Catching Our Rainbow

Hoping for a rainbow after the storm…

Still Counting

On Saturday Hubby and I went on a road trip with his mom to the Ikea in Atlanta to buy a crib. We weren’t originally planning on buying a crib because his sister gave us our nephew’s crib, but that didn’t work out. When we were putting it together, we realized there was a piece missing, but the piece was part of the drop-side. I figured we could just call the company and see if they had a conversion kit we could buy to make the side stationary, and then it wouldn’t matter if we didn’t have that piece. When we called the company, however, the number was disconnected. At this point, hubby got on Consumer Reports to get some info about the company and the crib. I am not exaggerating, this is what it said: “Case for case, this is the deadliest crib on the market.” Then it talked about the company mysteriously disappearing in December. Needless to say, we aren’t using that crib. We checked and the recall was too old for us to return it somewhere, so we went to Ikea to buy a new crib.

Whenever we go to Ikea, we play a game where we count the pregnant ladies. We usually get around 15 obviously pregnant women, and before we left Saturday, hubby pointed out that we didn’t have to play our game. We no longer had to take note of each pregnant woman and think ugly, bitter thoughts at her because I was one of those pregnant women. In fact, I actually ovulated on our last trip to Ikea. Looking back to where we were then–only seven months ago, and where we are now is staggering.

The truth is that I still struggle with pregnant women. Like a girl at our church who is due two days after me. They weren’t trying and didn’t even know she was pregnant until she went to the doctor with a lot of cramping and found out she was eight weeks along. She keeps talking about how she doesn’t know anything about pregnancy and babies and how this was totally unexpected (even now when we’re over 30 weeks). It just seems so unfair that this gift just dropped in their laps while we had to work so hard for it. I haven’t forgotten where we came from. I still feel the pain of what we’ve been through. I very openly inform people that this baby is a miracle–one we didn’t think we would ever have. Hubby and I have talked about it, and we both confessed that we sincerely believed that this pregnancy wouldn’t work–that I would never be able to carry a child.

Infertility leaves a mark that never leaves. Even now, I still count the pregnant women.

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The Feelings are the Same

I recently learned that a friend in my program is one of us. Just as I mentioned in my last post, if you are open enough, you will meet other infertiles and hear their stories. It’s empowering. Terribly sad, but empowering to know that you are not alone. Even in a department full of academics who have no interest in having children right now, I have found a kindred (bitter) soul. After she told me about their situation, I gave her a link to my blog, as well as a few other blogs in the community (hey, you ladies are awesome and I’m sharing you!). Apparently she sat and read through my blog, and today she said the most incredible thing to me: our situations are so different but the feelings are the same. Can I get an amen? Seriously. There are so many ways to join our “club,” so many situations, but the feelings are the same.

We all feel grief: That deep, soul-crushing grief that makes it hard to breathe and makes you wonder if you will ever be happy again. Whether you have never seen that second line or you’ve seen more than you care to remember while still sitting with empty arms, we all grieve the children we don’t have.

We all feel fear: Fear that we will never be parents. Fear that our spouses will give up on us. Fear that we are alone. Fear that we are going through all of the treatments, anxiety, money, etc. for nothing.

We all feel inadequacy: It might come from an inability to get pregnant. It might come from the feeling that your body keeps killing your children. None of us are fulfilling this basic human purpose, and that is really hard to swallow.

We all feel longing: We all see little babies and feel a deep longing. An emptiness in our wombs. We all long to be mothers–some of us more than anything else.

I know that many bloggers have written about pain olympics–the need some members of this community have to to show that they have it worse than anyone else. I even feel like there is an inherit pressure to constantly be anxious and miserable or you are a bad infertile or your situation is not as bad or painful as everyone else’s. Sometimes I feel like I need to prove my suffering through anxiety-ridden posts where I constantly talk about how much pain I am in. But the truth is, even if I will never experience what it is like to see that single line month after month, year after year and even if you will never experience what it is like to lose a precious life that was growing inside of you, the feelings are the same. We all feel the grief. We all feel the fear. We all feel the inadequacy. We all feel the longing. Sometimes it’s good to be reminded that we aren’t that different–that we share a common goal and that we are all feeling the pain of being kept from that goal.

The feelings are the same.

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Acceptance

Try not to read too much into my silence. I’m mostly just really busy with school stuff–turns out getting your Masters degree in English literature means you have to do an enormous amount of reading, writing, and teaching. Don’t misunderstand me. I’m not complaining. As busy as I am and as stressful as school can be, I love it. It feels so good to have forward motion in my life when I spent so long feeling stuck. The rest of our life might still be filled with unknowns, but I know what my next year is going to look like. Class. Teaching. Reading. Writing. The library. I didn’t know I could feel so much comfort from these constants, but I do.

At the moment, I am at the end of the semester and feeling a little overwhelmed with final projects/papers. So I’m taking some time out from all of that to tell you about something that happened last month.

Last month we went to Atlanta to visit some good friends. I was talking to N about the adoption process and about people’s reactions to our choice to move on to adoption. I told her the most frustrating thing is how everyone says “You know what will happen as soon as you adopt.” Everyone I talk to is convinced that I will get pregnant after we adopt–even people who know that getting pregnant is not the problem for us. And they all make it a point to tell me that. After I told her about it, N really surprised me. She looked me straight in the face and told me that she doesn’t think that will happen–that she doesn’t think we will be able to have kids. At first I was really confused because I thought I should be upset or offended, but I wasn’t.

I felt…relieved.

She was the first person to confirm that there is a good chance that I won’t be able to have kids. Seriously, the first person. I felt like the pressure was off–like there was at least one person in the world who didn’t expect the impossible from me. One person who wasn’t setting me up to be devastated all over again when adoption doesn’t magically fix me. The first person to focus on the adoption and the child we will get through adoption instead of glossing over that to the future and the hypothetical babies I will start popping out after we adopt.

Why do we do that? Why do we all feel the need to give hope–even if hope is something that can be painful and detrimental? We do it in the blog world, too. I won’t lie–one of the reasons I quit posting about our process to figuring out what is wrong with me is because I kept getting well-meaning suggestions from readers who didn’t even bother reading old posts. I got tired of readers suggesting I take baby aspirin when I have posted multiple times about my severe anaphylactic allergy to aspirin.

My doctor has found something and has suggested a game plan, and we’re going to try it. But we still plan move forward with adoption because the plan might not work. And you know what? That’s ok.

I don’t believe all of the memes and the encouraging phrases about never giving up–that true strength is always picking yourself up and trying again. I think true strength is being able to recognize when you’ve had enough and being able to move on. The truth is that some women can’t carry a child and I might be one of those women. As much as it hurts, I am acknowledging that and looking at options to move on. That’s not weakness. And what I really need right now is for someone to support that and recognize that my choices are ok and that they reflect strength and determination.

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Rambling

I want to start by thanking all of you for your kind words of support and sympathy. I appreciate all of you more than you know.

This past week, it has felt like I’m experiencing so many emotions at the same time–at such a high volume, that I can’t actually feel any of them. Its like I can mentally point out each of these feelings in myself, but I’m completely numb, like my body knows that I can’t handle this again and is mercifully shielding me. There have been so many things that I’ve wanted to write about, but I can’t seem to find the words. But I know that there is healing in writing, so I’m going to give it my best shot. Here’s what has been in my mind, in no particular order:

Guilt This was my fifth miscarriage. Fifth. And, honestly, I’m starting to wonder at myself. I mean, at this point, each loss puts us at a greater chance for another, so how much longer can this go on before I’m responsible? How many times can this happen before I can say that I am consciously killing my children by selfishly conceiving them? I know that sounds terrible, and I’m probably not being fair to myself, but it’s something I can’t get out of my head.

Adoption Before I found out I was pregnant, we made plans to meet with a good friend who is a adoption lawyer for a consultation where we will discuss our options and figure out what direction we want to go. Our appointment is tomorrow, and we are ready. We have talked for years about adoption, and we now know without any doubt that this is the right path for us. Now we just have to figure out which direction we want to take. We’ve discussed the pros and cons of different types of adoption (foster, domestic, private, international), and that is mostly what we are going to discuss tomorrow, so I will update on this later.

Reflections on 2013 Last year I wrote a post where I was ready to say fuck off to 2012. It had been a really hard year with three losses, and I was so ready to move on and had so much hope for 2013. This year also had three losses. We lost Tup in June, we lost Molly in October, and we lost this little one at the very end of the year. Hubby was also dealing with a painful Crohn’s flair-up for almost the entire first half of the year. Between all of my failed pregnancies and Hubby’s illness, we spent most of the year drowning in medical debt and are still trying to work our way free of all the bills and collection agencies. It was another rough year. Yes, the year did have some positives, including my assistantship that allowed me to go back to school (although that has made our financial situation even more dire) and our sweet little Jack Jack, but I’m ready to move on. Things have to turn around for us sometime, right?

Prevention I’m trying to find out what to do about the months to come. My last tests showed a potential cause for these losses with a new treatment (a post for another time), but we are not on that path right now. We are ready to move on to adoption. I feel like we need to prevent for awhile, but I hate birth control and hubby hates con.doms, so what’s a couple to do? I know the copper iud provides birth control without the hormones, but it’s pretty expensive (see medical bills above) and it lasts ten years. Yes, it’s reversible, but that’s a lot of money to pay for long-term birth control only to have it taken out early. Any other ideas? I feel fairly confident that we could handle the family planning method, but after two and a half years of tracking my cycles while trying to get pregnant, I’m pretty much over it.

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A Story of Love and Loss

As I said before, Hubby and I have been NTNP (not trying, not preventing) since we lost Tup. I guess I had a stupid idea that if we got pregnant without actually trying then it would be “meant to be.” I’m amazed at how superstitious all of this has made me–I guess I need something to hold on to, so I hold on to these ideas.

On Thursday, December 5th, I couldn’t remember the last time I had my period. I thought it was during the first week of November, but I wasn’t sure. So I pulled out a leftover test, and it had the lightest second line I’ve ever seen on a test. I thought I was seeing things and potentially going crazy so I didn’t say a word to anyone. The next morning, I went and bought a digital test (and narrowly avoided my in-laws at the store), and there it was: “pregnant.” That night I went to movie night with my girlfriends from church and one of them announced that she was 14 weeks pregnant. When I got home, I told hubby about her pregnancy and mine. We decided not to tell anyone. Not our families, not our friends, not my blog readers.

I spent the majority of the next morning crying–mourning the loss that hadn’t even happened. Grieving as though the tiny baby inside of me already died. I thought that I had been doing well, but that was apparently not true because this pregnancy hit me hard.

But then I experienced something that had never happened to me before: everything went fine. I had a little spotting for a few days after the test (I’m assuming that was when my period was due), but after that, no spotting. No cramps. No warning signs. Nothing to obsess over (beyond the lack of morning sickness). Everything seemed fine. I made an appointment for an ultrasound last Thursday (the day after Christmas–so if things went wrong, it wouldn’t ruin the holiday), and we went with high hopes and low expectations, Tup’s ultrasound in the back of our minds. Once again in this pregnancy, I was blown away by the unexpected: the ultrasound was perfect. I was only measuring 6 weeks 1 day, which seemed a little behind because it had been 3 weeks since the positive test, but everything looked perfect and there was a beautiful, strong heartbeat. 144. I was in complete shock.

Hubby and I still hadn’t told anyone (except for his boss who knows about our history and guessed when hubby said he was going to an appointment with me), and we decided to wait until second trimester. Not because we were being superstitious or because we didn’t want to tell anyone if things went downhill, but because it had been so much less stressful when no one knew.

So there we were last Thursday with a perfect ultrasound and hope.

*This part is a little graphic. If this is a trigger for you, please skip to the next paragraph*
Yesterday I started spotting. It got heavier throughout the day and started turning red before I went to bed. I put on a large pad and as I tried to go to sleep, I could feel strong cramps and knew something was wrong–that we would lose this one too. I just knew. This morning at 4:30, I woke up and felt wetness in my pad. When I stood up, I knew it was over. I went to the bathroom and saw that I had passed everything–the pad was full of blood and clots and I could see my baby. My tiny, tiny baby sitting there. So I cleaned up all of the blood, took a shower, changed the sheets, and hubby and I sat on the bed, cuddled, and watched Harry Potter, numb.

I still feel numb. I don’t understand how everything could be perfect on Thursday and now I am empty. My fifth baby died today, and I don’t understand.

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Rambling

I’m still here. I keep wanting to post, but I can’t seem to sort through my emotions enough to make a coherent post. Last night in bed, I realized that I was composing a post in my head before I went to sleep, and I did the same thing on the way to work, so obviously I need to write. So forgive me if this isn’t too coherent.

For the most part, I’ve been ok. I don’t know if this is denial or if I’m still numb, but I haven’t sunk into that deep sadness where I can’t function or care about anything like I did with my last losses. No sitting in the shower crying until all of the hot water runs out, which is probably good because we put in a tankless water heater last fall so we have endless hot water and who knows how long I would sit in the shower. I’ve had some guilt about how well I’m doing (which isn’t really that great, but compared to my last losses, it’s sunshine and rainbows), but the truth is that I miss Tup. I miss my baby. I miss talking to him. I miss feeling like everything I did was something that we shared. And while there is still plenty of time for me to have a complete breakdown, I think this calmness is self preservation. I don’t think I can go there again. I refuse to go there again. I’ve already wasted too much of my life in that place and I just can’t. I’m not strong enough to pull myself back out again. So I’m sitting in this strange place that I don’t recognize–one where I have a deep sadness in my heart but it doesn’t consume me–I can compartmentalize it. I don’t know if that’s healthy, but that’s where I am.

I’ve been trying to stay busy, and I know that exercise is supposed to help keep depression at bay, so hubby and I have started training for a sprint triathlon in August. It’s hard and tiring, but I’m really glad we are doing this. Whenever we add another mile or two to our bike ride or I run for a longer period of time before I run out of breath, I feel better about myself. I can feel my body getting stronger and more fit, and that really helps fight off the self-loathing that comes with my body’s failure to nurture and grow my child.

I got a call yesterday about the results of my RPL blood tests. They were normal–nothing to suggest repeat loss. Normal thyroid, no major clotting disorders. The doctor did suggest that I take a baby aspirin every day once we start trying again because it might help and it couldn’t hurt. I’m getting really tired of people suggesting that I take baby aspirin while holding my chart that says I have an anaphylactic allergy to NSAIDs. When I told her that I am allergic to aspirin, she asked if I am sure that I’m specifically allergic to aspirin and have I ever taken actual aspirin. I responded that, yes, I have taken aspirin and I had a reaction–that’s how I know I’m allergic to it. Then she said that even though I’m allergic to regular aspirin, I might be able to take a small dose without any adverse effects and that it would be worth trying. The last time I took an aspirin, I was a sophomore in high school. My whole faced swelled up and my throat almost closed, so I really don’t see the logic in taking a baby aspirin because I “might not react to a smaller dosage.” She did suggest I go to an allergist and see if they can desensitize me to it, which might be something to think about, but at that point, I was so annoyed that I just wanted to get off the phone with her. Really, I can’t understand why a doctor can’t take my anaphylactic allergy seriously.

To make the whole thing worse, she said the words. If you have had multiple losses, you know the words I’m talking about, “If it makes you feel any better…” I’ve gotten to the point now that whenever I hear a sentence that starts with that phrase, I sigh and roll my eyes. I can’t help it. Anyway, she told me about her friend who just had a baby after seven unexplained consecutive losses. Everyone has one of these stories and I can’t for the life of me figure out why people think these stories are supposed to make me feel any better. Obviously, she has never had a loss and does not understand the grief that comes with it. Because if she did, she would not think that a story about someone who lost seven children before having her first child would encourage me. If anything, it makes me feel even more bitter towards the assholes who get pregnant on the first try and have a baby nine months later while some of us suffer loss after loss after loss with nothing but the hope that one day, after enough of our babies die, we might actually get to take one home. And at what point do you stop? At what point do you say enough is enough, I’m done?

For us, that point is now. At least for the time being. I can’t do this anymore. I can’t just sit helplessly while my children die inside of me. I can’t subscribe to the “keep trying and hope it doesn’t happen again” plan. I know this will pass, but even the desire to have children and be a mother has left me. I have children. Four of them. They are all dead. And I don’t want any more dead children. I’m tired of this cycle. Even now, we’ll take some time off to focus on other things: the triathlon, school, hubby’s new job, etc, but eventually we’ll get pulled back in. Eventually we’ll want to try again, and then what? With every loss, I feel like our chances for a healthy baby diminish, but you always think, “just one more time–next time will be the one.” I feel like this cycle never ends, like we’ll never find a way out of it. So, for now, we are out. No more peesticks, no more temps, no more prenatals, no more doctor’s appointments, no more blood draws, no more waiting, no more anxiety filled nights. I’m done. And I have no idea when I’ll be ready again. Maybe I’m not handling all of this as well as I thought.

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Never Regret Love

Looking back at my blog, I realize that I didn’t post about my pregnancy. Not really. And I feel like none of you truly got a picture of what those four weeks (BFP to final ultrasound) looked like. So I’m going to try to show you.

As I’ve said multiple times, this pregnancy was different. I abandoned the typical infertile plan of trying not to get my hopes up or get too attached because it will hurt too much if things don’t work out. From the beginning, I truly believed that Tup would make it. I think I even had more hope than I did with my first pregnancy, even if I wasn’t nearly as naive about what could happen. I talked to Tup. I placed my hand protectively over my stomach. I made plans in my head.

One of my strongest memories is watering the garden one day. Hubby carried up five gallon buckets of water, and I took a small container and watered each little sprout. I marveled in the fact that I was surrounded by growth. I thought about how I was nurturing these tiny plants while my body nurtured little Tup. I told Tup all about the different vegetables we are growing and promised that next year, I would make baby food out of fresh veggies. I imagined working in the garden next summer with a baby strapped to my chest. I imagined working in the garden two years from now with an eager yet unhelpful toddler. I basked in the moment. The perfect moment.

As much pain as I am in, I am so thankful that I chose to believe in Tup. I am so thankful that I just jumped headfirst into attaching to my child. I am so thankful because I have no regrets. I told Tup that I loved him every day. Hubby kissed my belly goodnight every night. I did everything I could possibly do to not only keep myself rested and healthy, but to make sure that the very short time that Tup spent in this world, he was loved with a love so strong that it makes my heart hurt.

My heart is breaking, and it hurts so much I almost can’t stand it. But I know that pain is from love. And I can never regret love.

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Scarlet Letter

Thank you so much for your kind comments. I’ve read and reread all of them, and I am very thankful for this community.

I finally filled my prescription yesterday. I wanted to wait until things passed naturally, but I really did not want to start passing everything at work one day this week, so I decided to go ahead and get it over with yesterday. Needless to say, when I walked into the pharmacy, I was upset and distracted. That might explain why I didn’t realize what was happening until I left. When the pharm tech was typing in the prescription, he asked me quite a few questions. First, he asked me which doctor wrote me the prescription and which office she is with. I thought that was a little weird because that information was on the prescription, but I answered his questions figuring maybe he was new or something or maybe they had a new policy where they have to double check that information. Then he asked, “Do you understand what this is? Did your doctor talk to you about this?” I answered that my doctor explained everything to me, thinking this was a weird variation of the “Do you have any questions about your prescription” question that I always get. It wasn’t until I was walking out and looked down at the coupon that came out with the receipt that I understood his questions. It wasn’t a coupon. It was an advertisement for Gerber that the machine automatically printed with that prescription. That’s when it hit me that the medication I was about to take is the same thing as the abor.tion pill. The tech thought I was getting an abor.tion. His questions revealed that he obviously disagreed with my “decision” but could not voice his concern because it would endanger his job.

I don’t think I need to explain to this community just how upsetting I found this whole situation. I got out to my car and just sat and cried for awhile before I drove home. When I told hubby about it, he got really mad and said I should have complained, but technically the man did not say anything inappropriate to me. It was almost all tone of voice and facial expression, and I really could have just read into it because I was upset and hormonal (although I’m positive that I didn’t).

I know I shouldn’t care what others think, but after all that we’ve been through and how much I struggled with the idea of medically inducing this miscarriage despite the fact that my baby already died, I really just hate that man for judging me. Seriously, why don’t you just give me a scarlet letter while you are making assumptions about me?

Has anyone had an experience similar to this?

As a side note, I learned yesterday that medically induced miscarriages are very different from natural ones. I won’t go into details, but I will say that I found one perk to having a husband with Crohn’s: readily available painkillers. When I spoke to her Friday, my midwife offered to call  me in a prescription for some painkillers, but I figured I’ve been through this three times already and I would be fine. I was wrong.

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Let go

Mostly I just feel numb. Except for the moments when I actually allow myself to face my emotions, and then I feel terribly and deeply sad. And empty. Except that I’m not empty. Our child is still inside of me, he’s just not alive anymore. Over the past year, I’ve read quite a few blogs where women can’t let go and want to hold onto their babies after they know it’s over, and I’ve never understood that. I guess it’s something you really can’t understand until it happens to you. I’m not naive. I’m not in denial or holding onto some false hope that everything is going to work out. I know Tup is gone. I’m just not ready to let him go. He was alive. I saw his beating heart. I loved that beating heart more than I can put into words. And now I have to find some way to just let him go.

Everything about this pregnancy has been different. I have been calm. I have been hopeful. I actually stayed pregnant long enough to see Tup’s heart beat. And now I’m in a situation that I’ve never been in before. See, I knew that I lost all of my other pregnancies because I was actively miscarrying. I never sat with the knowledge that my child was dead inside me and had to decide what to do about that. The OB at the office was so kind and explained my options, which of course I already knew, and wrote me a prescription for a medication that will prompt my body to pass Tup. I haven’t filled it. I haven’t decided if I will. I passed every other pregnancy naturally, so there’s a good chance I will pass this one too once I miss a few days of taking my progesterone. It would be so much more convenient to plan this, to not have to deal with it while I’m at work, but I don’t know how to let go. How do I fight this maternal instinct to hold on to my child even when I know that my child is dead? How do I let go?

I was so sure. I was so sure. I told hubby if love and hope could make a baby grow, Tup would still be alive. But he’s not. I am a walking tomb. And I somehow have to find a way to let go.

photo (4)

*Obviously, we have no idea whether Tup is a boy or a girl, but for some reason we’ve both started saying he. It’s just easier to talk about him when we use pronouns, and “it” is way too impersonal for our grief.

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Another Loss

Went for the follow up ultrasound this morning. Tup was measuring 6wks 3days and didn’t have a heartbeat. I’m ok in the sense that I am functioning, but I am so deeply sad and I know that it will get worse before it gets better. Thank you all for your prayers and kind words of encouragement through this whole pregnancy–you’ve helped keep me sane over the past few weeks. Light a candle for Tup tonight.

10 Comments »

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