Adventure Day for the Embabies

IMG_1126

Yesterday will be remembered as one of the most stressful days of my life. We transported our embryos to our new fertility clinic. We had our future babies’ lives in our hands and I was terrified of anything going wrong. We had so much driving to do and we needed all of our angels on our side protecting us on the road and getting those embabies safely from one location to another. It never left my mind that we were carrying our future in that tank. Everything we’d put our heart, soul, tears, hopes, dreams…and every last dollar was in that tank.

February 2017 was our last embryo transfer which was unsuccessful and from there I couldn’t move forward to try again…I got stuck in exhaustion and grief. I focused my energy at work and making a job change and also prioritized my life around health and wellness. I ended up taking a 7-week sabbatical from work (more about that in another post as there was a lot of fun stuff to report) and spent a lot of time exercising, meal planning and cooking. Weight loss was my first step to even trying to do another FET and I managed to lose 20 pounds with the help of Whole 30 and doing HIIT workouts and many, many hours of dog walks.   The dog had a great summer!

By August I started thinking about making a plan to try again. I reached out to my clinic to address our contract, which had ended and I was hoping for a new agreement or one last extension or some kind of negotiation…but that was not in the cards. We had already extended it several times and we finally hit the end of it. This meant we were back to spending out of pocket (queue the panic). I started thinking about setting up a consultation with my doctor and I just couldn’t do it. The realization that we were back to out of pocket spending broke me down and I was once again an emotional wreck. The thought of walking back into the clinic where I had seen our second and third pregnancies suddenly end with no heartbeats and received the news of negative pregnancy test results after 7 other FETs, gave me so much anxiety, I just couldn’t do it. I knew going back there was no longer an option for me. There was just too much trauma and loss associated with that place.

After a week of thinking it over, I knew what was next. We’d go to the new clinic we had sought out for second opinions last summer on our recurrent pregnancy losses. And that’s what brought us to our little adventure of transporting our embryos across the bay area.

This journey took 7 hours of driving. Now, there is the option of hiring a company to do this kind of work…but wow is it expensive. Not only did I want to save as much money as possible, but I couldn’t bear the thought of someone else being responsible for my embryos. My husband and I both took the day off of work and drove an hour and an half to the tank rental company. Here’s how the tank works…there’s liquid nitrogen in the tank and a tank lid that floats on top to let the gases out. If the tank were to fall over and the liquid nitrogen were to leak out, you’d lose everything. (queue clutching the tank with white knuckled death grip once we had our embryos). We then drove north about an hour and a half to pick up our embryos. I ended up running into my doctor there, we gave each other a big hug and I cried as he wished us the best and said he was thinking of us and I tried thanking him through my tears before walking out of there one last time. We had a picnic lunch in the car with the tank safely between my legs, then drove another hour or so to our new clinic. I was so relieved to make it there safely. Our little embryos had their first big outdoor adventure! We then had about an hour and a half drive home and we made it safe and sound.

 

Next steps…I did a mock cycle over the past few weeks and had an endometrial biopsy on Wednesday to do the ERA (decided to go for it considering the number of failures we’ve had). We’ll be moving into an FET cycle soon as we anticipate the results from that assay.

 

 

The Tire Swing

 

tire swing

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.

tree path

A Journey of Love, Heartbeats and Hope

Chrissy_Mike-78

Our Journey continues through week 7 of our pregnancy.  We had our first ultrasound on Wednesday where I nearly had a panic attack and started crying while we waited for the doctor to enter the exam room.  My last ultrasound in 2014 left me with the indelible image in my mind of two babies with no heartbeat.  I was terrified that I wouldn’t get to see what I so badly hoped for in this ultrasound.  The agony continued as it took a while to find the itty bitty blueberry sized being in my uterus.  And finally, we found something and saw a very small, faint, flashing light.  My doctor struggled to get a measurement of the heartbeat and we were not able to hear it.  I was worried, but also relieved to see life.  As he continued to try to get a clearer image, he suddenly said, “oh, there’s another baby.” (AKA Baby B).  Now, let’s allow that to sink in.  There’s a second baby.

Baby B had a strong heartbeat (which we could hear) and measured well for 7 weeks (7 weeks 1 day and 133 BPMs), while Baby A measured a bit smaller (6 weeks 6 days) and he was concerned about the weaker heartbeat.  We were left with an uncertainty about Baby A and were told to be prepared that we may lose Baby A.  If that happens, Baby B should still be fine, however that’s not easy to hear.  I feel responsible for both of them and we just can’t say anymore goodbyes.  Before leaving the appointment, my Dr said to me, “Do you know what I’ve been thinking about the past few weeks?  That photo you showed me when we did the embryo transfer.”  He gave me a hug before leaving the room.

We walked away from that appointment trying to feel happy… afterall, I really am pregnant! It’s still hard to believe. But we could not let go of our looming worry about Baby A. As we drove away, my husband said, “Is this every going to get easy? Do we ever get to stop worrying?  Why isn’t this ever easy for us?  I want to just be happy, but now we are both worried again!”   He’s right, it’s not easy. We’ve had a lot stripped away from us over the past few years and a carefree, happy go lucky attitude about pregnancy does not exist for us.  I know we so badly want to make it to a point where we can really enjoy this pregnancy and not be afraid to see a future with a baby or babies in our arms by next November.

We are encouraging our little babies every day to keep growing and cheering on Baby A.  I keep thinking over and over in my head, “C’mon Baby A, you can do it!” Or as someone in my support group said, “Tighten up Baby A!”  This morning my husband gave the babies a little pep talk too before leaving for work.

Feel free to send some cheers our way!

-Photo by Mary Bernsen

Walking Toward Hopefulness

I remember how excited I was at every ultrasound of my first pregnancy. I couldn’t wait to see him move around, such a cute little thing. My mind was not consumed by thoughts of fearing a stopped heart, or possible abnormalities or anything that would get in the way of a happy ending with a baby in my arms. In my second pregnancy I was cautiously optimistic but also relied on my faith in life, and statistics and the universe, that I would not suffer trauma and loss two pregnancies in a row. I did my time in grieftown. I paid my dues in depression and tears. But to my complete shock, it didn’t matter how much I had already suffered. I was there suffering again. Sadly, I learned the hard way. The very hard, painful, devastating way, that pregnancy doesn’t necessarily mean you get to have a baby.

But here I am now with pregnancy number three. I’m trying to wade through recurring grief and memories that have been triggered while re-experiencing the first trimester. With each heavy step through (and against) fear, I’m walking closer to hopefulness. I’m trying to remind myself that I can enjoy this pregnancy one day at a time. I’m doing everything in my power to keep my baby’s heartbeat strong. I’m fighting the scary thoughts away and looking at this as a new and different pregnancy.

On Friday, I celebrated my 42nd birthday. It’s the first time I’ve been pregnant on my birthday and what an amazing gift! While it made me very happy to celebrate this new little life with me, it wasn’t easy to stop the thoughts of my first loss which happened two days before my 39th birthday. But I also realized that my baby now has three angels watching over him or her. All that pain and loss has left us with a lot of love from these sweet little souls. I was able to really enjoy the day and the entire weekend looking in the forward direction, enjoying the sun and spring flowers which allowed me to push away the darkness from the past.

My first ultrasound is on Wednesday. I’m excited, nervous, and hopeful. This will feel real when I can see a heartbeat.

Birthday walk

A Birthday walk in the sun!

Be our Rainbow Baby, baby

HCG results 0309 031116

I crumbled into a heap of tears when I saw the number.

282.

Compared to my two previous pregnancies, this is my highest HCG number.  We were thrilled, relieved, happy and terrified.  The first big hurdle of many to come.  Now, to calm my anxieties for the second HCG test 48 hours later.  The number is supposed to at least double and that did not happen with my other two pregnancies, resulting in early ultrasounds, extra blood tests and a lot of extra worry.  Anxiously waiting one more dreaded hour for the results to come through the lab and there it was.

636.

In that instant the weight and misery of infertility and pregnancy loss lifted off of me, leaving me with happiness.  In that moment the stress on our marriage dissipated and there we were, sitting together as a happy husband and wife with a lot of hope.

So, here we go.  Our first ultrasound will be at 7 weeks.  Our due date is November 16.  Please baby, hang in there.  Be our rainbow baby.  We love you already.

One Little White Light

It seems that at this point I should have lost count, but I can’t because I know how many I have lost.   I try to let the numbers and dates stay blurry, but I know how old my first baby should be. He should be 2 and a half. I purposely try not to remember the due date of the twins. But I can still see their heartbeats. There are six other embryos that disappeared somewhere in between the transfer to my body and the pregnancy test. On Monday, I had my ninth embryo transfer. Two more embryos.

On Monday morning before the transfer, I went for a walk with my dog. I had a choice to go left or right on the trail and decided to go right. We ended up near a beach where she loves to play catch but we didn’t have time for that…but she pulled me out to the beach anyway, looking back at me expectantly with a huge wide smile and tongue hanging out. The beach was empty except for the stroller in this photo. For a second I thought, well maybe my baby is right there waiting for me! Well, no that wasn’t the case, but I tried to view this as a hopeful moment. Somehow, maybe this is a sign. My babies that are watching over me and the baby that is still to be is here with me in this moment. A moment to give me courage to try again. To wait those nine hopeful, yet agonizing days again waiting for the pregnancy test.

stroller on the beach

 

The sun was blinding me, but I snapped a photo anyway, not quite sure what I would end up with. I wanted to be reminded of the stroller that was in my path. As I faced the stroller and the rock wall where we had once stood to spread our baby Jaxon’s ashes, I could feel them all with me.   A little white light ended up in the photo and I choose to see the souls that I love so much in that light.

One little white light, Two embryos, Nine days to wait.  Trying one more time.

2 embryos

I’m waiting for my Yang

yin yang image

Less then a week leading up to my planned embryo transfer (last Saturday), I somehow managed to injure myself. Our house has been a chaotic mess for the past two months due to a kitchen renovation and I went on a mad cleaning spree. Apparently I bent over a few too many times as I felt a strong muscular ache start to build and spread from my lower back through my hamstring. But no biggy, I just worked hard. It’s just sore muscles. Just as I was about to sit down and relax after a day of cleaning, our dog started acting strange. She was frantically pacing and panting and drooling through the house. I rushed her to the vet right as they were closing up for the day. Nothing life threatening and her symptoms were inconclusive so we were sent home. Within a half hour after getting home she started vomiting. Repeatedly. Again, I was bending over, helping her and trying to take care of her. After two and a half hours of this, we rushed ourselves into stop and go Saturday night beach traffic and made our way to the emergency vet hospital with her gagging in the back seat for 45 minutes (our poor baby). We spent 3 hours there trying to figure out what was wrong and to treat her. Thankfully after their care for her, she started to improve and over the next couple of days she was on the road to recovery. But it turns out that all that repeated lower back strain I put myself through was reacting (unbeknownst to me) with a clamp down on a nerve like the strength of a zombie biting into it’s first victim. I woke up at 1am Monday morning in torturous pain running down my left leg. All the muscles in my glute and hamstring were as tight as steel rods and on fire. I’ve never had such horrible cramping and muscle pain in my life.   I had no idea what I was in for, but it turned out this pain did not let up and in fact got worse spreading through my calf and foot the next day. I could barely move. It was too painful for a long ride to a doctor’s office so my first thought was massage. It would just be a ten minute drive to a massage versus 30-40 minutes to the doctor. I had to drive myself as my husband had to go to work and I cried in pain all the way there. The massage provided a lot of relief for the 90 minutes I was there, but it quickly returned and I cried in agony all the way home. After a couple of days, I was able to get to my chiropractor (also near by) where he was rather concerned it was a pinched nerve (as half my left foot was numb and I did not have much control of my foot). As the week progressed, I got up the bravery and desperation to take the longer car rides to acupuncture and doctor appointments. This required some creativity with the husband and friends to coordinate with me since I couldn’t drive. But thanks to all of them, I eventually made it to the acupuncturist and the doctor. Every day, I kept thinking, this has got to get better, I have my embryo transfer on Friday! But I knew in my heart that my body was under too much stress and too much pain and on Thursday I talked to my doctor and we decided to cancel. I was so discouraged, disappointed and depressed. Of course, this cycle can be repeated but there had been so much work leading up to this point and now it was gone again. The injections, the workouts, the 3 day cleanse I did to make me feel healthier, the blood tests, the ultrasounds, the timed acupuncture appointments with my cycle…the list goes on and on. Plus the fact that this was my first cycle after taking a much needed break for several months. And now, just a big, fat, UGH. The embryos and I will have to wait for a later date.

I went to my acupuncturist for help with the pain and told her I had to cancel the embryo transfer. She said she was so sorry for my bad luck but not to worry. With bad luck, comes good luck. The Yin and the Yang have to balance out. My good luck would be coming.

After 4 days of absolute hell, I was finally in a doctor’s office. It was looking like sciatica and hopefully not as severe as a herniated disc. That night I started on a couple of different medications and the pain started to let up and I was finally able to sleep for the first night in 4 days. By Monday I was able to drive but still in discomfort. I spent this week, working a few hours in the office and a few hours at home each day. Unfortunately the medication I’m on during the day has been making me feel very sick and I’m struggling through every day in a Prednisone-induced stupor full of nausea, hot flashes, dizziness and overall uckyness and ickyness. Next week I’ll start physical therapy and my continued plight to find harmony between my Yin and my Yang.   There is no shadow without light. I want my Yang back and I want it in the form of a baby.

The long, long wait

Africa October 2007 (3034)

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

Gone, Gone, Gone and Back at it Again

out at the sea

In March, I experienced yet another failed embryo transfer cycle. It had been our 7th attempt and physically and emotionally, I was just done. Done. My heart couldn’t take it anymore.   We made the decision to take a three month break. I had all of April, May and June to stop thinking about it, to stop scheduling my life around doctor appointments and injections and to just be me for three whole months. I added creativity into my life and got back to playing around with photography. I joined a new gym and kept up with regular workouts. I started going to acupuncture. My husband and I went on vacation and had a fabulous time visiting friends. I got involved in an online support group for people like me and it gave me courage to stick to our plan of coming back after three months.

Today is the start of a new two-cycle process, which will lead to our 8th embryo transfer.   I found myself having doubts and questioning if I should go through this again. I wasn’t sure if I was ready to say goodbye to my “three month break” yet. I remember thinking on my 3rd try, that maybe it was lucky, because “third time’s a charm” right? But now, going on to number 8? How do I get my head back into this with any optimism after all of my heartache and disappointment? My mind was swirling with doubt and apprehension as I drove to my doctor appointment today. Can I really do this again? As I was driving and trying to convince myself that I was ready for all this, a song came on the radio that guided my doubts to a screeching halt. The message I was waiting for was right there for me…

In previous posts, I’ve talked about our baby, Jaxon. I talked about saying goodbye and spreading his ashes in the ocean.   The song that we played while saying goodbye and looking out at the sea was, “Gone, Gone, Gone” by Phillip Phillips. This is the song that started to play on the radio on my way to the doctor today. And somehow in that moment, my baby’s soul was with me and I knew this couldn’t yet be the end. I had to go keep going and begin again, even though it will be our 8th beginning. Here we are back at it again, with my heart beating for you.

“Like a drum my heart never stops beating for you.

And long after you’re gone, gone, gone.

I’ll love you long after you’re gone, gone, gone.”

Photo by CJE

Little Bunny Foo Foo

Kaylee bunny FullSizeRender (1)

My dog has become so tolerant with these silly holiday photo shoots so of course I had to dress her up in bunny ears. She was so cute and as long as I keep the treats coming, she’ll sit still for some photos. While playing around with her and taking photos, I kept hearing this song in my head that my older sister used to sing to me when I was little.

Little bunny Foo Foo

Went hopping through the forest

Scooping up the field mice

And bopping them on the head

Down came the Good Fairy, and she said

“Little bunny Foo Foo

I don’t want to see you

Scooping up the field mice

And bopping them on the head.”

So many years have gone by and I can still hear her voice singing this to me in our parent’s kitchen.

Now, every time I look at these photos of my dog, this Bunny Foo Foo song pops into my head. A great reminder about the parts of my life that are right in front of me that make me smile and the wonderful people (and dog) that are in my life that I love so much.

I’m creating my own Spring Break from the repeated disappointment of failed embryo transfer cycles. With the last failed attempt in March, just days before the two year anniversary of losing my first baby, I knew it was time to stop this madness. At least for a while. I’m doing some spring cleaning of my mind and body and trying to forget about trying to make a baby. I joined a new gym and started new workouts. Without all the extra doctor appointments, I had time to fit in something new… Acupuncture. I’m really loving it. What a great way to address the stress that I’ve been through physically and mentally these past two years. It has been such a calming experience and I highly recommend it!  I’m exploring my creative side and working on opening an Etsy shop with my photographs.  I plan to spend these next three to four months recovering from the ups and downs of this very difficult process and hopefully get back to feeling “normal.”

Enjoy these photos of my Little Bunny Foo Foo. I hope she makes you smile too.

Photos by CJE