FertilityIQ basecamp recap: let the information begin!

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A little over 2 weeks ago, I packed my bags and flew down to San Francisco, CA to gather with an amazing group of men (okay, man) and women who are passionate about making a difference in our infertility communities.

(Sidenote: Our friends from FertilityIQ.com, Jake and Deb, made this all possible. Their passion for the infertility community amazes me. Jake and Deb have beat infertility. They have the sweetest little 4 month old son, Lazer, but it took work for them to get there. They struggled themselves, faced loses, and realized the infertility community needed a unified voice to help them get from here to there. This family did NOT have to start FertilityIQ.com. (A free service where patience leave verified reviews on their doctors anonymously so that other potential patients can select the right clinic for them from the start.) This family did NOT have to fly us out to CA and sponsor this FertilityIQ Basecamp, host us so graciously, and advocate to get us into some of the best conversation spots possible. They didn’t have to – but they did because they care. And that, my friends, is pretty awesome. In no way is this post, or any of my continued work with them sponsored. It is my personal opinion that they are the bees knees and if you haven’t already left a review on your clinic on FertilityIQ.com, I would run, not walk, over there to do so.)

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Meet Jake and Deb!

Okay, back to the Basecamp:

Our stories all look different. Some of us have pursued IVF treatments, others haven’t. Some face male factor infertility issues, PCOS, recurrent pregnancy loss, while others are labeled with the big old “unexplained” stamp. Some of us have experiences miscarriages, some have beaten infertility, and others are still patiently waiting for their miracle. Each face around the table held a story – and represented an army of women with questions that needed answering. In addition to our awesome hosts, Jake and Deb, meet Caroline, Elisha, Lisa, Nikol, Katie, and myself. Once we said hello, it was like we had known each other all our lives, and the chemistry came alive. And so, we rolled up our sleeves and got to work.

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(from left to right) Chelsea (me!), Lisa, Elisha, Nikol, Caroline (holding Lazer), Deb and Katie. Shout out to Jake our camera man!

Remember that survey I asked you to fill out earlier this summer? Well, you guys filled it out in DROVES. (We drew our $125 Amazon winner in San Fran and because there were so many responses, we decided to draw TWO names! A huge congrats to Leanna D. and Jane R. for being our winners! I hope you are already spending your winnings in fun ways!). And what was so interesting was that out of the HUNDREDS of responses, there were some really identifiable themes – questions you all asked – and so we took those questions, set our agenda, and here we are!

Now, there is A LOT of information to be shared. And I want to dish it all out to you in digestible pieces, so watch for many other posts to come in the weeks ahead. However, for today, I want to chat with you guys about the themes we saw, who we met with, and then point you in a direction today to read a summary of all these meetings from the eyes of the different ladies around the table. Will all of the FAQ’s be hit today? Probably not, however, you have the chance to blog hop and learn A TON! Then I will spend some time tackling each of these highlights for you too, so feel free to leave more specific questions below if you have them, so I can be sure to answer!

Here are the main grouping of questions that you asked:

  • MEDICAL
  • COMMUNITY / SUPPORT NEEDED
  • FINANCIAL ASSISTANCE, GUIDANCE, INSURANCE, EXPENSE
  • 3RD PARTY NEEDS – WHAT DO I DO?
  • EMOTIONAL SUPPORT – HOW TO GET IT AND WHEN

Looking at this list, more specifically, the themed MEDICAL questions asked were:

General:

  • Why is there so much disagreement between doctors on tests, protocols, treatment order
  • Why are the costs so high and success rates so low?
  • Why is unexplained so frequently a diagnosis &; what should one do with that?

Progression:

  • How do you think about when to progress from IUI to IVF to donor egg to deciding to live child-free?

Lifestyle & BMI:

  • How much of a role does BMI play in success rates (does 25% vs 30% vs. 35% make a difference)?
  • How does diet choices (specifically: gluten free, red meat, organic) play into fertility?

Recurrent Pregnancy Loss:

  • After how many miscarriages should they get genetic testing?
  • What role does immunology play in infertility?
  • What about Natural K cells? A lot of women are being diagnosed and treated for it.

Male Factor Infertility:

  • Why would my husband’s sperm count go from high to low with no obvious cause?
  • Talk to me about varicoceles. Is it genetic?
  • With Male Factor, when is IVF necessary and when is it not necessary?
  • What can a man do to boost his sperm count, or improve his motility or morphology?

PCOS:

  • Besides adjusting the diet, what else really works for PCOS patients trying to get pregnant?
  • What are the most promising tests or treatments for PCOS?

Endo:

  • Any promising treatments coming for endometriosis?

What better place to get these answered then by meeting with the top doctors at Stanford Medicine?! We first got to spend some time at their embryology lab, watching freshly retrieved eggs just post ICSI, and observing where the embryos are stored and monitored carefully. We then sat down with Board Certified doctors, like Reproductive Endocrinologist,  Valerie Baker, MD and Urologist, Michael Eisenberg, MD and asked your questions. Want some answers today on what our time there looked like? HOP ON OVER TO NIKOL’S BLOG NOW TO READ HER FULL REPORT ON OUR TRIP TO STANFORD!

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Taking a peek at some ICSI’ed eggs from the lab

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A Male Collection Room – set in a different section of the clinic which was very nice for the guys!

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A peek inside the embryology lab! The yellowish tall container on the right is where the embryos are developing!

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Arriving to Stanford!

We then looked at your questions about forming and finding community, specifically looking at the TTC community that’s formed on Instagram, and how we can maximize it! So what better place to visit then the Facebook and Instagram campus, and spend some time talking with the Director of Community at Instagram! We had a blast there! (And seriously, what a dream job! The campus alone is insane. Rock climbing walls, tennis courts, FREE FOOD EVERY WHERE (you seriously don’t pay for anything!), tons of coffee shops and ice cream shops (again free). The campus looks like the Main Street of Disney World, filled with people doing bike meeting or walking meetings, pop up boutique shops, etc. Such a cool place to see!). To learn more about what our conversations were like at Instagram, HOP ON OVER TO CAROLINE’S BLOG NOW TO READ HER FULL REPORT ON OUR TRIP!

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Welcome to Instagram!

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A photo opp with Katie, the Director of Community (far left)

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Can’t go to Facebook without giving it a big LIKE!

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A peek at the “Main Street” campus and one of the many (free) cafeterias

Next, the financial questions – and those were endless! I am giddy to get into all the details of this meeting. We got the chance to meet with a highly reputable clinic, (privacy given), to discuss “Saving Money When Going Through Treatment”. The tips and tricks she gave us were INSANELY awesome. We KNOW finances hold you back from seeking the medical care you need. We know insurance companies are terrible at providing coverage to those in need. We want to help you find ways to making it more reasonable and affordable. I will say, there’s still a lot of work that needs to be done here, but we got some solid saving money tips for you to start! HOP ON OVER TO KATIE’S BLOG NOW TO READ HER FULL REPORT ON OUR CONVERSATION!

One area many of us didn’t have direct experience with, was 3rd Party Reproduction (ie: donor eggs, donor sperm, the need for a surrogate or gestational carrier, and embryo adoption). Great news though, we brought in  Donor Concierge, a husband and wife expert team, Gail Sexton Anderson, Founder and Terrell Anderson, COO to get the scoop on how this process works. It was fascinating and I walked away with so much insight on the process. HOP ON OVER TO JAKE AND DEB’S BLOG NOW TO READ THEIR FULL REPORT ON OUR MEETING WITH DONOR CONCIERGE.

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Visiting with Donor Concierge over lunch

And lastly, we had to tackle the emotional questions you guys asked. Questions like:

  • How do I find local support?
  • When is the right time to see a counselor?
  • How do I know when it’s time to walk away from this journey and find peace living child-free?
  • How do I protect my marriage during this time?
  • How do I grieve properly?

Ohhhhhh, friends who are still reading this, this session was IMPACTFUL. (I felt like I went through a therapy session myself, there were tears!). It was led by Beth Jaeger Skigen, LSCW, who oversees many of the RESOLVE Support Groups.  I can’t wait to dive into my notes on this, but for your immediate satisfaction, HOP ON OVER TO ELISHA’S BLOG NOW TO READ A FULL REPORT ON THIS SESSION.

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We also know many of you asked how to start and lead your own local infertility support group, so HOP ON OVER TO LISA’S BLOG NOW TO READ TONS OF TRICKS AND TIPS.

Then, with so much swirling in our minds, we took some time to step back and regroup, with a little bowling of course! Truly, the friendships formed were pretty awesome. We were able to casually chat about what we were learning, before heading into our final night meeting – WHAT TO DO NOW?

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And friends, we have SO much good stuff planned in the weeks, months, and year ahead. We HEARD YOU! This whole infertility thing, it’s hard. Without the right resources, couples are spinning their wheels for far too long. Without financial reason-ability, some people have to walk away from their dreams of starting a family forever. With the stigma of infertility being so silenced, way too many women are suffering alone, without the help of a community or encouragement around them. All of this, it has to end. And we are doing our best to make a difference, one step at a time, so stay tuned.

Now before I close, I wanted to share with you my TOP 3 Takeaways from the weekend. Random things that stuck out that I just can’t wait to share with you. So here they are:

1) The Stanford doctors told us this – “Your voice (the patients!) will be stronger and more effective to continuing advocacy for fertility topics than doctors. So don’t be afraid to make your voice heard!”

2) 76% of women suffering from infertility have clinical anxiety and 53% have depression, although many will go undiagnosed. Depression and anxiety levels peak between years 2-3 of trying to conceive. Don’t wait too long to get help processing your emotions! Infertility is constantly entering into a world of grieving and unmet expectations. Remember that your doctor is not your therapist, that’s not what they are trained for, so take time to find a good one counselor. (RESOLVE offers so many resources for local support groups, both peer and professionally led!)

3) Patients CAN ask for a discount if paying out of pocket, especially if they have gone through multiple cycles. (Clinics may be able to give up to a 20% discount depending on size and status.) Tell your story to your patient billing rep AND your doctor. And if you refer friends, mention that!! Explain your financial hardships … it’s very possible to get numbers cut!

Now, I could go on and on about what an awesome weekend this was (it was!) and how bucket filling it was (it was!) but now, since I’ve rambled enough, I’ll close with some more pictures from our trip.

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Our first night in! LOVED meeting my two dear friends, Caroline and Elisha, face to face! Perfect time to whip out the selfie stick!

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The dinners Jake and Deb hosted were SO yummy!

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Caroline and I are Facebook ready!

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Pizza + to die for desserts to close out night 1. YUM!

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A few of us kicked off our Saturday morning early by popping over to the Farmers Market by the bay!

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This oyster lover just had to try a local treat – and it was DELISH!

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If you know me well, you know Lox are my favorite thing to eat for breakfast. This San Fran version of Lox was FABULOUS and I will dream about it for weeks to come.

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As will I dream about this lady’s hot chocolate. All kinds of happy.

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Little did we know this is NOT in fact the Golden Gate Bridge, despite our many squeals.

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One of the gorgeous meeting spaces we convened in.

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One of the most sacred treasured moment happened in my hotel room during a brief intermission. You see, it’s when this beautiful group of women asked to gather around me, lay hands on me, and pray for me and our upcoming transfer. *cue tears* And as these beautiful sisters in Christ prayed, it was overwhelming. Because never in my life did I think we’d be facing these battles, yet God, in His goodness, surrounded me with community. Friends I met online nonetheless! And it was powerful and reminded me just how much He cares. So through tears and laughter, we prayed, and it’s a moment I’ll never forget. 💛

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So many fun Uber moments during this trip!

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The REAL Golden Gate bridge, as seen from Jake and Deb’s apartment window. (Seriously, that view!)

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We all got to love on Lazer so much! He smiled whenever the camera was out, such a cutie!

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Another yummy dinner filled with conversation!

Until next time friends!

Chelsea

TTC Mug Exchange 2016.

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It’s time for our 2016 TTC Mug Exchange! Wooohooooo! Last time we had nearly 800 ladies participate and it was a BLAST! All women in all phases of infertility (trying to conceive, pregnant, adopting, new moms, etc… more details on this below!) are invited to participate.I absolutely LOVE how all of these women come together to support one another and spread positive energy and love.

Before I share how to sign up participate, let me answer a few commonly asked questions about these exchanges: (even if you have done this before, I still suggest skimming this as things always change a bit!)

Who can participate?

Anyone who is currently trying to get pregnant, including those suffering from secondary infertility; those who have recently adopted, are in the process of adopting or searching for their new family member; anyone who is currently pregnant after dealing with infertility or recently having had a baby after a struggle and lastly, anyone who is using a gestational carrier, egg donor, sperm donor or surrogate.

Please note that while I will do my best to partner you with someone in a similar stage, you may be given anyone to purchase for. As this exchange grows, it has become increasingly more difficult to ensure that you get an equally appropriate match. My very best efforts are given! Just try to remember that you are encouraging another TTC sister no matter what their story is!

How does it work?

Once you sign up and get the name of the person you are sending to (more details below), you will work to put together an exchange box for them, including a coffee/tea cup/mug. You will be given a “send-by” date and I ask that you respect that date unless there are extreme circumstances. You will send and receive a box to the same person.

How much is this going to cost me?

Typically the suggested amount per box is $20 plus shipping. I don’t advise that you spend more than $20 but we definitely do have some generous women who put together a box worth more. Since not all mugs cost $20, you are able to fill the package with ANYTHING else that might make someone smile! Lucky socks, a special treat, a fun lipgloss or nail polish …. You can’t go wrong (unless you break the law) – this is definitely a situation where it’s the thought that counts.

I do ask that you invest in a lot of bubble wrap and a good box. It helps tremendously to ship it US Priority and get a tracking number just in case anything should happen during transit. (Plus it comes with $50 insurance!) No one wants to receive a shattered mug due to poor packaging!

Besides a mug, is there anything else I HAVE to include?

A note! Please include a card inside with a special word of encouragement for your new friend.

I live in the US/Canada/UK/Australia/etc, can I participate?

Yep! We always have women from all over the world participate and I think that is what makes it so much fun! HOWEVER, you will only be assigned an overseas person if you agree to be open to shipping internationally. (More about that below). I do ask that if you live outside of the US, that you be open to shipping internationally, as many of the participants are located in the United States, however I know that sometimes that’s not an option and that’s okay too. If I cannot find you a partner I will let you know.

What kind of mug do I need to send?

You can get ANY kind of mug. Travel, big, small, delicate, clunky. It could be a cute mug from your local coffee shop, something you ordered on Etsy, bought at Walmart, or ordered off Amazon. There are SO many adorable mugs out there – be creative! Don’t put too much pressure on yourself – this can be a mug that you adore or that you think someone else would love.

Because shipping a mug can be tricky, there may be some women who just want to order a mug online and have it shipped directly to their person and then they can send a separate little box of surprises if they didn’t spend $20. (If you do this, take advantage of the “gift card” section in a order to let them know that’s what you are doing).

How many women participate? Is this a legit exchange?

Our Mug Exchanges have been doubling rapidly. Back in 2013, we had about 30 women, n 2014, we had over 400. Last year, we had nearly 800!  I am excited to see what this year brings!

What happens if I send a package but never get one back?

Ugh, guys, it does happen, I have to be honest. It doesn’t happen often but there are definitely a small handful of women each exchange that are subjected to a lost box, a flakey partner, or some other sort of weird circumstance. I will do my best to reach out to your sender once or twice but sometimes due to the sheer volume of participants, it just becomes impossible to make sure everything gets straightened out. From the very beginning of the exchanges I have warned participants that you have to come into this exchange with the understanding that you may not get a box. It stinks that there are some people that might taint this experience but I do promise that it is far and few between. I am a firm believer that it is a blessing to give and if you are one of the few unfortunate few that receives a shattered mug or nothing at all, just know that your gift has blessed someone else. So please understand the risks involved but know that you likely won’t have a problem! In exchange for my time coordinating this, I just ask that you follow through with your commitment to send a package, sound good? :)

Can I share this on my blog/with my instagram followers/on facebook/twitter/etc?

Of course! We LOVE new participants and their friends. Anyone in the infertility community is welcome to join in. We will be using the hashtag #TTCMugExchange2015 so feel free to share and let’s spread the love! (Also, if you want a live link, you can send them to this one: https://trialsbringjoy.com/mug-exchange-2016/

What are the dates I need to know in order to participate?

You will need to sign up no later than end of day Tuesday, September 20th. That’s a good 2 weeks of time to sign up, spread the message and start brainstorming. You will then receive your exchange partner from me via email on either September 28 or 29. (Because of the hours it takes to coordinate, I am not always able to get ALL the emails out on the same day. So if you see someone post that they got their person and you have not yet heard from me, it’s likely due to the amount of time it’s taking me to email everyone back individually. Do not panic!) Once you receive your person, you will have until Saturday, October 15th to put together your package and mail it out. Please make sure if you sign up that you are able to get your box out on time.

What happens when I get my package?

This is the fun part! I LOVE seeing all of the posts where people show off their package! Post your mug to social media and tag it with #TTCMugExchange2016 so we can all peruse the pictures. Send a shout out to your person, blog about it, Instagram it, do whatever you want to celebrate this fun exchange! I do understand too that there are many women who are not publicly sharing their infertility journey with others so know that you don’t have to share it publicly in order to participate. The key thing is that we offer encouragement and support to one another, even if that circle stays small.

Enough FAQ’s! HOW DO I SIGN UP!!?!

Alright, here is how you sign up!

1. Click here to complete the form:

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You will be routed to a Google Form. If for some reason, you have an extremely difficult time getting this form to work (it’s only happened 1-2 out of hundreds), you can email me at TTCExchange@gmail.com. (Please allow 24 hour for reply.)

I will close the exchange at midnight on September 20th (CST) and will not be able to accept stragglers after that.

2. Make sure you receive a confirmation page! This will verify that your entry has been received.

3. Share! Let your friends know about the exchange! You can share my blog or instagram account so that they can find out more information. I feel awful when someone finds out “too late” and can’t participate so help me make sure no one gets left out. Again, use #TTCMugExchange2016 to share – the more the merrier!

4. Shop, write, smile and sip! Once assignments go out, shop and send out your package with an encouraging note. Then wait patiently and enjoy your mug once it arrives. Share the thoughtfulness of your new friend! I have seen so many amazing friendships form as a result of this exchange. Cell numbers are swapped, emails are exchanged – I have even seen friends plan trips to visit one another due to the friendship formed over a simple package! I LOVE THIS PART!

That’s it guys! I am so excited for this. These exchanges are among the highlight of my year. YIPPEE!!!!

Ready, set, GO!

house for sale.

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I was stirring my coffee when my friend asked the question: “So how are you really right now?”

With the buzz of steaming milk and brewing espresso around me, I admitted my heart’s been a little weary. I touched on how 7 pregnancy announcements from good friends in 3 days drained me a bit. I tried to explain that while my heart was overjoyed for them, it made me a bit reflective of my own journey, which can be a hard, emotional path for me to walk down sometimes.

I could see in her eyes, as someone who doesn’t struggle with infertility, that she couldn’t quite grasp how someone could be happy for someone else but sad for themselves.

And that’s when this example hit me.

Let’s pretend that you and your spouse have decided it’s time to move from your small apartment. It’s time to expand! It’s not necessarily that you don’t like your current place, but you feel ready to embark into a new neighborhood, have the chance to mow a lawn, use a driveway, and have a little more space.

So you celebrate this big decision! You are going to sell your house! You tell your friends, you have a celebratory glass of champagne and list it. It’s time to sell!

Hmmmm. A few days, weeks, months pass. Why isn’t your house selling? You try to stay positive. Oh it takes time! You just have to wait for the perfect buyer! It can take couples almost a year before their house sells! Take a vacation – then it might sell!

In the meantime, friends around you decide they too want to sell their house and move. And you watch and celebrate as they immediately find buyers. It was our first showing! We hadn’t even listed it yet! A friend of a friend asked to buy our house! In fact, some of your friends who didn’t even take care of their apartment sell it right away. Huh?

What is going on, you asked yourselves. You paint the walls, freshen up the tile, and replace the old floors. And yet, months pass by and still, no buyers. Multiple showings, the promise of hope with each one, but a firm and audible NO after every one.

In the meantime, you’re invited to house warming party after house warming party to celebrate your friend’s new home. You are thrilled for them! What a beautiful new kitchen! Lawn! Bathroom! Is that a walk-in closet?? And you wonder what is wrong with our apartment??? You bring the wine, send the congratulations card, help move the boxes, all while dusting off your “for sale” sign. You pack away the towels you bought for a new bathroom. It hurts too much to look at them each day.

Do we try to get used to staying here forever? You begin to ask yourselves how you should approach this limbo. What does the future look like? Do you apply for that new position knowing it would be across town, near the city you want to move to? Do you redecorate the space and plan to stay there? Oh how your hearts yearn to be in a new place – and yet still, all the showings result in nothing. No. No. No. No. No. No.

So you hire a new realtor. The one who sold your friends house in just 1 day! And your heart breaks as he tells you that you may never sell your home. You see, because there’s this one part of the inside of a wall that is damaged. It’s not really your fault, but it’s your home and because of it, it may be a little harder to sell it.

How did I not know? What can we do to improve our chances?! He provides you with a list of things to do and you eagerly dive into them. You replace the trim, sweat over refinishing your floors; exhaust yourself with tearing out the old carpet. Still – nothing.

Meanwhile, you get the calls from your friends, We’re moving! We sold our house! It’s our 4th home in 3 years! And your feelings get hurt as some of your friends pull back from you as they are afraid to tell you they sold their house too. You find out when you get their Christmas card in the mailing with a preprinted announcement. Why didn’t they tell us? And yet still, you celebrate their new adventure, move the boxes, ‘like’ the Facebook announcement and wonder if you should take your house off the market. After all, it’s been 3 years.

Then 4 years. More announcements, more moves.

Then it’s been 5 years. You find some friends who too have a hard time selling their house, are stuck in limbo desiring a neighborhood, a closet, a stove with more than 2 burners, a chance to feel at home where they feel called. You relate to one another’s questions and empathize when yet another potential buyer decides to pass. Another lost chance, I am so sorry.

Then those friends who once understood, begin to sell their houses. More celebrations! And the conversations shift from questioning why your house can’t sell, to the frustrations of picking out paint colors for the new living room or the cost of the movers. They forgot what it’s like, you think. Then you no longer get together. I am sorry, I have a house now. There’s so much to do! More dusting, a garden to tend to, bathrooms to clean. Maybe when the house gets a little older.

And still every single morning you wake up, make your bed, clean the house, waiting for the moment you get a call about a showing. You can’t escape the fact that your house is for sale. It’s part of your daily life, reminders everywhere. The lockbox, the sign, the calls. Every day you are faced with the desires to hear the words “you’ve sold your house!”.

6 years pass. You switch realtors again, are given a dash of hope that this is the one! In fact, by this point you’ve had 7 offers on your home, but all of them have fallen through. It’s just been bad luck. This happens to many couples. There must have been a bank loan defect. Unpack your boxes, not this time. Don’t lose the faith!

More moving announcements from friends. We weren’t even thinking about moving but someone came to our door and offered us over market price for our house. And then we got an amazing deal on a new house – in the last lot of the neighborhood you were looking at! What are the chances? We were so surprised!

Housewarming party. Wine. Feelings of defeat. Questions. Did we misunderstand our calling to move? Everyone else thinks we are crazy, yet we continue to feel led is to sell this house. What do we do?

And now here you sit – with 7 more offers sitting on your home and you think this could be it and you are terrified. Everyone around is asking you aren’t you so excited? And while, yes, you are, the truth is you’ve been here before. You’ve had the offers and they’ve all fallen through. You’re hesitant to get your hopes up based on these new offers, knowing what happened last time. And so you smile, nod, and pray harder than ever that one of these offers takes. Because you don’t know if your heart can handle any more. Most days you want to rip down the ‘For Sale’ sign, ignore the aches in your heart, and chuck the lockbox in a volcano. You are now known as the couple who has always had their house up for sale.

Just be thankful you have a house to live in! Everyone around you, many who just sold their house, says to you, as if you aren’t thankful for your apartment. You want shout back that you are thankful, you just hate living in limbo, are struggling to figure out what your future looks like, and that you can’t ignore that nagging longing to become new-home owners.

And still you wait, feeling foolish about the day you drank champagne and told everyone you were going to sell your house. You never expected this.

You get the picture. And while this example may seem silly, can you only imagine having your house for sale for YEARS? I get exhausted just thinking about it. And, oh friends, if only infertility were this kind of exhausting.

With infertility, you take these exhausted, confused emotions and add in the immense deep rooted desire to be parents – moms and dads– and combine it with mind altering hormones, emotions, surgeries, and real life dollars. Every month offers hope that everything might change and when it doesn’t, you have to reprocess what you’re going to do next. Did you hear God right? Why isn’t He moving?

So while your heart is so thrilled for the others in your life who move onto the next stage – first, second, third pregnancies – it’s still very real there will be emotional struggles involved. With every announcement, pregnancy related conversation, baby shower and tiny babies around, it reminds you of the current state of limbo you are in. And with God-given strength, you celebrate the answered prayers, clinging to the hope that next time it might be you, and rejoice that God gave them a miracle. And it’s okay if you still wonder why not me?

Friends, I don’t know why your baby hasn’t come yet. I don’t understand why a 15-year old accidentally becomes pregnant and you can’t get a positive test to save your life. I wish I understood all the specifics. But here’s what I do know – God knows why. And while that can be hard to understand most days, it offers reassurance that we don’t have to be the ones understanding the ‘whys’. We just have to continue to trust the One who does.

I wrote these words in In the Wait and needed to be reminded of them today: “God is not early or late with His timing. Instead, He is right on cue, creating “Ah-ha!” moments when the answers prayers finally come. Yes, it may look different than we expect it to, but we know He will pull through. Scripture reminds us that we can trust Him to stay true to His Word, character and promises. His love is always present. Breathe out a deep sigh with me today and rest assured knowing He is at work, even when we don’t see it.”

I know it’s tiring my sweet friend. But make that bed one more day, accept one more showing, and continue to communicate with the Lord. You never know when you are going to wake up and have your whole life change in one moment. That day of answered prayer is worth the fight.

Lord, I pray for each woman reading this today who understand what it’s like to be stuck waiting. I pray that you renew our strength, our minds, and replenish our weary souls as we wait. We trust that you have the perfect plan for our lives and we ask that you would help strengthen us to continue to celebrate the victories and answers to prayer that you are providing to those around us. Jesus, we simply need more of you to help lead us into the perfect path for our lives. Amen

*photo from weheartit.com

november crushes.

Happy Wednesday friends! Time for a fun little post on some of the things that I am loving this month. (Think Friday Favorites but toned down a bit!) It’ll be fun to check in each month and share my top 5’s with you! So, let’s kick off Novembers without delay!

1 – Hallmark Christmas Movies

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Now don’t get all crazy on me here and start shouting out things about Thanksgiving being first and ‘tsking’ me for loving to watch predictable, G-rated sappy movies. I can fully embrace both seasons for all they are worth with equal love. :) That being said, here is the link for all of the new Hallmark movies playing in the next 6ish weeks! Spend a few minutes with your DVR and record these corny gems!

http://www.hallmarkchannel.com/christmas/schedule

2 – Mended

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My sister has been telling me about the book Mended by Angie Smith for ages and last weekend, she surprised me with a copy! I am in the middle of reading it and LOVING it so far.

One line that has stuck out with me the last week is “God has a way of redefining our expectations.” It’s been thought provoking to flush out what expectations I have had for my life and how He has redefined them – and even more so, the good that has come from it.

Looking for a little idea of what the book is about? Here you go!

“We love to cheer for the underdog and believe to our core that every life makes a difference. And we are right. There is no one God can’t use and no one whose brokenness is too broken for God. We know this is true for our friends when we want to encourage them. Yet, when it comes to the places of our innermost sense of shame and regret, we often wonder if it is really true that God can work all things together for good for those who love Him.”

3 – My TTC Crate

This awesome TTC care package was delivered right to my front door from my friends over at TTC Crates! This month, my box was filled with these goodies:

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My two favorite things are the coffee sleeve (the heart is gold and sparkly! Drool!) and the earrings. They are just the perfect amount of bling! Every time I wear them, I get compliments. I am so pumped to try the tea, which I haven’t yet, but it smells amazing! I love how TTC Crates incorporates practical things like ovulation tests with fun things like tea and jewelry. If you are interested in sending or receiving your own TTC Crate, check out their website. They offer a variety of sizes (mini, regular and deluxe) and this month only while boxes are in stock, use “trialsbringjoy” at checkout and get 10% off! I know their November crates are almost sold out, so don’t delay!

4 – Sinking Deep (acoustic) by Hillsong Young & Free

This song gets me every. single. time. God’s grace has been heavy in my mind and heart lately. I absolutely love closing my eyes and feeling His love wash over me. Check it out – I am including the acoustic version below because, well, acoustic music is my jam.

“Your love so deep, is washing over me. Your face is all I seek, You are my everything, Jesus Christ, You are my one desire, Lord hear my only cry, to know you all my life.”

Crank it, worship to it, and let His love wash over you too.

5 – Gratitude Lists

logo‘Tis the season! But seriously, gratitude lists are one of my favorite things ever. If you don’t have a notebook or journal you keep, check out this free printable download from Day Designer. I printed out a handful of them and keep them on a cute clipboard (Target $1 Spot!) in my kitchen. It only takes a brief minute each day to reflect on the beautiful, good blessings in your life. Stop what you are doing and go grab it!

Click here to Download

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Alright friends, that’s it! Who wants to help me come up with a clever, creative name for this monthly top 5 list? Comment below and I will pick my favorite! (And maybe you will even get a little surprise in the mail!)

Oh, and because we still need funnies, here are a few of the ones that got me this month!

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And lastly, to our veterans (and their sacrificial families), thank you. Thank you for your courage to stand for our freedom and for bravely believing this country is worth fighting for. I admire you so much and my gratitude can’t be put into words.

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Looking for the TTC Mug Exchange Sign-Up? Click here to submit your information by November 15th!

think positive.

Last week I was distractedly drying my hair, my phone propped up and one hand slowly scrolling through daily happenings of my friend’s lives, when my eye caught this image someone shared:

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The “Positivity” side of me cheered. I love this thinking! Stay positive and good things will happen! Hurray!

But then as I began working my brush through my tangled strands, I thought a little deeper.

Wait a second …. 

I think positive. I pray positive. I write in my gratitude journal, I preach His Words out loud to myself, I surround myself with positive people and books. So … why weren’t my big prayers being answered? Why weren’t my positive things happening?

The more I thought about this quote, the more restless I got.

IT’S A LIE!

You can’t simply think positive and have good things happen. Positive thinking doesn’t always equal positive outcomes.

What happens when you think positive and you don’t get the job you really wanted?

What happens when you think positive and your IVF cycle results in a negative?

What happens when you think positive and the miscarriage still occurs?

What happens when you think positive and the test doesn’t go well, your product line isn’t selling, your son is still addicted to drugs?

What then?

I think for many of us, it leaves us feeling like a failure, or even worse, like God has failed you.

You did all the right things. You believed, you had faith, you were positive! The quote told you positive things would happen! Which then leaves you to ponder, what happens when the prayers aren’t answered?

Can I tell you today that it doesn’t mean you failed? That you weren’t positive enough? That you aren’t enough?

Friends, when what we pray for doesn’t happen, fight the urge to get discouraged. Fight the urge to become bitter and give up. Lately, God has been stretching my heart and mind on prayer. He’s been smacking me with reminders of His desire for me to have wholehearted conversations with Him, to share the positive and not-so-positive thoughts on my mind. He’s been breathing the truth that no amount of positive thinking will alter the amount of influence He has in the outcomes of my life.

Now yes, I firmly believe that having a grateful, kind, positive heart will alter the attitude you carry with you each day. It will increase your joy, your ability to praise Him and help you see His hand a little bit more clearly. It’s demonstrating obedience to what He has commanded in 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 (NLT): “Always be joyful. Never stop praying. Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus. But it doesn’t mean that God will grant you extraordinary genie-like access to His power.

God loves us, so much. He is interested in every detail of our lives. He hears every prayer we pray. He never abandons us. Even when we don’t feel like our prayers aren’t being answered.

Here is what I think the quote should say:

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God-things are so much better than good things. God-things result in Him being glorified, our faith being strengthened, and our prayers really being answered. Timothy Keller says ““God will only give you what you would have asked for if you knew everything He knows.” Friends, HE KNOWS! Be reassured that He sees the big picture!

I finished blow drying my hair that day and was thankful for the chance to ponder the trust we have in Him. Isn’t that what it all comes down to? And friends, trust isn’t a single day thing – it’s an every day, eat-sleep-drink-repeat, sort of thing. He’s got this and because of that, we’ve got this.

Have you signed up yet for the TTC Mug Exchange? If not, click here by November 15th to join the fun! 

guest post: natalie brenner writes.

October is Pregnancy & Infant Loss Awareness Month and I was touched by the invitation to guest post over at ‘Natalie Brenner Writes’. It’s important to bring awareness to the fact that miscarriages happen and even more than that, I love coming along side of those going through pain and grief and reminding them they aren’t alone. I invite you to hop over to ‘Natalie Brenner Writes’ to read my post about the tunnel – the tunnel that is life after a miscarriage. I hope that if you can relate, that it gives you hope today in the goodness of God. Thanks for reading!

“I’m so sorry to tell you …”

All the phone calls started the same way. In some cases, I was anticipating this call, the bleeding had already started. In others, the hope levels had risen high enough in my chest to anticipate a different set of words coming from the doctor’s mouth. Either way, the outcome was the same. “This pregnancy is no longer viable. I am sorry to share that you are miscarrying.”

Numbness set in. Tears flowed. Questions started flying up to God faster than my brain could think them. My heart would pound loudly. I’d feel sick to my stomach. “This is happening. I am losing my baby.”

{click here to continue reading} 

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fur mama giveaway.

Oh I am SO excited for this one friends! If you know me at alllllll, you know that my fur baby, Cali, is insanely precious to me (bordering obsessive) and that I love being her fur mama. Another thing I love is mail and encouragement. So imagine my DELIGHT when I saw that Fertile Box’s October TTC Care Package was made SPECIFICALLY with Fur Mama’s in mind! ALL THE FEELS. (And it can be made for a cat or dog mom too!)

Crystal sent me and Cali this AMAZING Fur Mama Care Package and we couldn’t love it more! So, I couldn’t let the day pass without sharing this awesome box with you AND of course, inviting you to win one for FREE! (More details on that later!)

(Side note: If you aren’t trying to conceive and still want this box, you can! When you order it, simply add a note that you aren’t trying to conceive and she will omit the TTC-related items, as well as allow you to add an extra quote print of your choosing. HURRAY!)

Let me walk you through this awesome box. Gah, you’re going to love it!

My box arrived and was packaged so cute and carefully. Take a peek!
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Cali was immediately interested and of course came over to help open it! First we opened the Fur Mama Survival Kit.

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Inside was: 2 flower and bow collar attachments, a package of homemade dog treats (which has been Cali-approved!), an adorable Snoopy halloween toy (with a squeaker, which we have been hearing all weekend in the most adorable way), and some fall doggy bags.This bag was a home run!!!!!

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Next we opened this box:

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Inside was this PRECIOUS paw print necklace in silver. I’m swooning!

Next we opened this Trick or Treat bag.

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Inside was some special treats for me – a face mask, a KIND bar (my favorite kind too!), some Kettle Pop gourmet gum, and of course, you can’t do fall without some pumpkin spice! I can’t wait to try this Tazo Chai tea!

 

Next up, unwrapping this:

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It held this ADORABLE Fur Mama tee shirt! The shirt is so soft! They offer sizes S – 2XL. I can’t wait to iron mine and rock it! You can count on seeing a selfie on Instagram this week for sure. (Just realized this image is a little blurry but you get the picture!)

Next up – this 5 x 7 quote print out. I love how she adhered it to the box so that it shipped safely. Just love it!

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Last up was the TTC part of the package, which again, can be omitted if you aren’t TTC and replaced with an extra quote print out:

The front of the package looks like this:

And it’s filled with 5 ovulation tests, 2 pregnancy tests, and of course, baby dust!

Seriously – you guys. This will put a smile on ANY Fur Mama’s face! The card in the box says it all: “For many of us … the only thing keeping us sane on this difficult journey to parenthood is the unconditional love of our fur babies….We may not be human mommies yet, but we’re wonderful loving Fur Mama’s!”

If you are supporting someone who is struggling to start a family and know that they would love this Fur Mama package, order them one. Seriously. It brings tears to my eyes thinking about someone going out of their way to acknowledge how much of a mom you can be to a pet.

Every month has a different theme for the Monthly TTC Care Packages and this is the only month to order the Fur Mama collection and they will sell out, so don’t delay! Head over to http://www.myfertilebox.com to place an order! There are two versions of the box, this FULL version ($36) which includes everything pictured, and the MINI version ($26) which has everything except the t-shirt. Seriously, for everything inside, it’s a DEAL!

BUT WAIT! Because I love you guys so much, and Crystal over at Fertile Box is so amazing, we are offering my readers a special promotional code for a FREE “Refuse to Sink” silver cuff! All you have to do is enter the Promo Code FALLBONUS when checking out.

Every month there is a different theme to the packages so if you aren’t a fur mama, or if you want to spread some love next month or over the holidays, keep checking out http://www.myfertilebox.com for updates. There is always something new and it makes this journey so much more bearable.

Now, the GIVEAWAY!!!!!

This giveaway is being conducted entirely through Instagram, so head on over to my account @chels819 to enter. Rules to enter:

  1. Follow @FertileBox and @Chels819
  2. Like the Giveaway Picture
  3. Tag 3 friends that you think might be interested!

That’s it! But for an extra 3 entries, repost the Instagram picture (pictured below for an easy save and repost) and use the hashtags #fertilebox #FurMamaGiveaway. (if you are set to private, direct message me a screenshot of the post.)

So easy! We are drawing the winner at the end of the day FRIDAY, OCTOBER 9TH so don’t let time get away from you! This honestly is the funnest giveaway EVER and I can’t wait to spoil a special fur mama with this package. (By the way, we are giving away the FULL version! Whoop whoop!).

Okay, what are you waiting for? Go enter and/order! Before they are all gone!

Use this Image on Instagram to repost

Use this Image on Instagram to repost

(Also, congratulations to Amy L. who won the In Due Time book giveaway! It’s not too late to buy a copy for yourself – head on over HERE to purchase one for yourself in paperback or for your Kindle! Thanks again Jen for sponsoring that giveaway!