July 30, 2014

Just Do It

First of all, thank you all so, so much for your wonderful words of encouragement shared here, on facebook and instagram on Monday's post. It means more to me than I can say. Your words have encouraged me, brought tears to my eyes, and put hope in my heart.

I waited so long to share that post. I know I shared bits and pieces  along the way, but I struggled to "let it all out". The longer I waited, the more I had to keep editing the post to reflect what was happening. This alone made me crazy. I would think to myself, just do it! Just share it and then it will be out there and then you can move along. But I wouldn't. I felt strange writing if I didn't acknowledge that piece of me or would avoid those topics when I would write. Then I thought, is it weird that I write about my grief one day and lipstick another? Basically, I put way too much thought into what I was or wasn't writing and sharing.  As I mentioned, I really do gain a lot of inspiration from people who are brave enough to share their stories like that. As soon as I shared it, I was so glad that I did. Your support and encouragement makes me remember that I can't keep this journey to myself. I've referenced it before, but Hoda Kotb, (my bestie), wrote about how her life was changed when someone told her "don't hog your journey". I may not have the courage to share my story if someone else didn't have the courage to share theirs.

Our minds are very powerful. Sometimes the thoughts, fears, anxieties we create can prevent us from really living, or doing, something we may want to do. Do I always feel strong or brave? Not even close.

 Another example of this has to do with running. Before we got married, I was training for a half marathon. I was really deep into the training, and had gotten up to running 11 miles. Then, our wedding happened, honeymoon happened, and that was it for the long distance running. I never signed up for that half marathon, and so it didn't happen. Then, well, life happened. I'd be pregnant or planning to be pregnant or recovering from a treatment or miscarriage and I didn't run. The weird thing is, I've wanted to run. Nothing was stopping me but my own mind. I gave myself excuses or talked myself out of it, or told myself that I couldn't possibly get that distance back. Now I find myself almost five years later and I need to run. I think I need to prove to myself that I can do it. Lately I've gotten back out there a little bit. The first run was very slow, but I managed to run 6 miles. I feel proud of myself for doing that, and it makes me want to do more. And then, just like usual, I feel the thoughts of doubt creep in. Can I run 7 more miles? Will I be able to finish a half marathon? The answer is yes. I just need to stop thinking about it and do it. So, we plan to sign up for a half marathon for the fall, before we are ready. In doing so, the hope is the we will be ready by the time it comes around, and we will be accountable for actually running it. I guess I'm writing it down here so that we will also be accountable for signing up for one!

Have you ever found yourself in a situation like this? How did you get motivated to make your goals happen? Any running tips for half marathon training?

July 28, 2014

Dreams, Interrupted

There is something that has been on my heart for quite some time. I have been gaining courage to share what has been bubbling beneath the surface, but I haven't yet. I think part of it is fear. Of what? Fear of sharing a very personal part of our lives. Fear that maybe someone will say something that will hurt my feelings. Fear that maybe no one will read it or respond to it at all. Fear that it's too sad or too raw or not enough and yet too much to share on this blog. But, fear is so overrated. I am tired of fear. This is my place to write and if anyone actually reads it and it helps or inspires even one person, that is enough. Truthfully, though, it really helps me to get the words out. And I think that is what really should be enough reason for me to write.

I want to emphasize that the purpose of this blog was to help heal my broken heart after losing our cherished twin boys. Then, it evolved. It evolved into a way of connecting with others, making friends, and even the unexpected blessing of helping others cope with their own battles. I really miss all of those things that don't necessarily happen when I'm not writing. With that said, this is my journal that I hope to look back on it years and years to come, and you are very much welcome here if you come with a positive, encouraging spirit. And, as we teach our kiddos in school, if you don't have anything nice to say, please don't say it at all.

I didn't want to write this post because I didn't want to have to. I actually began drafting it last year but I kept putting off hitting the publish button for one reason or another. I wanted to have more joyful news to share and I kept waiting and waiting for that to happen. Now I just want to get it out there knowing that when I have good news to share, it will bring me so much joy to do so here. But, for today: I haven't written about our tremendous struggles with infertility. First of all, I hate that word. It's terrible. But it's real and our file that is hundreds of pages thick says that it's something of which we have suffered. I have gained so much hope and comfort from reading about the stories of other women going through similar struggles and I admired them so much for putting their stories out there for the world to see. I'm going to put mine out there in an effort to try something different, and to ask for the prayers of anyone out there who might be reading. I believe, now more than ever, in the power of prayer.

If you are already bored, or this isn't your cup of tea, please stop reading! I won't blame you. ;)

So, it all started with a "baby-to-be"moon. Blissfully married for almost a year, we decided we wanted to take a vacation, become pregnant on said vacation and would return carrying our first child. Easy, right? I went off the pill in July 2010 and we went to The Dominican Republic in August. We thought we had it all planned out. This was our first taste of the saying, "we make plans, God laughs".

We did not become pregnant in August and I went to see my doctor soon after to make sure everything was okay. I've never been a very patient one {actually, I guess four years later, I'm doing alright with that whole patience thing}. After some investigating, my amazing and very proactive OB thought it looked as though I had PCOS and sent us onto a Reproductive Endocrinologist (RE) to be checked out further. After many tests, he confirmed PCOS, which, in a nutshell means I have a lot of eggs in the basket {good news} but my body was not maturing and releasing those eggs each month, or in any sort of reliable fashion. {not so good news} We quickly realized that PCOS is very common and, thankfully, something we could work with. With a little {or sometimes a lot} of help, women with PCOS become pregnant and have babies everyday. We thank God for this.

That fall of 2010 was tough. We knew we had a road ahead of us and didn't know where it would
lead. We could have never imagined what was in store for us. Before starting any treatment, our RE
put me back on birth control which helps calm hyperactive ovaries down. In January 2011, I had a hysterosalpingogram (hsg) to make sure my tubes were clear and that my uterus was not oddly shaped. Tubes were clear, check. Uterus was slightly heart shaped, called an arcuate uterus. We were told it was slight and nothing to be concerned about. More on that later in the story. We were given the clear to start treatment.

We tried one round of clomid and my body didn't respond at all. I was not in the mood to try with any more of that so my doctor moved us on to injectables to help mature an egg and then do an IUI to help boost our chances of becoming pregnant.

Well, we did our first IUI on February 15th, 2011-- the day after Valentine's Day. On March 1st, we found out we were pregnant! Our first IUI! I even remember someone saying to me, "well, that was easy!" Little did we know..On March 14th, TJ's 30 birthday, we found out we were expecting identical twins. One embryo had split and from that moment on, life would never be the same.

As you well know, we lost our precious babies on June 2nd, 2011. I won't go into those details again now, but it was, and continues to be, the most painful experience we have ever lived through.

The only way to try to heal our broken hearts was to keep trying to build our family.  As soon as the doctors and we felt we were ready, we tried again. We did another IUI in August, September, one cancelled cycle in October, November and December. On Christmas morning, we found out we were pregnant with what would be our precious Kate. I maintain to this day that having Kate in our lives for the precious short time we did, allowed her to work wonders on our hearts in a way only she could. I miss her every.second.of.every.day. I wanted so desperately to meet her, to hold her, to bring her home with us. And yet, we lost her late in the first trimester. Heartbreaking.

I should pause here and say we don't know why we lost our twins and our baby girl. Afterwards, we had genetic testing done and our babies were chromosomally normal. This added to our devastation because we did not have answers. I have been tested for everything under the sun and every single test has come back normal. No explanation. So painful. We brought our puppy, Bailey, home as an attempt to bring some joy into our lives. She did.

After losing Kate, we were every bit as determined to try again. This time, our doctor wanted us to try IVF. We agreed it was time and had high hopes it would be successful. Well, on Friday, April 13th, 2012 we had our first egg retrieval. I woke up from the procedure to learn my doctor retrieved 11 eggs. I cried and cried because I didn't think that would be enough. We held out hope until we received the call the next morning with our fertilization report. We were hopeful we had some embryos that had fertilized and were growing. We received a very unpleasant phone call from our doctor who broke the news to us that we had complete fertilization failure. None, Zilch. A complete failure. My doctor, who at that point had earned the name "Dr. Doom and Gloom" told us he wasn't sure IVF would work for us, and that maybe there was something going on with my eggs that was causing this. Cue the panic attack. No one has once told me we wouldn't be able to have children and had we not already been pregnant, I believe we might have heard a different story. So, that was emotionally, physically, not to mention financially, draining.

To our surprise, Dr. Doom wanted us to get back to where we had began and try the IUI route again. So, try again we did. We tried an IUI in June and became pregnant, only to face heartbreak days later as my levels began to drop. We decided to do one more IUI in July and we received a late surprise that it, too, had worked. Thank God! We called that little one our little Fighter. He or she just kept sticking around and even through an early bleeding scare, which I was sure I was miscarrying, we found out it was implantation bleeding. I went on bed rest for a few days and it stopped. Sadly, a week later our fears were confirmed when we found out our little fighter was no longer developing. And, at that, I'd had enough. I could not go back to our clinic because we just had too many sad memories there and I couldn't stand my doctor's approach and bedside manner. He is a very talented physician and has helped us in many ways, but it was time to break up.

So, we finally left. We switched to the clinic down the street to a doctor who is nationally recognized for his work. He ran some more tests including an "advanced recurrent pregnancy loss panel" and, no surprise here, all tests came back normal. I guess I should celebrate the fact that nothing turned up on these tests, but in a way it made it harder, because it left us still without any answers and even more questions. This doctor, after taking a break for four or five months, wanted us to move ahead with IVF again. He could not understand why we had complete fertilization failure last time at the other clinic and wanted to see for himself. So, prior to getting started with IVF, I had a trial transfer done to make sure everything was all clear. It turned out there was still some retained pregnancy tissue from our last miscarriage months earlier and I was scheduled for a D&C. When I woke up from surgery, my doctor excitedly held my hand and told me, "I found a septum in your uterus. I removed it. This may explain what happened with the twins." All I heard was "may be what happened with the twins" and I immediately started crying. Up until this point, I've never had anyone tell me anything like that. What was called an "arcuate uterus" before, actually turned out to be a "sub-septate" uterus. While the septum was small, it actually is a very big deal that it was there. I'm obviously not a doctor so I won't get into all of the details and implications, but know that septums can be responsible for recurrent pregnancy loss. Let it also be said that we will never know for sure if it was what caused us to lose our babies.

We decided to go ahead with IVF, but we knew we'd pursue a frozen embryo transfer to allow my body to heal from surgery for a few months. We could still proceed with the retrieval portion of IVF, and wait on the transfer part. We went ALL out for this retrieval, so as not to have complete failure as we did in 2012. Unsure as to if IVF would work for us, we pulled out all the stops. Every option, we added it. Our doctor put us on a different medication protocol and we were hopeful. I woke up from the retrieval to hear my doctor give me news I couldn't imagine: They had retrieved 33 eggs! Last time, they had retrieved 11. (I know more is not always better but we were all happy with this number). Then, the wait began. It would be 24 hours before we heard the fertilization report. How many of those eggs had been successfully fertilized and became embryos? Last time the number was 0. This time, the number was 22. 22! This was a huge milestone for us because it showed us that my body could do it, that IVF was a possibility and that something we had done had worked. We knew we weren't going to go ahead with a fresh transfer so we waited and received the report day after day that many of our embryos were still growing. To spare you some of the specifics, we were ecstatic to have 5 perfect embryos at day 5 and 6. In our mind, we were thrilled to think that all five of those embryos would grow to be our babies that we'd bring home from the hospital. It was such a gift and we felt like everything we'd been through had led us to this point.

In March 2013 we transferred one embryo. It didn't take. We were devastated. In May we did another IUI. It didn't work. In July we transferred another embryo. It didn't take. We were devastated. In September we transferred two embryos. They didn't take. We were devastated. Going through the IVF process is different than the IUI process in many ways. An embryo is already created, and in our beliefs, a life is already created. Therefore, a grieving process occurred after each failed transfer. If you're doing the math, then you realize that we have one remaining embryo of those precious five created. We haven't transferred that one (yet) because we have a lot to figure out as far as to why it didn't work with the first four. We were, once again, emotionally drained. I don't want to focus too much on the financial aspect of all of this, because while it has been a big strain on us we are fortunate to even be in a position to try these expensive treatments without any help from insurance. And, there is just nothing, and I mean simply nothing, that would stop us from trying to make this work.  Physically, though, anyone who has gone through IVF knows what a toll it takes on your body. Going through it three times in one year was a lot.

Then, we moved to New York. A fresh start. Soon after getting here, we jumped into a new clinic which we were not so impressed with, by the way. We tried two IUIs there and while they didn't work, we came to some important realizations as a result. My new acupuncturist whom I have been seeing weekly since December, helped us realize that my body has been through so much in the past {almost} four years. I have not allowed it to heal, to break. In fact the words came out of my mouth " no, no we don't take breaks. We just keep trying. " She helped me see that taking a break from the hormones, the clinics, and ALL of the stresses involved in both would help us tremendously in long run. We have been so focused on becoming pregnant that so many other things have taken a backseat. The greatest gift we've given ourselves in 2014 is the gift of a rest. We have spent our time focused on being healthy, enjoying one another, exploring our new city, and really just being right where we are on our journey. I have become empowered, and for the first time in years we are trusting ourselves and my body to know what's right for our family. It wasn't really a choice. It was the thing we didn't know we needed to do.

So, that is where we are today. It's real and it's not pretty but it is such a huge part of our lives that I felt it was important to include in my little blog space. Though it has been such a struggle, my husband and I are trying to overcome it in all of the ways we know how, and even some ways that we're not aware of yet, I'm sure. Faith plays the largest role in all of this. Without it, I'd fall to pieces. I ask for patience, for endurance to keep climbing, for hope, and for the ability to find joy in our everyday lives. We are very fortunate to have a circle of people who love us and support us and who follow our journey even though they may not have gone through something similar themselves. Along the way, we've seen glimpses of hope and reminders to hang in there. This is not where either of us ever imagined we'd be, but we also understand that our story isn't finished.

If you find yourself in the midst of infertility, I'm so, so sorry. I get it. It's awful. If you've lost a baby, at any stage, my heart aches for you. It's something no one should have to endure, and yet so many do. Maybe your story is like mine, and you're struggling with both. Or, maybe you are experiencing life after infertility. Maybe you've gone on to successfully build your family after months or years of trying. Maybe you've not gone through any of it yourself but I'll bet someone you love has. You might not know what to say to them or how to support them. Whatever it is,  please share your story with me. And, thank you for reading mine.

"God can do anything, you know. Far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams."

July 25, 2014

Weekend in Vermont

 We had a fun long weekend in Vermont last weekend. My brother's family was there from California and it was great to catch up with them and my parents. We missed having my sister and her family there and my SIL, Eva, managed to sneak out of all of the pictures! 
we played:
at the lake
lawn games
ping pong
with "jewels" as Olivia calls them and painted nails
we went:
swimming in the river with the dogs
swimming in Silver Lake
to a local brewery
to see Jersey Boys at Town Hall
on a hike to Mt. Tom
we had:
delicious meals at The Woodstock Inn and Worthy Kitchen
happy hour on the deck
See you next time, Vermont!




July 24, 2014

Upcoming Trips

There was a period of time, like the last four years, where we hardly traveled at all. This year we are aiming to change that. An opportunity came up for us to visit Europe in August and we are celebrating our five year anniversary in September in Turks and Caicos. While I don't want to rush the summer, I'm really thankful and excited for these trips we have coming up!

We've spent a lot of time planning for:

 Bruges, Belgium

 Brussels, Belgium

Leuven, Belgium
Loire Valley, France

Paris, France

...and in September:

Have you been to any of these places? We have both been to Paris, Belgium is new to me, but Bruges and Loire Valley will be new to us both. Neither of us have been to Turks and Caicos. What should we make sure we do or see?

July 23, 2014

Anniversary Sale Finds

The Nordstrom Anniversary Sale is my favorite sale of the year. I seriously look forward to the catalog coming every June, and then I peel through every page of goodies. If you aren't familiar with this sale, it is an annual sale of FALL merchandise that will go back up to regular price in August. I like it because I'm getting current pieces for a discount. I know it is tough to think about coats and boots in July, but it's worth it. Trust me.

With that said, there weren't any coats or boots on my shopping list this year, though there were plenty that I had my eye on!

Here's what I ended up with at this year's sale:

I love this fun lipstick, gloss, eye shadow and liner set by Mac. I believe it's sold out online but check your store to see if they still have some! This set also comes in coral and nude.

 Okay, so I purchased the Kendra Scott 'Elle" drop earrings in a blush color as a part of the Anniversary Sale. They are now sold out but much to my excitement they added these neon yellow ones for the anniversary sale price! Run, don't walk, to grab them here.
Butter London nail polish--I am weak.
And, I'm not alone in my household with this sale! TJ loves it, too. :) Did you shop it this year? What were some of your favorite finds?

July 22, 2014

NYC Lately

We have been busy in the city lately. I want to write down and remember what we've been up to, so this is a little bit of a catch-up.
Enjoying lots of lazy weekend picnics in Central Park. I mean, that face? She is always smiling. And she makes a great pillow, too.

 A jalapeƱo margarita at Jimmy's Pickles. So. good.
An easy salad I made for lunches one week with colorful peppers, tomatoes, quinoa, cucumbers, black beans and avocado.

A book chat/signing with Hoda Kotb and Jennifer Weiner! I am a total nerd and am okay with that. Jennifer Weiner's new book, All Fall Down, is the perfect summer read. And, Hoda? She is my new bestie. :)

 Wine with our friends Lindsey and Misha
Lovely dinner at Tao and visit with sweet Katie and Drew!
{Um, that is a giant fortune cookie filled with white and dark chocolate. And it was as good as it looks.}
I wrapped up working at Kate Spade. It was a fun experience, but I'm very excited to be getting back to the classroom next month!
 We went to our first Summerstage in Central Park to see Counting Crows {and Toad the Wet Sprocket!} and loved, loved, loved it. It was one of those nights where we looked around and at each other and thought about how special it is that we live here.

 I have been tiring this little muffin out on our nightly walks in the park. She's so darn cute.

We saw Sara Bareilles on Sunday and she put on an amazing concert.
I'm not usually one for concert souvenirs, but I love my new BRAVE shirt!

This blurry picture is as good as we could get. We had a blast!

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