Tuesday, 29 April 2014

100 Days of Pregnancy: Day 61

I'm in awe at how far we have come since our days at the fertility clinic. I remember being terrified to graduate from the clinic. The fertility clinic was familiar, but in all honesty, it's a place I didn't want to be. I dreaded the early mornings where I would have to wait for bloodwork and ultrasound. I dreaded everything about the whole IVF process that when it was time to start my monitoring for our FET, I almost didn't go. I almost said "let's wait." I think this had a lot to do with what happened after our fresh embryo transfer. That was physically and mentally exhausting and I didn't know if I could do that again. But as always, God pushed me through it, He led the way and assured me I wasn't alone. And He gave me the peace I needed on the day of the FET. I'm still unable to describe that peace but I believe it's because it came directly from God and it's something you can't describe unless it's experienced.

I can't believe that I am saying we are due in less than 9 weeks!! In exactly 2 months from today is our baby's due date. I never thought I would be able to enjoy this pregnancy, that I would constantly worry, and that I would constantly live in fear for the entire 9 months. But I am enjoying this pregnancy...I don't worry like I used too. Of course I still worry about this little guy, he's my baby and I already want what's best for him, but I have faith that God is protecting this pregnancy, His precious child, and that we will be blessed with a healthy baby.

I won't take a moment of this pregnancy for granted. Yes, I point out that I have heartburn or it feels like my stoma is being ripped from my body my side is sore, but I'm not doing it at all to complain, I'm doing it because I'm so excited to have this! It means I'm pregnant...that something amazing is going on inside of my body and this is how my body is coping. I think my hubby and mom hear the most about it. I also point out every little thing that this little guy does. Like how he likes to kick me in the mornings or suck his thumb during an ultrasound. I may never get to have an experience like this again so I want to remember everything and share everything with our family and close friends. I know they were all worried about us when we were trying and now they are just as excited as we are to meet this little guy.

How far along? 31 weeks 2 days

Total weight gain? 27 lbs

Maternity clothes? Yes

Stretch marks? Not yet...

Sleep: I sleep well once I'm able to fall asleep...I'm having a bit of trouble with that lately

Best moments this week: Seeing this little guy suck his thumb on the ultrasound...what a cutie!!

Miss anything? Being able to shave comfortably...it is getting harder each time. 

Food cravings/aversions: I'm really enjoying fruits. I still have quite a few food aversions, but nothing in particular...I pretty much only want to eat a few things, so it makes grocery shopping difficult and coming up with ideas for dinner hard as well.

Showing? Yes

Gender: It's a BOY!!!!! I finally got to see for myself yesterday during my quick ultrasound that he is indeed a boy. To quote the resident "there's no doubt he's a boy!"

Labour signs: No

Symptoms: Heartburn, sciatic nerve pain occasionally (it was so bad one night that I couldn't walk and I just stood there while my hubby was trying to figure out what to do with me and all I could do was laugh because it was either laugh or cry), cramps in my calves each night (if I'm lucky, which most nights I am, I feel them before they get too intense and can stop them).

Belly button in or out? It's becoming more flat each week.

Wedding ring on or off? Off

Happy or moody most of the time? I've been pretty sensitive lately.

Looking forward to: The beginning of May so I can start saying we are due next month!! 

Monday, 28 April 2014

100 Days of Pregnancy: Days 63 & 62

Yesterday was a beautiful day so I took advantage of it and cleaned out the inside of my van, which was a mess! I had gas receipts stored up in the center console, a hose, a brown compost bag, antlers and bunny ears for the holidays, a gym bag, random garbage, and LOTS of sand over my back seats (which were folded down) from the stroller (the sand is from the sidewalks from all of the snow we had). Now my van is nice and clean and I don't feel like a hoarder. I took the hose from my parents house because they got a fancy dancy new one and ours just sucks so we needed a new one, so their old one is new to us...gotta save anywhere you can! And the compost bag is for all of the leaves hubby raked and put in one of our recycle bins until I had time to pick up a compost bag...we need to have more on hand, but my dad got a bunch from work, so I just grabbed one from my parents...again, saving anywhere we can.

By the end of the day yesterday, I was exhausted. I decided to put J to bed a half hour early because I was exhausted and I could tell he was too because nothing was quite right for him. After his story, he fell asleep right away.

Today I had an OB appointment. I waited two and a half hours to be seen by the OB for two and a half minutes, but I guess that's a good thing because it means everything is going well. She is really happy with how everything is going and said she couldn't believe I was already 31 weeks. I talked to her about being induced on my due date since my hubby has the following two weeks off and my mom has the following week off after the due date so I would have lots of help and she said she doesn't see that being a problem. So I'm sure closer to the due date she will schedule a day. I may end up changing my mind because it would be nice to go into labour on my own, but I know all of the extra help would be really good as well. So who knows what I will decide.

I also saw a resident today who came in before the OB to take my fungal measurement (which I measured 31 cm, so right on target) and she felt to see where he was sitting and asked if he was head down last time and when I told her he was breach, she said let's just take a quick peak and she went and grabbed a portable ultrasound machine. That ultrasound made my wait worth it. He flipped again and is head down (which explains all of the pressure I have while I pee) and she pointed out everything to me. And then she said he has a hand up by his face and normally when they do that they are sucking on their thumb, and sure enough, he had his thumb in his mouth. It was amazing to see and made things a little more real. It was definitely a bonding moment for me. I can't wait to meet this little guy!!

Saturday, 26 April 2014

100 Days of Pregnancy: Day 64

Today has been a busy day. One of our dogs, Dodger, was sick the past two days and had to be crated. When he's sick, it seems his body doesn't function properly and he has a hard time urinating, hence the need for the crate so he doesn't have an accident in the house. It's much easier to clean his blankets in his crate than it is to constantly be washing floors or carpets. We have to set the crate up by the back door so he has a quick exit to the backyard when he has to go. But let me tell you, his crate is huge. It's the biggest size you can buy. He's a big greyhound! Since he was feeling better today, I gave him a wash to get him feeling his best, washed all the floors on my hands and knees instead of just with the mop, vacuumed and even vacuumed around all the baseboards, did 3 loads of laundry and folded it all, and went grocery shopping.

As a special treat, my husband took me out for dinner and my parents watched J so we wouldn't have to rush. We went to Kelsey's and I pigged out. I ordered the spinach dip to start, so good, and then a huge burger for dinner. I had to squish it with my hads just so I could take a bite of it. Then we walked around the mall for a bit...we only went there to buy lightbulb but I got an early Mother's Day gift :) a Chicago Blackhawks sweater and sweatpants. They are so comfy.

When we got home, it was past J's bedtime so I read him a story and he was asleep as soon as I left the room. He didn't even move! Hopefully I can fall asleep soon!

Friday, 25 April 2014

100 Days of Pregnancy: Day 65

Resolve to Know More

Just adopt.

JUST adopt.

Just...you add this word in front of the word adopt like it's the easiest thing in the world.

If you can't have children, JUST adopt.
If you are so stressed, JUST adopt.
If you are sick of all of the IVF treatments, JUST adopt.
If you are heartbroken over failed IUIs and IVFs, JUST adopt.
Why waste money on an unsure thing like IVF, JUST adopt.

Let me tell you, there is no. such. thing. as JUST adopting. It's not an easy process. It's 100% worth it, but it is NOT easy. It's not JUST signing some paperwork and being handed a child like some people think.

The chart above is a brief, and I mean brief, summary of an adoption. My husband and I chose public adoption because we couldn't afford a private ($15,000-$25,000) or international adoption ($20,000-$50,000). The homestudy the chart mentions involves you inviting a total stranger into your home and having them critique it. It involves you talking to this stranger about the most intimate details of your life. And it involves you being interviewed separately from your husband to see if there are any discrepancies. The chart fails to mention the mandatory training is 3 hour classes for 8 weeks where you are handed a binder that is bigger than an encyclopedia full of information and homework. You do meet some really great people through the training though, people who are in a similar situation as you. And finding a match? The chart makes that seem so easy. There's the potential that you could be waiting 1 day - 3 years. 

And just like IVF, adoption has the potential to not work. You could be given a match and something unforeseen could make everything come crashing to a halt. You could have a baby placed in your arms and the birth parents could change their minds. You could care for a baby for a couple of months and have the baby returned to birth family (only with CAS) and let me tell you, it's devastating.  

So the next time you tell someone to JUST adopt, hand them a money order for $50,000 and the 100% guarantee the adoption will all work out. Oh wait, you can't, because you aren't God! 

Even after adoption, you still run into tricky situations. We get asked all of the time who our son gets his red hair from. My standard answer is from my side of the family (because my brother has red hair), but it catches me off guard sometimes. I absolutely love when people tell me how beautiful he is and what a happy child he is. No one ever questions us on whether he is adopted or not because all they see are two extremely happy and loving parents and one extremely happy and loving child. 

I also ran into a situation when we were going through IVF. Both our nurse and the psychosocial counselor said to my husband and I that it's good we adopted first because it would make IVF less hard if it didn't work out. Seriously? Who are you to tell me that I am going to be less emotional when I find out that I'm miscarrying? We still have the same hopes and same dreams of having a pregnancy as everyone else in the waiting room.

And most recently, when I was at my pre-admit appointment for labour and delivery, the nurse told me we did things backwards and most people only resort to adoption when IVF fails. Sorry, but you have it wrong. We did not do things backwards. We did things exactly how God intended us to do them. 

Finally, JUST adopting doesn't fill the void of wanting to have the experience of carrying a child. I don't think that will ever go away for any woman who wants that experience. Our bodies were made to do just that so when we aren't able to, we not only feel like we are failing ourselves, but our husband as well. 

Thursday, 24 April 2014

100 Days of Pregnancy: Day 66

Resolve to Know More

There are quite a few infertility blogs that I read on a daily basis. I was over at Holly's blog and thought I should share the article she posted from Still Standing Magazine. The article really nails it on the head of how ridiculous comments sound to someone facing infertility. Have a quick read...

"So, what do you think people would say to you if you were paraplegic instead of infertile? (author unknown)

1. As soon as you buy a wheelchair, I bet you'll be able to walk again!
2. You can't use your legs? Boy, I wish I was paralyzed. I get so tired of walking, and if I were paralyzed I wouldn't have to walk anywhere!
3. My cousin was paralyzed, but she started shaving her legs in the other direction and she could walk again. You should try that.
4. I guess God just didn't mean for you to be able to walk.
5. Oh, I know exactly how you feel, because I have an ingrown toenail.
6. Sorry, we don't cover treatment for paraplegia, because it's not a life-threatening illness.
7. So... when are you going to start walking?
8. Oh, I have just the opposite problem. I have to walk walk walk - everywhere I go!
9. But don't you want to walk?
10. You're just trying too hard. Relax and you'll be able to walk.
11. You're so lucky...think of the money you save on shoes.
12. I don't know why you're being so selfish. You should at least be happy that I can walk.
13. I hope you don't try those anti-paralysis drugs. They sometimes make people run too fast and they get hurt.
14. Look at those people hiking...doesn't that make you want to hike?
15. Just relax, you'll be walking in no time.
16. Oh do my legs hurt, I was walking and walking and going up and down the stairs all day.
17. I broke my leg skiing, and was on crutches for weeks, and was worried I'd have a permanent limp, but I'm 100% healed.
18. I'd ask you to be in my wedding party but the wheelchair will look out of place at the altar.
19. You're being selfish, not coming on the hike with us, and looking at all of my track and field trophies.
20. Don't complain, you get all the good parking places.
21. If you just lose weight your legs will work again.
22. If you would just have more sex, you could walk!
23. You don't know how to walk? What's wrong with you? Here, let a real man show you how to walk!
24. You are just trying too hard to walk. Give up, and then you'll walk.
25. Here, touch my legs, then you'll walk!
26. Just take a vacation, and the stress-break will be sure to get you walking!
27. When we were young we only had to worry about having to walk too much.
28. And I bet a paraplegic going to a bookstore doesn't find books about paralysis stacked next to all the books on running...

All of these comments would be beyond inappropriate to say to someone who is unable to walk. So why are people struggling with infertility subjected to this? It's just not fair. We don't need to be reminded on a daily basis that our bodies are failing us. We don't need to be reminded that our greatest hopes and dreams may never come true.

Women and men struggling with infertility are some of the strongest people I know. They fight this battle on a daily basis never knowing if they will win it or not, but they keep moving forward. But comments like "just relax" sting to the core. So the next time you are talking to someone struggling with infertility, just remember how silly and hurtful these comments are.

Wednesday, 23 April 2014

100 Days of Pregnancy: Day 67

Resolve to Know More

A lot of people are unaware of just how expensive infertility treatments are. They may have a number in their head, but do they really know how much we spend out of our bank accounts to even just TRY to start a family? And just imagine spending all of this money only to be told that you have to stop your cycle for one reason or another, or that your trigger shot didn't work and no eggs were retrieved, or they retrieved eggs but none were fertilized, or the fertilized eggs did not mature like they should, or you transfer your one and only embryo and it doesn't work, or you have multiple frozen embryo transfers and none of them work. IVF is not a guarantee of a baby.

My hubby and I went to The Fertility Clinic for our treatments. On their website, they post that for 2011-2012, in women under 35 years old, they had a 43% success rate (meaning IVF resulted in a clinical pregnancy). That's not even a 50/50 chance of IVF working for you.

And then there are the costs of all of the treatments...just looking at the list of costs is overwhelming. My doctor had a sense of humour (and he's lucky I did as well) because one of the first things he said to me was "well, you're one of the lucky ones that has blocked tubes because IVF is covered for you." I'm lucky?! Seriously, Doc, if I were lucky I wouldn't be sitting in front of you right now. At The Fertility Clinic, some of the prices are as follows:

Orientation Fee - $500 (that's $500 out of pocket just to get your foot in the door
Advance Semen Analysis - $300, plus an additional $200 if it needs to be repeated
IVF - $5000 (this is covered if you have blocked tubes)
ICSI - $1500
Surgical Sperm Retrieval - $2250
Embryo or Blastocyst Freezing - $600
Annual Storage of Embryo/Blastocyst - $250
Thaw and Transfer of Frozen Embryos - $1000 (this is also covered if you have blocked tubes)

This is just a short list of some of the expenses you may encounter (here's the full list from the website). And then on top of all of the treatments, there's the cost of the medication (one small vial of medication alone cost $800). We were extremely fortunate that our insurance plan covered 90% up to $3000 per person for a lifetime maximum. It was a bit of a struggle trying to get them to cover anything under my hubby's $3000 lifetime maximum because they were trying to tell me that it was just for the females, which I had to sternly patiently point out that no where in our policy book did it state anywhere that it was only for female members of the family. And let's face it, we wouldn't need ICSI if it we were just facing a female factor and we wouldn't need an advance semen analysis if we were just facing a female factor. Eventually, after a written note from our doctor explaining this to them, they agreed to run the cost of ICSI, the advance semen analysis, and the blastocyst freezing under his lifetime maximum and the other costs (orientation fee and medication expenses) were covered under me. I'm hoping I'll be able to also run the annual storage fee through our insurance as well (it doesn't hurt to try or be pushy).

So this just goes to show how expensive infertility treatments are. Yes, my husband and I are very fortunate that most of our expenses were paid for, but many couples are not this fortunate and many couples don't just need one IVF cycle, they need multiple! So multiply all of those numbers by 2 or 3 or 6! To many couples, this is their reality, this is where there money is spent, trying so desperately to start their family.

These couples are in my prayers. Just because we have received such happy news doesn't make me forget the pain of infertility and what these women and men are going through. If you can, add them to your prayer list. I strongly believe there is power in prayer and infertiles need prayer warriors.

Tuesday, 22 April 2014

100 Days of Pregnancy: Day 68

Below my "Resolve to Know More" post is my day 68 post.

Are you 1 in 8? Are you part of the 1 or part of the 7? Did you know that 1 in 8 couples struggle with infertility? 1 in 8!! That's a huge number. And if you are told you fall in the 1 category, your world comes to a crashing stop. I know mine did. Being told you won't be able to conceive on your own turns your hope in desperation. Desperation on what you are going to do, when and if you will be able to have a family, how you are going to afford treatments, if the treatments will work, how you'll protect your emotional state when baby showers are announced and you see pregnant women everywhere, and how you are going to tell your family and closest friends.

When my husband and I first met and began dating, we were both honest with each other when we said there was a possibility that we could both be infertile. It wasn't confirmed until almost 3 years later that we would need medical help to conceive. It was when our first adoption fell apart that IVF became a reality and I went through the testing to see if our infertility was just male factor or would be both male and female factor (we are both male and female factor). We weren't surprised by what the doctors told us, but it still devastated me.

Hubby and I were one step ahead of the doctors though. Since we figured it would be hard for us to conceive on our own, we started the adoption process before we were married and were approved 2.5 months after our wedding for adoption. I think this helped us tremendously, or at least me, because I didn't have people asking me "so when are you going to start your family?" I think if I were ever asked that question I would have responded with "mind your own business." I think a lot of people are beginning to realize at how inappropriate of a question this is. I couldn't imagine having to put a fake smile on my face and give an answer like "soon" or "we are in the process of trying" or "because when I was younger I had so many surgeries and developed so much scar tissue that my tubes are blocked and my ovaries don't know my left side from my right side...what else do you want to know?"

My advice to everyone would be to think of each couple without children are infertiles. If a couple wants to talk about their personal life and that they are trying to have children, they will let you know. If they don't bring it up, you shouldn't either because even though your intentions are kind, they can be very hurtful. And if you know a couple is going through infertility treatments, it may be best not to ask them about it and how it is going. You could be asking them on the day they just found out their embryo transfer didn't work. And I can tell you from experience, it's crushing. I preferred to not have anyone bring it up to me. I didn't want to give out all of the details on my ultrasounds, and follicles, and uterine lining, and all of the blood tests. These are all things that we will share if we want to.

Now onto my Day 68 post...I have to say I feel 10 times better than I did yesterday. J slept great. He was so snuggly last night and at bedtime, I put him in his bed and put his book down so I could straighten up his blankets for him and he grabs his book and looks at me as if to say "mama, don't forget about my book." And after I tucked him in, he didn't even get out of bed like he usually does. He also had a great sleep which means I had a good sleep. I did wake up in the middle of the night because of heartburn, but nothing a little Tums couldn't take care of.

Monday, 21 April 2014

100 Days of Pregnancy: Days 70 and 69

Yesterday was Easter and it was a beautiful day out. J had so much fun going on an Easter egg hunt at my parents' house. My mom hid 24 eggs filled with chocolate around the rec. room for him to find. He loved it and every egg he would find, he would shake and open up. It was so cute to watch him. For Easter, we bought him two DVDs, Frozen and Rio (I'm a little tired of always listening to Baby Einstein DVDs while driving with him). 

Yesterday also marked the start of National Infertility Awareness Week. This year, the theme is Resolve to Know More. 

So my goal is to write a post each day this week to help bring more awareness to infertility. Today I'm going to start by re-posting a post I wrote back in September about Infertility Etiquette. Resolve also has a great link on infertility etiquette. If you want to check it out, click here. Resolve also nails the pain of infertility right on the head when they say:
Infertility is, indeed, a very painful struggle. The pain is similar to the grief over losing a loved one, but it is unique because it is a recurring grief. When a loved one dies, he isn't coming back. There is no hope that he will come back from the dead. You must work through the stages of grief, accept that you will never see this person again, and move on with your life.
The grief of infertility is not so cut and dry. Infertile people grieve the loss of the baby that they may never know. They grieve the loss of that baby who would have had mommy's nose and daddy's eyes. But, each month, there is the hope that maybe that baby will be conceived after all. No matter how hard they try to prepare themselves for bad news, they still hope that this month will be different. Then, the bad news comes again, and the grief washes over the infertile couple anew. This process happens month after month, year after year. It is like having a deep cut that keeps getting opened right when it starts to heal.
I don't expect anyone who hasn't experienced infertility to understand this pain, but I am asking them to try to understand the emotional state it causes. Below is my previous post and below the previous post is my 30 week update.

Infertility etiquette...who knew there was such a thing? Well, there is and anyone who is going through or has gone through infertility would agree with me (or at least I think they would) when I say that everyone should know it.

Shortly after my hubby and I had undergone our first transfer, during our two week wait, I was completely dumbfounded by something a family member announced. Our entire family knows about our struggle with infertility so when we have gatherings, I assume I won't have to try and dodge anything that would be upsetting to me. Well, I was completely shocked when I was told that someone I don't even know is pregnant. The look on my face probably said it all. All I could manage to spit out was "that's nice" when what I really wanted to say was "do you just realize what you said to me?!?! How do you expect me to be happy for someone I don't even know? Woo hoo, yippee, hooray for them...not really."

Later on when this issue was addressed, I was the bad guy because I was being selfish and I should always be happy for everyone. Yes, I should be happy for everyone but these things need to be addressed in a delicate manner when it comes to me. I'm not saying I don't want to hear about it, because I do. I want to share in the happy news if it's a family member or friend who is blessed with the miracle of pregnancy, but in all honesty, I don't want to hear about a complete stranger's pregnancy. If you are so elated that they are pregnant, please share this news with someone who knows the happy couple or someone who is not me. And if it is a friend or family member, please be delicate when you tell me. Please understand that yes I will be over the moon happy for you, but I will also be sad for myself and will need to have a pity party on my own.

Another thing I am sick of hearing is "God has a plan for you" or "You need to be patient and wait for God's perfect timing" or "Maybe God didn't want you to have kids" (am I really that horrible of a person that God would make me infertile because He thought that I would make a horrible mom?). When people mention God, I wish there was a door beside me so I could slam it in their face and get on with my day. Don't get me wrong, I am a strong believer in God. God is my Savior. I know God has a perfect timing for everything and that God has a plan for me. I know that the reason why we are infertile was to be blessed with the adoption of our son. If we were fertile, we would have never adopted. And the reason why the first baby we were hoping to adopt did not end up going through is because God had planned right from the beginning for us to be J's mommy and daddy. I understand all of this and this is why I don't need someone to remind me of this.

On a daily, weekly, monthly (especially monthly), and yearly basis I mourn the loss of a child who would have a combination of my features and my husband's features. Each month when my cycle starts up again, it's heartbreaking for me because I always hold on to the hope that maybe, just maybe, we are pregnant. All I can do is sit there and cry, have my pity party, and move on with my day and grieve the loss of a child we may never know.

I think the one thing that upsets me the most is when a pregnant woman complains about her pregnancy. Are you really going to complain about how you are feeling while your body is growing a miracle inside of you? Be grateful that you are able to know what this experience is like because let me tell you, I would do anything to have morning sickness for 9 months straight, swollen feet that have doubled in size, aches and pains. Anything pregnancy related, I would love to have because it would mean I was actually pregnant.

Finally, if I don't talk to you about, don't bring it up to me. I know everyone is just trying to be supportive and let me know they care. The best way to do that is to just be there when I need you. In the meantime, pray for us. You don't even need to know what to pray for...God knows everything and He will know exactly what to do with your prayers.

How far along? 30 weeks 1 day

Total weight gain? 25.6lbs...I haven't weighed myself since my last OB visit

Maternity clothes? Yes

Stretch marks? Not yet...

Sleep: This past weekend hasn't been the greatest because I'm used to having a bed to myself since my hubby is a night worker and since he had the long weekend off, I was forced to share for 4 days straight (which isn't easy when you are tossing and turning a lot)

Best moments this week: Having my sister in-law give me a manicure (my first one in 8 months) and watching J go on an Easter egg hunt. 

Miss anything? Having my bed to myself

Food cravings/aversions: Oranges

Showing? Yes

Gender: It's a BOY!!!!!

Labour signs: No

Symptoms: Heartburn seems to be my only symptom that wants to stick around

Belly button in or out? In but it is stretching

Wedding ring on or off? Off

Happy or moody most of the time? Happy

Looking forward to: Having the bed to myself again tonight

I cannot believe we are 30 weeks already. Only 10 more weeks to go...I can't wait to meet this little guy. 

Saturday, 19 April 2014

100 Days of Pregnancy: Days 72 & 71

Yesterday was such a busy day that I completely forgot to post. We went to visit my hubby's parents for Easter and it was a full house. J was so busy yesterday running around with his cousins. He was the youngest by a few years, but he didn't seem to mind at all. His cousins are also really good with him and don;t mind including him at all. By the time we left, J and I were exhausted. He was passed out within 2 minutes of us leaving.

Today, since J had a lack of sleep yesterday, he was a bit cranky, but still his loveable self. He only wanted to do what he wanted at swimming lessons...which was his last day. He made so much improvement and he\s getting so much better at floating on his back (which he wouldn't even attempt at the beginning).

I've been hearing from a lot of people that I will want some pretty comfy (and big) underwear for after delivery. So we drove across town today so I could buy some from Victoria's Secret. The free pair I got last week is by far the most comfy underwear I have right now so I bought 5 more pairs. I'm looking forward to washing them so I can wear them...all the underwear I have right now is just growing more and more uncomfortable. I even looked at maternity underwear but those didn't look very comfy to me.

I'm excited for Easter tomorrow and for J to see what the Easter bunny brought him. It should be a fun day!

Thursday, 17 April 2014

100 Days of Pregancy: Day 73

Right now, I am happy, hopeful, and frustrated.

I just found out that in 2015, one IVF cycle will be paid for in Ontario under OHIP. That is amazing news. The only requirement is that it must be a single embryo transfer. The government is hoping that by offering one round of IVF and only allowing single embryo transfers, that it will pay for itself in reduced obstetric care, neonatal care, and other care related to multiple births and early births. I am really happy that IVF is being funded. Even if it is only one round, this gives couples who had given up in ever having a family hope. So many couples have to say no to IVF and adoption because they just can't afford it. And yes, an adoption through CAS is free (everything is paid for by the government), but not everyone is willing to put their heart at risk in the chance it may fall through...it's absolutely devastating. The only other way IVF is funded is if you have blocked tubes. In that situation (which was mine), the government will fund 3 rounds of IVF and there is no limit on the amount of embryos transferred.

What makes me frustrated is how some people are responding. Yes, for the government to dish out $50,000,000 in IVF costs each year is a lot of money. I get it. But do you not think they thought it through? Do you not think that if they didn't think this would help offset the costs of a multiple birth, they would have agreed to this? I feel the people who are arguing this don't know anything about being infertile. They don't know anything about the pain an infertile couple faces on a daily basis. Maybe, along with funding IVF, the government needs to start a program to properly educate people on infertility and how, in Ontario, it affects 1 in 6 couples.

By no fault of our own, we were labelled infertiles. Why should couples be punished just because they can't afford it? Creating a family is a beautiful thing and it shouldn't be taken away from deserving couples just because they are infertile.

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

100 Days of Pregnancy: Day 74

It's the middle of April and the past two mornings, I have had to clean my vehicle of snow and frost. Seriously Mother Nature, wake up...the Easter bunny is coming this weekend, not Santa. It looks like it's supposed to warm up again starting tomorrow, just in time for the weekend.

When my brother visited a few weeks ago, he brought his girlfriend with him. We were talking about diaper rash and sensitive skin and she brought up coconut oil. I had heard of coconut oil before, but I had no idea how useful the stuff was. She started telling me all of the different things you can use it for and gave me a jar to try out. I have to say, I'm in love with the stuff. I use it mainly on J, but like to use it on my growing belly as well. It does wonders for J's skin (who has super sensitive skin). In case you didn't know, coconut oil is anti-fungal and anti-bacterial...so it's perfect as a diaper rash cream and can even clear up a yeast infection. J had one not too long ago so I thought I would try out it's effectiveness instead of getting a prescription for him, and within a couple of days, it was cleared up. It's nice to know it works so well for him and I'm hoping it works well for the new baby as well. I also really like to use it instead of baby lotion on J because sometimes the baby lotion burns his dry skin and causes more irritation, whereas the coconut oil soothes his skin.

So coconut oil is something I always want to have on hand. And now that we are using cloth diapers and you can't just use any regular diaper rash cream, it's a bonus to know that coconut oil is safe to use in cloth diapers. If you haven't tried the stuff, I would suggest reading about it online and all of it's uses...you may find it useful too.

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

100 Days of Pregnancy: Day 75

Wow, I can't believe 25 days have already passed since I started the 100 Days of Pregnancy posts. I'm glad I'm going these posts because it will be a sweet little reminder of all of the things we did leading up to baby's arrival.

At the OB's office yesterday, she wanted me to have my blood drawn to check my hemoglobin and iron levels. I've always had a low hemoglobin (it's a protein in the red blood cells that carries oxygen) because I have Thalassemia (which also means I have a low red blood cell count). My OB called me this morning to tell me that my iron levels tested fine and that my hemoglobin was still low, but above my average. Normally, hemoglobin should be above 120 in women. Mine normally sits at the high 80s, low 90s. But since I've started taking a prenatal vitamin, it's been sitting steady at 104 since January, which is awesome for me, especially during pregnancy when it tends to drop for women. So for now, I'm just to keep taking my prenatal vitamin.

How far along? 29 weeks 2 days

Total weight gain? 25.6lbs...I haven't gained anything since my last OB visit 3 weeks ago (I have the beautiful weather to thank for that...I love being able to go outside with J)

Maternity clothes? Yes

Stretch marks? Not yet...

Sleep: The past two nights I have been waking up every 2-3 hours to pee. As soon as I roll onto my left side the urge is SO bad. 

Best moments this week: Watching this little guy on the ultrasound wiggling his toes! 

Miss anything? I miss being able to wear whatever I want...I wear the same things all the time. 

Food cravings/aversions: Still craving oranges and just fruit in general

Showing? Yes

Gender: It's a BOY!!!!!

Labour signs: No

Symptoms: Heartburn seems to be my only symptom that wants to stick around

Belly button in or out? In but it seems to be stretching a bit

Wedding ring on or off? Off

Happy or moody most of the time? Happy

Looking forward to: The Easter long weekend. I have the Friday off and hubby has the Friday and Monday off (lucky him!)...hopefully the weather is nice so we can do lots of fun things with J. 

Monday, 14 April 2014

100 Days of Pregnancy: Day 76

Today, I had my OB appt, a growth ultrasound, and a pre-admit appointment. The pre-admit appointment went well. I filled out some papers on what my plan was and what I wanted to try. The nurse was nice and when asked about an epidural, she didn't try to convince me into wanting it. Instead, she gave me other options and told me I could even try nitrous oxide (laughing gas) during contractions.

I was so nervous for my ultrasound because I hadn't felt the baby move much at all in the past couple of days. But as soon as the ultrasound started, he woke up. He's already like his mama and doesn't like anyone in his personal bubble. He's siting breach again but we did get a cute photo of his profile. He's measuring a week ahead at 30 weeks 2 days and weighs approximately 3lbs 3oz. When I was able to see the ultrasound, he was wiggling around and I even got to see him wiggling his little toes.

My OB appointment also went well. She wasn't concerned with my weight. We did talk about the bad pain I've been having in my side and how it's an every day thing now. She talked about pain meds but I wouldn't be able to take them if I'm driving to and from work every day. So I'm going to look into sick leave and see what happens. She was happy with the baby's growth and she didn't see anything on the placenta. Normally the ultrasound techs will make note of it but they didn't this time and she couldn't see anything. That could be because the pictures didn't show the placental lake or because it's gone. She said the placenta looks as it should.

So my appointments went well today and this little guy has been active for me :)

Sunday, 13 April 2014

100 Days of Pregnancy: Day 77

Today has been another busy day. We started it off by going I church (we haven't been since the summer because I bowled in a league with my dad every Sunday morning, but that ended last weekend). Church was great and J loved the Adventureland. Normally when I leave the house, even leave a room he's in, he has a meltdown. He needs to be everywhere I am (and  not complaining because I know there will be a day when he doesn't want me around because I'll embarrass him in front of his friends).  When we dropped him off at Adventureland, as soon as I put him down, he was off exploring the room and meeting the other young kids (he's in a group of toddlers under 2). When church was over and we went to pick him up, he didn't want to leave. I'm so glad he loves to play with other kids. He's just so sweet.

In the afternoon I went to a friend's kids' birthday party with J. He was really well behaved for not having his nap and having a busy morning. Then my mom and I took him for a walk thinking he would take a power nap. Nope, he was too busy looking around.

Needless to say, I'm exhausted. I'll be sleeping well tonight. Tomorrow I have a growth ultrasound, OB appointment, and pre-admit appointment. I'm nervous about the ultrasound because I haven't been feeling this little guy very much the past couple of days. I don't know if it's because I've just been so busy and haven't been paying attention (I hope that's all it is). And  nervous about what the OB will say about my weight because I think I've lost some. I'm so glad my ultrasound is at 8am. I just want to see that this little guy is doing good. My faith is in God and I know He's probably telling me to just take a breath and enjoy the pregnancy. I still worry all the time, but I pray everytime I do.

Saturday, 12 April 2014

100 Days of Pregnancy: Days 79 & 78

Yesterday, I was so tired. I left work thinking that I was glad my hubby had the night off so I could have some help with J. I've been thinking a lot about cloth diapers and think it just seems silly to be spending more money on disposable diapers for J when we plan on cloth diapering the new baby. So why not start collecting them? This way we can use them on J and then use them on the baby as well. I went to a second hair children's store after work and bought 3 Kushies cloth diapers. I put one on J this afternoon after his swimming lessons and then again after his bath (he's sleeping in one right now as well). I was able to experience a poopy diaper and I have to say, it would probably be easier if we had a diaper sprayer or the liners for the diaper that you can just flush in the toilet. But I managed. And today, I bought a whole lot off of Kijiji. There are 24 cloth diapers, a handful of extra liners, a handful of plastic covers (in J's case, I'm sure he'll need the plastic covers since he is bigger and would have a larger pee than a smaller baby), and a roll of diaper liners. I'm currently washing them now (my washing machine has a handy sanitize cycle, the only thing is it's 2 hours long).

Two of my good friends are also throwing me a baby shower so I'm going to ask for more cloth diapers (I'm going to need smaller ones since these ones seem to be bigger). I'm thinking I want the Applecheeks that are sold at a store in town. There was a lady there who was so helpful. She cloth diapers and she said it's nice to have a few different brands of cloth diapers in your stash. She also told me that the Applecheeks seem expensive ($18 for one) but normally you can get 3 wears out of that one diapers because all you have to do is change the liner). So I think those will be best for the new baby to start with and then by the time he grows out of those, J will be potty trained and done with the bigger ones. So needless to say, I can't wait for my sprinkle shower!!

Today, has been super busy. It started off by cleaning the backyard of all the dog poop (it was nicely covered by snow before, but since it's all melted, it was time to clean it up) and doing some laundry. Then, I had swimming lessons with J and he did amazing today (it must have been the 6 timbits he ate beforehand). While J napped after his swimming, hubby and I cleaned the vehicles, raked all the leaves out of the front garden, brought out the porch swing, cleaned J's tricycle, Fisher Price car, and his wagon, then we took J to a park and walked around and let him play at the playground. After that, I gave J a haircut (it's much cheaper and much less stressful for him for me to do it...and I'm doing a pretty good job!!). Now I'm just relaxing waiting for my load of diapers to finish so I can throw them in the dryer.

Thursday, 10 April 2014

100 Days of Pregnancy: Day 80

Today is a bittersweet day. In the summer I had a fresh embryo transfer that resulted in a chemical pregnancy. Today marks this baby's due date. Today, we would be holding this precious baby in our arms, or I would anxiously be sitting at home asking when he or she was going to make their grand entrance.

Today really makes me think about how even though that little embryo didn't grow like it should have, it was still a baby. He or she was still a tiny miracle from God. I believe life is created the moment an egg is fertilized by sperm. And this is why IVF can be really hard and why I try not to think too much about it. If I think about it too much, all I can think about is all of the babies that didn't make it. I had 25 eggs retrieved during our cycle and out of the 25 eggs, 20 of them were fertilized. That's 20 little lives!! And out of those 20 little lives, 17 of them did not mature like they should have, 1 of them struggled to make it after transfer and just couldn't, 1 of them is frozen, and 1 of them is wiggling around inside of me.

One of the things I have learned during our IVF cycle is you have to trust God. I learned that God is in control, no one else. Sometimes I felt like my doctors knew nothing. Obviously they were blessed with this gift and they know the medical side to things, but just because they say this is your best embryo and this is your best chance, you can't always believe that. My best advice for couples going through IVF is to not give up on the "underdogs" (the embryos that the doctors say are poor quality or probably won't make it). Just take a look at my growing belly for proof. I have no idea what this little guy's scoring was or what our frozen embryo's score is because to be honest, it's not important. That number really means nothing. If God has a plan for that embryo, it's going to happen. This is also why I didn't want to have the genetic testing done on the embryos to see if a transfer would just result in a miscarriage. Just because the lab says the embryo has a mutation, can they really be sure? I didn't want to take any chances. I knew I had to leave that part to God to decide.

I will always continue to pray for the couples still struggling to become pregnant and meet their take home baby. There are couples who have not just done 1 or 2 IVF cycles, some have done 6 or 7 and still haven't had any luck. And today, thinking of how this would have been our due date, makes me think of their heartache even more. So I will continue to pray for them because that's all I know to do.

Wednesday, 9 April 2014

100 Days of Pregnancy: Days 82 and 81

I think it is so much fun to see my pregnant belly sticking out. It's not as big as I thought it would be at 7 months, but it's definitely noticeable (it doesn't just look like I have been visiting the ice cream aisle too much).

Before I was pregnant, when I so desperately wanted to be pregnant, I used to sit in nice hot bubble baths just staring at my stomach. This more or less happened when I was bloated thanks to my menstrual cycle. I would stare at my belly (that was a little round from bloat) and just wish it was because I was pregnant and not because I was retaining water. Now (like last night), I sit in bubble baths and just stare at my pregnant belly. And every time I look in a mirror I can't help but to smooth my shirt over my belly and admire it. I'm in awe. Because to be completely honest, I never thought this would be me. I thought it would always just be something that I would watch family, friends, and strangers experience.

But God had other plans for me...so I am trying my best to enjoy every moment of this pregnancy, just in case it's my last. But I'm hopeful that we will have a surprise pregnancy in the future. I think it would be great to have an adopted child, a child from IVF, and then a complete surprise. I also want to adopt again. Since we adopted our son through CAS and CAS's policy is to try their best to keep families together, if either of J's birth parents have another child that needs to come into care, we would be notified first and given the option to adopt his sibling (which we would do in a heartbeat). It would be another roller coaster of working things through the court system and the potential for the adoption to not go through (like what happened with our first experience with CAS), but it would be a chance we would be willing to take.

One of my biggest fears with J is him wondering why we decided to do IVF after we adopted him. I never want him to think that we did it because we wanted a child who was biologically related to us. That would break my heart. That's not the case at all. It was because I wanted to carry a child, feel a child growing inside of me, and to experience labour (if I could have experienced this carrying J, I would have). God made my body to do this and it's something I felt I needed to do. It wouldn't have mattered if we did IVF and used a donor embryo, a donor egg, or donor sperm (and for a while, it looked like we were going to have to use a donor). All that mattered to me was to be able to have the experience of pregnancy, not the biological ties. Yes, it will be neat to see our features in this child, but it is amazing to see how well J's features actually match ours (well, not so much me). Everyone comments on how much J looks like my hubby and how his red hair matches my brother's, and once you get to know J and I, you can see how much he acts like me. Nothing, and I mean nothing, could ever make me love the child I am carrying now more than I love J. I look at J and he is my son. It doesn't matter that I did not carry him or that he is not biologically mine, all that matters is he is my son, my family, and this is how God intended it to be.  I hope if he ever does ask me this when he is older, that he will understand that it was never because he wasn't enough. J is my entire world and I am so glad we decided to choose adoption first.

Monday, 7 April 2014

100 Days of Pregnancy: Day 83

How far along? 28 weeks 1 day

Total weight gain? According to my scale I've dropped a couple of lbs but I'm not sure if my scale is different from the OBs

Maternity clothes? Yes

Stretch marks? Not yet...

Sleep: Sleep isn't a problem...yet

Best moments this week: Feeling this little guy move around more and more

Miss anything? Being able to cut my toenails and shave my legs without having to contort my body into weird positions

Food cravings/aversions: Oranges...I'm ready to head to Florida to get some fresh ones

Showing? Yes

Gender: It's a BOY!!!!!

Labour signs: No

Symptoms: I still have some heartburn but now that I eat smaller meals, it's gotten better. Lots of pressure when I go to the bathroom.

Belly button in or out? In...but I've noticed it's not as deep when I'm lying down.

Wedding ring on or off? Off...I tried to put on a larger ring that I normally wear on my right hand but my skin seems to be extra sensitive at the moment and it was hurting to wear it

Happy or moody most of the time? Emotional would be a good word. I had a co-worker bring me in some chocolate covered raisins and I had to fight back tears.

Looking forward to: My ultrasound next Monday 

Sunday, 6 April 2014

100 Days of Pregnancy: Days 85 and 84

Hello Third Trimester! It's amazing to be saying that. Now the next big date is the due date...come on June 29th!

The hubby and I have decided to start doing a cash budget to help set aside a bit more money for my maternity leave. It's also good practice for when I'm off the year because we'll need to watch our spending. So on Saturday night, once J was finally asleep (that was interesting because he learned how to climb over his baby gate...I heard little feet pattering upstairs in the kitchen) I made cash envelopes. There are envelopes for groceries, gas, repairs, medical/dental, pets, clothes/gifts, and entertainment. The way they work is once the money in the envelope for the week is spent, that's it. You have to wait until next week. And any money that is leftover just gets added to the next week. Hubby and I also get our own weekend allowance. This way we can't complain about something the other bought. It's our spending money and we can do as we please.  I'll try to remember tomorrow to add a photo of my envelopes since I can't from my iPad.

As for J being super sneaky and breaking the child lock on his door and climbing over the baby gate, I'm hoping I fixed the problem. I fixed the child lock (it came with a spare part) and raised the baby gate a bit (but not too high because I know he would just climb under it). He can still sometimes manage to out smart the child lock but I'm hoping we can break that habit! 

Friday, 4 April 2014

100 Days of Pregnancy: Day 86

Happy Friday! There's something about Fridays that always puts me in a good mood. I think it has a lot to do with the weekend being right around the corner.

Since it's been raining since yesterday, I decided to go to the gym on my lunch hour and walk a bit on the treadmill. Before pregnancy, I would always walk at 4.0mph (normally I would run, but if I did walk, this was my pace) and now I don't go any higher than 3.5mph and it seems like I'm walking just as fast. I much prefer walking outside, especially with my little mister, but Mother Nature is not co-operating.

As for this evening, once J is in bed, I plan on relaxing...so basically sitting my butt on the couch with my feet up and catching up on Grey's Anatomy. And maybe I'll do a little crocheting as well.

Thursday, 3 April 2014

100 Days of Pregnancy: Day 87

I'm finding that as my belly grows bigger and bigger each week, my ileostomy becomes more obvious. It's something I'm not used too because beforehand, it wasn't obvious I had one. Now my ostomy is pretty obvious and it makes me feel a little self conscious, especially when people put their hands on my belly. I really want a shirt that says 'if you didn't put it here than don't touch it.'  Normally I'm not self conscious about it. I have no problem wearing a bikini at the beach (a girl needs a tan), so I'm guessing a lot of it has to do with my hormones and the fact that I have to use a different appliance than what I normally wear (since what I normally wear was only lasting 2 days and it isn't fun or cheap having to change an ostomy that often).

I know this feeling will be short lived and I still plan on taking photos of my bare belly because even with an ileostomy, it's a cute baby bump!

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

100 Days of Pregnancy: Day 88

Since I talked about our FET yesterday, I should talk about my memories of our adoption (which I remember just like it was yesterday as well).

It was a Tuesday night and I was sitting downstairs with my hubby. We were watching something on TV when my phone rang at 8:50pm. I thought it was odd that a private number was calling. When I answered, it was our previous match worker (their job is to find families for the protection worker that they think would be a good fit) who was just promoted to a supervisor. This really surprised me because it was clearly after office hours. She was calling to tell me that there was a woman who was in labour and that hubby and I were chosen as a match.

And then, my phone battery died. I was so panicked. How could it die during such an important phone call?! I don't think I have ever ran upstairs to our bedroom so quickly to get the charger. After what seemed like an eternity, my phone finally started up again. And I was so relieved when the our previous match worker phoned back. She gave me the few details she knew and that she was hoping to come over in the morning with the protection worker so we could go over all the details of the case and make a decision. We agreed to the meeting.

I was beyond excited. I wasn't sure how I would feel when we got a phone call but all doubts flew out the window. How can anyone say no to a baby? I sure can't (call it a weakness of mine). I sure wasn't expecting a phone call after only being back on the list for adoption for 3 weeks.

That night, I could not sleep at all. I was too excited. Finally, the morning rolled around and the supervisor, protection worker, and another social worker showed up. The first thing they told us was that the birth mom was not in labour. This was disappointing to me because I was so excited. The protection worker (the one who picks the family for the child) told us we were the only family she had chosen (normally, they narrow it down to two families and interview each family and decide at that point which family would be best). Side note: later on she told us she had to fight for us because there was another protection worker who wanted to choose us as well for their case...this made me feel good. She gave us all of the details she knew about the birth mother and father, their families, medical history, etc. We were told this would be a low risk case (meaning there was a very small chance of this baby going back to birth family). After hearing everything, we decided to say yes.

We ended up waiting a little over a month for this little guy to arrive. My heart would skip a beat every time my phone would ring. Finally, on a Wednesday afternoon, just as I was about to leave home to go back to work from my lunch, my phone rang. And it was a private number. Baby was coming!!! At around 9:30 that same night I received a call to say the baby is here. I was so glad the protection worker phoned that night and didn't make us wait until the morning.

When the baby was discharged from hospital, the protection worker brought him straight to our house. And our lives were forever changed.

About 4 months after this little guy was born, he was scheduled for one of his routine check ups at CAS (you have to use the doctor at CAS while the child is in CAS care). The protection worker phoned me shortly before the appointment asking me if my hubby and my mom could come with me. I immediately began to panic. Normally I just go on my own and I knew earlier that day, the protection worker was in court for this case. My heart sank. I was fighting back tears on the way there. I was so sure she wanted them to come with me so I wouldn't be alone for bad news. We were waiting in a waiting area outside of the doctor's office when the protection worker came off of the elevator with a bouquet of flowers and a helium balloon. I immediately went into shock. She couldn't be delivering bad news with a congratulations balloon. She wanted hubby and my mom there to share in the exciting news. They had gotten crownwardship!! I just stood there in shock. I had dreamed about this day and dreamed of how wonderful it would be. And then when it finally happened, I couldn't process my emotions. I just stood there in shock. It didn't set in for a few hours.

That was such a happy day for both of our families. The next happy day came on Christmas Eve, which marked the end of the days the birth parents had to change their minds about relinquishing all of their rights. But nothing will compare to the happiness I felt on the day of happy court. Waiting in a crowded court hallway with other happy families waiting to receive the final adoption record. It was so hot in the hallway. Walking into the court room was a breath of fresh air. It was nice and cool. The court room seemed so big with just the judge, the person taking notes, our protection worker, my parents, hubby's mom (hubby's father was away unfortunately), hubby's sister, my friend, and us. We sat at the very front and J played with a plastic cup while everything was happening. Then the judge made everything official and we were presented with the adoption record. We took a few photos inside the court room to remember the special day.

Adoption is such a special thing. No words can describe it. I know a lot of families worry about adopting and having no genetic ties to the child. Let me be the first to say that I don't even think about that. When I look into my sons big blue eyes (neither my husband or I have blue eyes), all I see is my son. I don't see him as my "adopted" son. He will always be my son and I will always be his mommy. It's surprising how many comments we get of people saying he looks like us. Everyone, including our friends and family, say he looks like my hubby. My mom has even been out with J and has had people tell her they can see the resemblance. We just smile and say thank you.

I love my son's adoption story. I don't think I'll ever forget any of the details. They are tattooed on my mind. It felt like a long road, but his adoption was definitely worth the wait.

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

100 Days of Pregnancy: Day 89

Wow, only 89 more days until the due date. It's so surreal. I still remember going in for my frozen embryo transfer. I was by myself because someone had to stay home with J. I was wearing a jean jacket, a maxi squirt, and a teal tank top...and funny enough, my nail polish matched my outfit perfect (the doctor even made mention of it). I had to wait a while in the procedure room by myself (when doctors do this, I always have the urge to explore everything). When the doctor, nurses, and lab techs came in, everyone was in a great mood and it made me feel great. I remember feeling so relaxed during the procedure and so relaxed afterwards. I had a sense of calm with me that day.

And I still remember the day I took a pregnancy test. I had gone to the dollar store on my lunch hour and bought two tests. I was feeling so out of control (really though, with pregnancy and new life, it's ALL of our your control...which I have learned now!!) and wanted the option to test if I felt like I was going crazy. And as many women in the two week wait will say, it feels more like a 2 month wait where your mind runs wild. That night I ended up taking a pregnancy test. I figured if it came back negative it would be because it was too early to test and because it wasn't first morning urine. I took the test, gave it 30 seconds, took a peak, and felt a huge rush of disappointment and sadness. I can't explain the feeling I felt when I saw another negative. And then as if God were saying "you are such a silly child, have patience", the faintest second pink line appeared. I was shocked. I have never seen two pink lines before!! I was over the moon singing praises to God.

Picture of me with my first ever positive test

I follow quite a few infertility blogs. Some of the women are currently pregnant (Yah! Congrats!!) and some of the women are still struggling with negative tests and big decisions on where to go from there. All of these women are in my prayers.