Breathe In, Breathe Out

What a Year It has Been January 30, 2019

Filed under: IVF,My posts — elanaalfred @ 1:32 am
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One year ago today, on January 29, 2018, I found out I was pregnant from my first IVF cycle. Even at the time, it didn’t feel like an overwhelmingly special moment–maybe because I knew in my heart that it wasn’t going to last– but for some reason it’s been on my mind recently. In some ways it feels like it was yesterday, but for the most part, it feels like an eternity has passed.


Little did I know after losing that pregnancy, that what felt like an unbearable loss then, was only a sliver of the grief the rest of the year would bring me, especially the last couple of months. On October 29th the excitement we were feeling about a pregnancy from our fourth IVF cycle was shattered. Without getting into too many details, we had a second miscarriage. We were just under ten weeks, so still early, but this time there was a strong heartbeat at the first ultrasound, we had been told the chances of a healthy baby was 90%, and we had let ourselves get excited. We had told our immediate families, and everyone was elated. But by the next ultrasound, it was over–there was no heartbeat. There is no way to describe the heartache, emptiness, and loneliness, so I will leave it at that.


In the past couple of months I have spent a lot of time reflecting and processing this last ea photoyear. When I think about it, the rush of emotions is overwhelming. It was far and away the most challenging year for me, both physically and emotionally, but I have learned a lot–mostly about myself. I am usually not one to toot my own horn, but my biggest takeaway of this year was realizing and embracing my absolute resilience. To be fair, all women who endure fertility struggles in any way, shape, or form, are courageous and strong-willed. Simply put, we are badass.


The morning of that last ultrasound, I told Eamonn that if something goes wrong, I’m not sure I’d be able to function afterward. At the end of that appointment, I wasn’t sure how I was going to walk out of the doctor’s office, because I was frozen and numb. For days after, I wondered if I was ever going to stop crying. A week after my miscarriage, I was hysterical that something was wrong with me because I wasn’t bouncing back, I was still so sad and beat down. Eamonn and those closest to me had to remind me that it takes time, and that I was being a bit harsh, even unfair, to myself. I just wanted to feel like myself again. I missed me.


In the moment, it felt like it would be forever until the pain subsided. Yes, it was the sadness of losing a pregnancy, but it was also feeling the weight of the whole year’s experience. Afterall, this was my fourth IVF cycle–there had been a lot of hormones injected into me, a lot of blood drawn to test those hormones, way too many trips to the doctor’s office, long days and weeks of waiting on test results, plenty of uncertainty. Nothing was in my control, my lifestyle of exercising regularly and eating or drinking whatever I wanted was constantly falling by the wayside. If you’ve gone through it then you know, it was hard.


But guess what? I did bounce back. I walked out of that appointment, I started to function like a “normal” human being again, and eventually I did stop crying (I still have my moments!).In some ways I now feel better than ever. I feel more empowered because I know that it’s much harder to break me and my spirit than I had given myself credit for. I also don’t want to be misleading– I still have bad days, bad moments, and get caught up in bad thoughts occasionally. But I’m not as hard on myself because I know it’s part of the process.


Years down the road, when I am teaching my kid how to best handle hard situations, I hope I’ll think about this past year. While I am thrilled that 2018 is behind us, I don’t want to forget it. I want the experience to fuel me forward into whatever it is we have coming our way. It may not be a fairytale, but it’s my story and I’m becoming better for it.



Science vs. Spirituality September 17, 2018

Filed under: IVF,My posts — elanaalfred @ 10:37 pm
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I am a very proud Jewish woman.

I am not, however, deeply religious. In my opinion, and I don’t think I’m alone, the two do not have to go hand-in-hand. My Judaism is a big part of my identity–how I was raised, who I am today, who I want to become. But I do not attend synagogue regularly, we do not keep kosher, we do not observe Shabbat (though we would like to do more Friday night Shabbat dinners), and I have often questioned my belief in G-d.


With all that said, I am very spiritual. I may not believe in G-d in a traditional way, but I South Africa Thinkingstrongly believe that there is some sort of greater power and extra dimension of being. I like to believe that at our very essence we are souls who continue on even when our physical bodies have failed. I am comforted that those who I have lost in my life are somewhere, always in my presence, looking over me and my loved ones. I am at my most peaceful and calm state when I meditate and force my constant thoughts to rest even for a moment. I believe, in some way, that our lives are made up of people and moments that were given to us by fate. That belief in fate is what guides my spirituality.


On the flip side, I am completely in awe of, and grateful for, science and medicine. Eamonn’s life and my experiences over the past couple of years are dependent on continued advancement of research and knowledge to move science forward. For example, a few generations ago, someone with CF wasn’t expected to live beyond childhood. Now the life expectancy is 37 years and continues to rise. Without this kind of progress, I wouldn’t have my husband, nor the ability to make a family with him through IVF.


If we take out the emotional side, in vitro fertilization is fascinating. As we were starting the egg retrieval process, and we were given a tutorial of how it works, I sat there with my jaw wide open as the nurse explained to me in detail the many steps and directions. There is so much science and knowledge behind all of it, that for one of the injections, what they call the trigger shot, I was told the exact time to the minute that I had to take it. While many women trying to get pregnant think about their menstrual cycle and when the best time is to try to conceive, the timing is even more precise for IVF patients. The manipulation of our bodies to increase the chance of a pregnancy is beyond belief, and yet very real. So if science is controlling my ability to get pregnant, then where does my spirituality fit in the picture?


I do believe that both science and fate play simultaneous roles, though having been through now almost 10 months of trying to get pregnant, I tend to place more faith in science. There is a lot to balance while doing IVF– the drugs, the emotions, letting go of all control while trying to remain calm and sane. And with all of that, I struggle most with trying to find my right balance of being realistic based on the data, facts, and what science is telling me; with optimism, faith, and belief that what is supposed to happen will happen. With every failed cycle, my spirituality is dwindling and I struggle to maintain the hope that we so badly need through all of this.


I have to admit that one of the reasons I chose to share my story publicly was purely selfish. While my faith and spirituality is struggling right now, I’m counting on those around us to internally maintain their belief that the process will ultimately work for us. I don’t know what that looks like. For some it may come in the form of prayers, or hopes, or wishes, or yoga intentions or “good vibes”, but we need all the positive juju we can get! While you’re all working on that for us, I will make a promise to try to hold onto my optimism and faith as best as I can.