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Monday, March 31, 2014

I am Strong

I am strong because I was only 20 years old the first time I found out I was pregnant.

I am strong because it was the beginning of my senior year of college and I was due 3 days after graduation.

I am strong because despite my mom being worried I would drop out of college, I was determined to remain in school and finish my dream of getting a college degree to become a social worker.

I am strong because I never once thought about terminating my baby because it was going to be an inconvenience to be pregnant while I was trying to finish college or because I wouldn't be able to celebrate my 21st birthday.

I am strong because I fell completely in love with my baby the first time I heard the heart beating.

I am strong because I decided to enroll myself into parenting classes since I was so young.

I am strong because I got straight A's fall quarter that year and I managed two jobs plus my internship.

We are strong because my boyfriend who was 23(now husband) moved me into his apartment to take care of me and our baby.

I am strong because I refused to have an amniocentesis despite having a family history of Down Syndrome. I would love my baby no matter what.

I am strong because after having a normal pregnancy for 23 weeks, my daughter stopped kicking.

I am strong because an emergency ultrasound confirmed our baby girl no longer had a heartbeat.

I am strong because I was sent home that night knowing our daughter was dead inside me.

I am strong because the next day my labor was induced.

I am strong because for 17 hours me, my boyfriend, my sister, and my parents waited for my daughter to be born, knowing she was already dead.

My boyfriend (now husband) is strong because he made all the funeral arrangements while we were in the hospital waiting for me to give birth.

I am strong because at 5:15am on March 1, 2008, I gave birth to Riley Grace who was 11 inches long weighing 1 pound 4 ounces with brown hair. Her umbilical cord was wrapped around her neck twice.

I am strong because she was born into my own hands with no doctors in the room.

We are strong because we opted out of an autopsy because we did not want our daughter being torn open or apart. We accepted she died because the cord strangled her.

We are strong because we only got to hold her for 5 hours before I was discharged home from the hospital.

We are strong because on March 5th, 2008 we buried our first daughter when we were only 21 and 23 years old.

I am strong because I only took 2 weeks off school and work but continued to work on schoolwork at home during those two weeks.

I am strong because it was the middle of winter quarter when we lost Riley, but I still got straight A's in all my classes that quarter.

I am strong because I decided to join a support group to help me cope and I learned I was not alone. I met new friends that I still have contact with today.

I am strong because my boyfriend's sister, who was due three weeks after me, had her baby shower on mother's day weekend and although I did not go to the shower I still got her a baby shower gift even though I was grieving the loss of our daughter and was planning my entire pregnancy to have my baby shower Mother's Day weekend.

I am strong because I got straight A's spring quarter too, and passed my social work licensure exam the month before I graduated college.

I am strong because in May 2008, my cousin and his girlfriend gave birth to their daughter who they named Riley, and I see her at every family holiday. She was due 3 weeks before I was. Our daughters should be the same age, but my daughter lives in Heaven.

I am strong because I started interviewing for jobs before I graduated and accepted a job at a christian foster care agency.

I am strong because on June 14th, 2008 I graduated from Wright State University with my bachelors degree in Social Work.

I am strong because on June 17th, 2008 I got my first and only tattoo on Riley's due date in her memory.

I am strong because on June 22nd, 2008 I started my first job as a social worker.

I am strong because I worked with many children who were physically and sexually abused and who were born addicted to drugs.

I am strong because I was open about my daughter's death with my coworkers and the foster parents that I became close to.

I am strong because in September 2009 I found out I was pregnant for a second time at the age of 22. I was due 2 months after my younger sister was due with her first child.

My boyfriend (now husband) is strong because despite knowing he was not the father, he was determined to stay by my side.

I am strong because on September 19th, 2009 I began having horrible cramping and spotting but went to the mall anyways with my sister because she wanted to go, and later that night I miscarried my baby in the bathroom at church.

I am strong because I held my tiny baby in my hands and no one else was there with me.

I am strong because although I did not know if my baby was a boy or girl, I felt it was a boy and honored him by naming him Braylen Jeremiah.

We are strong because we decided to pursue individual and couples counseling to improve ourselves and our relationship.

We are strong because 9 months later we bought our first home together.

I am strong because my sister was induced on March 1, 2010-Riley's 2nd birthday in Heaven-and I was by her side the entire time.

I am strong because on March 2, 2010 my sister gave birth to my beautiful niece and I got to cut the umbilical cord because her dad passed out during the delivery.

We are strong because in September 2010 we decided to become foster parents and open up our new home to children in need.

I am strong because in September 2010 I also started graduate school to get my Master's degree in Social Work.

We are strong because we got engaged in July 2011, and in August 2011 we accepted our first foster care child, a 16 year old girl.

We are strong because we were both working full time and going to college while we parented a teenager.

We are strong because we became a team through the experience of parenting a teenage girl for 5 months.

I am strong because despite being called names often, I showed her what it meant to be loved and to have rules.

I am strong because as much as she hurt me by her words and actions, I hurt much worse when she left our home for residential treatment...I loved her like she was my own.

We are strong because we tried to remain involved in her life as mentors/volunteers.

I am strong because in February 2012 I was told the lenses in both of my eyes had detached and I would need surgery. I was in the middle of my winter quarter during my last year of grad school.

I am strong because I had my first major eye surgery on my right eye in April 2012 and was then diagnosed with a rare Metabolic Genetic Disorder called Homocystinuria.

I am strong because I was placed on a protein restricted diet and medication that I would be on for the rest of my life, and we were told I was born with the disorder which is most likely the cause of our daughter being stillborn and having my miscarriage. We were told we were at risk for future miscarriages due to having this disorder that causes an increased risk of blood clots during pregnancy.

I am strong because a few weeks after my first eye surgery, my retina began to tear and I had to have it repaired with laser surgery not once but twice.

I am strong because I finished graduate school with a 3.89 GPA on June 10th, 2012 despite having an unruly teenager, planning a wedding, working two jobs, remodeling our home, and going through eye surgery.

I am strong because on June 11th, 2012 I had my second major eye surgery on my left eye. It was only 6 weeks from our wedding and it takes at least 6 weeks for the eye to heal after surgery.

We are strong because on July 28th, 2012 we had the wedding of our dreams and vowed to spend the rest of our lives together, in sickness and in health, in good times and in bad, and for richer or for poorer.

We are strong because a month after we were married I got a new job and we began living apart during the week, only seeing each other on weekends.

I am strong because I was able to end a 15 year friendship after the realization that no friend would ever tell me I am miserable because I can't have kids or that my family is incest because there are people with Down Syndrome in our family.

I am strong because I passed my independent social work licensure exam in October 2012 and just one day later the retina in my left eye tore completely.

I am strong because I had to have emergency retina surgery requiring me to be on complete bed rest for 3 weeks with my head in the face down position all day long.

I am strong because I went back to work 2 weeks after the surgery because I was bored.

We are strong because on November 30th, 2012 we found out we were expecting for the third time, on the same day my husbands sister announced her pregnancy to us. We were due three weeks apart again just like we were with our first pregnancies.

I am strong because I was immediately referred to a high risk OBGYN due to having Homocystinuria.

I am strong because I had ultrasounds every 2 weeks and heard our baby's heart beating for the first time on December 21st, 2012 at 7 weeks.

I am strong because from that day on I had to give myself Lovenox injections(blood thinner) in my stomach every day which left bruises all over my stomach.

We are strong because although we wanted to announce the exciting new of our pregnancy at our extended family's Christmas party the following day, we were respectful to my husbands sister who had lost her baby 1.5 week earlier.

We are strong because we announced our pregnancy to my immediate family members on Christmas Day with a surprise Christmas present from "Santa Claus" to my niece...a t-shirt that said "This Little Monkey is Going to be a Big Cousin."

We are strong because we tried to ignore my mother's hurtful response of "I'm not ready for #9" because we were too excited that after losing two babies already we were going to finally become parents and knew she did not mean to be hurtful.

We are strong because on December 29th, 2012 we had a reading from a medium who told us our baby was going to be a healthy baby girl and was going to have Riley's soul.

We are strong because on January 4th, 2013 we heard our baby's heart beating for the second time and took our pregnancy reveal pictures that afternoon.

My husband is strong because he graduated from Franklin University with his double major bachelors degree in Business Administration and Business Forensics on January 6th, 2013.

We are strong because we announced our pregnancy to all of our extended families on January 15th, 2013 at 10.5 weeks with our pregnancy reveal pictures.

We are strong because on January 17th, 2013 we found out Alex was being promoted to the branch manager at a Huntington Bank location in Dayton and we would get to live together again during the week....everything was falling into place perfectly.

We are strong because on January 21st, 2013 at our 11 week ultrasound our world crashed around us as we were told our baby's heart was no longer beating.

My husband is strong because he had to call our parents and siblings to tell them our baby died again.

I am strong because I drove myself back to my parents house for 2 hours and went to work the next day, knowing our baby was dead inside me.

I am strong because on January 25th, 2013 I had a D&C to have our baby removed from me and asked about what our baby looked like as soon as I woke up from surgery.

I am strong because I didn't punch the nurse who was prepping me for my surgery when she asked why I was crying.

We are strong because we asked for genetic testing to be completed because I had a dream our baby was going to have Down Syndrome and two dreams after that that I was miscarrying our baby.

We are strong because I went back to work 4 days after my surgery and my husband started his new job as a manager 1 week after my surgery.

I am strong because on February 12th, 2013 I sat in my OBGYN's office by myself on my lunch break from work as she told me our baby BOY had Down Syndrome due to a Robertsonian Translocation and there was a 25% chance we would have another baby with Down Syndrome if I was the translocation carrier and a 3% chance if my husband was the translocation carrier.

I am strong because I returned to work right after learning we had a son, and he had Down Syndrome just like I dreamt he did.

I am strong because even though my husband did not want to name our son, I named him anyways to honor his life. His name, Logan-meaning hollow, and Kale-meaning Free man, represented the hollowness in my heart despite our son being free from pain and bullying.

I am strong because every day I worked I had to listen to parents complain about their kids' behaviors when they had no clue the emotional battle that I was dealing with myself.

I am strong because I have had to endure listening to my family, friends, supervisor, and strangers tell me things like "everything happens for a reason," "you will have more children." "at least you are young and time is on your side," "just think positive," "it will happen when it's suppose to." "trust in God," "at least it happened early before you bonded with the baby," "you need to be strong," and "maybe you should just adopt." I've had to bite my tongue more times than I can count because these were all very hurtful things to me.

I am strong because I was fired from my job on February 12. 2013 just one week after being asked to take a promotion that I declined because I was not emotionally stable enough to take on more responsibilities.

We are strong because I lost my insurance right after meeting the $2000 deductible thanks to having a miscarriage, and now we would have to meet another $1500 deductible and $3000 out of pocket max for the year.

I am strong because I enrolled myself into counseling after feeling like I wanted to kill myself to escape the pain of the reality I was living in and like I wanted to punch every person who said something stupid to me as if they knew exactly what I was going through when they had never been through anything remotely close to me.

We are strong because on February 18th, 2013 we met with a fertility doctor for the first time to discuss all the possibilities that could be contributing to our recurrent loss and the possible treatments to prevent future loss.

I am strong because on February 19th, 2013 I had 30 tubes of blood taken from me at one time to test all my hormone levels, my karyotype (chromosome analysis), and to test for blood clotting disorders.

I am strong because I immediately started interviewing for a new job and was 100% open during my interviews about our struggle to become parents and the journey that was ahead of us with the possibility of doing IVF.

I am strong because I was hired for all three positions at all three hospitals that I interviewed for, and they were all 1 hour from my home and I accepted them all.

We are strong because at the end of February 2013 we left our beautiful home in Columbus to move in with my husbands mother temporarily as we looked for a new home in Minster where we wanted to live and raise our children. We turned our Columbus home into a rental property and rented it out to a family of 3.

I am strong because on March 1, 2013 it had been 5 whole years since our first daughter died and we were still childless but not giving up.

I am strong because every March between 2010-2012 we have had a new baby born into our family and while their birthday's get celebrated, our daughter's birthday does not get celebrated because she was not only born in March, she died in March too.

I am strong because on March 5, 2013 I had an HSG (a catheter with dye inserted through my uterus) completed to see if my uterus was normal shape and size and if my tubes were blocked. Everything was normal.

I am strong because on March 9, 2013 Alex's sister announced she was pregnant again at her daughter's birthday party the same way we announced our pregnancy to my family at Christmas-with a surprise t-shirt she had her daughter open as a gift.

I am strong because on March 10, 2013 at Alex's nephews birthday party there were three women who were pregnant and talked non-stop about how they were feeling and how their pregnancy was going...all the while I was thinking I should have been finding out what gender our baby was within the next week but instead my stomach was completely empty.

I am strong because although I was hired part-time at one hospital and as casual pool at the other two hospitals....I worked 40+ hours every week and was completely open with my coworkers about our journey to parenthood.

I am strong because once we got all our blood work back and the only reason we were given for our loss was due to the Down Syndrome and explained that since I have a translocated chromosome we could continue to lose more babies as a result of them missing a # 13 or # 21 chromosome or as a result of them having Trisomy 13 or Down Syndrome, I searched the internet and found Baby Quest Foundation that provided grants for infertility treatment and completed the application and submitted our story just in time for the application deadline after we decided we were going to pursue IVF with pre-implantation genetic screening to prevent having a future miscarriage.

I am strong because I felt guilty at the thought of "choosing" a baby based on genetics and still wanted to try again on our own.

I am strong because I was told it was "wrong" to "knowingly" bring a child into the world with Down Syndrome....but did not care about anyone else's opinion but mine and my husbands because it was OUR child to raise-not theirs.

I am strong because Mother's Day 2013 was the 6th mother's day I had gone through knowing I was a mother who could not celebrate being a mother because my three children live in Heaven.

We are strong because we were not chosen for the Baby Quest Foundation grant the first time we applied and we decided to try to have a baby again on our own...knowing there were three possibilities: 1) we could have a completely healthy child 2) we could have a child with Down Syndrome or Trisomy 13 3) We could lose another child.

I am strong because as an Emergency Room Crisis Worker, I have been able to provide emotional support and hope to many men and women who have felt like killing themselves.

I am strong because as a hospital wide Crisis Worker, I have had to complete alcohol and drug assessments on women who had just given birth to babies born on drugs at the hospital that I gave birth to Riley at. I have been able to set aside my personal feelings and emotional pain, and I have been able to recognize those women as human beings who have feelings too and who need someone to show them compassion and hope.

We are strong because on our one year wedding anniversary we got a phone call from Alex's cousin to let us know she was pregnant, trying to be courteous of our feelings and not realizing it was our anniversary.

I am strong because after feeling completely hurt by her phone call for over a week, I was able to express my feelings to her without blowing a gasket like I felt like doing the whole week before.

I am strong because a week before our due date with Logan, the weekend we would have been induced had we not already given birth to him, another one of Alex's cousin announced he and his wife were expecting.

I am strong because after losing Logan in January, I was completely determined to get my Homocysteine level in the normal range, and at the beginning of August my level was 14 (normal 5-15) when it was 238 in April 2012.

We are strong because on August 10th, 2013-Logan's due date, I took a pregnancy test and it was negative. It was an empty due date.

I am strong because I chose to go out with my friends and family that night and was able to pretend I was okay, most of the night.

I am strong because I apologized to my sister the next day for going off on her for not knowing I was depressed at the end of the night because it was my due date and my baby was dead.

I am strong because I took my pain and turned it into a purpose by joining with Joint Township District Memorial Hospital to create a pregnancy and infancy loss support group for women and couples who have lost a baby to miscarriage, stillbirth, or infant death. I called our group "Honoring Angels" because I wanted grieving parents to know they are honoring their baby by sharing their baby's story with others.

We are strong because on August 13th we conceived our 4th baby and found out on September 6th, although I knew in my heart for two weeks I was pregnant.

I am strong because I took all the right steps by getting blood work done immediately and my doctor putting me on Progesterone supplements at 4.5 weeks due to my Progesterone and HCG not rising correctly. My thyroid level was also perfect and my Homocysteine level was now 10! My doctors were so proud of my progress because they never thought I would be able to get my Homocysteine level below 25.

We are strong because even though my intuition told me we were going to lose another baby, I was determined to make sure our baby knew we loved him or her and every week we celebrated that we made it another week by taking a picture with an inspirational baby related quote that spoke to me that week. I created a scrapbook with our weekly pictures and a journal entry each week to express my feelings towards our baby. I wanted to enjoy every moment God was going to give us.

I am strong because I held the first Honoring Angel's support group meeting on October 2nd, 2013 and no one showed up.

We are strong because on October 7th, 2013 there was no visible baby on our 8 week ultrasound and we were told we had already lost the baby weeks earlier. My younger sister was the only family member who even knew we were pregnant.

We are strong because we sat together in my car holding one another as we cried and grieved for another baby we would never get to hold.

We are strong because we were encouraged to have a D&C to "get it over with" and we chose to try to miscarry naturally instead. I stopped taking the Progesterone to allow my body to recognize there was no living baby inside me.

I am strong because I worked every day for 8-12 hours a day waiting for my body to start miscarrying our baby.

I am strong because on October 15th, 2013 I hosted the first annual Pregnancy and Infancy Loss Remembrance Day ceremony at Joint Township District Memorial Hospital and over 30 people showed up to light a candle for their angels in heaven.

I am strong because two days before the ceremony I was told the Lima news was coming to interview me and run a story on the ceremony...I am strong because I completed the interview, exposing to the world we now had 4 angels and not 3 like everyone already knew. I exposed the truth about pregnancy and infancy loss and the emotions that women and couples go through with such a tragic loss.

I am strong because I asked for another ultrasound at 9.5 weeks since I hadn't started bleeding yet and I was all alone when they told me there was still no baby.

I am strong because I stood my ground against having a D&C and chose to take pills to try to induce my body into miscarrying our baby.

We are strong because on October 19th, 2013 I took my first dose of the medication and started bleeding a few hours later. Alex's sister had her Rainbow Baby the same day.

I am strong because I collected what I thought was the placenta tissue and took it into my doctor's office two days later. I was told it was just blood clots and my ultrasound showed there was still placenta tissue in me. My doctor continued to push me into having a D&C...I finally caved in and scheduled it for 2 days later.

I am strong because the very next day on October 22nd I had more bleeding and collected again what I thought was placenta tissue. The same day my cousin gave birth to her second Rainbow Baby.

I am strong because the next day we went to the hospital for an ultrasound before my scheduled D&C and was told what I had collected and gave to them was placenta tissue and even though there was more tissue inside me that needed to come out, we did not have to do the D&C if we did not want to. We chose not to and to try using the pills again to get out the remaining tissue. We asked that they send the tissue sample I gave them to the lab for genetic testing. I was given a vial with solution in it in case I passed any more tissue-they wanted me to collect it and bring it to them.

I am strong because that night I spoke to my supervisor and I was promoted to a full time position at one hospital so I could get all the benefits of being full time and would not have to work at multiple hospitals anymore. The full time position started the first week in November.

I am strong because the next two days I worked 12 hour shifts and while I was working I passed more placenta tissue that I had to collect and leave work to run it to my doctors office and then went right back to work.

I am strong because I took the second dose of pills that weekend and did not have any more bleeding.

I am strong because I went in for an ultrasound on October 28th, 2013 and was told there was STILL more tissue in me and I had no other choice but to have a D&C or I could develop an infection that could prevent me from ever carrying another baby.

I am strong because I sat in my car outside of Babies-R-Us crying hysterically while having a panic attack and texting my sister about how angry I was that not even a Miscarriage could go the way I wanted it go...I was terrified of having another D&C.

I am strong because I pulled myself together and went in the store to get Alex's cousin's baby shower gift...after receiving the horrible ultimatum that I was given by my doctor.

I am strong because the entire month of October, every day, I posted about Pregnancy and Infancy Loss awareness in honor of Pregnancy and Infancy Loss awareness month-but few people knew that almost the entire month I was having a miscarriage again.

I am strong because on November 1, 2013 I had my second D&C with my younger sister by my side because my husband could not get off work to be there.

I am strong because the nurse who knew I was there for a D&C could not find a vein for an IV and sent in a nurse who thought I was there to deliver a baby and asked me if I was excited...and I didn't punch her.

I am strong because on November 6th I held the second Honoring Angels support group meeting, hoping and praying someone would show up because I needed support too...and 3 women showed up who have been such wonderful support to me throughout this tiring journey.

I am strong because although I told my husband on October 7th that we either adopt or not have children at all...I knew in my heart of hearts I wanted a biological child just as much as he did and I could not let myself give up on that I resubmitted our application to Baby Quest Foundation.

We are strong because in mid-November I got a call from the genetic counselor telling me our baby GIRL had mosaic Trisomy 6...only some of her cells had an extra #6 chromosome and the condition was "non-compatible" with life...but had NOTHING to do with my translocated chromosome and was a "fluke."

I am strong because I had now been given 4 different reasons why my babies were dying so I requested additional testing-maternal/fetal contamination with a micro-array chromosome analysis.

We are strong because we patiently waited the entire month of November to hear if we got selected for the Baby Quest Foundation grant...and got the call on November 30th, 2013 that we were one of four couples across the country selected.

I am strong because the entire month of November I posted what I was thankful for each and every day, although I was in a state of feeling hopeless and helpless until the very last day of the month when we got the call from Baby Quest Foundation but was trying to do my best to remain positive and appreciate the people and things I do have that are special in my life.

We are strong because at the beginning of December I got a call from the genetic counselor stating the first set of genetic results was a contaminated sample with maternal cells and the mosaic monosomy 6 was a lab error, but that our baby Girl did have Down Syndrome due to a Robertsonian Translocation just like Logan.

I am strong because I named our baby girl Audrey Rayne, meaning noble strength and deciding warrior, because she gave me the strength to decide to accept the grant from Baby Quest Foundation and pursue IVF with Pre-implantation genetic screening without having a tremendous amount of guilt that we would be selecting babies based on their chromosomes.

We are strong because we got a bill for almost $2000 right before Christmas to remind us our baby died again and I needed surgery to remove it from me after three long weeks of trying to miscarry naturally to prevent us from getting a huge bill.

We are strong because Christmas 2013 was supposed to be Logan's first Christmas, just as it was the first Christmas for four of my cousins' babies and our new nephews, but he was not there to celebrate with us and neither were Riley or Braylen.

We are strong because we should have been one of the three pregnant couples at my husband's extended family Christmas, and should have just found out that we were having a girl and been planning a special gender announcement for our Christmas parties but we were once again left out of all the excitement because our baby died.

I am strong because I decided to make our journey to parenthood public to raise awareness for infertility and pregnancy loss-two issues that are devastating to couples and their marriages, but two issues that have brought me and my husband closer together.

We are strong because by mid-January, we had paid nearly $7000 on our own credit card so we could begin our IVF cycle and order all our medication we needed before we left for a 12 day vacation that we had planned since the beginning of November.

We are strong because we made it through the one year angelversary for Logan, and we had hope that he was having a hand in making our Rainbow Baby because the first day of our IVF cycle started on his angelversary.

We are strong because we took the time to focus on our marriage with one last big vacation before we got deep into our IVF cycle.

I am strong because I started my first set of injections while we were on vacation.

I am strong because I gave myself hormone injections in my stomach twice a day for 8 days.

I am strong because I had to be at the fertility clinic early in the morning for my ultrasounds and blood work after getting home from work at Midnight the nights before.

I am strong because I trusted a coworker to give me the trigger shot in my butt and was sore the next three days.

I am strong because I remained very hopeful throughout the process that we would get our Rainbow Baby from the batch of 25 eggs that were waiting to be retrieved.

I am strong because I went through an egg retrieval (needle through vaginal wall into ovaries to drain the follicles and suction out eggs) without sedation and in excruciating pain which caused the doctor to stop after he only got 12 eggs.

We are strong because we stayed positive despite the disappointment in only getting 12 eggs.

We are strong because starting the night of the egg retrieval my husband started giving me Progesterone shots in my butt every night.

We are strong because by the next day, we only had 6 fertilized eggs and our chances of getting our Rainbow Baby was cut in half.

We are strong because by the next day, we were told only 4 of the 6 fertilized eggs had started growing and dividing and all 4 were doing well.

We are strong because by the next day, we were told the 2 that weren't growing the day before still hadn't started growing and were discarded...and of the 4 left only 1 was doing well. We held onto a ounce of hope that that 1 would be our Rainbow Baby.

We are strong because the next day we were told all 4 embryos were biopsied for pre-implantation genetic screening but only one was still doing okay.

We are strong because the next day we did not get any information on our embryos and had to trust in God to be our deliverer.

We are strong because the next morning we got up early to drive 2 hours for our embryo transfer and got a call 20 minutes into our drive to tell us the genetic results were back and they weren't good.

We are strong because 3/4 had confirmed genetic issues that had nothing to do with my translocation, and the one embryo that was growing the best the whole time had an inconclusive genetic result.

We are strong because we decided to take a chance on the one embryo, knowing full well it could have had genetic issues too that just were not detected, and kept driving the remainder of the 1.5 hours to the fertility clinic.

I am strong because I had a speculum shoved in me and tightened to keep my cervix open and then a catheter put in me to transfer the one embryo we had the most hope in for the last four days.

We are strong because we kept that ounce of hope for the next 1.5 weeks until our first pregnancy test.

I am strong because I took a home pregnancy test on March 21st that was negative but continued to have a sliver of hope that there would be a tiny bit of HCG in my blood work that I got that day.

I am strong because I got the call while I was at work that the blood work was completely negative and not only had to call my husband and inform our family that we were not pregnant after all we had gone through, but announce to the world who had been waiting all day to hear that we were pregnant, that we were in fact not pregnant one bit.

I am strong because that night I started my period-another sign shoved in my face that I was not pregnant.

We are strong because the very next day we got our final bills for our IVF cycle and still owe almost $1000 but have nothing to show for it.

We are strong because every month we pray $100 on the D&C bill we got in December.

I am strong because I had the courage to reach out to my sister about my crazy ideas about her being a surrogate for us and she informed me she wanted to help us by donating her eggs to us and had been thinking about that for awhile.

We are strong because we have an amazing sister who willing to put herself through daily shots and an egg retrieval to help us have a baby.

We are strong because we are seeking more answers from new doctors, including a doctor in New York that specialized in Reproductive Immunology-a speciality that cannot be found in Ohio or any nearby state. We need to makes sure I can carry a child to term before putting my sister through taking hormones and an egg retrieval.

I am strong because I have had post-traumatic stress for the past 6 years since Riley was stillborn.

I am strong because I have had to endure recurrent nightmares of having miscarriages and giving birth to babies who die during the delivery.

I am strong because I have had to endure having vivid dreams of holding a baby boy in my arms but when I wake up the reality is there is no baby boy for me to hold.

I am strong because I will continue to facilitate Honoring Angels support group meetings twice a month to provide validation, encouragement, and hope to other women and couples struggling with the painful experience of losing a baby or multiple babies.

I am strong because I will continue to look into the eyes of broken hearted people who present themselves to the emergency department in desperation of help and will remind them there is always hope and always a way to make dreams come true no matter how hard the obstacle.

I am strong because no one else can be strong for me.

We are strong because despite everything we have been through and every emotional up and down-we are NOT giving up.

We are strong because we have hundreds, maybe thousands, of prayer warriors and supporters throughout the world who are following our journey.

We are strong because even though plan A and plan B did not work, we still have a plan C, plan D, and plan E.

We are strong because we have to be. There is a Rainbow Baby out there somewhere, waiting for us to be his or her parents...and we will be the best damn parents we could be!

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Not Giving Up

Having a complete failed IVF cycle has been difficult on us emotionally. The moment I heard that the blood work was negative and we were not pregnant, I lost the last ounce of hope that I had left. I felt like we wasted $15,000 and I was grieving the loss of what could have been with the one embryo we did transfer. The whole process since the egg retrieval was a grieving process. Each and every day we grieved the eggs we lost, then the embryos we lost, and finally the embryos we could not transfer due to their chromosome issues. Once the initial heartbreak of having a failed cycle wore off, I knew that this pain could not compare to the pain of having another miscarriage which was completely a possibility if the baby had implanted.

Every experience that we have been through on this journey to becoming parents has strengthen me. It has made me feel weak for a temporary amount of time, over and over each time we lose another baby, but it has shown me just how strong I really am. It has shown me that I am one determined as hell women. It has shown me that I will not stop trying until I achieve my dream. It has shown me that I will always put myself back together after I've been broken.

While one door just closed on us, there has been many more that have been opened. It has been amazing to see and feel the compassion of those who know us and our desire to become parents. We have had friends offer to donate their eggs to us, even for free. We have had a friend and my cousin's ex-girlfriend offer to be a surrogate for us. These offers are tremendously generous and we thank you from the bottom of our hearts for showing us such love and support! My ultimate desire is of course to have our own biological child that is part me and part my husband; a child that I carried for 9 months and gave birth to myself. We know that this dream is seeming impossible to us after all we have been through so far. We know that if it's not going to be possible for us to have a child that is part me and part my husband, or if it's not going to be possible for me to carry a baby to term-we want our child to be as much of me as it possibly could be.

On Friday night my younger sister and I had a conversation we've never had before. She told me she has been thinking about ways she could help us become parents, by either donating her eggs or being a surrogate for us. I really cannot explain what this conversation meant to me. It immediately made me go from feeling defeated to feeling like there was hope again. My sister will be 23 years old in June. She has a 4 year old daughter that I watched her deliver, that I got to cut the umbilical cord for, and that I got to help her with during the first week after my niece was born. My niece and I have a strong bond, and even on days when she doesn't feel like giving me kisses or wipes my kisses off her face I know she still loves me. My niece has been learning more about her cousin Riley who is in Heaven and was in Heaven 2 years before my niece was born. I look at my niece Raegan and she has always acted so much like me that she could be my own daughter. If I cannot have a child with my own eggs, there honestly is no one else I would rather create a child with, and if I cannot carry a child in my own body there is no one else I would rather carry my child for me than my own sister...the one person who I trust and love the most in my life and the one person who resembles me the most as well! It brings me to tears to think about how much love a child would have from all of us from the very moment it is created, and to know that my sister could have just as strong of a bond, if not stronger, with my child as I have with hers!

Being an egg donor or a surrogate is not an easy decision for anyone to make, nor is it an easy decision for us to make either. It requires me to surrender the dream of our child being part me/part Alex and the dream of being the one who gives birth to our child. The decision is a lot easier to make when it involves family, especially when I have natural maternal instincts to want to protect my baby as much as I possibly can! IF we all decide that surrogacy is the route we are going to go, it will be easier on me to know that I can see my sister(and baby) as often as I can and want to and I would be able to be at every doctor appointment with her to make sure our baby is doing well, hear the heart beating, and see how much it has grown each visit.

There is a lot to think about and consider as we move forward in our baby quest. Especially on my sister's end of things. We will not push her into doing any of this for us, and we certainly don't want to create tension between us. We've decided to find a new fertility clinic going forward-one that uses sedation for the egg retrieval, because I would not put myself through another egg retrieval without sedation let alone putting my sister through it without sedation! Today I scheduled a consultation appointment with Institute for Reproductive Health in Cincinnati on Tuesday May 13th and another consultation appointment with Bethesda Fertility Clinic in Cincinnati on Wednesday May 28th. We want to compare clinics, doctors, nursing staff, and their professional opinions on what further testing we may need done and which option would make the most financial sense with the least amount of risk involved.

On another note-I had a meeting today with my supervisor to go over my annual review. It was the best review I have ever received! I will be getting an annual raise. My supervisor pointed out to me today that I "look really good." She knew I was going through an IVF cycle and had our transfer and I know she was thinking I must be pregnant when she said it to me...but when I told her our IVF cycle failed and how traumatic it was for us, she also reminded me that I am a very strong person and have always been able to remain professional at work despite what I've gone through since I've worked here. It was a reminder to me that it's because I work with such wonderful people between the other crisis workers who I vent to on a daily basis and even the ones I've been able to cry around as well as the nurses who give me hugs when they can see I need them and the doctors that I can talk to openly about what we are going through. If any of you are reading this...just know how much you are truly appreciated in my life! I am so very lucky to work for a place like Grandview with people who care about me. It is a completely different experience from my previous job. I never feel like I have to cry alone or shut myself in my office to hide my emotions. When I told my supervisor what options we are looking at moving forward she began crying out of complete joy for us, because she too had two miscarriages and only one child, but did not have any sisters who she could lean on to for this kind of support that my sister is willing to provide for us.

So to end this post, I need to say this to my sister Ashley: You have created new hope for us. You are a true testament of what a sister should be. I know you will never let me feel like I am alone in this world. Even when it feels like no one can possibly understand what it is that I am going through, you try to understand. You and I have always been each others best friend from the time you were born despite being 4 years apart in age and despite the moments I chased you to your room and kicked your door in because you were a tattle tail! We've held each other while we cried until our tears were all dried up, we've laughed together until we've snorted like pigs....but there is nothing that could bring us closer together than this experience we are about to embark on in an effort to create a child to fulfill our hearts desire.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

The "Un-Friendly" Reminders

People who struggle with infertility, who are actively trying to conceive a baby, are often reminded they are not pregnant but the start of their menstrual cycle. They are reminded by their expensive doctor bills from their Reproductive Endocrinologist that they have been trying everything they can to have a baby, but instead all they have is debt up to their ears. People who have to endure the pain of miscarriage and stillbirth are reminded they are no longer pregnant by the sight of blood and the feeling of cramps. They are reminded their baby died died by the surgery and hospital bills they come in soon after their d&c or labor and delivery. These are all the "Un-Friendly" reminders that the struggle is as real as it could be.

This weekend, we were reminded of our failure, of our pain, and of our debt by all the above. On Friday night when I got home from work I started my period. Even though the nurse who called earlier in the day with our negative pregnancy test result said to continue progesterone over the weekend "just in case" and to get my blood drawn again on Monday...there was no purpose. The Progesterone injections failed to metabolize in my body which is most likely why they baby they transferred could not implant itself. My Progesterone level was so low that it did not delay my period at all and started "right on time" as if I had a normal menstrual cycle where we were not trying to get pregnant. To make matters worse, the nurse told me they "usually" test the Progesterone level one week after the start of the shots to see if the medication needs to be increased. Well why the hell didn't you do that then????? Maybe we could have caught it in time to know that my level was too low and the baby was not going to implant unless we increased it! I am so angry at their lack of monitoring and their ability to say to me "this was just a bad cycle." Really?? Just a bad cycle? How about a HUGE loss, of babies and money! The entire time all I heard each appointment was how many follicles I had and how it was going to be a GREAT cycle for us. Then, because they made me do the egg retrieval with no sedation, unlike the majority of fertility clinics, we started out with only 12 eggs and every day lost multiple because of the quality. We had ONE CHANCE at getting a baby out of this cycle...only ONE, and they failed to check my Progesterone level like they "normally do." After doing some research, and realizing I was only taking 25mg of Progesterone a day, its no wonder the shots were not helping. During my last pregnancy I was taking 400mg of Progesterone a day in an oral pill because my Progesterone level was not rising the way my doctor wanted to see it rise on its own. The pills helped tremendously, shooting my level up from 20 to 80! Now, I know the Progesterone might not be the only issue. The reality is we didn't know if the baby we did transfer had any genetic issues because the lab could not get a result on that one...but it certainly makes me angry that it didn't even have a chance of survival after learning how low my Progesterone was!

In addition to my lovely period starting, on Saturday we received our "final bills" from both Ohio Reproductive Medicine and Kettering Reproductive Medicine. I was expecting a big bill from Kettering since we did three ultrasounds there. But just because I was expecting it, it doesn't mean it didn't sting when we got the $531 bill and we have no baby to show for it, not even any frozen embryos. Our bill from Ohio Reproductive was more of an unexpected bill that has me hot and furious! We paid them $7568 in January before we started our cycle. The money we paid them was based on the fees for each service during our cycle. The bill we got from them today shows they are now charging us anywhere from $5-$70 extra on each service that we ALREADY paid for! They are saying we owe them $415 when really we should only owe them $187 for the two office visits and one ultrasound that was not included in our deposit. After feeling like they royally screwed our chances to get a baby out of this you think I feel like paying them even more money for the services we had already paid for?! HELL NO. So we have already paid about $10,000 out of our own pocket and $3,000 from our grant, and now we have to pay another $950 for absolutely NOTHING. We got NOTHING out of this....NOTHING accept DEBT. Another "Un-Friendly" reminder that we are STILL childless.

To top off our fabulous weekend...we got a $4200 bill from the plumbers who had to come out in January because our basement was flooding uncontrollably. They ended up having to put in a whole new septic drainage system because the original system was hooked up to a completely full Septic Tank. They had to drain the tank, fill it with rocks, and put in a new sewage line to connect into the city sewer. OF COURSE the day we get their bill....we start having more drainage problems! Our shower wouldn't drain, then the sink wouldn't drain, and then the toilet started overflowing. There's gurgling in all our our drains, including the kitchen sink. We can't figure out the problem on our now we get to call the plumbers back out here tomorrow, and we will get yet ANOTHER bill! I love bills! BILLS BILLS BILLS!!

We are still paying $100 a month on my last d&c I had on November 1st. It really feels like we are drowning right now. Everything will get paid...we always figure out a way to pull money from our ass somehow. But it is just very sickening to me that no matter what option we go for next on this baby will cost anywhere from $7,000-$30,000! And none of them are guaranteed we will get a baby, which is the worst part of all. They money is always worth it...if it gets you what you want or need and fixes the "problem." Right now it just feels like this storm is pouring down rain and we have no umbrella to stand under to get any bit of shelter.

Friday, March 21, 2014

The Storm Rages On

I said I was not going to post any updates until tomorrow, but due to getting messages asking for any news and posts on my wall asking for an update, here it is. We are NOT pregnant. I took a home pregnancy test this morning before I left my house to get the blood work done. The words "Not Pregnant" crushed me. I tried to remember that I was told not to take a home pregnancy test because it likely would be negative because there wouldn't be enough HCG in my urine to show a positive result. All day I have been depressed. All day I have been crying off an on. I waited as patiently as I could for the phone call from the nurse at Ohio Reproductive Medicine. The phone finally rang at 4:37pm. I was in the middle of transferring a patient from the medical unit to the psychiatric unit and had just gotten done talking to the psychiatrist about another patient whose medical unit doctor wanted transferred to the geriatric psychiatric unit. I knew the words were coming out of the nurses mouth as soon as she called and asked in a saddened voice "how are you Lindsay?" "Nervous," I replied. "It's not good," She said.

My HCG came back at less than 5...meaning None. My Progesterone was 7.2 so the Progesterone shots I have been taking for 2 weeks did absolutely nothing accept bruise my ass. I was told to repeat the blood work on Monday but not to get my hopes up because it likely will not show anything different. There should at least be some HCG in my blood today if I were pregnant but there was none at all. I got off the phone with the nurse, went immediately to the bathroom, locked myself in, called my husband, and cried..and cried..and cried.

I ask myself constantly why life is beating us down like it has. What did we do so wrong? Don't we deserve to be parents? We don't smoke, we don't do drugs, I've never had an abortion, I've never prostituted myself, I don't drink alcohol when I'm pregnant, I quit drinking caffeine, we both have college degrees and great jobs, we have a roof over our heads, we are caring towards other people....why can't we have the one thing we need to make our lives complete?? When will this raging storm ever be over? When we will get our Rainbow?

I would do anything to trade places with the 24 year old heroin addict that I saw on Wednesday whose on Methadone treatment and is 6 months pregnant with twin girls...except there would be no way in hell I'd ever do heroin or methadone, pregnant or not! Why does she deserve 1 child let alone 2?? I just don't understand how this works.

As I left my house this morning, after getting the negative pregnancy test, to go get my blood work done, this song was the first song I heard.

Everyone says "God is good" when they get something they want, when a sick family member is cured, when their life seems to be falling into place perfectly. Everyone says "God has a plan" and "He only gives you what you can handle" and "He will replace what you have lost" and "He PROMISES to never leave you." What do you say when it feels like God has forgotten about you, when he does not provide the desires of your heart, when he has not been good to you, and when you have had more than you can handle? I try to have faith in God-I really do...but my faith has worn so thin after everything we have been through. My heart feels like it could explode in a million pieces sometimes, and right now is one of those times. I try to "Hold on to the Promises" that God supposedly made to each and every one of us...but do you honestly blame me for distrusting in God at the moment?

I have said time and time again...we will adopt if this didn't work for us. I said it last week after the transfer. Since then my mind has been in a million places...running multiple scenarios through my head. I am NOT OKAY with not having our biological child...I'm just not. And I hate that...I hate that I cannot surrender my own desires and accept the path that it feels like we are being lead to. I honestly don't know what is next for us. It might very well be adoption. Do I really want it to be adoption, no. Logically and Financially it makes the most sense. My heart can't handle any more pain and I don't want to torture my body any more than we have. Yet my heart aches and burns to have a child that I can love from the moment it is created until the day I day...a child that I can love on this Earth. After losing Audrey, I started praying that there would be a child created just for us...I was really leaning towards adoption. And then we got the Baby Quest Foundation grant, and it just felt like our prayers were answered and there was going to be a child created just for us, by us. Now that we went through an IVF cycle and have no frozen embryos....I just don't know what we will do next.

I do want to say that I know we did not fail from a lack of support or a lack of prayers. Every one of you have been amazing and we appreciate all the support we have had. Even Alex, who is pretty private about his grief and our struggles, has said to me how much comfort he has gotten from his friends sending him a simply text message saying they are praying and thinking about us. We might not be "okay" today...but we will be okay in the end. We are always okay, because we have each other and our family and friends.

Our Baby Quest is not over. We just don't know what direction we will go next.

Educate Yourself

In October 2012 I received a random text message from a "friend" who I had considered my best friend from 5th grade on. She and I had lost contact several times since 8th grade due to her moving around so much and our lifestyles being completely different. We would somehow regain contact every few years. I hadn't talked to this friend since Riley died in March 2008, but I found her again and she came to our wedding in July 2012. I tried very hard to rebuild our friendship despite not liking a lot of her choices. But then the one day in October when she began texting me about how much she hated me, I've never spoken to her again.

She started out attacking me. She called me names like "ratchet whore" and "nasty nosey cunt." She even told me I was "miserable" because I "couldn't" have children. At that point, yes I had lost two children before but Alex and I had just really started trying to have a child after we got married and we only saw each other on the weekends which never seemed to be when I was ovulating. Nobody ever told me I "couldn't" have children so I didn't know where she was getting that information from. Her words were extremely hurtful, but she could have attacked me all day long and it would not have bothered me because I know who I am and it was none of the things she was calling me.

It was when she started attacking my family that I got really angry. She started saying things like "you're whole family is incest, that's why there's so many of you f***ers with Down Syndrome." At that point she had said enough to piss me off. I finally told her she was stupid and I didn't have time for her ignorance. I blocked her number from my cell phone and blocked her from my Facebook as well. I wanted nothing more to do with someone has horrible and hurtful as her.

It was a month later when Alex and I did get pregnant. Everything was great until our 11 week ultrasound when there was no longer a heartbeat. Finding out our son had Down Syndrome was hard on me because I knew what a joy our son would have been in our lives. I knew how great of a mother I would have been to him. Since my "friend" said all those hurtful things to me, we have lost two babies with Down Syndrome-Logan in January 2013 and Audrey in October 2013. We have not been able to have children yet...but that does not make me miserable. It might make me angry, especially when people like my "friend" has 4 kids that she does not deserve to have.

First of all, if anyone REALLY thinks Down Syndrome is caused from being are extremely ignorant. I'm pretty confident Alex and I are NOT related. I'm pretty sure my sister and her husband are NOT related! I'm pretty sure my Grandma and Grandpa were NOT related.

Down Syndrome can happen to anyone. It is caused by an extra 21st chromosome in the egg or sperm that creates the child. In most cases, it is completely random and not truly a "genetic" condition that runs in the family. In my families case, it is completely genetic because there are several of us who were blessed with a translocated chromosome where one of our 13's and one of our 21's are fused together. So if our eggs or sperms in the case of the guys has the fused 13/21 chromosome as the number 13 chromosome and still has the individual number 21 chromosome...that egg or sperm has 2 number 21 chromosomes and will end up with Down Syndrome because it will get a 3rd number 21 chromosome from the other parent's egg or sperm. It is not something that can be controlled. It's not something that anyone caused. And if anyone is lucky enough to have a child with Down Syndrome, they have received such as amazing blessing.

I would do anything to have my son and daughter here with us. Even if it meant we had TWO kids with Down Syndrome-I would be so lucky. They are capable of doing so much and should never be looked at as if they are a burden.

I've watched this video twice now and both times I've had tears streaming down my face. It is a beautiful tribute to what these amazing human beings are capable of! Please will be glad you did!

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Thursday, March 20, 2014

Waiting on Tomorrow

Well, tomorrow is the day...My first Beta HCG test to find out if Baby Monnier decided to snuggle into my uterus and attach itself. Time has been dragging by so slowly since the transfer. It's been very hard to remain positive after such a stressful 5 days from the egg retrieval to the transfer. Every day we only heard bad news and it really broke down my spirit. At the same time, it's been hard not to over analyze every possible "pregnancy" symptom that I have been having this week since I know I SHOULD be pregnant. The problem is, the Progesterone shots I am taking make me feel like I am pregnant because when you are pregnant your body natural produces more Progesterone. Between sore breasts, hot flashes, irritability, and being gassy (yup...that's right) would think I am pregnant. But those are all side effects of taking Progesterone shots too:( Plus I stopped drinking caffeine last week so that might be where some of the irritability is coming from!

There isn't a whole lot more we can do except be patient for tomorrow's results. I will get my blood work done around 9:30am and should have the results in the afternoon. I won't be sharing the results until Saturday because I work tomorrow afternoon/evening. We will of course inform our immediate family members as soon as we know something.

If you are reading this blog in one of the Trying to Conceive after Loss groups, please go to our personal Facebook Page-Alex and Lindsay's Baby Quest, to continue to follow our journey. If the results tomorrow show we are in deed pregnant, I will not longer be able to post our blog in these groups according to the rules. I want to respect the rules and at the same time give people a chance to follow our journey if they would like to!

Thank you again to everyone who has been reading and praying! Your support is overwhelming and we could not thank you enough! My blog has had over 12,000 views! AMAZING!!!

Tomorrow is Down Syndrome Awareness Day-so in honor of our son and daughter, and nephew and uncle...tomorrow's post is going to be dedicated to this topic that is near and dear to my heart.