Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Infertility: Our Journey

In honor of national infertility awareness week I thought I would finally do a post talking about my infertility journey. Because it felt so personal, its a post that I've had trouble publishing. While logically I knew going through this process that infertility wasn't something that I needed to feel ashamed about, not being able to do what most women biologically can do so easily was very  difficult for me and I really struggled with my self worth and confidence during the process. The emotional impact of struggling for 4+ years cannot really be put into words. That being said, writing something like this can also be difficult because I know how sensitive a topic this is for women struggling with infertility and how different things about the experience affects women in different ways. What was hard for me might seem small for someone else, and vice versa. As a preface, I know I am very lucky that I only had to go through one round of IVF and that I was able to save enough money to pay for it. If you are currently struggling, please know that my heart hurts for you, that my thoughts are constantly on you, and that in at least some way I know what you are going through and believe your pain cannot be overstated.

Skyler and I knew we wanted to wait a few years after we were married to have a baby while I started law school and he graduated from undergrad. We got married when I was 22 so I felt like we had plenty of time and didn't really think about having children. My mother had no problems having children, and I hadn't really followed any people on social media who struggled with infertility so the thought of it happening to me didn't occur to me at all. During my second year of law school I had an emergency appendectomy. During the appendectomy they found out that I had endometriosis. After talking to my gynecologist the options presented to me were either to go on a birth control that would totally stop my period and stop the growth of the endometriosis, or to start trying to have a baby. I am very sensitive to hormones so birth control is really hard for me to handle, and we were feeling ready to start a family, so we decided to start trying to have a baby. I remember excitedly texting my best friends that we were going to start trying. Because we didn't know yet how bad my endometriosis was we still were picky about things like not trying to conceive on months that would make the baby born in December, or when I would be starting classes and work, etc. You technically aren't considered to have infertility issues until you have been trying to conceive for a year so we still didn't worry about it that much as the months passed and I still wasn't pregnant. 

After about a year of trying my period stopped and I thought for sure I was pregnant (I had always had a very scheduled period so this was way abnormal for me). I kept taking pregnancy tests and they weren't positive so finally I went to my gynecologist after missing two cycles to see what was the matter. During my examination they found a huge ovarian cyst that was totally crushing my left ovary. Surgery was immediately scheduled as certain kinds of cysts can be very dangerous if they burst inside you, and the doctors weren't able to tell from the ultrasound what kind of cyst it was. During the surgery my gynecologist told me that he would burn off my endometriosis and flush my fallopian tubes with dyes to help with my fertility issues. After I got out of surgery the doctor told me that I had stage 4 endometriosis (which is the worst kind), but that after burning off as much as he could and flushing my fallopian tubes, my chances for conception would be significantly higher for the 9 months or so after the surgery. 

A year after the surgery I still hadn't gotten pregnant so we decided to visit a fertility specialist and start treatments. We used Dr. Conway at the Utah Fertility Center and had a really good experience with her. I was very lucky to know that I had endometriosis going into my fertility treatments because it allowed the doctor to really focus my treatment on the source of the problem instead of wasting my time and money trying to find out what was wrong. Endometriosis is almost impossible to diagnose without a surgery, and the surgery can increase your scar tissue and make your issues worse, so a lot of people don't find out they have endometriosis until they have done several rounds of IVF. Because of my endometriosis we moved immediately to doing IUIs because just taking Clomid or Fermara wasn't likely to have very  much success for me. I took Fermara at the same time as the IUI and was really excited and hopeful to start. After the first one failed, I was upset but still felt hopeful. When the second one failed I began to get pretty depressed. Our insurance didn't cover fertility procedures so it felt like we were basically throwing a thousand dollars away a month. How IUI's work is after the monitored procedure, you wait two weeks to have a blood test to confirm if you are pregnant. In the first two IUIs my period had started before I even had the blood test so my expectations had been low going into them. During the third IUI my period hadn't started yet so I was pretty positive I was pregnant. I went to get my hair done with Danica the Saturday before the blood test and was so excited that I thought I was pregnant. She started crying and told me she was 7 weeks pregnant and had been holding off on saying anything because of my fertility issues. We were so excited about the possibility of both being pregnant at the same time.  The Monday of my blood test I went to the doctor's so excited and nervous. On the way downstairs after the blood test (they call you with the results in the afternoon so I didn't know the results yet), I stopped in the restroom. In the restroom I found out that my period had started. I remember sinking down on the bathroom stall and sobbing harder than I think I had ever cried before in my life. After that experience we decided to take a break and start saving for IVF.

I will readily admit that Danica's pregnancy was very hard on me. Seeing someone so close to me get pregnant and have an experience that I had been trying for for several years was so difficult. I struggled with guilt for feeling upset about it, and worthlessness that I couldn't give Skyler what other girls easily could. I definitely wasn't there for her the first couple of months of her pregnancy because it was just too hard for me to be around. I avoided going to my inlaws for dinner and having to hear about the pregnancy, and I avoided all pregnant people in general. If you have a friend that is struggling with infertility and they act weird around you pregnant, please be patient with them. I promise they are super happy for you, but are really hurting at the same time. It will get better for them eventually (at least it did for me). 

Because of how severe my endometriosis was I had to take the maximum dose of fertility drugs that my doctor allowed at her clinic. I also had to take medicine in the months proceeding IVF that put my body into menopause in an effort to compress the endometrial cells. As my insurance didn't cover IVF either, this cost us around $30,000 out of pocket (quite the chunk of change). It was so nerve wracking because there are obviously no guarantees and saving up that much money takes time and a lot of sacrifices and I didn't know what we would do if it didn't work. When we finally saved up the money we met with our IVF coordinator at the clinic and started the medicine. As I mentioned earlier, I am very sensitive to hormones. On birth control I gained weight really quickly and became super irritable and emotional, so you can imagine that hormones of the magnitude that my IVF protocol required wreaked havoc on my body. I happened to be in the middle of trial during alot of my IVF cycle. To give you a little perspective on how hard the drugs were on my body, I had bought a suit for a trial a month before IVF started. The suit fit perfectly at that trial. During my trial the next month I had to squeeze myself into the suit. I gained over 20 pounds during my IVF month despite trying to eat low carb and healthy and being off all caffeine. I definitely looked pregnant before I even got pregnant. I had frequent hot flashes and in general felt awful. I had to give myself shots morning and night and my stomach became super bruised, bloated, and tender. Towards the end of my shot cycle I broke down in my office crying because I felt so sick, tired, and emotional. 

During my egg retrieval the doctor was able to harvest 16 eggs. We chose to do a process called  intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) as part of our treatment. In ICSI they inject the sperm directly into the egg rather than just mixing it together in the petri dish. This helps prevent issues that might exist with the sperm not wanting to mix with the egg. After this injection, its a nerve wracking time as the doctor calls you every day, or every other day to tell you how many of the eggs have survived and started growing. After 5-7 days we had 4 blastocysts that were ready for insertion. They graded our blastocysts and we had two that were grade A. Grade A is the highest quality kind (which we were excited about because endometriosis often destroys egg quality). Because of their quality my doctor convinced us to only put one in and we froze the other three. Even though you aren't supposed to, I did pregnancy tests before I actually had my blood test. As the tests turned out positive I got more and more excited. I was in the nail salon when the doctor called me confirming that my blood test showed I was pregnant. I burst into tears in the salon and told all the strangers there that I was pregnant lol. It was definitely a moment I will never forget. Harper Rae Johnston was born on February 17, 2017. You can read about her birth story here. We feel so overjoyed to have her in our life. Words won't ever be enough to explain what it felt like the first time I saw her and the joy I feel everyday at the chance to be her mom.

I have very few pictures of our IVF cycle, and the ones I have are definitely not edited, but I included a few of them below that I took with my phone along the way.

My needle container

During the procedure to put the embryo inside you, they have a screen showing it entering your uterus. Here, Skyler is pointing to Harper!
One of my early tests trying to do the "ring test" to reflect light on the strip to see the line better.
The test I took on the day of the blood test!
Our announcement

Please let me know if you have any questions about the IVF process and I will do my best to answer them.  Love you all!

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Favorite Beach Reads

1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6
Hey Everyone,

Reading is my very favorite hobby in life so I thought I would start a series of blog posts with book recommendations. I have read thousands upon thousands of books over the years and I love recommending my favorites to my friends and family! Today's book recommendations are my favorite beach reads or relaxation reads. They are great books that don't require deep intellectual thought but still keep you entertained and contain great writing and story lines.

Premonition Series: The writing in this series gets better as the books go on, but the storyline is so great right from the start! Amy Bartol is fast becoming one of my favorite authors. The characters in this story are just wow (wait until you meet Brennan). The Premonition Series is about a girl who finds out she isn't exactly normal and the guys who love her. Its a paranormal romance full of angels, demons, fairies, etc., and is so much fun to read!

Mortal Instruments Series: If you don't want to buy the whole series right now, here's the link to the first book, City of Bones. This series is also a fantasy series with a really great love story intertwined with it. Clary Fray enters an unexpected world when she heads out to a nightclub and witnesses a murder by three teenagers covered in strange tattoos, and then witnesses the body just disappear. Clary then enters the world of the Shadowhunters, warriors who rid the earth of demons, and meets Jace (hottie mchottster). I'm terrible at matching descriptions with how good a series actually is but this series has now been turned into a movie and tv show and the writing is so so good. I highly recommend it.

Seraph Black Series: Here's the link to the first book, Charcoal Tears. Jane Washington is my favorite indie author right now! Her writing is amazing! Here's the synopsis straight from Amazon: "Seraph Black used to think that she was prepared for anything. She could last days without eating and she always walked away from the violent altercations with her father relatively unharmed. She survived working a the club and the drive to school every day in her mother's rust-bucket of a car...but it all changed when Noah and Came came bulldozing into her life, careless of the precious secrets they picked apart in their quest to take over her world. She was even less prepared for the mysterious Miro and Silas, and nothing could have prepared her for the bond..Someone wanted her to stay away from her new friends, but she wasn't willing to do that. Everyone had secrets. She wanted to know theirs and they wanted to know hers. And the stalker? He seemed to know everything already."

The Sky is Everywhere: This book is a tragic, beautiful love song in literature form (to take the words  from T-Swift). Lennie Walker has spent her life in the shadows of her beloved fiery older sister. But when her sister suddenly passes away, Lennie becomes center stage in her life and struggles to balance her new love life and the secrets her sister kept from her. This book will definitely make you cry, but will also make you so happy that it exists in the world. Love it!

The Edge of Never: The Edge of Never is a new adult romance that has quite the surprising twist. Twenty year old Camryn Bennett sets out on a road trip with just a purse and a cell phone after her life falls apart. She meets Andrew Parrish along the way who harbors his own dark secrets. On their road trip he shows her how to live out of the box, fall in love, and give into her deepest desires in life. But will his dark secret tear them apart.... (ok, so cheesy description but this book is consistently ranked as a top read on all new adult lists, its definitely worth the read!)

The Star-Crossed Series: Here's the link to the first book, Reckless Magic. Reckless Magic is another fantasy romance series that involves a girl who is much more than she seems, and whose struggle to harness her new found power and save the boy she loves pushes her into the middle of an ancient war that she knew nothing about. There's action, adventure, mystery, romance, etc. and tons of magic. I love it. Read a better synopsis on Goodreads here.

What are your favorite books to read right now?

Friday, April 14, 2017

April Purchases: What's In My Shopping Cart

1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7

I thought it would be fun to do a monthly post on my purchases for each month. I have been really trying to stay in budget this year so I can save my money for bigger purchases I have my eye on during sales like the Nordstrom Anniversary Sale and Black Friday. So far I've stayed on target, although this month was a stretch since I'm finally starting to get closer to my post pregnancy size and clothes are more appealing.

1. Old Navy Rockstar Jeans: I currently only fit into one of the jeans in my closet since I'm still losing my pregnancy weight. Because I'm trying to lose weight, I didn't want to buy an expensive pair of jeans and just wear them for (hopefully) another few months. These jeans are super flattering, comfortable, and affordable and make the perfect jeans to get on my way back into my regular jeans.

2.  New Era 9 Forty Cap: Trying to jump on the current ball cap trend, I found this hat on ASOS and instantly fell in love. Its not a bad price and the pink is super cute for spring.

3. Tory Burch Miller Sandals: I have been saving up for these babies for awhile. They are definitely on the more expensive side for sandals but are the perfect spring/summer accessory that can be worn both to work (on a casual day) or to the beach. I love them!

4. Steve Madden Slip On Flats: Slip on flats are super big this season and I loved this pair when I saw them in the store. They are the perfect grey neutral that can go with so many outfits and are super comfy.

5. Gibson Ruffled Handkerchief Top: When I saw this top on Nordstrom's site I knew I had to have it. It's super flattering in my stomach area and the ruffles and pastel pink are perfect for this spring's trends.

6.  Laura Mercier Secret Brightening Powder: I have been seeing this on makeup blogger sites for awhile and decided to try it. I absolutely love it! It is key to help brightening my eye after all these sleepless nights getting up with Harper.

7. LipSense Pink Champagne: I recently became a LipSense distributor and fell in love with this color. It's the perfect pink for spring and of course is smudge proof, kiss proof, and super long lasting!

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Last Minute Easter Basket Ideas For Kids

Hi Babes, I hope everyone is having an amazing week so far.

If you are a procrastinator like me this post might come in handy! I always wait until the last minute to throw an Easter Basket together. Thank the heavens for the Target Dollar Spot people, it has saved me on more than one occasion.

I found everything in Crew's basket in one spot and it took me 10 minutes. It was all done for $10.00 and Crew will be so excited about everything!

Sticker book: $1.00 | Football: $3.00 | Kid's Tie: $3.00 | Basket and Eggs from last year

What do you put in your kid's Easter basket? Comment below with ideas, I would love to have more for coming years.


Monday, April 10, 2017

Baby Product Must-Haves

1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 

I thought it would be fun to share some of the baby products that I can't live without! As a first time mom to an active 18 month old I have learned a few things that I really hope I don't have to go without anytime soon.

First, I will take it back to when Crew first came home, and those first few weeks and months as a new momma. I genuinely could not have survived without my Mammaroo. Whenever it seemed like Crew just would not calm down no matter what we did the Mammaroo worked its magic.

This next one might seem silly to some of you but it makes diaper changes so much more peaceful and calm. Crew HATES cold wipes on his behind, so this wipes warmer is a must at my house.

This next one is super simple and a must-have. Aden and Anais swaddles. Baby spends the first few weeks, if not months, swaddled up tight, so some nice quality swaddle blankets are a must-have. This brand is so soft and worked perfectly. They have some of the cutest prints!

I don't know if I am the only one, but Crew always eats the bubbles in his baths these days so I was on the hunt for a natural baby wash that I wouldn't have to stress so much about him ingesting a little of. I found this one and love that the ingredient list is so short and it has been great for his sensitive skin. Its super cost effective as well! I have been loving Vitacost for their all natural baby products and organic foods as well.

We started Crew out super early on with a white noise maker. I had a few friends suggest one so that little noises wouldn't startle him awake. I literally cannot live without this thing now. I take it everywhere that I know he will be taking naps or sleeping. It has been a major life savor.

This Bassinet was a game changer for those first few weeks at home. As a new mom I was super paranoid about leaving Crew in his crib right at the start, so having this Halo Bassinest was a must. Jess bought the version that has lights, music, a nursing timer, and a vibrate option, and she loves it!

What are your baby must-haves?

Monday, April 3, 2017

Harper's Newborn Photos

I'm so excited to share Harper's newborn shots today captured by the amazing Elizabeth Ashdown Photography. Harper was an absolute gem getting these shots done. She didn't wake up once even though she was over two weeks old by the time we got out of the NICU and most newborn shots are done within the first couple of days. I'm so grateful to have these pictures capturing my little sweetheart and that she was healthy enough to get them done. I love being a mom! For those asking about this sign, JaxnBlvd is my go-to for all of my signs, and when I saw it on her Instagram I knew it would be perfect after our IVF experience. 

Thanks to everyone who entered our $50 HomeGoods giftcard giveaway! The winner is Laura Mueller! Laura, email us within 24 hours to collect your prize!