The Tire Swing

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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

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.

Priorities

priorities imageIt has been over two years since we started this process. When I think about the time commitment, it is like taking on a new big life project or part time job. There is the element of managing the time needed for doctor appointments and ensuring injections can be given about the same time every day (For our last cycle, I endured at least 80 intramuscular injections to support the embryo transfer and pregnancy). There’s training on how to give the injections and following up with various pharmacies to fill prescriptions and to make sure they will be available on time and if they are covered by insurance. There’s up front financial planning, insurance inquiries and perhaps the decision to sell off investments and take out loans. It may mean saying no to vacations. Going through all the planning and commitments for one cycle is manageable as it becomes the top priority of your life for a couple of months. However, we have now done this five times, including the time commitment to go through the egg donor process as well as the unexpected periods of time to recover from failed cycles in addition to pregnancy losses. Over the past two years, the commitment and emotional strain of this process has impacted decisions about my career and how I want to live my life, which has lead to some positive changes.   During my first pregnancy, I was in a very stressful job. I was miserable and exhausted. I wanted to be as healthy as possible during my pregnancy and I could not figure out how to reduce my stress level at work. I kept thinking to myself that I would just hang in there until I had maternity leave then I would look for another job. But that never happened. After losing our baby, Jaxon at 15 weeks and returning to work two weeks later, I made the decision to change my job. It was an absolute necessity for my mental health. I was very lucky that there was something I could move into but the process took a few months. While grieving and managing depression I was still under terrible stress at work but I knew there was a light at the end of the tunnel. This was a very different type of career decision for me. I had spent about 15 years pushing forward, taking on new challenges, taking risks and putting myself in situations outside of my comfort zone in order to get to the next big career move. But this time was different. I made a deliberate decision to return to a job that I had done before for many years. And that is exactly what I needed…Established expertise without stress of learning a new role, predictable challenges, and a feeling of stability. My plan was to create a situation at work that allowed me to focus on my health, emotional recovery and enough flexibility in my schedule to manage doctor appointments for our continued attempts to make a baby. While it ended up taking another nine months to achieve my goal of manageable stress and a stable, supportive work environment, it was worth the time and effort. I even managed to achieve a promotion along the way. I am incredibly thankful for the support I have at work from my management and close friends, which enables me to continue to pursue our dream of having our own baby. For this last embryo transfer cycle and nine weeks of pregnancy, the flexibility to manage my time at work allowed me to go to at least 12 doctor appointments and at least 10 trips to the lab for blood draws. Overall, my priorities have shifted from a focus on my career development to a focus on my mental and physical health, and taking on this journey with my husband to make a baby. And this priority means we have to say no to some other things and accept the risk of disappointment while not losing sight that our dream could come true.

Thankful: Making Jaxon

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It’s a different Thanksgiving today. No plans, no travel, no getting together with family. I think I may watch the Thanksgiving Day Parade and bake something made out of pumpkin and enjoy the sounds and smells of my husband cooking turkey, stuffing and mashed potatoes. It will just be a day for us. With the events of this week, I didn’t have it in me to put on a brave face and a smile to visit with anyone. It feels better to stay home without any pressure or schedule, plus the dog is happily snoozing next to me. While I sit here watching the pre-show of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, I’m reminded of Thanksgiving from two years ago. It was just the beginning of making Jaxon. The 2012 holiday season was our first round of IVF. We launched into the process as soon as we had returned from our honeymoon and not long after celebrating the new year of 2013, we found out it worked on our first try. I was pregnant! Could we really be this lucky? Our first try and it worked? It was incredibly exciting but then so quickly coupled with a random health event that clouded the enjoyment through the first six weeks of the pregnancy. Two days after the embryo transfer I had unusual breast changes that first appeared to be an infection. I went to an urgent care clinic and was treated with antibiotics. Nothing changed. For the next six weeks I went back and forth between my OB/GYN, a breast surgeon and an infectious disease specialist. Since I could not have a mammogram, it was harder to determine a diagnosis or quickly rule out various concerns. We kept trying different antibiotics for a while, with my doctors still leaning toward treating an infection. No change. Then there were scarier possibilities that would not only risk my pregnancy, but my life. The next step was a biopsy where we hoped to eliminate the worst of the possibilities. But now the worst of the possibilities was all I could think about. After six weeks terrified of what this could be, we finally had an answer. It was simply benign, and random, and unexplainable. All those weeks of doctor appointments, and worry, and stress, and the distraction from bonding with my pregnancy was finally over. And I was fine. The relief I felt when my doctor called me on a Friday night to tell me I was ok was a wonderful moment and such a huge relief. I could feel my whole body rejecting the claws of tension that had held on so tightly for those long weeks. And I was so thankful. I could finally just enjoy this pregnancy and focus on this new little life. Now, it was just normal pregnancy doctor appointments and ultrasounds. My favorite, at approximately 11 weeks where we got to see so much detail of our growing baby and his cute little movements. At about 13 weeks we announced our pregnancy to everyone. EVERYONE. We enclosed the photo attached to this post in our wedding thank you cards. A photo to quickly spread happiness to everyone nearest and dearest to us. 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. 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. Today I am thankful that I can still see his face and still feel that love from our baby named Jaxon. I know that for all that was so painfully stripped away from us that day, the love still remains. And when my husband speaks his name in heartfelt memory, I am thankful.

Photo by CJE

Chance #2/31: Twins

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I begin my first words in the midst of another loss. One week ago I was eight weeks pregnant and got the biggest surprise of my life. Two heartbeats. Twins. At the age of 40 and already having suffered a 15-week miscarriage just two days before my 39th birthday, the sight of those little flashes of light was my miracle. Two days ago the two heartbeats stopped and so did my world. From the giddiness of a week ago tempered by some apprehension that goes along with the first trimester; to the head-on collision between my happiness hitting the brick wall of my biggest fear: Stillness of the life that just began. I just sit here stuck in grief. Again. We had a week of fun and silliness, with my husband holding up two fingers and laughing every time he looked at me. Giggling every time he said, “twins.” Finally feeling so blessed after such a long and difficult journey. Trying to stay so hopeful that life could not be cruel enough to take this away from us. And now, here we are again. Painful loss accompanied by the ridiculous unfairness of continued morning sickness and pregnancy symptoms. For a moment waking up in the night thinking I’m still pregnant until reality rushes back into my breaking heart. I know we are not alone, and I know we are not the only ones. There are a lot of crying hearts and grieving parents out there. This blog is about our journey through the challenges of infertility, the heartbeats along the way and holding each other up through the process. We are not ready to give up.

Photo by CJE