Saturday, April 30, 2016

NIAW Post for Miss Conception... 1 in 8 Isn't Limited to Women

#NIAW Bloggers Unite Conference~ Day 8
Hosted by Miss Conception Coach

As one part of NIAW, I was asked to be part of a bloggers unite conference this week (thanks to @MissConceptionCoach- see web link above to go to her site/blog). Those of us participating wrote about different angles of infertility, and all pieces are also centered on the theme #StartAsking. I'll be sharing the posts from the other women each day, and one day mine will pop up as well. You can read them all here, on the link above, or at the featured blog itself (which will have a link at the bottom). 
Here's today's post, Day 8... MY POST!!! :) :) :) 

1 in 8 Isn't Limited to Women

#StartAsking About Male Factor Infertility
Like millions of other couples, our fertility journey has been quite an emotional roller coaster for all the typical reasons- stress, finances, fears, heartache, surgeries, IUIs, miscarriage, heartbreak, seeking support, insurance policies, IVF, the list goes on and on and on. However, our specific situation is not like many others... we are exclusively dealing with male factor infertility (MFI) and can only experience pregnancy with the use of a sperm donor. 

Throughout our 4-year journey of trying to conceive, I've come across many couples with MFI but most are still able to conceive using the male partner's sperm. Sometimes it's a matter of low sperm count, sometimes it's a varicocele that needs to be corrected, sometimes it's unexplained, etc., but most of the time they are still able to conceive together.  In 4 years, I've only come across ONE couple in our situation, but they've chosen to keep their story private (respectfully and understandably so), so as happy as I am to know we aren't alone, I still kind of feel like we are in many ways. 

According to current statistics, infertility affects 1 in 8 couples. Male factor infertility is said to account for about 30% of infertility cases. Of that 30%, I'm not sure of the stats of male factor ONLY.  Due to the 30% statistic, I know we are obviously not alone, but MFI is a topic that most are uncomfortable going public with... therefore couples like us are left feeling lost, alone, and in the dark when it comes to seeking out specific support systems. We have, however, come across many couples using egg donors, and although we are extremely thankful for their support and complete understanding, it's still quite different in a few ways. Women using egg donors to get pregnant can still first-handedly experience pregnancy and form an immediate bond over 9 months with their child since they are the one carrying. Men using sperm donors to get their partners pregnant sadly don't get that same type of first-hand bonding experience with their child during pregnancy. Sure there are ways to bond, but it's still not the same. Women are also more open about their struggles than men are, so men like my husband are left with no one to talk to who truly gets it and has walked in his shoes. 

I know there must be millions of couples in our situation. I know it's a tough thing for men to deal with and be comfortable speaking up about. I know it's a hard thing to accept. However, I haven't found anyone in our position who is also open about their journey... and that's still very difficult for us at times. This leaves couples like us feeling like we are battling this alone and that no one totally understands our struggle in its entirety. 

In our case, my husband is completely infertile.  There are no sperm and there will be no sperm.  There is no hope for us and there likely won't be a sudden miracle of sperm development. We can't make a baby together without sperm; it just ain't gonna happen.  After a year of trying to get pregnant, my husband went for a sperm analysis.  When that resulted in zero sperm (which, until then we didn't even know was possible), he was sent for another sperm analysis. That test resulted in zero as well, so he was referred to a reproductive urologist (who, yup, ordered yet another analysis). After 3 tests showing zero, a physical exam, and some blood tests, the Dr. determined that my husband had 2 varicoceles AND a chromosomal syndrome called Kleinfelter's Syndrome, both of which can be infertility factors.  My husband had surgery to correct the varicoceles and we had to wait 3-6 months to see if it would help sperm production.  When it didn't make a difference in our case, he had to have a sperm mapping procedure (a needle biopsy on both testicles- 32 needles in all, conscious, and fully aware of all that was going on!) to see if any sperm could be found and frozen to be later used for IVF. Although he took a major hit for the team, we didn't get any sperm out of all those needles and had to accept the fact that hubby's double whammy of Kleinfelter's on top of the varicoceles was a big likelihood of why we needed to move to a sperm donor if we wanted to experience pregnancy (which we totally wanted). To this day, some people still don't get it and tell us that stress can play a factor and we could someday conceive on our own... but without one of the 2 key ingredients to making a baby, it literally just cannot happen. IF it miraculously did, we would totally be making headlines! In the meantime, we have accepted it and now just hope to spread the word so others can be educated on the topic and/or don't feel alone if they're struggling too. 

For many couples fighting infertility, their fight ends when they get pregnant.  For some others, it ends when they give birth to their child(ren).  For us, our fight won't ever really end. We have the rest of our lives ahead of us with the constant reminder that our family has different biological/genetic makeups. We will someday have to explain to our son that half of his genetics are somewhat unknown to us and we can only give some answers based on a piece of paper (our sperm donor profile). We dread the fear of our son possibly someday hating us because he's different from his friends in some way or lashing out against my husband because their tie isn't like other fathers/sons.  One thing I'm absolutely sure of, though, is that my husband will be an amazing dad. He already is. In a strange way I almost think his infertility is his superpower. It's causing us to love and appreciate each other more, have a heightened appreciation for pregnancy, for our baby, and moving forward becoming parents. Sometimes you have to find creative ways to turn your struggles into your strengths. My husband is great with kids and we often coin him "The baby whisperer".  His ability to love and adapt to other people's babies makes him well prepared to tackle our future together.  None of our friends or family have to deal (or have dealt) with that.  Our struggle is only half over. We still have an eternity of "what ifs" and the fear of difficult questions and conversations when the time comes.  There will be no right or wrong answers and I know that we will figure it out as best we can when the time comes, but it's lonely knowing our friends/family can't understand firsthand what our experiences and struggles are like for us. 

I have hope for the future, though. I have hope that infertility will someday become a more acceptable thing to talk about. The only way to make something less awkward is with more and more exposure of it. We all need to start speaking up more, start asking more, start sharing more, and start supporting more. I can honestly say that, although our friends and family doesn't 100% understand what we are going through, they are 100% supportive and we are extremely thankful for that. 

#StartAsking About Support
The support piece didn't always come easy for us at first; we had to work for it in a sense. We had to be willing to speak up and start talking about it. My husband and I both used to tend to keep things in, especially when it came to stressful or emotional issues.  I've always been a very shy person and would only open up to others when comfortable. When we first found out my husband was infertile, we both fell apart. We were lost, confused, angry, broken, shocked, and just didn't understand. Neither of us were able to function at work the next day and we slowly started to talk about it to a few coworkers when it was obvious something was up with each of us at our jobs. Slowly, we began to realize a few things that happened from sharing our stories... people listened, people supported, people grieved with us, people cared, people wanted to help, and occasionally, some people understood. Every so often in sharing our story, we would hear "I know someone else who struggled" or "I struggled too".  Little by little, over time, we've met MANY people who either struggled to conceive themselves or know someone close to them who has. It truly is 1 in 8. Think of literally all the people you know (or have known) and divide it by 8. About that many people are struggling somewhat with conceiving (or may struggle when they try). That's A LOT of people! So why aren't more people talking about it? 

I think somewhere along the way, infertility automatically became a taboo topic. Understandably so... you feel alone, you feel broken, you feel ashamed, you feel like you're different or that there's something wrong with you. But that's not the case. I think people naturally kept it in and were too afraid to talk about it. Thankfully over time, people did start to talk about it more and more, and now it's finally becoming more acceptable and widespread.  Without opening up about our struggle, infertility would have crushed and broken me for sure... no doubt about it. I literally would not have survived the last 4 years without being able to open up about it and connect with others in our shoes. The only way to make something more comfortable is to talk about it, teach about it, ask about it, and spread awareness. In a sense, I love seeing infertility stories highlighted in the media. I'll never love the fact that infertility exists, but I love when awareness is spread in hopes of helping out or educating just one more person. Many celebrities have felt comfortable stepping forward about their struggles in past years as well, and all of it just reassures me that we are slowly winning this fight by raising more and more awareness. We may never be able to make infertility disappear, but we can make it a comfortable topic and help others in need so they don't have to struggle silently and feel like they're alone. 

Start sharing... however you're comfortable doing so. We have only received positive support from sharing our journey. Here are some ways that may help you get the ball rolling...
- Tell a best friend. 
- Tell your family.
- Tell a coworker.
- Find support online forums. 
- Find support on Instagram (#ttc).
- Follow infertility blogs. 
- Start your own blog. 

In my opinion, we all need to spread awareness in whatever ways we can.  Not only for ourselves and our own support systems, but also for everyone else struggling quietly out there.  I know there are some insensitive and naive people out there with some occasional crazy comments to take us down, but the only way to stop them is to educate them on the reality of infertility.  It's everywhere.  It doesn't discriminate.  Affecting 1 in 8 couples means that every human on the planet should know at least one couple (likely wayyyy more) dealing with infertility.  If everyone was more open about their struggles, others would be more understanding and more supportive.  Sure it will take time and effort, but the only way to make it common info is to talk about it and open up.  The only reason my husband and I have gained so much support to carry us through the last 4 years is because we opened up. So now I do it for the millions of others still trying.  The fight doesn't stop here for me.  My husband and I will still keep talking about it for the rest of our lives because it's forever a part of us.  It's a part of our son's life and it's a part of the lives of 1 in 8 couples.  Start talking; Start sharing; Start supporting; ... #StartAsking. 

#StartAsking Questions...
- About male factor infertility
- About low sperm count (and the MANY things that can affect/alter it)
- About azoospermia
- About Varicoceles 
- About Kleinfelter's Syndrome
- Low testosterone 
- About sperm donors
- About egg donors
- About support (from family & friends)
- About support groups
- About recommendations for local fertility Drs. 
- About insurance coverage 

We can't gain answers and support if we don't start somewhere. Start asking and start fighting. You are not alone. 

Thanks for reading!

Stacy Ricci

*About us: 
My husband & I are high school sweethearts (together since '99 and married since '07) and started trying to conceive in 2011. Over the past 4 years, we've dealt with the news of male factor infertility (combination of Kleinfelter's Syndrome and Varicocele issues), Scott went through many painful and uncomfortable procedures, we did 6 IUI cycles, dealt with a miscarriage, a fresh IVF cycle, and a FET cycle. We are currently (and finally!) 27 weeks pregnant with our first child, due this July. We started our blog 3 years ago and it focused on our story and our journey to parenthood, with all the struggles in between. Although we are currently pregnant, our fight hasn't ended. We may focus on pregnancy posts for now, but we still have a lot ahead of us and it doesn't mean we have forgotten the struggle. The struggle made our journey, made us stronger, and paved our pathway to parenthood. To see more on our story, visit <3 

#NIAW Bloggers Unite Conference~ Day 6 & Day 7 (Combined)

#NIAW Bloggers Unite Conference~ Day 6
Hosted by Miss Conception Coach

As one part of NIAW, I was asked to be part of a bloggers unite conference this week (thanks to @MissConceptionCoach- see web link above to go to her site/blog). Those of us participating wrote about different angles of infertility, and all pieces are also centered on the theme #StartAsking. I'll be sharing the posts from the other women each day, and one day mine will pop up as well. You can read them all here, on the link above, or at the featured blog itself (which will have a link at the bottom). 
Here's yesterday *AND* today's posts, Days 6 AND 7.

#NIAW- Day 6, Bloggers Unite Conference- Share Your Story!
Hey Girl Hey!  My name is Morgan Libero and this is my blog to help promote awareness and provide support for all things infertility related, with a whole lot of realness and a little bit of humor (believe me, every bit counts).
We’re surrounded by the most loving and tight-knit support system of family and friends, but during our journey it still wasn’t enough to get me through.  I was even lucky enough to have been in contact with some acquaintances who had difficulty trying to conceive.  However, I remember countless hours and nights spent in bed posting and waiting for the response of someone on the other end  of an infertility website, whom I knew only by screen name and not face, but had felt an immediate connection with.  I thought to myself back then, how when almost one in every eight couples struggle with infertility, is there not more local support.   I made a promise to myself that if I eventually got my baby, I would basically pay it forward.  My hope is that this blog will allow me to spread my mission and establish a  support group  for others in surrounding cities and towns and eventually founding a non-for-profit organization to provide the funds for couples who’s insurance won’t cover and/or cannot afford to pay for IVF (In Vitro Fertilization). Our journey is no more easier or more difficult than anyone else’s-it is just ours.  If you’re not experiencing infertility, I’m sure you’ve known or will come to know someone struggling and I hope this blog provides some insight.  If you are experiencing infertility, please reach out to me in whatever way you feel most comfortable and I hope I can be there to support you throughout your own journey. 

I am thrilled to be part of Miss.Conceptioncoach’s Bloggers Unite Conference this year in honor of National Infertility Awareness Week and humbled to have been included with such an esteemed group of women.  This year’s theme is #startasking and I cannot think of a better theme for me, personally, since this was basically the springboard for my blog, On Prayers & Needles.
During my journey, I couldn’t help but #startasking how, when 1 in every 8 couples struggles with infertility, are there not more local support groups available? I would go to my OBGYN, our fertility doctor, my husband’s urologist, the chiropractor & acupuncturists’ offices and there would be corkboards overflowing with every type of group you could name.  Yet, the only one I needed in that moment wasn’t there.
Instead, I would spend countless hours glued to my cell phone or laptop on BabyCentre, What To Expect Before Your Expecting, etc., etc. group boards waiting for any type of a response to the questions I had.  Did anyone have success with Tese for Azoospermia?  How many months did you take Clomid before becoming pregnant?  Did you take birth control pills as part of your IVF protocol?  Are these follicle numbers and measurements decent?  I’d wait, to hear from someone I knew only by screen name and not face, someone who lived in another country, to answer.  I’d wait there praying that I’d get some glimpse of hope that they had been where I was and everything worked out.  And while I appreciated any and all of the support I could get across the Internet and anywhere else, I yearned for a “safe place” ~a place where I could sit with women who were or had been in my shoes and we could discuss all of these things face-to-face over coffee at a local Starbucks.  It was then that I promised myself, if I were ever to receive my miracle, I would basically Pay-It-Forward by starting a local support group.  That is when this blog was basically conceived (no pun intended).
Fast-forward to just about two-months ago when I finally revved up the courage to launch On Prayers and Needles and share my story…
Slowly, I began to hear the stories of others whom I may or may not have known had difficulty getting pregnant and it felt very liberating for all of us to exchange our experiences.  Then I even started to receive intermittent questions from readers asking for more information about meds, doctors, recommendations for a successful IFV cycle. However, none of these women (rightfully so) were interested in participating in a local support group, which led me to #startasking a bigger question:  How, when 1 in every 8 couples is infertile, is there still such a stigma and sense of shame in not being able to conceive naturally?
For anyone who has been following (thank you) and those of you just tuning in (thank you, also), I’m sure it is pretty evident that I am an open-book.  During our journey there was never a time when I didn’t feel comfortable saying that we were struggling with infertility. You might think that is because it was more of my husband’s “problem”, but I also had my own “issues”.  It’s just I came at it from a different perspective, which was basically if it’s broke, fix it.  If your hip gives out, you replace it.  If you have an infection, you take an antibiotic.  If you can’t produce sperm, you find a way to.  Clearly, there is no shame in our game and of course, I’m making light of all of these situations.  They’re not all that easily resolved.  But my mentality was and is, just like anything else in life, if it isn’t working, you fix it (failing marriage, dead-end job).  And regardless of what anyone’s picture-perfect life appears to be on Instagram, believe me, there’s something they need or have had to “fix”.
While I completely respect anyone’s choice to keep their infertility private, I also find it important to #startasking why?  Are you any less deserving of a baby than someone who could conceive without interventions?  In a day in age when science is revolutionary, why wouldn’t you use the advancements provided to start or complete your family?  Even when religion is a factor, doesn’t your God want you to be a mom?  Don’t you think that someday, if you choose, to explain to your child “how they were made” that they’ll realize how much you loved and wanted him or her even before they were born? If someone in your life was struggling with something, wouldn’t you want them to open up so you could be there for them?
One of the most touching responses I’ve received since initiating the blog, was an e-mail from someone who hadn’t shared her story with anyone outside of her immediate circle.  She felt inspired, after reading and relating to mine, to share her own with me.  I read it, tears streaming down my face, hoping that she could see the beauty in her story that I did.  While that wasn’t the initial intent of the blog, in that moment, I realized that it had served its purpose in a different way.
The more we open up and #startasking ourselves and others these tough questions, the more people will become aware of infertility and all it entails.  Once more and more people #startasking, the dialogue can begin so that we (both those who have and have not encountered infertility) can better support one another.  I shared my story to get the conversation going, so now I must #startasking, will you?

Find Morgan and follow her at 

#NIAW- Day 7, Bloggers Unite Conference- I Still Struggle With Infertility

H E L L O friends!  I am excited to tell you a little about me and my blog. I believe in happiness, not only going after your dreams but achieving them. We each have something to contribute to the world, to inspire, and to motivate others! I believe in smiling till it hurts and dancing every chance you get. Most importantly I am a wife, a daughter of God, a mother and a woman. Thank you for stopping by and I hope you find something that helps encourage you. *About xoxo… my mom signed everything she ever gave me with this and I want to continue it in my family and with my friends. So it’s not just a silly signature, it’s tradition.

{mrs. smith}

mama + wifey + dog lover + southern born & bred + baker + ocd + dancer + hot chocolate addict + adventurer + yogi + nurse + dreamer + friend + pure barre lover + believer + john mayer junkie + daughter + collector of all things sparkly + lover of life & god

{meet mr. smith}

ry’s daddy + husband + dog obsessed + triathlete + teeth fixer + closet gangnam style dancer + nor cal native + hunter + italian speaker + sour patch eater + cinnamon egg cooker + loyal listener + paintballer + old soul + traveler + scuba diver + peace maker


are proud parents to baby ryker + ‘temporarily {for 4 years}’ live in arizona + own two incredibly clingy dogs {duke & lulu} + love to eat + have a netflix addiction

Because I Still Struggle with Infertility

This may seem crazy to some people but just a few weeks after I had my son Ryker my mind began thinking about baby #2. Crazy, I know. Even I wanted to grab my shoulders and shake the nonsense out of my head.
When I told my husband he didn’t say a word. Not one. No acknowledgment because he knew what was going through my heart and didn’t want to hurt my feelings by saying ‘No way babe!  We are barely getting the hang of this whole parenting gig!’.
It is SO early. Baby boy just turned 4 months and here I am wanting another.
I want to devote all my love and attention to the baby that I have and prayed so much for.  Will people think that I am selfish for wanting another baby so soon?
It took us almost 2 years to get pregnant because of my endo journey.  In my mind I am calculating that we will have to get started now if we are going to have our big family with all our kids close together. {Insert snarky old lady comment:  “You know you aren’t getting any younger…”}
The thing is – You’ve had a baby. You DID it! You overcame infertility!
Not quite. To some extent it’s true. I think Ryker is a perfect example of how we beat the odds one time. But having a baby doesn’t make infertility go away. Do you ever overcome infertility?
I use to joke that I had a hostile uterus (hey just like Meredith Grey!) but I am hoping things may be easier since my body knows what to do and each pregnancy is different just like each kiddo.
People are going to #startasking the question that is guaranteed to come up
“When are you going to have another one?”
And that’s okay, let them ask. It may scare the poo out of you (can you tell I have a newborn) or maybe you have learned to let it roll off your back. Either way here are some reminders to take away…
I am type A. I love a good TO DO list, alphabetized and color coded.  I am a planner, always have been always will be but sometimes there is a far better plan in store. I wanted a baby so bad but it just wasn’t happening. So, I went back to school and got a second degree, I helped choreograph a large production for our church and participated in a service trip abroad that humbled my heart. I was given opportunities that I needed in order to be a better me. Did I experience loss? Too much. Did I cry almost every night? You betcha. But I truly believe that if you focus your energy on learning a new skill, becoming a better wife and mom, cheering on your friends that do get pregnant with baby 2, 3, and 4, and crying with your friends that open up to you about challenges they face, it will allow you to be refined for a better purpose. GO LEFT and you may be surprised what’s in store for you.

This one is simple for me to understand but man do I have a hard time applying it. I am constantly worrying about what people think. Then one day Cameron asked if I would ever see those people again. How often do I even talk to them? Do they really know anything about my personality or life? The people that are closest to you and love you the most are those that are there to support you. They won’t judge how many children you have or how far apart they are. They will welcome each child with open arms and a full heart.

In a world of instant oatmeal, direct deposits and Amazon Prime it can be challenging to want something immediately and not be able to have it. I know each child is a blessing and worth the wait. Refer back to point 1, get out and try something new to be a better you. In my experience, the unplanned adventures usually turn out to make the best memories.

When are you going to start trying?
We try every night
Just the one?
Yup one little miracle.
Wait till you have three…
We are grateful for our two.
Now you need to try for a girl!
Our boy is just perfect for us.
Hold on, you have how many kids?!
We couldn’t be happier.
The thing I have realized is people will always have something to say about the number of children they see that you have.
“A Mother is not defined by the number of children you can see, but by the love she holds in her heart.” – Franchesca Cox
– – – – – –
I hope that when people #startasking you start telling. Infertility is not something to be ashamed of, not something to feel guilty about and definitely not something to apologize for. It sucks, a lot, but you are not alone. Speak up and make your voice heard. Let’s unite women in each and EVERY stage of motherhood!

Find Katie and follow her at