Fertility Journey : A year later...

I feel sad that I don't post more on here. I'm always looking for some kind of concise thought or how I really feel about things and I can never hold on to it long enough to actually get it into squarespace.  There is so much I feel from one week to the next. I don't know how to hit publish anymore. I have so many entries that exist only in my paper journal and not publicly. I hope I start sharing again, I hope I share this.

My wonderful and brave friend “A” posted this on Facebook last week.

It’s was a  graphic from @livandhopetothemax
What NOT to say to someone who’s trying to get pregant.
At least you don’t have stretch marks!
I’m so sorry, this is what women were meant to do.
You just have to be patient.
Why don’t you just adopt, that the easy way!
Have you tried … that worked for my SIL neighbor’s cousin.
It will all work out, I know it!!!
You should adopt and then you will get pregnagnt.
We have been trying for a month, so I know exactly how you feel.
Trust me, you’re so lucky you don’t have kids, enjoy your free time.
Be so glad you arent’ pregnant.
But you already have a child, isn’t that enough?
Who’s fault is it that you can’t get pregnant?
If you would relax I bet it would happen

This was her post…..

I have heard almost every line on this list (some from good friends and some from even our own family). Of course people that say these things mean well but unless you have experienced #infertility firsthand or had a close friend or family member you don’t really understand. And people’s words can unintentionally cause a lot of pain when you are struggling to grow your family. Infertility is a MEDICAL condition. Have you ever told someone with Diabetes to “relax and I’m sure it will cure itself”? The causes for a couples inability to conceive or keep a pregnancy are varied and can be complicated. In some cases couples experience “unexplained infertility” where the Doctors can’t explain the reason they cannot get or stay pregnant. And just like other medical conditions there are treatments but being “cured” is never a guarantee. I can personally say that the experience has tested me physically, emotionally and spiritually. Despite the pain I am so much stronger than I ever thought before. It has made me a better mother and person. I wanted to share this since it is #infertilityawareness week. I decided to be open about our story trying for Stella and now for baby #2 (not for sympathy) but in the hopes that it will help another couple going through this to not feel alone. In fact 1 in 8 couples will experience infertility. #niaw #ivf #ivfjourney #infertilitysucks#ivfsupport #ivfwarrior

A’s post put things into a perspective I’ve never been able to articulate.  I also never knew there was an infertility week. I never even thought to use the word infertility. We called it our trials our IVF Journey or our trying-to-start-a-family Journey

Infertility in·fer·til·i·ty

/ˌinfərˈtilədē/

noun

  1. inability to conceive children or young.

I believe so strongly in the power of words. I would never have considered applying this label to Mike and I. Clearly it's true and the shoe fits but it sounds hopeless and final. But now I'm in a space that feels final. I turn 44 next month, so I guess that's pretty final. Infertility. Wow.

My friend A recently went to Prague for IVF.  She asked me for my thoughts before she left she ended up getting a cold and we didn't get to have coffee while she was in town. But I agonized over what to say to her. We even have an episode on Our Creative Uprising where I try to understand how to even give someone my two cents.

  1. I don't want to say IVF was a terrible experience for us because I don't want to tell someone who has had so much disappointment already that it was awful for me

  2. It may not be awful for them.  They might get pregnant and have a baby. I wouldn’t want to discourage them to not try.

  3. If their experience turns out to be anything like mine, I couldn't handle the guilt of not telling them how excruciatingly awful the effects were for me. I would never wish anyone the trauma that my body and psyche endured.

Some stories do end well.  The implementation was successful for A and yesterday the blood test came back positive. I didn't realize I was holding my breath or how scared I had become until the text said “positive”. “Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Oh my god thank you. Please let everything go as good as it can.  Please let A be safe and supported” I prayed to the universe. “Thank you” I audibly exhaled.

That's the thing about advice, I feel so confused and unqualified. I don't really understand how common my reaction to IVF was. At the clinic the nurse said I may experience pms-like symptoms and I may be a little weepy. That's not what happened though. I ended up in a therapist office off being treated for PTSD. I ended up in what seemed like every therapist - healers office fighting for my identity, my mental health and my sanity. I know that the IRS lists therapy as a line item for IVF.   The IRS isn't exactly a feel-good generous benefactor. I have to assume that my experience is somewhat common. So here I am so far out of my depths asking myself

how do you hold the idea of IVF, PTSD, financial devastation, emotional devastation

against the possibility of a baby?

Have you ever had a baby wrap its full hand around your one finger? I think all of my fears become moot when compared to that feeling.  Who cares how bad your experience is if you get a baby? Not many I guess.

Who cares how awful it is if you don't.  The experience of having someone I care about ask me for advice made me realize that I care. I care about the cost of IVF to my mind, body and spirit. My gut kept telling me

‘tell her to avoid the risk”  and “don't let her get hurt the way that you did”.

I only had fear to offer. A year later it's still too much for me to ask my gut to have hope. My gut is still a little tired and a lot heartbroken.   I ask it to be brave and try some other way for us to have a family and there is no answer. It won't show up. It won't even acknowledge that I'm asking the question. It's worse than a no it's silence.

Maybe it will just take me a little longer to have some perspective or hope.  I'm so eternally grateful that A got a cold I'm so grateful that she took the risk and that it's paying off. I never ever wanted to be that voice of doubt in someone's ear. I hope that everyone in this world goes after their dreams in whatever way works for them. I am made to cheer people on. It's one of the most authentic aspects of my personality. Although I no longer know how to be the brave cavalier risk taker I used to be. I do know how to give this advice.

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Make peace with your fertility journey.  
Learn to really love yourself regardless of what the pregnancy stick says.
See a therapist or find some support.
Process every emotion you can and find every way to take care of yourself.
Make your choices from a place of love and being enough.
Find a way to be okay regardless of the outcome .

I wish everyone a way to make peace with their journey.

Big Hugs Suzanne



Fertility Vacation 3.0 // staying strong & finding moments of happiness

What is it like to not give up?  Sigh, exhale. 

Today it looks like getting up early, instant coffee, meditation, 3 minutes of yoga and writing in this journal and not wanting to know what's in my mind.  Today we will walk around Vienna and photograph this vibrant city.  We are even taking an airbnb photography tour.  It's confusing.  Is should be a highlight of the year.  I love Vienna.  Vienna is a dream of mine.  I should feel incredibly blessed and grateful to the travel gods.  I am and I'm not.  It is wonderful and it isn't.  Some moments I can forget and some moments I'm terrified.  So for a few minutes I try to drop in, feel it, and hope I can shake it off.

What I want to feel.

I'm exactly where I should be.  The universe is unfolding in my favor.  I am lucky to have someone who would fight this hard with me.  This could be the most beautiful journey we ever walk on.  This could change our lives.  Being strong now could lead to magic.  We could add another Ofeldt to our home.  Wow nothing seems worth more.  

and I do feel that way.

I also feel this way.

I'm cold.  I'm hungry.  This airbnb only has one chair and no hair dryer.  I keep ordering the wrong thing.  Mike and I are tired and bickering.  I hate being home at 8pm for shots.  I hate injecting my body with hormones.  What if we aren't able to retrieve any eggs this time?  What if we can't make any embryos?  What if I put myself through all of this anguish because I'm too greedy at this game of life?  What if I can't accept a clear no from the universe.?

So enough.  I think I need to accept that it's ok if we don't create perfect embryos this time.  I will heal, I will let go, I will find another path.  I need failure to be an option I can live with.  I need it to not matter.  I feel like it's the only way to take my best shot, cut out the noise in my head and be peaceful.  I know that peaceful is a place we can move forward from.  A peaceful knowing that our family is steady, stable and strong.  We have time to make our way to each other.

So today we will walk around on this finally sunny day and take pictures.  We will find moments of happiness in between our moments of doubt and that will be our best effort.

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Hard Truths

This time last year we were in Prague attempting IVF for the first time. What an extraordinary year. Nothing could have prepared me for any of this, and I am so grateful. Although I’m crazy proud of how Mike and I sailed the storm, if I could go back now, I wouldn’t have chosen this path. That is such a hard truth to admit to myself.

I’ve never considered myself someone who backs away from a challenge, but out of sheer love for the Suzanne I used to be, I would say no to putting her through that. It’s too much and ultimately I feel sorry that I hurt her. But life isn’t 20/20, and there was no way I could have talked myself out of it. So, instead I’m left with pride, gratitude, and the most creative 12 months of my life. Like everything in my life I find what I truly feel in the words of a song.

There’s a song by Alanis Morissette, “Thank You”. She has a rampage of appreciation and thanks to the good and the bad. I remember hearing it in the 90’s and thinking, how powerful would I be, if I could thank the experiences that hurt me as well as the ones that made me feel blessed?

Now, I understand the power I wanted to feel all those years ago. Since I can’t go back in time, and safeguard my heart and mind, I will thank this year for sculpting me into a much better version of myself.

Thank you, IVF 1 and IVF 2. Thank you, brave and fearless girl who wants to be a mom. Thank you, strong and compassionate woman for rising to the occasion. Thank you, childish ways for burning the house down. Thank you, new version of me who said, “Enough. Get off the floor.” Thank you, broken mind and hopelessness. Thank you, to the hours I spent on my knees crying and praying to I don’t know who.

Thank you, photographer friends for picking me up and reminding me what feeling supported by the universe looks like.

Thank you, for the unfolding that I have autism. Thank you, for the knowing that it will add to my understanding of myself and my creativity.

Thank you, Prague for giving us a safe haven where IVF is more affordable. Thank you, PTSD for showing me what I can overcome and that my mind and spirit are separate. Thank you, failure for letting me know how proud I am that I tried.

Thank you, to all the self doubt and confusion, because it allowed me to lean on Mike and trust him in a way I probably would have never figured out. Thank you, needing help and to my friends who checked in so regularly just to make sure I was as ok as I could be. Thank you, to Vanessa and Jen Morrison for never asking me to be happier than I could be.

Thank you, to credit card debt. Thank you, that so many people we love can’t relate to this experience at all, because I certainly wouldn’t want them to. Thank you, to heartbreak and fear. Thank you, to all the people who know what we are going through - who fight their good fight, and have shown us the way - we are following your light.

Lately, I see the last year in a different way. Somehow. I have some perspective. I have received so many gifts . . .

I am insanely creative. Photographing gives me a high that’s greater than it’s ever been before. Weddings make me feel down right euphoric.

I get along with Mike in a whole new way. I’m more accepting of who he is. I am capable of giving him more space to find his own way.

I can relate to people in so many more ways. I can see deeper into them.

I find power in gratitude and always focused on the good. Without knowing it I adopted Jess Lively’s mantra of “Yes, thank you and More, please”, to all good experiences. Yes to amazing friends. Yes to creative  jobs. Yes to paying rent, and buying groceries. Yes to art. Yes to love.

I love myself in a way I’ve never known. I’m learning to be enough for myself. I’ve learned to play outside my comfort zone. I am excited for how expansive I’m becoming. I know I can go to hell and eventually find my way back to myself. Back to feeling stable, steady, and strong.I am becoming a more beautiful version of myself.

I can add more peace to the world by speaking to myself in a more compassionate voice. I am capable of learning so much. I am meant to be an artist. I can make art even when I can't find myself. I feel powerful that I am connected to all of the other artists in the world even when I can't quite find Suzanne.

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Good bye 2017. Thank you.

Good bye 2017.

Thank you.

Thank you for making us stronger.

Thank you for giving us 10 eggs and 4 excellent embryos.

Thank you for two chances at IVF.

Thank you for gratitude, getting up, and finding ourselves again.

I hope that we have the guts to go after 2018 the way that we threw ourselves at 2017.  I hope our family grows.

I hope I find the same joy and comfort in watching Mike sleep.  I hope we find time for each other as the pressure to figure things out seems to speed up time.  I hope we find less to argue about and more beautiful discoveries to share.

I hope IVF 3 works.  I hope there will be eggs, embryos, conception, safe passage and one day a baby.  A healthy safe baby.  And if none of those things can happen, I hope the hormones fly out of me and leave me safe and sound.  I hope I can digest healthy food easily and take pleasure in moving my body.  I hope I photograph, paint, swim in the ocean, feel my heart beat and gasp for air as a wave crashes over my head.  I hope I heal and get out of the house and find some safe space out in the world and not hiding in the house.  I hope after some time I recoup my energy and start on some other path.  I hope there’s always enough of me left to try again.

Dear 2018,

Dear 2018,

Please don’t break my heart. I’m wearing my heart on my sleeve. I’m looking at you. I’m staring at you right in the face. I’m begging you not to break my heart.

We are going to try iVF again.  Is three times the charm?  I guess we are about to find out.  I want to know, will our hearts be broken again?

Some questions aren’t necessary.

Will it be worth it?  

Is it worth having our hearts broken?  

Yes, it’s always a resounding yes.  

Of course it is.

Because what if . . .

What if  . . .

We have a little babe come safely into this world?  What if we are those people wearing matching pajamas by the Christmas tree.  What if we get to call our parents and say the baby is coming . . . The baby is here . . .  It’s a boy or it’s a girl . . .

Every year I wish for the same sort of things. To hold Mike’s hand as we walk around new cities and small towns taking photographs, finding the best cappuccino, exploring museums and the outdoors, listening to music and having good times with our loved ones.  It’s always the most important aspect of my life to celebrate our lives together - to be grateful for what we have.

But lately I’m not myself. Lately, I’m so focused on the baby we don’t have instead of all the blessings we do have. It’s such a painful way to live.

Maybe there will never be another Ofelt, but 2018 will get us one step closer to knowing - yes or no. I hope I find myself again at the other side of this journey. My greatest hope is that there are three of us, but if everything fails I hope there is at least two of us.  Not the scared reaching version of myself I’ve become, but the vibrant grateful person I used to be.

So 2018, let me be her again. Let me find myself. Let me be grateful, kind, and healthy. Let me rally the strength, hope and beauty in this world. It’s such a worthwhile cause. It’s our most beautiful life.  Let me lift myself up. Let me be the Suzanne that began this journey.

xoxo

Change me Universe into one who is willing to receive all the right help, knowing each person, animal, thing is a form of you.  Let me feel deserving of Divine assistance in every way.  Open me to receive.  -Tosha Silva

 

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Fertility Vacation 3.0 // What if it works out?

If I could read your mind love,

What a tale your thoughts could tell

Just like a paperback novel

The kind the drugstore sells

When you reach the part where the heartaches come

Come the hero would be me

Heroes often fail

And you won't read that book again

Because the ending's just too hard to take

-Gordon Lightfoot

Some people wonder why we keep trying. Why, when we can do whatever we want with our lives, would we choose to keep putting our hearts on the line?

That’s such an odd question to me. I think of our friends with kids, and the families we photograph, and see certainty there. Of course we would dedicate our lives to these little ones. We would do whatever it takes.

This is our third and final swing at the ivf game. Here we are - our lives still in tatters from round one and two and here we go again. Here I am knowing this is our last shot down this path.

I’m asking my spirit once again, help me be strong enough to make this happen again, and let it be ok regardless of the outcome. We are looking for hope, faith, belief in trying to be steady, stable, and strong. Searching for the how, but clear on the why.  

I’m sadder and more afraid than I’ve ever been, but what if ultimately there’s a baby to have breakfast with, and someone to share in the delight of life with?

What if it works out?  Would you still think we are crazy for trying?

 

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Fertility Vacation 3.0 // Stronger

IVF is hard. This is not what I thought it would be like. It has made me examine so many aspects of myself, and redefined my place in the world.

I used to trust I would be a mom, and there would be three Ofeldts living in our house. I don’t have faith in that idea anymore. Now, I have faith in myself to accept that I can find peace, and joy in my life regardless of the outcome.

I am getting stronger. I’m healing. Finally.

It took awhile. I had to allow space for grief. It felt endless, and I wasn’t sure there was another side. I was shaken to my core, but I reached out for help and so many people held me up.

Above all, I reached out for Mike. He is always a steady, and magical part of my life. I met him and the word home came to mind. It was loud, and clear. I trusted that voice in me. I’m glad that after a decade my intuition and mind have finally got on the same page. Win or lose it’s ok to try, or give up, because Mike and I are going to stand by each other, and that’s a safe place to be.

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Fertility Vacation 3.0 // When Getting Braver Doesn't Work

Our road isn’t what I thought it would be. I can’t believe we are looking at IVF 3. Time to get brave again. Well maybe not again. Last time, I couldn’t find my way to bravery. I tried with everything that I had to gather my usual amount of bravado and failed. Bravery is just too much to ask, and doesn’t make sense. I don’t have the same admiration for it that I used to.

Ok, if I can’t be brave, what do I need to be?

Maybe instead of being brave I need to find a way to suffer more gracefully, without internalizing, without stressing my body. Surrender.

What qualities should I nurture in myself to make this journey in the safest caring way?

I’m not going to ask, “How can I be braver?” I’m going to look inside, and ask for safe passage. I am going to ask, “How can we get from today to the days where just the three of us will sit on the couch laughing, playing, and singing songs together?”

Our journey won’t be filled with bravery this time, yet everything in me feels like we will look back on these grieving moments and say, “I can’t believe we ever thought about giving up. What fools we would have been. We would have given up the chance to love you.”

 

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Fertility Vacation 2.0 // Not This Time

Can this be it?  Are we really not suppose to have kids?  This process has shaken me to my core. I feel defeated. This time I know how cruel IVF can be.  It’s no distant stranger.  I’m not in shock, I’m just worn and hurt.  Who would have guessed we would be sitting here.

I was so naive and I took so much for granted.  I thought the hard part would be finding someone I wanted to live my life with.  Mike is home, I’m certain of him.  He keeps me safe. 

But now I want that magical feeling of cuddling a cute baby on the couch.  It’s funny, I am not a "couch" person.  I’m not even a "house" person.  I’m a "lets go somewhere" kind of person.  But babies are fun to sit on the couch with.  I’ve loved having my nephew here and as much as I loved taking him places, he taught me that the couch is a playground of it's own. 

These have been my first few days without him since he moved up to Northern California.  We packed up his dishes, clothes, toys, books...everything.  I’m mourning our life with him.  Suddenly without notice, my whole family moved while I was in Europe.  And now we are mourning our IVF dreams as well. 

Today is not my favorite day.

And yet still I can’t give up.  Sometimes it scares me.  Maybe all of these signs are saying give up and yet, I can’t.  Not yet anyway.  I still imagine that picture of little Mike in the bathtub as a kid.  The image that changed all my beliefs.  I want a child with Mike.  I’m still so open to what that will look like in the world of IVF, surrogacy, or adoption. 

First, I need to see what grieving will look like this time.  Even in my heartbroken, defeated state, I know that we will get up again.  Despite this being one of the worst, saddest days ever, I refuse to imagine our lives without a kid to love.  Often I really wish I could.

To our friends and family: we are beyond grateful for all of the love and support we have received. We never would have been strong enough to try this again without you. Thank you to the ends of the earth. 

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Fertility Vacation 2.0 // FET (Frozen Embryo Transfer)

I’ve been pretty sleepy since the Frozen Embryo Transfer. It’s been a lot of slow movement and rest. I’m so grateful Vanessa is here. I am so strong and steady because of her.

This girl is my soul sister. I met her by chance and a couple of days later we were on a road trip to Napa. She is a beautiful gypsy and from that fateful week, I’ve always wanted to protect her and keep her in my pocket. To me, she is fearless, open and wild. I’m sure she is terrified often, but she pushes through and changes states every year I’ve known her, and most recently, countries. Her address is always in flux.

Recently, she moved home in between Prague six months ago and Prague now. She has seen her mom take her last breath and said yes to a man who loves her. The last six months have felt like someone continually ripping off a bandaid, and yet less than two weeks after saying goodbye to Mama Luna, Vanessa got on a plane to spend 10 days with me in Prague so I wouldn’t be alone.

Everyday we walk around taking pictures, sitting in cafes and at the movie theater. Vanessa reminds me to be brave and just being in her company makes me feel like more is possible.

She was in the room with me for the FET procedure. It’s very clinical, but all of a sudden we saw the embryos on the screen and we both started crying. Maybe I’m pregnant.

Mike has been inundated with text messages of baby names and general excitement in the middle of the night. It’s been hard for him to be at home while I’ve been gone for a month going through this. He’s my hero.

He’s been shooting non stop and working 9-5 to pay for all of this. Some people have sex after a night out and get pregnant, and some people have three days off in a month. Mike has stepped up and fought for us to get pregnant.

I’m excited to have a partner like Mike. We’ve been through so much together and now, we are stronger. I admire Mike and trust him to fight for us.

While our paths to IVF 2.0 have been so different, his support has been unwavering.

I am so thankful for Mike, Maryanne, Betsy, Vanessa and all of our friends at home cheering me on.

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Fertility Vacation 2.0 // Tomorrow & Maybes

Tomorrow is the big day. Beautiful pregnant women are flooding the streets around me and kids are everywhere we go. It’s often drizzling outside, but the trees are alight with color. I can’t believe this sudden change in me. I feel 180 degrees different.

Light on my feet, spinning around and turning my face to the sun on a grey day. What if it works? What if we get pregnant?

Maybe everything is going to be okay.

I wonder what maternity clothes are like, can you wear your real clothes or will you just stretch them out? I wonder if the baby will be silly or like to laugh or be a grumpy cat. Either way I’m excited to capture our life. Maybe Mike and I will get a cool van and go on road trips and show the baby the national parks and how beautiful the world is. Maybe.

I wonder if the baby will like to travel and if he/she/they will like to visit Gaidin.  I wonder if I’ll get a mom car and if my hair will be messier - is that possible? I would love the chance to discover all of these things.

So many maybe’s.

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