From Fitness To Fertility

From Fitness to Fertility

As seen on Athleta’s Chi Blog HERE
February 12, 2014 By

Jenna Zaffino - PilatesThe year of 2012 had me completely in the zone. I had been dancing, running and Pilates-ing my way through the past 11 years of my life, I was the head of my successful Pilates studio and had began to reach a larger audience through blogging, online classes and professional presentations. My husband and I were planning to start a family and life felt aligned and right.

On paper, I was going to write a book, win a paddleboard race and hopefully become an Athleta Store’s Sponsored Athlete! I breathed in the Power to the She credo. I left it all on the mat. I took risks and inspired others to do the same. Behind the scenes, I worried a little that becoming pregnant would put my goals on hold. But when I thought of growing our family, I knew that I would sacrifice it all for the chance to be a mom.

As the months rolled by without a positive test, I simply continued on full steam, filling my schedule with workshops, client appointments and all of the Power to the She type activities I could get done before the positive test would come. With each month, I convinced myself that I had somehow screwed up the timing of my cycle or that I hadn’t done enough of any number of things–working out, drinking water, kegals–you name it. Sheepishly, I asked a few people how long it took for them to conceive and received answers like “Oh, he just has to look at me and we get pregnant. We’re really fertile.” I knew that it was normal for a couple to take between six months and a year to conceive, but I was beginning to get worried and more importantly, I was beginning to run out of distractions.

One fateful day that fall, while visiting the Chicago Athleta store for a Twitter party and some retail therapy, the staff approached me to reveal that I would be named the Chicago Store’s Sponsored Athlete. The serendipity of my belief in the store’s message coupled with their belief in me was a magical and instant distraction from all that was plaguing my mind. Little did I know how much Power to the She would mean to me over the following year.

At the start of the year, I began to teach classes at the store and gathered the courage to ask my doctor about our “delayed plans.” In the studio, I was the picture of positivity, doing the best I could to live up to my role. At home, I was dealing with the news that something was not quite right with my reproductive system, but we didn’t know what. By day, I taught and inspired, by night I cried and started oral medications that were sure to do the trick. Four months went by with nothing to show other that a new found bloating of my belly and a new sense of shame. What was wrong with me?

Familiarly, I turned to my physical practice. I wrote feverishly about my experiences in various sports. To miss my weekly yoga class was tantamount to a nervous breakdown. I reinvested into a vigorous Pilates mat practice and fielded what seemed like daily questions of “When are you guys going to start a family?” We were able to get an appointment with a specialist and after a barrage of blood tests, x-rays (that were more like acts of torture than pictures of my reproductive system) and what would be the start of one hundred ultrasounds, we were dealt with the news of my diagnosis: early menopause mixed with a side order of pre-mature ovarian failure. I was 36. Our chances of conceiving naturally were 5% and we had officially bought our ticket to the roller coaster ride that is infertility.

Just like any well-designed workout plan, fertility treatments tend to follow a warm up protocol. We were to start with IUI (intrauterine insemination) along with hormone injections to “beef up” my egg production. We began our protocol on the same night of my celebratory party at Athleta as the store’s athlete. The staff, family and friends all came out to support me in this new role, unknowing of the support they were truly offering me in at the beginning of this journey.

Jenna Zaffino - Athleta's Chicago Store

Now, actively engaged into my treatments, I felt more empowered and more positive. To be in control was a familiar comfort zone and I fully engaged into every aspect of supporting my body. Every aspect that is, except for exercise which was a no-no. Walking was ok, Pilates no. Breathing? Great! Weights? No. How the hell was I supposed to be an athlete if I couldn’t exercise? A new sense of shame set in.

My body had always been there for me from aerial performances in the mountains of Lake Louise to the final miles of my first marathon. She showed up when she was called on, asked for rest when needed and never put up much of a fight. Our first IUI cycle came and went as well as our second without results. I mourned the old beliefs that my body was capable and healthy. I taught a class for Moms and daughters at the store that May. No one could see sting of the tears I had become so good at hiding as I watched the bonding between generations. I cried it out in the privacy of my home and waited for our next appointment.

We had graduated on to the big leagues of IVF. In some ways, it made me feel like an elite fertility patient. I felt a renewed strength. I was back and this was going to work. My goals over the past year had whittled down to just one and nothing else truly mattered. I now felt guilty about my former worried thoughts of postponing my career goals or athletic endeavors because of a pregnancy but I pressed forward and resolved to stay the course. I bought a smiling stuffed animal uterus (truth!) and hugged her through more injections than I thought possible.

During our first IVF cycle, I began to reexamine the Power to the She persona that I had been so hell bent on upholding through physical fitness and creative accomplishments. I began to realize that the ability to pick myself up after each wave of bad news required more power than any race I’ve ever ran. The ability to keep going in the pursuit of my heart’s desire was the most “she” thing I’ve ever done in my life. The most important lesson came soon after our first IVF cycle failed. I realized that taking care of myself, mentally as well as physically and in whatever small doses I could manage, was the most important thing I could do in my pursuit of becoming a mother. I also realized that in many ways, I was already a mom.

After the cycle failed, we fought off the bitterness. My husband and I were still in it for the long haul, but we were tired and had adopted a sense of disillusion where there was once a sense of optimism. Truthfully, we entered into what was to be our final IVF cycle with an attitude of “meh.” We knew that if this didn’t work that our next step would be major and in the form of donor egg and/or adoption, but more than that, we knew that we were tired. We missed interacting with each other in a setting that didn’t involve rubbing alcohol or needles. We missed working out together and we missed our pre-infertility life. We pressed on.

Throughout the last few months, I’ve come to know the importance of the continued relationship that one has with their body. Just like any relationship, evolution and change is ever present. When I entered the fertility treatment process, I felt as though I was going into lockdown, handing my body over at the gates and holding tightly onto my heart. When I got my body back after our final cycle, it was dusty and needed a good cleaning but something was definitely different. Somewhere in the midst of dropping percentages and levels of hope, my Power to the She body had found the strength to incubate the smallest of miracles. She was tired and still had a long fight ahead of her that was full of hurdles and anxiety. This time, however, she had a little help from the tiny heart that had started to beat inside of her.

Jenna ZaffinoNow I sit, writing this story, a different athlete. I’ve gained 20lbs and lost the weight of the world on my shoulders. There is movement inside of me even when my body is at rest. And while I still have my weekly Pilates, yoga and busy teaching schedule, I now have a co-pilot to remind me that when my body seems to be lacking power on the outside, that rest is needed to fuel the power that is inside of me. I mourn the cycles that didn’t happen for us, but I’m also very thankful for the journey because without it, I may have stayed on a very fast track and missed the scenery along the way.

In 2013, I did write a children’s book, I didn’t win a paddleboard race and I was less “athletic” than I ever dreamed would be possible. I did however, with the support of my amazing husband, family and friends as well as the women of the Chicago Athleta Team, grow a little miracle that will debut his or her power in May 2014. If there is any gift I hope to give others as a result of my journey, it’s to remember that although your body may not exhibit power from the outside, the power is there someplace inside to help you navigate your journey, whatever it brings. I can say without hesitation that in the least athletic year of my life, I was the most Power to the She athlete that I’ve even been.

To those struggling with infertility, you are not alone. To those who support you, the most valuable gift you can give someone is a listening ear and an open heart.

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MIA Part II

Continued from MIA Part I…..

Somehow that one fertilized egg made it through to the 8 cell stage.  I was unfazed. Both of my last embryos were 8 cell and did not yield a pregnancy.  I was not excited.  During the transfer, my husband was late, we didn’t get a good picture of the embryo and it all felt completely mucked up.  Perfectionism aside, when you are dealing with science, you kind of want everything to go smoothly.

And so began the two week wait.  For those who haven’t dealt with IF, this is the LONGEST 2 weeks of any infertile’s life.  The shots lessen, no dr’s appointments and everything is supposed to go back to “normal” -whatever that means…  I was without hope and with a lot of complacency.  No, this is not the inspirational post of “I envisioned my baby and manifested my dream!”  I was depressed.  Last cycle I meditated, acupuncture-ed and manifested my destiny.  At the end when the cycle failed, I felt kind of like an optimistic fool.  My infertility diagnosis had now been confirmed for almost 2 years – not a long time in comparison to some, but certainly long enough.

This cycle, I basically said “Ok body, show me what your made of!” and I pushed all of the wanting, yearning and longing way, way down – out of sight.  I drank a little wine during stims. I did not do meditations. I skipped acupuncture. After all, donor eggs are expensive and I was saving my money.  I had made the decision to “make it through” the bad news of this cycle and be prepared to move on towards the next phase.  It was now only a matter of time.

About 4 days before my blood draw at the clinic to see if I was pregnant, I decided to POAS, (pee on a stick) mainly to cushion the blow.  I liked my nurse and didn’t want to hear the bad news from her voice again.  It hurt too much.  My first test was negative – a good sign, meaning that all of the HCG had left my system, which would yield a more pure result from any consecutive tests.  I tested the next day.  There was the faintest of lines – I mean REALLY faint.  I thought “it’s gotta be a fluke.” I tested the next day.  Still faint, but still there. I started getting pissed.  Why was the universe messing with me? This was something I wasn’t prepared for – make it positive or negative so I know what to do – stop messing with my head!  I angrily tested the next day.  Less faint and still there.  Now, like any obsessive infertile, I had taken pictures of each day and arranged them in a picframe side by side.  I texted my nurse and a friend from support group.  The nurse said “It has to take a lot of HCG to show up on a home test – we may have something so keep breathing and we’ll see you Monday.”  The friend said “That’s a fucking positive test!  You are pregnant.”

Monday came and with it came the call from the clinic.  After months of clomid, IUI’s and IVF’s, I was pregnant.  Seems like the story should end here.  Ta dah!  We did it and the rest is history.  Not quite….

I had no idea what to do. There is no “bridging the gap guide” from IF to PG.  I knew one thing.  Make it to the next beta.  For infertiles, these first months of pregnancy are maddening.  I was overjoyed at the prospect that I was pregnant and very, very aware – from my doctor and friends who had suffered miscarriages in the first trimester, that I was not out of the woods – far from it.

We made it through the first betas, we saw the gestational and yolk sac and even saw a heartbeat.  I graduated from the fertility clinic feeling lost.  No weekly doctors appointments – I was on my own, waiting for another 3 weeks until I was to see my OBGYN.

As I walked into the OB’s office, I felt like it was the first day of school.  No one knew me here. They didn’t know my struggle, my history.  Weirdly I started to “bargain” again.  “Well, it was nice to be pregnant for a minute.” “At least I can go back to the clinic if it doesn’t work out.” “I’m thankful that I got to experience this much.” I was convinced that there would be nothing there….

The OB put the ultrasound inside and said “Can you see the baby?”  I said “No.”  She tilted the screen my way and there was an actual silhouette with arm and leg buds and the strongest heartbeat you could imagine.

All of the months of holding back, all of the denial, the protecting, the pain, the suffering, the fear, the questioning of self released in that moment.  My breakdown was happy tears and a release like no other.  I was pregnant. There was a baby that was growing. I accepted it and let it be true.

I am now almost 12 weeks.  Still petrified something will go wrong. Still checking every symptom with my doctor and still bargaining with my body.  “Keep doing your job and I’ll rest and eat well for you.”  “I will choose me and what’s happening inside first.”

I said to someone recently at the very beginning that my strength was not quite visible from the outside, but it was very visible on the inside.  I didn’t understand the implications of this statement and how true it really was.

Here’s what:  Many of you who read this blog are still in struggle and I want to let you know that I too am still in struggle.  IF doesn’t leave when you become pregnant, but it does change.  I have made a vow to myself not to forget my journey no matter where it takes me.  I have also made a vow not to hog my journey as I have found that those who have shared with me have helped me more than I ever thought possible.

What I’m doing now is supporting my friends who have become pregnant as well as those who are still cycling.  Because they all need support – WE all need support.  With the cycling friends, my pregnancy is not a topic to bring up.  With the PG friends, we share how being PG after IF is a different experience than those who have conceived naturally.  We are there for each other.

I’d like to continue this blog, keeping the topic centered around infertility and treatments as it’s all still with me.  Although I was indeed scared fertile, I still feel part of the clan.  I plan to start a separate blog for pregnancy after IF.

If you need support, have questions or want to talk.  Email me at jwzaffino@gmail.com.

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MIA……….Part I

Well, I’ve been holding my breath for a good 2 months, so we’ll start back from the last post.  In August, I was anything but positive… Pissed off at people trying to help but not wanting to listen, I retracted and started to plan.  The cycle went something like this – good growth of my 5 follicles, followed by too much growth.  At my retrieval, the anesthesiologist said “they had a hard time getting at the eggs.”  I felt just what a hard time was – pain…. Luckily she had a heart and hopped me up on pain meds for the day, which helped me with the next part.  “We retrieved 4, 3 were mature and 1 fertilized.”

I was crushed.  I thought “What a waste of time.” I went to the donor site that I had been trolling with credit card in hand to “pay” for the eggs I thought I’d use for my next cycle (there’s a $400images reservation fee to hold a donor) Below my donors picture, read the words “RESERVED.” Someone got to her before me. To say I hit a low was an understatement. I made the mistake of mentioning it to a friend who hit me with the “everything happens for a reason” bullshit.  I didn’t want to hear it.

I started looking at other donors and waited for the call that I was sure would say “the embryo didn’t make it.”

Because that’s what we do throughout this process – we hope for the best but expect the worst.  It makes it hurt just slightly less and gives us some sense of control over our feelings so that they don’t crush us.  After all, we innocently want to be mothers and fathers – it’s not like we want to take over the world or blow something up or steal money or hurt someone.  We just want the chance to know what it’s like to do what everyone in the world seems to be doing naturally – starting and continuing their families.  (of course, I know that there are many more suffering from IF and that even some of those who are pregnant have become that way through treatments.  It just seemed like I was in this bubble of loneliness through this process and the world was moving on without me.)

drug-side-effects-medical-device-companies-dangerous-2I hated lupron – the devil drug.  The weight started to come, the irritability, the acne and the extra 2 shots a day simply sucked.  I was so bitter about the process, that I had to go through it, that my emotional life was on hold.  That is the real truth – my emotional life was paralyzed and the only feeling I had was fear masked by bitchiness.  To be honest, I liked the Dr’s appointments, the ultrasounds and I liked that I was doing something so important that I had the confidence to cancel clients and take days off because this was big enough.  Finally there was something of meaning that I could prioritize because there was only a window where treatment could occur – this was our last cycle with our own eggs and it was important.  It made me feel good – like I was standing up for myself and it made me feel foolish because I knew the odds were not in my favor.  I waited……………

To Be Continued In the Next Posttick-tock

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This Story is Not Yours to Write

4e525a251298128b6c58e3b7795462b7If you’ve been through IVF and told people about it, their typical response is “Good! I know someone who did it and they got pregnant – it will totally work for you – I can feel it!!”  It’s as if a box was checked in their brain that said “Fix Friend’s Infertility Woes With Story Of Miracle” and then they can move on.  What I’ve found is that while there are these crazy miracle success stories that are passed down amongst friends, there are so many more silent stories that are not told.   There are also so many different aspects of this IF issue.  Male Factor, Egg Quality, Tube Problems, Egg Number, Uterine Problems and Stressful Lifestyle are only just a few of the categories that come up as reasons for infertility.  This is why I’ve tended to have an adverse reaction to comparison stories of strangers lately.

Currently, in my wallet, I carry a collection of phone numbers given to me by friends of people who “would totally talk to me if I wanted to talk to them about their story.”  The truth? I am never going to call these people.  I am happy that it worked for them and also happy that they are open enough to reach out (even if through a third party) 04f1fe78764e506af5a195731b795655as I’m sure someone reached out to them to help them through their process.  At this point however, going on an “Infertility Blind Date” set up by a middle man or woman with the best intentions feels especially vulnerable and slightly unsafe.  There is so much temptation from others to help and although the advice has the best intentions, it is often times void of any reference point for my particular circumstances, feelings, history etc.  Maybe at some point I could meet these people and we could all laugh over a stiff drink and compare our “Infertility Girl Scout Sashes and Badges”  – “How many IUI’s did you do? IVF’s Oh Donor Egg? That’s a huge accomplishment!”

I find that commentary and advice is best received by me in the space between the end of one cycle and the beginning of the next to allow for time to process it all going forward.  However, on day 7 of hormone stimulating drugs, I don’t want or need to add anything else other than a dosage change.   To me, being in the midst of an IVF cycle means one thing: STAY THE COURSE.

you-never-know-how-strong-you-are-quoteIt’s strange how times of struggle enable a person to find the strength to define what they don’t need.  It’s the communication about these non-needs that I find to be challenging. People will say to me, “You are so strong!” as if there were any other choice at this point.  The truth is, I hold back A LOT of what I’m thinking and feeling because I think if I were a completely open book, I’d be a colossal “buzz kill” to the lives of those around me.  At times, the pot does start to boil over with my thoughts: “I’m gaining more weight? Is this going to work? Am I wasting my time? What are these drugs doing to me? Will I ever have a child? Will I ever be the same? WHY ISN’T THERE ANY FUCKING CHOCOLATE IN THE HOUSE!!!!”  My strategy at present is to go back to Morgan Freeman in the Shawshank Redemption where he says: “You’ve gotta get busy livin’ or get busy dyin'” and I get busy because in truth, an IVF cycle is busy.  Tests, research, consults, appointments, phone calls, more appointments, patches, shots, calling off work, blog posts :), and updating the chosen ones is B-U-S-Y business and takes strength.

Storytelling is part of our history.  b6635bcfd39e26f323be6acbae480aecIt’s one of the most effective ways to share our personal manifestos and connect with others.  I believe it’s important to remember that each person diagnosed with infertility makes up one chapter in a great epic novel of struggle, strength and hopefully someday joy.  Not every chapter will end the same, even if the main character is similar to the one in the chapter before.  The ability for us to listen to a person’s story is sometimes that much more important than sharing our own in that moment. It takes a special kind of strength and awareness to be truly present and listen.  My personal need at this moment is to receive more listening and less phone numbers.  And, that need could change next week – it’s the beauty of a story that is constantly being written – you never know what’s going to happen next!

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I’m BAAAAACCCCCK!!!!!! I’m BAAAACCCCKKK in the saddle again……

Well, I went off of the radar for a few, licked my wounds and starting on Wednesday, I get back on the roller coaster ride that is IVF for one more time with my own eggs. Scared-on-roller-coaster I’ve spent the last few weeks truly questioning and reflecting on how moving forward with IF treatments will happen for my husband and I.  As I go forward with this post, I feel it necessary to acknowledge that our choices are being made in alignment with our values, finances and plans for life moving forward.  I say this because there are many choices in this journey and I really want to respect those whose choices differ from ours as just as important – that there is no right or wrong overall, but just right for you, your body and your family.

That brings me to my current state of being, which a friend and I have dubbed “Get ‘er Done and Move On.”  This is a cycle for many things: experimentation, a miracle perhaps, closure most likely and to get one more in this year before we have to pay a new deductible.

(Side Note: I am so grateful that our insurance does cover treatments.  My heart goes out to those who are self-pay – it is a whole other ball game and one that I respect tremendously.)

This is what I know:  I have a very low resting follicle count. I do produce a few eggs per cycle, but they seem to be eggs of low quality.  I am pre-menopausal, meaning I have very very low hormone levels.  I want to become a mother.  Thankfully, I am still willing to do what it takes to make the last statement happen and I know that that statement is true.  Y’know what else? I know that I am already a mother in many ways – it’s just the child that is missing.

Back to this cycle being for closure.  We’ve had to make a tough, yet liberating decision for our next steps beyond this cycle:  Do we continue down a doubtful road of more treatments, experiments, potential miracles and just as potential disappointments?  Or… Do we move forward from this cycle to a plan of action that could yield a much better outcome and bring my husband and I closer to having a child of our own? Weighing in on many factors, we’ve decided that this will be our last cycle with our own eggs and after that we’ll move on to using a donor.

I read about people who do cycles upon cycles of IVF.  I admire their courage and think that if I did have a number of embryos to freeze that I may consider continuing this process.  Alas with no more than 2 embryos produced in the last cycle, FET (frozen embryo transfer) is not my reality.  I think that in order to get myself back – and I do believe one has to work on that after IF treatments – I’m going to need to find a resolution and working with third party reproduction feels like a more positive option than continuing with my own eggs.

Until recently, I wasn’t able to accept the thought of using a donor egg.  It honestly felt a little creepy to look on the sites – like I was shopping people.  I do have  younger sister, but the time isn’t right for her to take on something of this magnitude.  After my BFN (big fat negative) last cycle, I went through and am still working through some depression/grief over not being able to have biological children.  I mustered up some courage and started exploring donor agencies and options once again.  I spoke to a few agencies who were not only empathetic, but had answers for all of my fears surrounding the process. I showed my husband some pictures and talked about the process and, confirming that he wants a child just as much as I do, said “Let’s Do It!”  As I’ve looked and “shopped” donors, I’ve become comfortable with the prospect that my life might not include a child with my genes but could include my husbands and be just as wonderful.  A friend asked me why we wouldn’t adopt.  My answer was “Look, I’ve wanted to have his (my husband’s) baby since the moment I laid eyes on him – I think that says it all.” I’m not opposed to adoption, but I do want to explore the donor option first as I’m told that carrying a child is completely possible for me. I’ve spent many a moment daydreaming of caring for two rambunctious kids with his fiercely good looks and penchant for danger :).  I can honestly say that I’m ok if they don’t look like me and I’m thrilled to have the opportunity to parent with the love of my life, no matter what the kid or kids will look like.  I think that says I’m ready no?

All of that said, this cycle will be closure for me – that we gave it one last shot.  Kind of my swan song of IVF with my eggs.  Miracles do happen and believe me I’m open to that as well, but the difference this time is that there is hope that moving forward after a negative will feel less like being on a hamster wheel of doubt and disappointment and more like progress.  Or maybe it could be a positive?

Life is a mystery. xo

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Not ready to make nice……..

Hi Ya’ll,

I’ve taken two weeks off (how therapeutic of me) since my BFN of last cycle.  There is a lot to come but I’m not quite ready to put it all out on text…. in the meantime, some advice that I mustered up today:

I believe that the anxiety is there to help us even though it seems like the worst part of it all. The fear is a shield for the love that we want to feel so much. I think it keeps us just enough on the safe side of this whole process so that when things go unexpectedly, we can keep going and when things go well, we can breathe, even if it’s only for a minute. I learned an exercise that replaces “what if” with “what is.” You look at what’s happening right in that moment and concentrate on that. It’s hard but it helps keep some of the fear and anxiety from getting enormous. There are no words that can make you feel better, but hopefully remembering that I/we have your back(s) can offer some relief, even if it’s only for a minute .

I wish I could sometimes remember my own advice……. until that time comes, I’ll refer back to the blog….

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It’s not “you”….terus, it’s me……

I feel like the product of a bad break up.  It’s like I got to this point where me and the embies were about to “move in” and make a life together and something changed.  Did my lining get to “cling-y?” Did my hormones demand too much growth? Did they try to change the cells before they were ready? Did I try too hard? Too many meditations? Too many fantasies, i.e. secret Pinterest boards? I know that ultimately, it’s more beneficial to think of them as cells – matter, not lives. But they were life.  They were fertilized and they had potential.

In a way, it makes me feel so bad for not trying/making the best of my opportunities earlier in life.  What if I were just a cell? Would I have the impetus to keep going? Keep dividing? Keep developing? I guess something had to be there, because here I am….

I often times think If I were in my last moments on earth, would any of my significant accomplishments be worthy of a mention on my headstone? My answer  unequivocally would be ‘NO.’ I would not want to be remembered by the accomplishments I achieved, but rather the actions that I took that helped me to develop….while I was living in happiness and through struggle.

So as a macabre/healthy exercise, let’s just look at some of what I would love to be remembered by:

  • one who loved with an open heart
  • loved her family and was loved by her family
  • a true and loyal friend
  • lover of animals
  • lover of nature
  • teacher of teachers
  • mentor
  • empathetic entrepreneur
  • author
  • one who inspired

So back to the break up – I think that this cycle didn’t see my potential.  Maybe we weren’t a good match. Maybe didn’t see my worth… Maybe I was hiding all of those things. Maybe I need to advocate for me in my life and not just in the fertility clinic.  Maybe all I need is to live as the true Jenna and then my potential will be clear… maybe……

Or maybe it’s just the luck of the draw or maybe there is no reason at all and it just sucks all together. Or maybe after all is said and done, my mothering role will be to help others through this journey.  If there is one thing I do know, it’s that support is both there personally and lacking in the larger world at the same time… I hope that some day I will be able to conceive a place that allows those of us struggling with infertility to be able to find help and comfort in a safe place of the arms and words of those who “get it.”

And maybe I’ll forget how much they meant to me,
And how they were almost my babies…

Maybe……………

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Pick Yourself Up……Dust Yourself Off……

Start all over again….

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This was my first IVF cycle and I’m still in a bit of shock after receiving a BFN (big fat negative) beta/blood test result yesterday.  There are three things that I know to be true:

1. I am definitely infertile.  The diagnosis is correct.  It doesn’t mean that I won’t be a mom, but it does mean that I’ve accepted my diagnosis.  I wonder if people diagnosed with cancer go through this identity crisis.  You are the person you are, you do chemo and this is because you were diagnosed with cancer. I am Jenna, I did IUI and IVF, and this was because I was diagnosed with infertility.  In both cases, I believe that the treatments test your strength, your resilience and alter who you are to some degree.  The diagnosis however, did not get real until yesterday.  You might be thinking “you’ve never been pregnant and have been doing treatments for the better part of the last year, did that not clue you in to the infertility thing?”  I simply did not think that was me. I thought I’d be the one that it would work out for quickly and that I’d put it behind me and be a complaining pregnant woman in no time.  I thought I needed a nudge – that was clomid.  Clomid is the Windex of the fertility world. (think my big fat greek wedding)  My OB threw it at me as a fix-all and then 3 months of no results, weight gain and wasted time, I finally went to the RE who told me it wouldn’t have done anything for me anyway.  Is there an other word for frustration? I need one right about now.  After progressing to IVF and seeing 2 perfect 8 cell embryos transferred back inside me, I prematurely started to mourn my time as an infertile.  Like it was simply a stage of life – I thought I was done. I was thinking next steps – I would miss my support groups? Would we still get together?  Getting that call and hearing the negative results felt as if the “cancer” had come back aggressively.

*Please know that it is not my intention to downplay anyone’s cancer diagnosis.  My mother is a cancer survivor and thus, I take my analogies from that experience.  She has affirmed the similarity between the two diagnoses.

2. I have learned gratitude. How could I be grateful at a time like this? Yet I am.  I am grateful for my husband.  He is my best friend and 66077a01c0b1d14badcadc881c236a52partner and he has been an absolute saint through it all.  I know how much this news hurt him as well.  Each piece of bad news brings us closer and affirms that we do want to be parents. I am grateful for that as I can see clearly how the stress could rip a couple apart.  I am grateful for the strength of my relationship with my mother.  Like every mother and daughter, we’ve had our rough patches. As I’ve gotten older, we’ve become closer but this journey has deepened our relationship in ways I didn’t know possible.  She is not only my mother, she is my best girlfriend.  Speaking of friends, I have found a community, both locally and nationally of women who I support and who support me.  I feel as if I’ve been gifted a whole additional group of friends who are there for me without judgement throughout this process. I am also grateful for getting this far in the process. I did not have a high egg count before retrieval – only 4.  They suggested an IUI and I fought for IVF.  Only 2 eggs fertilized, but THEY FERTILIZED! I also have never gotten to the pregnancy test before this.  I am grateful for hearing the news via phone – so much nicer than finding out the “natural” way (AF.)  I am grateful that our insurance covers these procedures.  I give so much credit to those who are self-pay – it’s just not fair.  I am also grateful for the things I am learning about myself. I am strong – stronger than I thought.  I am an advocate for myself.  I am passionate about finding ways of educating people about this medical condition that is not a choice.  I am also grateful for my last cycle which sent me on a downward spiral so deep that it was hard to climb out of.  That cycle showed me the lowest point possible and allowed me to make a decision not to let this IVF cycle break me.  I’m shocked, I’m very sad, I’m tired, I’m a little down, I’m a lot angry, but I’m not broken.   cbc2fc7b51569cd8e13920456a230ae6

3. I will be a mother. Somehow, someway, I will become a mother. That has not changed for me.  I think that the best thing to come out of all of the negativity (pun intended) has been the continued affirmation that I want to become a mother.  I don’t know how that will happen exactly, I’m hoping it will happen via the next round of IVF.  For now, I’m going to practice by mothering myself this week.  Taking good care, keeping a routine, settling in for the month before we start again.

So that’s it. I’m sure it all reads positively and that’s ok.  I know how I feel inside and would not quite describe it as positive, but I’m also not in a danger zone.  We’ll see what happens when I re-enter the general population tomorrow.  Just please if god/buddha/whoever is listening, I know you will not give me anything I cannot handle and I am receiving the lessons of this struggle.  If you could throw me a bone here and just keep people from offering advice tomorrow?  I had a few glasses of wine, felt like crap today, cried, ate, worked out, hugged my dog and my husband and I’m doing a great great job of handling myself.  I just need people (non-infertiles) to say “sorry – i’m here” or nothing at all.  Please hear me on this one?

To all of you waiting to start cycles, stimming, in the 2ww or in another part of your journey, I hope that you are able to find some of some of the glimmers that help us to know that we are still here and growing.  I  t’s so hard to find the light when there is darkness all around us through this process but it’s there – it has to be. xoxo

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Out, Damned Spot! Out I say!

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I am two little days before my first blood test (beta) to confirm the pregnancy hormone (HCG).  Wednesday marked the 9th day post transfer and also the day the spotting began….

Now, through consulting Dr. Google, this could be one of 3 (million) things:

1. Implantation Bleeding (your embryo is burrowing it’s way into  the uterine lining)

2. Progesterone Side Effect (I’ve yet to post on the wonders of progesterone, but let’s just say it’s the the gift that keeps on giving)

3. Sign Of The Beginning of AF (period) (also known as worst case scenario)

So what’s a girl to do but visit the bathroom every five minutes to check in, Google the details of the spot and either freak out or totally rest inthe fact that she MUST be pregnant.

There is a special place in hell for some of the doctors who post worst case scenarios on their medical websites.  I think I speak for most that what we want is full-spectrum info that refers to the WCS, but gives some sort of hope that for us it will be different.

I have 3 good IF buddies that I’m in constant contact with and each one of us has a different diagnosis, age and story.  It’s so difficult to base our cycles’ off of others successes and failures so the best we can do is support each other without expectation.   One of the girls I have become friends with texted me fearfully about one of her procedures today.  My instinct was to say “It’s all gonna be fine – I promise!” But as I was about to text those words, I choked because I know for both of us that it may not be fine during this time around and I know that these sentiments really really don’t help those of us in struggle. We need to know that it might not be fine – it’s what allows us to keep going through the bad news and keep hopeful that there will be good news eventually.   I stopped and thought about what would be helpful to her and to me.  I realized that if nothing else, I had found a trusted friend and a person to turn to when I needed someone to tell it to me straight, commiserate or simply be a cheerleader.  We live in separate parts of the world, but we are quick to text each other (sometimes even before we text our husbands!) My friend has become the one true thing I’ve gained that I know I will not lose during this cycle.

Bathroom Break………..

a23d3ddc3ebcabc6bdefd4962463d111Yep, it’s still there – the spotting. The reminder that the proverbial something is happening inside.  Maybe they are nestling in or maybe it was too much for my system.  Either way, it’s something. Change is the only constant, so I guess for now, I will relish in the fact that my spots are a sign of change and hope that this change is one that is full of life.

xo

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The Pizza Guy

I sometimes wish I had some more commonly known condition to refer to that could help people understand the stress of the two week wait or any of the waits during an IF cycle.  I could liken it to waiting to find out if you got into your first choice college or waiting to find out if you got the part or waiting to find out if the offer you put on a new house was accepted.  The thing is, while the anxiety is similar, ultimately, the emotions and life altering treatments are not the same.  There is disappointment on both ends, but unlike conceiving a child on your own, you can choose another college, try out for a different part, work harder and save more money for the next house that comes along.  With IF, you wait, not knowing if you are waiting to receive potentially devastating news or really devastating news.  If good news does come, it almost feels like a foreign situation – like when a much younger guy flirts with you at the pizza shop.

Not having had the experience of ever receiving a positive test result, I don’t know what that’s like and don’t even know how I would feel.  After all of this, I expect to be overjoyed, but when the expectation thus far has been bad news, it’s hard to think about how it might feel mentally to reach our goal of pregnancy… Like an IF friend said to me today “I just want my f’n baby!” We say this because we know that a positive pregnancy test is not the end or the goal, it’s simply another step – one of many and we just want the calm of knowing it all worked.  In reality, we understand that even with a child there will be uncertainties, risks, disappointment and heartaches, but we want our chance to work through them with our own child.

Now, back to the pizza guy – tonight, on day 12 of the 2ww, un-showered and craving pizza, I entered the pizza shop and proceeded to get flirted with (I think!) My thoughts went something like this:

ME??!!! Is he flirting with me? NO….couldn’t possibly be flirting, he is just trying to be nice or get a tip.  Wait – no, I think he is flirting – I’m 15 years older than him!! What does one do in this situation? I don’t know?!! What does this mean? Am I hot? Worthy of a flirt? Is he crazy? He’s just making me feel better.. Snap out of it! Your husband’s in the car! Yes, that’s right, husband, the one that injects your meds into your rear every night, who thinks you’re hot even with the extra weight from IF meds and the one who was there squeezing your hand during your transfer.  Yeah, pizza guy, you’ve got nothing on my guy so eat your heart out and why don’t you add a piece of that chocolate cake on to my order, for my husband!!

Ok, yeah, I’m eating the cake myself, but it’s the thought that counts! xo

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