"...Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience."
Romans 8:24b-25

21 October 2011

I Was "That Girl"

Recently, my cousin, who has been aware of her infertility far longer than I have been of my own, had a small family gathering to celebrate her dad's birthday since he and his wife were in town from out of state.  My cousin only lives 45 minutes away from me and I couldn't justify missing the gathering, especially since I do not often see my uncle.  I was also under the impression that my sister, who is pregnant with her 5th child, would be there with her family, and possibly some of my other siblings.

So, the day arrived, and although I was very tired and had a long weekend ahead of me, I made the drive, looking forward to seeing family I don't often see.  My parents were there, my mom's other brother and his wife were there, another cousin of mine was there with her kids, and then there was me.  It was a small gathering, but it was nice for visiting.

I'm not yet used to this whole "being pregnant" thing, and I'll be honest, I'm not as big a fan of the attention I get now because of the pregnancy as many people tend to be.  I'm not sure if it's because I don't really feel pregnant, if it's some latent feeling of being undeserving of such attention, or if it's because my husband isn't here with me to enjoy it and be a part of it.  All I know is it's a strange thing to be the center and focus of pregnancy talk after so many years of standing on the outskirts of conversations about pregnancy.

Usually what's on my mind when I'm at a family gathering is: 1) What food is there here that I can eat without making the hostess feel the need to prepare something special, and 2) How can I keep from reliving awkward memories from the past and/or making new ones for the future.  Since I hadn't eaten in several hours, my mind was mostly on the food.

As I was standing in the kitchen, the cousin who was hosting was setting things out in preparation to eat, and one of my aunts and my other cousin came over to me to talk about the pregnancy.  I didn't think much of it.  It was nice to actually have something to talk about besides my food restrictions and the fact that I don't work or have children.  So I shared my observations about pregnancy, and had a great conversation with my aunt and cousin.  I didn't even feel awkward talking about being pregnant.

And then I looked up and saw my cousin, the hostess, standing on the outskirts of the conversation, listening but not participating, and I was immediately in her shoes in my mind.

I tried to convince myself that the conversation probably didn't bother her since she and her husband had decided to adopt rather than attempting to pursue any medical intervention.  I tried to believe that she probably wasn't feeling pain because her 9 year old son was running through the house, playing with his cousins.  I even tried to convince myself that maybe she didn't even hear what was being said because she's hard of hearing and with all the background noise her hearing aids might have missed the conversation.

But this is the same cousin that had once told me that even after adoption, the longing is still there...the hope still comes with every cycle and the disappointment on calendar day one.

I was torn.  I didn't want to be rude and abruptly end the conversation, but I didn't want to be insensitive and continue it, either.  I tried, and eventually succeeded, to change the subject to that of dietary needs and restrictions, but the damage had been done.

I, an infertile pregnant woman, had stood in the kitchen of another infertile woman and had a long conversation in front of her with other people about the joys of my own pregnancy.  I was "That Girl."  The one that didn't recognize the need for sensitivity.  The one that didn't shut up, but rather gushed on and on about the experience of being pregnant.  I caused a fellow infertile woman to be keenly reminded of her infertility, IN HER OWN HOME!

I immediately wished I hadn't come and even wondered why I had.  What did I really think I had to offer my uncle by being there?  His brothers and sisters, daughter and grandson were there, and that's really all he needed on his birthday.  I had come simply out of a felt need to show my cousin that she was important to me.  Then I went and did the very opposite thing by completely forgetting about her and running off at the mouth.

I approached her tentatively and apologized to her.  She was very gracious and responded that that's just the way things are at family gatherings when someone's pregnant and she's grown to expect it.  That did not make me feel any better, and it didn't convince me that she wasn't wounded.  But the damage had been done and there was nothing I could do to take it back.  Had my other pregnant sister been there, it might have been a bit different scenario, but she wasn't there.  I was the only walking reminder of my cousin's infertility.

I wish I could say that that incident is my one and only cringeworthy moment.  But I can't. I can't even say that it was my first.

Two weeks prior to that family gathering, I was shopping at a local Natural Grocer's when an acquaintance I hadn't seen in years, who happens to work at that store, recognized me and asked how my husband and I have been.

I was groggy from having had very little sleep and wasn't prepared for a conversation.  I told her we were fine and that my DH was deployed but should be returning early.  When there was an awkward pause, I thought, "What else is new with us that she'd want to know about?" and then I realized most people share news about their pregnancies, so I did.

Technically, there's nothing wrong with sharing that news with people when I haven't seen them in years, but there was something that flitted across her face in a fraction of a second.  But I was tired and wasn't sure I had really seen it.  We parted ways, I finished shopping, paid for the groceries and left the store.  As I drove away, a number of observations flooded my mind and I wondered if those observations were enough confirmation that perhaps she too was infertile.

I was kicking myself by the time I made it home, and praying that I had not wounded her or made her day difficult.  I called her at the store to ask for her e-mail address, and then sent her a long rambling apology e-mail asking her to forgive me if I had caused her pain, not knowing for sure she was even infertile.

She replied several days later, assuring me that all was well and that I hadn't wounded her.

But the fact that I had so easily spouted out the news of my pregnancy without even thinking weighed heavily on my heart.  And then to have followed that incident with the one I described at my cousin's house...I truly never thought that I would be "That Girl."

I have loathed and despised others who have filled that role, wondering how it was possible for someone to be so completely unaware and insensitive, vowing that I would NEVER be that way, if I were ever blessed with a pregnancy.  And yet, here I am.

I pray that God will grant me the grace and discernment to avoid filling that role again.  I pray that He will prevent me from causing others pain as they walk through this journey of infertility.  I pray that I will always be mindful of the pain others may be experiencing that I know all too well.  And may God keep me from ever being "That Girl" again.

07 October 2011

An Update and a Rant

It's been a while since I've posted on here.  I haven't had a ton of things to say lately, but also, I've had a difficult time keeping thoughts in my head long enough to get them typed out.  Seriously, I was in the middle of posting a Facebook status, and lost the thought mid-sentence.  So, we'll see how this goes.  

After my last post, by God's grace, I was finally able to settle in with the idea that this pregnancy might actually stick.  I'm thankful I was still having blood work done weekly to monitor the placenta's progress because after my first sonogram with my OB, I have had to wait over a month before being seen again.  I have to admit, I got spoiled to having a sonogram at the RE's office every other week.  So it was comforting to have the numbers of my progesterone and estradiol levels go up so I could know things were progressing as they should.  Eventually I was even allowed to stop taking the progesterone and estradiol I had been prescribed and I have now officially graduated my RE.

I'm happy to be able to say that things are progressing well with the pregnancy and I am at 13 weeks 2 days today.  I was under the impression that the first trimester was officially over after I completed the 12th week, but then I read online today that I'm technically still in the first trimester until the end of the 13th week.  Either way, it's good to have a glimmer of hope that I may just get my energy back as I had two wonderful days this week with energy (until I got hit with a stomach bug).

Prior to this pregnancy, I had grown accustomed to hearing insensitive comments made by well-meaning people who know nothing about what it's like to deal with infertility yet feel compelled to speak on the subject.  I had developed responses (both to share with the speaker and also to keep to myself), and was becoming adept at looking at them with pity and sympathy because they just didn't "get it."  (I've had the blessing of having many fertile friends who were able to "get it" without having to walk through it because they could see past themselves and made every attempt to imagine themselves in my shoes.)

And I knew to expect the "pregnancy police" to come around once I started to show or when I spread the word that I was pregnant.  Those people that feel it is their duty to delineate to every pregnant woman they encounter the "do's" and "don'ts" of being pregnant.  I also expect to have certain family members become entirely too interested in every aspect of the pregnancy, feeling compelled to take on the role of "pregnancy police."  (If you're a family member reading this blog, you're not one I'm concerned about...otherwise you wouldn't have access to this blog ;-) )

I remember reading some responses on some blog posts about complaining after finally achieving the BFP (Big Fat Positive) after battling infertility.  Many people shared their thoughts that if anyone had the right to complain during pregnancy, that it was someone who could truly appreciate what they had.  I took that to heart and have allowed myself to have mini pity parties for a moment or two as needed, not sharing it with anyone other than myself or my husband, or occasionally my Tweeps.  But truly, I have found even the most unpleasant changes of pregnancy to be fascinating, so I haven't really been complaining much at all.

But THEN...as I was falling asleep one evening, blissfully singing a Bon Jovi tune a Facebook friend had planted in my brain, I was hit with a sudden headache and an intense desire to eat (and I had already brushed my teeth so I was NOT going to get up just to eat something and have to brush my teeth again).  I ignored both of them for a while, but sometimes, it just helps to share your pain with others to make it a bit more bearable.  So I grabbed my phone and posted the following on Facebook:

Well, hello there, Headache and Sudden-Hunger-Pangs :-/
I don't remember inviting either of you to join me.

And that was it.  I thought it was cute and clever, and that pride was probably my downfall.  Because later (I don't remember if it was that night that I saw it or the next day), I read a response from an acquaintance from one of my high schools.  This is what she wrote:

"as soon as you started creating life you invited
all kinds of cool feelings into your life."

Initially, I clicked "like" because that's my knee-jerk response when I don't know how to respond to someone I can tell means well, but actually offended me greatly.  But the more I thought about it, the more frustrated I became.  Here is a woman who has several children, and while I can't prove it, it APPEARED to my extremely defensive frame of mind at the time that she was looking down upon me in all of her "experienced motherly wisdom" as if to say, "oh, honey, welcome to the club, get used to it, parts of this sucks," but it's phrased in such a way that what I HEARD when I read it was, "Well, if you can't handle all of the "fun" and "exciting" changes your body will be going through then you should have considered that before you got pregnant!"

Now, let me interject here...I am already a mildly defensive person.  It comes from years of believing everything everyone told me, only to realize later in life that many people took advantage of my gullible nature either for fun or for malice (all of which were hurtful to me), so my Pollyanna mentality flew out the window when I became disillusioned.  Now, I protect my heart first and ask questions later.  Sometimes, coupling this defensive stance is the aggressive attitude that goes with it.  The one that has a constant retort with just the slightest intent to sting when spoken.  This feature is not always there.  It usually only rears it's head when I haven't had enough sleep or when I've already had it "up to here."  But since I became pregnant, both of those tendencies have been amplified exponentially and I barely have a filter on my mouth to speak of.  Pretty much whatever is in my head is going to come flying out of my mouth before I can consider the ramifications of what I'm saying.

The longer I pondered my acquaintance's response, the more steamed I became and the more I felt I had to defend myself.  (By the way, I truly admire those people who can say, even when angry, "I don't owe that person an explanation," and then follow through on not needing to give the explanation...I, however, am the explanation queen and offer them to anyone who will listen, as I always feel the need to defend myself.)

So, I later replied (rather than deleting her comment altogether, which is what I wanted to do) with this response:

"Trust me, I knew what I was signing up for.  Totally worth it.  Still, I'm allowed to have my moments."  (actually, I misspelled allowed and had to fix it, which didn't help my pride)

To which she responded how happy she was for me to be pregnant and that she knew I would love it, as if to say, "Whoa, Nelly!  I wasn't judging you!" ;-)  And I was fine with that response.  It is, after all, difficult to know what is being conveyed in writing when it's in real time and unedited.

But I bring up this story because what I DIDN'T expect was to be judged by FERTILE people for taking note of my discomfort during pregnancy.  And honestly, most of my friends are super supportive and are excited to be able to have conversations with me about all of these "cool feelings" I invited into my life.  One thought that kept swimming through my brain was, "Why is it perfectly acceptable for fertile people to complain throughout the entirety of their pregnancy, but the minute someone who paid tons of money and went through myriad painful procedures and years of disappointment in order to become pregnant starts complaining the 'let me remind you what you signed up for' police are beating down her door?"  Seriously, lady, I think I earned the privilege to have a complaint or two.  (And please understand that I do differentiate between complaining and being all "woe is me!" about pregnancy.)

I have complained very little about anything to do with being pregnant.  Truthfully, I have had very little to complain about.  I find everything fascinating and exciting and I'm storing it all up in my heart because this may be the only time I get to experience any of this.  What I find myself complaining the most about is other people.  Not just the regular complaints I would have about other people if I weren't pregnant, and not just the amplified complaints I have about people doing normal things that suddenly annoy me because of copious amounts of hormones coursing through my body, but these are complaints about people who are interested in my pregnancy in a non-loving way.  They may mean well, but they're not motivated by love as much as they are motivated by having the need to say something.

Case in point: I go to a weekly bible study.  I have known many of the women involved in this study for several years.  Before I became pregnant, all the questions I received from these women were about DH's deployment and how he was doing.  Now that I'm pregnant, I get bombarded with questions about the baby, how I'm feeling, how far along I am, and all that mess.  If these were perfect strangers just learning that I'm pregnant, or even people I only see once a month, I could completely understand and accept their questions.  But these are women I fellowship with WEEKLY, often more than once a week, and all they can think to talk about with me is the condition of my health?!?!  Seriously???  I have a real problem with that!  Take the time to get to know me if you're going to use the air you're expelling, don't just waste it with veiled "chit-chat" by pretending that you're asking legitimate questions.  Honestly, I shouldn't have to tell you each week how far along I am or when I'm due if you really paid attention to the answer in the first place!  Needless to say, I'm frustrated about this.

Last thing before I close this forever-long post.  My mother-in-law was a champ all throughout our pre-pregnancy infertility days.  She struggled for four years before finally being able to conceive DH, her first child.  So, she truly understood our pain.  I'm not sure what happened, but somehow the announcement that we are pregnant changed her from being very understanding and "minding her own business" to feeling the need to pass on information from either herself or others on her side of the family that would be better left unsaid.  I mean, seriously, just because a family member insists that you pass on instructions to your pregnant daughter-in-law doesn't mean you can't install your own filter and choose NOT to pass on information that isn't worth repeating.  Which leads me to believe that she too feels that I need to hear the information that her family insists I need to hear.

What kinds of things do they want me to know, you ask?  Well, let me tell you.  The first lovely bit of information I received all the way from Florida was that I needed to be careful to not wear tight pants while I'm pregnant because it's important that I not squish the baby.  Ummm...thanks.  Thanks for that wise and sound advice.  Especially since I make it a habit to wear skin-tight, uncomfortable clothes all the time to catch the stares from all the guys (please hear my sarcasm in that)!  I won't go into a discourse on the lifestyle of this side of the family.  I'll just say that they're the side of the family that often gets spoken of in hushed whispers, and leave it at that.

The next advice came about a week or two after the recent Lysteria outbreak was announced on Cantaloup crops in the country.  Granted, this information would have been useful, if it had been given the day the news announced it instead of two weeks later.  But the insistence with which they conveyed to my MIL the importance of giving me the message indicates that they were certain I was out buying all the cantaloup I could eat and feasting on it daily.  Maybe the news takes a while to get to that part of Florida?  I don't know.  But by the time I heard the word from them, I had already passed up cantaloup once at the grocery store and twice at a friend's house, because I don't live under a rock!

The final thing actually came from my MIL herself and kind of threw me for a loop.  I finally started showing just a bit last week, and I went to visit my in-laws for dinner.  While we're eating, not having conversation, just eating, my MIL busts out with this statement:
"No, you don't look fat at all.  You just look pregnant."

I was flabbergasted.  I thought, "Did I ask if I look fat?  Because I don't remember saying anything about feeling fat or about anyone commenting on whether I appear fat or not.   Did someone tell you I look fat?  Or do you actually think I look fat?"  But I didn't say any of that.  Instead, I swallowed my food, looked at her, and said, "Thanks."

There have been many challenges in dealing with people as DH and I have walked through Infertility, and I would have thought they would have prepared me for the challenges we will have of dealing with people while we are pregnant.  But truly, they have not.  People are people and will always be practicing opening their mouth wide enough to put their foot in it, but neglecting the important part of actually swallowing their foot (myself included).  Of the many challenges I will face during the pregnancy, and then afterward as a parent, the one that I think will be the most difficult for me personally will be dealing with all of the other people who have opinions about my life.

Thanks for reading.  Prayers for my attitude toward other people will be greatly appreciated.


05 September 2011

Waiting For the Other Shoe to Drop

If you follow me on Twitter, then you may be aware of how anxious I have been the past several days.

It all started when I woke up ravenously hungry, without that constant knot in my stomach keeping me from wanting to eat.  I thought it was strange, but fully expected the knot and the nausea to return sometime that day.  It didn't.

The next morning, after having stayed up well past midnight, I awoke bright and early to find that I was far from feeling exhausted (as I had felt every morning and all of every day for the past three weeks), instead, I felt refreshed and alert.  Not only that, but the morning sickness was still missing.

I began to panic a little, but when I took a spontaneous nap later that day, I felt a little reassured.  However, I still did not feel anywhere near as tired as I'd been feeling.

Everyone tried to find words of comfort to reassure me, and I learned from many people that apparently it's "normal" to not feel sick and tired all the time in the first trimester.  That was news to me, because all I'd ever heard about were those miraculous pregnancies where there was never nausea or exhaustion, or about how exhausting and sick-feeling the first four months of pregnancy are.  Never had I heard of this "vanishing at 8 weeks" mystery I was experiencing.

Needless to say, I wasn't so sure my symptoms were "normal."  Especially in light of all the recent tragedy I had watched so many of my friends go through.

By the time Sunday rolled around with still no nausea and no exhaustion, I was convinced the baby was no longer living.  After all, I had gone the entire morning, past noon, without eating anything other than a communion wafer and sip of grape-juice without feeling anything other than hunger pangs.  AND (when I finally did eat) I was able to cook without the smell making me want to hurl.

Never in my life have I longed so much to feel the waves of nausea and be overtaken by exhaustion!  I spent the majority of Sunday afternoon in tears, listening to a comforting song over and over on my iPhone.

This morning, I called the clinic to tell them of my lack of symptoms.  I asked if it was normal or if I needed to schedule my upcoming sonogram for earlier in the week.  Because it's Labor Day, they had a skeleton crew, so the lady put me on hold for a while and then came back on the line and suggested I go in today.  She said they could see me at 1:00.  She mentioned something about the possibility that it could be normal, but that I should come in anyway just to be sure.

I was relieved that I would be able to know one way or the other today, but I was a little nervous that there was enough concern on their part to show me that I wasn't overreacting.

I called my in-laws to ask them to go with me because I knew there was no way I could make the trip back from Austin alone safely if the news wasn't good.  I sent DH a text message to let him know what was up, and headed to Austin.

DH's internet had been down the day before, but was thankfully working today.  He chatted with me via Yahoo! chat the whole way to Austin and helped me stay calm.  Then I was able to have him on my computer via Skype during the sonogram.  I'm very thankful that even though he's not able to physically be in the room with me that he makes every effort to be with me every step of the way, especially when I need him the most.

When the doctor (who is amazing) came in, I expressed how deeply concerned I was.  Rather than belittling my concerns, he somehow managed to validate my concerns without making me feel more anxious.  Like I said, amazing.  

I cannot put into words how incredibly relieved I was to see the baby and it's heart beat, and then to get to hear it again!  (And the baby decided to show off and do a little dance for us, as if to say, "See, Mom!  I'm FINE!  Stop worrying!  It's cramping my style!")

I shared with my in-laws (who are also amazing) on the way home that it must seem to people that I'm overreacting and how thankful I am to have a doctor who understands my concerns.  I told them that it takes a special breed to be able to work with infertile couples because emotions are so much higher and shakier and what seems normal to most people seems so incredibly BIG and daunting to couples dealing with infertility.

My father-in-law made the comment then that it only makes sense with all that infertile couples go through that they are waiting for the other shoe to drop.

I told him that that was it exactly!  It's been nearly impossible these last few weeks for me to nestle in and enjoy this pregnancy, and I've been chastised reminded by people who have watched me walk this journey to relax and enjoy every minute of the pregnancy.  They are people who love me, who have rooted for me and cheered me along each step of the way, and they want to see me enjoy what's been given to me.  But all I could think was, "Yes, but how much has been given to me?  How far will I get to carry this baby?  God didn't promise us this child.  What if His plan is for us to go through more heartache as a result of this pregnancy?"

Now, don't get me wrong.  I don't see God as a merciless being sitting and watching, rubbing his hands together eagerly waiting for an opportunity to wreak havoc in someone's life.  I don't see him that way at all!  In contrast, I view Him as loving and merciful, hearing and responding to His children and bringing good things out of every difficult thing they face in life.  He has proven that to be true in my life (and I hope I've conveyed that clearly through this blog).

But I do know that amazing people that love the Lord with all their heart have been brought through facing the loss of a child.  I also know that God saw fit to bring us through years of longing for a child.  Never once in all of these treatments did God promise that this pregnancy was going to be completely fulfilled.  And I know better than to assume that I know His plan for me.

So, I did what any veteran Infertile would do, I braced for impact of the potential "other shoe." 

In the midst of all my "Chicken Little" antics over the last week, it occurred to me that I had begun to view this baby as mine, and I had begun to see God as a potential threat to the life of this child.  When I realized that, I came before the Lord and told him that I had begun to view this pregnancy that way and I told him I was scared he was going to take the baby from me.

But, from the VERY BEGINNING of trying to have a baby, my husband and I had acknowledged that any child we were blessed with truly belonged to God and we viewed ourselves as being privileged to be trusted to raise that child before Him.  (That's our belief.)  So, when I realized how I had begun to view things, I took a step back.  No wonder I was so worried!  I can't control God.  I can't control life.  And trying to do either generally doesn't work out very well, in my experience.

So, in my conversation with God, I gave the baby back to him.  I told him that it was his from the beginning and asked that if it was his plan to take the baby from us that he would prepare our hearts and help us through the grief.

I needed the reminder that all I have has been given to me by God.  I needed the reminder to enjoy this pregnancy.  I needed the reassurance that all was well with this baby.  And I needed the affirmation from my father-in-law that it makes sense that I would be waiting for the other shoe to drop.

Knowing that that's what I've been doing, will make it easier to recognize and let go of that mentality.

Thank you to all who encouraged me through my "Chicken Little" moments.  Thank you for not berating me, but for being there for me when I needed you.  May we all find a day when we no longer feel the need to brace for impact from the proverbial "other shoe."


28 August 2011

A Time to Weep and a Time to Laugh

"For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:...a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;" Ecclesiastes 3:1 & 4

First, I wasn't sure how to post about our joyous news without causing pain to my fellow infertiles still "in the trenches," so I waited.

Then, the nausea hit, along with the Random Moments of Comatose Sleep, so that I found it difficult to get myself out of the house, much less find the wherewithal to make sense of the thoughts inside my head for a blog post.

About the same time as the nausea hit, actually that same day, sadness seeped into my world over people I care about deeply, and a blog post about our joy seemed not only inappropriate, but was nowhere near the forefront of my thinking.

In one day, I learned of two people I care about deeply whose hopes were dashed.  One twitter friend who has had a major impact on me learned that her final attempt at IVF had resulted in a BFN (Big Fat Negative) and, based on certain circumstances, it seems (for now at least) she has no further options.  Another IF friend I know in real life had a situation that was drawn out over the course of the last week and a half, but that day I received the news that she was miscarrying.  Her pregnancy was a non-medicated pregnancy (meaning no help from a doc), and she was exactly the same number of days pregnant as I was.  She is one of my dearest friends, and my heart was torn in two.

Her situation became more complicated, and it was discovered that she had an ectopic pregnancy.  The entire week and a half was a heart-wrenching roller-coaster ride of emotions for all of us.  Even DH, half a world away, was full of sorrow at the news of their loss and the drawn out process of getting medical closure, and we grieved together over Skype, praying for our dear friends.

In the midst of that, another twitter friend went in for a routine ultrasound at 9 weeks, only to be told that there was no heartbeat.  I was dumbfounded.  My heart paused and I couldn't breathe as I read her tweet: "It's over. No heartbeat. I feel numb."  I flashed back to the day I had read her joyous news of her BFP (Big Fat Positive) and I remembered watching her heart melt and unfold each day as she embraced the joy of her pregnancy.  I was heartbroken for her, and I immediately imagined myself in her shoes.  She was two weeks ahead of me.  I had just, the day before, heard and seen our baby's heartbeat and had scheduled my own 9 week sonogram.  I was stricken with grief for her and fear for myself in the same moment, and I wept for her and prayed.

In the midst of all of this, there have been lots of prayers and lots of weeping.  People keep reminding me to enjoy each moment of this pregnancy (and I am enjoying it), but my mind and heart keep turning toward those still "in the trenches" of this journey through infertility, toward those suffering loss and attempting to find a way to pick up and move on, even as another battle scar forms on their hearts.  There have been moments in the past two weeks where I have asked God why these dear friends have to go through more pain when they have been through so much.  I am reminded that pain serves a purpose and, in the hands of God, hearts that go through it not only receive peace but they become stronger.

But it still sucks.  I'm sorry, but there's no "nice" word I can think of to describe how sucky it is.

In light of the suckiness of the pain of infertility, I desperately long to be mindful of those still waiting on their BFP.  I'm also very much aware that this week, this day, may be my last day of having the joy of this particular little life growing inside of me.

So, I have been hesitant to post on this blog, not knowing what I could say to express my joy without rubbing salt in the wounds of my readers.  I have been tentative in my tweets on twitter, trying only to answer questions about the pregnancy rather than volunteering information (although, if you follow me on twitter, you may have caught a glimpse of what I call my Incredible Hulk side coming through in response to every day circumstances...I don't have a very good filter on my brain lately).

After our sonogram, DH was eager to post the news of our pregnancy on Facebook.  Prior to the sonogram, we had agreed together that we would post on Facebook after we saw the heartbeat.  But I had not yet reached a dear infertile friend to let her know we were pregnant, and I did NOT want her to find out via Facebook!  After I was able to get a hold of her on the phone, she and I had a good visit and we both cried together as I reassured her that her tears were completely understood, and she reassured me that her tears did not diminish the joy she felt for me.

In preparation for our upcoming Facebook announcement, I reposted a twibbon from resolve.org on my profile picture, just to refresh people's memories that we have been struggling with infertility, and to remind them that chances are extremely high that they know someone who is suffering silently through infertility.  An acquaintance I have as a friend on Facebook, "liked" not only the new picture with the twibbon and a blip about infertility, but also the link to resolve.org that I posted.  Since she seldom, if ever, "likes" anything or comments on my page, I went to her profile page and immediately all the facts and signs came flooding to my mind to confirm in my heart that this friend is infertile.  Suffering silently, as far as I know.  I then learned that her sister had suggested she talk with me about IF, although she hasn't yet. 

This new information made me even more hesitant to broadcast our news via Facebook just yet, and I sent a text message to someone who could convey to this girl's sister that she had my permission to tell her we're pregnant, because I do NOT want her finding out via Facebook!

Here I was, aware of this girl, her age and circumstances, and yet it never occurred to me that she, too, might be infertile.  Yet I was the one posting a link, informing people that they probably know someone who is struggling through infertility and aren't even aware of it.

I would LOVE to talk with her about infertility.  I would LOVE to be an in-real-life support for her through this journey!  The question is, now that I'm pregnant, would she really want to talk to me?

My infertility hasn't gone away because I happen to be pregnant.  This sounds crazy, I know, especially to those not dealing with IF.  One response I have received to that statement was, "Well, right, because you don't yet have a living child in your arms."  To which I responded, "Even if I had a living child in my arms, I'm still infertile.  It still takes medical intervention to bring about pregnancy in me."

One thing that HAS happened as a result of this pregnancy, which totally caught me off guard, is that my infertility has suddenly become less about me and more about other people.  Getting to experience these things I thought I would never experience makes me more mindful of those who still long to experience these things.  There isn't a day that goes by that I'm not thinking about one of my IF friends' circumstances, whether I check twitter that day or not!

I'm a little bit afraid to post our news on Facebook, because I'm afraid of what my response will be to the people who assume we waited on purpose (not that I've kept it a secret, people just don't really pay attention on Facebook).  I'm afraid of how I'll respond to idiotic blanket statements or cliches.  I'm afraid of how I'll respond to people who bring up the infertility issue and grossly misrepresent, or show their complete lack of understanding.

I have found that lately I don't have a whole lot of grace to extend to people in my Incredible-Hulk-like mentality. ("You won't like me when I'm angry.")  It's not that I can't tap into the source of grace, or that grace is unavailable to me to extend.  I find that I have lost my desire to extend grace to certain people, and I am quick to respond as I feel a situation warrants. If a person is behaving like an idiot, instead of trying to see the good in them, or trying to figure out the motive for their asinine behavior, I'm more likely to simply call them an idiot.  Not behind their back, like I might have before.  But within ear shot of them, or even directly to their face.  (And when I use the word "idiot" here, I'm keeping it PG.  There are other words I've been using on a regular basis of which I'm not proud.)

So, in a nut-shell: 

  • I'm enjoying this pregnancy, but am even more aware of both how fragile it is and how many people there are still hurting and suffering through the loss and heartache of infertility.  
  • I am not anxious to post on Facebook for various reasons, but don't want to rob DH of his joy in this, especially as we are not together to celebrate.  
  • I have limited patience and am not very nice while being flooded with new hormones.
And finally, I am simply trying to figure out where I "fit" now in this realm of infertility.

If you're one who prays, please pray that I find that balance, to be able to still encourage and support those waiting on a BFP that results in them getting to hold and raise their living child; that I will feel the freedom to enjoy this pregnancy fully without fear, without apprehension, and without guilt; and that I will not punch people in the face or cuss them out (as is often how I imagine my response), but that I would instead extend grace and even educate people along the way (you can pray that that "education" would involve a lesson in humility on their part if needed...that I'm okay with) ;-)

May the God of the universe hear and respond positively to each of you in the cries of your hearts and give you strength, and may he help me know when to laugh and dance as well as weep and mourn!


06 August 2011

Just a Quick Note

I am out of town and visiting family, but I realized some of you don't follow me on Twitter.  I wanted to let you know that the embryo implanted and we are pregnant!

I'm dying to share on here the story of hearing that news, but sadly it'll have to wait a bit.

Didn't want to leave you wondering.  Have had two blood test to measure the Beta (HCG levels).  The numbers are looking good and have more than doubled, which is what we want them to do :-)

Hoping you are all well!  I plan to get on and post again soon!

Blessed beyond belief!

31 July 2011

Pregnant Until Proven Otherwise-PUPO

The first time I heard that acronym, PUPO, and learned what it meant, I found it incredibly adorable!  What a great way to honor the blossoming life a woman just had placed inside of her!

This is a picture of the two embryos
we transferred on Day 3 of our IVF
The first time I was PUPO, we had two little lives placed inside of me.  They were 8 cells (really 7, growing an 8th).  They were beautiful, they were living, and looking at their picture, our hearts were filled with hope for the first time in a very long time that we may actually become pregnant and eventually become parents.

For nearly two weeks, I walked around the house, spontaneously grabbing my husband's hand, placing it on my belly, and saying, "Let's pray for the embryos."  We stopped about a dozen times a day in the middle of sentences and activities to pray for those two precious lives we hoped were still growing inside of me.

At the end of the first week of waiting, we got a call from the embryologist.  Of the 15 embryos that had developed from the 19 healthy eggs retrieved and injected with sperm, two had been transferred on day 3, leaving 13 embryos, and only one of those 13 made it to the stage of being viable to freeze.  Four had made it to the blastocyst stage on day 5, and would have been candidates for a day five transfer had we not had a transfer on day three, but those four quit developing by the time day six (the freeze day) rolled around.  So, between the final possible day of transfer and the next day in which they'd be frozen, four healthy-looking embryos stopped developing.

I knew, when he told me about the four blasts that stopped growing on day 5, I knew the two inside of me had not made it.  I don't know how I knew, but I did.  I knelt down on the floor in the corner of my bedroom and cried over the lost lives.  I cried for those 14 embryos that never had a real chance.  I wept over the two that were placed in me and begged God to please let them live, but deep inside I knew they were gone.  

As I knelt there on the floor, weeping, the phrase running through my mind over and over again as my heart cried out to God was, "You know."  And that was what I clung to.  I knew that He knew my heart's desire, the longing DH and I have for children from our own bodies; He knows how many cells each one made it to; He knows why they didn't survive; He knew if the two inside of me at that time were still living; He knew how losing them would affect DH and me; He knows each life that He created, why He created it, and what became of each one; He knew my heart was broken and how to mend it.  There were so many other things, and for me what mattered in that moment was that He knew.

I picked myself up off the floor, went downstairs and asked DH to hold me (he had gone downstairs before I started crying and had no idea I had been up there weeping).  He held me gently and asked me, "Are you crying because we only got one?"  I responded through my tears, "No. I'm crying because we lost the others."

Part of what I love about being "PUPO" is the fact that for at least a week, if not even two, I have the privilege of having another life living, and potentially growing, inside of me!  That's exciting!  It's also scary.  

There are so many "what if's" to consider when one is PUPO.  Although there is life, a confirmed growing embryo, there is the question of, "Did it implant?" or, "Is it still growing?"  "What if pineapple core doesn't help implantation at all?"  "What if that tiny nibble of chocolate jeopardized it's chances?"  "What if I stood up too long on the way to the bathroom?"  "What if pushing to pee is as bad as pushing to poo?"  "What if my 15lb cat falling asleep on me while I was napping killed the embryos?  What if struggling to get him off of me did?"  "What if this? What if that?" "What if...what if...what if..."

This time around, it's not the "what if's" that are getting to me, it's the "could this be's".  Last time, after I grieved the embryos, I was fairly convinced I wasn't pregnant.  I didn't notice any symptoms other than the fact that my breasts weren't quite as swollen, I didn't have to pee all the time anymore, and I generally felt normal.  

This time, I'm noticing tiny cramp-like twinges near where I usually have major cramps, and I think, "Could this be the embryo growing after implantation? Or is it simply the progesterone, or the two whole red-bell-peppers I ate today?"

This time, my prenatal vitamin makes me feel sick when I take it, and I think, "Could this be the nausea I hear about from pregnancy? Or is it simply that this company maybe changed its formula, or I'm suddenly reacting to the iron in the supplements?  Or could it be that I just need to eat?  But my sisters could only get their pregnancy nausea to go away when they ate something and that's what makes my queasiness go away, so could it be???"

And I haven't even mentioned yet the fact that for several days post transfer, I didn't feel a thing.  Not one single symptom.  Not a period symptom, not a pregnancy symptom, not even a symptom of being myself.  I was kind of like a machine, I suppose.  I was fully composed, not at all stressed, just super chill.  It was weird and out of character for me.

Well, actually, truth be told, there was one symptom.  I was weepy.  But there you have another "Could it be?"  I wasn't sure if I was weepy because of the hormones I am taking, because of extra hormones my body might be producing because of a growing baby, or extra hormones my body might be producing in preparation for a period and in rebellion to the intentional prevention of it's arrival.  I eventually decided that it was most likely my body reacting in relief, even if my mind was not telling it to, consciously.

For example: The day before the transfer, a good friend of mine commented on how calm I was and how good I seemed about everything, even though I had verbalized concern that our frozen embryo might not survive the thaw.  The morning of the transfer, I was still in that calm mental state, but my body pushed the "override" button and started showing all the classic symptoms I get when I'm super nervous about something (let's just say, it's not pretty).  My assumption is that I was weepy after the transfer, not so much because of hormones, but because my body finally was able to express relief, but my mind was still in denial that it was ever under any stress.

Regardless, my point is, being PUPO is a wonderful, wonderful thing, but it is also a very maddening state of being.  It's wonderful because you have two glorious weeks of believing that there is a life blossoming and growing inside of you.  Hopes are high and the world is grand!  But it's maddening because doubt creeps in quickly and robs you of some of the hope and steals bits of the joy.  An unavoidable self-preservation kicks in that we infertiles know all too well.  We begin, in this PUPO state, to talk ourselves down from the ledge of hope, to a safer place known as "maybe, but probably not."

The embryo we transferred this
cycle. The dark circle in the
middle toward the top is what
becomes the fetus, the lighter
part becomes the placenta.
I must admit, I am head-over-heels in LOVE with this embryo inside of me!  I got to see which part will become the "fetus" and which part will become the placenta.  I was privileged to witness the fact that after it was thawed, this little embryo began to hatch before it was placed inside of me.  I can only imagine how dreadfully painful it will be to have to let go of this one, too, if it isn't clinging to life and growing inside of me.  I don't even want to think about it, but it's there in my mind.  What I want to think about is how neat those little twinges feel and how nice it would be if my queasiness is from the little life inside of me.

I have two and a half more days of being PUPO.  I'm going to do my best to enjoy the possibilities and not talk myself off of that ledge of hope.

Thank you all for your thoughts and prayers of support through this past week.  It's helped tremendously!  I am so thankful for my Twitter/Blogger support system.  I pray that I will have good news to share in a few days.  It may be a while before I blog about the results, but you'll probably hear on Twitter fairly soon after we know.

Praying for this life inside of me,

28 July 2011

Frozen Embryo Transfer-FET

Let me begin by saying, I was immensely blessed to have the company of my two dear friends G and A as I went through this procedure.  I cannot say enough what a blessing they were to me.  I realized in the middle of the procedure that I needed their presence in the room...that if they hadn't been with me, I would have been a puddle of tears instead of the loopy, valium-induced-calm self that I was able to be.  They assisted me with anything I needed before, during, and after the procedure, and waited on me hand and foot when we got back to my house. Truly I am blessed by their love and friendship.  So, G, and A, THANK YOU!!!
Words cannot describe how amazing the experience was for us during our Frozen Embryo Transfer, but I'll do my best to find the right ones.

Monday morning, I awoke with a prayer on my heart: "Lord God, please place your hand on this embryo as it thaws and keep it safe and healthy through the thaw."

All I've been able to think about for weeks is whether or not the embryo would survive the thaw.  I had not even begun to allow myself to think about, or even pray about, whether or not the embryo would implant.  I couldn't, until I knew the embryo survived.

When the embryologist came in and showed me the picture of our embryo and described it's condition to me, I could sense that he loved his job.  I got the impression that it would make his day for me to ask him as many questions as I could think of about what he gets to do as an embryologist.  I smiled, wishing I had the time to think of questions for him.

When he told me that there was no evidence of any cell damage to our embryo, and that he couldn't even tell that our embryo had been frozen, an image came to my mind of the hand of God covering our embryo and overseeing the thawing process Himself.  I was overwhelmed by how completely God had responded to the prayer of my heart.  He not only safely thawed the embryo, but he went above and beyond and prevented any damage, and made it so that an experienced embryologist was unable to tell it had ever even been frozen.

But the blessings didn't end there!

It turns out that, although the clinic was in the process of attaining wireless Internet that week, it was not up and running.  I had brought along my computer on the off chance that they may have it so that I could attempt to bring my DH into the room via Skype.  I decided, since I had my computer with me, to see if there were any unprotected wireless services in the area.  Sure enough, there was a dentist office nearby that graciously, though unknowingly, allowed me to access their wireless Internet while I was in the pre-op room. (*Note-a FET is not an operation, but it's performed in the same room as an IVF which is an operation, so the room they prep you in for both procedures is the same and called the "pre-op" room)

I was able to reach my DH via Skype prior to the procedure, but wasn't sure I would be able to access the Internet I was borrowing all the way back in the procedure room.  So, I uploaded (downloaded?) Skype to my iPhone and ran a few test calls to DH.  No luck.  It would not work on my phone.  I tried several times to make a good connection with him on my iPhone and it didn't work.  I decided I should be thankful he was able to be with me before, and that I would be able to contact him immediately after, but that we would still try bringing my computer into the room anyway.

On the way to the procedure room, we lost the Internet connection.  But after a few minutes, I heard the Skype ring on my phone!  I answered it, but there was no response.  My image was showing up, and the phone said we were connected, so I just assumed DH could see everything even if he probably couldn't hear it.  About three minutes later I heard my sweet husband's voice say, "Hello?"

I was beyond excited!  I was thrilled!  He could hear us, AND he could see what was going on.  There was no delay, no scrambled words, no garbled images, no freezing of the screen.  He was right there with us every step of the way, having conversations with the doctor and seeing everything as it was happening!  To me, this is also nothing less than the hand of God intervening and responding to another cry of my heart.  We never have such a perfect connection on Skype, and for it to have even worked on my phone was astounding.

Then another amazing thing happened!

When the embryologist put the image of our embryo up on the screen, it was in the process of hatching!  The energy of the room changed immediately when we saw this on the screen and I could tell it must be a very exciting thing!  (Keep in mind, I was on Valium for this and I was a bit stoned...my reasoning skills were greatly limited.)  I learned later that it is critical for an embryo to hatch in order to be able to implant, so this was a very good sign.  Also, as I reflected on it after the Valium wore off, I realized this meant that the embryo was still living and growing and healthy!  

(I realized as I played the video back later that the doctor actually pointed out this fact to me, but apparently I was too stoned to process it.  
His words were: "So it's looking really, really good. It's not only re-expanded, but it's already hatching.  It's beautiful, isn't it.")

And to a woman who longs for assurance that this just might work, to a woman who has been living with infertility for seven and a half years, even under the influence of Valium, it was a beautiful sight to behold, indeed.

The morning of the transfer, I wore my #hope t-shirt.  I have only worn that shirt twice before, and the last time I wore it, my hopes were nearly extinguished at a pool party.  But the morning of the transfer, I awoke with hope in my heart and with two key verses swirling in my mind from the day before.

"Now hope that is seen is not hope.  For who hopes for what he sees?  But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience." (Romans 8:24b-25)
"Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen." (Hebrews 11:1)

I know without a doubt that God heard my heart's cry, that He safely thawed our embryo, that He arranged for my husband to be "with" me, and that He graciously allowed us to catch a glimpse of how He "weaves us together in the secret place".  My heart is filled with quite a bit more hope this time than it was last time, even as I try to guard it, knowing that it may not yet be our time to rejoice.

If we become pregnant as a result of this transfer, our hearts will overflow abundantly with joy!  If we do not become pregnant as a result of this transfer, our hearts will certainly break, but we will still have comfort.  I will know without question that the God of the universe, the God I serve, is still good, still God, and still with me.  My hope is not in having children.  It is certainly something I hope for, but my hope is in knowing that I have been adopted as a child of God.
"Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.  For by it the people of old received their commendation.  By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible." *
"For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.  For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God.  For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.  For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now.  And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.  For in this hope we were saved.  Now hope that is seen is not hope.  For who hopes for what he sees?  But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience." **
*Hebrews 11:1-3
**Romans 8:18-25

22 July 2011

Surviving the Thaw

We have our Frozen Embryo Transfer (FET) on Monday, July 25th.

People keep asking me if I'm excited, and I've found myself answering "yes" absently as I wonder to myself if I am.  I know my DH is excited, as he has told me so several times this week.

I am excited that my two close friends are coming to stay with me, and that they will have the opportunity to go into the room with me during the transfer if they want to.
I am excited that we have this opportunity and that I didn't have to take any shots this time to get to this point.
I am excited that it's significantly less money to do this transfer than it was to do a fresh IVF cycle.

But I realized today that I'm not letting myself get excited about the upcoming transfer yet because we don't even know for certain that it will happen.

We could be ready to go on Monday morning, or even on our way to the clinic (as it's quite a drive) and receive a call that the embryo didn't survive the thaw.

When people ask me how they can pray, I tell them to pray for a safe and successful thaw for our embryo.  After that occurs, then I can start thinking about our desire for it to implant and grow and make my uterus it's home for the next nine months.

Right now, I just want the precious thing to survive the thaw.

17 July 2011

Blood Clots, Friends, and the Sound of My Blood

Three nights ago, I was at my in-laws' house and a strange thing happened with my left leg.  We were sitting on the couch looking at blue-prints for their new house when suddenly my left leg was swollen, throbbing, slightly purple, and going numb.

I adjusted my leg several different times, finally propping my left foot up on the ottoman (footstool).  Ten minutes later, the swelling went down, the throbbing stopped, the original color returned and my leg felt fine.  I mentioned it to my husband when we chatted that night (via Yahoo! chat), but he was not concerned.

Normally, such a thing would just be a strange phenomenon and I would think nothing of it, but in preparation for our upcoming Frozen Embryo Transfer (FET) I am having to take estradiol, which is a hormone that has the potential to cause blood clots.  

I am healthy, I don't smoke, I don't have a history of blood clots, so the chances are slim that I would have an issue.  Normally, the concern for blood clots is far from my mind.  However, my leg also does not normally swell up suddenly and go numb.  So, I have been a little more aware of my legs and their behavior the past couple of days.

Last night, while visiting a dear friend in a city a few hours from where I live, my friend and I went for a walk.  It was truly just a stroll around the block.  However, halfway through the walk, my feet were swollen and throbbing and my hands were so swollen it was too painful to let my arms swing by my side.  These things are also incredibly unusual.

I propped my feet up, once inside, then went to bed a little while later, exhausted.  As I lay there drifting into sleep, I noticed that my lower left leg felt like it was bruised, so I reached my hand down to touch it and my leg was very tender.  But there was no bruise, and I had done nothing that would have bruised it.

I made a mental note to tell my DH when we were able to chat next, and I fell asleep.

This morning, my DH was able to call me via the telephone.  The connection was terrible, but it was wonderful to hear his voice!  I told him about my leg feeling bruised the night before and his tone changed.  He asked a few more questions, and based on my answers, he mentioned that I might want to go to the hospital to have it checked out.  He also indicated that since he wasn't here and able to truly assess me that he wasn't certain I should go.

So, we agreed that I should call the fertility clinic and speak to a nurse.  I called the clinic this morning and left a message.  She spoke with my Reproductive Endocrinologist, and he said that I should definitely go in to the emergency room to rule out a blood clot.  He told her to convey to me that it's highly unlikely that I would have one considering my age and health, but that with the symptoms I was having (which I have not described fully here) it would be best for me to go in to be certain.

So, my friend drove me to the military post hospital here in town, and I received excellent care from the emergency room staff :)

When I described my symptoms to the nurse, he was concerned, especially when he learned that I had been in the car for long periods of time many times recently and what type of medication I was on.

The doctor, however, was not as concerned.  His face actually fell when he heard my description of my symptoms and located the points on my calf that I described as tender. I could tell that he was clearly unconcerned and it felt as if the tests he ordered at that point were simply a formality for his own protection.

I felt a bit stupid, but my friend reminded me of the importance of being cautious and advocating for my body, taking care of it, especially in light of the importance of future events (the FET).  Which also reminded me that I had been encouraged by my husband (a PA) to go in, and had been instructed by my physician to go in.  So, even if the ER doc thought that I was a waste of his time and taxpayers' money, I believe it was still the right decision for me to go in.

The doctor ordered an ultrasound of my leg, and it showed that my circulation from my foot was good and there were no clots.  I must say that the sonographer (x-ray tech, whoever) was very nice and did a great job.  AND, I must also say, that my blood flowing through my veins sounds super cool!!!  It's amazing! 

Now, lest that ER doctor (a 3rd year med-school resident) be slandered, I should inform you that he was very nice, very knowledgeable, and very thorough.  I should also let you know that I conveyed my perspective of the doctor to the nurse, about how I felt like he considered my case to be a waste of time and why I felt that way, and the nurse (who was spectacular) had a heart to heart with the doctor.  

Afterward, the doctor came in prior to discharging me and had a completely different attitude and demeanor, took the time to talk to me like a person instead of a warm body, and displayed the fact that he can not only handle constructive criticism, but that he has a teachable heart and is willing to admit he's not perfect and adjust his behavior to apply things he's learned.

So, Kudos! to the nurse named "Cowboy" at the hospital for caring enough about the patients to listen to them and the resident docs to take them under his wing.  Kudos! to the doc for doing a great job and for redeeming his reputation by showing he actually does care.  Kudos! to my amazing friend and her husband for allowing me to dominate so much of their time today and to my amazing friend for sitting with me for hours and talking sense to me when I was prone to be dramatic and nonsensical.  And Kudos! thanks and praise to God for providing for my needs in a town that is not my home, for blessing me with friends that love me unconditionally, and for keeping me safe and healthy.

I am to follow up with my Primary Care Manager (PCM) in about a week to have another ultrasound of my leg just to be certain there wasn't a clot hiding in my lower leg.  (The week gives it time to travel into my upper leg, if there's a clot, where it can be located by ultrasound.)  Apparently an ultrasound is only done from the knee up on the leg if a clot is suspected.

Thank you to those of you who were so kind to express your concern via twitter!  I appreciate your concern and support.  What a privilege it is to be uplifted so frequently by this community.  Kudos! to you all as well!  ;)