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Journey To the Finish Line

PR's, 4 children, hopes and dreams; I'm always running after something

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IVF

Giving Yourself A Raise

As I sit and stare at the blinking cursor in front of me, my nearly 1 year old twins play among a mass of toys on our family room floor. My son crawls around with a toy hammer in hand and with each forward motion you hear “bang, bang, bang”, while my daughter lays on the floor babbling a conversation that it seems at least she understands. Even a year later it still feels unreal to use the words “son” and “daughter” as I often feel like I should be talking about someone else’s kids.

I have only had a handful of jobs in my life. I didn’t work much as a teenager as I was fortunate enough that it wasn’t a requirement. I did some babysitting. Between my senior year and freshman year of college I worked retail for Carlton Cards. During college I worked part time at the dining hall to have spending money. Graduate school was a full time job in and of itself, and since graduation I’ve worked as both an adult and pediatric Speech Pathologist. I consider myself a hard worker – I’m honest, organized and have decent (hey no one is perfect) time management skills. Everyone appreciates being rewarded for hard work, and almost nothing is more exciting than a raise.

During the infertility battle I swore I wouldn’t moan, groan or complain one iota, I begged and pleaded with God and life to grant me this job. I promised I’d take every sleepless night in stride. I promised I’d happily give up just about anything if I could just have a family. Three years, a failed insemination and a successful IVF later, I was finally granted the job of “mom”. I often hear mothers describe it as one of the toughest jobs in the world. In fact, this video saying the very same thing has gone viral recently. I was asked recently what I do to reward myself or “give myself a raise”, so to speak, after all my hard work as a mom.

As it turns out, I become a mother and began eating my words. I have moaned, I have groaned and I have complained. Maybe its because of my history, but I find it difficult to feel like I need to reward myself as a mom. I sometimes feel guilty for complaining about the difficulties that come with the job. I feel as though my reward should come in the form my son and daughter who I wished for with all my heart. This isn’t to say I don’t do things for myself, however when I think of rewarding myself for a job well done, motherhood is only part of the equation. I am also a wife, a friend a Speech Therapist and a runner. Interestingly, just as I feel there are several pieces to the equation, I also vary in what I find to be my favorite type of raise or reward. Often its curling up with a good book, browsing the Target shelves alone or with a friend, or a cup of coffee. Sometimes its a run, a date night or a piece of cake. Sometimes its a compliment or time to blog. Other times you just can’t beat a pedicure. And there are plenty of times when all I need is for one of my babies to reach for me or call out “mama”.

What’s your favorite way to reward yourself for your hard work (mom or not)?

*This post was written as part of a campaign by raise.com, a site where you can either buy discount gift cards (with free shipping!) or sell unwanted gift cards to others.*

Celebrating the Extraordinary

There have been times that I’ve complained(mostly to myself) about feeling ordinary. A jack of many trades but a master of none – there isn’t much that sticks out that makes me special or different from everyone else. Yesterday I sat outside at a park near the water, admiring the view. An ordinary September day in Charleston in most respects, and an ordinary activity for many. Parents and children mixed in the scenery; parents chatting, children playing. A man serving ice cream. A jump castle. A woman taking pictures. Hugs. Smiles. Face Painting.

I seriously wanted to crawl in the caterpillar
I seriously wanted to crawl in the caterpillar

Earlier this month we received an invitation in the mail from our fertility clinic, for a party to “celebrate babies”. Liking any opportunity in particular to celebrate (read: show off) OUR babies, I RSVP’d right away. I expected to see some old familiar faces, hand off the babies for our fertility doc to hold and admire (what? they are cute), and possibly see a person or two that I knew in real life who had undergone fertility treatments. I figured it would be an ordinary day. I expected to hang out for an hour or so, eat some ice cream, ask for a photo and head home.

aforementioned photo request :)
aforementioned photo request 🙂

We arrived just as things were starting so other than staff members (and the ever important ice cream guy), the park was relatively empty. The babies were given some super cool hats and we took a family photo.

Our babies rock the Coastal hats
Our babies rock the Coastal hats

We chatted with our doc for awhile as others started to trickle in. He was quickly pulled away by a slew of other previous patients anxious to show off their own babies so we sat down and ate while I fed the babies and I watched. Some parents were glowing, some looked exhausted, others looked a bit frantic as one child ran toward the caterpillar while the other took off toward the jump castle (that will be me in the not too distant future). I watched families pose for pictures,hold babies, wipe faces and share stories. I thought about how, to the onlooker, we all looked like ordinary families at an ordinary picnic. And in many ways we were. I obviously don’t know their stories, but I’m betting, like ours, they involved stress, heartache, hope,  and fear. I’m betting, like ours, their journey’s to parenthood were anything but ordinary.

Surprisingly, though, I find myself feeling grateful for the experience, even with all of the pain. And not only for the experience but for all of the awesome people we worked with who supported us, rooted for us and celebrated with us.

She's pretty awesome
She’s pretty awesome

I’m grateful for the science that allowed us and couples like us to create our families. We were all there that day to celebrate babies and life – the extraordinary way they were brought to us. To celebrate the extraordinary journey’s we took, the extraordinary doctors and staff. To celebrate our extraordinary levels of perseverance and hope. Our extraordinary families.

group fertility clinic

This Week in History

I’m staring at the cursor on the computer screen, albeit a bit distractedly, because out of the corners of my eyes are two pairs of tiny hands and feet.

Last year those hands and feet looked like this

Miles and Abby are the cute ones
Miles and Abby are the cute ones

Last year I blogged the transfer decision I made on my valium induced high to transfer two embryos. The two embryos that turned into Miles:

Its always a good day for a chomp chomp alligator
Its always a good day for a chomp chomp alligator

And Miss Abby:

Hi, I'm pretty
Hi, I’m pretty

Last year I wrote a post about Bryan and I, and how we met, because our anniversary happened to be the day after the transfer. I wrote about how I knew he was going to be a great father and I couldn’t wait to make him one. We didn’t do anything for our anniversary that day because he was working out of town. I don’t remember what we said to each other. I do remember not so patiently wondering what the result of our IVF was going to be (I know this is quite shocking to all of you). When I think back on last year I remember feeling a big mixture of feelings. I anticipated good news as much as I dreaded bad. I wondered how we’d afford more treatment, how much longer it could take if it didn’t work. I felt incredibly thankful we could afford it in the first place and that I had such a great man by my side who stuck with me despite all my craziness. I felt a bit empty, like something (or someone(s)) was missing.

This year as I type and watch the babies play, squeal and blow raspberries I again feel a mixture of things. I feel grateful for my family. I feel humbled by motherhood and the journey we took to get here. I feel excited for whats to come. I feel pain for those who are still trudging along in infertility. I think about last year and I feel how I felt then. I feel serene, at peace. It’s an interesting mix.

This year we have another low key anniversary day planned. We both work so there isn’t much time for anything fancy anyway. We are going to leave work, pick up the babies and go to dinner at Red  Lobster for no other reason than its close by and Bryan wants all you can eat shrimp. Sure its kinda lame, but we are going to celebrate our 3rd year of marriage together – all four of us.

As a family.

Our family
Our family

This year, I feel full.

Twelve Percent (NIAW)

National Infertility Awareness Week kicked off a few days ago. Anyone who has read this blog for any length of time knows infertility is something I feel passionate about. The fact that its the same week I start my maternity leave is just ironic.

Twelve percent.

On a normal basis inclusion in a somewhat special, different or elite group would excite me.

Graduating in the top 10% of my high school graduating class. And above a certain grade point average in college and grad school.

Percent of people in the US who have run a half marathon: 17% (though not 100% sure about this stat, it was harder to find) (source)

Percent of people in the US who have run a marathon: .05% (source)

Graduating at the top 10% of my high school class isn’t really as relevant anymore, but I have to say that it feels satisfying knowing I’ve done something that only .05% of others have done.

Percent of couples who suffer from infertility: 12%

I got included in this group, too.

I read back through several old blog posts I wrote during our IVF cycle, and doing so brought back many memories of worry, anxiety, hope and fear. And this was during a time where we were given the best odds of achieving a pregnancy, meaning that I had the most hope of any other attempt and yet still felt mostly fearful. It is difficult for someone who has not been there to understand, and I get that, because I remember some comments I made while younger and totally uninterested in children at the time, and just how insensitive they would have been to the wrong person. I, too, am guilty of saying stupid things. I won’t deny that.

We finished the nursery recently, and as it was being put together I spent a good deal of time resting, sitting in the glider and looking at everything in awe. I felt amazed and grateful, like I couldn’t believe it was in our house. That this monster belly houses two babies. That the constant jiggling I feel is their movement. I remembered what we went through to get here.

Around 90% of couples are able to get pregnant on their own within the first year. The rest who haven’t then usually begin to seek treatment. Many are unsure where to start. I got a bit of a jump on our situation because I had always had irregular cycles and asked for some testing during  a routine visit. My hormone levels were all normal, but it was discovered that I had a blocked tube. Nevertheless I was told “you only need one”. One didn’t work. We sought out a fertility specialist and discovered that due to testosterone replacement therapy, hubby had no sperm. And that the chances of recovery were not guaranteed. Several months of further testing lead to some sperm but only enough for the mack daddy: IVF. A VA hospital endocrinologist put him on a regimen of other hormones which did at one point raise his count to within normal limits nearly 8 months later. But then my blocked tube issue got in the way. We set up and postponed two IVF cycles before diving in, trying and hoping for a miracle naturally in the meantime.

It never happened.

There were hundreds of days counted, ovulation sticks used and prayers sent up. Hundreds of runs used to rid myself of the frustration. Many conversations about whether my desire to have children or my relationship was more important because it became such an obsession. Much bickering when not enough attempts were made during that critical window allowing us to have the best chance. Depression.  Tens of thousands of dollars. Damaged and nearly damaged friendships. 3 years. Jealousy. Lots of jealousy.

Thousands of tears.

And in the end we were lucky. We needed only one IVF cycle. So many attempt cycle after cycle without success and continue to push through. It is a feat that I cannot imagine. We may be nearing the light at the end of the tunnel  but it doesn’t mean we come out on the other side unscathed. This 12% is not a group I would have elected to add to my list and yet that is how it happened.

Pardon my mouth when I say this: this shit is no joke. And if you happen to know someone going through it, just keep that in mind.

We will never forget.

For more information (if you are going through infertility or just want to learn more), visit Resolve’s website. They can probably  manage to explain it without the use of curse words. 🙂

From First to Second (&ICLW)

Those of you who are visiting from ICLW – a brief history:

My husband and I started TTC over 3 years ago. Eventually, he was diagnosed with low count and I with PCOS. We spent a few months trying hormone replacement to increase count with no luck and our RE told us if we wanted to get pregnant then we were looking at IVF.  One month we finally found ourselves looking at a count that was within normal limits and decided to try an IUI. That got canceled when it was discovered that all my major follicles were growing on the side of my blocked tube. (seriously?) After that, we moved forward with an IVF. Today, we are 13 weeks pregnant with twins…..and I still can’t believe I’m finally able to type this.

Now, onto the update:

I am a competitive person, and it is rare that I become excited about moving from first to second. But today that move marks a big and significant milestone: from the first to the second trimester.

THAT I can get excited about. Things are starting to feel more real and I’m beginning to think more “when” than “if”. For me, this is pretty significant. Bryan even bought me a gift to celebrate: Mums 🙂

I totally didn’t put it together until I told my mom they were mums and she asked if he had done that on purpose

The Good

  • We are officially in the 2nd trimester! While I totally get that this doesn’t mean we are home free, it does mean our risk of miscarriage drops significantly
  • Bryan declining a cigarette at a get together because he is “going to be a daddy”. He has also lost 10 pds and I am super proud of him.
  • Telling all my parents at work about the pregnancy, even though most of them suspected since I started to show so early
  • Knowing what I was finding on the doppler really WAS the heartbeats, when this was confirmed at my latest appointment
  • I made it through the first trimester with minimal nausea – really almost none. I still can’t believe this. I’m almost nervous bc the first trimester was so nice to me.

The Bad

  • I have been less than thrilled with my first two OB visits. I saw a nurse practitioner first who I had to tell I was having twins, and she still told me I only needed to gain up to 4 pds. Everything I’m reading says with twins you need to gain more – more like 8 pds after the first trimester. The second person I saw was a midwife, who when I asked what I should gain had to go look it up (bc it was twins). At least she was able to find the heartbeats, though still made an offhand comment about how its too early to completely tell if they are separate. I only didn’t push it because I had found them myself. My next appt is with one of the OB’s, and I’m going to respectfully request to be seen only by an OB from now on. (The nurses and midwives don’t deliver but they can do checkups)

The Weird and Amusing

  • For the first time in my life I’m voluntarily skipping workouts (read: walks) and eating more, hoping to gain some weight. I’m getting on the scale hoping for a HIGHER number.
  • I’ve had McDonalds nuggets 4 times in the last 3 weeks
  • I have retired 3 pairs of jeans- well, temporarily.
  • There are no longer gaps in my bras. Sometimes I stare at “the girls” and wonder if they are really mine. (Well, hello there – where did you come from?)
  • Sometimes the books freak me out
  • More than once I’ve nearly left my phone behind (its normally attached to my hip so this is pretty significant)
  • I think its finally time, at 30, to lose the belly ring.
  • More than one person has laughed and said “this is the only time I can say you have a belly!” (simply bc I was too workout crazy before)
  • I prefer my couch to exercise….or moving in general

An updated belly pic can be seen at Bubbles and Squishy

An Ode to Rollercoasters (metaphorically speaking)

The roller coaster ride does not end when you find out you are pregnant.

The last few weeks (and probably still for the next upcoming few) have been a mix of emotions including (this list is not all inclusive) joy, anxiety, worry, peace, happiness, fear, panic. Not to mention that I feel a little between two worlds with this blog right now – hovering between the realms of infertility and pregnancy. My intention has always been to keep writing about the journey no matter where it took us, pregnancy included. I just haven’t quite figured out how to do it – how to share the pregnancy journey while staying sensitive to those still battling. I’ve started to read blogs and be completely at a loss for words as to how to comment because I simply do not feel like I truly belong in either category.

At times I find myself thinking about a future baby shower, a growing belly (which, by the way, is already pooch-y), feeling the first kicks. Then I begin to panic when I wonder if we are equipped mentally and financially for TWO babies. (must.buy.two.of.everything! must.save.all.the.money!). Then I tell myself to stop getting too far ahead when we could still lose one…or both, and then I begin to picture the worst case scenario. It’s exhausting. Sometimes I am thankful for mild symptoms because it allows me to put it out of my head for bit when I’m making myself crazy (other than the constant eating and trips to the bathroom, anyway).  But other times it makes me worry something is wrong. And I think about blogging but stop myself because I don’t want it to sound like I’m complaining. Or that I am not thrilled. I am not trying to complain. I AM thrilled.This is just the way it is.

ADD brain doesn’t help – a couple days ago I put gas in my car and forgot to put the cap back on. Luckily Bryan was with me, noticed, and fixed it before I drove away with the gas cap dangling in wind.  I can now totally appreciate the fact that my gas cap is attached (I have NEVER done this before either!)

So to you, crazy emotions, An Ode:

Hooray, I am pregnant!

Holy shit, there’s two!

Man, I sure am hungry

Can I steal a bite from you?

Oh my can we afford this?

Don’t think too far ahead

The thought of something going wrong

It fills my heart with dread

The though of little heartbeats, though

That fills my heart with glee

I promise I’ll enjoy this

Just as soon as I go pee

BOGO

Today, at 6w1d, we had our first ultrasound.

I showed up (well, I put it on once we got into the ultrasound room) in my planned garb:

The 10 min I wore this shirt was totally worth the $25. Seriously.

The first thing I did when the doc walked in was ask him if he liked my shirt. He laughed and said that they should sell those.

By the way, he totally went in there looking for two. All comfy in the stirrups and my new shirt, he’s all business pointing out my still huge ovaries (thanks IVF) and matter-of-factly goes: “ooook and there’s one…..and there’s two….I still have to take some measurements but they both look good”

Ladies and gents (probably mostly ladies), its officially:

Bubbles AND Squishy say hi

TWINS.

Both had a heartbeat of 120 and both are measuring exactly on target.

Bryan got to see the heartbeat before I did because the screen was pointed more away from me, but once the doc was done taking all the measurements turned the screen so I could see – and there they were – two tiny rice grains with a very visible flicker.

It was without a doubt the coolest thing I’d ever seen.

We saw the nurse afterwards who, of course, congratulated us, answered a few questions, and set up one more ultrasound in two weeks at 8w2d – one final ultrasound with the fertility clinic. I joked that when the babies were born I was going to make or find onesies that said BOGO (buy one get one) on them.

Strangely enough, after I told my dad on the way home he goes “hey! Its like BOGO!”

HA!

Whether we call them Bubbles and Squishy, blob squared (my other nickname) or BOGO – right now we have two healthy babies with two healthy heartbeats. I know we aren’t out of the woods yet, but we are slowly getting there.

Best day ever.

A Watched Phone Never Rings

A watched pot never boils.

A watched phone never rings.

I almost had a heart attack today when I didn’t get a phone call about my 3rd beta when I usually do. Thank goodness I was done with work for the day at 1230, because by then I was already practically staring blankly at the computer, glancing at my phone every 5 seconds (with a ringer on HIGH, by the way, so it isn’t like I’d gone deaf).

I left work and drove home, but left the radio off and my phone directly in my lap. You know, in case I’d gone deaf.

By the time I got home at 1:00 there was still no call. I started to panic a little, but thought surely no news is good news? If something had gone wrong, SURELY she would have called.

I dozed on my couch for 40 minutes. With my phone right by my ear. (again, deafness)

At 1:40 I called them.  The nursing staff usually leaves at noon and so I was starting to wonder, and knew there was NO WAY I was waiting till Monday to find out what my number was. The lady at the desk said my nurse happened to be the one on call and she would call me back.

I waited.

I played words with friends.

I took my dog to his vet appointment.

I stared at my phone A LOT.

I WILLED it to ring.

It didn’t.

DAMMIT.

I drove myself and my dog home.

And then it finally rang.

They had been slammed all day.

Third and final beta came in at 8,273

I think the clinic is taking bets on twins. And we will find out Thursday!

Calendars and Countdowns

Despite the fact that I am a huge technology fan,  I buy a calendar every year. I look forward to writing plans neatly in the dates and crossing off each day with a slash in the same direction. (Strangely, I am bad about writing in birthdays). Sometimes I flip through the old pages from earlier in the year. Sometimes I keep calendars and find them months or years later, reminiscing about past celebrations and troubles. I like calendars because I like countdowns- I find a small thrill in x’ing off each day until something important.

Particularly since infertility made its way into my life, I find myself thinking during days of significance about where I was the year before – what I was doing, thinking, feeling. Much of the time I can’t remember too many specific details. Sometimes I think about where I am and wonder where I’ll be and what I’ll be doing in a years’ time. And most importantly, whether we will still be fighting this battle.

A year ago today I created this blog that I had considered doing for weeks’ prior.  Many days of significance passed while I thought “here I am a year later and I still have no children….I wonder if I will a year from now”. It saddened me even in my attempts to live despite it.

Today, one year after typing my very first words of wisdom to the world, I am pregnant. And for that I am so grateful. But I still find myself wondering sometimes if I will have children a year from now.

A successful cycle does not take away the worry. It just turns it into a different kind – Googling symptoms or lack thereof, miscarriage rates and beta numbers. Looking up perfectly normal symptoms (or a lack of) and comparing numbers to women whose pregnancies will and do vary greatly from my own.

As my friend Tiffany put it:  “so you went from crazy because you couldn’t get pregnant to crazy because you are”.

I swore to take this one day at a time and the last few days have been a miserable failure. I have no control over the outcome – it is out of my hands. The logical part of me understands this – the emotional part coming up with all kinds of scenarios, none of which are particularly positive.

She said a poster in her classroom says “Worry does not empty tomorrow of its sorrow , it empties today of its strength”. (source)

Today I am thankful to be where I am, to have this blog and this community. Starting tomorrow, I am back to one day at a time. One strong day at at time.

But that won’t keep me from counting down until the next event: Friday’s final blood test.

2 days. I’m going to cross today off my calendar.

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