It's one of those big, ugly words that you don't know much about, and you hope you never have to find out.
Then if it does happen to you, you're suddenly thrust into a world with way too much information.
The worst part? Most of your family and friends are still in the don't-know-much-about-it camp and it's hard for them to relate or understand.
I put together this very basic guide to help give you an idea of what the infertility world is like. If you're starting to think that you may be having fertility struggles or if you have a loved one who is currently suffering from infertility and you just want some information to help you understand, I hope this helps.
This information is compiled from the following websites (plus a little touch of my own personal experience): Coastal Fertility Specialists, Resolve: The National Infertility Association, and the American Pregnancy Association.
What is infertility?
Infertility is a disease which causes an inability to conceive a viable pregnancy after 12 months of regular, unprotected sex. This can also include the ability to achieve pregnancy but suffering from recurrent miscarriages.
This disease affects 1 in 8 couples, so there's a good chance you know someone who suffers from infertility - even if you're not aware of it.
There are also families who suffer from secondary infertility. In this case, the couple is suffering from infertility after successfully conceiving previous children without medical assistance.
What causes infertility?
Infertility can be caused by a wide range of underlying issues from physical problems to hormonal irregularities. It can be caused by issues with either the female partner or the male partner or a combination of both.
For men, there's really only one thing that needs to be checked: the sperm. There are 3 characteristics of semen that are checked when a couple is facing fertility challenges -
1. Sperm Count: Are there enough swimmers?
2. Sperm Motility: Do they swim and function correctly in a healthy/normal way?
3. Sperm Morphology: Are they shaped correctly or are there abnormalities/deformities?
For women, fertility challenges can be more complicated. There are several different checkpoints in the reproductive system where things could go wrong. The uterus, fallopian tubes, and ovaries all have specific parts to play in the reproductive process - not to mention the hormones that keep it all working.
This is just a short sampling of the possible causes for female infertility: Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS), Endometriosis, uterine abnormalities, fibroid tumors, luteal phase defect, ovulatory disorders caused by hormone problems, premature ovarian failure, a blockage in the fallopian tubes, etc.
When should you consider seeking medical help?
There are some symptoms and conditions that may warrant medical help sooner, but the general rule is:
If you are under the age of 35 and have been having regular, unprotected sex for at least 1 year without successfully conceiving,
If you are over the age of 35 and have been having regular, unprotected sex for at least 6 months without successfully conceiving, you may want to speak to your OBGYN.
The first step is usually the OBGYN. He or she can often run some preliminary tests to rule out any obvious issues and can sometimes treat more minor causes of infertility. If your condition requires further assistance, you will be referred to a fertility specialist.
What is a fertility specialist?
A fertility specialist is a Reproductive Endocrinologist (RE).
REs are experts in the field of infertility. Just like any other field of medicine, different doctors will have different approaches and treatment plans. You will want to find the RE that you feel most comfortable with.
Don't be afraid to ask questions. Ask about success rates and treatment options. Ask about the embryologists, ultrasound techs, and other medical professionals involved in the process. Ask about ANY concerns you have. This is a huge decision and not one you should take lightly.
What can you expect when you first visit a fertility specialist?
Your first visit will likely be information overload. Bring something to take notes and a list of questions you might have.
You'll go over your medical history and the events that led you to the fertility specialist's office in the first place. They may have further questions about other medical events, like thyroid problems, that could be related.
The doctor should go over all of the tests you will need and the possible treatment plans. You may also meet with the financial advisor in the office who will go over typical treatment costs as well as any possible insurance coverage and financing options.
What treatment options are available?
Treatment will be entirely dependent on what is causing the infertility in the first place.
Many people have heard of in vitro fertilization (IVF) where sperm and eggs are retrieved and embryos are created in a lab before being transferred back to the mother's uterus, but they may not know that there is a whole battery of other treatment options depending on the situation.
There are surgeries available that can correct uterine abnormalities. Medicines can be used to treat hormone issues or some ovulation disorders.
A procedure called intrauterine insemination (IUI) is sometimes used where sperm is taken from the father and injected directly into the uterus of the mother, who has sometimes been given medication to induce ovulation when necessary.
The most invasive and most expensive treatment is the one most people have heard about. IVF is a long process of hormones, egg retrievals, and sperm samples followed by creating embryos. Then if all of that is successful, the mother has to prepare her body with hormones for the implantation of the embryo.
There are some diagnoses that require skipping straight to IVF, but often couples who are going through IVF have tried other treatment options first.
This information is just a very small glimpse into the world of infertility. The truth is every case is different because every couple facing infertility has their own unique combination of medical causes. Some couples will respond well to less invasive treatments and conceive quickly with treatment. Others will go through years of different treatments before finally finding something that works.
If someone you love has trusted you enough to share their plans to seek fertility treatment, the most important thing to know is that they have likely already been through a lot of frustration and disappointment and heartbreak before coming to this point. You may only see this one part of their story that they are sharing. You may not know everything that has been going on under the surface.
A little bit of grace and a lot of love and support go a long way.
If you are in the beginning of your infertility journey and have any questions, please reach out. I would be happy to answer any questions I can or tell you the best person to ask if I can't!
Back in the fall, I had a portrait session with this sweet family in downtown Charleston. At the time, this mom was just coming to the end of her first trimester and let me know they would be getting in touch with me after the holidays to schedule a newborn session.
I have been looking forward to the birth of this little guy for a couple of reasons-
First, I love fresh babies. Obviously.
But second, I was so excited to see this big sister again! She has personality for days, and she is still one of my favorite kids I have ever photographed.
One of the best parts about lifestyle newborn sessions is that the older siblings can be relaxed in their own environment. Newborn sessions take a while because we often need breaks for feedings or diaper changes. When I'm in the client's home, however, older children can take breaks whenever they need and play with their own toys in their own space. As you'll see, I even spent a little time taking some photos of just big sister while her new baby brother was being fed and changed.
Since I don't bring tons of props or big studio set-ups, it's really easy for me to travel to clients' homes for these sessions. Unfortunately, the day before was the day the Wando Bridge was shut down I-526. When I arrived at this family's home, Dad joked that this ended up being a pretty convenient time to be home with the baby. Staying home and snuggling your new baby instead of sitting in awful traffic? Definite win.
I just want to say a quick thank you to this family for trusting me, yet again, to photograph this sweet time in your family!
Now for the part you're all really here for anyway....
An adorable baby fix!
Find out more about lifestyle newborn sessions and the other services I offer here.
Are you located in the Lowcountry and currently expecting?
Is your due date in either May or June 2018?
Are you interested in having the birth of your new baby artfully photographed to capture the story of this very important day?
If you answered yes to the questions above, I have an amazing, limited-time offer for you! I am in the process of creating some new promotional material, and I'm looking for 2 or 3 Charleston-area moms who would be willing to sign a model release in exchange for a 50% discount on ANY of my birth photography packages.
It does not matter what type of delivery you are planning: hospital birth, planned csection, home birth, birth center, etc. I think birth is beautiful in all of its forms, and want to represent all moms in my work.
I will not offer a discount like this again in the future, so now is your chance! Keep in mind, I'm only choosing a limited number of moms, so contact me now to make sure you don't miss out on this opportunity!
To apply, click here to go to my Contact form. Please enter your name, email, due date, and where you plan to deliver. I will then email you more information about my packages and planning your consultation.
If you have any questions, you can also email me at email@example.com
I love milestone portrait sessions. It's so fun to photograph these little ones as they grow. Out of the different milestone options, I think 6 month sessions are my favorite. Babies this age are often starting to sit up on their own and their little personalities really start to shine through. Plus, they make the BEST faces!
If you remember this little guy's 3 month milestone session, you'll see that his parents decided to keep the baby suspenders theme going. I was certainly not disappointed. I adore baby suspenders and I'm sure you can see why!
This is the story of my son's VBAC (Vaginal Birth After Cesarean) birth. Photos shared in this post are not examples of my professional work. They were taken by family and friends present at the birth.
At the end of Part 1 of this birth story, my support team was packing up and heading to the hospital.
I continued to have contractions all the way to the hospital and during the long walk up to labor and delivery. I was hooked up to a monitor and relieved to find that my baby boy was handling all the chaos perfectly.
Because it was a Saturday, I was assigned to whatever resident was on call that weekend. A medical student was sent in to question me and check my cervix - almost fully effaced, but only 1 cm dilated. It felt like a punch in the gut to hear that after all I had been through in the last day and a half, but then I remembered what my doctor had told me. I mentioned my concerns about cervical scarring to my nurse. She quickly browsed my medical history and said, “You know what. I think you might be right.”
We sat in a small room for a while waiting for the on-call resident to arrive. During that time, Bubba was moving and dancing in my belly. At one point, he rolled so drastically that everyone in the room saw my belly shift and the monitor dropped his heartbeat for a moment. He was back on the monitor pretty quickly and we continued to wait.
The resident arrived and almost immediately launched into her plans to admit me and start a pitocin drip. I stopped her and told her I wasn’t sure I wanted to be admitted yet. I simply wanted to discuss my options if I were to choose to stay.
I expressed my concerns from my first birth where pitocin was unable to make the necessary changes to my cervix. The nurse relayed my thoughts about cervical scarring in relation to my medical history. The resident simply waved away our concerns and continued to push pitocin. I finally had to tell her that I would not consent to jumping straight to pitocin because I didn’t believe it would address the actual problem. I told her I would rather go home. This turn of events did not sit well with her. It was clear she was used to women who came in and blindly did as they were told. She didn’t know how to handle someone who actually expected her to answer questions and explain her reasons for the choices she made.
She resorted to scare tactics at this point. She pointed out that my blood pressure had been slightly elevated when I arrived and tried to tell me I might be in the early stages of pre-eclampsia. It took all my strength not to laugh at her. She had clearly not looked at my chart at all or she would have known that I had experience with that particular condition. I simply smiled and told her that I had no swelling, no headaches, no dizziness, no prisms in my vision, and my blood pressure had been perfect throughout my entire pregnancy. I believed my blood pressure was more likely due to the fact that I had been awake for almost 36 hours laboring, and I was anxious about being in the hospital. I also reminded her that I had already given a urine sample when I arrived, and she was welcome to test it for protein. Of course, my urine sample was perfectly healthy.
I had gotten under her skin and she went for the low blow. She looked at the heart rate strip coming from the monitor. She said, “The good news is it looks like your baby is handling all of this well… except there’s one reading back here that concerns me. He could be showing signs of distress.”
The nurse in the room turned and looked at her like she had three heads. She said, “The baby rolled over. We all watched her belly shift. The monitor just dropped him for a second. The whole rest of the strip is perfect.”
The resident replied, “Maybe. But what if it’s not? What if he’s in distress and you go home and something happens to him? You’ll never forgive yourself and we don’t want that to happen.”
I just stared, incredulous. I imagine my mouth was probably hanging open. I had heard stories of doctors preying on the most vulnerable part of a woman’s spirit - implying that she was endangering the life of her baby in order to coerce her to follow orders, but I thought these stories were rare. I never imagined it would happen to me, yet there I sat. I wondered what would happen if I had been a frightened first time mom who automatically trusted anyone with a medical background. To what would I have consented? What would I have allowed that resident to do to me had she convinced me that I was putting my baby's life on the line? However, this was not my first rodeo, and I was furious.
At this point, the resident stepped out to speak with her attending. I talked with my husband, mom, and doula about everything that had just transpired. I probably should have fired that resident on the spot and demanded another doctor, but I didn’t. I stood up to her instead.
When she returned, I informed her I would only consider staying and being admitted if I were given an opportunity to eat and if we used a foley bulb instead of pitocin. A foley is a catheter with a balloon at the end. It’s inserted into the cervix and the balloon is filled with a saline solution. The balloon puts pressure on the cervix, forcing it to open. I was hoping it would break up any scar tissue present.
The resident, of course, tried to argue, but I held my ground. I also informed her I wanted to speak to her attending myself. The attending was wonderful. She thought the foley was a great solution, but she just wanted to make sure I knew we might have to revisit the pitocin discussion if my contractions didn’t progress after the bulb was out. I was fine with that.
My husband ran downstairs to find some food; I was admitted, and the foley bulb was placed. My doula went home to rest, and my best friend came in to be an extra support person. Thankfully, another resident took over after that. She was younger and seemed a little anxious, but she was, at least, kind. The nurses absolutely saved my birth experience. They were all lovely and supportive. I felt like I had my own personal cheering squad.
I was not anticipating the blinding pain the foley added to my contractions. Ripping through scar tissue is every bit as painful as it sounds. I think I could have handled it if I hadn't been so exhausted, but I was starting to lose control. My sweet husband did a great job talking me through contractions. He was trying to talk me out of an epidural because he knew how much I wanted to do this naturally even though it was killing him to see me like that.
In a calm moment between contractions, I told him I appreciated what he was trying to do, but it wasn't even about the pain anymore. I needed sleep. There was no way I was going to make it through this birth without some sleep. The anesthesiologist had just gone into surgery though, so I had about 2 hours of coping with the foley contractions before he came in. After a total of 38 hours of natural labor, I got an epidural and was able to take a nap.
An hour after the epi was placed, the foley bulb came out and I was dilated to 5 cm! The epidural had slowed my contractions though, so I consented to a low dose of pitocin to get them moving again.
I stalled a little at 5 cm, but the baby continued to descend. My doula came back, and I let my epidural wear off some. I could still move my legs; they were just heavy. With the help of my support team, I was able to get into some more upright positions to help labor along and then the doctor nicked my bag of waters to get it started trickling. After trying some different positions, I told everyone to get some sleep. I pushed the button to give my epidural a boost, and I went to sleep a little after midnight. My mom and doula later told me they don't think the epidural did much because I continued to groan through contractions in my sleep, but apparently exhaustion just took over.
The second resident woke me up at 3 am to tell me that I was at 10 cm and +3 station. It took a few seconds to register what they had said and when it hit, I began to cry. I was actually going to get to push!
Little did I know, I still had a ways to go. The horrible resident returned for the pushing phase much to my chagrin. The first hour of pushing was mostly trying to get me into different positions to move the baby down. The epidural was wearing off again, but at first, I couldn’t feel enough to push effectively.
The second hour of pushing, I was delirious. I was so tired I kept drifting off between contractions. God only knows what kind of weird stuff I said. I vaguely remember something about a horse and a bikini. I’m hoping I didn’t say anything out loud. If I did, no one told me.
In hour three, I could finally see his head and that gave me renewed energy to keep going. It was about this time that I was informed I was developing a low grade fever. I knew I needed to get my little guy out so I pushed with all the energy I could muster.
Fifty hours after those contractions woke me up at 4 am, three of those hours spent pushing, my sweet baby boy was born on January 17th. Despite reminding the resident that I didn’t want to cut his cord right away, the first thing she did once he was out was grab a clamp for his cord. My doula and I were both yelling at her not to clamp it. She rolled her eyes before putting the clamp down.
I immediately started yelling, "GIVE HIM TO ME! LET ME HOLD HIM!"
My mom and husband both later told me that was the moment when they realized just how much anxiety and brokenness I had been holding onto from Bug’s birth. It wasn't the joyful cry of a new mother wanting to see her baby, but one of desperation. I needed to hold him first. I needed to have him placed on my chest still slimy and fresh. I needed to be the first to welcome him to the world.
A nurse grabbed him from the resident and plopped him onto my chest. I was the first to see his beautiful face and announce to the room that he looked just like his big sister. I could never put into words the emotions running through my body in that moment. I felt victorious. I had conquered my own anxiety, my damaged body, and that terrible bully of a resident. I stood up to someone trying to abuse their power. I stood my ground and refused to allow my voice to be drowned out. I kept going when I wanted to give up.
My precious, perfect Bubba was worth every single second of that 50 hours. Despite all of the struggles, I think back on his birth with a sense of accomplishment.
He has been a whirlwind in our lives from the moment he was born. He is wild, stubborn, loud, smart, funny, and sweet. He tears through our house at full speed, only occasionally braking to climb in my lap and steal my food.
Happy birthday to my beautiful, blonde-haired, blue eyed boy, who adds grey to my hair and joy to my soul.
A door is closing on another year. When each year begins, I always feel like I have a long stretch of time in front of me - a long chapter of my life yet to be written. Then at the end of the year, I always end up thinking to myself, What happened? Where did the year go?
This year has been busier than most for my family. I decided that I wanted to really pursue photography as a career - more specifically, birth photography. I spent this year going to school at night to complete a photography certification program, building a portfolio and website, preparing all of the legal aspects of my business, and finding new clients. If building a business weren't enough, we moved twice this year! My husband and I decided to sell our first home in the spring and build a new house. We are still living in the Charleston, SC area, but we had to move into an apartment between selling our old house and closing on the new. We've been settled in the new house since September, but I just now feel like I'm getting to sit and breathe for a minute. It's been a wild ride.
I wouldn't change it for anything though. I love this crazy life.
This year, I've spent time with several amazing families...
Some of those families were expanding.
Some had recently expanded. I photographed some of the most beautiful babies and kids!
One of the biggest highlights of my year was capturing an unforgettable birth.
Despite the chaos, 2017 has been an amazing year for my family. I hope you close this year with fond memories, but most of all I pray 2018 is full of joy and blessings for all of you... and, of course, I hope you'll consider inviting me in to capture some of those memories. Happy New Year!
I must be the luckiest photographer in Charleston, SC. Maybe even the luckiest photographer ever. Would you like to know why? It's because my clients have THE. MOST. ADORABLE. BABIES.
Little miss Annalisa is no exception. With a sweet little face and big brown eyes, I knew her cake smash session was going to produce some beautiful photos.
I love cake smash photography sessions because, for the most part, I put a cake in front of a little one and sit back and capture all of the fun. I love posed, formal photographs and they have their place in our lives, but my absolute favorites as a photographer are those which capture personalities and natural moments. It's one of the biggest reasons I specialize in birth photography. I am simply an honored observer who finds and captures beauty as it unfolds. Cake smash sessions are a slightly more controlled form of lifestyle photography. I control some of the variables like decorations, props, and lighting, but as for the subject itself, the birthday girl, I just have to wait and watch for those photo-worthy moments.
Prior to the session, I spent some time talking with her mother about different color schemes and props I have available to use. We discussed the cake and Annalisa's outfit (you can never go wrong with a tutu), and mom gave me some pointers on some different ways to get her little one to smile.
December in Charleston is often mild as far as weather goes and thankfully that held true for our session. I set up in an outdoor covered shelter in a local neighborhood.
Annalisa was PERFECT during her cake smash session. As soon as her dad sat her in front of the cake, she slowly stuck her hands in. Once she had a little taste, it wasn't long before she was cramming her hands AND feet into the cake. I think it's safe to say that everyone involved had fun with this little one.
Happy Birthday and enjoy this sneak peek!
A few weeks ago, I introduced my new nephew by sharing his newborn session here on the blog. For his 3 month photos, I decided to go with a fairly simple set-up: just a plaid blanket and a couple of basic props. When your subject is this adorable, what else could a photographer need? I mean... does it get any better than a faux baby bowtie and suspenders? I think not...
It amazes me how quickly he has grown. Before I know it, we'll be planning for his 6 month session!