The IVF Journal Blog

The IVF Journal is Your Story, Here is a bit about mine.

“Courage Doesn’t Always Roar”

National Infertility Awareness Week starts in just a few days. And for me, it’s nothing short of thrilling.

Thrilling to see, feel and be a part of the surge of hope, support and the coming together that happens during the week.

In the media, on social networks and in real life, women and men, patients and doctors, advocates, best friends, mothers, grandmothers and sisters are shouting from the roof tops – all in the name of infertility. It brings me such joy to know that women all over the country and the world who are suffering in silence will hear the message loud and clear:

YOU ARE NOT ALONE.

Sharing this message, for me, is really what National Infertility Awareness Week is all about. It’s about talking about infertility, sharing information, stories, hope and support. It’s about educating those people who still don’t get it.

But what if you are not ready to share your story? What if you just found out about your infertility and are still processing it? What if you have known for years and now feel like its too late. What if it just doesn’t feel right to talk about it now? What if it never does?

Here is what I have to say to you.

YOU ARE NOT ALONE EITHER.

Infertility and going through IVF treatment is hard enough without the added pressure that can come with sharing your story. So if discussing your infertility doesn’t feel right, please know that is OK too.

Like so many others in the infertility community I’ll be posting about and promoting sharing during NIAW but before I do I want to directly address the many strong, brave women who are not comfortable with sharing their struggle. I am here to say to them and maybe you, the  following: If you are not ready to share your story, if never have or never plan to, you must know this: You are part of the infertility community too.

Even if you don’t share it publically, your struggle is no different, no less important and not undefined. You are courageous and strong. And what you are doing is absolutely enough because it is the right thing for you.

Those of us who are ready to talk about it are happy to do it for those who are not ready. Most of us, including myself, were not always in this place and no expects you to be either.

She holds her own truth

What I will ask you to do is to pay attention this week. To find hope and strength in the movement. Hop on social media – just to look. Visit Resolve.org and check out what is going on. I promise you will be uplifted. You will feel the love and support that the momentum of NIAW creates. And in its wake, as it does for me every year, I hope it will refuel your hope and give you strength to battle on, in whichever way you choose.

*Title quote from Mary Anne Radmacher

Courage Doesn't Always Roar

 

 

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Finding Your Thing During IVF Treatment

Anyone who is battling infertility and undergoing IVF treatment knows that there are loads of options when it comes to selecting complementary treatments and therapies. There are diets, exercises, mind body options, acupuncture, acupressure, massage, yoga, herbal remedies and so much more.

With all these options, deciding on a complementary treatment can feel just as overwhelming as struggling with infertility. It can be pretty hard to find your thing.

As you consider complementary treatments consider this advice from The IVF Journal,

“Do What Feels Right. As you go through IVF treatment you are likely to come across loads of different types of tips, advice, and complementary therapy options. As you encounter and consider these things, always remember that while there are plenty of experts out there, there is only one expert on you. Make sure you listen to your heart and your body throughout the entire process. Whether it is a new diet, a new mind-body technique, advice on how much you should exercise, or what vitamins to take, if something you are doing doesn’t feel right, honor that feeling. Know that while it may have worked great for someone else, that doesn’t mean it is right for you.” – The IVF Journal

finding your thing

The reason I give this advice is because I spent quite a few years trying to find my thing when it came to supporting my IVF treatment.

To help myself sort things out I decided to look at the world of complementary treatments for IVF as one where I could be adventurous and try new things. I was saddled with the ever present waiting that is a side effect of infertility treatment so this new world also provided me with something positive to focus on while I endured the many waiting periods that go hand in hand with extended IVF treatment.

I developed a little mantra: Explore, research, discover. And armed with that mantra I jumped in and started trying things out.

I started with what I felt would be a no brainer for me: Yoga. I already knew that practicing Yoga had so many amazing benefits for both mind and body and my (limited) experiences with the practice thus far had been really positive. I couldn’t wait to get started and signed up for an awesome local Yoga for Fertility class. After a few weeks I was really bummed to learn that my body was not quite where my mind was when it came to yoga. Surprisingly it just didn’t feel right. So back to the drawing board I went.

(Side note: I know and work with so many wonderful yoga instructors, acupuncture and other practitioners who are doing wonderful things for people going through infertility so please don’t take these anecdotes as a reason not to try yoga or acupuncture or any other practice – the whole point is to find what works for you, not me.)

Next I tried and initially loved acupuncture. There are so many great reasons to do acupuncture – studies abound on its benefits and there are loads of wonderful practitioners and centers that specialize in fertility and IVF related acupuncture. Many of the women I have cycled with swear by it. But, in the end, when I really considered all the elements of extended treatment it just wasn’t a sustainable practice for me.

So I moved on, determined to find my thing.

I tried reiki and massage – good but not exactly what I felt I was looking for. I dabbled in herbal supplements and diet changes, that wasn’t my thing either. And then one day my therapist suggested meditation.

As a fairly hyper (ok, very), Type A, who really doesn’t like sitting still, I was pretty skeptical about meditation. But, I was in experimentation mode so I figured it couldn’t hurt to try.

What do you know, meditating felt pretty good. Unfamiliar, definitely. A bit uncomfortable at first but mostly just, really good. And calming. Wow. I would have never guessed. So I decided to try it on for a while. And much to my surprise, it stuck.

I think finally found my thing.

As I continued with the practice I came to realize that meditation worked for me on so many levels. For one thing, the length and timing of the practice was right up my alley – really flexible. No travel required, no appointments to keep.

More importantly meditation helped me to slow down and relax my mind and my body. This led to me becoming more self-aware and was the catalyst to so much positive change in the way I handled my infertility. Finally, and more simply put, I was less stressed. I felt calmer, more balanced and therefore stronger than I had in so long.

Hooray! I definitely found my thing!

Self Awareness

If you haven’t tried mediation yet, absolutely give it a try and check out my Mindfulness and Self-Awareness pin-board. If it isn’t your thing, don’t worry. Just keep exploring and your thing will eventually reveal itself.

If you are on the fence about trying complementary therapies consider the following from The IVF Journal, Chapter13: Don’t Go it Alone: Complementary Therapies and A Support Network

“Complementary therapies are a great form of support for IVF patients and can greatly enhance your experience. They can help you to reduce stress and feel more relaxed and can improve your physical and emotional health as well. They also provide positive ways to pass the time during a cycle, especially during waiting periods. Some popular options include mind and body programs, yoga, meditation and visualization, acupuncture and massage. If you are employing or interested in exploring these or other options, start by asking your clinic and other contacts for information and referrals, or use the organizations and contacts in your support network to search for practitioners in your area. You can also turn to the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine. This is a United States government resource and a good place to research your options. Their information can be found at http://www.nccam.nih.gov.

No matter what type of practice you are considering, most therapies have different styles, pricing, and practitioners available. To get the most out of any treatment, you should feel comfortable with all aspects of the program, including price, location, schedule, and instructor or technician. It is important to note that complementary therapies can provide great benefits for some, but if a certain practice is not your cup of tea, then you should not feel compelled to use it. If you are doing something that you don’t enjoy, the stress of stress relief can ironically do more harm than good. You should only do what you feel comfortable with, and if that does not include complementary therapies, then you should not feel obligated to pursue them.” – The IVF Journal

 

The Great Debate: To share or not to share the details of your IVF cycle

There is a little thing I like to call The Great Debate. Almost everyone battling infertility goes through it and the longer you battle the more complicated it can become, especially if you are doing IVF.

IVF treatment means time off work. It means early morning monitoring appointments and days off for procedures – often at the last minute. And of course the emotional aspects often feel like they merit some sort of explanation. So what’s an IVF patient to do?

For some it’s a no-brainer either way. 100% open about IVF or 100% the other direction: totally private. If you fall into one of those categories it can actually be easier – nothing to think about – it just is what it is.

If things are not so black and white for you consider this advice (and some pro’s and con’s about sharing the details of your IVF treatment) from The IVF Journal Chapter 3: Prepping for IVF.

Consider Your Personal Network. If you have been trying to conceive for some time, it is likely that you are used to fielding questions about your reproductive status. However, during IVF you may find yourself in a new debate about how much to tell certain folks. Sharing the news that you are doing IVF can be cathartic and can be less stressful than keeping things a secret. Sharing means you also may find support in unexpected places and may gain more understanding from family, friends, bosses, and co-workers. But you should also consider that there may be some possible negative aspects to sharing as well. Sharing details can invite unwanted inquiries, advice, questions, and insensitive comments, and you may find yourself having to educate people about IVF when you don’t want to. At the same time, you may learn things about people’s religious and political views that you never wanted to know! Finally, perhaps the most difficult aspect of sharing IVF details is that you will also have to share the bad news if the results are negative. It can be much harder to explain a failed cycle than it is to explain that you are going through treatment. No matter what you decide, it is a good idea to keep the specific timing of your results to yourself; that way you can share the news, positive or negative, at your own pace.

No matter what you decide the choice is yours and like all things you can change your mind at any time and start or stop sharing when you are ready!

debate

Deducting IVF…A Can You and A How To

Today’s post is actually a guest post over at RESOVLE New England and it’s a great one!

The post is a release of Chapter 6 of The IVF Journal, IVF & Taxes: A Guide for US Citizens and it includes two free downloadable worksheets. Yes, FREE! The post and worksheets provide everything you need to,

1. Determine if you qualify to make deductions (not everyone does)

2. If  you do qualify, figure how much you can deduct (if you do qualify, it is a limited amount based on income vs. medical expenses)

So take a look at the post here and remember to check out all the amazing services RNE has to offer people at every stage of their family building journey.

IRS-1040-tax-form

If you are outside of New England or interested in National advocacy issues and National Infertility Awareness Week which is just a few short weeks away, check out RESOLVE, The National Infertility Association, you will be glad you did!

 

Symptom Spotting

So I borrowed the title Symptom Spotting from one of my TTC ladies on twitter. Not sure if she is in or out about her infertility so I’ll hold off on giving credit publically for now. But thank you Mrs. You Know Who You Are, great term – so true!

Symptom spotting is a real and often nerve wracking game that most, if not all, IVF patients play during the two week wait. And when I say game, I definitely don’t mean it’s always fun!

Here are some of my thoughts in The IVF Journal about the newly coined game of Symptom Spotting…

“For instance, during the Two-Week Wait you may find that you can’t stop obsessing over possible pregnancy symptoms. This can be very frustrating because at any given minute your symptoms—or lack thereof—can cause you to fluctuate between feeling positive that the cycle has worked and being sure that it hasn’t. These ups and downs are as common as the vast range of physical and emotional symptoms you may feel during this time.

…Mysterious twinges, cramps, sore breasts, food cravings, strange dreams, crankiness, and extreme exhaustion are just a few of the symptoms that might make your list, but no matter what your observances, just keep in mind that symptoms are not always representative of an actual result. Medications, elevated hormone levels, and procedural side effects along with the stress of an IVF cycle can mimic pregnancy and period symptoms, which—to make things even more confusing—are often the same. Furthermore, some women experience early pregnancy symptoms but many do not. The reality is that there is no way to tell if you are pregnant based solely on symptoms…

So if you are in the Two Week Wait and constantly questioning your symptoms (or your sanity!) know that you are not alone.  We all do it which is why The book goes on to offer ways (and yes more worksheets!) that help positively handle those pesky, yet completely understandable Symptom Spotting tendencies.

question mark

 

It’s Today! The IVF Journal is official!

The IVF Journal is being officially published today and I am feeling incredibly nostalgic. And grateful. And a bit overwhelmed.

To say this is a milestone moment for me is definitely an understatement! I am finding it very difficult to properly convey my emotions and thoughts on a computer screen.

Where to start?

At the beginning I guess. With a yellow legal pad.

Yes, this journey, this ride, this evolution – all started with a yellow legal pad.

I LOVE yellow legal pads but IVF is complicated so when my yellow legal pad wasn’t cutting it anymore I moved my IVF record keeping to an excel spreadsheet. And then, when there were too many spreadsheets to manage on screen, I printed them and put them into a three ring binder.

Then I really got into it. I added sections, tabs and graphics and eventually ended up with my very own IVF Trapper Keeper. Which was, in a word, awesome.

(In case you don’t know what a Trapper Keeper is here you go. Clearly mine did not have an awesome Lisa Frank-esque bubbling heart rainbow on it. It was white. Not very photo worthy. I wasn’t really advertising my infertile status at the time.)

trapper keeper

I showed my IVF binder it to a friend who was cycling and she wanted one. So I made her a copy of all my spread sheets. And then I made another. And another. And since my constant treatment had rendered me mostly jobless and definitely aimless – I really got into it.

I tested and experimented with charts, logs and graphs. And when I was satisfied I asked a bunch of women in my support group to do the same. I wrote content and made suggestions for coping and surviving IVF. My suggestions and ideas were always open ended and customizable because I knew that the women testing the book, while all doing IVF like me, had unique and specific situations.

And then my husband drew this.

IVFC Logo

And my brother-in-law made these.

IVF Companion By Stephanie Fry ©2009

And many women ended up with this.

IVF Companion By Stephanie Fry ©2009

Now, unfortunately this wasn’t sustainable or practical. Gorgeous yes, but way too bulky for everyday use and WAY to pricey to produce – IVF is expensive enough!

So now, thanks to the amazing people at Hatherleigh Press and Random House we have this.

The IVF Journal Front Cover

The IVF Journal. An 8×10 paperback, it is light and small enough to throw in your bag but large enough that you can actually write in it without your fingers cramping up after a second. It is beautifully designed and laid out but absolutely affordable, even when you are paying for IVF.

I am so happy with it!

I am so grateful.

To every one who helped, supported, encouraged, participated and walked with me on this crazy, emotional, uplifting and life changing ride, I am so overwhelmed with gratitude and awe this morning that I am at a loss for words. And for me, that is saying something!

So its simple I guess. Like a yellow legal pad.

Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!

I’m Spilling the Beans

Been wondering what this book is actually about? With three days until the actual release – I absolutely have to spill some beans! If you know me well you are probably already amazed that I haven’t blogged the actual book. Not so good at holding things in, this girl.

I’m pretty sure I can’t actually release the Table of Contents so I am contenting myself with sharing some pieces of the books Section Overview. And if I’m not supposed to do this either – I’m pleading ignorance. This is my proof.

Here goes!

“The IVF Journal consists of seven sections, most with multiple chapters. Each chapter includes instructions on how to use the calendars, charts, logs, and worksheets contained in that chapter…

SECTION I: IVF BASICS This introductory section covers basic information about IVF treatment and how best to prepare for it. It includes the medical phases of a cycle and possible risks (including cycle cancelation and outcomes) as well as a basic overview of some of the general causes of infertility.

SECTION II: CLINICS AND MEDICAL PROVIDERS This section covers IVF clinics, physicians, pharmacies, and other medical providers. It will be your go-to resource for names, phone numbers, emails, addresses, and provider policies.

SECTION III: FINANCES This section covers every financial aspect of your cycle—cycle pricing, payment, and financing options, as well as expense tracking, insurance, and taxes.

SECTION IV: IVF CYCLE This section covers the actual IVF cycle process, including schedules and timing, medications, egg retrieval, embryo growth, and transfer.

SECTION V: WAIT AND RESULTS This section helps you to plan for—and survive—the end of the long road that is IVF: the two-week wait and the results.

SECTION VI: SUPPORT FOR MIND AND BODY This section will help you support yourself emotionally and physically during your IVF treatment by creating your own personal support network. It also helps you navigate complementary therapies and manage your emotions by practicing self-awareness.

SECTION VII: MULTIPLE CYCLES The IVF Journal is designed to cover one cycle; but, because many patients cycle more than once, this section is dedicated to multiple cycles, offering strategies and advice for longer term treatment and allowing for comparison of up to four IVF cycles, side by side. It also covers frozen embryo transfers (FETs).” –The IVF Journal, Chapter One, How to Use The IVF Journal

beans

So there you have it. Still want to know more?

Check out sample pages like the one below at http://theivfjournal.com/

Connect with me on social media.

Of course you can also just BUY the BOOK!! Which, by the way, Amazon is currently offering 23% off pre-orders and release day delivery for select locations!

ivfj sample page clinic

Negative Talk

not preg

After my second failed IUI I said it for the first time.

“I just need IVF.”

After my third, I said it again. Only this time, I really meant it.

“I just need IVF.”

After my 4th, well, you know. Maybe you have said it yourself.

I got lots of positive responses to this statement. Here is the one response that I never got. The one I wish I had, “Your IVF cycle might not work”.

Yours might not either. There I said it. Please don’t hate me.

I’m saying this because I wish someone had said it to me. And yes, at the time there is a good chance I would have hated them for it. But I’m saying it anyway because I think it’s important. No, because I know it’s important.

Here is why.

My first IVF cycle went swimmingly. Everything looked good on paper. I even tested positive on an HPT – see I was right!! I just needed IVF!!! Phew.

(Side note / rant: HPT’s are awful, wonderful, terrible, gloriously addictive, wallet draining, sleep depriving, heinous little devices. I love them. I hate them. I have a closet full of them. Do I recommended using them? NO! Do I use them? YES! Should I use them? NO! Should you? NO! Ok. Rant over.)

So I go, no swagger in for my first IVF beta. What do I do? Of course I tell the nurse this is just a formality. I’m pregnant! I do remember the nurse who did my blood work had a level head and genuinely tried to talk some sense in to me but at that point it was too late. I was too far gone. The nursery in my head was decorated and I was planning my maternity wardrobe…what did she say? Oh, no matter…I’m Pregnant!!

When I got the call that afternoon my world was shattered. Shattered. To the point that I have never been the same.

It’s officially called a chemical pregnancy. I call it a devastating loss. One that still has the power to bring me to my knees in an instant. Chemical. Miscarriage. Loss. You say potato.

So that was the low point. And that is why The IVF Journal has an entire chapter dedicated to prepping for results – positive results AND negative results.

Here is more on why,

“The sad reality is that not all IVF cycles work. Success rates vary based on many factors including age, clinic, treatment type, and diagnosis; but even under the best conditions there are no guarantees. Due to this fact, you can and should be hopeful, excited, and ready for wonderful news, but you must also be armed with facts and have a plan in place if the results are not good. Planning can’t take away the pain of a negative result, but it can serve as a guide to help get you through what might otherwise be a very hard time.” – The IVF Journal, Chapter 10: Balancing Act, Prepping for Your Results

Chapter 10 will help you really understand and actually practice cautious optimism as you prep for your pregnancy test as well as both potential results. Chapter 11 takes it a step further and walks you through what you can do when receive your actual results – again for both positive AND negative results.

These were some of the hardest pages for me to write. Hard because of course I wanted to focus only on the positive, on hope. We all need to focus on hope. We have to. We absolutely should. But one too many times I read an infertility book that (wrongly) assumed my journey ended on a positive note.

This hurt. And it stayed with me. I didn’t want to do that to you.

So instead, as I learned to, I ask you to focus on balance and on the much and appropriately used term, cautious optimism. These chapters like the rest of the book, also provide worksheets, encouragement and concrete ideas so you can be prepared for and make realistic plans for both possible outcomes.

“This act of balancing hope and reality, or practicing cautious optimism, is not always easy during IVF. Stress and hormones, combined with everyday life, can cause your emotions to jump around constantly. You may have moments when you are sure the cycle worked, and low points where you feel sure that it did not. Prepping for your results can serve to alleviate some of those ups and downs and the stress that may be associated with the close of your cycle.” The IVF Journal

I’m not saying it’s going to be easy but it can absolutely help to ease stress. I hope you try it.

A Little Love for the Two Week Wait

Hard to say which part of The IVF Journal is my favorite but Chapter 9 – the chapter dedicated to the dreaded Two Week Wait is definitely a front runner. Call me crazy but by the end of my time cycling I actually grew to like, ok not hate, the Two Week Wait.

I know, I know. NO ONE likes the Two Week Wait. But hear me out.

In the beginning this new found affection took me awhile to figure out. I was out of my comfort zone – the one where I dreaded, loathed and despised the Two Week Wait. The one where every moment, every minute felt like an exhausting eternity.

But slowly and with practice I realized something: the Two Week Wait was my time. During the Two Week Wait – I was in control.

Not in control of the outcome of my cycle of course but for the first time since my cycle began there were no surprises. No new information. No last minute changes. No expectations. For the first time in the cycle – for ten whole days I knew exactly what to expect. This, surprisingly, brought a real sense of relief.

Another bonus was that I could plan to fill the time in a manner that I wanted.

So I did.

I planned and crafted and cooked and read and traveled and cleaned and socialized and painted and ran errands. Lots of errands.

Doing all these things – some I was familiar with, some I was not, had an unexpected side effect. I got to know myself. I learned about my likes and my dislikes. I figured out how I really like to spend my time. I learned about what really makes me happy.

A surprising silver lining from all that waiting.

I also spent a lot of that time creating the worksheets you will find in Chapter 9. I love the worksheets in this chapter because they are really flexible. They are completely customizable and can and should be used in many different ways. They are a place where you can let your personality – your likes, dislikes, feelings, desires and needs take center stage.

And maybe, just maybe they will help you start looking at the Two Week Wait as more than the torture chamber that it often feels like. As a time when you can really put yourself first, practice some self-care or just get to know yourself a little better. As a time when you can rest, take a break from the shuffle of a cycle and just be you.

Here is a bit from Chapter 9: Channeling Your Inner Bee to Survive The Two Week Wait

“WELCOME TO THE “Two-Week Wait”: That time between your transfer and your pregnancy test famous for being a slow-moving torture. Grab a seat, kick off your shoes and get comfy; you’ll be here for a bit!

While most IVF patients have already experienced a few Two-Week Waits during their infertility career, this one may feel slightly different. Combine the physical rigors of cycling (and getting up at all hours for the past few weeks) with the hangover from the hormonal cocktail that is IVF, and you may find yourself pretty exhausted. It also doesn’t help that after the relatively rapid fire pace of stimulation through transfer comes to a close, IVF cycles by nature, go from a flurry of activity to an abrupt halt. There are no more daily calls with the clinic; no more monitoring appointments or procedures; just two long weeks of nothing but progesterone to look forward to. This vacuum can make an IVF Two-Week Wait feel like an eternity and can put you in a position where you need to emotionally readjust, again.” – The IVF Journal

bee

Take What You Need

When I first started to really write the IVF Journal I struggled to find my voice. For those who know me, this may come as a surprise because finding my voice and speaking my mind has never been an issue.

At first I thought it was because I wasn’t a very good writer or that I lacked the confidence to be myself in this very personal arena. But that wasn’t the problem.

The problem was that if I used my voice too loudly, you might not hear yours.

I want you to hear your voice.

You don’t have to speak loudly or often, But you do have to listen. Listen to what it is you really need and when you use The IVF Journal make it your own.

Take What You Need

“The IVF Journal will help you to better manage the entire (IVF) process by providing a place for you to organize contacts, information, and resources. It will help you to prepare emotionally, financially, and logistically; it provides systems for tracking and recording treatments, results, responses, and progress. It allows you to explore, define and manage your personal IVF journey (both emotionally and physically) in your own words and in your own way.” – The IVF Journal