H&L: Thank you so much for sharing with us your struggle with infertility in our 7th and 8th issues of the magazine back in 2016. It's been about a year now - will you share with us an update on your journey?
Caitlin Lindquist: Unfortunately, a lot has happened since then. When we last spoke, I sadly had four failed IUI’s (intrauterine inseminations) under my belt and had just publicly gone through a very devastating miscarriage of our identical twins following our first IVF frozen embryo transfer. And while it was heartbreaking and we miss our twins every single day, we discovered from that heartbreak that we indeed could get pregnant. And that was an incredibly bright light inside of a very dark tunnel.
It was a ‘missed miscarriage,’ meaning our sweet babies died but my body failed to recognize the pregnancy loss. Thus, I had to wait for my body to finally expel the pregnancy tissue (32 days later, which felt like an eternity).
We were so anxious to try again and start our family and anticipating our next frozen embryo transfer date. But sadly, our transfer was cancelled the morning of due to ‘endometrial fluid.’ Thus, we had to start the process over once again. Bring on more pills and more needles.
Finally, seven months after our first frozen embryo transfer (FET) we were able to do another one (woohoo!). And guess what?! WE GOT PREGNANT AGAIN! Hooray! Oh, we were so thrilled and thought to ourselves, ‘This is it! This is THE ONE.’ But sadly, we were wrong, yet again. At nine weeks I again had another ‘missed miscarriage.’ Our fraternal twins heartbeats both ceased to beat. This time, I couldn’t wait for another month to roll around before my body recognized the loss, so I chose to have a D&C to remove all pregnancy tissue. From that we learned that one of the twins had been Trisomy 13. So at least we had an answer as to perhaps why I was miscarrying.
We were beyond devastated, and worse yet, we had run out of embryos. Time to do another egg retrieval. It’s like gearing up for battle: you have to prepare yourself both physically and mentally. But we put our heads down and dove right in as soon as my body was ready. This time we chose to genetically test the embryos to ensure we didn’t miscarry again due to chromosome issues. It’s an expensive process and can weaken the embryo since they have to remove a cell to test them, but in the end we felt it would be worth it this time around.
Sadly, only two embryos were considered chromosomally ‘normal.’ My doctor recommended we dive right into another egg retrieval to add more ‘eggs to our basket’ so-to-speak. I was devastated, and when I found out I was at a wedding and had to take a moment to leave and give it a good cry. I felt completely unprepared to endure another egg retrieval. It’s a difficult process that takes a major toll on your body, soul, and social life. Plus, I hyper-stimulate typically from the massive cocktail and doses of hormones, making my recovery that much harder.
But yet again, we put our heads down and powered through. My doctor had chosen to change up our protocol since my eggs seemed to be immature on the last retrieval. And this time, we did SO much better! Phew! Halleluiah! Praise the Lord! We collected 10 more ‘normal’ embryos this last time and hopefully that means I never have to do another egg retrieval ever again.
So here’s hoping that 2017 is OUR YEAR! We are ready to be parents and ready to bring our sweet children down from heaven to be with us here on earth. If you’d like to continue to follow our journey to parenthood, you may follow along on my blog at Dash of Darling.
H&L: You've been a proponent of being open and honest throughout your infertility struggle and have written about it on your blog. How much has the support from your friends, family, and readers helped you through this journey?
CL: Our family, friends, and readers have helped immeasurably as we struggle to build our family. From our fight against infertility to the loss of our two sets of twins, they have all been there for us sharing love, support, and words of encouragement as we endured the biggest heartbreaks. And it has meant so much to both my husband Ben and I.
Whether they are able to chime in and offer their love and support, share similar struggles or just lend their ears, every little bit of comfort and encouragement helps during this seemingly never-ending battle against my own body. I am beyond grateful for my readers and their incessant love and reassurance that we will one day have our family, as it has driven home and instilled in us the confidence and strength to continue.
And I am so glad that I decided to share our struggles because if I can help just one other person to have the strength to continue and not feel so alone in this isolating, often dehumanizing and occasionally hopeless process, then I too feel more hopeful. It feels good to help other women – to answer their questions, to be there for them, to cry with them through the bad news and celebrate with them through the good. To cheer them on when they finally get pregnant, even if it is before I do. Their stories give me strength and hope.
H&L: Has it been hard on you physically undergoing the IVF treatments? How do you stay positive and keep your end goal in mind?
CL: In Vitro Fertilization is a battle. Not just on your body, but on your mind and on your soul. As you jump through one hoop to the next, mentally preparing yourself for whatever news may come, you’re undergoing a cocktail of hormone treatments and injections that make you feel physically drained and exhausted. On top of that, often times you are put on bed rest with physical activity restrictions. Weight gain is inevitable for most, myself included, and all of this combined can make you feel like a giant, tired slug.
What helps me is to get outside and breathe in fresh air every day. Each morning, I like to go for a walk with my dogs. No matter how tired I am, being outside in the sunshine with my puppies is a great way to start the day and allows me to get what little exercise I am allowed before jumping into the daily grind of injections and exhaustion.
It’s important to take care of yourself while undergoing fertility treatments. Doing things for you that make you happy can make a huge difference. Whether that be as simple as getting your nails done or visiting a masseuse to knead out your knots, the small things add up to give your days new life and a bit of perspective. I try to just keep my eye on the prize and stay as positive as I can.
H&L: Aside from consulting with your doctors, are there any IVF resources out there that have helped you?
CL: Aside from my doctors, my greatest source of comfort and support comes from my husband, family, friends and readers. Talking about my struggles allows me to humanize them a bit. In the beginning, before I shared that we were undergoing IVF with the world, I felt very isolated, defeated and down in the dumps. But by talking about our hardships I have found that I feel liberated, as if a weight has been lifted off of my shoulders. I no longer have to evade those ever-dreaded “when are you going to have kids” questions and I can be open and honest about our lives. In a way I think it’s allowed me to hold my head high, move forward and accept our journey.
Thus, I truly believe in the power of finding your support system. Whether that be your loved ones, an online support group or any other source that allows you to learn more about the process and seek comfort. For education and empowerment purposes, I like to read Shady Grove Fertility blog and I also follow them on both Twitter and Facebook.
I also really love to search the hashtags #ttc (trying to conceive), #ttccommunity, #ttcsisters or #ivfsuccess on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. I love reading about and seeing happy IVF success stories or finding friends to cheer on. Surrounding myself with positivity helps immensely.
H&L: You and your husband have been through so much - mentally, emotionally, physically. How do you practice self-care? And what do you guys like to do for fun?
CL: Oh, we love to be outside together as much as we can. From going for a run, playing tennis, hiking, biking, lounging poolside or walking our dogs, it’s important for us to get in as much “together” time as we possibly can.
But we also find that sometimes all you really need is a good getaway. Travel can do wonders for the soul and it allows me to slow down, relax and come back to reality feeling a bit more refreshed. So whenever we get the chance, we love to adventure wherever we can… whether near or far.
Dash of Darling is an online destination for inspiration detailing all things darling. Curated by Caitlin Lindquist, the site chronicles her daily personal style, beauty must-haves, décor musings, life tidbits, favorite travel destinations and what-to-do’s. Her goal is to offer fellow darlings a place to find ideas, explore their personal style, and get easy, accessible lifestyle tips.