Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Happy 6th Birthday, Harrison and Brooke

Harrison and Brooke turned 6 years old almost 2 weeks ago! They decided a few weeks before their birthday that they didn't want to have a party with friends, they would rather go to Cedar Point to celebrate. As much as I love to plan a fun, themed party, I was more than happy to forgo planning one this year. We planned to make their actual birthday as special as possible and then let them celebrate by riding all the rides on the weekend.

The night before their birthday Brooke asked me if they were going to wake up to balloons and presents in the morning. It's like she knows me. ;) They also told me what presents I should go buy after I put them to bed that night. Sorry to burst your bubble kids, but you're presents are already bought and you're getting what I got you whether you like it or not.

They woke up to balloons, presents, and donuts. They still had school and swim class on their birthday, so much of the day was business as usual. I was able to go into Harrison's class to celebrate his birthday with his classmates, and Rob was able to join Brooke in her classroom to celebrate her special day. After school and swim class we got to celebrate with the grandparents. Pizza, ice cream cake, and a late bedtime capped off their birthday. Simple but fun and exactly what they asked for.

Since pregnant women and roller coasters don't exactly mix, I knew I was going to have to sit out on their weekend celebration. My sister, who lives in Tennessee, offered to drive up and accompany Rob to Cedar Point. My mom also opted to go with, so H and B got to spend the day with 3 of their favorite people. They had talked about roller coasters all week, but ultimately decided smaller rides were more their speed, so they only did a few coasters. They did both tell me that riding the Gemini was their favorite part of the day, so at least they liked the coasters they did ride. They also got to play games, buy souvenirs, and eat ice cream, so it was a stellar day for them. They are still talking about Cedar Point a week later and planning what they'll ride when they get to go again. I am a little sad I didn't get to enjoy their birthday trip with them, but Rob was on Snapchat so much it's like I was almost there. Their excitement in telling me about all the fun things they did makes up for my absence.

It's crazy how much older they've seemed over the last few weeks. I have a feeling it has more to do with almost being done with their first year of school and less to do with their turning 6, but whatever it is, I've noticed. The next year is going to throw a lot of changes their way, and I'm excited to see how it all helps them grow. Happy 6th birthday, Harrison and Brooke. Your dad and I are so proud of the little people you are growing into.

Saturday, April 28, 2018

Ethan Embryo

Today would have been our due date with Ethan Embryo. It's been looming over me for the entire month. I knew today was coming. All the excitement over the impending birth of the royal baby made it even more present in my mind. I remember when the palace announced that Kate and William were expecting again. I was 5 1/2 weeks along and thought, "Kate can't be more then a few days or weeks ahead of me. How fun is it going to be to grow right along with her." (I'm kind of obsessed with the British royal family if you didn't already know, and Kate can do no wrong, IMO.) After we lost E, their pregnancy was just a constant reminder of what we didn't have. This week it was a reminder that I should be holding a newborn in my arms, and I'm not.

I had some really dark days after we lost E. There were weeks where I couldn't go to Target or the grocery store because if I saw someone with a newborn in a car seat or carrier, I would start crying. We took the big kids to the Bluffton Street Fair a few weeks after the miscarriage, and at a time when I should have been laughing and enjoying my kids playing, I had to walk away because the sight of a young baby made me start crying uncontrollably. Poor Rob didn't know what to do. Staying at home was just as bad though. Being alone with my thoughts and the constant "what if" or "did I cause it," was misery.

We decided pretty quickly after the miscarriage that we were going to try again. Even if the chance was minute, at least there was a chance. At least I had some hope. It didn't have to be the end like I thought it was when we lost E. I don't think I would have been able to handle this week, to handle today, if we weren't expecting again. If we were undergoing treatment or had decided to stop trying all together, I would be an emotional mess today. Instead I was able to take the kids out this morning like it was nothing, all while thinking about the little baby that should be with us but is in heaven instead, and knowing that there's a new little life that will be joining us in a few months.

I spent last night frantically searching for our only picture of E. Our picture from the day of transfer, that hung on the fridge for months after our loss. It wasn't with our blastocyst pictures of H and B or S and C. It wasn't in any of the places I would have put it. I searched drawers, cabinets, books, photo albums. Why could I not remember where I put it? I had Rob help me pull out the fridge when he got home, and sure enough, there it was. At some point it fell down behind the fridge and we didn't notice. Our days went on even though I didn't look at the picture every day like I did in the weeks following our miscarriage, just like our lives went on and eventually the pain went away and we didn't even notice it was gone.

We will always think of E, especially on our due date anniversary each year, and think about what could have been. How our family could have looked different than it does now. How we could have had a different child in our life. How the loss of one little embryo changed me and changed how I viewed any future pregnancies. We will celebrate the short time we had with E, and the love and excitement we felt about adding him or her to our family. We mourn not getting to know Ethan Embryo in this lifetime, but celebrate knowing that we will get to see our little E in the next life.

Thursday, April 26, 2018

National Infertility Awareness Week

For the 1 in 8 Social Media Image 6
This week is National Infertility Awareness Week. It always causes me to reflect more deeply on our struggles to build a family. We’ve always been up front about our journey to have kids. It started out as “we aren’t trying but aren’t not trying.” Then “yes we’re trying.” Next was “it’s jut taking us a little bit longer than it takes some couples.” Finally came “we are 1 in 8 couples that struggle with infertility.”

None of my friends were trying to get pregnant when we were and Rob’s family and friends seemingly got pregnant without even trying. While they were all sympathetic and offered their nicest words to assure us it would happen eventually, no one really understood what we were going through.

I thankfully found a couple great groups of ladies online who were in the thick of the struggle. Some of us had been diagnosed with certain reproductive issues, others had just been trying for months or years with no success, but we all understood the monthly struggles and pain that came with every new cycle and negative pregnancy test. We were experts in reading ovulation tests, charting our cycles, and taking our basal body temperature before getting out of bed each morning. None of us wanted to be experts in those things, however. We all wanted to get pregnant without having to try so hard.

Eventually some of us got pregnant on our own, some of us resorted to medication or ART, artificial reproductive technology, and some of us saw relationships dissolve during the stress of battling infertility. Most of the ladies from the group I’m still in touch with, thank goodness for social media, and even though we’re all at different stages in our lives now, we will always remember the support we offered to each other during such a difficult time. I don’t know that I could have stayed sane through it all without them.

As our journey continued and we moved toward IVF, I began to rely on my sisters and their expertise. They had both been down this road before. All three of us, for totally different and unrelated reasons, had to use IVF to try and build our families. I hate that they had to go down this same path before me, but I am thankful for the knowledge and support they offered me. We never talked about our experiences in depth, but we had  each other to commiserate with over the constant shots, the financial drain, the never ending appointments, the heartache of failed or postpones cycles.

It’s a lot to take on by yourself, or with just your partners support, so why do so many of us keep it hidden from the world? Because we’re judged and looked down upon, made to feel like lesser women. I see it all the time. I see it directed at me, I see it directed at women online. I see people who were so excited to hear that we have two sets of twins ask if twins run in our family, and when I explain that they’re they result of IVF they respond with a disappointed, “Oh.” I see women who are told that if they can’t have children on their own they should take that as a sign they aren’t meant to have kids. I see people who use ART to build their families be called horrible names and told their children aren’t real and they should have adopted instead.

We have to speak out about our journeys. Let the world know we are 1 in 8. Let other couples know they are not alone. The more we share our battles, the more we lessen the stigma, the more likely we are that infertility is finally recognized as more than an inconvenience, the more other couples will know they are not alone. I hope that by the time my children are old enough to have children, things have changed. I hope the judgment is gone. I hope that infertility is treated as an disease and not just as an inconvenience some couples have to face. I hope they never have to face this battle, but if they do I hope there is more sympathy and understanding.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

How To Make A Baby

Thank you everyone for the outpouring of love and excitement over our big announcement yesterday. We had quite a few people ask how this baby came to be, which is a little personal unless you've spent the last 6 years sharing your entire infertility journey on the world wide web. This little munchkin is the result of a Valentine's Eve date night and a few cocktails. Who knew you could get pregnant just by having sex? ;) But there's a bit more to it than that. This baby may be a surprise, but it wasn't unplanned.

After we lost Baby E, we thought that would be it. After a few weeks though, we both agreed that we would always feel the "what if" if we didn't try again. 5 has been the number of kids in our minds since our first round of IVF. We both come from families with 5 siblings. Our first IVF gave us twins and 3 frozen embryos. 2+3=5. When we lost our frosties, our next round of IVF gave us twins and 1 frostie. 2+2+1=5 It's always seemed like 5 was the number of kids we were supposed to have.

Our problem has always been poor morphology and motility, basically the sperm are misshapen and don't swim well. There isn't a western medicine treatment to improve morphology and motility, so IVF is almost always recommended as a course of treatment. It's worked great for us in the past, but we couldn't justify another round IVF. There's some evidence that traditional Chinese medicine can help improve numbers. We decided to go that route and try naturally for a few months. Rob's acupuncturist said his kidney and liver function was out of balance, so he started weekly acupuncture and a ridiculous amount of herbs and supplements.

Bacopa, Zinc, Vitamin E, Oil of Oregano, Vital Essence, Multi Vitamin, Syntol AMD, Selenium, Fulvic & Humic Concentrate

It takes 3 months for any changes to be reflected in a semen analysis, so we tried naturally for a few months while Rob continued with the acupuncture and herbs. After 3.5  months Rob went in for a semen analysis and we were both optimistic that we would see some improvement in the numbers. Unfortunately the numbers came back pretty much unchanged. Still at less than 1% morphology and under 50% motility.

The next couple weeks were filled with a lot of disappointment, negativity, and inner reflection. We both went to some dark places before deciding that we were willing to give reproductive science another chance. IVF was still not a viable option. We couldn't justify creating multiple embryos in hopes of just one more baby. Our RE recommended we try a medicated IUI. We ordered the drugs and sat back to wait on a new cycle to start.

The morning our drugs were sent to be mailed out, I woke up early and took an HPT just to make sure we needed the meds. I was not expecting a positive result, so when the second line started to show up, I was in disbelief. I yelled at Rob to get out of bed and come into the bathroom. He saw it too, and immediately asked "Whose is it?"  That joke lasted a solid week or two, but the surprise is just now finally wearing off.

Since we recently had a loss, we still used our RE's office for early testing and ultrasounds. It was very reassuring to know our HCG levels were increasing, and to get two ultrasounds with confirmed heartbeat all before 10 weeks. It was also nice to only see one baby in there. It's crazy how much room there is with just one. We have graduated from our RE's office and are hopefully on our way to an uneventful, low risk pregnancy.

It's worth noting that the semen analysis and positive pregnancy test took place during the same cycle. There's no way to know if the acupuncture and herbs made a positive impact, but this is the first time we've had a spontaneous pregnancy in the 11+ years since we stopped using birth control. It's an awfully big coincidence. Although as our RE pointed out, "It just takes one."

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Baby #5

On a Tuesday morning exactly 6 weeks ago, I woke Rob up at 6 am to make sure I wasn't seeing things. I said something along the line of, "I think there's a second line on this test, but I just woke up, tell me I'm not crazy?" Sure enough, a handful of home pregnancy tests, 3 blood draws, and 2 ultrasounds later, we're having a baby. We are still surprised and we've had a few weeks to let it sink in. Come November our family will be growing by one little person. We have two very excited big kids, and two little kids who still aren't sure what's going on. Scarlett can't decide if she wants a baby sister or a baby dog, Clark just looks at me dumbfounded whenever I tell him there's a baby in my belly, if you've seen Brooke in the last 3 weeks she's blurted out that, "There's a baby in mommy's belly," before you had time to say hello, and Harrison is chill about the whole thing and just wants to snuggle up to me and the baby whenever we watch TV.

This baby is proof that miracles happen! We can't wait to welcome our sweet rainbow baby, or baby dog, this fall.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Easter Basket Goodies

Happy first day of Spring! True to my usual procrastinating ways, I just ordered Easter basket goodies for the kids this morning. Thankfully there are a lot of great items available that will make it here with time to spare. This year's baskets will be filled with clothes, accessories, a book or two, and a few One Spot items mixed in for good measure. Bunny bubble wands are always a hit with all 4 kids. A few eggs filled with Annie's cheddar bunnies and Simply Balanced fruit snacks, and we've got ourselves some baskets.

Harrison and Brooke are full on reading all the time. Most Dr. Seuss books are ones they can read on their own with no help, so they'll be upgrading a couple of our board book favorites to the full length hardcover versions. New Remie Girl dresses for my ladies and colorful tees and kicks for my boys will mean a sea of pastel at mass on Easter Sunday. Meanwhile, I'll be wearing the same black and white floral dress I've worn the last 3 years. If it's not broke, don't fix it, right?

What do you fill your kids' baskets with? Toys? Clothes? Treats? Any great items I should be looking to find last minute?

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Tasty Tuesday - 1 Week of Eating Whole30

You can file this one under better late than never posts, which seems to be a trend lately. I started this post back in October of last year when when of my girlfriends asked me to do a post about what I eat during a week of Whole30. She is now doing her first round of Whole30, so it's way past time I posted this. We have done Whole30 three times so far, and each time it gets easier to do. We've found a few great recipes we really love, discovered tasty things like using a balsamic reduction as salad dressing or olive tapenade as a salad mix in, and I've got meal planning down. I feel like laying out your meals a month in advance is really key to doing Whole30 with ease. No questioning what recipe I want to make, because I already have 30 dinners all planned out, and anything that makes dinner time easier is good by me.

Breakfast is by far the hardest meal for me when eating Whole30 compliant. I love toast, and bagels, and breakfast burritos. I don't love eggs 7 days a week, so I do a lot of fresh fruit and bacon. Lunch is most always a salad or leftovers, and I cook dinner 6 or 7 nights a week depending on how much we have in the way of leftovers. Even though Rob and I do Whole30 together, our menus look quite different, with the exception of dinner. I mention this because there are so many ways to eat Whole30 compliant. We talk alot about what you can't eat, but there's so much you can eat. So, here's a week of Jenn meals while on Whole30. 

Day 1

Breakfast - Breakfast Scramble
Snack - Fresh fruit salad
Lunch - Salad
Snack - Carrots and guacamole, fresh fruit
Dinner - Carnitas Tostones Nachos

Day 2

Breakfast - Fruit and spinach smoothie
Snack - Fresh fruit salad
Lunch - Salad
Snack - Pumpkin Spice RxBar
Dinner - Grilled portobellos and Mediterranean salad

Day 3

Breakfast - Scrambled ggs with guacamole, 3 slices bacon, fresh fruit salad
Snack - Hand full of cashews and 1 mandarin
Lunch - Shrimp, zucchini, and avocado lettuce wraps (leftovers)
Snack - Pumpkin Spice RxBar
Dinner - Post Roast

Day 4

Breakfast - Fresh Fruit
Snack - 2 Slices of Bacon
Lunch - Carnitas Tostones Nachos
Snack - Celery and Avocado Salsa
Dinner - Chicken Zoodle Soup
Dessert Snack - 1/2 Cup of Raisins

Day 5

Breakfast - Fresh Fruit and Turkey Bacon
Snack - Celery and Avocado Salsa
Lunch - Grilled Portobellos and Mediterranean Salad
Dinner - Shrimp and Sausage Skillet

Day 6

Breakfast - Fresh Fruit and Turkey Bacon (See a trend here? ;))
Snack - Celery and Avocado Salsa, Pumpkin Spice RxBar
Lunch - Carnitas Salad
Dinner - Shrimp, Zucchini, and Avocado Lettuce Wraps

Day 7

Breakfast - Fresh Fruit Salad
Snack - Apple Cinnamon Rx Bar
Lunch - Grilled Chicken and Olive Tapenade Salad
Snack - Broccoli Floretes with Tesamae's Ranch

Most of the recipes we use can be found on my Whole30 Pinterest board. Seriously, what did we do before Pinterest? Some recipes are modified to be Whole30 compliant, like the lettuce wraps and the portobello mushrooms with Mediterranean salad.

We finished up our last round of Whole30 a few weeks ago, and while there are no plans to start another round anytime soon, I still cook complaint a few nights a week. We also have a load of compliant products we have come to love, and things like packaged taco seasoning are a thing of the past in our household. If you have been debating doing a Whole30, do it. It's a real eye opened to how much sugar, colors, fillers are in foods we eat every day.