Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Kurt and Heather's Infertility Story

Kurt and I met in December of 2014, only 3 days before Christmas! The first date was perfect and we quickly fell in love after. We planned a wedding for September of 2015 and waited anxiously for the big day to arrive. During the fun plans, Kurt was sick. He went to several doctors and they looked into his illness further. Still no answers, but the fear was cancer. Two days before getting married, Kurt had to get a biopsy to test for cancer. It was almost surreal to be sitting in a hospital waiting room the week of our wedding with the fear of cancel looming over us. I was almost a little bitter that we had to face this. The wedding was amazing and we had a great honeymoon in California! Once we got home after a second biopsy, Kurt was diagnosed with cancer. He started chemo almost immediately and our time as newlyweds quickly became doctors visits, scans, surgeries and the worst of all, chemo. We tried to make the most of it and be grateful for time spent together, but it was hard. The chemo seemed to be working and we celebrated that...until March when we were told he has primary refractory disease and would need a stem cell transplant. Life changed completely after that. Time was spent only at Huntsmens where he endured so much. Chemo got more intense and he got very sick. He is now receiving consolidation chemo in hopes of helping in life expectancy since the statistics aren't great for primary refractory disease. Our greatest hope is he will live a long fulfilled life, a healthy one! We've made it through a lot in our short 18 months of marriage. Now together, we are facing the devastating side effects of such strong chemo. Kurt was diagnosed with infertility with zero sperm count. We took the news really hard. During all of this, I was diagnosed with PCOS and have been trying to manage it as best as possible. Both of our health concerns left us with one option for children... IVF and it is expensive. We've tried all we can to receive aid in funding our dream of becoming parents through contests, grants and fundraisers, but we're not able to fund our IVF just yet. We have a long ways to go. We do our best staying hopeful and managing our expectations when it comes to our infertility. We are never losing hope, we didn't with his cancer and we won't with our infertility. Facing something as intense as a cancer diagnosis changes you and it allowed us to see what truly matters and what is worth our focus in life. We chose to live each day and love each other to our fullest capacity. Life is shortand we need to love every minute of it, despite any obstacles. Infertility is a unique pain I never thought could exist, it can consume you and isolate you in the worst ways, you feel hopeless at times and feel as though no one understands the pain. Although it is painful, it is a teacher as well. We are hopeful to be parents and see our beautiful children grow and do great amazing things. If you don't have hope, what do you have? We are grateful IVF is an option but it often times feels out of reach. As a couple we can't wait for the time to start IVF and fulfill our dreams of having children. (Hopefully twins haha)
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Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Turning Brussel Sprouts Into Something Delicious

My husband LOVES Brussels sprouts.  

Just kidding.  

Last Sunday he actually made a joke about Brussels sprouts being the worst tasting vegetable ever.   They have literally been his least favorite vegetable ever.   I, on the other hand, do love Brussels sprouts.  Not because I think they taste great by any means, but because they just simply taste like they are PACKED full of nutrients.  I almost feel like I’m going the extra mile every time I take a bite of one.  AND they help with fertility.  Bonus!

I’m not saying that eating Brussels sprouts on a daily basis is key to getting pregnant, but they are FULL of folic acid which has been known to increase sperm counts in men, improve womb conditions for women, and reduce birth defects and miscarriages for pregnant women. 1  

I came across this easy and quick 3-ingredient recipe that actually makes Brussels sprouts an excellent and tasty side dish to nearly any meal.  AND my husband actually likes it!

Brussels Sprout Hash

  • 1 bunch of Brussels sprouts (trimmed)
  • ½ package of bacon (I use turkey bacon for a leaner option)
  • 3-5 garlic cloves (minced)

  1. Cut up bacon into small pieces and cook in a large skillet.
  2. Chop up Brussel Sprouts, or put in a food processor to make them finely chopped.
  3. Once bacon is completely cooked, add the Brussels sprouts and garlic.
  4. Cook until Brussels sprouts begin to brown.
  5. Salt and pepper to taste (if desired)

And there you have it- an easy, simple way to make a very unpopular vegetable taste good. Add this to fish that’s high in Omega-3 fatty acids, and you’ve got yourself quite the fertility meal!

1 Innes, Emma.  4 December, 2013.  Trying for a baby? Eat Brussels Sprouts: Vegetable helps boost fertility in both men and women.  Retrieved from http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-2518129/Eating-Brussels-sprouts-helps-boost-fertility-men-women.html


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Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Clomid: A Brief Overview

Clomid is one of the most common medications prescribed to women who are dealing with infertility. You may have taken it, you may have heard of a friend who is taking it, or you may be wondering if you will be prescribed it in the future. So here is a quick overview of what Clomid is and what it does.

Clomid is a drug that is used to help women who are dealing with infertility. It causes the pituitary gland to release hormones needed to stimulate ovulation. It is most commonly given to women who have Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS), but it is also prescribed to women who have anovulation, a shorter luteal phase, and many other situations where a woman’s doctor may see it necessary.

It is important while taking Clomid that you follow all directions of your doctor. Clomid is typically taken for 5 days straight, most commonly starting on the 5th day of your menstrual cycle. However, some doctors have found more success if you take it starting on the 3rd day of your menstrual cycle. This is a decision that will be made based on each individuals circumstances, however if you aren’t seeing success when taking it on day 5 it may not hurt to ask to switch it up. It’s always important to advocate for yourself! If the Clomid is successful ovulation should occur within 5-10 days after the cycle of Clomid is completed.

Like all medications Clomid does have side effects. Although they are different for every woman, some of the most common ones are:
  • Flushing: warmth, redness or a tingly feeling
  • Breast Pain
  • Headaches
  • Hot Flashes
  • Night Sweats
**Hot Flashes and Night Sweats were the worst side effects I experienced while on Clomid. There were many nights were I would wake up drenched in sweat and the only remedy was to go outside and stand in the cool wind. Brace yourself for this, it is no joke.

Side Effects that aren’t common and should be immediately reported to your doctor are:
  • Stomach pain or bloating
  • Nausea, vomiting or diarrhea
  • Rapid weight gain
  • Little or no urinating
  • Pain when you breathe, rapid heart rate or feeling short of breathe
** These symptoms can all be related to Ovarian Hyperstimulation Syndrome (OHSS) which can be life threatening!

Some of my personal thoughts and tips concerning Clomid are these:

  • Be aware that most doctors start you out on a dose of 50mg of Clomid. You may not experience any side effects on this dosage. However, each month Clomid doesn’t work your doctor may up your dosage going from 50mg to 100mg to 150mg.  As your dosage increases so do the severity of the side effects. Prepare yourself for this.
  • If you are going to take Clomid, and deal with the unpleasant side effects, request from your doctor to be monitored. Being monitored means they are doing a base line ultrasound to look at your follicles, and then another ultrasound around day 12 of your cycle, to see how the Clomid has progressed those follicles. In my personal opinion… it is a waste to use Clomid if you aren’t being monitored because you could be taking a drug, experiencing nasty side effects, and ultimately using a whole cycle and the drug may not even be working and you wouldn’t even know it because you aren’t being monitored. ASK TO BE MONITORED. Advocate for yourself. It will be well worth it.
  • If after several months Clomid isn’t working for you…Ask to use Femara. It is another drug that works well for women yet has less side effects. We will be doing a post soon about Femara and will link it soon!

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Friday, July 15, 2016

Common Treatments for PCOS

There are so many things to try in order to aid in increasing your chances of conceiving when diagnosed with PCOS, and it can often seem very overwhelming.  I wish I could say there was a one size fits all miracle drug or solution to becoming pregnant, but everyone is SO different and needs to find what seems to work for them.  Here are just a few of the things I tried that are very commonly recommended to women with PCOS trying to boost their fertility:

  1. Living a healthy lifestyle.  Although this is important for anyone, whether trying to conceive or not, women who have PCOS, especially those who are obese, are highly encouraged to first take a look at their diet and exercise. Creating good habits can help to maintain a normal weight and help with some of the PCOS symptoms including regulating your cycle. 1   I’ve always been at a healthy weight, tried to make healthy choices, and live an active lifestyle, so this was something I struggled with. It was hard for me to know what extreme to take it to.  Dieticians and health professionals have published a lot of useful information on what commonly works the best for those with PCOS, but again, it is all so dependent on the individual. Therefore, it’s important for you to get to know your own body and find what works.  

  1. Taking Clomiphene (also commonly known as clomid).  This is the most commonly used medication to help with infertility for women with PCOS and irregular cycles.  Women who conceive with clomid are also more likely to give birth to multiples than those who conceive without it.  It works by indirectly helping the eggs to mature and then release for ovulation. 2  When I was on clomid, I consistently ovulated on day 14 and had perfect 28 day cycles.   Clomid was one of the medications I used during one of my IUI treatments and I produced three good sized follicles!  I LOVED being able to have perfect cycles- It made timing everything so much easier and saved me from using a box of ovulation sticks a month (ovulation kits are not cheap!). Clomid did give me really bad breakouts around ovulation and when my period was supposed to start, along with extreme fatigue and a little bit of craziness.  With some of these symptoms, I felt like I was either pregnant or on birth control all over again!
  1. Metformin.  Metformin is typically used for diabetes, but as an insulin-sensitizing drug, it has also been known to help women with PCOS who struggle with insulin levels, thereby helping them ovulate. 3 I had heard quite a few success stories with metformin from people I know who had taken it for no more than 3 months and had gotten pregnant, so you could say I was excited to try it!  I took the extended-release version, which is supposed to help with side affects, but it literally made everything taste gross to me! I was on a pretty strict diet while I was taking metformin, and all of it together was pretty miserable.  Taking metformin along with the strict diet I was on was the longest I have ever gone without having a period (about three months compared to the 32-35 day cycles I typically experienced).  I was under a lot of stress during this time and I’m curious if under different circumstances, it would have created different results.   

Again, these were just a FEW of the things that I tried, most of which we tried before realizing that male infertility was also a factor for us that we hadn’t looked at resolving.  

1 Makarov, Jennifer.  Polycystic Ovary Syndrome: Causes, Diagnoses, and Treatment.  

2Treatments for Infertility Resulting from PCOS.  (July 14, 2015).  Retrieved from https://www.nichd.nih.gov/health/topics/PCOS/conditioninfo/Pages/infertility.aspx

3 Treatments for Infertility Resulting from PCOS.  

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Wednesday, July 6, 2016

How To Boost Your Egg Quality In 90 Days

With PCOS, the day you ovulate isn’t always very predictable and longer cycles make the whole waiting game just that much longer! So, it only makes sense that one of the first things we often focus on is getting our cycles regular, either naturally or by taking medications such as clomid, letrozole, and femara.  Although these medications can help the follicles to grow and mature by increasing FSH levels, I also wanted to do everything I could during fertility treatments to make sure that my eggs were as healthy as possible!   

Why is egg health so crucial to fertility?

How healthy your eggs are can influence whether or not fertilization takes place, whether or not implantation happens, and how viable the pregnancy is.1 Simple answer, it is very important.  

So what factors even determine egg quality?

It used to believe that the only factor that influences egg quality was a woman’s age. Although a female’s age is important to consider2, there are other factors to look at as well.  These things include, but aren’t limited to, environmental factors, hormones in the food we eat, and stress.3   

Preparing for Ovulation (3 months in advance):

An egg goes through a 90-day cycle to prepare for ovulation4- something I didn’t know at the beginning of my infertility journey and something I wish I had known sooner!  Everything we do during this time, everything you’re doing right now whether healthy or unhealthy, is influencing the maturation process of an egg and ovulation that takes place three months from now.  Kind of crazy to think about, especially when we’re so used to looking at trying to conceive as a month-to-month thing!
So, here are a few things we can do about it:

  1. Ensure Blood Flow and Proper Oxygenation

We want to make sure that our bodies are able to have proper oxygen and rich blood flow to the ovaries to help with egg quality.  In order to do this, make sure you are:
  • Drinking at least 64 oz. of pure water each day.  Dehydration causes thick blood, and decreases circulation in your body among other problems.  
  • Be active! Find something you enjoy doing so you’re more likely to do it.  Exercise is a great way to increase blood flow and help bring oxygen to the blood.

  1. Hormonal Balance
Balancing hormones is SO important for egg quality, and many of us with PCOS have a really hard time with this! To help we can:
  • Decrease the stress in our lives
  • Follow a fertility diet  (Jill Blakeway provides a lot of useful information on lifestyle changes and eating for fertility in her book Making Babies).  

  1. Nutrition
Everything we eat impacts egg quality either positively or negatively.  So make healthy choices.  Here are some things that are recommended as “top foods for egg health”:
  • Royal Jelly
  • Maca
  • FertiliGreens
  • Broccoli
  • Berries
  • Dark leafy vegetables
  • Halibut
  • Salmon
  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Sesame seeds
  • Turmeric
  • Ginger

    Stay away from:
  • Cigarettes
  • Caffeine
  • Alcohol
  • Sugar
  • Non-organic meats and dairy
  • Soda
  • Low fat diet
  • Processed foods
  • Trans Fats
  • GMO foods

  1. Take a multivitamin/ your prenatal vitamin! 4
Provide your body with the proper nutrients it needs.

These are just a few of the things I found helpful. For me, I found that moderation was KEY.  

1 Rodriguez, Hethir.  (Accessed November 4, 2015).  How to Increase Your Egg Health in 90 Days.  Retrieved from http://natural-fertility-info.com/increase-egg-health

2 Sherbahn, Richard. (Accessed November 4, 2015).  Egg quality & quanitity & the relationship to fertility, infertility and IVF success.  Retrieved from http://www.advancedfertility.com/eggquantityquality.htm

3 Rodriguez, Hethir.  

4 Rodriguez, Hethir.  

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Thursday, June 30, 2016

When IVF Doesn't Work

The decision to do IVF is one that doesn’t just happen on a whim for most couples. It typically comes after months or years of different fertility treatments, months of planning financially, and then emotionally preparing yourself and your spouse for the physical and mental toll that the whole process is going to take on your body. Getting to that first day of your IVF cycle is a whole process in and of itself. Then there is the actual process of IVF to go through. The shots that happen 2-3 times per day, the daily appointments and blood draws, the ultrasounds, and that is only the physical side. Emotionally it is a roller coaster of a ride. You find yourself wanting to be so positive and so hopeful, but on the inside you are having a meltdown, over analyzing every aspect of the procedure, and then you find yourself asking every single person you know who has gone through IVF for their experience. Did they have cramps? Spotting? Did their nose start imagining smells like yours did? It’s pretty crazy what you go through during an IVF cycle. And, if your anything like me, you may have been 100% positive that IVF was going to work for you. That this was the last thing you were going to have to do to get that sweet baby you’ve been dreaming of. In fact, you’ve taken a poll of all of those women you know who have done IVF and it worked for all of them… so you’re sure it will work for you too. So sure you’d bet your life on it. So what happens, what do you do, when IVF doesn’t work?

I will never forget the day we took our second blood test for our first round of IVF. I was nervous and excited and so anxious. After my blood draw, it seemed that the clock stopped moving and the phone call with the results would never come. Maybe you’ve experienced this too? And if you’re like me… you’ve experienced the phone ringing and your heart beating out of your chest. You’ve experienced thinking to yourself, “This is it! This is the phone call that is going to change my life! This is the moment where I find out I’m going to be a mom.” And if you are like me, you’ve also experienced when that moment goes from potentially the best moment of your life, to your world collapsing in on you. When the nurse tells you, you aren’t pregnant and that all that work you just put in, all those shots, blood draws and appointments didn’t work. And it’s at that moment that with a broken heart you have to face the reality of when IVF doesn’t work. So what do you do? I personally went through a few stages of healing and I wanted to share them.

The first was the tears. I am sure lots of people can relate. Allow yourself to cry. It’s healing. Allow yourself to cry and be heartbroken. Don’t bottle that up. Cry to your husband, your mom, your IVF person, and your pillow. Allow yourself the ability to feel. For me, this lasted a few days. And it was off and on. I’d be ok and then I’d break down and cry again, but boy am I so glad I cried.

The second, for me, was a bit of anger. I suppose this phase may have slightly over crossed with the tears phase, but that anger was real. It wasn’t necessarily directed at anyone in particular. For me, it was mostly that I was just mad at the universe. I was mad that I had been dealt the cards I had.

After anger, I immediately needed to start planning. Within just a few days of our first round of IVF failing, my husband and I were back in the office with our doctor discussing what to do next. Having a plan made me feel like hope wasn’t lost. Whether your plan is to try again immediately, to wait a few months, wait a few years, move on to adoption, or plan that next vacation and give yourself a break from trying, make a plan for yourself. Some days my plan was to simply get through the day, but I always had a plan and for some reason it made a world of a difference. So make a plan, keep moving forward, even if it is just baby steps.

I realize that everyone heals differently and that what worked for me isn’t going to always work for someone else, but my hope in writing this is that, if you’ve already found yourself in this situation… or you find yourself in this situation now or someday, that you don’t give up. Sometimes it’s when you think you can’t possibly handle something, you learn that you can and that you are stronger because of it. So don’t give up. Remember what Margaret Thatcher said “You may have to fight a battle more than once to win it.”

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Friday, June 24, 2016

The Pryor Journey

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My husband and I were married in 1995. We were young, just before my 21st birthday. The following year, a friend of mine had a little girl and I bought an outfit for her to take over after she was born. To my shame, I never made it over to see the baby in the busyness of life. I decided to just hold onto the outfit for a little girl of my own someday. My dream was to be a stay at home Mom. In fact, I had dropped out of college when I got engaged because I figured there was no point to having a degree in finance if I was just going to be a stay at home Mom. I just figured we would be having children (hoping for 5) right away. But, time went on and no babies. All of my friends began to have babies and I went to baby shower after baby shower for years. I played almost every baby shower game out there! After 7 years of trying and waiting, I remember getting angry with my husband for not getting me pregnant. I was pretty irrational and confused at this point as to why I couldn’t get pregnant. My husband looked at me and said, “who are you really mad at?” I burst into tears and realized I was angry with God for not giving me what I wanted. My heart changed after that moment. Sure, my heart still ached to have children, but my husband and I had decided to completely give this desire to our God. The Lord had given my husband and I faith to wait on Him. My husband’s analogy was this: A child asks his mother for a cookie for breakfast, she (knowing what is best for him) tells him no, not yet. We did not want to be a child that then decides to do it on his own and crawl up to the cookie jar and get a cookie anyway. Because of how we prayed for children, and the faith that God had given us to wait, we wanted to be faithful. We thought about adoption, IVF, even just going to see a basic doctor, but in the end left it to our Lord. You see, we don’t think there is anything wrong with doing IVF or any other method if it is in your heart to do. It just wasn’t for us. 

I began to do things to keep busy. We didn’t want to look back at this time without children and regret not doing things with our life. We took European vacations, trips to Hawaii, Mexico, etc. I took a master gardener course and remember the instructor telling us how sad it is to create watermelon as seedless so it cannot even reproduce. Yes, it is sad not to be able to reproduce! I used to look at couples who could get pregnant and called them “breeders”. I was jealous. I was happy for them, but I was jealous. Our friends got younger and younger until we were 35 years old and our friends who were in their early 20’s got pregnant with their first child. We laughed and realized it was time to hang out with people our own age again because they no longer needed babysitters as their children were in high school now. We still had a yearning to have children, but we were content with the life God had given us.
Then after 16 years of marriage, my husband began to have a midlife crisis. The term, midlife crisis, gets a lot of laughter, but they are real, and not a laughing matter. It was my husband’s turn to question whether we had done the right thing in waiting and how we had lived our life. Our marriage struggled for 2 years before he moved out. I was 37 years old and alone. No husband, no children. Not even a possibility of children now. I collapsed. I didn’t eat or sleep much during this time. But, God took care of me and taught me many things about LOVE. Unconditional LOVE. He granted me courage to love when I wasn’t being loved. My husband and I were separated only for 6 weeks. A very short time really, but it felt like much longer. He moved home and we began the very difficult task of trying to restore our marriage.

During this time, a friend came to stay for a while with me. The day she left to fly home, she looked at me and said "the Lord is going to grant the desires of your heart." I thought how sweet it was, and after I dropped her off at the airport, I went home, sat at my kitchen table, and prayed about what the desires of my heart really were. I realized there were 3 things: my husband’s return to a faithful servant of God, my husband’s heart to fully love me once more, and a child. The next day, I went to church, and a woman in church came to me and told me that the Lord would grant me the desires of my heart. No one else knew what had been said to me the day before. I always feel like the Lord has to tell me things twice before I believe Him!

Once my husband and I came back together as husband and wife, I got pregnant the first time. Eighteen years of trying and I was suddenly pregnant. This was not an easy pregnancy. My husband had lost his job due to his midlife crisis, so he was home and able to care for me. I was not able to walk hardly at all, was very sick, and had problems with the pregnancy in general. He learned to clean house, cook meals, and take care of all the things I had always done for years. It was how the Lord began to restore our marriage. We had each other and we needed each other again. He hardly left my side for three months. At sixteen weeks, my water broke, and I was delivered of a tiny baby. It was heart wrenching. My heart was broken. But my husband and I grieved together.

Exactly one year from the time I found out I was pregnant the first time, I found out I was pregnant again. Both times I found out I was pregnant was during Thanksgiving; like God was telling me to be thankful. This pregnancy was different. Sure, there were complications. There were nights I didn’t sleep much because I was worried about losing this baby as well. But our God keeps His promises. The doctors just kept on saying they wanted to get me to 30 weeks. I went 39 1/2 weeks, full term. I gave birth to a healthy little girl. We named her Taylor. Her name needed to mean something to me, after all, we had waited 19 years to have her. You see, a “tailor” mends things, creates things, takes fabrics and makes something beautiful out of them. She is the gift from God to mend my broken heart: Taylor Rose Pryor.
And yes, she did wear that outfit I kept for her.
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