Featured Blog Guest Posts: I’ve Been Cheating on My Blog!

While I met my “two posts per week” goal last week, I was totally MIA a couple weeks ago because I was writing two posts for another blog and this week I’m excited to start sharing them with you here!

Yes, I’ve been cheating on my own blog, but I’m not ashamed in the least. In fact, I’m totally flattered. If you’re in a mom and a Pinterest user (like me!), maybe you’re familiar with some of the awesome posts on your feed from the mommy blog, Swaddles n’ Bottles. Some of my go-to pins from Swaddles n’Bottles include indoor activities for toddlers, what to expect before a csection, and lots of tips, tricks, and encouragement about pumping and breastfeeding. Caroline (Swaddles n’ Bottles’ author) asked for interested writers to apply for some upcoming guest post opportunities and I was so excited to be chosen as a contributor.

This month I shared two posts. For now, one has been published. And when the second is posted, I’ll be sure to share that one with you too. Happy reading!

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Six Things I Wish I Knew About IVF – While not fitness related, I’ve shared about our infertility struggles on my blog and I am so excited to be sharing a bit about this experience on a blog with a much larger readership than my little start-up blog. My hope is that pouring some of my love and truth into this piece can offer literal peace, comfort, and feeling of solidarity to another couple struggling in a similar way.

I look forward to sharing more feature opportunities like this in the future!

In the meantime, what would you like to learn more about? Share in the comments below!

If you have a blog and are looking for a guest post, I’d love to learn more! Please send me a message. 

A Diagnosis (and the Start of Our Fertility Treatment Journey)

Normally I like to post earlier in the week, but not only have I been busy taking over both our littles without any help at home this week (and I’m surviving just fine–phew!), it’s taken a lot of thought and care to craft this post. I want to be honest without oversharing because I want the content to be relevant to lots of readers, yet I also want it to be helpful to those going through a similar experience. I also want to really get this right. It’s emotional to look back at where we were several years ago, and to see the incredible difference. We just celebrated our first holiday as a family of four (excuse this blurry photo. We couldn’t hold still). Holy crap.

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There were many months we never thought that would be possible.

So, today’s post is taking things way back. Almost five years back actually. We’re going back to where our infertility journey began. Back to a time where our hope to become parents was fragile, unknown, and charged with emotion. When I think about our journey I remember how terrifying and uncomfortable it was. I remember the toll it took on our marriage. I remember endless doctors appointments, hours logged driving to and from the clinic before work, days and days of bloodwork. And then, yes, finally being one of the lucky ones.

Almost two years after trying to start a family we admitted something might be wrong. We had “tried to relax,” “went on vacation,” attempted to “just not think about it,” and followed all the other advice people kindly give when you’re struggling to have kids. But we finally had to admit, something wasn’t working and we didn’t know why. We needed some help.

When you start infertility testing, men are typically required to do semen analysis and some blood work testing hormone levels. Seriously fun compared to what us ladies have to do, yet not fun at all! Women typically do at least an HSG (hysterosalpingogram) test (where they inject radiographic dye through the cervix and into the uterine cavity and fallopian tubes) and matching blood work.

None of this testing, while uncomfortable, was physically painful. I remember some cramping with the HSG test, but nothing unmanageable. However, emotionally, I’ll never forget feeling like a total failure when we started down this path. And then feeling like an even bigger failure when our doctor told us our diagnosis was “unexplained infertility.”

He couldn’t tell us what was wrong because according to all of the tests, everything was fine. In fact, I learned I’m hyperfertile, meaning my egg stores were huge. I should have been happy they were telling us we were okay, but instead I was sincerely upset they didn’t find a problem. Because this meant there was no easy solution. Our options were to keep trying naturally or with some medical assistance: IUI (intrauterine insemination) or IVF (in vitro fertilization).

We opted to keep trying on our own just a little longer, but not until the last funny bit related to this initial appointment happened and really made things uncomfortable. When our last round of bloodwork, testing my hormone levels, came back a couple days after we met with our doctor they called to say, “You’re ovulating now, you should have intercourse!” Clearly the kind of call that totally gets you in the mood. And then the real funny part. While we sat at the bar that Friday evening trying to relax and laugh at our current life, who sat across from us other than the doctor who had asked his nurse to deliver this instruction just hours earlier. That same doctor we had seen 48 hours before.

We didn’t get pregnant that month.

Or the month after, but three months later we did. We had started using some ovulation prediction kits and apparently it helped. It seemed our prayers had been answered and that things were finally going to be okay.

I mentioned in my last post, we experienced multiple miscarriages, but those happened after our first appointment with our fertility clinic. They started that first month we fell pregnant. I remember being so thrilled when we finally got a positive test. We couldn’t wait to tell our families. They had been dying for us to conceive as much as we had, if not more. I’ll never forget their overjoyed reactions. And I’ll never forget the next day either. The evening after we delivered the good news, I miscarried. And the same thing happened in my next cycle. Everyone was clearly devastated. Adding insult to injury, the second miscarriage took 16 weeks to clear. Meaning my body tried to shed our baby for 16 weeks. This was longer than I had even been pregnant and every day I physically could not forget about trying to have children.

Finally, another 8 months passed uneventfully–at least on the family planning front.

Our dogs turned two.

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We traveled to South Carolina for a week long getaway with our pooches (I poured so much of my “mom” self into our pets during our infertility years–all for another post).

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We got our ducks.

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Also significant in that time, but in a very different way, Chris got a new job and with it came new health insurance. I mention this because while many only consider a new salary and health insurance in general, we were familiar with the intricacies of our insurance and in particular, what it covered regarding infertility. With his previous job, they would only cover IVF after multiple failed IUI attempts. And their cap contribution towards infertility treatments were less than his new job. Sadly, I know many people who have switched jobs just to find better infertility treatment coverage. Insurance coverage was NOT the reason Chris changed jobs, but it WAS a pro vs. con.

During these 8 months, our marriage was also cycling in and out of a dark place. Few people knew this. We looked very happy on the outside. We were traveling (I became an excellent budget traveler in those years). We were still hanging out with our friends. Every selfie we posted online displayed the realest smiles. But despite those smiles we were posting on social media, sometimes I was barely holding it together and I felt like we were crumbling apart at times.

We had been married almost five years and as we faced our infertility and really came to terms with the idea that we might not have children, we were living through the “good times” and “bad.” Things got tense. At times I didn’t want to be married at all, to anyone.  Sometimes we barely talked. And when we did we had endless conversations about how we might start a family. Our moods would often rock with my monthly cycle. We would both be so hopeful when I would ovulate. Then we were both morose when I would get my period. Finally, we would try to heal and build our hope back up in between. I can say infertility tested our marriage. It seemed like we thought about little else besides having children, yet our lives had to function like none of this was happening every day.

Thinking about starting our family in alternative ways, I was most interested in adoption. Chris in IVF. Both options would be taxing financially. And both options never guarantee a child. In the end, we determined both options kind of sucked.

Yet, I couldn’t just sign up for IVF. I knew the option would be taxing on my body physically, but even more than that, I felt like if we didn’t get a child through adoption, at least it wouldn’t be my fault. If IVF failed, I felt like I would be to blame (something I’ll add that Chris NEVER made me feel). Finally, after much soul searching, hours of talking, and finally some marital healing, we decided we didn’t marry each other to just have children. This perspective put our marriage back on track for good. We booked a trip to Disney to remember we will always have good times together–whether we would have kids or not–and we booked another appointment at the clinic.

I wasn’t sure I would actually do IVF, but I was open to learning more. We made our appointment with a new doctor (I love a little bedside manner and this is something our first doctor lacked). We did more bloodwork to test for genetic deficiencies since we miscarried twice and we attended an IVF information session; a requirement with our local clinic. After learning more about conception than you’ll ever cover in a seventh grade science class, we said okay to IVF.

This is a decision that consumed me. One that I really wasn’t comfortable with, but that I felt like I had to try. For years now, I literally felt like I could not do something my body was built to do. But I had to let go of those constant feelings of failure (or at least push them into the back of my mind if possible) and try something new. I wasn’t going to be comfortable knowing I didn’t try, so I picked what felt like the lesser of the two evils.

After an epic backpacking trip to Europe to celebrate our fifth wedding anniversary, we came home and started IVF. In my next post I’ll delve into this next phase. Like with any project in life, nothing is ever as easy as you think it’s going to be and IVF was no exception. It’s not a cut and dry tale. Everyone’s story is different. Yet I will say it eventually had the happiest ending we could hope for: our first daughter, Isla.

Three Little Lives

October is National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month. A couple years ago, I drafted a blog post that I never had the guts to post. One, because it was scary. I was afraid what others would think if I shared our story. Two, because I was embarassed about our experience. I felt like the reality we were living was my fault. And three, because I just wasn’t ready. Things were different even two years ago. No one was really talking about pregnancy loss and I was afraid to start the conversation.

Without putting a damper on the beautiful new life we welcomed this month, I do want to share about our struggle to become parents. Two years ago, we first lit three candles in honor of three souls we were so excited to meet, but never had the opportunity to. And today, despite the incredible joy we now have in our home–two amazing girls–I think I’ll always be able to go back to the overwhelming feeling of loss that each miscarriage brought.

I can still remember the empty ultrasounds, countless rounds of  bloodwork and testing, the physical pain of miscarrying, and most of all–the all encompassing fear of never knowing if we would be parents. As we inch towards the end of October, I start sharing my experience to honor three lives that never got to enter this world and think about the good that can come from letting go of a secret. The good it will do me, and hopefully others.

Chris and I tried to start a family for more than four years. After being diagnosed with unexplained infertility, we finally got pregnant (after 2 years) and then miscarried. Then it happened again. And heartbreakingly, after an IVF trial, again. Three little lives. Lost.

I’ve decided to share our story not to make anyone feel sorry for us, but to bring awareness to the subject and to hopefully help others feel less alone. Sharing also helps me let go of two other strong feelings that accompanied our loss: isolation and shame.

Infertility and pregnancy loss are tough. They’re each tough separately, and they’re even tougher together. Pregnancy loss is seemingly the only loss we sometimes keep to ourselves. I felt isolated by our experience and my silence. I also felt ashamed because we never knew what was causing our troubles–we still don’t. And as a total type-A person, I felt like I was to blame. I chose to blame myself. Almost two years since our last miscarriage, I of course know I wasn’t to blame. But when you’re in the thick of grieving, feeling the magnitude of it, you just want an answer to, “Why?” It’s painful–physically and emotionally. And as I was going through all of those feelings, I blamed our losses on every long run I completed, bumpy car rides, food I ate. Time after time, I found new reasons I could have caused our losses.

Almost 7 million women are living with infertility issues in the United States alone. It’s estimated that 20% of pregnancies end in miscarriage, and they believe this number is under reported. 1% of women will miscarry three or more times. I’m hopeful that when we speak up instead of being silent, we can not only come together in support, but that hopefully progress can continue. More research and more answers and less blame. Almost two years since our last loss, I see a lot more people sharing their losses, both men and women. While I’m sad that we all share this life experience, I’m happy the stigma attached with miscarriage is perhaps fading just a bit.

So, I lend my words to the voices before me to continue progress. To continue stopping the stigma. We shouldn’t to be ashamed about our fertility or miscarriages. While I would’t say I’m grateful for the experiences we’ve had, I accept them as a part of my life path. They invariably changed my life and I think for the better. I choose to think those lives, while not a part of our household physically, are a part of my heart and they always will be. While I didn’t get to meet those three babies, they impacted the most important parts of my life. My career, how I exercise, how I eat, why I travel, and more than anything–they shaped the mother I am today. I feel extra grateful, loving, and think I’m probably more patient that I would have been. I live my life with those losses etched in my heart forever and living without fear, I tell my story. To anyone going through a similar experience, may you someday feel the same comfort and peace and may we all have the happy endings we hope for.