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Words of encouragement when IVF doesn’t work—from somewhere who is there, too

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My husband and I have been struggling with infertility since 2012. We kept our situation private for so long—only our families and close friends understood what exactly was happening. In the beginning of trying to conceive, I feel like your feelings are too fresh.


I can't even count the times someone would ask us when we were going to have kids, and I just brushed it aside with a generic response: "Oh, you never know” or "We will see!'

When really deep down, I would go home and just be so frustrated, sad, mad, sad again. We had tried everything. Clomid. Femara. NOTHING had been successful. After endless rounds of testing, blood samples, medications, more testing... I was told that I had PCOS and hormone imbalances. We were informed that we had a less than 1% chance of ever getting pregnant on our own and maintaining a pregnancy to full term wouldn't be a possibility without medical intervention. I was devastated.

We took a break and decided to wait a while. Having a child in our life didn't define our relationship. In fact, we looked around and saw how lucky we were to have such a wonderful life. After going through what we had experienced already, we felt that the right option would present itself in the future.



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Enter IVF.

My husband, Jarrick, and I knew that this would be our best—and quite honestly—only option. IVF is such a weird thing. For so many people, it’s this dramatic final “last chance.” For others, it is an amazing way to plan your children.  For us, we were just excited. After all these years we had finally found this golden pot of options at the end of the faintest rainbow. We researched where we wanted to go and instantly felt this strange connection with our doctor. I can't say enough amazing things about her: She was so helpful. She reassured us we weren’t crazy after so many doctors before seemed to not care. She cared. She still cares so much.

Being the planning couple we are, we wanted to ensure we did everything possible for this little embryo to be successful. We had some ups and downs during this process. A softball sized fibroid was removed from my body in October 2016 before we could even consider starting IVF. This set us back a few months and honestly was such hard news to accept when we found out. During this time, all I could think was, “At least I’ll have a baby by the end of 2017. The wait was going to be worth it! I was going to be pregnant.”

The entire IVF process was new and exciting. Who would have thought I would anticipate poking myself in the stomach and hips with needles? Soon, this seven-month IVF process would all be a blip in time and we would know in March if we were going to have a baby.

We did the shots.
We had the retrieval.
We did the genetic testing.
We discovered out of six fertilized blastocysts, two were viable.
We implanted out little boy blastocyst.
We waited.
We were patient.
We were so hopeful.
We were going to have a baby.











Then life had a different plan.

At 5 p.m. on March 13, 2017, I got the call: “I’m so sorry Michelle, you did not have any HCG present in your blood test, you are not pregnant.”

To say I was shocked wouldn’t be true. I remember the nurse saying, “I'm so sorry Michelle. Please let Jarrick know we are so sorry.'' But I mostly remember that I sobbed. I don’t know if I have ever felt physical pain from words. I did then. I cinched my stomach, curled up and cried.

It just didn’t work.

I had kept a personal journal of my IVF experience. I hadn’t even shared it with Jarrick. I couldn’t wait to announce “I’m pregnant” and have this journey all drafted out on paper. A physical representation of my path to motherhood. My child would read it one day and think how special they were that this was how they came into this world. All of those words are so painful to read now, I can’t even look at it. I’m sure one day I’ll be really glad I have some of my feelings written out, but right now those emotions are so raw.

How does this happen? How? We had done everything right.

It was a boy.
I was supposed to be pregnant.

I was going to grow this little boy. He was going to have blonde hair and blue eyes. I was going to let his hair grow out. We were going to make homemade play dough and build sculptures. Our holidays would be filled with new traditions and love. We would have this little soul in our home that I had envisioned myself always having. He was going to be my baby. I just knew it.

We didn’t take any home pregnancy tests during those long 10 days before our blood test.

I didn’t drink a drop of caffeine.

I avoided deli meat and sushi. I obsessively read every article on “What to do to make your embryo stick.”

I had a morning and nightly ritual of shots, pills, suppositories.

All in hopes that this little embryo would stay.

How could it not work?

For myself, I have struggled with the feelings of not understanding the why.  When you follow steps to the exact word, how do things not work out?  The last week following the news felt like a blur. We had so many wonderful people in our lives reach out to us and made us feel SO loved. I had never really understood how loved we were, and how many people were rooting for this little babe to stick. We are so blessed.  At our doctor appointment I discovered I wouldn't be getting any definite answers. I wanted my doctor to tell me so badly that if we made a simple change it was going to work. Instead, we found out that we just happened to be part of that 30%. The group that IVF just doesn't work for even when things look perfect.

We had decided that this bump in the road was not going to stop us from being hopeful, excited and optimistic. We couldn't let this loss define us. We had determined that if there was a specific reason our transfer didn't work, and if there was an immediate change that we could make, then at that point we would implant our last embryo. If there was no reason it didn't work, we didn't want to put all the pressure on that single embryo we had left. It felt like too much—like we were betting on this one to work—and if it didn't we would be back to square one.

We have decided to start again.  Step 1. Retrieve some eggs. Fertilize those bad boys. Try again.

Sometimes things don’t make sense and today we are just trying to figure out how to deal with that. We are excited. We are optimistic.  We are so blessed.

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As a mid-Spring holiday, we never knew exactly what to expect from the weather on Easter when I was growing up in Michigan: Would we get to wear our new Sunday dresses without coats? Or would we be hunting for eggs while wearing snowsuits?

Although what the temperature had in store was really anyone's guess, there were a few special traditions my sister and I could always depend on—and it won't come as a surprise to anyone who knows me that my favorite memories revolved around food. After all, experts say memories are strongest when they tie senses together, which certainly seems to be true when it comes to holiday meals that involve the sounds of laughter and the taste of amazing food.

Now that I'm a parent, I'm experiencing Easter anew as my children discover the small delights of chocolate, pre-church brunch and a multi-generational dinner. While I still look forward to the treats and feasting, I'm realizing now that the sweetest thing of all is how these traditions bring our family together around one table.

For us, the build-up to Easter eats is an extended event. Last year's prep work began weeks in advance when my 3-year-old and I sat down to plan the brunch menu, which involved the interesting suggestion of "green eggs and ham." When the big morning rolled around, his eyes grew to the size of Easter eggs out of pure joy when the dish was placed on the table.

This year, rather than letting the day come and go in a flash, we are creating traditions that span weeks and allow even the littlest members of the family to feel involved.

Still, as much as I love enlisting my children's help, I also relish the opportunity to create some magic of my own with their Easter baskets—even if the Easter Bunny gets the credit. This year, I'm excited to really personalize the baskets by getting an "adoptable" plush unicorn for my daughter and the Kinder Chocolate Mini Eggs that my son hasn't stopped talking about since seeing at the store. (You can bet this mama is stocking up on some for herself, too.)

At the same time, Easter as a parent has opened my eyes to how much effort can be required...

There is the selection of the right Easter outfits for picture-perfect moments.

There is the styling of custom Easter baskets.

There is the filling of plastic eggs and strategic placement of them throughout the yard.

But when the cameras are put away and we all join together around the table for the family dinner at the end of the day, I can finally take a deep breath and really enjoy—especially with the knowledge that doing the dishes is my husband's job.

This article was sponsored by Kinder. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.


Our Partners

With kids home from school doing more of their learning online—and parents across the country just trying to get a little bit of their own work done at home—kids are getting record amounts of screen time these days. Preschoolers have jam-packed video conferencing schedules, kindergarteners are watching read-alouds on laptops, and elementary and middle school kids are suddenly turning in every assignment online.

How can we help kids adjust to spending so much time on screens, especially when they may have a strong association with screen time as playtime? And how can parents adjust to letting kids have so much more screen time when we've been told we should cut back on how much time our little ones look at our phones?

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Here's how to help kids adjust to being on devices more than usual:

Create separation between learning screen time + play screen time

In the big picture, screen time is screen time regardless of how it's being used, and there are always risks to overusing something. However, it's helpful to differentiate between screen time used for learning activities and screen time for play activities.

For example, reading a book online or participating in a Zoom class meeting is different than playing a game or chatting. Establish clear expectations around what constitutes "learning time" and "playtime" on devices. For each type of activity, be clear about the where (maybe learning always happens at the kitchen table, and play is usually on the couch) as well as the when (learning in the morning and play during the hour before dinner).

It's important that kids aren't media multitasking by using multiple devices or apps at one time when they're trying to learn. Keep them on one screen at a time, which will help them stick with their activity until completion.

Set healthy limits around using devices, even for school

Use a timer or parental controls to set and enforce time limits for devices, even when your kids are using a computer or tablet for school activities. Children are used to having scheduled blocks of time at school. You can schedule your child's learning screen time so that there's a defined block of time for working on an online math lesson or for watching a video of a science experiment. This makes the expectations clearer for the kids—and makes screen time easier for parents to manage.

Parents can also use parental control apps like Qustodio to see what kids are doing on their devices and how long they are using different apps and websites for. The app allows parents to set a limit on how much time kids are spending on entertainment and recreational apps and websites and allow unlimited use for educational tools.

Include screen-free learning time

Creating a balance of screen time and other non-screen activities is important. Going back and forth between activities can help avoid the problems associated with using devices for lengthy periods of time.

Make sure kids get physical movement throughout the day, give them time to engage in hobbies and activities without devices and have them participate in tasks around the home, such as helping make dinner or folding the laundry. Including kids in activities like cooking, cleaning and organizing gives kids practice with reading, writing and math while encouraging the development of necessary life skills.

Give yourself a break

Ultimately, parents need to give themselves some grace during this time to try to do the best they can with finding balance. A recent study suggests that active screen time, such as playing an educational game or interacting with friends or family online, can have a positive impact on child development. Even if you were previously opposed to screen time for your kids, take heart: This situation isn't forever.
Learn + Play

This year Passover will be from April 8th to the 16th—and, in the middle of a pandemic. This means that beloved traditions may be harder to make happen. Gathering with family and friends for a Seder likely is not possible, and you may find yourself feeling pretty upset about the changes.

First, allow yourself the space to be sad. Passover is a very important holiday, and it's understandable to feel disappointed that so much may need to change this year.

Next, consider how you might be able to use virtual connections—can you FaceTime your family into your living room?

This might also be a wonderful time to incorporate new traditions, especially ones that allow your kids to participate in the Seder.

Here are 8 kid-friendly ways to celebrate Passover this year:

1. Review the meaning behind the traditions

Kids are naturally curious, especially where stories are involved. Before their questions start coming in, it would be helpful to review the story of Passover, along with the meaning behind the traditions, on your own. This article from Time Magazine gives a great overview of Passover (and will likely reignite your own curiosity, too!).

2. Find a kid-friendly Passover story

The Passover story is beautiful...and pretty scary, especially for a younger audience. Luckily, there are some excellent kid-friendly versions of the story out there that convey the meaning, but leave out the frightening details—we'll save talking about the plagues until they're a little older. Here are a few to check out:

3. Bring the story to life

passover_story

With Love, Ima

Kids love stories—especially when they can visualize what's going on. These adorable finger puppet templates are so fun, and will help your child appreciate the magic and power of the Passover story.

4. Explain the Seder in a way kids can understand

The Seder is, of course, at the center of the Passover holiday. There are so many unique ways to have a Seder so feel free to get creative and make it work for you. If your child will participate in the Seder, they'll likely want to understand what's going on! Chabad's brief overview of the Passover Seder is perfect for concise, easy-to-understand answers.

5. Make matzo ball soup! 🥄

Matzo ball soup is the quintessential Passover food—and your kids will love helping roll the balls! If you don't have a traditional family recipe, this matzo ball soup recipe from the New York Times gets stellar reviews. And, this lemony-twist on the traditional recipe looks unreal, if you are looking for something a bit different this year.

6. Make a cup for Elijah

cup for Elijah

Tori Avie

One of the beloved traditions of the Seder is to set out a cup of wine for Elijah. Why not let your kids make it? We love this DIY cup (and totally understand if you want to make one, too.)

7. Find the afikomen

afikomen

Creative Jewish Mom

When a Seder starts, a piece of matzo is broken, and hidden for your children find. This activity is fun on it's own. Enhance it by making a DIY no-sew Afikomen pouch.

8. Read a child-friendly Haggadah

kids_haggadah

The Haggadah is the book used during the Seder to guide the telling of the story and the traditions. Finding a children's version of the Haggadah is a great way to get them involved and keep them interested.

The Kveller Haggadah: A Seder for Curious Kids (and their Grownups) is an awesome choice.

Lifestyle

During a recent coronavirus press briefing at the White House, Dr. Deborah Birx, a leading physician on the federal coronavirus response team, emphasized the critical importance of social distancing over the next two weeks. Referring to the guidelines issued in March by the White House, Dr. Birx has been widely quoted as saying:

"This is the moment to not be going to the grocery store, not going to the pharmacy, but doing everything you can to keep your family and your friends safe, and that means everybody doing the 6 feet distancing, washing your hands."

Dr. Birx's comment has been interpreted as advising Americans to avoid grocery shopping in stores for the next two weeks. While most people already know the importance of doing their part to slow the spread of coronavirus, following this particular advice may be a challenge for many families.

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Snagging a grocery delivery spot or curbside pickup slot has become next to impossible in most areas (assuming delivery is available), and online grocery services are struggling to keep up with demand. And with a growing number of at-risk delivery service workers demanding better on-the-job protections, you may be having second thoughts about using delivery services, even if you can find a slot.

You may find, despite your best efforts, that you just have to go to the store.

If you do need to go to the grocery store or the pharmacy during this time, here's what you should know in order to shop safely.

1. Have a plan

Minimize your trips to the store as much as you can, and time your shopping trip for a day and time that foot traffic is as low as possible (so, not on Saturday afternoon, if you can avoid it). Early in the day is a good time to go, since aisles tend to be less crowded, and stores are at their cleanest right after opening. Many stores are offering special hours for older and immunocompromised customers—if you're pregnant, consider shopping during these hours. Shop by yourself if at all possible.

2. Make a detailed list

In order to complete your shopping as quickly as possible, make a detailed list in advance, and organize your list by grocery section—produce, dairy, meats, baking needs, household items, and so on—so that you can move swiftly through each section of the store. For in-demand items such as bread, meat, sauces and pasta, think of alternatives in advance so you can grab "plan B" if you need to. Experts suggest making a paper list that can be disposed of rather than using your phone in the store.

3. Wear a mask

The CDC and the White House have advised Americans to wear homemade masks to add an extra level of protection when out and about. To protect yourself and the grocery store staff who are working hard to provide much-needed supplies during a stressful time, wearing a mask is now the recommended (and considerate) choice.

4. Follow hygiene and social distancing guidelines

You know the drill, mama. Wash your hands thoroughly before and after you shop. Many stores are offering wipes for shopping cart handles, so make sure you use them to wipe down the cart handle. (You may want to bring your own wipes just in case, if you have them.) Bring hand sanitizer, and use it after you touch freezer case handles or other surfaces. As you can guess, now's not the time to squeeze half a dozen avocados to check for ripeness—touch only the items you intend to buy. Maintain physical distance between yourself and other shoppers as well as grocery store workers.

5. Bag your own groceries

Follow your store's guidelines for reusable bags (which have been temporarily prohibited in some stores), but whether you bring your own bags or use the bags provided by the store, be prepared to bag your own purchases.

6. Don't make yourself crazy with disinfecting purchases

Should you wipe down every last strawberry and Cheerio when you get home? The good news is, it's probably not necessary to disinfect every item you buy. Experts still say that the virus is much more likely to be transmitted person-to-person, rather than surface-to-person.

While there's a lot that's not yet known about the virus, here are the steps experts recommend when you bring your groceries home:

  • Wash nonporous containers: According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), "Currently there is no evidence of food or food packaging being associated with transmission of COVID-19." But Consumer Reports suggests that there's no harm in washing or wiping cans, plastic containers and glass based on its interviews with epidemiologists and experts.
  • Wipe cardboard containers: A March 2020 study by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases suggests that the coronavirus can survive on cardboard surfaces for up to 24 hours, and on plastic and stainless steel surfaces for up to 3 days. So while experts say the odds of a box of pasta transmitting the virus are slim, wiping boxes with a disinfecting wipe can't hurt.
  • Wash fruits and vegetables with water: Experts say that food is unlikely to transmit coronavirus, but you should always wash produce anyway to remove pesticides.

7. Wipe your counters after you unpack and wash your hands.

Once all your purchases are stored, clean your counters with a disinfecting spray, and wash your hands again.

News

This week isn't going to be an easy one for most of us. There are hard things happening in the world right now as the coronavirus pandemic continues. We're not going to pretend like this is an easy time to be a parent, because it is not. It's okay to say you're not okay today. But it's also okay to allow yourself to enjoy the lighter moments of life because these moments are still happening inside our homes during the pandemic.

This is a hard week, but there are still so many things making us smile.

Here are a few of the good news headlines we're loving right now:

This baby's quarantine style birthday party is going viral 

So many events have been canceled because of the pandemic, and many first birthday parties are among them. For parents who were looking forward to celebrating their little one's first birthday with friends and family having to cancel the guest list is hard.

Mama Kylie Najjar was one of the many parents having to make the hard choice to cancel her baby's birthday party, but she decided to make it special by doubling down on the theme of social distancing.

Her baby's big day has now gone viral because even in a difficult time like this pandemic, small moments still matter and can still make us smile.

This viral illustration highlights how the pandemic is impacting newly postpartum mamas 

The artist Spirit Y Sol touched so many mamas this week, letting art speak for the women who have had their postpartum experience changed so drastically by the pandemic. Through an essay and accompanying illustration Sol describes what was stolen from those currently in the fourth trimester.

"This is not what you had planned. This is not what you'd envisioned. There are no visits from friends, no loving doula bringing you soup, no "mommy and me" yoga classes, no coffee dates, no stroller walks through the park." Sol writes.

"But mama, know this—We are alone. Together. You are surrounded all the other mothers who are navigating this tender time in isolation. You are held by all of us who have walked the path before you and who know how much you must be hurting. You are wrapped in the warm embrace of mama earth, as she too settles into this time of slowness and healing."

Sol is right. We are in this together, mama. And we are here for you.

Some Good News with John Krasinski has a surprise for Hamilton fans 

Last week we told you about John Krasinski's new coronavirus YouTube series, Some Good News, and this week he's going viral again with his second episode.

He gets his wife Emily Blunt to make an appearance and organized a treat for Hamilton fans, having Lin Manuel Miranda and the rest of the cast put on a performance (through Zoom, of course).

We love how Krasinski is using his creativity and connections to make people smile during this tough time.

This mom just welcomed baby no. 22, 30 years after her first child's birth! 

Back in February we told you the mom of Britain's biggest family was going viral after announcing she was expecting her 22nd child.

Now, Sue Radford's 22nd baby is here. She's a girl and her name has not yet been announced by the Radfords, Sue and her husband Noel.

Sue was 14 years old when the couple's oldest child, Chris, came into the world in 1989 (Noel was 18). Both Sue and Noel were adopted at birth and when they found out they were expecting as teens they decided together to make the choice to parent.

Four years after Chris was born they got married, and a few decades (and many kids) later they became reality TV legends in the UK, starting with a show called 15 Kids and Counting. They now have more kids than their American counterparts from 19 Kids and Counting, the Duggars. Besides TV appearances, the Radfords also own a pie shop.

In total, Sue has given birth to 12 girls and 10 boys so far (one son, Alfie, was stillborn), but giving birth during the coronavirus pandemic was a bit different. "I was so worried that Noel wouldn't be allowed to stay with me," she told The Sun.

Radford continued: "We have all been isolating and it seemed wrong to leave our safe bubble to go to a hospital, but when I got there I felt safe straight away."

Kristen Bell's Hello Bello launched a new 'camp' you'll want to check out 

Everyone is looking for extra ways to keep kids entertained these days and that's why Kristen Bell + Dax Shepard have launched Camp HelloBello on Instagram Live and IGTV!

Each week there's a new schedule for activities like singing, dancings and crafting (and Hello Bello is paying people creators to participate, you can apply to be a "camp counselor" at CampHelloBello.com).

According to a press release, "Schedules will be released on a weekly basis with lots of special guests (like Kristen + Dax and their friends) and members of our community to add some extra creativity to kids' days (and fill up some time for the parents too!)."

Sounds super cool!

This viral post highlights how our kids are 'little heroes' during this crisis 

There is a viral post floating around the internet that gives some credit where it is due: To our children.

Our kids have been champs during this crisis, as the post notes, "their little lives have been turned upside down...[but] every day they get up and carry on despite everything that is going on! Painting pictures, drawings to show their support to the heroes out there and to make other children walking past feel better!"

We see you, little heroes.

You're doing great and we are so proud of your resiliency!

Viral video shows even social distancing can't stop toddlers from 'socializing' 

Twitter user Toby Marriott went viral this week thanks to an 8 second clip of his nephew, "the friendliest toddler you'd ever meet." According to his uncle, this 3-year-old always says hello to anyone he meets on the street, but he's not running into any people on his daily walks these days...so he has to pretend.

"Hope this brightens up your day!" Marriott captioned a video of his nephew saying hello to an invisible friend. It's super cute and if we hang in there, one day this little guy will be able to say hello to his neighbors again.

News
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