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Infertility: You Are Not Alone the Aftermath

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Sometimes you get what you want and you would think all will be well but then you realize some ghosts just cannot be exorcised. This particular post is not your typical infertility blog. This blogger for those that do not know is a man and he blessed enough to have an IVF child with his wife. I have a great bit of respect for my infertility circle and understand the sensitivity of those reading a blog about the pains of infertility from a person lucky enough to already have a child but in infertility there are many stories and this is ours.

The common gripe you hear from those that suffer from infertility is being angry and or jealous of your friends when they are pregnant while you are trying to just get pregnant. It is an understandable human trait be frustrated when you can’t have what its seems everyone around you attains with ease. Why would infertility haunt you even after you have a child? I am an only child as is my wife. We both admit we never considered having siblings as kids but we both grew up in neighborhoods where kids our age were out at all hours. Just step outside and join the nearest group of kids and you did not have time to consider you were a single kid.

In 2015 most everyone is time starved. Both parents work in most households and in many cases the schedules are opposite of each other. Playdates have taken place of stepping outside and joining up with a group of neighborhood kids. Playdates are a mixed bag because not only does the date include the kids it includes parents that do not always know each other. Some people are comfortable with that (myself included) and others are understandably not. Finding a playdate family is nice but rarely is it a regular event. You may be like us and find yourself in a beautiful neighborhood with wonderful neighborhood and kids galore but schedules just don’t seem to line up and the kids sometimes only catch glimpses of each other when they are just going in for the night. The kids have schedules too. Kids do so many things these days from sports to arts to school activities. As a group we have taken our time starved adult lives and handed them down to our children with their own time starved schedules. What is the hell does this have to do with infertility?

When you are an only child you notice when your friends have siblings and siblings equal a play partner. Siblings equal that lifetime partner in crime and person you can share secrets with. The single child knows nothing of sibling rivalry or the politics of sibling civil war. They don’t see sharing toys, space, TV, and mommy and daddy. They only have the why: “Mommy and Daddy why don’t I have a brother or sister?”.

We were honest with our daughter. We explained in the best terms possible that we barely held on to her and that because of infertility issues she will be an only child. She gets it sometimes but then one of her friends has a sibling and is no longer an only kid and she realizes she is the only kid in a neighborhood full of kids that has her own room, playroom, ton of toys, but when it’s thirty minutes to bedtime she has no child to play with. She looks at Mommy with big eyes and innocently mentions that she is the only single kid. The infertility that my wife kicked the ass of over six years ago reaches out from its grave and crushes her. Now my wife does not feel the pain for her and I but our daughter too.

My wife understands everything. She understands she was fine as an only kid. She knows full well the fortune of having one child. She also knows our daughter is not trying to hurt her feelings when she tells her she wishes she had a sibling or there is no child for her to play with. My wife takes it all to heart. She is reminded of the feeling of being a failed woman and now it is compounded because she thinks herself a failed mom to boot. She went from failed woman to failed wife to failed mom and even though none of that is true the spectre of infertility has a way of making you believe lies. You hear new things from people when you talk about infertility that happens after a child is born. You hear that your life is great and you should feel lucky to have what you have but now you see the world through your childs eyes and admitting to them you are not able to give them something they want is painful. As the husband all you can do is console. You are a chained dog to infertility as the man. You would destroy anyone that hurt your wife but infertility is intangible so like a dog tethered to a tree all you can do is pull at the length of your chain and bark because you will never be able to bite.

I look for ways to console but they are fruitless. I sometimes find myself thinking I am intruding on others when set up playdates for my daughter. I worry when I think my little girl has not found her lifetime friend yet even though she is only six and all good things in time. She has great friends in the neighborhood and lifetime friends so far but eventually grade differences split kids apart, friends you only see every few months stay friends but the kids grow apart to at least some degree. Infertility reminds me that I will always be looking over my wifes shoulder to make sure it is not pulling her down. It reminds me that when you think it is no longer a factor in your life your child is sad because she doesn’t understand that the older kids move on and another can’t play because it is late and they are getting ready for that crazy schedule all kids seem to already have.

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At this stage infertility is a teaching moment. It causes you to step up your game as a parent. You learn to be more honest with your kid. You learn to find new ways to keep them occupied and work harder to make new friends at her school and her activities so maybe she finds a friend that will be the Thelma to her Louise. This is where you teach her to never give up on things and to find ways to not let the dark things in life crush your dreams, hopes, and self-confidence. Infertility never goes away but it does not have to win. Twenty years from now infertility could haunt her and even though she will have been well versed in all we told her about in the first two and a half decades of her life she will feel the same pains a person just discovering infertility feels. I hope she never knows that battle. She is not alone if it happens. She is not alone figuring out that single children are fine. She will never be without us next to her watching her grow and make friends. My wife too will never be alone because as long as a breath comes from my lips I will never let it win by taking her out emotionally.

This is my third year writing a blog for this annual Resolve event. I will never forget where we were and how we felt. We are fortunate we had a child but I still see hurt in my wife eyes from time to time as she enters a new level of the infertility struggle. No matter where you are in your struggle you are not alone. You are important and you are loved. Below are links that will help you to better understand infertility. Please consider surfing the web for others personal stories.

In 2011 I wrote The Longest Love Letter. The E Book is the true story of our infertility journey. It leaves little to the imagination but is the most honest thing I have ever written. It is available on Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

http://www.amazon.com/Longest-Love-Letter-Andy-Thornhill-ebook/dp/B004MYGAM2

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INFERTILITY: THE SEASON OF HOPE

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We have a six-year-old child. Her name is Emma. That is not how most infertility entries start but sometimes it is fun to work a story from its end to its beginning. You ever seen a movie like that? Quentin Tarantino is the master of that. You know the end so how interesting could the events that led up to the conclusion hold my attention? HOPEfully this story will.

Rewind nearly five years before the birth of our child and my wife and I were about to have the ride of our life. We were at the beginning of an endless series of doctors’ appointments, needles, and a ton of pain. The infertile community will understand when I write how frustrating it can be listening to a friend innocently discussing how they are pregnant. It is even more confounding when they tell you how annoying the pregnancy is or how uncomfortable it is or how their spouse won’t touch them while they sport a baby bump. All I want to say is, “Bitch my wife just finished crying for a week and a half because we miscarried. Now she hates herself and there is nothing I can do to console her because in her head it is her fault and she is less of a woman. She thinks I should move on to another woman who can give me a child. She couldn’t be more wrong but I will never get her to understand that…” but instead I respond with, “Oh that’s stinks but it will be worth it in a few months”. You are supersensitive and self-destructive if you are a woman (in many cases) and emasculated as a man (in many cases) during infertility. I am a man but not a macho man. I am not the guy that will fight at the drop of a dime. Even though I was a cop I had few physical confrontations of note in the first 45 years of my life but I will defend my wife until I have not a breath to give. It is so hard to see your wife hurt and there is nothing you can do. The assailant is invisible and you can’t make them stop. Infertility is an invisible bully and it attacks you physically, emotionally, on the news, on your favorite sitcom, social media, at work, from your family, and so many other directions. Infertility is a hurricane that pounds you until it passes over you because you throw in the towel or you beat it.

The strength it takes to stand up to a bully is palpable. Infertility is no different. Families that take on this task and it is a task go through things that very few people will understand. Some will feel like they are on an island and the population is one. It is a difficult thing to explain because the emotions hit you when you least expect it and sometimes you do not feel yourself. I mean honestly who in their right mind is pissed at their cat for being pregnant and thinks the feline is flaunting it?…..an infertile person may feel that way. It takes a special soul and couple to step into the darkness of this unknown menagerie of appointments and scrutiny and get each other through it. If you cannot be an organized person that keeps doctors visits, medication schedule’s, and many other inflexible things straight you best find someone to help you stay on point. You have to be honest with yourself and do all you can from time to time to set your pride aside and ask for help from your spouse, friend, or other family member as needed. You will also need to “LET IT GO” from time to time and vent, cry, and maybe scream…..just don’t do it in line at the Wawa buying your coffee!!! Enough with the bad.

This entry is about HOPE. HOPE comes from many places. HOPE can be faith in God. HOPE can be faith in family and friends. HOPE can be faith in yourself and knowing that you will not be denied a child until all things have been tried, all calls have been made, second opinions have been heard, all angles have been viewed, all medicines that are safe to you have been tried, all voices are heard, all money you can afford has been exhausted, all support groups have been visited, all…well you get the picture. My HOPE came from my wife. She does not believe it but there is none stronger than her. There is none more determined than her. We ran the infertility gamut. We had miscarriages, a million doctor appointments, IVF, IUI, pokes, prods, a crap load of judgment, tears upon tears, and the list goes on. My wife sat in the floor of her pharmacy, in tears once, as she miscarried and there was nothing anyone could do. She even gave up once. I was relieved because I could not bear to see her in such pain but a few months later she decided that she and we were not done. She decided that that giving up was not the end she wanted. Reluctantly on my behalf we moved on. We went through another IVF. Every number that could go wrong went wrong. We only had two eggs to implant and they had poor grades. Two eggs but we had HOPE. In our case it was not faith in God it was just a good old fashioned Hail Mary hoping to reach the end zone where life as parents began. For us it was HOPE that luck will change. We became pregnant. We had no time to celebrate because only a week or two in my showed signs of a miscarry. We went to the fertility clinic and would not even look at each other. The nurse did an ultrasound and told us she had a heartbeat. It was the first time we heard the heartbeat of our child. There was a sub-chorionic bleed. My wife would be on bed rest for nearly eight months. She never complained. At one point she did not come down stairs for a couple of weeks. She would not lose hope. She would not quit. This thing was happening. We eventually picked up the nerve to get stuff for the babies room. The clerk at the store actually berated my wife for waiting so long. The woman needed a smack on the mouth but we walked away. Even after the pregnancy progressed there was judgment. Some of the other people she knew said they would have worked through it because “what’s going to happen is going to happen!!!”. These are insensitive jerks. She never lost hope. Even on the day our child was born we would have not been surprised that something would go wrong. On October 20, 2008 nothing notable went wrong.

HOPE got us through. Faith in each other was the fuel that allowed my wife, in the terms of one of her favorite movie “A Knights Tale” to tell the bully infertility that “You have been weighed, you have been measured, and you have been found wanting. In what world could you possibly beat me?”. I beg you to not give up HOPE. I ask that you hold your partner tight. Tell your partner everything in your heart and ask the same from them. Keep the conversation up as you beat this bully down. Even if the battle cannot be won you may have strengthened the bond with whoever you chose to spend your life with to the point that in no possible world could anyone break you emotionally. My wife and I understand and even after what seems an eternity ago I still feel the heat of the HOPE that she kept alive.

 

 

My Name is Andy Thornhill. I will always remember what happened that made my life feel closure. I wrote a book titled, “The Longest Love Letter” and it tells our families story. I have very good reason why I will never forget. Yes I saw the miracle of my daughters birth but what was nearly as impressive was the stength I saw in the woman I am lucky enough to call my wife. “The Longest Love Letter is available for the Kindle and Nook. Best of luck with your journey. 

Her Resolve Changed The World

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RESOLVE

Defined by Oxford Dictionary

1. Settle or find a solution to (a problem, dispute, or contentious matter)

2. Decide firmly on a course of action.

3. Firm determination to do something.

     Men often do not know how much they don’t know!!!

“Here’s all you have to know about men and women:

women are crazy, men are stupid. And the main reason

women are crazy is because men are stupid”

—George Carlin

     Infertility is invisible. Most people do not know they have an issue with it for years. Some people who suffer from infertility issues will never know they had them. The ones that never know could be oblivious or in denial. How do you wage war against an invisible enemy? You approach it like any other war by preparing a strong offensive collecting an army of support. You educate yourself about your enemy and try to beat it at its own game. You anticipate what your enemies move is and use what you have learned and with your allies support conquer it. The difference between this war and the all too common ones we see on the news is that winning this war brings you the satisfaction of fulfilling your dream of being a parent. To beat infertility you must have a great deal of RESOLVE.

     We started our infertility like many couples do. I figured it was just a matter of time and my wife knew something wasn’t quite right. From the beginning I was blind and my wife had intuition. After a few months my wife settled on a solution to solve our contentious matter. She scheduled us to go to the Jones Institute in Norfolk, Virginia. We met with a doctor who delicately laid out a plan to help us conceive. The idea that I would need help conceiving was a thought that never crossed my mind in the first 33 years of my life. I did not know how little I knew about fertility. My wife knew a little having a pharmaceutical back ground but my background was much more limited. I wanted a child and I wanted my wife happy but when it came to being able to solve our fertility mystery I was useless.

     RESOLVE at this stage came in the shape of my lovely and persistent wife. She refused to quit. Every time her body told her no she changed her tactics and faced infertility eye to eye . She listened intently to her doctor and I came to nearly all the appointments with her. We figured if both of us were at an appointment we would be less likely to miss something our clinic told us. My wife kept notes and was meticulously organized. In my wives normal life sometimes stressful situations could have unglued her but when it came to infertility she refused to let it break her down. There were moments when she found dark places. Miscarriages would shake her. She would sit on the floor and cry. She did not want anyone around and wanted to curl up and disappear but after a day or two she would pull herself up and with the iron jaw of a champion boxer she would prepare her self for  the next round of the fight. What her heart wanted outweighed any obstacles that infertility would put in her way. We had reached the end of the road where insurance was a monetary contributor. The battle had waged for nearly five years and after several cycles we threw in the towel. I thought to battle was done. The war was over after we went O-Fer in every battle. RESOLVE: firm determination to do something.

     My wife went back home to West Virginia a couple of times a year and was at the airport when she called me. She told me we were going to pay for a round of IVF. I was against the idea because I was concerned whether she could bounce back from another miscarriage that also cost us as much as $20,000. I had no choice in this decision. My wife was so sure of her course of action that she had already set the appointments in motion for the next cycle before calling me to tell me we were taking another shot at slaying our invisible antagonist. The IVF cycle worked and now the real fears would kick in. We were used to things breaking down. We never talked about it but we were going to be surprised by a delivery and probably not by a loss. She would be on bed rest for eight months. 10 to 15 minutes a day was all she was allowed on her feet. She never complained. We had several scares. The first time we saw our child’s heartbeat was at an appointment when we had reason to believe the pregnancy had failed. RESOLVE was all my wife had. She refused to give in. She refused to make a mistake and she had the tenacity of a Lioness protecting her young. On October 20, 2008 our daughter was born in Norfolk, Virginia. Our story was over. The invisible antagonist was weighed, measured, and found wanting. (my wife loves a Knights Tale) The story could have ended there but it did not.

     During the first year of my daughter’s life I wrote a book. The book was a love letter to my daughter. It illustrated in great detail nearly every step of the battle and ended with her birth. I wanted my daughter to know her story and if I waited 20 years to tell it to her I would have forgotten some of the emotions and details. When The Longest Love Letter was near completion I realized it was actually a love letter to my wife. My wife had changed my world. My wife gave me the greatest gift. She showed me the greatest vote of confidence when she chose me to raise a child with her. I made a decision at that time to write about infertility and living with infertility at every chance I could. I wanted others to know it can be beat. I wanted to comfort those in their dark battle. My wife takes it even further.

    My wife jumped in head first to every Facebook Infertility Support site she could find. She uses her knowledge and experience to help others. She became friends with many of these other women in various stages of their journey. It would be easy for her to put the past behind her but she remembers the thoughts that kept her up at night. She did not have support groups but wishes she did. It is easier to get through dark places when  others will be your light. My wife is a lighthouse for those that are lost in their journey and need an ear to listen to them. She is a voice that will tell them that while it may hurt like hell it will be okay. She is willing to help them find their RESOLVE!!!!

    Couples please do not give in. Find your RESOLVE. Find you course and commit to it. Don’t be afraid to hear a strangers story and maybe take their hand if they offer it. RESOLVE to not let the battle take away the essence of the one thing you are trying to create life. You can do this and you are not alone.

If you want to know more about Infertility please go to these links at Resolve.org

http://www.resolve.org/infertility-overview/what-is-infertility/

http://www.resolve.org/national-infertility-awareness-week/about.html

Join The Movement: Why Is This Man Here?

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I never gave my fertility a thought until my mid thirties. I had no reason to think about it. I am a man and dammit we just don’t consider those things. In my twenties it simply was not on my mind but then I got married to a woman I wanted to have a child with. I had long thought of being a father. I had the dream of watching my son score the touchdown at the big game. When it came to having a baby I knew exactly nothing. I truly thought it was just a matter of making love and then letting the magic of birth follow. Stupid boy!!!

We tried for a little more than a year to have a baby and the spark just never took to flame until  a phone call broke the silence. My wife called me at work to say we were pregnant. I was like a thoroughbred at the gates of the Kentucky Derby just gnawing at the bit to tell everyone the great news and I did. A week later we lost the baby. It was a sobering experience. My wife immediately knew we needed to see a fertility doctor. I had been a police officer for many years. I handled the most stressful of situations for a career but now I had the big invisible monster at my front door and I did not have a clue how to handle it.  I was about to be introduced to the world of infertility and all of its pains.

My wife and I went a route that the infertile community will relate to. We started out at a fertility clinic that was well thought of in our state. The results of our visits were a mixed bag. We saw multiple doctors and nurses during the same cycle. I learned to get comfortable with gynecological type visits with my wife. I was given a one minute course on giving my wife shots. They drew circles on her buttocks as a target just in case I forgot. We did many IUI cycles and had the same result every time. My wife is a pharmacist. Anyone that has done a cycle will tell you that your schedule must be flexible sometimes and you best be very organized. During one cycle we had to take an appointment on a Saturday morning before she was scheduled to open her pharmacy. In her job business cannot begin or even open until she is there. We were promised ;by the doctor, that they would get her out in time for week. There were probably a half-dozen couples at the fertility clinic for the same tests my wife had to do. They lined us up and ran us through the stations. First she had to be weighed and have vitals taken, and then she had to urinate, and then wait to have a blood draw. At the blood draw we had a bottle neck. We waited and waited and then finally I heard a doctor tell someone he could have his wife come in to draw blood. The nurse that  was suppose to draw blood was absent and the doctors were not willing or able to draw blood. I was stunned to be  in a doctor’s office with doctors and no one could draw blood. Just when were about to be forced with either blowing a cycle or losing a job due to a no show a nurse finally showed up.  We were done with this clinic and went to another one in town. We had blown a couple of years at the first one.

When we went to the next clinic we felt better about how they wanted us to move forward. They were much more personal and the two years we were there we saw the same doctor and nurses. The doctor immediately suggested an IVF. We started the process of an IVF and were thankful that our insurance covered a one time shot at this procedure. The IVF failed and we gave in. There was only so much I could watch my wife do. I hated to see her so let down. My wife is a smart woman because she does not listen to me. A few months later she told me that we were doing another IVF. Shut up and do your part I was symbolically told. I still wanted a child with my wife but I did not want to see her hurt. The IVF beat nearly every odd there was. My wife was on bed rest for nearly eight months. A dear friend died during the pregnancy that by itself could have emotionally caused us to lose the baby but in the end our daughter Emma was born.

During our journey my wife suffered a miscarriage at work where she was sitting on the floor of her pharmacy in tears and bleeding, we had more failures than I can remember, we thought we had lost our daughter several times, my wife overcame a fear of needles (sort of), my wife hated herself and anyone else who was pregnant, friends challenged our decisions and even accused us of blasphemy before God, and a million other horrors great and small that will sound very familiar to most. I tried to be the strong man. I stood by my wife because that is what a man does. I cried when she was not there for her and me.

When we walked our journey we were never informed about communities online or on Facebook or Myspace or WordPress of people who were sharing their experiences. My wife spent months sitting in her bed alone without being able to go outside and take a walk. During her pregnancy she was allowed to go to horse race, catch one stand up comedy act, and one art show. The rest of her other time was spent feeling every single noise or ache her body made and wondering whether the other shoe was going to drop. Even the day my daughter was born were prepared for failure. I decided that the adventure I shared with my wife needed to be documented for my daughter. I wanted my daughter to understand how hard her mother fought to give her life and if she had fertility issues she could have a first hand manual that illustrated that anything is possible. I wrote a book I called “The Longest Love Letter”. The story is the entire journey from beginning to end and no detail is spared. In the book I also share with my daughter things that show how imperfect I am. I wanted her to know all. When I got to the end of the book I realized The Longest Love Letter was truly a love letter to my amazing wife. The story is the greatest testament to how strong women are. It is a blueprint for what I hope my daughter grows up to be. I am very proud of the book. It is a common story that many couples share but most people are not aware of.

I do not consider myself an author. I wrote our true experiences in the rawest form possible. I decided to publish the book in an E-Book format through Amazon and Kindle. I created a Facebook page for the book and it was then that I discovered these amazing sites like Attain Fertility and Resolve. I was amazed by the raw emotion shared on these pages. I then discovered blogs written by mostly women that told of their painful stories. Many of these journeys are still unresolved. I found hundreds of women that sounded like my wife. I so wish that she had these pages when she was pregnant. I found a community that also had few people who had successfully navigated the process. I decided to create a blog just for families that are fighting infertility today. I would be taking for granted my personal story if I did not somehow give back. My blog “Sunshine Dreams and Hopes” was born. I am careful to not talk about our successes as much as let people know you are not alone and your dream can be realized. Shortly after the blog was created I opened up a Facebook page called “Infertility News You Can Use”. I try to sprinkle it with news stories I find and blogs written by incredibly talented writers going through the journey of a lifetime. I have been contacted by people from all over the world between these different pages and I am always humbled that people read and like and take in what I write. If I could I would change everyone’s story to a happy ending. I know I have a gift in my wife and in my daughter but not every woman believes in themself and not every man takes the time to examine the totality of the infertile journey. As I write and share stories I also remind myself that I am the luckiest of men. I hope my daughter notices and one day finds something in her life that she wants to help make right.  I love you all and I hope if you read my words you will take what you like or need and leave the rest. I hope you find a way to laugh but most of all I want you to love each other because in the end that is the strongest weapon you have.

Facebook Page for “The Longest Love Letter”

http://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Longest-Love-Letter-EBOOK/193438320685453

Facebook Page for “Infertility News You Can Use”

http://www.facebook.com/pages/Infertility-News-You-Can-Use/168649429917070

Personal Home Page for Andy Thornhill

http://www.facebook.com/andy.thornhill.5