For My Mom

For My Mom,

So many things are happening all at once in life. I wish I had more time to capture them all on paper. This year has been hard. The fragility of life continues to stare me in the face. It used to be my daily encounters with patients, but now it’s my own role as infertility patient and my mother’s role as breast cancer patient. As I fight to make a new life she fights to save the one that she has refined with fire over the past 69 years.

Frame Of Tulips On Turquoise Rustic Wooden Background. Spring Fl

There’s no one quite like my mom. None can really compare to the depth of her compassion for others, her genuine concern for their deepest needs, her self- sacrifice, and her willingness to give regardless of any cost or discomfort to herself. I’m not sure that I’ve ever met a woman more willing to give everything that she has to a stranger. When Christ said to the young ruler to sell all that he had and give it to the poor…my mom makes that look easy. You may think I’m exaggerating, but then I recall the homeless woman that she picked up off of the street and then brought home to live with us for 6 months; the time that we took about 50 pounds of fried chicken to the homeless in Metro DC parks just because; the week we spent serving meals to families during the aftermath of Hurricane Andrew; her hours spent pouring into children with severe learning disabilities, the years she has ministered to broken women who have lost their husbands, their freedom, and their self-worth. When asked to help, she doesn’t think of the most minimal way…nope…she’s all in. If you could fault someone for possibly giving too much it would be her. And, yet, how can you fault her? I’m sure that she has entertained angels because she is always ready to say yes to what God has for her.

Not many people have that kind of empathy that moves beyond emotion into action. Not just action for a season, but action for a lifetime. Is my mom perfect? No. Do I hold that against her? Absolutely not. She has been an example to me of how an imperfect human can make an amazing difference. She has taught me to love others more than myself. To care for their needs more than my own. She has shown me that getting ahead is not as important as making sure that others get their feet underneath them. Money is simply a tool to help others. The more you have the greater your responsibility to use it for good. She has been an advocate for the woman without a voice and for the child trapped in the chaos of learning disabilities. She has opened doors and broken windows that others wouldn’t dare to even turn the handle on. Her boldness is courageous…and she makes it look easy. She asks for nothing in return except for prayers answered.Closeup On Hands Of Stressed Young Woman

Yes, she’s the woman who prays for the clerk at the grocery counter…every time…For the woman sitting next to her in the waiting room, for the nurse administering her chemo, for the doctor who may be having a rough day. And, people actually want to pray with her. She is sincere. She wants to know their struggles. She wants to take them to God. She knows that only he can fix them.

Strangers are her friends within moments. And, she truly cares about their spiritual well being. Above all else she loves Jesus and has made it her mission in life to make sure that I love him too. I’m sure that she made far more sacrifices for me than I will ever know. And, while I selfishly complain that I don’t get to see her enough at Christmas time each year because she is off empowering widows young and old in Nigeria each holiday season, in my heart I’m astounded by her resolve to make their lives better. Because of her I’m inspired to heed to the compassion and empathy that stirs in my own soul.

The thing about her giving spirit is that it never runs dry. The more she gives out the more she is filled up. Her prayers are answered. She circles them. She marches around buildings until the walls fall down or until new walls are built. She is Ruth, Esther, Mary, and Martha all at once…and she is my mom. How blessed I have been and still am to know her and to be loved by her. She is the first person that I call for prayer. Again, while she has faults and imperfections that drive me crazy at times, these fall to the wayside in light of her strengths. I have never met another woman like my mother. She is loud. She is bright. She is the love of Jesus to others. And, she is unashamed.

She would be embarrassed if I said that her faith in God was, “impressive.” Her faith in God is faithful. And, while she triumphs now through rounds of chemo to quell and aggressive stage 4 breast cancer, she would point to God saying that he is her miraculous healer even if that healing happens after this life.

Selfishly, I don’t want to lose her from this life. I want to continue to see God use her in amazing ways. I want to continue to be inspired by the legacy she is creating-a legacy that moves thousands to their knees in prayer. I’m sure God can’t wait to have her in heaven, but my prayer is that he will wait a whole lot longer.

To My Precious and Irreplaceable Mom

(Boldly written because she wouldn’t have it any other way.)

Love,

The Daughter in Me

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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Gluten Free…Fad, Fable, or For Real!

Gluten Free Diets are becoming the norm for many Americans. If you want the skinny on who really needs this type of diet and how healthy it truly is for the general public…check out one of my latest articles for Hamilton County Family Magazine.

Gluten Free Diets: Who Needs These Restrictions and Who Doesn’t? 

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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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Watermelon Juice…Sipping on Tsamma!!!!!

Watermelon tends to be a summertime favorite. Slice it, dice it, cut it into chunks, drizzle it with honey, squirt it with lime juice, sprinkle it with mint…DELICIOUS! Not only is watermelon delicious, it’s a great treat alternative to popsicles, ice cream, and other sugary summertime snacks for your little ones. While I’ve tried just about every recipe with watermelon that you can imagine…I’ve never tried to make watermelon juice; and, now I don’t have to!0079

My watermelon growing friends at Frey Farms have created a new drink that is taking the juice market by storm! TSAMMA Watermelon Juice! While water and milk are my toddler’s main beverages, juice is an occasional treat. Instead of apple juice try this fun alternative. You can also use it to make your own homemade watermelon popsicles!!! Pour it into the molds, stick in the freezer…fun summertime treat! Or, if you’re a traditionalist, a watermelon slice is pretty delicious too! We like to think they grow in our backyard!!!photo 5 photo 1 photo 1

TSAMMA and Frey Farms didn’t ask me to give them a shout out…I just think they’re pretty awesome people with some great products! Available at Earth Fare, The Fresh Market, Whole Foods, and a ton of other local grocery stores. My little one likes to pick her own! For tips on how to pick the perfect watermelon check out this earlier blog…HOW TO PICK YOUR WATERMELONphoto 4 photo 1

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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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Women’s Health…answers to some of your most personal questions!

Women’s health topics can sometimes be a little taboo…weight gain, periods, hot flashes, pelvic exams, and vaccines. Last month I was able to touch on all of these topics in an article that I wrote for Indy’s Child Magazine, Dayton Parent Magazine, and Cincinnati Parent Magazine. While each article includes insights from specialists local to that respective city, the main points remain the same. So, if you’re wondering how often you need a pap smear, if you are about to start menopause, if you really need a multivitamin, if vaccines matter, or if your inability to lose weight is normal…check out this link for some straight forward answers!

Indy’s Child May 2015 Top 5 Health Questions Women Wonder About

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Can a Pregnant Mom Trust Modern Medicine?

Pregnant Woman Belly. Pregnancy Concept

The beauty of medicine is that it can fix most things. No, it’s not perfect, but modern medicine saves countless lives. In addition to saving lives, it dramatically improves the quality of the lives we live. Without modern medicine, my 18 month-old daughter and I would not be here today. After sailing through 32 weeks of a healthy pregnancy, I developed sudden and severe onset preeclampsia. I’m a high achiever, so my body decided it needed to start setting records. My blood pressure soared to stroke high levels. The protein in my urine topped the charts at 12 grams (5 grams is considered severe preeclampsia), and I gained over thirty pounds of fluid, becoming the Michelin man overnight. A simple tap on my arm or leg would send my limbs flying into the air. My nervous system and reflexes were in overdrive. The pounding headache, spotty vision, and abdominal discomfort were icing on the cake.Pregnant woman sitting on sofa looking at her unborn baby's ultr

Overnight, I became one sick mamma to a 3 lb. 2 oz preemie. As soon as my daughter was cut from my belly, she required urgent resuscitation. A tiny tube was placed in her airway, and she was whisked away to the neonatal intensive care unit. It took me two days to even make it up to the NICU to see her. Even then, I was hooked up to IVs, countless medications and could only manage to hold her for a few minutes. Although the textbook answer to treating preeclampsia is to deliver the baby, for some women this doesn’t solve the problem immediately. My blood pressure continued to top the charts, my reflexes remained in hyperactive mode, my mind was very confused, and I was pretty sure I had, or was going to have a stroke. My concerned OB/GYN consulted a cardiologist to manage my unimproved condition. She was amazing. She listened, investigated, and made the necessary changes (mega doses of several blood pressure medications), which eventually helped normalize my blood pressure. But, even she didn’t have all of the answers. It wasn’t until three weeks after I delivered that I was able to cancel home nursing and stop my blood pressure medications.Close up of doctor writing on a medical chart with patient lying

Through this experience I started asking questions about why this was happening. What was the physiology behind this crazy multisystem condition affecting my nervous system, cardiovascular system, kidneys, liver, and reproductive system? What caused preeclampsia? What could I do to prevent it in the future? What was my chance of having it happen again? Why couldn’t we prevent it or at least treat it more effectively? I didn’t like any of the answers that I was hearing or reading. They were all just theories, nothing concrete. This condition, which landed me in the hospital for eight days, forced me to have an emergency c-section at thirty-two weeks, placed my tiny baby in the NICU for nine weeks, and which put me at risk for having high blood pressure and a stroke later in life was still not understood.Care For A Sick Child In The Pediatric Icu

One out of every twelve pregnant women will develop preeclampsia according to data from the Preeclampsia Foundation. One in twelve! I don’t like those odds. How is it possible for a condition that is so common and potentially life threatening to mom and baby to continue to mystify us? We have mapped the human genome. We have eradicated small pox. We can identify breast cancer at its earliest stages, ensuring early treatment and amazing survival rates. Why haven’t we identified the true cause of preeclampsia and developed earlier and more efficient and effective screening tests for this condition? If prevention and earlier identification are not yet possible, then why haven’t we developed more effective treatments that will allow for a continued healthy pregnancy?

I have a fifty percent chance of developing preeclampsia again and at an earlier gestation in future pregnancies. I’m not a fan of my chances. I did everything right during my pregnancy. For goodness sake, I was the crazy lady who gave up all caffeine even though it probably wasn’t necessary. I didn’t drink a single soda, and I verified that every item entering my mouth was pasteurized. I was a paranoid pregnant mama! And, although following all of the recommendations probably prevented me from having other complications, it didn’t protect me from preeclampsia.

In a world where I count on modern medicine to fix most things, I have decided that modern medicine has failed to meet my expectations. Yes, it definitely saved my life and my daughter’s, but not all women are as fortunate as I was. Globally, preeclampsia is listed as one of the leading causes of mother and infant morbidity and mortality (illness and death). Worldwide, the United Nations reports that more than 500,000 women die each year due to pregnancy related causes. In the United States alone, preeclampsia causes 18% of maternal deaths. In short, preeclampsia is a killer.

As with any horrific and life threatening disease, the way to beat it is to study it. Research and clinical studies require interest, money, mental power (the scientists), and patients willing to participate. In most cases, it takes years before the results of clinical trials can be used in every day medicine. With only a short window left for my childbearing years, I’m hoping that new preventions and treatments will be available quickly. In the meantime, I’m doing my best to raise awareness and money, educate other women, and save the lives of women and their future babies (myself included). Join me by putting on your tennis shoes for the Promise Walk for Preeclampsia in your area. Or, take a look at the Preeclampsia Foundation or the March of Dimes for other ways to get involved. Push modern medicine to meet our expectations as women, mothers, and future mothers.

Both March Of Dimes and the Preeclampsia Foundation have their annual walks in May! Head to either of their websites to sign up and get involved.

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For the Sun Goddess and the Shade Lover…is your sunscreen doing the trick?

Whether you love the sun or avoid it like the plague…you should still be wearing sunscreen! Here are some ways to make sure that you are preventing skin cancer…and wrinkles! You may be lathering on the sunscreen but not really protecting yourself from the sun’s harmful UV rays! Sunscreen does expire and “go bad.” Here are a 6 tips to ensure your sunscreen is doing the trick:

6 Tips to Keep Know Your Sunscreen is Working: 

1. Look for an expiration date on the sunscreen in your cupboards. If it’s past due…toss it in the trash!

2. If your sunscreen doesn’t have an expiration date, and you aren’t sure if you bought it in the last three years…pitch it!

3. Has your sunscreen been exposed to extremely hot temperatures? If so, toss the rest at the end of the season rather than saving it for the next summer or vacation.

4. Is your sunscreen discolored or does it have a strange consistency? Toss it in the trash!

5. Buying new sunscreen that doesn’t have an expiration date on it? Pull out a sharpie and put your own expiration date on the bottle (3 years from time of purchase).

6. When buying new sunscreen make sure that it includes BROAD SPECTRUM coverage! You need both UV-A and UV-B protection. Also, choose an SPF that is 15 or higher.

Gorgeous happy blonde on a bike ride at the beach on a sunny day

Although its okay to use the same bottle of sunscreen year to year, the UV protection and SPF diminish in sunscreen overtime and with exposure to extreme temperatures. By abiding by the above tips, you can guarantee that your sunscreen will do its job. Also, make sure to always use a sunscreen with broad spectrum coverage (UV-A and UV-B protection) and an SPF of at least 15-20.

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