April 11

April 11.

Four years ago today, Russ tied a dozen or so notes we’d written each other and strings of lights to the trees by the creek at my mom and dad’s farm and got down on one knee and asked me, in the sweetest way, to marry him. As obnoxious as it sounds, I’d say yes to that again every day.

Today, I’m leaning on that memory. Because today, April 11, four years after that night, was supposed to be the day we got to meet our first baby – a baby we affectionately call “speck”. If I’d known it was the only name our baby would have, I would’ve chosen better.

We’ve been open about this whole process since the early stages and will continue to do so, because there are a lot of people with stories similar to ours and we don’t think anyone should have to feel alone in this. It’s nothing to be ashamed of, but many people don’t feel they can speak about this kind of loss.

I’m frankly unwilling to be quiet about it. Today I don’t get to meet my baby, but that doesn’t change the feeling that I knew my baby and I love my baby. I know I always will. That may not make sense to some people, but if you’ve carried a baby or watched as your biggest dream shifted on a sonogram and heard its heart beating like nothing in the world could be wrong, you know.

Today, I’m sad. Most days I’m at least a little sad, but today it’s bigger. I’m sad because I remember the week we saw that heartbeat wasn’t as strong and speck didn’t seem to be growing. I’m sad because it’s been more than six months since that day and we haven’t seen another heartbeat on a sonogram since. I’m sad because being a mom is my greatest dream in life and something I took for granted as something I would just get to do.

I have been fundamentally changed by this process, as anyone is by grief.

I’m not at work today. I took the day off to just let myself feel whatever needs to be felt. This is a process and I don’t know what the right way to handle it is, but this is mine.

If you got this far, I’m asking you for a favor, hopefully a simple one – be patient with people. Be kind. Honor the fact that so many people, maybe even you, are fighting really challenging battles while still facing whatever daily routine is required of them. Just spread some love for me today.

To 2019

I don’t have much positive to say about 2018, but my hope is that in the years ahead, we’ll look back and see the lessons we learned and they’ll be valuable.

One lesson I’m already learning is how important it is to take care of yourself. I’m not sure I fully understood self-care as a real concept instead of just a buzzword before this year.

February and March were tough. I thought the news we got then was the toughest we’d face. I realize now it was just preparing us for even tougher days ahead — rather than a triumphant and quick recovery.

As the year got worse, I learned the real value of taking care of myself and the one other person who truly understands what’s happening in my heart and home.

I can’t really offer advice on how to handle tough stuff. I’m not an expert — in part because my life has been really pretty easy prior to 2018.

I am just taking everything day by day and some of those days are, admittedly, better than others.

I don’t know what everyone else should do. I only know what is working for me right now and what has worked over the past 12ish months.

Therapy — I’ve only been a few times so far, but I understood the value from the first appointment. I walked out feeling lighter, if for no other reason than just being able to say everything I needed to say to a total stranger. If you find a therapist that is a decent fit for your situation, there is much to be learned about what you’re going through and how it is affecting you. If the first therapist you try doesn’t make you feel comfortable enough to share where you really are, keep looking. Find one who does. Therapy is not something to be afraid or ashamed of. Therapy is good.

Embracing anger — This year I’ve discovered anger as a dominant emotion. That doesn’t sound good, but I’ve always been someone who didn’t use anger to its full potential and there can be value in anger. I don’t mean there’s value in hurting others with your anger, of course, but understanding the need to express it and finding healthy ways to do so is very important. Sometimes anger looks like me screaming at the top of my lungs in my car by myself and that’s cool, because damn, it feels good.

That said, learning how to express anger in a healthy way is an ongoing effort and sometimes I find myself getting uncontrollably angry over tiny things. I assume this isn’t all that unusual. Usually, in these moments, I try to say aloud what I’m angry about. If it’s truly ridiculous, I’ve learned I can laugh about it and re-evaluate.

Anger isn’t bad, if you know how to manage it.

Backing off of social media — This is a new one for me — very new. Just this week I deactivated Instagram and Facebook. It might seem like an obvious move to some people, but social media is a huge part of my job, so it took some finagling. I have a work Facebook account that isn’t friends with much of anyone. I kept it activated so I can manage my work pages. Other than that, I’m done on Facebook for a bit.

Instagram was more of a challenge, not because of work, but because I love Instagram. It’s aesthetically pleasing and it’s the one social outlet where I feel like people aren’t always fighting. For most of this year, I’ve made a habit of watching everyone’s Instagram stories at least once a day.

But Instagram isn’t a happy place for me anymore. It is a window into the best side of everyone’s life and when you don’t feel like you can handle the best of everyone else’s life, it can be brutal.

The thing is, it’s not everyone else’s responsibility to temper what they share because of what I’m going through. It’s not anyone else’s responsibility to make adjustments to accommodate me. It’s my responsibility to protect myself. So I’ve stepped away.

I’ve done it on social media and I’m going to start doing it in person when it’s necessary.

I’ve never lived in a space where I need to protect myself like this. It’s not natural for me and I don’t like it, but I recognize it’s necessary and good.

I’d love to look ahead to 2019 and think everything will be different and better. It’d be incredible everything was suddenly better at 12 a.m. Tuesday, but I don’t expect that and I have no reason to.

So my wish for 2019 is that we keep finding ways to learn and grow through this process and that we continue to forgive ourselves when the growing pains are just too much.

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.

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)

 

Update 2

I swear we haven’t forgotten to update, we’re just in a waiting period.

That said, I couldn’t let Infertility Awareness week pass without saying something.

So here’s what’s going on —

The timeline has changed since the last time I wrote. We were originally expecting Russ to have surgery in late May and thought all of this would be behind us (provided there were no major issues) by the end of June.

As it turns out, that won’t be the case, but we’re lucky because the only reason the timeline has changed is scheduling issues. There are about a million little things that can extended the waiting period and many of them are far more frustrating than a doctor’s packed schedule. ((Full disclosure: this was not my attitude when we first found out about the delay, but I’m going to go ahead and blame that on hormonal changes and take credit for the fact that I realized relatively quickly that I was overreacting.))

In the meantime, we’ve been able to nail down some of the less exciting, but very important logistical things like…

-We secured our baby loan! We’re not big on carrying debt. We’ve been actively working to knock out a student loan and car payments and we cleared any credit card debt we had over a while ago, so adding a new loan isn’t the most fun thing, BUT we’re really thankful that these kinds of loans exist, because the payment is manageable for us and because a baby is going to be worth it – no doubt.

-We chose a sperm donor. This is still a backup option and we are still hopeful that we’re just paying for something that we’ll never actually need, but it was a necessary step and now it’s behind us. I’ll probably sit down and write about that experience at some point, but I’m not sure I’m ready to do that yet. It was surreal.

-We requested the necessary time off for all of these things. It looks like mid-June we’ll have a nice week of vacation with a side of everyone going through major medical procedures then watching a billion hours of Netflix on the couch.

On top of all of that, I’ve recently had two different in-person conversations with women I know who’ve been or are going through this process and those were incredibly uplifting.

One of them is an old friend I haven’t seen in roughly a decade who is just a month or so ahead of us in the process at the same clinic. We got coffee and spent an hour or so just talking through the strangeness of the process. It was an awesome chance to be candid with someone face to face and just share the ups and downs of all of this. It is also cool to be able to be a cheerleader for someone else’s process. I feel like I’m rooting for her success as much as I’m rooting for my own and I’m really looking forward to the day we both can share great news.

The other was a friend who successfully went through the IVF process twice more than a decade ago and has healthy, beautiful, happy children. She’s one of those people who just glows with positivity and a genuine appreciation for life. As someone whose optimism has waned a bit over the past few months, it was great to be able to talk with her about how she handled it. I left our lunch feeling like Russ and I can totally handle this – That’s an incredibly valuable thing to feel. I’ve been saying it, but to really feel it is different.

OH… AND… it turns out the nurse who will walk us through the IVF orientation process is a friend of a good friend. A familiar face is going to be so helpful, particularly when she’s giving me all of the details of the injections I’m going to have to give myself.

So that’s where we are. That’s a lot of good things! Plus we’ve reached a point where we’ve had long enough to process our situation that we’re feeling pretty calm about it right now.

It’s sort of nice to be in this quiet waiting period where all we have to do is make sure I take one daily pill and we continue to have honest conversations about this whenever either of us needs to.

There’s plenty ahead of us, but right now feels pretty good!

 

 

 

 

Fertility stuff: Update 1

If this seems like it’s out of left field, you might’ve missed my last post. This is an update.

We had an appointment today to get the process started and we both left smiling.

Seriously!

After having a few weeks to process what is ahead and realizing that we are emotionally equipped to handle it, we’re feeling very optimistic.

The genetic odds haven’t changed, but we’ve been able to talk through just about every outcome and process it together.

Not to mention the fact that we’ve had a few weeks of knowing there is literally nothing we can do right now to make this happen on our own and that’s oddly freeing. We’ve just been having fun and enjoying each other’s company – the way it should be and usually is.

Did I mention three years ago today Russ asked me to marry him? Engagement anniversaries aren’t really something we celebrate, but given our appointment happened to be today, it feels worth noting that saying yes to everything that comes with this partnership was and still is a good choice.

Now we have a timeline. In a couple of weeks, I’ll start a process of drugs that, oddly enough, begins with birth control and is followed by a couple of weeks of hormone injections. That part sounds really terrible to a person who just a few years ago cried before getting a tetanus shot (I’m not proud of that, but in the interest of keeping it all way too real…)

Honestly, the injections just sound like an opportunity to finally grow past my way too extreme fear of needles.

Other than that, my job is far easier than Russ’s, at least leading up to the pregnancy (we’ve chosen to believe that it’s going to work out at this point). He’s the one who has to have surgery and that won’t be any sort of party, but the recovery time is short and we really do believe it’s worth it to have a final answer on whether we can have his kids or not.

The biggest bummers (barring the things that *might* go wrong during surgery/implantation/pregnancy that we’re choosing not to dwell on) as we go through this are:

  • Not knowing how I’ll react to the medicines. I’m not a medicine person. I don’t even like to take headache medicine if I can help it. I’m sure my hormonal changes will make me a party and a half to be around for the next couple of months. I’ll do my best to keep those in check…
  • Not being able to run – I’ve gotten back into a really good routine of running about 6 days a week and it’s put me in a great mental space. The doctor says I’ll have to cut that out beginning the month leading up to egg retrieval and then again in the month leading up to implantation. This is a bummer because it means I’ll lose whatever stamina I’ve built up and likely have to forego running for the whole pregnancy since you shouldn’t pick something back up that you haven’t been doing lately. This is honestly probably my biggest loss in the whole process (provided the pregnancy actually works out), so I’m sad about it. But light to moderate activity is okay, so I’ll just start swimming more often, plan on more walks with friends and ramp up my yoga class attendance. And then post-pregnancy, I’ll start running again… from scratch.
  • Cutting alcohol – we’re not heavy drinkers by any stretch of the imagination, but we enjoy the craft beer scene and breweries/taprooms are common hangout spots with friends. Both of us will have to cut this out for the month leading up to retrieval (essentially end of April to end of May). The nice thing for Russ is he can get back to enjoying some beer after his surgery. As for me, hopefully I’ll have to hold off for another 10 months after May… because that would mean everything went as planned. That’s a price I’m definitely willing to pay… in addition to the actual $ price $ we’re having to pay.

So that’s the latest. If all goes as planned, we’ll start meds later this month. By the end of May surgery and retrieval will be behind us and a month after that we’ll start cooking up a little baby, barring any major speed bumps. The timeline is kind of cool actually, because it works out so that we could potentially have a positive pregnancy test almost exactly a year after the original positive pregnancy test that turned out to not be so. It would be nice to finally put that darn ‘What to expect when you’re expecting’ book Russ bought me to use.

Like I said, we’re feeling optimistic. We’re choosing to believe this is going to work out and it’s incredibly nice to be moving forward with a plan.

And we’re beyond grateful for the huge amount of support we’ve received.

To the people who’ve asked if we’re doing a GoFundMe or if they can give us money. We so appreciate your support and that you would want to help in such a way. The weight of that gesture is definitely not lost on us, but we’re also very lucky people. We are blessed to be equipped and supported in ways that we recognize many couples are not.We hope that you’ll understand that, while we so appreciate the gesture, what we want most is for you to keep being the amazing, loving, supportive people that you are. 

So here’s the thing

Take a deep breath and ask yourself if you’re cool with reading something very personal before you read this. This is going to get kind of science-y — think body parts, reproduction and things you probably should’ve been taught in health class. Some people may read it and think “I would never put my business out there like that” or feel that they have a better way of handling the situation. Those are not the people who necessarily need to read this, though anyone we love (or anyone with internet access, I guess) is welcome to. Russ and I have chosen *together* to share our story because we firmly believe this is something people should be able to talk about instead of feeling alone in a heartbreaking situation.

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We can’t have children the natural way. That’s a sentence that is somehow easier to write than it is to say aloud, though it’s becoming more natural as the days pass and it’s really just the beginning of the story.

2018 has been a bit like hell. We started the year feeling optimistic. Months of trying to conceive a child and tracking cycles so we could get all of the science down pat felt like it might finally work out.

January was our month.

I’d somehow become so certain that we’d finally gotten the formula right after eight months that I was comforted as we started a new year.

In 2017 I was heartbroken three times.

Once when we had what was either a false positive test or chemical pregnancy in July; the first month after we started trying.

Again in November, when I wasn’t pregnant by the time I turned thirty; an arbitrary deadline I’d set for myself because it seemed so possible when we started trying five months earlier.

And once more when we wrapped up the year without any sign of a baby in the near future.

Science, health, bodies don’t give a crap about my deadlines.

January was fresh and full of optimism –– certainty even.

I was watching ‘Friends’ on the couch in the middle of the night on Jan. 31st, like I do on the very rare nights I can’t get any sleep, when I broke down. I’d been restless all night and had done more than my fair share of crying.

Another month of disappointment.

In a moment of pure weakness, I posted something to Facebook – Facebook… the land of baby pictures and pregnancy announcements. I thought maybe just maybe there might be someone out there drowning in the same sea of “why is this working for everyone but us?”

It wasn’t just one. Dozens of friends and family reached out to me to say they understood the struggle or were close to someone who did.

I was strengthened.

I was heartbroken, but I really felt stronger with the knowledge that it isn’t easy for everyone.

They don’t teach you that in school. My high school health class didn’t spend a lot of time on the reproductive system and what we were taught was focused only on avoiding the risks that come with s-e-x, not what to expect when you are actually ready for your body to make a baby human.

No one ever talked about how difficult it can be for some people, or even how long it typically takes if everything is working right. Did you know, even if everything is functioning perfectly, the odds of getting pregnant in any given cycle are just 20-25%?

I DIDN’T.

That would’ve been nice to know.

But that’s beside the point for us, because everything isn’t working properly. In fact, some things are working so poorly, there’s a pretty significant chance that we won’t be able to have a child that is genetically connected to both of us and we already know we definitely won’t be able to without the help of medical professionals with specialty degrees and sophisticated tools at their disposal.

And that shit (sorry) is devastating.

I mean, it’s heartbreaking. It’s cry in front of the doctor, cry randomly at your desk at work, cry on your husband’s shoulder while you feel him crying on yours as you hug across the center console of your car in the fertility center parking lot level heartbreaking.

For months I was told by so many people that it would work out when I just stopped stressing. I was told to just try to stay calm. I was told so many things by so many sweet friends that honestly turned out to be very well-meaning bullshit.

And I’m thankful for each of those friends who tried. I’m grateful for everyone who’s encouraged us and said whatever felt like the most appropriate thing to us in these moments. I don’t, for even one second, blame someone for not knowing the perfect thing to say. I don’t know the perfect thing to say and it’s my reality. There is not enough thanks in the world for anyone who’s just been there in the last several days, weeks, months.

But it doesn’t always work out. The truth is sometimes life is messy and hard.

Sometimes the plan is absolutely forced to change, no matter how you feel about it.

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Over the past few weeks we’ve been questioned about our medical history, we’ve distracted each other with conversations about the Patriots and why Raleigh is so great (two of our favorite rambling topics) while a nurse named Karen stuck needles in our arms and took our blood for tests. One of us even had our most intimate parts inspected by a doctor in front of the other in a tiny cramped office.

None of that was as uncomfortable as the truth that we learned two weeks ago. We have a huge decision to make if we want to birth children.

We can choose the relatively uncomplicated and inexpensive first option. Choose a sperm donor and try insemination (roughly $1,400 for each month of treatment). It’s straightforward and simple, but it would guarantee any baby conceived would be genetically mine and genetically not Russ’s

or

Spend roughly $20,000 for Russ to go through a complicated procedure to find out if he has any viable sperm (or if there never were any), have backup donor sperm on hand and go through IVF to have an embryo implanted that would either be genetically linked to both of us or just me, depending on the outcome of the first procedure.

We’ve chosen the second option. The decision itself wasn’t even all that difficult for us. I’m still not in a place where I can imagine having a baby that doesn’t have Russ’s blue eyes, chubby cheeks or deep dimples. Maybe it’s denial or maybe it’s hope.

We decided we ultimately couldn’t live with not at least trying to find out if having his own biological children has ever been a viable option for Russ.

The thing is, we know without a doubt what kind of parents we will be whether a child is genetically mine, ours or adopted. I know that there’s not another soul on Earth I’d trust with children more than Russ; the guy who spends hours playing with our nieces and nephews, is absolutely in love with our best friends’ daughters and gets down on any kid’s level to look them in the eye when he talks to them.

If we find out after thousands of dollars and a complicated operation that having children genetically linked to Russ was never a possibility, it won’t be easy to face that fact. I’ll probably be angry. I know I’ll be sad. It would be downright cruel –– honestly, it would be a hell of a loss for a world that could use more eternal optimists with contagious smiles like Russ.

It would be the toughest thing we’ve both personally experienced to date, but adoption is another option and one we are certainly considering.

We’ll come out on the other side of this with children. One way or another, we will be parents. It won’t be an easy process, but we’ll get there and we’ll appreciate the opportunity and each other more after all we’ll go through to get there.

It’s already happening. I can’t imagine going through this with anyone else by my side.

So that’s where this story begins. We intend to share as much of this journey as we comfortably can, because we need to, but also because there are probably others out there who need to know that they’re not the only ones.

Forgive us, please, over the next few weeks or months, if we don’t seem like ourselves. Forgive us if your words of comfort seem to fall on deaf ears. Forgive us if we’re just not ready for advice on how to handle it.

But please, don’t stop loving us. We need that.

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How to survive Thanksgiving

I keep seeing these posts about how to survive Thanksgiving with relatives who have different political views from yours. I’ve seen tweets and Facebook posts echoing the same concern. And I want to ask ARE YOU KIDDING?

Is this an honest concern people are having? I’m seriously asking this question, because I’m having a hard time wrapping my brain around it.

This election was monumental. It changed the course of politics. Many voters on both sides were left wondering ‘how could ANYONE vote for ______?’

It’s that very refusal to try to understand the other side that got us into this divisive mess in the first place. But we’ve been here before. We’re America. We had a civil war, for goodness sake.

How am I going to survive Thanksgiving with relatives whose opinions are different from mine?

I’ll tell you how – like I have every. other. year.

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Last November, a dozen or so of my uncles and cousins came together to help us start building a barn from the ground up, to be used for our wedding reception. For several months after, they popped up to Pickens County on weekends or holidays and sometimes in the middle of the week to help us build walls, a loft, a roof, etc. It was one of the best displays of community I’ve ever witnessed. Russ and I learned new building skills side-by-side and watched as all of these men and women who, at times, couldn’t be more different put a building together piece by piece. A year later, I’m still trying to find words strong enough to suit my gratitude.

I find myself in the middle on many issues. I like to try to understand all sides, because it’s my job and because I’ve just always been that way.

Still, I have an uncle whose political opinions are often very different from mine, which honestly seems pretty standard in any family of more than… I don’t know… two people.

He’s the same uncle who was the first person to see me when I arrived home on the morning my papaw (his father) died. He had to break the news to me when I wondered aloud why he was visiting on a random Saturday in April “Are we having a party?”

He’s the same uncle who was driving me home when we found my dog dead on the road. He helped my dad scoop her off of the asphalt, in the dark, and bury her in our backyard.

Am I supposed to block out these memories in favor of fighting about which Presidential candidate was worse while we pass the turkey?

Get yourselves together, people. You’re about to share a meal with people who held you as an infant. They’ve cleaned off scrapes after you fell while running on the concrete at your grandparents’ house and they’ve celebrated your achievements through the years.

Stop asking yourself how you’re going to survive Thanksgiving with people who think differently from you.

We all *should* know someone’s 2 minute decision on the Tuesday after the first Monday in November didn’t make transform them into anyone other than the person you already know them to be.

Challenge yourself to disengage from conversations that make you forget that.

Or, better yet, have the conversations and challenge yourself to remember why that person’s opinion matters to you in the first place.

Oh, and enjoy the pie.

 

One month

Today is my parents’ 36th anniversary. They’ve postponed anniversary celebrations until after our wedding because they’re working their butts off to get the farm ready for ours. This is not a fact I take lightly. I’m certain there’ve been more times than not in my life when my parents have put much more effort into me than into themselves.

Tomorrow marks one month until Russ and I get married. Anyone who ever comes to this blog is probably getting pretty tired of hearing about wedding related things. I can’t blame you. For two years the majority of my posts have been somehow related to my relationship with Russ. It’s hard not to be that way, when you write about your own life and the biggest thing in your life is this all-encompassing love for another person.

For the better part of 11 months the majority of my posts have been related to wedding plans. Planning a wedding is all-encompassing in another, far more trivial way.

We’re a month away now which seems like an appropriate time to take a few steps back from buying bridal party gifts and choosing flowers — to take a few minutes to just soak in what’s ahead.

When we’re not planning a huge life event, Russ and I like to do certain things together. We love to camp, hike, go to concerts, run on trails and run through neighborhood streets. We love to drink wine and sit in the backyard. We love to visit with family and hang out by the pool with friends. We love to “chill”.

Our life this past year has been anything but “chill”. It’s been a fast-paced blur of colors and fittings, barn buildings and mass alcohol purchases (for the wedding, thank you!). It’s been a whole lot of weekends taken up by other people and things — all of which are wonderful, but most of which don’t allow us to spend too much quality time just hanging out together.

I’m ready to get back to what we do best. We’re a month away from getting married and I don’t know how I’m supposed to feel about it. Should I be nervous? Should I be a little scared because forever is such a huge concept? Should I be more excited about a huge event where we will be the center of attention? I don’t know.

I’ll be thrilled to celebrate with so many people I love on April 23rd. The only bit of wedding planning I’ve been absolutely certain about is this — I want to be married to Russ and I want to celebrate that with as many people I love as possible.

And then I want to get back to what we do best. We’ll have a couple of days to explore Savannah right after the wedding and in June we’ll take a week long honeymoon. The wedding and all related celebrations will come and go. I’ll try my best to be in those moments and soak in the joy of having so many family and friends around at once. It will be as beautiful as I want it to be and I’ll be able to let go of little things that don’t go perfectly as planned — because I know that once April 23rd passes, our forever will be filled with cook-outs, campfires, concerts, hammocks, hikes, Sunday nights drinking wine in the backyard that will someday become quiet moments we, as exhausted parents, savor after the kids are in bed and summer days lazing by the pool that will turn into summer nights volunteering to time races at our kids’ swim meets.

Forever is understated. It isn’t perfect. It isn’t always easy. It doesn’t involve a lot of fanfare. Forever doesn’t scare me. It’s exactly what I want.IMG_4176

 

 

Like your mother taught you…

I know in this age of Facebook and Twitter and texting our normal communication inherently helps us avoid the horror of a phone call or actually using the U.S. Postal Service, but there are some things that still matter. RSVPs matter. Letting people know they either can or shouldn’t expect you to be at the party they are taking time and energy to plan is important, lest they be left with favor bags full of baked goods and tons of uneaten (and VERY delicious) food.

A lot has changed over the time I’ve been alive, but the work that goes into throwing a nice invitation-only party has not. There is preparation that goes into these things. We’re talking about a lot of hard work – food prep, favors, games (if it’s that kind of party), many different things that require knowing a number and names of guests.

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This weekend I sat with a few friends and some family around a campfire at the home of a very nice couple who know my parents better than they know me. Months ago they generously offered to throw us a wedding shower. To my left sat my freaking awesome fiance (more on that guy here), and just over his shoulder was a table covered in snacks, and white bags individually labeled for each expected guest. The bags weren’t there because we were waiting patiently to grab our own. The bags on the table were left by people who never showed and never called to say they wouldn’t. The party in question required a “regrets only” RSVP – A phone call from those who wouldn’t make it. Most (certainly not all) didn’t give that courtesy.

Yes, I was hurt by my friends not showing up or calling the hosts. I show up for a lot of people. I’m sure I screw up a lot of things in relationships, but I do show up. I make a genuine effort for those who matter to me. For years I’ve gone to bachelorette parties and kids birthday parties, more baby and bridal showers than I can count, and every wedding I could possibly make it to. Some people tell me I “should say no more often”, but I don’t, because when it comes down to it, I want people to know they matter to me. If I miss something you’ve formally invited me to, I guarantee there is a very good reason. This weekend I felt like a lot of people didn’t give us the same courtesy. It may be small in the grand scheme of life. It may seem petty. In fact, it is smaller and more petty than some unrelated tough things I’m dealing with in other realms of life right now, but it still hurt.

Yes, for me, it was embarrassing, rude and a little hurtful… but it really doesn’t matter what it meant for me.

At the end of the day, I know it doesn’t really say anything about the caliber of the friends we have. I know it says more about how busy we’ve all become. I know this issue is not exclusive to our party. I’ve attended several others that played out the same way, but this one hit home for me. I know this is about a larger societal shift, not just me and Russ and whether we’re loved (Spoiler alert: we are and we’re lucky). It’s a sign of the times. Society’s priorities are changing and maybe not in the best ways when it comes to nurturing relationships.

The truth is, Russ and I had a really great time celebrating with the friends who showed up. It was a solid group of incredibly special people — those who remind us on a regular basis that we have all of the love and support and friendship we need in this world.

If I could change anything, it wouldn’t be a change to those who showed up. I’d love to have had any combination of the invited guests there. They were all invited because they’re important to me. I had a wonderful night and left feeling, once again, like we are two of the luckiest people to be able to start this life together with so much support.

No, what I’d change is the lack of courtesy shown for those who worked hard to plan the night. I’d like to give the host and hostess a simple heads up about the bags of baked goods and party favors that wouldn’t be needed.

This isn’t about the sting I felt on Saturday. I woke up on Sunday feeling as loved as any other day of the year.  This is a bigger issue about manners. I’m not one to take people to task or call individuals out and I wouldn’t dream of doing so, because we’ve all gotten too busy at one time or another, but we can do better. We can take a tiny moment out of our sometimes hectic lives to respect the time and efforts of other people. We can show them they’re at least important enough for common courtesy.

Show up or don’t, but at the very least please just make the phone call.