When Infertility Updates Go Sterile

Sometimes it’s just too hard. Too hard to swallow. Too hard to breathe. To hard to share. Thus, my recent silence.DSC_2682

After our primary infertility struggles and IVF success catapulted me into the crazy, hectic, wonderful life that motherhood brings; I became an open book about our infertility journey. I hadn’t had the emotional support that I desperately needed while going through round after round of complicated infertility treatments. To be honest, even an army of supporters probably wouldn’t have been enough. With infertility…the best intention, the nicest phone call or text, the sweetest gift, the most compassionate comment…somehow it’s still never quite enough. The pain, the chronic patient role, the longing, the sorrow-it all outweighs the support. (for those showing support…please don’t stop! I’m just ranting.) I wanted to be real for other women struggling with similar issues. I wanted to break down the stigma that infertility builds and then reinforces with steel beams. Woman hiker on a top of a mountain

But, then I became an infertility patient once again. Optimistic…determined…nervous…and hopeful. At first sharing felt second nature. Our first frozen IVF success turned miscarriage made it a little harder. Repeated disappointments have continued to zap my desire to share. Instead, I’ve found myself withdrawing from the spotlight. In a way hiding. Clinging to privacy once again, as though it is a better comforter or coping mechanism to deal with my grief. My hope is still real, but the painful question of “Will it ever work?” plagues me each day. Blame it on the hormones. I do. But, my heart knows that my silence has simply been a way to quell my grief. Writing is acknowledging. Putting things into words makes them real…acute…like pouring salt into a wound. I like to think that I’m strong, but a girl can only take so much.

So, please forgive my silence. I don’t mind your curiosity. I love your support. But, to answer your question…No, we are not pregnant. Our most recent IVF cycle was more than promising. With 9 embryos to show for my efforts (yes, “MY.” I’m taking all of the credit. My husband would agree.) and the best cycle of stimulation yet, I was certain that it would work this time. So certain, that when we received the call 1 hour before our embryo transfer that none had survived to day 5, I went into something of a tailspin. NONE?? A statistical anomaly? A lab error? We made good embryos consistently. Only 10-15% not 100% should have arrested in development. WHAT? WHY? HOW?

The answer: ????????? Laboratory Fertilization Of Eggs In IVF Treatment

I hate the unknown. I hate the uncertain. As a physician, I want answers…reasons…solutions. I want to fix. I want to heal. I want to have a baby!!!! Instead, I’m starting from scratch once again, this time with a new doctor. Joy of joys. The idea of entering a third infertility establishment as a new patient just makes me feel warm and fuzzy all over again. Here goes!

Thanks for listening. Thanks for reading. Since silence hasn’t done the trick, I’ve decided to clink on the keys a little more going forward. My prayer is that for those struggling you will know that you aren’t alone. I’m here in the trenches with you. My prayer for myself is that even in the darkness I will not lose sight of the light…no matter how small it’s glimmer. I will hold onto hope, not blindly, but with the understanding that even if things don’t work the way that I long, there is still a greater plan. God may not answer my prayers the way that I want, but my story may just be the game changer to impact someone else. And, that uncertainty makes me smile. family, charity, healthcare, health. christmas, x-mas and happy

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What does a fertile faith look like in the midst of infertility??? Part 1

I don’t touch on “religious” topics too often. It’s not that I’m ashamed of my faith or trying to shy away from it. On the contrary, my faith centers my life. It gives me hope. It keeps me sane. Call me weak…and I’d probably agree with you. Without my faith, I never would have found the strength to endure the road to becoming a physician, infertility, pregnancy loss, severe preeclampsia, having a premature baby, and dealing with the rest of life’s trials along the way.Woman hiker on a top of a mountain

Don’t get me wrong, many people have suffered greater losses, heartaches, and pains than I can dare imagine. Living in the United States makes most of my problems “First World” inconveniences. But, here and there my heartaches have been and still are significant. I’m often asked how I’ve found the strength to make it through 9 complicated IVF cycles with only one baby to show for it. How do I keep going?  Were does my strength come from? How do I find the endurance? What’s the key to making it through?  As I’ve opened up about my infertility journey these questions have continued to ping my inbox. What’s the secret?Closeup On Hands Of Stressed Young Woman

I’ve decided that it isn’t a secret at all. And, while some won’t like my answer, it is still my answer. Feel free to disagree. That’s the beauty of living in a country with freedom of speech and religion. If you don’t have a faith base and find this annoying, that’s fine too. I’m not offended by you, and it’s not my intention to offend you. I’m simply sharing from my own world in life view what I’ve found to be most helpful. Here goes…

Stay tuned for Part 2

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Tips to Make Sure that Infertility Isn’t an Issue for YOU

I gave a little laugh when I was asked to write a freelance article on infertility for Hamilton County Family Magazine, since I’m something of an expert personally. While fertility is “natural”…infertility seems to come naturally to many couples these days. Check out these tips and recommendations that may save you grief later, help you determine your risk now, and get you the help that you may need.

When Infertility Comes Naturally

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If You’ve Got Something Fertile to Say…Please Keep it to Yourself!

I wanted to smack her right in the face. The flight attendant’s snippy, “I’m the mother of 6 children,” comment was enough to put me over the edge. Really? Yes, my child is screaming and doesn’t want to sit in her seat, but knowing that you are a fertile, super-mother with 6 loads of experience is not going to calm my 2 year-old or me for that matter. In fact, using your mother of 6 status is the last thing that any woman in the middle of several failed infertility treatments needs to hear. Why don’t you go take your own seat!

Sorry, to sound hostile, but time and time again the fertile mother either innocently, unknowingly, or even intentionally says something that stings. I do my best to dismiss the innocent and ignorant comments, but sometimes it just gets to be a little too much! So, I thought I would provide those of you blessed with super fertile powers a quick tutorial on what not to say to a woman without kids, someone with known infertility, or any woman you don’t know much about. This isn’t all inclusive…but it is fairly lengthy! For all those who do or have struggled with infertility, feel free to add your suggestions in the comments.

What Not To Say In An Infertile World:

1. When are you planning on starting a family? Hint…Hint? (Please, stop asking!)

2. You know the clock is ticking, right? You aren’t getting any younger. (My ovaries are none of your business)

3. Don’t you guys want kids? (Of course not. Don’t most women despise the idea of motherhood?)

4. Do you have any news (pregnancy implied)? (If I wanted to tell you I would have.)

5. How many kids are you planning on having? (Is that really any of your business?)

6. Do you only want one (said with disbelief)? (If I did what’s wrong with that? But, no, my heart is breaking trying to have another!)

7. It’s about time for another isn’t it? (Thanks for keeping track of our family planning.)

8. Your daughter needs a sibling! (No kidding!)

9. Having one is so much easier. (Not when you have to go through infertility treatments to have another)

10. You should be happy you only have one. (Why don’t you try it?)

11. I can’t believe I’m pregnant again. We weren’t even trying. (It must be amazing to be you!)

12. I wish I weren’t pregnant. (I will gladly take your baby)

13. Being pregnant stinks. (Being infertile sucks!)

14. So, you guys are more focused on your careers, right? (Having a career doesn’t mean you don’t want kids!)

15. As a mom of x number of children, let me tell you…(Please don’t.)

16. Life is so easy when you only have one. Just wait! (I am waiting.)

17. I would never want a test tube baby! Oh, your baby is so cute! (She’s a test tube baby.)

18. Be glad you aren’t pregnant right now! (Seriously?)

19. That’s so nice that you don’t have any kids yet. You can travel and do such fun stuff. Be glad you still have your freedom. (I’d prefer to lose my freedom!)

20. I have a great book on how to get pregnant. (I wrote it.)

21. Have you tried putting your legs over your head? (Yes, for 48 hours at a time.)

22. You need an ovulation kit! (My ovulation is just fine thanks.)

23. I have a list of fertility foods that will get you pregnant in no time. (I’ve tried eating from the Garden of Eden. Fertile foods are no match for incredibly low sperm counts. It’s going to take more than pineapple core.)Beautiful young woman making Yoga exercises on the beach

24. Have you tried essential oils? (I practically drink them. Thank you.)

25. You guys just need a weekend away. (Hmm…pretty sure three days in bed isn’t going to do the trick.)

26. You need to stop stressing. (Stop talking, please. You’re stressing me out!)

27. Why don’t you just adopt? (Why don’t you?)

28. Let me tell you what worked for us. ( I really don’t care.)

29. Can I give you a piece of advice? (As though I can say, “No” without sounding rude)

30. Maybe God has something different for you instead of motherhood. (How consoling!)

31. Dr. Oz says…(Why do I care what a cardio-thoracic surgeon has to say about my fertility?)

32. The power of positive thinking is amazing. Visualize yourself pregnant. (What do you think I’ve been doing for the past 5 years!)

33. I know how you feel. It took us a whole month to get pregnant! (Wow, that must have been hard!)

34. Are you taking your vitamins? Maybe going gluten free, caffeine free, dairy free, soy free, and deodorant free would do the trick. (Am I allowed to eat?)Girls Kissing Mom's Belly

35. Isn’t this like your zillionth time going through IVF? (Thanks for reminding me.)

36. Maybe you should focus on learning to be content with what you do have. Isn’t having one enough? (Isn’t that between me, my spouse, and God?)

37. Infertility treatments are so unnatural (Clearly!)

38. There are worse things in life than infertility. You could actually have a serious medical problem to deal with. (True. That helps me cope how?)

39. Infertility isn’t really a medical problem. Having kids isn’t medically necessary. (Umm, who gave you your honorary medical degree?)

40. That’s nice that you can afford IVF. I hear that’s only for rich people. (It’s called debt. The most cost ineffective way to make a baby.)

41. You are saving yourself a fortune by not having kids. (Actually, I’m spending a fortune trying to have one.)Six pregnant bellies at different stages of pregnancy.

42. If you had more kids you’d understand…(If you had infertility you’d understand).

43. I totally know what you’re going through. My friend had infertility. (How could you possibly know what I’m going through.)

44. You do know how to make a baby right? All it takes is some good old fashioned sex! Do we need to get you a room? (Hmm…baby making can be a little more complicated!)

45. EVERYTHING ELSE EVER SAID

For those of you who are offended by my comments above…I don’t apologize. I have uncomfortably experienced every single comment mentioned above. And, while my real life responses were always gracious, I decided it was time to let off a little steam. Please know that that I don’t hold grudges. So, if I just quoted you in the 45 comments above…know that it has already been forgiven and forgotten.

You don’t have to walk on egg shells around those of us with infertility. We are happy that other babies are being born in the world. We want other people to be blessed with little ones. But, sometimes (most of the time) we do need a little sensitivity. Just think twice before the fertile you makes an overly fertile comment:)

Disclaimer: This article is clearly one sided (from the infertile perspective). It isn’t meant to criticize those with numerous children who are amazing parents with their own set of challenges. Nor is it meant to minimize the challenges of an unexpected pregnancy. Please take it as what it is…a rant from someone in the middle of infertility treatments for an extended period of time.

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What to Expect when Trying to Expect…IVF update from our April Embryo Transfer…

I had been crossing everything before our embryo transfer…fingers, toes, eyes…just about everything except for my legs. These were the last of our frozen embryos. If just one of them stuck we could wave our infertility treatment days goodbye. Only three were remaining, and while the quality wasn’t perfect, they were still little forces to be reckoned with.

I started my progesterone shots (YIKES THOSE ARE BIG NEEDLES), lupron shots, my estrogen patch, my estrogen pills and my routine blood work and ultrasounds. This had just worked several months before. Well…sort of worked. A 5 week pregnancy ending in miscarriage still counts as some sort of progress. It could work again. I had been praying for a miracle. Statistical success rates, odds, likelihood, all inconsequential in the presence of a divine intervention.Happy Family On The Beach. Baby Girl Hugging Her Mother

My typical outlook for infertility treatments has always been cautious optimism. I prepare myself for the worst because it’s so much easier to deal with the disappointment when things don’t work out. Why I decided to change my perspective this last time I’m not sure. For some reason the idea of a changed coping mechanism sounded refreshing. It would work. It was going to work. In spite of the odds it was going to happen. I was going to get pregnant and carry that pregnancy until I had a full-term healthy baby. I was going to have a story of triumph in spite of the odds. This was a simple miracle for God. What reason would he have for denying my request?

The embryo transfer went perfectly. Of the three remaining embryos, two survived the defrosting process. And, of those two, one looked incredibly promising. The catheter slid into place easily and within moments two precious little lifeforms were floating around inside of my uterus. Now came the waiting game. I was hopeful. I was actually incredibly excited. I even felt pregnant. I was tired, moody, hungry and sure that it had worked. I wasn’t cramping, and I wasn’t spotting.

And…I also wasn’t pregnant. Two home pregnancy tests and then a blood draw B-hcg level of less than 1 confirmed that my miracle had not happened. Disappointment has been followed by a firm resolve that there is a reason for everything. I don’t understand it, but instead of letting grief swallow me up (for more than a few weeks), I’m looking forward with hope once again. Since all of our frozen embryos are gone we must start from scratch with a fresh IVF cycle. This journey is far from easy, painless, or inexpensive; but, my desire for another child trumps the obstacles and challenges before me. I refuse to let infertility define me; but I am allowing it to shape me into a stronger woman, full of faith, hope, and love. This may sound trite or contrived, but trust me, this refining process has been neither trite nor contrived.

The struggle with infertility can be all-consuming. It can be and is devastating. I’m not going to sugar coat a horrible diagnosis. However, I can’t let it ruin the beautiful things that I do have in life. Infertility wins if I let it have that hold on me. I refuse to let it win. I am stronger because of it. I am a better mother because of it. I have a deeper respect for other’s pain and suffering because of it. I am learning to let go of the things that are beyond my control because of it. I am trying to make beauty from ashes. Some days I succeed…and for now that’s all I can EXPECT while I’m waiting to EXPECT!

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When Infertility Comes Naturally…

IMG_1051This month I had the privilege to write another “To Your Health” column for the Hamilton County Family Magazine. The topic…INFERTILITY. How timely and how convenient. No research needed on my part. Check it out at this LINK. IMG_1052

 

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Secondary Infertility…what’s the big deal?

My heart wrenching desire to be called, “Mommy” was enough to make me sob on countless occasions. If only…if only…if only…and then the day came. Our infertility days were over! She was born, and although the early days of preemie life were also heart wrenching, we made it through. Today, I hear my coveted name, “Mommy” more times than I can count. If only it were enough. I love my daughter more than words could ever express (actually, my heart and eyes are welling up as I write), and I’m more than content to be her mother; but, my desire to hear another little voice, to change another little one’s diapers, to cuddle another snuggly infant, and to wipe the spit-up off of my shoulder countless times each day is intensely real. I want my daughter to have a sibling to play with, and let’s be real, unfortunately boss around!Portrait of a mother with her newborn baby

For those who say that I should count my blessings and be content with one child…you’ve clearly never struggled with secondary infertility. I understand your perspective. When I was childless I held a similar view. I just wanted to be a mother; I wanted a little one to love and cherish. I now have that immense privilege and blessing (which I thank God for everyday), but my longing for another baby is real and natural. I shouldn’t be ashamed of this longing. I was meant to mother. It’s in my bones even if it isn’t in the cards I’ve been dealt.

These cards aren’t fair. The infertility game is fixed. I’m playing against the house…and the house always wins….well, almost always. But, I’m not cashing out. I’m not cutting my losses and calling it quits. I’m not a gambler, but in the case of infertility I’m willing to bet against the odds. It worked for me once before, and it was worth every penny, shot, procedure, complication and heartache. The deck may be stacked against me, but I know how to stack the deck too with unwavering determination, perseverance, faith, and sleepless nights filled with agonizing prayers.Pregnant woman with daughter

Many couples have the luxury of easily adding to their families. They simply plan how many children they want and then make it happen (Yes, I’m a little jealous). They are blessed. Secondary Infertility is a diagnosis, an unfortunate medical condition, a “disease”. It is something to grieve over. It’s something to challenge. It is something worth battling and treating. Please don’t minimize the intensity of this heart breaking medical condition by suggesting that I be content with a diagnosis of secondary rather than primary infertility. These days it all feels the same. I thought that it would be less painful, but going through repeated IVF cycles once again, counting pennies to fund them, having a miscarriage, and trying to keep my emotions in check while caring for a two-year old is something worth crying over. Infertility is painful in every shape and form that it takes. If only it got easier!Happy Mother And Baby Laying On Meadow

For those of you who have suggested that I be content…don’t worry. I’m not overly sensitive, nor am I keeping a tab. Goodness, on the flip side I can’t keep track of the number of people who’ve critically asked me, “You only have one daughter? Don’t you want more children? You aren’t done are you? She needs a sibling!” My response usually creates an intensely awkward moment. I’m aware that most people don’t know what to say regarding infertility, primary or secondary. Awkward conversations are the norm when the topic arises. It’s okay to not have the right words. It’s okay to just say you’re sorry. Sometimes simply listening shows the most support. You aren’t always going to get it right, but the fact that you are trying means the world.

P.S.

If you’re dealing with primary infertility then you are allowed to say or think whatever you want! You’ve earned that right. You get to be angry. You get to be sad. You get to be jealous. You get to judge my “discontentment” with “only” having one child. I was you only a few years back. I get it. Not that you need my permission…but just wanted to throw out the caveat. Hang in there. You are stronger than you know!

For more ways to support someone struggling with infertility check out these resources for family and friends at Resolve.org

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The One Infertility Certainty…It Sucks!

Today has been a little rough. As if a vaginal ultrasound probe invading my private space wasn’t enough…I was informed that my uterine lining wasn’t quite thick enough to proceed with our scheduled frozen embryo transfer next week. I have been counting down the days. I have been mentally preparing myself for the emotions of an embryo transfer, but I wasn’t prepared for my body to throw out a “stall” tactic.

Postponing an embryo transfer may not sound like a big deal, but when it includes a 10 hour, one-way road trip; your mother-in-law taking time off of work and driving 5 hours one-way to watch your daughter; your husband canceling surgeries and patient visits; and having just the right amount of meds to stay on schedule…well, you can imagine the complications of rearranging everything last-minute!

I am remembering why IVF and infertility is so explicably HARD! It is filled with uncertainties, unknowns, changes, what if’s, when’s, how’s, please help, NO’s, and reschedules. I HATE uncertainty. I’m not a control freak, but I do like the comfort and reassurance that a schedule and plan can bring. I was ready for next Thursday. I was prepared to get pregnant. Now, I’m told that I have to wait at least another week…but, that’s not even certain. And, even after all of this…a successful transfer and implantation isn’t guaranteed. Pregnancy isn’t guaranteed. Carrying a baby to a full term delivery isn’t guaranteed. What is guaranteed is that infertility SUCKS! But, I am more than infertile. I have a fertile faith, a fertile marriage, a fertile love for my miracle daughter, and a fertile hope that in spite of it all, I will become a stronger person through it all.

P.S. And, yes, the picture here of my two-year old was from today too!!! We were all a little emotional.

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Letting the Simple Joys in Life Warm Your Heart in the Midst of Infertility

Life isn’t always easy. These days, infertility is on my brain…all the time. Surgery, road trips to my specialist, daily injections, countless pills, transvaginal ultrasounds, upcoming embryo transfers, GIANT medical bills, and IV lines that take 3-4 attempts (I’ve got the bruises to prove it!) etc. etc. I wish that I could say that I handle it all with grace each day, but I’ve got mood swings that could rival any menopausal woman! I try to blame it on the hormones, but I’m fairly sure that stress is playing a significant part in how I feel each day. Instead of getting bitter with my journey, I’m trying (key word being “trying”) to shift my focus onto the many blessings, triumphs, and simple joys that fill my daily life.Diptic Diptic

This may sound trite or like I’m trying to push my pain under the rug-neither of which are the case. I’m still letting myself grieve, get mad, get frustrated, vent, and cry over the journey that is before me, but I’m also choosing to see the beautiful things that are happening right now. I don’t want to be so consumed with infertility that I alienate my husband, ignore my friends, and forget the answered prayer (in the form of a precious two-year old side-kick) that is begging for my undivided attention.

So, I thought that I would highlight my most recent simple joys. Make a list of your own. It doesn’t make everything okay…but, it does shine a little light in the darkness. I will take every glimmer that I can get!

1. Being able to laugh at the little creatures who are already in my house

Diptic

2. Being amazed that my dog is okay with being a pet pony most daysDiptic

3. Loving that I have someone to help me with my hat!Diptic

4. Getting to play hide and seek with a masterDiptic

5. Ending the day with the most amazing husband a girl could ask for (even if I make him feel like he couldn’t possibly understand what I’m going through)!

6. Going out to dinner as a family (without a baby sitter:) because it makes things so much more interesting when pasta sauce is everywhere! And, knowing that my husband will shave his mustache when MOVEMBER is over!!!!! Diptic

7. Figuring out inexpensive and creative ways to have fun together while on an infertility budget! Who knew that kicking a ball in the backyard on a chilly day could make all three of us giggle?

I haven’t perfected dealing with infertility, but I’m doing my best to keep living a full life in the midst of it! For more on my infertility journey, don’t forget to head to my home page and click on the INFERTILITY link.

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When You Lose What’s Most Precious…the baby that should be in your arms

It is all more painful than words can express. And, yet, I write. I write in REMEMBERANCE of pregnancy loss, infant loss, and infertility-the lost hope of ever becoming a mother for the first time, or the shattering disappointment of losing what would have been a precious and treasured addition to your family.Concept Of Love And Family. Hands Of Mother And Baby

I first felt the twinge of longing for a baby when I was still just a baby myself. For many women, the desire for motherhood starts as early as our toddler years. Even now I am reminded of this innate longing as I watch my two-year old daughter feed, change, and rock her baby dolls. It is all so natural, and yet for many of us, getting pregnant, staying pregnant, or carrying a baby to full term delivery are far from natural.  Even many of the seemingly “fertile” moms among us have been touched by the devastation of miscarriage and stillbirth-countless times over. In my own neighborhood moms have been touched by stillbirths, miscarriages, infertility, and premature delivery. According to statistics from the CDC, the history of your street is probably similar to mine with 1,003,000 pregnancies ending in either stillbirth or miscarriage and 27,500 infants not making it to their first birthday each year in the United States.Melancholy And Sad Young  Woman  At The Window In The Rain

And, while the WHYS and WHAT TO DO’s are incredibly important, taking the time to reflect, remember, and grieve is also important. As I head back into infertility treatments, I am blessed to say that my diagnosis has changed from primary infertility to secondary! After years of trying to conceive naturally, and 5 cycles of complicated IVF with numerous failed embryo transfers, I am blessed to be called “mama” by the sweetest little girl in the world. And, while already being a mother has changed my infertility outlook, secondary infertility is still painful and challenging. My frozen embryo transfer is only several weeks away, but instead of excitement, I am reminded of the grief that comes with each failed cycle. The catch phrase in the infertility and pregnancy complication world is always “cautious optimism.” Oh, how I would love to replace that phrase with ECSTATIC ENTHUSIASM for something that is guaranteed to work!Love and new life concept. A woman's hands forming a heart symbo

Even though my previous embryos were tiny clusters of 8 cells, they were still my “babies.” With each transfer I saw a glimmer of hope. I had new life inside of me. That life would grow into an amazing person! But, when nausea turned into spotting and cramping time and time again, the devastation and disappointment was almost too much to bear. I’m not sure how to prepare myself this time for the possibility of a failed transfer, the cruel tease of a miscarriage (where hope is given and then snatched), or my overwhelming fear of once again delivering a preterm baby who this time may not survive.Divided couple are separated by white wall but holding hands

I should be a pro at coping with infertility and preterm delivery grief and loss, but this time around I’ve decided to FEEL rather than just cope. Life is made to be felt. The beautiful things are made to be seen, the horrific to be despised, and the devastating to be endured with strength. I refuse to become cold to my pain. Instead, I will remember my losses with a heavy heart but look to my blessings with overwhelming gratitude. I have found an inner strength, stronger than anything I could muster alone, fostered by friends, strangers, my faith, and a desire to inspire others enduring similar journeys.

Join me by raising awareness, giving a voice to loss, and sharing your story. Encourage others to donate to cutting edge research that could establish healthy pregnancies, prevent miscarriages and preterm deliveries, and save the lives of preemies. I recently decided to partner with March of Dimes as a local Ambassador. Check out their website for more details, for resources on dealing with grief, and for ways that you can get involved. For additional resources on pregnancy loss, miscarriage, still birth, and infertility, take a look at these amazing sites. If your grief has turned into lasting depression it may be time to seek professional help.

The American Pregnancy Association

Resolve: The National Infertility Association

The Mayo Clinic on Pregnancy Loss

In the spirit of remembrance, click HERE to enter to win a memorial bracelet or necklace of your choosing from Fertile Gems. Crystal, the designer and Etsy shop owner has graciously offered to give away a piece of her Always & Forever jewelry line to a mom who has suffered loss. This small token may take you one step closer to healing along your journey.

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