Boys Don’t Cry

WHO THIS POST IS FOR:

  • Couples going through IVF

 

Over the course of the past few months I have spent a lot of time thinking about my husband’s feelings and how I can support him. I know from my IVF group and conversations with friends that I am not alone in feeling like I don’t know how to support my husband in a way that truly nourishes his need to talk and experience his own stress regarding IVF while also managing to exist.

This is timely because a one of the big ol’ trending articles right now follows the story of a couple “told from the perspective of the husband.” You can read more HERE.

I am an independent, self sufficient, g0-getter. For 27 of my 29 years I have been the sole bearer of my emotional well-being. During past experiences with trauma I have had to pick myself up by the bootstraps and find the resources and support I needed to be healthy. As a teen I did not have family to help, I figured out how to thrive on my own. My husband  was there for me but due to circumstances didn’t always know what to say, which was completely fair given the context. I provide this information because IVF has completely shifted how I cope with trauma. Perhaps I deal with IVF differently because its not an singular experience, I am enduring all that I do for myself and my husband, and thus I am much more okay with sharing the burden of my emotional wreckage with him. We talk all of the time about IVF and feelings, but digging into his feelings isn’t always part of the conversation.

The result  is that at times he manages both of our stress. Because I am not only emotionally unwell  but also physically sick he keeps his feelings confined until he gets to therapy, etc. His friends are wonderful humans but may not know what to say (understandably). It hurts my heart typing these sentences because I wish so very badly I had the emotional capacity to take on his pain too.

There must be a space for men (who aren’t infertile) to talk. I have seen very little around this issue and it kills me because men need to talk too (oh hey masculinity confines). IVF isn’t discussed and the repercussions for all those involved are profound. We need to move the conversation for men away from the few chuckles every husband shares about their embarrassing experience providing their sample in a cup to one of depth.  There are IVF groups for couples, women, and infertile men but I have yet to find something for supportive partners. Has anyone found a resource or group they care to share?

-ANNIE

 

 

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#StartAsking

WHO THIS POST IS FOR:

EVERYONE YOU KNOW.

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April 24th- 30th is National Infertility Awareness Week, but let’s get ahead and #startasking now! That’s right, there is a whole month dedicated to educating the masses and holy moly, the masses need it. According to the CDC 12% of women between the ages of 14-44 are  struggle with infertility, thats an insane amount of people. For something that is so far reaching, we need to engage in more dialogue so that we can create a supportive community that fosters positivity so that this horrific process can be a touch better.

I have met countless couples who tell me that they suffered alone for so long. Their friends, their family, colleagues had NO IDEA what they were going through. I can’t imagine living my life without people knowing because infertility consumes your entire being. I am not 100% myself most of the time and for me I need folks to know what is going on so that my behavior or physical state is understood.

But  I digress, so many people keep it a secret because infertility is not discussed in the public space and thus it makes is shameful. Women are often made to feel it is their fault, providing little space to feel comfortable sharing their circumstance. For men, our culture of masculinity confines them to a box that says, “Man+ sperm + “spreading your seed”= MANLY.” Heck, one time I was chatting with someone who I know quite well and is pregnant, and she said, “He feels like a man,” when I asked her how her husband felt about the news of her pregnancy.  

WHAT CAN YOU DO?

Advocate for Legislation

Help ensure legislation passes that protects infertile couples and ensures states require insurance cover treatment. Check out the current pieces of legislation out there and learn what representatives are sponsoring what bills HERE.

Empathize

I write about this a lot but I can not emphasize it enough. If you learn a friend is going through treatment do NOT say, “Oh I know someone who went through IVF, they are pregnant now, it will all work out.” While its great you want to show support and try to provide hope, your friends experience is just that, their experience. We don’t want to hear about it, we just want someone to listen and recognize our own struggle.

Join a support group

Resolve has a great list of groups access the country, find one and join. Having a community that truly understands your feelings and thoughts is invaluable.

#StartAsking

Resolve is hosting a campaign this week to get folks engaging in dialogue around infertility awareness. With infertility comes a slew of questions from “How is this fair?” to “Does my insurance cover this?” to “Where do I start with adoption?” When we ask these questions alone, they begin to eat away at you. When we ask these as a collective, we receive a robust compilation of answers to sift through. While the answers may not always be what we want to hear and they don’t always change your situation, knowledge is power and having an ounce of power during a time when you are utterly powerless is sacred.

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-Annie

TOP 10 THINGS NOT TO SAY TO SOMEONE GOING THROUGH IVF (PART 2)

WHO THIS POST IS FOR:

  • My IVF comrade
  • The general public who means well but says all the wrong things

We IVF sisters unfortunately encounter common comments over and over. After a while your ability to see the good in people starts to dwindle because you hear the same asinine comments on repeat. I can say with certainty that if you know someone going through IVF you need to follow a couple steps:

  1. Listen.
  2. Think “Will this response make ______ know I listened?” If the answer is no. DO NOT SAY IT.
  3. Only speak if you have something that is empathetic.

AVOID (in no particular order):

10.“I am friends with another couple who is going through IVF for XXX years and they were so happy for us when we got pregnant. You should be too.”

9. “If you try to adopt, I bet you’ll get pregnant.”

8.“When you start puking when your pregnant, you think why did I do this?”

7. “When your kids are running around your house, you think why did I do this?”

6. “Sleep as much as you can now because you wont be able to when you don’t have a kid.”

5. “I wish I could travel now, but thats over since we have kids.”

4. “It will happen when its supposed to happen.”

3. The obligatory “Just relax. It will happen.”

2. The obligatory “Just stay positive.”

1. Talking about your period or your pregnancy in terms of hormones like we have NO IDEA what hormones do or feel like.

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I LOVE the friends and family guide from Resolve, I recommend emailing it to all of your friends and family as a guide to help them talk to you. It will help depersonalize it and let them know that there are some universal feelings that go into infertility.

-ANNIE

5 Ways to Support Your Partner During IVF

WHO THIS POST IS FOR:

  • Couples going through IVF
  • Supportive partners

Going through infertility is a lonely experience no matter how great of a community you have. Across the board, the women I meet who are experiencing infertility all note the alienation they feel. In part I think the loneliness comes from the constant reminder of your circumstance because of the physical symptoms you endure. Going to the doctor on an almost daily basis also makes it nearly impossible to forget. You are semi present in conversations because there is always this constant nagging, a whisper that says, “Hey remember, there isn’t something right in your body.”

Its hard to say “I feel lonely” when you have an amazing supportive partner. Unfortunately you are the one experiencing the day-to-day and thus it makes it difficult to connect with your partner about the constant nagging that pervades your thoughts. Because my husband can’t feel what I am feeling we have had a lot of in-depth discussions about how he can be actively involved in the process.  He can’t get ultrasounds for me (wouldn’t that be nice!), he can’t have surgery for me, he can’t take shots for me, BUT he can walk alongside me and help out in little ways. Below are some ways for partners to help support you and take one more thing off of your docket.

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  1. MEDS!
  • Your partner can easily become your pharmacist. Have him or her keep tabs of what you have so you have one less thing to worry about. We use a tracker that comes in handy! We worked together to create it. While it wasn’t the most romantic evening activity it felt good to do it together.
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2. Handle the CIZZASH!
  • If you are coordinating insurance or payment plans, tell your sweetie pie/boo/pumpkin/cutey-patooty to take the reigns and make the calls. Who wants to deal with waiting on the phone?
3. Administer your shots!
  • Who wants to stab themselves?! Let him prep the meds and kindly give you the shots. Sharing this experience helps carve time to laugh and be silly.

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4. Weigh her after a retrieval.

You must be thinking, what the heck? If you over stimulate you have to weigh yourself everyday following a retrieval to ensure that fluid is not leaking into your body. One indicator is rapid weight gain. The fact of the matter is, after a retrieval (no matter who you are) you are going to be bloated and up a few pounds. BUT if you are over stimming you will experience this x10. Its not fun to get on a scale and see an extra 2-3 pounds (each day) for the days following surgery. Avoid the frustration and have him weigh you and record the info. If the doctor needs to be notified because of the number, ask for the info otherwise, who needs to know!

5. Be a good snuggle partner.

Meds slow me down. During the days leading up to a procedure all I want to do is curl into a ball on a couch like a big furry cat. More specifically, the thought of resting my head on my husband brings me great comfort. After surgery, continue the snuggling while binge watching tv shows. Make her protein smoothies (recommended by the doctor to keep you from bloating further) and be cute sloths together.

Although your partner will never fully understand all you are going through because they aren’t being pumped with hormones (which takes a toll on you physically and emotionally) they can provide you support and strength when you need it most. They can listen, encourage, and cry alongside you. 

To my beautiful and kind husband, thank you for always being there.

-Annie

 

Egg Retrieval Time! PART 1

WHO THIS POST IS FOR:

  • Couples going through a round of IVF
  • Women retrieving eggs to donate and freeze at a later time.
  • Friends of infertile folks

Today was my first day of shots and thus, retrievals are on my mind. Friday I learned I was starting another round and will have another retrieval next week. I am quite excited because this means we are one step closer to getting some answers. Because I will have had 2 retrievals within one month, the info is fresh and ripe for the taking.

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WHAT IS A RETRIEVAL?

If you are going through a cycle of IVF or freezing your eggs you need to have the eggs removed from your ovaries. Your doctor will devise a plan (according to your diagnosis) that will allow them to stimulate your follicles (the magical sacks inside of your ovaries that grow and house your eggs) so that they can remove as many eggs as possible. Your age plays a large part in the number and quality of eggs removed, however you can of course defy the odds. For example you can be young and have poor quality eggs or older with a bunch of eggs ready to go. The doctor will determine a course of action based on the stats that normally apply for your age.

A CYCLE

You will begin your medication and stay on it for about 10-14 days. Your doctor will closely monitor you to figure out how your follicles are growing so that they can fix your medication dosages along the way. The entire process is incredibly calculated  and is contingent upon time thus it requires a lot of oversight.

WHAT MEDS WILL I TAKE?

In order to get your follicles big and juicy (mmmmmmm) they will need to stimulate them. The doctor will use an injectable medication to help get the follicles to grow (I take a shot in the morning and a shot at night). The goal is to get the follicles to grow together. What I mean by this is, you don’t want one follicle thats huge, a few that are medium, and a bunch that are small. The ideal is to get a large group to grow around the same size at the same time. The reason for this is, around day 10 of shots your doctor is going to look at the size of the follicles and determine if you are ready to “trigger.” This means that within 2 days, your follicles will be at the magic size (for my doctor its about 20mm) and he/she will be able to get the most bang for their buck.

In addition to the two shots each day (or however many your doctor gives you), you will introduce a third shot late on in your cycle. Because you are growing all of these follicles, your body will say to itself, “HMMMM this is strange, shouldn’t I ovulate?” Since your body is so smart, your doctor will have you begin an additional injectable so that your ovaries will not ovulate and will wait to release any eggs. In my experience I started taking this particular shot around day 7 of my cycle.

Once your follicles are at a certain point (around 18 mm) your doctor will give you the go ahead to trigger. This is INCREDIBLY TIME SENSITIVE. Depending on when your procedure is, your doctor will give you an exact time to take your medication. This last shot lets the follicles know its go time. “The effect of the “trigger shot” is to send eggs into a reproductive division known as meiosis where the objective end point is a decrease in the number of chromosomes in the egg from 46 to 23 (half) prior to ovulation or egg retrieval.”(READ MORE SCIENCE-Y STUFF HERE). In laymen’s terms, the shot gives the follicles the go ahead to release the eggs from little sacks inside of the follicle. In the process they become mature eggs ready for the taking.

 PREPPING FOR A RETRIVAL

Your doctors office will give you a time to show up for surgery. This is a surgery, you will not be awake for it. Most likely you have a procedure in early morning and will not eat prior to it because of the sedation.

Surgery (especially when new) can be scary. Do what you need to do for yourself to relax. Your partner (or sperm donation vile) will need to be present because you will need the sperm for your freshly retrieved eggs. Immediately following your retrieval the sperm and egg are introduced to one another in a petri dish.

*** Embryo fertilization and testing will be in a post in just a few short weeks, stay tuned!

You will most likely feel pretty crappy (crampy) and tired afterwards, do not make plans. Depending on overstimulation, etc. you may want to ensure you don’t have plans the following day either. Take each day as it comes and show kindness to yourself.

This past retrieval I had a list of TV shows I was waiting to watch so that I would be occupied while I was at home. I recommend you do the same.

BATCHING

Some women opt to get multiple eggs in the bank before transferring. Last year I did a retrieval (it failed), and then did another one. My second retrieval yielded 5 embryos. I defied all odds, after transferring 4 I still wasn’t pregnant. Statistically about half of the embryos should have been genetically sound.

My husband and I decided to search for answers and pursue genetic testing. This testing will help us figure out if it my eggs are my issue. Thus, it makes sense to get as many eggs as possible before testing. This process is called “batching.” Next week I will have a fourth retrieval and finally be done with retrievals forever 🙂

Many older women batch so that they can get a number of embryos to transfer all at once because statistically most of their eggs will have gone bad.

HOLY GUACAMOLE! YOUR OVARIES ARE THE SIZE OF AVOCADOS

A very small percentage of women over stimulate. What this means is, they produce an insane amount of follicles and the result is their ovaries get ridiculously big. In some cases fluid leaks from the ovaries which is quite dangerous. The fluid could leak throughout your body and cause some major damage. Additionally, because your ovaries are so big you can twist an ovary and cause a torsion.

I am one of the lucky women who are prone to this. If you are in this circumstance you will watched even more closely. If your doctor does not mention this, put him in line NOW.

Leading up to and after the retrieval is tough because you can literally feel your ovaries. They are big and heavy. Your stomach becomes huge and you feel super bloated and heavy. Once you get your period, your ovaries will chill out and you will feel better. Waiting around though is not fun, I cant pretend it is.

TRANSFER TIME

Some women will transfer their embryos after a retrieval while others must freeze and wait. If you are doing a fresh transfer, you will be given additional hormones to prep your body for the embryo implantation.

Managing your meds and feelings is a lot. Give yourself permission to be okay with the process. I have talked to so many women and each time I am reminded that its okay that our brains are consumed by this. It doesn’t make you a bad employee, friend, or partner. Its natural, this is intense. Be nice to yourself and try to laugh along the way.-

-Annie

 

POSTS TO COME:

  • Acupuncture before a procedure
  • Make your partner give you shots
  • Overstimulation, scary stuff
  • Transfers, fresh and frozen
  • Genetic testing
  • Failed retrievals, whats next

What the heck is IVF?

WHO IS THIS POST FOR?
  • YOU JUST LEARNED YOU MAY NEED TO GO TO A FERTILITY DOCTOR.
  • IUI HAS FAILED AND YOU ARE BEING MOVED TO IVF.
  • YOU ARE IN A SAME SEX RELATIONSHIP AND ARE FAMILY PLANNING.
  • WOMEN WHO DON’T WANT KIDS NOW AND ARE CONSIDERING FREEZING THEIR EGGS.
  • SUPPORTIVE/CURIOUS FRIENDS!
IVF= In Vitro Fertilization

In laymen’s terms…. the sexiest way to make a baby. Real talk, IVF is assisted implantation of a fertilized embryo into a womb.

How does IVF happen?

The way families get to the stage of IVF varies. Some couples have to do IVF because of past medical history, while others are counseled to this step after failed rounds of IUI (Intrauterine insemination). There are endless reasons as to why folks need IVF, whatever the reason may be, it is the pits.

IVF can happen in two ways: fresh transfer or a frozen transfer.

STEP ONE:

Get those eggs! Whether you are using an egg donor or your own, the first step is retrieving eggs. If you are using your own eggs you will have a retrieval (ooolala!). If you are receiving a donation, eggs will be removed from a lab and will be fertilized with sperm.

Retrival (Tell me more! Sounds like a blast!)

If you are using your own eggs you must first have your eggs extracted from your ovaries. The cocktail of drugs your doctor uses will vary based on your body’s egg production, hormone levels, medical history, etc. The medications are to help with a few things:

  • Egg production/stimulation (FSH): You want to create as many follicles as possible so that you can get multiple eggs rather then just one during your procedure. Think of your ovaries as a factory for eggs working overtime during your first few days of stimulation.
  • Premature Ovulation: Once you have all of those eggs, you want to keep them in your ovaries! Heck you just worked super hard to create them all, the docs need to ensure you do not release any and ruin the entire plan.
  • Oocyte Maturation: What the what? Since you are keeping your follicles from releasing the eggs (ovulation) the doctors manipulate your timeline (between the 8th and 14th day of being on meds (source: MayoClinic)) with an HCG shot to tells your follicle friends its “go time.” Once you take this shot, you will go in for your procedure (within a very specific time frame), to have the eggs removed.

For your procedure you are put to sleep for the egg retrieval. After a day you feel decent. This of course though depends on your body etc. If you are prone to overstimulation (points to self) the days following the procedure are pretty tough because your ovaries swell to the size of an avocado or bigger, but thats a post for another time!

STEP 2: What to do with the eggs?

After the eggs are retrieved they are fertilized by sperm. Either the sperm meets the egg in a petri dish OR a sperm is shot directly into an egg through a process known as ICSI (future post in the works). Some doctors make you wait three days, while others will make you wait five-six days to see how many embryos fertilized and to measure the quality of the embryos.

Does this sound like a blast yet? Take a deep breath. It is a lot, BUT its do-able! Strong, smart women everywhere are able to get through the process. While it may suck the life out of you at the time, the feeling is temporary. Trust me, it goes away. Okay back to the process!

Fresh Transfer Vs. Frozen Transfer:

For those who are not prone to overstimulation, have a thick lining, and are cleared by their doctor, a fresh transfer will be their route to baby making. What this means is, the embryo will be removed from the lab (immediately following fertilization— day 3-5 depending on the lab) and transferred back into the woman’s uterus. The woman then waits 10 days (known as the 2WW in many IVF communities) to find out if the procedure worked.

A frozen transfer takes a lot more patience. If you overstimulated (cue me again) or have to have a hysteroscopy or have a host of other issues, you will not have your embryos transferred right after your retrieval. Rather, your embryos will be frozen after day 5 or 6 of fertilization. Your doctor will plot a timeline of transfers for you. A transfer requires a completely new round of meds, a new cocktail of drugs, and an additional procedure.

The transfers help the doctor uncover a lot about your ability to get pregnant. Transfers may help reveal if your eggs have gone “bad.”

There is A LOT to IVF. This post is just the quick version. It can be incredibly overwhelming but I assure you, having information makes the process a lot easier. Knowing why they are giving you certain meds, timelines, options etc.,  helps you gain control in a situation where you don’t have any.

-Annie

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