25
Aug

Jacqueline & Brandon

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3
Jan

Paige & Rob

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15
Feb

Sandra & Elias

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23
Apr

Stephanie & Steve

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22
Apr

National Infertility Awareness Week IVF Giveaway

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We are excited to announce our IVF Giveaway for National Infertility Awareness Week (NIAW). 

In order to enter, you must email the following with subject line: NIAW GIVEAWAY to ivfgrant@cnyfertility.com no later than 11:59 EST on April 28:

  • Your name (and your partner’s name – if applicable). 
  • Your age (and your partner’s age – if applicable).
  • A summary (no longer than 100 words) of your story (ie. how long you have been trying to have a child, what treatments you have already had, etc).
  • A summary (no longer than 200 words) of how you bring awareness to infertility or support others suffering from infertility.
  • A video attachment (no longer than 2 minutes in length) that briefly summarizes your story, what you do to bring awareness to infertility/help others suffering from infertility, and what winning would mean for you.
  • IT WILL ALSO BE HELPFUL TO ATTACH LINKS TO A BLOG/SOCIAL MEDIA OR DOCUMENTATION to support any notable efforts you make in spreading awareness.

Note, only one entry per couple. The recipient will be selected on or around May 1st and will receive:

1 IVF Cycle: Oocyte Retrieval, Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection (ICSI), Assisted Hatching, a Fresh Embryo Transfer, and Cryopreservation of Surplus Embryos with storage of frozen embryos for a period of one year following the fresh IVF cycle.

Accommodation at the Maplewood Suites for up to 8 nights if coming from out of the area and needing accommodation. 

9
Apr

Parenting . . . After Infertility

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When you’re going through fertility treatments, your thoughts are on your next treatment, your next option. At some point—whenever you let yourself—you may even venture to think about the moment when you’ll hold your baby in your arms. But what about after that? Does your experience with infertility affect your parenting? I think it does.

Before I explain what I mean, let me make something clear. Parenting is hard, really hard. The number of choices you have to make every single day that influence the well-being and development of your child is mind-boggling. This article is merely based on what I’ve seen and thought and is no way a commentary on other people’s parenting styles.

Parenting really starts when your baby is in the womb. After all, that’s when you first nurture and care for your little one. I thought pregnancy would be wonderful. I pictured myself as this glowing pregnant woman eating ice cream and thoroughly enjoying growing a life. Instead, at times, it was a tunnel of fear, speared on by my paranoia about the baby not being okay or not surviving the pregnancy. The ultrasound at CNY every week was a blessing for those first 12 weeks. Each one verified that our little one was alive, that his heart was still beating. The weeks between our discharge from CNY and our first OB appointment were a struggle. I was so scared that we would lose our baby at that time. Pregnancy did get easier once our little guy was big enough for me to feel his movements, but even then I found myself worrying that the tiny kicks weren’t frequent enough. While I did appreciate and cherish both my pregnancies, my emotions were so different from what I expected.

Now that I’m fully entrenched in parenting, I have the sense that I cannot get enough time with my kids. We rarely have done something without our children since Chase was born almost three years ago. Where we go, our kids go. If I’m home on a break or for the weekend, I’m with my children. I have friends who have their kids continue to go to daycare during school breaks. Doing that is something that would never cross my mind, and I think that stems from those desperate years of wanting a child. Even when my boys are driving me nuts, the solution is never to give to them to someone else for a few hours. That said, I’ve realized recently that adult time is something Chuck and I are lacking. As soon as we can arrange for babysitters, we are totally going on a date.

For me, taking time away from my children spawns parent guilt. I don’t know if this phenomenon affects all parents, but my Facebook newsfeed makes me think it does not. By parent guilt, I mean I feel terrible if I leave my children with anyone. Honestly, I even felt guilty the time I left them all with Chuck and went to Harry Potter trivia—and he’s a wonderful father and stay-at-home dad. Even though I know I need to step away from my boys sometimes, I feel like I should be spending every moment with them so I really struggle to leave them in someone else’s care. On top of that, even the people I trust the most still have me worried when they have my kids. What if Sam is extra fussy? What if Chase won’t eat his dinner or Henry falls? Potentially consuming questions are almost endless. It takes a lot to shut them out, turn my phone on vibrate, and just enjoy myself.

As I’m writing this, I’m wondering how much of our decision to have Chuck stay at home with the boys was influenced by our infertility. I always knew that I would not give up my career. When we were faced with the choice between daycare and having Chuck stay at home, the decision was simple. We wanted one of us to be spending the workday with our children. If we had easily conceived, I’m not sure we would have made the same choice. We would have thought about it, but I don’t know that we would have let the reality of living on one income be less important than one of us being with our children.

Like I said before, parenting is tough. When Chase was one, we made a decision I never saw coming: we bought a toddler backpack with a leash. I had always insulted parents who use leashes, saying that they need to be able to control their child. I never understood why they just couldn’t make their child hold their hand. And then we were planning a trip with Chase to GenCon, a gaming convention of 50,000 plus people. Our adorable toddler loved to run and could so easily get lost in those crowds. Whenever he was out of his stroller and walking, we strapped him into the leash backpack even if he was holding our hands. Why? Because we did not want to risk losing our precious boy. Even though I initially had reservations about that backpack, I realized during that convention that I am absolutely willing to endure that stares and comments if my child is safe.

Being willing to be judged and shoving that aside has become a huge part of our parenting. I have always been a people-pleaser, but with my children, I have found that my comfort level and their safety supersede others’ opinions. When Chuck and I make a decision regarding our children, whether it be when they can have blankets in bed or when it’s appropriate for them to eat certain foods, we stick to it. This is a bit surprising to me since I’ve always highly valued my parent’s opinions, but I have found myself going against them occasionally, which is something I never thought I would do.

An example of that was our tendency to not want to put Chase down when he was an infant. Even though I was told over and over that he needed to learn to sleep in a bassinet during the day, I would hold him for hours while he slept. I didn’t know if I would have another child, and I didn’t want to miss one second of holding my miracle. Even when Chase was past the infant stage, I would come home to find Chuck snuggling him on the couch.

Along those lines, my mom has told me that I come off as a parent who doesn’t want others to hold her children. I’ve tried to explain that that’s not the case; I love my family and trust them to snuggle my kids. It’s more than I’d rather hold them because they’re mine, and they’re only little for so long. Even when I “give them up” at family functions, I’m constantly walking by to check on them. Sorry, family, for being a hover parent.

Now I’m wondering if you’re reading this and thinking that I’m a crazy overprotective parent. You may be wondering if Chuck and I plan to keep our kids wrapped in bubble wrap so nothing can hurt them and plan to take care of the bullies and mean people for them. Short answer: nope. My children will learn to fight their own battles and advocate for themselves. They will get scraped knees and busted chins, and I hope they will learn to stand back up and walk it off. But they will also always have us behind them, knowing they have our support and love. In this case, that’s just good parenting, nothing really to do with our infertility. What our fertility journey did teach us is the value of giving our children the tools to weather storms. We can be protective, especially when they’re young, but we also need to ensure that they have the ability to cope and move forward when life throws a curveball. For those of us with infertility, that is a vital part of getting through it.

So is parenting differently after infertility? In some cases, no. Parents, in general, do (or should do) the best they can for their kids. That’s universal. But what infertility does do is make you a bit more cautious, a bit more scared of the world. And you always, no matter how many little blessings you have, are aware of the effort, heartache, and joy that went into forming your perfect babies. And that, I think, is the real difference. Because that awareness never leaves and always has a little bit to say with each decision that you make.

 

4
Apr

Scrambled Eggs Seasoned With Holy Water

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It’s hard to be a competitive person, and be subpar egg creator.  But that’s what I am.  I am basically a dilapidated hen.  You can give me all the stim drugs and I will make follicles like nobody’s business, but I won’t make enough eggs for even a small omelet.  I usually make 1 extra egg to make egg plural.   I felt like I was getting a participants’ ribbon in the game of life.  No trophy, no medal, no baby, just bruises and laundry detergent bottles filled with old needles.  

I never thought that was going to happen.  My levels weren’t complete garbage, I started doing paleo months earlier and had dropped 30 plus pounds, I was taking high doses of stim drugs, I did weekly acupuncture, I went on leisurely walks, listened to fertility meditations on Spotify, all I needed was this little push and all this work, effort, time, tears, and money would pay off.  

It didn’t.  

I was 2 IVF cycles in, resulting in a combined total of 4 mature eggs.  All my eggs were meh quality.  You wouldn’t send them back to the kitchen, but you know you have had better.  None of my embryos were sticking.  All of my hopes were as meh as my eggs.

The money I had scrounged up from driving for Uber and schlepping the occasional pantsless man around Indianapolis plus the cash I had acquired from refinancing my house was running out.  It was a dark time with a very small night light at the end of the tunnel.  

After my 2nd failed cycle I had my WTF call with Dr. Kiltz.  We had a quick, compassionate, straight shooter talk about the state of the union.  We decided to take a less is more approach and give my eggs one last try.  Fewer meds, hopefully, better quality.  I also decided to throw myself all in on his Keto plan.  One meal a day at dinner.  Beef, butter, bacon, and eggs.  I figured I can’t completely control the meh-ness of my old eggs, but I can control my feeding regimen.  It’s amazing how much time you free up when you are only eating once a day.  I all but Marie Kondoed everything in my world.  I also decided to add c0-q10 into the mix.  

In a moment of realism with myself and my bank account, this was probably fiscally and emotionally the last cycle I had in me for now and possibly forever.  

With that in mind, I received an amazing gift from a dear friend.  My good friend since high school had embryos on ice.  The Cadillac of embryos is what I called them.  All high quality, and ready to drive off the lot into my empty womb.  She offered these supped up Caddies to me.  She not only offered them, but she and her husband also jumped through all the hoops and paperwork needed to make them available to transfer from Florida to NY.  Accepting this offer wasn’t necessarily a no-brainer.  I was worried about my friends, their kids, me, and the baby I might have with their embryos.  Is this a gift they can truly give and one I can fully accept?  After lots of talks and visiting a therapist the answer for us was yes.  It was both stressful and comforting to know that I had this state-of-the-art high-quality safety net waiting in the wings.  

I began cycle 3 in a headspace of optimism splashed with mindfully low expectations.  I knew to go in we were expecting fewer follicles and fewer eggs.  Knowing this helped me.  I continued my usual prep of acupuncture and walks with the added features of carnivore Keto.  It was a pretty similar scenario as my 2 prior attempts, but something was…different.

I was thinking of those differences one night as I was taking my evening walk and a bird went on my head.  Someone told me this is a sign of good luck.  It felt more like bird shit in my hair.

I was thinking of those differences again when I went in for my follicle monitoring ultrasound, and it looked as if my uterus was smiling at me.  Almost like it knew something I didn’t.  A friend told me my ultrasound looked like a mere cat.  In a side by side comparison, it did indeed look like a mere cat.

If this wasn’t going to be my best cycle it was going to be my funniest.  

Following the mere cat ultrasound, I was told it was time to head to Syracuse.  Armed with my best friend from 1st grade and a bottle of holy water her mom gave her for long car trips, we set off from Indy.  

Our visit to CNY went smoothly.  We sat in the waiting room splashing holy water like I was about to have an exorcism priority retrieval.  When I woke up, I was told they retrieved 2 eggs.  One egg enough to make it plural.  I ate a ginormous Burger King cheeseburger and milkshake and slept and waited.  

The CNY report call came the next morning while I was in the shower attempting to smuggle high-value Marriott shampoo into empty water bottles.  

Both eggs mature, both fertilized.  It was awesome news, but the news I had heard before.

I returned home with my moderate optimism, my carefully kept expectations, a ½ used Dasani bottle of holy water, and 6 ounces of stolen hotel shampoo and conditioner.  

I returned home to wait for my period, to wait for my 40th birthday, and to wait for my final transfer.

30
Mar

March IVF Giveaway

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As a heartfelt gesture, we are incredibly excited to offer our community of so many wonderful people the opportunity to win an IVF Cycle each and every month.

What you need to know for our March Giveaway:

  • The winner will be selected live during our March 31st Facebook and Instagram live from a question submitted during the live between 8-9 PM EST. 
  • The cycle will include: Oocyte Retrieval, Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection (ICSI), Assisted Hatching, a Fresh Embryo Transfer, and Cryopreservation of Surplus Embryos with storage of frozen embryos fora period of one year following the fresh IVF cycle.
  • The Cycle does not include: pre-cycle evaluations, monitoring, medications, anesthesia, or Frozen Embryo Transfers, Donor Eggs/Sperm/embryos.  
  • There is no cash value for the winners of the free IVF cycle. You must schedule an initial consultation with one of our CNY Fertility locations within six months of the completion of this giveaway. You will not be charged for this consultation if your insurance doesn’t provide you coverage. If you are a past CNY Fertility client we will need you to come in for a follow-up appointment. You must use your free IVF within 1 year of the completion of this Giveaway.
  • The winner must not have IVF coverage.

*CNY Fertility reserves the right to revoke any IVF cycle credit from a recipient at any point up until the recipient’s baseline appointment for the IVF cycle for reasons including but not limited to the discovery of health insurance coverage for IVF or questions regarding the character of the recipient. CNY also reserves the right to deny the transfer of the IVF cycle to another individual for any reason. 

20
Mar

IVF: A Patient Perspective

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Of all the treatments and procedures my husband Chuck and I experienced during our quest for parenthood, IVF was definitely the most intimidating. For us, IVF was the next step in an almost five-year journey to have a child. More than that, it was the step that I had initially not imagined taking. Once we decided to move forward with IVF, the road in front of us seemed enormous, just because it was so much more involved than what we’d done already (multiple rounds of Clomid, Letrozole, and IUI).

I feel like the most common source of anxiety regarding IVF (besides actually achieving pregnancy) is the shots. I was definitely no exception. I’ve always been terrified of needles—as in, my parents used to make sure the doctor’s office was cleared out before I got a shot, so no one would be bothered by my freak out. Now I was facing the infamous progesterone shot as well as Lovenox, a precaution since I’m a Factor V carrier and have had a blood clot.

I knew I couldn’t do the shots myself, so Chuck learned how to administer them. Ice packs were key; their effect was as much psychological as physical. The first time I got a progesterone shot, I was terrified. Seriously, who wants to get a shot in their butt? Add to that the fact that the needle is huge and the progesterone is in oil so it takes forever to inject, and it was like my worst nightmare was about to happen. Needless to say, I wasn’t as relaxed as I needed to be for minimum pain. Turns out that clenching your muscles is a terrible idea.

Initially, we struggled with the shots, and several raised bumps appeared at the injection sites. But, after reviewing the proper location, we adjusted and the shots got better. Despite that, my buttocks would only tolerate so many pokes. I spent the last weeks of those shots with a sore bottom. While it did get better as the weeks went by, I still dreaded the moment every night when Chuck would get out the supplies for it. My constant mantra was that they were necessary to achieve and maintain my pregnancy. They needed to be done, so I did them.

Lovenox wasn’t much better. The biggest issue with this one was that I could see Chuck while he administered it. That tiny needle usually didn’t hurt, but the idea of it plunging (overstatement) into my stomach made me panic. Some of the shots left bruises, which didn’t hurt but made my stomach look terrible.

Despite my misgivings and near panic (and sometimes hyperventilation), we did the shots night after night. If we weren’t home, we would find a discrete place to do them, like my in-law’s bedroom. One time—not so discreet—we had to do them in the car in a Tully’s parking lot. Chuck was super worried about us not having ice packs, but I just gritted my teeth and sucked it up. And then there was the unexpected side effect of the shots: Chuck felt terrible every time I winced or had a new bruise show up. As with everything else in our fertility journey, we got through it together. During my second pregnancy, I was able to ease his burden a little when I got brave enough to do the Lovenox (and later Heparin) shots myself.

The oral medications were a bit intimidating as well, mostly because I did one medication wrong during our first IUI cycle, and we had to cancel it for the month. I was nervous about doing theIVF ones correctly. Chuck and I checked and double-checked everything to make sure we were doing it exactly right. Turns out it was easy to follow CNY’s instructions, and everything went smoothly.

I think Chuck was more nervous for egg retrieval day than I was. Being under sedation is always a little scary, but I loved the description of the retrieval that a friend had given me. Her husband had gotten to watch her retrieval, and he said it was like a video game where the doctor had a controller and was picking out the eggs one by one (bloop, bloop, bloop). The retrieval went well, and the best part was that we were blessed with over 25 eggs. Even though we knew the number would decrease as the process continued, starting with that many felt super hopeful.

Before I talk about the actual transfer, I want to mention the paperwork. Something that never in a million years would have crossed my mind was the legality of having embryos stored at the fertility clinic. Chuck and I had to sign paperwork that determined custody under circumstances like one of us passing away. Frankly, it was really strange, especially because my original hang-up with IVF was having extra embryos. Now, we were signing paperwork that treated our embryos exactly like I pictured them: as unborn children.

The day of the embryo transfer felt like the culmination of all of our hopes and dreams of becoming parents. The pressure was real. What I mean was, even though we kept telling ourselves that we could try more than once, this first IVF cycle felt monumental.

One of the things I’ve always loved about CNY is the environment. Everything from the waiting room to the exam rooms to the music feels relaxing and inviting. We had barely visited the spa portion of the facility even though I’d been intrigued by many of their offerings, especially the free yoga. However, we live about an hour away, so driving in for a quick yoga session just wasn’t in the cards. Anyway, before my IVF transfer, I’d been in the spa area once—for an IUI transfer. Talk about an extra relaxing experience! Even though the procedure was the same as every other IUI, the comfy bed and dimmed lights made the tension melt away during it.

I was pretty excited that our IVF transfer was going to take place in that soothing atmosphere. When we got to the office, I was given a white robe and directed to the locker room. I’d always imagined what it would be like to be one of those people who wear the robes at hotels fancy enough to have them. Now I knew! The locker room was beautiful—everything was clean and aesthetically pleasing from the bathroom stalls to the giant showers. I slathered on my Peace and Calming essential oil and left the locker room to find Chuck.

I couldn’t help but smile when I saw him in his one-piece blue jumpsuit. Honestly, I couldn’t believe they had one tall enough for him (he’s 6’4’’). A nurse took us to a room, which included one of those lovely beds as well as an ultrasound machine, table with medical supplies, and a door into the embryo room, as I will call it. By now, my heart was scampering in my chest.

The nurse gave us a picture of the two embryos that we would implant. I treasure that picture. Someday, I’ll tell Chase that he was the “strongest of the embryos” since he was the result of the two best ones. We also talked to Dr. Kiltz, who asked us if we had any questions. His energy filled the room as he patiently answered whatever popped into my head.

Then, for a few minutes, we were left alone. I sat on the bed holding that picture while Chuck stood nearby. He knew that I was slightly terrified. In true Chuck fashion, he resorted to one of his greatest skills: the ability to make me laugh. He strapped on his mask (he already rocked the cap over his hair), and said, “Embryo, I am your father.” When the nurse came back in, I was still giggling.

Soon after, Dr. Kiltz returned with the embryologist. What I hadn’t expected was to be able to watch the implantation. The nurse held the ultrasound wand in place while Dr. Kiltz did his thing. The skinny tube that put those two precious embryos in place was very clear on the screen. Our day 5 fresh transfer only took a few minutes.

Dr. Kiltz asked us again if we had questions, shook our hands, and whirled off to his next task. I went back to that welcoming locker room and changed back into my street clothes. As we headed home, the experience almost felt surreal. We were once again at the beginning of the two-week wait.

Two weeks later, my phone rang and CNY Fertility popped up on the screen. For the last five or six IUI cycles, I had avoided the calls and left the responsibility of finding out the result of the pregnancy test to Chuck. For some reason, I answered the phone this time. I was standing upstairs in the hallway while my students worked in the classroom. When the nurse told me that I was pregnant, I shrieked then bolted down the stairs out of earshot of my students. I tried not to hyperventilate as I asked her to repeat the news.

When I hung up the phone, I was overwhelmed with the enormity of the nurse’s words. All I wanted to do was drive to Chuck, tell him, and fall into his arms. Instead, I dialed his number—I just couldn’t wait—and told him the news over the phone. We got the hug in later.

Two years later, we did our second IVF cycle. The transfer day was very similar. The biggest difference was the longer wait to get the procedure done. We’d done our first transfer on a Saturday, and the office had been fairly empty. This time, it was a Tuesday, and it was bursting. My biggest worry that day (besides making it back to work on time) was which doctor would do my transfer. I’ve met Dr. Corley, and I liked him very much, but I didn’t want to rock the boat since our first transfer had worked. To my relief, Dr. Kiltz walked through the door that day to do our frozen embryo transfer. This time our two perfect embryos grew into our twin sons.

I’m really glad that we had that low-key Saturday experience for our first transfer. I really got to enjoy the atmosphere and relax. Knowing what to expect the second time made the hiccup of having to wait a bit easier. The world of fertility treatments is so indecisive. Treatment plan after treatment plan is just guesswork based on science and previous cases. I don’t think anyone can say with 100% confidence say that any one approach will work. Look at the percentages. As impressive as they are, nothing is a guarantee. Our bodies our too complicated, our emotions and environments too fluctuating. All we can do is prepare the best we can and hope.

That’s what I hope this article has done for you: give you a little insight into what it was like to have IVF. I have always been an asker of questions because I crave knowledge; I want to know as much as I can before I experience something. While much of my first IVF transfer day was a nice surprise (like the picture and the ultrasound image), I know that I would have gobbled up any description I could find of what the process would be like.

I hope that your IVF ends like mine did: with a successful pregnancy and a snuggly baby. Even if it doesn’t, don’t lose hope. There’s always another plan, another option, another adjustment. Hope is what gets us through, and hope is what will lead you to your path to parenthood.

Written by: Ashley, patient.

19
Feb

My size . . . Resilient!

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I’ve always been chubby. Since college, I’ve been overweight. Self-esteem has never come easily to me. Whenever I look at my adorable baby pictures, I feel a disconnect. Sometimes it’s hard to associate that precious child with the woman I see in the mirror.

The first time I really remember feeling confident was during college while wearing my favorite outfit: a pair of jeans, corduroy jacket, and a knitted pageboy cap. I look back at that time in my life as the baseline for how I want to feel about myself. I’ve experienced that completely at-ease feeling since, but not near as often as I wish I did.

Despite my continuous battle with self-esteem, not even middle school bullies could compare to the blow that infertility dealt to my self-image. The strongest word I can associate with my body’s struggle to conceive is defective. That’s how I’ve felt since I realized I wasn’t going to get pregnant without reproductive assistance. Being pregnant is an expectation for my gender. Bearing a child is supposed to be natural for a woman. Even if you don’t want children, the ability to carry one is an innate part of your makeup.

So what happens when your body refuses to perform as expected? I can answer that. Your self-worth crashes. Realizing that I had PCOS and would need help to conceive was a lot to handle. At first, my natural optimism helped me deal with needing fertility treatments, but, as the bumps in the road got bigger and bigger, my positive outlook melted away. My body seemed to be constantly betraying me, and each negative pregnancy test chipped away a little more at my self-esteem.

It didn’t matter that my husband, Chuck, made me feel safe and loved. It didn’t matter that I had amazing, supportive parents and a best friend in my sister. It didn’t matter that people told me that I was a fantastic teacher, a promising writer, and a great friend. It didn’t matter that I preached self-esteem, confidence, and optimism to my students. Becoming a mother was my central focus and all my insecurities seemed connected to the results of my latest pregnancy blood draw.

I found solace in food—it was my escape and my pick-me-up. I kept telling myself that I was going to get pregnant soon, so it didn’t matter what I ate. You can probably guess that the result was quite a bit of weight gain, which didn’t help my confidence.

The harsh truth is that infertility gives you a whole new list of reasons to hate your body. It is so hard to watch an ultrasound on that little screen, hear that your follicles are great, be told that the sperm is excellent, and then get another “no pregnancy” phone call. Each failed cycle wheedles away at your self-image and makes you feel like your body is broken. It was very difficult to make myself see past the fact that nothing seemed to be working. Sometimes hope felt too far away to grasp.

One of my strongest recollections of my time with CNY Fertility was a meeting that Chuck and I had with Dr. Kiltz. We knew that we needed to change our treatment plan because we’d done several failed IUI cycles. I can still hear Dr. Kiltz saying “you’re beautiful” at the beginning of that meeting. I smile every time I think of that moment. He also said that I didn’t need to change anything about myself, but, if I was willing, I should try the Keto Diet. Chuck and I were already committed to losing weight together, so starting Keto made sense. Between that meeting and our successful embryo transfer—about three months—I lost thirty pounds.

I’m not suggesting that you need to lose weight to get pregnant. I’m also not implying that you need to lose weight to feel good about yourself. But, if you’ve read anything about the emotional side of infertility, you know that mindset matters. Losing that weight made me feel good. It helped me get my head in a better place. I have no doubt that increased self-esteem was a factor in our ability to finally—after almost five years—achieve a pregnancy. For you, losing weight may not be the key, but there is something you can do to make yourself feel more fabulous.

And that is my challenge to you for the remainder of 2019: learn to love yourself a little more. Do not underestimate the power of positivity. For people struggling with their body not “working right,” getting into a healthy mindset concerning your physical appearance is really important. More than that, learning to embrace or at least make peace with whatever is causing your infertility is vital.

Let me use myself as an example. My PCOS shows itself in two ways: irregular periods and extra facial hair. Honestly, the periods don’t bother me. Who wouldn’t want to deal with that a few less times per year? But the facial hair is difficult. Luckily, I’m blonde so it’s not blatantly obvious, but I know it’s there, and it makes me feel super self-conscious. I used to struggle with it much more than I do now. For years, all I did was pluck the darker hairs. I find many of my honeymoon pictures embarrassing because I can see the fine fuzz on my chin. I used to work at a pretty serious alternative school, and I had students call me names like “sasquatch” and “lumberjack” behind my back. Whenever one of them got angry, I was afraid a comment about my facial hair would be part of the ensuing rant. It only happened once, but I barely kept it together.

One August, I decided to do something about my facial hair. I felt amazing on the day that I first shaved. I felt like a woman again. I wondered if people would notice because, to me, the change in my appearance was huge. No one commented, of course, but that’s just because people are polite.

Since then, there are days when I run out of time in the morning and walk out the door with a dusting of hair on my chin, meaning I can feel the stubble. Inevitably, I look in the mirror at some point and the resulting wave of anxiety almost crushes me. Will someone notice? Will someone say something? I remember vividly, on one of those days, my niece looking at me and saying, “You’ve got stuff on your face like Daddy.” Talk about a punch to my fragile self-esteem.

Recently, I’ve been trying to reframe my insecurities to something more positive. I know that the key to becoming my best self lies in letting go of the perception that I—specifically my body—am not good enough. Over the last couple of years, one of the things I’m really proud of is how open and honest I’ve been about my infertility and PCOS. So, whenever I look in the mirror and feel embarrassment sneaking in, I tell myself that my facial hair is a badge of honor. It’s the physical evidence of my PCOS, the thing that tells the world that my body struggles to reproduce. I still worry that someone will notice or say something, but that’s the attitude that I’m striving for. My goal is to counter any rude comment—if that ever happens—with a graceful response about how my PCOS made me work for and be that much more grateful for my children.

Besides my facial hair, my weight is always looming over me. Losing thirty pounds on Keto was amazing, but I want to make something clear. I wasn’t skinny. According to the BMI calculator, I was still overweight, not even close to “normal” at my new weight of just over 200 pounds (I’m 5’11’’). The big difference was that I was doing something super positive for my body. I was getting healthier and lowering the inflammation in my body (one of the main reasons why Dr. Kiltz supports Keto). Before the diet, I had been at my emotional low, almost to the point of believing that we would never have children. With my weight loss, my attitude evolved, and I was finally able to make the life-changing decision to try IVF.

Right now, I weigh about 10 pounds less than I did before our first successful embryo transfer, and I still struggle with my self-image. But this year I’m going to be different. I’m going to embrace the idea that a positive mindset makes a difference. I’ve seen that work in so many aspects of my life—from getting pregnant to landing my dream teaching job. Why wouldn’t it work for empowering myself to have a healthy relationship with my body?

I challenge you to go with me on this journey in 2019. Ask yourself: what is it about your body that you hate the most? I’m guessing the answer is something to do with your infertility. Despite my chronic struggle with self-esteem, my real battle with my body started with my infertility. From not being able to conceive until we tried IVF to struggling to breastfeed my first son, my PCOS has made me feel damaged and defective. My body has caused me too many tears, swear words, and negative emotions.

And I’m done with that. I’m going to figure out how to love myself, even with my body’s struggles. I’m going to make my PCOS a defining part of who I am in a positive way. After all, if Chuck and I hadn’t gone through our infertility journey to have our sons, our lives and attitudes would probably be very different. Everything I’ve experienced has led me to where I am today, and I’ve got to start embracing my body for what it is.

No matter where you are in your infertility journey, you can do the same. One of the most important steps you can take while you’re trying to conceive is making the decision to be positive. Your body can do incredible things, and, even if it’s not working the way you want it to, it still deserves some love. Do that in 2019. Love yourself.