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Exclusive Chat with best-selling author and life coach Annette from LossMamaStrength

1. Tell us a little bit about your infertility journey and what was it like to go through so many challenges building your family?

So, before I met Tom I had had two previous miscarriages, but I never really thought of it as what was foreshadowing to be. There were so many different factors going on at that time which I also explain in my book - but I never really thought that I would have a problem getting pregnant or that I would have a problem carrying a child, and then Tom and I met, he has two wonderful children from his first marriage, and together we though, since he wasn't really sure if he wanted to have any more children, that I would just be fine having these two wonderful bonus children and we would just adapt.

But then as we got further into our marriage, we realized that we really wanted an "us" baby. And that's when we started down that path.

Tom: And we knew it wasn't going to be a super easy path because, I had already has a vasectomy so the very first step was a vasectomy reversal. But we had decided that we really wanted a baby so we knew what needed to be done.

Annette: Not many men would go through that but, I knew that his heart was full in when he expressed that he was willing to put himself under 3 hours of surgery.

We tried for about a year after that without any success. We tried acupuncture, herbs and every possible remedy one can think of.

Eventually my Ob/Gyn referred me to a reproductive endocrinologist and we went through 2 rounds of IUI but we weren't still able to conceive so moved on to IVF with ICSI and were really blessed to get pregnant with our daughter Faith, who's now 11 years old. But shortly after we had Faith, since our doctor had said that if we wanted to have more kids this was the time, since I had just had a baby so I was supposedly optimal for another pregnancy, and in fact she thought we'd be able to conceive on our own.

So we started trying again when she was 6 weeks. We realized that our babies would be super close but we just could not afford to miss that window.

Unfortunately, we were not successful in conceiving, and ultimately that led us to our next IVF attempt, around the time when Faith was about 2 and a half, which is when we had our first miscarriage together, from that IVF cycle. We had only one embryo that had resulted from that IVF cycle, and unfortunately that resulted in a miscarriage.

At that point we thought we're done and we can't go through this anymore, financially or emotionally.

When we moved out to California, we were connected with a really good doctor who claimed he could help us. And so we spent the next 2 and a half years going through 2 more IVF cycles and multiple rounds of FETs (frozen embryo transfers) where we had 4 more miscarriages, leading up to when we lost our son in January of 2019. This is also when I had a heart attack because I lost so much blood in that pregnancy loss. And then we got pregnant again with out last embryo from that cycle, we named her Mary Grace. Unfortunately during that pregnancy, my placenta grew outside my uterus, from previous surgeries that I had had, and ultimately outside of my cervix due to which I dilated and we lost her. She didn't survive the C-section and even I was very close to not surviving either, so the doctors had to remove my uterus.

So I woke up to losing Mary Grace and my uterus, thereby losing any future chances of being able to carry my own baby.

We have one remaining embryo, and since I don't have a uterus I can't carry the baby, so we are looking for a surrogate which is also how I found Patriot Conceptions' Instagram page. And we are just trying to put all the pieces together for a surrogate, to have one more chance to expand out family, considering the financial aspects of it amongst others.

2. Did surrogacy ever come up as an option while you were going through your multiple rounds of IVF?

The doctor did suggest it once before although he felt there was no reason that I could not carry a baby to term but given the number of losses we had, he did eventually think it could be an option.

But we do not have a family member or friend who would do it for us. That being said, I really loved being pregnant and I really, really wanted to experience it again.

3. You also said you felt extremely exposed, vulnerable during your fertility journey, firstly I'm incredibly sorry about all the hurtful, insensitive comments you had to and might still have to deal with. I feel it's something so many of us can relate with because people really need to educate themselves in terms of providing support to someone who's grieving. I personally feel it all really boils down to empathy, compassion and active listening. So, do you have anything to say to people who find themselves in a position where they have to provide emotional support to a friend or family member? What to say and what not to say?

One piece of advice, if you've never been through it, don't pretend to know what the other person is going through. That does not mean you cant be there to support them or hold their hand, but you absolutely cannot tell them how and what to feel; your feelings are your own. We choose our feelings based on what is going on inside and around us, and if you have not been through something similar you can absolutely not understand the pain, the inadequacy that you experience, knowing that you cannot carry your own baby.

I felt very exposed throughout my fertility treatment, with questions being hurled at us like "What's going on with you?", "why are you not getting pregnant?", "why are you and Tom being so secretive?" etc.

I always felt very lonely but I do know now that I'm absolutely not alone. That there's a huge community out there, that every one in 8 women can't conceive on her own. But I have to admit, it doesn't feel like that when you're in the heart of it.

So, to anybody that wants to be a friend, be supportive, maybe do things likes bring in a hot meal or take them out for a movie, or just simply drop by to be there.

There are ways that you can support us without continuously reminding us of the void in our lives. And if we want to talk about it, we will.

Our journeys are extremely personal and also very different from each other. Mine might not be the same as the other person sitting in the waiting room.

4. Tell us about your bestselling book Finding Strength in the Dark? Wat was the response like?

I panicked after I signed the contract, but I still remember one of my friends was like I know it was your purpose to be a mommy to all those babies but what if your new purpose is to help and guide others to find their inner strength, the way you did. In a way that did feel like creating a legacy for our babies. And so I got back on Instagram, to lossmamastrength, and I published my manuscript for Finding Strength in the Dark as well. And the day it actually got out I panicked and questioned whether I did the right thing, because so much in their was from my own personal journal, so there were very intimate details in there.

But I thought it was okay, if my book could help even one person find their inner strength, I think it was worth it all.

So yes, I'm going to continue growing my community LossMamaStrength and I'm also going to be hosting a support group for infertility.

Thank you so much, Annette and Tom for taking out the time to share your incredibly brave story with our community. We wish you all the best for your future surrogacy journey!


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