Category Archives: Our IVF Journey

MY MENTAL STATE, PERSONAL STRUGGLES, WHY I FEAR MISCARRIAGE SO MUCH AND THE TRUTH ABOUT THE FITNESS INDUSTRY WHILE PREGNANT

I haven’t blogged in a while. I know I should be better with it and I am going to make an effort to blog more often during the remainder of my pregnancy. So thank you for those of you who are patient with my sporadic blogs and updates.

So lets get to the good stuff. This pregnancy has been anything but easy thus far. I had posted a few weeks ago about my struggles with it and in order to not bore everyone with more complaining I promise you this post is about more than my personal struggles but I do feel the need to tell my story and update those who might be curious or not following my @fokkenIVF page.

Many of you know by now Brandan and I went through IVF to get pregnant. It took us over 2 years and thirty thousand dollars to get to where we are at today so I am obviously very grateful to be pregnant. However, this pregnancy has been completely different than I could have ever expected or prepared myself for. I have a new found respect for anyone who has gone through a rough pregnancy because of it. Shoutout to those moms who did this multiple times. I am impressed.

So lets back up a bit, due to IVF I was put on a very restrictive exercise regime since the day I started stimulation meds. The reason being is the meds make your ovaries and organs VERY large and any twisting or sudden movement through the torso can have negative effects on the body and be harmful to the enlarged organs ( and I didnt feel working out was worth my health or having something go wrong for such an expensive/invasive procedure). So I discontinued exercise with the hope of getting back into it after we knew if I was or wasn’t pregnant. That process took about a month. When I found out I was pregnant at my first ultrasound they saw a sub chorionic hemorrhage (which is very common with IVF) but they put me on modified restriction of activity due to the presence of the hemorrhage. I was allowed to walk and do some light cardio and very light weight lifting (they said under 20 lbs and no more than 40 lbs on lower body days). For someone who deadlifts 265lbs you can imagine a 40 lb restriction made me laugh. But I eased back into it and got a few workouts in and was starting to feel better with activity back in my life regardless. And boy was I sore! It was like starting from the beginning after almost 6 weeks off. So I set a plan to workout for 2 days “on” with one day off and repeat that cycle to ease back into things. That lasted about a week and a half.

At my next ultrasound the hemorrhage had shrunk (good news right?) but they found a cyst on the umbilical cord and they also found the presence of a second baby. We had transferred two eggs so it wasn’t that shocking that both had actually implanted but the fact that the second was not seen at the first ultrasound threw us off a little. Unfortunately the second baby was so far behind in development they didnt have much hope for it being a viable baby I would carry to term. Next, the genetic counselor had to come explain to us the risks associated with the cyst being present as well which could cause major risks down the road and also a higher likelihood of miscarriage if the baby wasn’t able to get the nutrients it needed due to any blockage the cyst would cause. At this point I felt like nothing could go easy for us. But of course I was just grateful our original baby was okay as far as they could tell and we would have to wait and see if any of these things caused bigger issues for us. Talk about stress and anxiety.

The following day I started cramping at 10am. I felt the cramping was strange because I hadn’t had any cramping in a few weeks and it just didn’t feel normal. I told Brandan in the afternoon how I felt and I was a little concerned but we both read that cramping could be completely normal throughout your first trimester and so I tried to believe it was just part of the process. Later that day we had a bunch of supplement packages delivered. I am talking like 20+ boxes. Some of them weighing 30+ lbs. They were sitting on our porch outside and I didn’t even think twice I just brought them all inside one by one. And then it happened. About an hour later I went to use the bathroom and blood was in the bowl. The doctors had told me that I do have two reasons to bleed. The hemorrhage could cause me to bleed if it was being passed and I could also pass the second baby at any time. But even with that in mind all rationality went out the window and I instantly broke into tears when I saw the blood. Brandan was at a massage so I was alone. As soon as I calmed myself down I called the clinic. Unfortunately it was after hours and I had to get through to an after hour nurse. She told me I could go to the ER and get scanned for reassurance or I would have to wait until the next morning to go into my RE ( Reproductive Endocrinologist specialist). Knowing that the ER would take hours and if we did get bad news I would not want to be in that setting when doing so I chose to wait it out. Unfortunately three more times to the bathroom and the blood got worse and worse. Eventually though it did seem to lighten and I was able to fall asleep a few hours later somehow.

The next morning we were relived as hell to see our baby moving and its heart beat flickering still. That was great news. Unfortunately though my hemorrhage had tripled in size from just two days prior and ruptured which is what caused the bleed. We were fortunate that the hemorrhage wasn’t near the placenta but we were warned that this could cause major issues with our baby if it got larger. So back on bed rest I went. No walking, no working out, no lifting over 5 lbs, no anything. At this point I wasn’t sure if anything would go right this pregnancy and started getting very upset and depressed feeling. Working out has obviously been a huge part of my life for the last 6 years so to not be able to do something that makes you feel good has definitely been a struggle. Obviously I am putting the health of our baby as a priority but not even being able to walk in the sunshine with my husband has been rough.

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(Our baby measuring 10 weeks 1 day)

Thankfully, our last scan showed that the hemorrhage was “organizing” itself and had shrunk in size a bit. The other good news was the cyst was no longer seen on the umbilical cord. It was our first US with all positive news and baby was actually measuring one day ahead of schedule. But even with all of this good news the doctors still dont want me doing ANY activity. So I have come to accept my entire first trimester I will most likely not be able to be active or work out.

I also want to address the reason I fear miscarriage so much. I know every mother or pregnant woman who wants or desires to be pregnant fears miscarriage. Thats a legitimate fear for many of us. However (and I am not taking away anyone else’s feelings but I do believe we are in a very rare position to have a bit more anxiety than most) and here is why… Yes we spent a long time and a lot of money getting to where we are now. But typically when you go through the IVF process you have frozen embryos as back ups in case something doesn’t work out you can do whats called an FET (Frozen embryo transfer). An FET is a much easier process and only about 1/3 of the entire IVF process in invasiveness and length of time. Unfortunately for us none of our other embryos made it to freeze. So if we lose this one baby who has survived all of our other 14 eggs – we would literally have to start over from the beginning and pay approximately another seventeen thousand dollars to get back to where we are now. Not to mention the timeline and procedures, surgeries, and shots I would have to do completely over again. That is why I am beyond terrified of losing this little miracle. For us, its not as easy as just “trying again”.

I am now going on 11 weeks and nearing the end of  this first-tri scariness. But I cant help to be nervous as hell to do ANYTHING. Not to mention the last few weeks I have been so incredibly nauseous. I get sick if I dont eat but I get sick if I eat. Its pretty much a non-winning situation. Picking foods everyday is a battle. And unfortunately I have a super strong stomach and it takes a TON for me to vomit. I say unfortunately because honestly I know I would feel so much better if I could just get it out but I cant. I lay in misery on the verge of vomiting for hours some days multiple times a day but nothing happens. I have only actually thrown up one time since being pregnant. I never thought I would wish to throw up more. But this is the truth of pregnancy. At least mine.

So lets get to how this has affected me emotionally and how its taken a toll on my career. Again – I am not complaining just trying to create awareness of the truth of the situation. Through the IVF process its nearly impossible not to gain weight. Not being able to exercise, being put on excessive amounts of hormones, and just the stress and anxiety of the entire thing is bound to make anyone gain weight. It probably didn’t help that I was only a few months out of photoshoot prep when we started this procedure so my body was a little more sensitive to the increased hormones and decreased expenditure. Either way though, I gained about 12 lbs from my comfortable weight into the end of the initial IVF process. Now you add 7 more weeks of inability to exercise to that equation and a stomach that can only handle certain foods (CARBS) at certain times plus a baby and more hormones (yes I am still on large doses of progesterone and estrogen) and you are bound to gain more weight. So yes add +5 lbs to that equation and I am nw sitting at almost 20 lbs up from a prep weight I was comfortable at. Obviously I know this is all for the greater good. And I know I can lose it when I am done being pregnant. But I also know that anyone who has lived in the public eye for their physique is bound to have issues with body image and body dysmorphia. Now I will say this… I have come a long ways in viewing myself and my body in a rational way. And I know I dont look horrendous. I am not trying to put myself down or complain but the reality of it is I am very uncomfortable in the position I am in currently and the combination of not having a release through exercise to just FEEL better is very hard on me.

I have 22 companies I represent on a regular basis. Not even being able to get to the gym to take a selfie or promote products that I really do use when I am not pregnant and living my normal life is definitely causing issues in my career. I know I will probably lose some sponsors due to this process. Again I am okay with that. That is the reality of the fitness industry and “staying relevant”.I have already seen my online engagement decrease and I feel myself not even wanting to “try” some days.  I know I want a baby more than I have ever wanted anything so I am accepting that. But again it doesn’t mean its easy to watch income decrease due to situations you cannot control. Thankfully I do have some VERY supportive companies behind me through this process – Like RoyalSportLtd. who I will forever be grateful for. This industry is ruthless when it comes to athletes and affiliates and if you are not “producing” or staying relevant you can easily be cut from teams, not paid anymore, or lose your “place in line” to someone who is “up and coming”. I personally know a girl who’s main sponsor dropped her for not getting in shape quick enough post baby. She had so much pressure on her she ended up in the hospital for trying to workout too soon after delivery. Its the horrible truth of an industry built around body image and advertising. But that just shows the pressure we do have on ourselves in the fitness world.

So as of now I am just waiting this out. Hoping when I end the first tri here shortly I will have more energy back, be less nauseous, be able to get off the synthetic hormones and be able to return to at least walking and MOVING again to just mentally feel better. Its really not that far away now but its definitely felt like an eternity since I have been in control of my own body. I know this entire process is an amazing learning experience though. You become grateful for the days you do feel good. You are grateful for the days you do crave your normal healthy staples. You are grateful every time you see that heart beat and know you are now in control of another life that you are creating. You become grateful to create life because you know so many others out there struggle to do so. The exercise you once took for granted or even made feel like a chore is now looked upon as a luxury. Its all a learning experience and is definitely putting things into perspective. The last few years I have been longing to live for something so much greater than myself and I am finally doing that – to the fullest extent.

So happy Mother’s Day to all the moms who have been through it too. I commend you in your strength – especially those who have done this multiple times.

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~AD

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OUR IVF JOURNEY

Ive been pretty torn on opening up about this the last few weeks. Some of you know that Brandan and I posted our story a few weeks back in an attempt to ask for help and support in regards to IVF. Unfortunately we had some VERY negative comments made towards us which made me not want to publicly talk about this AT ALL. Even some of my own family was not as supportive as I would have hoped – and therefor I shut down from sharing anything and everything in regards to our story openly and on social media.

However, after searching and reading others stories online the last few weeks, I feel like its something I should be able to talk about openly as I do feel sharing our experience may be able to help others who have been struggling in the same manner. So here it goes (again).

To back up a bit, I will fill you in on the story of our infertility up to this point.

As many of you know, Brandan and I (Amber) were married a year and a half ago. Since the day we met we both knew we wanted children and that desire has only been increased with the growth of our relationship and bond.

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As we are both in the fitness industry, we had our reservations on the potential issues we may face when it came to trying to conceive. We were diligent in working with the best hormone doctors in setting ourselves up to be as healthy as possible for what we had hoped would happen in the near future.

After a few months of properly balancing our hormones we decided to contact our local fertility specialist and have some testing done, plus just gather information on where we stood with our chances to conceive. We wanted to be proactive in whichever way we could to have the best possible outcome. After many labs, tests and lots of money (our insurance does not cover fertility as most dont) we were told by our specialist that we should be able to conceive on our own within 6 months of diligently trying.

After 6 months passed and lots of let downs, we decided to take things a bit further and try a procedure called IUI (Intrauterine insemination (IUI) is a fertility treatment that involves placing sperm inside a woman’s uterus to facilitate fertilization. The goal of IUI is to increase the number of sperm that reach the fallopian tubes and subsequently increase the chance of fertilization.)
We were determined to get pregnant and hopeful that this procedure would help. When that procedure failed, we weren’t ready to give up. Unfortunately two more procedures later we were still at a loss as to why we hadnt been able to concieve. The other unfortunate factor was after those three rounds of IUI we had already drained most of any reserves we had financially, as we spent about $10,000 on the labs, testing, and the three procedures.

Looking back, I almost wished we would have just went straight to IVF (In vitro fertilization is a process by which an egg is fertilised by sperm outside the body. The process involves monitoring and stimulating a woman’s ovulatory process, removing an ovum or ova (egg or eggs) from the woman’s ovaries and letting sperm fertilise them in a liquid in a laboratory. The fertilised egg is cultured for 2–6 days in a growth medium and is then implanted in the same or another woman’s uterus, with the intention of establishing a successful pregnancy)as it was the more expensive option with a higher success rate we put our faith in the less expensive IUI procedure. Unfortunately, It would have been impossible to tell almost a year later we would still be in the same position with no child to show for our efforts or money spent.

As this subject is very sensitive and personal, both Brandan and I found ourselves depressed and needing to focus on other things. We got back into preparing for some of our fitness endeveurs during summer although we never stopped trying, we just figured we would focus on our careers for a few months and then come back to putting all of our energy into trying to concieve.

Some of you know that last year we went as far as getting a nursery set up in our home, something that for a long time upset me – seeing an empty crib for months and feeling stupid for being so hopeful it would have happened for us by now.

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(Our Nursery Room)

After lots of re-strategizing and with the help of others generosity we have been able to start the IVF process. We are currently three weeks into the beginning stage of IVF for the sake of having our first baby- the one thing we have yet been able to accomplish that we both want so badly. I plan to share my experiences with IVF and the things others dont want to talk about on my blog and Instagram in hopes of helping others who may have struggled or be struggling with unexplained infertility.

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(My baby Nephew Caden who I adore)

 

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