Today’s post for the Ever Upward Blog Tour is from my new friend Erica Stepteau, author of Unstoppable Tenacity. Check her out, she is amazing!!!

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Today I am sharing my In Vitro Fertilization story dedicated to National Infertility Awareness Week and to the launch of Justine Brooks Froelker’s latest book The Mother of Second Chances, based on her blog Ever Upward releasing on April 17th. For five weeks 25 amazing women will share their stories of infertility and loss as part of this incredible blog tour, because together we can shatter the stigma.

Yesterday Heather shared her story and Monday we will hear from Kristy at TTC a Taxon Baby. We would love for you to participate by sharing these posts far and wide. We’d especially love to see your own broken silence by sharing your own infertility story using the hastags: #NIAW, #infertility and #EverUpward.

PERMISSION TO FEEL

In 2013 my husband (Joshua) and I decided to give In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) a try in hopes of achieving the dream of becoming parents. For those who don’t know much about IVF; it is the process of fertilization by manually combining an egg and sperm in a laboratory dish, and then transferring the embryo to the uterus. It is a very long strenuous 6-8-week process of daily needles, vaginal ultrasounds, and raging hormones.

Five percent of couples with fertility issues seek out IVF. With top chances of IVF success have per-cycle success rates of 40% or higher. During a regular cycle, there is a 15-20% chance to conceive naturally in any month for any couple. Our Fertility specialist shared with us before proceeding with IVF and after our 2nd miscarriage that we had a 2% chance of getting pregnant on our own. Hearing such a small number as a chance to become parents was devastating for us. We honestly thought going with IVF would be the answer to solve our uncertainty, frustrations, and void in our hearts.

I remember us being so excited to get started with IVF because we had just celebrated our 10 year   Anniversary/Renewal of Vows ceremony and just knew this was our year! We had thoughts that since we originally married in a courthouse, that maybe we didn’t consecrate our marriage effectively in 2003 and God was waiting on us to do it the “right” way before blessing us with a child. When you have tried to achieve a dream for this long, you start creating all types of thoughts and philosophies to the mix to provide deeper understanding to be at peace. As humans, we tend to have to KNOW it all and know WHY something is happening to actually embrace it. Can you relate?

For the first time in our whole marriage we shared with everyone that we were trying to conceive. Before starting the process, we got our friends involved and co-workers. For 10 years, we kept it to ourselves and mourned with BFNs (Big Fat Negative Pregnancy tests) in secret. So, this time around we thought if we shared with others this will automatically manifest the babies we desperately desired. We thought it would rally up prayers, high vibes, and good goo-goo to provide a chance for others to witness a miracle unfold with their human eye.

We just knew it was going to happen this time around, we felt it in our deep core and was so assured God will not let us down since we were being so transparent and open. Everyone was so beyond excited for us and cheering for success. Every day we would have conversations with others about us having twins and how life would be so different and even MORE meaningful.

I began to pin every picture on Pinterest of women pregnant with twins. We even started to pick out nursery colors and themes because we were obsessed with the idea of becoming parents.  All of the pics are still on my iPad to this day and when I accidently come across them I feel all the joy and excitement I had at that time to obtain a dream I have been waiting on for over a decade.

As we begin the process, our IVF team assured us we were on track and everything was looking great. No one could tell us there was 100% chance of success, but after doing our baseline biomarkers: hormone levels, ovaries and sperm analysis they felt confident we would be parents as well. Our physician even stated the results we had so far was practically “text book” and this provided to the team even more assurance that this will work for us.

At this time, I was very active and working out with a cool team during lunch hour at a medical device company in Highland Heights, OH. I decided to stop all running which hubby and I did almost every evening in the Metro Parks and the intense Shaun T (Insanity) workout. Instead, I started meditative Yoga. I was really thinking that my high intense physical activity could prevent pregnancy and the success of the IVF process. I didn’t want to take a chance since this procedure was close to $25,000 plus the cost of all the injectable medications.

After using contraceptives for approximately 2 weeks to suppress ovarian production we begin the 4-week process of IVF with the crazy daily fertility injections. I remember being so freaked out by putting a needle in my belly. Joshua had to help a lot with this because I would freeze up and start shaking. Around day 5 I started to feel a bit moody and irritated, and the following week I was having all types of meltdowns about food, work, and the feeling of overwhelm. I had to take a leave of absence from work to finish off the IVF process because how crazy I was feeling.

I remember going into the doctor office starting day 5 of cycle every day for blood work and pelvic ultrasounds. They poked me so much that I began to have bruises on both forearms and I was afraid that I looked like a drug addict. I had to wear long sleeve shirts (thankfully it was still a bit chilly in Ohio) to hid the bruises.  And those internal pelvic ultrasounds were so annoying, but I know they had to constantly check how the ovaries were doing during the process. For 7 days, I almost got use to walking in the office getting poked with a needle 2-3 times then jumping on the table and spread my legs open for internal ultrasound.

As we begin to get closer to egg retrieval day the technician stated that one of my ovaries were the size of a golf ball. I already looked 5 months pregnant and was beginning to have cramping and very uncomfortable pelvic pain. I believe at this time we had 15-18 follicles (eggs) to use to proceed with process.

Egg retrieval day came. We prayed so hard the night of, we ask God to have his way. At this point of the process I was so bruised and beat up, sore, tired, aggravated, and uncertain on the next steps. As they prepped me for surgery Joshua held my hand and we locked eyes. We didn’t say much because we both were very nervous and scared. They grabbed my husband and had him exit room so that they can collect sperm to seal the deal after retrieving my eggs.

I was placed under powerful anesthesia and a needle was passed through the top of my vagina under ultrasound guidance to get to the ovary and follicles. The fluid in the follicles was aspirated through the needed and the eggs detach from the follicle wall and were sucked out of the ovary.

When they completed the 30min surgery, they were able to create 8 embryos. Those were our 8 babies in production. Now the waiting game began to see which 2 embryos do they transfer to my uterus. This waiting game can be up to 5 days. We went home and I was still in excruciating pain. I went from pain at a level of 6 on the scale of 1-10 to like a 20 in a matter of one hour. Joshua rushed me to emergency. We explained to them that I just had an egg retrieval surgery. They did an external ultrasound and found that my right ovary ruptured. So yeah, the pain at the rate of 20 made complete sense at that time. I was in so much pain all I did was sleep, they gave me some low dose meds since I was anticipating to put my “babies” in the oven within a few days. We went home the next morning and I was feeling much better.

When we returned home, we were glued to the phone awaiting information about our “babies”. The nurse called the first thing that morning and said 3 of them started to dissipate and were not valuable to place in uterus. We started to get sad, but had a very small amount of hope for the other 5.  The next day the nurse called again and said 2 more dissolved and then the next day after that she explain we had no more. Our IVF failed. We were crushed because we told everybody and their mama that we will be parents this time. We thought the vulnerability would be the key and sharing our story will solidify our dream. I questioned God on this decision and outcome.

We were very lost on how to move forward at this time. I took another week off work on FMLA because I was so depressed and humiliated. I was disappointed in myself thinking maybe I ate something wrong, didn’t relax enough, or missed a step with injections.  I also felt horrible that my hubby had to endure all the mood swings, nagging, and errands to accommodate me along the journey without providing to him a very special gift of a child. I was worried about how hubby felt.

He was so sad and there was a lot of silence for a few days in the house. He went to work and came home, I cooked, we ate and that was it. Neither one of us wanted to talk about it. Our phones were blowing up. Everyone wanted to send their condolences, we received flowers in the mail, encouraging text messages, and when I returned to work my team even had a card for me.

After a few days, I allowed myself to actually feel the pain and allowed a few to witness the pain and know that I was struggling to keep my faith and sanity.

What I learned from this particular situation is that it’s important to give yourself permission to feel. Since this incident, I have been able to share my journey towards fertility a bit more with ease and flow. We are currently still on our journey towards fertility and just celebrated our 14th wedding anniversary. We still have hope to be parents one day, sharing has allowed me to heal some deep wounds associated with this journey. Not that every layer is healed, but I am better off allowing myself to feel the pain instead of hoarding it and allowing it to kill me internally.

It’s something liberating about allowing yourself to feel, don’t numb emotions or play like everything is ok. It’s ok to be vulnerable. Find a confidant who is willing to be present NOT just provide guidance or their input. Remember you can’t specifically numb these feelings without numbing joy in your life at the same time. So, cry, yell, scream, and grieve when you have to then get back up with confidence and assurance that it will be ok.

If you are grieving or experiencing a painful moment in your life right now, give these tips below a try. It will for sure help you embrace your journey a bit more and heal from within while you still keep the faith alive on the outside!

  • Journal thoughts about a time you needed to “feel” instead of masking emotions. As you reflect back, allow yourself to scream, yell, cry, or grieve when necessary.
  • How have you lost your tolerance of vulnerability? You cannot selectively numb sections of vulnerability because by default you will numb your joy. The best ways to embrace vulnerability is to have gratitude for all your blessings and give yourself permission to feel.
  • What masks are you wearing? In what ways, will you start removing them? What is your biggest fear of exposing yourself?

Today’s post on the Ever Upward Blog Tour is my podcast interview with Stephanie at Holistic Fertility Podcast.

I am so  grateful for these opportunities to share my story and the healthy messages in the infertility and loss community.

 

It is with a heart full of awe and gratitude that I am kicking off my blog tour in honor of National Infertility Awareness Week and the launch of my latest book The Mother of Second Chances: The Struggle Bus of Rewriting My Story of Infertility and Loss, based off my blog. The Mother of Second Chances releases April 17th and is available for pre-orders now!

For this blog tour I have 24 incredible voices joining me. Over the next five weeks each blogger will post on their blog or social media outlet their post on their assigned day to help us raise awareness of the lifelong journey of infertility. Read my fellow warriors stories of loss, courage, hope, healing and honor. Let us come together to educate the world on infertility and rising Ever Upward, and therefore build compassion for our continued healing.

We would love for you to participate by sharing these posts far and wide. We’d especially love to see your own broken silence by sharing your own infertility story using the hastags: #NIAW, #infertility and #EverUpward. And, please feel free to tag me.

Together we will #shatterthestigma.

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To kick us off, I start with my 6 Motherly Lessons Learned From the Losses of Infertility. Tomorrow my friend Jenna shares her story.

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Post links will be published once blogs are posted.

Justine Brooks Froelker: 3/27 – 6 Motherly Lessons Learned From the Losses of Infertility

Jenna Marinelli: 3/28 – My Journey to Motherhood

Laura Gaddis: 3/29 – Surviving Infertility

Cathy Broadwell: 3/30 – – National Infertility Awareness Week and the Ever Upward Blog Tour

Sarah Chamberlin: 3/31 – Involuntary Childlessness in the Human Conversation

Stephanie Risinger: 4/3 – Grief and the Loss of What You Hoped and Planned For

Jody Day: 4/4 – The invisible grief of the childless-by-circumstance woman

Elizabeth Walker: 4/5 – Infertile Enough

Heather Huhman: 4/6 – I’m Stronger Than Infertility, and It Will Not Silence Me

Erica Stepteau: 4/7 – Permission to Feel

Kristy Taxson: 4/10 – I’m Stuck in a Life I Didn’t Plan

Candace Wohl: 4/11 – Infertility and Our Indelible Smiles

Susan Fuller: 4/12 – The Vestiges Of Infertility

Kelly DaSilva: 4/13 – The Emotional Struggle of Infertility & Childlessness

Lisa Manterfield: 4/14 – It Got Me Thinking…About the Invisible Losses of Childlessness

Catherine-Emmanuelle Delisle: 4/15 – ENGLISH SPEAKING ESF LEADERS TO FOLLOW!

Sarah Roberts: 4/17 – Punctuating Life…

Jessica Hepburn: 4/18 – Yes, It IS Tuesday

Kim Antisdel: 4/19 – The Trouble with Never

Meaghan Shaffer: 4/20 – Me too

Sarah Bartels: 4/21 – I Am

Elena Ridley: 4/24 – NIAW 2017

Jen Noonan: 4/25 – Listen Up!

Lindsay Fischer: 4/26 – On (Healthy) Anger and Perspective

Julie Maleski: 4/27 – Just For a Moment

Justine Brooks Froelker: 4/28 –

Because infertility knows no bounds of ethnicity, religion, socioeconomic status, etc.

Because the silence is destroying us.

Because it is important to circle back.

Because we desperately need to have these conversations.

Honestly, it is best explained here…

The Ever Upward Blog Tour starts March 27th right here!

So thankful for my friend Marie, her support, her work and mostly her friendship.

Journeying Beyond Breast Cancer

facebook_22f78424ec.jpgTime for this week’s round-up of the best of the blog posts which I’ve read over the past week. These are the posts that have moved me, taught me something, inspired me, and which I’ve wanted to share with you. Don’t forget if you have written a post which you would like readers to see, just leave a comment below.

As Nancyshares some truly staggering stats on metastatic breast cancer death rates, Katherinewrites on our evolving journey of MBC advocacy.

Some very exciting changes are about to happen in Eileen‘s life.

Loved learning more about Julia‘s creative process in her latest blog.

A superb post by Carolynon respecting the intelligence and wisdom of patients.

A reminder from Stephanie on the importance of processing loss.

A powerful reflection on living with lymphedema written by Carrie.

I struggle every day knowing that I have to live with lymphedema…

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“Is the speaking, writing and advocacy just bringing up the grief too much?”

I have been asked this by more than one close loved one lately.

All you have to do is follow me on social media and see some of my recent videos to know that I’ve been on the struggle bus lately.

Ah, the struggle bus. But why?

Never a therapist to turn away from learning and growing in my own insight, I know it is a runaway bus for a few reasons.

We got to spend an amazing and fun weekend with three of our favorite boys while their mom and dad, some of our closest friends, were on a business vacation. It was a weekend of sports, the new Lego movie, a preschool Valentine’s Day party (the one and only I will ever attend), sharing the worst part and best parts of our day over dinner together and me yelling the words, “No touching another human being for the next ten minutes!” a thousand times.

For three days Chad and I got to experience the tiniest bit of the anxiety, worry, frustration and exhaustion of parenting three boys.

For three days we got the tiniest glimpse into what life would have been like with our three.

It was incredible, and I am so grateful.

It was also super hard and had the major undercurrent of grief for me.

The weekend after, I spoke at an infertility conference. I spent the day surrounded by men and women still in the journey, my fellow warriors, while I hocked my book and presented with my good friend and fellow warrior Lindsay. Our presentation kicked ass, we got so much positive feedback.

It was amazing, and I knew I did good work that day.

It was also hard and had a major undercurrent of my grief.

So the question posed above by several of my loved ones is not out of the question. I have noticeably been in a season of struggle… again; more tearful, arguing with God, then frustrated with myself and utterly exhausted and overwhelmed.

Fucking struggle bus.

However, I know the answer to their question immediately.

My grief is always there, it will always fucking be here, my children aren’t walking this earth with me! My writing, speaking and advocating honor them and help it feel like it was all worth something.

And yet, lately it feels like it is an exhausting, pointless hustle. Like all the work, sacrifice, money and time are never going to pay off. To which Chad then does his job, well I might add, of witnessing my life with his complimentary to me husband duty and asks, “What is your definition of success when it comes to this?”

“I guess I have no idea, which is even more frustrating,” is my only reply, which only pisses me off more, brings tears down my cheeks and makes me pick up my wine glass.

It is clear my story will never be the first picked for the magazine or mainstream media outlet. Hell, it is proven that I usually have to literally force my way onto the local stages. The definition of success where this goes viral and my story is able to reach millions feels impossible.

To be honest, it has crossed my mind more than once these last few weeks to quit it all. To stop writing, speaking and advocating.

And then, par the course, God not so gently nudges me with a few Facebook messages and emails:

“I can’t get your story out of my head.”

“Thank you for being the only one to say that sometimes this doesn’t work and that we can still be okay.”

“Thank you for telling your story.”

“Thank you for all you do for our community.”

How come it is so hard for me to count this as success?

Because it is not over 22,000 Facebook likes, a million views and it is for sure not any amount of a paycheck. We live in a world that we are told we don’t matter and that we are never enough. You haven’t sold enough books, made enough money, gotten enough followers…you aren’t pretty enough, rich enough, thin enough, happy enough…

YOU. ARE. NOT. ENOUGH.

We all have this shame and scarcity in our lives, the world we live in alone makes you feel like a prisoner to it. I don’t get dibs on it as a small published author painstakingly building her platform with a sad story on a topic no one wants to talk about.

But as my life would have it, this very normal feeling of never enough majorly triggers my grief trauma.

I live in a world full of children. Everything is child-centered and child-obsessed, even the Hallmark holidays I learned this past Valentine’s Day when grief reared it’s ugly head and bit me in the ass.

Almost everywhere I go, I am the only woman my age without children. I will never fit in. The grief and the shame trauma that lives inside of me turns this into another way for me to tell myself that I am not enough.to-bravely-work

This is the story I must bravely work to rewrite every day. This is the story all of us must rewrite.

I rewrite it through practicing self-care, loving hard, mothering everything and everyone that comes into contact with me and through writing and speaking the story the world isn’t ready to hear.

I know, I can’t quit. This is in my bones and I am not done changing the world yet, especially the infertility and loss community. I do however have to shift my energy before this hustle kills my spirit.

So, I will write when I am moved. I will publish the next two books because, hell, they are already written and they are needed. And, I will let this go, laying it down, let’s be honest, laying it back down at His feet where it always belonged anyway. He’s got it. My success, my identity, are not in book sales, followers or a paycheck. My identity doesn’t even lie in my motherhood.

It is my job to get off the damn struggle bus, even if it is to squeeze into a struggle Fiat for now. So, with the help of my community, a new coach, my self-care and His mercy and grace the struggle is now in a tiny car that will zoom in and out of the traffic of living this wholehearted life with lifelong grief.

And, I will pull over once in a while and remember, I am a daughter of the King. He made me a mother. And, through Him, in Him and because of Him, I am enough.

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