When Trying is Trying

infertility and ivf_extra petite fashion blog
When it comes to the women in my family (or maybe it’s Asian culture), personal issues are supposed to remain just that – personal. It was only very recently that my mom opened up to me, sharing about the pain and loss she went through as a woman and as a mother. Things she had kept internalized for years that I never knew about. Watching her raise me and my two younger brothers, I saw firsthand being a mom isn’t easy. But what I was never really prepared for was the emotional and physical strain of trying to become a mom.

While I have all the admiration in the world for women who fight their battles quietly, I’m opening up about something very personal in this post. It’s different from the curated version of my life you usually see on my social media, but I think it’s important that we can talk about this kind of struggle without fear of stigma.

The Frustration Cycle

We all have friends who don’t want kids or who are indifferent (“If it happens, it happens”). I respect that, but I’ve always known I wanted to be a mom. Once Nick and I decided to start a family, we naively thought it would happen right away. When it didn’t after several months, I started tracking my ovulation like a hawk (I think Ovia overtook Instagram as my most-used app!) And after that, we probably tried every wives’ tale in the book – Mucinex, “special” lube, headstands. Lots and lots of headstands. You try to keep the negative thoughts from creeping into your head, but it’s hard. There’s always this whisper … maybe there’s something wrong with me.

As time went on, the pregnancy announcements that seemingly surrounded us eventually became babies and then first birthday parties. And while we were genuinely happy for our friends’ milestones, at the same time it was like a depressing re-run that I had to watch on repeat. Every cycle the same. High hopes, scheduling, timing, followed by waiting, and then frustration. And shame. And anger. And always, sadness.

Getting Tested

Earlier this year, we finally decided to see a fertility specialist and get tested. It was a few days of getting poked, prodded, and dyed, and plenty of surprise “oh yeah, insurance doesn’t cover that part” bills. When it was over, I was almost wishing for something definitively wrong so we could just “fix” it. But our doctor told us everything looked fine, and started us down a 6-month plan of fertility treatments. Meanwhile, everyone would offer their own advice. Do acupuncture. Don’t stress. Work less. And of course that one line of advice that undoes itself as soon as it’s uttered…“Just don’t think about it.” During this time, the once innocuous question of “so when are you guys having kids?” by well-intending friends and pesky aunts became one more tough pill to swallow and politely smile through.

After months of the less-invasive treatments without success, the next step would be In Vitro Fertilization (IVF). A more invasive, more expensive, and even more emotionally draining procedure.

For those who aren’t familiar, the IVF process starts with a few weeks of daily self-injections into the abdomen to essentially trick your ovaries into becoming an egg factory. Your doctors monitor egg progress at the crack of dawn almost daily by drawing blood and doing vaginal ultrasounds (let’s just say, it’s not an EXTERNAL ultrasound), and then determine your injection dosages for that night. Next, surgery is performed to retrieve as many eggs as possible, which are then fertilized externally with sperm before being transferred back into the ovaries as an embryo.

However, since our tests indicated nothing was wrong, we were told our insurance would not cover IVF. And without insurance, it can become quite expensive because each cycle brings only a chance of success, and each attempt could cost upwards of $15-20k. Needless to say, at this point I’m not doing so well following the “not stressing” or “not thinking about it” advice!

ivf injections and medications

When it came to giving stomach injections, “nurse” Nick had to employ some creative distraction tactics

An Insurance Mix-up

This August when I got my period again, I just felt empty and defeated. We made the hard decision to pay for round 1 of IVF out of pocket, and to figure out the rest as it unfolded. As a last ditch effort, I had our doctor submit the case anyway even though we were told insurance wouldn’t cover it … and we were dumbfounded by the response. Our insurance said that our test results (from over half a year ago) showed sufficient abnormalities to approve IVF coverage. Had we submitted it sooner, it would’ve been approved immediately at the time. I’ve never felt so frustrated and relieved simultaneously.

ivf egg retrieval surgery extra petite

Nervously awaiting egg retrieval surgery, where as many eggs as possible are removed from the ovaries

Where We’re At

Last month we officially started IVF. Probably the most emotionally loaded three letters I’ve ever typed. The fertility journey is a roller coaster, and one of the hardest parts is you never know how far along the ride you are. The ultimate unknown and worst part, is that you could go through it without success. That you do all of it for just a chance to be a mother, and you might have to do it again and again.

Throughout it all, I’ve felt ashamed and frustrated that my body couldn’t do something that a woman should be able to do. Lonely because there was no one to talk to who I felt would understand. Jealous every time there was a new pregnancy announcement, especially from those who weren’t even trying. Guilt, for even feeling that way. Left behind as I watched seemingly every friend and peer graduate onto the next chapter, wondering when or if it’d ever be our turn. And silly, knowing how many women go through years of infertility, miscarriages, and so much worse compared to me.

But sometimes, you just have to focus on what’s right in front of you. And in this case, that meant confronting the cooler full of syringes that arrived on our doorstep. As someone who turns into a 5-year old girl at the sight of needles, the daily injections and blood drawings never got easier. And then there were all the unnatural changes to my body from the hormones. The feeling of having no control over the outcome. This week, while waiting alone in pre-op before egg retrieval surgery, I was fighting nausea from the IV and felt tears start to roll down my face uncontrollably. A nurse came in and asked why I was crying, and I just couldn’t explain and didn’t want to have to explain. It was both nothing in particular and everything all at once.

cramps and bloating after ivf egg retrieval surgery

Not a pregnancy photo! Pre and post-egg retrieval, both ovaries (typically the size of a grape) swell closer to the size of grapefruits

Now, I’m writing this recovering on the couch, wrapped in a heating pad, awaiting news on how many embryos made it and will continue on to the next step. Infertility and IVF gets mentioned so much these days – whether it’s on TV or through a friend – it almost seems commonplace. But that shouldn’t take away from how tremendously brave and strong each woman is throughout her unique journey. It’s something we shouldn’t be afraid of talking about. Because it’s something that no one should have to take on alone.

So whether you have kids or don’t want kids; whether this topic is far off in your future or you’re in the middle of it right now – thank you for lending an ear and letting me open up.

 

640 thoughts on “When Trying is Trying

  • Reply Shenu November 5, 2017 at 10:58 pm

    Jean I have been following you for 5 years now, I still haven’t found a blogger I like so much. Not just your style but I just love what a beautiful person you are! I teared up reading this. I don’t know why because I think you are so strong, opening up like this… I’m speechless! I’m sure you will get good news very soon! “Hugs”

    • Reply Karla November 6, 2017 at 12:26 am

      Thank you for writing your personal birth journey. It was touching. It helps women who feel alone to read your journey. And sharing hopefully makes you feel less alone. May your birth journey lead you to love, children are always love.

    • Reply Tammy November 6, 2017 at 2:00 am

      Thank you for sharing your journey so openly. It takes courage to go through IVF, not knowing what the outcome may be. I know firsthand because I went through it myself. By God’a grace, I conceived a little girl over 2 years ago. I pray that you will have a positive outcome! 🙂

    • Reply Bana November 6, 2017 at 2:24 am

      You summed it up perfectly, my husband and I have been trying to for 5 years and have done nine ivf cycles so far, you described it perfectly when you said you cried because it was everything and nothing, eight of my closest friends are all having babies around the same time including my two sisters, i am genuinly happy for all them but i understand when you say it’s a just a daily reminder that it’s not just as easy for others. Please know that you are not alone at all, the injections the swelling the the pressure you are not alone. The only thing that made this process bearable was the decision that my husband and I made is that this process will make our relationship stronger and not break us. Have faith that everything happens for a reason or a lesson that we will appreciate later on, good luck xo

    • Reply Adelia November 6, 2017 at 3:30 am

      Jean, I can feel your frustration. I have been married for 6 years now and I can’t get pregnant naturally. I tried many yoga poses like the head stand that u shared, Chinese medicine’s etc. Nothing works. I felt the frustration, the shame and lost of hopes. I salute u for going through the IVF process. I heard horror stories about it. I don’t have the courage to do it. U r really brave! I have finally accepted a life without children , and be grateful with what I already have. My husband occasionally still complains about my inability of having children. But I don’t feel sad or pain anymore. When I have accepted myself for who I am, I feel free.

      I hope u all the best, Jean. I really hope u live a happy life, with or without children. Most importantly, u always have the support from all the people who loves u, especially Nick.

    • Reply Anita November 6, 2017 at 6:23 am

      Reading this as I have to wake up early for my own super early appointment. The roller coaster of emotions is so real. Sending hugs your way. Stay strong!! ❤️

    • Reply carolkim November 6, 2017 at 6:26 am

      Jean I pray that the IVF process will work for you..Take heart

    • Reply Cat November 6, 2017 at 8:41 am

      We too have struggled with infertility. You are very fortunate to have insurance cover your treatments because most do not. It is a very emotional and stressful time, lots of tears, hope and then tears. Felt like a roller coaster for us, only one of my 4 embryos were viable . We implanted that one embryo and now we have a little boy that just turned one over the summer 🙂 I really hope and pray that you too will have a happy ending! Carrying the gift of life was the best thing I have ever experienced! I was one of those weird ones that loved being pregnant lol. But it was not hard to enjoy it when it was something that I wanted so badly for years so I gladly accepted the morning sickness. I wish you and Nick lots of luck in this process and virtual hugs!

    • Reply Olivia November 6, 2017 at 12:30 pm

      As someone who has gone through infertility for 4 years and who is also a private person, I know how hard this was for you, it was very brave! I am currently saving for IVF for 2018. I wish you the best and pray that it works for you!

    • Reply Winnie November 6, 2017 at 10:46 pm

      Dear Jean. Thank you so much for sharing. I was tearing up as I read. I’ve been following your blog for a few years and I can sense the sincerity in all your posts. This one is particularly touching and personal. Sending you and Nick warm thoughts and wishes.

    • Reply Lillie November 7, 2017 at 6:17 am

      Jean, we are praying for you and sending you guys love and warm fuzzies. Wishing you the best of health and strength on the road to babies and beyond. Thank you for sharing your story. You are a remarkable woman.

    • Reply sophia November 7, 2017 at 10:56 pm

      I been visiting your blog for not a long period of time. However, this time I want to thank you for sharing such a private side of your life. I am a patient living with cancer and doctors tell me i would not be able to have children. my only option is thru surrogacy. Even after 4 years, i am having hard time accepting the fact. I hope you the best of luck with your IVF cycle. and lots of “hugs” to you.

    • Reply Cotrina story November 14, 2017 at 10:03 am

      True. Sign. And I’m one of those, who says ” if it happens it happens” I sure hope there is a happy ending

  • Reply Rachelle November 5, 2017 at 11:00 pm

    I’m not sure there are any words quite fitting, but Thank You for sharing your journey.

  • Reply Jessy November 5, 2017 at 11:00 pm

    Thank you so very much for being brave enough to share your journey! I’m in a similar stage – all our friends are having babies, and we are trying but stuck. I’m short but weigh a little more, and carry my weight in my stomach, and every family function where people ask “oh, is there something going on?? Are you guys expecting??” is like a punch to the gut.

    But for all the downs there are so many ups – one of my good friends just welcomed their son Vance after doing IVF earlier this year! Sending you love and light as you continue your journey to motherhood, you are going to be an amazing (and stylish!) mom! ❤️❤️❤️❤️

  • Reply Tori November 5, 2017 at 11:03 pm

    Wow, in tears reading this. I’ve been reading your blog for ten years. I cannot imagine how exhausting this road must be for you and Nick. I will pray for you both-not just for fertility but also peace in the process. I think you’re onto something really good with what you said about just facing what’s right in front of you…that’s honestly how we survive the overwhelmingly hard and scary moments. Thank you for your honesty, sharing, and willingness to make yourself vulnerable.

  • Reply Tiffany November 5, 2017 at 11:03 pm

    Thank you for using this platform to talk about something that affects so many women. I agree that this topic should be shared, so that others do not feel as alone. Thank you.

  • Reply Katie November 5, 2017 at 11:04 pm

    I’m so sorry; what a tough thing to go through. Sending love your way. ♥️

  • Reply Aubrey November 5, 2017 at 11:04 pm

    I am so sorry you have had to go through this; you are so brave along with all the other women who are going and have gone through what you are going through. I wish you all the best and when it happens you will make such a wonderful mom. Thank you for sharing your journey.

  • Reply Azzaya November 5, 2017 at 11:04 pm

    Thank you for sharing this with everyone, you are incredibly brave to do so. I wish you all the best and hope that you get pregnant soon!

  • Reply Linda November 5, 2017 at 11:05 pm

    Wishing you and Nick all the best. Thank you for sharing your story ❤️

  • Reply Rachael November 5, 2017 at 11:05 pm

    Thank you for sharing your story. I’m sorry that you have to go through this and wish you and your husband the best of luck with IVF!

  • Reply Rachel November 5, 2017 at 11:05 pm

    I’ve followed your blog for years and never posted until now, even though I’ve benefited so much from your style inspiration and recommendations. This post made me love you even more. Pregnancy and trying to have kids is such an emotional roller coaster and just wanted to say bravo for sharing your experience in such a vulnerable way. Many style blogs can feel overly curated at times and while I can appreciate it’s a balance between oversharing on the internet and looking TOO perfect, I love how this post reminds me that every person you meet is fighting a different struggle, you just don’t always know it. Praying for you on this journey and wishing you the very best!

  • Reply Anna November 5, 2017 at 11:06 pm

    Thank you for sharing your story with us. My husband and I have been trying to have a baby for 2.5 years and have gone through 3 rounds of IVF so far with no success. I’ve had two miscarriages in the last 6 months and I’m feeling defeated. Since sharing my journey with close friends, I’ve felt much better about the whole process. I hope that sharing your story with the world will empower you to know that you’re not alone and that we should be embracing how brave and awesome we are by going through the whole IVF process.

  • Reply K November 5, 2017 at 11:07 pm

    This was a very brave post from you. Thank you for sharing your experience Jean- wishing you the best of luck!

  • Reply Alli November 5, 2017 at 11:07 pm

    Thank you for sharing such a personal journey. Wishing you so much luck! You are not alone in your struggles. We had secondary infertility issues after our first son and it was a time I never want to go through again. But, I’m happy to report I’m sitting at home here with 2 perfect kiddos 10 years & 6 years later. I’m hopeful for you!

  • Reply Laura November 5, 2017 at 11:08 pm

    Jean! I’ve followed your blog and loved the fashion. I was touched by your story and can relate to it so well. We struggled with infertility for five years also ‘unexplained ‘. This experience will make you stronger as a mother and a couple and when you finally welcome your baby , whether through IVF, adoption, or spontaneous pregnancy, this trying and desire for a baby will make you an even more patient and loving mom. Best of luck!!

  • Reply Kitman Figueroa November 5, 2017 at 11:08 pm

    I wish everything goes well for you both and your wish is granted. All the best!!! hugsss!

  • Reply Steph November 5, 2017 at 11:08 pm

    What a wonderfully honest post. I just wanted to let you know you aren’t alone, and I’ll pray for your success. My husband and I tried for over a year to get pregnant, and we were on the verge of trying ivf. Turns out he was having personal issues with the anxiety of our new business and secretly drinking. After being clean a few months, we were able to get pregnant . Our baby is due any day now and my husband has been alcohol free for over a year. Everything happens for a reason and maybe it just wasn’t your time. Best of luck to you and your husband. You guys are a beautiful couple!

  • Reply Lesley November 5, 2017 at 11:11 pm

    I feel you!! I’m in the middle of my first IVF right now, just did shots an hour ago. I’m lying on the couch hugely bloated and sore. My egg retrieval should be sometime this week, ultrasound and blood work tomorrow morning. I feel YOU. Our insurance isn’t covering any of it, we are paying cash out of pocket. Yes I feel alone like you but now you have made me feel a little relief that someone like you is going through it too. We are about a week apart in the process. Thanks for sharing and keep in touch if you want to discuss or compare stories. Lots of love and luck, L

  • Reply KittyC November 5, 2017 at 11:13 pm

    Sending you love. IVF is beyond tough, and you’re brave to be open. Best wishes for a good result.

  • Reply Shelly November 5, 2017 at 11:13 pm

    Thank you for sharing a heartfelt post. My friend went through something similar and finally got pregnant 3 months ago. She struggled for 2 years. Sending lots of love and strength your way ❤️

  • Reply Anonymous November 5, 2017 at 11:14 pm

    Thank you so much for sharing your story Jean and Nick.

  • Reply Carolyn B November 5, 2017 at 11:14 pm

    Thank you for being courageous and sharing such a personal and heart wrenching struggle in life. We dealt with significant infertility as well and had to make some really really really difficult and frankly unimaginable decisions to start our family with children and later in life than we had ever hoped. This was followed by a pregnancy with some scary complications a subchorionic hematoma that caused lots of bleeding in 1st and 2nd trimester! Just wanted to send you positive thoughts and hope as we have been there too. Now our miracle baby is 11 months old, all the best!

  • Reply Susanna Fong November 5, 2017 at 11:14 pm

    Jean, I’ve followed you for years and I can’t tell you how much I’ve enjoyed you being you. You’re like a girl friend that’s not afraid to tell me how I could improve my outfits. I feel like I know you personally but none more than now. Thank you for such a courageous and heartfelt post. My heart aches for you and I wish you the very best always!

  • Reply Charlotte November 5, 2017 at 11:14 pm

    I usually never leave comments but this topic touches me personnally. I have been there and reading you was like reviving what we went through a few years ago. We did IVF and we now are parents of 2 beautiful kids. I love them more than anything in the world. Going through IVF was emotionnally very difficult but it was so worth it. We went through a couple unsuccessful rounds but the third one was a charm 😊 and the fourth one, too 😊. I’ll keep my fingers crossed for you. Tons of positive thouhts your way.

  • Reply eM November 5, 2017 at 11:15 pm

    Thank you so much for sharing your journey. It really isn’t easy to share something so personal and private, especially not to all 400k followers of yours. Please remain hopeful and happy. We love you, Jean! Good luck, xoxo.

  • Reply Jules November 5, 2017 at 11:15 pm

    You WILL BE an incredible mom! I send you a big hug, and thanks for sharing such a personal story.

  • Reply Shirley November 5, 2017 at 11:15 pm

    I went through this exact same scenario. Having nothing wrong but yet not getting pregnant. I had over stimulated ovaries after egg retrieval as well. It’s so trying… on your relationship, your life, your everything. But after two cycles, I became pregnant with twins. All the needles, injections, drugs…. it’s all worth it. Keep your head up! I know first hand how hard it is. But there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Although it’s so hard to see now. Sending happy thoughts your way 🙂

  • Reply Anonymous November 5, 2017 at 11:15 pm

    Hi jean! So brave of your to share your experience. My friend recently had IVF too , she shared her experience along the way and I can tell you it’s not easy. Especially the eggs retrieving part .. Oh boy! But I can tell you that’s the most difficult part and once that’s over the rest of the journey should be much easier . It frustrated as everything you done could all be for nothing but for now you got to stay positive and you are still young so that an advantage. I understand the whole feeling of seeing others falling pregnant weather planned or not, you should feel over the moon for them but some how you wish it was you. Getting pregnant should be simple but for some reason it doesn’t happen to you .. You ask the question why many times in your head and don’t get any answer.
    Just remembered you have tried your best and you are still young and healthy so don’t give up. If all fail, think of adoption… If your want to chat , let me know. Currently at 38 years old, in a relationship but still have hope I will be a mother one day but I know it will be a slim chance .. That’s life ! Take care xxx
    Martina

  • Reply Alina November 5, 2017 at 11:15 pm

    My husband and I are in a very similar situation, but a few cycles behind in the process than you are it seems. My dye test and his second SA are this week. I also wrote a blog post on it trying to be open and help others feel less alone/stigmatized so I really appreciate your sharing. We’re also in the Boston area so I hope you will keep us updated on your journey and if you have any advice or recommendations on doctors or facilities you’ve been happy with I’d love to hear it. You can read my infertility post at http://averyalina.com if you’re interested. Best wishes and good sticky baby thoughts for you!

  • Reply s November 5, 2017 at 11:15 pm

    Good luck and stay strong! You’ve made it through so much already. Things have a way of working themselves out. Take care of yourself. Sending much love and strength your way 🙂

  • Reply eM November 5, 2017 at 11:16 pm

    Thank you so much for sharing your journey. It really isn’t easy to share something so personal and private, especially not to all 400k followers of yours. Please remain hopeful and happy. We love you, Jean! Good luck, xoxo.

  • Reply Joanne November 5, 2017 at 11:16 pm

    Thank you for sharing and know that you are not alone. My husband and I have a very similar story and this has also been a very frustrating period of my life. My heart bleeds for you because I can see so much of me in your post. The most important thing I want you to know is that, even though you may not feel it at times, you are beautiful and worthy. This does not define you. I pray for a positive outcome and wish you the strength and support throughout this process. Stay strong!!!

  • Reply Jules November 5, 2017 at 11:16 pm

    Sending you virtual hugs! Thank you for sharing your journey, it made me appreciate some things I usually take for granted. I pray for a safe and successful journey for you and your husband. ❤

  • Reply Elizabeth November 5, 2017 at 11:16 pm

    Thank you for sharing this, Jean. I’m sure it wasn’t the easiest post to pen and publish. Just tearing up as I’m trying to finish the post and I cannot imagine how hard this was for you and how exhausting this process must be. Thinking of you and Nick. You both will be the most amazing and thoughtful parents. Please keep us posted.

  • Reply Anonymous November 5, 2017 at 11:17 pm

    Although not in regards to pregnancy, I can completely relate to seeing the cycle of milestone announcements from friends while experiencing the “depression re-run” for myself.

    I can’t fully express why, but it means so much to me that you shared this struggle BEFORE having an ending to your story. While I’m genuinely happy for friends and bloggers who share their struggles and end it with a happy ending, those stories only depress me further. (“Well that’s nice they got their happy ending…”)

    But reading a post from someone who is still trying made me feel less alone about my own struggles. Thank you so much. My heart goes out to you, and I wish you and Nick the best.

    • Reply Anonymous November 7, 2017 at 12:16 am

      I love your blog and have never commented before, but this post was so touching I find myself knee deep in the comments section! I definitely agree with this comment. It would be far too easy to post about this topic with a glowing pregnancy photo at the end (although I hope to see that at some point too). Thank you for bravely sharing your journey on social media. I’m an ob gyn and so many patients feel alone, sad, and betrayed by their bodies. Social media doesn’t usually help that process, but in this case, I’m hopeful. You are certainly not alone and I wish you the best!

  • Reply Ashley A November 5, 2017 at 11:17 pm

    Thank you for sharing this. There are so many women fighting this battle – and it’s brutal. Seeing my sister-in-law go through IVF opened my eyes to the process – it’s not just one procedure, it’s pain – physical wounds and emotional nightmares – it’s time and it’s money. I know everyone’s results are different, but after she fought this battle for about 6 years, God has blessed her with two adorable boys. Praying for you.

  • Reply Lacey November 5, 2017 at 11:17 pm

    I read your blog often and just wanted to say – as someone who wanted children and now it’s too late — you are brave and you are not alone. God bless you and yours.

  • Reply Lil November 5, 2017 at 11:18 pm

    Hello! Just wanted to let you know that i adore your blog and I absolutely adore everyone of your outfits! I also love that you opened up and shared such a personal story, I wish you all the luck and positive vibes. My twin nieces were ivf babies and I cant imagine life without them now. My sister had to try twice and as hard and expensive it was, she says it was worth every pain and tumble. Please stay positive and Im sure there will be little cuties in your future♡

  • Reply Emma November 5, 2017 at 11:19 pm

    Thank you for opening up and sharing your incredible journey. I wish more women felt as supported by their partners and communities so they they could seek out comfort. You are incredibly brave.

  • Reply Priscilla Jules November 5, 2017 at 11:19 pm

    I’m so sorry that you and your husband are going through it!
    Few months ago talking to a friend of mine that lives in Brazil. She told me that she has been trying to get pregnant for over 2 years… she had done tons of exams to make sure that her and her husband are fine! And the exams results are fine!
    She told me that they may try the IVF at some point!
    Other couple friends of mine were trying to get pregnant for over 3 years! She got pregant 3 years ago but she had a miscarriage. They also got exams and the results were fine… they kept trying… and few months ago a little before they go to the doctor to start the IVF they found that they are expecting a baby boy!
    It seems like some people take more time! Don’t forget that each body reacts differently. Don’t go hard on yourself. I hope you recovery fast.
    I will be praying for you beautiful! And I’m sure you will be a wonderful mom soon!!
    Send you tons of love!!!

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