PLEASE NOTE: If you are struggling with infertility or are trying to conceive and you DON'T want to readabout my pregnancy (which I totally understand), I recommend starting at thebeginning of the blog (March2010) and reading from there. I find out I'm pregnant in June 2011 so thereis a lot of trying to conceive posts in between that you might find funny,helpful or especially relatable. Wishing you all the luck in theworld!

Friday, April 24, 2015

You Are Not Alone… Even When National Infertility Awareness Week is Over.


Every year that I’ve participated in Resolve’s National Infertility Awareness Week (NIAW), I typically only post once (Here are some past years: 2012, 2013, 2014) and if you scroll down below this post, you’ll see my first post for this year - 2015.

However, I felt compelled to write just one more blog to make the point that while NIAW is just a week, that for too many, it is year round and sometimes, for their entire lives.

I used to joke that my two week wait felt terminal. The reality is though that for some, it is. @Ms_Infertile posted something that I thought was so true and the public at large doesn’t get when it comes to infertility and that is you can try your best, do everything you can and use every resource and still have empty arms at the end of it.

Throughout my infertility journey, I’ve made friends with a countless amount of people and all of them have had either different conclusions or none whatsoever. Some have had children through insemination, IVF, donor eggs, surrogacy and adoption. Others however have gone on to get divorces or opt to stop treatment altogether. Neither is right or wrong – it’s what was best for them but my point is that infertility isn’t just something we talk about in a week. It’s something that can change people’s lives forever.

I’m proud of this week, that it exists and reminds the fertile public at large we’re here but frankly, it pisses me off that after this week is over, too many don’t know the reality or the scope of infertility.

As many of you know, in the past few years, I’ve been a very vocal infertility advocate. In the past couple of months, albeit in the overwhelming minority, I’ve gotten some questions (and a bit of grief) about why I continue to be an advocate when I’ve had a child (through my third IVF) and I’m currently expecting my second from what I can only describe as a Hail Mary long shot miracle. I have four responses to that:

1.   I still care. Period and end of story.

2.   There are many who survive breast cancer or other life changing diseases but just because they are seen as a success story doesn’t mean that they can no longer be an advocate for the cause. Why? See number one.

3.   I have been diagnosed with infertility. I am definitely one of the privileged who has gone on to have children but this diagnosis affected my life tremendously and again, please refer to number one.

4.   I saved this one for last because frankly, it’s the biggest most personal important reason to me and keeps me an active advocate.

When I was deep in the trenches, I was intensely private about my struggle to conceive. I was profoundly embarrassed, depressed and ashamed. Very, very few knew what was going on and what we were going through. I can honestly admit now that I was actually terrified of people finding out. It, along with never having children, was my biggest fear.

Right now, at this moment, someone is exactly in that place. Hell, I talk to people all day long who have confided in me their infertility issues and shared with me that their family or close friends don't have any idea that they are dying to have children but are unable to.

I have the luxury (yes, the luxury) to be at a place in my life to give those people who can't yet be open about infertility a voice. They are the ones who can’t tell Dolce and Gabbana what they said about IVF Babies was very offensive (Read HERE). They are the ones who can’t write a post for Huffington Post telling people they are being insensitive when they ask others why they haven't had kids yet (Read HERE). They are the ones who can’t advise the younger generation to know their fertility health to possibly try and avoid what they are currently going through (Read HERE) and they certainly would never go on television to disclose they have a child through IVF (Watch HERE).

Whether you like me or hate me, whether you think I should go away or keep on keeping on, I can never shake the person that infertility made me. I’m not saying at all that I do everything perfectly or you have to agree with all of my actions. What I’m saying though is I know how I was and I know how there are still so many, too many people scared as I was to admit that this is something they are dealing with. I promise you with every fiber of my being, whenever I do anything on this subject, they are always, completely in my heart and on my mind.

When NIAW is over, the infertility journey for one in eight is not. So again, I say to those of you who are the one in eight -- not only are you not alone, but there are others like me who aim to give you a voice if you feel you simply can’t have one.

Here are just a few of my fellow advocates/bloggers of those very people:

  • @remagineit - Please see his blog HERE.
  • @radkitten - Please see her blog HERE.
  • @FurrowedFox - Please see her blog HERE.
  • @JustineFroelker - Please see her post on HP HERE.
  • @gsmwc02  - Please see his blog HERE.
  • @jenrutner  - Please see her blog HERE.
  • @ChancesOur - Please see her blog HERE.

And again, you can learn more about infertility by visiting these links:

Monday, April 20, 2015

You Are Not Alone… Even Though It Sometimes Feels That Way


My trying to conceive journey starting in 2009 and it changed my entire life. Truly. Every single aspect of it. From my personal life, to my friends, my interests, my job, my outlook on life and how I deal with people. It’s honestly impossible to overstate the impact being diagnosed with infertility has had on me.
Its 2015 now, years later, and the reality is that I’m in a very different place than when I first started out on this journey (or rollercoaster as the case may be). However, I still care tremendously about this issue and remain outspoken about it. Not only do I remember every little hurt and setback in great detail and share it with both my fertility challenged and fertile friends and family but through my role at Fertility Authority, I speak daily to people who all struggle with that nagging question, “Why can’t I have children?”
As was the case with me, so many of them feel like they are the only ones in their social circles or family that can’t conceive. Why me? Why am I dealing with this when everyone around me can get pregnant? What am I going to do?
Staying connected with the infertility community as well as working with fertility patients continues to educate me on all that people go through to work through, deal, cope, fight and struggle with this heart breaking medical diagnosis.
This is one of the things I like most about RESOLVE'S National Infertility Awareness Week: That it gives those of us who have gone through treatment time to reflect on our own journey, hear other people’s stories and make the fertile public at large that this is something that exists and doesn’t go away by a romantic night, a vacation or by just relaxing. We are not only reminding others that we exist but honestly, I think we’re also reminding ourselves that there are so many others out there like us.
As I posted on Twitter this morning: No matter where you are in your journey – kids or no kids, YOU exist and YOUR feelings matter just as much as anyone else’s.
And why is this so important to say? Because infertility is so often isolating. It can be a lonely, devastating experience even when you’re in a room of fellow infertiles.
So when I read this year’s theme: You’re Not Alone, it got me thinking more than previous year’s themes. I immediately recognized this statement to be true. “I’m not alone” is accurate on an intellectual and factual level. Many, many women and men are diagnosed and/or suffer from fertility issues.
However, when you’re in the trenches, even when you connect with others going through the same thing as you, for reasons I can’t explain – the reality is you still often feel alone.
Right now, if you’re peeing on a pregnancy test for what feels like the four hundredth time only to see yet another big fat negative, if you’re friend tells you she’s pregnant with her third child by accident when you’re waiting to get pregnant just once, if you still have empty arms after trying timed cycles, insemination, IVF, etc. and I sit you down and say, “Hey – Did you know infertility affects 1 in 8 couples of reproductive age? So you’re not alone!” -- Would that make everything less painful? Would you truly feel better?
It reminds me of when I was a kid and I used to worry about this, that and the other thing (I was a worrier) and my dad would say, “Don’t worry!” I wanted to tell him, “Don’t worry? Why, that’s brilliant! I never thought of that! You should sell t-shirts! My worrying problems are over!”
I remember there were a series of months when we were trying to get pregnant when I would get my period and immediately go to bed (even if it was 4pm in the afternoon), stay there and cry until I fell asleep for the night. In those moments, I felt incredibly alone and no one could have told me anything different.
While one in eight people may have understood me and my struggle, I was still surrounded by seven people who not only didn’t relate but who also seemed to get pregnant easily while asking me why I didn’t have children yet.
PLEASE KNOW that I’m not at all trying to be disrespectful or dismissive of the phrase. These are exceptionally important words that we, as I said earlier, need to be reminded of often. Also, regular readers, followers and friends of mine will attest that over the years, I’ve said repeatedly how very much my fellow fertility challenged friends have saved me. Their support, their understanding, their compassion and more than anything, the short hand we share, is unparalleled. When I was actively trying to conceive and I would say to one of them, “I got invited to a baby shower…” they would all know EXACTLY what I was feeling without me having to elaborate. The guilt you feel for not being able to be happy for whosever shower it was, the dread of having to go (when you simply couldn’t get out of it), the deep sadness you had that it wasn’t your baby shower and the nagging fear that you’d never know if you’d ever have a shower. Ever.
So while I would never pretend to have all of the answers, while I can’t say my experience is similar to yours and while I don’t know if telling you, “You’re not alone.” is going to bring you much comfort, this week is a reminder that truly – this is worldwide issue that affects so many and needs to be acknowledged by ALL of us.
If I could try to offer any additional words of comfort – I’d say this:
  • You’ve done nothing wrong, no one deserves this and infertility is in no way a reflection on who you are, what makes you amazing and the many accomplishments you’ve had and continue to have.
  • You do have many family building options open to you if you can afford them and decide you’d like to pursue them.
  • You have every right to tell friends, family or anyone else that asking any questions related to your reproductive parts is NOT ok.
  • If you feel comfortable, I would encourage you to use those opportunities where someone asks you when you’re having children to educate others on infertility.
  • Always feel free to lean on your fellow infertiles because not only are they amazing people who can relate but they also know better than anyone else those feelings of isolation.
  • PLEASE be your own advocate: Get second and third opinions, seek out anything and everything that will help get you through this (support groups, hobbies, writing your own blog, going to the gym, etc.) and do what you need to do to stay sane.
  • If you’re going to a family party, college reunion, any function where the kids question may come up, I highly recommend making a list of your accomplishments ahead of time to have in your memory bank. You may have just gotten a promotion, bought a new house, are planning a vacation – have those in your head so you can not only redirect the conversation but you can remind yourself that you ARE still an awesome person with amazing things going on.
Again, in the interest of full disclosure, I don’t know if any of this helps as everyone has to find the secret sauce to working through it all for themselves BUT I do hope it’s a reminder that there is a community that surrounds you and is here to offer advice as much as they are to listen to your thoughts.
And to those who are a diagnosed infertile as well as to any of my fertile friends who are reading this, you can learn more about infertility by visiting these links:
With hope and humor always,

Jay

Monday, January 19, 2015

Resources for Affording Fertility Treatment


One of the things that both floors me (and pisses me off quite frankly) is that many insurances do NOT cover fertility treatment. Infertility is an actual medical issue – shocking, I know. I’m truly amazed how many times I have to point that in a day and it doesn’t help matters when even insurance companies don’t recognize it as a diagnosed condition.

Here’s the example I always use: If a diabetic’s blood sugar is high, you would not say, “Just relax and your sugar will lower on its own.” Or “Forget an endocrinologist! I’m sure your ENT can handle it.”

You wouldn’t… because it’s stupid and irresponsible.

Also, the public at large is simply unaware that a fertile couple can say, “When do you want to have kids?” or “Should we have more?” where as an infertile couple ask, “Can we afford treatment to even try to have kids?” or “Will we have any at all?”

Last year, I participated in Resolve’s NationalAdvocacy Day that hopes to address these issues and I continue to fight for this cause whenever and wherever I can but until we knock some sense into the people that make these decisions, I did want to list a few resources, grants, financing options, etc. here to see if it can possibly assist you in financing your journey.

One more thing before I get into this list: At my job, Fertility Authority, we recently launched a multi-cycle discount program called IVFAdvantage. It differs from other similar programs out there in that we have no cut off age or blood work or BMI restrictions. This is for those who can afford treatment BUT need additional assistance while getting personalized care. Meaning… when I did a clinical trial (more information on that below), they didn’t treat my issues specifically – it was a blanket study that I participated in. If you have a specific case, know you need more than one cycle, please feel free to email me at work: jay (at) fertilityauthority (dot) com and I can see if I can help at all through IVFA.

Here’s the list but TO BE CLEAR: While I’ve worked with a few of the organizations below, I haven’t investigated each and every one of these. In short, please do not take this list as my personal recommendation and be sure to look into each of them on your own to make your own decision.

Clinical Trials: www.clinicaltrials.gov. You can search for free fertility treatment in your area that you may qualify for. On my second IVF, I did a clinical trial and found out about it through the clinic I was seeing. If you don’t want to go the website, you can ask your current doctor if they are participating in any you might qualify for.

The Tinina Q. Cade Foundation’s Family Building Grant: http://www.cadefoundation.org. They are accepting applicants NOW for the 2016 $10,000 grant so you can fill out a form here: http://www.cadefoundation.org/?page_id=10



Fertile Dreams – The Embracing Hope Grant: http://www.fertile-dreams.org


The Heart to Heart Video Contest: https://hearttoheartcontest.com/

The International Council on Infertility Information Dissemination (INCID): http://www.inciid.org

Parenthood for Me: http://www.parenthoodforme.org/





Lost Stark Foundation: http://loststorkfoundation.org/

Again, this SOOOO does not solve everything... not even by a long shot... but I do help at least offers some ideas to explore in getting treatment should you decide to pursue it. And of course, if there are any resources I've left off, please comment and let me know. :)

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

We All Agree: Infertility Is an Evil Bitch Demon


Here’s what’s going on and here’s what’s happened:

As many of you know, there was much drama this past weekend on Twitter that I do hope will at least open up the infertility community to important conversations on support and sensitivity.

In this post, I’m going to bring everyone up to speed who may have missed it and include some information I did not include on Twitter. None of this should at all be perceived as an excuse but rather an explanation. My ultimate hope is in all of the dialogue that is taking place online, on blogs and in private messages, we will remain supporters and friends of one another as well as continued much needed infertility advocates.

So get comfy as this will be a long one!

Despite being told that I have poor egg quality and a 1% chance of ever getting pregnant again, I am, in fact, pregnant. I’m currently about 13 weeks and am having a boy. Yes, this was a complete and total shock and no, I will not be using the word “unicorn” anywhere in this post. There is nothing magical about my reproductive organs. Trust me.

To refresh everyone’s memory, it took me three IVF’s to conceive my now almost three year old son and on the cycle that worked, I only had one embryo to transfer. When my reproductive endocrinologist saw me for this pregnancy, she said point blank, “I’m not going to lie - I’m completely shocked you’re here and pregnant.” That made two of us.

On December 24th, I had my NT scan and received the Maternity 21 blood work test results giving an overall picture that the pregnancy is going well and the baby is healthy and the 25th would be the official end to my first trimester.

On Christmas morning, my parents, husband, son and I had just opened presents and were sitting around when my husband asked about posting the news on his personal Facebook page. My father was very excited about doing this as well (more on this shortly) and at that time, I expressed my concern about upsetting anyone in the infertility community.

Now, let me quickly cut to last Christmas as I do feel this is relevant. As I blogged about earlier this year (see post here), my father has had major health issues recently. Between November and Thanksgiving of last year, he was losing weight rapidly, his skin color had changed and we found out that he had a tumor in his pancreas. Given that his father died in his late fifties of cancer, my father became convinced he was going to die as well.

In March of this year, he had his gallbladder, a portion of his small intestines and a big portion of his pancreas taken out. He currently has to take enzymes with each meal to be able to properly digest his food, he takes insulin to regulate his blood sugar and only in the past month or two, he started to look like himself again. His doctor said that he is nothing short of a miracle.

When I told my father I was pregnant again, it was very emotional moment. We could barely speak to each other without crying but my dad managed to say, “I didn’t think I was going to make it to this Christmas but not only am I alive, I’m having another grandson.”

I did NOT post this on Twitter because A) It’s a fucking long story to fit into a series of 140 character tweets and B) My husband was already getting a lot of grief that I honestly couldn’t bare my dad getting any as well… not without being able to offer a longer explanation.

Now back to this Christmas morning. My husband, Mike, had always felt robbed of the more normal fertile experiences (in addition to my shitty eggs , he has a low sperm count and I feel like he always harbored guilt over it) and he was excited to do something he always wanted to do – post a big ol’ happy announcement of our pregnancy with a sonogram and all. Many of you would not have done this or let your husband do this but if we’ve learned nothing from the last couple of days, it’s that everyone deals with infertility differently and we need to be supportive of one another as much as possible. He's my husband, we've been through a lot together, I love him and this was important to him.

And of course, when my father said he would like to share Mike’s status as soon as Mike posted it, it became even tougher.

I had two of the most important men in my life downright giddy about sharing the news with our loved ones on Facebook. Mike felt that this was a moment he always dreamed about and my dad felt this was a moment he never thought he’d see. So I let them post it on Facebook… and they did. Mike posted his status with a sonogram picture and tagged my personal Facebook profile.

I want to stop here to make this point 100% clear – where he posted is very much my personal Facebook page. It has photos of me, my family, posts about my son, shares my entire life from my love of Starbucks, my ass being bigger than Kim Kardashian's (but in a bad way), infertility issues, my support of gun control and stuff like that. Even when anyone in the IF world has asked to connect with me on Facebook, I always refer to both my @jennpal Twitter account and jennpal Facebook page as my personal page and The 2 Week Wait Twitter and The 2 Week Wait Facebook page as my IF account. The ONLY reason I haven’t posted on my The 2 Week Wait Facebook page as of late is because they have a new policy where you have to use your real name so me and drag queens have been locked out. Oh well, at least we’ll always have our false eye lashes…

Anyway, the reason I’m making this clarification is NOT, repeat NOT to make excuses. It’s mainly because I’d like to avoid inflicting any additional pain as much as possible. So really – the JennPal Facebook page is my personal page. If any of you didn’t realize that and you want to unfollow me or run away screaming from that page, I completely support you and will fully understand.

So, roughly a half hour after Mike posted our news, I posted the following on my (personal) Facebook page:

“As my husband posted this morning, despite needing several IVF's to have MJ and being given only a 1% chance of ever conceiving on my own, I'm pregnant and due in July. I'd so appreciate your prayers for a healthy pregnancy/baby AND that you include all of those still struggling to conceive in your thoughts. Thank you so much and Merry Christmas!”

On my The 2 Week Wait account, the only thing I posted on Christmas was:

“When in the TTC trenches, the holidays were painful for me. To those struggling w/infertility, I'm holding you in my heart today & always.”


This is when things slowly began to unravel…

A friend on The 2 Week Wait Twitter account on Christmas congratulated me and asked if I posted it “here” (meaning Twitter) yet. I wrote back to her that I didn’t out of respect for the day. But then another person saw that exchange and asked what was going on. I ignored that question and let it sit there while I tried to figure things out. You can go through my timeline to confirm all of this but I urge you to do something way more exciting that that if you can.

Years ago, I had a friend who was active in the IF Twitter world who got pregnant on her own after years of treatment. She was so terrified of telling the community that she never posted it or acknowledged it. Eventually though, people found out and many of the responses were well, let’s just say rather unkind. I thought about this incident and began to get concerned that the longer I didn’t say anything on my IF account, the more people would then feel like I was hiding it and become angry.

So, on December 26th, on my infertility The 2 Week Wait Twitter account, I posted:

"1st Tweet of 2: Despite needing several IVF's to have my son & being given a 1% chance of conceiving on my own, I'm pregnant & due in July."


"2nd Tweet of 2: Out of respect to my cherished IF friends, I plan to post about this rarely. Thank you & truly sorry to those this hurts."

On the whole, responses were supportive and positive. However, there were also a few that felt my posting of this on Twitter the day after Christmas was extremely insensitive. Within minutes, many (some who I know and some who I’ve never met in my life) were discussing my post, my pregnancy, what was on my personal Facebook page, that my husband posted a sonogram picture, etc. and so forth. To know there were so many Tweets, direct messages both to me, about me to others, etc. blows my mind.

Some said it wasn’t the news but that it was on Christmas. Others said it wasn’t the news or that it was on Christmas but it was the sonogram picture I was tagged in. Some said the news should be inspirational to people. Others said it was a win for the IF team. A few wanted to revoke my Infertility Advocate card altogether as I no longer deserved to call myself one. Compliments were given. Swear words were used. Some posts were touched my heart and made me cry. Others made me want to crawl under a rock and die... and also cry.

From there (and it’s almost funny to think about now…), I got the most direct messages, emails and texts I may have ever received in my entire life. The messages ranged from, “Apologize immediately!”, “Why did you apologize?”, “Your apology isn’t good enough!”, “Retweet everything everyone is saying to you!”, “Why the hell are you retweeting everything???”, “Delete your entire account!” and so on and so on. My head was spinning…

In the interest of full disclosure here – it’s been a tough couple of months. My son, who is on the autistic spectrum, has now also been diagnosed with a minor seizure disorder (which can happen when you’re ASD). We’re trying to get him into a special school which is harder than buying a gun or getting him into college and now that I know I’m having another boy, I’m terrified he’ll have to go through everything MJ just has. I also am at a greater risk for preeclampsia (yaaay!) and I had cholestasis with my last pregnancy.  The stress has been profoundly affecting my sleep plus, adding to all of this, I’ve been exceedingly sick this pregnancy. This was the reason I wasn’t able to travel to this year’s SHER I Believe Video Project and my co-workers will confirm that I very much look like total shit. Think Michael Jackson, the dying years… only not as thin.

Even though I’m sure some of you are like, “Yeah, cry me a river...”, I share all of this because I’d like to be the first to own that I’m not at my best. I’m sure I was not thinking at my clearest and so when everyone was giving me advice, I pretty much followed EVERYONE’S advice even though they often contradicted each other. I have no doubt that made matters worse and I came off like a confused, slightly bipolar hot mess.

One of my BIGGEST regrets though (whether you agree or not) is that even though I did  retweet many tweets that criticized me, I also retweeted tweets that were supportive but also critical to those who were not supportive of any of my pregnancy posts. In doing this, it came off as my not wanting to listen to both sides and I fear might have undone any sincere apologies I was trying to make.

If you know me or was following all of my posts or even if you’ve followed this blog for a while, I feel confident that you’d know that nothing could be further from the truth. One of my posts actually invited anyone who was unhappy with me to Tweet it and I’d retweet it to everyone to share all points. However, it’s clear that I did not think through some of what was retweeted and for that, I feel like a complete moron.

Overall, there was some fair, honest, critical statements made to me or about me and there were some that, I can’t lie, really deeply hurt that I’m still trying to put behind me as they didn't feel productive so much as they felt... personal and intentionally unkind. It’s been very difficult to take at times but the bottom line is everyone has a right to be heard and even though it may hurt me, I know full well that they are hurting too. I see nothing to gain by being anything but apologetic, supportive and open to hearing what they feel needs to be said.

All in all though - t’s been crazy watching people fight over this, seeing the amount of blog posts all about what’s going on in my uterus and I’m utterly mortified and beyond distressed that this has caused so much drama. I almost feel like Rodney King screaming, “Can’t we all just get along?

A few have said this may be a good incident as it’s started a conversation but if that’s true – I just wish more people would listen instead of argue. 

There are some who have criticized me for thanking those who supported me and others who have criticized me for apologizing. As you can see from this post, I’ve gotten a lot of contradictory opinions from all sides but I wanted to say again, whether it was my handling of my pregnancy announcement, whether it was a retweet that upset you, whether it was a particular word I used or didn’t use, none of the above but just my surprise pregnancy in and of itself that has upset you – I am truly and sincerely sorry and apologize if you are one of the people who I unintentionally hurt.

Even though I accept the criticism, I honestly don't know if there's anyway to not upset someone when you unexpectedly get pregnant but I just can’t stress enough how much this has absolutely broken my heart… literally… pains in my chest that my desperate attempt to balance both my family’s wishes while being respectful of my infertility background and friends have hurt and offended others. I swear on my life that I really tried and even though I was told by one Tweet that “good intentions aren’t good enough”, it’s all I have at this point.

Please know though that I’ve been an infertility advocate for a while now and I have no plans of stopping anytime soon neither at my job or in my personal life. I love this community and still believe it so for any mistake you feel I’ve made, for any mistake I feel I’ve made – infertility is an issue that needs as many voices as possible. We can't always agree on everything but the one thing that is a fact for all of us: Infertility is an evil bitch demon.

Whether you’re pregnant, trying to conceive, going through treatment, surrogacy, adoption, child-free or childless, let me know how I can support you and let's all keep talking… and more than anything listening, ok?