My Story-Pregnancy Loss Journey

be brave

Today my story about Jaxon and my second trimester pregnancy loss is featured on pregnancylossjourney.com.

The timing seems fitting as today is my three year anniversary of starting my blog, 31chances.  On November 22, 2014, I was recovering from a D&C two days prior from my second loss where I had been pregnant with twin girls.  I remember sitting on the couch on Thanksgiving morning with the dog snuggled by me and I started writing.  There was so much grief and so many painful memories haunting me every day.  I had to find a place for all my pain to go and I let it come out through my finger tips onto a key board.  It’s not easy to share this story, but I’ve learned that by being brave and sharing my story, it makes others brave too.

Here’s my story – Pregnancy Loss at 15 weeks.
My baby Jaxon – I Remember you Everyday

Photo 1 sunrise waves

The trouble with pregnancy loss is that the grief and memories of it never really go away. It isn’t a short-lived, painful event that can be dismissed with the words “pregnancy loss” or miscarriage” with an assumption that recovery occurs when the event is over. It is the death of a baby and the sudden un-doing of hopes and dreams for that child. And it is the sudden realization that the love that came so quickly and grew so huge, now has nowhere to go in the confusion of heartache, grief and very likely depression. Sometimes the pain fades to a softer grief when we allow time and healing to take over. Sometimes the trauma gets stuck and comes back to visit on important dates, or when we are reminded by the weather, or a smell, or a word, or a name, or a place, or a walk through Target’s baby section, or a pregnancy announcement, or a baby shower invitation, or a song, or a butterfly, or maybe even in a moment of silence it all comes crashing down.

I remember all the time. I remember every day that I made a baby named Jaxon.

My husband and I went through our first round of IVF in December 2012, three months after we were married. We found out soon after the holidays that we were pregnant. It worked! Could we really be this lucky? Our first try? We were so grateful and a bit terrified. At 38 years old, I had waited long enough. I was finally going to be a Mom.

Every time we had an ultrasound and got to see the heartbeat we were just so in love. My favorite memory was an ultrasound at nearly 12 weeks where we got to see so much detail of our growing baby and his cute little movements. He was perfect.

Photo 2 ultrasound

At about 13 weeks we announced our pregnancy to everyone. EVERYONE. How quickly we spread the news and happiness to all those nearest and dearest to us.

photo 3 baby announcement

However, the joy of sharing the news and the relief of transitioning to my second trimester of pregnancy was so cruelly short-lived. I started having problems right after 13 weeks and by 15 weeks he was gone.  We lost Jaxon on March 23, 2013, two days before my 39th birthday.

About a week or two before losing Jaxon, it all started with sudden bleeding. Very, very heavy bleeding. It was terrifying and there I was alone in a bathroom stall at work and I could not understand what could possibly be happening. When I was able to get myself together, I called my husband and I called the doctor’s office. After going over all of my symptoms over the phone with the nurse, she thought it might be a subchorionic hematoma.   What the heck is that? What does this mean? Will my baby be ok? An ultrasound later that day revealed a healthy baby but we could also see the source of the bleeding and the nurse was right. It was a subchorionic hematoma. We could see a large dark spot in the ultrasound next to the placenta where the bleeding and clotting was taking place. I was told that this is not that uncommon in pregnancy and usually they heal on their own without impacting the pregnancy. I was sent home and instructed to take it easy and that it should heal in 2-3 weeks. For a couple of days, it seemed like my body was healing and the bleeding seemed to be slowing down. I was hopeful that I was on the mend. I remember very distinctly on that Wednesday, just a few days before this all came to a crashing end, that I had an appointment with my OB. It was great timing, as I really wanted the check-in and hopefully reassurance that the baby was going to be ok.  By the time I had the appointment I was experiencing a stronger, burning pain throughout my uterus but the doctor did not seem too concerned. She did not do an ultrasound but listened to the heartbeat and the sound, as usual, was lovely to hear. But that night, things took a turn for the worse. I can remember it so clearly because I was in so much pain. I’ve never been so incapacitated by pain before. I could not move and I could not get out of bed. I knew I could not walk. There was pain pulsing through my lower back and lower abdomen. It was terrifying. In hindsight, I should have gone to the hospital with that much pain. But having never been through anything like this, my instinct was to wait it out at home. I just couldn’t let myself think it was getting worse and if I went to a hospital I would have to admit to myself it was getting worse. But I did wait it out and the pain did subside. I thought I was in the clear. By Thursday night, I was experiencing pain again. Not as severe, but it was bad enough that I couldn’t sleep through it.

This lead up to some wonderful birthday plans for my 39th birthday. My husband and I had planned a weekend get-away for just the two of us at a Bed and Breakfast about 2 hours away from home. I felt well enough Friday to get packed and ready to go and we decided to go forward and enjoy our weekend. I figured as long as we were taking it easy and just relaxing, everything would be fine. We enjoyed our drive along the coast and made some fun stops along the way to check out some produce stands, and jam and candy stores and take some photos.

At the Bed and Breakfast, my husband surprised me with a birthday balloon and flower bouquet. We were off to a great start and I had a lot to look forward to on Saturday where we had plans for a massage and dinner at a fancy, ooh la la restaurant.

That Friday night we went out to dinner but then I noticed I was getting increasingly uncomfortable and the pain in my lower abdomen was building. We had to leave dinner early and head back to our B&B. I was in quite a bit of pain on and off throughout the night and by 6am, the pain was so out of control, I had to wake up my husband to take me to the hospital. I was scared and confused and the pain was so severe I could not stand up straight. I remember, it was so hard to move, to get dressed, to think. We were very lucky that the hospital was just a few minutes away from where we were staying and when we got to the emergency room, it was rather quiet and we were seen right away. However, we were seen by someone who was not an OB or pregnancy specialist and he was at the end of a very long night shift. He did not seem to be thinking too clearly at this point either, so that made our experience even more confusing. They gave me an IV of Tylenol. I told them it was not helping; I was still just in too much pain. They finally gave me morphine. The doctor wheeled over the ultrasound equipment and we quickly could see the baby. In that instant of seeing my baby moving and still alive, I was so relieved, but in a split second I was horrified and had to look away because he seemed to be frantically moving, like he was being pushed and bounced around almost violently. I will never forget that image. It haunts me to this day. The OB specialist was on-call and we had to wait for her to arrive. In the meantime I was asked all kinds of questions, had blood drawn and urine tested and we waited…and waited…and waited. Finally, several hours later the on-call OB arrived. And she was very sweet and helped calm my nerves. She checked my cervix and thankfully it had not dilated. The pain was under control due to the morphine. But what did this all mean? She did not have an exact answer but the diagnosis was “threatened miscarriage.” She encouraged us to go back to our B&B to rest, as recovery outside of a hospital setting is so much less stressful. We left with a prescription for pain medication and we were on our way. But I was exhausted and I knew this birthday weekend was over. No massage, no fancy dinner, no celebrating. I would be in bed until we felt like it was safe to drive home. And I did not yet have a feeling for when that would be. But I knew driving all the way back home was not safe at that moment. While my husband was out picking up the prescription, I could feel the pain coming back. I was there alone at the B&B in bed and scared again.

When I think back on this week and all the pain I was in, I know that at the end I was experiencing contractions. But it had been too early in the pregnancy to have gone to any Lamaze classes, or to have gained any understanding on what to expect during childbirth. I was lying in that bed realizing that the cycling pain must be contractions but I tried so hard not to believe it. I tried to will them to stop. I had to find a way to save my baby. I was there in that bed for so long hoping and wishing that it would pass and everything would be fine. But late that night the pain suddenly worsened and I had to go back to the hospital. My husband had fallen asleep so I had to wake him up which felt like an impossible task while in that state of pain. Once he was awake, I had to somehow get up again, but it was so hard to do. And I recall that in my husband’s state of panic, he kept saying things that seemed so irrational and unimportant to me. Saying things like “make sure to grab your jewelry” and “put your shoes on”. It even seemed unreasonable that I should have to get dressed. I literally needed someone to carry me. I could not physically function on my own. Nothing was important to me at that moment, other than to just get to the hospital. The pain washed over me so violently and I had no control. I vomited from the pain. Somehow my husband was able to get me out to the car. Those few minutes in the car were excruciating. My body did not want to be in a seated position. While in the car as we approached the hospital, I could actually feel my cervix opening. I knew I was going to lose the baby, but I could not bring myself to speak the words. Not even to warn my husband.

This time the emergency room was packed with people. While trying to get admitted, I was in so much pain, I could not speak. I was crying and moaning and had to point at the picture chart of how much pain I was in. As I pointed to the grimacing face #10 on the pain scale chart, I knew it was way beyond 10 but I had no words to explain. They put me in a wheelchair but they did not take us back to a room right away. So, I was stuck in that chair in the waiting room. I remember thinking how badly I needed to tell someone I couldn’t sit there. It was too painful, but I couldn’t speak. We had to sit there in the waiting room while I was crying and at this point screaming in pain. Everyone was staring at us. It was humiliating. I was terrified. My husband called my mom to let her know we were back in the hospital and all I could think of was, “get off the phone, I don’t want her to hear me in pain like this.” The contractions were so strong and I felt them switch from a cycle to a constant stream of excruciating torture. Finally, they took us to a private room and got me into a bed and undressed. They gave me morphine. We were there about 15 minutes. We were alone in the room. And I lost the baby. I don’t think my husband could have comprehended that losing the baby would actually happen. He was shocked and horrified when we did. While I felt everything, he saw everything. All I saw were the lights in the ceiling. I couldn’t allow myself to do anything other than to stare up. I didn’t want to see what had happened. But he did. He saw all the blood and he saw the baby. He ran to get help. But now it was over. He was so scared and he thought I was bleeding too much. He kept checking my pulse. I couldn’t feel anything anymore, other than continued contractions that would not stop but were a bit muted by the morphine. I couldn’t feel any emotions. I was alert and awake but everything went blank. Looking back at this moment, I couldn’t understand why we didn’t have any help. There was nobody there explaining to us what was happening. There was nobody there trying to help me breathe through the pain. There was nobody there to make sure we could put him in a baby blanket or put a little bitty hat on him. Nurses swiftly and briefly moved in and out of the room and all the while my baby was stuck with the placenta between my legs, again waiting for the on-call OB to arrive. My only thoughts were how I failed my baby and I couldn’t even hold him.

When the OB arrived, it turned out to be the same doctor from the morning. She was so sorry to see us there again. Finally, she was able to take the baby and clean him up. She gave him to us and I held him as long as I could. At the end of it all, with only a few ounces of perfection resting on my chest, I have never felt anything heavier sinking so deeply into my heart. The most precious, beautiful face I had ever seen. A cute little button nose and the littlest fingers and toes. And while my mind was still in shock in that horrific moment, I knew I had been given the biggest love I had ever known, and we named our son Jaxon Alan.

At some point later, a nurse came in to take Jaxon away. It was at that moment of him leaving my arms that I felt everything again. Every emotion. Deep grief, heartbreak, and gut-wrenching loss. This sweet little bundle was everything that mattered to me in this world and he was simply stripped away from me. This can’t be happening. My baby was gone. My mind could not accept this was happening and I screamed for him and reached my hands out for him. In that moment of horrific loss and realization that my baby was gone forever, I was forced to realize I had to have surgery. My body would not pass the placenta, so I had to have a D&C. I remember feeling relieved right before falling asleep in the operating room that the contractions and physical pain were finally put to an end.  But soon enough I was awake again and afraid to fall asleep in the hospital bed. I knew that every time I woke up during the night I would have to realize over and over again in the dark that my baby was gone. I would wake up and see the shape of my husband illuminated by hospital equipment, lying in the cot across from me and feel his heart breaking too. And in the morning when it was light again, I was so struck and saddened by the feeling of my shrunken belly. There are no words to describe that kind of emptiness. I still couldn’t quite comprehend or believe what had just happened. But there was no time for that…there were too many questions to answer…

What should we do with Jaxon?
What do you want to do with his remains?
Can you go to the bathroom?
Do you want to have him cremated?
What funeral home should we work with?
Do you want to eat something?
Are you thirsty?
Will someone from the funeral home be able to drive to the hospital to pick up the baby?
Are you ready to get dressed?
Do you want him cremated alone or with other babies?
Do you want to talk to the hospital chaplain?
Would you like to take this book about miscarriage home with you?

My husband had gathered all the information that morning while I was resting but we had to act quickly before a decision was made for us. How are you supposed to make these decisions when you are still in such a state of shock and confusion? We wanted our baby and we wanted to be able to have him cremated. But before leaving, my husband had to contact one of our local funeral homes to find out if they could actually drive to this hospital (2 hours away) and pick him up.  Thankfully they were able to do this for us.

The caretakers at the B&B packed up all of our belongings for us. My husband went back and picked up everything while I was still at the hospital. When he came back to get me, he let go of my birthday balloons and watched them float away as a gift to Jaxon.

The drive home was unbearable. How do I go home without my baby?

A few months later we were able to pick up his ashes. It was a heartbreaking yet calming experience. 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” as the sound of his name hit me from all directions. I felt my Dad’s spirit washing over us right 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 with tears in my eyes, 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.

photo 4 rock 13

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. Still to this day, I cry every time I hear that song. 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.

It’s been over four years since we lost Jaxon, and I remember him everyday. His life was brief, but my love for him will last forever.

Please join me on instagram for support through pregnancy loss @mamalookup

Adventure Day for the Embabies

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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.

 

 

Mama Look Up

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After years of struggling with infertility and recurrent pregnancy loss, I’ve been looking for a way to help others in their journey.  I am hoping that I can share my sympathy and compassion for those grieving through this process and the loss of pregnancies.  I decided to share my photography and words of encouragement and support in the form of cards.  My inspiration also comes from the heartache and grief that I experience every Mother’s Day, wishing for acknowledgement of my babies lost and a desire to not feel so alone in my experience of motherhood without my children here with me.  How do you get a Mother’s Day card for someone like me?  Well, I decided to make them so hopefully someone out there who really needs to be seen as a Mother and needs her baby to be remembered on Mother’s Day will get a card and feel less isolated and heartbroken.

I invite you to follow me on my new Instagram account for my Etsy shop (@mamalookup) and to browse through my cards on Etsy, Mama Look Up.  Please also check out the other tab on my blog, “Mama Look Up”.

How has Infertility Changed You? Listen Up! #NIAW

listen up

I was asked this question yesterday…

How has infertility changed you and how you live your life?

It stopped me in my tracks. It takes a brave person to ask that question and I think an even braver person to answer it. So, Listen up!

I thought the words would flow from me like a waterfall of knowledge on the topic of infertility and trying to conceive. I feel like an expert with years of experience and I’m practically a walking science experiment for how to make a baby. But instead of words, my heart jumped to the answer before my head could and I responded with tears. Infertility and the winding journey of trying to find my way to baby has been a life altering experience. It has changed me at my core. I view the creation of a baby as a miracle that always feels out of reach. I’ve been teased by this gift of life in my own belly only to have it stripped away from me. Three times. Infertility is not just about finding alternative ways to conceive or finding alternative paths to parenthood. It is a test of will, a test of relationships, a test of stamina and a test of faith. Infertility will school you on courage, bravery and resilience. Infertility strips you of financial freedom, emotional stability, physical strength, and the ability to freely enjoy the sight, sounds and touch of a baby that is not your own. Infertility creates anxiety, exhaustion, anger, blame, grief, fear and trauma. It stops you from attending baby showers, shopping for onesies for a friend, walking through the baby section of department store, or commenting on a pregnancy announcement on social media. And, infertility asks a lot of nagging, annoying, irritating, painful questions…

Do you mind carrying a high credit card debt? How many credit cards do you have? We’ll have to max those out.
Do you have any savings? I’ll need that too.
Would you like to take out a loan?
You don’t really need to drink wine do you?
Can you give up caffeine, just for me?
What do you think of these stirrups? They look comfy right?
Do you want to do IUI or skip it and go straight to IVF?
Do you have good veins? I’m going to need access to those. Think of me as your favorite vampire. It’s going to be that kind of relationship.
What do you think of needles? Do they scare you? You’re gonna have to get over that.
Can I put this ultrasound wand in your vagina? Can I do that another 100 times?
Do you mind adding biohazard containers to your master bedroom décor?
Isn’t pineapple core delicious?
I know you love to drown your sorrows in comfort food, but would you mind giving up gluten?
Would you please lose some weight?
Are you working out?
Would you like to see an ultrasound of your ovaries and uterine lining? I can’t find your left ovary. Where is your left ovary?
Oh, you are looking for a sperm donor and egg donor? What color hair, eyes, height, weight, education, hobbies, religious background and medical history do you want? I’m going to have to ask you about another 50 characteristics so please think this through.
Are you relaxed? You need to relax.
Do you want to meet the egg donor?
Have you considered adoption?
Would you like to work with a surrogate?
Have you met with your doctor, your cycle coordinator, your nurse, your therapist, your acupuncturist, your naturopath, your personal trainer, and your dietician?
Do you do yoga? C’mon, show me some downward dog.
Do you meditate? I think you should meditate.
Do you have a support group? You’re gonna need that too.
What was the date of your last period?
Do you have normal cycles? How many days are your cycles?
How much do you weigh? Have you gained weight recently?
Do you feel like giving up?
Do you hate me? It feels like you hate me.
Do you still love your husband?
Do you still want to have a baby?
Are you sure you want to have a baby? Cause this is just going to keep getting harder.
How many boxes of home pregnancy tests do you have in your bathroom cupboard?
Do you see a second line? I think I see a faint second line. Nope, just kidding, that was just a line of false hope.
Will you give up sugar for me? Pretty please?
Are you still having sex with your husband? How’s your sex life?
I know you just had a miscarriage but do you think you’ll try again? When will that be? The clocks ticking ya know.
OMG, is it your birthday? Are you getting too old for this?
You look bloated, are you bloated? Seriously, you look 4 months pregnant.
This is when you realize infertility can be a total asshole.

But there’s still more…Infertility has made me fear my own birthday, dread another Christmas, made me heartbroken over the photo of a child and an Easter bunny, and has left me lost in tears and depression on Mother’s Day. I have changed my career plans, given up on extravagant vacations, spent thousands of dollars on IVF, donor egg IVF, medications and embryo transfers, and have feared the loss of my marriage. I have said “No” to friends and family so many times because I didn’t have the energy for a fun activity on top of all of my doctor appointments, side effects from hormone injections or emotional exhaustion from another failed cycle or from a miscarriage. I have faced a grief so deep and so intense, I thought it would swallow me whole and never give me back my light. I have hung by my fingertips on the edge of the giving up cliff so many times and have nearly slipped away…but I have learned this…Someone always reaches down for my hands and pulls me back up.

And somehow, hope keeps me standing and love keeps me walking toward my dream. If you keep your eyes open and your heart beating, the journey through infertility happens to be filled with as many gifts as there are pitfalls.

Infertility has convinced me take care of my body and my mind. Infertility has persuaded me to live in the moment. Infertility has taught me to love more deeply, to be vulnerable, and to share my story without fear. Infertility has enabled me to enjoy the small, happy, fleeting moments. Infertility has given me the ability to see beauty everywhere I turn. Infertility has shown me how to have a much deeper compassion for others. Infertility has brought me the most amazing, supportive, loving friendships. Infertility lead me to pregnancy three times and while this left me with a total of five angel babies, it has given me a love so profound that in every challenge and every painful moment, I have this beautiful love that lives within my soul. Infertility has been my teacher to live a full life, to appreciate everything that I have and to never take the miracle of pregnancy for granted. Infertility has changed my life, but made me realize it is not my life. Infertility has altered me, but it has not taken me. Because of infertility, I am beautiful, I am resilient, I am more loving, I am courageous and I am more Me.

Love is an Ocean and other Pretty Things


It hasn’t been an easy couple of months.  My embryo transfer cycle brought a lot of traumatic  memories to the surface and created anxiety at a much higher level than I expected. My husband was out of town quite a bit which meant I had to do many of my IM injections on my own.  My nurse drew a target on my booty to help me hit the right spot.  (Pardon the messy room in the photo)


Ultimately, this cycle ended in bad news…a negative pregnancy test.  I couldn’t bring myself to write about it until now and it took me a couple weeks to talk to my doctor.  Sadly, this bad news lead right into the four year anniversary of losing Jaxon (our first loss at 15 weeks) and I struggled emotionally right up to that date (March 23).  I took a walk that day where I discovered the sign above, “love is an ocean”.  Whoever placed it here has no idea how much love is here.  This is where we spread Jaxon’s ashes.  I took the photo two days later on my birthday.

My husband gave me this necklace for my birthday.  He said it represents our home by the ocean but more importantly is a symbol for Jaxon at the center where my birthstone in aquamarine is placed.  That was the first time I thought about sharing my birthstone with Jaxon and it gave me a sense of peace.  This necklace brought a lot of love to me on my birthday.  “Love is an ocean” is what I now carry around my neck and close to my heart.


I wanted to be around something beautiful for my birthday.  My husband and I went with some friends to a botanical garden.  Tulips ruled the land and the colors painted our day, leaving everyone with smiles…and a peacock to bid us farewell.  

Out of the Darkness, the Light of an Angel

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There have now been many times in my life that I reflect on as my darkest hour.  Not just one.  Many.  Many, many hours of darkness.  Every pregnancy loss, every failed embryo transfer, the death of a loved one.  My third pregnancy loss left me feeling empty and hopeless like I was living in a blank space for a while.  Yet somehow as I crawl or walk or fall down or stumble through the periods of grief, trauma and pain that turn life colorless and dark, there is someone there reaching out a hand and bringing the light back.  I’ve worked very hard since my third pregnancy loss to make my world colorful and bright again.  But it wouldn’t be the same beautiful place without the gifts of light coming to me from my friends, my family and my husband.  This experience with infertility and recurrent pregnancy loss has created new relationships.  Bonds created easily through similar experiences of loss and struggles to make a baby.  The online support group I joined (that I now consider a miraculous discovery) has brought some amazing women into my life.  One of whom reached out to me after my last miscarriage and sent me an open invitation to her home…whenever I was ready…whenever I needed to get away…whenever I just needed some girl time and a break from my life.  It took me about 4 months to take her up on that offer.

A couple weeks ago I flew to LA and there she was – my new friend, my sister in this journey, an open heart and an open hand.  A woman full of words of hope and support and encouragement.  A woman full of hugs that would carry me through another embryo transfer cycle and another set of holidays without a baby in my arms.  A woman who knew my pain and shared in it so deeply, her eyes would tear up when she talked to me about what I had been through.  A woman full of so much generosity and sincerity, she warmed my heart and re-filled my soul with her kindness and optimism.

There she was – The light in the darkness – An angel reaching out to me and her name is Carolina.

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moon-angel

I captured this photo at the beginning of this year.  Thinking I was just trying to capture the moon, I somehow ended up with the image of an Angel.  The moon is her heart.  I can see her wings.  The light of our babies’ souls being held in her hands, preparing them to be angels too.

Everyone wants to be the sun to lighten up someone’s life,

but why not be the moon,

to brighten in the darkest hour.

A Blessing for Mamas

roses

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

Do you have a question? #startasking

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This week is National Infertility Awareness Week #NIAW sponsored by Resolve.org.

I started blogging in November of 2014 as a way to start healing from the loss of my second pregnancy.  Now that I’m immersed in a social media community of those also struggling with infertility as well as recurrent pregnancy loss, it’s great to see all the support out there through blogs, private facebook groups and instagram, among many others.  It’s amazing to me that we are able to connect with each other through common ground, even though we’ve never met in person.  It’s incredibly powerful to read a comment on my blog saying that my writing brought them to tears because they’ve been through it too (thank you so much for that and for the courage to share your heartbreak).  And I’ve read other blogs where every word could have been my own because I’ve been walking the same journey.

This week is a great opportunity for us to come together to share our stories, help each other realize we are not alone in our heartbreak and our struggles and to raise awareness in our communities.  It’s also an opportunity to educate those around us that do not understand what we face through infertility and how we can be better supported.  The theme for NIAW this year is #startasking.

I have several new followers and some that have stuck with me for quite some time now.  To support the theme this year of #startasking, I thought instead of asking my own questions, I’d leave this open to you.  Do you have a question?  I now have nearly 4 years of experience directly dealing with infertility and trying to conceive…so feel free to ask me a question.

If you leave a question for me in the comments, I will collect all questions and answer them to the best of my ability on an upcoming blog post.  My answers will be based on my own personal experience (not medical advice) and I can respond to the following topics:

  • IVF
  • Embryo Transfer (fresh and frozen) and personal medical protocol (injections)
  • Donor egg IVF
  • Sperm donation
  • Early pregnancy following embryo transfer
  • Miscarriage, pregnancy loss
  • D&C procedure due to pregnancy loss
  • Endometrial biopsy (AKA “scratch test”) to improve stickiness of lining for embryo attachment
  • Grief, loss and recovery (surviving miscarriage, surviving negative pregnancy test after embryo transfers)
  • helping a friend through infertility and/or miscarriage

Are you looking for more connections to help you through your journey?  My favorite place to be is the private facebook group through www.missconceptioncoach.com.  Many of us are already connected here, but if you are new to this journey, it’s a great place to start.  You can request to become part of the group through her website.  I’ve also found instagram to be a great source of connection for infertility and ttc.  Here are some people that I follow on instagram:

  • howtobuyababy
  • dont_talk_about_the_baby
  • thescientificstork
  • ttcgreetingcards
  • caroline_induetime
  • thenilookupatthesky
  • lifeabundant_jw
  • missconceptioncoach
  • waitingforbabybird

As of this week, I’ve decided to link my own instagram to this blog, so I will be posting more on this topic and relating it to my blog on instagram (up until now, it’s mostly pictures of my dog and she’ll continue to make appearances).  You can follow me at chrissyj_31chances

For additional support and resources, feel free to check out my resources tab on my website.  I continue to add resources there as I learn about them. You can also view other blogs that I follow on my website if you are trying to find others to connect with in the blogging community regarding infertility and pregnancy loss.

Keep asking questions, reach out for support, connect with others.  Please post your questions in the comments!

 

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

 

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