Fertility Vacation // Rest - What is it good for?

This morning feels unlike every other morning. I feel both healed and like I need rest.

Rest, but what kind of rest?

My favorite type of rest is after a long bike ride in Santorini, or body surfing with Maryanne and Gaidin in Coronado in the summer feeling all relaxed and tingly. I love the type of rest that involves sitting in a cafe to write about the day or sitting with my nephew wrapped in a towel watching the water together after we splash around. I think my idea of rest is sitting back, taking in an adventure, feeling grateful and spent in my body.

I knew I would have to shift this year. I knew rest wasn’t in my equation. I couldn’t find the pleasure in it. Rest was an annoying means to an end.

Since we’ve been trying to get pregnant, rest has been particularly confusing. Somewhere along the way, I equated the word rest and relax with failing. I detest failing. I feel like being alive is such a gift and wasting efforts or spending time on a project that fundamentally fails feels like being ungrateful.

When someone says, “As soon as you stop trying, you’ll get pregnant!”, what I actually hear is, “As soon as you trick your brain into not caring if you get pregnant, you’ll get pregnant!”. Or, “As soon as you become an entirely different person you’ll get pregnant!”.  It’s been a painful inner dialogue. What would it take for me to stop my brain from trying to get pregnant? My answer was to banish hope.

Every month I hoped I would get pregnant and every month I wouldn’t. So after a few years I stopped trying. I stopped hoping in every way I could. I tried to put blackout curtains in my mind on hope. It hurt. I was so sad. It hurt Mike too. He held hope for both of us. I’m the cheerleader in our relationship, but when I fall and lose all landmarks, Mike will pick us both up.

We have so many well meaning friends and family members. People see our struggle and want to help. Their kind words were trying to lead me home. Those words “rest/relax” weren’t big enough clues for me. They took away my power when they were suppose to give it back.

Right now, for me, rest is what you do in between rounds of fighting (no pun intended).  In between rounds of giving it your all and being your all. Fighting the good fight, hoping, wishing, praying and then in between, resting in that high vibration. Walk, run, swim, laugh, jump and rest in happiness.

I didn’t know what my post IVF fight would look like, but I’m proud of myself for being willing to go so far outside of my depth to let go of what isn’t serving me. My chi, my chakras, my vibe, my energy -  I’m getting stronger in places I’ve yet to understand.

Fertility Vacation // Practical Tips

Hi friends,

As many of you had requested, here are some practical tips from our fertility vacation in Prague. Hope it helps for your journey!

Flight
I booked my trip on WOW Airlines from Los Angeles to Berlin with a stopover in Iceland. I loved seeing the magic of the Northern Lights to fill up my spirit before the unknown of IVF.  I choose WOW for their stopover options.  Be careful on luggage charges and pack strategically.  Mike flew on Copa, a Russian airline that had some great last minute options into Prague since we didn't know exactly what days he should be there.

Home Away from Home
We booked a few Airbnb apartments throughout our stay. We prefer to get to know a neighborhood, and then book last minute while we are on site. Other people like to book in advance to feel a bit more settled before their trip. We loved the photogenic Vinohrady district, which is an art deco neighborhood off the beaten path, but still close enough to everything.

Time Commitment
I would recommend about a month-long trip for a Fertility Vacation; give or take a few extra days for travel and to account for what day your period will start. Technically, the guy only needs to be there a day or two for sperm retrieval, but having Mike as my emotional support during implantation, and also my adventure partner was necessary for a few days longer. Here is a sample schedule from our IVF clinic:

Day 1 – arrival
Day 2 – Initial consultation, gynaecological examination. The man will follow with blood sampling and sperm freezing. Paperwork, payment, signatures, man can leave if necessary.
Day 3 - 7 eggs retrieved from the donor, their fertilization
2 - 5 days after fertilization (i.e. between Day 5 – 12) cultivation of embryos takes place. It is finished by embryo transfer
After the transfer we recommend to relax at least for 24 hours before you fly back home.
In total 7 - 12 nights

Fertility Clinic - Praga Medica
Overall, we had a really positive experience at Praga Medica. The staff made us feel comfortable and understood, despite the language barrier. They provided a translator as part of the fees. They were helpful and competent, even if their approach to kindness was different than smiling (they’re definitely not going to smile at you!).

Money Money Money Money….Money
There are a lot of factors to consider with a Fertility Vacation. Vacation days from work, life commitments, how many times you want to try IVF, etc. Cost was a huge factor for us and with our flexible lifestyle and love for travel, a fertility vacation made the most sense.

In total - the cost of IVF, travel, room and board - our trip was about $10,000. Keep in mind, we also lived for that price - meals, shows, etc. IVF in the U.S. runs about $15-$20k. Most people I have spoken with said the cost is $20k, if you’re lucky, as it’s not uncommon to cost astronomically more than that. One of my friends was close to $65k and was successful on the first IVF attempt although they tried multiple options along the way.

Research
Prior to choosing Praga Medica we Googled a few IVF clinics in Prague. We compared each clinic and then also asked our friend who is an IVF consultant here in the U.S. to see her recommendation. After interviewing Praga Medica, we felt like they stood out to us and were the best choice. Here is our list of questions from the interview

Prague
Being in Prague was the best part of our experience; away from everything and focused on us. Prague is a big sprawling city that is affordable and has a ton of activities including unique cafes, foodie hot spots and art classes. There were historic city tours, food tours, music performances, day trips to charming towns like Cesky Krumlov, Karlovy Vary, Vienna and Budapest. So many choices!

Is a Fertility Vacation right for you? You should:

  • Love to be in a new city
  • Want to be parents
  • Feel comfortable being away from home
  • Have a support system in place; smart phones, Hello TMobile, friends to visit, etc.
  • Find a way to communicate with your people so you don’t feel alone and so that everyone at home still feels included

While on your fertility Vacation - Suzanne says:

  • Pick a place and neighborhood to stay; let yourself feel the routine of it
  • Pick what time of day to take for your shots that fits best into your desired routine - mine had to be between 6 and 8pm. I choose 6 but as a photographer I wished I had chosen 7:30 so I didn't have to miss the golden hour
  • Discover your favorite coffee shop and become a regular
  • The shot has to be refrigerated so bring a cooler/ice pack with you so you don't have to go all the way back to your hotel if you don't want to

While on your Fertility Vacation - Mike says:

  • Find a way to relax and enjoy your time, instead of constantly thinking about the procedure
  • Spend enough time in your city: two full weeks for me was enough time for fun and exploration
  • Treat yourself while you’re there
  • It's a journey and it’s hard, but it also builds character and a sense of adventure
  • Be willing to allow yourself to have fun
  • It's not a dreadful event, but rather a life adventure

Things that made us feel at home - Suzanne’s lens:

  • Went for Mexican food (Las Adelitas - Malé Naměstí 13) so many times, nothing says home more than tacos
  • Drawing classes make me feel comfortable to me when traveling
  • Mike’s walking tours. I pick places I’m interested in and then Mike holds my hand and and navigates me around the city, adding in his own special stops. I love following him around and he loves logistically organizing everything.
  • Lunch and going to the museum
  • English book store called “Shakespeare's” where expats congregate
  • I feel really at home amongst tourists and listening to all of the languages being spoken.  You find tourists in the most incredible places; they are my tribe.

Things that made us feel at home - Mike’s lens:

  • Going to the movies (three times!)
  • Museums
  • Visiting historical sights and art exhibits
  • Farmers markets and swap meets
  • Finding every cool coffee shop
  • Drinking a beer before noon
  • Walking  5-8 miles a day
  • Endless picture taking and mini photo shoots of each other
  • We had friends meet us there from England, Dubai, Switzerland and Sweden

Emotional Preparation
IVF Is hard. There are no two ways around it. PMS has nothing on IVF.  It is identity shaking, emotional, disruptive. The weeks during the actual IVF process were fine, even great, but the aftermath of the hormone depletion was completely overwhelming. I feel much better equipped for the second time around. I have less fear and will relax more, now that I understand the upcoming challenges.

Lots of love to you!!

Suzanne & Mike

Fertility Vacation // Hope Found

I’m feeling both strong and delicate lately.

2016 gave us plenty of excuses to have failed at our fertility vacations. Our hearts were broken over and over again. We lost so many close friends and family, and also fought cancer and won. We were distracted and broken hearted, yet somehow found the resources and perseverance to make it to the operating room, staring at two black and white embryos on the monitor.

We somehow found a way to hope again after so many years of heartache.

I’m so surprised and grateful that we could find something inside of us that allowed for hope. I didn’t expect to find hope on this journey. I knew we could find out how to get to Prague or how to try for adoption. I was committed to trying, but hope had long been out of the equation for me.

I am now full of strength and hope. Hope to be pregnant. And hope to try again if we’re not.

Fertility Vacation // Life TBD

It feels like most parts of my life are walking around with their shoelaces untied. My heart and body feel a little discombobulated as I look out to still unpacked suitcases from Cuba, Iceland, Germany and Prague. End of the year projects are awaiting final touches. Two gravestones in New York not yet graced by our flowers and presence. A part of me still reeling from the election.

Being home has been mostly jet lag and coffee withdrawals. I’ve missed everything we had planned - an epic 50th party with our friend’s band playing, a heartfelt fundraiser, a three day artist retreat in Joshua Tree.

I feel like saying “not today” to every activity I’m presented with. I belong at the beach, curing my insatiable need to hear the waves, walking on the boardwalk and playing in the sand with my nephew.

I can’t throw myself back into work just yet and into the editing tunnel of projects in the backlog. I’m afraid I’l lose this sense of self I’ve created through photographing and walking around Europe for five weeks. I’ve done so much to stay present in my heart and body.

Don’t get me wrong, I love editing, getting lost in my work, pouring over images, categorizing and then sharing them. I love finding threads that run throughout and juxtapositions to tell the perfect story. I love discovering and re-living the memories, but there is inevitably some kind of intellectual pursuit that comes up. There are moments of self doubt as I categorize the images and I get too much in my head. The computer won’t move fast enough, my hand begins to cramp.

When I’m shooting, I’m solely creating. Everything is alive with possibilities. I’m free with no boundaries, restrictions or time constraints.

For now, I want to find order in the physical and continue Marie Kondoing our apartment. I want to stay in this realm with our little embryos inside of me because for a couple days, I’m their mom and I want to be here for it. I want these couple days to be great.

For now, I’ll walk in the sunshine and just make sure not to trip on my shoelaces.

Fertility Vacation // A Little Scare

It’s nice to be home. It’s been almost a week now, and in four more days, we take a pregnancy test. I’ve had extreme jet lag since I’ve been home, waking up between 3:15-5:15 every morning. I feel like half of me is still walking around Prague, taking pictures all day. I miss the movement. I miss charting out a course in the morning and getting lost in the different neighborhoods never knowing what we will discover next.

It’s good to be home nonetheless. I’ve been filling my sleep deprived self with energy from the ocean. The water and waves have a way with inner peace.

A couple of days ago I had some pains in my lower abdomen. I had been running a slight fever as well so I called my regular physician for an appointment. The nurse said it sounded like complications from IVF and that I should go to the clinic immediately. I then explained that our clinic was in Europe.

They gave me an appointment for later that day, but mentioned they might send me to the emergency room because these things can go wrong, quickly. It felt like the magical Prague bubble had been popped. Any concerns that I had at the clinic in Prague weren’t met with so much alarm.

I tried to remind myself that I was back in the states where emotions tend to run a little higher. I sat in the bathroom with tears running down my face, hands holding my stomach, frustrated with our alarmist nature, and mostly scared of losing my two. I can’t imagine a world so cruel. I shoved all the thoughts out of me and waited for my appointment.

My physician started asking me a barrage of questions about my symptoms and what hormones I had taken in Prague. She phrased some of the questions in the form of, “This is what we do here, I’m not sure how they do it there.” I answered all of her questions and it all seemed to be the same.

I did have this “off” feeling that there was an assumption that we do IVF better here. Since neither of us had experienced IVF both in Prague and the U.S., I found this a little irritating. We ruled out a UTI or bacterial infection and she examined my liver to make sure it hadn’t expanded which would be an indication of a more serious problem. My liver seemed normal size. She explained her concern of an ectopic pregnancy and that I would be in terrible pain if that was the case.

In the end, nothing was wrong and the pain was most likely my ligaments stretching from the hormones I’m taking. I reminded myself that there isn’t a language barrier anymore and doctors like to talk in worst case scenarios. No more strange “think positive” smiles from my Eastern European doctor. Instead, cryptic worried messages from my kind, smart, American doctor.

I sat on the couch when I got home with all of my energy depleted. I told myself that our journey is going to be a long one, and that I’ll listen to my body, ask for advice, and consider the source so I can stay calm and feel vitality.

Fertility Vacation // No Secrets

So here we are on the last day of our trip. Four days since “uno” and “dos” have been put back inside of me. The doctor told me to avoid baths, jacuzzis, swimming pools, heavy lifting, over doing it, and uncooked meat for the first three days.

The first three days were crucial. It feels good to have made it that far. While I won’t know for another 10 days if I’ve made it at all, I still love the milestone. If uno and dos are born, I can tell them how I loved them and wished them safe passages as I walked around Prague and Berlin, putting myself in the way of beauty.

So many kind people have commented or texted their wishes to us. A few mentioned how brave we are for sharing our IVF story. Mike has mentioned several times that he thinks I’m brave too.

It’s been odd to wrap my mind around this concept. From the beginning, I decided that I was more afraid to attempt IVF in secret, than to tell everyone about my journey. The stress of not being able to keep the secret would bury me.  

I don’t like secrets. I don’t think they are fun to keep.

I remember when I was a teenager and my parent’s marriage was falling apart. Times were tough, but it was important to me that it didn’t show. It felt like a terrible secret I was hiding. I got so good at hiding, that it took me a long time to be comfortable showing people my whole self. I can certainly give Mike a lot of credit for helping me bring out my light and my dark side. When we first met, I decided that if he was going to for fall me, I had to show him the real me.

Being transparent is now a part of my essence.

My brother told me secretly that he was going to propose to his girlfriend. He asked me not to tell anyone. So I called Mike (hey, he’s my husband!). Then I may have called my mom (well, she is my mom!). So if you have any good news, I’ll probably tell Mike and my mom too.

All of this to say, I couldn’t have gone to Europe for five weeks and not told you my hopes and dreams. I’m not really made that way.

Of course I’m scared, because maybe in 10 days a stick will break my heart and everyone will know.

But ultimately, I feel free that my spirit is full of truth and hope, not secrets.

Fertility Vacation // A Heart Full of Gratitude

“No one has friends half as good as mine or loves them half as much.”

I butchered that quote, but the people in our lives astound me and I am wholeheartedly grateful for them.

I often think we must have done something right to have such incredible people in our lives. Really incredible people like Cristina, Vanessa, Jenny and Janna who would fly out and meet us in Prague, Germany, and Iceland.

An amazing group of people in San Diego and scattered all over the world, rooting for us and our 10 eggs. Everyone has been so kind on Facebook, via text, and WhatsApp. It’s been good to share our experience. I feel so safe wrapped in everyone’s collective prayers and vibes.

I like to imagine our little eggs swaddled in a myriad of wishes and dreams; all of us collectively willing life into them. I want them to be safe and healthy and know they are loved. Four eggs growing strong, three slightly slower; seven eggs left in the race. They are small, but mighty.

While my mind is exploding with wonder, I am gently reminded of the song, “Que Sera Sera”.

Que sera, sera
Whatever will be, will be
The future's not ours to see
Que sera, sera
What will be, will be.

I feel grateful for the opportunity to try IVF.  Some people never even have this chance. At the very least I can give it my all in the process and feel grateful for every opportunity. Grateful for IVF, for travel, for Prague, for the lower prices in Europe, for my translator, for amazing coffee, and for my handsome husband.

Fertility Vacation // Down But Not Out

I woke up tired with a general low level of pain and a lingering sinus cold. The last two days I’ve had a really hard time waking up. I think my body misses the hormones. Mike thinks it could be psychological, or from the surgery, or sightseeing too much every day.

My hands hurt and my arms are heavy. It doesn’t seem coincidental to feel like darkness is slowly surrounding me from behind like a shroud. I’ve been down this road before, I can handle it. The sun is out and spring is here, but I’m not getting the usual spark from the sun.

I miss the eggs being inside me. It’s absurd because they are obviously in the most capable hands, but I really miss having them so close and wishing good things for them.

I’ll choose to be positive all the same and separate my physical self from my mental self.

Meditation is good for the soul. Whenever I remember, I use the Headspace app and it makes me feel more peaceful. Today I meditated in a garden at the Prague Castle. Real or imagined, there were hedges shaped like eggs in the garden.

Fertility Vacation // Egg Retrieval Vibes - Why Not Us?

It’s time for egg retrieval surgery and I’m alive with possibilities. I can almost feel the little hand of our baby wrapping his fingers around one of mine. Mike and I sitting on the couch, smiling at the cuteness. Maybe we are both holding a baby. How cool would that be? A little boy and girl.

Who knows what will happen, but today we have a chance. Today we are one step closer to the family of our dreams. One step closer than we’ve ever been. I love IFV.

The universe is unfolding in our favor.

________________________________________________________

The surgery went well. The doctor informed us we have 10 eggs and that usually a third of the eggs are viable. 16 follicles, 10 eggs, and maybe a third would fertilize; so incredible.

Now there is nothing to do, but wait. No shots, no pills, just an evening off. We went to the Communism Museum and did some window shopping around the Palladium. We took a nap and then ate an indulgent dinner at Cafe Stav.

We are both starting to get really hopeful. Why not us? Someone has to be the 10%. Why not the Ofeldts? I dream of twins. Sweet and healthy babies of our own to love. No one can take them away like foster kids. They would be ours to love forever. I still really want to adopt, I just don’t want them to be taken away. Maybe this is our time. Maybe we will be the lucky ones.

I’m holding my breath. I’m crossing my fingers. I’m loving Mike and when the fear creeps in, I’m remembering to be grateful for the opportunity and the chances we have ahead of us. Sometimes I like to imagine singing songs to the baby, reading a book, teaching him or her about the colors, and laughing in the pool. All of the glimpses into a beautiful life.

There are logistics and so many real life issues, but I feel like it’s my job to stay in dream land for a couple more weeks. Things feel delicate. I need to take care of our family and be here, now.

Fertility Vacation // A Darn Cold

Good morning, Morning Pages. Getting a cold a few days before egg retrieval during an IVF vacation is about as appetizing as being sick in bed when you’re supposed to be hosting Christmas dinner. There is a never a good time to get a cold on vacation, but this feels a little worse.

Warm baths, hot tea, lemon, salt, medicine, ginger - yeah yeah yeah. I’d just prefer to feel the physical vitality that I have in my heart. C'est la vie.

I’ve spent a few weeks raising my hope levels and lowering my fear levels. Last night I took my last Purgeon hormone shot. I’m oddly sad that I won’t get Purgeon anymore. I’m nervous that the brain fog will return as I’ve been feeling a little edgier and emotional. Who knows if it’s the cold, the lack of Puregon, the new meds, or just life. I wonder what fears are real and what fears are imagined.

I love the mantra, “The universe is unfolding in my favor”. I also love Mike’s quote to me, “You are so good at following your dreams”.

Even with a cloudy head and stuffy nose, I will choose to trust this course with joy in my heart and ask questions as needed.

Fertility Vacation // Last shot & What's Next

Tonight is my last night of hormone shots. Cheers to that! It's been slightly disruptive to our daily schedule to be near the fridge at 6pm everyday. While the hormones don't bother me, aside from immediately knocking me out for 15 minutes, I'm happy for them to be gone. 11 more days in Prague and a little more freedom after tonight.

Today we met with a third doctor and so far he is my favorite. I feel like we get passed around a bit, but it seems to be time related as my body dictates when we need an appointment. It's all dependent on when my period starts, how I respond to the hormones, how many controls I need, how large the follicles are, etc.

On Monday (two days from now) we have our egg retrieval appointment. Embryo implantation will then happen on Wednesday, Thursday or Friday depending on how the eggs grow and what the endocrinologist says. Both the doctor and Veronica, our translator, seemed pleased with the results this morning. I didn’t need anymore controls or hormones, my body is responding great. The next shot I take will be to induce ovulation.

We also discussed what type of options would increase our chances of getting pregnant. We went with the “Uterus Glue” and “Embryo Hatching” as my friend Amy had suggested. We also chose video monitoring of the eggs and Acupuncture before and after implantation.

This process has had quite the learning curve and I am still figuring it all out.

I wonder how many eggs they will find and how many are viable. I wonder what happens to the other eggs. I can't remember what we read online anymore. If we want to come back and try IVF again in the future, do both Mike and I come back? Do they save all of the eggs and sperm? Can someone else have them if we don’t use them?

I would love to have twins. If they insert two eggs, and we get pregnant with twins, that would be incredible. I keep reminding myself not to get too far ahead, but it's the flashes of future dreams with Mike and our kids that keeps me going.

4 Thing // New Sights

Mike made it to Prague, yay! We are exploring and making the most of our time here. 

Photographing : Everyday Prague; the life, the cafes, the views. It's a romantic city and we can't stop trying to reflect something back that sums up how it feels to be here. - Suzanne & Mike

Listening to : The Royal Czech Orchestra at the Charles Bridge Palace.  Initially I was interested in being in the same room that Mozart once stood. Mozart! The real Mozart. And also where Milos Forman filmed "Amadeus". Milos Forman is such a cool director to me. The palace is stunning, it's so fascinating. Everywhere you look something else reveals itself to you. I was totally unprepared for the music.  The six musicians who stood 12 feet in front of me blew my mind.  It's rare to be in such close proximity to the musicians without anything obstructing your view.  We were in the second row of folding chairs. I could see every musician's hands.  4 violins, 1 bass, 1 cello, 1 opera singer and pure magic. The skill level was beyond comprehension. Their speed and dexterity, the way they anticipated each other's movement without a conductor made my heart literally soar.  As cliche as it sounds, I felt like I was flying.  Sometimes fast, or slow, darker, then romantic, surprising, running, walking, waltzing...flying. It all felt like flying.  It's such a small room that every person was a part of the energy. No microphones just incredible acoustics. - Suzanne

Dreaming of : Positive vibes and the stars aligning. - Mike & Suzanne

Exploring: The Torture Museum (Prague's darker side) with our friend Janna from Sweden.  It was a tiny little place with an odd narrow hallway. A short walk through a weird part of humanity. Better to look toward peace. - Mike

xoxo
Suzanne & Mike

One of my favorites from Berlin, a few days before coming to Prague. 

One of my favorites from Berlin, a few days before coming to Prague. 

Fertility Vacation // The First Injection

There we sat, the carefree girls from 8 hours earlier, now on the apartment couch, overcome with fear. In a brave moment of, "let’s just get it over with", I grabbed everything out of the fridge. Jenny and I set it up as fast as we could, just as the nurse had explained.

I pinched the skin on my stomach and pointed the needle at my skin. I didn’t want the medicine. I didn’t want to willingly hurt my own body. Logically, it made sense, but a part of me felt like I was betraying the universe and the gratitude I work to cultivate. I recognized this as the fear talking and remembered the greater purpose.

I pictured the nurse looking at me and I heard Jenny's helpful voice that felt steady and determined. "Is this the right number? Then push."

I pushed the needle in. The pain was small and only at the beginning. I awkwardly pushed until everything was in my body; exhale.

The three of us congratulated ourselves and drew on some shrinky dinks to distract our minds. 10 minutes later I was coloring the mane of my shrinky dink horse and my eyelids were suddenly heavy. I laid down.

The translator mentioned I might get hungry, tired, and feel a deep swell in my lower abdomen. I closed my eyes wondering if I would be out for the night.

I noticed an odd feeling in my belly and drifted in and out of consciousness. After about 20 minutes, I slowly sat up on the couch and felt myself waking up; as if I had been asleep all night and had to transition to being awake.

The rest of the night I surprisingly felt a general ease. I enjoyed chatting, eating tacos, and sipping the smallest amounts of tequila.

I can’t really tell how I feel in the end. Do I feel balanced and relaxed because nothing other than an unrequested nap happened? Or do I feel good because my body somehow needed those hormones?

Either way I’ll take the win. I feel good, normal, and balanced. Really good actually. I have exactly 7.5 hours until my next injection so I will see how it goes.

I’m actively choosing activities and thoughts that feel beautiful and in alignment with positivity.

Fertility Vacation // 8 Hours

We walked around Prague laughing and taking pictures. Three seemingly carefree tourists with tiny bottles of alcohol in our winter jackets. Happy St. Patrick’s Day.

8 hours of freedom. 8 hours before my first injection.

My happy place is walking around and falling in love with a new place. It makes me feel positive and at peace. I feel a deep sense of contentment knowing that I’m not taking my life for granted. One of the easiest ways I can show gratitude for my life is to travel to the world’s meccas and pay tribute to how beautiful the world is.

Hi Universe, I see you. I'm profoundly grateful for your accomplishments and these pockets of peace that you have created all over the globe. I see your light and I'm doing my best to reflect it in my images, my open heart, and the soft, happy smile I pass to others enjoying your beauty.

We wandered into Shakespeare's old book store and took photos of the picturesque buildings. We asked tourists to take our picture in front of the river with the Charles Bridge behind us. We saw the Lennon Wall which felt peaceful and open. Alongside us were families, school groups, travelers, Instagrammers, Facebookers and lovers from all over the world, all walking by and talking pictures.

We stayed a while, sipping whiskey and indulging in Vanessa’s deep love for St. Patty’s Day (she’s from Chicago). We had a pub lunch. We passed the river again and saw a boat pulling a life-size inflatable pastel tank with a giant sign that read #MakeLoveNotWalls. I'm glad that someone felt like making floating art with that message. I didn’t let it cast any shadows of reality.

I still had two more hours until I would willingly give myself a shot. Two more hours before I would find out how the hormones would affect me. Two more hours to not be afraid of the possible disruption in my mental stability.

Medicine and I don’t typically get along. When I was in Africa, the malaria medicine made me hallucinate spiders. I took antibiotics 10 years ago and my GI tract has still not recovered. In fact, one of the effects of the antibiotics was temporary infertility, which is why I'm waltzing around Prague in the first place.  Why would I willingly shoot hormones two inches to the right and one inch down from my belly button?

Eventually we made our way back to our Airbnb apartment. About a block away, time ran out.  As always, I’m able to completely ignore something until a few minutes before it happens, and then panic sets in. All of a sudden my mind was shouting, “No, no, no, don’t do it!”. My head was shaking back and forth as I told Vanessa and Jenny that I didn’t want to do it. I really didn’t want to do it.

As we approached the door, my heart was running a full blown hundred-meter dash.  I knew it was unreasonable, but I had no idea how my body or mind would respond. Neither were interested in finding out.

Vanessa was sweet and tried to think of calming techniques. She told me to focus on my belly because one day, it might grow a baby.

My mind desperately tried to find something to hold onto. “The sooner you do it, the sooner it’s over”.

That I could get behind.

Fertility Vacation // Relax

I went to the clinic to meet with my doctor and pick up my hormone shots. The doctor seemed generally a bit cold. He told me that there was nothing I could do to increase my chances of getting pregnant, other than positive thinking. He then smiled strangely, as if smiling wasn’t an everyday occurrence. As if, he only smiled in this type of an instance.

It was funny and a little unsettling, but I’ve opted for positive thinking.

At least he didn’t say relax.

Well meaning people say to relax all the time. The little stick figure in my head violently punches them repeatedly in the face while I smile and nod, knowing they have good intentions. If relaxing is a criterion for something, I’m unlikely to sign up. If consistent effort and hard work is at play, put me at the top of the list.

Eventually after mapping out an estimate of my schedule for the next couple weeks, he sent me to the nurse’s office. The nurse, I liked immediately. This was not her first rodeo. She is the kind of lady I want on my team. An Eastern Bloc type of mom with no nonsense. I could feel a mutual understanding that we were surrounded by ineptitude, but that she would make sure my ship stayed on course.

She demonstrated the procedure to me, while my translator, whose entire outfit I have pinned at one time or another, made sense of her words. It was clear that the nurse had zero confidence in my translator and made her explain it to me several times.

In all fairness, I was a little distracted by my translator’s vibrant outfit amidst the stoic environment. I would totally wear that to a bar. I wonder how comfortable it is to wear a leather jacket indoors? I want to ask her where she got her shoes. Maybe it was the nerves about willingly giving myself a shot that had my mind wandering. Luckily she translated everything several times and my trusty friend Jenny was there to witness the procedure.

// Insert a vile. Dial it to the correct number. Insert a needle. Lean forward and relax my stomach. Pinch a “muffin top” (her words) and insert the needle two inches to the side of my belly button and once inch down. Push the pen until it won’t push anymore. Do this every night, between 6pm-8pm. \\

I looked at the nurse. She looked at me. The gravity of the situation passed between us. The translator mentioned something about YouTube videos, but I didn’t break my gaze with the nurse. We both exhaled a small sigh. A deep resolve and understanding that despite the incompetence of others, we’ve got this.

I shook her hand. It felt like we took this first monumental step together. She made me feel like everything was going to be okay. I felt grateful to have found someone who gave me strength and made feel grounded.

She was the type of person who would never tell someone to relax.

Fertility Vacation // 10% and all the Emotions

Today I had my first IVF appointment where the clinic re-did a few tests, including checking my current hormone levels. The doctor said we actually have a 10% chance of getting pregnant, not a 30% chance like we had understood on the call, because I’m 41. I was told to come back in two days to pick up the injections and learn how to give myself a daily shot. Yikes. She said that some follicles were visible which is good for our chances.

I left the clinic and walked for an hour to the Old Square. When I got there I realized I was hungry. I sat down to order and felt that I was near passing out. Not exactly fainting, just falling asleep without control. Is there a difference? I think I was a little bit in shock. 10%?

There is always a delay with me. My natural reaction is to be strong and say, “I can handle this”. What follows is an unexpected falling apart.

We had planned for 30%. We would try three times in the next 12 months with a 30% chance. I realize now that we actually have a 10% chance each time. How do I have hope every day in the process? What’s it like to keep going?

After lunch I walked around some more and then posted up in a lively cafe. I peered out the window, drawing, writing, collecting my thoughts, and wondering, how do I feel?

I’ve entered some kind of beautiful dream full of uncertainty and perhaps some inevitable heartbreak. This dream has the potential to burst my heart wide open by putting one or two more Ofeldts on this earth. It’s a dream I am absolutely made for.

I’m vacillating between feeling incredibly strong and heroic, and feeling like I may have a panic attack right here at EMA Espresso bar. A duplicity that seems to be the new normal.

I wonder about the people I’m watching and drawing. I wonder about their story. Do they have something exploding out of them as big as invisible sunbeams, or are they just having a regular day where all of their emotions are in the normal range?

Fertility Vacation // The Past & Choosing Prague

I’m pretty comfortable at 30,000 feet above sea level. Although, as I pack my bags for this month-long adventure, it feels different. A fertility vacation in Prague; this trip has more unknowns than ever before.

Quick backstory to catch you up. Up until I met Mike, I could never mentally picture a husband in my vision of my future self and family. I would see other people getting married and think, how could I ever love someone enough to spend my entire life with them? After I met Mike, that vision changed almost immediately. His mom sent me a card one day and taped to it was a picture of Mike as a baby in the bathtub.

I want to have a baby with this man.

Mike and I have been trying to start a family since 2013. It’s been devastating. I can’t possibly be dramatic enough with words. It’s been hard to be strong everyday and make this dream come true, when everything feels so hard. It can be easy for some people, but it’s hard for us.

It was really surprising to me that we couldn’t get pregnant, and something I never expected with life. I always knew I wanted to be a mom and have never doubted this is something I will be. I always just thought I would get pregnant right away. When I didn’t, it made me question myself and my choices on such a fundamental level.

IVF was always something I thought about, even as a kid. But as reality set in as an adult, Mike and I discovered that it was out of our price range.

My friend Nicole enlightened me to fertility vacations in Prague. This of course got my heart pounding with interest. Prague has a good reputation for IVF, is considerably more affordable than IVF in the U.S, and is a beautiful part of the world.  Check, check and check.  

I feel comfortable in Prague. It’s a photogenic, walkable city. Being in Prague, away from the financial pressures and the stress of everyday life will help me stay relaxed. As a person who values freedom and exploration, being in a different city feeds and calms me. I am my truest self while traveling.

In real life, I run a photography business and “adult” everyday (well, mostly everyday). On vacation, I get to walk around all day and take photos, eat lunch outside, visit museums, and feel the energy of the city. Days full of self care and relaxation.

A fertility vacation in Prague makes perfect sense.

The process as I know it so far will consist of hormone injections every three days for two weeks. There will be more appointments, and then eventually they will remove my eggs and put Mike’s sperm and one of my eggs together. And then, they will put the embryo back inside me.

I’m sure there will be a little more romance and details involved, but I’ll focus on that once my feet hit the ground.

We will try IVF three times in Prague over the course of this year. We will then try adoption. If not adoption, we will be Big Brothers and Sisters.

I am a little nervous, but mostly hopeful. We know that ultimately we will be parents, we just don’t know the path quite yet.

And now to finish packing. Three suitcases, art supplies, and movies. Journals and soul books. Everything creative. I wish I had more time to pack, but I guess it wouldn’t really matter. I'm not sure I'd ever be ready.  Time to jump.

xoxo
Suzanne