Visiting the ART of Infertility Exhibit

A free, month-long art exhibit in Philly all about infertility?  Too good to be true?  Nope: actually true! As soon as I heard there would be an IF art exhibit near me, I was interested.

Philadelphia’s Jewish Art Center is hosting this exhibit, called Cradling Creativity, during the month of November.  It’s sponsored by my former clinic, among others. Awesome, amiright?  I mean, how often is infertility awareness made so public?

Usually art eludes me and I don’t go out of my way to visit art museums or the like.  I have this idea that I’m somewhat artsy, but I delude myself: if asked to sketch a person, I’d draw a stick figure so that hardly counts.  But I can still appreciate others’ artistic endeavors—even the abstract ones that I don’t always understand.

Yesterday I met up with Tanya, the blogger behind The Sky and Back—who’s as lovely in person as she is online—to check out the exhibit.  Our meeting was a long time coming.  Even though we’re both IF bloggers in the same city who use[d] the same clinic, we’d never actually met!  Any gal who’s been TTC long enough knows that special kindred connection we share with one another.  Sometimes you just need to be in the company of a friend who gets it.

There was no one else at the exhibit except us. I’m sure the JAC wanted a better turnout too, especially on a Saturday. Maybe we just got there at a bad time. While I was waiting outside and before we went in, a couple of tourists noticed the sign for exhibit, exclaimed something among themselves about it being “weird” and went about their business. I can hope that it was an off day and that the exhibit has helped open others’ eyes about the real impacts of infertility on its sufferers.

I leave you now with some pics, since I only photographed part of the exhibit.  I just realized… I hope I’m allowed to post these!  I think so, since the artist’s names are alongside the paintings so they’ll get their fair credit.

Enjoy!

 

 

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Mug Exchange

This year I participated in my third TTC mug exchange (a monumental effort seamlessly executed by fellow blogger Chelsea at Trials Bring Joy).  Each year I’ve been matched with a wonderful partner: women who are kind, gracious, hope-filled, and who—unfortunately—emphasize with this sojourn called infertility.

This year’s mug exchange was no different.  This year I was matched with a lovely mug partner who lives in a neighboring state. While our routes to mamahood are taking different paths and our medical diagnoses are very different, we still walk side-by-side dealing with the same struggle.  Although she’s not a blogger so I can’t link to her site, I hope that she’ll take it up as an outlet and a means to connect with other IF women.

I was so blessed to come home yesterday after being away all weekend to find this package awaiting me!

I got a handmade mug, pineapple socks, a 60-day devotional written by fellow blogger Caroline (In Due Time), and a huge book of fertility facts.

Now I regret not posting pics of the last two years’ mug exchange; but trust me, they were just as good.

The women who make up the online infertility community never cease to amaze me.  There is strength in numbers. 

Ecc. 4:9-10.

The Final Holdout

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I’ve given up a lot in my efforts to have a baby. Foods like alcohol, sugar, and dairy (really, dairy is cruel anyway so that wasn’t much of a thang) have long gone by the wayside.  I’ve spent a small fortune replacing everything plastic in my kitchen and every personal care product I own for their healthier counterparts.   I’ve thrown away perfectly shower curtains and cleaning products. You name it, I’ve either done it or bid it adieu.

But there’s one final holdout, the thing I love so dearly and view as my sole remaining source of joy, the last reminder of my “before TTC” life that I can still enjoy: coffee.

Does it matter to my fertility that I’d finally switched to organic coffee this year (coffee apparently is laden with pesticides; research is so annoyingly eye-opening)?  Does it matter to my fertility that, even after going organic, I went a step further and began buying organic, Swiss-water-processed decaf?  That I mix the two so my coffee only has half the caffeine as regular coffee?  Alas, it seems not—nary the faintest of BFPs have appeared.

So here and now I’m making a pledge. And I’m posting it so it emboldens me to actually stick to it, which is the real challenge.  If the TWW in which I’m currently in the throes ends in bloody defeat, then I will go caffeine-free.

That’s right: If there’s a CD1 in the coming weeks (though I earnestly pray there won’t be), then I will eschew my cherished java.  The goal is to get through an entire cycle without it.  What happens after that cycle remains to be seen.  One day at a time and all.

I mean, it’s not like I’m absolutely downing pots of the stuff daily. I have 2 or 3 daily half-caffs, which translates to 1 to 1.5 cups of regular coffee, or about 300 milligrams of caffeine. Too much?

The consensus on caffeine/coffee and fertility is muddy. Some studies say that moderate caffeine reduces fertility, others claim it makes no difference. Even other studies say that any caffeine is harmful to fertility. Who to believe?

I get that this post might sound trite.  I mean, it’s just a beverage, right?  Is it really worthy of a blog post?  Perhaps I wasn’t clear: I really LOVE my coffee!  If I could pen my feelings to coffee, It’d go something like this:

Coffee, my beloved friend.  We’ve done so much together you and I, experienced the ups and downs of life side-by-side.  You’ve given me gumption on many a tough morning, helped me stay awake to study before grueling exams, been the medium over which many a good conversation was had.  Through it all, you’ve been there.

I love coffee to the point where I cannot imagine a day without it, let alone an entire cycle.

But what if it’s been the culprit all along?  Like, forget the medical side of infertility. What if caffeine has been preventing our BFP?  What if something so seemingly easily preventable was keeping my body from conceiving?  What if the answer was there in front of me all along?

Update to follow.

 

In the Trenches

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The blogs of those women who’ve had their miracle babies either grow stagnant or else morph into parenting blogs. I unfollow many infertility-turned-mommy blogs. To some women they’re a source of encouragement, but I’m not in a place where I can handle baby/parenting posts in my newsfeed. It’s not personal: we’ve all been there at one time or another.

It seems like most of the IF blogger women I’ve befriended have resolved, and I feel isolated. I begrudge no one her happiness in overcoming infertility. I also realize that many suffer from survivor’s guilt, and aren’t sure how to reconcile these two starkly different worlds. They don’t want to inadvertently cause pain to those of us in the trenches. They feel like they can’t relate anymore. And in a way, they can’t relate:  these women have moved from fellow infertility friends to “the others.”  Mothers. The connection that once bonded us together is lost, and our sojourns take differing paths.

While it can be daunting and lonely to realize I’m still in the thick of things, I keep a peace deep inside that it will ultimately be okay. If nothing else, the long experience of infertility has taught me to seek God in a different kind of way. It’s happened gradually. And I don’t mean seeking God in a “gimme” entitlement attitude, or as a magical genie to grant my personal requests. Instead, it’s caused me to search deeper for answers into what His plans are for my life. I’m learning to be content whether or not His plans include children. I have peace.

While I’m believing Him to make me a happy mother of children, if it doesn’t happen, that’s okay too. I don’t believe infertility is His perfect will for me, or for anyone. But it is something He’s allowed me to experience for purposes that I may not realize this side of heaven. Although the pain of childlessness isn’t assuaged by this, it does become more manageable. The impossible demands that I place on myself to get pregnant are truly above my pay grade; I hold no power. But I do maintain faith.

The point of this post? That I’m still here, still walking among these trenches, still awaiting my miracle, and still awaiting yours, too. When I come out on the other side, I promise not to make this a mommy blog. I will not forget.

Photo Walk: Newtown, Pennsylvania

*Note: Non [in]fertility post. I need a break from the madness.

This month I participated in my first ever Photo Walk. After learning about Photo Walks from fellow endo warrior Lisa over at Bloomin’ Uterus, I just knew I had to sign up for one. They’re free, open to anyone, and held in cities, towns, and countries all over the place. A Photo Walk is a group of people who meet up for a couple of hours to take photographs of an agreed upon area. Attendees can take pics with fancy cameras, digital cameras, old school cameras, cell phone cameras… there’s no real rules.

Now I’m no photographer, and all I can claim as a bona fide camera is a decade-old digital model, but I do love taking pictures. So I figured why not?! Someday sooner than later though I would like to buy a nice camera. I really enjoy photography and definitely want to develop it into an actual hobby (see what I did there?).

My Photo Walk location choices came down to either Philadelphia or Newtown, Pennsylvania, which is a tiny suburb about 40 miles north of the city. I chose Newtown since I live in Philly and kind of see it all the time. I’d only been to Newtown once before and remembered it as being very charming and quaint. An afternoon of strolling and photographing far away from the hustle and bustle sounded lovely.

When I arrived to meet with my fellow Photo Walkers I was slightly disappointed. There were a dozen of us and, at 35, I was by far the youngest person there. (Silver lining: no babies or preggos!)  Our walk guide handed us maps of the historical area where we’d be photographing and off we went exploring, cameras in hand!

A few people—the professional types with their fancy lenses and camera bags—dropped out after only a few blocks. I have to admit, I too bailed halfway through because my group was moving so slowly and everyone seemed vaguely uncomfortable. But I did get to see several historical spots, meet some nice people, and enjoy an overpriced almond milk latte from an adorable cafe. That said, in the future I might sign up for a walk in a bigger city after all; maybe even stay for the entire walk next time.

Here’s some pics from my Photo Walk. You can click on any pic to enlarge it. As you can see, for reasons unknown even to myself I seem to have a penchant for taking pictures of doors… And if you look really closely, you might even catch a glimpse of yours truly (unintentionally) reflected in one of them.

Enjoy!

Commemorating Life

With the “-ber” months marking the start of so many holidays, the end of September always ushers in a particularly special time of year for me. I married Jake on the very last day of summer 14 years ago, September 21.  So this part of September is kind of like our personal celebration kickoff to the seasons of autumn and winter.

This year, our anniversary also happened to fall on the Jewish new year. This was especially meaningful to Jake and I because we look toward our own new beginning as a family, what with Jake’s transition into a new career and planning our next house move. We’re not Jewish, but it made our anniversary feel extra celebratory this year.

Two years ago, our first embryo transfer fell on the very first day of autumn and the day following our wedding anniversary, September 22.
This year on September 22 I wasn’t thinking about the 2-year milestone/anniversary/commemoration of our embryo transfer. Instead, Jake and I were outdoors riding our bikes. I was lost in thought reflecting over our wedding anniversary the night before and its correlation to the Jewish new year.

Suddenly I remembered back to two years ago today.  On September 22, 2015 I certainly wasn’t out riding my bike on a gorgeous sunny day! Instead, I was nervously anticipating my embryo transfer, brimming with excitement to bring home a baby in nine months’ time.

In November 2015 I had miscarried naturally at home at 11 weeks gestation, although the embryo had stopped living inside of me at the 5 and a half week mark. I didn’t know what to do with the product that I eventually miscarried. To flush it down the toilet was appalling. To save it was horrific. So I placed the remains in a small jewelry box and waited.

A few days later when the physical pain had subsided, Jake and I drove the box to a secluded sandy spot near the river. We found two identical “parent” trees with a tinier “baby” tree growing between them. There by the baby tree we buried the box deep in the sand. We held a small memorial service—just the two of us—then we left town for three days.  I’ve rarely visited the site since. Being there tends to make me cry.

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The river near the spot, but not the actual spot itself.

This year, it happened that Jake and I were riding our bikes very close to where our embryo is buried, on the exact two-year anniversary of its transfer. What kind of monster would I be not to visit the site on such a day?

Jake and I each stopped to pull handfuls of white and yellow wildflowers. Then we biked to the spot by the three trees. In two years, the baby tree had grown some, although it was still dwarfed by its “parents.”  We placed our flowers on the ground before the baby tree and weighted them down with a small rock. We said a prayer to God. I cried a bit. We walked back to our bikes in quiet solemnity.

Our burial site visit was unplanned. I’m thankful that the Lord had us near that spot on the exact day. Being there doesn’t hurt quite like it used to hurt. The sadness is etched less deeply with the passage of time. It’s now a scar, no longer a fresh wound.

I’m thankful that we marked the anniversary, impromptu or not. Because as Jake and I look onward to our new beginning—our “new year” so to speak—I don’t ever want to forget the old, our baby’s life (and babies’ lives).

To me, it matters.

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It’s the Most Wonderful Time…

… of the month: ovulation day! ** Obviously. It’s way too soon for The Most Wonderful Time of the Year, although the stores don’t seem to know that and are already peddling their holiday wares. Sending a shout out to this all-important monthly milestone and the many accouterments that go along with. There’s a lot of bad in the world these days. Why not celebrate the little things?

Women (i.e., me) with one ovary really do ovulate every month! Like a person with one kidney, as soon as an ovary is removed the remaining ovary takes over the work of both. I’m amazed how God saw to it to design the human body with these capabilities. While it might be overtaxing to my lone ovary to be doing all the egg releasing itself during these last 13 years, I’m just grateful it’s still doing its job.

Here’s what a typical month looks like for me at ovulation, in pictures:

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One of my most-used apps. The shooting uterine pains I could’ve done without though.

 

Baby making makes you good at math.
Recently added to my fertility routine. I recommend consuming by disguising them in smoothies (wheatgrass) or stirred into coffee or chai tea (maca), because these supplements taste pretty nasty on their own.
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Fortunately, bromelain and selenium come wrapped up in foods that actually taste good! Here’s my monthly pineapple purchase, accompanied by a handful of Brazil nuts.
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The battalion of my supplement army, lined up and ready for battle
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Trust, but verify.

Let another two week wait begin.

Peace. ❤

 

** The most wonderful day of the month actually occurred 4 days ago.  I delayed publishing this because it seemed too trite to post during either the hurricane or on the anniversary of 9/11.