I share a lot about fashion, business and travel on my blog but today I’m sharing something very personal with you. Things may always seem exciting or business as usual for us, but with all the highs, there have been lows. It is actually hard for me to write this – I can’t go very long without crying as I write these words. I guess the easiest thing to do is to reveal our infertility journey chronologically. This will be quite a lengthy blog post so keep reading if you like!
Around 2.5 years ago (1.5 years after we got married), we decided we were ready to start our lil’ family. So we stopped using birth control and I started to monitor my cycles regularly. We thought once we decided on it, I’d get pregnant in no time. I am the youngest of 10 children and fertility has never been an issue in my family. We had no idea it would be so difficult for us to conceive. After trying for 9 months, we decided to see a fertility doctor in the Summer of 2016. After my first ultrasound, we were surprised to learn that I was diagnosed with endometriosis – tissue growing around my ovaries. I started crying instantly even though my doctor assured me women could still get pregnant with endometriosis – it’s just harder to do. He said most people have a laparoscopy surgery where doctors look inside your pelvic area to see and remove some of the endometriosis tissue. I let the news sink in and I went to another fertility doctor to get a second opinion. This doctor (who is our current fertility doctor) confirmed that I had endometriosis and recommended that we try naturally first and then try IVF or the laparoscopy if needed. He was a bit more conservative and so we decided to give that route a try. This was all happening around the same time we were opening our first Morning Lavender brick and mortar store in San Francisco and I was actually living in SF for three months while Jason stayed back home in Orange County.
Once the store settled down a bit and I was home more often, we tried to do our first IUI at the end of last year. Intrauterine insemination (IUI) involves placing Jason’s sperm inside my uterus to give the sperm a head start so to speak. The doctor would monitor my ovulation to determine the optimal time to do the IUI. We decided to try IUI as it was less invasive and not as costly or physically demanding as IVF. We thought maybe our timing was off and that was one of the reasons why I wasn’t getting pregnant. IUI would take away the ovulation guessing game, but still it was only a 20% chance of conceiving. We tried 3 IUis in 4 months and I was also seeing a acupuncturist who told me I had to give up cold drinks, spicy foods, garlic, beef, caffeine, alcohol, etc… – basically everything I loved. And so I carried around a thermos of hot water everywhere and did what the acupuncturist said for months. It was depressing – I couldn’t have my coffee, eat all the foods I enjoyed and I still wasn’t pregnant. I stopped going to the acupuncturist as it was stressing me out more than I felt like it was helping. It seemed like everyone had an opinion of what to do or a friend of a friend who drank this or did that to get pregnant. I started to wear socks for cold feet, kept a lucky fertility statue of the Virgin Mary in my room (no joke she’s still in our bedroom) and was prepared to try anything that would help.
So almost 2 years of trying and trying, we decided to take a break. Every month started to feel like an endless, depressing cycle – I would start out hopeful, I’d ovulate, then try to be optimistic as read into every little thing (do my breasts feel different?, am I peeing more?, or do I feel fatigue more easily?) and hoped one of those symptoms meant that I might possibly be pregnant. But then I would menstruate and the frustrations and sadness quickly set in. It began to be difficult to be around others with children and on social media. I’m at the age where most of my friends are on their first or second child. Of course I was thrilled for all of my friends with families but it pained us to not have the family life they had. It was a constant reminder of our own struggle. Whenever I run into people I know, I always get asked “how’s business” and “when are you guys finally starting a family?”. I know people are being sincere but it’s not a simple thing to answer. I would always answer “we’re working on it”.
Mind you this is all happening as Morning Lavender is growing. I had no time to really be sad. When you own your own business – it’s really hard to take a day off for personal reasons. As proud as I am of our success, I began to question myself and every thing I had done. I wondered if my ambitious drive was the real cause of my infertility. I had grown Morning Lavender so quickly and wondered if I had overextended myself physically and emotionally. You don’t know how many times people tell me “well maybe you shouldn’t work so hard” or “wow I guess you are choosing your career over motherhood”. It’s insulting to be judged like that and no one would ever say that to a man. The only reason I work as I hard as I do is to build a future for our family. My parents came to America with nothing and instilled a strong work ethic and drive in me. I never forget their struggles and that has motivated me everyday to work harder and persevere.
Earlier this year, we decided to go on a trip to Japan with our friends to not think about it. We tried to convince ourselves, maybe it’s just not our time and we should travel and enjoy life while we can (not saying that you can’t when you have a child but we hear it’s different). We had a great time and when we got back, we decided ok lets just take some pressure off – we are going to try naturally again and make moderate changes in our lives. I started to hire more people and trust in our team to take some of the stress off myself. At the same time, the opportunity to open a second brick-and-mortar location came up and I had finally found my dream space. So we signed a lease and began this 8 month journey of renovating an old building in Old Town Tustin to open up our dream retail concept store. Almost at the same time, we bought a new home to be closer to work and my family. We found a great home in a great neighborhood with lots of rooms for our family one day. Some of the rooms were a bit outdated so started remodeling it right away. We decided to we could live in construction for a few months as we remodeled our kitchen and master bathroom. And yes this all happened in a span of three months! So moderate changes became BIG life changes and the guilt of doing too much came back. I kept telling myself though, we are just setting everything up for when the baby finally comes. We have a plan and God has a plan for us.
In June, after several months of trying naturally and with my 37th birthday approaching (I know – Asians don’t raisin), reality set in and we were still not pregnant. So we saw our doctor again and he suggested we finally do the laparoscopy surgery to try to remove some of the endometriosis. It was an outpatient surgery and I was back to normal within a week with a tiny scar on my stomach. The surgery had went well and I was optimistic although the doctor could not remove all of the tissue since some of it was too close to my ovaries. Jason and I decided that we would try naturally until the end of 2017 and if I still wasn’t pregnant, we would consider IVF in January. After a few months, we went in to see our fertility doctor for a checkup. We told him about our game plan and he thought it was a safe decision. He noted that with my endometriosis, if we did IVF, he would have to freeze the embryos first, then starve my body of estrogen for months with medication to remove the endometriosis before he could implant the embryo back in. This meant the IVF process for me could be 5 months rather than 2-3 months for other people. Since I was now 37, I realized that I wouldn’t have a baby until 38 at the earliest. I know plenty of women have children in the 40s these days and my mom actually had me when she was 37. I know age shouldn’t be the determining factor, but I’ve been advised about the risk of miscarriage and health complications for the child only increase with age. So amidst all the chaos in our lives right now (November is the busiest retail month), we decided we didn’t want to wait any longer and that having a healthy child IS our number one priority. With the support of our team, family and friends, I know we will find a way to finish our home remodel, open the new store and ship all of the Black Friday orders. Did I mention we are also hosting Thanksgiving for both families this year??!
So where does that leave us now? I just finished 12 days of injecting hormones to produce multiple eggs. I was too scared to do the shots by myself so Jason would inject 2-3 shots in my abdomen every night. In the morning, I would do another shot to prevent ovulation from happening too soon. The shots were painful as they were given but I only experienced minor bruising and bloating. Tomorrow I will be doing my egg retrieval and then hopefully I will have some fertilized eggs -> normal embryos -> then complete my transfer in January or February. Our home is finally done (yay), Thanksgiving is 4 days away (nom nom) and the new store is about 2 weeks away from opening (hopefully). According to my doctor, I need to take it easy for the next 2 weeks to recover from the egg retrieval. We are just going to take it one day at a time and yes I am really going to take it easy.
I decided to finally open up about my infertility publicly after other courageous friends recently spoke up about their own struggles. After privately speaking to them, I felt better knowing I was not alone. It’s not a common subject most people talk about and can be quite a lonely journey. My husband has been the most amazing and supportive man. But even with him by my side, there’s a loneliness and sadness that only I can feel. But finally speaking to other women about it has given me new strength and added hope. As a strong willed person, it’s been hard to accept the fact that I can’t do this on my own – that I do need help and that we have to rely not only on science but more importantly FAITH. As my husband has told me time and time again, God only gives us challenges that he knows we can handle. We need to trust that He has a plan. I believe if we can do all the things we do, we can surely make this tiny little miracle, right? With my father watching from above, the support of family & friends and the trust of God, I know we can do this.
If you read it this far, thank you for taking the time to read about our difficult journey. I know plenty of women who are going through even tougher times so please be mindful and respectful of everyone’s struggles. I’m thinking of all the women who have endured miscarriages, infertility and childbirth and express my support and love to you all. Feel free to privately message me if you want to chat or vent. Thank you to everyone who has offered us advice and support along the way. I will provide updates from time to time and hope you don’t mind I’m digressing from the usual fashion and business related posts! Thanks again for reading!