Saturday, June 26, 2010

Hope for healing

This post is kind of weird and misplaced. But that's okay - this entire year has been weird!

I was just sitting on the couch, flipping through a People magazine that my mom passed to me. I know, it's a wild and crazy Saturday night activity. I never buy People magazine. She never does either, but she was on a flight home from New York City on Friday...anyway...

I came across a photograph of Mark McGrath and his fiancee and their new twins. The caption is a quote from McGrath that reads,

The journey to parenthood "wasn't magic unicorns and rainbows, " says McGrath. "We were very lucky; it took a lot of work to get here."

I reread it 3 or 4 times. I think I am newly endeared to Mark McGrath.

What he said was so true - this journey is surely not magical. But I think if we could be fortunate enough to come out on the other side, we could feel lucky too.

One wonderful thing this baby did for me was show me that I *can* feel healed. Totally healed. I have always said that no matter the outcome, I will be forever scarred by this experience. It's the type of thing that heals to a certain degree with time but never, ever goes away completely. But I think I was wrong. This baby healed me temporarily. It was as if everything that happened before that positive pregnancy test just melted away. I went to Babies R Us - a dreaded activity, as I've made many trips to shop for gifts over the past few years until I eventually just stopped giving baby gifts altogether. I walked the aisles in excitement and felt amazed at all the new things for babies. Apparently a lot has changed over the past six years.

But the most important thing is that it didn't hurt anymore - at all. And that gives me a great deal of hope. No, this journey isn't unicorns and rainbows...but the end result could be truly magical.

Monday, June 14, 2010

It's not my fault

At the pressuring of some friends and family, I called the nurse's voicemail line on Friday. It had been 3 weeks since our last ultrasound and still no miscarriage. I had been putting off the call for several reasons.

1. I was succeeding brilliantly at putting the whole ordeal out of my mind. I thought of calling a few times, but always in the evenings when the office was closed. I seemed to forget about it during the day.

2. I was afraid I would get news I didn't want to hear.

3. I'm still in this lovely state of mind that nature will take care of things in its own time.

Anyway, I had been told it could be "a few weeks", and I really couldn't deny that after three weeks passed, I was probably leaving the territory of "a few" and entering the land of "a lot". So I called.

The nurse returned my call within 30 minutes, which is some kind of record and concerned me a bit. She said the doctor wanted to see me to do another ultrasound and talk about what is going on. We went today for our appointment, and for the first time in a long time, I left that office feeling like I had gotten good news.

Granted, it's not really good news. But when I say it was good, there is an implied "under the circumstances" in there somewhere.

The ultrasound revealed that the sac has not grown any larger since the last ultrasound and is beginning to collapse. We got one more glimpse at the fetal last look at our baby. But we saw something else too - we saw new endometrium growing in areas where there had been none before. We observed a thickening of the lining for the first time in 3 years. Of course, this is to be expected during a pregnancy - and our hope is that some of those cells remain behind after the pregnancy is gone. The doctor couldn't guarantee us that will be the case, but I feel like there is at least a chance. There have never been any guarantees.

We sat to talk about our options, and my main concern was obviously that I would be told surgery was the recommendation. Thankfully he said the opposite. He said he agreed with me and would prefer that I continue to wait this out if I was comfortable doing so. He explained to us how American culture is more proactive in these situations, but in other countries D&C rates are much, much lower and women are much more likely to wait and let nature take its course. I'm thankful for medical interventions and I do feel they have a time and place, but I'm much more hesitant to accept interventions in my own life because I've seen enough to know they can also cause major problems. He acknowledged there was a small risk of infection involved, but he didn't feel it was a big enough risk to warrant a surgical procedure (we ALL know the risks there!!).

He prepared me for what to look for in the way of excessive bleeding when the time comes, but I've been there done that and will know it when I see it. I'm not afraid of hemorrhaging again, although I know that is also a small risk.

He also discussed with us the reason for the loss. I didn't ask him, and I'm not sure why. I guess I figured it didn't matter. The baby is gone regardless. But he offered the information anyway, and I'm so thankful he did. He feels that beyond the shadow of a doubt there was something genetically wrong with the baby. A random, genetic abnormality. It wasn't my lining. And more importantly, it wasn't anything I did wrong. I didn't know until today how much I needed to hear that.

I am a very anal pregnant person. I have a huge list of things I will not consume - I cut out caffeine 100%. I won't each lunch meat, hot dogs, Chinese food, seafood (this is easy to give up since I don't like it anyway :p ). I eat a low sugar diet. I don't take ANY medications - not even Tylenol. I tough out my aches and pains. I drink a minimum of 64 ounces of water a day, and I do not enjoy water but dehydration can cause preterm labor, sooo...

All these "rules" are based on studies I've read about potential effects on the baby. I've heard from some that moderation is the key, but to me there is no safe amount of certain substances - namely my biggest vice - caffeine. It's a scientific fact that it raises miscarriage risk. And here I was consuming it in excess.

So imagine my horror when I found out I was unexpectedly almost 5 weeks pregnant...I had been drinking an occasional glass of wine. I drank wine while I was pregnant. I didn't know, and I drank wine. :( :( :( I was indulging myself in a 3-4 cup/day coffee habit. I was drinking soda. I wasn't taking any vitamins at all. And I was basically eating junk. When I found out I was pregnant, I was immediately worried that I'd already done harm to the baby. I feel as though I am not like other women. I can't afford to do anything questionable. My body is already so fragile when it comes to pregnancy that I have to do everything in my power to optimize my chances for a good outcome. I will never be someone who can just enjoy things "in moderation" and not worry.

When we lost the baby I think I blamed myself subconsciously. I know there are women all over the place who do all kinds of potentially dangerous things during pregnancy and everything is fine for them and their babies. I know there are drug addicts who carry to term. But for some reason, I was having a lot of trouble letting myself off the hook. Here was this miracle baby that we'd waited so long to conceive, and I might have done something to harm him or her. Because I was being selfish and indulging myself in an unhealthy lifestyle, our baby might have suffered. That is such a hard pill to swallow. I quit the coffee cold turkey the moment I found out - but what if it had been too late?

When the doctor told us a genetic abnormality was to blame, I felt the weight of the world lifted from my shoulders. It is not my fault. There was nothing I could have done to change the outcome. It feels so good to say that.

So it feels like good news all around. We've now got endometrium growing in places that have been bare for years now. We didn't do anything wrong. And I don't have to have surgery at this point. Our risks for another miscarriage are no greater because of this event. Our odds of another pregnancy aren't any lower, and they might be higher.

I prayed again for the first time since this happened on Sunday at church. God knew I was angry with Him. I was having the adult version of a temper tantrum and refusing to pray for a while, telling myself, "What's the point anyway? The answer is always no." So, I didn't pray for any of the good news to come. He just sent it my way anyway. And I'm thankful for it.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

The 6 month update

I thought for a period of time that I was going to leave this blog behind. Our journey is three years in the making at this point, but the past six months have without a doubt been the wildest. As everything has unfolded, I've found it too difficult to I was so lost in the midst of everything that was happening that I couldn't get it all down on paper.

Year One was all about working through the anger. I had become a person I didn't like to see when I looked in the mirror. I had horrible, unrighteous thoughts. I was so busy looking at others that I neglected to look at myself. Year One was ugly.

Year Two was all about sadness. Grief. Lots of tears. Why me?

Year Three was when I evolved and rose above our circumstances...I thought, anyway.

The events of the past six months have done everything possible to attempt to thrust me back into the mindset of Year One. It all began on December 22, 2009.

Jamie and I had a doctor's appointment to follow up on our last injectable cycle from the previous month. We hadn't gotten pregnant, and I braced myself for the news that would follow. But as it turns out, it's impossible to prepare yourself to hear that nothing more can be done. We had reached the end of our treatment possibilities. Basically, we were told the only thing we could do is give it time and just see what happens. Our odds of achieving pregnancy, even with treatment, were estimated to be "maybe 1%". My body never did respond well to the drugs, and 2 years of hardcore fertility treatments had really done a number on us - both mentally and for me, physically. We were done.

As we left the office, the doctor mentioned to us that if we really wanted to get serious about having a child, we should consider gestational surrogacy.

We left the office under the impression that surrogacy was never an option for us. It costs at least $65,000, and that is on the lower end. It wasn't even on our radar as a possibility. So we went home, grieved, tried to enjoy our Christmas, and started the difficult process of accepting our family as complete and moving on.

I began plotting a formal dining room in the area that is currently a playroom. And I made plans to clear out our "nursery" to move Elise's toys upstairs. I tried to embrace the idea as best I could. And I think I was making some progress in that regard.

But then it was as if the stars had aligned, and our world turned upside down for the next three months. A friend came forward and offered to be our surrogate for a low fee, and the money made itself available. Before we knew it, we were meeting with attorneys, doctors, psychologists...and things were moving in a positive direction. We had all the preliminary testing/contract/psychological evaluations completed and were literally within a few weeks of beginning the medications that would eventually lead to the creation of embryos and a transfer of our baby into the surrogate.

But then it happened. One of those totally bizarre, totally unexpected, horrible events that blindsides you on a random Wednesday afternoon. Literally overnight by no fault of anyone involved, the circumstances changed, and the surrogacy was canceled. And so it was April, and we found ourselves back on December 22nd again. With our surrogate no longer available and our emotions more fragile than ever, we were at a loss as to what our next move should be. I asked myself, "Why did God lead us this far, only to abandon us yet again?" I spent so much time praying over the surrogacy. I had felt so certain it was what He wanted us to do. And so when it failed, it very quickly gave way to self doubt.

The planning phase of the surrogacy had been extremely stressful for me, as I attempted to coordinate all the many appointments and tests long distance. I had researched everything well into the evening hours on many nights, trying to become an expert as I navigated this very tricky arrangement without the benefit of an agency. My nerves were absolutely shot. I did not want to do it again. But Jamie did, and our attorney encouraged us to keep looking. As a matter of fact, everyone seemed to want us to keep looking. But I just didn't feel like I could do it. The previous three years had taken a toll, and I felt somehow I was receiving some big, cosmic sign from the universe that I was never meant to have anymore children. But it wasn't a decision I could make alone, and I was committed to trying again if Jamie still felt he wanted to do so after a period of time (what period of time, we really hadn't decided yet).

As we were in the midst of this huge dilemma over whether to continue a search for a surrogate, we were blindsided again...

And for the next two weeks, everything made sense. The surrogacy fell through, because *I* was going to carry our baby! It was a medical miracle, as far as we were concerned. Our bloodwork all came back perfectly. My hcg was 1250 at 19dpo. At 21dpo it had risen to 2994. My progesterone was 29. It felt too good to be true. And it was. We went to our six week ultrasound to discover the baby measuring several days behind. It doesn't sound like much, but in the early stages of pregnancy, a lot can happen in several days. So we were sent home with instructions to come back in five days for another ultrasound.

"Maybe we are just off on our dates," I told myself. But I knew better. After tracking cycles and ovulation for three years, I knew I wasn't off. I knew to the exact day when we had conceived. And so it was long five days spent obsessively googling ultrasound photos and reading everything I could find that might lend some encouragement to the situation. When we returned, the baby had fallen a full week behind, and there was no heartbeat. We were told miscarriage was imminent.

So here we are now. Waiting for the inevitable. I've done a great deal of waiting over the last three years, but this wait is by far the worst of my life. I am determined to avoid another uterine surgery that would surely only leave me with additional scar tissue. So I wait. It's the strangest feeling, knowing you are carrying a child that isn't growing...dreading the moment when you are no longer carrying the baby. Wondering when it will happen. Hoping it won't happen at work. Praying it won't happen at work. Wondering if it does begin at work, if you will be able to make the hour drive home before it's too late. Contemplating how to properly honor your baby's body, because flushing him or her down the toilet is just not an option. And meanwhile, passing coworkers in the hall as they ask, "Hi, how are you today?" And just smiling and saying, "Fine." Maybe if you say you are fine, you will be fine?

And the big elephant in the beef with God. We dealt with this loss back in December. I can accept Him telling me no. But it feels we are the victims of some cruel game at this point. Dangle it in front of us, and yank it away. Twice in just a few months. Gear us up to be excited at the prospects - even bring us to a point where we are discussing baby names - then yank it away.

When this all began, I found great purpose in the journey. I needed to learn things about myself, and I needed to change. I needed to learn to give others grace. I needed to do less judging and more changing of myself. I needed to get right with God. And I feel like I have done all those things. At this point, I wonder, "God, what else do I need to change before I am worthy of having my prayers answered??? What else do you want from me??? Why am I not good enough??? I was willing to accept my situation, but you have brought me so close to what I desire twice now. What are you trying to tell me? Is all of this extra pain really necessary? Why?"

And so I wait and listen for the answers as I try not to slide back into anger that I thought was left behind in Year One. Meanwhile, Year Four is now underway. Quite frankly, I am afraid to see what it holds.