{Boudoir} Celebrating Me

Ten borrowed years have passed since I heard the words “massive pulmonary embolism with infarction and stroke.” My body may be scarred, but she is beautiful. She had to break, before I could shine.

Nine years have passed since the first time I heard the words “I’m sorry but there is no heartbeat.” My womb may be broken, but her body is strong. She has created life and swaddled them in death. Her babies they will always be.

I have put my body through hell in the fight for motherhood. She went into battle and carried me on my hardest days. She’s taken 100s of shots to the abdomen and held out hope that the eggs would grow. In the spring she heard the words “your journey is done.” She held her head high. Yet, she still believes in the dream that one day her weary arms will hold a baby of her own.

I was angry with the body I saw in the mirror. The body didn’t fit the mold. It couldn’t carry life to term. It could no longer run or even breathe in the cold. My body is broken and bruised. Yet there I was standing tall in front of a mirror. My body had more faith in me than I did. She believed and so I did.

In July I bought my first bikini in over 15 years. I wore it proudly at the pool. No one made comments or sneered. I found confidence that I didn’t know I had.

Somewhere along the way I must of felt brave and signed on a mailing list to get more info on a boudoir session. In late July I got an email looking for models for outdoor boudoir shoots. In an act of boldness I responded to the email and to my surprise I got chosen. I talked myself out of replying a million times over. Yet I dug deep and before I knew it I was on the phone with Alyssa from Illuminate Boudoir talking about my session. I chose to do my shoot at Wisconsin Point at the end of September.

You may be wondering why did I choose Wisconsin Point? The answer is simple, healing and connection. When I look out at the vast lake I can feel the courage and strength of my ancestors. I am the descendent of Voyagers who crossed the ocean in the name of exploration and progress. I think about the courage it took to paddle their canoes across the mighty lake to the land of the unknown. As I stand on her shores I think about my very Great Grandmother Chief Sky Woman who fell in love and married one of those voyagers. This lake runs through my soul like blood does through my veins. It’s where my family began. Lake Superior will always be apart of me and my soul will always belong to her.

Healing, this big lake of ours has healed me in more ways than I could ever explain. I have cried tears, filled the air with laughter, and just sat quietly on her shores. We stood on her shore and said good bye to our sweet son Emmett as her waves swallowed his stone turtles. She took on the grief that I could not contain. She took my anger, my sadness, guilt, and replaced it with peace. This mighty lake of ours heals me and allows me to come away renewed. So this place was the perfect place to live boldly through boudoir.

Alyssa made me feel safe and loved through out the entire process. She explains everything throughly and goes out of her way to make sure that you are comfortable. I told Alyssa that I wanted my portraits to feel strong yet feminine. I wanted them to capture me as a human and not just me as the survivor. She understood and we planned for the end of September.

I couldn’t have asked for a better weather day. It was perfect, unlike my makeup. When I walked out of the cosmetic bar I was feeling defeated. The girl who did my makeup didn’t do a good job and I head to Walgreens to get supplies to fix it. I did my best, yet I still didn’t feel like me. I contemplated canceling the shoot. But I didn’t, I decided to just go with it and headed to the coffee shop to meet Alyssa. As soon as I saw Alyssa she reassured me that I looked beautiful and that everything was going to be just fine. Those words, her words were just what I needed to hear.

Alyssa = magical. It’s hard to explain but she is the ultimate confidence whisperer. She just makes you feel incredible in front of her camera. So incredible to the point that you kind of forget that you are outdoors on a public beach posing in your underwear. Alyssa puts a lot of thought into everything that she does during the shoot to ensure that you have a beautiful experience. She took the time to show me how to pose and would direct me on where/how to look. My favorite line she said was “ok, now a little smile for yourself.”

“Smile for yourself” sums up this entire experience. The boudoir shoot was for me and me alone. I drove away from Wisconsin Point feeling incredible and so full of light. That day is a day I will always treasure. The feelings I felt and the confidence I gained will carry me for the rest of my days.

Going into reveal day I had mix emotions as I was worried about how I’d look with all the makeup. I can hands down tell you that Alyssa did not disappoint. Seeing my portraits for the first time got me right in the feels and teary eyed. It took me a second to realize that I was actually the girl in the photos. My photos were so full of life and light, I could barely believe that they were mine. Each one had a different feel from feminine to serious, to a little naughty and I loved them all. I walked out of Alyssa’s studio with portraits in hand and a new dose of self love in my pocket. She empowered me to view myself in a whole new light and I am going to let that little light shine.

Truth: Boudoir is for everyone! If you have a body, then you my friend have a boudoir body. I went into my session filled with insecurities around my double chin and lovely large ankles. Alyssa knew exactly what poses would work for my body and the end result was beautiful. If I can do boudoir, than YOU CAN do boudoir too!

If you would like to schedule your own boudoir session visit: http://www.illuminateboudoir.com for more information. I promise you will not regret it!

Now for the incredible photos!

{Hearts on 22} TEN Incredible Borrowed Years

On October 22, 2009 my life, it changed forever. I woke up that morning as a healthy 26 year old and within hours I was admitted to the ICU at Woodwinds. I almost died five days before my 27th birthday. This life that I live, is an incredible borrowed gift.

I have lived 10 borrowed years on this earth and it hasn’t been easy. Surviving is the easy part. Living as a survivor is the hard part. To this day I still have immense survivor’s guilt. According to statistics four people had to die so that I could be the one out of five who lived. It’s a hard pill to swallow. Because I know anyone of those four if given a chance would take my seat. This life I live is not for me, it is for the four who no longer have a life. I carry those four wherever I go and thank God every day that I got to be the one out of five.

Ten years ago I asked God constantly “why the fuck me? What did I do to deserve this? Do you not like me?” To this day those questions remain unanswered. Not getting an answer allowed me to flip my perspective and ask God “why not me?” God put me through my darkest hour in order to break me so that I could shine. In that one moment of disaster he birthed my purpose…. “to find myself and to fight for a healthier tomorrow.” I had to break, before she could SHINE.

Tomorrow is not a given. Since October 22, 2009 I have lived 3,665 borrowed tomorrows. Every morning I wake up and face the sun, I thank God. Seeing the sun means he’s not done with me yet. I still have a purpose and we still have work to do.

I have lived 5,263,200 borrowed minutes. Those minutes turned into hours, which turned into days, that turned into years. Ten years of survivorhood. I wish I could say it’s been all rainbows and unicorns. But it hasn’t, I’ve had really good days along with terribly bad days too. It’s the bad days that allow me to dance on the good days. The bad days allow me to heal and savor all that is good in my life. I wouldn’t trade this life for anything in the world.

Life, I have shoved a large amount of life into the past ten years. I am that friend who always says yes to new adventures and days where we just gossip on the couch with wine. The slow moments are where I find my zen. In the busy moments I’m thankful for every beat of my heart. I’m thankful for what my body can still do and savor the smallest of victories.

I am more than a survivor. All to often we forget that survivors are human just like everyone else. We are not invincible nor do we strive to be. I have hopes and dreams just like you. The only difference is, I’ve lived through the unthinkable and came out on the other side. God broke me, before I could shine.

I’ve learned to live in my skin and not hope for what society says I should be. I’m a girl who likes her cheese curds, brats, whiskey and cupcakes. I am more than the number on my waist band. This size 18 body of mine has been through hell and back. It survived the impossible and continues to defy the odds. She may be scarred, battered, and bruised, but she is 100% mine. Every scar tells a story, every bruise has meaning, and we found beauty in the fight. The fight to survive another day in this borrowed life.

{Photo by – Illuminate Boudoir Portraits}

I live this life for my sons Lucia, Baby E and Emmett who went to soon. There leaving changed my life forever and it’s in their names that I choose to live to the fullest. They are with me always, my sons they will always be. They have given me the strength to not give up on this thing we call motherhood. I have faith that my turn is still coming and that one day this weary body of mine will hold a baby in her arms.

This life that I live is to honor the four who lost theirs, so that I could be the one who walked away. Those four allowed me to become a mom to 3 babies in heaven. Because of their leaving, I got to live to be an auntie to Sophia & Jack. I got to live to love again. Because of them I got to live the life I was always meant to live. A life filled with love, adventure, and more laughter than one soul could handle.

Laughter is what got me through the bad days. Cullen my trusty muppet like dog keeps me laughing. Cullen’s antics and chirp like bark will make anyone giggle. Getting a dog was the best medicine that I ever took. He gave me purpose and was the reason I kept going. Because without me, he would have no one in this world. He got me out of the house and together we broke through our shells to become the souls we were always meant to be. We are an unstoppable team of underdogs with a big bite. This little dog of mine rescued me and for that I am grateful. He is mine and I will always be his.

This borrowed life of mine has filled me to the brim with gratitude. I’ve spent the past 10 years advocating for our healthy tomorrows. I’ve stood on the steps of the capital building giving my testimony to the nation that affordable quality health care should be a right and not for the privileged. I’ve wept in front of congressmen/women asking them to ensure that someone else gets a tomorrow just like I did. I’ve held the hands of survivors as they shared their journey. I have hugged the parents of the warriors who left this world to soon. I’ve been on billboards, in TV commercials, fashion shows, and I will not stop until there are none. I will not stop until there are none, because no woman deserves to fight alone. My one moment of disaster sparked my purpose and I’m not done yet.

To sum it up the past 10 years have taught me one thing: to live boldly. Time is a great teacher, she taught me to be strong and to dig deep for that last little shred of courage. I look back and think “wow, I lived all of it and each stone led me to where I was always meant to be.” The good, the bad, the ugly, and down right funny moments all belong to me. My Pulmonary Embolism and stroke taught me strength. My first marriage taught me to never compromise who you are for a man. Charlie, Charlie taught me that when the darkness fades love finds away in. Charlie loved me until his last breath and he prepared my heart to love again. My heart though broken loves Jay unconditionally and without question. He is my exact opposite yet equal. Jay can calm me within seconds and make me laugh until I can’t breathe. Jay held me during the loss of our babies and believes in my little dream called parenthood. He dares me to push myself into the unknown and for that I am grateful. This love that we live was always meant to be.

If anything my borrowed time on this earth has taught me one thing: I’m not in control. Just when I think I have all my ducks in a row, one wanders off to the bar. For awhile I was afraid to just be in the here and now. That quiet voice would whisper, “this is to good, the bottom is going to fall out .” I wasted so much time waiting and plotting for the good to end. I did this because I didn’t believe that I deserved to be happy and at peace with everything. I found the strength to quiet that voice and to allow myself to just be. I as a human have to do my best to soak in every moment like it’s my last. For this life I live is not a guarantee for my years are borrowed. It’s a beautiful disaster, a disaster that’s mine and mine alone.

My advice:

Be bold and live without fear. Take that trip. Fall in love. Adopt a dog. Drink that glass of wine. Call your parents and check in with your besties. This life is yours to live and you can either do it boldly or you can hide in your own shadow. The choice is yours my friend.

{Infertile Me} and so it begins, again

If you would have told me 3 years ago that I would be heading to Iowa to make a baby, I would have called you bluff. Yet here I am clocking the miles on the Prius driving back and forth between Des Moines and Minneapolis. It’s a three and a half hour drive that I’ve actually come to love. Most of the time I am solo on the drive. So I’ve come up with a system to make the miles of corn fields go by faster, audio books and multiple stops. My 1st stop is Clear Lake; 2nd stop is the “Flying J” outside of Ames; and before I know it I’m in Des Moines eating Tasty Tacos (I might be addicted).

I should point out that Iowa was my Hail Mary. Before going to Mid-Iowa I was turned down by 11 clinics (yes you read that right 11 clinics) and had little hope left. Dr. Y had done what no one else did, not even Dr. B did this, he actually read my medical records and formulated a plan. A plan that would lead us to transferring our final CCRM embryo in December. A transfer that would result in a negative beta that sent us back to the drawing board.

In early January we had the hard conversation of discussing whether or not another retrieval cycle was in the cards. Dr. Y is blunt and kind, he explained that yes I could do another retrieval but this would be my last. In that moment as those words settled in the air I became angry, not at him, but at the Nuvaring. Each time I go through a cycle my clotting risk goes up and I am reminded that Lovenox is not a guarantee. To add salt to my already wounded soul he brought up a surrogate.

I knew what that word meant and where he was headed, yet it hurt. Hurt in away I never thought it could. I explained “I am type A, I could never use a surrogate. I’d have to chain her to me so I knew exactly what she was doing and when.” He understood and we moved on to discussing genetic testing of the embryos. This time around we are spending the money and testing our embryos before transferring them back to me. This will some how give us a leg up and reduce our chances of loss.

Of course the first step in this process is eggs. Just like before I have to break it down in steps: Step 1 eggs; Step 2 embryos; Step 3 genetic testing; Step 4 transfer. If I do not break it down it becomes to overwhelming and I am pretty sure I’d talk myself out of it. This round is truly our last chance at a bio baby and that is something I do not take lightly. Even in the moment of loss I am filled with hope.

Hope that we will get a few genetically normal embryos that will grow into our take home baby.

In this season of life; we pray

My dad has asked me over and over again “why did this have to happen to me?” I looked up form our puzzle and said “a wise man once told me we don’t ask why; instead we ask why not me!?” He just stared at me and then smiled. I myself have looked up towards the sky and asked the question; “why my Dad?” In my heart I know we are incredibly lucky, the accident could have been so much worse. Yet my heart wants to ask the lady from Alma “why the fuck weren’t you paying attention? You were in a busy grocery store parking lot. How the fuck didn’t you see Santa Clause walking in front of you. Like how the fuck didn’t you see him!?” These questions will go unanswered. To her my dad is just the “thump” she heard that day.

She got to drive home that day. She got to spend Thanksgiving in her home with her family while my dad spent it in a care center. She gets to Christmas shop and walk this earth freely. She has freedom of movement. She gets to be an active 78 year old woman who goes about her day; while my dad sits and wonders “why did she hit me.” A question he will never get an answer to. Because of the lady from Alma, I heard my dad scream in pain. I had to witness seeing my dad unable to stand and unable to walk. She took my active 66 year old father away from me. She took a piece of my father away that he is fighting tooth and nail to get back.

Every time I go home and turn right on to West Avenue I am reminded of my father. We have to drive by the grocery store in order to get to my parent’s house. The last day my Dad drove was on November 9, 2018. The last time my dad walked freely was on November 9, 2018. Since then he has been wheelchair bound and is struggling to walk. He is struggling to get a piece of his self back, but ya know what, he’s not giving up. No matter how painful it gets he still keeps on trying to walk and for that I am thankful. I am thankful that he refuses to give up. He may be down but he is not out and I have faith that one day I will have my Dad back. That one day we will be hitting the road and exploring new places just like we have done many times before.

Part of me hopes that the lady from Alma thinks about my dad and wonders how he’s doing. I wonder if she feels sorry for running him over. I wonder if she pays more attention in parking lots now or maybe just maybe her family took her keys away. Red Wing is 46 miles from Alma WI and I pray with every fiber of my being that she took those 46 miles to think about what she did.

The lady from Alma changed his life forever and for that I can never forgive her. I can show her grace, but I will never forgive her for the pain she caused.

{Love} Four years

After Charlie died I thought I was jinxed. I thought that I’d didn’t deserve love or to be happy. I dated a lot, but nothing stuck. It was always the same old boring date with no follow up calls. Some nights I’d just go on a date to get out of the house with the intention of not calling them back. I was lonely. I was beautifully broken and for most I was to much to handle.

They say love finds you when you least expect it. For me it came in the form of an email. An email that lead to a date at Pizza Luce that lead to my happy ever after. On our third date Jay said to me “you don’t know it yet, but I am going to marry you.” I was a little taken back by this comment and wondered “WTF!” Jay was right, eight months later he asked me to marry him in a Wisconsin Dells pool. I said yes and gave up my uptown life for two cats in the suburbs.

Our first year wasn’t easy. On Mother’s Day I took a test and called Jay to utter the words “I’m pregnant.” I was scared out of my mind and Jay was excited. My fears were realized during our first ultrasound when only an empty sac appeared on the screen. Our baby wasn’t meant to be. We experienced our first loss together and some how managed to make it through to the other side. We found out that our little one had to many chromosomes. Two sperm fertilized one egg, hence why we call him two sperm. A child that I like to believe is half human, half velociraptor that chews on red legos and now purple crayons too.

Jay says that my ability to find the good in every situation and my ability to use humor is what he loves most about me. It’s true, even in darkness I look for the light. Some days my imagination is what gets us through. Our cats have secret lives in which I relay to Jay on the daily. Laughter is plentiful in our house. Jay will tell you “she can crack her own self up in an instant.” Jay also makes me laugh, like full on belly I can’t breathe type of laughter. I always tell my friends “find someone who will make you laugh until it hurts.”

Hurt is what I can see in Jay’s eyes when I am in pain. He tries to do everything in his power to make me feel better, even if it means trying to make me laugh in the ER. Yes, the ER we end up there a few times a year, my body isn’t what it used to be. A part of me wishes that Jay got to experience AJ before she was broken. The AJ that had lung capacity and the one who could actually do things without begging for air. Then again Jay tells me that he is glad that he got the broken version of me, he thinks it’s the best one.

IVF proved to be a lesson in strength for the both of us. Jay had to be strong when he gave me the shots. I think the shots hurt him more than they did me and I’m the one who got stuck. I could see the anger in his eyes when we walked out of our botched transfer attempt. He didn’t want me to do it at CCRM. But I persisted and so we did. He kept me strong when I was ready to break. He held my hand and rubbed my head as I was wheeled off to surgery and held on tight when the embryos finally made it back to me. He spoke to my belly when we found out it worked, this baby that we prayed for was finally ours.

Snow pea is what he named our baby. The ultrasound photos brought tears to his eyes because the baby that we had struggled for was finally ours. He squeezed me tight as I ugly cried into his shoulder on the day we found out that snow pea wasn’t meant to be ours. He helped me fulfill a bucket list of things I wanted to do with snow pea before we said our final goodbyes. Stone turtles were thrown into the mighty lake as we held each other tight. We would learn that our snow pea was a boy, a boy that we named Emmett James. Our son he will always be.

When the sadness fades joy takes shape. Joy is something our home is full of. Our hearts they are broken yet they are joyful because we are the parents of two children in heaven and Lucia too. We make this life worth living because our son’s never got the chance too. Weekend travel and day trips fill our weekends, adventure is always just around the bend. It’s funny no matter where we go I always find something that reminds me of our sons. They are always with us and they will always be ours.

Four years is a long time in today’s world. Four years ago I walked into Pizza Luce and never looked back. If you would have asked me then I wouldn’t have imagined this life. This life that we live is better than any fairy tail. In quiet moments I realize that I have what people spend their lives searching for. I have a man who loves every fiber of my being and never gives up on me. Even in my stubborn moments, he never gives up. He tells me “you are like a little bull dog, you just keep smashing yourself against walls until you get through.” He’s right, I do, I never give up and I never look back. With this man that I love at my side anything is possible.

{Survivorhood} Year Nine


I can still remember exactly what I was wearing on the day my world broke. Gray cardigan, white button down peasant top, jeans, and cranberry ballet flats. The shoes, I still have them. They are worn and raggedy, I just can’t let them go. Those shoes carried me in the ER and they walked me out days later. Those shoes are a symbol that I survived the worst day possible.

Every day I am reminded that four had to die so I could be the one out of five who walked away. I live each day for those who no longer can. I live each day for the women who lost their lives to the Nuvaring. Those women are my battle cry and I will not rest until there are none. Those women have given me more strength than I ever thought possible.

I survived because God, he wasn’t done with me. God knew my strength before I did. God gave me a second chance and I have cherished each day to the fullest. Fate, she’s a funny one and I know that everything I have lived through was apart of her plan. That this plan isn’t mine and only Fate knows where I am going. I cling to every drop of borrowed time and thank God for every day I rise. For I know this second life of mine is an incredible gift.

On October 22, 2009 I made a choice. A choice to not be a victim. A choice to thrive and live a life worth telling. I want a life filled with incredible experiences and stories that will keep me company when I’m old. I made a choice to stand up and be a voice against the darkness. A voice to bring awareness to a cause and educate those around me about the side effects of hormonal contraceptives. My voice will not be silenced until there are none. I have work to do and I will not rest until there are none. One day there will be none and on that day I will take off my white hat and rest.

This past year was filled with heartache and joy. I became a mama to my 3rd sleeping son. Emmett James left this world before his feet ever touched my hands. I am grateful for the experience and I am thankful to be his mom. When sadness fades to joy life begins. I got to watch Sophia and Jack turn one year older. There faces bring joy to the darkness of the night. I am grateful that I survived and get to hear their little voices say “Auntie! Auntie! Auntie!” They are my world and I am there’s.

I spent my weekends traveling form place to place with my dad at my side. No matter the destination he was game. We went to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula; Mackinac Island; The Badlands; Mount Rushmore; Crazy Horse; Wyoming; Jeffer’s Petroglyphs; Milwaukee; Racine; Hayward; Effigy Mounds National Monument; Crowing Wing State Park; Door County; Washington Island; and the North Shore. This summer we traveled more than most people do in a lifetime. Much wine and booze was bought and we have memories to last us until the end of time.

My dad isn’t the only one who got in on the road trip fun. I traded my dad in for Jay! We made our usual pilgrimage to WI Dells and we ventured west to South Dakota and Wyoming. This year was the year of travel and my heart is happy. I am the trip planner in our family. I plan and Jay just comes along for the ride. That is what I love about him, he’s up for anything as long as I’m involved.

My heart she is thankful. Thankful that I got a second chance at this thing called life. This second chance taught me to live in the moment. Fate has taught me to let the little things slide and stand up for the big things. I have more hope and faith than most people. For I’ve seen God work. Long ago I stopped asking “why me,” instead I stand up and ask “why not me.” I am a firm believer that everything happens for a reason and God knows what he’s doing. Research, saved my life and it will continue to save the lives of others. We need to believe in research and fund research so that others can have my outcome. So that they too can have a chance at living in a beautiful disaster.

YEAR #9:

For the past nine years I’ve asked for motherhood. This year I am just asking to be HAPPY. Happy with myself. Happy with my work and life. I want to feel joy and give joy. I want to be that person whose happiness is addictive and strengthening. That beacon we flock to on a bad day and the one we laugh with on a good day. I simply want to be happy.

{Only In MN} Jeffers Petroglyphs

I am always intrigued by those brown “historical marker” signs along the highway. Sometimes they lead me to just a plaque describing a place that once was or sometimes I hit the jackpot and it turns out to be amazing. In early May while driving to Lake Shetek State Park I saw such a sign along the winding prairie road. I made a mental note to stop on my way home.

My way home came sooner than we would have liked. It was freezing and Lucy well she decided that her ticket home was barfing on her mom’s covers. It did the trick and Sherri and I broke down our camp and loaded up the dogs. I mentioned to Sherri the sign that I saw and she was game, so off we went.

I know you are wondering “AJ what was the sign!?” Wonder no more, I saw the sign for the Jeffers Petroglyphs and I had to go see them. Like really really had to go see them, otherwise I would have regretted it.

So stop I did and I was not disappointed. We walked for what seemed like a half mile out to the petroglyphs. It’s beautiful, the raw natural prairie envelopes you and makes you feel like you were always meant to be there. Signs dot the path explaining Dakota heritage and the plants of the prairie before you. Soon a reddish stone appears and you quickly realize that there is a rope lined path dotting the hillside. Plaques call out which petroglyphs is which, some are harder to identify than others. Some are obvious and you start to realize that you are viewing a history that is older than you could have ever imagined.

A hand print in the stone, turtles, Buffalo, Thunder bird, and so many more drawings of the past. This place was sacred, this place had meaning, and as you feel the wind on your back you realize deep down that just maybe you passed this way once before.

The petroglyphs site touched me deeper than I thought it would, this place was spiritual and for that I was thankful. It doesn’t matter what type of Indian runs through your veins, Indian is Indian and this place is a place you were always meant to pass through.

If you find yourself in southwestern Minnesota, a visit to the Jeffers Petroglyphs site is a must. It’s beautiful, spiritual, and worth slowing down to just take it all in.

To find out more go here:


{Infertile Me} Operation Transfer Take Home Baby

The moment I have been prepping for is nearly here. All of the injections, blood draws, scans, pills and whatever else I have been through have lead me to this moment. To this very moment motherhood is only one embryo transfer away. It’s strange to think about. I walk in not pregnant and will walk out a few hours later pregnant until proven otherwise.

The pregnancy part scares me. The unknowns terrify me. I wish we could install a window in our bellies so we could see what they are up to. Ultrasounds give us a peek, but sometimes that peek is to much to bare. I’ve heard the words “there is no heart beat and followed five years later by “there is no yolk or fetal pole.” The ultrasound brought those words into my reality, they showed me that my children were no longer living. In those moments of grief I found hope. My heart she may be broken, but she is hopeful for a baby in her arms.

That hope and unwavering spirit brought me to IVF. IVF is not for the faint of heart, it is a battle from the start and you must keep going until you have nothing left to give. My stomach though bloated (leggings are my best friend right now), is a war zone full of bruised injection sites and estrogen patches. There is no guarantee that I will win this battle, that I will get to bring a baby home, but deep down I know that I gave it my all.

Sometime this month two beautiful little embryos will be transferred back to me with Jay at my side. The decision to do two wasn’t easy but based on my age, it is our best course. I pray with all of my heart that this will work, that some how some way God will settle the score and let me keep one or two of my own. He already has two pieces of me in heaven and my heart will always be broken, yet she has room for more. For more babies, more love, more hope, and mostly more strength.

Strength and faith are the only two things that have kept me going on this journey. Many times I wanted to fold, yet I dug deep and carried on. Losing two babies is more than one soul can handle, my heart goes out to the ladies who have more losses than I do. Those ladies, are the hero’s of this world as they are walking around with a tattered heart. My heart she may be broken, but she is ready. My turn has come, our rainbow is near, and soon I too will get to take a baby home.

{Hearts on 22} 8 Borrowed Years

It seems like it was yesterday that I was laying in ICU wondering what my life was going to be like. Would I thrive in my new normal or would I flounder. Would I always see myself as a victim or would I find my survivor shoes and thrive? There were a lot of what ifs that day followed by unknowns. Even though I was scared, I put on my big girl pants and never looked back. I was given a second chance and this, this was going to be my time to shine.

In order to shine, I had to break. That one day changed my life forever. That one blood clot changed who I was and I’ve never looked back. My life isn’t the same, it’s better than I ever dreamed it could be. Instead of saying “why me!?” I said “why not me!?” And from that moment on my passion was born. I’ve crisscrossed this country educating women about the deadly side affects of hormonal contraceptives and the signs and symptoms of blood clots and strokes. My story, my words, my experience has saved lives. I endured the worst day possible so that they didn’t have to.

My pulmonary embolism and stoke, along with the Nuvaring will always be apart of my story. Whether I like it or not, we are and will always be BFFs. I was the one in five who got to walk away from a deadly situation. The four people who died so I could be the statistic who lived are the people I fight for because they no longer can. Their lives matter to me. My stroke would have been worse if I didn’t get the TPA in time. All to often I am reminded that I could be paralyzed or have mental impairments. The fore mentioned don’t need to happen, Time is your worst enemy when you are having a stroke. Always remember to act FAST and when you do you will save a life and that very life might be your own.

Life, it goes on. Whether we like it or not it goes on. I have lived more in 8 years than most people do in a lifetime. My 8 borrowed years have not been perfect, they have been a down right blunder. But it’s my blunder. I’ve lost two babies, got a divorce, buried a fiancé, got a dog, changed jobs half a dozen times until I found the perfect fit, traveled, gave a speech on capital hill, lobbied for our healthy tomorrow, was on a billboard, in a TV commercial, drank good wine, laughed until my belly hurt, dated (dating is hard yo!), become an auntie twice over, moved, fell deeply in love, and have 3 embryos on ice, we are one step closer to our take home baby.

What do I hope for borrowed year #8? It is my hope that year #8 will bring me our take home baby. I love being a mom to my four legged kids. We have Cullen the pesky older brother, Dexter the bitchy cat, and Stiffy the lone wolf. These 3 fur kids are quite possibly the most spoiled fur kids on the planet. Ever since I can remember I have always had a desire to mother. I’ve come close twice, but God he had other plans and my babies lives ended before they ever had a chance to start. Two pieces of me rest in heaven and my babies they will always be. While I am STILL a mother, I want to be the mother to a baby I can take Home. Right this moment I am so close to that dream, we have three little embryos waiting for us. One of them I am certain is our take home baby and soon I will hear two feet running amongst their four legged siblings. Motherhood is my hope for year #8.

October 22, 2009 seems like it was a lifetime ago, yet only 8 years have passed. I am lucky. I am grateful and I am humble. This borrowed time I am living on is the greatest gift of all and I treasure every moment, from the good, to the bad, and the down right ugly. Not many people get a moment that allows you to refocus your life. I had to break, before she could shine. That moment gave me strength and made me determined to always always fight for our healthy tomorrows. Because this day, this day is not a given and one day my time will come and I want to leave this world a little better than I found it.

Here’s to year #8, May she be kind and filled with wonder.

{Infertile Me} Operation Embryo

My stomach looks like I have been brutally punched by multiple elephants. These bruises and I are not strangers, we’ve been here before, except this time I am not fighting for my life. I am fighting for eggs that lord willing will turn into embryos that will turn into our take home baby.

I was prepared for the daily injections of the fertility meds, however I was not prepared for the flood of emotions that came with the lovenox burning under my skin. Lovenox, we have a love hate relationship. I can’t stand the ground she walks on but I need her in my life. She is the key to my survival without her I could not go through IVF and without her Jay has the potential of walking out of the hospital with our baby alone. Him walking out alone rocks me to my core and lovenox, she knows this. She knows I need her more than she needs me.

Lovenox knows that I made a choice. A choice to use a birth control that almost killed me and because of twice daily injections for 6 months I am alive. Technically I owe her a thousand thank yous, which she will never get because she burns me like no one has before. Because seeing her on my bathroom counter is a reminder that I almost died and because of that I cannot have a normal IVF experience or pregnancy.

Enough about that bitch Lovenox, the real reason you are here is to find out about operation embryos. Per my clinic I am on protocol 3 with Saizen, (human growth hormone) which cost $918.00 for a teeny tiny vial. I’ve been getting Lovenox (see there she is again) and menopur in the morning and Gonal F and Siazen at night. We have more needles and alcohol wipes than we know what to do with at the moment. It’s insane! Jay is getting really good at giving shots! Props to me! I’ve been doing some of the shots myself so Jay can sleep in a little bit.

So far operation embryo: follicle stage is going strong. Thursday’s scans showed 11 follicles that could result in 11 eggs. Which is really good for someone with diminished ovarian reserve and old eggs. I honestly feel amazing on the meds, it’s clear my body is getting something that it is missing. Most importantly it’s actually growing something she is suppose to be growing!!! Like “go you body! Go you!!” Which makes me really happy.

The clinic will continue to monitor me right up until retrieval day, the day we find out if my follicles have eggs inside. Eggs! I want all the eggs! Give AJ all the eggs! Technically all we need is one golden egg that will turn into our embryo. Tentative retrieval date is next Friday and let me tell you I have a super awesome shirt to wear to surgery. It involves a T-Rex!!!! Yes an unstoppable T-Rex, because this girl wasn’t given a choice, she just showed up, and she just did it!