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!

update + celebrations.

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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.

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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)

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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!

you are not alone.

This week is National Infertility Awareness Week – a week focused on creating awareness that 1 in 8 couples have trouble getting pregnant or sustaining a pregnancy. You guys, that’s a lot. And I have to say, I am proud at how far we have come in the last few years. “Infertility” seems a little more talked about, people are responding with a lot more grace than discomfort, and more often than not, it invites others to say “me too”.

This year, RESOLVE is urging the infertility community to help spread the message “You are not alone.” Dealing with infertility can be isolating. So many people who struggle wonder why. We feel broken as we see our Newsfeed filling up with pregnancy announcements, gender reveal pictures, photo after photo of child-filled outings. The thing is though, there are others who understand how you are feeling. No one should have to walk through this alone.

If you are reading this today and are struggling, let me assure you of the fact that you are not alone.

You are not alone if you have never seen 2 pinks lines.

You are not alone if you have seen two pink lines but your arms are still empty.

You are not alone if you have to give yourself shots.

You are not alone if going to see the doctor (again) drains you of all your energy.

You are not alone if you are hopeful during a 2 week wait.

You are not alone if the thought of another 2 week wait makes your heart anxious.

You are not alone if you have ever laid in bed crying and wondering When? and Why?

You are not alone if you have felt like the only one who really feels like this.

You are not alone if you feel like you just can’t act like you have it all together one more day.

You are not alone if you are scared and confused.

You are not alone if you are questioning everything from trying to have your own child to learning about surrogates and gestational carriers.

You are not alone if you have heard that you are dealing with bad eggs.

You are not alone if you have heard that your partner has male infertility factors.

You are not alone if you are just giving it one more month.

You are not alone if you are afraid to say something to anyone because you anticipate a hurtful comment.

You are not alone if you need to seek a support group, find a counselor, take a break.

You are not alone if you engage in social media for support. (Instagram is the BEST group of ladies out there!)

You are not alone if you can’t remember the “pre-trying to conceive” you.

You are not alone if you aren’t sure when to seek help or talk to a specialist.

You are not alone if you are dealing with secondary infertility.

You are not alone if you are lead down a path to adoption.

You are not alone if you need to use donor eggs or donor sperm.

You are not alone if you feel like you can’t plan your life because you don’t know what the next 4 weeks will look like.

You are not alone if you have cut out gluten, dairy, sugar, red meat, vegetables that rhyme with “bale”, caffeine, anything with red dye …. all in hopes that this could be the thing that helps you get pregnant.

I could go on and on and on.

The point is, you are not alone. There are others out there with a similar story as you, feeling similar emotions, running down similar paths and wondering the same questions. Can I encourage you today to share your story? No, maybe it’s not going to be “coming out” on Facebook, but perhaps it’s telling a friend or a family member. Perhaps it’s starting the conversation with something like “What I am about to tell you is really hard for me because this is such a vulnerable and sensitive subject and I am just asking you to listen and be supportive …” I have a feeling that there will be many domino effects created as a result of your bravery to break the silence surrounding infertility.

Can I share one more thing?

I think that the greatest thing in the message You Are Not Alone is that you really aren’t ever alone because there is a God who loves you so much who is on the road with you, day in and day out. There are times and seasons where He seems so quiet. The silence of God is only temporary and I find it’s in the seasons of silence where I learn the most about Him and about myself. But apart from the seasons of silence, there are seasons of rich fellowship and community that is built by bringing our requests to His feet and trusting Him to walk with us down a path that is so hard, a path where we feel so weary.

God doesn’t always do exactly what we want Him to do, when we want Him to do it. I do believe though that even in the waiting and in the struggle of infertility, He is with us and because of that, we are never ever alone. We are never alone in the wee small hours of the morning when you’re hunched on the bathroom floor staring at another blank test. We are never alone when the ultrasound tech whispers “I am so sorry … let me get the doctor.” We are never alone when the emotions are bubbling.

I pray that during this week of Infertility Awareness, that others find deep, meaningful, rich relationships with other who are struggling so that they are reminded that they are not the outcasts, and even more so, I pray that others find the precious, peace-giving life that God has to offer in the midst of this battle.

Keep your chins up ladies, infertility does NOT get to beat us. We are not alone.

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Here are some resources for those wanting to learn a basic understanding of the disease of infertility, for those who want to learn more about National Infertility Awareness Week, or that wants to read more facts from my NIAW blog last year or the year before.

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