would be a couple months before I had to go back for checkups or biopsies.  Not to mention one of the biggest reliefs was insurance covered the majority of my treatments.  Yes, I still had copays and coinsurance responsibilities but that was far less than my fertility journey.  When going through infertility treatments it was much more difficult to actually separate myself from the diagnosis and treatments.  First, the appointments were many and often.  Every cycle we were waiting to see if the procedure worked leaving us wondering and hoping for two weeks every month that this would be our time.  Next, most of my fertility procedures were not covered by insurance therefor causing us to take on what was a massive hurdle and a huge burden financially.  For those of you who are unaware treatments aren’t cheap and the decision to move forward with intervention cannot be taken lightly.  We had to consciously make the choice that we were devoting the majority of my salary to having a child.  Lastly, if I was able to mentally shutdown at some point I found there were often reminders that would slap me in the face when I least expected it.  It seemed in the three years we were undergoing treatments every movie, TV show or magazine article had someone going through a miscarriage or infertility issues.  I felt like I could never escape.  If I was lucky enough to find that rare movie that was sure to have no baby talk, inevitably I was surrounded by pregnant women in the theater.  The sheer pain of waiting every month, remembering every loss and the hormonal hyped marital spats were just too much for us to bear when we finally decided to stop treatments. 

It’s very difficult to come out and talk about infertility with others.  It’s hard enough sharing your most private moments let alone your most private body parts with someone other than your partner.  For couples struggling with the diagnosis they often feel isolated and alone.  It seems as if everyone under the sun has the ability to procreate but you.  Often one person in the couple feels responsible for the situation they are in and I know from personal experience that I felt defective.  I didn’t want others knowing that it was my fault we haven’t been able to have children yet.  Having multiple miscarriages I felt a shame as well.  I felt as if I was doing something wrong because my body couldn’t carry a child.  No matter how often people reassure you that it is not your fault a woman often feels shame or responsibility for the loss. 

So the big question is how can you support someone who is part of the 1 in 8?

1.  Don’t Be The Datebook Keeper

It’s very difficult for some people to open up about their infertility, so if you are one of the lucky ones and someone chooses to share their journey with you don’t be the datebook keeper.  It was nice to have friends check up on me but it was more stressful to have them watching the calendar to know when procedures would be or when we would have our BETA test to see if the cycle had worked and we were pregnant.  I found that little emails, texts and cards were best for me.  It was nice to know that they were thinking about me without having to keep them up to date of where we were in the current cycle.   Try to understand that it’s nothing personal if they don’t share every detail about their injections, ultrasounds or blood tests sometimes it’s just too much and too difficult.  Trust me…if they get pregnant they will shout it from the roof top!

2.  Be Understanding and Give Us Space When We Need It

I had some wonderful people that walked through our journey with me and their support was crucial to getting me through some of the hardest times, but some days were too emotionally difficult to deal with.  Infertility leaves scars that are deeper than you can imagine and you never know what will be a trigger. Baby showers, pregnancy and birth announcements were the hardest for me. These were always constant reminders of my infertility and the one thing I wanted more than anything and could not have.  I completely boycotted baby showers during my infertility treatments.  One, for my own preservation and two I did not want to ruin my friend’s special day. I had no desire to quell anyone’s joy but some days just opening up Facebook and seeing yet another birth announcement or positive pregnancy test just brought me to tears.  Believe me we are happy for those who are able to successfully carry a child to term and it’s nothing personal but sometimes we just need the space to cope on our own.  From my own experiences, I know that people just want to be helpful and show that they care, but for couples experiencing the trials and losses of infertility it is difficult to always accept the offers and be around others during those times.  So I encourage you to take your cues from the couple as to what they need at that specific time.

3.  Unless You're Their Doctor Don’t Offer Medical Advice Or Suggestions

Without fail someone has some “helpful” advice on how to get pregnant.  My best friend’s sister got pregnant the first time with these special herbs.  Have you tried Metformin? Have you tried acupuncture?  Take a vacation and will happen.  Believe me when I say that we tried absolutely everything to get pregnant.  Yep, I did acupuncture, herbs, pills, injectables, insemination and IVF.  As I’ve said before I have an honorary degree in reproductive medicine after everything we have been through.  Most people experiencing infertility struggle enough with their own thoughts as to what they can do to have a baby.  Offering unsolicited advice may not be helpful.  You can always ask if they want the information but don’t be offended if they turn you down.  Trust that they are doing what is best for them.

4.  Be Conscientious of Those Seemingly Innocent Questions

Infertility is often a very private and silent struggle for couples. We kept ours fairly quiet with the exception of a few close friends until about two years ago.  I had so much pain and loneliness and needed an outlet to release some of those feelings which is how this blog came about.  Sharing with complete strangers sometimes seemed easier than sharing with my friends.  I often felt as if people were judging me and my inability to have a child.  I encourage you to take a moment before you ask some of those seemingly innocent questions like, “When are you going to have kids?”  That one little question was always a sucker punch in the uterus for me!  You just never know who that one person is struggling with infertility.  Seriously, take a moment and think about eight of your closest friends.  Statistics show it’s likely that one of those eight friends is struggling with infertility and has chosen not to share.  If someone chooses to share about the lack of children in their life that’s one thing, but don’t always assume that someone chooses to be child free at a specific time.  It was seven long years before I finally held my son in my arms and I can’t even begin to count the number of times we were asked that question during our journey.

5.  Most of all…Resolve to know more

This year marks the 25th anniversary of the National Infertility Awareness Week sponsored by Resolve: The National Infertility Association.  Resolve is a wonderful organization that helps those struggling with infertility answer questions, find help and most of all Resolve offers support to those going through this devastating disease. I encourage you to visit their website ( to learn more about infertility (yours or someone you love) and learn how you can support those you love who are currently traveling down a very long and hard road.  Most of all…resolve to be the support that anyone going through infertility desperately needs RIGHT NOW!

Monday, March 31, 2014

Baby Joy and PTSD

To be honest I was not even remotely prepared for what my life would be like with a new baby.  I knew that it would change and I would have to be flexible, but I have come to realize that I no longer control my schedule...J does. Case in point, it has been almost 3 months since I have written anything other than a grocery list.

Where do I begin? J has grown leaps and bounds and it is just amazing watching him develop a personality and hit those milestones.  He melts my heart more and more every day. I could write for hours about that amazing little boy, but I think I will spare you the gushing of a new mother.  So what is there to write about if not my son? Well, I had said for years that infertility and cancer would always be a part of my life because they have made me who I am today.  That has not changed.  For anyone that has been through heartache and loss there are scars that still remain.  I am no different.  I look at my son everyday and I thank God for allowing him to come into our lives, but there are still days that I suffer from PTSD of infertility.  My first flashbacks came at my six week postpartum check up.  I was so excited to bring J into the clinic to meet all the admin staff, nurses and doctors who have been part of our journey since my cancer diagnosis.  They literally have been part of our lives for four years and know the losses and obstacles we have overcome to have baby J.  Every appointment, every ultrasound and every non-stress test I had they were there cheering us on.  They were almost as excited as G and I to meet our son.

We entered the clinic and immediately were bombarded with staff wanting to see our little miracle.  They oohed, ahhed and were already trying to figure out who he looked like.  That first little stinging flashback came soon after.  While we sat in the waiting room to see Dr. O for my postpartum check up, nurse K (one of Dr. L's nurses) came out to the lobby. She immediately came over to see J and give us hugs and congratulations. It was so exciting for her to meet him.  She was such a big part of our lives during our fertility treatments.  It was soon after our hugs I realized that she was there to get a patient and my heart sank.  I remember all too well sitting in the waiting room before my appointments with Dr. L and feeling the pain of seeing the barrage of pregnant women and new mommies coming in to see their OB/GYN. I remember thinking, when will it be my turn? Is this ever going to happen for me? Why do I have to go through this? It always felt like insult to injury. I was finally on the other side and yet all I could feel at that moment was sadness for this woman I had never met before. I was already a hormonal mess and holding my son at that moment brought tears to my eyes.  

My next flashback was during my check up with Dr. O.  After my exam she asked what our plans were for birth control.  What? Birth control? Why on earth would I need birth control?  The very thought of birth control seemed foreign to me.  I had spent 6 years trying to have a child so the idea of preventing one was counter intuitive to me.  She said, "Chrissy, you had a baby.  You CAN get pregnant and you DID have a baby." Oh my gosh, she's right. I did actually give birth to a child. Getting pregnant was never the problem...keeping the pregnancy was.  So here I am almost seven years since G and I first started trying to have a baby and now I have to make a decision of how to prevent one.  This was not a question that I expected and a decision I could not make lightly.  Once we got close to the end of my pregnancy and had made it through the dreaded first trimester we were actually thinking about having another child.  We began to think that maybe we could go through this again.  Within minutes I was in tears because all those fears and losses came flooding back.  What if I were to get pregnant again and suffered another miscarriage? What if I had a premature birth and the baby didn't survive or was born with disabilities?  Knowing that J's umbilical cord was in a knot when he was born made those fears of stillbirth so much more real.  I was crying thinking about getting pregnant again.   I had no clue how I would react to another loss and there are no guarantees when it comes to infertility.  After everything we had been through to get J, we felt like he deserved the best that we could give him. This one visit was a wake up call for me that my infertility and losses will always be a part of my life.  I really do have a form of PTSD when it comes to infertility.  For now we are going to relax and enjoy seeing our beautiful little miracle grow.  If we decide that we want to grow our family in the future we are confident it will be through adoption.  

Don't get me wrong.  I am beyond overjoyed to be a mother.  I have wanted to be a mother since I was a teenager.  All of those obstacles and losses make my being a mother that much more special and I will never take that for granted.  That same appointment brought so much joy and an all new level of reality to our family. We had been with Dr. L for over 3 years trying to grow our family.   He had seen us at our worst and now he was able to see us at our absolute best.  Seeing him holding my son for the first time was so overwhelming and heartwarming...we had come full circle!  We finally had our son!

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Induction Into Mommyhood!

When you are pregnant everyone has advice on what you should and shouldn't do when it comes to being a parent.  Everyone has their own opinion on what it is like being a mother.  People said we're not going to get any sleep for the next year.  The baby is going to cry all the time.  He's just going to eat and poop.  G and I were overjoyed with the birth of J, our little miracle.  We had tried for so long and had so many trials and losses we didn't care how "hard" it was going to be. We didn't care that we weren't going to get any sleep.  We had been through so much we were looking forward to it. We knew that nothing would compare to our journey to get J...we could handle anything he threw at us. 

I had told G for months, "While J's inside me I have no control over what's going on and can't do anything to protect him but once he's born and in my arms all those fears and anxieties will disappear."  I was so wrong, those fears and anxieties that I had while being pregnant didn't even begin to compare to the fears I was facing once J was born.  That first night in the hospital if he moved, squeaked, cried or shuttered I was by his side.  I would constantly stare at him and make sure he was breathing.  Every little "abnormal" thing I would ask the doctor or nurse to look at him. Their response was always, "He's a baby, that's what they do."  This did little to ease my fears.  I was sure that once I could hold him that I could protect him no matter what and I realized I didn't have a clue.  All those warnings, stories and meaningful advice didn't remotely prepare us for what it's really like to enter into parenthood.  How can something so precious that I have wanted for so long be so scary?

It has taken several weeks to get into any type of routine and I use the word routine loosely because I have learned that with a newborn they make the rules and can change them up on you at any time.  I still lie awake at night listening to J breathing in his bed.  I still wake up when I hear any type of "odd" noise coming from his general area.  I also still worry whether he is getting enough or too much to eat, that he isn't sleeping more or he's sleeping too much and of course just worry because I am his mother and that's what I do.  All of those things aside, I finally feel like I can do this and J has done everything in his powers to induct me into mommyhood.  In the first 6 weeks of his life we have experienced a myriad of parental firsts.  My first week as a mom J peed on me while changing a diaper.  I had no clue what I was doing and like an idiot just cupped my hands over him and tried to block the pee from going everywhere while laughing hysterically and yelling for G. I have been spit up on more times than I can count and as a result have done more laundry for a person that is barely as big as a sack of potatoes than I have done for G and I over the last year.  But the real induction into mommyhood came a few weeks back in the middle of the night.  I was staring at the my beautiful baby while he was nursing and noticed him start to squirm a bit.  I realized he needed to poop.  I heard him begin to poop and felt it squirt out into his diaper.  Then I realized that not only was it in his diaper it was now in my hands, on my underwear, on my sheets and all over the baby.  I was literally christened as a mommy with poop.  There is no doubt that you have become a parent when you are changing your sheets, bathing you and the baby, doing a load of laundry and having to redress both of you.

Being a mother has it's trials but it is the best thing that I have ever experienced and can't wait to see what else is in store for us.  I will do my best to not be too neurotic for J's sake!

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Mission Accomplished!

The decision to have children is probably one of the biggest of a couples life. You have to consider when to start a family, how many children you would like, are you going to work or stay home, but nobody starts out thinking am I physically able to have children. People just assume that they will be able to conceive. Unfortunately, there are no guarantees when it comes to having children. No treatment is foolproof and even if conception does occur there are no guarantees that a baby will come home with you.

If you would have told me 19 years ago that it would take us more than six years to to expand our family I would of thought you were crazy. I took sex education in 10th grade; I know that you just have to have sex to get pregnant...Right? My high school education did nothing to prepare me for the obstacles we were going to face to have a child. Nowhere in my text books did it say you might not ovulate. No teacher told me that if you don't ovulate you are at risk for uterine cancer and no video told me that sometimes infertility is just unexplained. Little did I know what my marriage was in for the day G and I first made the decision we were ready to start our family. No amount of high school health classes would prepare me for the obstacles we were about to face to have a baby.

It's hard to believe that four years ago I had uterine cancer and was looking at having a hysterectomy. I honestly didn't think I would keep my uterus let alone be able to conceive a child. It's been a long journey filled with surgeries, hormone therapy, fertility treatments and multiple losses but our dream of expanding our family has finally come true. October 28, 2013 was a day that I thought would never come. After 12 hours of labor my son J was born at 9:15pm weighing 7lbs 8oz and 20 inches long. G and I are both exhausted and overjoyed with our little miracle. He's perfect! When I look into his eyes I know that every tear was worth it!

Last year I wrote a blog about the stick figures that people have on their cars and how I coveted their little stick figure babies. I wanted so desperately to have my own family. I even had a set of UT people that G bought me when we learned I was pregnant the first time 3 years ago. After my miscarriage I put them away and forgot about them until this past week. I'm happy to say that my mission to become a mom is accomplished and my little stick figure family adorns my car!!!

Thanks so much for the support over the past year. I will be continuing my blog because I will never forget what we have been through. Infertility and pregnancy loss are a part of my life and always will be. Going forward my blog will focus on mommyhood but will continue to have posts that deal with infertility, miscarriage and cancer as well.

Monday, September 30, 2013

1095 and Counting

It's been almost four years since I was diagnosed with uterine cancer and I still remember that day all too well. It was as if I was standing in a subway station as the train flew by. I couldn't actually hear the words that Dr. R was saying I could just read her lips..."You have cancer." My head began to spin and my mind was racing with what that meant. All I could think was that I was never going to be a mother as she uttered the words, "You're going to need a hysterectomy." My world was turned upside down. G and I had been trying to have children for a year and a half and now any chance of a biological child was being ripped away from me. Now what?

Luckily I was given a referral to Dr. B, a renown gynecological oncologist, for a second opinion which turned out to be one of the best decisions of my life. Knowing that G and I were trying to have a baby she wanted to try and save my fertility and postponed talks of a hysterectomy while we pursued other options. On October 1, 2010, after 10 months of hormone therapy and multiple surgeries, I was told that the cancer was gone and released to the reproductive endocrinologist. We were so excited and again filled with hope of a biological child.

This journey has been a roller coaster ride of emotions. It has been filled with miles of hope, days of shaky faith, massive highs, desperate lows, heartache, loss, love and jubilation. Thanks to Dr. B and Dr. L I have defied the odds, beat cancer and am pregnant with an amazing miracle. It's been 1095 days since I was first told I was cancer free and I'm thrilled to say it's 44 days until my son's due date. I know three years seems like a long time but considering four years ago I was told I needed a hysterectomy...I'll take it. I thank God everyday for our miracle and I know my son is so much more loved because of what we have been through! Sometimes blessings come when and how you least expect it!