Saturday, March 31, 2012

Infertility: The Elephant in the room




I met with a baby loss Mom last night after work.  Oddly enough she met me through this blog, such a strange electronic world we live in.  Talking with her was really good, and sad, and eye opening.  There were so many things that were clear for once.  One of those things was that her loss and mine were different that many other baby loss moms because we also both struggled with infertility.  It was like there were two losses: the innocence about conception and fertility and the loss of our babies.  I read on sites about women trying to plan when to have their rainbow babies and it just makes no sense to me because I know that I cannot decide to start trying again and have quick success.  There are many parts of my story that I still need to share, but I should start at the beginning with my fertility problems...

January 2006:

I was 29 years old and getting married for the first time.  I had not dated that many men in my life, and had put that part of my life on hold for years while completing professional school, then an internship and then getting established at a busy general practice.  Mark was fantastic and we made sense together despite our age difference.  He was 14 years older than me, but it is true when you love someone age really does not mean anything.  He wanted to start a family right away, I resisted.  I had spent so much of my life in school and then at work that I felt like I needed to live more before getting tied down with children.  And to be completely honest I was not even sure that I wanted children.  I had been caring for members of my family my whole life and I did not feel that I needed something more to take care of.  God, how stupid this all seems now.

2006-2007

Married life went by, we went on vacations and lived life.  I changed jobs, we got more pets, some of our old pets died.  Mark brought up the idea of children again, and it seemed more doable.  I felt stable in our relationship and increasing our family felt like a natural progression.  We still did not stop using birth control.  We were living in the 2 bedroom, 1400 sq ft town home that I bought as an intern and we were at capacity.  We hired a realtor, who was a friend of ours, to look for a home.  Once we had a real house with more space and a yard, then we could have a baby.  That process took an entire year.

May 2008

We finally got the good news that our offer on a short sale house had been accepted.  We moved into our new home.  Big backyard, swimming pool, 3 bedrooms and an art studio, a living room, dining room and a library/family room.  It was perfect.  The year of looking at homes every weekend and thinking about what room would be the nursery and if the yard would be good for a child had heightened my desire to become a mother.  Plus the first of my good friends had started to become pregnant and have babies.  All of a sudden babies were REAL and I did not have one.  You know that biological clock that people talk about?  Well mine was ticking loudly.  Well now we had the house we were go for baby making.  We stopped using birth control.

So I had this crazy idea about getting pregnant.  I blame sex education.  I thought that you had to prevent pregnancy diligently because you could get pregnant at the drop of a hat.  Hell you could get pregnant USING birth control.  So we stopped birth control and we should have sex a few times and then BAM, baby.  I had always had such regular cycles, I felt ovulation pain, I must be a paragon of fertility.  My mother had three unplanned pregnancies, she always said how fertile she was.  The apple must not fall too far from the tree...  Holy crap was I wrong.

All of a sudden I was crying every month when my period would start.  It was not easy to get pregnant.  I talked with Mark about using ovulation predictor kits.  He said we didn't need them, we just needed to make sure to have sex around cycle day 14.  Well that didn't work.  8 months go by.  Then we got the kits and got a tiny bit more educated about fertility.  The OPK were hard to use and expensive.  I started with the clear blue digital sticks.  I peed on them day after day and got nothing, I would think that they must be wrong, it was like cycle day 18!  Then a stupid smiley face, baby sex time, but one of us would be tired and hey you have like 2 days to have sex once you get a positive right?  No late period, nothing.  Then I got the cheap ones so it would not be so expensive per cycle and I could start to test sooner, not waiting til cycle day 10 like the expensive sticks.  Well they were cheap for a reason, they were so hard to read!  Was the second line as dark as the control?  Why was it completely negative the following day, then two days later really dark?

Dec 2009

I had selected an OB/Gyn maybe a year before, all with a baby in mind.  I knew what hospital I wanted to deliver at and chose an OB who had privileges there.  I had seen him for a few pap smears with him and seen him for a few small issues and I liked him.  I was in for my annual and had some of that weeks test strips to ask him about.  I also was really starting to worry that there was something wrong with me since I was not pregnant yet.  My exam was normal.  I said that we had been not using birth control for some time and had been using these kits for 6 months and nothing.  He said that we had not been trying all that long yet, but I was 32, not 22 and if there was a problem it would be better to know about it sooner as opposed to later.  He ordered a semen analysis for Mark.  It came back good, not great, but not a cause for lack of conception.  He said that the next step was to see a fertility specialist and get some testing done on me.  I did not want IVF and told him as much.  He said that they would have a variety of treatment options.

Jan 2010

I had my first appointment with Dr C (fertility specialist). We were just going in for testing to see if there was a problem, not for treatment. He performed a pelvic exam, an ovarian ultrasound and some blood work (thyroid, FSH, LH, etc).  He found a cyst on my ovary and prescribed a medication to rupture it and told me to come back in a month for another ultrasound.  My hormone levels were not terrible, but not ideal.  The follow up ultrasound had the same cyst present, no change, but the US tech saw that it was not in my ovary, but around my fallopian tube.  She called in a paratubal cyst and said that it was like having a freckle, it meant nothing and was not affecting my fertility.  At the next consult he recommended that my next cycle we try for an IUI with just an oral medication called Femara.  We would also have an HSG done on the same cycle, he would use an oil preparation after the dye through the tube and that would help clear out any debris or mucous that could be preventing sperm from getting to my eggs. It all sounded good and reasonable.  I am not sure when we crossed the line from diagnostics only to diagnostics AND treatments, but we were over the line.

I was nervous about the HSG, that they would find a problem, that I would need surgery etc.  We went in and they got my in the gown, in the stirrups and went over exactly what would happen.  Dr C came in and got started in his usual brisk, super busy manner.  I'm a big girl I don't need a touchy feeling doctor.  He put in the speculum, it was painful, but hey I would relax and it would hurt less.  Then he started to try and place the catheter through my cervix, no luck, he repositioned and tried again, still no luck.  He tried two other catheters and could still not get them through.  He started calling for other instruments.  The nurses got them and he tried those to help, still nothing.  Then he called for the tenaculum, you could hear this hush go over the nurses.  It is an instrument with sharp prongs at the end, it looks like a medieval torture device.  He used it to grab my cervix and pull downward in an attempt to straighten it and feed the catheter through.  It did not work, by now I am sobbing and the nurses are holding my hands and holding me down.  Then he said that it would not feed and we would have to try again when I was under heavy sedation.  They could not sedate me that day since I was told to eat prior to the HSG.  I got up with the help of the nurses.  I was shaking and could hardly walk.  There would be no IUI that cycle since he could not feed a catheter through my cervix.

At our follow up consultation we asked if this could be our fertility problem and he said no not likely.  He said that he would need to have me sedated and then he would dilate my cervix manually and then could perform the HSG.  Since I would have to be sedated anyway why not have a hysteroscopy at the same time?  It would only add $800 to the cost and hey lets be complete.  It made sense get all the testing done and less cost!  This was already getting expensive and my insurance covered nothing.

I went in and had the HSG and scope done under twilight sedation.  Everything went well, normal uterus, normal fallopian tubes.  My cervix was severely strictured, but he dilated it and it should stay good for about a year, then I would likely need the dilation done again.  We were green lighted to finally try an IUI.  Since the cycle we had our first attempted IUI with just Femara had few follicles he felt like just trying that again would not work.  We should try Femara and Follistim.  Hey I gave injections all the time I could inject myself, no biggie.  I went in for the cd10 U/S and I had a few small follicles.  I came back a few days later, they were larger, but not big enough, then my cd 19 when I finally had a good sized follicle they said it was too late in the cycle, so we could try timed intercourse but IUI would be a waste.  I was demoralized.  We had been dicking around with this fertility shit for 4 months and had not even had one attempt.

Another consultation with Dr C.  I have not mentioned how into statistics he is, HSG with oil improves fertility by 30% etc.  He also likes graphs.  He drew them for us with our chances of conceiving with IUI.  My ovaries responded so poorly to the drugs that we would need to use multiple injectables for another IUI, and we would still have a less than 10% chance per cycle.  Or we could use the same drugs, but go for IVF and then we would have a 66% chance of getting pregnant, up to 90% with a second IVF cycle which was much less expensive than the first.  I had been so against IVF, I have a friend who almost died from IVF complications, and I had absolutely not wanted to risk it.  But it felt like our only chance to have a biological child, and if the risk was from the drugs and we would be using the same drugs with future IUI attempts, why not just bite the bullet and go for the option with a good chance of getting a baby?  So May 2010 we took $20,000 out of savings and started the IVF process.

May 2010

First you start on birth control pills for a month.  Yes I am serious, you need to "quiet" your ovaries.  Then on cd3 of the next cycle you start EOD ultrasounds, blood draws for hormone levels and every day pills and injections.  I was upbeat, my ovaries were producing a good number of follicles, the nurses would say how great I was doing, that I would be an IVF superstar.  Then I was really getting a lot of follicles and they adjusted my meds to help mature the follicles and not just produce new ones.  I was feeling really uncomfortable and tired, but hey this was working right?  No complaining we were going to get pregnant from this.  Finally I had enough good sized follicles to trigger ovulation chemically.  They scheduled my egg retrieval, where you go under twilight sedation and they perform a trans-vaginal ovarian ultrasound and poke each of the follicles with a needle and suck the egg out. I was excited to be at this step, my ovaries were the size of soft balls and they would bounce off each other when I would bend over.  It did not feel good when that happened.  The collection went well, 44 eggs were retrieved.  Now they tell you that there is no good number of eggs, it varies for each woman, for some 4 eggs is a good number, but from what I have read 8-10 is good, 12-14 is great, 44 is ridiculous.  I was flying high, we should have embryos to implant and to store!  More babies that we would ever want.  I started to worry about the ethics of having embryos in storage that you just let die, those were my children after all.

After the egg collection you start a new series of medications to make your body think that it is pregnant so that your uterine lining will be ideal when they transfer the embryos.  My eggs were mixed with Mark's sperm in a dish (actually some had a single sperm injected into them) and then were placed in a broth and incubated.  An embryologist would check them every so many hours for signs of division and growth.  This cycle of drugs is the least fun, you are super emotional from all the hormones you were just taking and now your husband has to inject your backside with this 1.5 inch long needle daily.  I was so scared about Mark giving me these injections.  I would cry and panic.  BTW that is not like me, I am cool and collected in a crisis and in general not scared about painful things.  I was still feeling bad.  I thought that once the follicles were ruptured and the eggs taken out my ovaries would stop being so swollen.  I was having technicians help me off the floor in the exam room since I could not get up on my own (I examine any dog over 30 lbs on the floor).  Then the nausea started, I could not eat, I was dizzy and feeling so awful.  One of the worst days I was at work trying to do a dental cleaning with extractions on a dog.  I was sitting on a stool, the dog on the wet table and I had a garbage can in between my legs that I was vomiting into.  I was worried now and I called Dr C's office.  They said that I needed to leave work immediately and come in.  This is no easy feat for a veterinarian, I have a book of appointments and people are CRANKY when you cancel their pet's appointment or they have to wait to be seen since one doctor is now double booked.  I pretty much never leave work, I vomit there, I have diarrhea there, I work with a fever, an ankle so swollen I could not stand on it, I got bit the face my a dog and still worked the rest of my shift, you get the idea.  I left work that day.  Dr C did an ultrasound, I was looking pot bellied and so nauseated.  He found that I had free fluid in my abdomen, all the follicles that had been ruptured to collect the eggs contain fluid and they were still producing fluid that was making me sick and collecting in my abdomen.  This is called hyperstimulation syndrome.  He said that mine was moderate, so I did not need hospitalization yet, but I would need to start an expensive medication to stop this process.  He said that we would likely not implant any embryos this cycle since hyperstimulation syndrome creates and unfavorable uterine environment for implantation.

I barely made it through that weekend, I could not eat or drink anything, I was vomiting all the time, we called Dr C, he prescribed Zofran.  That made it so I could stand without being so dizzy I thought I would fall over, but I could still not keep any solid food down.  Mark called Dr C again after he found me violently vomiting in the bathroom, unable to get up off the floor.  He prescribed Phenergan suppositories.  Now that stuff works great, nausea gone, poof.  The downside is that you feel good and then you are unconscious because it is also a powerful sedative.  While I was in this hellish state we got a phone call from the embryologist, 19 of my 44 eggs had fertilized, which was a great number.  Yeah!  This was working.

They tell you not to call the embryology lab, that they will contact you if there are problems and otherwise don't worry.  So after the good news when we did not hear from them it was no big deal.  The day came for embryo implantation.  I was still really sick, but we went.  I knew that likely the implantation would be cancelled so I was just looking forward to going back home to bed.  I had to ride in a wheel chair in the surgi-center I was so weak from vomiting.  They could not set a catheter since my veins were so collapsed, after 6 tries finally I had an IV.  They wheel me into the procedure room, get me in the stirrups and Dr C shows up.  So my embryos did not mature as they should, most did not divide more than once or twice.  They needed to be a certain number of cells to be suitable for freezing and use on later cycles, none of mine were suitable.  The 4 best would be implanted today, but between their poor growth and my hyperstimulation they only had a 10% chance of taking.  Good news future egg collection cycles were discounted!

The embryos were implanted and I went home to lie in bed for a few days.  I talked to the embryos and told them they could divide and grow now, they were safe with me their mother, not in some petri dish.  We continued the IM progesterone and the vaginal progesterone, and the blood thinners and the hyperstimulation meds.  I went back to work.  I was black and blue from all the shots and limping from the progesterone injections in my backside, but I was working again.  After 2 weeks I took the pregnancy test I was required to, but honestly I was already spotting so I knew that this was not working.  I cried, I fell into a depression.  At least my babies (embryos) died inside me, they were with me at the end.

Mark took me to Coronado Island for a long weekend.  I barely left the room.  We had gone through so much, financially, emotionally and physically and no pregnancy and no stored embryos.

Post IVF consultation with Dr C.  Options, try IUI, start trying naturally again, or another IVF cycle.  We kept asking why IUI was back on the table since we had never even gotten to the insemination stage before?  No answer.  He sent us to the business office to discuss payment options for another IVF cycle, no more money in savings to pay at once.  There they gave us an estimate, it was only $1000 less than the first cycle. Wait, this was supposed to be heavily discounted, that was far less than a 10% discount.  Dr C said that they make no money on IVF and could not charge any less.  IUI was where he made his money.  We left the consult room in shock, at checkout Mark collected himself enough that he had more questions.  The front office staff said that Dr C had left for lunch and was not available for more questions.  Seriously we left his office like 2 minutes ago.  They got the nurse who was with us that day, she came up and said that she was leaving for lunch and could not answer any questions, but we could call later.  WTF!  We spent $20,000, have no baby, no stored embryos and you assholes can't take a few minutes to answer our questions?

We left.  Mark was fuming, I was crying.  No matter what there would be no more treatments at this clinic.

A few weeks later we got the news that Mark's mother had died suddenly.  She had so wanted a grandchild and now would never live to meet one.

Fall 2010

I let my body and spirit heal from the IVF nightmare.  I researched adoption.  Several good friends had adopted children and were so happy.  Mark really wanted to have a child of mine, but I just wanted a baby to love.  My Dad is not my biological parent and he loves me completely, as I do him.  Biology is not that important.  The adoption process is expensive and full of pitfalls.  We were low on savings and could not spend everything to obtain a child, because then were would be nothing left to raise a child.  We would likely need to ask for money from Mark's Dad which was dicey.  He had plenty of money, but does not give it out.  He never offered to help with any of the IVF expenses and would have to be asked to help with adoption costs.  My FIL is not a fan of adoption, he has said so a number of times.  He talks about the poor quality people that give up children and how dumb and defective the kids are.  I was so worried what he may say to an adopted child that would be hurtful and cruel.  Plus Mark was not ready to give up on a biological child.  We went to a new fertility clinic, it was much farther away from our house, but hey we could work that out.  We met Dr J at a evening seminar the clinic had.  He was gentle and kind, after the Dr C fiasco I learned that I need caring doctors.  He said that he could not figure out why we had been pushed into IVF without ever trying IUI. He said that clearly my ovaries worked, he literally almost fell down when he heard that they had harvested 44 eggs from me.  I was scared to hope again, but everything he was saying felt reasonable and right.  Next cycle we would try IUI again.

This clinic was better, we did get to the insemination phase 4 times.  I would grow 2 maybe 3 follicles per cycle.  Dr J was conservative with my medications given my history with hyperstimulation.  Also at this clinic they will not inseminate if you have more than 6 follicles due to the risk of high order multiples.  We tweaked the meds each cycle, tried different progesterone forms.  All the same result, a negative pregnancy test.

Dr J's clinic uses Clomid as it's main drug, not the Femara that Dr C was so fond of.  Clomid is way cheaper, but does crazy stuff to my mind.  For those of you who don't know both of these drugs suppress your natural estrogen, which in turn increases natural production of FSH and you get more follicles.  Side effects of low estrogen are: night sweats, insomnia and mood swings.  Sound familiar, yeah just like menopause.  Femara I never had any of these side effects.  Clomid I would wake up soaked in sweat and then be up for hours.  I watched a entire season of Grey's Anatomy on streaming Netflix between 2 am and 5 am one IUI cycle.  I was so emotional.  I was crying all the time and not about important things.  I sobbed during the movie Beverly Hills Chihuahua because I found it so sad that the Chihuahua had lost her family.  Sobbed, for hours, about a fake chihuahua in a relatively bad movie.

I told Mark that I needed a break.  Dr J said that we could try IUI a few more times, but it was looking like IVF again.  He was nice about it, and we knew that was the case based on the IUI's not working.  I told Mark that I needed a break.  I could not continue these medications cycle after cycle.  I told him that I would not try IVF again, it was too risky and too expensive.

February 2011-July 2011

We went about our normal lives.  It was nice not feeling like an insane person all the time.  I had been on fertility drugs for almost every cycle for a year.  It was nice to feel normal for a while.  I did more research on adoption and was ready to start that process.  Mark was hesitant.  We got a big tax return, hey spend crap loads of money in IVF get good tax return.  We planned a vacation to Kauai.  It would be our special treat to ourselves with the tax return.  As summer approached Mark mentioned going in for another IUI.  I said that I did not want to.  I bought a basal body thermometer and started half heartedly to measure.  I think I recorded like 4 temps out of 7 one week, then stopped completely since they did not make any sense.  Mark talked to some friends that had fertility issues and they recommended the Clear Blue Fertility monitor and the book Taking Charge of your own Fertility.  I planned to order both when we got back from Kauai.

Kauai was amazing, relaxing, beautiful everything that you would expect from Hawaii.  I actually was still spotting from my period when we got there.  I did bring the BB thermometer and did not use it once.  To be honest I had no idea how to interpret the data anyway.

We got back from our vacation and had a big fight.  Mark blamed me for wasting the whole summer and not trying at all to conceive.  I yelled back that I had ordered the book and fertility monitor that week and he needed to lay off.  The monitor came, I unpacked it and read about how to use it.  The TCOYF book came, I read it cover to cover in a day.  I felt empowered, we could do this on our own.  How could I have not known about my own body like this before.  All these fertility doctors and no one tells you this stuff?  Now I just had to wait for my period, then I could start using both.  I waited and waited, no period.  Finally in August I looked at a calendar.  My period was a week late.  That was weird, I was normally really regular.  I had a pregnancy test left over from an IUI cycle, hey why not right?  The positive came up as soon as my urine hit the test strip.



Mark used to joke that the monitor and book worked so well all you needed to do was order them to get pregnant.

That was Grace, that was our baby, on that pregnancy test.  Our dream realized, then taken at 32 weeks.  I miss her so much.  She was our miracle, not getting to keep her seems like the cruelest twist of fate.

Now I am waiting again for my period to start.  I dusted off the book, and the monitor they are ready for use.  I signed up for Fertility friend to help track my BBT and interpret the data.  I measure religiously every morning even though my cycle has not started yet.  I am creating a routine.  I am terrified.  I need to be pregnant again.  I am not sure that I can take another 2 or 3 years of waiting.  I am not sure that I am strong enough any more.  It is even harder now since I know how amazing pregnancy is.  I never felt happier or more alive then when Grace was growing inside me.  Holding her after I delivered her was bliss even though she was still.  My dream was in my grasp and then it was gone, shattered.

Hopefully this long, sad story will give a new perspective on my loss.  Unfortunately I know for some it will be painfully familiar.  This is why every baby is a miracle, the fact that this process works at all is so beyond understanding.  There is God or magic or something there, not just biology.



Monday, March 26, 2012

Sad

I was feeling okay for most of today, but then I checked my e-mail and there was a message from an old friend who was checking in.  I hadn't written to tell her that Grace had died, I hoped she had seen my post on Facebook, but she had not.  So I had to write and tell her.  The sadness just hit me life a giant wave.  I wanted to be writing and telling her how excited we were to get to meet our daughter soon, not to have to tell her that our baby was gone.

I also keep having the strange sensation that I am still pregnant.  I feel her inside me still.  I want to be pregnant again so badly.  I am so afraid that won't happen.  I have not written in detail about our struggles trying to get pregnant... I plan to soon, but needless to say that getting pregnant with Grace felt like a miracle.  Will lightening strike twice?  Can I ask for another miracle?  Is it true that once you have gotten pregnant it is easier?

My darling Grace I just wish that you could be with us.  You are always in my heart, but I would give anything to hold you again.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Grace Bear

When I was in the hospital we had such wonderful nurses and doctors, but one in particular really helped us start to learn how to grieve.  Her name was Lesley.  She gave us books and other literature on baby loss, arranged for a photographer to come, arranged for the Chaplain to come and speak with us, etc.  She also gave us a stuffed bear.  She said that a previous baby loss couple were given a bear and they called it the Braydon bear for their son who was born still.  A few months after their loss they donated a new bear to the labor and delivery unit for a future couple who had lost their baby.  Lesley brought us this bear, she said that this could be our Grace bear.  I had not slept with stuffed animals since I was 13, but I have slept with the Grace bear every night since Lesley gave her to us.  When I delivered Grace, I held her with the Grace bear.  I tried to visualize Grace's spirit going into the bear, so that a part of her could come home with us.  I hold the bear at night and dream that it could be my baby.

Grace and the Grace bear

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Yoga and Tears

Yesterday I went to a yoga class for the first time in a long time.  I used to religiously go to a yoga studio, but then I got into an awkward situation with my instructor and I stopped going.  I missed the practice of yoga, so I went to yoga at several different gyms, but none had the spiritual and meditative impact of yoga at a yoga studio.  A friend brought me the flyer for this new yoga studio in the first weeks after Grace died.  So I called my friend and we tried this new studio.  It was really emotional.  I cried during the beginning when we were starting the pranayama.  Then during all the meditative moments my mind went to Grace and I felt this deep sorrow.  I could just feel her on my chest laying so still, and I wanted to breathe life into her again.  My body went through the poses and I physically felt stronger than I had in a long time, but my emotional being was so, so sad.  At the end during savasana I just had tears pouring down my face.  I want to go back, my body felt better afterwards, but it was mentally difficult.

The rest of the day went by fairly gently.  I visited my Grandmother, who is doing much better.  I made dinner for Mark.  Then in the evening I was so prickly and sensitive.  I snapped at Mark while he was trying to book our summer vacation.  I know that it is good to have a trip to look forward to, and we need to get away from our lives for a time, but all I could think about was how I wanted Grace to be on vacation with us.  Mark wants to go back to Hawaii, not Kauai this time, but the Big Island.  I have thought so much about taking Grace to Hawaii where she was conceived, watching her play in the warm water, eating giant shave ices with her, falling asleep listening to the ocean.  I want her with us.  The yoga, seeing my Grandmother, vacation planning it all just came crashing down and I was sobbing like I did in the first days.  I can function better now, but I am still broken.

A few days pregnant eating shave ice

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Postpartum Follow Up Today

We had our 6 week follow up today.  It went reasonably well, there was no one in the waiting room when we got there, and only one pregnant woman showed up while we were waiting.  Despite that good start I started crying before we even made it to the exam room.  The exam was normal, he said that I looked good.  The pap smear results should be back next week at the latest, possibly Friday.  Last Spring I had an abnormal pap, and had to have a colposcopy which was thankfully normal.  The plan was to have pap smears every 6 months, but I was pregnant with Grace so no November pap.  I am not sure that I could take any more bad news so please, please universe let me have a normal pap.  The good news was that in 1-2 cycles we could actively start to try and get pregnant again, and he said that we did not have to take any precautions against pregnancy in the meantime.  That office has some of the best memories of my life, I hate that it is so hard to be there now.

We came home and I was just exhausted.  The mail had photos from the hospital which I was not expecting.  They were very sweet with Grace in her little outfit from Threads of Love.  Then both Mark and I had a mini break down.  It was cathartic and needed after all the emotion from today.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Sunday Should Be

Sundays are hard.  It was the day that Grace was born still, the day that I had those few precious hours with her and then had to let her little body go.  Since then Sundays are hard, I miss her most on those days, and it doesn't help that I don't have work to distract me.  This Sunday is no exception.

Mark has been in a foul mood since last night.  We went to a birthday party for a friend and there were many babies and toddlers there.  We knew there would be, but we wanted to support our friends (their journey though infertility and illness is heartbreaking).  We hung out with adults, mostly from my work, and only really interacted with one child, but it was really hard especially for Mark.  Then we got into an argument on the way home, a really stupid argument involving stopping the car to get a stray kitten out of the road.  I insisted that we stop, he felt it was too dangerous.  We stopped, and then I was mad at him and I accidentally slammed the middle finger of my left hand in the car door.  Then he got really mad at me for injuring myself.  He is super protective since I was pregnant.  So now I have a smashed, bleeding finger and a yelling husband... great Saturday night.  BTW the kitten safely ran out of the middle of the road as soon as I got out of the car.

Ouch!


He apologized for being an asshole, and I know it was just because he was stressed and grieving, but it still sucked.

So today we are at lunch with another friend and I am thinking that I should be 37 weeks pregnant now, big as a house with swollen ankles.  I should being peeing 5 times a night and having trouble physically getting out of bed and the car and up off the couch.  I should have heartburn.  I should be getting the final touches to the nursery done and assembling our co-sleeper bassinet and packing my hospital bag.  I should be doing all those things, but I am not because my baby died.  I can move and bend any way I want.  I can eat and drink anything I want.  I can do all those things, but all I want is my baby back.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Anonymity

The world of babyloss is a strange place.  There is a language all it's own, that you learn quickly.  You enter into it raw, bleeding, tear stained and broken.  You talk about your inner most thoughts, fears, emotions using this strange new language that all of a sudden you are fluent in.  You develop friendships with people you have never seen, voices you have never heard, they are your lifeline and you rarely even know their real first name.  You know them by their handle, a name they have chosen, one that generally speaks to their loss.  Mine is "Grace's Mom" or "Thoughts of Grace" depending on the site.  Maybe this emotional freedom is only possible through anonymity.  If I say my real name or that of my husband would it prevent me from saying everything I need to?  Would people use it against me?  Would knowing what I do for a living change how people view me and my opinions?  Unfortunately for all of us who we are and what we do does affect how we process our grief and loss.

So here we go... My name is Amanda, my husband is Mark.  We are Grace's parents.  I am a veterinarian, Mark is a middle school art teacher.  We are regular, middle class people.  We are well educated, compassionate people who care about other people and animals.  We share our home with two dogs, a 13 year old German Shepherd mix named Audrey, a 7 year old Pit Bull named Lakota and three cats, Flip, Louie and Banksy.  We are still Grace's parents, losing our anonymity does not change that, it does not change our loss, it just brings more of her story and our story into focus.

My favorite U/S Picture of Grace

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Cookies and Milk

I baked cookies today for the first time since Grace died.  I like to bake, I find it relaxing.  I do it as often as I can.  My husband and I regularly take baked goods to work since we cannot eat all of what I make.  I bake all kinds of things: bread, pies, brownies, cakes, but cookies are my favorite.  There are so many varieties, I have lists of types that I would like to make.  I rarely make the same kind twice, unless my husband puts in a request.  He did actually ban me from baking for about 4 months last year, he thought he was gaining weight.  It did not work out well for him since I started making sorbets and ice creams, since they did not involve the oven.  By the way the key to my husband's heart is blackberry sorbet with vanilla ice cream.

I made chocolate cookies with peanut butter chips the week before Grace died.  They were a childhood favorite that I had not had in years and had never made.  I was craving them.  I had picked out the type of cookie I would make next, oatmeal scotchies.  I was on this diet for our Bradley birthing classes, you had to eat 75-100 mg of protein, 4 servings of whole grains, 4 servings of dairy, 2 eggs, 2 servings of green vegetables, 3 healthy fats, 1 regular vegetable, 1 fruit and 1 source of vitamin C daily.  I was having troubles getting all of those things every day.  The whole grains were hard since they were so filling and I had so many other things to eat.  So I decided that I could get my whole grains in cookies.  I never had a chance to make them for my baby.

I wonder what kind of cookies would have been her favorite: chocolate chip, orange marmalade, apricot thumbprints, apeas, sugar cookies?  I would have made all of those and more for her, we would have made them together.

Her feet held in our hands.  Her feet just like mine.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

4 weeks

Four weeks since Grace was born still... It seems like it was yesterday.  I think often about how soft her skin was and how good she smelled.

My poor husband Mark is having so much trouble this week.  He says that the grief has been unrelenting.  I wish that I could do more for him, but I know that we both just need to experience the pain, that is part of the price of loving her.  I have heard that there is no closure for babyloss parents and that sounds and feels true, perhaps solace and peace are the most we can hope for.

I have been thinking about the magic of life recently.  As a scientist I understand the cellular process of reproduction and embryology, but when we were struggling with infertility all the science and medicine in the world did not result in life.  We were in Kauai, thinking that we would start trying for a baby again when we got home.  And there by the ocean without FSH injections or Clomid or OPKs or even measuring basal body temperature life began within me.  There is magic in that.  The fact that I knew the baby inside me, knew her and who she was without ever hearing her voice, or seeing her eyes is such magic.  I so hope to experience that magic again some day.

My grief counselor said that next visit we were to discuss where I thought Grace's spirit was since that can affect the grief process.  The truth is I don't know what I believe.  The Christian notion of a heaven is a beautiful idea, and a comforting one, but I don't know that I have believed in it for some time.  Before having Grace I thought, from a very scientific and rational place, that the afterlife was not a conscious plane of existence for us, and that our immortality was achieved by being remembered by the living whose lives and hearts we touched.  That concept made sense to me then.  Now it feels very hollow, since I am not the one leaving the world and the living behind, my infant daughter is.  Now the concept that her spirit is not out there, somewhere is horrifying to me.  Reincarnation and Nirvana are too foreign for me.  What else is there?  There is something about the magic that I was talking about before that feels right and comforting like her spirit could be in the wind and the waves and trees and all around me.  I know that I am not afraid to die since when my time comes in some way I will get to be with her again.

Mother and Daughter

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Alzheimer's Sucks

After my difficult day yesterday I could have used a little break, but the universe seems to have it out for me this year.  My day started at 3 am when my Grandmother's assisted living facility called.  She was in pain and had a "boil" on her back side and wanted to go to the hospital.  Of course I had to be at work in 5 hours and could not sit with her at the hospital for 6 hours to be seen.  AL said that they could not give her anything for pain since they did not have a doctor's orders, but if I gave her pain medication that would be okay.  So I got dressed and me and my DH went over and gave her some Tylenol.

Of course since I needed a kick in the gut, at 3:15 am my Grandmother is more lucid than she has been in 2 years.  She remembered that I was pregnant, she collected items from her room to give the baby.  I thought that she would forget again so I just played along, plus I have been told not to tell Alzheimer's patients about deaths since it just upsets them and they don't remember later.  I promise to take her to Urgent Care once I get off work and we go home and go back to bed.

Work was steady, but not crazy and I get off on time at 4 pm and go directly to pick her up.  She said that the Tylenol did nothing for the pain and was frantic.  I took her to Urgent care where they diagnosed her with a pilonidal cyst/abscess and conjunctivitis.  They started her on pain medications and antibiotics.  While waiting to see the doctor she said that I was not showing very much for the baby being due on April 13th.  I lied and told her that the baby was due in late summer.  Then she told me that she was hoping for a girl, but the most important thing was that the baby was healthy.  It took everything I had to not start sobbing as I told her that was right a healthy baby was most important.  I keep hoping that she will forget again.  Hell she normally can't remember anything for more than 5 minutes and now she knows my due date?  The Universe has a crappy sense of humor.

My DH did apologize at 3 am for the things he said that night and I forgave him.  I don't think that Grace would want her parents mad at each other.

I am now heading off to bed and hoping for no more 3 am phone calls.  Another picture of Grace to end this post on a good note.

Goodnight my Darling... Mommy loves you.


Friday, March 9, 2012

Pictures

I got the cd today from the photographer with all the pictures of Grace.  Unfortunately I had a huge fight with my DH and was in a terrible mood.  We fought about my father in law.  My husband asked me to be nicer to this man who has said my baby's name, never visited us in the hospital, never saw Grace or held Grace, did not send flowers or a card or anything...  I don't have anything else to give, I give everything to my grief and I cannot spare extra niceness to people who give nothing to me.  I cried and yelled at my husband for asking something like that of me now.  I have tried to be nice to my FIL, but he is not a nice person and he has hurt me so much and my husband so much that I am done.

I wish that this hurtful day, was not the day I got my beautiful pictures of Grace.  Maybe it was her spirit giving me something good and precious in the middle of something awful.  The pictures are amazing and Grace is so beautiful.  I will share some pictures with the next few posts.

Long fingers just like her Mom.

My Dad watching over me and Grace

Grace outside in the sunshine with her loving parents


Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Sick Hubby

So my husband is sick.  He is the most difficult sick person ever and is trying my patience.  He wanted me to take him to the doctor, okay that is reasonable.  I hate that office since I was there 2 weeks before Grace died with the stomach flu and then a week after she died with mastitis.  Of course there is a woman in the waiting room with a 4 week old baby, just about what Grace would have been.  I just wanted to curl into a ball and sob.   And at the end of all that he drove both ways and really didn't even need me there.

I feel bad that I am short with him, but he won't do anything I recommend.  He won't drink fluids, he won't try to eat anything, he just wants medication after medication.  I guess that I am also afraid that something bad will happen to him too and then I will be all alone.

I wish that Grace were here.  If I could just have my baby everything else would be manageable.  I think about her sweet face and wonder what color her eyes were beneath those eyelids.  I think about her feet, just like mine with the second toe longer than the first.  She would have been tall like me, she was already 17 1/2 inches at 32 weeks.  She would have been the most amazing person, I just know it.  She changed my life just being pregnant with her, she would have changed so many others if she could have lived.

Monday, March 5, 2012

First Support Group Meeting

Today was my first full day back at work.  It was busy so I did not have much time to feel sad.  There were times when it would hit me so hard that Grace was gone.  I would be doing something, like bending over, which would have been so hard when I was pregnant and now I could do it easily.  I would almost start to cry that she was gone and never coming back, but I would keep it together since there were generally clients around.

Then I rushed home so that we could go to our first support group meeting.  It was at Banner Desert Hospital.  I have never been afraid of hospitals, but I was very uncomfortable going in there.  There was a class for expectant parents down the hall and I wanted so badly to be going to that class, not the support group for babylost parents.

I think that the group was more helpful for my husband.  He is not a computer guy, so the solace and comfort that I have found online at glow in the woods and other websites he has not had.  This was his first time hearing the stories of other families and I think that it helped him achieve some peace.  So many of the women at the group were single, their children's fathers having left them when they needed them the most.  So many had incompassionate medical care, or even worse poor medical care.  I did not find the healing that I have online, but it did make me even more grateful for my wonderful husband and the excellent, caring doctors and nurses that cared for me throughout my pregnancy, but especially during the labor and delivery.

Tonight I will go to bed missing my Grace, but grateful for the many gifts I have in my life.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

3 weeks ago I held Grace

Darling baby,

Three weeks ago today I held you for the first and last times.  You felt so perfect in my arms, it was so natural to hold you and smell your wonderful baby smell and kiss your impossibly soft skin.  I could have stayed in that moment forever.  I miss you so much.  I don't cry as often as I did, but the missing you is constant.

I hope so much for you to have a little brother or sister, not to replace you, that could never happen, but to add to our family.  Even if you could be here with us I think that I would have wanted more children.  I used to think that you could plan and make everything perfect if you worked hard enough.  I have learned, in a very hard life lesson, that is not true.  I invite the chaos and spontaneity of life, and I think that children are part of that.  I was afraid before, but I am not any more.

I wish that I could dream of you when I sleep, I day dream about you all the time, but my mother and father have both had night time dreams about you and they were wonderful.  My Dad, your Grandpa, says that he never remembers his dreams, but he remembered the one he had of you.  You were at Nana and Pop-Pop's house crawling on the floor, playing and Nana was there.  Dad was there too and since both you and Nana were dead in life, but wonderfully alive in this dream, he said that someone should pinch him so he would know that he was not dreaming and then he awoke.

Are you with Nana?  Are you in heaven with all the amazing people who I have known that are no longer with us?  Have you reincarnated?  Where is your soul?  I wish that I knew... that I had the faith that I would see you again and hold you again and get to be your mother forever.

You Dad is having a hard day today.  He misses you so much as well.  I feel bad for him since I could feel you moving and growing inside me and he could only feel you kick and move sometimes.  He wanted you so badly, and loved you so much.  Being your parents made us better people.  He says that you are his spiritual core now.  I don't completely understand what he means by that, but it moves me deeply.  I wish that I could make his grief easier, but I can't.  We will continue to love and support each other, you have brought us so close together that was such a gift that you gave us.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

The Death Certificate

Grace's death certificate came in the mail today.  I was not expecting it and I really broke down while reading it.  Her cause of death was listed as hypoxia... lack of oxygen.  Oh baby, I am so sorry.  I wish that there was something I could have done to stop this.  I wish that you could have had a life outside of my body.  I hope that you didn't hurt.  Missing you so much.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Linea Negra

There are these dark lines that can form on pregnant women's bellies, they call them linea negra.  I used to think that they were ugly and hoped I would not get any.  Then I was pregnant with Grace and I developed one.  I did not think it was ugly, but figured that it would fade after I gave birth.  Now I treasure that line as the last visible reminder of my pregnancy.  I am so worried that it will fade.  My husband loves the line as well, like a Grace was here marker.  My DH took a picture of it for me today, just in case it starts to fade.



Grace you were here in my womb and now you are here in my heart.  I love you so much and miss you so much.  Thinking of you always baby girl.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

The Name Necklace

Grace's name necklace came today.  I was so excited for it to come.  It is so beautiful!  I feel so connected to my baby when wearing her name around my neck.  I will post a photo of it tomorrow, for tonight I just want to wear it and feel the closeness.



It was my first day back at work, just a half day, but at work nonetheless. The staff don't know what to say to me, everyone seems afraid of me so they act like nothing has happened.  For today it was a welcome break from all the grieving.  I did a dental with an extraction on an older cat and I did a really good job.  It felt good to be using my skills and talent to help that cat.

The drive to and from work was the hardest part.  I had to pass Banner Gateway, the hospital where I had Grace.  I had tears streaming down my face while on the freeway.  I used to tell Grace that she would be born there when I was pregnant, and before I was pregnant I would always say to myself that is where I will have my baby someday.

It is getting easier to focus on the amazing memories I have of being pregnant and the incredible miracle that her birth was and not the gut wrenching pain of losing her.  I hope that continues since she was the most amazing experience of my life and I never want to lose sight of that.

The husband and I are planning more gardening projects for the weekend to keep busy.  It helps to be busy.

Missing you baby, thinking of you always... Mom