FertilityIQ basecamp recap: let the information begin!

Logo_2x-1024x791.png

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.)

deborahjake_042 (2)

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.

img_6388

(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!

img_6262

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

img_6263

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

img_6281

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

img_6332

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!

img_6207

Welcome to Instagram!

img_6275

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

img_6255

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

facebook-headquarters.png

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.

img_6321

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.

img_6318

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?

img_6336

bowling1.jpg

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.

img_6190

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

img_6185

The dinners Jake and Deb hosted were SO yummy!

img_6199

Caroline and I are Facebook ready!

img_6278

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

img_6288

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

img_6287

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

img_6291

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.

img_6306

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

img_6310

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

img_6319

One of the gorgeous meeting spaces we convened in.

img_6398

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. 💛

img_6339

So many fun Uber moments during this trip!

img_6363

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

img_6387

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

img_6378

Another yummy dinner filled with conversation!

Until next time friends!

Chelsea

TTC Mug Exchange 2016.

image-1

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.

d1fd0bf0adb3ebbace98262734b0aac5*

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

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:

16-positive-things-will-happen-quote

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:

IMG_4385

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! 

Q & A part 2

First of all, is anyone watching the Bachelor? After 5 hours of Chris Soules + ladies this week, I feel like I need a major girl-chat to process everything that went on. Comment below if you watch and what you think! No spoilers please!

In other news, this week is part 2 of the Q&A Series! Thanks again to everyone who has sent in questions. Today we are featuring another giveaway, this time from Fertile Gems, (see more below), and then next week we will wrap this series up with part 3 and onet final giveaway. How fun has February been!? Love it!

OK, let’s dive into some more questions!

Q: Have you ever questioned blogging or had concerns with sharing private things with your work, friends, family, and church home?

A: Great question! Blogging scares me regularly. Every time I press “post”, I kind of feel like I have stripped down and am running naked through the neighborhood. I would rather strangers read my posts than people I know. It’s such a vulnerable thing, writing, and there are times I hold back thoughts or situations to protect the emotions of those closest to me as well. So yes, there are times I question blogging, but not in a way that makes me stop. It puts a good reminder in my heart and mind to be cautious not to hurt anyone with my words and also, to share in a way that’s helpful to others but (hopefully) won’t damage my reputation either, like in a working situation. I always try to write with the mindset that anyone I know may read this, including the person I may be giving a story about. It helps direct my words and mentality, while still remaining authentic and vulnerable. It’s a tango!

Regarding actual privacy, I try my best to keep identities protected and actual locations hidden if people don’t want that shared. If children are being posted on or about, I run it past Mom or Dad. I also try to make sure that when I am telling stories, I am telling my stories, not someone else’s story. Those stories are for them to share and I don’t want to encroach into their story. It can be hard to untangle experiences and emotions at times, but I want to protect the people in my life too. If I am telling a story about Josh, I run it past him first to make sure he is okay with it. I don’t ever want my blogging to cause others to concern their privacy either.

Q: What are your thoughts about acupuncture?

Ha! Remember the first time I went to acupuncture? Rethinking this experience is making me giggle. Acupuncture is something that I have been doing on and off for almost 2 years now and have to say, am still totally neutral on my opinion. I know some people LOVE IT and others HATE IT. I tend to be pretty undecided. That being said, I found cupping to be an extremely valuable part of my healing process when I had significant hormone-related back pain. I also found acupuncture to help my headaches while on Lupron and stimming during IVF cycles. When I was not on medicated cycles however, I didn’t find it to be hugely successful in helping me ovulate/cycle.

However, one thing that I am hugely passionate about is having pre and post transfer acupuncture sessions in the doctor’s office if they allow it. My acupuncturist came into the clinic and I had the most relaxing sessions right before and immediately after our embryo(s) were transferred. It allows time to pray/meditate, breath, and relax. Plus, you are on valium so it’s like you are floating with glee in a magical PUPO cloud.

Otherwise though, do what you are comfortable with and find relaxing. If it relaxes you, great. If you find yourself unable to relax and over thinking whether its working or not, then maybe it’s not for you. I always suggest everyone gives it a try to decide for yourself.

Q: What are the last 5 movies you’ve seen that have rocked your world?

I wish I watched more movies that rocked my world! I actually tend to be a pretty shallow movie watcher. I feel like the “good”, award winner movies tend to be a little violent/profane/sorrow-filled for me. For example, I would love to see American Sniper if I felt my heart could take it, but sometimes emotions overwhelm me a bit and so I protect me heart and just skip it all together.

So I watch movies on the Hallmark Channel or drag my husband to see Night at the Museum 3 (I laughed … and cried) or Hunger Games or the Divergent series. I love me a good Harry Potter film and PG-13 chic flick too! I wish I had a better deeper answer for you!

Q: How do you feel embryos should be handled ethically?

A: We believe deeply that all embryos created have life. We value the fact that life starts at conception and so it’s been very important to us to ensure that all embryos created that develop and process through the viable stages are used. When Josh and I first started our IVF journey, we knew that it could open a door for our family to be larger than we anticipated, knowing that if we had extra embryos to freeze, that we would continue frozen cycles to give them all a chance at implanting and sustaining life.

Doctors offices will give you the choice to “dispose” of extra embryos, donate your embryos to another couple who can’t biologically create a child or have the desire to adopt an embryo, donate the embryo(s) to science, or freeze them for your own family, continuing to make annual payments to the frozen daycare center. We have always chosen and will continue to choose to freeze them regardless of their quality.

When we were embarking into our 4th cycle, we had 1 little Frostie left. You may remember from this post where our doctors suggested us skipping transferring Frostie because of his/her low quality and instead doing a new fresh cycle. It was important to Josh and I that Frostie got a chance, and so we moved forward with that frozen cycle and our little snowbaby. While that cycle wasn’t successful, I am SO glad that we transferred Frostie and I know that God provided us a lot of peace with our decision to do that, even though it didn’t result in a pregnancy.

If you have a similar mindset as we do and are concerned about the abundance of embryos that could be created in a cycle, please know that there are many options to work with your doctor to minimize the amount of embryos created. It may start with stimulating egg production at a slower rate and removing less eggs, therefore creating less embryos, but it is possible. There is always a chance that when that type of cycle occurs and less embryos are created, that you may have to do multiple cycles, but it is worth pursuing and discussing with your doctor as well. If you ever have more specific questions on this for me, feel free to email me.

All of this being said, these are our opinions that we reserve the right to have so if you view things differently or would make different decisions, I simply ask for mutual respect as these are personal and spiritual decisions each couple makes.

Q: Where do you suggest finding support? How have you been able to develop a good system of support on this journey?

A: This journey can feel really lonely when you are fighting it alone, when no one around you understands, and when you don’t feel you have anyone to talk to. One of the benefits about social media is that it gives you the chance to connect with people who are struggling in a similar way as you, while not necessarily having to live close to you. Instagram has been the number one way for me to connect with other women who are struggling. Did you know that you can also create an annoyomous instagram account, not linked to your Facebook, so that you can have a true TTC outlet? You can start simple, by searching for a hashtag! Phrases like #ivf, #iui, #infertiliy, #ttc, #pcos, #endo, #clomid will all give you a SLEW of women who are ready to share and connect. You would be so surprised at how many beautiful true friendships have formed out of a single hashtag!

Meet my friend Karen! We met over Instagram, started emailing and now not a day goes by where we don't talk, text or skype date. She may live in FL but all that matters is that I have found my "person"! Love you K.

Meet my friend Karen! We met over Instagram, started emailing and now not a day goes by where we don’t talk, text or skype date. She may live in FL but all that matters is that I have found my “person”! Love you K.

I also run TTC package exchanges every few months that several hundred women on this journey participate in and I have witnessed SO many awesome friendships form simply by being randomly paired up. You can search for things like #ttcexchanges on Instagram too if you want to get connected right away! There are Facebook groups as well. My own personal experience is that forums can be really aggressive and mean-spirited so I try to stay away from them. Some churches have small groups that form with women who are struggling, so checking with your local church is a great option too. Otherwise, use websites like RESOLVE to find other methods of support.

Oh and guess what, our next TTC Exchange, similar to the Mug Exchange, will be kicking off at the end of the month! Stay tuned!

Now it’s giveaway time!

My friend Crystal over at Fertile Gems sent me the most beautiful fertility necklace and we just HAVE to share one with a lucky winner! Fertile Gems creates handcrafted fertility jewelry that is meant to put a smile on your face, remind you to calm down, relax and HOPE. They also include the choice of a gemstone and each gemstone has different meanings.

The necklace we are giving away is similar to this one below – except yours will be in sterling silver and you will be able to pick your own gemstone. (The wishbone is known as a good luck symbol of life and fertility.) If you are interested in purchasing one, I know you won’t be disappointed. Check out her Etsy store today!

Processed with VSCOcam with s2 preset

This giveaway will last until Friday morning, and then the winner will be announced on Friday Favorites. Everyone ears 5 free entries just for fun! Just include your name / email so I can connect with you if you win. Good luck!

Click Here: a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thanks for sending in some great questions! Next week we wrap this up by talking about the ever-so-big questions about adoption, gluten-free diets, maintaining faith and hope and more!

randomness.

Welcome to the most random blog post. Today you will get an invitation into the questions and ramblings of my brain. Please don’t be scared.

– Why does Bruce Jenner have this awkward mullet-thing happening? Can someone let him know it just doesn’t look good?

IMG_2301

– Why did I waste time watching Bachelor in Paradise and why was it so amusing? It was like a drama filled train wreck that I couldn’t turn off. (In my defense, I worked on laundry while watching it so it was just “background noise”.) Robert getting attacked by fire ants made me laugh. Now that’s romantic.

I so wish this was a GIF.

I so wish this was a GIF.

– Why is it so easy to feel “stuck” sometimes? I had a few friends reach out to me yesterday in their own special ways and it was such a blessing. In a journey this long and slow, it’s easy to feel left behind at times. I get to stand back and wave as everyone struggles, finally succeeds, has a baby, starts working on #2, struggles, succeeds … lather, rinse, repeat. There are times I feel like everyone has forgotten that this is still really hard for me. After 5 and a half years, it almost feels like people are either completing forgetting about our struggles or just saying Oh poor Chelsea, still trying …. Doesn’t she know by now it’s probably not going to happen? Because it has been so long, do people just assume that it gets easier? More often than not lately, I have felt trapped by conversations about kids and mothering. Hi! Still here! No kids! Can we wind this convo down? It’s been a half hour since I could contribute something. Now, that sounds worse than I intend it to. I simply mean that as time goes by, it can at times feel like the sensitivity factor lessens. The time spent waiting doesn’t getting easier, it feels like a daily battle against time and dreams. Am I alone in ever feeling like this?

All of that said, I am still incredibly grateful to be stuck where I am. If nothing in my life every changed in regards to my fertility, I would still have the bomb.com kind of life. I don’t take those blessings for granted and strive to just keep praying for continued peace and reassurance that our hopes and prayers are not in vain.

– What to say when …. ? Being back at work has been busy, but fun. It’s great to see familiar faces, but every time I see some that I haven’t seen since last April, I get the question “So what have you been up to since you left!?” Well, I have enough common sense not to blurt out, “Well, let’s see. I have done 3 more IVF cycles, had another miscarriage, needed a D&C surgery, went under the knife for a laparoscopy and hysteroscopy surgery, gone gluten free, had to eliminate carbs and sugars from my diet, visit a acupuncturist weekly and oh yea, am still barren. How about you!?” But instead I mutter something about enjoying a slower pace or traveling or spending time with friends and family. Their look expresses that they don’t quite understand, but I figure it’s better than verbally vomiting on them. I promise, I am not lazy! How would you handle this? I think I just have to take one for the team and accept that I don’t need anyone’s validation on my life’s choices. Eh, still humbling.

– Does anyone have any good chicken recipes to share? Yes, something gluten and carb free preferably. I am feeling a little stuck in my meal planning rut and need to shake things up. Comment below please!

Until next time … XOXO!

 

friday favorites – july 11.

Happy Friday! These summer weeks are flying by faster than ever. I am trying to keep my big girl panties on and not cry about it, but WAHHHH. SUMMER, STAY!!

Favorite Memory: A few things about me: I love playing games, being outside, listening to good music, having Cali nearby, and being with my favorite people. So imagine my joy when all these things merged last weekend. Josh, Cali, my sister Courtney and I packed up and walked over to a local park, set out our lawn blanket, shuffled the Phase 10 cards, cranked some Josh Garrels tunes and enjoyed an hour or two in the sun. A few afternoon rain sprinkles pushed us back home but it was one of my favorite parts of the week.

Favorite July Food: Cherries. Hands down. I’m addicted. I am thankful the cherry season is short because I have single-handedly gone through about 8 pounds of cherries in the last few weeks. No joke. I can’t control myself. My lips have a permanent stain to them and I have become an expert pit-spitter-outter. Oh cherries, you make me happy.

cherries

Favorite Summer TV Show: Big Brother! Is anyone else watching? I always get sucked in every year and even though some of the new twists this season have me a little confused, I still loooooove to watch! Donny, a 42 year old groundskeeper who looks like he belongs on Duck Dynasty, is seriously my favorite. I find myself getting worked up over Devin (seriously, GO HOME!) and giggling at the Frankie/Zack bromance. Hilarious! Thank you CBS for giving me a good dose of summer reality tv.

IMG_1646

Favorite Celebration: Josh’s birthday! YAY! I can’t believe my husband is 32 already – not that it’s “old” by any means, but seriously, when did we all grow up?? I could yammer on about how fast time goes and how awesome Josh is (because, well, he is), but instead I just want to fast forward to the party details.

My family hosted an incredible party for Josh. He knew nothing but when to show up and I have to say, my mom’s creativity was at an all time high. (Who remembers the awesome book themed party she threw for me last year?) My hunter-hubby had a night filled with his favorite foods (like, pretty much all of them … the food was AMAZING – gluten free too nonetheless), favorite decorations, and lots and lots of laughs from start to finish. I just have to brag on my mom’s creativity (with my dad and sister’s help as well!) with pictures below. I loved how special and celebrated Josh felt. I LOVE BIRTHDAYS and its safe to say I got the love of them from my mom. :)

As we pulled up, we knew right where to park!

As we pulled up, we knew right where to park!

Check out this table setting!. SO perfect.

Check out this table setting!. SO perfect.

The details were the best part – the hand crafted napkin rings (white tail deer of course), the name cards, the coasters and bottled water … love.

Lots of sticks, birthday love, mineral rocks and even a little visiting deer.

Lots of sticks, birthday love, mineral rocks and even a little visiting deer.

Deer droppings, HAHA!

Deer droppings, HAHA!

I got up briefly and when I came back, someone stole my chair!

I got up briefly and when I came back, someone stole my chair!

...twice!

…twice!

Our birthday boy!

Our birthday boy!

Crab, alfredo scallops, deep dish pizzas, and bacon wrapped sausage ...

Crab, alfredo scallops, deep dish pizzas, and bacon wrapped sausage …

Grilled cheese and tomato soup, caesar salad with grilled shrimp, waffle fries and steaks....

Grilled cheese and tomato soup, caesar salad with grilled shrimp, waffle fries and steaks….

corn, peanut m&m's, cheesecake and homemade chocolate chip cookie ice cream sandwiches. *FULL*

corn, peanut m&m’s, cheesecake and homemade chocolate chip cookie ice cream sandwiches. *FULL*

And yes, we were full for a lonnngggg time after that.

Favorite Funnies: And last but not least! Enjoy!

IMG_1629

IMG_1449

IMG_1175

IMG_1173

IMG_1176

IMG_1194

IMG_1195

IMG_1190IMG_1189IMG_1178

IMG_1656

IMG_1658

Have a great weekend friends!