Ashton at 9 months

My Top New Baby Must-Haves for First-Time Moms – Birth to Six Months

I’ve been experiencing a little bit of writer’s block lately, and I think it’s partly because I’ve been too concerned with keeping this space focused entirely on design. I first started blogging back in 2009 when I had just moved to Iowa. I wrote about anything and everything, and I miss that freedom of expression.

Last year, I was having the same sort of block, and it was because I had been dealing with trying to get pregnant for so long that it was hard to focus on anything else. I finally wrote about it in this post, and it felt so good to get it all out there. Well, I never went back and wrote a follow-up post on the biggest thing going on in our lives ever since – having a baby!

Ashton – Two Weeks Old

Ashton was born on November 18, 2017, and he is nine months old now. Becoming a mom for the first time at 38, almost 39, has been quite the roller coaster ride of energy and emotions. There have been lots of high, and a few lows. I don’t know much about babies in general, but I think he’s a pretty good baby on the whole. He’s mostly happy and generally sleeps pretty well, though teething has thrown us for a bit of loop. And, he’s definitely going through a mama phase right now that can be very challenging.

Ashton – Three Months

Ashton arrived two weeks early, and needless to say, we were a little underprepared in many ways. His room was mostly done, and it is still just “mostly” done. Definitely not Instagram worthy yet. We had many of the things we needed on hand when we brought him home, but then there were other new baby items we had no idea about until we did a lot of late night Googling and Amazon searching. We learned quite a bit by trial and error.

Ashton at 9 months

I read a lot of blog posts on baby registries and baby must-haves, many of them wildly different. So, I thought our list of new baby must-haves might be helpful for any first-time moms out there or if you know someone about to become a first-time mom. And, I broke it down into birth to six months because I feel like things wildly changed around that time. Once I regain my footing, I’ll write a follow up on what we’ve been loving from six months to a year.

Some of these links are affiliate links, which means I might earn a small commission if you click through them and make a purchase. It does not cost you anything.

New Baby Must-Have List Printable Checklist

Nursery Gear

This is by no means a comprehensive list for planning a nursery. I intend to write a separate post on our nursery whenever I get around to finishing it. This list includes some of the things we keep in our nursery that we’ve found to be necessities and didn’t fall into one of the other categories.

Video Monitor. I have a love/hate relationship with the video monitor. Intellectually, I know that babies survived for thousands of years, myself included, without being constantly monitored via camera. But, as a 21st-century anxiety-prone mama, it helps me that I can see him sleeping whenever I want. We registered for this model, and it works well but also has a couple of design flaws. The light blinks on and off constantly, and it’s very bright in a dark room. It also has a limited range. You can check out the top baby monitors on Amazon here. Ours is number six.

Baby Hangers. Baby hangers were definitely on the list of things I had no clue I needed until I realized how annoying it is to fold baby clothes with arms and legs. We hang up all the outfits that he wears to “school” and all long sleeve onesies. It’s so much easier than folding them and hoping they stay folded.

Hamper. A dedicated hamper in the baby’s room is a necessity for me. I wash his clothes separately and often. This hamper has a removable mesh bag that I take out and use to carry clothes to and from the laundry room.

New baby must-haves for first-time moms. Target gray fabric storage box with lid

Storage Boxes. Baby’s have so much little stuff, and it’s nice to keep corralled and neatly tucked away. I picked up some cute storage boxes at IKEA and use them to store the Diaper Genie refills, wipe refills, the next size of clothes, and a lot of the miscellaneous items that we don’t need all the time but want to have close by. Target has this cute option in its new closet collection.

Small Wastebasket + Liners. We placed a small wastebasket by our changing station in the early days when we were still taking care of his belly button and circumcision. It’s handy for discarding wipes that aren’t soiled, clothing tags, tissues and other little things that shouldn’t go in the diaper pail.

Baby Clothes

Figuring out our favorite baby clothes was kind of a process. We were so lucky in that friends gave us huge bins of clothes, and we received many more as gifts. We bought barely any clothes until he was around six months old.

In the early days (winter months), when it was all about survival, we relied heavily on footed long-sleeve onesies and fleece sleep sacks.

One of my clients gifted us two magnetic closure onesies, which we adored. They were super soft and so easy to get on and off.

As he got older, he wore more of the short sleeve onesies. And once it got hot, we purchased several rompers for wearing to daycare and during the day.

I’ve linked to mostly Burts Bees baby clothes because, while they are more expensive, they are my favorites. The fabric is very soft, and they have a lot of give, which means he can wear them longer. And, they’ve really held up over time and abuse. We’ve also loved the Cat & Jack line from Target and the Carter’s brand of course.

What you need is going to vary based on the time of year your baby is born. With a winter newborn, we used more long-sleeve onesies with legs than short-sleeve no legs. And, of course, you will want to get some socks and hats, but type will depend on time of year. We left the house very little for the first few months, so we didn’t use many hats. We did go through a lot of socks.

  • Onesies: long-sleeve with legs, long-sleeve no legs, short-sleeve no legs (6-12 of each)
  • Hats: cotton (3) and wool or fleece if winter (1-2)
  • Sleep Sack with arms: fleece for winter, cotton for summer (3)
  • Pants: Cotton or fleece (3-6)
  • Socks: Cotton or fleece (6 pairs)
  • Rompers: Warm weather only (6-12)

Diapering

Our nursery is on our main level, only a few steps from the living room and right next door to our bedroom, so we only have one changing station. We purchased a vintage dresser because it was lower in height (I’m short) and added a dresser topper for the changing pad that we screwed into the top. A friend gave us a nice basket (cute alternative) for organizing all of the changing supplies. We keep it fully stocked on the right side because we are both right-handed.

Diaper Genie. You will need some sort of system for disposing of diapers. We like the Diaper Genie and its refills, and I would purchase this system again. It definitely has its drawbacks…like when you run out of bag right when you need it the most, but overall, I’m happy with it. I don’t think any diaper pail is going to contain all the smells all the time, but this one does a decent job.

Changing Pad + Cover + Dresser Topper. As I mentioned above, we converted a vintage dresser into a changing table by adding a dresser topper, which Keegan screwed into the top of the dresser (it wasn’t a pedigreed piece of furniture, otherwise, I’d think twice about that). The secured topper is a must for keeping the pad from sliding around. I didn’t think that would be such a big deal until a month ago when Ashton decided changing time is torture and thrashes about like a fish on the beach. I also only purchased one changing pad cover, which was crazy, and I think it would be better to have two or three on hand.

Pampers SwaddlersWe tried Luvs and Honest Company, but the hospital gave us Pampers Swaddlers to start, and we think they are the most reliable. I particularly like the handy wetness indicator that lets you know at a glance whether the diaper is wet or not. We were shocked at how many diapers we blew through in the first couple months – 10 a day at least.

Pampers Sensitive Wipes. We tried all the wipes too, and we stick with Pampers here too. We have purchased both the refills and the package with the pop-top. I prefer the pop-top because I can never get them to pull out one at a time from the refills. When I need wipes, I usually need them NOW.

Wipe Warmer. Ashton really hated cold wipes in the beginning, and we were willing to do anything to make diaper changing more pleasant. He stopped howling once we started keeping wipes in a warmer.

Aquaphor. We purchased all the organic diaper creams in the beginning, and I do like the Honest Company brand for daily use. But, when Ashton got a diaper rash in the very beginning, my sister-in-law recommended Aquaphor, and it worked like a charm. We keep a big tub on hand and use it preventatively as well.

Vaseline and gauze pads. The hospital will probably send you home with some vaseline and gauze pads to put on baby’s belly button while it heals. And, if you circumcise your boy baby, you’ll need these for at least a couple weeks.

Sleeping

Glider Swing. We (I) told myself before Ashton was born that I would not create a situation where he needed a prop to fall asleep. I read all the books. I knew all about baby sleep, etc etc etc. Let me tell you, that all flew out the window immediately. One night at 3AM, Keegan ordered this Gracco Glider Swing, and it was the best. We only used it for the first six weeks, but it made those six weeks so much easier.

Bassinette. We started with bassinette from a friend that had a flat bottom. It was very nice, but Ashton wouldn’t sleep in it. When we transitioned out of the glider swing, he slept in this cocoon-like bassinette until he was too big for it.

Pacifiers. We liked these and these. He did not like the rubber kind.

Velcro Swaddlers. We used velcro swaddlers a lot when we were still swaddling. We were given a few, the hospital sent us home with a larger one, and then we purchased a few more. I would buy three of the newborn size to start, and you can always get the larger ones if your baby likes them. They are both good and bad. The velcro is faster than using a swaddle blanket, but undoing the velcro is loud. So, if you have a baby you’re trying to keep asleep at night, the velcro isn’t always the best.

muslin swaddle blankets

Swaddle Blankets. The muslin swaddle blankets, especially the Aden + Anais brand, are awesome to have on hand. We used multiple a day for the first few months, and we still use them now to cover up in the stroller and to play peekaboo with. Depending on how much you want to do laundry, I think six is a good number. Maybe more if you use them exclusively for swaddling.

Magic Suit. Ashton was pretty much done with being swaddled by three months, and we were at our wit’s end of what to do. It was obvious he needed something, but he hated being swaddled. I did some quick Googling and discovered the Merlin Magic Sleepsuit. When it comes to new parents and sleep, you’ll find that $39.95 sounds like practically free if it means you might sleep for four hours at a time. If your baby likes being swaddled, you probably won’t need this, but it was a lifesaver for us. I should have bought two just in case one got soiled in the night, but thankfully that never happened. Once we started using the sleep suit, he began sleeping for longer and longer stretches and eventually straight through the night.

New baby must-haves for first-time moms. Baby wearing Magic Merlin Sleep Suit

Ashton in his magic sleep suit.

At six months, we got the larger version but only used it for about a month when he started rolling over. We realized it was time to transition when he started waking up again because he was mad that he couldn’t roll over.

Halo SleepSack. This was another quick Amazon purchase that we waited too long to buy. When Ashton had enough of the sleep suit, we bought the sleep sack to keep him cozy at night. I definitely need to order a backup or two so I don’t need to wash it so often. But, this thing is like Teflon. He’s spit-up (ok, vomited) on it a few times now, and it wipes right off.

Feeding

Bottles. We were lucky to be gifted an assortment of hand-me-down bottles, which let us try out different brands without having to purchase them. We did not like some of the more popular brands and settled on the Dr. Brown’s while Ashton was drinking 4 oz or less at a time because they seemed to control his gas better. When he started drinking bigger bottles, we switched to Phillips Avent because we had been given a full set with the bottle steamer. We like them and have purchased more.

Bottle Steamer. One of my bigger regrets is that we didn’t buy a countertop bottle steamer/drier/sterilizer. The whole bottle routine seems to take forever and feels like such a chore every night. We use the Phillips Avent bottle steamer, and it works really well as a low-tech affordable solution with the Avent bottles. Do not even mess with those steamer bags unless you are traveling.

Formula & Mixing Pitcher. Breastfeeding just didn’t work out for us for many reasons, and we switched entirely to formula around seven weeks. We supplemented from the beginning and soon got tired of preparing bottles individually. Keegan found these awesome formula mixing pitchers. We purchased two so that we always have a clean one on hand.

Flannel Blankets and Burp Rags. I knew burp rags were a thing of course, but I didn’t know how useful flannel receiving blankets were until we brought Ashton home. We keep a stack in the nursery and a few in a kitchen drawer.

Bathing, Hygiene & Health

Baby Bathtub. We started out bathing Ashton in the sink using the Blooming Bath Lotus. It worked perfectly and was so adorable. When he got too big, we started bathing him in the tub with the Primo EuroBath, which we are still using.

Hooded Towels. We only had one baby sized hooded towel, and we used it until about six months. Then we switched to a regular size towel with a hood that a friend made for us. There is nothing cuter than a freshly bathed baby wrapped in a hooded towel.

Washcloths.

Kneeler. Until baby can sit up unassisted, you will be kneeling over him in the bathtub, and that tile floor gets hard.

Moisturizer and Body Wash. We’ve been using the Honest Company since day 1.

Nasal Aspirator. Total honesty…snot grosses me out way more than poop. I hate cleaning out his nose, but the Nose Frida is truly a must-have. If your baby goes to daycare, he is guaranteed to get a cold. We never even used the bulb syringe after we started using the “snot sucker.”

Nail Clippers. Being a jewelry maker, I haven’t had many issues with nail clipping if I can get him to hold still long enough. My sister-in-law recommends a nail filer.

Ear Thermometer. I decided if it was good enough for our doctor, it was good enough for me.

Baby Tylenol. Your doctor may recommend a dose of Tylenol after vaccinations. Ashton did spike a little fever a few times in the first several months, and we used Tylenol at our doctor’s recommendation.

Travel

Diaper Bag. We have the HaloVa Diaper Bag, which is the #2 diaper bag on Amazon. I like it for several reasons, but it’s not entirely perfect. My favorite feature is the front insulated pocket for bottles. We bring three bottles to daycare, and they fit perfectly. We can also squeeze in a small cold pack if necessary. It has pockets on the side for diapers and wipes and several pockets inside. My only gripe is that the interior is kind of tight. There is a zipper on the back so you can access the bottom of the back without taking everything out.

Stroller with Travel System. I registered for the Chicco Bravo Trio Travel System for one big reason – it was the lightest stroller that was collapsible with one hand. Now “light” is an interesting term because it doesn’t take into account the seat, which is ungodly heavy. I do love the stroller quite a bit. I don’t like three things about the car seat. First, the straps are impossible to position when you’re trying to get the baby into it. Second, the straps seem to be incredibly tight – it’s hard to maneuver his legs through them. Three, there is no way that I can tell to get the baby out of the seat without taking the seat out of the car. Maybe I’ve just got new mom brain, but I simply can’t figure it out.

Car Seat Cover. Depending on the month your baby is born, you will want to purchase a car seat cover that can completely protect baby from the elements. We chose a fleece cover like this one.

Baby Carrier. We did not choose to wear Ashton all that much. We also had the luxury of both staying at home with him for three and a half months, so maybe we would have used it more if we were solo. We did get both a wrap and a Baby Bjorn. I wish I had used the Baby Bjorn more because it was super easy to adjust. Ashton is so heavy now and so active, I don’t see myself carrying him anywhere we could bring a stroller. Maybe I need to try baby carrying more, but it really hasn’t been something I loved to do (of course, I carry him in my arms all the time). I did include it on my list because it came in handy occasionally.

Baby Equipment

Boppy pillow. The boppy pillow was one of our first purchases after we got home from the hospital, and we both used it for holding him and feeding him bottles for a long time. As he got bigger, we took our cues from the daycare and would let him lie on it on the floor or prop him up for tummy time. When he first started sitting, we’d put it around his back so he wouldn’t fall over and hurt himself.

New baby must-haves for first-time moms. Baby playing in DockATot

Ashton playing in DockATot

DockATot + Arc + Toys. Is this somewhat pricey dog bed looking contraption an absolute necessity? No, it’s definitely not. Did we use it daily up until about a month ago? Yes, multiple times a day. I originally registered for the DockATot thinking it would be nice to put him in it on the bed with me so we could nap together. Then they revised their guidelines against using it for sleep. My honest reaction to that was “what on earth is it good for then?” So again, being anxiety-ridden, I never let him sleep in it or lay in it while I wasn’t in the room.

New baby must-haves for first-time moms. Baby sleeping in DockATot

Ashton sleeping in DockATot

We kept the DockATot on our dining table (our dining room is open to the living room and kitchen), and we would place him in it whenever we needed to put him down for a few minutes to get something done. We used it as a spot to put on his jackets and hats when it was still cold and for keeping him contained while we clipped his nails and cleaning his nose and ears. We would put it on the coffee table when he was really little while we watched TV. The toys may look too simple to entertain a baby, but he loved them. They were the first toys he really interacted with and tried batting at. I still have it in his nursery and use it once in a while. I was very happy that we registered for the DockATot and would recommend it to anyone.

New baby must-haves for first-time moms. Baby in play gym.

Ashton in his larger play gym.

Play Gym. When Ashton was around two months old, we realized he was ready for new experiences. We had a little play gym a friend had given us, and we put it in our living room and propped up some stuffed animals around it. This was a life-changing moment. He would happily lay in the play gym for twenty minutes at a time, staring at the lights and listening to the music. As he got older, he would interact with the toys that hung down. Eventually, he got too big for the first play gym – the toys would hang on his face – so we swapped it out for a taller version that lasted until he became really mobile. Even though they are more expensive, I would opt for a version with lights and music.

new baby must-haves for first-time moms

Large Baby Play Mat. We started floor play with the play gym and eventually added small blankets around it to create a clean play surface once he started rolling over. One day, Keegan decided that laying all these blankets out was stupid and ordered a large baby play mat. We love this thing. It’s soft, slightly padded, durable and washable. I even feel like it’s slightly water repellant. It also has a grippy pattern on the back so it won’t move around on a smooth surface. This mat would be great for playing outside too. This is the exact one we purchased, and it comes in several fun patterns. I don’t know why it has negative reviews…it’s been nothing but awesome.

Hanging Toys. I think these are pretty self-explanatory. We have a toy hanging from his car seat and of course from the play gym when we used it and also his activity center.

Activity Center. Around four months old, which was maybe a little young, we put Ashton in this activity center for a few minutes at a time. He can hang out in it for maybe 10-15 minutes now before he gets bored because he loves to be moving. But, for a couple months after he could sit by himself, this was the hot spot for him to play. We have one kind of like this Baby Einstein version in the house, and then we bought another one for the patio from the consignment store.

Door Swing Jumper. This was another hand-me-down from a friend, and Ashton adores it. As soon as we put him in it (around six months), he went crazy for it. He is pretty much always happy to be in it unless he is super tired or hungry. We have it hanging in the door to our kitchen so he can hang out with us while we cook or prep his bag for daycare.

Things We Didn’t Love

The Bumbo seat. Ashton hated this chair. We saw people using it on Facebook and thought he would love it for sitting up, but he couldn’t stand it. Even though he was technically too young for it, his chubby legs were too big for the openings.

Bottle Warmer. We couldn’t agree on how much to spend on this device (and none had great reviews), so we bought a cheap one, and it sucked. So, we continue to warm up all of his bottles in an insulated cup that we already had with hot water. It works perfectly though it’s not great at 2 AM when you have a screaming hungry baby in your arms.


I think it’s safe to say that I won’t be turning this space into a mommy blog, but I do intend to write about motherhood and its up and downs from time to time. I know that whenever I am struggling with a particular challenge (hello eight-month sleep regression), it helps to read about how other moms and dads dealt with it and got through it. So, if sharing my experiences can help even one frazzled new mom or dad, then it is definitely worth it to me to write about them.

We were very lucky and grateful to have several friends give us their hand-me-downs. We have a whole section of our basement filled with bins of clothes and baby toys and equipment where we “go shopping” when we need something. If we don’t find it, our next stop is an awesome consignment store where we’ve been purchasing all of our toys and some clothes. If that fails, then we hit Amazon or Target. We get diapers and wipes from Walmart and order formula in bulk from Amazon.

Do you have any new baby must-haves I missed that you would recommend? We’re entering new territory as he starts walking any day now, and I would love your advice or product recommendations for nine-month to 18-month-old babies.

Our InFertility Journey

Our Infertility Journey

Our InFertility Journey

Warning: This post is very long and incredibly personal.

I have wanted to write this post for a very long time. Mostly because I wanted to explain why I haven’t been posting. Every time I tried to write a blog post about design, or books, or even my dogs, it just didn’t feel real. My mind was elsewhere. But, I felt like I needed to share because reading the stories of other women who have been through this same struggle buoyed my hopes and helped me to feel less alone. I was especially inspired to share my experience by Jenna Kutcher’s recent podcast episode and her openness on Instagram.

The truth is that for the last three years I’ve been pretty obsessed with having a baby.

Keegan and I were married in February of 2013 after living together for five years, and we decided to wait one year to try for a family. I was a little scared to take that time since I was already 34, and I had a sneaking suspicion (just intuition) that a baby wasn’t going to come easily for me.

I stopped taking my birth control in Spring of 2014, but I didn’t get pregnant right away. Instead, I spontaneously developed a terrible rash all over my face. When it first appeared, right before Memorial Day weekend, I felt terrible – hot all over, achey, and just plain awful. When the rash, which was super noticeable and embarrassing, didn’t disappear, I scheduled an appointment with a dermatologist.

I saw two dermatologists that summer in addition to my family doctor, and none of them could tell me what was wrong. The first one barely spoke to me. The second tested me for Lupus (scary!) among other things. She was nice, but she became convinced that I was allergic to the sun. I’m of Mediterranean descent and tanned easily my entire life, so this explanation seemed particularly bizarre. Plus, my condition looked nothing like the sun allergy photos I saw online.

Finally, out of desperation, I made an appointment with an integrative health practitioner who tested me for food sensitivities and bacteria overgrowth. The tests revealed that I was extremely sensitive to gluten and dairy. Yogurt – a favorite food – was off the charts. I decided to cut out gluten, dairy, sugar, alcohol, and caffeine to see if it helped with my skin and hopefully with getting pregnant.

Pregnancy #1

After one cycle of this restrictive diet plan, I discovered I was pregnant, and my face was a lot better but still not back to normal. I was really excited about the baby and booked an appointment with a local midwife group for around twelve weeks, which was their policy. It seemed a very long time to wait, but I felt good. No symptoms, nothing. Around ten weeks, I started spotting, so they agreed to see me earlier.

After some testing and an ultrasound, we discovered the pregnancy was actually a blighted ovum, which means an embryo never formed, and scheduled a DNC. The DNC was the first time I’d ever had surgery in my life, and I cried on the table in the operating room because I was so confused and scared. Thankfully, the gas knocked me out in under ten seconds, and I didn’t remember anything until I woke up two hours later.

I took the miscarriage rather hard at first because I had believed for over two months that I was pregnant and had been planning to tell our families soon. But, I was also grateful that I’d been able to get pregnant at all, and I consoled myself with the thought that it (the blighted ovum) was never a real baby. I thought we would try again when my body healed and everything would be fine.

The Next Six Months

Over the next several months, I read books on fertility, charted my cycles, and tried to maintain a strict diet, but nothing really seemed to work. I saw a third dermatologist when the rash on my face came back worse than ever. I asked him if he thought the rash could be tied to food sensitivities. He basically told me I was an idiot and laughed at me, but he gave me a steroid shot that cleared the rash up immediately.

After six more months of not getting pregnant (it was now summer of 2015), we finally made an appointment with Dr. Young at Mid-Iowa Fertility. We immediately liked Dr. Young as well as the nurses and staff. Everyone was incredibly professional and attentive, and we felt like we were in great hands.

We went through a battery of tests, including laparoscopic surgery to see if I had endometriosis, which was very painful, and they all came back negative. Eventually, we were diagnosed with unexplained infertility, so Dr. Young recommended a series of IUIs.

Looking back, I think the “unexplained infertility” diagnosis made the entire process so much harder. I felt like I had no control over the situation. We didn’t receive any advice on how we could improve our odds. There was no discussion of diet or supplements. When I asked about testing for MTHFR, which is gene mutation that causes miscarriages, I was told that they didn’t believe it had any relevance. I know that this is because medical doctors are focused on science and not homeopathy, but I just wanted more answers and an actual action plan that I could use on my own.

The Second Miscarriage

We started our first IUI cycle in December of 2015, and I discovered I was pregnant the day we arrived home for our Christmas vacation. We were on an extended trip that included skiing in Vermont and staying in a tiny cabin/shack in the middle of the woods.

I  hid the pregnancy from my family over the holidays – no small feat – and we drove up to Vermont. It was raining, and there was no snow on the ground. So, we hung out in our little AirBNB cabin, played board games, watched Netflix, and visited with my best friend and her husband. On the third day, I had a miscarriage.

I was discouraged and upset, of course, though I was a tiny bit grateful it happened on December 30th and not January 2nd. At least I could drown my disappointment with wine on New Years Eve and prepare to start again. As with the first miscarriage, I tried to keep a positive outlook and not dwell on it. Since this miscarriage occurred so early, I was easily able to rationalize that it wasn’t meant to be and my body was just doing what it was supposed to.

Back home, we decided to take a little break so we we could go to Mexico. The Zika virus had just broken out, and we didn’t want to take any chances. At the time, the recommendations on abstinence after exposure weren’t as strict, so we thought we’d be able to try again when we got home. We did our second IUI in March, but it was unsuccessful.

The Third Miscarriage

It was now summer of 2016. I had been struggling emotionally and mentally that winter and spring even though I kept it to myself. It seemed like everyone around me was getting pregnant effortlessly and easily. I felt like I had to be around pregnant women constantly. The hardest part was pretending I was happy for them when I wasn’t. I cried myself to sleep many nights. I felt like a total failure and blamed myself. I went back and forth between elimination diets and binging on the food I knew was bad for me. I thought about not having kids at all and giving up. I was really at a breaking point.

This period was one of the loneliest of my entire life. I felt like I was gripped in a vise of sadness, and it was difficult to enjoy anything. Around this time, I also got really into studying the Law of Attraction as a way to make myself feel better. I read Ask and It Is Given by Esther and Jerry Hicks, which was totally transformative. I used many of the exercises described in the book to elevate my mood, at least temporarily, which was a positive. However, I was torn because I just couldn’t make myself believe that I could have a baby, and my belief in the LOA told me that my negative thoughts were causing my problems. It was a vicious cycle in which I constantly blamed myself – my body and my thoughts – for our failure to conceive.

And, then our May IUI worked! All of a sudden, life became so much easier. We went for an ultrasound at six weeks, saw the embryo and heard the heart beat. I was super excited that this was the one and felt lighter for the first time in two years. But, at seven weeks, I felt a sudden absence of symptoms. I remember telling my husband the baby was dead and crying. He told me to be positive and that I couldn’t know that, but when we went for our next ultrasound, it showed I had been right. I didn’t go back to work that day and instead lay on the couch for the entire afternoon. The next morning, I told myself that I got to be sad for one more day but then I had to get up, get some exercise, and go to work.

After the DNC the following week, we got barbecue and mac and cheese, which had become our post-surgery routine. I went back to work and tried to keep my shit together, but it was hard. I tried not to think about getting pregnant anymore, but the truth was that I was crying myself to sleep at night and verbally abusing myself inside my head for being a total failure. The summer and fall of 2016 were a really hard time.

IVF

Our doctor decided our next step was IVF because our miscarriages were due to chromosomal defects. By genetically testing our embryos, we could increase our chances significantly. I did my research, and I thought the odds were in our favor, or at least better than doing nothing. We were incredibly lucky in that my insurance fully covered everything except the genetic testing, which we paid for out of pocket. I was so grateful – for Keegan, for the job that provided me this fabulous insurance, for Dr. Young and his nurses, even for the reps at the pharmacy who patiently walked me through the array of drugs.

We started the hormone injections in early November. I gave myself all of the shots – one in the morning and two in the evening – for almost two weeks. The morning shots were easy, and I barely felt them, but one of the evening shots was brutal. The needle was longer, and the fluid burned as it was injected. I developed bruises all over my abdomen at the injection sites. Towards the end of the injection cycle, I went to the doctor for tests and ultrasounds, and I was proclaimed ready for the egg retrieval.

The egg retrieval was surgery #4 (two DNCs and the endometriosis test) in two years. It was a bizarre experience in that I wasn’t fully sedated, but I had no memory of the surgery afterward. I took several days to recover and could barely walk for 24 hours, though the doctor said I could go back to work the next day.

Our retrieval resulted in twelve eggs, six of which became embryos. We sent those embryos off for genetic testing, and three of them made it through the five-day waiting period. One of the three tested positive for Downs Syndrome, which left us with two healthy embryos. I would have been happier with three or more, but having read all of the message boards late at night, I knew enough to be grateful for any good embryos. After the genetic testing, you have to wait for one cycle to transfer one of the embryos. Since we were right up against the holidays, we elected to wait until after New Years 2017.

The Transfer

I flew back to Pennsylvania for Thanksgiving. I happened to go out one night with some friends from high school, one of whom was on a similar journey. We spent all night talking about IVF and embryos. She described how she had eliminated all of the toxic products from her life and was using a regimen of essential oils to help with her fertility. I found this conversation fascinating and felt uplifted by her positive outlook and proactive approach. When I got home, I immediately began switching my toiletry products and household cleaners. This little bit of control over my situation helped me to feel slightly better both physically and mentally. You can read more about my favorite natural products in this post.

I started taking high doses of estrogen in early December to prepare for the embryo transfer. The increased hormones made me a little crazy and gave me severe anxiety, which didn’t help my precarious emotional state.  Our embryo transfer was scheduled for mid-January, but I became incredibly sick after our return flight from a trip to California over New Years.

I went to see my family practitioner after four days of fevers and chills. When the nurse started asking me questions about the medicines I was taking, I told her about the IVF. Out of nowhere, I started crying, and she asked me if I were depressed. Then, still crying, I started laughing hysterically, and asked her, “Isn’t everyone going through IVF depressed?” My poor doctor came in to do the flu swab, and I cried even harder. I’m sure he thought I had lost my mind.

It took a full two weeks to recover from the flu. By the time I was better, we discovered my body wasn’t responding to the hormones, and Dr. Young decided to cancel the transfer.

In all honesty, I was a total emotional wreck by this point. Very few people knew what we were going through. No one knew about the battle raging inside my head. I was listless and sad and generally depressed. I swung back and forth between total ambivalence, overwhelming sadness, and rage. Keegan suggested I see a therapist multiple times, and finally, I made an appointment.

Taking a Break

I just wanted time to take care of myself and feel normal for a while. I had been pregnant or trying to get pregnant for three years, and I couldn’t think about it anymore. So, I decided to order the essential oils my friend mentioned at Thanksgiving, and I joined a gym so I could start lifting weights and doing yoga again. I started the oils regimen during my February cycle. I saw my therapist weekly and made time for the gym. I even took up tennis. I told my doctor I would come back in the summer. I took a vacation with my best friend over Spring Break. Keegan and I went out to eat regularly, I drank wine, and I just tried to relax.

I also quit one of my jobs. This was a huge decision, and I’m very grateful that Keegan supported me in it. For the past two years, I had been alternating between teaching and working in a design firm. Neither of those positions stopped at five o’clock or took a break on the weekends. When I was at school, I was fielding texts from clients. When I was at work, I was getting emails and requests from students. I realized that it was totally unsustainable and that I needed a break.

With my new days off, I read books, caught up on my classwork, worked out, and slept a lot. Within a week, I felt like a huge weight had been lifted. I felt better than I had in months, maybe in years.

IVF Round 2

We met Dr. Young and scheduled another round of IVF for late June after my sister’s wedding in Baltimore. I had decided that as long as I was going to take hormones again, I should do another egg retrieval to increase our embryo supply. The timing was sticky between our travel schedule and the office’s two-week break in July. It needed to fall during that particular period or we were out of luck until August. I didn’t want to do a transfer just before classes started, so I was very intent on making this schedule work. We got our birth control prescription and were all ready to get started.

And, then I realized I was late. I have always had a long cycle, so I didn’t think anything of it. But, one day, getting nervous about the IVF timing, I checked the tracking app on my phone. I realized I was at 36 days. That was almost a week late! I had one pregnancy test left in my drawer and decided to take it just to see. And, shockingly, it was positive.

I drove to the store and bought more. I took those too. They were all positive. I just couldn’t believe it.

I scheduled an appointment with the fertility clinic. They confirmed the positive results with a blood test. We went for an ultrasound at six weeks. Again, we saw the embryo and heard the heartbeat.

Pregnancy #4

It was incredibly hard for me to get excited. I’d been down this road before, and it always ended in heartbreak. Although I dutifully gave up all the things, I was incredibly skeptical that this pregnancy would work out. We went back for an ultrasound at nine weeks, and I told the nurse, “Just tell me right away if it’s gone. No sad faces.” Looking at the screen, she smiled and said the baby looked perfect. The heartbeat was strong and fast. We had officially graduated from the fertility clinic.

We chose a doctor group and scheduled an appointment for another ultrasound at 11 weeks. Again, I was convinced the baby would be dead. I just didn’t think I was capable of making and carrying a healthy baby after all we’d been through. I thought it would be easier to expect the worst rather than hope for the best. So much for the Law of Attraction!

But, it was still alive and growing fast at 11 weeks, and our doctor seemed particularly nonchalant about the whole thing, even at my advanced age. He told us to schedule our next appointment for 15 weeks. The day before we flew to Baltimore, we heard the baby’s heartbeat one more time, and I was able to relax and truly believe I was finally going to have a baby.

I’m now twenty weeks along, and we just passed our anatomy scan with flying colors. The rest of our appointments are booked through October. The baby is due December 1st. I’m incredibly grateful for this little miracle baby. I feel like the Universe came through for me after all.


If you’ve made it this far, thank you for reading! It was incredibly difficult for me to share something so personal out on the internet for everyone to read. As I mentioned at the beginning of the post, I was very inspired by Jenna Kutcher sharing about her two miscarriages. On her podcast, she discusses how the topic of miscarriage is taboo – mostly because it’s uncomfortable for other people. But, so many women are silently struggling with miscarriages and infertility.

I thought that it would be easier for me if no one knew that we were having trouble conceiving. I was embarrassed and ashamed. I truly felt what Brené Brown describes as shame deep down in my bones. It radiated through me, and I couldn’t bear for anyone else to know. Looking back, I feel so sorry that I couldn’t help myself sooner. If I had cancer, I wouldn’t have been ashamed to tell people or ask for help. Why should infertility be any different?

The longer our struggle went on, the more I started to open up. It was like I just couldn’t hold it inside anymore. And, with each admission, I felt a little better and a little less lonely. I’m hoping by putting my story out there, I can help other women on this same journey feel less alone too.