Next steps

When we decided to be open about our fertility issues and share our story publicly, we did it for several reasons and we gave it a lot of consideration before pulling the trigger on that first post.

I am incredibly glad we did decide to share, for a number of reasons, but mostly because we both felt that there is value in sharing stories and showing people that these kinds of things can affect anyone.

Unsurprisingly, the toughest thing about sharing this process is having to share bad news.

It’s been about two months since we lost our baby.

Two months is a milestone I’ve looked forward to because two months was the time we were told me might be able to try again.

We love Speck. We will always love Speck. It is difficult to describe to anyone who hasn’t experienced pregnancy loss how it feels to love a baby that is growing in your (or your partner’s) body and to never actually meet that baby and see it grow into the dreams you have for him or her.

It’s not something that can really be understood by anyone who hasn’t been through it, I think, and that’s nobody’s fault. It’s just reality.

Still, I have countless friends and family who’ve shown up to support us in person, through the mail, through phone calls and messages. It’s been incredible the way we’ve been wrapped in love through this process.

If I’d have known the first try would end the way it did, maybe I would’ve hesitated to share this process. But knowing that hesitation, I’m glad I didn’t have a heads up.

I’m grateful that our instinct was to share, because I’m not sure I could’ve made it through this quietly. I know a lot of women do and I admit those women are stronger than I am, because I honestly feel like I needed every ounce of support we’ve been given and I am forever grateful to our loved ones who recognized that.

But I really didn’t start writing this with the intention of being reflective.

Because it’s been two months and, while we will forever love the baby we had for just a few weeks, we’ve reached the point where we’re able to move forward and try again.

My test results came back negative for the things our doctor thought might’ve caused the previous miscarriage. Our doctor seemed a little disappointed because he wanted more. He wanted a clinical answer. We didn’t really get that.

What we know is that Speck was genetically normal and I don’t seem to have any underlying issues that might make pregnancy difficult to maintain.

A science mind would prefer to have something to fix. I’m just grateful to hear I’m relatively normal.

Now we have to assume the miscarriage was just something we’ll never explain, but also something we can set behind us as an independent issue that likely doesn’t foreshadow a repeat issue.

I feel good about that. I feel good about our chances. I feel less anxious than I was last time because I know the whole process that is ahead of me. I just feel good.

And as weird as it feels to say that, because my heart still aches for the baby we won’t meet, I’m grateful that I can say it.

So here’s where we are:

I’ve quit drinking alcohol (yep, no alcohol this holiday season, send me your best festive cocoa recipes!) and am cutting back on caffeine again (easy, because I really drink coffee for the ritual of drinking from a warm cup in my hand and I honestly don’t hate decaf). I’ve already started the medicines that are necessary before the transfer, though the shots won’t begin for a couple of weeks. On top of that, I’m also continuing to go to therapy and it is extremely helpful as I try to find ways to calm any anxiety that this round will go like the last. I can’t recommend therapy enough – for anyone going through anything or nothing at all.

In a few more weeks we will have an embryo transfer and then we just wait and hope and pray. I’m really looking forward to doing this during the holidays, because I am at peak joyful in November and December and holiday decorating and baking and family time are the perfect distractions for me.

Happy Thanksgiving, Merry [early] Christmas (don’t roll you eyes at me) and [non-alcoholic] cheers to good things ahead!

 

 

 

 

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What’s next?

I’ve had a lot of people checking in and asking what’s next in this whole trying to have a baby process.

Thank you, by the way, to everyone who’s sent messages, mail, cards, care packages, texts, phone calls — we truly feel so loved and supported.

So here’s what’s up. Fertility doctors don’t like to rush you back into trying after you’ve had a d&c. While I’m naturally not a patient person, I’ve been really grateful for this break.

Since the d&c we’ve learned that Speck (the poor baby never grew past his or her ridiculous embryo nickname) didn’t have any genetic abnormalities, or at least not any of those they typically test for.

About 75% of miscarriages that happen in the time frame ours did are caused by a genetic abnormality. The other 25% tend to be caused by an issue with the mother or they just didn’t work out for a reason that will never be known.

Because our miscarriage followed a round of IVF, a lot of the things they would test me for have already been tested. That’s a good thing. We know my thyroid is normal and a lot of other big things that can cause pregnancy issues. The doctor is also extremely confident I’m not diabetic, so that’s good, but they did run a test for it as a precaution.

The other two big things they test for sound scary, but they’re actually not a big deal in normal life, only in pregnancy and they’re treatable — one is a clotting disorder and the other is an autoimmune issue that basically causes the body to kill off fetus cells because they’re viewed as an invasive species. Listen, if you’re a doctor reading this, just know this is how I’m remembering the descriptions as I heard them in an emotional state and my terminology may be off.

The bottom line here is both of those things can be treated. At least one of them would require daily shots in my stomach for the entirety of a pregnancy, but that honestly sounds so much easier now than it would have a few months ago.

I’ll find out in a few weeks whether I have either of those things. The doctor is leaning toward hoping that I do, because then he has answers. I’m sort of still hoping I don’t and the whole thing was just a fluke — I’m told it’s possible and I’d rather hear there’s nothing wrong with me.

Once we know those results, we’ll know if we should try the same route again or start thinking about other options. We’re 100% open to adoption and the other options on the table, but the fact is they all cost a lot of money, so we want to know everything we can about the entire processes before we make a decision.

Overall, it’s been up and down emotionally, but truly more up than down. Russ bounced back pretty quickly, but his challenge is dealing with my emotions. About six days a week I’m feeling good and positive, but there seems to be one day a week when I’m just devastated.

I’ve never dealt with grief and uncertainty like this and I’ve found myself angrier than I expected. I’ve noticed anger when I normally might be sad or just having a down day. Anger is not a very natural go-to emotion for me and not one I have a lot of experience in managing. The best thing we could think to do was look for outside help. So I’ve gotten hooked up with a therapist who I’ll start seeing next week and I’m honestly thrilled.

It will be great to find some tools for handling the down days and even better to not always lean on Russ to be the ultra-positive, supportive force that he will always try to be. He is so good at that, but this is his grief too and he shouldn’t have to carry it all.

Anyway, that’s a lot of rambling just to sort of get folks who’ve been following us up to speed.

We still very much want a family and we’re extremely hopeful for what’s ahead. Some days suck, for lack of a better description, but most days we do a lot of the usual laughing at each other’s cheesy jokes and going for runs together and just generally enjoying the great things we have in this life.

It’s okay for now. It’ll be even better someday.

Thanks for the love, really.

A week later

Last week when I said I was in the depths of darkness, I wasn’t being dramatic.

I didn’t see a way out of what I was feeling. I wanted to burn my life to the ground and disappear.

One of the things that scared me the most over the past several weeks was my mental health.

I’m not someone who struggles with mental health issues on a regular basis and I would never seek to minimize the experiences of do. I don’t pretend to know what that’s like and frankly I’m nowhere near as strong as my friends who fight this battle daily.

What I know is this was not my normal and it scared me.

There’s no correct way to handle grief, but I have to imagine a lot of how I was feeling in the days immediately following our baby’s death had to do with my massive hormonal changes and the medicine I was pumping into my body.

Over the past two months I was legitimately concerned about how I would react if this didn’t work out. Of course we wanted to be positive. Of course I had days when I truly believed my body, which has a long history of not letting me down, would again not let me down.

But then there were days when I thought a failed IVF cycle would lead me to do something unsafe or ill-advised – to run away or worse.

I did the only thing I knew to do when I felt this – I warned people around me. I told them I was afraid of what might happen or what I might do. And, to be totally honest, only two of those people seemed to really take me seriously.

Thankfully, one of them was Russ. Russ who gently reminded me I could run away, but I’d need to tell him where I was going so he could meet me.

When I said in my last post that I was in the depths of darkness after we lost Speck, I meant it. I was legitimately scared and lost and unsure how to handle it.

But I’m here a week later and a lot of the extra hormones have already worked their way out of my body – and I’m feeling more rational.

I no longer feel the need to burn my life to the ground or disappear.

I hurt.

My heart aches.

I’m afraid of the uncertainty of our chances going forward.

But I feel like I can face the grief.

This is not something I’d wish on anyone. More than that, this is not something I’d wish for anyone to go through alone.

We’ve chosen to share this experience for a number of reasons. Right now, it feels most important to me to be raw and honest in sharing our story because we won’t be the last people to go through this.

This may not even be the last time we go through it.

But it’s okay to not be okay. It’s normal to not be okay. And it’s important to let someone know you’re not okay.

We’ll always love our first baby.

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Since the beginning of this process, I’ve committed to sharing the ups and downs right here. This is raw, real and may be tough to read.

There are two other drafts of blog posts I wish I was sharing with you. One about the day we found out I was pregnant. One of a miscarriage scare at about 6 weeks that ended well.

Instead it’s this one.

I was almost 10 weeks pregnant and things looked hopeful. Somehow this complicated and draining process was working out for us on the first try, and thank god, because I don’t know how on earth we could try again anytime soon.

But those weeks were all we got.

We’ve spent the last seven days in “cautious optimism” with me playing the role of cautious and Russ playing the role of optimism.

We were told not to panic and to be cautiously optimistic last week because the sac and baby were measuring four days behind, but there was a strong heartbeat.

I’d been feeling so good. Symptoms were minimal outside of the pain from my daily shots.

It all ended today.

I knew the moment we saw the first glimpse of our baby on the grainy black and white screen that the heartbeat we’d seen was gone.

A baby we’d affectionately called speck (no idea why) since the day we got its first photo.

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We’ve fallen in love with this baby. I knew not to get too excited, but at almost 9 weeks and multiple ultrasounds showing heartbeats, I’d broken my own rule. I was starting to think about how we’d decorate a nursery and starting to argue about names (not Tom Brady). Speck was due on April 11.

Now I’m deciding when to schedule a procedure to have Speck, whom we’ve talked to and told we loved, removed from my body.

There is nothing anyone around us can say or do to make us feel better and I feel for those who have to try.

This is not a fixable situation.

My emotions are a wreck. Russ is devastated. People who’ve known about my pregnancy are lovingly checking in on me and I want to throw my phone at a wall and disappear – which is entirely unfair to the people who are reaching out because they love me, but dammit, that’s all I feel like I can handle right now.

Still, I can’t disappear. I have to go about my normal life and act like everything’s okay. I have to pretend like I’m not spending every second wondering why this is so damn hard for us – why we don’t get to live out the one thing we’ve both always dreamt of – and how we’re going to manage to do this again.

It’s a wildly expensive process, but it’s not about the money. We’ll move some funds around and make it work. I know there is a way we can make it happen.

Beyond the monetary costs, I don’t know how my body and mind can handle all of this again right now. I was supposed to do 67 intramuscular shots of progesterone. They’re painful – not every day. Sometimes they’re okay, but there are days when I can feel the pain radiating all the way down through my calf and I feel like I can’t use my entire leg because of it. I’ve taken unexpected days off from work because I simply couldn’t sit or stand for long periods of time.

I haven’t been able to run, despite being allowed to during pregnancy, because my body is too sore.

I was supposed to do 67 of those daily shots. I made it to 65 and then we learned the baby died.

My body isn’t ready to do it again.

My mind most certainly isn’t ready. I am in the depths of darkness. I can’t see anything positive around me except Russ and I want so badly to disappear. My biggest dream is to be a mom. My next biggest dream is to see Russ as a dad.

I need space. I need to know what I’ve done in life to not be able to have something that comes so easily to others.

I need to know why we only had a few weeks to live our dream.

We loved Speck. We will always love Speck. We’re just heartbroken.

And we love you all for walking with us through this and sending us love.

Real men

I recently saw a Facebook post that got me all kinds of riled up.

It shouldn’t have, because… well, it’s Facebook, but it did and I’m going to blame the meds and my emotionally charged state.

The post initially was about someone being annoyed when they see a woman pumping her gas while a man sits in the car.

I could’ve waved it right off as one of those “some people might be better off just staying in their own lane” type of posts, but I read the comments.

One of the sacred (I’m mostly kidding) rules of journalism is to never read the comments.

People were going off about men who do that not being real men. One person went so far as to say her dad walks over to men when he sees them doing that and preaches to them about it.

Y’all.

I have to admit something.

Russ doesn’t always pump my gas for me.

I also have to admit that I’ve been guilty in the past of wishing he would always offer.

But he doesn’t.

And really why does he have to? He always pumps gas when he drives. I never offer to do it for him. Like him, I’m a perfectly capable adult. Heck, thanks to South Carolina’s extremely lax license rules, we probably got our driver’s license in the same year, so I’m betting we’ve been pumping our own gas for the same amount of time.

He doesn’t always pump my gas for me and it really is fine, but those “not a real man” comments had me some kind of fired up.

For over six months we’ve been going through the toughest thing we’ve ever faced and that’s just since we enlisted the help of fertility specialists. In that time, well, I honestly can’t even tell you all of the awful stuff Russ has held my hand through. It’s just too personal.

He’s seen and learned things about a woman’s body that I would’ve expected to make him, at the very least, cringe. And even if he has internally cringed, he’s never once shown it to me.

There are things about womanhood that are pretty easy to keep to yourself when you’re going through the normal patterns of life. But when stuff hits the fan in the fertility department, a whole lot of that privacy goes away pretty quickly and embarrassment becomes a bit of a lost cause.

Still, he’s never made me feel like this whole process was anything less that worth it.

The man even let doctors open up his most delicate part of his body so we could find out if he would even be able to have kids.

On top of all of that, he’s picked up even more than his usual share of cleaning around the house and he’s started cooking more dinners.

He got over his own fear of needles and blood so he could give me the daily shots that I can’t easily give myself.

He constantly checks on me to see how I’m feeling and if I just need a break.

And he’s reminded me time and time again that we don’t have to do this if it’s too hard, that he’d be okay with using a donor if I want to go through the physically easier process of insemination rather than IVF.

If that’s not a real man, then I’m not even sure I want one.

And a fair warning to the preaching type: The first person who walks up to our car to preach to Russ for not pumping my gas is likely to be the first person I’ve ever punched.

Hormones, people. Ugh.

When I started the medications for the retrieval part of the IVF process my brother joked that I was going to be a bit of an emotional challenge.

It’s not an off-the-wall prediction to say that pumping extra hormones into your body might make your brain react in weird ways.

I actually braced myself for this in those first few weeks. I fully expected to be kind of an emotional handful for those around me. I was pleasantly surprised. Aside from what I believe to be very reasonable fears that the process might not work out, I actually felt pretty mentally stable. It was nice.

Of course, my brother didn’t necessarily believe me when I told him that I never really felt out of my norm. I believe his exact words were “I’ll see what Russ says about it”. That’s fair and it’s also not an unexpected response from a sarcastic brother.

As it turns out, this process I’m in now is ripe for the mental meltdown. I’m taking what feels like a boatload of estrogen – granted, I have no real concept of how much estrogen is normal and how what I’m adding compares – but this feels like a lot.

I’ve been on it for a few days now. It started with two pills a day. I’m now up to seven pills a day.

And I’m noticing.

This week has already been extremely emotional. We have some big changes coming over the next few days as our best buds move away followed by more great friends moving away a few days after that.

I’m not handling any of it well.

To put it lightly: I’m a wreck. I cried when I saw the U-Haul in our friends driveway three days before their actual move. I’ve cried because my body looks and feels different to me right now. I almost cried while Russ and I were running yesterday. I’m tearing up while writing this.

I said when I started sharing this stuff that I would be as honest as possible about the ups and downs. There’ve been a lot of ups. I have to believe that our experience so far has been about as good as it possibly could be. It’s funny how quickly we went from feeling this whole situation is wildly unfair to celebrating the little victories – perspective matters and ours has shifted like crazy over the past few months.

We’ve had a trend of getting better than expected news from each step of the process. It’s been great – kind of like winning the slowest heat in the 100m great –  but still, pretty great.

There are downs. This week is quite clearly one of the low points. I feel physically great, but I’m overly emotional about everything and that’s hard on me and even tougher on Russ.

I’m currently trying to reel it in because the last thing an embryo needs is to try to make a home in a stressed out body. Running helps. Little things like Russ cleaning the kitchen and turning on Jeopardy without my prompting help. Messing around in our garden helps. The new baby birds who just hatched in our yard help. Unexpected text messages from friends who are just checking in help.

We’re getting really close to the end of the first attempt at this whole process. I felt like a superhero during the first part. Giving myself shots without much hesitation really boosted the ol’ ego.

Of course, if you know me well, you know the fact that my emotions are the biggest challenge of this journey makes absolutely perfect sense.

If you’re the praying type, prayers help. Prayers for staying calm and positive and, if it feels appropriate to you, prayers that this whole thing works out. We’re so ready to love on a baby.

July is here

I haven’t had much to share in a few weeks because June has been a much-needed and much-appreciated break from all things IVF.

IVF is hyper-personalized. For a lot of couples one IVF cycle happens a lot faster than ours has. It is most common to do a fresh transfer. A fresh transfer means embryos are transferred into the uterus within just a few days of the egg retrieval.

For an impatient person, that sounded like the best option, but according to our doctors who know the ins and outs of this process and have much more educated insight into what we actually need, that just wasn’t the right fit for us.

I’m becoming more convinced every day that this whole process is a way of kicking my butt so that I finally learn how to be at least a little patient. I am notoriously impatient. It’s one of my worst qualities.

In our particular situation, it was recommended that we do a frozen transfer. We have chosen to trust the doctor recommendations throughout this process, despite some of our friends and family’s best efforts to convince us there might be a better way (hey, we know it comes from a place of love).

Honestly, outside of my impatient self not wanting to wait several extra weeks to see if this all worked, we never really doubted that frozen was the best option for us.

A month ago we didn’t know if we would have a shot at having Russ’s kids. That alone was a good reason to wait a few extra weeks. Otherwise, if his operation had gone differently, we might’ve found out on a Wednesday that we needed to use donor sperm and by Monday or Tuesday that baby could already be cooking.

That didn’t turn out to be an issue, but looking back on this month of just relaxing and living like normal, I am grateful that our doctors suggested we wait.

June has been a gift. I started running again a few weeks ago and I’ve been able to enjoy some beer and wine. We took a little trip to Raleigh with some of our best friends. We had a great visit with Russ’s Aunt Sharon. We finished our bedroom floors! We started using our pool membership. I celebrated a bachelorette weekend with some of my favorite family members. Did I mention running? It’s amazing what it does for my mood.

Honestly, if you never opened up our fridge in June to see the half empty tubes of Gonal-F and bottles of hormones shoved in the door next to our milk, you might never know what we were up to in May.

If you didn’t look in the box full of the half dozen meds and accompanying syringes necessary for the next part of the process, you might never know that our July is going to be the total opposite of June.

I start taking meds again on the 5th and I’ll start injections later in the month. This time around Russ is going to have to learn how to administer them, so that should be an adventure of its own.

On top of that, several of our good friends are moving away in July – SEVERAL. We’ve spent most of June pretending all of this wasn’t really happening, but it is and it’s going to be tough.

A few years ago I watched a movie called ‘Conception’. I don’t remember much about it, but I keep thinking about Connie Britton’s character and her husband who had to give her some sort of fertility shots in her booty. At the time, it was funny because it was an awkward situation.Now it’s funny in a dark humor, this is too real, try not to hate Russ every time he sticks me with a needle kind of way.

July is going to be emotional, to say the least, but I think June was exactly the break we needed to collect ourselves and get ready to move forward with the process. Plus there are so many things to get worked up about this month that I don’t know where to start. I think that’s going to work in my favor.

Here’s to July and to hoping it works out the way everything else has so far.

Annapolis

I don’t know what to say about what happened in an Annapolis newsroom yesterday.

We don’t know full details about a motive, but reliable sources report he had history with the paper after a story was written about him years ago.

We don’t know his exact motive for acting on that anger yesterday — we don’t know what fueled the violence years after his run-in with the paper.

But we do know there are people actively cheering on social media over journalists being killed. We know there are tweets saying journalists aren’t humans and this is what they deserve.

I know what it’s like to huddle in the smallest room in a news building because a threat has been phoned in and I know what it’s like to walk past posters taped to walls and doorways showing the face of a man who should not be let into the building.

“Call police if you see this man on the premises.”

Threats and vitriol are delivered to newsrooms daily by mail, email, Facebook, Twitter and phone call.

That’s been the case for decades, but I’ve watched it get worse over the past couple of years.

So many people have told me when people in power speak badly about journalists, they mean the big guys — the CNNs or the NYTimes. They don’t mean local journalists serving the communities in which they live.

I was told I was taking it too personally when I was upset with the words our President used to describe journalists.

I was made to believe this couldn’t happen to a journalist like me; someone who covers feature stories and things that, by and large, make people happy.

That was wrong.

This wasn’t the big guys, not that they deserve to die any more than the rest of us — they don’t.

This was a newsroom at a newspaper of a similar size to the one I work for in a city that is comparable to my own.

These were people working at their desks just trying to meet their deadline on a normal Thursday.

Earlier this week I listened as our President came to South Carolina and pointed at my friends and colleagues working a long day to cover his visit and called them “the enemy of the people” in a room of thousands. And it hurt me. I can’t lie about that. It bothered me. But it comes with the territory these days and I’m often told I need a thicker skin.

That is, in some ways, a fair critique.

But if a gunman comes into my newsroom with the intent to kill indiscriminately, it won’t matter that I generally write stories about good things happening in our community like development or the graduation ceremony of a young woman with a severe handicap whose parents thought they wouldn’t get to see her grow past age three or four, and it sure as hell won’t matter how thick my skin is.

It will only matter that 12 years ago I decided on a career path that would make people hate me enough — without ever speaking to me in person– to end my life.

My heart is with everyone in the capital-gazette newsroom who not only lost people they care for, but had to watch the violence happen and with the families who won’t get to speak with their loved ones again.

I just found this in a drawer

I just found this in a drawer. I’d forgotten i bought it. Last July we briefly thought I was pregnant, thanks to either a faulty test or a chemical pregnancy. That week I went out and bought this book for our future son or daughter. I still can’t wait to introduce our kids to my hero someday.

Results (so far)

I can’t even tell you how many 400 meter hurdle races I’ve run in my life, but there’s a very distinct pattern to the emotion of my favorite race.

Like every track event it starts with the adrenaline at the starting line, a burst of energy or even a chill as you place your feet in the starting block and give your legs one last shake out. There’s the stillness before the gun goes off that seems far longer than it is.

Then you’re off and facing the first curve and the first hurdle.

You’re confident. At this point there’s no doubting you’ll easily clear all of the hurdles.

But it’s a brutal race. It’s a quarter mile at a full-blown sprint pace with 10 hurdles spread along the way.

When I coached track I always told the 400 runners “I love the 400 because it’s just long enough to make you want to quit and right about the time that feeling hits, you reach the finish line”.

For me, that desire to quit used to hit somewhere around the last straightaway of a hurdle race when I was far enough in to know what I’d already accomplished but tired enough to wonder if I might have trouble with the last hurdle or two.

I’ve never experienced anything like it.

Until IVF.

IVF is emotional whiplash. The process, if you’re lucky, is filled with highs, but each one is met with the almost-immediate realization that the next hurdle may take away everything you’ve worked through so far.

Right now, we’re somewhere in the final curve having cleared so many hurdles along the way.

Last week was huge. Russ had surgery on Wednesday and we learned, after months of wondering, that we might actually be able to have a kid (hopefully kids) of his own. I’ve never been so thrilled about anything, but it was followed by the very real fear that my Thursday egg retrieval wouldn’t pan out like it should.

Thursday went well too. They were able to get 19 eggs. 19 eggs! I was IV drunk after the procedure and I think I asked about that number about three times before I believed it.

But here’s the thing, numbers in this process change dramatically. We knew that. So, we reined in our excitement and waited for the Friday phone call about how many embryos we’d have.

16 eggs were mature enough to attempt fertilization. 14 were successfully fertilized.

We started with 14 embryos with the knowledge that the number would again be cut down and probably in a big way. The embryologist estimated five would continue to grow like they should until this week when they would freeze them for later transfer.

The embryologist was correct.

So here we are with a finite number. We have five chances. If you know anything about the statistics of pregnancy and IVF procedures specifically, you know that doesn’t mean five babies.

Though five used to be the number of children I always said I wanted, we’ll be thrilled to have just one and we’ll figure out the sibling thing later, ideally using leftover embryos, if everything works out.

Right now, we’re facing what’s ahead. I get to be normal for a few weeks until I start more shots ahead of the transfer process. I can run and enjoy some beer and just generally feel less like a pin cushion and more like myself.

Those last few hurdles are still there. We don’t know that the embryos will all survive the thawing process and we don’t know that any of them will lead to a successful pregnancy and I’m terrified that we have a maximum number of chances and it’s just five, but we’re also thrilled that it’s not the zero we thought was a very real possibility just 10 days ago.

If my over-the-top metaphor proves true, right about the time this process makes me want to quit, we’ll find some relief.

details

This is a look at my meds through phase one of the process.

One shot and three pills in the mornings.

Two shots and one pill at night.

The box full of meds still waiting for after the egg retrieval is daunting, but I’ll face that when it gets here.

The morning shot is the one I added on Friday and, to be perfectly honest, it sucks. It’s okay going in, though the needle is larger than the others, but it hurts after. Every morning so far I’ve found myself using google to try to determine if I’ve accidentally hit muscle or something.

It turns out I’m doing it right, it just sucks. That’s normal.

To be totally honest, I’m feeling the effects now. Sitting for a long time or riding in the car just aren’t comfortable. I’m also getting tired really easily. All of this is normal and still not as bad as it could be.

Also, missing running was a joke. I haven’t missed any activity this week. I’ve gone on a few two mile walks, but I’m maxed out by the end thanks to the heat and just general fatigue. So running can definitely wait and I’m cool with that.

I’ve had a lot of people ask me questions about the process. I’m fascinated and thrilled with what science can do for us, so I thought I’d share the basics:

The stimulation phase is for pumping up the ovaries so they mature way more than their usual one egg. Basically the ovaries are pumped up from the size of almonds to the size of two bunches of grapes – LOVELY.

In the meantime, there are several doctor visits for ultrasound and labwork.

At my last appointment some follicles were already the size they need to be to release a mature egg, so I started that new morning shot.

It’s meant to stop me from ovulating before the doctor has a chance to go in for the egg retrieval.

The day before my retrieval those shots will stop and they’ll be replaced by one final trigger shot that helps release the eggs for retrieval.

Something that’s been on the back-burner for both of us is Russ’s surgery. It’s a huge deal, but with so many different things to focus on that are happening *right now*, it’s been easy to just put that one out of our minds.

Russ has, to no one’s surprise, been going way out of his way to make sure I’m comfortable and supported and loved. And that probably has a lot to do with why I haven’t been feeling down throughout this process – that and my friends who’ve reached out by phone, text, snail mail and in person just to let me know they’re thinking of us.

Now Russ’s surgery is coming up on Wednesday. It’s a big day and not a small surgery.  My retrieval may be the same day, but the recovery is supposed to be far easier for me. I’m looking forward to my chance to be the support for him. He’s looking forward to playing a lot of Xbox and really good pain meds.

Update

A few years ago when Russ and I were newly engaged we spent Record Store Day in late April going from store to store in Greenville picking up records. I couldn’t tell you how many we bought that day, but there was a stack of three or four we were given for free.

They were sitting on a stool by the door of one store and had no price tag. I saw Lionel Richie’s 80s mustache on the cover of one and recognized the title as a song I’d done a dance routine to in high school.

The shop owner said he didn’t want to charge for any of the records on the stack, so we grabbed a few.

For whatever reason on night three of the stimulation phase of IVF I dug out Lionel Richie and blasted ‘dancing on the ceiling’ while i gave myself multiple shots in my stomach.

The nightly round of shots has become a little routine. I play music loudly and Russ sits in the bathroom and provides casual commentary while I rub an alcohol wipe on my stomach, fill a syringe to the right line, pinch some skin, insert the needle and slowly push the drugs I know so little about into my body.

I enjoy a bit of ignorance. I trust these award-winning doctors and I just really don’t want to know all of the details. I have gotten enough details about fertility to last a lifetime over the past few months.

Night three was only made easier by Lionel and the fact that Russ was actually in the room unlike the night before.

It wasn’t his fault. I told him he didn’t need to be in there while I did the shots. I didn’t need him to help me physically give myself shots, so I assumed I didn’t need him in there at all.

I’ve been wrong before.

As I was pressing the last of the medicine into my body by myself in our guest bathroom, the weight of everything we’re doing just to try to have one darn kid hit me in that suddenly can’t breathe, overwhelmed with fear kind of way. I leaned against the counter and cried quietly for a few minutes alone before I walked back into the living room to let him know I needed him there.

It was the only moment of its kind since I’ve started the medicine. I’m lucky in that sense.

The massive packet of information we were given at the beginning included warnings of emotional effects – things like depression, anxiety, disinterest in normal activities, even thoughts of suicide.

It’s funny to think I was so concerned about the shots themselves. I honestly thought that might be the most difficult part of all of this.

Sure, my stomach looks like a pin cushion, if pin cushions could bruise and sometimes I need a couple of deep breaths before I stick myself and I know the shots are about to multiply, but anything that can be made better by a little dancing to Lionel Richie and Russ sitting next to me discussing what the Patriots did at OTAs (or whatever) is a pretty small deal compared to what else may be to come.

I’m writing all of this knowing there’s a lot more ahead in the next several days and there’s still no guarantee that any of this will work, but we’re feeling optimistic. Last night I had a dream we were signing our kid up for kindergarten, so I guess even my subconscious is buying into the optimism – which is a pleasant surprise given the warnings.

Today I’ll add a third injection to my daily routine and given the fact I got off the couch like a very pregnant woman this morning – you know the lead with your legs and push off with your arms maneuver – I’m sure it’s only going to get more strange from here.

We’re still appreciating all of the kind messages, prayers and support and will continue to lean on those when we need it. We love all of you.

I can do this!

 

I did it.

I survived my first night of giving myself shots and I didn’t even panic. I felt fine about it all day and there was a brief moment right before when I had to pause and just say aloud “this seemed less terrifying before I actually had to do it.” Then, dressed in my ugliest and comfiest shorts, I rolled up my shirt, bent over, pinched some stomach skin and just made it happen.

Having to focus on getting the injection right really helped distract me from my fear of needles.

Russ sat right there with me but I asked him just to talk to me. I think this will all be easier if I can control the situation.

There’s a long road ahead and a lot more shots, plus I’m told my stomach will bruise and it may be tougher once that happens, but getting over the fear of the first night was a big success.

I’m feeling really tough and proud right now.

I think I can handle this.

Fertility stuff: Update 3

Russ and I are both that type of big baby grown-ups who can’t handle needles.

Do we have tattoos? No.

Is it because we don’t think they’re cool? Nah.

It’s because I’m the kind of person who feels queasy at the idea of a needle touching skin and Russ is the kind of person whose medical chart includes a handwritten note in all caps that says “NEEDS TO LIE DOWN WHEN HIS BLOOD IS DRAWN”.

So we’re pretty much going to crush the next few weeks.

We had IVF orientation today and it was *a lot*, to say the least.

First of all, we had to pay for everything up front. We just put more money into this hypothetical baby than we put down on our house when we bought it last summer. (side note: please don’t be hypothetical, baby, we’re really going to work hard at being good parents)

That payment was terrifying, but we’ve learned that our best move is to just know we are lucky we can handle it and to quickly throw the numbers in our rearview mirror.

Plus, that giant payment is going to earn us a TON of airline miles before we use our loan to immediately pay it off… and in this process, we’ve found we really don’t have time to dwell on any small scary part of it because there’s something else right around the corner.

In today’s case, right around the corner was a whole lot more blood being drawn, peeing in a cup, a super invasive ultrasound and last, but not least, a deeply descriptive introduction to the many medicines I’ll be injecting into my body over the next few weeks.

I’m honestly not sure I’ve taken that much medicine in my entire lifetime. I’m not even an ibuprofen for a headache kind of girl.

How much medicine is it? So much that it came to me in chart form with amounts changing on different dates and graphic illustrations of how to fill the syringes and where to insert the needle.

The folder they gave us basically looks like the seat back in front of you on an airplane except there’s no sky mall and the safety instructions include needles… and I’ll probably actually read these… and I was probably listening to the IVF coordinator more closely than I usually listen to the flight attendant.

But I really did leave there feeling good –– about the process, about getting started and about the fact that the doctor called my uterus great!

It’s not every day someone compliments your uterus and when you’re only cautiously optimistic with the hope of transitioning to real, pure optimism at some point in the near future, you’ll take any good news you can get.

Russ said he wasn’t surprised.

We’ve definitely figured out its easier for us to be optimistic about each other’s side of things than our own. So the doctor just confirmed what he’d already assumed.

While things are still uncertain on Russ’s end, we also got some good news there. We found out today that he tested negative for the rare genetic disorder that would’ve guaranteed he wasn’t making sperm and therefore would’ve made his surgery unnecessary and the donor 100% necessary.

That doesn’t mean there’s definitely something there, but it’s yet another bad thing ruled out. We’ll take it.

We’ve also been pushed back to our original schedule. The last time I wrote here we’d been delayed by a month and I was trying to pretend like I wasn’t really sad about it. Well, last Monday we got a call from the doctor’s office asking if they could bump us back up to our original timeline, meaning we could forget about the delay.

Of course anything could go wrong to delay us again, but man, if I focus on everything that could go wrong, I’m going to go absolutely crazy.

With all of this finally about to go down, I actually worked up the courage to talk to my boss.

I checked with HR ahead of time to see what I was obligated to share and what might be more than necessary. I was basically told I could share as much as I was comfortable sharing, but I should at least give her a heads up that I might be missing some time for medical reasons.

I opted to flat-out tell her I’m going through IVF and it’s starting soon and I don’t know exactly what to expect, but I’ll have lots of doctor appointments and I’ll do my best to work them around my work schedule.

Y’all. Her response was more than I could’ve ever asked for. There was no concern of whether I’d get my work done. There was no mention of anything but total support and a genuine care for me as a human being. I mean, I know my boss is great. I’ve known that for a long time, but I went in her office and told her I’ll have to miss some work while trying to achieve something that *ideally* several months from now will have me missing a lot more work and her only reaction was to express support and encouragement and promise that she isn’t worried about whether I’ll do my job.

As I type that I am realizing that it reads like my boss was just being a human who genuinely cares about treating people well, but I seriously doubt this is the experience every woman has when having to share this kind of news and I practically skipped out of her office… like I said, I’ll take any good news I can get.

This is a lot of information and I know it’s not well organized. If you’ve spent any time with me, you know I prefer to write in story form, but my head is spinning and all I can do is blurt every little piece out.

P.S. I miss running.

P.P.S. What kind of tattoo should I get when this is all over? (Just kidding, mom)

 

A repost for teacher appreciation

I originally wrote this in 2015, but it’s teacher appreciation week and I thought it was worth another share. Who was your favorite teacher? What would you want to say to her/him?

(Sandy – forgive me for using Mrs. Hall repeatedly throughout this post. Old habits die hard.)

I met Mrs. Hall nearly 13 years ago on my second day of high school. Nothing makes me feel older than the fact that I can’t remember much about her class. I know she assigned a seemingly 4,000 page long book about Mythology for Summer Reading (I will never stop whining about that book). I know I sat next to a girl who would become my best friend and maid of honor, but didn’t speak to me at all for the first few months (because high school is weird). I remember Mrs. Hall making hilarious jokes on the regular. I also vaguely remember one day when another friend of mine let people duct tape her to her chair, for fun. I’m certain Mrs. Hall was out of the room then. Teenagers are weird.

By all normal social patterns Mrs. Hall should’ve been the woman who taught me 9th grade english and that’s it. I would’ve had a few funny stories from the class that I could tell my mom after school. I would have made my way through another round of Shakespeare (I’d already studied him the year before in North Carolina) and just powered through her exams. I would’ve left her classroom on the last day of the year and never really spoken to her again except for the occasional polite hello in the hallway.

I would’ve done all of those things except I don’t think I had the slightest chance of just being a kid who passed through her class. Mrs. Hall doesn’t teach like that. She cares about her students in a way that parents wish all teachers would. I was a new kid in a small town high school when I first took her class. Everyone had been in school together since 6th grade, and some since kindergarten. I can’t say for sure, but the way I remember it she seemed to look out for me a little more than most.

Her classroom was the first one that made me feel comfortable.

There was something about the way she could make 9th graders want to pretend to care about 16th century Shakespearean works while still peppering her lectures with sarcastic comments to bring us all back to the 21st century classroom full of teenagers.

I think by the end of high school I’d had Mrs. Hall as a teacher 4 different times. Only one was required. I used a couple of free periods to be a teacher’s assistant in her classroom.I took a theatre class… so completely out of character for me… just to have her as a teacher one more time. In the 9 years since high school we’ve kept in touch, and gotten together from time to time (not often enough). She’s helped me navigate adulthood and the real world sometimes knowingly, sometimes not. She’s given me the kind of support and encouragement a person needs to pursue a dream as terrifying as trying to write for a living (yeah, someday). I was and still am fascinated by the way she balances educator and friend with a hint of mother.

I don’t know much about all the standardized tests and evaluations we put our teachers through now. I’ll be the first to admit that I’m still confused by common core no matter how much I read about it. I know there are good teachers whose students leave the classroom with a solid knowledge of the lessons of the year (even if they’re pretty sure they’ll never totally get commas). For all the things I do not know (again, commas), I’m fairly certain a great teacher is one who has helped even just a single student grow the way I’ve grown by knowing Mrs. Hall.

If she were normal she would’ve just been the teacher who made me study Mythology and Shakespeare, neither of which I cared for. 13 years later she’s a woman I still go to for advice, and (as I’m nowhere near a high school student anymore) a friend with whom I can dish about life and writing over a glass of wine.

 

((I have literally dozens of friends and family members who are teachers. They’re doing incredibly tough work with grace and joy. I’m so glad they all exist — but I’m especially thankful for Mrs. Hall and a couple of others who’ve made a lifelong impression on me that goes far beyond my classroom education:
Mrs. Bogan — who made me laugh all year long in 10th grade Spanish class and seriously never stopped doing so.
Mrs. Howard — who taught many of my closest friends but never taught me and has still somehow managed to become one of the women I most admire, and an unexpected friend. Thanks for all of your support and kind words, always.))