October: Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month

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I’ve been wanting to participate somehow in “Pregnancy Loss and Awareness Month” on my blog but the reminders of it all are putting me at a loss for words.  Seeing more posts on social media about Pregnancy and Infant Loss is comforting and painful at the same time.

It seems impossible to find the words to express how much I miss and love the babies that I lost during pregnancy.  And for those of you who have experienced it too, you have my deepest sympathy.  We are connected in our grief and our recovery.  We understand each other.  We are not alone.

In loving memory of our baby boy Jaxon, and our twin girls who were not named.  Thank you for the love that you gave me that grows stronger with every beat of my heart.

Photo by CJ

Angel Baby Keepsake

IMG_7003Having gone through the heartbreaking experience of two miscarriages (15 weeks and 9 weeks), I wanted to create something for other women experiencing this type of grief and loss.  The words “Miscarriage” and  “Pregnancy Loss” do not equate to the trauma experienced.   At any stage of pregnancy, we have already become parents.  We have fallen deeply in love with our unborn child.  We have experienced hopes and dreams and ideas about what this baby will be like, how our lives will change, and the future we see for ourselves as a family.  It is a loss that stings so deeply and it is a grief that some may never find peace with.  It is a loss that many people do not talk about, but so many experience.

IMG_7009While first trimester miscarriage is common, there are those that have lost their baby during the second trimester.  There are those trying to pull their lives back together after a stillbirth.  I simply can’t imagine a pain so deep that would accompany these tragic losses.  But those going through this heartache need love, support and acknowledgement of their grief and their baby who’s life was so terribly short.

IMG_7013But what do you say to someone who has experienced the loss of their pregnancy?  The loss of their baby?  For those of us who have had this experience, we are left with a loss that has nothing tangible to hold on to.  We rely on the memory of the feeling of pregnancy and the bond and love that so quickly developed.  There may be ultrasound images that we can save but are now so hard to look at.  If you have not been through this type of loss, you may not know what to say or how to help.  But here are some do’s and don’ts that I have found helpful and that I hear repeated in the community of women that have experienced miscarriage:

  • Please acknowledge our loss.  Don’t pretend like it didn’t happen.
  • We are grieving deeply.  There is no quick recovery.
  • If I’ve named my baby, it feels good to me to hear his name.  To recognize that his life was real, that he is my son, and that I became a mother.
  • It’s ok to acknowledge our loss on Mother’s Day or Father’s Day to let us know you are thinking of us and know that we are heartbroken that our baby is not here.
  • Know that important dates are traumatic:  the planned due date, the anniversary of the loss, the date we found out we were pregnant.
  • Be aware that for those dealing with infertility and experiencing the miracle of pregnancy through medical intervention, the loss is terrifying.  We are not sure if we can ever get pregnant again.
  • Don’t say things like, “It was God’s Will”, or “It was not meant to be”.
  • Do not assume there must have been something wrong with the baby.  (All three of my angel babies were genetically normal).
  • Do not insinuate that the mother and/or father did something wrong or that it was their fault.
  • Recognize that the person grieving may not be able to attend baby showers, or visit a friend or family member who recently had a baby.  Give space without pressure or expectations in these situations.

IMG_7019In order to help those witnessing a loved one who is experiencing grief after the loss of their baby, I’ve created a gift that can be given to the woman or the parents of the unborn child.  If you do not know what to say, this gift will provide the acknowledgement of the loss while also providing something for them to hold on to.  I have created a hand made Angel Baby Keepsake gift box and card.

IMG_7021The outside of the gift box includes an ivory satin ribbon and silver angel charm.  Inside the box, is a card decorated to hold their baby in memory and love.  Included is a poem and pewter heart.  The box can be further customized by the parents to add items such as an ultrasound image or to write notes to the baby or to add little items in memory of him or her.

To order:  Visit my Etsy shop

Card Chic by CJ

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

A Hug for You on Mother’s Day

cardchic peru butterfly

With all of my compassion and with pain in my heart, I reach out to those of you like me…who’s babies are angels…or who have tried, and tried and tried again to have children and have been left with empty arms…my love is here for us today. I know today is not an easy day. I hope that you all have the support you need to get through today. Don’t be afraid to ask for what you need. Sometimes just asking for a hug can make all the difference in the world. I’ll be keeping this blog post short as I think it’s best for me not to get too deep into the emotions of today.

I wanted to share with those of you who follow my blog, that I found another very helpful blog, and even more helpful, an associated private Facebook page for those women like us. I probably found it through one of your blog posts! The community of women on this private page are very supportive and all are going through different phases of infertility, or pregnancy after IVF, as well as those who have suffered miscarriages. I would encourage you to check it out:

www.missconceptioncoach.wordpress.com

From this page, you can click on the link, “become a member” and you can sign up for the private Facebook page. There have been a lot of helpful posts about Mother’s Day.

A big hug and lots of love to you today.

Photo by CJE – Peru

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

Two Year Anniversary, Missing Jaxon

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

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

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

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

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

https://youtu.be/oozQ4yV__Vw

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

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

Photos by CJE

Are you brave enough to look in my window?

paris love windowWhile reading other blogs about pregnancy loss, I’m reminded that this type of tragedy often leaves us feeling isolated in our grief.   It is not a grief that is easily understood unless you’ve experienced it yourself. And I know that I could have never imagined that a journey like this would take me to such dark places. And I know I was not able to say the helpful words or offer the support needed to anyone else in this situation until I lived through my own terrible miscarriages. While in this space of grief, I go through the day facing people at work and in my life like it is just another day. And I smile and look normal. But on the inside, it just hurts so badly and only certain people know it’s there. And keeping it there for so very long is just plain exhausting. This has a lot to do with why I started writing. This blog is my grief that just sits and waits on the inside. The grief that nobody sees as they just walk on by. My words are the window that I’m opening for you to see my story. Are you brave enough to look inside?

While time heals grief and loss, there is something so different about losing a baby, no matter how early in pregnancy. There are just too many things to grieve. It is not just the beating heart inside of me that I fell in love with that is no longer there. It is every thought that entered my mind while pregnant that showed me a picture of that baby growing up. That showed me the sound of what it would be like to say their name or hear them giggle. A million beautiful, exciting, hopeful thoughts enter my heart and my mind and I think that maybe this time, I will be lucky. That this time I can experience the joy of pregnancy, instead of the fear of it being taken away. The grief is so raw and confusing when these lovely thoughts are so abruptly and shockingly halted and stripped away so violently and unfairly. And then there is another reason to grieve…that thought that never goes away…What if this is one step closer to me never having a baby? That is the fear that is sitting with me now.

Sometimes I can tuck the grief safely away and enjoy the present and everything else that my life is about. I will certainly not give up on happiness. Having a baby is not all life has to offer. But sometimes it is all consuming and overwhelming and while in this space, I just need to feel it. I need to let it be what it has to be until I can find my own way out of that darkness.

I have to give the sun a chance to shine through my window until the smile you see on my face is a real smile and what you see on the inside shines back again.

Photo by CJE – Paris

Subchorionic What? My Birthday balloons for Jaxon

birthday balloonsWARNING: This is a detailed account of my first pregnancy loss.

Now that it is so close to the 2 year anniversary of losing our baby Jaxon (at 15 weeks pregnant), there are some things I wanted to write in hopes of being able to let some of the pain go. If I can write about it before we hit the anniversary date, maybe it will come and go a little easier. In previous blog entries I have written about losing Jaxon, but I haven’t written about the details of what actually went wrong. This is the story of the last week or so my first pregnancy.

March is such a beautiful month here by the coast. And there is something really special about the breeze and the air and the sunshine as we go into early spring here. And with that beauty, comes the distinct reminder and those painful memories cutting to the front of the line, screaming at me to let them out.  I lost my first baby on March 23, 2013.

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? She ordered an ultrasound but we were not able to be seen until after 4pm. The waiting was torture. But we were soon relieved when we saw the baby in the ultrasound looking just fine. We saw 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 found this link and it gives a better description than I can:

http://www.whattoexpect.com/pregnancy/pregnancy-health/complications/subchorionic-bleeding.aspx

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 (I could still work, but no exercise) and that it should heal in 2-3 weeks. This was very good news out of what initially appeared to be completely terrifying.

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 a doctor 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, 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 through it 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.

When we got to the darling Bed and Breakfast, we checked into our room and decided to relax there and rest. The kind owners had provided a couple of birthday cupcakes for us. My husband surprised me with a birthday flower and balloon bouquet and some specialty chocolates from the area. 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 and it was really enjoyable. 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 overnight 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 an ultrasound machine 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. 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. The urine test came back with a result that seemed to indicate infection but it made no sense to me as I had just been tested a few days prior with no issues. I knew it must have been contaminated due to my bleeding. Instead of letting me provide another sample, they insisted on a catheter. Those were words l did not want to hear. I had never had to have a catheter before but it just sounded awful.   And it was awful. But I was thankful when it was over. For those of you who have been in an emergency room before, you know there tends to be a lot of waiting for the “next thing” or the next doctor, or more test results. It goes on and on and on. And part of that “on and on and on” was me lying there with a catheter wondering, “when the hell is somebody coming back to take this out?” 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 better and staying there may just cause more stress. We left with a prescription for Vicadin 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 Vicadin, I could feel the pain coming back. I was there alone at the B&B in bed and scared again. Earlier that day, we had called our B&B caretakers to let them know I had ended up in the hospital. They were very concerned and supportive. She brought me a heating pad to help with my back pain. My husband finally came back with some dinner and the pain medication. We tried to sit in the kitchen to eat, but by now I was in a lot of pain again and could only sit there for a few minutes and had to return to bed.

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 through 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 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 in itself felt impossible 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 making sure to grab my jewelry or to put shoes on. It even seemed unreasonable that I should have to get dressed. 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.

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 I pain was in. Definitely way beyond #10 on the chart. They put me in a wheel chair but they did not take us back right away. 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. 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. 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 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. Again, now waiting for the on-call OB to arrive. It was the same doctor from the morning. She was so sorry to see us there again. 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. But again, with him lying there on my chest I couldn’t feel anything. There were no emotions. I couldn’t feel.   We were left there with time alone and we named him 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, gut-wrenching loss. My baby was gone. My mind cannot accept this is happening and I screamed for him and reached my hands out for him.

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 that the contractions and physical pain were finally put to an end.   The surgery was probably around 10 or 11pm that night. Following the surgery, I would sleep on and off but it was scary to wake up because I had to realize over and over again what had just happened.

That morning when it was light again, I was so struck and saddened by the feeling of my shrunken belly. So much emptiness.   I still couldn’t quite comprehend or believe what had just happened. But then there were questions…What should we do with Jaxon? What do you want to do with the remains? Do you want to have him cremated? My husband had gathered all the information that morning while I was resting but we had to act quickly. 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 and pick him up.   Thankfully they were able to do this for us.

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

It was like my 39th birthday did not exist. We left the hospital on Sunday and that Monday was my birthday. But I couldn’t celebrate. I couldn’t even acknowledge birthday wishes from friends, as we hadn’t even been able to share the terrible news yet. I never did celebrate my birthday that year.   But I will always in my heart, celebrate the short life that became Jaxon Alan.

Fitness and Infertility

trail walkStaying mentally and physically healthy through infertility, IVF, embryo transfers, short periods of pregnancy and miscarriages has been incredibly challenging and often feels impossible. Since my journey through this process has spanned over the past couple of years, my fight to stay physically strong coupled with a desire to not give up on happiness and mental stability has often left me exhausted, drained and empty. And I’m just talking about ME. I’m not even getting into the impact this has on my marriage. This has left me struggling with what feels like a never-ending and futile attempt to lose weight (or to at least stabilize my weight) combined with cycles of deep sadness and sometimes depression through the disappointments and losses I have experienced on this journey. It is a constant start and stop process with exercise whether I’m in between cycles (amp up the exercise routine) or low impact walking post embryo transfer. As soon as I start to feel progress with physical fitness or any hope of losing a couple of pounds, here I am again making adjustments to put the possibility of pregnancy as the top priority following an embryo transfer. With the two pregnancy losses we have experienced, the only other possible thing my doctor recommended to increase my chances of future success is weight loss. My doctor recommended a certain BMI to enable optimal pregnancy health. I did the calculations. To reach this BMI, I would need to lose 35 pounds. That would take me months to achieve with 100% focus on nothing but exercise and nutrition. (and my body is STUBBORN!!) But sadly, I’m time-bound by the financial piece of this process. We are invested in a “refund plan” that allows us to have as many embryo transfers as needed to become pregnant within one year of starting this contract using embryos from our egg donor. (we have about 6 months left) This does not allow me the extra time off to reach this health/fitness and weight loss goal. By the time I have my next embryo transfer I will have had a little over 2 months to recover from the D&C procedure which was then followed by depression, a terrible flu and then a bad cold just two weeks later. This made it nearly impossible to try to lose weight in this period of time. As soon as I recovered, I started walking and swimming again and went back to the gym with my personal trainer. But do you know how hard it is to lose weight with the hormone fluctuations of pregnancy, followed by pregnancy loss, then throw in some depression, the holidays and some illnesses? It feels completely hopeless. My body fluctuated up and down in a 10 pound range following the pregnancy loss for at least a month. I’ve done a cleanse, given up sugar and alcohol and I exercise regularly and there is no weight loss happening here.

My health and exercise has always been a top priority for me. I’ve always been active and involved in sports or fitness activities, however I have struggled with my weight since I was a child. I have tried so very hard to stay in shape through this process of trying to make a baby. Prior to my first round of IVF, I spent one year training at a CrossFit gym trying to get as strong as possible before pregnancy. I’ve never given up on exercising and I work hard to eat as healthy as I can. But it is a daily struggle and very frustrating when doing my best may not be good enough. I definitely want to avoid blaming myself for a failed pregnancy because I wasn’t “fit” enough or because my BMI was too high. So, for now I just have to settle for what is realistic for me. The best I can do involves getting outdoors and enjoying walks with my dog and swimming and weight training (at least until Sunday). Then the exercise plan shifts again… I hope this time I will have a new 9 month fitness plan.

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Photos by CJE