A Blessing for Mamas

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Mother’s Day was hard.  No words would come to me.  I couldn’t think of anything to write in my blog.  My thoughts and pain were stuck in my head and in my heart.  The day felt like a complete disappointment.  I thought about my Mom and how much I love her.  I’m so grateful for the life she has given me and what she continues to give every day of my life. And I’m thankful that she is just a phone call away.  I wished her a Happy Mother’s Day, but I couldn’t hide the sadness that had settled behind my voice.  The heartache of my losses beat me up yesterday and overpowered the love and appreciation I have for all the Moms in my life.   In the jumble of thoughts and emotions stuck in my brain yesterday, there was one thing that I kept hearing in my head over and over and over again throughout the day.  

A Blessing for Mamas

Late last night I couldn’t sleep and the words came out and I started writing.  One day late for Mother’s Day, I share this with you because it wasn’t just a hard day for me.  I know for many of you, it was a tough day too.

A blessing for mamas whose babies are here
They grow, they love, and they learn with you near.
They roll, they crawl, they walk and they run
Play chase, tumble and sing and have fun.
They stumble and trip and cry and throw fits
But you hold them and squeeze them and love them to bits.
First smile, first word, first step, and first giggle
She runs to your arms with love and a wiggle.
Your heart beats for her, a soul meant to be
A mama like you, I’d be proud if it’s me.

A blessing for mamas whose babies were gifted
A heart broken down now suddenly lifted.
A woman let go and now he is placed
In the warm, open arms of your soft embrace.
The long wait is over and in his eyes you know
This little one is mine; the love will blossom and grow.
Miracles do happen, do not overlook them
Your faith lead you here and you get to keep him.
Your heart beats for him, a soul meant to be
A mama like you, I’d be proud if it’s me.

A blessing for mamas whose babies were taken
Your world was shattered, shredded and shaken.
Your angel in heaven; she guides you with love
She sees every tear, and watches from above.
Your arms are empty, no baby to hold
Don’t live in silence, your story must be told.
Let your pain be replaced over time with her light
An angel you made; your life worth the fight.
Your heart beats for her, a soul meant to be
A mama like you, I’d be proud if it’s me.

A blessing for mama who’s waiting; why me?
Your faith and sweet hope given so openly.
There’s no answers, no timeline, no promise or end
You are stuck in the middle knowing fate might not bend.
There are doctors and needles and so many tests
What will it take to fill up my nest?
Your heart, your marriage, your life feels broken
What do you do when no answers are spoken?
Your heart beats for him, a soul still to be
A mama like you, I’d be proud if it’s me.

 

Poem and Photo by CJE, 31chances.com

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The Unopened Gift

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Trigger warning:  This post is about pregnancy loss

Last Tuesday we went to what was supposed to be our “graduation day” from our fertility center.  It was our 10 week ultrasound, one day early.  I brought a gift for my doctor.  I had framed the photo for him from  “One Little White Light”  as it was such a symbol of hope for all of us in the room.  With high anticipation and holding our breath, we looked for the baby.  But to our complete shock, there was no heartbeat.  Again, our happiness crashing down around us in an instant.  Darkness invading my mind.  My heart breaking into a million pieces.  Tears streaming.  Shock.  It’s not possible.  This can’t be happening. I can’t do this again.  I can’t do this again.  I can’t do this again.

I was two days away from celebrating my last intra-muscular injection.  I was in so much pain from those injections and was so close to this milestone.  I had been counting down the days for the past two weeks, willing myself to get through each one, knowing it was best for the pregnancy.  And then suddenly there was nothing to celebrate.  Coming home from the doctor appointment, I had the gift bag in my hand and there is no one to give it to and there is no longer a reason to open it.  What do I do with it?

And so it begins… the un-doing of a pregnancy and the dreams that came with it.  I have to tell my friends and family that know I’m pregnant.  Canceling doctor appointments, figuring out how to write the email to my work to let them know I won’t be back for awhile.  Phone calls with my OB, a grueling confirmatory ultrasound, and calls with the hospital to schedule and prep for another D&C.  Fighting the agony that comes from every image and thought that I’ve had in my head over the past 6 weeks since we got the positive pregnancy test.  Realizing my morning sickness is quickly disappearing and fully aware that the hormonal changes coming my way are going to feel like crap.  Watching my husband grieve but I can’t help him because I’m in too much pain and I can’t stop crying for hours and hours and hours.  Letting go of how happy I felt every day waking up pregnant.  Now faced with the fear of waking up in the night forced to realize that my baby is gone.

I had become so attached to an online support group for women who had become pregnant after their long time struggles with infertility.  In the six weeks I was with the group, I had seen several babies born and several more were very close to coming into this world.  There was a list of due dates going into December.  There must have been at least 30 of us, with mine listed as November 16.   November 16.  Another date to add to my list of haunting dates.  I had become attached to their stories, their daily posts about food cravings and appreciated discomforts, and birthing plans, and what to put on a registry, and photos of nurseries, and photos of newborns and simply the unwritten word that we all just understood each other…And I had to say goodbye.

In the doctor’s office after getting the news, my husband and I were left alone for awhile to deal with our new reality.  I kept telling him, “I don’t want to go back, I don’t want to go back to the way it was before.”  I had crossed the line from infertility and TTC to Babyland.  I loved it here in Babyland.  I did not want to go back to the stories of struggles and pain and suffering and what if’s and waiting and loss and heartbreak.  I didn’t want to go back.  Please don’t make me go back.

The framed photo I brought for my doctor was now an image that tore through my heart like the most cruel joke that could be played on me.  I had wanted to hang that photo in our nursery.  That day on the beach…it was our beautiful gift.  Now, never to be opened.

 

The Tire Swing

 

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Last week on the evening of our 7 week ultrasound where we had discovered we had two babies, I went for a walk with the dog. There is a very pretty section of eucalyptus trees in the neighborhood with a nice dirt path lined with tall grass. And it’s been so green lately following all the rain we’ve had. At one end of this path is a tire swing. I’ve walked down this path so many times and had never seen anyone on the tire swing. I’ve tried to convince my dog to try it out but she’s just not having it. This particular evening, with babies on my mind, I came up to the tire swing to discover a mom and dad swinging their cute little twin boys. In that instant, I felt so happy and reassured that all would be well with my babies, despite the doctor’s warning that Baby A might not make it. I kept walking down the path for a few minutes and then stopped myself. I wanted another glimpse at that beautiful family and what could potentially be my future. I turned around and headed back. As I walked closer I couldn’t quite see who was there, but I could still hear voices, so I was happy I’d get a chance to set my eyes on those sweet twins again. But as I approached, I was startled to see that the family was no longer there. As if within the blink of an eye, without skipping a beat, these two little boys were replaced with one little girl being pushed on the swing by her Dad. It gave me chills and knocked the wind out of my sails.  This vision of the future placed in front of me like a dream played a trick on me. I felt so strongly in that moment that I was being forced to be prepared to grasp the possibility that I may be losing Baby A. This moment felt so intense to me that I cried all the way home.

There were two, then I turned around and there was one. I couldn’t shake it.

Today was our 8 week ultrasound appointment and we were terribly nervous. To our relief, Baby B quickly popped up on the screen with a strong heartbeat, but sadly Baby A did not make it. There was no heartbeat. I was lying there trying to wrap my head around which emotion to attach to. I was balancing grief and joy simultaneously. Grief tipped the scale and it has been winning today. We have our fourth angel baby. And then I felt guilt for not focusing my love and happiness on Baby B. Honestly, I’ve been an emotional wreck today. I’m so in love and so heartbroken, I’m so hopeful and so hurt. I know I have to grieve this loss before I can give full attention to the very special beating heart that is still with us and depending on me.

I’ve been given solid, heartfelt words to lean on by those close to me with kind texts and emails and there have been wonderful words of compassion from those in my support group. Everybody has said something to me that has touched me deeply and meant the world to me. Each of them expressing their love in a way so unique to our individual relationships. There was one thing however, that took my feelings and thoughts to a very comforting place, and it was this, “So sorry. At least Baby A did not pass alone.”

Baby A did not pass alone and there were three of our angels waiting and ready.  And they will be watching over Baby B.

There were two, and now there is one. That is where all of our love will go.

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This is my FET cycle

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Everybody who goes through IVF, IUI or an embryo transfer cycle will have a protocol designed specifically for them. While there are a lot of similarities with these well-established medical interventions to create the miracle we dream of, there are a lot of differences too. This is what my frozen embryo transfer cycle looks like for me…

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For most of my cycles we have done a “controlled” cycle. This means that my cycle leading up to the embryo transfer is controlled by hormone injections (estrogen and progesterone). In the past I was able to try a natural cycle, which relied on my body’s own ability to manage my menstrual cycle and thickening of the uterine lining where there was minimal medication use. That worked one time, then the next try, my ovaries weren’t cooperating and we had to start over. In my controlled cycle, I start with a baseline ultrasound on day 2 or 3 of menstruation to check that the uterine lining is thinning and that there are no cysts developing on my ovaries. From there I start on Delestrogen intramuscular injections twice a week for a little less than two weeks. This also involves blood draws to check my estrogen levels and any necessary dosage adjustments.   Another ultrasound is performed to check that the lining is thickening appropriately and to check that my ovaries are “quiet” and no cysts are developing. Then the progesterone injections start.   My husband has become a pro at giving me injections. We went through IVF twice and have now made it through eight embryo transfers, plus a couple cancelled cycles. So, he’s really got this down.

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Here’s the cool thing about the controlled cycle. The progesterone injections (which are daily) are required for 5 days and on the 6th day, the embryo transfer occurs. This gives me and the doctor flexibility in scheduling the transfer because we can start the progesterone on the right day based on our schedules (well, mostly his schedule). Since we want to make sure we get to have “our” doctor for the transfer, we can make sure to set up the injection schedule accordingly as well as avoid weekends or holidays.

Here’s the tough part about the controlled cycle. Once the progesterone injections start, there are daily intramuscular injections into my hip/glute area. After doing SO MANY of these cycles, it’s getting pretty painful and there’s a build up of scar tissue and/or “oil” (ethyl oleate) from the medication settling into my muscles. Delestrogen and progesterone are oil based medications. After two very painful injections leading up to our transfer on Friday, we did learn some new tips from the nurse for intramuscular injections:

  1. Use a cold pack on the area of injection for 10 minutes prior to injection
  2. Immediately following injection, massage the injection site
  3. Use warm compress on area of injection for 10 minutes after injection
  4. Do glute and hamstring stretches to help the ethyl oleate part of the medication move through the muscles. This is what tends to build up. Even though the progesterone will get absorbed, the oil base of the medication can build up (yuck).
  5. Make sure you understand the full surface area available for the injections. My husband had been using a smaller surface area which left us little real estate for repeated injections. After another session with a nurse, we discovered there was a bigger area we could use that was still safe.

The embryo transfer occurs on Day 6 after starting progesterone injections. The procedure itself is a simple one and just a bit uncomfortable. This has to be done on a full bladder to help visually guide the small catheter on the ultrasound through the cervix and into the uterus.   The ultrasound wand is pressed on the lower abdomen…yep, right over bladder territory so that’s the biggest challenge. After a couple of rounds of verifying our information and number of embryos to be transferred, we are then ready to go. It’s very exciting to watch the catheter on the ultrasound make it’s way into the uterus where you can see it as a very faint white line with slight movement. Then the embryo is released and it is slightly visibly as a white flash or very small blob on the ultrasound screen. After the embryologist checks the catheter to confirm it’s empty, we are then free from medical intervention and now it’s up to luck, a healthy embryo and lots of baby dust and embryo sticky vibes to implant and make this miracle happen.

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The embryologist brings us a photo of our little embryo and we get to feel hopeful and terrified for 10 days.

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We get some time alone with our little embaby photo and think positive thoughts. Since my husband is a huge Star Wars fan, there were a lot of good vibes with references to Jedi’s and the force awakening in my uterus. Maybe it will work.

Our HCG blood test will be on November 15. We’ve been let down so many times. Please, please, please, let this be the one.

The long, long wait

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I was first married at the age of 31. I married my high school “sweetheart” after we had been together for about 15 years or so. I remember in those early days of marriage and through most of our married relationship, we’d get a lot of questions about when we would have kids. Sometimes questions were direct, and sometimes they were subtle hints. Sometimes it was not subtle at all. I remember a family camping trip where the in-laws snuck into our tent leaving behind baby shower signs. I thought it was kind of cute and funny at the time, not knowing I would still be childless so many years later. In the beginning, these questions didn’t really bother me. It was definitely on my mind, but following high school, we had both been very driven with our college education and our careers. Once we were ready for marriage, there were travel plans to fulfill before babies. I wasn’t quite yet ready for kids, but I also knew that time was ticking and I didn’t want to end up regretting it later because I had “missed my chance.”   In that dual income, no kids relationship, we were fortunate to travel to South Africa, Zambia, Kenya, Tanzania, New Zealand, Amsterdam, France and Greece. It was truly incredible. I’m thankful for those opportunities and the memories of seeing lions, elephants, zebras and monkeys in the wild, glaciers in New Zealand, and sunsets in Santorini. When I turned 34, the clock was ticking loudly and I thought we better not waste any more time. But here’s where infertility hit without actually being an “infertile couple”. It just takes one person in the relationship to decide that kids were no longer in our future and bam…you can no longer make a baby. And that’s what happened. And during this time, I had my first experiences avoiding the comments…

”When are you going to have a baby?”

“You better not wait too long or you’ll miss your chance”

These questions and comments tore through my heart. I was now facing a decision of staying married with no kids or divorcing with the hope of still having them in the future. It was then, that I started realizing how hurtful these questions can be. I hadn’t even touched the surface of infertility at this point in my life, but this is when I realized, even hinting at parenthood could be a painful topic. I myself had been guilty of asking others these questions without any idea that it could be such a difficult topic.

I went through my 20’s avoiding pregnancy, and there I was in my early 30’s wanting a baby.   But now the person I had married was taking away an irreplaceable dream.   My high school sweetheart turned out not to be so sweet. This was the first time in my life I had to go through the grieving process of not being able to have a baby. By the age of 36, I was going through a divorce. I had no idea if I would marry again, have a baby, or if I would even have issues trying to get pregnant.   I remember thinking, “how could I possibly meet someone, fall in love, get engaged, get married and have a baby while I still actually have good eggs? Who knows how long this could take?”

A year and half went by between my separation, finalized divorce and magical eHarmony wink. And there he was. We went on one date and fell in love. So, that accelerated my imaginary timeline to baby quite a bit. Five months later we were engaged and a year and a half after meeting, we were married.   I was 38 when we got married. Let the baby making commence! Well…not so fast. We determined at the beginning of our relationship that we were one of those 1 in 8 couples. Three months after we were married we had our first round of IVF. In early January of 2013 I found out I was pregnant. Two days before my 39th birthday, I miscarried at 15 weeks. From there our story continued with a second miscarriage of twin girls and now I am moving toward our 8th embryo transfer at the age of 41. I’ve been married twice, yet I’ve never had the chance to try to conceive naturally.

I’m 41 years old and still trying to have a baby. But trying to conceive at 41, brings a lot of blessings in addition to the heartache. At 41, nobody asks anymore, “when are you going to have kids?” Nobody is on our case about having a baby.   Nobody says, “you better hurry up”. Baby showers become a rarity, since all of our friends already had one or two kids years ago. By the time 39 slipped away from me, baby making peer pressure that had previously existed, simply faded away.

Where that’s helpful when faced with infertility, it’s also scary because you start to realize that perhaps there’s no longer a reason for anyone to ask those questions. I worry that people may think we are crazy to try to have a baby so late in life.  Or may not even believe it is possible. While I see other women in their 20’s and 30’s going through the challenges and emotional pain of infertility, I realize in some ways I’m really lucky. When I was in my late 20’s and throughout my 30’s, all of my friends were having babies. But all this was happening at a time when I wasn’t faced with infertility and the pain associated with that journey. I went to a lot of baby showers and played a lot of baby shower games. I bought a lot of baby gifts. I could enjoy walking into a Baby Gap and buying some cute little outfits. I was able to be there with my friends not just for baby #1, but also for baby #2. And I loved all of it. I was able to be emotionally there for them and to watch their joy and feel their joy with them. I was able to be a friend and really care deeply about their move into mommyhood and was able to fall in love with all of their children. I have nieces and nephews that I love dearly, but I’m also an “Auntie” in several other households. I’m known as Aunt Cookie, Crispy, Auntie Chrissykins and Auntie Nasty. My husband even acquired the nickname, Uncle Cupcake this summer. I’ve been able to watch these kids grow up without the cloud of jealousy due to infertility. I didn’t have to back away from being a part of those growing families because I had just had a miscarriage or another failed embryo transfer. Those things didn’t start to happen until after my friends had their babies and for that, I am grateful.

I’m thankful that even though I’m doing this so late, those same friends are there to support me in my struggle. They are there to offer me words of encouragement when I can’t take the emotional pain anymore. They are understanding and allow me to follow my own path. They are compassionate. At this point in life, my good friends have had the life experiences to know what words to say or how to offer sympathy and kindness.  They have the strength to feel my grief with me.

While I never expected to wait so long to have kids of my own, I have had a journey that has changed my life. It has taught me how to survive deep emotional pain and grief and allowed me to support others in their journey as well. Through all the heartache, it has taught me that hope and faith still do exist. I haven’t given up yet. I’m still waiting for my baby…but oh, does it feel like the longest wait ever.

Photo by CJE – Serengeti National Park, Tanzania

Two Year Anniversary, Missing Jaxon

Jaxon 1 year flowers2 Jaxon 1 yr flowersToday is the two year anniversary of losing our baby Jaxon. I think the worst of the memories and heartache hit me last week and over the weekend. We spent all day Saturday planting flowers and it was a great way to distract myself and enjoy the time with my husband. It was good for us to both have some beautiful, bright colors to look at. And in the midst of all of our planting, we discovered that when our dog gets to spend that much time in the yard slightly unsupervised, she loves to dig. I gave her a treat and she spent so much time digging holes, burying it, unburying it, digging again…and again…and again. It was hysterical to watch because she would dig the shallow hole with her paws, and then bury the treat with her nose. Lots of pig-like snorting going on. A simple, sunny day in the yard was just what we needed.

That got me through Saturday, and then Sunday was just downhill all over again. Anniversaries of tragic events have a way of physically and emotionally consuming you from the inside out. I find that I have to face it head on, in order to move through the day in hopes of being stronger at the end of it. Today is a day we will honor his memory, but I’m just not sure how we want to do that yet. But first I will write.

After losing Jaxon, we had him cremated. As heartbreaking as it was to pick up his ashes, I had quite an amazing moment right in that instant. The man that we had worked with from the funeral home was named Alan. Which instantly gave me some peace, as that was my Dad’s name. Alan. And everyone called my Dad, Al. And we had named our son Jaxon Alan. We met Alan, the funeral director outside of a service that was just beginning. As my husband and I walked up to him, someone else was walking up to another man, saying “Hi Al.” I felt like I was surrounded by “Al” and I felt my Dad’s spirit washing over us at the moment we were handed our son’s ashes. I couldn’t bring myself to share this realization out loud to my husband until we had been sitting in the car for a while together. But as soon as I started to tell him, he said, “Yes, I know, I heard it too.”

My husband and I decided to spread Jaxon’s ashes in the ocean near our home. I was out for a walk one evening and decided to take a short detour off of my normal route. It was there I discovered a giant rock with the number 13 painted on it right by the water. And I realized this was the place we needed to spread his ashes. My husband has a birthday on the 13th. Jaxon was supposed to be born on September 13, 2013. The number 13 just jumped out at me. So this was the place.   It just felt right.

We decided to pick a song to play when we spread his ashes.   There was a song that repeatedly played on the radio that summer and although we had not yet shared this with each other, it turned out both of us thought of Jaxon every time we heard it. It was “Gone, Gone, Gone” by Phillip Phillips. My husband and I climbed up on the rocks and we waited for the best wave to come up and help take his ashes away. And it was all so perfectly timed with the water and the words in the song. So perfect in fact, that we felt our baby with us so strongly in that moment. After we let him go, we just stood there on the rocks holding each other.

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On the one year anniversary, we returned to our number 13 rock. My husband created a little bouquet of flowers from our yard and we placed them there. This is the photo you see with this post.

Today, 2 years later, we continue to love you, adore you and miss you…our baby Jaxon. Your heart forever in ours. Love, Mommy and Daddy.

Photos by CJE

Every beating of my heart

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I REMEMBER YOU

The world may never notice
If a rosebud doesn’t bloom:
Or even pause to wonder if the petals fall too soon.

But every life that ever forms,
Or ever comes to be
Touches the World in some small way
For all eternity.

The little ones we longed for
Were swiftly here and gone.
But the love that was then planted
Is a light that still shines on.

And though our arms are empty,
Our hearts know what to do
Every beating of my heart says
“I Remember You”

-Author unknown