Remembering an Anniversary and a Loss

LossThree years ago this week, our hopes and dreams of adding to our family were dashed. We actually gave up trying to have our own child, a sibling for our son.

After two losses through miscarriage in 2009, we were told and truly believed that my “old eggs” were the problem with getting pregnant and we had opted to try a fertility treatment.

Donor Egg IVF seemed to be a logical choice since we knew that I was otherwise healthy, could get pregnant and was able to carry a baby to full term. My husband’s sperm checked out fine. Our son was healthy and two and a half years old. I was 42 1/2.

The process was fairly long in my opinion from the initial consultation to the implantation of the two fertilized embryos some six months later. Most of the time was in selecting a donor for the eggs, the clinic communicating with her, and them preparing her to ovulate and produce many eggs for the IVF process.

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Remembering and Releasing the Pain

cryingwomanThe Advanced Maternal Age Project is about women sharing stories and resources so that we can provide great support for one another. It is through support and resources that we may overcome many barriers as we become mothers. Some of our stories are very sad and painful and even difficult to talk about. Time makes it easier to think about them and begin to make sense of it all.

This is one of those stories about a pregnancy and a loss. It is the hardest story to tell so far.

Elated about an engagement to a loving man, planning a wedding just a couple of months away, and the fact that I was turning 39, we made what felt like a logical choice to stop using birth control. One never knows how long it can take to conceive until one tries, was the conventional wisdom. I had read that it could take months to be fertile after being on the birth control pill. Our dream was to only wait months and not years for a child since we were older. We went on vacation and had a wonderful and relaxing time together.

That very first month, we conceived and we were thrilled with the possibility of having a child early in our marriage. The first weeks were easy, really easy with no morning sickness and no symptoms at all. Having never been pregnant, my tummy was fairly flat and I felt strong. No worries then and an exciting next stage ahead. We continued to plan our wedding and honeymoon, keeping our news a secret to all but our close family and very few friends.

Prenatal, genetic testing seemed like a logical choice for us and it was highly encouraged by our obstetrician since I was now 39 and my fiance was 47. Neither one of us had been tested before. Now we were going to test a tiny embryo.

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A Different Type of Infertility

Source: squidoo.com via Heather on Pinterest

There’s a term that many of us have never heard of and  it affects women ages 35+ more than younger women.

It’s Secondary Infertility.

According to Iris Waichler, MSW, LCSW, in her book Riding the Infertility Roller Coaster, Secondary Infertility is an important and often overlooked part of the story of infertility. This occurs when people have been successful in having children and then are unable to conceive another child. (Women over 35 who have been trying for 6 months who are unable to conceive again may receive this designation). This can happen for a variety of reasons and can also be an incredibly painful experience. Friends and family may not respond in an empathetic way because they know there are already children, and even medical professionals can even downplay the problem. (Editor Sharon saw this with her first OB, Dr. B.)

Often there is a lack of understanding about how difficult it is to lose the ability to have children. But the feelings of loss, sadness, and grief can be as intense as the feelings of those people who who are unable to conceive any children, according to Iris. Support groups and therapists fill an important need for many couples.

According to RESOLVE, the National Infertility Organization, there are some important considerations: the couple must focus on the desire to parent a second child and the time, energy, and finances involved in pursuing medical treatment or alternatives such as adoption. These conditions must be weighed with the needs of the existing child(ren) in mind.

 

 

Interview with Holistic Health & Fertility Writer, Jess Pedersen

Recently, Co-editor Sharon posed some questions to Jess Pedersen of Be Mama Be Well to learn more about her work and support of women.

Sharon: What services do you provide to women?

Jess: I am currently studying Holistic Health Coaching at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition (IIN). I recently received my pre-certification to provide nutrition and health counseling and will receive my final certification in December 2012 from the American Association of Drugless Practitioners. With that being said, the focus of my health coaching practice is infertility and women’s health. I will be providing one-on-one health coaching services and group workshops in and around the Pittsburgh area starting in September. I am actively sharing my knowledge about nutrition and fertility by blogging about holistic health on my own website, www.BeMamaBeWell.com, as well as serving as a contributor to other fertility focused sites, such as www.WithoutChild.com.

Holistic Health & Fertility Writer, Jess Pedersen

 

Sharon: Why did you choose this as your work?

Jess: I rode the “infertility roller coaster” for several years in my mid-thirties and wore the Advanced Maternal Age label during my two pregnancies. I was diagnosed with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) in my twenties.

When I married my husband at the age of 33 I knew it wasn’t going to be easy to conceive. I made my rounds through the local fertility specialists, injected fertility drug cocktails into my abdomen, and eventually gave up on traditional medicine just before going down the IVF route. I found a Naturopath in my neighborhood that specialized in infertility. 

With changes to my diet and several other holistic protocols, I was pregnant within five weeks. It was miraculous.

That pregnancy ended at ten weeks and within eight months I was pregnant again. Sadly, that pregnancy ended at 26 weeks due to a condition called Preterm Premature Rupture of the Membranes (PPROM). I won’t go into detail about my history, but my story can be found on this blog.  Although my husband and I chose not to attempt to conceive again, I was amazed that my body responded so well to the natural fertility methods and treatments. 

The ability to change my fertility and improve my health through nutrition was something that I felt compelled to share with other women dealing with the heartbreak of infertility. That experience led me to find IIN and start a new career in my forties as a holistic health coach.


Sharon:  What percentage of the women you are helping are age 35+ and seeking to conceive their their first child?


Jess:
Although I am not actively practicing yet, I am connecting with a lot of women regarding the topic of fertility nutrition. The majority of these women are over 35 and either struggling to conceive their first child or are experiencing secondary infertility while attempting to have a second child.


Sharon: Are many experiencing secondary infertility after successfully conceiving at age 35+? How are their experiences and attitudes different, if at all?


Jess:
Yes, secondary infertility is often an issue with women over 35. I know from personal experience that infertility is emotionally and physically challenging no matter why or when you experience it. But I have seen that this population of women has a unique frustration in that they don’t understand why they are struggling when they conceived easily the first time. They typically ask, “What is different now? What am I doing wrong?” No one likes being labeled by their doctor as infertile. But having this label after easily conceiving in the past is shocking to most women. 

Secondary infertility can also cause a lot of emotional pain because people tend to be less sympathetic toward couples who already have a child. These women often suffer privately and seek support only from their closest friends, family, and health practitioners.

Sharon: What, if anything do you see as different about the older mothers? This could be about their health or attitudes toward health and pregnancy.


Jess:
Older mothers are excellent at taking charge of their health and their pregnancies. They seek out practitioners that will help them reach their fertility and pregnancy goals. From my own personal experience, I had a “whatever it takes” attitude regarding my hope to become pregnant and was willing to make sacrifices, eliminate allergens from my diet, and follow strict protocols to reduce the symptoms of my PCOS and improve my chances of conception. This type of persistence exists in this community of women as well. [Read more…]