In the Clouds

sunset-photo

In the clouds I dream
of you
The happiest place
for one who

Is warmed by
the light of your beautiful soul
Eternal love
our hearts aglow

From the earth
so far away
The wind brings you near
as trees sway

I breathe in deep
and remember you
From a small bump
and a lifetime too

In a matter of weeks
I saw it all
From first steps
to big and tall

The sun peeks ‘round
your home up high
I feel you there
one with the sky

I lie here watching
looking up
Being brave,
tearing up

But I will wait
And love you so
Until it’s time
for me to go

Away with you
and then you’ll know
Your mother’s love
Was infinite, so…

In the clouds you
are with me
The happiest place
I can think to be

 

Photo and poetry by CJE

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Something Different

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Since April, I have spent the remainder of the year recovering from another pregnancy loss, exploring the reason for my losses with multiple doctors, and trying to get back to a place where I can do this again.  Being on an extended break from embryo transfers brings back openings to my life where I can do some of the things I have had to put on hold, over and over again.  But the many months I’ve had to wait terrifies me too.  If I wait too long, I worry, that maybe I’ll give up completely.

Here I am, still waiting.  So, what do I write about now?  I’m thinking something different.

In my extended break from the vicious cycle of infertility, pregnancy and loss, I had the opportunity to participate in something amazing.  If you’ve been following my blog, you may have noticed I enjoy photography as a hobby.  Photography brings me a lot of joy and it’s a skill always in development.  This month, I attended Firefly Institute, a photography camp for women.   This was an experience of a lifetime.  Surrounded by fifty women, all with a love of photography, and the ability to see beauty in the little things.  Instant friendships formed and inspiring images were created.  I felt loved and appreciated just by being present and being me.  We each got to take five classes and I gravitated towards classes on composition, iphone photography, social media and writing and photography.

Here’s my something different for my blog today.  In the writing and photography class, one of the prompts was to pick a photograph from childhood and write to my younger self.

I didn’t want to write about giving advice or how to prepare for what is to come.  I wanted to write about our lives in parallel, grateful and fortunate and loved and a knowing from an early age that “I’ve got this.”  I was inspired by this set of images feeding animals with my sister, parents and grandparents.

To My Younger Self…

You’ve got it girl—
happiness
love
family
the best family
sports
art
friends
cute pony tails
a sister
who envies your pink room
She loves you but will always hold that against you (‘cause her room was yellow)
And she thinks you are perfect
But we know we aren’t
You’ve got your shit together
Just don’t say shit to Grandma
Oh, you are only two and it’s too late
Maybe you should apologize
But not for your beautiful life

Here are a few images from my stay at Firefly Institute (located at Westerbeke Ranch, Sonoma, CA)

 

Photos by CJE

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.

tree path

A Journey of Love, Heartbeats and Hope

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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

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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

#GivingTuesday: Resolve to Give Hope

Hope photo

The Resolve.org #GivingTuesday topic for December is “Give Hope”

Hope sometimes feels like this magical thing that we hold on to so tightly and are so afraid to lose. It can make us smile when everything else we’ve experienced is trying to tell us it shouldn’t actually exist. It gives us power to move forward when the weight of trauma would otherwise be too heavy to allow us to take a step. Sometimes it’s stolen by grief and flies so far away that it becomes invisible in the clouds. Sometimes repeated failures and disappointments hammer our hope so deeply into the ground that it disappears into the earth beneath us. When we fight like hell to get hope back again, that tiny little spark can allow us to believe in our dreams that had fallen away. And yes, we fight for it. We don’t give up.

Hope is what allowed me to try to get pregnant again after my first miscarriage. Hope pushed me forward to try to get pregnant again after my second miscarriage.

Hope lead me to my eighth embryo transfer.   But it failed. I still do not have a baby in my arms. Hope disappeared again but then miraculously returned. I’m not sure why, but I am relieved it is here. Hope is my strength.

How do we get hope back when it goes missing? For me, I let it go away. I grieve, I recover, I love my babies that were lost and I let others have hope for me when I can’t.   But when my hope is gone, I’m somehow still able to give it to others. Then, slowly, it comes back to me.

Thinking about hope, reminds me of something I wrote in this blog a couple of weeks after my second miscarriage. I was overwhelmed with grief and couldn’t imagine taking a step forward but I let someone else have hope for me. I heard my husband say this to me:

While you feel you have lost hope,

It is not gone.

I am holding it for you.

While you search for faith,

I will keep mine close.

I will wait for you.

While you see darkness

I can see a baby in your arms.

I will save this dream until yours is no longer broken.

What do you do to hold on to hope for your own dreams? When it is taken from you, how do you get it back? My wish for you is that if you cannot find it, it will find you.

Photo by CJE

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.

Changing topics today…. Mental Health: It Takes one Person to Change a Mind

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While I’ve continued to recover from a back injury and put TTC on hold, I’ve been able to focus a bit more attention on another topic that is very meaningful to my family and me. My sister writes a blog, “Out of A Great Need” which shares her compassionate journey as a care taker for a loved one living with a mental illness. While this journey can be filled with so much despair, fear and darkness, my sister’s approach is full of light, hope, education, advocacy, breaking down stigma, support, art, creativity, devotion, mindfulness, love and a “never give up” attitude.   Instead of succumbing to negativity or lack of knowledge that has crossed her path, or our society’s slowly evolving view of mental illness, she routinely rises above and educates others to have a greater understanding of these diseases of the brain.

With Halloween approaching, she recently became aware of several costumes on many, many Halloween and costume websites that sell the following:

Children’s Gone Mental Costume (Some websites have changed the name due to feedback, Spirit Halloween has removed it from inventory due to feedback!)

Adult’s Cell Block Psycho Costume

This is an example of how far behind we are as a society to break down the stigma of mental illness. These costumes make light of a disease. These costumes hurt and discourage those suffering and those who care for them.

Today, she wrote a heartfelt post titled, “Why…Why this?” about why she’s talking to all of these companies to remove these costumes from inventory.  I encourage you to read her post here and below is a quote from today’s post:

When I stumbled across the Gone Mental children’s costume, I was deeply saddened.  This costume (and adult costumes like it) dishonors the dedication of those who provide professional care for our loved ones, it dishonors our families, our friends, it dishonors our children’s suffering and recovery.  It dishonors our children’s lives lost along the way.  It encourages fear, isolation and hopelessness.  It discourages our children from seeking the help they so deserve.

My sister started an effort with these Halloween costumes to make a difference and to break down stigma. She started an effort to fight for those suffering and to honor those lost along the way. And it’s working. Spirit Halloween removed the Gone Mental costume from inventory. I’ve joined in this effort by writing letters to all the companies she has listed in her blog posts and writing on each company’s Facebook pages. I’ve also posted reviews of these costumes directly on some of their websites.  Many mental health advocacy groups have joined her. Other bloggers have joined her. Friends and family have joined her. The author of the book, “The Noonday Demon”, Andrew Solomon is showing his support of her efforts through Facebook and has shared her recent blog post.

She is working hard to educate others to bring awareness to these illnesses and I was touched by her words on another recent blog post, titled, “And Now you Know“:

The more we speak from our hearts…in letters…emails…product reviews…the more we share our truth…the less likely we’ll have to tackle issues such as these mental patient costumes in the future.

Contacting these companies is simply a key to unlocking that “something greater”…not just for ourselves…but for generations to come.

Hopefully, by speaking from our hearts, people will start to listen.  When they shop for Halloween costumes, they might pause…remember…and choose another costume that does not cause such suffering.

And maybe…just maybe…they will also remember our voices when they hear a cruel joke or witness alienation or bullying and say, “That’s enough.  We know better now.”

If this topic peaks your interest, I ask for your continued awareness on this topic. Halloween costumes are one piece of negative stigma toward mental illness. Be aware of these costumes, be aware of people making comments that show lack of understanding or compassion towards those suffering. Be compassionate towards those suffering. If you are struggling, please don’t be afraid to ask for help.

For more information on my sister’s efforts, you can visit this blog post,

https://outofagreatneed.wordpress.com/2015/09/13/stay-the-course/

Photo by CJE