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.

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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!

guest post: not just a beauty blogger.

Happy Tuesday friends! I am excited to share with you a guest post I wrote over at Not Just A Beauty Blogger today! I connected with Nikol several months back (you will love her!) and am honored at her invitation to share with her readers. The post is about how I have been learning to wait with God and not just waiting for God, including some practical tips on what that means for me. I hope you will pop on over and check it out!

Click Here to Read

Until next time ….

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guest post: be brave.

Aloha from Hawaii! I am having the time of my life here with my girlfriends (although I miss and am not sure how I will even be able to find the words to share it with you all! What a refreshing trip this has been …. and it’s not over yet! I am just checking in today to share with you a guest post that I wrote over on my friend Kailey’s blog Cheers to Plan A about learning to be brave. This one was an eye opener for me to write and I am so excited to invite you over to read it.

Would you do me a favor and stop on over to Kailey’s blog today, read the post I wrote there, and leave her some love!? I LOVE sharing my blogging friends with others because you are the BEST, EVER!!!!

{{ C L I C K   H E R E   T O   R E A D }}

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(Print by Holly Holt Design)

Alright, that’s all for me! We are heading down to hit up May Day Lei Day celebrations on the beach! I will leave you with a couple pictures of our first day’s hike along the Na Pali Coast. I need to sort through the other 700 pictures so stay tuned. :)

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5 things you want to tell your fertile friend.

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Ever been there? That place, that moment, when you look around the room and realize you are the only person without kids? The conversation drifts in and out as you refresh your thinking “was up all night with johnny .. so tired .. love when they snuggle all morning … watched too much tv yesterday with them … need a night out … love them more than I knew was possible … love the boppy, although I would recommend … ” You catch snippets of conversation, knowing that you have nothing to offer and for just a moment, you want to weigh in and let your friends know these 5 things …

{click here to continue reading}

Thanks for clicking to continue reading and supporting my writing at Fertility Authority! Please feel free to share this post as much as you can within the next month – your views matter! And I’d love to have you weigh in and share what you wish you could tell your friends with kids – comment there or here!

Also, it’s not too late to enter the giveaway for your chance to win a copy of  Where Have All the Storks Gone? A His and Hers Guide to Infertility by Michelle and Chris Miller or a fertility pack with a TTC Boost Bundle for Her and a BFP Test Strip Little Bundle. Read the previous post to enter or Click Here: a Rafflecopter giveaway.

See you Friday to announce the giveaway winners and share some Friday Favorites!

send ’em over.

I frequently get emails with some awesome questions from readers – everything from “what books to do you recommend?” to “what words do you have for someone going through a miscarriage?” The questions are all SO good and I love interacting with each of you as you pepper me with some thoughtful questions. They cause me to pause and think and that’s a good thing!

My inbox has been especially filled lately (I LOVE IT!) and it has inspired me with an idea for a series of posts – a Question and Answer series! That’s right, all those questions you have been emailing me over the last few years, send them my way via comment or email and I will work my way through them. Don’t make them all serious – send me over some fun, random ones too! :) I can’t wait to address some of the most common questions to specifics about our journey. Faith, treatment, personal life – nothing is off limits!

My email is listed here, you can write it below, or comment on an Instagram post. If you would like your blog tagged back and your name identified, just leave it in the comments (From NAME at XXXX) and I will credit your question to you. However, if you want to be anonymous, that is completely fine as well, just let me know. (First names only will be used.) The question window is open till the end of the month so send them over. I’m really looking forward to this!

Oh and due to a crazy week, Friday Favorites may not be posted until Saturday … just pretend like it’s Friday when you read them. Hehe!

I’ll leave you today with a great message I read a few weeks ago that has been stewing in my brain: “The mention of a journey implies an arrival. If God guides us, however we may dislike it, it means there is a goal to our journey. Because it is God’s will for us to reach that goal, we can be certain we will reach it. We start and stop and change our minds. People disappoint us; we disappoint ourselves and may give up. Not God! He always finishes what He begins.” Rest in the fact that regardless of our outcome, there is an end to this journey and a destination. Chances are it may be nothing like we imagine or plan it to be, but it’s there and it’s going to be glorious. Have a great rest of the week friends!

fertility authority.

Happy Wednesday! I am SO excited to share with you my first post over at FertilityAuthority which goes live today. YAY! I am thrilled about this opportunity to write for this website, which for those who don’t know, is an online source for fertility information. They offer some great tools and resources for those being diagnosed and going through treatment and one of the ways they offer support is through a handful of bloggers. Yes, yours truly is one of them starting today!

So here’s what you can do – simply click here and read! Without further ado … here you go!

http://www.fertilityauthority.com/blog/chelsea-ritchie/2014/12/02/i-have-infertility-i-am-just-you

I love being able to write and share my heart with a new group of readers, however know that this commitment won’t interfere with my writing here in any way. It’s simply another opportunity to connect with me (and me with you!)

And can I beg? Even if you aren’t in need of this website, I would GREATLY appreciate your click and support. I would love to come out of the gates with my community strongly behind me (and yes, I do have a minimum requirement of hits that I need to get) so your click does mean a lot! Thank you in advance for the read, shares and comments! :)

Secondly, we heard back about my blood work results last week and while we weren’t really sure what we were hoping for, we did get some answers. My results came back showing a severe Factor V Leiden mutation which essentially is a rare (less than 3%) mutation where my blood develops abnormal blood clots and is known to cause reoccurring pregnancy loss and late pregnancy miscarriages. The good news is we finally have an answer which is a gigantic answer to prayer. While this mutation can’t be “fixed”, it can be treated with twice daily injections to thin the blood, therefore lessening the chances of blood clots, particularly to the uterus while pregnant.

I was a little overwhelmed when the clinic first called with these results but was quickly reminded by my amazing support team that this answer is a blessing and the success stories once diagnosed are impressive. Even more so, I was reminded that God eats odds for breakfast and that who we serve has abilities far greater than this mutation. In fact, I am fearfully and wonderfully made and this diagnosis doesn’t come as a surprise to Him! So with that, we are stepping forward with faith that this answer is the key to unlocking a miracle.

My last day on active birth control pills was LAST NIGHT (arghhhh!) which means we will likely be starting our IUI cycle in the next few days. CRAZY! Can’t wait to keep you all posted on the exciting happenings as we walk with God back into this treatment pool and await His perfect timing. Join us in prayer, will you? Pray then click the link above. :)

Thanks my friends, for your faithfulness to our journey. We adore you guys and are so thankful for all the ways you partner with us.

“I thank my God every time I remember you.” Philippians 1:3

pcos awareness.

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September is PCOS Awareness month and I can’t let it slip away without bringing attention to the disease I suffer from – Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome. Now if medical-related blogs aren’t really your thing, which is TOTALLY okay, now would be a great time to say ‘peace out’ for today. But for others who are interested, I would love to share with you a little bit more about what PCOS is and how it affects the body, how its controlled, how to treat it and then share some great resources with you.

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What is PCOS? Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS for short) is the most common hormonal endocrine disorders in women. Most women with PCOS (but not all) grow many small cysts on their ovaries. We are who lucky enough to have said cysts (insert sarcastic tone here) typically call these cysts a “pearl necklace”. No, this isn’t the pretty kind of jewelry Audrey Hepburn wears around her neck, instead they are tiny cysts strung in a row around the lining of our ovaries (seen on an ultrasound). These cysts aren’t typically harmful and will mainly cause hormone imbalances (unless they burst, which is very serious unless treated immediately.)

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What are the symptoms of PCOS? PCOS can be so tricky to diagnose because there are a wide variety of signs and symptoms that a woman might experience. Unfortunately there isn’t one stand-alone test that can be done.  Most of the time it is a combination of tests that will lead your physician to diagnose you with PCOS. Sometimes women only have a few of these symptoms that may be mild or severe or perhaps many of the symptoms are non-existent. Common symptoms are listed below with the percentage of women with PCOS who are affected with said issue:

  • Irregular periods (75-80%) (in fact 25% of women with PCOS have regular cycles)
  • Excessive hair growth on the face and body (60-80%)
  • Thinning hair (40-70%)
  • Acne (40-60%)
  • Excess weight, sugar cravings and the inability to lose weight (75-80%)
  • Insulin resistance (55-80%)
  • Abnormal blood lipid levels and a tendency to have an apple shape (55-80%)
  • Darkening of skin areas, particularly on the nape of the neck (known as acanthosis nigricans) (10%)
  • Skin tags (unknown %)
  • Gray-white breast discharge (8-10%)
  • Sleep apnea and sleep disturbances (8%)
  • Pelvic pain (unknown %)
  • Depression, anxiety and other emotional disorders (unknown %)

Unfortunately PCOS does tend to run in families, so there is an increase in diagnosis if women in your family have PCOS, symptoms of excess male hormones, weight problems, irregular periods and/or infertility.

One of the significant symptoms that I struggle with is insulin resistance, leading to weight issues as well as increased male hormones. Because I, like many women, are insulin resistant, it puts us in a category of being “pre-diabetic” and more likely to be diagnosed with diabetes down the line if not properly managed.

How is PCOS controlled? Simply put, one of the easiest ways to control PCOS is through diet and exercise. I read it that ”put very simply”, this is how it works:

Weight loss –> Reduced Insulin resistance –> Lowered insulin blood levels –> lessened secretion of male hormones by ovaries

Guys, I wish I could convey to you how difficult it is for women with PCOS to lose weight though if being overweight is a struggle. (And not all women with PCOS are overweight.) It can be extremely tough but not impossible. Managing PCOS with diet means having to follow a low-glycemic and low-carbohydrate plan. Food plays a crucial part in minimizing PCOS symptoms and even when someone is nearly perfect on their diet, they can see little to no changes in weight. It can be incredibly frustrating and women with PCOS can also gain weight at a rapid rate due to the hormones imbalances and insulin resistance. Our blood levels constantly fluctuate which leads to storing our calories as fat and then hanging on to it tightly. However, weight management is known to be one of the most powerful ways to control PCOS. In fact, one of the books I read claims that “losing 7-10% of your body weight causes more than two-thirds of women to resume ovulating, even with some long histories of infertility”. (Annnnnd unfortunately for me, I was not one of those two-thirds ladies, oh boo.)

How do you diagnose PCOS? This is pretty tricky but the doctor will take into consideration a number of factors, including two common symptoms, irregular periods and a lack of ovulation. They will also run several labs tests, for example checking your levels of male hormones, your luteinizing hormone (LH), and follicle-stimulating hormones (FSH). Many but not all doctors will do an ultrasound to look at your ovaries to see if there are multiple cysts evident and then lastly, they will rule out any other issues that may lead to similar symptoms, like thyroid issues. PCOS affects 5-10% of the female population.

How is PCOS treated? Like I mentioned above, diet is a key component to managing PCOS, however, there are times when that just isn’t enough. In women who are not actively trying to conceive, an oral contraceptive is typically one of the first things that a doctor will try, simply because it helps to steady your hormones levels. However obviously with women who are trying to start a family, being on birth control is, well, counterproductive. J  Many women are started on a drug called Metformin which is commonly used in the management of type 2 diabetes. (It lowers your blood sugar levels which can reduce your insulin resistance.) Its works for many patients, but unfortunately not everyone. (Again, like me, hmmm, apparently I stick out like a bad statistic.)  Many women just live with the symptoms of PCOS and treat them best they can, perhaps using an acne medicine for their acne or sleeping pills for sleep disorders or waxing for excess hair growth.

What are other conditions that may go with PCOS? There are some other diseases and conditions that are increased in women with PCOS and I don’t share any of this to make you nervous if you have PCOS yourself, but instead, share it so that you can be aware and proactive to minimize the risks. Some of these diseases are: type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease due to imbalanced cholesterol levels (another symptom), heart disease, endometrial hyperplasia and uterine cancer. Unfortunately women with PCOS are several times more likely than other women to develop uterine cancer due to the increased level of hormones and a lack of ovulation. (Since we don’t ovulate as often, our uterine lining doesn’t shed as often, which then affects our endometrium. If you have prolonged absences in your menstrual cycles (90+ days) work with your physician, as there are drugs that can trigger a period, such as Provera or a natural progesterone cream.)

Also, unfortunately staying pregnant is tougher for women with PCOS. Data shares that sadly, women with PCOS have three times the normal risk for miscarriage (which is 10-15% in normal women). Four out of five women with repeated miscarriages have been reported to have PCOS. There are ways to prevent this and drugs that help significantly reduce the miscarriage rate however, so again, make sure you are working closely with your doctor. There are MANY MANY MANY healthy babies born from a mommy with PCOS.

But I wanna have a baby!!!! Finally, some good news! The likelihood of having a baby with PCOS is great. PCOS is complex, yes, and perhaps I am not the best person to be writing about how pregnancy and deliveries are possible, but data shows that they are. Whenever possible, weight loss is the best place to start, but from there, there are many prescribed fertility drugs that can assist. While PCOS can never be cured, it can be controlled and that’s what we are aiming to do. ;)

Whoa! I hope I didn’t overwhelm you with too much info! PCOS certainly doesn’t make life more fun, however, it’s important to keep in mind that this isn’t just about me or you. There are many people around us who are struggling with a disease or condition. Like many diseases, education is an important tool and I hope that in reading this, you understand a little bit more about the disease you have been diagnosed with or someone you care about has. Due to its complexity, the associated hormonal imbalances, and the pure frustration of not being able to do what seems so natural to many, depression and anxiety are common in women with PCOS. It’s important to seek help when managing it on your own becomes too overwhelming. (A depressed mood, sleep disturbances, a loss of interest in things that you used to enjoy, feeling hopeless, constantly fatigued, changes in your appetite and/or suicidal thinking are all signs that it’s time to seek help.) Support groups can help tremendously. And always remember that seeking help does not mean that you are weak or less than others – professional help is there to help you cope with the hardships. Don’t be afraid to take advantage of that.

If you have made it to the end – congratulations! Thanks for taking the time to read this and I hope that I have been able to shed some light on PCOS. If you are a fellow believer, always, always, always remember that we serve a God much greater than PCOS, much more powerful than its symptoms and able to do much more than we can ask or imagine.

Reading Resources: There are two books I highly recommend if you are struggling with PCOS. The first is A Patient’s Guide to PCOS: Understanding and Reversing Polycistyc Ovary Syndrome by Walter Futterweit, M.D. with George Ryan and the second is The Ultimate PCOS Handbook: Lose Weight, Boost Fertility, Clear Skin and Restore Self Esteem by Collete Harris and Theresa Cheung. (Both books are linked here to Amazon, however, I do not receive compensation for these links. These links will simply provide you with more information on the books.)

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Please note, this post is not intended to replace the medical advice of your doctor or health care provider. Please consult your health care provider for advice about PCOS or any other health concern.