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.

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Scarlett and Clark 2 Years


It will come as no surprise to anyone who is a regular reader of this blog that I am 2 months late getting to Scarlett and Clark's 2 year post. Life, as always, has been busy lately. We haven't had anything special going on, that's just the way life is with 4 kids. It seems like our house is always messy and there are never enough hours in the day to get everything done. The only reason I'm finding time for this now is because I'm covering at work for two weeks while one of my employees is in USVI, I'd much rather be there, and 30 dogs are more well behaved than 4 small children. I've loved the couple weeks with the dogs, but I'm pretty excited to get back to life as usual next week. I think Rob is probably pretty happy I'm almost done working too, because I'll stop asking if we can adopt more dogs.



So much has changed in the two months since S and C turned 2. I love this age because it's something new every day. They learn a new color, say a new word, show you they can count to 10. 2 is definitely my favorite. 2 isn't all perfect though, we're learning about time outs, enduring failed potty training attempts, already banning screen time, and vacuuming up more ground into the carpet Goldfish than one person should ever have to clean. Even with all that, 2 is still my favorite.


We introduced a Tot Clock last month after many 6am, or earlier, wake up calls. Both Scarlett and Clark have become masters at crawling out of their cribs. I know we should probably switch to toddler beds, but I'm just not quite ready to let go of naps, and I'm pretty sure naps will be over as soon as they are out of cribs. It has taken us a couple weeks to really get the hang of it, but they finally seem to get the concept of staying in bed until their light turns yellow. It's not as successful at nap time, but they're no longer climbing out of their cribs 5 times in the morning before 7am. Night time sleep is from 8 or 8:30pm until 6:45 or 7:00am. I am really looking forward to the time change this weekend, although when they're staying up until 9pm, I may be singing a different tune.


They are both growing like weeds and are about to move out of their size 2T clothes. It is almost impossible to carry both of them at once, and yet they still want to be carried up the stairs when it's time for bed. They do know how to walk up the stairs upright when they hold onto the railing, but Rob or I carrying them is preferable. Part of me misses having a ranch and never having to carry multiple kids up the stairs at once.

We have cut out all screen time during the week. Over the last couple months we got into the bad habit of letting them watch YouTube whenever we had something we had to get done. If I had to answer e-mails or order dishes? YouTube. Brooke and Harrison needed help with homework? YouTube. The Kitchen needed cleaned? YouTube. It got to the point that they would throw a tantrum when we turned off the TV. I decided we had to cut it out except for on weekends, and even then we try to minimize their viewing time. They still ask for it every day and get upset when we say no, but the basement toys have been getting much more use and I notice they are quicker to fall asleep at naps when they haven't been watch TV for an hour of the morning. They became quite obsessed with a few videos, mainly "Baby Shark," so now we have Alexa play it at least 6 times a day.


Favorite activities right now include: Magna Tiles, puzzles, trains, pretend kitchen, reading, coloring, anything they can do outside, and whatever Harrison and Brooke are doing. They are so much more independent now than they were just a couple months ago, but they still require a ton of energy because they go nonstop. If I step away for 10 minutes to take a shower, they are definitely trashing Harrison and Brooke's room or getting random food out of the pantry. How many times can Clark bring me the same box of cake mix before he realizes I can just open it for him and let him eat it? The jury is still out on that one, but the answer is at least 26 times. I think springtime is going to be really good for these two.

Clark

  • is obsessed with stuffed animals. His Build A Bear, Tiny Diny, and Penguin, or Guin as he calls him, are his favorites.
  • is turning nap fighting into a professional sport. He usually skips naps once a week, and we constantly have to tell him to lay back down, otherwise he will crawl out of his crib.
  • is putting together 2 word sentences. He is still a very quiet child, but he says new words each day.
  • screams at a higher pitch than I've ever heard a child scream. When he gets really upset, watch out.
  • still really likes to play on his own, but is enjoying playing with his siblings more each day.
  • ss starting to develop a thing for Lightning McQueen. It's probably time his first Cars viewing.
  • loves cheese, yogurt, and bananas.
  • refuses to eat dinner on an almost nightly basis unless it's chicken nuggets, mac and cheese, or take out
  • loves baths, especially when he gets to play with his color changing Hot Wheels.
  • gives the best hugs and kisses
  • has discovered a love for Corduroy books.
  • is great with colors and knows most numbers up to 10
  • wears size 8 shoes, 2T clothes, weighs 33.2 lbs, and is 35.5" tall




Scarlett
  • is baby obsessed. Baby dolls, books about babies, baby everything!
  • falls asleep like a champ. If we're in the van for more than 10 minutes anytime close to nap time, she's out.
  • is never quiet. If she's awake, she's talking. She's up to 3 or 4 word sentences.
  • can reliably count to 10 and knows most of her colors
  • will try almost any food I put in front of her.
  • avocados, berries, yogurt, and cherry tomatoes are her favorites.
  • loves to help me cook dinner and always tries whatever food I'm cutting up, even if that food is raw onions.
  • LOVES her daddy more than anyone else in the world. If he's home, she expects him to be carrying her at all times.
  • is hilarious and she knows it. She loves to joke and be silly. She also just loves to laugh.
  • is very strong willed and cries when you tell her no or she doesn't get her way.
  • is a major over reactor. If you touch her and she doesn't want you to, she cries like you hurt her.
  • wears size 7 shoes, 2T clothes, weighs 34.4 lbs, and is 35.5" tall

 





Every day with these two is an adventure, and I can't wait to see where their crazy train takes us to next.

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Cheers to 2 Years

I was kind of on the fence about doing a 2nd birthday party on New Year's Eve, but Rob doesn't get Saturdays off, so a New Year's Eve party we had. I decided to go with a traditional black and gold theme and lots of balloons, because Clark loves balloons, I mean who doesn't, but he's obsessed with them. There was lots of bubbly, the boozy kind and the kid friendly stuff, glittery cake, and massive sandwich trays because I definitely didn't feel the need to cook an entire meal.













It was a fun night with a small group of friends and family. Totally low key, and perfect for my wee man that gets overwhelmed easily. Everyone's favorite part of the evening was the New Years (6:53pm) countdown. We had a little issue with execution, but it was still loads of fun. You can get a little glimpse of it in the video below.



Cake Topper / Kiss Me Kate Studio
All other items crafted by me or purchased at Target