How I found joy in my IVF journey

I remember telling myself over and over that we had our own story, our own journey, and that was okay. Removing that comparison aspect from my life helped me in more ways than I will ever know.

How I found joy in my IVF journey

I am a mom.

I waited so many years to be able to hold this beautiful title.

I knew deep down that one day we would find our way to a family. Whether it be through IVF, adoption, etc. I knew I would become a parent. Our dreams finally became reality on June 24th, 2018.

It took six (looooong) years.It took time.

It took patience.It was confusing.

It was frustrating.

It was worth it.

Would I do it all over again just to be where I am right now?

Yes.

A million times, yes.


The last time I wrote about our fertility journey
we had just completed our first round of IVF. It wasn't successful. We were crushed and heartbroken. I read through that post often. I can transport my mind exactly back to that point in time.

Writing everything down was healing for me. I hoped that it would help someone in my same situation feel like they were not alone. As I shared my journey, it opened the doors to other women looking for support. I was blessed to be part of the strongest community of women who were all struggling with infertility.

After experiencing the loss we felt after our failed transfer, I was so worried about opening my heart to another round of IVF. I had developed a bond to that little embryo, and I felt like I needed to grieve in my own way. We determined that we would complete another egg retrieval prior to scheduling another embryo transfer.

We only had one viable embryo left after our last retrieval, and I felt that there would be so much pressure on that little guy to stick. I didn't want to get my hopes all tied into this next round working, having it be unsuccessful, and then feel like I was starting over.

We completed another egg retrieval in the Spring.

Scheduled our second embryo transfer for the middle of Summer.

Waited and prayed that our two little boys would implant.

Received the heart-wrenching news that our transfer was not successful.

Cried.

Prayed.

Picked ourselves back up and determined we were not giving up.

This is the part where I need to say a million thank yous to our fertility doctor, Dr. Conway. When she received the news that our second transfer wasn't successful, she contacted us directly and scheduled us to come in and chat with her the next day.

We went in completely crushed and left that appointment with so much hope. She had informed us that there was either 'an issue with the seed (embryo) or the soil (uterus)'. Since our embryos had been genetically screened, we knew we were implanting healthy babes. She had done some research and suggested we try an Endometrial Receptivity Assay. This would determine the 'prime time' to implant our embryos for optimal success.

We started another round of IVF medication.

Completed two endometrial biopsies. (Ouch.)

Received the greatest news.

Based on the biopsy, my body was considered 'early receptive'—which meant that my body was responding to the medications earlier than the scheduled transfer time. These results were answers to prayers. Our doctor was able to review the results and let us know a time range and date that our embryo would need to be transferred in order for my body to be ready to accept it.

This would be our fourth round of IVF.

Our forth embryo.

Everything felt so right.

We were extremely quiet about our next transfer, only telling our parents. It felt like our little secret, and we were so hopeful it would be a success, we wanted to surprise our family with positive news.

On November 5th, 2018 I received the greatest news.

The happiest phone call.

Our transfer was a success.

A little baby girl defied all the odds.

We were going to be parents.

Looking back at the road to our family, there were four key life lessons that made our journey with IVF and infertility as positive as possible.

1. Protect your heart

There are going to be times where you feel like life is unfair. I remember looking through Instagram and feeling like every post was a picture of a baby, a pregnancy announcement or beautiful mama holding a sweet babe on her hip.

I was envious.

I was sad.

I was frustrated.

Did these other women even understand how hard it was for me?

Did they know that their joy caused me so much pain?

No.

And you know what?

They don't have to.

It became my responsibility to surround myself with positivity and happiness. I needed to protect my heart, my happiness, and find the joy in my life outside of our current life situation. I took a break from the online world, refocused on what was really important, and decided to savor the good in my life. This is what I needed for myself. It wasn't something that was suggested to me by anyone, it just felt right. You are in charge of your happiness. You have to do what is best for you and your tender heart.

2. Have empathetic joy

During the peak of our infertility journey, I received an invite to a baby shower. This was a common occurrence. Family and friends are going to have babies even if you can't. I knew this, but I struggled with the thought of attending.

As I sat back, I realized how this day was going to be so exciting and happy for this person. They were going to have a baby! At this point, I knew the right thing to do would be to attend and be truly happy for them….and you know what? It was wonderful.

The mama-to-be was glowing and happy. She unwrapped little shoes, baby toys, tiny outfits, and squealed at the excitement of knowing her baby would be arriving soon. As I watched her, all I could feel was pure joy for her. She was elated.

Her joy didn't mean that I couldn't be sad that I wasn't able to be in her shoes, but it made me hopeful for my own future, and brought me so much happiness watching her excitement.

3. Understand that every body is different

Infertility is not a 'one-size fits all' situation. Neither is IVF. I remember believing that once we completed one round of IVF we would have a baby. My naïve self didn't realize that it is common for IVF to take a few rounds to be successful.

I compared my body to others who had my same issues and determined in my mind that our outcome would be just like those who were in our same situation.

This.

Is.

Not.

True.…and it is okay!

Most people I had come in contact with that went through IVF had success on their first attempt. With each failed transfer, I would momentarily slip back into the darkest thoughts of comparison. I felt sadness that I had never experienced before. It was foreign to me and I didn't know how to move past these feelings.

It all clicked for me when my doctor told me that every body is different... even if other women had the same issue I did, it didn't mean our outcomes would be the same. I remember telling myself over and over that we had our own story, our own journey, and that was okay. Removing that comparison aspect from my life helped me in more ways than I will ever know.

Your body is special.

Your body is incredible.

You are perfect just the way you are.

4. Support is key

As I previously mentioned, I was able to connect with some amazing women once I opened up about our struggles. I suddenly had this group that I could talk to who understood what I was going through.

We could joke about how crazy Clomid made us feel. We could talk about how we felt about Progesterone in Oil injections. We would send pictures of our transfer calendars to see how our schedules lined up. The list goes on and on.

I remember friend after friend leaving this 'infertility club' as I watched their hopes and dreams of a family come to life. I was stagnant. I wasn't moving forward. I just kept scheduling more appointments and pinning calendars to my wall. Until, it was finally my turn to 'graduate' to motherhood.

Once we were informed we were having a baby, I felt all the joy in the world start to dwindle as an immense about of guilt sank in. My world of support and love during my infertility journey buoyed me up, and led me to my dreams becoming a reality. But, what about those women who were still struggling?

There was a lot of fear.

Fear of hurting someone who was still on their journey to their family.

Fear that those paths would diverge and that I would lose support and friendships.

Fear that sharing my joy would remind others of what they were still working for.

I felt like I was that person that couldn't share our news. I knew the other side. I knew how it felt to see that ultrasound photo posted online. I knew how it felt watching a gender reveal video. I never wanted to hurt someone's feelings. But, I wanted those around me that shared in our story to know that good things can happen. Miracles are out there, and they are coming to those waiting.

Infertility is not fair. It is heartbreaking. It is difficult.

But, there can be joy on your journey.

To the thousands and thousands of women out there who are still waiting for your miracle.

Know that you are loved.

You are supported.

You are not alone.

There is always hope.

This page of your life doesn't need to be your story. You can do this. Your dream is just around the corner.

As I've turned a page in our book, I can't help but look back and reflect on what we have been through. We did it. We are so lucky. So loved. Our little girl is incredible. She has the most special soul. She is pure joy and love. I have said it a million times, but I would do it all again just to have her here with us.

Originally posted on Elle Tilby.

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The HATCH Mama collection is everything your pregnant body needs right now

Their oil is the only thing that stopped my belly from itching as it grew bigger.

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Let me start by saying I'm not a fan of moisturizing. I hate being wet and sticky and after applying product to my body, I have to stand around awkwardly until I'm fully air-dried—a practice that is not compatible with having three kids under the age of 3. However, as someone who has carried three children in her body, I also know how much your belly needs hydration as the baby grows.

This was especially true with my second pregnancy. My belly popped way sooner (a thing that happens with subsequent pregnancies) and on top of that, I was carrying twins, which meant I became super pregnant super fast. My belly was itching constantly from the skin stretching (I checked with my doctor to make sure I didn't have Cholestasis) and there was no scratching in the world that could ease my discomfort. My doula recommended the HATCH Mama belly oil and changed my life. The oil is nourishing—but more important to me, quick-drying—so I could apply it all over my planet-sized twin belly and get dressed immediately after without having my clothes ruined nor stuck to my body. Because of how much I loved the oil, I tested other products, and let me tell you, they're all equally amazing.

Curious about the HATCH Mama collection? All of their products are non-toxic and mama-safe, designed to help pregnant people overcome the challenges unique to pregnancy. As their website claims, "from stretch marks to thinning hair, to sleepless nights, we're helping you tackle every prenatal and postnatal beauty issue head-on so you can continue to feel like the best version of you." I'm here for all of this. For the entire Hatch Beauty collection click here.


Here are my favorite products from HATCH Mama:


Belly oil

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Intensely hydrating + fantastic at reducing the appearance of stretch marks and scars, this will be your favorite through pregnancy + beyond.

$58

Belly mask

HATCH COLLECTION  Belly Mask Set

Not only does it help to minimize the appearance of stretch masks + scars during pregnancy + postpartum, but there is a little non-toxic wink (and that's to you, mama.)

$42

Nipple + lip ointment 

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Calming + soothing, this magic sauce is lanolin-free & made of tropical butters and super fruits. I'm not lying when I say you will not want to stop using this, even way after birth.

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Belly tattoos

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A very rock and roll way to honor your bump. And non-toxic + plant-based at that!

$18

This article was originally published in March 2021. It has been updated.

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Motherly created the flexible online birth class moms need

The Motherly Birth Class is completely online, which means you can take the class at your own pace.

Taking a birth class is a pregnancy milestone. Whether you've been excited to take a birth class for a long time or have just recently decided that you wanted to take one, sitting down for that first lesson feels big—spoiler alert, this is really happening! But finding time for a birth class isn't as easy as it would seem.

We know new parents are busy (hello, understatement of the year). Between diaper changes, pediatrician appointments, healing from birth and the general adjustment to #newparentlife, the days can fill up quickly. But a lot of people are caught off guard by how busy pregnancy can be, too! That first trimester is so often full of symptoms—like nausea and fatigue—that can make previously easy or simple tasks exhausting. The second trimester begins and (usually) we start to feel better. But then our days get filled with planning out baby registries and deciding on questions like, "Where will this tiny new human sleep?" And before you know it, it's the third trimester—and, well, then you're in the home stretch. Plus there are so many appointments!

All this to say that we get how busy you are—and how hard that might make it to fit in a birth class.

And that's why we created The Motherly Birth Class. The Motherly Birth Class is completely online, which means you can take the class at your own pace.


Think you'll want to watch each lesson a few times over? Great!

Due date's next week and you need the option to take a birth class very quickly? No problem!

Like everything at Motherly, we designed this class with you in mind.

Taught by Certified Nurse-Midwife Diana Spalding (who also wrote "The Motherly Guide to Becoming Mama"), this class is broken into 12 lessons—and you get to control how and when you watch them. We'll teach you about what your (amazing) body is up to in labor, how to decide when it's time to head to the hospital or birth center (or when to call your home birth midwife), what your options are for coping with pain and so much more.

When you sign up for The Motherly Birth Class, you'll get access to a downloadable workbook and meditations. Plus, you'll be invited to join our supportive private online community (where you can chat with the class instructor!)

Oh, one more thing: Your insurance or flexible spending account might even able to able to cover the cost of this class.

Pregnancy is wonderful—but it's a lot. You deserve a birth class that works for you and empowers you to have your best birth. Because vaginal or Cesarean, unmedicated or medication, birth is incredible. And you are the star of it all.

You've got this.

Sign up for The Motherly Birth Class today!

The Motherly Birth Class

pregnant-woman-looking-at-her-belly

Take our completely digital birth class from the comfort of your living room. We'll help you have your best birth—because you deserve it.

$79

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14 toys that will keep your kids entertained inside *and* outside

They transition seamlessly for indoor play.

Keeping kids entertained is a battle for all seasons. When it's warm and sunny, the options seem endless. Get them outside and get them moving. When it's cold or rainy, it gets a little tricker.

So with that in mind, we've rounded up some of the best toys for toddlers and kids that are not only built to last but will easily make the transition from outdoor to indoor play. Even better, many are Montessori-friendly and largely open-ended so your kids can get a ton of use out of them.

From sunny backyard afternoons to rainy mornings stuck inside, these indoor outdoor toys are sure to keep little ones engaged and entertained.


Secret Agent play set

Plan-Toys-Secret-agent-play-set

This set has everything your little secret agent needs to solve whatever case they might encounter: an ID badge, finger scanner, walkie-talkie handset, L-shaped scale and coloring comic (a printable file is also available for online download) along with a handy belt to carry it all along. Neighborhood watch? Watch out.

$40

Mini golf set

Plan Toys mini golf set

Fore! This mini golf set is lawn and living room ready. Set up a backyard competition or incorporate into homeschooling brain breaks that shift focus and build concentration.

$40

Stepping Stones

Stepping-stones

Kiddos can jump, stretch, climb and balance with these non-slip stepping stones. The 20-piece set can be arranged in countless configurations to create obstacle courses, games or whatever they can dream up.

$99.99

Wooden doll stroller

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Take their charges on a stroll around the block with this classic doll stroller. With the same versatility they're used to in their own ride, this heirloom quality carriage allows their doll or stuffy to face them or face the world.

$120

Sand play set

Plan Toys sand set

Whether you're hitting the beach or the backyard sandbox, this adorable wooden sand set is ready for action. Each scoop has an embossed pattern that's perfect for sand stamping. They're also totally suitable for water play in the wild or the bathtub.

$30

Sensory play set

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Filled with sand or water, this compact-sized activity set keeps little ones busy, quiet and happy. (A mama's ideal trifecta 😉). It's big enough to satisfy their play needs but not so big it's going to flood your floors if you bring the fun inside on a rainy day.

$19.95

Vintage scooter balance bike

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Pedals are so 2010. Balance bikes are the way to go for learning to ride a bike while skipping the training wheels stage altogether. This impossibly cool retro scooter-style is built to cruise the neighborhood or open indoor space as they're learning.

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Foam pogo stick

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Designed for ages 3 and up, My First Flybar offers kiddos who are too young for a pogo stick a frustration-free way to get their jump on. The wide foam base and stretchy bungee cord "stick" is sturdy enough to withstand indoor and outdoor use and makes a super fun addition to driveway obstacle courses and backyard races. Full disclosure—it squeaks when they bounce, but don't let that be a deterrent. One clever reviewer noted that with a pair of needle-nose pliers, you can surgically remove that sucker without damaging the base.

$16.99

Dumptruck 

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Whether they're digging up sand in the backyard or picking up toys inside, kids can get as creative as they want picking up and moving things around. Even better? It's made from recycled plastic milk cartons.

$22

Hopper ball

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Burn off all that extra energy hippity hopping across the lawn or the living room! This hopper ball is one of the top rated versions on Amazon as it's thicker and more durable than most. It also comes with a hand pump to make inflation quick and easy.

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Pull-along ducks

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There's just something so fun about a classic pull-along toy and we love that they seamlessly transition between indoor and outdoor play. Crafted from solid cherry and beechwood, it's tough enough to endure outdoor spaces your toddler takes it on.

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Rocking chair seesaw

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This built-to-last rocking seesaw is a fun way to get the wiggles out in the grass or in the playroom. The sturdy design can support up to 77 pounds, so even older kiddos can get in on the action.

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Baby forest fox ride-on

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Toddlers will love zooming around on this fox ride-on, and it's a great transition toy into traditional balance bikes. If you take it for a driveway adventure, simply use a damp cloth to wipe down the wheels before bringing back inside.

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Meadow ring toss game

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Besides offering a fantastic opportunity to hone focus, coordination, determination and taking turns, lawn games are just plain fun. Set them up close together for the littles and spread them out when Mom and Dad get in on the action. With their low profile and rope rings, they're great for indoors as well.

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15 vegetarian school lunch ideas kids will gobble up

Need some plant-free lunch ideas to take to school? We got you, mama.

Tom Werner / Getty

Have your kids stopped eating meat? Is your family just trying to cut back? One trend I'm intrigued by is eating vegetarian on the weekdays, then going omnivore Saturday through Sunday. For health, happiness and environmental reasons, more and more families are simply opting out of anything that's not grown from the ground—and that includes two of my daughters.

With school starting back up, you may be needing some more school lunch ideas for kids that don't include meat to keep those cute lunch boxes—and little bellies—full!

Here are our favorite ways to pack lunch boxes that are hearty, satisfying, full of protein yet vegetarian all the way through.

Simplified Focaccia Bread

When we lived in Italy, we learned that focaccia bread was originally made for fishermen who needed a fast lunch that would stick with them until dinner. Olive oil not only packs a flavorful punch but adds enough (good) fats to keep fishermen full. Turns out, it works for kids at school too and this easy recipe is the best way to make it!

Cheddar Cheese and Apple Muffins

Think of these savory baked goods as a twist on a biscuit--one that's packed with tart apples and creamy, salty cheddar cheese.

Whole-Wheat Mini Tomato Galettes

Start with pie crust (use our easy recipe or take a shortcut with something from the store) then layer on the freshly sliced tomatoes (or potatoes!), sprinkle with cheese and bake. These make-ahead lunches will be the hit of your bento boxes (Tip: measure the size of your container and adjust your galettes before baking!)

Spicy Black Bean Enchilada Cups

Of all the ways to eat enchiladas, I bet you've never thought of this one. Fold tortillas into muffin pans and fill with all the gorgeous flavors of enchiladas. If your kids aren't into spicy, simply skip the adobe sauce and use mild enchilada sauce instead. (P.S. If you like the idea of using your muffin pan for another lunch special, try lasagna cups too.)

Veggie Nuggets

Served at room temp, this vegetarian spin on every kid's favorite food is a tasty treat. Don't forget to pack dipping sauce! (Bonus: Make a big batch and store in the freezer to simply pull out when you're ready to pack lunches.)

Fruit & Nut Butter Wraps

Begin with a tortilla or wrap, then slather on a thick layer of your chosen nut butter and top with freshly sliced fruit: strawberries, peaches, blueberries… Almost any combination works deliciously.

Puff Pastry Pizza

Talk about a happy meal. This one combines pizza with the buttery, flaky texture of puff pastry. Add any toppings your kids love, from plain cheese to tomatoes, mushrooms, olives and more.

Crispy Tofu Nuggets

If you've got an air fryer and a vegetarian kid, these tofu nuggets are your new best dish. Their perfectly crisp texture will remind you of a popular dish served in packs of six at a restaurant that rhymes with Schmic-donalds.

Quinoa Stuffed Peppers

"But how do you get enough protein?" For every parent of a vegetarian has heard this about a zillion times too many, here's your one-word reply: quinoa! This golden grain is packed with the stuff, plus fiber to keep kids full. Fill a colorful pepper with quinoa, plus a handful of other tasty flavors, and you've got a protein-rich lunch to send to school on repeat.

Tiny Tomato Pies

My daughter asks me to make these pies for her birthday every year. And when her friends come over for dinner. And when it's her turn to choose a meal. There's something about a flaky crust topped with cheese and fresh tomato slices all grilled together that even elementary school kids can't resist. (Psst: Since it starts with store-bought biscuit dough, these tiny pies come together in a snap.)

Quiche Cups

One of the best things about quiche is how versatile it is: add cheese, grilled veggies, roasted broccoli, fresh herbs...or none of the above. Since you use a muffin pan to make a dozen at a time, you can even change up the combinations to suit your kids' tastes.

Simple Sushi Rolls

Don't let the name fool you. Making sushi is not only easier than you think, but a fun way for kids to try their hand in the kitchen with you.

Toasted Bagel Bites with Hummus

Slice up a store-bought bagel and give it a minute under the broiler and you'll have the crispy bites kids devour at lunch. My kids like a little hummus, marinara sauce or nut butter and jelly for dipping.

Very Pickle-y Egg Salad

The secret to this egg salad is simple: tons of dill pickles. The salty, sweet and crunchy texture makes the perfect bite with all those rich and creamy boiled eggs. (Tip: Save time with dill pickle relish.)

Taco Pop Tarts

What started as a cheeky way to use up taco filling has turned into one of my kids' most-requested lunches. Just fill pie crust with your favorite taco filling (using beans or a veggie substitute for ground beef) and bake. Again, word to the wise, do measure your lunch box compartment ahead of time so you don't make mammoth pop tarts like someone I know. Me, it's me. Of course it's me.

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