wednesday letters: infertility, photography + life Q&A

Posted by Sadie Banks on

infertility Q&A

it's been a while since i've done a REAL life update... and by real, i mean one that has actual updates & isn't just skirting around details or saying, "i'm so excited to share _____ in the future" (although, is a little bit of that in this wednesday letter) and i've been getting a lot of the same questions online as i have been in real life, so i figured it was time to do a "real" update. i also did a little Q&A post on instagram & facebook, so some of those questions will be answered here too!

i have a very list-oriented mind, so i'm going to ask the questions in sections, so if you're particularly interested in one subject & not so interested in another, you don't have to read all of the questions to get to what you're here for!

INFERTILITY:

every time i post an open Q&A, i get a lot of questions about infertility (our journey as well as infertility in general) so i wanted to start with that for those of you who are wanting to help a friend or just curious about our journey & where we're at.

- how did you find out that you were infertile?
actually, infertility had been on my radar for quite a while. PCOS & Endometriosis both run in my family & a few of my aunts, cousins & even one of my sisters have struggled with infertility, so for the last few years (probably close to the last like 7 years), i worried about infertility being a part of my life. i always hoped that it wouldn't be an issue for me, but i've known from day 1 that infertility treatments work & miracles happen, so that's been really helpful for me. BUT we were diagnosed with infertility in early 2017 and then diagnosed with PCOS by our infertility specialist in july of 2017. 
- where are you at in your journey?
we are currently taking a break from infertility treatments. we did an IUI in march that failed & were planning to do back-to-back IUIs, but then our puppy passed away in april & i was in NO shape to do another one, so we decided to take a break for the summer. we don't have a definitive time-frame yet of when we will start treatments again, but hopefully soon!
- what's the basic process for someone going through infertility?
this is a hard question to answer because every situation is different. but i'll share our basic journey because i feel like a lot of people experience similar things.
we started trying for a baby in early 2016, shortly after we got married. like i said earlier, infertility was on my radar from day 1, but i always just hoped that it wouldn't be a thing for us. after about six months with no success, i went to an OBGYN to see if there was anything they could do to help us. you're not technically infertile until you've been trying unsuccessfully for 12 months, so the OBGYN told us to use ovulation predictor kits, keep trying & sent me on my not-so-merry way. so for the next six months we used ovulation predictor kits to try to help us, but i never once got a positive on one of those little demons. i was too scared to go to an infertility specialist right off the bat, so when we hit our 12 month mark, i promptly scheduled another appointment with my OBGYN. i had a list of questions ready to go & was still just terrified that i would be told i was infertile, but i wanted to be 100% sure & know why my body wasn't working the way that it was supposed to. when i brought up PCOS & endometriosis, the OBGYN very quickly dismissed my questions & told me that i didn't look like i had PCOS. (there are a few physical symptoms-- heavy acne, overweight, excess hair) she gave me a prescription for a medication called femara & we did our first cycle of medicated timed intercourse. after that didn't work & that appointment with the OBGYN, i didn't really want to go back. it took me a few months to build up the courage to schedule an appointment with a fertility specialist, but that first appointment with dr. parker at utah fertility center was the most relieving & helpful appointment we had ever had. we walked in & he asked us why we felt like we had infertility issues. i told him that my sister had PCOS & he said, "well let's go find out!" we walked back to an ultrasound room & he checked me and said, "yep, you definitely have PCOS." it was a five-minute process that had answered years of prayers & questions. (it explained my irregular periods, cramping, occasional cysts & frequent nausea/vomiting-- things that had been happening to me for literal years.) he then helped us set a treatment plan. we did 2 rounds of medicated timed intercourse with femara and then would go from there. i was also put on metformin (yes, the diabetes medication) for our first round because that helps people with PCOS. after those didn't work, we decided that we wanted to try an IUI. during our first round of IUI, parker got tested & everything was good on his end. our IUI went smoothly & while we were waiting to hear back if we were pregnant, i felt hopeful for the first time in a long time. our IUI wasn't successful & i was sad, but i was ready to go, but we didn't have quite enough money saved up to do another one right off the bat, so we decided to wait a month. well, like i said earlier, our puppy ended up passing away & i just wasn't in any shape to continue with treatments, so we decided to take a break for a few months. so long story short, from our experience, infertility journeys go somewhat like this: try for 12 months without success, then medicated timed intercourse + testing on both partners, then IUI, then IVF. we're open to the idea of adoption, but we're not ready for that yet. we've discussed foster care but aren't ready for that either. so we're sticking with this path until we're told otherwise.
- what's the difference between and IUI & IVF?
IUI is Intrauterine insemination. the goal is to increase the number of sperm that reach the fallopian tubes to increase chances of fertilization. this is a pretty simple procedure that is done unmedicated (with no anesthesia). it is medium uncomfortable, but the more cycles of IUI you do, the higher your chances of pregnancy. (also you have a higher chance of multiples) source
IVF is In-Vitro Fertilization. it's a pretty intense process where you take multiple injectable medications to increase your egg production. once your body is ready (after medications), you'll do what is called an egg retrieval. which is basically exactly what it sounds like. the doctor goes in and takes out your eggs just before ovulation (which is when your body pushes those little suckers into your ovaries). this is done under medication (you have the option to be completely under anesthesia or just have pain medication) once the doctor takes the eggs out, eggs & sperm are mixed in a lab. the eggs are kept in the lab for a few days to ensure proper growth to the embryo stage. after the little embryos are ready, your doctor puts them back (put that thing back where it came from or so help me!!) they typically transfer 1-3 embryos. which can also mean multiple babes. IVF is a lot more intense & definitely more expensive than IUI. & is not a first option for most couples. source
- i'm on this journey too & it is so hard! how do you deal with infertility?
i'll be honest, this rollercoaster has gotten MUCH easier with time. i actually consistently feel really good about where we're at right now. which was definitely NOT the case for a really long time. a few things that helped me were:
1. recognizing that i could be happy & sad at the same time. i took time to really feel all of the negative emotions (sad, mad, angry, etc.). i wrote them down in notes on my phone & i've recently started using my Good Grief Journal to help me along the way. truly feeling those emotions & not just pushing them aside has really helped me. i've also tried to really take in the happy moments too. despite what your brain may tell you, happy & sad can co-exist. 
2. i made myself REALLY busy. so busy that i had to cancel plans to do our IUI because i was already booked out. i don't allow myself to dwell on the sad stuff. i feel it & then i move on because i have other stuff to do. do i still get sad & have hard days? sure, but they're nothing like they used to be. i worked really hard to do something i loved every single day. for me, that was photography. i THREW myself into photography & shoot almost every single day. that helped me feel like i had more purpose & gave me something to do in our wait.
3. we got two puppies. (not at the same time) honestly, mack & mozzie have saved us. they gave us something to love & care for that also loved us in return.
- what are some good ways to respond to someone when they mention that they've been dealing with infertility that acknowledge the person but also aren't assuming?
this is a great question! if someone is mentioning that they are going through infertility & not ready to share their entire journey with you, a simple, "oh, i'm so sorry, that must be so hard." goes a really long way. acknowledge that this journey is hard; even if you've never experienced it. 
if they're just implying that they're struggling with infertility but haven't said those exact words, i would just let them know that you're there for them if they need anyone to talk to & that you love them. 
basically, just be a good friend. 
- do you ever get asked to do pregnancy-related/baby-related photography? how does that make you feel? would you rather people not ask about that?
i have been asked to do a few maternity photos + birth stories. i don't do maternity photos because those are hard for me. but i actually love birth stories. i don't have time to do them, but i do love them. birth is incredible (super gross, but super incredible). it is amazing to be in the room when a little baby enters the world. there is just such an amazing feeling & seeing dads & moms see their little baby that they've been anticipating for the last nine months is so, so fun to see. however, i'm also kind of a baby & can get woozy at the sight of blood so there's also that. but in terms of how it makes me feel: i don't mind it one bit. i'm honored when someone asks me to be a part of their family's journey. however, i may decline & recommend someone else. 

PHOTOGRAPHY + BLOGGING:

- what got you into blogging?
i started blogging right after high school. i've always been a fan of the online world. i spent hours upon hours on facebook & pinterest & IM in middle school & high school. when i found that i could make a blog my own, i was ALL for it. i jumped on board & never looked back. i also really like sharing things that i've learned with others. & i love that i have been able to share my infertility journey here.
- what is your favorite part of working with bloggers?
there are so many things i love about working with bloggers, but i think i have two top favorites. i LOVE the friendships that i have gained by working with bloggers (i was REALLY lonely during the first year & a half because i had ZERO friends in utah & didn't really have a way to meet friends that i could hang out with). i have met some of my very best friends through photographing bloggers & i wouldn't trade that for the world. i also LOVE that each shoot is different. we get to go to new places & a lot of my bloggers have worked with really neat companies, so it's been fun to learn about those & work on those projects.
- what is one basic photography tip that you would give to a beginner that isn't "invest in a nicer camera"?
my MAIN tip would be to pay attention to light. where the light source is (behind, directly above, in front of your subject) & the type of light it is (harsh or soft). i am a HUGE fan of shooting with soft back light. but i also love soft front light. (so basically, i love soft light) when i'm shooting with my phone & have the ability, i try to shoot backlit. fully shaded areas offer really great soft light. trees provide REALLY pretty pockets of light. for example, the photo below of mack was just from my phone. the area was shaded + the trees provided that pretty pocket of light.
p.s. the definition of soft light is confusing, so think of it as EVEN light. think of when you're in the shade of a building & everything is shaded-- there aren't BIG shadows & there isn't that super direct light that makes your eyes cringe + your face look shiny (do you know what i mean?) if you go here, there's a good example of the difference between harsh light & soft light.

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RANDOM QUESTIONS:

- who is your favorite co-worker?
parker.
- if you could only eat one dessert for the rest of your life, what would it be?
i LOVE cheesecake or ice cream cake from dairy queen. so probably either of those. but if i HAD to choose one. it would definitely be ice cream cake from dairy queen.
- what was your first job?
i had my first job when i was 15! i worked at a girls camp as a cook! it was a blast & i loved it so much!
- how did you & parker meet?
haha. we met on our lds missions in st. louis. we were basically just acquaintances. we reconnected close to a year after i got home & started dating a few months later. 
- what happened to mozzie yesterday & is he okay?
mozzie had been throwing up and coughing a lot. we took him to the regular vet on monday & then again early tuesday morning. they gave him a shot to help him not throw up, but if he continued coughing, they told us to take him to the animal hospital for an xray. he seemed to be doing okay yesterday, but then last night he started coughing and gagging a lot. so we took him to the animal hospital. they said that he didn't need an xray because he was eating and drinking fine. so they recommended sedating him to take a look down his throat to see if there was grass stuck in there or to see if something had scratched his throat. they didn't see either thing, but saw that his tonsils were swollen. (tonsilitis, if you will) they gave us some medicine for him to take for the next few days. he was such a sad pup last night & the little cast on his leg was from where the IV sedation was. he was SO sleepy & cuddly last night & then woke up pretty close to his normal self. we're really hoping that he's on the mend & that he feels 100% soon!

okay. i think that's it. this post is getting long. there is a few more updates that i will share later this week, but until then, this post will have to do. we're doing really great & are so, so happy. until next time, loves. 

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