baby shower #1.

This past Sunday, we got to celebrate a day that I never thought would arrive … my BABY SHOWER! *Cue all the tears, feels, emotions, and mush* I prayed for this day for so long. Like many of you, I’ve spent time in the bathroom at many baby showers collecting myself and wiping away a few tears, wondering if it would ever be my turn. Years passed and then suddenly, in the blink of an eye, last Sunday it was my turn and it was just as magical and special and miraculous as I ever imagined. It made the wait so worth it – the celebration on this end felt so rich and meaningful.

This first shower of ours was hosted and planned by my sister-in-law Monica, who did an amazing job from start to finish! (And I know she had a special helper in my mother-in-law Lori and my nieces!) I loved that I was able to be surprised with the details and felt so special and loved knowing how excited she was to plan this event. This shower was mainly Josh’s side of the family and family friends. It was so great to celebrate with those who have prayed for us for so long!

Here’s a peek at our invitations! The theme was “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star”.

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The morning started off with so many nerves! I didn’t anticipate to wake up with so many butterflies in my stomach. Was this real life? I struggled to anticipate what my emotions would be, as well as manage what I thought others would be expecting my emotions to be. I was nervous to be the center of attention for an event that was waited on for years. Thankfully after some prayers and deep breathing, the butterflies went away and the excitement was full-on!

One of my best friends Julie came by in the morning to curl my hair for me, which was so fun. It loved being able to process through my thoughts with her and seriously, she does the best job with my hair. It felt a little like a school dance moment, as I slipped on my dress, her and her family oohed and ahhed. It was so sweet and I am thankful for her offering to come celebrate with me the morning of!

Here’s a running-out-the-door bathroom selfie of my shower look! The dress is from Pink Blush Maternity and was so incredibly comfortable! The navy and pink colors were of course an ode to baby boy and boy girl. (PS – If you haven’t already shopped Pink Blush or Pink Blush Maternity, what are you waiting for!? They are my favorite online boutique!)

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Josh drove me to the shower and got to see all the fun festivities before sneaking off to play pickleball with his brother and dad. We got to walk in to a house full of gorgeous decorations and very eager family ready to celebrate! Here are some of the gorgeous touches!

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The shower was over the lunch hour and we ate an amazing spread of soups (tomato basil, beef barley, and duck wild rice) and sandwiches (ham, roast beef, and turkey with delicious condiments and gourmet cheeses). The spread was completed with homemade potato chips and a lovely fruit spread. It was catered by Lake Elmo Inn and SO DELICIOUS! Desserts were yummy cupcakes, turtle bar bites, and coconut macaroons. SWOON.

In the invitations, Monica invited guests to participate in a diaper raffle and we were so blessed to get so many boxes of diaper to start off our unending need! Guest began to arrive and were invited to fill out “I Wish…” cards for babies and also, grab a Bingo card to begin filling it out for the gift opening. Everyone was visiting, laughing, eating and talking about different gifts that could be included on the bingo card. I still couldn’t believe this day was about US!

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When we transitioned to the gift opening, Monica and my mother-in-law started with a little game where they asked me questions and saw how my answer compared to Josh’s. Monica asked me all the questions first and then surprised me by popping in a DVD to see how Josh responded. It’s so special to now have these answers on film! Here’s the questions and how we both answered them (edited versions):

  1. What is Chelsea’s favorite pregnancy food craving?

C: buffalo wild wings (parmesan garlic)

J: buffalo wild wings (parmesan garlic with blue cheese dressing)

  1. What is one word that would describe Chelsea’s mood while being pregnant?

C: happy

J: appreciative

  1. Do you think your baby girl will be born with a full head of hair? And your boy?

C: yes / yes

J: yes / yes

  1. How many diapers do you think the babies will go through in their first year?

C: 7,000

J: 7,300

  1. How many hours do newborns sleep each day?

C: 15 hours

J: I think they just sleep and eat, so I will say sleeping 18 hours a day.

  1. Which baby items have you registered for that you believe will be most helpful?

C: Some sort of rocker/swing, like a Rock’N’Play or a Mama Roo.

J: I’ve heard the Mama Roo is pretty awesome.

  1. What aspects of motherhood do you think Chelsea is most looking forward to?

C: EVERYTHING.

J: Just being able to cuddle with the babies.

  1. What traits of Chelsea do you hope the babies inherit and don’t inherit?

C: My empathy or compassion. Don’t inherit my stubbornness to admit when I am wrong.

J: Her love of other people and caring about other people. I hope they don’t inherit her habit of not putting lids back on any jars or containers.

  1. What traits of Josh do you hope the babies inherit and don’t inherit?

C: I hope they inherit his sense of humor and positivity. (forgot to reply to the don’t inherit part)

J: I hope they inherit the same work ethic that I inherited from my dad. I hope they don’t inherit my webbed toes.

  1. Which memory from growing up do you hope to recreate with your babies?

C: Making the little things an adventure, like going to the grocery store or cleaning up toys. My mom always made normal things extra special.

J:  Rough housing and playing with my dad. It was so fun to team up on dad and mess around with him.

  1. What are you most looking forward to about being a dad to a girl?

C: Having daddy/daughter moments.

J: Having daddy daughter times and making sure she knows how loved she is. I want to show her how loved she is and what it looks like for a man to care for her in her life.

  1. What are you most looking forward to about being a dad to a boy?

C: Having a little buddy to rough house with and hunt with.

J: Instill in him a solid faith and a strong work ethic, and what it means to be a real man. Not in the worlds definition, but what it means to be a man of God. And bow hunting. For both of them. And loving pizza.

  1. What aspect of being a parent are you most excited about in general?

C: Having the opportunity to raise kiddos to love Jesus.

J: It’s another way to experience love and to be able to love even deeper. It’s a different kind of love and I can’t wait to experience that.

As you can imagine, it was so special to hear Josh’s answers! I can’t wait to see him as a daddy to our human kiddos! (He’s such a great dad already to Cali!)

Next I opened gifts, and was so incredibly blessed with such special goodies! Monica asked guests to bring a book instead of a card, and I loved that we are able to get our kiddos library started off strong! (If you know me well, you know I LOVE books. Top  favorite things of all time. So these books are so treasured!). Our babies got such special practical and fun items. A huge thank you to everyone who blessed us so richly!

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Before I knew it, we were giving out hugs and saying our goodbyes! The afternoon flew by! Monica handed out lavender chamomile sugar scrubs stars as a parting favor, which is one of my favorite scents ever! It was such a lovely parting gift!

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It truly was such a wonderful day from start to finish! Josh came to pick me up and helped pack up the car. I smiled the rest of the night, so gratitude that we were able to celebrate this day, a day of God’s faithfulness! It was a dream come true in more ways than one.

When we got home, I finally remembered that I wanted a non-selfie picture of myself in my dress with my 25+4 baby bump, and of course by then, my hair had fallen, the sun went away, and I looked as tired as I felt, but still …. we had to capture the day and moment!

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Now, to my friends who are still waiting, hang in there. It’s h-a-r-d, I understand, but I’m believing that you’ll be the center of the party in the future and praying for that day to come soon for each of you. Keep the faith that your waiting will not be in vain. The wait will make the celebration even richer than you could ever imagine! And God will get so much glory!

Thank you to all who came out to celebrate. Our hearts are SO FULL. Thank you Jesus for the chance to celebrate these little lives!

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(left to right bottom) Colleen, Jeannie, Nancy, Meghan, Grandma Jones, Denise, Aunt Donna, Pam, Alicia, Emily, Katie, Gena, Diane, Lori, Kinsely, Scarlett, and Gabby. (left to right top) Patti Jo, Rachel, Lynn, Monica, Courtney, me, Mom, and Jeannie

 

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:

http://tinyurl.com/jbsvye3

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

update + celebrations.

7

Ladies and gentlemen, hold on tight … Here’s the post you’ve all been patiently waiting for!!!

OUR UPDATE!

So, last we talked, we shared that our embryo fertilization report came back that had 19 fertilized embryos. AMAZING NEWS! But how many continued to develop? How many would we have to freeze to add to our future family? Well, it all came down to one phone call, one voicemail from our doctor.

And, then we decided to wait to listen to the voicemail. Hear me out!! We had a mini vacation planned at the end of last month and as crazy as it sounds, wanted to venture into those few days without the weight and reality of the news that might be shared. We have felt such peace about this cycle, but there was a chance the voicemail would share we had no embryos and with that, our journey to starting a family would end. It was a loaded voicemail with potentially big effects … and so we saved it until we got back. I had such peace the entire time and wasn’t distracted by the wondering. It gave us a chance to enjoy our time together without distraction.

snorkeling

Snorkeling and enjoying precious time together!

So, imagine our utter delight and surprise when we listened and learned we have 7 embryos waiting to be welcomed into our home!

Thank you Jesus!

I feel incredibly humbled and moved sharing this outcome with you right now. While nothing is guarantee, we have babies! Teeny, tiny frozen babies that may grow our earthly family in incredible ways.

I have to admit – when I first heard “Fantastic news … 7 embryos!”, my eyes widened. Whoa, babies. If all goes to plan and these embryos result in pregnancies and live births, we may have a REALLY large family. And as I starred as Josh with big eyes, envisioning what this might look like, he sweetly reassured me that God has known this number and these babies all along. And so we continue to trust Him for that! And also, keep our eyes open at van potentials. HA!

No part of this cycle has been without Him. Not only has this cycle been SO significantly different (in a great way!) from cycles past, but the peace He has provided us has been unspeakably reassuring.

So, friends, our family is waiting for us in cryopreserved vials and we couldn’t be more excited about what the future holds. No matter God has planned for us, today we celebrate, rejoice, and THANK HIM for all He has done thus far.

Okay, let’s get a few FAQ’s out of the way!

How many are you going to transfer?

We plan to, in time, transfer all of them, because these precious babies deserve a family! However, we will begin by only transferring 2 of them. If it’s a success, yes, there’s a chance we could have twins. If it’s not successful, then we will transfer 2 more, so on and so forth. If and when we are successful, the others will remain frozen until we are ready to grow our family again. It looks like we have many more embryo transfers in our future. :)

When are you transferring them?

We are planning on a mid-September transfer. Yes, that’s later than we originally planned! There’s two main reasons for that decision:

1) Josh has a trip planned with his father later this summer and if the cycle were to work, he would be gone during some important ultrasound appointments. I know I will be a worried mess when I am pregnant (a huge test of faith!) and having him out of reach anytime during 8-12 weeks makes me uncomfortable.

2) I want to get back into shape! The last year has been a rough one for me in regards to health and fitness – I kind of crumbled after our March 2015 miscarriage and it’s taken me a while to get back into a good routine. This will give me time over the summer to get my butt into a pre-pregnancy health I would be comfortable with.

What did you do differently this cycle? (non-IVF’ers, feel free to zone out on this question)

First of all, we had a new doctor, who is AMAZING and I can’t recommend enough. I strongly believe Dr. Batcheller’s wisdom, care, and dedication to our success has impacted this cycle immensely.

Secondly, in the past we have done a birth control + Lupron suppression protocol. She shared concerns that it may not had been the right protocol for me and over-suppressed me. This time, after just a few short 15 days of birth control to regulate my cycle, we jumped right into stims.

Past: 150-200 IU’s of Follistim, 1 vial of Menopur, daily lupron injections, 10,000 hCg trigger shot, 8 days of stimming, natural fertilization, moderate caffeine intake.

This cycle: 300 IU’s of Follistim, 2 vials of Menopur, 2 spaced out Lupron trigger shots + 2,500 hCg trigger shot, Ganirelix injections starting day 6 of stims, 9 days of stimming, ICSI fertilization, vitamin cocktail, no caffeine for Chelsea, 1 8-oz half-caff cup of coffee for Josh a day, Chelsea gluten free.

What’s the vitamin cocktail?

Colorado Center for Reproductive Medicine – Minneapolis gave us this handout and Josh and I both took each of these vitamins as recommended. There was SUCH a significant different in outcomes (see below) that I strongly believe these vitamins had something to do with it.

I am unsure copyright details, but will attach the handout here for you to review until I hear differently! :)

Vitamin Cocktail Handout – provided by CCRM-Minneapolis

Female Cocktail: 2016_01_12_12_30_05

Male Cocktail: 2016_01_12_12_30_48

Summary:

Cycle 1: 11 eggs, 9 fertilized, resulted in 1 day-5 blastocyst, 1 day-6 blastocyst (frozen), and 1 morula for transfer.

Cycle 2: 14 eggs, 11 fertilized, resulted in 2 day-6 blastocysts.

CCRM Cycle: 27 eggs, 19 fertilized, resulted in 7 day-5/6 blastocysts.

How’s the puzzle going?

YOU GUYS! We’re still working on assembling it! This intricate puzzle is a perfect depiction of our journey thus far, haha! We can’t wait to share the final product with you when it’s all assembled and your names have been written! SWOON!

Now, join us in thanking God for His glorious provision for our precious little babies and if you could, continue to pray for their homecoming in September. (Well, 2 of them at least!). Also, if you could pray for my strength and dedication to get my butt back in shape, that would be incredibly helpful. I will certainly share more about that journey throughout the summer.

Alright, now your fertility update has officially concluded! If your eyes are crossed and you have NO idea what I am talking about up there, that’s okay! I share for those who do. And now let’s get back to our regular scheduled blogging updates going forward! I will keep you posted as our Frozen Embryo Transfer (FET) plans start to kick in (mid-August) and we will keep rallying with you! HOORAY!

Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think.

Ephesians 3:20 (NLT)

IMG_0631

PS: My reunion with caffeine was previous. Did you know that our budget includes $0 for Starbucks? Since 2011 when our infertility treatments started, it became a no brainer that coffee splurges were not a priority. And so, I began asking for Starbucks cards for birthdays and holidays, using them when there was a balance and skipping it when there wasn’t. And as silly as it sounds, I’m always amazed at God’s simple provision over something SO MINOR. Random giftcards are sent to me for no reason but thoughtfulness, always when, unknown to a friend, my balance is getting low. Or, I’m almost out and my free reward cup is earned and ready to be used. I know it’s silly how much a cup of coffee means to me, but it’s a highlight in my day when I’m running around or provides a cozy spot to write or work. As so, every sip of Starbucks reminds me God cares about the little joys in our lives. Love that!