featured post/news item: “infertility: miracle babies”

Since this article was published on The Huffington Post last week, several readers have sent it to us asking us to comment. Although one of our authors finds herself in this exact situation, we asked one reader to share her thoughts on this article and her current situation with us as a special guest author. Rhianna (formerly of Three is a Magic Number, now in her new home at Arch Mama) and her husband were surprised to be (“naturally”) expecting their second child after requiring IVF/ICSI (for MFI) to conceive their son.

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This evening I walked to my first prenatal appointment with my homebirth midwife. Her office is just a handful of blocks from my house, and I had hoped to use the time alone on my short walk to meditate a little about this new journey I’m on–this “surprise second pregnancy after infertility treatments” journey. It’s starting to finally feel like fall here in St. Louis; I kicked fallen acorns with my steps as I crunched my way along the leaf-strewn sidewalk. It was cold enough for a scarf and fleece jacket, cold enough to refresh a worn mama’s mind after a long day of toddler-wrangling.

I thought about where I was this time last year. I was in the middle of moving to Missouri from our home in Virginia; the one we bought a decade ago, the one that bore witness to years of failed cycles; the one with the garden I grew in the backyard when I couldn’t grow a baby in my womb; the one with the kitchen counter on which I ritualistically lined up my Lupron, Menopur, and Gonal-F before pushing them into my body through a fold of belly fat; the home that was my wonder-stoking son’s very first.

Then I thought about where I was the fall prior to last. I was in my third trimester after transferring the only two embryos we had. I was grappling with the undiluted, persistent disbelief that I was actually pregnant after all we’d been through and the slow-to-arrive excitement that was gratuitously tempered by the stinging guilt that I’d somehow managed to achieve a pregnancy while so many others continued their painful struggle.

And I recognized tonight that I am in not such a different place now with my current pregnancy as I was two falls ago then with my first.

It brought to mind this Huffington Post article published last week, Infertility: Miracle Babies, in which the author tells the stories of women who subsequently discovered they were pregnant “naturally” after using assisted reproductive technology in an effort to bring a child into their arms. The author offers statistics and studies to elucidate this reportedly not uncommon experience:

Though few studies track how often a spontaneous pregnancy after use of assisted reproductive technology occurs, those that do suggest it is not uncommon. Most recently, a French paper published this summer in the journal Fertility and Sterility found that 17 percent of women who gave birth after IVF became pregnant again within six years — this time on their own. Among couples whose IVF failed, the rate of spontaneous pregnancy was even higher: 24 percent of the women became pregnant in the years after treatment. A 2008 German study found that 20 percent of couples who conceived a child by intracytoplasmic sperm injection — a form of IVF in which a single sperm is injected directly into an egg — and who subsequently tried to get pregnant naturally, succeeded. Estimates suggest that normal, healthy women have around a 20 to 25 percent chance of getting pregnant per menstrual cycle.

I suppose other women in my circumstance could perhaps feel a sense of comfort and kinship with the you-are-not-alone tenor of this kind of article, but I…don’t. Instead, my feelings are all over the place, which I think is a testament to the fact that feelings surrounding surprise second pregnancies can be mind-bendingly complicated for infertile peeps.

I resent anything that attempts to oversimplify the infertility experience, most intensely the reductive ass-vice of “Just relax” or “Just adopt” or “Just get pregnant and it’ll fix your body.” My (now former) OB suggested this last one to me, that my previous pregnancy must have righted my body. Uh, did she even look at my chart where it clearly states that our infertility is attributed to male-factor issues? How did my pregnancy improve his sperm? This article has all of these annoying anecdotes.

It also offers this offensive suggestion:

An even simpler explanation is that some women are rushing into assisted reproductive technology and that given more time, they might have gotten pregnant on their own.

And then later on, this:

“Because IVF is so successful now, I think some people are probably getting it who don’t really need it,” said Courtney Lynch, an assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology, epidemiology and pediatrics at the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, whose research centers on risk factors for fertility problems.

Both statements made me seethe. As if any of us leaped uninformed and enthusiastically into IVF! If your experience was anything like mine, you and your partner sat before your reproductive endocrinologist who, clutching a chart thick with a battery of your diagnostic testing and more than a year’s worth of your documented basal body temps, cervical fluid, and dates of intercourse, quietly and directly informed you that it was her professional assessment that IVF was likely the most effective way to achieve pregnancy. And I feel this admonition of “rushing” could send the wrong message to women repeatedly trying and failing to conceive–the message that they should just continue waiting and hoping that biology will somehow do its thing on its own. I  dawdled for years with a dismissive OB, the kind who continually countered my worry and confusion with other annoying anecdotes, such as “You’re still young!” and “It only takes one!”  If there is anything I regret about how I managed my reproductive concerns, it’s that I didn’t see an RE sooner.

What resonated with me most deeply in this article was the following:

As an alum of the IVF world, her feelings about pregnancy — natural or otherwise — are defined by the turmoil of the process. “I just wanted to have a pregnancy I could enjoy, a normal pregnancy where I wasn’t scared all the time,” Kari said. “This was supposed to be that pregnancy for me, but it hasn’t been. I’m still in complete shock and disbelief that this is really happening.”

Pregnancy and parenting have not magically erased the “turmoil of the process” for me (or for most of you, I’d wager), but I have found these experiences healing. I found my son’s birth to be amazingly empowering. I reclaimed a significant part of myself from infertility when I pushed my baby out into this world. Breastfeeding, too, has helped to heal my fractured trust in my body. I could articulate these experiences–birthing and breastfeeding–in grander, genuine detail for you, but suffice it to say that both have profoundly renewed my respect for and trust in my body.

If infertility is the wound, the love and gratitude I feel in parenting my son has been the linament. Parenting has encouraged me to  s l o w   d o w n, to dwell in the present moment, to desire to give all of my care and focus to my son. And it was in that spirit that my husband and I decided to table our pursuit for a second child. There are many years I cannot remember anything fun about. The only distinct thing I remember about 2007? That I couldn’t get pregnant. And 2008? Same. In 2009? Just that we had our first RE consult. Where is all the goodness? I KNOW there was goodness in those years, and, yet, I can’t recall it.

I didn’t want that to be my son’s childhood: goodness overshadowed and forgotten.

Months after this revelation, I discovered, jaw-droppingly, that I was pregnant again. And it was a suckerpunch to my identity. Worst of all, it hijacked that new sense of trust I’d developed for my body. Years ago I couldn’t rely on my body to do its thing on its own, and now I couldn’t even trust my body to NOT do what it supposedly couldn’t do on its own. Mind = fucked.  Suddenly the wound was torn open again, and the “turmoil of the process” was raw and fresh again. Despite my deep desire for another less interventive birth (and a strong interest in homebirth) I went  straight to an OB for prenatal care because I couldn’t trust my body. I simply couldn’t accept that this pregnancy would stick. I didn’t want to start with midwife care, only for something to go horribly wrong with this pregnancy, and for my care to then be transferred to a whole new person to invade my privacy and private parts.

Just like Kari, the woman referenced in the last quote above, all I longed for was a pregnancy untainted by my infertility baggage. This pregnancy isn’t that for me either. Which isn’t to say that I do not feel joy and great gratitude for this new life moshing away in my uterus, of course. But I think my daughter deserves what I wanted to give my son when I decided to table my pursuit of a second pregnancy: unparceled attention and mindfulness  unmuddied by my infertility baggage. I’m working on it. I’m trying to suture the wound, trying to reinforce the trust in and respect for my body, trying to reclaim my sense of self. (One big step in that direction was transferring my care from the OB to the homebirth midwife I’d longed to work with.)

This article was a big trigger for me. I have so much more to say about this surprise second pregnancy experience–about how it feels like the most fucked up part of the Infertile/Fertile Venn diagram, about my (resolving) struggle to connect with this pregnancy, and about my mounting insecurity about my maternal competency in parenting two small ones. But I think these are probably thoughts better suited for my own personal blog space! It’s…complicated. Far more complicated than the Huffington Post would suggest about these “miracle babies.”

featured post: “The Plan…Version 6.0” by K of Our Growing Gardunn

Everyone in the ALI community is connected by their common pain, their struggles, their hopes, and their fears. Of course all of our journeys are different, and our exact pain, struggles, hopes, and fears are different, but we are all one and the same in that we are all persevering through the tumultuous ALI world in the our hopes to add to our families.

In this case, K started blogging in February after being thrown head first into the awful world of Recurrent Pregnancy Loss (RPL). While TTC#1, she was blessed to carry and deliver a healthy child after her first IUI cycle, but when they started TTC#2 is when the RPL hell began. She has been able to conceive relatively easily, but she has since endured a chemical pregnancy and recurring miscarriages at 7, 11, 12, and 14 weeks. Now, exactly two years later, they are still TTC for #2 (and pregnancy #6 – hence the Version 6.0), and she has this to say:

Two years.
Man, I have learned a lot…about what a miracle this truly is. I’ve learned about myself. My family. My friends. About how strong I can be and how that strength can be tested to its limits. These two years have definitely changed me.

Most importantly I learned how I can’t control this…so I am not going to try. I will follow my doctors protocol but I am trying to loosen the death grip this has had on me.

It was strangling me..and I can finally take a breath.

I find her post to be so incredibly inspiring. Most of us go through times during TTC when we feel so beat down that it seems we are at our rock bottoms, yet at some point, my hope is that we all get to this point as well…this place of strength and of hope.

To read her full post “The Plan…Version 6.0,” visit K’s blog, Our Growing Gardunn. Comments here are closed to encourage everyone to connect directly with her.

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K’s Story in her own words: After getting pregnant during my first IUI cycle I gave birth to my daughter 3 years ago. Since then I have had a chemical pregnancy and recurring miscarriages at 7, 11, 12, and 14 weeks. Fast forward through 1 inducted delivery @ 16 wks, 3 D &C’s, a uterine septum removal and more tests than one can imagine, this is my story as I try and figure out where I go from here…

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If you have a post of any kind (old or new!), on any topic that you would like share, please fill out the form on the main Featured Posts page here. You are welcome to submit your a post of your own! 

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featured post: “Just What I Needed” by All the Sun For You

I will begin with an admission. I am having a very hard time lately, despite being magically pregnant. In fact, because of it. There are a lot of residual and unresolved feelings about our IF journey bubbling to the surface, with anger being chief among them. All the anger about things that were said, and never said, and never will be said.  If you read my blog, you know that I struggle very deeply with how to even go about posting about it. So instead, I bottle it all up and internalize it.

During one of these “Rage Simmers”, locked in the bathroom and flipping through my reader as a distraction, I read this post by Courtney at All the Sun For You. Now, I also need to admit that Courtney is a very close blog friend of mine, and has been an invaluable source of support for me via email as I don’t have the courage to blog about all the shitty parts of my IF journey. Usually, when I am feeling like I was, I seek out posts that validate that. So I began to read her post and was feeling that “Oh, yes. TOTALLY!” feeling of having a hard time with a random pregnancy announcement:

The reason being that when I was thinking of staying home with Matthew, I ran into this acquaintance and very excitedly told her that I was thinking of being a SAHM and she literally asked, “why would you want to do that?” while holding her 2 month old baby… I didn’t like that.  And now she gets a surprise baby?  BITTERNESS.

As I am also feeling some judgment (note: feeling versus actually being judged, but it still brings me down) on my decision to be a SAHM, coupled with the Rage Simmer, I was just eating it up. Like, exaggerated nodding and finger snapping style. And then, Courtney stopped me in my tracks. She goes to explain that the very next day she had an overwhelmingly positive experience at her RE’s office in preparation for their upcoming FET. She describes in wonderful detail how every single person in that office helped her and B have their son, and how much she appreciates that.

I accomplished everything I wanted to accomplish, and I saw all the people I wanted to see.

And I thanked my lucky stars that I do not have an “oopsie baby” on the way.  That I need these people to help me grow my family.  That I’ve made connections with these wonderful people who make building other people’s families their life’s work.

And now, for my final admission. I cried. I cried a lot. This post gave me perspective. This post inspired me to look at things with eyes wide open, beyond the narrowed focus of my anger. This post helped me realize that while I couldn’t find understanding then, I know there is support now. This post showed me just how far so many of us has come in our journeys, and how while our diagnoses remain the same, our attitudes about beginning treatment again can be so very different from the first time. Courtney’s outlook and general attitude on life never ceases to amaze me. Her energy gives me energy. And, as always, a very gentle kick in the butt.

This was just what I needed. I think you should check it out.

Please head over to All the Sun For You and check out “Just What I Needed.” Comments on this thread will be closed in an effort for you to connect with Courtney directly and share your thoughts with her.

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If you have a post of any kind (old or new!), on any topic that you would like share, please fill out the form on the main Featured Posts page here. You are welcome to submit your a post of your own! 

july 2012 – monthly theme posts – family building

Here are the entries from your fellow PAIL Bloggers for the July monthly theme post. These posts run the gamut, from excitement to fear, from confidence to reluctance, and from lacing back up to being done the race. We thank you all so much for sharing your thoughts on this complex topic with us. We know it isn’t easy.

Visit and comment at your leisure! (This post will stay on the main page for a week and then be moved to the drop down menu in the pink toolbar in case you missed anything or want to come back for more!)

Suggested prompts:

  • Have you completed your family building or are you considering trying to add another child to your family?
  • What does your “complete” family look like? Has this changed along your ALI journey?
  • Do you think there is such a thing as “optimal” child-spacing? What do you think this is, and what do you base it on?
  • Are you factoring in how far apart your children would be in your decision to start trying again? How so?
  • If you are planning to add to your family, what considerations must you take into account (i.e. beginning treatment again, pursuing adoption again, finances, etc.)
  • Knowing what you know now, what are your emotional considerations in trying for a second (or third, or fourth, etc.)? This is a very large and difficult question, and may have a variety of answers within the same individual.

Contributing bloggers:

  1. Coco over at Fruit Snacks and Freezer Jam feels the clock ticking and gives us her thoughts on fairly tales, special effects, and trying to have more children in her post this month.
  2. Julia from 3 Bed, 2 Bath, 1 Baby  talks about how her plans for another baby are complicated because of the peace and stability of her household, but is torn because of her undefinable desire to have another in her post “Are you going to give Ethan a brother?”
  3. Traathy at They All Lived has this to say:  “Oh hellllll no”
  4. Sarah of Mommyhood After Fertility Frustration gives us insight into how the “…parents of a miracle IVF baby decide to move forward with treatment to give their miracle a sibling or 2 or 3...” in her post.
  5. Kalyn from The Kasun Family describes how her childhood and family structure has impacted her considerations on family building.
  6. Geek of Baby and the Geeks doubts she’ll want to go through the process of baby making again after she’s lost all control of her baby’s impending birth and the plans for it, as outlined in her post “Control“.
  7. Heather at The Road Less Traveled tell us in her post that “Being a mom is what I was meant to do. I am cautious, but still excited about trying for #2 and having 2 babies under 2.”
  8. AS (aka Mira’s Mama) writes about feeling peace with being a family of three and trying to put away old, irrational fears about having an only child.
  9. Kerri (aka uncommonnonsense1) of Uncommon Nonsense asks an important question in her post, Birth Control? Really? Do infertiles have the luxury of child spacing and family planning?
  10. Kacey from Recipe for a Baby is wondering what comes next: Our Family Building journey with FET.
  11. AL over at Mission: Motherhood submitted another thoughtful post on further consideration on family building. Also be sure to check out her PAIL featured post “gun shy” about her conflicting emotions surrounding the process.
  12. Gemini Momma from Three Geminis and a Sagittarius details her thoughts on adding to a family when you already have twins after infertility (“You’ve Lost Your Ever Lovin’ Mind” she says.) And on worrying in pregnancy, wishing for do-overs and requesting time machines.
  13. Erin of Dreaming of Babies says in her theme post that they would love to add to our family, but various factors may prevent that from happening.
  14. Ashley over at Traditionally Nontraditional tells that she is “…adding to our family sooner rather than later and doing it not only for The Hubbs and I but for Jackson” in her submission.
  15. Courtney from All the Sun For You says that “…with an ambivalent heart, it’s time for us to just jump in and try our IVF luck again to give our son a much needed little friend” in her post “Considering Our Family“.
  16. Angela from Three is a Magic Number describes her post as “Our emotional journey from successfully having a baby and no way in hell are we doing that again, to well… maybe, to JUST KIDDING.” (Note: password = PAIL)
  17. Josey of My Cheap Version of Therapy says that though she is “…infinitely happy with one child, part of me would still love to give Stella a sibling. Will my body work on its own this time? Will we use ART? Adoption? Nothing? Who knows…
  18. Stephanie at Blawnde’s Blog shares her thoughts on adding another baby to their family, and how TTC is different this time around in her theme post.
  19. SRB from Little Chicken Nugget frames her considerations on family building in three acts, with an unexpected plot twist in her post “adding an ‘s’“.
  20. We received  a comment from reader “A.” on the callout post that I encourage you to read. A. does not have a blog, but had some thoughts to share with us, so feel free to use that comment thread if you would like to respond to her.
  21. Artistmouse and her husband are flip-flopping on whether to try for baby #2.
  22. No Baby Ruth says “Call me naive if you must, but we’ll get #2 (and maybe #3?) some day” in her post “One Plus One Doesn’t Always Equal Two“.
  23. L from Life with L and J struggles to know when the time is right to try for #2 after conceiving their son through IUI.
  24. Mrs. Gamgee shares her reasoning behind taking permanent measures to prevent future pregnancies with us in her post “The Future of the Gamgee Clan“.
  25. Christina at According To C says that with just a couple of weeks to go before having their first baby, they’re already thinking about having a second!
  26. Julie Anita from The Adventures of Chicken and Ham is struggling with deciding whether to bet on, or against her fertility when deciding how soon to start TTC #3 in her post “More Babies Come Tumbling Down the Conveyor Belt.”
  27. Miss Mac from MAC and PC tells us why her family feels complete in her submission.
  28. Missy at My Scarlet Baby talks about redefining her blogging, considerations on adopting a second child, and wanting to close the chapter on family building.
  29. Esperanza of Stumbling Gracefully shares her thoughts with us in The Long Road to Now(here).
  30. Sunnymama (new to the blogroll!) has written about coming to terms with most likely not being able to give her son a sibling. Pop on over to lend your ear and say hello.
  31. MomPharmD wrote about the surprise early pregnancy that might just end the “when are you having another?” queries, and how scary that remains after three losses.
  32. Buck Up, Buttercup write answered a Q&A about her family building plans in “Baby Number Three?
  33. missohkay discusses fear, RPL and a second adoption in her post “Fear is the path to dark side“, featuring Star Wars references and the colour orange.
  34. Bethany at Cloudy with a Chance of Infertility gives us her thoughts with a 9 week old.

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Did we forget you? Do you have a post you still want to share? Let us know in the comments below or contact us!

Do you have an idea for a future theme post topic? Let us know that too in the open thread!

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july 2012 – monthly theme – considerations on family building

“So, when are you going to have another baby?” 

Ah, this popular question from the days of yore has now been slightly modified to assume that not only will you be magically reproducing again in the near future, you are also privy to the date. You know, since you are obviously cured now that you have a baby (or, if you adopted you will obviously get pregnant right away, just like my neighbour’s third cousin!).

Surely, I jest. Except not really. I have been asked this by family, friends, and complete strangers. The first time I heard a comment about “the next one”, I was holding my 11 week old baby and it came from someone who should have absolutely known better. Since then, I have tried to gently, and sometimes directly point out that having a successful pregnancy did not cure the underlying disease that causes my infertility. What I don’t say, the truth, is that I desperately want another baby. I know, in my heart, that we are meant to be a family of four. Which is not to say that if we are always three that I would not be grateful for our child. But I would always feel the longing for that second child if I was not able to have one. Always.

Perhaps it is because the majority of the women I follow are either on a similar path to mine, or our children are approximately the same age, but I am noticing that many of us are starting to pick up the #2 card and turn it over and over in our hands. What if? Can we? Should we? Can I go through it all again? Is it worth it? Am I selfish? Am I ungrateful? Do I deserve it? What if?

I have read so many posts and tweets recounting conversations in Mommy&Me style groups about women sitting around discussing when they will get pregnant again so Johnny is exactly 2.5 years or 4.2 years or whatever will get him into Harvard older than his sibling. Those of us in the ALI spectrum simply do not have that luxury.

There may be internalized pressure to start trying again right away because it could take as long as before, or it could never happen. Or maybe it will happen quickly and then the kids are too close together, and then what? There may be paralyzing fear to never want to walk that road again. There could be limiting financial considerations after expensive treatments or adoption fees. Or, maybe you are in the sweet spot of contentment on your family building journey.

Where are you? What are you considering?

Some questions for you (all of them optional):

  • Have you completed your family building or are you considering trying to add another child to your family?
  • What does your “complete” family look like? Has this changed along your ALI journey?
  • Do you think there is such a thing as “optimal” child-spacing? What do you think this is, and what do you base it on?
  • Are you factoring in how far apart your children would be in your decision to start trying again? How so?
  • If you are planning to add to your family, what considerations must you take into account (i.e. beginning treatment again, pursuing adoption again, finances, etc.)
  • Knowing what you know now, what are your emotional considerations in trying for a second (or third, or fourth, etc.)? This is a very large and difficult question, and may have a variety of answers within the same individual.

Obviously this is a very complex topic, and the questions above are only meant to be a guide to help you gather your thoughts. You are encouraged to write anything and everything you want to on the topic. You can be sure that someone out there is wondering the same things.

Please submit your posts here by midnight on Tuesday, July 17th. If you have already written something on this topic in the past, feel free to submit it! Be sure to include the following:

  • Your name and blog name (and blog URL)
  • Name and URL of your post
  • One sentence blurb summarizing your post

The complete list of posts will go up on the main page on Wednesday, July 18th.

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