Because the important moments in life just don’t fit in a status update! I started this blog when I was training for my first ½ Ironman, (70.3 miles) to record what I hoped would be growth and progress but ended up being a huge learning experience. Although fitness is one of the key ingredients to a happy life, it certainly isn't the only ingredient. My blog has evolved to document growth, progress and setbacks in other areas too. From my surprise proposal in Rome and wedding in the fall of 2013, to Mom's devastating stage IV cancer diagnosis and death 2 weeks after I found out I was pregnant. Who knows what shape it will take, but thanks for being along for the ride.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

25 Months

Her 25th month started as we entered our summer vacation, with two months off together. 

This month, she developed a love of the "big pool," baby chicks, wearing her backpack, going on the teacups and down slides with her arms up, fostering dogs, riding on the back of Daddy's bike, Playmobil, lobster tail, estate sales, running, Eggo waffles and play-dates with friends.
We started two weeks of Mommy 'n Me swim at a local high school. Dad came a few times, and Grandpa came one day. Every weekday at 9am, she went in the "big pool" with me, her teacher and one other boy. In the first week, she learned to kick her feet while being held horizontal. While she can float on her back in our spa almost by herself, she remains reluctant in the pool. By the end of the second week, she learned to reach her arms out while being held horizontally while kicking. The teacher gave her a certificate of participation, of which she was very proud. She showed Dad, and we put it on the fridge.

Right around Mom's birthday, we bought two baby chicks. Baby A is surprisingly gentle and very loving with "Nemo and Dory." Only a few days old when we bought them, they need to be inside with a heat lamp for 2 months! This means they had to go on our road trip to Oregon! One is a Polish standard, and the other is an Americana, or Easter-egger, which will lay blue eggs.

With the results of our last IVF being negative, I started running again. Sometimes, I ran while Daddy pushed Baby A in the stroller. Instead of just taking off on my own and not seeing them until I finished, I doubled back a lot. Each time I did, Baby A gave me a high five. This also helped me check and make sure she didn't fall asleep. Even a 10-20 minute snooze on our late morning walk will throw off her nap. She was dozing off one day with less than a mile left. So, we asked if she wanted to run with Mommy and she was very excited. She held my hand and was giggling, saying "Running!" Daddy snapped a few pictures of us, which I would like to share but they just look like "before" pictures. I'll wait until I have some "after" pics to put them next to - haha. I'm not always able to run, which is a bit frustrating, because consistency is key. I've been having periodic pain in my arm pit since the lymph node removal. Sometimes, I'm planning to run and can't because of a painful, red bump that lasts days. But we take it in stride.
We fostered two dogs, which she loved right from the beginning. She would wake up and say "Puppy?" and loved carrying BamBam around.

Baby A was a big help gardening this month. A few mornings per week, we would wake up and go outside first thing, while it was still overcast. She sat on her little table with a waffle, scrambled eggs, and fruit while I started gardening. Before long, she was right there helping. I had white flowers in the front planter that completely took over and were awful to try and get out. I softened the ground, put on gloves and pulled with all my might, only to have them snap off at the base, leaving their roots for me to dig out of our clay-like soil. Frustrated, I said these flowers are.....difficult. She looked up at me and clear as can be said "difficult?"

We had a lot of play dates. We Play Loud, Pretend City and the Discovery Science Center with Tommy, Big Air Laguna for Toddler Time with the Kelly's, Huemann's, and Soules, and our local park with Olivia from down the street.

On the 22nd, we flew to Oregon. She requires her own seat now, and is supposed to be in it for take off and landing, which I didn't realize. They didn't catch it for take off, so when the flight attendant told us that on the descent, we were not prepared. She cried and protested as they moved her to it, and wriggled herself free by the time they had moved on. The second flight was much better, because I prepped her for it. 

She is developing such a personality and sense of humor. She kept looking out the window of the plane and saying "Dinosaur! Look Mommy, see it? See it?" But when I asked her if it was real she had a sly smile and sometimes said no. I'm not sure if the mountain ranges below really did look like dinosaurs with her imagination, or if she was just trying to joke me. Either way, it was as cute as all get out.

The week before Oregon, we took away her morning 7oz bottle, leaving just one in the late afternoon/early evening. In typical Baby A fashion, it was as easy as pie. She actually didn't even seem to notice and only mentioned it once every other day or so. I need to nix the second one sometime soon, but am more reluctant because it is another sign that my little baby is disappearing right before my eyes.

We were in Oregon a few months ago, and it was amazing to see her show that she remembers certain things about it like where the horses are, and demonstrated memory of riding them "Mommy, ride horse, peeeeasse?" Her cousins were already up here, and a few days after we arrived, Auntie Bex and TJ flew in from DC. 

Our days up here are very full with the longer daylight. Some mornings she was out exploring the property with me by foot or in the Gator before the house awoke, and ended the night around 9:30 pm with a ride on the back of Daddy's bike down the long winding driveway in the cooling night air. One of my favorite things to do is ask her which way she wants to go, and just follow. When her Dad and Uncle Pat and TJ were dredging the lake and she said "Mommy, clothes off" her way of asking to go in the water, in the water we went. It is only up to my knees at that part, the whole reason they are dredging, and she loved picking up pebbles or inspecting moss. After some reluctance and wining, Trevi even joined in and hopped around in the cool water.

Things I don't want to forget:
  • Sitting on the front bench and watching the moon rise.
  • Riding our bikes for ice cream. Daddy ordered a root beer and Baby A pointed at the can and exclaimed "Beast!" When we saw a bull dog on the can, we understood.
  • "Big pool!" 
  • She prefers the live action Beauty and the Beast over the cartoon now and will sometimes say "Beast, scared!"
  • Beast! Castle.
  • "Mommy watch! Under!" Going under the stream of water from the hose as I was watering out front.
  • Asking "Scat sound, Mommy?" when she heard uncle Pat doing target practice.
  • Holding my hand while she sat in the passenger seat of the Gator.
  • "My tractor"

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Chasing that Rainbow (Baby)

A “rainbow baby” is a baby that is born following a miscarriage, stillbirth, neonatal death or infant loss. In the real world, a beautiful and bright rainbow follows a storm and gives hope of things getting better. A rainbow baby brings light, but by no means replaces the angel baby.

We just completed our 4th IVF, which was negative. Our 3rd IVF before that was supposed to be our last, but with a positive pregnancy and all genetic testing coming back normal at 10 weeks along, we thought we were in the clear. We also knew that it was a little girl, and started talking about names. 

The news of no heartbeat at 17 weeks and the words "fetal demise" came as more than a shock, and still hurt. Being pregnant with that little girl allowed us to dream, and to imagine our growing family. To dream of a sibling for Baby A, of a more chaotic household, of another little one to love.

I find myself dreaming of a last, last round and one more shot at a rainbow baby. While even the thought of a pregnancy is exciting to me, I am unsure. Unsure of so many things. The risk, the failure, the additional cost, the relationship between the two, and how that will pan out. After so many failures and the loss, we are both afraid to hope again.



My husband is more pragmatic, and likes to plan for worst-case scenarios, while I'm more of an idealist. He is mostly leaving the decision up to me, and says that he is good with how things are. There is no doubt we want a second, as we did two rounds of IVF after Baby A and were both over-the-moon with my second pregnancy. But when are we done? At what point do we just cut our losses and thank the lord for our perfect little girl? Not all who go through IVF have a baby at the end of it.

My husband says he likes our life how it is and our little family of three. And I do too. I love it so much that I feel another child would only enhance it. This mom-thing doesn't have me feeling overwhelmed or tired (for the most part..we all have our days), mostly it is just a whole lot fun. His reason for us possibly being done is my reason for not being done. I love being a Mom. No, I relish being a Mom. It is my life's mission now.

And another won't make me more of a Mom, but it will give us a fuller house. More excitement at Christmas and the holidays. And, someone to be with her at my funeral. Wait, what? Yes, this is something I think of; who she will have after we're gone. Our family is extremely small. While having a sibling isn't a guaranteed close friend for life, it is at least someone with your shared history and someone you can rely on. Someone to be there for you, through life's joys and sorrows. Someone who knows you really well and loves you unconditionally.

We have some serious introspection and praying to do. I have a consult set up with CNY Fertility in New York for mid-September; their first available. Until then, it's time to enjoy summer, our upcoming trip to Oregon, and our little family of three.

Monday, July 3, 2017

Fourth IVF: Negative


Today was my blood test and official negative results: 

Hello Megan,

I tried calling your cell twice just now and no answer, your HCG level came back at <1 which means negative. I am truly sorry I wish I had better news for you today. Dr. Frederick would like for you to stop all medications and would like for you to set up a consult so she can regroup with you on next steps. Roxy will let you know what are Dr. Frederick next openings. 

But we've known for almost a week that it didn't work, because I tested at home. Four times. The first time, I still held out hope that it was just too early. I kept checking the test and staring at it. If willing a squinter were possible, there would have been that extra line that I so desperately wanted to see. But with each negative test I took, that hope diminished. Last week I was just crushed. In part because I was so hopeful, we both were, and also because this is most likely our last attempt.

As we geared up for this last round, I was all prepared for it not to work. But on embryo transfer day when we found out we had four "good-looking" embryos, I couldn't help but be hopeful. That was the highest number we have ever had. I even found myself slightly concerned it could be twins, and worried because that would mean a higher risk pregnancy. What a good problem that would be to have.

I still went in for the blood test this morning at 7:30 a.m. because you're supposed to, but was so confident in the negative result that I went for a 3 mile run while we waited for the call. 

I also signed up for the Long Beach Half Marathon. These last two rounds of hormones, and one pregnancy (that ended at 17 weeks) have taken a toll on me. I'm up at least 25 pounds since our wedding day, and heavier now than even last summer when baby A was 13 months old.

I waiver about 25 times each day between trying again and being content with being a family of three. My husband said that it is up to me. He said that I enjoy being a Mom so much that he wants me to have that experience again, if I want to. Right now, in this moment, I am not in favor of trying again. Our Baby A has made me a Mom, and she is perfect. We hit it out of the park with her. All of these additional attempts only serve to highlight just what a miracle she is.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Her 2nd Year in Review

I'm surprised that I have kept up on her updates every month. When she was born, I promised myself I would jot things down every month, but was skeptical I would actually continue to do so beyond the first few. 

For me, what helped was starting each month's post on the very first day, and just writing a sentence or two in my free time as the month progressed. That way, it wasn't a looming task at the end. 

24 Months 
23 Months
22 Months
21 Months
20 Months
19 Months
18 Months
17 Months
16 Months
15 Months
14 Months
13 Months

And, for future reference when she goes of to college (grad school, not undergrad...yes, we have discussed this) and I want to reminisce, here's her First Year in Review.

And, for the heck of it, a video of her second birthday party.



Monday, June 26, 2017

24 Months

I wasn't sure I was going to continue the monthly updates on our little Bean. For this month, didn't update as the month progressed, like I usually do, and realized that I missed it. I found myself asking my husband What was that really cute thing she did last week? 

Sometimes my monthly updates on her are the bulk of what I write about. I don't want to stop just because tracking her age with the month no longer really applies. If I hadn't updated this month, I would have missed documenting the first time she said I love you, and some visits from important family members. Besides, she does way more now than she did when she was a helpless little baby, and I still wrote to my heart's content then. I guess I've gotten used to it, and maybe you have too.

I started blogging about the Positive Psychology course I'm taking through the University of Pennsylvania, a topic interesting to me that I thought would interesting to others. I was surprised by the low number of hits the posts had when compared to Baby A's updates. So while not everyone is as interested in my daughter as I am, at least they find her more interesting than the regurgitation of a class I'm taking. 


We started her first month officially being two with the discovery of a splash pad nearby that has been closed for a long time due to the drought: Pioneer Park. We visited the park four times this month alone, and it was never crowded.
Baby A did a lot of art this month and had lots of opportunities to get messy! Auntie Andrea gave her a chalk paint set that she absolutely adores. It looks like paint, but is super easy to clean up since it's really just chalk. It even easily came off of our garage door, which made a very nice canvas for her! 
She has somehow picked up please and thank you, and does it often, without any prompting, as demonstrated in the video below. It's the sweetest thing!

When I pick her up from daycare and give her a snack and her water, she often sings "Tank you Mommy!"

I thought she had been learning this at daycare, but when I asked them, they said that the model the behavior, but weren't specifically teaching it. It still catches me off guard, like when I gave her scrambled eggs at her table this morning and heard Tank you Mommy! in response.


Her friendship with a boy at her daycare really started to bloom. I work with his mom, and so we met up with them at the Santa Ana Zoo on Memorial Day. I think we were both surprised that beyond just recognizing or knowing each other, they truly seem to enjoy each other's company. When we asked them to hold hands for a picture, they walked around for quite awhile holding hands.



We had some very special family visits this month. My husband's brother and his wife were in town from DC for a wedding and stayed with us. We really wish they lived closer. At the same time, Grandpa Swanek was also in town from Oregon.  It was fun to get everyone together for In-n-Out and see the cousins in the hot tub.



Two other special family members were in town that weekend; my husband's cousins Sarah and Linda.


Linda lives in LA, but Sarah is in Salt Lake. We were fortunate to see both of them for Baby A's party a few weeks prior. We have Sarah to thank for having our Baby A. Sarah was the one who found the clinical trial that I enrolled in. If not for this, we would not have been able to do IVF for a lot longer, and she wouldn't have been...well, her! We would have had a different baby. It is so amazing to think about. I will never forget her helping us in this way.

I had egg retrieval surgery and the transfer of our four (!?) embryos followed by bed rest this month, so our outings kind of slowed down. But Bean loves being at home. This was the first time she has really started independent play, and loves her castle, little houses, train and small princess figures.

We ended the month with a beach trip. For the first hour, she enjoyed looking at the waves and wanted me to walk in the water, but was scared to be put down. We went to dog beach and brought Trevi, and she loved watching Trevi run and play with other dogs. 

My arm was hurting from holding her, and said we needed to go. "Noooooooo! Water!" she wailed. I explained that unless she went down, we had to go, because Mommy couldn't hold her anymore. Reluctantly, she wanted down but tightly gripped my hand as we headed back to the water. Within a few minutes, she was charging the mini waves that rose almost to her waist. She would run back to the dry sand, still holding my hand, and then back in the waves again, giggling and squealing the whole time. If you don't know, the water in CA is cold year 'round, but she didn't mind. She would have gone much deeper if I had let her.

After about 30 minutes in the same spot, suddenly there was a rogue wave that was up to my waist. I quickly lifted her up by one arm and brought her to my side, and was reminded of the importance of holding her hand. It would have covered her/knocked her down even though we weren't that far out. Fortunately, she loves holding my hand. I've been holding her a lot less lately and when she want up, will settle for holding Mommy's hand.


Things I don't want to forget about this month:
  • She learned to say I love you! First, it was by me prompting her to say it to Grandpa. But then, after a bout a week or so, she randomly said it to me and then pulled me in for a kiss. Out of nowhere.
  • Waking up from her nap and coming out into the living room with her shoes and socks, or Beauty and the Beast stuffed animals.
  • Saying "Yayyyyyyyyyyyyyy!" and clapping at the end of a show.
  • Coming into our bed in the morning before 6am and falling back asleep with her face touching mine and feeling her breathe.
  • Sitting by her wading pool in the back yard and watching her run off to chase birds.
  • Putting together three words like "Keys, car, go."

Monday, June 19, 2017

PUPO! Transfer of FOUR Embryos!

Pregnant until proven otherwise!

I checked into the clinic at 10:04 and received my wristband, while my husband parked the car. There she is! sung my doctor when she saw me, causing me to breathe a sigh of relief. We must have one or two, or she wouldn't be so chipper, I thought.

I was called back right away and shown to my room before using the restroom and returning. My husband came in moments before our doctor. We were (and both still are) shocked when she said that we had FOUR good embryos! We've never had that many. Here they are:
I've had 3, 2, and 3. Why do I, three years later, have more? I mean, with the round that gave us Baby A, I went from 6 that were mature and fertilized to only 2 on day three! The other 4 had 2 polar bodies and weren't unwinding. I know that correlation does not equal causation...but I have been taking DHEA for the last 2 months, at my clinic's suggestion, and I really think that helped.

Back to the embryos. Still in shock, we didn't know what to do and looked to Dr. Frederick for guidance. She recommended transferring all of them. I was all for it, while my husband was a bit more cautious and concerned. She was patient and took time with us, answering our questions, and reiterating that this would provide us with the best chance of success. She left to get the embryologist and our embryos and we had a few more moments to think. 

If we had not already transferred 3 on day 3 in the past...twice, I would be more hesitant. Remember, these are day 3 embryos not day 5 blastocycts. So even under the most perfect conditions - even if they had formed naturally - about half of these would not/could not ever become a baby. 

They are also not tested, which is another $5,000. And, testing is no guarantee. Our last little girl, who we lost when I was 17 weeks pregnant, was genetically normal. So even if we did test, it would not prevent a loss like that. And, we could put back only genetically tested embryos and they still may not implant.

And so, with a deep breath and ultrasound guidance, Dr. Frederick transferred all four. We are beyond thankful that we had any to transfer at all, let alone enough to slightly worry about the risk of twins, which still is not likely. From my best estimate, it seems I have a 30% chance of this working at all.

Thank you everyone for all your well-wishes. I'm here on bed-rest now and they all mean so much to me. Special shout out to Amanda Brooke Wright who mailed me Menopur, Aunt Cassandra for offering to help while on bed-rest and Traci for mailing me a bunch of pregnancy tests so I can POAS! Hoping and praying for a healthy baby carried to term.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Egg Retrieval Update

When I woke up from surgery yesterday morning, I wasn't worried about our number like I had been in the past. I was showing 9 follicles on Wednesday, one more than the last round of IVF in October. So when the doctor came in to recovery and my husband asked her how many eggs were retrieved, I was surprised and disappointed by the number 5.

(Here are the egg retrieval updates from my first IVF, second IVF and third IVF.)

I went home to rest and wait for the results on how many fertilized. I slept a little and was in some pain, unlike the other 3 retrievals. 

After this many procedures, you would think I would remember that we aren't updated on how many are mature and fertilize until the second day. But for some reason, I thought it was same day and kept checking my email. Finally, right before 5pm I emailed my coordinator, and was reminded results are not until the second day. I didn't sleep well and was prepared for the worst...only 1 or 2 which would likely leave us with none to transfer come Monday. 

With great relief and excitement, I just received an email from Dr. Frederick that we have FOUR! Last time, 8 were retrieved and only 5 were mature and fertilized. I am now hopeful that this will give us one or two to transfer on Monday! 

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Last Day of 💉

Today is my last day of injections! I took Centrotide this morning, and 375 IU of Gonal-F and 75 IU of Menopur just now. My  two trigger shots will be in a few hours - at 9:40 p.m. Trigger is given 35 hours before my egg retrieval, which is all set for Friday morning.

My ultrasound this morning shows follicle measurements of:

Right:
26mm
13mm
7.5mm

Left:
24mm
14mm
19.5mm
19mm
25mm
18mm

Above 16mm is considered mature, but 18 and above better. There is still a chance that the 14mm follicle could catch up. So hopefully we will have 6-7 that are mature. From that, we'll be lucky to have 2 on day 3 that are replicating. But we just need one!

Here's the breakdown of my past IVF embryo numbers:

IVF #1: 7 eggs retrieved. 3 embryos on day 3. BFN
IVF #2: 10 eggs retrieved. 2 embryos on day 3. BFP! Baby A born 5/26/2015
IVF #3: 8 eggs retrieved. 3 embryos on day 3. BFP! Miscarriage at 17 weeks
IVF #4: TBD

I'll update after retrieval the day after tomorrow. Thank you for your well-wishes, prayers, crossed fingers and/or baby dust!


Monday, June 12, 2017

Prepared for a BFN

“Prepare for the worst, but hope for the best.” – Anonymous English Proverb

BFN = Big Fat Negative in IVF lingo, and I'm preparing myself for that result on July 3rd. But a lot will happen between now and then.



This morning, I had blood-work and my second ultrasound to look at how my follicles are growing. I have 9 now, down only 1 from last week's 10. Remember, 3 years ago I had 8 at this point...so things are looking good. Two of them are small, but could still catch up. I added Centrotide injections yesterday morning, and will continue for two more days. Centrotide prevents me from ovulating while the other follicles continue to grow. 

Tonight (6/12), tomorrow (6/13) and the next night (6/14), I will inject 375 IU of Gonal-F and 75 IU of Menopur.

Then, I'll administer my trigger shot (Ovidrel) at 9:40 p.m. on that last night of injections. This has to be given 35 hours prior to my egg retrieval, which is scheduled for Friday the 16th at 8:40 a.m.

6/15 - I begin taking Doxycycline
6/16 - egg retrieval
6/17 - start Crinone, Estrace and medrol dose pack. No more injections, yay!
6/19 - embryo transfer (provided we have any embryos) at 10am.

I'll be on complete bed rest on 6/19, 6/20, 6/21. I am not even supposed to shower, and can sit up only to eat. Since these are weekdays, we will leave Baby A at daycare a little later...probably until 5pm. Because I have never left her beyond my working hours, this will be tough on me. But it minimizes my husband having to keep her occupied and mostly away from me while in the house. Like last time, we'll put the guest mattress on the floor, removing the box spring and frame. This way, she will have easy access to me. But she loves to climb on me and even lay on top of me, which we can't allow her to do. I am not supposed to have any pressure on my abdomen...not even even snug pants! So when I'm spending time with her, my husband will have to be there too.

Bed rest always sounds good in theory and then drives me crazy about 3 hours in. But this time, I'll have the house mostly to myself all day which is nice. Last time, two of the days fell on the weekend and it was hard to hear her playing in the next room or outside and not be able to join in. I have three books to read, a ton of People magazines, a 'Memories for my Child" book to fill out, and am very much looking forward to watching multiple movies - something I never have time for. Honestly, its been years since I watched a movie at home.

After the transfer of embryos (again, if we have any) we have to wait 2 whole weeks for the blood test to find out if it worked, and if an embryo implanted. The dreaded 2 week wait. This will be July 3rd. I am preparing myself mentally for the pregnancy test to come back negative. There is a 90% chance that it will be negative, and only a 10% chance that it will be positive. 

While I desperately want it to work, I am already highlighting the advantages of it being negative, and reminding myself of these points daily:

  1. We will be able to go to Oregon this summer for 3 weeks and see family. If the test is positive, I won't be able to go, and my husband will have to go for less time. I really want to see Uncle Don and possibly Aunt Nancy. Also TJ and Bex are going, and Baby A would get some quality cousin time.
  2. Seeing Bex and TJ in DC next April. I love my husband's brother and his wife, but they're far away. We saw them briefly this weekend, but before that, Baby A was 3 months old when we last got together. If I'm not pregnant, we'll be able to fly and stay with them for a few days, then go to Oglebay where my husband's grandparent's went on several dates. I love the family history and the idea of staying at a nice resort in West Virginia. 
  3. Germany and Austria next summer! Bertchesgarten is a German town in the Bavarian Alps, on the Austrian boarder. Salzberg is only 11 miles away. We're hoping to spend just over a week in both. 
  4. Private high school, at approximately $20,000 per year is feasible with one child, but not likely with two.
  5. Baby A would inherit everything we own, not split it with a sibling. We could hopefully set her up to be able to contribute to a family through rental income equivalent to my salary, so that working would be a choice for her, not a necessity.
  6. Having just one child also allows us to keep a better pace with traveling.
In addition to reminding myself of the advantages, I am also making plans following the test results. If they're negative, I will:
  1. Go for a run. I did this when our first IVF results were negative, and it helped me tremendously. There was a lot more at stake that first time because my Mom was dying of cancer, and we did not already have a child.
  2. Go for another run the next day, and the one after that. Sign up for a half marathon in the fall. 
  3. Camping. Reservations are all set for the same week I get the results.
  4. Bike riding with Baby A on the back of my husband's bike. 
  5. Swim lessons with Baby A.
  6. Possibly adopting another dog. My husband and I are searching for a breed we both like. 
So here's to hoping that I can't do a half marathon this fall, send Baby A to a private high school, spend quality time with family in Oregon this summer or see the Bavarian Alps anytime soon.

Friday, June 9, 2017

IVF #4 Update

I started my injections four days ago. Each night, I inject 375 IU of Gonal F and 75 IU of Menopur. Other than that, I am taking a baby asprin, prenatals, COQ10 and DHEA each day.

This morning, I had my first scan to see how many eggs I have. Before my appointment, I was really nervous. We've never had great numbers, but it's been 3 years since my first IVF, and I was really worried that they would be even lower.

First, she scanned my right side. When she said there were 3 follicles, my heart dropped. But I was so relieved to find out that my left side made up for it with SEVEN, for a total of 10 follicles. I breathed a huge sigh of relief and texted my husband. Only about 1 in 7 of my eggs are normal, so we need this number! I'm especially surprised because for our second IVF (which resulted in Baby A!) I only had 8 follicles on day five! That's two whole more, years later!

Ten follicles on day 5.
I'll stay on the same medication for 6 more nights. On Sunday, I add a Centrotide injection every morning for 4 days to prevent ovulation, and then I'll give myself an Ovridel injection 24 hours before egg retrieval which is set for one week from today!

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Positive Psychology: Week 1, Part 2

You can read part 1 here.

GREAT LEAP OF INSIGHT: FROM LEARNED HELPLESSNESS TO LEARNED OPTIMISM
Learned helplessness is fascinating to me. He describes the dogs in the laboratory that he and two other psychologists were working with when they discovered this concept. The dogs would hear a sound and then a shock would be administered (I know, this is hard for me to think about as I am an animal lover). But even when the dogs were transferred to a new setting where they could easily jump over a low barrier to escape the shock, they didn't. They remained. They learned to be helpless.


They discovered that more important than Pavlovian conditioning is learning that nothing you do matters. They took three groups of dogs. One group received a shock that lasted 5 seconds, no matter what. The second group received a shock that they could stop by pressing a paddle with their nose. The third group received no shock at all (control). When each of the three groups were transferred into an area where they could easily escape the shock by jumping over a low barrier to escape the shock, every group did except the first group who had learned that they would get a shock no matter what. Even when in a new environment, they had learned to be helpless.



How much control do you feel you have over bad events in your life? If you feel you have control, then you behave normally. But if you feel you have bad events that you cannot do anything about, then you collapse. You fail to escape, and you fail to learn. You fail to even try to do anything to improve the situation.



Seligman repeated this same experiment using people in the 1970's. Instead of a shock, they heard a loud noise that they heard no matter what (group one), that they could stop by pressing a button (second group), or control group. The same thing happened. People who had escapable noise in the beginning learned to move their hand to make it stop. 

Trauma or bad events do not in themselves produce helplessness. The crucial factor is inescapable trauma. In learned helplessness, a person has learned that when bad things happen, nothing they do matters. So they give up and remain passive, even after conditions change and they actually do have control over their environment.

HOW DO PEOPLE EXPLAIN BAD EVENTS? RISK FACTORS AND PROTECTIVE FACTORS FOR DEPRESSION
In these studies on learned helplessness, only 2/3 or dogs, rats and then people became helpless. About 1/3 could not be made helpless, no matter what. Dr. Seligman and his team began to investigate why and what protects people from helplessness. 

They began to look at personality.

They found three dimensions to the way people look at bad events that determine whether they will have protection or vulnerability from helplessness.
  1. When a bad event occurs, do you think it is temporary, or permanent?
  2. Do you view the bad event as local or everywhere? 
  3. In general, are bad events controllable or uncontrollable?

HEALTH IS A SKILL: LEARNED OPTIMISM 
Optimism is a protective factor against learned helplessness, while pessimism is a risk factor for it. Large scale, long term studies of depression were conducted. Thousands of children age 10-12 were surveyed on their optimistic or pessimistic viewpoints and then followed over the years and then decades. Those who were pessimistic had between 2 and 8 times the risk of having depression. 

Seligman was working at the time with Aaron Beck on cognitive therapy. This is the part that really interests me, because I can apply it in my job as a school counselor. Cognitive therapy for depression aims to take themost pessimistic thoughts that people have (I'm unlovable, I'm stupid, things will never work out) and challenge those thoughts. 
So for example, you are a 12 year old girl and you walk into the cafeteria and all of your friends are sitting in a different place and they don't ask you to sit with them, and you say to yourself, “no one likes me. I'm a loser.” So what you do with the 12 year old in cognitive therapy is to say, well, what's going on with those girls over there? Maybe they're all members of the volleyball team and I'm not on the volleyball team. So you teach children and adults to dispute their most catastrophic thoughts, and when they dispute their most catastrophic thoughts and become very good arguers against catastrophic thinking, that is the heart of cognitive therapy of depression, the most effective psychological treatment of depression. So that set the stage for asking the question that we'll talk about in the next lecture of what happens if you systematically teach pessimistic children and pessimistic adults the tools of disputing their catastrophizing explanatory style. The short answer is you statistically prevent depression and anxiety. 
Key point: Optimism is a skill that can be learned. Teaching people to realistically challenge their pessimistic explanatory style and to learn optimistic explanatory skills reduces anxiety and depression and increases resilience.

In this second part, Martin Seligman then relays a personal story on how he came to shift his perspective and focus of study from the alleviation of misery and suffering to well-being. The year was 1997, and he was weeding with his 5 year old daughter.  
I was in my garden, weeding with my five-year-old daughter, Nikki, Nicole, and I'm a serious gardener and when I weed, I'm weeding. Those of you who do weeding, know it's no fun at all, you can't even get a routine going for weeding. And so I'm sitting there weeding and Nikki is having a wonderful time, she's throwing weeds in the air and dancing and singing, and I shouted at her, I said “Nikki get to work!” She looked up at me and she looked puzzled, walked away and came back and said, “Daddy, can I talk to you?” I said, “sure Nikki.” So Nikki said to me, “do you remember that since my fifth birthday I haven't whined once? On my fifth birthday, Daddy, I decided that I wasn't going to whine anymore. And that was the hardest thing I've ever done. And if I can stop whining, you can stop being such a grouch.” 
Epiphany for me, three things I realized in that moment: 
First, that indeed Nikki hit the nail on the head, that I was a grouch. That I, indeed, was a nimbus cloud whose main strength was critical intelligence. I could see everything that was wrong with everything, and somehow I had attributed my success in the world, whatever I had, to my ability to say no. But it occurred to me, really for the first time, that it might have had something to do with what I could say yes to. 
So Nikki got it just right about me, and I decided to stop being such a nimbus cloud. Secondly, Nikki told me that my theory of child development, I have seven children, was wrong. The view that psychology had of child development, in which you want to find all the things they're doing wrong and correct them and somehow, magically, if you get rid of everything that's wrong, you get an exemplary child, well, that actually makes no sense at all. Nikki had just shown not the absence of a negative, but the presence of a positive, that is the ability to talk to an adult, to make sense of an adult. 
So it occurred to me that child-rearing should be not about eliminating the negatives, but identifying and building what's best, the strengths in children. And the third thing I realized was that my profession, psychology, was half-baked- that the part that had been baked and the part that I was proud of was the alleviation of suffering, but the part that was unbaked, the part that was missing, was a psychology of well-being. 
A psychology of well-being. Why wasn't there a psychology of well-being?
Dr. Seligman introduces the acronym PERMA. This is what people who are not suffering choose.

Here is where I completely fail at blogging by cutting and pasting for you. When I try to summarize, I leave too much out, and let's face it, anything I write is not going to explain the concept better than the man himself. Plus, these are essential to happiness and I don't want to short-change ya. 


Well-being Theory
Happiness is a slippery concept. Sometimes it seems to us like the Holy Grail: mythical, wonderful, but probably unobtainable. But Positive Psychology suggests that happiness is more than obtainable. It is the natural result of building up our well-being and satisfaction with life. Professor Martin Seligman spent many years developing a theory of happiness. He wanted to identify the building blocks of well-being. He drew up a five-sided model of well-being called the PERMA model.
These are the five elements Seligman found essential to human well-being:
Image result for perma

Each of these elements is essential to our well-being and satisfaction with life. Together, they form the solid foundation upon which we can build a happy and flourishing life.
Positive Emotion
When someone asks you whether you are satisfied with your life, your answer depends heavily on the mood you are in. When you are feeling positive, you can look back on the past with gladness; look into the future with hope; and enjoy and cherish the present.
Why?
Positive emotions have an impact that goes far beyond bringing a smile to our faces. Feeling good helps us to perform better at work and study; it boosts our physical health; it strengthens our relationships; and it inspires us to be creative, take chances, and look to the future with optimism and hope. Feeling good is contagious. Seeing smiles makes us want to smile. Hearing laughter makes us feel like laughing. And when we share our good feelings with others, they appreciate and enjoy our company.
We have all experienced highs and lows in life, but we are doing ourselves harm when we dwell on the lows. If we look back on the past with pain and regret, we will become depressed. If we think of the future and worry about danger and risk, we become anxious and pessimistic. So it is incredibly important to recognise the positive emotions we feel, so that we are able to enjoy the present without worry and regret.
How?
What is it that makes us feel good? It might be spending time with friends and family, engaging in hobbies, exercising, getting out in nature, or eating great food. We need to make sure there is always room in our lives for these things. Positive Psychology research has identified certain skills and exercises that can boost our experience of positive emotions. We can learn to feel them more strongly, and to experience them for longer. Cultivating positive emotions makes it easier to experience them naturally. Many of us have an automatic tendency to expect the worst, see the downside, and avoid taking risks. If we learn to cultivate positive feelings about life, we begin to hope for the best, see the upside, and learn to take great opportunities when they come along.
Engagement
We don’t thrive when we are doing nothing. We get bored and feel useless. But when we engage with our life and work, we become absorbed. We gain momentum and focus, and we can enter the state of being known as ‘flow’. In Positive Psychology, ‘flow’ describes a state of utter, blissful immersion in the present moment.
Why?
In a word: momentum. When you are lying in bed, it is often hard to convince yourself to throw off the covers and plant your feet on the ground. You worry about the cold. You feel tired and sluggish. You lie in bed, thinking but not getting anywhere. But when you are running, you don’t question anything. You are flying through space: one foot goes in front of the other, and again, and again, because it must. You are absorbed entirely in the present moment.
Not everyone enjoys running, but perhaps you feel this way when you are playing music, painting, dancing or cooking. If you have a job you love, you probably feel this way at work. We are most likely to fulfill our own unique potential when we are engaged in activities that absorb and inspire us.
How?
Much of the work of Positive Psychology involves identifying and cultivating personal strengths, virtues and talents. When we identify our own greatest strengths, we can consciously engage in work and activities that make us feel most confident, productive and valuable. We can also learn skills for cultivating joy and focus on the present. Mindfulness is a valuable skill taught by many counselors. Using mindfulness, you can learn to develop a full and clear awareness of the present, both physically and mentally.
Relationships
Humans are social animals. We have a need for connection, love, physical and emotional contact with others. We enhance our own well-being by building strong networks of relationships around us, with family, friends, coworkers, neighbours and all the other people in our lives.
Why?
You know the saying, ‘a problem shared is a problem halved’? Well, it gets even better. Happiness shared is happiness squared. When we share our joy with those we love, we feel even more joy. And when we love, we become more loveable.
We depend on the people around us to help us maintain balance in our lives. When we are alone, we lose perspective on the world, and we forget that others may be bearing greater burdens than our own. But when we let other people into our lives, we remember to give as well as take. When you belong to a community, you have a network of support around you – and you are part of it.
How?
It is important to build and maintain relationships with the people in your life, but it is equally important to recognise the difference between a healthy relationship and a damaging one. Some relationships are dangerous because they are one-sided or co-dependent. Other relationships struggle because people take each other for granted, don’t make time for each other, or can’t seem to communicate.
The key to all relationships is balance. It is not enough to surround ourselves with ‘friends’ – we must also listen and share, make an effort to maintain our connections, and work to make those connections strong.
Meaning
We are at our best when we dedicate our time to something greater than ourselves. This could be religious faith, community work, family, a political cause, a charity, a professional or creative goal.
Why?
Studies have shown that people who belong to a community and pursue shared goals are happier than people who don’t. It is also very important to feel that the work we do is consistent with our personal values and beliefs. From day to day, if we believe our work is worthwhile, we feel a general sense of well-being and confidence that we are using our time and our abilities for good.
How?
What do you value most in this world? It might be family, or learning, or your faith. Perhaps you feel strongly about helping disadvantaged children, or protecting the environment. Once you have identified what matters most to you, find some like-minded people and begin working together for the things you care about. You can find meaning in your professional life as well as your personal one. If you see a deeper mission in the work you do, you are better placed to apply your talents and strengths in the service of this mission.
Accomplishment
We have all been taught that ‘winning isn’t everything’. Yes, we should strive for success, but it’s more important to enjoy the game. However, people need to win sometimes. What use are goals and ambitions if we never reach them? To achieve well-being and happiness, we must look back on our lives with a sense of accomplishment: ‘I did it, and I did it well’.
Why?
Creating and working toward goals helps us anticipate and build hope for the future. Past successes make us feel more confident and optimistic about future attempts. There is nothing bad or selfish about being proud of your accomplishments. When you feel good about yourself, you are more likely to share your skills and secrets with others. You will be motivated to work harder and achieve more next time. You may even inspire the people around you to achieve their own goals.
How?
It is important to set yourself tangible goals, and keep them in sight. In Positive Psychology counseling, we encourage you to identify your ambitions and cultivate the strengths you need in order to reach them. Regular counseling is a great way to keep focused on your long-term goals and acknowledge the little successes along with the big ones. It is vital to cultivate resilience against failure and setbacks. Success doesn’t always come easy, but if we stay positive and focused, we don’t give up when adversity strikes.