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!

FET = Success!

On November 25, 2015, the day before Thanksgiving, we transferred one of our frozen embryos.

The Frozen Embryo Transfer (FET), is a very different experience compared to the fresh cycle.  The FET involved very little trips to the doctor when compared to the fresh cycle where I went everyday to be monitored.  Before the transfer, I started injections to prepare my body.  These injections are different from the ones I did for a fresh transfer.  They are fun intramuscular ones that go in your backside.  Kevin has become my drug administrator since it is just easier that way for this type of injection.  These injections continued until I was 10 weeks pregnant! Needless to say, I am over my fear of needles!

After the transfer I had picked two days to test, Day 5 and Day 9.  During my last cycle I was completely taken over by the need to test.  I was constantly getting negatives. It completely impacted my mood and general ability to function during those two weeks.  This time, even though my anxiety was pretty elevated, I decided to try and stick to just two days.  On November 30, 2015 I got up early to take my first test.  I was barely awake and was absolutely expecting nothing to show up.  I looked away from the test for a few minutes and when I looked back a faint double line was showing.  I blinked a gazillion times to make sure my mind was not making it up!

I was not making it up.  The lines were there!  I continued to test every couple of days to make sure the line got darker!  It did!

The the dreaded, but very anticipated Beta day!  I was in a much better mood than the last time I went for Beta testing, but still nervous!  Later that day, I got the call.  We are pregnant!  I’ve never heard those words before.  I’ve dreamed about them, but never has someone actually said them to me!

I had to continue with another Beta testing to make sure the hormones were continuing to grow as they should.  Everything was going very well!

At exactly six weeks pregnant, we saw our baby for the first time! Then we saw he/she again at 7 and 8 weeks.  At 8 weeks I was released to the OB.  It was difficult to leave Shady Grove.  I trust them.  I’ve been through some of the most difficult times of my life with them.

We announced our pregnancy to the world at Christmas.  In the world of some, it may have been “too early.”  But to us, we love that baby no matter what happens, he/she is worth celebrating.

I’ve been a bit of a slacker lately with blogging.  I have some catching up to do with what has been going on with us!  I’ll get to that soon!   I just wanted to share this good news for now! We appreciate all the love and support that has been shown.  Please keep the prayers going for our baby as he/she continues to grow!

The picture below is our baby at 6 weeks! I’m now 14.5 weeks!  baby jaye first picture

Shaking Ground

“Keep on climbing, though the ground might shake.”  Maddie & Tae “Fly”

I have been listening to this song for awhile now.  I found it during our last two week wait.  I was thankful for the words in the song during and after the two week wait.  The ground is still shaking.  My heart is still broken.  Maybe it always will be, but somehow, I need to find some peace from my grief.   Peace would feel so much better than the emotions I have been running through.  When I was taking Psychology classes, I learned that the stages of grief do not follow steps.  You can visit each stage in any order, at any time. I think I started in these stages when we found out that we would not be able to have children on our own.  That is a fact to grieve in itself.  There’s a lot of feeling of loss with not being able to conceive on your own.  After going through the two week wait and finding out our embryo did not survive was the beginning of a whole new grief cycle.

I tried to keep the mindset that this will happen when the time is right.  However, that is becoming more of a struggle for me, a constant struggle.  I believe Kevin and I are the definition of “all things happen for a reason.”  There is a reason Kevin survived what he did; there is a reason we found each other again.  I truly believe that.  However, I struggle with why we also have to experience this pain.  This pain is more than I would have ever imagined.  It really is a roller coaster of emotions.  You have no idea if you are going to be able to emotionally keep it together minute by minute. I can rarely verbalize how I feel because it often comes out as angry or tears. Neither emotion is something I feel like feeling.  However, writing about it gives me the release I need, while keeping it together.

One of the hardest things for me is that I cannot participate in the pregnancy world.  When someone brings up something about pregnancy, I cannot relate.  I have no idea what it feels like to have your child move inside of you.  I have no idea what it is like to see two pink lines. I have not the slightest idea of any of it. I feel like the outcast.  I feel like the 16 year old, who has no right to get pregnant.  When in all reality, I am 27 years old, successful, married and dying to be a Mother.   I get to be asked, “do you have children” frequently. I know those people mean absolutely no harm when asking.  It doesn’t really hurt me to be asked either.  However, I wish I could always tell our story.  I always just respond with a simple “no”.  But what I really want to say is, “no, but this is what we are going through to try and have our family”.  It is a part of our story and right now it is my life.  However, my journey makes a lot of people uncomfortable so it is better to just stick with “no”.

I am a Christian.  I believe that God exists and that he is watching over us.  However, I struggle when I think that it is in God’s hands and that He might be saying I am not to be a mother.  It is even harder when I watch others have babies over and over in less than favorable situations than I find myself in.  I struggle believing that God would say it is a “good” time for 16 year old or a drug addict to have a baby but not for a 27 year old, financially stable, happily married woman.  It really is a struggle… a struggle to accept, at times, God’s plan for us.  However, the why me” road is not one I want to go down..  “Why me,” is not beneficial to anyone.  I would never wish this one anyone else.  I know that saying, “why me,” is like saying “why not someone else.”  I would rather this be me than to ever watch someone I love go through it.  I will never know why Kevin and I have to face this, but we do.  I have to figure out, somehow, how to survive it.

I am a statistics person.  It was one of my favorite classes in college. I find comfort in facts, reason, and logic.  I like to control and understand why things happen.  I am comfortable in those situations.   I like to know my odds and then I can take what comes next.  I am most comfortable when I am prepared.  I had what we would say to everyone already prepared before we received our news from the beta testing.  Our positive post was waiting in my phone, along with the negative that I, unfortunately, had to use.  While it was difficult to have to use that, I was glad I was prepared.   I researched the odds of IVF working and it is no where near 100%, 90% or even 70% of a chance.  There is no guarantee that I will walk away from this journey with a baby in my arms.  However, IVF, when compared to our less than 1% chance of it happening on our own, is a much higher chance of success and worth pursuing.  I don’t understand God’s plan for us right now. But I am so thankful to God for bringing Kevin and I together. I know he has something amazing in store for us.  And I am thankful that He has made it possible for us to meet and work with these amazing professionals who have the intelligence and interest to help us on our path to parenthood.

My ground is shaking.  I am not steady on my feet as I try to figure out my place in all of this.  I am trying to trust and have faith.  I am constantly battling my heart and my head.  God sent me the most amazing man to get through this journey with and I am so incredibly thankful for him.  We are partners in this process and that in itself has made this journey easier on us both.  We find strength in each other and help ourselves through the rough patches; always loving, always supportive. While God has always been a part of my life, I am working on finding more ways to invite him to all of my life.  Here’s to a stronger, more faithful us, during one of the most difficult journeys of our lives.

This cartoon has been stuck in my head lately.

This cartoon has been stuck in my head lately. “Why me” does not help anything. Figuring out how to survive, become stronger, and build your faith is a much better focus.

Listen to “Fly” by Maddie & Tae here!

The Two Week Wait – Day 5

Today is day 5 post transfer of a 5 day blastocyst. By today our embryo should be completely implanted. If it is not implanted there is little to no chance of a continued pregnancy. What I would give to have a microscope to tell me what is going on in there! Has it hatched all the way; has it implanted? Whatever has happened by today will directly reflect the news we hear next week.

Everyday after the retrieval, we received a phone call that told us how our embryos were doing. They were watched and monitored. One of the highest graded one was chosen for the transfer. It was beginning to hatch out of its shell; which is gave us so much hope. I just wish I could get a phone call to tell me, “hey, I am still growing in here.” Just something to get me through the next week and a half. I have been experiencing twinges of pain in my lower abdomen. Could that be implantation? Sure, it could be. It could also be residual pain from the egg retrieval and some very pissed off ovaries. I am experiencing many symptoms that anyone would when they are pregnant. However, I have no idea if it is the pregnancy or the medications. At this point, it is most likely the medications.  It is a cruel mind game at the most pivotal moment of your life.

 I am consumed.
When we started our journey towards figuring out how we would have a family; I learned about the two-week wait. I thought it would be difficult just from reading about it. Now that I am experiencing it, difficult does not even define it. It consumes you. You wonder all day long; am I or am I not pregnant? How are things going in there, in my own body?  I spent day after day watching my follicles grow at my daily appointments during stims. I saw progress everyday. I was proud of my body for stepping up the stress I was putting it under and providing us with what we needed.  Now, I do not know what my body is doing. I just hope it is being nice to our embryo. I hope it is providing a safe and nurturing home.

Kevin and I have been through a lot in our lives and the past couple of months while planning and implementing this has been just as trying.  Our dreams have always been to have children.  We have a 1% chance of conceiving on our own.  While IVF does not guarantee a live birth, it does significantly increase our odds.  This process is everything to us.  It is our lives; it is our future.  So much planning, money, time, energy, and my own body has gone into make our dreams come true.  This process has been everything but easy. However, it is something we would do over and over again to bring our child into this world.

So today is day 5 post transfer. In the infertility world it is often written as 5dp5dt; meaning, 5 days post a 5 day transfer.  This means our embryo grew in the lab for 5 days and now it has been 5 days since it was transferred back into me. Today is a big day because it should be implanted today and if not, it probably will not happen.  We still have over a week to go until we are able to find out if this actually happened.  We are trying to stay busy.  Last night I went to Paint Nite with some friends; that significantly helped a pretty rough day emotionally end on a good note.  Now to continue to find things to keep my mind busy, my heart happy, and things to laugh about each day!

Please say some extra prayers today that everything is doing what we need it to!  Pray for implantation to be complete!  I bet you never thought that would be something you would read or pray for, I know I did not! Please know how much we appreciate it!

To our Embaby: We hope you are warm, safe, nurtured, and most of all we hope you know how much you are wanted and loved.  Please stick! Love, Your overprotective, worry wort of a Mother and your unconditionally loving Father.

This is my painting from Paint Nite last night! A little heart in the middle for the baby we hope to know soon!

This is my painting from Paint Nite last night! A little heart in the middle for the baby we hope to know soon!

Emotions are high, hopes are higher!

Yesterday was our first appointment with Shady Grove Fertility.   I spent hours researching infertility and some options we may or may not have.  I thought that would help me prepare for everything the doctor was going to say.  It didn’t.  I wasn’t prepared.  I felt like a deer in headlights.  I have no idea what all of the acronyms they throw out mean and I found myself frustrated.  We had to fill out a ton of paper work after the appointment.  It was like purchasing a house… with much tougher questions.  First, we had to decide if we would want our remaining embryos frozen after our first transfer.  Sure…  I think.

Then, there was this question…

“What do you want us to do with you embryos if something happens to two both of you?”

WHAT? I didn’t prepare for that question. It actually never crossed my mind that it would even be asked.   We will have frozen embryos just waiting for us to use them.  If one of us passes away, the embryos’ still belong to the living person.   This just makes me feel weird; I am making plans for my children before they are even conceived.  I don’t know how I feel about it.  I am trying to understand that it is okay to do this.  I am thanking God for giving us such brilliant people who will make it possible for us to have a family.

Then the question, “if you do not want them anymore can we do research on them or if they die what do you want us to do them the remaining tissue?”  Um… okay, it will help other people out right?

Who has to make decisions like this?  Why do we have to?  Why can’t we be like other people who can get pregnant naturally? If he wasn’t injured, this wouldn’t have been an issue.  I hate these questions and I feel bad for feeling them but… I feel them.  Kevin does not deserve to feel like this is his fault, because it is not his fault in the least bit.  I’m very much in love with him and I wouldn’t change a thing.  I know he feels guilty sometimes, but he shouldn’t.  If all of these things didn’t happen, I’m not sure that we would have been brought together.  So I will take the good, the bad, and the ugly because I found true honest love.

Then I think about all the exciting parts of the beginning of a pregnancy and it makes me a little bit sad.  Announcing to your husband that you are pregnant and the excited look on his face, what beats that (besides obviously his face when our child is brought into this world…man I cannot wait for that moment)?  Telling your parents that they are going to be Grandparents, telling your siblings they will be Aunts and Uncles, has to be an amazing feeling.  We won’t get that, people will know we are trying to get pregnant because I will be giving myself shots and going to never-ending doctor’s appointments.  It doesn’t seem like something that will be easy to hide from everyone.  There will be no surprise.   I feel like during the two-week wait I am going to be stared at day after day, everyone will be waiting to see if it worked.  Then we will sit in a doctor’s office and they will tell us if it did work.  If it didn’t work, what do I say? What do I do?  If it did work, it would change everything for us.  More than likely, it will work and all will go well.  I’m trying to stay out of the world of “what ifs”, that world is terrifying and a waste of my time, but sometimes we all visit that evil world.

I know this will get easier to understand and deal with over time.  I’m so thankful that we decided to look into this now; so we have plenty of time to get comfortable and knowledgeable before the actual IVF procedure starts.  It is just hard right now.  Sitting in the doctor’s appointment, hearing things I did not understand, and thinking how I am going to get all of this straight is very overwhelming.  I’ll be okay, we will be okay, and our future children will be okay; I just need to work through the confusion.

I’m excited to start thinking about the real possibility of Kevin and I having a family.  I know he will make an amazing Dad.  I cannot wait to look at them and hopefully see his smile, eyes, and overall love for life in them.  I don’t mean to sound “woe is me” about this subject, nor do I want pity.  I know thousands of people go through this all of the time.  Just right now, in this moment, I am tired, confused, frustrated, excited, and scared.  Most of all, I am thankful, so incredibly thankful, for doctors, nurses, science, and God for giving us the opportunity to raise a family of our own.  Kevin and I are strong, we fought through everything that was supposed to bring us down.  I know we will get through this too.  I just cannot wait for the day when I can spill off all the information about this process without being confused or mixing up terms, or trying to figure out when I am supposed to take what test and where.  It is a whole new world to us, I’m embracing it with open arms, and with a side of anxiety.

Every season brings new beginnings and new life.

Every season brings new beginnings and new life.

The Next Step – War Related Infertility vs. Us

We started a support group on Facebook for families who are going through similar situations.  It is called Families Impacted by War Related Infertility.  We started the page that way we could all share what we know and experience to make it a little easier on others! This page is just for families in this situation, so they can feel safe to share their stories.

Recently, the VA called and wanted to set up a consult to discuss infertility.  We got the call the same day Kevin met with a Congressman, strange.  We have no idea what it is really about.  The law states that the VA does not pay for IVF, so we are not too optimistic with the VA covering it.  It may just be they want to look at his hormone levels. We already know they are very low, not sure how he has functioned this long like this but who knows… We will of course, update people once we know more about the VA’s appointment.

Tomorrow we have a consult with Shady Grove.  They are supposed to be one of the best in the country.   I cannot wait to hear what they have to say.  It feels strange to be excited about having an appointment with an RE doctor.  But, it means we are going somewhere, we have options, we have hope, we have a chance.  That is pretty exciting!  At the same time I am nervous, hormone levels are not where they need to be.  His levels were drastically low the last time we went to the doctor.  The doctor felt that he should have already been feeling bad, but he wasn’t.  Now, several months later, we are facing it or so it seems.  The medicine they give men for hormones kills off sperm.  Typically it will come back after the medicine is stopped, but what if it doesn’t?   Then what? I am terrified that our clock is ticking to have our own children.

I research this topic constantly; it is almost like my second job at this point.  It is so important to me, having a family with Kevin means everything.  I feel like the more educated I am about this process, the higher our chances will be to finding the right path for us.  As a society, we are quiet and secretive about these issues.  I do not have a problem talking about these personal issues to the world; I can be someone else’s voice if they need me to.  These men and women fighting for our country; they should never wonder how they will be able to achieve their dreams of having a family.  We are still being told that since Kevin is retired, IVF treatments will not be covered no matter the reason.  I’ve found opportunities to discuss this issue with others in similar situations; I think together we can get this changed.

I just cannot wait to have answers to all the thousands of questions in my head!  I’m glad that we started this journey before we got married because we will have a solid plan by August when we are ready to start our family.  We are SO ready for this (so are our families!).

If you know anyone in the same or similar situation, please have them like the Facebook page!  Getting the word out will definitely help! It also just helps to have support.  I haven’t started fertility treatments, I haven’t had my heart-broken after treatment, I do not know what it is like yet, nor will I pretend to.  I do know what it is like to sit in a waiting room, feeling like I am literally going to die while waiting for test results, I do know what it is like to be terrified that you will not get our family easily, I do know what it is like to worry and cry over your future family and wonder if it will in fact exist one day.  That is what I know so far in this journey.  One day soon, I will know more and I know the support would help me.  Sometimes, just having someone in the same situation to talk to is all a person needs. I hate for anyone to ever feel alone!  Some people have already mentioned on the support page that they had no idea other people were going through similar things.  It shouldn’t be that way; no one should ever have to feel alone, especially because they are not.  This is a very personal and private issue for many, for me, it is the opportunity to bring people together and support others in similar situations.

With every turbulent storm, comes peace.

With every turbulent storm, comes peace.

The beginning of our journey with war related infertility

Kevin & I have made a decision to be open about our struggles.  We believe that only with that openness, can change occur.  Most people know about the injuries that Kevin endured in Afghanistan… an amputated leg below the knee, missing pinky, mangled wrist, and a mangled left leg.  He is lucky to be alive.  Those injuries resulted in 2.5 years of recovery at Walter Reed.  However, there is one injury that has not been talked about much.  This injury could cost us the ability to have a family.  If it wasn’t for advancements in science, that would be definite.  One of his testicles was severally damaged in the blast; it resulted in it having to be removed.  He was on testosterone replacement for years because of it.  Recently, he has undergone tests to find out fertility levels.  The results are not pretty and borderline heartbreaking. Anything under 10 million sperm is considered low.  We are talking about a couple of 100 sperm in our situation.  The reason this happened…war.

The armor that soldiers wear has a protective Kevlar diaper(sounds funny I know, but it works) for protection.  However, the Kevlar diaper does protect them if the blast shoots straight up into their groin.  However in Kevin’s case and how he was striding, as the IED exploded, the blast crept up his leg into enough of an opening to damage groin area.  Had he not been wearing this diaper, the damage would have been even more devastating. The IED’s are set to mangle you; they want you to survive but suffer.  It is sick and it is twisted, but it is the reality.  I am thankful for the thousands of soldiers that show their strength when it was meant to be taken away from them.

Thousands of soldiers have experienced this type of injury, leading to infertility.  Many young military families who were planning to have children are now wondering how their life long dream can come true.  This is not just happening to one or two couples a year, it is several hundred a year, which is adding up to thousands during this war. Some soldiers going to war are only 18 years old, they haven’t even thought of a family yet. The idea of a family is robbed from them before it is even a reality for them.  It is a real problem.  If I knew someone going for deployment now, I would highly recommend freezing some sperm.  The ability to have a family is valued significantly.  When that is taken away from you, it is devastating.  It is worth the precaution in my opinion.

Kevin and I want to start our family soon after getting married.  We’ve already started the process of determining how this is going to be possible for us.  We’ve been told by Walter Reed that we will require IVF in order to conceive a child.  In the middle of April, we have a consultation with Shady Grove Fertility.

The best part… Tricare and the VA Specifically EXCLUDE all fertility treatments.  The cost of the treatments (which runs from $7,000 to $20,000) is completely on the solider and the family. It does not matter to the VA why the infertility is present.  It is simply not covered.  For the soldiers who are only suffering infertility as a result of their war injuries, thousands of dollars will be needed to hopefully make it happen.  To make their dream of having a family a reality will completely depend on their financial situation.  All families should be financially comfortable before having children.  But in this case, being financially ready is not similar to a family who conceives naturally.  It is forking out thousands of dollars before the child is even conceived!   I’ve heard people say… why not adopt?  My response to those people would be, have you considered the cost of adoption?  Also, the want and need to carry your own child can be unbearable.  It does not simply go away.  Plus when so much else has been taken from you, this is just another blow.  Every family deserves to have a family the way they choose.  It saddens and stresses me that Kevin & I will be faced with significant financial obligations in order to have our family.  However, we both agree, it will be worth it.

I will be sharing our story with fertility while we experience it.  We are sharing this to make people aware that this is a real problem.  Our government refuses to recognize it.  Men and woman who fight for us should not face significant financial obligations to have their families, if a war injury caused their infertility. We will be meeting with government officials to get their support with changing the laws that make it this way.  We will be asking for support in the future with issue and we hope you can add your voice!  Our hope is that by sharing such personal stories, we can make a difference for other people facing the same problems.  Our injured soldiers deserve the same opportunity to have the family that they could have had before their injuries.  We know the change will not come soon enough for us; but hopefully, we can help initiate change for others.

baby feet