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  I've always been a late bloomer in life, and the same goes for me and motherhood.  So many people would ask me in my late twenties and thirties why I didn't have...
by Megan Vaughan

My Favorite Songs of 2021

As 2021 draws to a close (which noone is mad about, I’m sure), I have to say that at least music-wise, it was a good year.  One of the silver linings of the pandemic was the fact that many artists had a chance to work up some new tunes, and here’s a list of some of my favorites of the past year.

 

#10: Jack White “Taking Me Back”

I’m a big fan of Jack White, and was pretty excited to get a new song from him this past month. Expect a new album and tour from him in 2022!

#9: Ed Sheeran “Bad Habits”

Ed is one of my favorite Pop Stars. Straight, no-bullshit talent and a great persona to go along with it.  His latest album “=” leans to more 80’s dance-pop, which I am here for.  “Bad Habits” is fun, catchy, and proves that Ed can do way more than love ballads.

 

#8: Walker Hays “Fancy Like”

At first listen, I was like, “Um, what?” But then I couldn’t get it out of my head.  And I totally relate, as I love me some Applebee’s.  Walker is one of the nicest guys in the biz, and after so long of having “almost” hits, it’s great to see him finally blow up in a major way. He deserves it.  Ain’t nothing wrong with fun, catchy tunes. We needed it with all the mess happening in the world.

 

#7: Halestorm “Back From the Dead”

Halestorm is one of my favorite Modern Rock bands, and Lzzy Hale is a certified badass.  They continue the badassery with their latest single “Back From the Dead” and it gets me ready for their new album due out next year.

 

#6: Parker McCollum “Like a Cowboy”

Parker is one of the hottest things on the Country Music scene right now, and I’m kind of pissy that this song wasn’t as big as it should be. Sure, his radio hits are ok, but this song is what’s up.  Real Country music… more of this should be on the radio, in my humble opinion.  Or maybe I just like anything that refers to Cowboys.

 

#5: Royal Blood “Troubles Coming”

I’ve been a Royal Blood fan from the start, and this song definitely had me rocking in the studio every time I got to play it.  When a radio personality doesn’t get sick of a song, that’s saying something.

 

#4: The Weeknd “Save Your Tears”

Ok, so it’s not the deepest song, but I love the Weeknd, and the beat to this song goes perfectly with a horse’s trot. As someone who usually has music playing when I ride, (courtesy of my phone in my sports bra) this is definitely on my riding playlist. Yes, I have a playlist for horseback riding. When I was a kid, all I wanted was to ride to music, and now I can. Isn’t technology grand?

#3: Kenny Chesney “Knowing You”

Such a simple, yet beautiful song.  It had me turning it up every time it came on.  Also, any song that references tumbleweeds makes me happy. I blame Tracy Lawrence for that.

#2: Dua Lipa “Levitating”

Ok, when I first heard this song, I hated it. Mainly because of the lyric “My Sugar Boo”. But dammit, it grew on me like a fungus, and it stays stuck in my head.  It’s a fun, easy dance bop, and every time I heard it, I would crank it up and sing and dance along, much to my husband’s chagrin. It’s ok to like stupid songs. There, I said it.

#1: Eric Church “Hell of a View”

Eric Church is one of the best artists out there right now, in any genre.  And this song spoke to me not only on a music level, but lyrically as well.  Having a near fifteen year marrigae to a soldier with a lot of adventure and new things happening (um, like a new baby?), this song hit me hard in the feels this year, and was definitely my 2021 theme song.  Looking back on life so far, all the good and bad, it’s one hell of a view.

So, there ya go.  My Top 10 favorite songs of 2021.  Some may complain that it’s too mainstream, but I really don’t care. This is what spoke to me this year, and that’s what is so cool about music- it hits everyone differently.

That being said, I would love to hear what your favorite songs of the year are!

 

Here’s to a new (and hopefully better!) 2022!  At least there’s always music, right?

 

 

 

 

 

 

How It Started Vs. How It’s Going…

So, a few months ago when I was still pregnant, my horse “Angel” (short for BR Angelina Gold) was really into resting her muzzle on my belly while being groomed.  So, of course, I had to film it one day, and it ended up going viral.  A few people asked for a follow up once the baby was born, so this past weekend I decided to oblige.  She is in love!

Now, for those who will inevitably ask, the baby was safely contained, as was she. Had I let her loose, she probably would have nuzzled him a lot more! But for safety’s sake, I did hold her back a bit.  I have to explain this, as there is always someone who is quick to complain.  Isn’t the internet grand? As a matter of fact, TikTok took the video down because it promoted “child endangerment”, yet teenage girls can twerk half naked, and that’s totally cool.  Go figure THAT one out.

 

Anyhow, it’s been really fun to see Angel’s reaction to the baby in utero, and after he was born. In the second video, he was crying, and instead of spooking like some horses would, Angel was trying to comfort him.  By the time I had both her and him secured and my phone out, he had calmed down.  I really can’t wait until Brandon is old enough to start riding!  I think he and Angel will make a great Lead Line and Walk-Trot team!

Now if only our dog Cash would be as into him as Angel is!

 

It’s Different When It’s Your Own

One month ago I became a first-time mother to the most incredible little boy Brandon Russell.  It’s something I never thought I would get to do, with infertility, endometriosis, and all the odds stacked against me. But it did happen, and one month in, I have to say the old saying is true, “It’s Different When it’s Your Own”.   It really is, though.  Once I finally got pregnant, after 10 years of trying, I was plagued with the thought, “But what if I don’t like being a mom?” and “What if I’m not good at it?”  After all of this trying and wanting, what if it was all a letdown? What if, at 38, I am too used to my freedom to really be ok with a tiny, squalling human who is 100% dependent on me?  I felt horrible for even thinking that way, but let’s be real. It can happen. I’ve heard so many horror stories about motherhood, and yeah, I was spooked.

I didn’t need to be.

As soon as I heard that first cry, I was done. I would move Heaven and Earth for that little, bloody screaming human that they pulled from my belly.  My world literally tipped at that moment, and at the best angle possible.

I know there’s a lot of women in my shoes… super excited to be pregnant for the first time, yet also terrified that it won’t be what you’d hoped.

Here’s what I’ve learned:

 

#1: The Best Birth Plan is No Plan

I told my doctor that I didn’t want a birth plan, and he said “Good!”  So many well-intended plans don’t end up as expected, and I knew better than to even get my hopes up to have things go my way.  I figured the doctor and nurses would do what’s best.  I was scheduled for an induction at 39 weeks and 1 day, and when I finally did start to go into labor, the baby’s heart rate would drop with every contraction.  I was only 1 cenimeter dialated, so they wanted to do a C-section.  That was definitely NOT expected, as I had a really good pregnancy and everything was going as it should have.  Wanting to do what I could to save the baby, I said to go for it.  I remember the doctor saying I was one of the calmest patients he’s ever dealt with.  I said “Of course I am, I’m high as a kite!” They do give you some serious drugs… I had to fight to stay awake, because there was no way in hell that I was missing this.  That first cry was EVERYTHING, and honestly, the recovery from the C-section isn’t as bad as I thought. It does help that I’m in really good shape, but still, endometriosis is worse than a major surgery recovery.  At least for me it was.  I’m four weeks post surgery, and honestly, I feel great! The first few days are rough, but that’s with any kind of delivery I hear.  If you do have a C-section, getting an abdominal binder is a great idea for those first few weeks!

#2: The First 48 Hours At Home Are Terrifying!!!

When we were released from the hospital, my husband stood there holding the baby in the carseat and said, “I’m terrified.” Mind you, this is a man who is Active Duty Army, has deployed twice, and plays with bombs for a living.  But really, it’s extremely scary bringing that baby home without the nurses and doctors and somebody to help 24/7.  I was afraid to look away from the baby for more than five seconds, and that first night we maybe got two hours of sleep because we were too scared that something would happen when we weren’t watching. Also, being three days post-surgery, I was not able to do very much to help.  Add that to all the crazy post-partum hormones which are intense, and just general anxiety… yeah, those first couple of days weren’t the easiest. But you know what? It gets better every day.  Thank God!

Here’s some products that helped us get through those first few days… we ordered right after Day #1 knowing we needed reinforcements:

We already had a Halo Bassinet- but this newborn insert made a HUGE difference in Brandon’s sleep.

And we have a Pack N’ Play, and we put the Dock a Tot in there to keep him cozy.

As for feeding? These Tommie Tippee Anti-Colic Bottles are awesome.

Those are just a few helpful things that got us started off, and are still useful one month in.  Thankfully, I have tons of friends with babies to help me out on what to get, because I had literally zero idea.

 

#3: You’re Going to Have at Least One Parenting Fail That First Week

Those first 24 hours, as I had mentioned, were rough for us. Not only did we have hardly any sleep, but we kept noticing that Brandon was soaking wet on his back.  His diaper wasn’t showing that he peed, so we figured it was sweat. So we called the nurse’s line, and they said get to the ER.  Two hours later, we found out it was NOT sweat, but in fact, urine.  Baby boys can pee up their back, it turns out. He was perfectly fine. We, however, we’re not.  Yeah, it’s better to be safe than sorry, but damn, that was kind of humiliating.  Now it’s funny, but then? I literally cried in embarrassment (and hormones!)

 

#4: Fed is Best

These days, you always hear “Breast is Best”, and there’s almost like this Breastfeeding Mafia that hates on anyone who can’t or won’t breastfeed.  To be honest, I wanted to breastfeed, but unfortunately, due to age, infertility, a C-section, and my milk not even coming in until a week later, it wasn’t working.  I couldn’t produce near enough milk to feed him properly, and he was already hooked on the bottle at that point.  He would just look at my chest and cry (to be fair, I do that too, sometimes. My pregnancy boobs jumped ship pretty quickly. Rude.)   And yes, I tried pumping, and could barely make a 3rd of what he required per feeding in 30 minutes. And yes, I tried mixing with formula, which would just make him sick, so… formula it is!  I say this because way too many people have inquired whether I am breast feeding or not, and I need to “keep trying”.  You know what?  There’s a point where you have to stop and think of what’s best for YOU and YOUR BABY.  Brandon loves his formula, and we had his one month check-up and is thriving.  So, there ya go.

Also, both my husband and I were formula-fed, and guess what? We are both productive members of society that wear deoderant and pay our taxes. So, it’s all good.

 

#5: Accept Help When Offered:

I’m the first person to turn down help because, “I can do it myself, dammit!”

After the baby, take what you can get! My parents came for a few days, and my Mother-in-Law stayed for three weeks, which was a huge help, as she took bottle washing and mroning feed duties.  After having a C-section, sleep was essential to healing as I have.  And if you are in a relationship, split the feeding duties if you can.  JB and I trade off on night feeds, and that has worked out really well so far. If your partner won’t do his or her share, make them sleep on the back porch.

Also, single parents deserve a medal and a statue in their honor, as do parents of multiples.

 

#6: Poop Becomes a Hot Topic of Conversation

I had always heard that parents talk incessantly about poop, and I really tried to avoid that. Truly, I did.  But it’s like when you have a kid, your brain gets taken over by some alien force that makes you overly interested in what comes out of your baby’s butt. And you’re not even mad at cleaning it.  Ahhhhh… Nature, you’re a clever bitch.

 

#7: Having a Baby is Really the Coolest Ever:

First 48-hours at home aside, being a Mom is the coolest, most amazing thing I have ever expeirenced.  I thought I knew love, but that was just the beginning.  It’s really the most incredible thing, and anyone who is expecting and just nervous about what to expect as I was, I just want to say that it’s all good. Enjoy those final months of pregancy, and know the other side is just the best.  I’m still shocked at how much I love motherhood… way more than I ever expected. I say this even after I was literally projectile-vomited on less than an hour ago. You get used to it.

Now watch him turn into a crazy pants in month two because I spoke too soon. Stay tuned!

 

 

Leave Pregnant Women Alone!

As of this minute, I am 39 weeks pregnant.  So, I’m due like any second now.  While I wait for the big event to happen, I’m reflecting on the past 9.5 months, and to be fair, I’ve had a pretty good pregnancy, especially considering my age (38).  Just headaches, backaches, and of course, the not fun part of limiting my usual activities- horseback riding, tennis, cardio, wine…yeah, all that had to come to a halt-but overall, it’s been a really cool, rewarding experience.  It was actually way better than I had anticipated, and growing a human is literally the coolest thing I have ever gotten to do.  But there is one gripe, aside from the migranes… the seemingly constant judgement from others.

Yeah, I knew that Mom-shaming is a thing, and I need to prepare myself for even more of it after Baby B comes, because everyone wants to judge everyone else’s parenting choices.  Which is insane to me, because I’m pretty sure there are plenty of ways to be an awesome parent, and everyone has different ways of doing it well.  But when the baby is in utero, it seems that you and your choices become public property immediately, there to have stones cast upon you when you are not even asking for it.

For example, a few weeks ago, I was loading groceries into my car at Wal-Mart.  A woman cruised up to me in her motorized cart and admonished me for not wearing a mask. Seriously. “You better be wearing a mask with that baby inside you” was the direct quote.  Even though I was outside and had noone around me, this crazy still felt the need to go out of her way to gove her unsolicited opinion.  Or the woman at Starbucks telling me that I shouldn’t be drinking coffee while pregnant. (OB told me to go for it…just have a latte if I need an afternoon boost to cut back on caffeine)  Or the aquaintance who told me that I was crazy if I didn’t breastfeed- all I had said was “We’ll see how it goes”- and she flipped saying that everyone should breastfeed.  (Infertile women like me have less of a chance of success with that, so that’s why I wasn’t adamant that I would.  I have no idea what’s going to happen, so I like to set my expectations low)

And of course there were the host of people judging me for horseback riding through the first timester (Again, appoved by OB) or the endless “Oh, you better not drink your wine” comments.  Oddly enough, the OB even approved 1-2 glasses of red wine a week- but I’ve been more into Orange Juice, so it was kind of a moot point- but still… if I wanted to have that wine, hey, my choice.  That reminds me, I was buying a bottle of Whiskey for JB and a woman at the liquor store said “I hope that’s not for you”.  So what if it was?  I mean, obviously it wasn’t, but still… having a baby bump seems to give everyone a free pass to state their opinions.  If only it didn’t take me 10 minutes to come up with the perfect comeback. Ah, well.  But it’s not just me who gets the judgement- check out this thread that popped up on the Whattoexpect forum: https://community.whattoexpect.com/forums/october-2021-babies/topic/dammit-im-having-a-glass-of-wine-122431802.html?utm_source=nl&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=dailydigest&utm_content=dd_C_20211003&member_id=996795242(I get these e-mails constantly, and this one caught my attention).

Jeebus… judge much?

 

Here’s the thing: Pregnancy is awesome, and it would be even more awesome if we could all mind our own damn business and let people make their choices without being harshly judged for it.  Granted those choices aren’t obviously dangerous, like drugs, etc.  But in my experience these past few months, people want to judge for the most inane reasons (Lunch meat! Epidural! Labor Induction!) and it’s stupid.  Humans have existed for centuried upon centuries with some pretty shady conditions, and somehow, here we are.  As for women, shouldn’t we be nicer and more understanding to each other?  We are all going through the same thing- so please, stop judging over breastmilk vs. formula, or which car seat is the best. I’ve learned from all the pregnancy and motherhood forums that most people are craaaazzzyyy and I’ll just do what feels right for me and my family and let it be.

This actually can be applied to most things in life, really.

Also, to all of my amazing friends and family who have been nothing but supportive? I love you!

Also, I can’t wait for the Mommy-Judging to begin after Baby B is here. Maybe I’ll finally learn to have a snappy comeback in less than 10 minutes!

 

But most of all… I can’t wait to finally meet my baby boy, after all these years of trying.  He is going to be so loved, and that is the most important thing of all.

 

New Song of the Week: 9-23-21

You know I love me a good, legit Country song, and I can always count on Carly Pearce and Ashley McBryde to deliver in this modern world full of Bro-Country.

So, when they announced their collab on a cheating song, I was like, “Yep. It’s gonna be GOOD”

And it is.  I mean, duh.

 

I love that they both put their perspectives in the song- the “Other Woman” and the “Wronged Woman”.

Can we get more Country like this, pleaaassseee?

I mean, there’s nothing wrong with beer, trucks, tailgates, long tanned legs and cutoff jeans, etc… but enough is enough.

 

Well done, Carly and Ashley!  Now go on tour together, and set the Country world on fire!

The Best Songs of All Time

Earlier today,  “Rolling Stone” magazine released their revised list of the Top 500 Songs of All Time.  The full list is here.

What’s really crazy is the Top 10.

Really? “Get UR Freak On?” The hell?

 

So, I wanted to make my own Top 10, based off of my all-time favorite songs. These are songs that no matter what I’m doing, if they come on the radio, or on my playlist, I stop what I’m doing and just listen.  Or rock out 100%.  Great songs will make you happily interrupt whatever you’re doing to experience them, no matter how many times you have heard them before.

This was really hard to narrow down, but I had to make my Top 10 picks, and these are my current 10 favorites EVER.

 

#10: “Purple Rain” by Prince

Oh, the Purple One… no matter how many times I hear this, it jjust never gets old. The drama, and the gorgeous guitar solo at the end gives me goosebumps every time.

There will never be another Prince.
#9: “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” by Elton John

Elton John will forever be one of my favorite all-time artists. Incredible artist, who, with songwriter Bernie Taupin, put out songs that forever stand the test of time.  This one gets me, as I am that girl who just wants to get back to the farm one day.  Plus, the music and writing is awesome on this!

 

#8: “Wildest Dreams” by Tyalor Swift

I unapologetically love Taylor Swfit- especially her 1989 album.  Yeah, so this song may be a bit of a ripoff of “Your Wildest Dreams” by The Moody Blues, but I happen to love her take on it.  It’s very atmospheric and it’s one of my favorite songs to ride my horse to.  I put my phone in my sports bra, put this song on, and gallop my golden steed across the fields to it.
You think I’m kidding.

Nope. I totally do that. And enjoy every second.

 

#7: “Me and Bobby McGee” by Janis Joplin

This iconic cover of the Kris Kristofferson original has me jamming out every time I hear it.  I love bluesy rock, and this version will never get old.

Janis Joplin… total icon.

 

#6: “Tuesday’s Gone” by Lynyrd Skynyrd

As I mentioned earlier, I love bluesy, Southern rock, and this epic song by Skynyrd earns a spot in my Top 10 because of the music, which somehow makes one nostalgic when you hear it, even if you’re not. It just one of those songs that transports you, and that’s what a great song should do.  Also, one of my favorite concert memories is watching Skynyrd play this song back in 2004 at Skullbone Music Park in Skullbone, TN. My best friend and I were front row, and the rain was puring down when they played this song. Just one of those really cool moments that sticks with you.

 

#5: “The Cowboy Rides Away” by George Strait

I would be remiss if I didn’t include the KING of Country music, Mr. George Strait.
This song is pure Country perfection.  The music, the lyrics… all of it is YES.

Actually, George Strait is just YES, always.

 

#4: “Still Loving You” by The Scorpions

I LOVE 80’s Rock, and The Scorpions had me from the first note on this song.  The lyrics aren’t that special, but holy cow, the music! Those guitar riffs at the end… the sheer drama of it… I wish I could play guitar if only to perform that solo.  Which will never happen, but a girl can dream!

 

#3: “Nothing Else Matters” by Metallica

Elton John claimed last week that this is one of the best written songs of all time.

I can’t really disagree. The lyrics, and the waltz-like music married to rock and roll is sheer perfection.  The perfect Rock love song.  I always imagine a gothic ballroom scene when I hear this one.

 

#2: Anything by Andrew Lloyd Weber

Especially anything from “Phantom of the Opera”

Andrew Lloyd Weber is a true genius, and has blessed the musical world.  Everything he composes is pure magic.

 

#1 “Sweet Child of Mine” by Guns N’ Roses

Anyone who knows me won’t be shocked by my #1 choice.

I will always stop what I’m doing and rock out to 11 when this song comes on. The vocals and lyrics and the masterful guitar solo by Slash… the whole energy of the song makes it my #1. It’s also my favorite to perform live, just for that reason. I LOVE escalating vocals and songs that make you sweat, and that make you throw your hands up in the air and scream “HELL YES” every time you hear it.  So, yeah, this fits the bill.

Also, since I’m expecting my first “Sweet Child of Mine” like any day now, it’s evern more special. And every time this song comes on, he kicks. So, he’s a fan as well. Rasing him right!

 

What would be your Top 10 list?

Anything is better  than what “Rolling Stone” came up with.

 

The Best Music Videos of All Time

MTV celebrated their 40th Anniversary this past Sunday (Only fifteen of those 40 years were worth a damn, to be fair) and to celebrate, “Rolling Stone Magazine” made a list of the “Best Music Videos of All Time”- and topping the list? Beyonce’s “Formation”.


No disrespect to “Queen Bey”, but I didn’t think it rated the top spot.  That’s just my opinion.  (Plus, you KNOW “Rolling Stone” loves anything hyper political, so their choice makes total sense)

Check their full list here.

 

So, I decided to list the “Best Music Videos of All Time” according to ME.

As someone who grew up in the MTV generation when they were actually cool, I feel like I’m qualified.

Here are my Top 10:

#10: Taylor Swift “Blank Space”:

I’m a Swiftie, and I’m not even a little ashamed.  This is one of my favorite songs of hers, and the video is perfection. Also, she stands on a horse, so bonus points for that.  I’m really not hard to please.

 

9. Motley Crue “Girls, Girls, Girls”

One of the first music videos I actually remember seeing on MTV- I was transfixed by the gorgeous women (and by Nikki Sixx). I had no idea what the song was about at the time, I just knew I wanted to look like those women! I still can’t help but gyrate really badly when this comes on.

 

#8: Soundgarden “Black Hole Sun”

This video was just plain warped, and teenage me loved it! Plus, it features a Harlequin Great Dane, so bonus points for that.

 

 

#7: Aerosmith “Hole In My Soul”

I know “Crazy” and “Cryin” always make the Top Video lists, and I’m not knocking it. After all, 90’s Alicia Silverstone was everything.  But as far as stories go? I thought this was a really great video for an underrated song.  Anyone who loved the movie “Weird Science” would appreciate it!

 

#6: Nirvana “Smells Like Teen Spirit”

This was the start of a new era in music. Dirty, gritty, grungy and absolutely zero spandex and hairspray. And you know what? It worked. I really wanted to be at that grunge gym party. I still do.

 

 

#5: Miley Cyrus “Wrecking Ball”

Even though it got a lot of hate, Miley was super smart with this video. It’s a GREAT song, and what better way to get it attention than to make a video for it featuring a naked Miley on a wrecking ball?  Genius.

 

 

#4: The Foo Fighters “Big Me”
This is when I fell in love with Dave Grohl. A defining moment for sure.

 

#3: Shania Twain “Man! I Feel Like a Woman”

Total Icon. What woman didn’t want to be her?

 

 

#2: Britney Spears “Toxic”

Britney at her absolute BEST! I was in college when this came out, and still, this video holds up.

 

 

#1: Guns N’ Roses “November Rain”

Epic song. Epic Video. And Slash’s solo in front of the church. That’s all you really need.

Those are my Top 10.  For me, a great video, like a great song, can be a defining moment.

Damn, I wish MTV would start playing them again, instead of lamesauce reality shows…

 

What music video is YOUR all time favorite?

 

 

 

 

The In Vitro Diaries

As of right now, I am 25 weeks pregnant.  It’s a big milestone, as that means that if I were to go into labor, my baby would have a chance of survival. I cannot express how happy I am to FINALLY be in this position.  Pregnancy is something I thought I would never get to experience, and to be able to do so is a massive blessing.  It wasn’t easy, though. After 10 years of trying with no success, my husband and I had to but the “In Vitro” bullet.  Over the past decade, we had tried everything from hormones like Clomid (AKA the Devil Drug), Femara, to IUI (Artificial Insemination) to just relaxing and going on vacation. Absolutely nothing worked. At this point, heading into my late 30’s, the “are you two EVER going to have kids?” questions were really becoming commonplace, and to be honest, my friends and family constantly saying “relax, it’ll happen” was really having the opposite effect.  Something had to be done. After what seemed like my 769th doctor’s appointment, and my latest AMH level being at .9, my third (yes, third) fertility doctor told me that IVF would be my only chance of getting pregnant.

(Here’s a great article explaining AMH levels: https://www.letsgetchecked.com/articles/amh-levels-explained/?imp=cpc&imp=cpc&gclid=CjwKCAjwlYCHBhAQEiwA4K21mwbY0npHDpFGW81Fq8EO2TOU4RTl5cjIHOE-7wRpUTdxh3rOko2QqRoC7_kQAvD_BwE  My levels are below normal for my age, thanks to Stage 4 Endometriosis cooking my eggs over the past 15 years.

I’m going to be honest, I really, REALLY didn’t want to do IVF.  At all. It’s crazy expensive, invasive, there’s a TON of needles and medicines and hormones involved…and it’s NOT GUARANTEED TO WORK. It’s like 30-50% for a woman under 35, and over 35? Ha. It’s like 25% and lower.  Not the kind of odds I like to bet $20,000 on.  My husband, bless him, was ALL for it.  For weeks I cried, pouted, questioned if we really wanted to have a family or not… it was a tough time for me.  I even had my one and only panic attack while trying to decide what to do. In the end, I realized that I had to do it, not just for me, but for my husband and our family. At least I could say I tried, and years from now I wouldn’t regret not giving it my all.  So, we decided to go for it, and looking back, the only thing I wish (besides it being cheaper) is that I had more information going into it. I am definitely a “Doctor Google” kind of woman, and I found plenty of fertility blogs, but nothing to fully prepare me for what to expect. And another thing, I didn’t really know anyone aside from a couple of acquaintances who had gone through it, so there wasn’t many people who I could ask questions to, or who I could relate to.  So I’m going to break this down for any woman who is thinking about doing IVF.  I wish I had this info a couple of years ago!

First of all, IVF is stupid expensive, and most insurances don’t cover it. My husband is Active Duty Army and Tricare covers a lot- but not IVF. However, if my husband wanted to become a woman, Tricare would cover that.  But becoming a father? Yeah, you gonna have to pay out of pocket for that, son. (Hey, policy change, anyone? Hello!)  So, for us to do one round of IVF, we had to pay $13,750 plus medicine, which was in total, another $5,000.  Some Army wives told me they managed to get their meds covered, but my doctor was not having it.  Something about insurance fraud? I don’t know.  So, basically, $19,000 per round, and the first embryo transfer is free.  After that, it’s on average $2,500 to transfer each additional embryo, granted you are lucky enough to have more than one to transfer. If not, you get to start ALL over again.  Now, there are companies that do IVF loans, but they have high interest rates, and usually go only 24-36 months, so you’re looking at another mortgage in payments.  If you are able to, a personal loan is a good way to go, and you can get better terms. Definitely shop around!

I noticed that a lot of celebrities do IVF and act like it’s no big deal.  That’s because they can afford to do a zillion rounds and it not affect them.  But us regular people?  Yeah, it’s expensive AF.

After that sticker shock wears off, it’s time to get into the meds.  So, for the $5,000, I got 10 days worth of meds (Gonal F, Menopur, and Lupron) that I got to take for 10 days.  You would think for five grand, you’d at least get a buzz. But no. Just daily injections in the stomach and lots of bruising, but that’s it. Oh! And you can’t really do anything fun for those 10 days. No working out, no sex, no travelling (as you have to have ultrasounds every other day to check on your eggs) which would have been great to know in advance.  I was told three days before I started the meds that I had to chill out for almost 2 weeks.  What happens is, all those expensive meds make you grow a ton of eggs, and it makes your ovaries massive, and then you risk twisting one in something called “ovarian contortion” which could end up meaning you lose your ovary…AND you don’t get your money back.  So, you just take lots of meds and grow eggs for 10 days, and not drink.  I asked the nurse if I could at least have wine, and she totally bitched me out for even asking.  Way to patient shame. I was lucky, though.  The meds didn’t make me feel crazy or anything, unlike Clomid, so it wasn’t a bad experience. Just a really boring ten days with no fitness, no horseback riding and no wine. So, just a heads up with all that!

Next step- the egg retrieval! After one of the ultrasounds, the doctor will decide your eggs are ready to be harvested, and you get to take a trigger shot to release them. The next day, they put you under and harvest your eggs.  I had fifteen, which was really great for a 37 year-old!  I felt like a rockstar, and felt pretty jazzed about life that day. Exepct for the new informaton given to me by the nurse that I had to not work out for another 2 weeks- which I did not listen because at this point, I didn’t give a rip what happened to my ovaries at this point. I got my eggs…I was good.  My fifteen eggs got to join up with the sample my husband provided, and the next step was to see if any embryos were made.  The next day, the doctor called me and told me that five embryos were made, and that now we had to wait a few says to see if they survived.  Usually it’s a 50% attrition rate, so that didn’t really bode well for me. A few days later, only two embryos remained, and it was suggested that we get them sent off for genetic testing, given my age and my endometriosis. My doctor didn’t sound too excited about my chances, and told me that I probably shouldn’t do another round. (You know it’s bad when a doctor turns down another $20,000!)  I did appreciate his honesty, but it was devastating to hear that, and I cried for days. Another things they don’t tell you… coming off the Gonal F and Menopur cold turkey can make you kind of a crazy pants for a few days.  Your hormones go bananas, and it’s a stressful time to begin with, and it was just a crappy couple of weeks trying to regulate and mentally adjust to everything, It’s totally normal- just something no one had told me about.

Now if you are doing a Fresh Embryo Transfer, you’d get your embryo(s) put back in within a few days and do the “Two Week Wait” to see if you were successful.  I did the Frozen Embryo Option, as if more common with my age. So, my two embryos got sent down to Miami to be genetically tested, which is $200 per embryo. It’s totally worth it, as it gives you so much important information- as in our case, only one embryo tested out normal. Our other had a few extra chromosomes and would never have survived the transfer.  It turns out, a lot of miscarriages and failed embryo transfers are due to genetic and chromosomal abnormalities, so knowing which embryos are more likely to take is a good edge to have going into a transfer, so you don’t waste time, money, and more emotional torture.  We also found out our lone embryo was a boy, and since he was our only embryo, our doctor suggest a “Mock Cycle” in preparation for our transfer to optimize our chances.

What’s a Mock Cycle?  More meds. So, basically, you pretend like you’re going to have an embryo transfer, and you get more medicine for a week or so, and then you get an endometrial biopsy to see how your uterine lining is responding.  Once they look at the biopsy, the doctor will know the optimum day to do the transfer. So, basically, just optimizing the chances for a successful transfer.  And yeah, that’s an extra $600.  So, the meds (Progesterone) for the Mock Cycle are cheaper…like a couple hundred bucks as opposed to thousands, and you get them in your backside by way of a 1.5 inch needle.  You also get Synera patches to numb the area prior to getting the shot, plus I got to put blue estrogen pills up my lady bits 3 times a day, which turned my underwear blue. I absolutely panicked the first time I saw it, and trust me, it’s a thing. Get used to it. As for the biopsy, I was told it was painless, and that’s an absolute lie.  I was NOT prepared for that torture device (having endo, I think it hurt more than it should) and I screamed bloody murder and almost kicked the nurse in the head. So, take something beforehand, just in case.  It took about thirty minutes to calm down, and I was sent on my merry way.  The doctor then scheduled my real embryo transfer for February 1st, 2021, about 6 months after the process started. (Covid 19 and holidays threw a monkey wrench in our timing plans)

Ok, so the transfer… they take a catheter and send the embryo up into your uterus. You are supposed to do it on a full bladder, and that was kind of hellish, but you just do what your told because you really don’t want to mess things up! There’s a lot at stake.  You actually get to see it happen on the ultrasound, and there is a literal flash of light when the embryo is released. It’s really the coolest thing.  The you go home and wait ten days… which was the longest 10 days ever, and you can’t work out and you can’t drink!  By the way, alcohol free wine is absolute crap.  If anyone wants to make a booze-free wine that tastes halfway decent, I would happily invest. Anyhow, it was a long 10 days, but so worth it after that phone call came saying that the blood test was positive.  I literally collapsed to the floor in tears- good tears! After ALL that, it actually worked. After you test positive, you go again in a few days for another blood test, and then six weeks later, you get released to your OB/GYN.  Oh, and you get to have those giant progesterone butt shots and estrogen pills in the lady bits for eight to ten weeks- until your body starts making progesterone on it’s own.  It’s just a precaution, and your butt will look like moldy bread with all the bruising.  It’s normal. And apparently so is more cellulite due to the extra estrogen and progesterone.  It’s all totally normal, but I admit I was a bit freaked out at first. It happened overnight, I swear! It’s not a big deal, but just another thing to be aware of.

Looking back, I honestly didn’t think it would work… but it did. And knowing what I know now, I would do it all again in a heartbeat.  But I do think that fertility doctors should prepare their patients more for what is to come.  At least mine could have!  That was one of the hardest parts for me- that, and not having anyone to really talk to about it with. I have amazing and supportive family and friends, but I had no one close to me who knew what I was going through, and it did get kind of lonely sometimes.  But overall, it’s totally worth it. It’s a gamble, but isn’t everything else in life?

 

Anyhow, I hope this helps prepare someone for the crazy, emotional, needle-filled journey that is IVF.

 

Roll the dice, and be prepared. Good luck!!!

Oh No! It’s Endo!

I normally shy away from getting super personal, but after a lot of thought and years of rolling it around in my mind, I figured I would share my story of dealing with Endometriosis.  Mainly because it’s a terrible condition that 11% of women suffer from, but it’s still not talked about enough- because, you know, periods are still a taboo topic in modern society. This leads to misdiagnosis, shame, and infertility.  I should know, because I got all three.  I figure if I can get even one young woman diagnosed and save her from what I went through, then this overshare is totally worth it!

First off, what is Endometriosis? Here’s the definition via The Mayo Clinic: “Endometriosis (en-doe-me-tree-O-sis) is an often painful disorder in which tissue similar to the tissue that normally lines the inside of your uterus — the endometrium — grows outside your uterus. Endometriosis most commonly involves your ovaries, fallopian tubes and the tissue lining your pelvis.”  So, basically, you have extra gunk growing in your uterus and when it’s that time of the month, it sheds with everything else, often causing extreme pain.  I mean, debilitating “I think my uterus is trying to murder me” pain. It can also cause adhesions, scarring, and is the leading cause of infertility, because all that fun stuff damages your eggs. Fun fact: You are born with the amount of eggs you have for life, so it’s not like you can generate new ones.  Kind of a flaw in the system if you ask me.

I honestly didn’t even know what Endo was until I was 27.  I started having really bad periods in my early twenties, and was a little concerned, because they started out of nowhere. I asked my doctor, and he said “It’s normal- try Midol”. Yeah, that doesn’t work, but ok.  When I was 24, I got really sick one night on my period and my husband took me to the hospital at Fort Stewart, GA.  I was almost delusional with pain, dizzy, had to leave work, etc.  I was told by the doctor there that I had “Dysmenorrhea” AKA “Painful Periods” (No, really? Thanks, doc.) and was told to take a Ibuprofen and get over it.  I felt so ashamed leaving the hospital, because I felt like I was being a drama queen and was making a big deal about nothing.  So I suffered for another three years until one day after my period started, I was in so much pain on my way to work, I literally almost had a wreck on I95 because I couldn’t concentrate on driving- AFTER taking four Ibuprofens that morning.  I also bled right through my pads twice that week within an hour each, staining the chair at work.  Fed up, I went to a different doctor, who told me I may have something called Endometriosis.  The problem is, the only way to diagnose it is with laparoscopic surgery -where they stick a little tube in your abdomen and diagnose and cut out tissue.  So, they did the surgery, and BINGO! Endo everywhere AND my tubes were wrapped up in scar tissue. They cleaned it out, and I got pregnant for the first time the next Spring, only to have a miscarriage three weeks later.  I figured I could easily get pregnant again. HA! Yeah, not so much.  And to make matters worse, Endo comes back. It’s like Kudzu in the South- just grows over EVERYTHING and you can’t kill it.

Uterine Kudzu. I like that.  Maybe that should go in a medical journal?

 

Since Endo comes back, I had four more surgeries to clean out the Endo and adhesions until the doctor said I could have no more.  Because, every time you have a surgery, you get MORE scar tissue. The last Laparoscopy I had, my bowels were glued to my pelvic wall by adhesions, and at this point the only way to cure it all is just have a full hysterectomy- where they take out the uterus. The problem is, I wanted a child.  You kind of need a uterus for that I hear.  And one of the only things you can do to relieve the pain is birth control.  So, I got to be on hella pain medication a few days a month because Ibuprofen and Midol is absolute crap.  Do you know how hard it is to get decent medicine to treat chronic pain?  Oh my gosh, they treat you like you are a drug addict. To be fair, there IS an opioid crisis in our country, but that really puts people like me- who have severe chronic pain- in a terrible position.  The only way to function with Stage 4 Endo is medication or Hysterectomy. This is the choice we get.  And you get shamed for both.  So, yeah, it’s been a super fun 11 years dealing with this!

One of the hardest parts – aside from severe pain- is the absolute shame that comes with it.  I would be working, and the pain would hit, and I couldn’t tell anyone.  Imagine trying to be live on the air while having a knife slice through your abdomen and you have to smile through it, because you don’t want to tell people what is wrong with you. Or be in a meeting with a bunch of men, and trying not to pass out.  It’s an embarrassing condition to have, as menstruation is still such a taboo topic. So many times, I had to cancel plans with friends due to the pain, and let’s not get started on the bloat! I looked like I was pregnant at times, because my stomach would swell so badly! But what do you tell people?  No one wants to hear about it or talk about it because it’s “gross”.  Ok, it is gross, but what the hell are we supposed to do about it?  And then there’s the infertility.  I was unable to conceive again, and it was heartbreaking. We tried everything we could, and kind of kept it to ourselves, save close family and friends.  So this led to the constant question: “When are you having kids?”  Or “Why don’t you want kids?” Or just the speculation- so many friends would tell me I was too skinny, worked out too much, drank too much wine (lies) or was too stressed… and I didn’t want to tell them the truth, because it was embarrassing.  Oh! And then all the friends that sell stuff on Facebook, like essential oils and isometrics or whatever would target me and tell me their stupid product would get me pregnant! I kid you not.  Please, if you have an infertile friend, just…don’t.  The only thing you can do is to feed them wine and tell them they’re pretty.  That always helps!

I know this is a long post, but it’s something I’ve been dealing with and finally felt like sharing.  The great news is, I am FINALLY pregnant- 21 weeks right now- after IVF (In Vitro Fertilization) earlier this year.  For me, it was the only way I could ever procreate on my own due to endometriosis damaging my eggs. It’s an extremely expensive and physically/emotionally draining procedure- but it’s worth it!  But I would like to keep other women from having to go through what I went through.  I’m 38, and at the end of my reproductive years.  Had more been known about this condition when I was younger, or less shame involved with women’s cycles, perhaps I would have been more of an advocate for myself and my reproductive health. Maybe I would have frozen my eggs like so many are doing these days! It was never an option given to me 5-10 years ago.

Here are some symptoms of Endo. I had them all.

If you are a woman, and you are having severe period pain, don’t be ashamed. Get to your doctor NOW and see if you can get a diagnosis.  Don’t be shamed into thinking you’re a wimp.  You’re totally not. The pain is ridiculous, and no woman should ever have to go through it on just Midol.  The medical community needs to step up and do better.  You deserve it!