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Supporting your infertile friends & The Stork OTC giveaway *CLOSED*


*This giveaway is now closed. Congratulations to Laura (dandelionsarenotweeds6)!*

I know, you are waiting for my blue ribbon banana bread recipe (still happy dancing) I promised last week! Well it is still coming, I’ve gotta take pictures of the loaf I just baked, and in the mean time I have something very near and dear to my hear to talk to you about, and there is a giveaway involved so don’t be too hasty to close the window in a fit of banana bread frustration. ;)

Before the incredible gift of our son, I shared fairly often about my personal 13-year struggle with infertility, and the heartbreak.  There’s nothing quite like infertility to make you realize you’re really not in full control here. You can do everything within your power to improve your chances, from natural remedies to over-the-counter, to medical help…and you still may never get pregnant.  It’s hard to want something so badly, and not be able to accomplish it no matter the lengths you go to, or how hard you pray.

Which is why I agreed to join The Stork OTC with other bloggers to help raise awareness about how to support infertile couples and to introduce you to their nifty at-home conception device (with a chance to win one, and more, stay tuned!).  Even if you’ve never suffered from infertility, or known anyone else who did, chances are there is more than one couple you know that does, and has never revealed it.  Infertility is largely suffered with silent tears because it’s a very personal struggle that is awkward and embarrassing to share even with close loved ones.  (After fifteen years, I’m mostly past that, and it’s also easier to share to a larger semi-anonymous audience than it is one-on-one.)

Some things you should know:

Infertility doesn’t affect every person the same way, but in general these are some things that can be difficult for us (or even heartbreaking, depending on the day):

  • Pregnancy announcements. Personally these aren’t as hard for me as other infertiles I know, but at times, they have brought me to my knees.
  • Baby showers. Though I’m the odd infertile duck that really LOVES baby showers (part of it is the white cake, I just love it, LOL), I’m ashamed to admit that there have been times when I couldn’t force myself to go to them because my circumstances grieved me too much to join in the celebration.  I know it sounds terrible – jealous and selfish, and I was. Infertility can really put the ugly on beautiful things.
  • Mother’s Day, especially if at a place or function where mothers are singled out and honored in a way that shows them apart from the women they hope to be some day, and don’t know if they will ever be. This can be really shaming to infertile women, almost a pointing finger showing them unable to achieve what every other woman that wants to can.
  • Questions like, “When are you guys going to have a baby?” This truly isn’t an appropriate question to ask anyone, but especially if they’re infertile.  No matter who it is, this simply is not your business, and if the couple has been trying for an extended time without your knowledge, a question like that can really rip into their heart.
  • Hearing a pregnant woman or mother bitterly complaining about her pregnancy or child/children.  Having now been through pregnancy and mothering my own child, I know there are lots of hard times, but I make a point to only vent/complain to those who get it because I know how easy it is to hurt those who would give anything for the hard times by complaining.

This short list isn’t so much advice as information to help you understand your infertile friends and family a little better.  For a really wonderful series that is far more extensive with advice, you can start reading “Loving Your Friend Through Infertility.”  But if you’re looking for the short and sweet answer, it’s this: the best thing you can do is simply offer your love, prayers, and support.  And if possible, lots of hugs and a shoulder to cry on.

Now for the fun part, a giveaway!  If you are trying to conceive and it’s taking longer than you anticipated, using The Stork OTC is a nifty way to increase your odds if you want to try something at home before getting medical help.   Let’s talk shop for a minute, this thing is really fascinating, and forgive me but I’m going to do a little copying and pasting on their info so if it doesn’t sound like me, you know why:

The Stork OTC is an innovative, home-use device that helps with becoming pregnant. Whether you are just starting on your journey to parenthood or have been trying for longer, let The Stork OTC optimize your chances of conceiving. This NEW treatment option is FDA-cleared for home-use without a prescription. The Stork OTC offers a relaxed and private way of conceiving in your own home using new technology based on cervical cap insemination. This smart technique puts the sperm at the opening of the cervix as possible, optimizing your chances of conception.

• The Stork OTC is the only conception assistance device cleared by the FDA for over-the-counter sales to consumers, without a prescription.
o The Stork OTC could change the way couples approach challenges becoming pregnant.
• The Stork OTC is delivering hope to millions of Americans struggling to conceive a child.
o Can be used if you are diagnosed with infertility, have tried months without success, or simply want to get pregnant more quickly; also if you want to conceive without intercourse.
• With The Stork OTC, consumers finally have an easy-to-use, drug-free, economical conception aid they can use at home, without a prescription.
o A sensible first step before trying more costly, invasive procedures.
• The Stork OTC uses an established and effective conception technique—cervical cap insemination—which helps with many common fertility difficulties.
o Cervical cap insemination’s documented success rate is around 10-20% , similar to the success rate for IUI .
• The Stork OTC puts you in control; you can use it to optimize chances to conceive this month.
• It is available now, online and in select retailer stores, for where to buy visit http://www.storkotc.com/

The Stork OTC lets you take charge of your family planning, and act as a team while you do it. FDA-cleared applications for The Stork OTC include common fertility difficulties attributed to both men and women, including:

• Low Sperm Count
• Motility Issues
• Unfavorable Vaginal Environment (pH imbalance)
• Unexplained Infertility

Sounds pretty rad, right? If you’d like to enter to win one, simply comment below and mention you’d love to try it out. I will draw a name from the eligible entries on Thursday, September 24th and notify the winner by email. I will update this post with the winner’s name on Friday.

Finally, there will be a Stork Twitter chat tomorrow – please join me to exchange ideas on the best ways to support others during their struggle to conceive. You’ll also have a chance to win one of three $25 gift cards to CVS/pharmacy by answering some trivia questions during the chat!

When: Tuesday, September 22 at 1 p.m. ET

Where: We’ll be on Twitter – follow the #TheStorkOTC hashtag to track the conversation. You can see the details and RSVP via this Vite: http://vite.io/thestorkotc

Hashtag: #TheStorkOTC

Prizes: Three prizes will be awarded to randomly selected participants who answer the trivia questions correctly. Each prize includes a $25 CVS/pharmacy gift card

Hosts: @TheMotherhood, @TMChatHost, @CooperMunroe, @EmilyMcKhann

This content is not intended to be a substitute for medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician.

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Thankful Thursday #101: God’s Grace

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I know you’re all dying to know the cookies giveaway winners, so go check it out and I’ll see you back here soon.

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Grace (definition taken from Wikipedia): something that is God-given, made possible only by Jesus Christ and none other. It is God’s gift of salvation granted to sinners for their salvation. Common Christian teaching is that grace is unmerited mercy (favor) that God gave to humanity by sending his son to die on a cross, thus delivering eternal salvation. However, this definition alone may not cover all uses of the term in scripture. (You can read more by clicking the Wikepedia link if you wish.)

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Lately I’ve been going back and forth between my childless grief and smacking myself upside the head (figuratively speaking) for being such a little “it’s so unfaaaair!” baby.  News flash to self: life here on Earth isn’t. fair. 

We aren’t guaranteed anything in this life except our ultimate death, and there is so much suffering going on, beyond what I could even imagine.  This is a fallen world, a sinful world, and I’m a sinner along with every one else.  But by God’s incredible grace, I was offered, we all have been offered, salvation through the blood of his son.  By Christ’s sacrifice.

God never promised me a child.  But he offered me something even more precious.  Salvation.  I accepted that gift four years ago when I believed, confessed Jesus as my savior and was baptized.  And I try to be worthy of that gift today and follow his Word, though I do fall short many times.  I never realized until recently that I’d been taking that gift for granted, just like so many daily blessings I overlook.

I’m always thankful that God sent his son to die for my sins, grieved that he had to, but incredibly thankful that he loved me so much.  But over time I kind of lost sight of the forest for the swarm of bees chasing me-lol.  I think that’s easy to do when you are suffering, and we need to be careful of that.  I need to be careful of that.

I’m trying not to share my suffering with you too much because it’s not who I am.  I don’t focus on the negative and I truly am happy 90% of the time.  But today, with this particular post focused on what it is, I do want to tell you that yes, I do suffer monthly when that witch Aunt Flo comes to visit.  Unless you’ve been through the trial of infertility yourself, you just can’t know how much it hurts to see that red come every month, when every month you’re just so sure that she’s going to be in hibernation for nine months.

But I’ve had to give myself some tough love through this pain lately.  “God has already given you the ultimate gift, Veronica.  Isn’t He enough for you?”  Even when Paul, who did such wonderful work in God’s kingdom, asked for the thorn to be removed from his flesh which tormented him, God told him, “My grace is sufficient for you.” (2 Corinthians 12:7-10)  Yes, it is, and you’d better get over yourself, Miss Thang, because you already have what you need.

And it’s true. God is enough for me.  At one time, I will admit that He wasn’t, that all that mattered was what I wanted.  But as I’ve continued to grow as a Christian, I can now say that yes, his grace is not only sufficient for me, IT IS ALL I NEED.

Does it make me hurt inside to tell you that?  More than you could know.  While I have more than I ever could hope to deserve, that will never take the sting away from not having a child.  *sigh* I guess we all are guilty of wanting our cake and eating it too.  But that sting also does not lessen the wonderful joy I find in God’s grace and the wonderful blessings he has seen fit to give me, especially my husband.  Speaking of more than enough! :)

Will it still hurt every month when Aunt Flo knocks at the door and barges her way in despite my protests?  Oh yes, it will hurt.  Guess what, Veronica, you’re not the only one who grieves a loss today.  At least you have a husband who you adore and feels the same about you–how many people are still waiting for that kind of magic in their lives?  How many are in terrible relationships?  Or how many are dying painful deaths???  You can cry today, but while you’re doing that, you’d better pray to God and praise him for his grace, for his wonderful love, and how He has showered your life with abundant blessings.  Don’t you dare forget any of that.

So hear I am, with Aunt Flo getting ready to tear down the door.  And yes, I really thought she was in hibernation for the hundredth time.  Oh, how I can fool myself!  It only seems to get harder with time, most likely because we’re running out of it.  And I thank God for his grace, for while I may not have everything in this life that I want, I know that in my next life with Him, there will be no more tears.  Only joy.

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Thankful Thursday #97: a fresh start

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Our Memory Jar, filled with paper memories from 2012. The pictures included in this post are all things found within the jar.

Despite not doing a recipes “best of” to recap for 2012, I am a little introspective on the year.  In one way, it was a hard year. Really hard.  In all other ways, it was great.  When I think back on this year, all I feel is happy, so I’m thankful for that.  But I’m also thankful for a fresh start.

Regular readers know that 2012 was the year we really tried to have a baby–and I mean gave it our all.  And did not succeed.  We finally got ourselves checked out after eight years of casually trying and nearly a year of gung-ho trying (you know, with all the charting and timing and hooplah), and the urologist said it is “very unlikely” that we will ever have a baby together naturally.  That was really tough to hear.

Right now our future is uncertain as far as children are concerned.  We are doing what we can, including praying and taking natural supplements (there’s nothing doctors can do to help besides IVF, which we are not interested in), but our window of opportunity is fairly well shut.  Haus is on the older side to become a first-time Dad (45) and knowing what it’s like for a child to be raised by older parents (my Dad was a surprise, born to my grandparents when they were in their late 40s) and how it can make them constantly afraid that their parents will die while they are still growing up, I feel it’s not right to keep trying.  And yet it’s also something hard for me to give up.

I have been thinking about fostering to adopt for almost as long as we’ve been trying, and while this is something Dennis and I will have to decided between us, it is definitely one avenue of opportunity for us to raise a child if we do not have one of our own.  I am finding it terribly hard to totally give up on the hope of having one of our own right now, so I don’t think 2013 will be the year for us to go into the foster program.  2013 is more likely going to be a year of transition into parenthood, Lord willing, one way or another.

Anyway, besides the trial of trying to conceive and month after month of disappointment, and the weight gain brought on by my emotional eating, this has been a wonderful year.   While the photos in this post are showing our paper memories, there were many more wonderful memories made that you won’t  find on paper.  Lots of laughter, lots of hugs and kisses, lots of celebrations, long walks & talks, lots of love. We are happy, we are healthy, and I am thankful.

While I do yearn for children, I’m also desperately thankful for the “alone time” Dennis and I have had with each other for fourteen years.  I know being a parent is really hard, and we are so totally spoiled without them, and I do count that as a blessing.  I’m sure I will miss the freedom I have now if I ever lose it, so I do try to appreciate it while it is mine.

That said, I’m dreaming of what 2013 will bring.  While I’m hoping and praying that it includes a child, something that I do have control over is my diet and I’m getting that back under control.  No more, “This baby stuff is so harrrrrrd, whiney whine whine whine,” while shoveling in chips and sour cream dips, and squirting pastry bags full of leftover icing in my mouth. OK, so I don’t really whine like that, and don’t really squirt pastry bags full of icing into my mouth (though I have been known to do so in the past), but you get the idea.  I’m not going to milk the baby stress excuse to eat whatever I want in huge quantities.  Not any more.  I’m ready to “give birth” to the food baby I’ve created from overeating.  Especially since he’s decided to take up precious pants space and I really don’t want to buy bigger pants (I’ve already done that too many times).  Food baby be gone!

That is all I have to say (finally, right?), so get ready for it.  The epic ending to my blog:

Still makes me laugh.  Check out the blog Den’s cartoon is featured in here if you missed it last January.  Peace to you all, may 2013 bring you much happiness.

Love, Veronica

P.S. I posted a Tropical Traditions Coconut Oil giveaway later than usual yesterday so if you missed it and want to enter to win, click here to check it out!

Thankful Thursdays #57: my itty bitty sweetie


Continuing with my top ten thanksgivings, this one is expanding on #3:

“Here is where I would likely list my children if I had them, but my Jessie girl takes the number three spot because she is my only child.  A dog-hater my entire life, it’s hard to believe how quickly she turned me around with those puppy grunts and her tiny tongue and tiny, dime-sized paws.  Now, it is such a joyful thing to come home to her enthusiastic greeting every day.  The big smile, the wagging tail, the soft panting as I pet her.  I now fully comprehend the saying “dogs are a man’s best friend” because I have experienced firsthand how well-suited they are as human companions.  Their devotion and unconditional love is something that we’d do well to learn from and apply to our own relationships!”

OK, as the title of this blog suggests, I call Jessie my “itty bitty sweetie,” but the truth is, she hasn’t been “itty bitty” for a long time.  She’s a larger mixed-breed dog, and according to the vet, is about 10 lbs. overweight.  Most dog parents are probably aghast that we have overfed our dog to this degree, but I’m kinda proud she’s not any heavier.  It is really hard for me to say no to this face.

There is a song called “God Gave Me You”  by Dave Barnes that Blake Shelton remade after hearing it during a low point in his relationship with his wife, Miranda Lambert.  The chorus goes, “God gave me you for the ups and downs.  God gave me you for the days of doubt.  For when I think I’ve lost my way, there are no words here left to say, it’s true.  God gave me you.”  The song really is meant for a partner, but the music video applies it to other relationships (like mother-daughter), and to other random people God puts in our paths to help us through life (like an EMT at the scene of an accident).  And that’s how I feel about my Bitty.  God gave her to me, to us, because we really, desperately needed her.  And we didn’t even know it!

Jessie was born on June 4, 2004, on our fourth wedding anniversary.  It was a year after we’d been trying to get pregnant, and at that point we weren’t very concerned that it hadn’t happened.  But God saw there would be a need to fill a hole, and helped fill it before we even realized there was going to be one, and Jessie certainly has.

My youngest sister, Lacey, rescued the last surviving puppy from a litter in a bad home, where they were starving the Mom and she had eaten all her other puppies to survive.  Dad wouldn’t let Lacey keep her, and she asked us if we would take her since we had just bought our own home.  Well, I had been an avowed dog-hater my entire life because I thought they were stupid and ugly, dirty and smelly, and worst of all, they barked at everything.  But when I saw Jessie, who was rescued at just three weeks and was so young she couldn’t walk without falling over, I couldn’t say no.  I couldn’t see the last surviving puppy go to the pound and possibly be killed there.  So we took her home, and I’m so glad we did.

When we got her, Jessie was covered in fleas, and when she got sick a week later, we discovered that she also had worms.  We got rid of her fleas and worms and gave her the nourishment she’d been lacking.  (Her pot belly in the above picture is due to the worms, not fat.)  I really became this fur baby’s mother, and would even wake up in the middle of the night if I heard her get up–once falling out of bed in my rush to go to her.  She wasn’t fully housebroken until a month later, and I can’t tell you how many times I had to spot-clean the carpet and shampoo it.

She became the most horrible little hellion, biting, biting, biting, biting, BITING!  She drove me to tears one night because she had been so nice to my sister while she was visiting, and then bit me bloody after Danielle was gone.  She had so much energy, and we simply couldn’t walk/run, or play with her enough to diminish it.  And she would. not. listen.  Jessie chewed on the baseboards, ate our shoes, and our once clean carpets and floors turned into stained messes with dog fur in the corners.

I tell you what, this dog taught me patience, and to let go of my “clean house standards.”  If I ever have a child, whether of my own or adopted, I can tell you right now that I will be a much better mother because I first raised Jessie.   Marker & crayon all over the walls?  I wouldn’t bat an eyelash. You should see what Jessie has done to our front door!  (Dirt and claw marks out the wazoo.)  It will never recover.  And here she is, pretending to be so innocent!

Besides teaching me patience, her energy also whipped us into physical shape because we had to walk her an hour a day, minimum, or suffer the consequences (i.e. come home to a house  that looked like a Tasmanian devil had spun through it a couple dozen times).  Coming home from work became something I looked forward to, because I knew I’d have a puppy spazzing out with glee on the other side of the door as soon as she heard me pull into the driveway.  There was something about her huge smile and heavy panting (something I’ve come to recognize as almost the dog version of laughter or an expression of deep-seated contentedness) that could fix anything and everything.  Just her presence made me feel whole, even through all the tears of frustration as hopes of becoming pregnant were crushed month after month.  In addition to my relationship with God, I really feel her presence helped me come to terms with our infertility a lot easier and faster than if we hadn’t had her as a “child”  already.  (You can read my sob story about our childless-ness here if you care to.)  There is nothing like a dog head resting on your lap to make you feel better. :)

It has taken Jessie almost eight years, but her energy has finally diminished to what I would consider a “normal” level and she has turned into the dog I had hoped we were getting when we took her in.  She is kind, loving, and best of all listens and obeys!  I really  never thought there would be a day when I would call her and she would come to me, even for a treat.  But it’s here.  And Dennis is glad that she no longer pulls his arm out of socket every time we take her on a walk.  She walks at our pace now–a miracle!

Recently, Jessie was attacked by another dog at our vet’s office and her knee cap has been out of place ever since, about a month.  She is on pain medication and glucosamine to rebuild the cartilage and we hope that it will go back in place on it’s own because otherwise she might need a surgery we can’t afford yet.  Seeing her limping around gave me a preview of what it will be like when she is old, and has left me more aware than ever of how short a time we will have with her.  At best, another eight or so years.  I do not look forward to the day when I will have to say good bye, but I do relish every day we have with her.  She is my sunshine and makes me happy when skies are gray.  She not only fills the hole where children would be, but fills in every hole where sadness might lurk.

Jessie does this thing when she can tell I’m mad (well, it’s obvious, I start to get loud).  She comes into the room I’m in and gives me a worried look with her tail wagging cautiously.  Sometimes she’ll come up and put her head underneath my hand to make me pet her instead of yelling.  She knows that her presence will instantly change my mood and it works every time.  She is the magic cure.  It doesn’t matter how mad I am, as soon as I see her expression and that tail, as soon as she puts her head under my hand or reaches out to me with her paw and pushes on my leg, everything bad in my heart flies away in an instant and I apologize and comfort her so she knows I’m not really that mad.  What a gift!

I know I said Dennis completes me a couple weeks ago, but honestly, Jessie does too.  Life wouldn’t be the same without her and I thank God for her.  She is such a blessing.

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