I Am Much, Much More

Courtney's beautiful family picture and gut wrenching story hit my inbox last week as part of the #MoreThan1in8 project. She took me to my knees, both in empathetic pain and in gratitude of her bravery in sharing her story. And so, I asked her if I could share it publicly here with you all. Recently I have found another reason I was chosen to be the mother to my babies, even if only from afar. It seems I have a gift for working with people through not only infertility but also secondary infertility and pregnancy after loss. I don't know what it is as it is hard to even put into words. It is a space I can hold, a love I can share, a permission I somehow can give.

This work is life changing, it is some of the most important work I have ever done.

Here is Courtney's incredible story, make sure to check out her blog at Hope Sweet Hope.

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I am more than 1 in 8.

I much more than 1 in 8.

I am a fighter. A survivor. A mother.

I have been through hell and back- yet I stand tall. My journey to becoming a mother has been heartbreaking and tragic. I have been let down by my body time and time again, yet I stay determined.

In 2011 we went through our first IVF attempt. 2 embryos were implanted. Success. We got pregnant.

Sitting on top of the world I remember feeling lucky and grateful. It only took us one try. IVF does a number to your mind and body and I certainly couldn't imagine doing multiple rounds.

A couple weeks after we got the good news we found out we were expecting twins. We were overjoyed to say the least. How lucky are we!? We tried and tried for two years to get pregnant and now that we are pregnant we get TWO! We were thrilled.

A couple weeks later is when our lives changed forever. I went in for a routine ultrasound. While making small talk with my favorite ultrasound tech I remember looking up and seeing a surprised look on her face.

"Oh my...there's three babies in here."

My heart started beating rapidly. Three!? Come again!? How?? I was speechless.

The room was silent and she was looking intensely at the sonogram. Her eyes widened and her jaw dropped.

"Four. There's four babies."

I immediately told her to stop counting. Shock is putting it lightly. How in the hell was I pregnant with four babies!? How in the hell would a whole 5'1" of me carry four babies!? Deep down, I knew this wasn't good.

Hours later my doctor called me. Carrying these babies wouldn't be an option. A selective termination was what he recommended and over the course of a few weeks my husband and I painfully agreed.

We were pregnant with four babies; A, B, C and D. A & B shared a sac and didn't appear healthy. C was by itself. D was by itself however- with very low fluid. We lost D by miscarriage a few days before Christmas.

The termination is hard to talk about. I remember every single second of that day. It is, and will always, be the worst day of my life. We terminated A & B while giving Baby C the best chance of survival.

I talk about my pregnancy in my blog, Hope Sweet Hope. My pregnancy was brutal. I was on bed rest for the entire pregnancy and on June 19, 2012, we welcomed a healthy, happy baby...Olivia Hope.

Since becoming a Mom I have made it a point to take too many pictures, kiss her too many times, brag about her often, and make every moment bigger and better than the last. I have NOT ONCE taken for granted that I am a Mom.

When I was pregnant with Olivia I always said I wouldn't do it again. I was petrified of being pregnant. But once I held her tiny self I made her a promise that I would do everything I could to bring her a sibling.

And that leads us to today. We decided before her first birthday to start IVF for Baby #2. We were naive in thinking that getting pregnant was the easy part. I mean, after all- it did only take one try to get pregnant with Olivia.

So far we have tried for 2 straight years while taking this past year off due to unknown health issues.

In two years I feel I have lost count in the amount of IVF attempts. I have lost count in the number of embryos we have frozen. I have lost count in the amount of injections, pills, blood draws. What I thought would be easy has turned into a nightmare.

So far, during my entire infertility journey, I have lost 5 innocent souls. 2 miscarriages and 3 selective terminations. Each loss has brought me to my knees. Each loss has rocked my faith. Each loss has brought heartache, anger and confusion.

Each loss has taken a piece of my heart.

I have sat up many of nights praying to whoever is there to listen. I've cried. I've screamed. I've begged. I've wondered time and time again what I've done wrong. What we've done wrong. I've looked for signs, begged for signs.

Not only has my body failed me getting pregnant naturally, my body has failed holding on to my babies.

Do you know how much of a failure that makes one feel?

Because I have one child, people don't understand why I don't just give up. Why I'm not "grateful" for one child. When I miscarry I get comments like, "well, that just means the baby wasn't healthy"...or...."it just wasn't meant to be."

The comments are brutal. Relationships with friends and family members have been tested.

I feel an immense pressure to get pregnant with #2. I've always wanted multiple children. I would like to complete my family. Most of all, I would like a sibling for my child. I had 3 siblings and I can't imagine life without every single one of them.

I won't always be here for my daughter. My husband won't always be here. There will come a time that my daughter won't have her parents...so it's important to us that we give her the gift of being a big sister.

Infertility is brutal. The struggle is real and unless you've gone through it you will never fully understand it. Infertility has changed my life.

But, infertility doesn't define me. Being a Mom defines me.

I am much, much more than 1 in 8.

 
Courtney

Courtney

 

The Magic Answer

I don't think there is any better way to honor ourselves, our story and our babies than to speak our truth and tell the world. And so, I am honored to share Jana's story with you today as part of the #MoreThan1in8 project.. I met Jana through my publisher for Ever Upward, Morgan James Publishing. It did not take long into our conversation for us to learn that we are fellow warriors in this battle of infertility. Our stories very different and yet so much the same, especially in the lifelong consequences of infertility and loss. Through my advocacy work the last few years a special place has grown in my heart for those  struggling with secondary infertility. Jana's brave voice  and story are very important in our community. Make sure you check out her blog, Jana Says.

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The Magic Answer

When I was a kid, I knew three things for sure: I was going to be either a writer or a lawyer, I was going to live in Washington DC, and I was going to have 2 kids.

None of those happened.

And while I can reconcile the first two, the last, well, I struggle with that.

A lot.

It’s a hard thing to accept when you make a concrete plan for your life and it doesn’t turn out that way. Especially not something as emotional as having kids. Because no one who wants kids grows up, or enters childbearing years, thinking they won’t be able to have them.

It’s a huge kick in the face when it turns out that way, though.

At least it was for me.

In the spirit of full disclosure, I do have one child. She’s 9. Every day, I feel blessed and honored that I get to be her mom (even on the days I wish she still took 3 hour naps). And when I was pregnant with her, I never thought she’d be an only child. I figured that since it was so easy to get pregnant the first time, it’d be just as easy to do it again when we felt ready.

Except it wasn’t.

It took 7 years to get pregnant again. And then I miscarried roughly 2 weeks after I found out (in fact, today, April 15 was the one year anniversary of my miscarriage).  And then there were the unsuccessful IUI treatments that followed that summer. And we won’t even talk about adoption because for my family, it’s not an option and also, it’s not necessarily the solution.

I spent a good part of last year wondering why I was being punished and not allowed to have another baby. And all the questions started. What did I do wrong? Am I not a good enough mother to the one I have? Did I do something awful I don’t know about and this is karma coming to get me? Is my body a failure? Am I a failure?

Dammit if I didn’t want answers. I don’t know how many hours of sleep I lost or how many productive days flew out the window searching for answers that, deep down, I knew would never come.

Until one day, they did. And I might not like the answer but it’s all I’ve got and it’s what I’ve learned to live with.

What is the magical answer?

“That’s just how it is.”

That’s just how it is. Vague yet specific. Helpful yet not helpful at all. It does nothing but does everything. It lets me hurt yet lets me heal. Because I’ll never truly know why I miscarried or why the IUI treatments didn’t work or why my body won’t let me be pregnant again. My husband can’t tell me why. Doctors can’t tell me why. God can’t tell me why.

There is no why.

There’s only acceptance.

“That’s just how it is.”

And while I don’t like having to accept my infertility, I know it’s something I have to do. Because without accepting it, I’ll never be able to move on.

Moving on doesn’t mean I’ve forgotten. It doesn’t mean I don’t mourn what I’ve lost. But it gives me permission to own my feelings, whatever they may be. It gives me permission to always feel that my family is incomplete. It gives me permission to stop blaming myself every day. It gives me permission to forgive myself losing the pregnancy and not being able to have another one.

 
Jana
Jana
 

It gives me permission to be content with what I’ve been given.

While I’ll always feel the void left by my miscarriage and unsuccessful IUI treatments, I’m grateful for what those babies did for me. They’ve made me a stronger person, they’ve made me a better mother to the child I have with me, and they’ve given me new perspective on life. I appreciate the small and mundane more than I did before. I appreciate what I do have in a way I didn’t think possible.

That’s their legacy.

By sharing my story, that’s their legacy, too.

And for those who don’t understand, well.

That’s just how it is.

Petite Post: Loving Well and Fully in Honor of Them

I have found a special love, and talent for those in the battle of secondary infertility and those in the midst of pregnancy after loss. The other day I had an aha with a client coping with pregnancy after loss. One of the biggest misconceptions of the trying to conceive, infertility and loss community is that a healthy pregnancy is our cure all. I see some of the hardest struggle during this time, which if you think about it, is not that surprising. We've already had the worst case scenario happen, we already know that not everything always turns out. A healthy pregnancy, although amazing and happy, is also filled with anxiety, worry and, if we aren't careful, all consuming fear.

What I am especially seeing in my office is the difficulty for mom to allow herself to attach and fully love the growing baby in her belly,

Because what if it isn't okay? What if I lose it?

To which I say,

Your children before this, although you may have never had the blessing to meet them, made you the mother you are today. You love this baby well because of them. You love this baby fully in honor of the ones who made you a mother to begin with.

The complicated gray of afraid and brave all at once my fellow warriors, loving well and loving fully is what our children deserve, it is also what we deserve.

 
we-love-well-because-of-them-we-love-fully-in-honor-of-them-they-made-us-mothers.png
 

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Don't Talk About the Baby

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