11:11

It’s 11:11, make a wish!

That’s what I would say to Cory right now if he were here. Since early on in our relationship, anytime either of us would catch the clock at 11:11 we would text or call or tell each other to make a wish.

But, tonight Cory isn’t here. He’s working til 11:30pm which is reminiscent of when he was in paramedic school last year. Except tonight his shift is a one time thing.

You see, today was my post-op follow up appointment with Dr. Sweet. This appointment was scheduled almost three months ago and I don’t really get a say in the date or time of my appointment. They call me with my proposed appointment, and I either accept it, or take the next available appointment which could be later that day, or 2 weeks later. That’s just one of the ways you have to give up control with infertility. You are no longer operating on your own schedule, you are at the mercy of the doctors and the techs and the lab hours.

So when this appointment was scheduled in August, I knew it was a day that Cory was working, and I knew there wasn’t much I could do about it. The nurse emailed me a schedule with my pre-op, surgery instruction, and post-op appointments. Even though I knew he couldn’t make it, i still wanted him to be there. We were going over my surgery and what it meant for our future family.

And because he is truly an amazing husband, he found someone to swap shifts with at work. Today he went to my appointment at 9:45, went straight to work from 11a-11:30p, and then going back to work tomorrow at 7am. He did this without complaining, without making me feel guilty for needing him, without going on about what a long day it would be, how tired he will be tomorrow, things I would have absolutely been saying to him had the situation been reversed.

There are so many sacrifices and things I’ve given up or gone without to try and improve my fertility. Most of them I do with complaint. It’s not fun driving across town during rush hour to be jammed with needles. It’s not fun to get a transvaginal ultrasound between meetings at work. It’s really not fun to go on hormone medication and gain weight and break out and still get a negative pregnancy test. And Cory always listens to my complaints, makes me feel validated and understood, and yet when the tables are turned, he never puts that burden on me. I really don’t know how I would do any of this without him. It’s crazy to me how he balances me out in all of the ways I never even knew I needed.

it’s almost 11:30 and he will be home soon, and my 11:11 wish will have come true.

Life is a highway, infertility is a rollercoaster

This year I have started paying more attention to what the Universe/God/some higher being is trying to tell me.

Even though my surgery was successful, I still have PCOS and I did not ovulate this cycle. So we never even got a chance to try naturally in this first month post-op.

Infertility is truly a roller coaster. You have to allow yourself to have hope. Without hope, there is no way you’ll be able to take the 10-15 pills and supplements a day, chart your temperatures, control your water intake so that you’re peeing on sticks at exactly the right time, and still have the energy to make the “trying” part fun. But with too much hope, you’ll find yourself sobbing on the toilet with a negative pregnancy test in your hand, wondering how you’re still supposed to shower and go about your day when it feels like your whole world just got that much smaller.

So, after my surgery, I was definitely full of hope. It felt like the missing piece of the puzzle and we finally had full visibility into our issues. Now that it’s behind us, I thought we would for sure get pregnant right away. I allowed myself to be too hopeful this month and by the time I realized this was another anovulatory cycle, it was too late. So here comes the soul-crushing, speeding to the bottom, stomach lurching part of infertility. The part that causes the bitterness when you see cute families smiling in their Christmas photos. When you hear of truly awful people getting blessed to with a healthy baby, and then stories of how they neglect their most precious miracle.

Days like this make me want to crawl in a hole and stay there for a few days. It sucks feeling bitter and jealous of other people, and feeling sorry for yourself. Nobody chooses to stay in this headspace but sometimes it is simply unavoidable. Which is why I really felt like the universe gave me a sign today, sent via a buzzfeed article: https://www.buzzfeed.com/mikespohr/23-women-struggling-with-infertility-get-real-about-how?utm_source=dynamic&utm_campaign=bffbbuzzfeedtasty&ref=bffbbuzzfeedtasty

I have been feeling particularly misunderstood and lonely this last week. Making the decision to start an infertility blog and become more open didn’t come easy for me. But I know it comes easier for me than so many other people on this journey and that is why I choose to be so open. Being open has its drawbacks though. It constantly feels like people are waiting for my pregnancy announcement. I don’t know if it will ever come. And as much as I appreciate people asking about how we are doing, it’s heartbreaking sometimes to say “no update”. Or even worse, “we tried something new and it failed”.

Finding that buzzfeed article really hit home when I needed it. I was reminded that I’m not alone and others have been in this exact situation and share in the exact same grief. While I’m not out of my dark hole just yet, that article helped open up a few windows in here.

I wish I had something more hopeful to share but our ‘next steps’ appointment is tomorrow so we will see how that goes.

Grateful

I am 13 days post-op and the word that overwhelmingly comes to mind lately is gratitude. I am grateful to Dr. Sweet, who I know was very thorough in my surgery because he was so kind as to record the entire thing on video. I am grateful to my husband, who has been the absolute best caregiver and made sure I was comfortable, even at 3:40am. I am grateful to everyone who sent me flowers as they kept my room bright and cheerful. I am grateful for everyone who called, texted and reached out on social media. I am grateful to myself, since I finally stood up and pushed for answers which I now have. Most of all, I am grateful to have all of the garbage cleaned out of my body.

I won’t get into the gory details of my surgery (even though I have them all, thanks to watching the video of my doctor as he dictated exactly what he was doing to my organs on video), but I will say the results are exactly what I expected, with one surprise.

Since I woke up from surgery, I have been a mess of emotions. Even when we first started trying to get pregnant, when it was still fun and we didn’t know was OPKs and FRERs were, I always felt like something was wrong. When I was finally diagnosed with PCOS I felt like that still wasn’t it. For years, I’ve lived with unexplained pain. I could be sitting in a chair and it would feel as though I just pulled a muscle – even though I didn’t move. My ovulation cramps were always worse than PMS cramps. I finally have answers and they are not “it’s all in your head”. It feels vindicating to have proof that I knew what was wrong even when none of my doctors could figure it out. I am mostly so relieved to know that what was most likely the biggest cause of our infertility is GONE.  

I do not remember the last time I’ve felt this hopeful. To be honest, I’m not sure I ever have. Its actually slightly overwhelming to have such renewed hope in myself after years and years of feeling broken. In addition to Dr. Sweet, I’ve started seeing a naturopath. Now that my body is healed, I am going to try my hardest to keep it that way to prepare for pregnancy in a way that I never have before.

Tomorrow is my post-op visit with Dr. Sweet and I’m actually really excited. My dreams were crushed earlier this year when I went in thinking we were going to start IUIs and instead I was told we had a 1-2% chance, and that this surgery was probably our best option. I also have EIGHTEEN (yikes!) labs at Quest with my name on them for November 21. Each step is one step closer so I am doing my best to take it in stride.

Uncertainty

I’ve been struggling lately and while I don’t feel like getting into everything just yet, I wanted to talk about the anxiety I have around my upcoming laparoscopy.

My first visit to a gynecologist was in high school. I was at home and suddenly doubled over in pain. Unsure what to do, my dad called my pediatrician who suggested I get an ultrasound. I couldn’t walk, let alone drive, so my sister drove me to the ultrasound where they identified a ruptured ovarian cyst. My pediatrician referred me to an OB/gyn who prescribed birth control to prevent future ruptured cysts.

I never found out what caused it, and as a teen, I didn’t even think to ask. I accepted it for what it was and when I felt better the next day, I didn’t even talk about it because talking about reproductive organs was so taboo. Had I known then what I know now, I would have demanded bloodwork and talked more about this horrific painful experience, so that I could have been educated about what was happening with my own body.

It’s been twelve years since that first ruptured cyst and I wish I could say that was the only one, but I had another ruptured cyst confirmed on an ultrasound in Denver, and a few more suspected ones where I never even made it to the doctor because I couldn’t get out of bed and into the car. The pain eventually passes,  but the memory and fear of it happening again stays with me for years.

In a few weeks, I’ll be having surgery so that my doctor can take a look at my reproductive and abdominal organs, to check for damage. The damage could be scar tissue from these ruptured cysts, or it could be endometriosis. It could be something else, and that something else could be benign or it could be something serious. He may be able to remove whatever he finds, he may be able to remove only some of it, or maybe there won’t be anything for him to remove.

Maybe this will be my only laparoscopy, or maybe, like my first ruptured cyst, it will be the first of many.

The reason I’ve become so vocal about my infertility struggle is not for the attention – if you know me, you know I can’t talk about sex or ‘private parts’ out loud without blushing. It’s not for me at all. I do it because nobody gives a damn about female health. I speak out to get this conversation going, because how are we gonna fix it if nobody realizes it’s broken? But this post isn’t about that.

The truth is, I am terrified to have this surgery. With my knee surgery last year, my doctor saw a torn ligament and arthritis on the MRI. He knew exactly what he would find beneath the surface, and what he would need to do to fix it. He performed that same surgery a thousand times, and I was confident that with surgery and physical therapy, I would make a full recovery. Almost a year later, I can last a full day at Disney World without knee pain. I can walk to my car after a long day of errands without limping. Things went exactly to plan.

this upcoming laparoscopy has no plan. I am a planner, so this is difficult to grasp. The doctor is going to go in, see what’s going on, and try to fix what he sees. There are no previously known problems that will be solved.  He won’t know my recovery plan until after the surgery. In fact, the appointment to discuss next steps isn’t even until a month after surgery.

I can pray and hope for the best, but if I am being honest with myself, nothing about this journey has been easy and I am having a tough time believing this surgery will be different. I don’t really know what I am hoping for here. Do I want him to find nothing? Yes, because I don’t want to hear that my body is broken yet again. But then what does that mean for our inability to conceive?

so maybe what I really want is for him to find an issue that he can fix. But then there will be a longer recovery time, and even if he ‘fixes’ it, there are still no guarantees it will increase my fertility.

But there’s also a chance that I won’t like what he finds. He could find that my ovary is useless. Or that I have scar tissue covering my organs and will need a specialist to schedule another surgery to remove it. He could tell me that I will never be able to get pregnant naturally, and this journey toward biological children is over. This is the option I am not ready to hear, but it could happen, so I know I have to be prepared.

There is no advance imaging that can help guide him through surgery. Once he goes in, he will be able to see, but not a second sooner. Therefore, the only way I’ll be able to get answers, even if they are not the ones I want, is to go under the knife.

After surgery last year and a car accident this year, I am burnt out from hospitals and doctors and invasive procedures. I don’t want to go under anesthesia and have it be for nothing. I don’t want to deal with painful recovery, constipation and the bowel prep that unfortunately accompanies preparing for this procedure. But, this could be an important step in my ability to conceive, and that sliver of hope makes it all worth the risk.

Although it’s worth the risk, it’s still not something I am comfortable with. Each day is one step closer to surgery, and one step closer to baby Byrd, but it’s also one more day full of these negative thoughts and another struggle to find hope in what feels like a hopeless situation.

Its been difficult expressing myself lately but I am so thankful to have a husband who understands, and who supports me through these hard choices even if they aren’t always in his best interest. although it feels like we will never have our baby, I know I have the best husband in the world, and sometimes that feels like more than enough.

First Came Love

Our first anniversary, we took a trip to Chicago. We took an overnight train, spent a few nights in an adorable boutique hotel & after eating our way through town we flew home and decided this would become our tradition. Every year since (minus one when Cory was in paramedic school/preparing for hurricane Irma), we have traveled somewhere new together. We both love traveling, and it’s such a special way to celebrate our love for each other while still keeping things new and exciting!

Our dream honeymoon destination was Italy, but we couldn’t afford it at the time.  Even before we got married we decided that if we didn’t have kids by our five year anniversary we would go to Italy.

HA! After spending thousands of dollars over the years on fertility treatments, we still can’t afford a trip to Italy. Realizing that we couldn’t go was like rubbing salt in our wound – we naively assumed we would naturally have kids by now, but if we didn’t, we would be living up the DINK (dual income no kids) life, so a trip to Italy wasn’t even something we would need to budget too hard for. I was pretty bitter coming into this anniversary because it was something we had discussed even before we started TTC. Of course the “if we didn’t have kids” was a qualifying statement, but I figured if we didn’t have kids after five years of marriage it would be because we were saving for a house or one of us was in school. I never once thought it would be due to infertility.

It reminded me how automatic this whole process once seemed. We met at age 20, got engaged after college, became established in our careers, got married, bought a house. Everything seemed so natural and the obvious next step for us was babies. We never once stopped to think, “what if things don’t go our way?” First came love, then came marriage, so where are our babies in the baby carriage?

I could go on about how bitter I felt about not going to Italy this year but I realize how ridiculously privileged that sounds, even if it’s more about what the trip represented more than the trip itself, so I won’t. Because truth be told, we had a wonderful time in Savannah.

Some of our trip highlights were eating dinner at the Olde Pink House where we each had the filet mignon and shared a bottle of wine. We did a ghost tour one night through Blue Orb and a fun trolley tour with Old Savannah Tours. Had coffee and Bitty and Beaus and ate way too many desserts to name them all (but Leopolds ice cream was probably my favorite!).

Another highlight was a surprise my family had planned for us! This was a budget trip, so instead of staying in a cure little boutique hotel that I so diligently researched, we stayed at the Best Western. I was not expecting any frills, but we were so lucky to have a wonderful concierge who made our reservations and helped us build our schedule for the weekend. Unbeknownst to us, while she sent us off on our trolley tour, she went to Byrd’s Cookies and delivered three tins of cookies and a bottle of Prosecco to our room! Our family had called and being our last name is Byrd, she suggested getting us cookies from Byrd’s along with a bottle of wine. It was so unbelievably thoughtful and made both of us feel so loved.

In other good news, my laparoscopy has been moved up one week! It is now October 28th. I have a pre and post op appointment surrounding the surgery, and then have a ‘next steps’ appointment at the end of November.

I came back from our trip feeling refreshed and believing more than ever that a child is in our future.

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1-2 percent

it’s taken me a while to process our last two infertility appointments. On June 27, we went in for a follow up to discuss our failed medicated cycles and next steps. I went in to the appointment expecting to start IUI right away, as my HSG came back fine and I was able to ovulate on letrozole. However, God has other plans.

Dr. Sweet gave us a 1-2% chance of ever convincing a child naturally. Aside from the death of a loved one, this was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to hear. We have unofficially been trying for over three years, and every month and year it becomes less and less likely to happen. It’s taken me a very long time to accept this fact as my reality and there are some days I still find myself in denial.

However, just because it may not happen naturally does not mean it won’t happen for us. I keep reminding myself that miracles happen every day. Cory and I have been through so many uphill battles in our relationship and we always, always come out stronger and better as a team. I am constantly brought back to a reading from our wedding and one of my favorite bible verses:

Love is patient, love is kind.
It is not jealous, is not pompous,
it is not inflated, it is not rude,
it does not seek its own interests,
it is not quick-tempered, it does not brood over injury, it does not rejoice over wrongdoing
but rejoices with the truth.
It bears all things, believes all things,
hopes all things, endures all things.
Love never fails.

At our wedding, I thought this reading was about our marriage. I knew we would be tested and we chose this reading to serve as a reminder that we will endure whatever trials and tribulations life throws our way. However, reading it now reminds me of our fight to have a baby. Every day I am learning how to be more patient and kinder to myself and to others. I am learning how to put aside feelings of jealousy at yet another pregnancy announcement. I have had to bear so much pain, both mentally and physically. I have endured countless months of negative pregnancy tests. Through all of this, we have never once given up hope that we will one day have a child of our own. We continue imagining our life as a family of three, continue discussing names and parenting hacks. We have never stopped praying for our miracle child. Love never fails.

I had an endometrial biopsy last month which fortunately came back negative. My next step will be to have a laparoscopy in November as my doctor suspects I have endometriosis in addition to PCOS. This is not where I was expecting to be, but I am embracing the surgery and some more answers and relief from pain. Until then, we have decided to take a much needed break from the OPKs and BBT and apps and tracking every minute detail to focus on mental and physical well being.

Who you’d be today

You left behind four young daughters on June 5, 1998 but twenty one years later your smile still brightens my memory. The best days of my childhood were because of you. I always knew how lucky I was as a kid, with dad getting us tickets to see our favorite shows at Madison Square Garden and spending the summers between Yankee Stadium, the Swim Club and the lake. However, the times I felt luckiest were the days and moments i had you all to myself.

Sometimes you would let me come grocery shopping with you and even though you wanted to buy groceries and go home, I loved parading up and down each aisle because you were MY mom and I wanted time to last forever. Whenever I was sick and dad would take my sisters to see a show, I got to lie on the couch with you to keep me company. I loved having real blonde hair when I was little because I matched your frosted blonde hair and all I ever wanted to do was be exactly like you. I still do.

All you ever wanted out of life was to be a mom. The biggest injustice I’ve ever faced was losing you as a mom. You were not just a great mom, you were the best mom. You let me eat chicken nuggets and PB&J every day for lunch, even when my teachers said I would turn into a chicken nugget. You read to me every night, and encouraged me to read books beyond my grade level so that I knew there were no limits to what I could learn. You took us to the swim club every day over the summers, but always made sure we were home in time to catch our favorite afternoon TV shows, because you cared about the little things. You would always allow us to play until our hearts were content, and just like a fairy, you’d clean up after we went to sleep so that our imaginations had a blank canvas to begin again the following morning. You managed to celebrate every little milestone, from birthdays to the first day of school, from communions to dance recitals. Everything in our lives were so special because you made everything special.

In a way, dealing with my own infertility has brought me closer to you. We both wanted nothing more than to be called ‘mom’, and for both of us, our motherhood has been unfairly cut short. You only were able to be an earthly mother for ten short years. For me, when I think of how old my child would have been, had I not had such a hard time conceiving, I cannot help but wonder ‘what if’.

I wonder if I would take my kids to the library after school every day, just like you. I wonder if I would watch my kids eat dessert as I wash dishes in the kitchen. I wonder if I would read them the same bedtime stories that you read to me. I wonder if I would take the care in matching their bows to their dresses and socks, the way that you loved to dress us up. I wonder if I would hold them, and my eyes would reflect the same love that you had for me.

Going through the challenges of infertility is so hard without you here. You birthed four healthy babies in your short time on earth, and I have yet to give birth once. I wonder what kind of advice and support you would offer me, and if you would approve of my spouse. It is so strange to me how even though twenty one years have passed since the last time I had you here, yet every year on the anniversary of your death, I find myself missing you in such a different way.

Mom and Me