When your life plan doesn’t plan out | My Fertility Journey
This story was graciously provided by one of Studio Freyja’s Photography Client who wanted to share her fertility journey so other people would feel comfortable doing the same.
I knew I wanted to be a mom from a very young age. I am an only child & I dreamed of having a house with tons of kids. At 18 my friends and I created a little time capsule to open when we turned 28. As we were creating our time capsule, many of my friends guessed that in 10 years I would have 5-8 kids (which looking back I find hilarious). Point is, everyone knew I wanted a big family… And no one really expects it to be that hard to make happen.
When I was young, it all sounded so straight forward. I thought my life plan would look something like:
- Get an education.
- Start your career.
- Start your family.
But here’s what no one tells you about those 3 Phases – Phase 1 and 2 are usually achievable with hard work and putting in a solid effort to learn and do your best. Yes, there’s sacrifice and privilege plays a big role (in all of this actually). But for the most part, I was in charge of my success in those first 2 phases.
Phase 3 though – Does NOT follow the same hard-work plan as the other phases.
1 in 8 Couples are Affected | My Fertility Journey
Thing is, there’s no amount of hard work or extra studying that can be done to start a family if you’re struggling with infertility. Everything you learned in phase 1 and 2 cannot help you get ahead or towards success in phase 3. I can’t put in extra hours at the library to study. I can’t ask my boss for extra responsibilities at work to get the next promotion. And there are no books or studies you can read that will result in a pregnancy.
If you’re one of the 1 in 8 couples who struggles with infertility, it’s out of your control. You’re now into the land of science if you are choosing to try to conceive and pregnant. (Or into adoption or fostering if that’s your journey).
My husband and I found ourselves working on phase 3 using science; AKA, ART (Assisted reproductive technology), IUI, IVF. Your Fertility Journey is also the land of acronyms that can sometimes make the process even more confusing.
Being betrayed by your body | My Fertility Journey
The infertility journey is hard, expensive, emotional and just all around the worst. You want so badly to have a baby and it feels like everyone is doing it so easily except you. And as I soon I found out, navigating infertility is indeed super hard work. More challenging than any job/project/course in my life. Emotionally, physically, financially; your entire world goes through this process and yet you have so little control.
My body felt like it was betraying me, not being able to do this one thing that all women are “supposed” to be able to do. I tried my best to “do my part” to assist science (ART). I did weekly acupuncture, cut most alcohol, gluten, dairy and refined sugars from my diet. Tried to reduce stress (ha, the irony). Switched all our cleaning products and personal care products to cleaner options with less fragrance too.
[This led me on a different journey as well and I was introduced to Beauty Counter. If you’re interested in learning more about these products, visit my Beauty Counter store here for all the options.]
From ART to IUI to IVF | My Fertility Journey
We started ART in NYC where we lived at the time and did a few medicated cycles, lots of tests and a couple IUIs. None of which were successful. It sounds so chill when I jot it down in one sentence but in reality in involved a lot of heartache, stress and money.
[ART includes all fertility treatments in which either eggs or embryos are handled. In general, ART procedures involve surgically removing eggs from a woman’s ovaries, combining them with sperm in the laboratory, and returning them to the woman’s body or donating them to another woman. They do NOT include treatments in which only sperm are handled (i.e., intrauterine—or artificial—insemination) or procedures in which a woman takes medicine only to stimulate egg production without the intention of having eggs retrieved. – Source: Cdc.gov]
We moved to San Francisco in early 2018 and our new SF fertility office was smaller, cozy and decorated with modern art in the vague shapes of semen + half-dozen giant egg sculptures. It was sleek but slightly woo-woo enough to remind you that you are indeed in the land of deep science while also in SF.
After more medicated cycles and another failed IUI and many repeat tests, we finally decided move onto IVF in our cozy little semi-woo SF fertility office.
Experiencing IVF | My Fertility Journey
Even though it took years to get to that point, it was just a short 11-minute phone meeting with our doctor and payment for a $19,000 invoice (not including medications that ran about $5-6k) and we were on our way to making some embryos. See, so chill, right?! Easy breezy. (HA!)
Not so much. There is a lot involved in the initial IVF cycle. It includes taking many different medications most requiring an injection of some sort. Multiple ultrasounds to check follicle progress and blood tests to check your levels. However, lots of injections and an egg retrieval later, we had embryos!
Until you’re in the land of IVF, you never realize your baby’s first photo happens as a tiny cluster of cells. We got this image of this little embryo when we did a frozen embryo transfer (FET) in Spring of 2019. It’s just a little mass of cells here but it represents so much more.
Side note: Did you know that during an embryo transfer your procedure prep notes often say to shower with fragrance-free soaps/shampoos. The entire embryology team also works fragragrance free. Fragrance can be harmful to embryos. This was a clear sign to me that what we put on and in our bodies for personal care impacts more than we think. Using clean products and detergents is important for so many reasons. (Message me @JackieBanda on instagram for discount codes for clean personal care, cleaning products, pots/pans, etc.)
Our Little Scientific Miracle | My Fertility Journey
Back to the fertility journey – We were SO lucky, the embryo stuck! That little mass of cells snuggled in! It was the scariest & most exciting time of my life. There were tears of joy and rushes to the office for scans when I had a bleed at 6 weeks pregnant. But that little embryo snuggled in and I got to carry him into this world. A literal miracle.
I gave birth to Max on Christmas Eve. He was perfect. We had moved again (from SF to San Diego) and I knew immediately, I had to find a photographer. I got so, so lucky and found Studio Freyja. I got to chat with Johanna and because Max had arrived a couple weeks early, she happened to have an opening. Really, the stars aligned. I think the universe brought that connection to life because there’s nothing else to explain the timing of how it all worked with Max arriving early over the holidays and there being an opening in the schedule.
We brought Max to his newborn shoot and I was instantly smitten. I got to watch Johanna carefully and effortlessly pose Max in adorable little setups. My dream of newborn photos came true. Tiny little sleeping baby with itty bitty fingers and toes.
The whole journey was so hard and long but now we have these beautiful moments Johanna captured to remember the miracle that is our little guy.