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Embracing the Chaos of IVF Part 3: Learning to have a little faith

(Originally posted on Mile High Mamas on July 11, 2012 – http://www.milehighmamas.com/2012/07/11/embracing-the-chaos-of-ivf-part-3-learning-to-have-a-little-faith/) 

When I got home from the PRSA Western District Conference that Monday night, my husband Barry was awake in the den and the door to my mother-in-law’s apartment downstairs was still open. Usually, her door is shut by this time of night, but since Barry was still awake I didn’t think anything of it. I went upstairs and got ready for bed. Within seconds, my smile vanished as I heard Barry yell my name. I ran downstairs to find out what was wrong, but couldn’t find Barry. I heard my name again and quickly realized it was coming from Nancy’s place. As I turned the corner of her stairs, I saw Barry standing over Nancy who was immobile on the floor.

She explained that she tripped over her magazine rack and fell on her hip. Watching her lay there in pain while we waited for the ambulance was one of the scariest things I’ve ever experienced. It was like staring at my own mortality. Even though my dad died when he was fairly young, his rapid deterioration from cancer seemed so rare to me that it didn’t put mortality in the forefront. But, this was different. This was an accident that could happen to anyone, at anytime.

In typical fashion, I remained positive while Nancy was in the hospital. “You’ll be out of here before you know it,” I kept saying. “You bounced right back after knee surgery last year, you’ll bounce back from this hip surgery too.”

Meanwhile, I didn’t think twice about my IVF process. Everything was moving along like clockwork, even though my stomach looked like squirrels were using it for archery practice. Plus, everything evens out in the end, right? We had the bad with Nancy’s fall so clearly the IVF was going to work.

I really hate it when I’m wrong, and I was wrong about the IVF. You see, in order for Conceptions to proceed with the process, I needed to grow at least four follicles at 18 milliliters. When I went for my first ultrasound check I learned that my ovaries looked like a bar at 4 a.m., completely empty with only a few drunks passed out on the bar. The second ultrasound showed promise with more follicles, but they needed to grow a lot more within the next few days in order to move forward. I tried to stay positive even when the nurses to prepared me for the worst. At the third ultrasound I got the reality check I needed. I never got four follicles at 18 milliliters, just that one. I walked out of the office with my head down and sunglasses over my eyes so no one could see my tears.

For the first time since the first ectopic back in September 2010, I started to realize that this is a game I may never win. I remember watching an episode of Oprah’s Master Class featuring professional NBA player Grant Hill around this time. He talked about how he blamed himself for his ankle injuries that led to his MRSA infection and how he felt like he had let everyone down. I sobbed out loud listening to him because I knew exactly how he felt. I blamed myself too. I blamed myself for the pregnancy losses. I blamed myself for not growing enough follicles. I blamed myself for Nancy falling. I blamed myself for everything.

We knew adoption was an option, but were so mentally exhausted by this time that we didn’t think we had it in us to go down that path. So, I started to prepare myself for the reality that we might not have another child. While I was heartbroken, I knew I had to find some way to come to terms with this. I had to learn to have faith that this may be the best path for my family and me. This was a hard lesson, but I was lucky enough to have friends and loved ones who helped me understand this.

After our follow-up appointment with Dr. Swanson, we decided to try IVF one more time. We agreed to forego the birth control pills in hopes it would eliminate the empty bar effect in my ovaries. Even though it felt as if our IVF journey was ending faster than I hoped, I had learned to have a little faith in what was to come. I started to find comfort in knowing that no matter what, Barry, Maya and I are a family and will always be a family. Letting go of a dream is hard, but appreciating what you have now can warm your heart in ways you never imagined.

Did you have to let go of a dream? How did you do it and what life lesson did you learn from letting go?


Sharing my infertility story using my gift of the gab…

Over the past couple of years, we’ve been dealing with infertility. It hasn’t been easy, but my gift of the gab has led me to share my story via Mile High Mamas, Colorado’s best mom community in partnership with The Denver Post. Here’s the first of my six part series…

(Originally posted on Mile High Mamas on  May 14, 2012 – http://www.milehighmamas.com/2012/05/14/a-denver-moms-journey-with-infertility-and-ivf/

Hi y’all! I’m a Southerner-turned-mountain-lover living in South Denver and recently, I’ve been dealing with infertility. It’s more common that I ever thought and I now understand why it’s so hard on women and families. I’ve decided to share my story with the Mile High Mamas in hopes it will help others who are going through the same thing, and we can share a laugh or two along the way.

Here’s my story.

Barry and I got married in Atlanta in 2004, and we decided to hold off on having children for a year because both our fathers passed that year and we needed some time to grieve. By May 2006, we were pregnant and our beautiful daughter was born in January 2007. We knew we wanted another child, but wanted to move to Denver first. We vacationed there in 2005 and fell in love with its outdoor beauty and laid back lifestyle. We sold our home and became Denver residents by the summer of 2008.

By 2010, we were settled in our new home and had adjusted to our new roommate, my mother-in-law who moved in with us after selling her home in Michigan in 2009. It was finally time to get pregnant again. It was easy the first time so it should be just as easy with No. 2, right? Not so much.

Over the next 15 months, I suffered an ectopic pregnancy, a miscarriage and then another ectopic pregnancy. With each loss, I had to go through extensive medical treatments and procedures. All three sucked in their own way, each with its share of physical and emotional pain.

After the miscarriage, we decided it was time to see a specialist. My OB-GYN recommended we see Dr. Michael Swanson at Conceptions. He knew so much about infertility that Barry and I left the first appointment completely speechless, but in a good way. I’ve never seen a doctor get so excited about preparing a couple for their “game plan” as if it was his first. It was refreshing.

And so the tests began – bloodwork, ultrasounds, X-rays and more bloodwork. I began to feel like my girly parts were a part of a freak show. I imagined J.D. from “Scrubs” was the show host, leading guests through the tour that started at my vagina and moved through my ovaries and fallopian tubes. “You came at a great time, ladies and gentlemen,” he would say. “We’ll have to close off this spectacular show next week because we haven’t learned how to split the Red Sea yet (aka my menstrual cycle)!” As he winked, the guests looked at him like he was a freak, which in this case, he was.

Barry’s tests were easy compared to my spread-eagle-in-stirrups escapes. All he had to do to was spend a few minutes watching a porno movie while sitting on a comfortable couch in a private room. He even had a back door he could sneak out of when he was done. I imagine a neon sign above that door flashing, “Nude Gurlz Here! It’s the Back Door of a Fertility Clinic, No One Will Ask!”

The verdict was pretty simple: I have older eggs and Barry has some funky-shaped sperm. Luckily, we didn’t have other issues like my uterus lining was too thin, Barry’s sperm was slow or my uterus being a “hostile environment.” The reality is, while we can get pregnant, our plumbing doesn’t run as smoothly as they did when our daughter was born. Knowing we can still get pregnant should be comforting, right? In some ways, yes, but in other ways, not being able to stay pregnant is heartbreaking.

After much consideration, we’ve now decided to try IVF, or In Vitro Fertilization. If you’re not familiar with the process, here’s a quick synopsis. I have to take medication to grow follicles (or the eggs) and Barry has to go watch another porno movie. Once I have enough follicles, they will be extracted and injected with Barry’s sperm in hopes one healthy egg develops. Once the egg matures, it will then be injected back into me. After that, we can only hope the pregnancy goes full-term.

So, my IVF journey has now begun, although it feels more like I’m hiking a rocky mountain in winter wearing only sandals and a T-shirt than a journey. We have no idea what will happen, but we’re willing to take a shot, and not just the one I shoot in my stomach. That’s an IVF joke…

Football and Religion: A (toxic) combo for Tim Tebow?

Ever since the NFL season got back on track this year, there seems to be an interesting fanaticism around certain players. Perhaps this is typical during pre-season, but it has an extra sting lately. The player of choice here in Colorado is Tim Tebow, Broncos (now) No. 2 quarterback and former University of Florida quarterback. Being a Florida native and UF alumnus, I am a Tebow fan (of his game and I must admit of his Jockey ads too). I watched in amazement as he brought an entire stadium to its feet just by the mention of his name at his very first game. I watched him win the Heisman Trophy with grace, take full responsibility for his team’s losses the following year and regularly and publicly pronounce his religious beliefs. But, after watching the news and social media networks rip him up last week, I quickly learned that he’s not everyone’s favorite.

Apparently, people either love him or hate Tebow with the same fanaticism typically seen by NASCAR fans. Take a look at these recent tweets:

Tim tebow will never be a good nfl player end of story.”

“Stop hatin on TIM TEBOW!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”

“Tim Tebow has something most people dont.HEART.Those who say “it cant be done” are usually watching those who are Doing it. #realtalk”

“you know youre a bad football team when Tim tebow is your 2nd best quarterback”

“LeBron James & Tim Tebow: Which Disappointing Star Will Win a Ring First?”

“Can somebody please tell me why everybody is hating on Tim Tebow? He is only in his second year!”

“I fear what the Tea Party will do when they find out Tim Tebow lost his starting QB job in Denver.”

As I watch this love/hate relationship with Tebow unfold, I began to wonder what is it about this guy that brings out such emotion in people. Could it be that he was so hyped up during his college career that people are just plain tired of him? Sure. Could it be that Coloradoans just don’t get college football like we Southerners do? Maybe. Could it be that Tebow has been compared to John Elway, causing diehard Elway fans to dart the evil eye at this sophomore quarterback? Certainly. Any of these could be a reason. I think it’s much deeper than any of these though. I believe it is the strong tie between Tebow’s talent and his religion that sparks such emotion.

Generally speaking, football, like many religions, has a way of bringing out the best and worst in people. Fanatics tend to only love one team and/or player who they deem immortal and perfect. If the team wins, God was sure to be watching. The fanatic’s days of worship culminate mostly over the weekend and they repent in hopes of a fresh new start on Monday. They dress up (or down, depending how you look at it) for each game, only their teams’ colors will do. They give money to their alumni associations and seek out their team’s local clubs in search of camaraderie. At the end of every game, they feel tremendous joy or immense pain.

Since football and religion have a tendency to bring out the fanatical in people, it is easy to see how Tebow can be the center of this emotion. Love him or hate him, I believe he excels at his sport as well as his religion. It’s true other athletes have publicly addressed their religious beliefs, but Tebow’s approach is different. He doesn’t just thank God for his wins. He wears it on face, spends summers during missionary work and even starred in a Pro-life Super Bowl ad with his mother. He discusses religion as regularly as his football practices and no one seems to care. Or do they? Could it be that his love for his faith as well as his sport is a toxic combination for fans? Could it be that this combination brings out the best and worst in people in a whole new way?

Some people like Gregg Doyel from CBSSport.com aren’t quite comfortable with Tebow’s blatant use of religion. But, I wonder, do fans love him for his sport, his faith or both? Will his fans love him if he doesn’t succeed? Will they praise him and God if he does? Does it really matter? After all, he’s just a quarterback, who happens to be very religious.