Catching Our Rainbow

Hoping for a rainbow after the storm…

Sour Lemonade

I’m not sure if my last two posts have given a true sense of how I’ve been doing. It’s been rough. First, I’m pretty sure I can’t look at Facebook anymore. Seriously, the number of pregnancy announcements, gender announcements, and birth announcements seems to have increased. Maybe it’s because it was Thanksgiving, “We’re so thankful to announce that we will have a new member of the family.” Maybe it’s because I’m getting older so all of my friends are getting to the age that they reproduce. But it’s hard. Then last night, all of the girls in our church group had a girls night and one of them told us she’s 16 weeks. I’ve been waiting for this, for someone in our group to get pregnant. Someone that I see all the time and someone that I love dearly so I will be full of guilt when it makes me cry because I’m so sad. She even told us that they had been trying for two years and had just given up, so I feel even worse because I’m jealous of someone who is one of us.

The truth is that I’m sad and jealous because she’s 16 weeks. I’ve never made it that long. Tup was my longest pregnancy and that lasted 8 weeks. I know from being in this community that there is never a guarantee, but I feel like if I could just make it that long, we could have a baby. It’s been over two years and we’ve had four losses (that we know of), and I’m feeling broken, like my spirit is just beat down. I used to dream of being pregnant and giving birth and having our beautiful child, but now the thought of pregnancy terrifies me. Pregnancy only leads to heartbreak. We’re NTNP right now and whenever I think I feel some sort of pregnancy symptom or can’t remember how long it’s been since my last period, I get nervous. Not, “oh my gosh, I could be pregnant and we might actually have a baby” nervous, more like “Oh no, if I’m pregnant, that means I’m going to have another mc in the next month and I just can’t handle that right now” nervous. I guess you can call it a loss of hope, but I’m basically at the point where I honestly don’t think I will ever be able to carry a child. And that hurts. A lot.

I told you all that we’re talking about adoption and hope to start the process if hubby gets this job. We actually are going to have a consultation with my pregnant friend because she works for a law firm that does adoption and she’s going to go through our different options with us. If hubby doesn’t get this job, however, we’ll have to wait until I’m done with school. That’s another year and a half. For those keeping count, that’s a full four years after we started trying to have a baby before we even start the process. Hubby said that two of his friends got phone calls to come in for a interview last Wednesday, and he hasn’t heard anything. That doesn’t mean things are over and he’s not getting the job, but it doesn’t look too good either–especially since we’ve had the optimists beaten out of us the past two years. Last night we sat together and cried. Hubby said he feels like he let me down because he wasn’t good enough to get this job. I told him that I feel like I let him down because my body apparently doesn’t grow babies. It was rough. Yes, all of this is bringing us closer, but I wouldn’t recommend marriage-strengthening-through-loss.

So that’s where I really am. I’m sad and broken and a little resentful. Things may look good from the outside because we are trying our very best to make lemonade. But to be honest, the lemonade still tastes awfully sour.

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Do you have any kids?

Graduate school is hard. I’m putting in way more hours as a student than I was working a full time job. But it’s also totally worth it because I’m doing something that I love. I love reading, talking about, and writing about literature, and that’s what I do all the time now. Graduate school also has a unforeseen perk: no one asks you if you have kids or if you are trying to have kids. Whenever I met someone new at my job, they would ask me if I have kids. When I would say no, they would ask if I want kids. I’m not really sure why this seems to be the culturally accepted thing to do when you meet someone new, but it is. At least in the area where we live. In graduate school, however, everyone assumes that you don’t have time for kids and even if you do want them, you will wait until after you are done. I’ve never seen a noticeably pregnant woman on campus, and not one of my friends at school has a child, so I don’t have to hear complaints or stories about them. As an infertile, it’s wonderful to not have the constant reminder.

Hubby isn’t so lucky and still has to deal with nosey people at work, as well as a boss whose wife had a baby a month ago. The other day when someone asked him if he has kids and he said no, they told him that he needs to get moving because the clock is ticking. Thankfully, his boss intervened at that moment because he knows our story and how upsetting the situation was for hubby. Plus, he probably didn’t want Kevin to guilt the man by telling him that all of our babies died. It’s the truth and the man probably deserved it, but it’s not really good costumer service.

It’s a problem every infertile has to deal with at some point or another: everyone has an opinion about whether or not you should have kids, and many will voice that opinion without knowing your story. It weird when you think about it. I spent a semester studying abroad in Germany, and I was amazed at how private the Germans are. Questions that are considered small talk in the U.S., like asking someone what they do for a living, were considered personal and rude. Maybe we should take notes.

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Where We Are Now

I feel like such a tease telling you all that I’m going to start writing again and then not immediately writing a bunch of posts. A lot has happened since I quit writing, but instead of playing catch-up with the last couple of months, I’ll tell you where we are now:

  • I’m going to school full time to get my Masters in English literature. I’m not really sure what the long-term plan is (teaching private high school, teaching college, applying to PhD programs, etc.), but I love what I am doing right now. I love reading, discussing, and writing about literature, and that’s basically all I do now. It’s hard, especially since I took time off after undergrad and had to relearn quite a few things, like how to study or write an academic paper, but I can’t think of anything else I would rather be doing right now. Well, that’s a lie. I’d rather be a stay-at-home mom, but that isn’t happening right now, so this is the next best thing.
  • Hubby is in the hiring process at the fire department in our town. After he didn’t get the last job because they basically run on the “good ole boy” system, he started putting in applications at different departments. This department is completely different. Instead of hiring from the volunteer list, they have a multiple-step hiring process that takes months. Hubby passed a written exam back in September, and he is taking a physical exam next week. When he passes that, he’ll be able to get an interview. If he does well on his interview, he’ll take a psych evaluation (1 out of 4 fail it). If everything goes well, it will probably be February or March before he starts working, and if it doesn’t go well, we’ll move on to another department. Apparently, he was the only one out of over 100 applicants who showed up for the written exam in a tie, and he had two separate officers tell him that he made a really good impression, so we that’s a good sign. Also, he got one of the highest grades on the written exam, so that doesn’t hurt either.
  • As I mentioned in my last post, Hubby and I are going to start the process for foster adoption if he gets this job. As it is, Hubby gets paid on commission, and I get a small stipend from school so we have a hard time keeping our heads above water sometimes, especially with all of the medical bills from Hubby getting so sick this past winter/spring. The beginning pay at this department, however, would increase our income by almost $1,000 a month, and by that time, the medical bills should be paid off (assuming we don’t create any more), saving us a few hundred dollars a month. So that would leave us with some baby money. And as an extra perk, we could also afford to start eating meat again.
  • We got another dog at the end of August, Jack Jack. Molly was a very high energy dog, and she really needed a buddy to play with so that she wouldn’t be destructive, so we went to the pound and picked out a new best friend for her. Jack Jack was about nine months old when we got him. He was also scary skinny, and he had kennel cough. Looking back, I have no idea why we got this sickly, scrawny dog, but I am so glad we did. He is the best behaved dog I’ve ever had, and he learns very quickly. Plus, he’s the cutest little thing I’ve ever seen, especially now that he’s put on some weight. I’m sure you’ll agree:

Jack1

Jack2

It’s also nice that he matches our house so well, haha. The only problem is that Jack Jack is also a high energy dog and needs someone to play with–that’s why he was a perfect friend for Molly. Maybe we’ll go get him a friend in the spring because we’re not ready for another furbaby yet.

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Forward Motion

For months I wrote about how I was stuck. It felt like we were in a constant state of waiting and facing a huge expanse of unknown, and I didn’t know how much longer I could handle the lack of resolution.

When we lost Tup, I was heartsick and angry, but there was also an unexpected emotion: relief. I felt free. I didn’t understand it, and it made me feel like a terrible person who obviously didn’t deserve the child she lost–like I wasn’t properly honoring him. But I’m finally starting to understand that this feeling of freedom and relief has nothing to do with my grief for Tup, it has to do with the huge weight of the unknowns that I had been carrying for months.

The truth is that my life finally has forward motion, and even if I don’t like the results, even if I hate them, I have found some resolution:

  • Hubby didn’t get the fire job. After months of anticipation and hoping, he was not chosen. It sucks, but he started a new job last week that he really enjoys, and he is content working there while he continues to add to his certifications so that he will be a better candidate next time.
  • I got into graduate school, and I was awarded a teaching assistantship that will allow us to (barely) afford it. After months of sitting on a waitlist and trying to figure out how we could possibly pay for school without the assistantship, I finally got the letter.
  • Hubby is feeling better and will not be having surgery right now. This could technically change any day because Crohn’s is a horrible and unpredictable disease, but we are now sitting on the “well” side of the unknown (which is infinitely better than the “sick” side of it).
  • We lost Tup and my RPL panel came back normal, which means we are stepping back from the TTC world for awhile. There is no timeline on this–we will start trying again when we both feel like it–so there is no pressure and no anxious waiting. No waiting until we are allowed to try again (surprisingly, we weren’t given any restrictions), no waiting to POAS, no waiting for test results, no waiting for appointments, no spending hours each day wondering if it will work this time.

I no longer have panicked moments where I worry about the fact that I have no idea what will happen in the immediate future. I no longer try to stare into the unknown and decipher some sort of answer. Sure, things could change and we still don’t know what things will look like long-term, but at least we know what the next couple of months should look like.

I miss Tup and it makes me sad to think about what could have been, but I’m also excited about the things to come. I feel like I finally have something to look forward to and get excited about. I have goals to work towards, goals that I actually have some control over–having a baby was a goal, but it wasn’t something I could work towards because I couldn’t affect the outcome of my pregnancies. Studying and working hard can get me through graduate school, and training consistently can help me finish the triathlon.

I can improve and grow. I can work towards something tangible. My life can finally move forward.

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My Coping Strategy

Today is a beautiful day in small-town, East Tennessee. It’s amazing what some sunshine can do–I’m feeling peaceful and hopeful, and I don’t want to write about grief today. Today, I want to tell all of my blog friends about one of the good things in my life. As I said in my last post, hubby and I are training for a triathlon in August. I actually found it online the day of my second ultrasound and made up my mind then and there that we would participate in it (I say participate because I’m really not good enough to say we will compete). I know that exercise is a good way to keep depression at bay, and the only way I will actually get motivated enough to exercise everyday is to set an optimistic goal and find a training program that will keep me from looking like a fool in August. Plus, I figured exercise will help me sleep at night and help me keep up a healthy appetite (some people eat too much when they are sad, I stop eating when I’m sad). So training for this triathlon is basically a preemptive strike again the sadness that completely overwhelmed me and pulled me under after my other losses.

You can check out our training program here. We are on week four, but we skipped week three because it is an eleven week program and we decided to start training 10 weeks before the triathlon. We try to follow the schedule as closely as possible and also do weight training two times a week (right now it’s on bike days). I won’t lie, it’s been hard. I’ve never exercised regularly before (in fact I hated exercising), so I’m basically starting from nothing, but I’m already amazed at what my body can do. So far, the workouts aren’t necessarily getting easier, but I’m recovering so much more quickly when we are done. I’m getting better at controlling my breathing, and yesterday, I could actually feel myself bringing my heart rate back down so that I didn’t feel so much like I was going to die. The moment only lasted about 30 seconds, but it was there which encourages me that there will be more moments like it.

This process has been good for my body image, and it is teaching me to be kind to myself. I’ll never make it through this program if I constantly tell myself that I can’t do it or think of my body as a failure. It’s also been good for hubby and me to have something to work towards together. It has been a great way for us to support one another and complement each other on a good workout or the progress we are making.

Basically, I’m so glad we chose to do this, and the whole process is exceeding my expectations. If you had told me a few months ago that I would be working out five days a week and participating in a triathlon in August, I would have looked at you like you had two heads. It’s amazing how much a life can change in a year, and as much as I grieve for what was and what could have been, I am thankful that things don’t always turn out as we plan them.

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Hubby

In the midst of our loss, I haven’t given any updates on hubby. The truth is, hubby is doing very well. Ever since he started taking the immunosuppressants, his pain has been declining, and he has been pain-free for awhile now. Even though we are cautious about celebrating too early, we are both so happy that he is feeling better, and I have been hoping and praying that his body is finally going into remission and this is not short-lived. Maybe this is the magic combo that will help him, and even if it isn’t, I am so thankful for the relief he is feeling now.

I’ve also mentioned before that hubby is a volunteer fire fighter and trying to get a full-time fire job. Last weekend, hubby went to Nashville and did his live burn so he is now certified to go into burning buildings and has all the prerequisites to test for his state level 1 fire certification. He was really hoping to get a job at a local department because they received a grant to hire four more full-time employees and he had more certifications than the other guys in the running, but we found out last Thursday that he was not chosen. That’s right, Thursday morning we learned that Tup’s heart was no longer beating, and later that day, hubby found out that he didn’t get his dream job. It was like being kicked when you are down. (Also, if you were paying attention to the dates, hubby was out of town Friday night through Sunday evening for his live burn, so I was on my own after we found out about Tup). For now, hubby is putting in applications at different departments and trying to get as many certifications as he can, and he is starting a new job next week. His job now is terrible and unstable so we decided months ago that he would find another one if he wasn’t one of the four. So he isn’t working his dream job yet, but hopefully he will be happier where he is going.

So, like every other aspect of my life right now, there is a lot of celebration and disappointment in the hubby department. (Who would want an average life when you can have one that’s full of extreme joys and heartbreaks?)

Be on the lookout for a post about what we are working on during yet another baby-free summer.

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Stepping back…

…from the crazy ledge.

First, I want to say thank you to all of you wonderful, wonderful bloggers who left such kind and supportive comments on my last post. I can’t even tell you how much your words and prayers mean to me. I am doing much better now, and I attribute most of it to the support and prayers I’ve received.

I’ll start with hubby. Hubby’s fever had disappeared by the time he got to his appointment, and it has not reared its ugly head again, thank goodness. Dr. GI is still trying his best to get hubby’s pain under control without surgery because people with Crohn’s tend to have surgical complications (like adhesions) that lead to more surgeries, and once you start cutting, you may never go back. Hubby’s inflammation levels were back up at his appointment which means that the pain could be from inflammation instead of scarring (which is good–scarring means surgery), and since Dr. GI really doesn’t want hubby to go back on steroids, he prescribed an immunosuppressant drug to go with his Hum.ira. The idea is that the two drugs in combination can kick his Crohn’s into remission and then we can discuss a maintenance drug (possibly sticking with Hum.ira, we’ll see). Hubby seems to be doing a little better, which is normal because his pain has been pretty inconsistant lately. I’m just glad that the fever is gone and he isn’t going to have surgery. Yet. And I’m hoping that this new drug combo will help him.

After yesterday morning’s scary spotting episode, I have not seen anymore red. The spotting turned brown and tapered off through the day and has been negligible today (maybe four or five light brown drops), and my pregnancy symptoms are still present, so I’m going to continue on as pregnant until proven otherwise. We will know more on May 23rd when we have our ultrasound. Eight more sleeps. I can do this.

After hubby’s appointment yesterday, he picked me up at work to take me to lunch and I just sat and cried in his car for awhile. I think it was good for me–I haven’t let go like that yet during this pregnancy, and it was very cleansing to release some of that fear and anxiety. Note to self: crying can be a good thing–don’t fight it.

Continued prayers are appreciated. They have really encouraged me.

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Support

I’ve seen quite a few posts about how to support someone who is going through IF or loss. I think it’s great that people have written these posts because, let’s face it, we aren’t an easy group to understand and support. Statements that are meant to be helpful and supportive can be really hurtful to many in our community. I’m learning that this is not necessarily unique to to IF/loss, and being a good source of support for anyone isn’t easy.

Over the past few months, I have been struggling with how to support my husband as he deals with Crohn’s disease. My heart just breaks when I see him in pain, and I desperately want to make him better. But I can’t. I can’t heal him. I can’t alleviate his pain. I can’t promise him that he will feel better soon. So what can I do? Over the past week I’ve been in prayer about how to support him, how to be a good wife to him as he faces this terrible disease. Here’s what I’ve come up with:

  • Pray for him I pray for my husband’s health regularly. I don’t just pray that he will be healed–I also pray that the Lord will walk with him through the desert. I pray for strength to endure and peace to deal with a diagnosis that sucks. And I make sure that hubby knows that he is being surrounded by prayer by telling him when I pray for him. 
  • Serve him When hubby has bad days where he can’t really leave the couch, I serve him. I make him something to eat that won’t make him hurt more. I bring him anything he needs. I take care of things he is usually in charge of (like mowing the lawn or putting the dog up at night) so he won’t stress about it. It’s exhausting, but it’s so rewarding and giving him the opportunity to rest makes a big difference to his pain levels.
  • Abide with him Earlier this week, hubby was hurting too much to stay in bed, so he took another pain pill and went to living room and propped himself in a more comfortable position on the couch. Instead of taking my usual approach (silently bemoaning the interruption in my sleep and shutting the bedroom door so he doesn’t keep me up), I got up and went into the living room. I held his hand and talked with him to help distract him until the pain pill kicked in. I let him know that he’s not alone in this.
  • Love him I try to use every opportunity to remind my husband of how much I love him. Sometimes he will say something like, “I’m sorry you are stuck with a broken hubby” and I refuse to accept that. I remind him that I meant it when I said “in sickness and in health.” I make it a point to show him and tell him that I love him and his illness cannot change that, and in some ways, his illness has made me love him even more because it has given me the opportunity to serve and support him in a big way.

So that is how I have learned to support my hubby: pray, serve, abide, and love. And you know what? I think that’s a good way to support someone through just about anything.

What kind of support have you received that has been particularly helpful or encouraging?

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Kindness Friday Part II

A few weeks ago, I wrote a post about the lies I tell myself. It was good for me to not just acknowledge these thoughts, but to admit them to others and write them down. I don’t, however, believe that it will lead to healing unless I fully confront those thoughts and reveal them to be the lies that they are. That’s how Theresa and I came up with Kindness Friday. The idea is to write a post on Fridays where you are kind to yourself and maybe confront one of those lies and reveal the untruthfulness (yes, I’m making up words) of it.

This week I wanted to confront a lie that I didn’t mention in my previous post, but I have talked about it before on this blog, and I know other women struggle with it. It’s the idea that my husband would have been better off marrying someone else who could easily give him children. Trust me, I know how ridiculous it sounds, and I feel silly just writing it out, but it is a thought that has crossed my mind on more than one occasion. When thinking about how to counter this lie, I thought about making a list of all the ways I am a good wife to my husband, but I decided that was too much like trying to “prove” myself as a wife when the truth is that my husband loves me. I don’t have to earn that love with a list of wifely duties. I don’t have to earn it by birthing our children (although I do truly hope that I will). The truth is, my husband and I have a really good marriage. We take care of each other, and we get along better than any couple our age that I’ve met (I actually have friends that get annoyed with the fact that hubby and I never fight). He makes  my heart so happy, and I am thankful for him every. single. day. And I can tell by the way he looks at me, treats me, and speaks to me (and to others about me), that he feels the same way. We are soul mates, and we were incredibly blessed to find each other so early in life.

I am a good wife. I have an extraordinary marriage. My husband is just as blessed to have me as I am to have him, even if that is hard for me to believe.

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Catching up

First of all, thank you so much for your support on my last post. Although I’m a little ashamed of just how bitter I sounded, I appreciate all of you validating my feelings. I guess it just goes to show that people say dumb things no matter what you are going through, whether it be infertility, loss, or even Crohn’s disease. Life lesson learned.

I have a few things I wanted to post, so I’m going to go with bullet points today:

  • Hubby has been doing much better since the ER trip. I’m learning that this pattern of feeling good one day, then having the worst pain of your life the next day, then going back to feeling better the next is fairly typical for Crohn’s. I’m also learning that the frustration, helplessness, and anger that I am feeling is normal, and it is ok to break down every once in awhile. I called a good friend on Friday and cried over the phone with her, and it helped me realize that it’s ok to be emotional and upset–that I don’t have to be an unwavering tower of strength for my husband. You would think that I would have figured this out a little sooner because I have been saying that hubby is allowed to be upset about the IF/loss that we have experienced, but I guess I’m a slow learner.
  • I got into grad school. I’m really excited and proud of myself, but I’m not doing a celebration dance just yet because I was put on a wait list for an assistantship. Which means that my school may or may not be paid for, and I may or may not get the resume-boosting experience. Right now, hubby is of the opinion that where there is a will, there is a way, but I’m not sure how we are going to make it happen without that assistance. Especially when we have medical bills piling up (just when we are almost done paying the bills from my miscarriage). It’s actually looking like we will reach our 2013 out-of-pocket limit this month, which I think is fairly impressive.
  • It’s been awhile since I’ve done an update on my lady parts, so here it is (disclaimer, in-depth period talk ahead): I had a normal period for the first time since I was on BC, and I’m freaking out about it. Ok, freaking out is a little bit of an exaggeration, but I am quite perplexed. On day 29, AF started. It just started, which I thought was weird because I usually have three to five days of spotting before it actually arrives. Then it lasted four days. This is unheard of. Mine usually last a week to a week and a half–and that isn’t counting the spotting that happens before it actually starts. I mentioned to hubby that it was over and he looked at me like I had grown another head and said, “But didn’t it just start a few days ago?” Also, it was blissfully light–it only filled my diva cup about a third of the way every twelve hours (as opposed to completely filling it every six to eight hours). Apparently, this is what “normal” periods look like, and I would be ecstatic if I wasn’t so weirded out by it. Maybe it’s a sign of good things to come?

Those are the biggest things happening in our life right now. The most important thing is that in the midst of everything that is going on, I’m still feeling very hopeful. I just know that things are going to work out, even though I don’t know what it will look like. I’m frustrated, tired, and impatient, but I’m hopeful. I think a lot of that has to do with the beautiful weather we’ve been having–it just lifts my spirits. Spring is trying its very best to settle into East Tennessee, and I am beyond ready for it! It also has to do with the amazing amount of love, prayer, and support we have received from our new church. I hope to post a little more on that soon, so stay tuned!

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