07 October 2015

The Pros & Cons of IVF

So humbled to address today one of the most difficult/emotional decisions a woman ever has to make. And this decision sadly affects lots of women - too many of us. And based on many researchers, it will only affect more of us in the very near years ahead. I had to make this decision twice and it was difficult both times.

The decision is this: Should I do an IVF?

The other related questions usually are:

Should I wait and do nothing and see what happens? (and for how long?)
Should I first try more natural ways to heal my body? (and for how long?)
Should I first save some money for the procedure?
Should I keep trying clomid and IUIs?
Should I find a new job at a company that covers IVF?
Should I wait until my relationship feels more solid or until my spouse is more involved?
Should I find a new doctor who will investigate my health more before recommending IVF?
Should I skip IVF altogether and research adoption?

Oh, the complexity.

(photo from one of many IVF appointments)

In case you're facing this decision, here my PROS and CONS and the same from 7 readers who have generously shared their thoughts:

From Mara:


-You get to see if it works! The curiosity is a hard one to pass up.

-Likely if IVF is on the table, one has already invested financially and emotionally in the medical route (tests, diagnosis, finding doctors, etc.) So IVF may feel like the easier next step. At that point, it feels like known territory in a way and it can feel like you should see those investments to the finish line.


-IVF is rampantly recommended by doctors. So very often, underlying health issues are not addressed and the procedure is more like throwing a dart to see if it will work for you. The problem is, if the underlying issue is not addressed, it's very likely that IVF won't work or the pregnancy will not be healthy.

-For me, IVF affected my hormones for an extended period after the IVF (the trailing off was close to a year, I'd say.) I normally have extremely stable cycles without PMS. Though I noticed a bit of it in the many months following the IVF. It was a sad thing to me to feel like I'd messed with my body so unnaturally.

-I mentioned once that I noticed some hair thinning and my curls have gone limp (compared to what they used to be). I noticed this happening after the IVFs and I later read that hormonal changes are one of the biggest causes of hair changes in women. There's a very good chance it was all related.

-Adding so many drugs to your body is just gross. I did about two hundred injections in two IVF cycles (I did have extras compared to a standard cycle, though.) Yuck!

-There is a lot at stake. It leads to a lot of stress for people's marriages and lives unless you go into it with a healthy mindset (if you want coaching on this, I offer mentoring sessions). IVF also greatly affects finances and can have a negative affect on your employment.

-You have to stay put for a very long time: doctors appointments galore; timed injections; refrigerated drugs. Travel for business or pleasure is pretty much out of the question. Don't even think about moving or changing jobs/insurance while you have your team of doctors in place for however long it takes.

-Infertility and IVF is a lifestyle. It dominates your life so much that other goals and pursuits are very much on the back burner.

-It's very expensive and it's more likely that it won't work on the first cycle. Having the procedure not work is one blow. Draining funds is another. Depending on your financial and health situation, financing an adoption may be more likely to lead to a child.

From Anon:


-It gave us a chance to have a biological child. Adoption wasn’t the right choice for our family, and so if we wanted a child, this was the last chance.

-It’s pretty common these days, so a lot of people knew what it was and were supportive.

-We got to choose when I got pregnant! I fit it in between school semesters! Obviously, we were lucky that the first try “took”, but still!

- I was lucky and got to freeze a few extra embryos. Now I feel less pressure to pop out another when I am focusing on completing my degree right now. At 31, this quieted the biological clock for me a bit.

- It was actually (in retrospect) pretty cool to get such a close-up look at the miracle of life. I have a pic of my daughter at 5 days post fertilization. We got to watch them plant her as a tiny embryo on a big screen.


- Yucky drugs

- $$ and more $$

- Time and effort – constant appointments, research, taking time off work, etc., etc. It was a marathon, but after 4 years, we were used to it.

- Mental stress, life being in “limbo”, feeling like I couldn’t make plans because of this huge mountain we were climbing.

- Lack of privacy. Let me explain. I’m not talking about the invasive medical procedures and constant “undress from the waist down” appointments; I’m talking about lack of privacy from friends, family and coworkers about what is usually a very private experience (the planning and conception of a child). Now, we CHOSE to tell the people in our life about our fertility troubles and IVF plans, and I don’t regret that – we got so much awesome support – BUT it came at a high cost. I never got to really announce a pregnancy to my spouse. My mother-in-law called the morning she knew we would be getting the HCG results back asking for the news. Everyone knew exactly what appointments were going on (because they asked, and we didn’t hide it), and at some point I began to feel that the experience wasn’t “mine” anymore. Many other people who loved us were very invested in the outcome and it left me feeling very exposed and pressured. I hope that makes sense. I know it seems crazy, but I found this aspect to be harder than the injections and the hormone swings, etc. I told my husband that the next time around we are telling NO ONE. I want to experience this in private next time.

- One final con. I feel pressure from people, (even myself sometimes!) that because it was so much work for me to get pregnant, and it was such a miracle that I did, that I am somehow being ungrateful because I don’t (and never did) want to be a full time stay-at-home mom. My own grandmother said to me when I told her my school plans “after all the trouble it took to get her here – you’re going to leave her?” I was crushed. I had a hard time reaching out and getting help when I suffered from post-partum depression because I felt so guilty for being so unhappy when I was supposed to be so happy. I still struggle with this guilt.

From Michelle:


-I've thought about this a lot. The biggest cons I can see are the cost and the toll on my body, as well as the possible emotional letdown. I feel like I would put a lot of pressure on myself for it to work out if we put so much money into this chance.


The pros, of course, would be the possibility of having a child. (It might be worth noting that these feelings are often mixed and convoluted.)

From Vilulind:


-The only cons I could think of when I started preparing for IVF was that this procedure would be my last resort for getting pregnant. That there would be no hope left in case this last, ultimate measure failed. And yet, here we are, still hoping after 5 failed IVF cycles.

-Now, having gained the "failed IVFs" experience, I can wholeheartedly confirm it's totally devastating to get non-pregnant HCG results.

-Ten days after embryo transfer are crazy but still somehow pleasantly emotional. I feel pregnant, not pregnant, never-gonna-be-pregnant, all at the same time. I secretly talk to my embryos, search for non-existent pregnancy signs, even feel false pregnancy cravings--only to get crushed by the test in the end.

-And the week or so after that is just plain horrible =)) Crying jags, feeling sorry for myself, wanting to have kids SO MUCH, being desperate. Definite cons. But this week comes to an end, and somehow hope emerges again. So yes, emotional letdown is by default in the cons column, but you know, sadness will pass, tears will dry, life will go on.


We are happy that we had tried.

From Jaime:


-We did IVF to get baby #3. I think if you want a baby enough to do IVF, at that point, the "cons" just feel like another hurdle for you to get through. The expense, the daily monitoring appointments (especially difficult with older children at home) and the weeks of twice-daily injections.


-The pro? Your very best chance of conceiving! The elation of knowing you're pulling out all the stops and doing the best science can offer at this time. And it may be possible to have embryos to freeze so that you are able to have more children if you wish.

From Sarah:


-Solely from reading about your experience (ok, and a few other posts) the cons are the costs, the taxing regime on the body/injections, the exhaustion.


-The pros are obviously: A CHILD and one that's likely biologically linked.

From Sonal:

Part of the issue is that many people have preconceived notions about IVF that are hard to shake. No, it's not something that only desperate rich people do. No, it will not make you Octomom. No, it does not (to anyone's knowledge) cause lasting issues for the mother and baby. But the hardest one is no, it does not always work.... people in general have a vastly inflated idea of how well IVF works.



-It's a big commitment of time for appointments which involve transvaginal ultrasounds over a period of (depending on the protocol and how you respond) up to a couple of months per cycle.

-It's a lot of injections, every day, most of which are hormones so side effects are highly variable.

-It's not a sure thing--there is a huge amount of guesswork and trial and error involved, so most people have to go through multiple cycles which can be a big shock if no one told you.

-If it goes well, you will probably be very uncomfortable, for a few days to a few weeks. Egg retrieval is minor surgery.

-There are a large number of decisions that have to be made, often somewhat blindly because there is not much solid information.

-The process itself is very unpredictable and there are a huge number of things that can go wrong which makes it an emotional roller coaster. You spend a lot of time not knowing.

-Most couples go through a lot of other methods before getting into IVF, so at this point, a lot of them are emotionally (and perhaps financially) burned out before having to face IVF, which makes the decision that much harder.... you always wonder, in infertility, if maybe nothing will work and you should stop while you still recognize yourself. The fear of the physical effects is probably the biggest concern before starting. The emotional up and down is probably the hardest part of actually doing it.


-It's by far the most successful treatment available for using your own eggs/sperm.

-IVF can reveal more information about why you aren't conceiving, although there's often not much that can be done about it.... still, infertility is a process with a lot of unknowns, so there is some comfort in just knowing.

-By the time you get there, it may be your last option... when the choice is IVF or no children, IVF doesn't seem so unreasonable.

From Jefra:

At this point, other than a miracle, IVF is the only way I can get pregnant again. We chose no...or rather, no for now. But we will probably revisit the idea again at some point.


-Financial cost was a big factor because our insurance at the time didn't cover IVF.

-Aside from that, I knew I wasn't ready to deal with the emotions. It's already too much to deal with years of infertility and then to have a doctor tell you you won't be able to have anymore children. I wanted to get myself to a place where I wasn't obsessed with having a baby because I knew that getting pregnant wasn't going to magically heal the hurt. I've had to learn to be ok with the fact that my son will probably be an only child.


I know a lot of our readers here have had experiences with IVF. What would you all say would be the pros and cons of IVF for you?

If you liked this post, please share it with others or leave a comment, below! xo

05 October 2015

2 Love Wall Delights

From Helen McLaughlin, currently traveling the U.S. via motorhome:

"Since July, I've embraced a mobile lifestyle and am traveling with my fiancé in a motorhome all over the United States. But, when I saw your Love Wall post, I knew I had to show you my equivalent. ;-)

You and Danny are a source of light and joy in this world. I love how you're showing up every day, and I'm grateful to you both for using your voices in this way.

Attached is a picture of my 'love wall' from my apartment-living days (just a few months ago, really!). I was living in Charlottesville, Virginia, at the time and I used the front of my fridge as a rotating exhibit of love artifacts from family and friends. You'll spy a couple of funny or poignant postcards that helped me through particularly tough times; tickets from showings of Chocolat and Roman Holiday that I saw with friends at the old "movie palace" in town; a star ornament my dad bought me during Christmas shopping in Manhattan one year, under the condition that I always remember that day; a receipt from a Valentine's outing with my closest girlfriends ("Galentine's"); nearly every fortune I've ever gotten from a fortune cookie; and the love list goes on and on. Even though I'm in a home on wheels now, we still manage to find space to hang up the bits and bobs that remind us how loved we are...and how much we love each other."

Sending love to you both,
Helen McLaughlin
Writer & Curiosity Coach | Weekly Findings
(Subscribe to receive a little letter from me every Monday!)

From Maria, in Chicago:

"Here is my love fridge! On it are wedding save the dates, birth announcements, christmas cards and travel photos from all those near and dear to me. It brings such joy to look at those faces who I love and who love me so well each day! Perhaps I should reorganize a bit but it's hard to remove anything. One of my friends is a great adventurer, at each location she sends me a post card. I have gotten them from South Africa, Brazil, the Grand Canyon, the Dalton Highway/Alaska and Paris all in the last couple years. I collect a magnet from each place I travel- a couple of my favorites being Charleston, SC, Austin, TX, and Vienna, Austria! My husband is also from Ireland so our love fridge is littered with photos and magnets from our adventures on the little green island!

Thanks for all you do. I'm sorry I missed your Chicago visit this summer, but we were honeymooning in Ireland! I also think you need to keep Pip and Rue as siblings for sweet Sila!"

With Love and Thankfulness!



Thank you so much to these wonderful women! It's so fun to see a peek into your lives.

Have you made a Love Wall? I welcome any more pics. Send them my way. If you'd like, feel free to tell about one or two items. And let us know where you're from!  XOXO

02 October 2015

Do You Ever Wonder This? (Regarding Intimacy)

How many of you have wondered dark in the night - 

Am I enough? Am I enough to be desired? Does my lover feel connected with me enough? Do I offer enough vulnerability and connection in return that is strong enough to sustain a relationship, love, loyalty, fidelity, desire? 

If these questions have ever entered your mind, I have a trick for how to ease your worries...

Stop wondering if you're enough and simply ACT like you are enough. 

No more pity party. :)

No more victimhood.

No more stewing in fear.

No more worrying about the worst case scenario (because you'd be enough then, too.)

Acting like you are "enough" will change you. Yes, it may feel like acting in the beginning. But if you put your focus in the new direction - guess what? Your energy is actually no longer going towards all the thoughts that don't serve you! You're not spending time on feeding those fears and they can actually lose their power over you! They are, after all, just thoughts. Instead, you're putting your focus towards allowing your body and mind to practice what it feels like to be secure, content, fearless, worthy, confident, lovable.

It's all a matter of managing your energy. And we're in charge of that.

We truly get to choose where we put our energy.

Love to all,


P.S. On my end - I certainly work on this, too. I've mentioned before that I'm working on the idea that I am enough to earn a living helping people to live with a love mindset. Pulling that off would be a dream to me. :) But earning a living will take more than just writing blog posts. So I'm trying to believe - and act - more and more like I am enough to continue making this happen. And writing that didn't feel vulnerable one bit. ;) haha. 

If you liked the post or like our blog, we invite you to share it with others or leave a comment, below. Thank you so much for being a part of this!

30 September 2015

What I Do About Pending DOOM

Oh goodness, do you all feel DOOM creeping up on you sometimes?

I don't mean to speak lightly of this - as I know in life there are so, so many life-and-death situations out there that are truly difficult to face.

But I'm talking about all those smaller issues in life that can still bring on stress, worry, fear, or just YUCK. The ones that seem to paralyze us and make us sigh LOUDLY and make us wish it could all go away. The ones we can't seem to shake so easily.

Here are some of mine since we moved to Ecuador:

  • Needing to sell our cars in the dead of winter in NYC and not having any luck.
  • Packing our storage room full of personal items and leaving the country, then fearing for months that the stacks of bins might have given away and toppled against the door (which would involve a lot of cuss words and cutting through the metal door to get it open.)
  • Working on getting resident visas here in Ecuador (this country looves their red tape. Oh. my. goodness - it seriously must be the red tape capital of the world!)
  • Trying to find a home to rent in Cuenca (and not really liking any of the homes in Cuenca).
  • Having a period of time when I thought it might be best to find a different full-time job back in the states.
Blah! It's crazy how in the moment, these things can be all consuming. And yet I can't tell you how ridiculous it looks and feels to write these silly things out. And I have to wonder - why on earth would I let these things zap my energy in the moment? Because it seriously can affect life in negative ways. It can affect the desire to do good. It can affect the way we interact with others. It can affect the available energy to handle other things.

Here are some other types of challenges that came to mind. Maybe you can relate:

  • Bad news about an expensive car repair or house damage. (termites? flooding? new transmission? rats ate all the wiring under the hood #NYCproblem)
  • Dealing with insurance companies or medical care and often the zillion phone calls that come with that. 
  • Losing money somehow - in business, in mistakes, in betrayals, in unfortunate circumstances.
  • An email that needs to be written and you JUST. CAN'T. WRITE. IT. And then you feel shame for letting so much time pass. 
  • Needing to find A JOB.
  • Having an unsavory project looming over your head that you just wish was DONE already.
  • That neighbor interaction that led to an offense - and now you dread seeing them.
  • Missing a deadline. Like say, missing your flight.
  • Having to go to a job that is sucking you dry.
  • Waiting for the doctor to call with test results.
  • Facing a school/teacher/bully/parent issue that is getting under your skin.

I'll tell you my best tip in the world for when the doom sets in; when you have the sick 
feeling in your chest; when you just feel the desire for it all to be over...


As I’ve thought back on the moments where the doom has consumed and paralyzed me the most, one of the deepest fears present is the possibility of failure - the possibility that things may just not go the way I desire - the possibility of loss of some kind. 

In each scenario where I’ve dealt with it successfully in the past, it has almost always been when I’ve faced the possibility of failure & loss HEAD ON and envisioned the undesired outcome and made peace with it, instead of spending energy on stewing over it or avoiding it. I find that this helps me to make decisions and make a plan of action from a calmer/cooler place. And when you do that, often the overwhelming feeling of doom seems to lose its power and disappear. It's like the horrible outcome becomes the boogy man under the bed...because I survived! I didn't die! haha. It didn't get me! :)

And, my friends, it's worth it to try and tackle the DOOMS - one by one, if needed. Because if you don't, they WILL add up. They will compound and weigh you down. And they'll affect the way you handle the next thing.
But, I tell you this: there is nothing better than being free from the dooms not because you waited around for the problem to get resolved or for someone else to change, but because you delivered yourself. You were proactive. You used your power. You reclaimed your life!!!


Now, join the discussion: Do you guys have anything in life right now that feels like pending DOOM even though if you thought about it, it's actually not the end of the world? It's so uniting (and relieving) in a way to hear what others are going through. And perhaps writing it out here or on your own will help you to see that perhaps it's not as troubling as you might think. 

Thanks for sharing our blog with others and thanks for your comments - we read every single one!

With All My Love, 


P.S. Today's post came a bit later today because there was a serious girls' night going on over on the ABAL Facebook page last night!! The discussion was about the most important role or pursuit you feel as a woman (is it motherhood or something else?) And the comments are over-the-top good. 

29 September 2015

Things That I Thought Would Change My Marriage

1/  Looking prettier or being more desirable.

2/  Being cooler or more interesting or engaging.

3/  Encouraging my spouse to get help when at times he wasn't interested.

4/  Finding a way to get him to love me.

5/  Me learning to be silent and engage less because he had discomfort in the exchange of love.

Ha! Obviously, none of these things worked! I learned (eventually) that all I could really do to improve my marriage was focus on my own wellness (mentally, emotionally, spiritually), my own ability to feel independent happiness, and my own ability to exude peace and be my best self in the world - regardless of his actions. Doing that was the best offering of love I could give.

I feel that if we're doing that, then it puts the other person in the best position to live their best life, too! It removes the pressure! That's the best gift ever. Though it doesn't always save a marriage. I wish that could always be the case. But in the end, both parties need to have a desire to sustain a marriage if it's going to improve.

If you'd like to have support while trying to offer the best kind of love, we have Skype/phone mentoring available and it's helping a lot of people.

Now tell me, what things have you done to try and save a marriage (or a relationship)? What things didn't work, what things did? 

P.S. Thanks for reading everyone!
If you liked the post, follow us on Facebook, share a quote on Twitter, or share our blog with others. I'm already curious to see your comments below.

Much love to all, Mara

28 September 2015

Love Wall x 2

So excited to share TWO more Love Walls with you today.

These seriously just make my heart burst. It was this time of year when I first made my own Love Wall (as my first husband had recently left.) So I'm particularly feeling the beauty of these photos and every ounce of evidence that life is beautiful and that we are surrounded by LOVE.

From Nisha, in San Francisco:

"Hi Mara! 
I loved your post about your "love wall." I can relate so much--I've had a "love wall" in some form or another for a long time. At my current place, I have a love "fridge." The postcard of the heart on the beach in the bottom right-hand corner is one of the "Monday Hearts for Madeline". I think you'd really like this story. The woman (Page) who runs the website used to create a heart for her partner every Monday and placed it on her doorstep. Her partner died from cancer almost ten years ago, but Page continued to create hearts out of different materials or humans(!) and a while back, she began emailing a picture of a new heart every Monday to a ton of people. My friend who works in fundraising for a hospital told me about her, and the same friend, who visited this past August, along with some other friends and I participated in Page's 500th heart, which took place in SF. We created a huge human heart in the Presidio. It was so much fun. 
Another item seen in the photo on the top right hand corner is a post card with an image of a drawing of a building, with the phrase "You know exactly what you have to do." I just love that--there was a stack of these postcards at a cafe I went to in SF a while ago. 

From Jennifer, in Germany:
"Here is my 'love wall.' Though it has grown quite a bit since I posted it. It makes me happy and is such a great conversation piece. (It's also a bit more sturdy & flexible than just taping things to the wall.)"


Sending love to you both.


P.S. I welcome any more Love Walls pics! Send them my way. If you'd like, feel free to tell about one or two items. And let us know where you're from! XOXO

25 September 2015

Love Announcements

Introducing the names of these sweet rescued puppy girls!

Pip & Rue.

Can you tell which one is which?

We love having them here.

And they're doing so, so well. We haven't been able to find them permanent homes, so for now they're part of the family. Can you just see us flying back to the states with THREE crates of doggies? Oh my. It's a good possibility, since it's so hard to find doggie homes here. It should also be noted that puppy tongues are some of the cutest things on the planet earth.

A few more Love Announcements:

-The Myth of Finding Your Purpose by Kris Carr. So good.

-In case you feel pressure to be the perfect woman, hear what these elderly women have to say about that.

-We're loving the soundtrack from Inside Llewyn Davis (thanks to the recommendation from Laura Romer on the ABAL Facebook page!)

-Time to go make some pumpkin puree! This Paleo Pumpkin Pie from Elana's Pantry is in our future this weekend. :)

-One of our retreat guests totally recommends reading The Skimm, a daily recap of the news. She also had the most luscious, nurtured lips on the planet and swears by the balm called Dr. LippLove you, Heidi Hansen! 

-My fall wardrobe dreams just came true:

I found these handmade boots by a husband and wife who have owned their shop for nearly 50 years. The husband makes the shoes in their home and the wife runs the shop and does the fittings. The quality is up there with the best I've ever seen, yet the cost is about 1/4 the price. So much more fun than buying online.

And I found a woman making chunky wool sweaters for $25. It takes her about two weeks. Such a find. Some days I feel like I should set up a little online shop for you all where I can share some of these finds.

Hope you have an awesome fall weekend. Any fun fallish things to report in your neck of the woods?

On our end, there is a "super moon" lunar eclipse this weekend and it's supposed to be visible all over South America. Since it's cloudy, we might drive up to the mountains at 14,000 feet where we can see the moon above the clouds.

Love you all,


P.S. A couple of spots are still up for grabs for the October 11th Body+Soul Camp in Ecuador, men and women welcome! Register HERE. We are SO excited to meet all our guests. It's going to be an incredible group.
Hostgator Promo Code