Friday, March 9, 2018

All the feels

Today, I start menopause month 2.  It also happens to be Reagan's due date, 5 years later.  And 9 months to the day since Lucas passed away.  So many things should be true that are, in fact, not true.  I should be huge and uncomfortably pregnant with Noah.  I should be ~15 weeks pregnant with the next set of twins, or even just announcing my pregnancy with our most recent transfer.  Instead, I am barren.  Empty.  I have 3 kids whom I love and adore, and yet our family feels woefully incomplete.  And I am already beginning to have panic attacks about the last transfer, because it is the LAST.  I don't ovulate, so I know pregnancy without intervention isn't in our future.  Add to that my "advancing maternal age" and, well, it's a bleak picture.  I'm in need of another surgery before our final transfer and find myself still fighting to get a doctor who is qualified to perform it as we are rapidly approaching the deadline.  All the hurts and emotions and stressors seem to collide today. 

And then, our fish died.  A stupid little fish I have no emotional connect to.  I took him to our preschool "pet shop" this morning and he did just fine.  But on the drive home, his bowl flipped over.  I'm still not quite sure how it happened, I was going about 10 mph.  The kids kept asking if there were old people around (they equate old people with slowness in the car, can't imagine where that came from...) but NO, I was just going slow to keep our fish water from splashing.  Yet, somehow this bowl turned completely on its side and dumped out the water, the rocks, and Tiger2.  I was about 30 seconds from the neighborhood so we raced home, but no luck.  Tiger2 was gone.  Dean sobbed for about 30 minutes over this fish he had ZERO interaction with.  But, it was his Lucas replacement.  It was the one thing he cried about the day after Lucas died, that his fish had died.  It broke the tension for Andrew and I, helped bring a bit of light into that day, but it was Dean's way of connecting with death, his way of grieving for his brother.  We brought home Tiger2 that day, a replacement for Tiger the original who had died right before Lucas.  It seems like such a silly thing, but it's kind of a slap in the face too.  For it to happen on this day in such a weird way.

So, here I am, continuing to grieve Reagan and Lucas (and Tiger2) while riding the emotional highs and lows of menopause and anticipating what I only expect to be failure in the future.  Better days have to be coming, right??

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Menopause: Week 1

I think the anticipation of this is the worst.  I am having flashbacks to 6 years ago, when I entered into my first round of menopause.  It's all coming back to me now.  The intense road rage, the way I could actually visualize myself ramming my little car into the back of people who drove even 1 mph under the speed limit, the way my body tensed so much with every little annoyance.  And, here's one big change.  Last time I didn't have kids.  I didn't have little people around me every second of every day, already pushing me and stretching me to my limits.  How am I going to survive that while still allowing them to rest in the fact that their mommy loves them?  What if they hate me by the end of this process?  If they're scared of me?  If I can't seem to control my emotions and take it out on them? flashes in the FL heat??  When it's in the mid 80s in FEBRUARY.  (When there should still be freezing nights and occasional snow...come on FL, get it together).  How does one survive hot flashes every few minutes when it's already sweaty hot weather outside??  Deep breath...  I keep reminding myself that this experience is TEMPORARY.  That I quickly returned to myself after stopping the medication last time, and that will happen again.  That I will be done by April.  That maybe I just hire some help to get through the afternoons, to allow my kids to still have the carefree days in the FL sun.  And that maybe we just avoid large crowds and outdoor activities that do not involve water and a bathing suit for the time being.  Yes, that sounds like a plan.

I think ultimately, my biggest fear is that none of this will matter.  That these months of menopause won't actually change the outcome, that the last 2 babies will share the same fate as the previous 7.  That I will put my family through hell only to wind up in the exact same place.  I have lost the innocence of the last time, the assumption that success would be in our future.  Because I only have 1 shot left.  Babies #13 and 14.  I never thought I'd get to this point, and certainly not in the method we did.  I miss Reagan.  And Lucas.  And Noah.  And I want to go back in time to those moments when I saw them healthy and happy on the ultrasounds, when I felt them kicking.  To those days right before they were born, when I was blissfully unaware of the crushing days ahead.  And to know that Lucas could be our last baby to hold, the last little Savant I birthed, it's crushing.  I feel like our story can't just end there.  But in reality, it definitely could.  We could never see another of our children.  And I could end our IVF journey with 9 straight losses with my living children anxious and afraid of who their mother became during the process.  It's terrifying.

Sunday, January 28, 2018

And yet again

Well, it is a new year.  2018 started off rough as I spent New Years Day in bed as my body finally began to recognize the miscarriage we knew was coming for a week.  It was not the way I had hoped to start things, not the answer to our ongoing prayers.  But, "chemical pregnancies" are apparently very common and it was considered no big deal in the whole realm of things.  We were told we could start immediately into another cycle if everything had returned to baseline.  So, a few days later, I returned to the doctor and was cleared to begin a new cycle to transfer 2 more baby Savants.  Three ultrasounds, 7 blood tests, and 2.5 weeks later, we were back in Charlotte.  It seemed a bit surreal, how quickly it all happened.  There were no months of waiting, no months of testing.  And, for the first time since Lucas, no last minute surgeries that needed to happen in the days before the transfer.  It seemed like everything was going really well.  I felt good about it. 

And here I am, just 10 days later, kicking myself for letting my heart hope.  I get this weird scar pain with each pregnancy - intense c-section scar pain that gets worse and worse until I begin to worry that the baby has, perhaps, implanted into my scar.  I think I google that every time too.  Hannah, Lucas, Noah - all had this intense scar pain.  In December, I had it for 1 single day.  I knew, after that, with a fair amount of confidence, that it was over.  But this time?  Well, this time it lasted for 3.5 days.  Good days, where I allowed my mind to go there.  Where we talked about if we could make our house work with twins or if we would definitely need to move before they were born.  And then, came the pain.  And the cramping.  And the complete absence of scar pain.  Overnight, it all changed.  My pregnancy test was still positive yesterday.  But, not today.  Today, no matter how many little sticks I used, there was no second line.  And, just like that, our babies were gone.  Two more baby Savants, gone.  Two more children I will never know, never get to raise, never hold in my arms.

Here's where my heart is struggling now...I have this huge desire and burden to have a large family.  I thought for sure we would have at least 5 kids, maybe 6.  And, as we went through our first rounds of IVF, I thought that's what we were headed for.  So, I find myself confused and hurting and wondering why this dream of mine will not become my reality, why that desire was there in the first place.  The reality of me only raising Dean, Warren, and Hannah is becoming very real.  We have one more chance, one more shot at having children, and then that chapter of our lives is completely over.  My head is still swimming with that thought.  Because, here's the thing.  I would have been completely happy with Warren, Dean and Hannah.  I would have always missed Reagan, but I never thought I needed to add to the chaos of my life.  We may have pursued adoption or fostering or something.  But instead, I had 14 embryo.  FOURTEEN.  And so, we transferred Lucas.  And then Noah.  And then 5 babies we'll never know anything about.  And here I am, facing our very last 2 embryo.  Knowing that they are the "lowest quality" of the embryo we had, that their likelihood of survival is incredibly low.  Hannah, my spunky 2-year-old, may be the last baby in our home.  This box of maternity clothes that arrived the weekend of Lucas's death may never be taken out of the box I've hidden in my closet.  The mountain of baby clothes and toys may never be used again.  If we had decided we were done in 2015 after Hannah was born, none of that would be a source of intense grief.  Instead, I've lost 7 babies since June.  In less than the time it takes most women to carry 1 child through pregnancy, I've lost 4 pregnancies.

We didn't really share about this transfer, didn't really say much of anything.  It wasn't a secret necessarily, just nothing I openly shared unless it was asked.  I didn't want to feel judged for jumping in again, didn't want to hear the comments.  Silently going through this is not any easier, that is for sure.  Pretending like nothing happened, well, that's not making it hurt any less.  I long for the flickering heart on the ultrasound, the little baby kicks in my womb, the sleepless nights and stressful feedings and endless crying that come with having a newborn.  I'm not ready for this stage to end.  One more chance...

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

7 months

The last 2 embryo transfers have started off with the need for emergency, last minute surgeries.  I have been poked and prodded and violated more times than I can count in our desire to grow our family.  When we first found out we had 19 embryo, when we were able to freeze 14, we didn't know what our future would look like.  We used to joke about a reality TV show if we had them all.  We used to wonder what we would do with those that were frozen toward the end, those we wouldn't ever know.  Especially when I was pregnant with Lucas, preparing for the 4th baby I would raise, knowing that we had 8 more embryo and I seemed to get pregnant no matter what and we were only transferring 1 at a time.  And now?  Well, now we have 4 left.  We have 2 attempts, and then we are done.  I am realizing this may be it for us.  And, then what?  Our family doesn't feel complete.  But, maybe that's just the circumstances, maybe it never will. 

Today marks 7 months since I delivered our sweet baby boy.  Seven months since we welcomed Lucas into the world, only to have to say goodbye.  Seven months ago I was able to hold my sweet boy in my arms, to soak up every second of time with him.  And now, seven months have gone by with empty arms and a broken heart.  Again.  I miss my Lucas, every second of every day.  I still twinge when I see a baby boy, still feel my breath catch as I walk past the baby section in the stores.  The difference this time around is that I have no shelter, no way to hide from it all.  And no babies growing in my belly.  I always thought pregnancy loss would be easier if I had other kids at home.  It is not. 

2017 sucked.  That's really the best word I can type out to describe it.  We lost so much, and there is so much pain there.  I will never see my son grow up, never hear his little baby cries, never nurse him to sleep, never grow exhausted with the midnight feedings.  I am missing so much.  And, I should be right at the same point with Noah, 23.5 weeks.  And instead, nothing.  I am back on hormones and all sorts of new drugs, an attempt to prevent the future loss of any more babies.  But, as I spoke with my MFM, with each loss our odds go down.  Now, I know better than anyone that the statistics mean absolutely nothing.  In the best and worst of ways, we defy the odds.  But, on days like today, when the grief and loss are so raw, my mind goes back there.  Oh, what I wouldn't do to have my sweet boys back.  To have them all back.  Reagan.  Lucas.  Noah.  These last 2 we didn't even get to name.  I lose so much of myself with each loss.  And the thing is, I keep telling myself that, at least I can only lose 4 babies this year.  But, with that is the end of our chances, the complete closure of this chapter of my life.  And that, that is terrifying.

Friday, December 29, 2017

Broken again

This week, we said goodbye to another 2 baby Savants.

I am so ANGRY to be typing these words.  I fully planned on talking about the miracles growing inside of me and the anticipation of a better 2018.  Now, the only positive I seem to come up with is that in 2018 I can only lose 4 children instead of 5.  Cynical?  Sure.  But I'm just not sure how much more one can endure.  I keep thinking that I've suffered enough, that it can't be my turn yet again.  But the truth is much harder than this fantasy I want to live in, and we are left ending this year in the same way we started it - barren.

We had a very brief 24 hours of hope.  Twenty-four hours when I had a faint positive on my pregnancy test.  I've been there before, walking the line of faint tests, which always darkened as the days went on.  I had years of negative tests, month after month.  I know what those look like and the heartbreak that accompanies them.  And, because of that, the faint positive is SUCH a huge thing, something I never had in those years of waiting.  So, for 1 full day, I clung to that.  And then the next day - it was gone.  These babies existed for only a few weeks,  I'm not sure that they ever count in my medical charts.  But for us?  They were everything.  They were our hope at the end of a difficult year, they were a promise of something to look forward to, they were two little people we loved so desperately.  Miscarriage isn't easy at any stage.  I used to think that miscarriage before that first ultrasound wasn't so bad.  But, here's the thing, from the MOMENT you see that faint little second line, you make plans.  You dream.  You talk about names.  You hope.  And to have that all come crashing down is hard, whether that child is loved for a few weeks or months.  We knew these babies for 12 days, saw them for the first time 12 days ago.  Not long at all.  And yet, still so painful.  To make it all worse, two new big boy beds were delivered this week.  Two new mattresses, new accessories, new bedding.  I have a once-nursery, now spare bedroom, filled with unused cribs and changing tables and baby gear...

I'm not sure what lies ahead for us, I'm not sure what our plans are.  We have 4 embryo waiting for us, so I am confident we will meet all 4 in some fashion.  But I'm also coming to grips with the reality that this big family we have dreamed of may not be what God has planned for us here.  That we may continue to watch our extended family grow while also watching our own children die.  That I may only be raising these 3 crazy ones here - a Warren, a Dean, and a Hannah.  And we may not know our other children until they are grown.  I have a pile of maternity clothes that I ordered while pregnant with Lucas that came in a few days after he passed away - those may never be worn.  But, I still feel like our family is not complete.  Like something or someone is missing.  And I still feel like it's a set of boy-girl twins. As much as having twins again terrifies me, that's still where my heart is.  I just don't understand why there has to be so much pain in the journey to get there.

Our only picture of this set of twins

Sunday, December 10, 2017

6 months

I cannot believe today marks 6 months.  How is that even possible?  Six months since I gave birth to my sweet son, in the silence of a delivery room.  Six months since I held my boy, since I rocked him and sang him songs, since I gave him his last kiss, since I said goodbye.  Our whole story is written in past tense as I look back to our one, final day together.  Oh how my heart breaks, as I cry these ugly tears and try to figure out what to say.  Because for the most part, there are no words.

Oh Lucas, I am so very sorry.  I'm sorry I failed you, in the most permanent way.  I make mistakes all the time as a mother - some based out of my own sinful nature, so simply because I don't have a clue what I'm doing - but I get to apologize, give hugs and kisses, share about grace, and ask for forgiveness.  I never got to do that with you.  I'm sorry son, I'm sorry for every moment I complained about feeling sick or tired or run down.  I'm sorry for feeling disappointed for a second that you were not the girl I had planned you to be.  I'm sorry for not buying you much of anything special, things that were just for you.  And most of all, I'm sorry my body failed and I couldn't keep you alive.  I wish we had known to try things differently.

June 10, 4:41am, you entered this world, my only child to ever be handed right to me.  You were so small, just shy of a pound, but perfectly formed.  We have the most amazing hand and foot prints from you.  And, in those first few moments, I tried to soak up every tiny little detail.  The cleft in your chin, the slight pudge in your cheeks, your long feet and even longer finger nails, your little unibrow, your 2 single eyelashes, and your pouty lips.  Little pieces I can see in Dean, Warren, and Hannah every single day since.  In the short hours that followed, we attempted to create the only memories we would have in this lifetime.  We tried to make every second count.  I don't really remember too many tears in the delivery room after you were born.  It was like mommy instinct took over and I didn't want to waste a second of our time together being sad and missing out.  I knew from Reagan the importance of soaking up every single moment together.  The other emotions came later, but in the moment there was mostly joy and peace.  I kind of forgot that until now, how strongly I felt God's presence at the hospital.  Because, since coming home, there has not been a lot of peace or joy.  More angst and despair than anything else.  So, I am grateful for that day especially, and for the memories I have.

So today, sweet baby Lucas, we celebrate you.  We remember you and love you and want to do something special for your 6 month birthday.  We are baking you some cupcakes, that each one of us can decorate with whatever makes us think of you.  I imagine this will entail SO. MANY. SPRINKLES.  My child, your siblings love some sprinkles.  I will be sure to take some pictures for you.  Warren wants to send you a balloon, because that is what he knows.  So, be on the lookout for a few blue balloons headed your way.  And we'll make you some cards, carefully decorated and written on.  Probably at least one of them will get crumbled in a ball.  But don't worry, we'll flatten it out and place it gently in your memory box.

Oh Lucas, how I love and miss you.  I wish these last 6 months were filled with memories with you.  I wish I could be sharing about what your favorite book is and what calms you down, how well (or not well) you are sleeping, and new milestones you have reached.  I will never have that post.  I will maybe never know these things.  But know this, you are loved beyond words, my son.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Tentative steps

Well, it's been a difficult 6 months for sure.  Nearly 6 months ago, Lucas was born.  Since then, it's been a whirlwind of medical procedures, tests, surgeries, and more pain.  Some days I'm not quite sure how to go on, how to get out of bed and face the world and all the painful reminders.  My heart aches for the feel of our son safe in my arms.  Oh, how I long for those sleepless nights.  August brought another surgery to ready my body.  In September, we did transfer, saw another 2 little baby Savants, fell in love.  Only to have everything come crashing down again just 7 weeks later. Those sweet babies I never even got to feel kicking inside of me.  Then, we planned on doing another transfer at Thanksgiving, only the testing leading up to it lead us to a dead stop.  Everything looked great, but I had retained some placental tissue from Noah.  My body was not yet ready.

Fast forward to December.  We are mid cycle again, and facing more problems than I would like.  Tomorrow I head back to the hospital for yet another surgery, this time to remove an ovarian cyst.  Why?  WHY??  I want to scream at it all.  It's not the procedure itself, it's fairly simple.  It's not the inconvenience of it.  It's just the accumulation of one more thing, one more obstacle.  Some people just get to have sex.  And just like that, the bitterness takes root.  And I find myself questioning over and over again, what's wrong with me?  Why is it always me?  At this very second, I should be nursing my sweet baby.  Or, 17 weeks pregnant.  Instead, I am barren.  Empty.  Prepping for another medical procedure with the hopes that I will one day be able to raise those sweet babies.

So, here is how you can pray for us.  First, the surgery tomorrow.  It's being done by a doctor I've never met in a practice I've never heard of.  He says he can do it, no problem, so we'll see.  I'm also electing to only have local anesthesia as the hubs is out of town.  Anyone who knows me knows that I HATE all these things, and that I much prefer to be completely out for anything that happens in an OR.  Second, we have a transfer on the books again.  On 12/19, we'll be meeting 2 other little baby Savants.  This is hard to share in advance.  I blogged my way through the entire process with Reagan and it was a really beautiful time.  Since then, we've been fairly secretive about the process for some reason, choosing not to share until late in the 1st trimester, after several ultrasounds and labs confirming everything looks good.  And through that all, I've learned it's certainly not any easier that way.  More times than not, my babies still die.  This time, I feel like I need an army of prayer warriors surrounding me, so I'm choosing to be vulnerable instead.  I'm saying goodbye to the cute little surprise facebook announcement because this is infinitely more important.

As I look into the future, I have a hard time imagining that anything will work.  Testing has revealed some things that may or may not be treatable and may or may not be contributing to our losses.  That doesn't leave me with any warm and fuzzy feelings.  Statistics are scary, with up to a 25% chance of recurrent stillbirth.  That is very high, too high some might say.  But, we were given these embryo for a reason.  I have 6 more babies, babies I've never met, babies I would love to know.  So, less circumstances change and close this door to us, we will move forward with the transfers, trusting that God is good even when He doesn't appear to be.  Trusting that He knows best, even when I think I could do it better.  It's not a fun place to be, but it's where I am called right now.