Why am I begging? 

If you follow me on Facebook or basically any other social media I have probably been driving you nuts with my post lately.  I’d apologize but I can’t because it is just that important.  My Husband and I have been fighting for over a year now for Congress to pass legislation to allow the VA to provide IVF coverage to our wounded Veterans.  I know other couples that have been fighting for over 6 years for the same thing.  Year after year this gets put on the back burner.  Year after year it is voted down or taken out.  Every precious year during our child bearing years is quickly passing us by, while we wait for Congress to decide how they “feel” about IVF and other fertility treatments.

Congress- WE DO NOT HAVE TIME!  44% of Maryland’s Post 911 Veterans are in their prime child bearing years.  When you hit around the age of 35 fertility discussions start to become different.  My Husband spent 2.5 years at Walter Reed recovering from significant injuries that he sustained in Afghanistan during his first deployment in our Army’s Infantry.  Kevin lost his leg and suffered extensive injuries to the rest of his body.  He also lost a testicle that resulted in a significant decrease in fertility.  Every test and doctor we have seen has said the same painful words, we will never have children on our own.  We were told that we would be covered through the DOD if we did IVF while he was active duty.  A perfect time to bring a child into the world… between surgeries and a very unstable situation… NOT! We made the responsible decision to hold off on having children until our life settled and we were ready. Since we waited, we lost coverage for IVF treatments that we needed.  The VA cannot provide IVF treatments to any Veterans, including those who need it because of a war related injuries.  After Kevin retired the VA ran every test, looking for options because they desperately wanted to help us.  Unfortunately they had to tell us that they were unable to help.  Why? Because our government placed a ban that prohibits the VA from providing the treatments.  The funny part is, the DOD is able provide it.  Why is there a difference between the two?

When we met with members of Congress we were hit with some pro-life issues.  Apparently pro-life is not an issue for DOD even though the IVF is provided the exact same way.  IVF is as pro-life as you get.  We are starting life, we are trying to have a family, not end it.  I’m not sure why our veterans are being hit with these questions when all they are asking is to start a family and to have a more normal life.   It is unfair and unethical to make them feel anything other than supported when trying to pursue their dream of having a family!

Our life will never be normal because of war.  Parts of my husbands body are somewhere in Afghanistan and the 2.5 years he spent recovering he will never be able to get back.  Does he regret it… no, he doesn’t.  His Mom had to live with him for about 2 years to care for him through over 30 surgeries.  Now he is medically retired.  He is going to school for his Bachelors degree.  He is ready to be a Dad.  His Mom, who had to wonder if her son would survive, is ready to hold his baby-her Grandbaby.  This is what normal looks like for so many.  All we are asking is for a piece of normal, to be able to be parents.

The reason I am pushing so hard for support now is because Congress will soon be going on break.  If this is not voted on as a yes, more years will continue to pass and more families will be faced with trying to figure out how to have a family.  Like I said before, many of these soldiers are in their child bearing years now, they do not have time for this to take longer! Our wounded service members deserve better.  The ultimate goal of recovery after a war injury is to go on with life as normal as possible, to make the person whole again.  By passing these bills we are helping to make these men and women who already gave so much, whole again.

If you have children, look at them and ask yourself what you would do to bring them into this world if you had to do it all over again.  That is all we are doing.  Our baby is not due until August, but we know the love for her is immeasurable because we have and will do anything to bring her to us.  We will also do anything we have to make sure other people in our situation do not have to feel the way our Government has made us feel.

Please help us by sharing with Congress your thoughts.  We welcome you to use our story.  There’s over 2000 known cases of Veterans who now face infertility because of war injuries. Let’s stand up for these people and help change their lives.  So often we hear “thank you for your service” and we know the people mean well but a true thank you is to help fight for these men and women.  The link I am going to post is a quick and easy to write your representatives requesting that they support these bills.  You do not even have to look up your representatives, they do it for you!  You don’t even have a to type the letter, it is done for you (although you are welcome to add and change things).  You simply put your name and address and it is done!  Something so simple could change the lives of so many and would truly be a meaningful “thank you for your service” for so many!

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Click here to let your voice be heard!

Cooking up hope

Even through heartache, life moves on.  I am finding each day to be easier to get through.  When we started the stimulating shots, life was put to a halt.  The only thing that seemed to matter at that time was making sure my body was healthy, being careful to not hurt myself as my body was swelling, and trying desperately to stay awake. Tonight is the first night I have made a nice dinner in well over a month.   I absolutely love to cook.  When I am cooking I feel so much peace.  Tonight I made Porcupine Meatballs (one of my Dad’s favorites).  I even got to bake a pumpkin pie.  I missed it so much!  I was starting to feel like a real live human again.  All of the “false” pregnancy symptoms have started to fade.  I am starting to get myself back after one of the most traumatic experiences of my life.  I hardly remember the last month and half.  My memory is still shot; which is very frustrating sometimes.  I think my mind is so overwhelmed with making our dreams come true, it is having a hard time focusing. However, if I had to choose something to consume me, I would choose having children.  This matters so much. This is a fight I would never be willing to give up.

It was incredibly painful to receive such bad news; especially after the amount of literal blood, sweat and tears that were put into it.  I gave up my entire body just to try to get pregnant.  You get through the difficult parts because you hope for positive pregnancy test at the end.  We did not receive that perfect ending… yet.  I am confident that one day our nurse will call us with news we have dreamed to hear.  My Mom likes to remind me that the bad news was us being told “not yet.”  To be childless is not our final destination.  We have more options and chances.

This entire experience has been very emotional.  I love the clump of cells I saw on our transfer day. I love them more than I could have ever imagined.  I did everything I could to have helped it survive.  It was the most pregnant I have ever been. For whatever reason, that embryo was not meant to be our baby.  I bought a box to put the picture in to keep it as a part of our journey; but to also keep it out of my direct view.  We are ready to use this as our strength to help us fight even harder to meet our goal.

Now Kevin and I are looking towards the future.  We have frozen embryos that were saved from our fresh cycle.  When my body is ready we will transfer a frozen embryo.  While it is not clinically evident at this time, sometimes a frozen embryo transfer can be more successful.  They believe this because the woman’s body is not as stressed.  The hormone levels are at a more natural level.  So let’s pray this next transfer will help us get one step closer to bringing Baby Jaye into this world!

Pumpkin Pie!

Pumpkin Pie!

Transfer Day! Officially PUPO!

We are officially PUPO!  This typically stands for “Pregnant Until Proven Otherwise” in the infertility world.  However, I decided to change it to “Pregnant Unless Proven Otherwise”.  The word “until” seems too negative to me; like eventually I will get the phone call that we are not pregnant.  I like the word “unless” much more.  To me this word means that it may not happen.  That I may not get the phone call that I am not pregnant.  Unless means that I have every reason to believe that I will get the positive phone call; and if we do not get that phone call, we will cross that bridge at that time.

This morning we watched our embryo get placed back into its home.  It is now in the blastocyst stage.  Our little embryo is even starting to hatch!  Before I started this journey, I did not realize that humans do

hatch!  This has to happen in order for it to implant into the uterus lining. In two weeks, we will get blood work done.  This will help us if our embryo has survived.

We appreciate all the thoughts and prayers during this time!  The next two weeks will be difficult to get through but we have hope!  Kevin and I choose to be public about this journey in an effort to educate as many people as we can about something that impacts 1 out of 8 couples.  In someways being public is very difficult.  I am still sad sometimes that we will not get the cute surprise pregnancy announcement like most people do.  I also know that if we receive not so happy news in two weeks, it will be difficult to go through that publicly. However, we decided that the impact we can hopefully make is worth it.  We also hope that anyone going through this knows they are not alone.  We want to break the silence that so many feel they must live in while suffering from infertility.  Infertility is a disease that is represented in both men and women equally.  1 out of 8 couples suffer with it.  Our story is just a glimpse into this world and we hope it brings the issues to light.

We will keep everyone updated!  Keep the prayers coming for Baby Jaye and pray for a BFP (BIG FAT POSITIVE)!

This is an actual picture of our embryo!  This picture was taken today; before it was transferred back! It is starting to hatch as you can see on the left side of the picture.

This is an actual picture of our embryo! This picture was taken today; before it was transferred back! It is starting to hatch as you can see on the left side of the picture.

You Are Not Alone: Hope is everywhere

National Infertility Awareness Week 2015

National Infertility Awareness Week 2015

It’s 8:00 am.  You are walking through long, narrow, never ending hallways to the doctor’s appointment.  People are walking by and saying good morning, but you do not notice them.  This appointment has been thought about for years now and it is finally here.  That moment where you know your life is going to change the minute you sit down in the exam room, is finally here.

Your fiance checks in with the receptionist, but you just take a seat.  You wait and inside you feel like you are dying; you cannot breath.  Every breath, you are fighting to take.  Do you know that feeling you get when you are walking down the steps and you miss one?  Your stomach lurches and it takes a second for it go away.  This time that startled, scary feeling does not go away.   You sit… and you wait.  You wonder if the others in the waiting room are feeling the same thing. Maybe they are here for a completely different reason but probably not.  As sad as it is, it is comforting to know you are not alone, that others share your journey.  You pretend that they know what you are going through and share your pain .  Some people are smiling; others have their heads buried in their phones.  Some are talking to their significant other. You try to distract both of you by looking at funny jokes on Pinterest.  Anything you can think of to take away the fear, you try, if just for a moment.  It does not work, you know you cannot fool your brain to feel safe, but you try.  You cannot get rid of that feeling… that terrible falling down the steps feeling.   Finally, they call you both back to the exam room.  You find it hard to believe, but your nerves are rattled even more now.

You cannot escape this moment.  You can not ignore it.  The moment is here and you must face it.

As the nurse takes you to the exam room, you see the doctor is sitting in the room waiting for you both.  This isn’t typical and you know here goes another fall down the stairs.  The first words out of his mouth are, “So how are you feeling?” with a look you recognize as disappointment on his face. You sink deeper into your chair.   You slipped on the never ending staircase again, but this time it feels more like you are not going to make it; you are just going to keep falling.  Your fiance tries to save you by responding that you’re both feeling pretty good.  But the doctor seems surprised.  Why?

The first blow.  Testosterone levels are not where they need to be and they keep getting lower.

The second blow… that family you long for, the one you’ve been dreaming about since you first started playing with baby dolls, is going to be difficult to have.

Low testosterone, low sperm count…  Not just the low sperm count where you have 20,000 sperm (normal is 50 thousand).  The low sperm count where you may have a few hundred but most of them are abnormal.  The type where ICSI is your only option.

Let’s step back about 2.5 years before this appointment.  My fiance, Kevin, was deployed in Afghanistan.  On June 24, 2012, Kevin stepped on an IED.  He was thrown face down into the mud.  When he was rolled over, he knew it was not good.  His right leg was missing below the knee. His left leg was heavily damaged.  Kevin’s pinky was gone and his wrist was severely injured.   And then there was the injury that every man in the military fears, blood in his lap.  Kevin’s one testicle was severely damaged in the blast and had to be removed. His life would never be the same.

Kevin was on testosterone patches for 2.5 years.  This medication works just like birth control for women.  It makes them not produce sperm.  He stopped the medication in the fall of 2014 so we could start testing and figure out our situation.  Test results are consistently saying that IVF/ICSI will be our only way to have children.  I want so badly to look at my children and see my husband in them, his smile, his laugh, and his love for life.

We will be choosing when we become pregnant.  The surprise is gone.  The cute t-shirts, the surprise sonogram picture in a picture frame that says Grandma/Grandpa, might still happen, but the surprise factor is gone.  I am saddened by this the most.  I have always dreamed of the ways I would tell my parents that they are going to be Grandparents.  Now, I know I will not be able to go through this process without their support.  They will know when it happens and we will not get that priceless moment when we tell our parents.   That somewhat exciting and somewhat terrifying moment when you are wondering if you are pregnant or not will be different for us.  A doctor will tell us; we won’t get to find out the happy or heartbreaking news in the comfort of our home.

I have an amazing support system in my family and friends.  They will be there for me during this process.  However, it is still a lonely process.  They do not know what it will be like.  They can give me some advice but it is not from experience.  Sometimes you just want to know you are going to survive it and when you see someone else survive, you have hope.  Hope is what I will cling to!

One out of eight couples experience infertility issues.  We are 1 out of 8, us, the people you grew up with, the people you used to go out to the bar with, the son, the teacher, the soldier, the mid-twenty year old, the friend, the sister, the neighbor, the daughter, the brother… it is us. We are 1 in 8. We are not some distance person that you may never meet, we are all around you, we may be you.

Kevin and I decided to be open about our journey with infertility so that others do not have to feel alone.  Our infertility is a result of a war injury. We started a support page for families who are impacted by war related infertility (join if this is you, Families Impacted by War Related Infertility).  Currently, the VA and Tricare, for retired veterans, will not cover the cost of IVF, even if it is the result of war related injury.  There are thousands of couples in the same situations as us.  We have already had people post on our Facebook support page that they had no idea that other people were dealing with this.  They thought they were alone and that breaks my heart.  No one should ever feel alone, especially when thousands of people are going through the exact same thing.  I know it is embarrassing and feels very personal.  But, the more we share our heartbreaking stories, the more comfortable people will be talking about it themselves.  The more that people talk about it, the more interested doctors, lawyers, politicians and the public become interested in helping and figuring out why this is happening to so many people.

Kevin and I are just starting our journey with IVF.  We have tests to complete before we do the actual embryo transfer.  This week, I have the mock trial embryo transfer.  It is going to be a long and painful process, but we are in this together.  We have hope, we will survive, just as the thousands of other couples do.

Please do not be embarrassed or ashamed if you are dealing with infertility.  Reach out to your family, friends, online communities, support groups, etc.  As scared as I was to first share our story fearing people would judge us, I am so incredibly thankful I did share.  I started thinking about it like this; I should not feel embarrassed or ashamed, the only people who should would be those who judge someone in this situation.  Once you share your story, you hold your head high, because little do you know, you will impact someone; you will make a difference.  I know that it has helped me to read others story, whether they are sad or happy, because either way it helps me relate and know that I will get through this.

You do not have to be alone, there is hope and there is support.  Let’s get through this journey together!  We are 1 out of 8 amazing couples, with incredible strength and courage, who will do anything to make their dreams come true!

Please feel free to share this post and help spread the word!

If you would like to find more information about National Infertility Awareness Week please check out these links from RESOLVE:

http://www.resolve.org/about-infertility/what-is-infertility/  (Basic understanding of the disease of infertility.)

http://www.resolve.org/national-infertility-awareness-week/about.html (About NIAW)