Infertility and Motherhood – Infertile tees
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      I Blamed Myself For My Infertility

      I Blamed Myself For My Infertility

      post featured on Fertility Rescripted

      This is the part I never share, but here goes.

      I believed I caused my infertility. My brain needed a story for it to make sense as to why I was not getting pregnant. Two years before we started trying to conceive, the condom broke one evening. I was in my mid-twenties, thriving in my career, my soon-to-be husband and I were in our Master’s program at the University of Central Florida, and we were not ready to be parents. I drove to the closest pharmacy, and purchased Plan B. Little did I know that infertility would shackle itself to me for 10 years, and swallowing that pill would haunt me for years. 

      We got married in July of 2009, and we started trying to conceive immediately. I have always wanted a large family of my own. In my dreams I saw myself wrangling 3 kids, breaking up sibling rivalry, cramming ourselves into a minivan going to soccer practice, and three little faces that looked like a beautiful blend of my husband and I staring back at me at bedtime. I saw this image clearly in my head. Pure love, in the middle of chaos. That is what I wanted, what I yearned for. My husband wanted that, too.

      In September of 2009, I went to the OBGYN for Clomid. They say you should try for a year, but my gut told me to go. Maybe it was the years of unprotected sex and no surprise pregnancy or the eagerness of wanting to become a mother that had me lying to my OBGYN when she asked me how long we had been trying for.

      I did 7 cycles of Clomid. No pregnancy. No answers. By this time, the pain of not getting pregnant and watching all my friends around me get pregnant started to weigh on me. I felt lost like my purpose was unfulfilled. I felt like I was keeping my husband from being a father, a role I knew he would be so good at. I started to feel empty.

      After our attempts to get pregnant with Clomid failed, I decided to see a Reproductive Endocrinologist. By this time it was 2012, and I joined Instagram. I came across the profile of a woman sharing about her failed attempts with IVF. She had a blog where she chronicled her journey. I suddenly started to feel less alone. She was the first woman I had ever known to share her Infertility story publicly.

      After some diagnostic testing, my Reproductive Endocrinologist found that I had uterine polyps and mild endometriosis. “Now you will have no problem getting pregnant!” I remember him saying as I was coming out of anesthesia from my hysteroscopy. Spoiler alert: he was wrong. 

      In 2013, I went to a new RE. We had moved out of state and immediately started on IUI. I still hadn’t gotten pregnant. No double pink line. The infertility community started growing on Instagram, and I slowly started to share my story with my friends and family. Up until that point, I hadn’t given anyone a glimpse into what I was experiencing—mainly because I didn’t classify myself as “Infertile.” For me, the word “Infertile” translated to women over 40 with no eggs. Obviously I was wrong and naive.

      We did 7 IUI cycles before moving on to IVF, and the only support I had during this time was the online infertility community. My husband was coping with his pain silently.

      In 2014, I changed REs again. I know, I know, it sounds exhausting, right? But, when I went to meet with my doctor at the time about my questions and concerns, he shut me down. So I thought that if I was going to spend thousands of dollars to try to have a baby, I wasn’t going to give it to him.

      My new RE, on the other hand, was great. She got me in quickly to start IVF, and I transferred two embryos. Then IVF #1 failed. It was a chemical pregnancy. It was also the first time I had heard that term. Later my doctor would tell me I had unexplained infertility. “The diagnosis with no plan,” I thought to myself. I planned IVF cycle #2 right away, but my husband said that he would not give his sperm to the doctor unless I started therapy. So, knowing I needed it to start IVF, I annoyingly found a therapist who specialized in infertility and loss. 

      Therapy was the greatest gift I could have given myself during that time. I started to find pieces of me again. My therapist asked me thought-provoking questions like, “What would your life look like without children? How do you think you could find happiness?” “Is your goal to be a mother or to be pregnant?” and “What brings you joy today?” She empathized with me and gently challenged my thinking; and she was caring and thoughtful in her approach. In the process, I gained the tools I needed to help me with triggers.

      She even started an infertility support group where she invited me to join along with four other women. It was amazing to be amongst other women also experiencing the pain of infertility. Healing together was powerful. I was grateful, and I became a grittier and braver version of myself through the process.

      Our second IVF cycle failed in 2014. I transferred two embryos and was able to freeze two. I miscarried right after my second beta test. I found out on Christmas Day. It was crushing. That’s when an Instagram TTC sister reached out to me to recommend an out-of-state clinic. She said, “Marilyn, my friend got pregnant there and she has poor egg quality, and I have a feeling that this is the clinic for you.” So I booked a flight to Colorado and went to the new clinic for a one-day workup. I remember telling my husband that I had a little bit of gas left in my tank to do one more cycle of IVF. This would be our third. If this one failed, I was ready to live childfree and rescue dogs. 

      I started the meds for my third IVF cycle in March of 2015. They did not want to take my two frozen embryos from my previous clinic, so $25,000 later I flew back to Colorado to transfer the only two genetically normal embryos from a fresh to frozen cycle at the new clinic. I went into this transfer absolutely neutral. I felt the support from the infertility community on Instagram; I had the tools from therapy and group therapy, and I had done everything I could possibly do. I went into it knowing I had done my absolute best. 

      So imagine my surprise when I received my beta. I was pregnant. I didn’t believe it. I spent my weeks waiting for the other shoe to drop. It never did. My first ultrasound would confirm I was pregnant with one. My One. The One. She was born in June of 2016. My miracle, Mila. Her name was inspired by the word milagro, which means miracle in Spanish. 

      In 2019, I decided to transfer the two frozen embryos I had stowed away from IVF cycle #2. It failed. I was okay. I am okay. I have learned and refined qualities of myself that I wouldn’t have had if pregnancy had come easily to me.

      What I learned were that there are three pillars that anchored my healing and refined my voice:

      Self-Advocacy: It is so important during infertility to do your research, ask your doctor hard questions, and learn about what your body is doing. If you don’t, no one else will do it for you.

      Community: Lean into the infertility community. There is wisdom, experience, knowledge, friendship, support, hope, trust, care, and everything you need to survive. I have met some of my very best friends here. Most are women I have never physically met. Infertility is hard, and you should not navigate it alone.

      Healing: Therapy can help you start to heal the pain and trauma you are enduring through infertility, and partnering with a licensed therapist who can give you the tools to help you navigate through triggers is so powerful. My therapist helped me see how I can rewrite my narrative—my dream/vision for my life—and create a new one.

      I decided to close the chapter of expanding my family. I am choosing to embrace and normalize having one child when society expects you to have more. This story is mine; and I love how each day I get to choose how to write it.

      Unexplained Infertility: The Diagnosis with No Plan

      Unexplained Infertility: The Diagnosis with No Plan

      post was featured on: The Ivf Warrior

      Unexplained Infertility: The Diagnosis with No Plan

      I was 26 years old and a newlywed, when my husband and I started trying to have a family. I envisioned having a large family. Two girls and a boy to be exact (I mean if I could control it, that’s what I would handpick). The story I painted in my head consisted of chaotic mornings gathering the children to go to school, switching off with my husband to take the kids to soccer practice on the weekends, afternoons with homework and papers spread across the dining room table, and movie nights all piled in our bedroom with three curly headed kiddos snuggling in between us. 

      The light, that vision began to get dimmer, and dimmer, and dimmer, as time went on and reality started to settle in that I was experiencing Infertility. 

      One year after we started trying, I finally consulted with my OBGYN. She started me off on Clomid. It didn’t work. I was on Clomid for MONTHS, until I realized I needed to take it a step further and seek a Reproductive Endocrinologist.

      My RE tested, analyzed, month after month and came short of an explanation for my Infertility.  “Unexplained”, I remember him saying one morning during our WTF appointment when my 6th IUI did not work. 

      This would hover over everything for years. I will spare you the details about multiple miscarriages after each IVF, about the depression and emptiness, loss and inability to conceive felt like. Most likely you’ve experienced it, or someone you love has. This story is beyond the process and the debilitating emotional and crippling pain each month with empty arms brought me. Because I did end up with my miracle. IVF #3 was successful. Throughout the process of experiencing Infertility, I actively engaged in therapy. I was a regular participant in an Infertility based group therapy. That was the best gift I could give myself. I started to heal. To regain control, reclaim my power. I was no longer defining myself as “I AM Infertile”, because that is NOT who I am, but rather, “I am experiencing Infertility”. It was empowering to start putting my broken pieces back together. I was this grittier, braver, bolder woman, that despite the brokenness fought to put herself together. 

      In 2019, we made the decision to transfer our two remaining frozen embryos.

      I felt ready and equipped for either outcome. I had tools in my arsenal, mantras, community support, and a new mindset. So, when IVF #4 failed. I was faced with a choice. Do I keep trying to fulfill my vision, my dream of having 3 children, or is it time for me to say, “you fought a good fight sis, it is time to release it”. I chose the latter. The truth is, yes, I do have another 10 years in me to try and try and try, but do I want to be in a battalion again. No. Am I capable of reprogramming my dreams and redesigning a new vision. Yes. 

      So here I am today in 2020, maximizing each day with my ONE child. THE ONE. MY ONLY. And although every now and then I get slight pangs in my chest of adding another again, I no longer yearn for it. I openly and proudly embrace my ONE. It was always supposed to be her and only her. I have my power again. I am free of the weight Infertility caused, and now I can stand whole and present with my miracle.

       

      Normalizing Having One Child

      Normalizing Having One Child

      Interview Featured on Natalist

      Tell us about your journey to motherhood. 

      I’ve always wanted to be a mother. So when I got married in July 2009, my husband and I started “trying” immediately. I wanted a big family, and would daydream of three children with curly brown hair and big brown eyes piled up in our bed for Saturday morning pancakes and cartoons. September 2009, two months after we got married, I found myself at the OBGYN, asking her to speed up the process. I fibbed about having been trying for a year (there was no way they could tell right?), and so she put me on Clomid. I was on Clomid for 6 cycles over the course of a couple years and I never got pregnant. So when she suggested I see a Reproductive Endocrinologist, I was in denial I was “infertile”.  

      The RE found uterine polyps during a laparoscopy. He was certain that was my issue since I was “young and healthy”. During that time, we were in the process of moving out of state to Salt Lake City, Utah. It was now 2013, with a new RE and I was starting my first IUI. We did seven IUI cycles with no luck. I had joined Instagram, and had discovered the #TTC (trying to conceive) community. Women were opening up about Infertility and I was learning to advocate for myself. So when I went to my follow-up appointment with my doctor as to why that seventh IUI didn’t work, he refused to entertain questions I had about vitamin D levels and other vitamin deficiency questions I had that perhaps could be a possible factor in my inability to get pregnant. So I knew he wasn’t the doctor I wanted to pay to continue this journey to motherhood. 

      I found another RE and she immediately got us scheduled and ready for IVF #1. I low-key thought IVF guaranteed me a baby. I felt foolish after my first beta came back at 15. This was after I transferred two embryos. “Chemical pregnancy”, the nurse said on the other end of the line after 6pm that night. I didn’t have any embryos, we weren’t able to freeze any. So in typical Type A, I have to achieve-my-goal-mindset, I took a deep breath and got put on the schedule immediately for IVF #2. That was when my doctor diagnosed me with “Unexplained Infertility”. IVF #2 allowed me to freeze two embryos and transfer two. I found out on Christmas Day of 2014, that my third Beta did not double, indicating a miscarriage. It was a gut punch. I don’t think I have ever felt such grief. I don’t even have the words to describe how painful that loss was. 
      In March of 2015, I flew to Colorado, a clinic out of state to get another opinion. I spent the day there doing a one day workup, filled with testing, and meetings with the doctors/nurses. This was my last hurrah. I had a little more gas in my tank to hold my breath for one more IVF. They would not take my two frozen embryos from the other clinic because they wanted to fully maximize the ability to retrieve the best eggs possible by putting me on an Acai supplement eight weeks before retrieval. They also only accept patients willing to do PGS testing. So that is what we did. At retrieval, 17 eggs were retrieved and seven made it to freeze for PGS testing, two came back genetically normal. September of 2015, I transferred two genetically normal embryos. October 2015, an ultrasound would confirm one heartbeat. June 2016, I delivered my miracle baby Mila. Her name was inspired by the spanish word Milagro, which means miracle.

      It took you 5.5 years to have your daughter. Looking back, what would you tell yourself at the beginning of this journey?

      I would tell Marilyn that her worth and value is not based on whether she became a mother or not. When I think of Marilyn in the early years, I just want to hold her. So I would urge her to seek therapy WITH her husband as soon as the journey began. It would have saved years of resentment and solitude embarking on this journey. Every couple going through Infertility needs a licensed expert to talk to about it.

      You talk a lot about normalizing having one child. Tell us about knowing when it was time to stop fertility treatments. 

      In October of 2019, I transferred my remaining two frozen embryos from 2014. I had been going to therapy and consciously working on my personal development so when the transfer didn’t work, I knew that it was time to stop, and I was tired of visiting the pain over and over again. I was ready to close the emotional and grueling chapter of trying to expand my family. I wanted to be normal again, and stay present and so I had to find ways to be okay with this new chapter.

       

       

      How did you make this decision, and find peace with it?

      You have to really know yourself to get there. I knew that if I kept trying, I wouldn’t have been fully present with my little girl or my husband, and I was afraid of missing out on the simple joys day to day, like I had when we were trying to conceive our one. It wasn’t a burden worth putting on my family, and I knew that it was me who had to work on repainting this dream into a new one. It is a lot of recalibrating, staying present, knowing your triggers, and practicing gratitude. Eckhart Tolle, an author, really helped me find peace while grieving. I found it possible to do both and let it go. It is a really powerful thing to experience. 

      It is also powerful when you realize that all along YOU hold the power to create your own story and to paint it each day. 

       

      Why is it important to advocate for families, and help normalize having one child?

      To help families stay conscious and aware of their mental health during infertility/or after. That it is possible to fully embrace having one child and appreciating the complete and incredible miracle that they are for us. My goal is to generate conversation and to challenge the stigma that A) a single child will be spoiled B) lonely or C) not enough for the parent. My daughter will always have unlimited access to me and my undivided attention. She will never know loneliness because she isn’t alone. She won’t miss not having a sibling, because she’s never had one. Many of these sentiments come from the parent wishing their own child experienced what they did with their family dynamic and siblings. Sometimes we have to reparent ourselves so our children grow up becoming inherently who they are supposed to be, and having siblings doesn’t narrate that. I want people to know it is going to be okay if you have one child and I challenge them to poll 10 adults who are only children. They will ALL say they loved it. And THAT alone is comforting enough.

      Sometimes we have to reparent ourselves so our children grow up becoming inherently who they are supposed to be, and having siblings doesn’t narrate that.

      You also advocate for women of color, especially Latinas, who are facing infertility. Can you share more about the experiences Latina women face in infertility and pregnancy? 

      Latina’s are half as likely to seek reproductive assistance and it is deeply rooted in our culture. It is common to be met with “You have to pray more, or have more faith”, when someone in the Latinx community shares their difficulty getting pregnant. Also, Latinas all have that ONE relative who will suggest a cocktail of herbs, massages, ankle injections, holistic therapies, in place of seeking help from an RE. It is also very common in our culture to be met with toxic positivity, making it difficult for this generation of women to speak up for themselves. It is how we are conditioned. Respecting our families privacy is the golden rule. Even hinting at fertility struggles, is considered disrespectful to your spouse because it is about sex, and you do not invite relatives into your sex life. So being Infertile as a Latina, is extremely challenging. Especially when your doctors ask your race and deem you as fertile because you ARE Latina. 

      You started Infertile Tees, tell us about why you started this business and what gets you most excited. 

      I started Infertile Tees in August 2019, when I was searching Etsy for a transfer day t-shirt for myself. I did not like anything I saw. Nothing that reflected my personal style, so as a self taught graphics designer I designed my own and had a local print shop print it for me. Someone at the clinic commented on it, and that is what inspired me to start my shop. I set out to design t-shirts that were classic, versatile, and to tell a story about the Infertility journey. My goal is for people to feel seen and heard through statement tees, so they know they are not alone. The thing that gets me MOST excited is when someone tags me in a photo while wearing what I created. It is the most humbling feeling to be woven into women’s journeys through my t-shirts. I truly feel that I am there with them and It is an incredible honor to be.

      You also have a podcast! Who is the favorite guest you have interviewed? 

      I started a podcast this year because I wanted to normalize meaningful conversations with women about real life stuff. I noticed our chit-chat was so unfulfilling to me, and I really wanted to get to the good life learning stuff. Hard to pick one favorite guest because they all have incredible experiences and key things to teach my listeners, but one that had me mostly quiet during the interview (which is hard because I am a talker), was Gabbi Norman, a nurse who was diagnosed with Steven-Johnsons syndrome after she was in a coma from a prescribed medication her doctor gave her. She talks about self-advocacy and what to ask your physicians. 

      You have a lot on your plate. How do you think about doing your best work while being a parent? Has that understanding shifted over time?

      I do have a lot on my plate, but it is mostly because I put it there. It is a constant tug-of-war, with my business type A mindset, and giving myself grace because  there is nothing more important than my family. I have my four year old next to me while I work and explain to her what I am doing and why. She helps me pull items, package, and ship. I hope she knows my love for advocacy, the Infertility community, and entrepreneurship.  I have become really good at planning and using every minute of my time to its fullest capacity. I also give myself the weekend off of social media and work so I can be present at home. I have learned that I can wear many hats, but I should not wear them all at the same time.

      What is your favorite Natalist product?

      THE FIBER SUPPLEMENT. I wrote that in caps because it is so gentle. For someone like me who has suffered from irregularities and hemmys (what I call hemorrhoids) her entire life, this one is a game changer. I put it in my spinach/kale smoothies in the mornings.

      Last question: what advice do you have for other women going through fertility treatments? 

      1.  Self-Advocacy, do your homework, know your body, ask a lot of questions.
      2.  Community- lean into the infertility community for support, to cheer others on, and to ask questions. 
      3.  Healing-partner with a licensed mental health therapist, solo and with your spouse.