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.

Inspiration La Valencia

Sometimes our lives are like a lovely little dream.  I adore La Valencia and wanted to tell a story here.  Mike and I asked our friends at Before I Do Events to make some magic with us.  We were also so happy to work again with the paper artist Karina Puente.  She crafts the most beautiful handmade pieces and she created the backdrop for the day.  We met so many new friends this day and ended the evening celebrating with cocktails and maybe a little karaoke.  What started as a very rainy day ended up being sheer perfection and on the cover of Exquisite Weddings Magazine.  xoxo Suzanne and Mike 

Our collaborators.  Before I Do : La Valencia : Ashley Elizabeth Florals : Elle Bridal Boutique : Curl and Revel : Make me up Summer : Karina Puente : Farm Tables and More

4 Things // Hey Hey Summer

Hey hey summer, goodbye June gloom =)

Dreaming of: Body surfing with Maryanne. I want the thrill of the waves washing over me bringing summer into my body and mind. - Suzanne

Photographing: My first homecoming. Mike has photographed a few, but this was my first time capturing someone get off a plane and come home to their family. It was so thrilling to  hang out with Katie and her 2 and 4 year old daughters waiting for their dad to finally come home. What a joyous moment. I felt so lucky to get to share it with them. - Suzanne

A corporate event at Estancia. Sometimes an event can be as grand as a wedding and it was fun to apply my wedding skills to a weekday event at one of my favorite places. - Mike

Hiking: I finally got one of those toddler backpacks to take Gaidin hiking just in time for his third birthday. Adventure is ahead for us. - Mike

Watching: John Lovell on YouTube. He's an interesting guy who links health, fitness, self defense and morals all in one. 

Fertility Vacation // Dog Days are Over

It’s been another week of big shifts. I’m shedding my skin. I have this new feeling that I can get pregnant. The woman I passed by on the street was far along and I felt connected to her. I felt like I could be her one day. I sensed that it must be weird and uncomfortable to be lopsided.

I’m letting go. I drank some peppermint tea. I walked to the garden and listened to this song:

Things could have been stranger, but I don’t know how
I’m going through changes now
I’ve spent a lifetime trying to figure it out
I’m going through changes now
And i’ve just begun
Under a purple sun
There are many reasons we are what we become
I’m going through changes, ripping out pages
I knew it once, but i forgot
I’m going through changes now
We want everything, but we get what we got
I’m going through changes now
Maybe it’s too soon
Under a purple moon
Maybe it’s too soon
But I’d ride off with you in a big balloon
I’m going through changes, rattling cages
I’m going through changes now
Things could be different but I don’t know how
I’m going through changes, through all of the strangeness
I’m going through changes now.

         - Langhorne Slim & The Law - The Spirit Moves

Welcoming Baby Max

We showered our friends Jen and Vlad before their adorable little one arrived.  Jen's house has such rad style and we love photographing there.  

Baby Max, you are so loved.

xoxo,

Suzanne

 

4 Things // Changes

Dreaming of : A couple of average days. This week has been a ton of change. Mostly good and a little bad. Even good change is change and for some reason all of the change has me spinning. I would love a couple of average days strung together. - Suzanne

Photographing : Tara and Jason's San Juan Capistrano rehearsal dinner at the Mission and wedding on their family's property. I'm so excited to see her dreams come to life with the amazing Donna Urban. - Suzanne

Reading : I just started reading Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. More on that to come! - Mike

Watching : The Lego Movie. I'm also looking forward to seeing my mom next month. She comes out a couple times of year from New York and it's always great to have her in town. 

xoxo

 

 

Fertility Vacation // Trying New Things - EMDR, Massage & B12

“If you want something you've never had, you must be willing to do something you've never done.” - Thomas Jefferson

The weirder it sounds, sign me up. This is my recent motto as I tried to do everything in my power this week to recover and know that it’s safe to try to get pregnant in August. I made a long list and started to make appointments.

I saw my therapist and decided to try some new forms of therapy for PTSD. Normally I would be somewhat resistant, but since nothing I was doing was working, I decided to trust her.

A couple of days ago we started the initial stages of EMDR. Even though it was just the start of the process it was enough of a disruption to shake things up. The experience was much more physical than I imagined. At times I felt heavy, paralyzed, in so much physical pain and then lighter, my skin felt electric. The whole experience was a little indescribable.

I scheduled a massage at my physical therapist right afterwards, I wanted something to look forward to and a space to force myself to relax.

Something about this odd experience allowed my body/mind/hormones let go. I’m not sure what even exactly was happening to me from a scientific point of view with the hormone withdrawal, but having the start of EMDR seems to have tipped the scales and brought me back in alignment.

It’s given me a way back to myself and allowed me to look forward to trying again. It’s given me a chance to follow my dreams again. The next morning I received a B12 shot and my body immediately responded with more energy and better sleep.

So, it’s been quiet the month. I was a little lost and looking for a way back to me. I’m sharing this because I never would have guessed that this could have possibly worked. Honestly, I went to my therapist thinking the hormones ruined me and I wouldn’t find my way back. I thought I just might always be a little sadder and I would just have to learn to cope. I was nervous going through the treatment again and that it would just add another block of sadness to my life and I accepted I might not be the same. Jeez that’s pretty personal.

But today I feel great, normal even, like myself.

Just in case anyone else is feeling the heartbreak of hormones ravaging your system, I just wanted to lend a hand. In desperation, I tried a few things and by some twist of fate it happened to work. I’m so excited to go back to Prague with so much less fear and a better game plan to either celebrate a healthy pregnancy or find a safe way to stay myself and try again.

Therapist, EMDR, Massage, B12 - who would have guessed? I will keep searching for ways to allow good things to come into my life.

4 Things // The Arts & Artists

Dreaming of: I'm dreaming of going to NYC. I'm not sure if I'll have time to swing it this summer, but the artist Mark Ryden designed the set and costumes of the new ballet, "Whip Cream", and I would so love to see it in person. Fingers crossed! - Suzanne

Seeing: Last night I listened to Sebastio Salgado lecture at MOPA. I've been a long time fan of his work and it was so fun to get to hear him speak about his work and travels across the globe. - Suzanne

Birthdays: All week I worked on trying to change Suzanne's birthday from Friday to Saturday and then changing the location of the party without her knowing. I now respect anyone who can pull off surprises like that (I sure can't!). Our friend Alynn helped me so much. - Mike

Watching: The Old Man and the Old Moon at the Old Globe was an amazing story about the cycle of life and how decisions we make mold the past the future. It was done in a really playful and vintage way with shadow puppets, folk music and some really cool old school theater acting. - Mike

Home : A little behind the scenes

Alex and Steve are the best neighbors.  One night we came home and found them celebrating around the pool with their friends and family because they had gotten married that day.  How fun is that!? So many spontaneous and fun things happen around our pool.  Here are some of the behind-the-scenes moments from the photoshoot we had last week.  

xoxo Mike

The Town

The last time I entered a photo contest I was still living I my hometown and probably 19.  It was at the local community college and I won first place for a black and white street scene taken from the Georges Pompidou in Paris.  I cut out two shapes of people and blocked the light from the enlarger from hitting the print in that area.  I've always been interested in this idea of connectiveness.  I guess somethings never change.  All these years later in still concerned with the idea of people finding common ground no matter where they are from.

I recently decided to spread my wings a little and try new things again.  

Here's my entry into The Magnum Photography Contest

Xoxo Suzanne

The Town

This body of work is about the idea of a town that is created in many places but exists in one body of work.  I’m interested in what we can have in common.  Maybe our sameness can expand our compassion.  I’d like to change the idea that our identity is based on us versus them.  That countries need borders and walls to separate us.
Our beginnings and endings, trials and errors, questions of identity and worth, dreams and risks can take place on any street.  Beauty is in the door frame we walk by without a second glance, the public art that questions gender or our most basic assumptions, in the buttons you push to get entrance/acceptance.  This is my collection of images and wishes that seeing beauty in a space might help others to see beauty in each other.  I hope that each image reminds you of something.  Maybe your hometown or somewhere you’ve visited.  I am looking for the familiar in far away places.  

4 Things // Artist Statement

Writing : An artist statement. I love photography and I don't love speaking about my work.  It's taken me a couple of weeks to squeak it out.  I love deadlines so the struggle has to end at some point. ha! I'm happy with what I came up with, but definitely want to shape it more clearly as the project goes on. - Suzanne

Reading :  The illusion of Separateness. I don't love reading books set in war time.  It often shakes me to the core and leaves me a little broken. This book is more about the idea that we imagine we are more separate than we are, and that small acts can profoundly change the course of so many lives.  I love the style that it's written in.  The narrators flip back and forth and the author doesn't waste a word. - Suzanne

Excited for : June 4th portrait shoot. We are doing 20 minute mini sessions and maybe a pin-up/sexier shoot. I've been working on my portfolio and am so inspired by Suzanne's personal work. I'm excited to be mixing photography in with my other hobbies to create an art project. Stay tuned!

Dreaming of : Iceland again. What a great place with such freedom.

xoxo
Suzanne & Mike

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

Inside Out :: Second Shooters

“Life is what happens while you are busy making other plans.” - John Lennon

Life has so many unexpected moments. Over the years, I have learned the importance of always having a backup plan. While planning for wedding season, one thing at the top of my checklist is making sure that I have a roster of great photographers with a mutual trust and shared commitment. Our wedding day “dream team” is in place to ensure that we’re offering a smooth and positive experience for our clients.

There is always the possibility of something happening to Mike or I. While we do everything (and I mean everything) in our power to be at every event we commit to, we want our clients to know that if we are very sick, injured, etc. that our team of second shooters are just as strong as any first shooters.

It's sort of like when the flight attendants talk about the unlikely event of a water landing, but give have an action plan just in case. 

I've been violently ill at a three day shoot in Del Mar, and called in my second shooter (Hanna). I was still able to art direct all day and no one was the wiser. 

With a trusted group of photographers, we go into every wedding day feeling confident and excited. I’m grateful to compensate these artists for their craft and give them an opportunity to improve at every wedding.  It also makes the event more fun because we can challenge and cheer each other on.

Whatever the universe has in store, it will be a magical day for our brides and grooms.

Here are a few awesome shots from the super talented Hanna at a recent wedding at The Inn at Rancho Santa Fe. 

Fertility Vacation // Invitations for Hope

What can we do to raise our chances of being parents? What solutions are inside of me?

  • Let go of other's expectations
  • Be as healthy as possible
  • Make room for new possibilities
  • Let go of fear, guilt, anxiety
  • Walking (a moving meditation)
  • Stretching slowly
  • Clearing out what I don’t need and what isn’t serving me
  • Reading for pleasure
  • Reading for knowledge
  • Listening to music
  • Finding activities that I take pleasure in
  • Photo walks
  • Eating outside with friends
  • Staycations
  • Painting
  • Playing with Gaidin
  • Making work and lifestyle changes
  • Connecting with friends and loved ones
  • Meditating
  • Eating well
  • Moving at the pleasure of my soul
  • Allowing time for reflection
  • Art dates
  • Date nights
  • The Artist’s Way with Mike
  • Getting more sun
  • Comedies or funny TV shows
  • Wild adventures
  • Inspiring documentaries
  • Going to the movies
  • Not taking myself too seriously
  • Celebrate the big and the small
  • Be grateful for my amazing family and friends
  • Be grateful for past, present and future opportunities
  • Love and accept myself

Maybe this is where I’m supposed to be. Maybe I’ll break, but I’ve got a list of tools to get me through it. All of these tools and invitations serve me and will make me stronger and are within my values.

I can’t wish for things to be any other way, than the way they are. I can only focus on what I CAN do given the circumstances.

One day I’ll be holding my baby in my arms, laughing at everything we went through and all the doubts. It will all feel worth it.

I don’t want to regret not living the best, most amazing life I possibly can.

Fertility Vacation // Wonderings

#AddingtotheOfeldts

I love that hashtag. It took me two seconds to come up with it. I wonder how long it will take us to pull it off?

I took the second test and it still says not pregnant. I so loved uno and dos. I tried not to name them and not to get too attached, but I still cared and wished for them with everything I had.

I’m plagued with self doubt and grief. I’m trying to feel it all and let it pass through me. My natural reaction is resilience. Sometimes I switch to a more hopeful reaction before all the sadness has gotten out of me. I’m so self disciplined to look on the sunny side of the street that I risk leaving emotions inside of me, trapped and forgotten about, but latent. I’m beginning to feel like it’s a bit dangerous.

I miss them so much. How long am I supposed to stay down and take a knee before I start fighting for them again? Grief seems useless and fighting seems so much better.Although, I’m not sure if I’m moving on to the fighting phase too soon and not letting go enough.  

I guess I can be healing while fighting all at the same time, similar to what we practice in yoga.  Mountain pose is energy to the sky and energy to the ground. Maybe it’s okay if I stumble, as long as I keep getting back up again. Exhale letting it all go, inhaling strength to keep moving forward.

It’s so hard to accept that everything can go so smoothly and yet still not end up with the result with we wanted. How can I be a different, better version of myself in July vs. April? Supplemental changes, additional hormone herbs, a clean house, more conversations with experienced friends, finish projects and feel really good and confident about where I am.

I don’t want to be different than I am on the other side of this journey. I don’t want to be so changed that I don’t recognize myself. That’s my wish for myself on the other side of this journey. Win or lose. That I’m still this girl.

The one that has resilience filling her up while she’s still mid fall.