Have you ever seen time stand still? Like it feels as if the world has stopped spinning all together?
Ask anyone who has experience with IVF...and I bet you’ll get a resounding YES! (hand raised emoji here).
On 5/16/2018 we started our IVF cycle. Officially, it began on 7/20/18...but we said “let’s do it” back in May. Our first cycle wrapped 90 days later on 8/16/2018 and the results were devastating.
I mean we spend half our lives trying to prevent pregnancy and then when we actually want it...it's a negative. Over and over and over.
So after all the $$$$, shots, bloating, swelling, surgery, meds, supplements, more shots, pain, confusion, tears, zero coping mechanisms, 6AM blood tests, ultrasounds, waiting...and our 6 (SIX) embabies...all perished. Without a trace. Except the enormous hole that is now left smack dab in the middle of our hearts. Now that you know the ending to our first cycle...read on to find out what we learned from it and why we are choosing to do it again.
IVF isn’t for the faint of heart. They tell you the odds going in, yet when this is “your only option”...what’s a couple to do?? So we went all in.
I have to start with sharing that I didn't want to "do" IVF. I struggled with the decision for over a year before finally deciding to say yes. Why? Many reasons for sure...but the largest, my fear of failure. At the time we started the IVF process I had finally overcome some huge life and health obstacles. For the first time, in what seemed like forever, I was living healthy. Mind, body, and soul. The fact that the odds weren't in our favor gave me terrible anxiety, for obvious reasons. I love my life. I wasn't in a mood to step into something that I knew could crush me. But I did it anyway. Because sometimes against all odds...we have hope anyway. Starting a family is such a sensitive subject. I had no idea just how sensitive really. Kids had been off my radar for quite sometime. (my “be His legs” blog explains in detail all the moments leading up to this yes, if you'd like to know, peek around) I just figured that when I met the right man, it would happen. Just like that. Boy was I wrong. First off I was in denial for 4 FOUR years before seeking help...my #1 goal is to keep you from doing that (if you haven't already). Denial...such a difficult choice I made...but my choice nonetheless.
When we started casually "trying" (four years ago) and month after month there was a negative...I started blaming and shaming myself big time. I was really hard on myself. Thinking maybe I was being punished. For what? Who knows? But I really lost myself in this. Never once did "fertility issues" enter my mind. I always blamed my extra weight...the extra booze...stress...my past...all the things pointed to me. How wrong I was but it's the truth and I don't want you to fall prey to your own thoughts in the way I did. So life events happened...family loss, moves, lots happened in those 4 years. I wasn't even in my 30s when this began so I just thought we had time. And the truth is...things change after 30. This milestone obviously doesn't mean kids are out of the question, but I was completely unaware of how much my body had actually changed in these years.
The worst part of the "unknown" stages (the time before I actually sought medical guidance and made up my own reasons for why babes weren’t in our lives) watching "everyone" getting what I was praying for...sometimes even when they weren't even praying for a family. My heart would break every time I saw a birth announcement. I mean of course I was happy for my darling friends and family...but ouch. More shame followed. Rinse and repeat. At one point I seriously counted 45 birth announcements in a 90 day period. I mean either I know too many people or I was being punished...what the what man??? It seemed like a cruel joke. I would ebb and flow between strength and pure weakness. The 2nd worst part was the dreaded questions..."when are you going to start a family?" or "how many kids do you have?" or "you better hurry up, you aren't getting any younger!" Even better..."If you would just stop stressing, it would happen." (for the record this is the WORST advice you can offer, it stings like a paper cut in the midst of these struggles). Stop the questions...they aren't conversation fillers and truth is, you have no idea how much weight is in the question being tossed around so nonchalantly. This was such a hard time in my life. I felt attacked with these questions and my heart ached all the time. It was so hard that I eventually reached the conclusion that kids just weren't for us. (I had no medical advice or reason to think this, but I was just certain) It just hurt too much to keep hoping our time would come too.
Let me tell you something...our minds are powerful tools. We can use them for good and we can let them destroy us as well. It's all a process of trial and error too. I guess I believed that if I could be "ok" with the idea that we couldn't have kids then it would make it easier if we never did...oh my word...that's so ridiculous and for the record, being prepared for tragedy NEVER makes it easier. So, I went deeper down the rabbit hole, until I couldn't even see the light anymore. I won't go into full detail on this, but know you can make it out of this pain. Wanting to be a parent and create a human with your spouse, to start a family...and not being able to is HARD. Like so hard no one can even understand. I see you. I am you and I promise, you can find the light in this. It takes time. But you will.
So, I had mentioned I didn't want to do IVF at the beginning of this...and that's the truth. I hadn't really even heard of this idea until the last couple of years of trying. It was a hard no. Hard pass. Until it wasn't. I decided to make the appointment for family planning and off I went. To sum up what happened in the next year...in a nut shell... I learned that our no kids issue was related to medical issues from both parties. Holy shit...what a relief ( I am not kidding at all) it was like learning that this was a 50/50 deal took so much weight off of me. We learned that in fact our only option for kiddos would be to give IVF a try. I should mention that my part in the infertility was a medical condition that took me a full year to get a hold of...so IVF was still a hard pass for me. It was so strange how giving these symptoms a name really helped to heal me. I no longer felt like I was drowning. In this year I actually learned to enjoy the present. To live in the now. To appreciate every breath. I had wasted so much time wishing for something that may never happen. I will never do that again. I am enough, with or without kids...and you are too.
So fast forward to about a year and a half in recovery (we will call it) and my hubby asks if I had considered IVF at all. To be honest I hadn't. I was finally in a place of happiness and joy that I hadn't known in a long time...this process just seemed like a derailment was inevitable. I didn't want to take it off the table completely but I also knew the major reason I didn't want to was fear. And let me say...it takes a lot of work to make yourself whole. It's a huge accomplishment to discover your worth. I don't mean to say that kids would take anything away from that...I don't think that at all, but there is power in knowing who you are and what you want. I know women who have dreamed of motherhood since they can remember...also I know and love friends that know kids are not for them. My point is that I encourage you to follow your heart on this step (and any for that matter) there is no point in doing something for someone else. Doing what we think we are "supposed" to isn't healthy and really just breeds unhappiness in the long run. So, I honor your choices and I respect that we all get to choose our own path.
I knew that I just wanted to be healthy. I want to share that I had become ok with a childless life. That doesn't mean I can't embrace motherhood, but it does mean that I in fact can picture a happy future with my hubby...without children in it. I want you to know that you matter regardless of any outcome. HEAR ME...the outcome of this process (or any process) doesn't define your worth one way or the other. You matter because you are alive. Baby or not...you are beautifully and wonderfully made.
So, back to my husband's question. This was the first time HE had started the baby conversation so I started praying about it. It was clear to me that not trying would be way worse than giving it a go, so I knew what had to be done. I pushed through my fears and made the appointment. And now we are full circle.
We started our cycle 7/20/2018. When I say cycle I mean the very calculated and scientific process that is known as IVF. It's not fun. And I could go way into detail...but unless you go through it, you just can't even imagine how difficult it is. As a nurse, I understood most of the process by proxy...but for any of you that don't come from a medical background, I bow down to you. You are brave souls. Injections in the stomach are the worst...and in the butt UGH. I can't even. My hormone levels were all jacked up and crazy part is I was choosing this. We knew that they whole "cycle" would last about a month. So we did the things. Went to the appointments. Prayed and cried and waited. Each cycle is different for each woman...but a few things are the same. Meds/injections, egg growth, retrieval, transfer and then the two week wait to see if the embryo implanted. That's the absolute worst. Can I get an Amen if you've been there??
So, after what seemed like a year (but only 10 days in reality) I got the call. Mrs. Calderon...I am so sorry but today your pregnancy test is negative and none of your embryos made it. Immediately I couldn't breathe. I was sobbing and overwhelmed with sadness. I was so attached to those babies. We had created them, with a little bit of science. They were ours. They made me a Mom and I could feel something deep in my bones shift. I sat on my bed and my first thought was (I even ate the damn pineapple core!) then my next one was it's going to be ok. I started to process that no embryos made it and for whatever reason, this little embaby didn't stick. The grief still comes and goes daily but I have to share with you that I knew Jesus was physically sitting there with me holding my hand, crying with me. God doesn't want things like this to happen. But I can promise you He brings beauty from the ashes. I felt peace that I have never known (even through all the tears) and I knew without a doubt...I sure do want to be a Mom. A dream I had buried so deep under fear and mistakes and rejection...a dream that was abundantly clear...because seriously, no sane person goes through IVF if they don't really want to be a parent. Our dream is alive a staring back at me. Another real truth...I believed with my whole heart that this was going to work. And although the first ending is devastating, this is the first time in a long time that I had full faith. I so wasn't prepared for the heartache, but that's because I believed...and that my friends is a BIG win. I rarely do things that I am not certain I will succeed at...and I did this. With my husband by my side. We did this and we will do it again. 100% all in. The things we learned about each other are fabulous and honestly this brought us closer together than I thought possible. He's always been my ride or die...but having to give your wife a huge shot in the bum daily...well that will change some things. In a good way.
I believe that this was part of the plan. I truly do. We are a team and we have always been able to do hard things together. It's become second nature to us really. But this tested our patience and heart strings in ways that we had never known. I saw a side of him that I hadn't before. A tender side that had no interest in me feeling alone in one second of this. One that asked questions to ensure that I was going to be safe. That losing me was a risk to great to bear. It's times like these that your warriors step up to the plate. He sure did, just as I knew he would. I have more heroes in all this too. I am so grateful for that. Like I said before this has changed me. I am acutely aware of how precious life is...how fragile. Also, how little power we have in what happens. We can try to control it all we want, but it's a waste of time. I get it. And I am guilty. Moving forward to our second try...we have learned so much, we are better equipped and we just won't take no for an answer. Yes this is hard. Yes this is painful physically and mentally. But we aren't scared anymore. We know that trying again may end with the same results. Why are we trying again? Because we know that looking back in 20 years saying wish we would have tried...isn't an option. So we will exhaust the possibilities, not out of desperation, but out of love for each other. We will continue to grow our partnership running in the direction of love, NOT fear. We will try again. Because we are able.
If you are battling the symptoms or in a cycle of IVF currently my heart is with you. It's a club I wish we weren't in together, but I am happy to give you a hug or encourage you the best I can. It is not lost on me that our situation isn't the worst case scenario...however it is OUR worst case. So feel your feels. Stay positive but give yourself time to grieve. You are allowed to be angry and cry and feel defeated. Just don't unpack and live there. No matter the stage you are in...I encourage you to repeat this to yourself..."my worth isn't defined by the outcome of this process...either way." You are loved. There is so much to learn from this journey if you open your eyes and drown out the extra noise. Don't let this ruin your spirit. I know that's easy to say...but it is possible.
We will try again, not right now, but we will. This has catapulted us into some really big changes. One step at a time. This is only the beginning of building our family...I know in my heart what's next is going to blow our minds! Thank you for sharing in this journey...for praying...for loving on us...it's made all the difference. Below are a few snapshots I took to remember the process. Please know that there are so many details I am not sharing...because they are painful...but this is our truth. And I am so freaking proud of us.
...Beautiful Destinations. But not before a whole lot of hard lessons. Welcome to the final chapter of this story.
As I stepped on the scale at my Gyno in early 2017, I started soaking in the hard truth. Something was really wrong. I was officially at my heaviest weight EVER, regardless of diet or exercise. This couldn't just be what my 30's felt like, right??? My anxiety was so bad that I literally couldn't function some days. I suffered, I mean I didn't realize how bad until after reflecting a bit...but the best description is suffering. So, this is it. Today things are going to change. And they did. Oh did they change. I'm not sure how I'll come out on the other side, but it's go time. **(to the few of you who loved me, I mean really loved me through these years...I can never repay you...forever grateful, you know who you are. )
So what did we find??? Hasimoto's Hypothyroidism. The diagnosis that changed everything.
This condition wreaked havoc on my life, untreated, for more years than I even realized. I am not going to go into detail about the actual disease, but just know that this discovery explained EVERY SINGLE symptom I had been surviving. EVERY.SINGLE.ONE. Including infertility. My second reaction (right after thank you Jesus)?? Honestly...relief. I finally had a name to put on all of this madness.
If you’ve never heard of the aforementioned condition...look it up. It's a nasty autoimmune form of a low functioning thyroid and it's slow but steady process absolutely tortured me... (side bar: if you look it up and think you feel the same, go see your doc...it's not worth pretending this can't be you too, trust me).
I was so stubborn and in denial that sheer havoc had become my reality. On my mind, body, and soul...but like I said, only now...it had a name. And that name didn't start with "you are being punished for all your past mistakes".
So, first... I had to do LOTS of testing to be sure of what we were dealing with. When we knew that, the plan to tackle this began. There were a couple little "C" word scares, but rest assured those were false alarms and again I will say...cancer is NOT how my story will end. I also learned more about our infertility. It's interesting how I went into all of this to understand more about "why" we weren't getting pregnant...and came out understanding that my overall health had been in jeopardy. (Again, I will say it loud for the people in the back, DO NOT be like me and wait for medical help. The Nurse in me is guilty of waiting to long to seek help, it's not worth the wait. Believe me.)
What came next surprisingly came with ease. I mean I had been dieting and exercising blindly for years so I was used to focusing on health...but this time I brought in the big guns. I adjusted my diet and started on medications and supplements to ensure my overall health. I hired a personal trainer and within a few short months...the weight came off and I could literally breathe again. I dug deeper and focused harder even with big setbacks. I switched up my trainer for OTF (Orangetheory fitness for those who don't know and I am OBSESSED). My specialists follow me closely and we are on top of this. It doesn't own me at all anymore. It's just part of my story.
I had been broken and tired for so long and as I healed I felt like a brand new woman. And really I was. I shed more than just weight in the coming months. I shed expectations and fears and pain. No everything wasn't perfect (never will be) and I still have to make adjustments, but what I have gained is freedom. I found my self worth that day in my Doctor's office. I know that may sound strange (because trust me...a Gyno office isn't where I expected to find my self worth y'all) but it is true. You see what happened in early 2017 was monumental for me. I finally chose to believe that I deserved to be as happy as I always dreamed of being. I stopped accepting NO as an answer or "that's just how it is"...no more. I sought help...because God knows I needed it. I mean don't we all??? I chose me and will continue to do so...every.single.day. Just because it gets hard...doesn't mean I run in the other direction or stop. I may be crawling at times, but I am still moving.
Over the years I have collected so many misguided views of what my life was "supposed" to look like. So much that suffering had become a norm to me...a NORM...what the what?? There's just no reason to suffer like that and I won't ever go back. I hope you will join me in owning your truth. Telling your own story. It's healed my broken spirit and it's given me to power to move forward out of the darkness. Now don't get me wrong. Growth happens in darkness but I have emerged. Changed. Redeemed. I know that this is a work in progress. I know that my story is still happening...and I am still writing it.
This story began with me opening myself to tell our truth. The hard truth. The places in my childhood that used to haunt me. The events as I grew up, that filled me with shame. Now that it’s out there, I think my Dad is proud. I believe he’d love that I buried the bad and quite literally am carrying the best parts with me now. That sacrificing my happiness is no longer part of my life .
I have lived a life full of ups and downs...it's been unfair...and at times I really wanted to throw in the towel. However, through all of this I am sure He has bigger plans for me. I have no idea what they are, but the dreams God has placed on my heart are driving me home. I would love to have this story end right here with a million dollar movie ending...but the truth is, my story is just beginning. I want to share a little something as I close...and I hope you'll take what you need from all of this...
***There's a story in the Bible that talks about Jesus meeting a sick man outside of a pool that had healing waters in Bethesda. The story goes like this...the man had been ill for 38 years (a really long time). He waited as many sick people did at this place, but every time the waters were stirring (the time when the next person to step in would be healed)...he was unable to get himself to the pool and if he ever got close someone else would go ahead of him. When Jesus came to him he asked a very simple question..."Do you want to be made well?"... Then Jesus said, "Rise up, take your bed and walk." ***
As I read it, it's almost as if Jesus says, forget the pool...you don't need that to thrive...get up and walk!
This story reminds me beautifully of how we complicate our lives for no good reason. We focus our attention on unimportant things and we blame all kinds of things for our "sickness". I am guilty and I do not believe this is the only time I will have to ask this to myself. So...my question to you today is the same. Do you want to be made well??? I had to want to be made well before it could happen. Our desire to live a life we love cannot simply be a dream...it must be a priority. The circumstances of my life no longer dictate what my future looks like. I am on a journey that is all my own. And so are you.
I did rise up and walk...I used our story, my story...to be His legs.
Love you all...take care of yourselves.