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Monday, June 30, 2014

Just what I needed

"God gives his hardest battles to his strongest Warriors."

"God has a plan, trust in the Lord."

"God has a reason for everything."

If I had a dollar for every time I've heard these phrases I could quite possibly be a millionaire. And let me tell you, when someone loses a baby or a child-they don't want to hear these things. They are in a state of anger towards God. They don't understand how a God who is so great and powerful and miraculous could cause so much pain by taking away the one person is who made from their very own flesh and blood.

I honestly don't think that I have had so much anger towards anyone in my entire 27 years of life than I have had towards God. Take my first child, that was enough to feel like someone stabbed me in the heart. Take my second child, that was enough to feel like the knife was turned 10 times inside my heart. Take my third child, that was enough to feel like my heart was ripped right out of my chest and stomped on a million times. Take my fourth child, that was enough to make me feel like someone had pushed me from a high rise building and splattered my guts all over the concrete. And after all of that, I'm still supposed to trust God's plan for my life? The Enemy tells me I shouldn't...that all those great things about God are a lie. He's even told me God isn't real.

I don't know how I've done it. Sometimes I'm amazed at myself. The resilience that this life has taken to merely survive is exhausting. And to think, I'm more than surviving. I put my feet on the group every day and I know there will be at least one person every day that I will either have a positive impact on or I will help by showing compassion and concern for their situation.

As much as I've been angry at God-I know that he has been carrying me through this stormy life. I know that he has a purpose for all of this heartache. I know that he has been leading me my whole life, and has put me on this Earth for a distinct purpose. I know that God lives inside me, that he gives me the strength every day to do what I do.

I wrote last week about the church services I went to hoping to get a prophecy and being disappointed I did not get one. I was hoping to get a prophecy to not only let me know that God knows about the storms I've been through and to figure out if this next step we are taking is part of his plan or just part of OUR plan, but I wanted to know if I've been following his lead on the purpose of all of this mess. I wanted to know if he knows about the support group that I lead and if the support group was part of his plan. I wanted to know if he knows about how open I am with sharing our story and if that is a part of his plan. I wanted to know if he knows about the Baby Quest Foundation fundraiser that I am organizing to help other couples where I live with financial assistance for their infertility treatments and wondered if this was a part of his plan too. I wanted to know if he created me to be a social worker. I wanted to know if he made me exactly the way I am, because I couldn't imagine being anyone else. I couldn't imagine my life without the desire to help other people or without being an inspiration to other people. I wanted to know that he knows who I am and I wanted to hear that, yes, he was the one leading me to do all these things.

I decided throughout last week that I wanted to go to the Sunday service because I needed to get myself back in church. Maybe it would help? What could it hurt? So, I went to church on Sunday and I am so glad that I did! It was just what I needed. The service was about listening to God and understanding his purpose for our life. I felt like it was the answer to all those questions I had the weekend before. I don't need a prophet to tell me my purpose in life....I've been listening to God every step of the way since I was a little girl. When I've felt called to do something-I've always done it. I don't make excuses about why I can't do things or don't want to do things. It is God that gives me the resources I've needed to complete the tasks he has called me for.

This song was played at the end of the service and I was in tears the whole song. It was perfect for my journey.

Following the service my friend asked if she could have her pastor and his wife pray over me. Absolutely. I've never had anyone pray over me like that. Never. Even when I've gone to church in the past, I've always been too scared to ask a pastor to pray over me. I can guarantee that was the Enemy telling me it wouldn't help or making me feel uncomfortable with people praying over me. I was able to share with the pastor and his wife my deepest fear-that my body won't be able to carry even a healthy baby and that we will lose another baby. They prayed over me for a healthy pregnancy and healing within my body. It was helpful for me for many reasons, but most importantly it was a giant leap in building a stronger relationship with God.

I am going to continue to go to church and hope that eventually my husband will be willing to come with me. He has verbalized his anger towards God many times, especially within the past year. I know he needs this as much as I do. For right now, I will continue to remember that God is working on me and he's not done yet. I will remember that whatever the ending to our story, it's going to be beautiful and full of light!

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

There Will Be A Day

Do you ever wonder if God remembers who you are? Do you ever wonder if he hears your prayers? Do you ever wonder if he sees you crying out for shelter during your storm? I wonder these things all the time.

I was invited to church by two of my college friends this past weekend. Their church was having a world famous prophet come to deliver prophecies to their congregation and my friends immediately thought I needed to be there. They told me the prophet has a reputation of healing women with infertility issues. I thought, what do I have to lose, so I decided to go.

I walked into the church on Saturday and sat down as I waited for my two friends to arrive. While I was sitting there staring at the cross in front of me I began crying. I felt such a heavy burden on my chest that I try so hard to mask in my every day life by being a support for other people. I forgot what it felt like to go to church. I hadn't been to church, other than our wedding or baptisms and Christmas, for years. I listen to my christian radio stations in my car to and from work and that's about the extent of my relationship with God lately. I've been so angry at him that we didn't even get out of bed to go to church on Easter this year. Then there are other times I'm so numb that I forget how angry I still am.

As I was sitting there in that church, I experienced so many emotions. Disappointment, in myself for putting up a wall between me and God thinking it would protect me from thinking he would ever answer my prayers. Fear, about what the prophet might tell me about my past and my future. Worry, that I might not get a prophecy at all. Hopefulness, that the prophet will tell me exactly what God's Divine plan is so we can stop chasing paths that lead us to more storms. Deep heartache, a longing for my babies that I know will never go away.

When my friends joined me in my row and the row behind me, and when the worship music began, I found myself feeling at home. It felt like maybe this has been the missing piece in my life. I remembered how good I felt when I was going to church a couple years ago, except I felt more at ease because these were two of my closest friends in college that had invited me to this church-a church they have been going to for years. My friend's daughter remembered me from the pregnancy and infancy loss remembrance ceremony that I organized and they came to back in October to remember my friend's two babies she had miscarried. Her daughter was excited to see a visitor in their church and sat next to me most of the service.

Throughout the service with the prophet I kept praying he was going to be drawn to me. I kept praying he was going to give me hope in a brighter future and peace over the stormy past. I kept begging God in my mind, "give me a sign, please, just give me a sign that this is all going to be okay, that my babies are okay and that me and Alex are going to be okay." Many people got prophecies from the man that night, including someone that I knew had two miscarriages and is struggling to have her second child. He was spot on with her, it was quite amazing. I thought for sure after she had her prophecy given to her that I would get one to. But I never did. I was left feeling like God doesn't even know I exist.

After the service was over I was invited to dinner with my friends and some of their church friends. I tucked away my disappointment so I could enjoy the fellowship. It amazes me how children are always so drawn to me, yet I haven't received the one and only blessing I've been praying for the past couple years. My friend's daughter wanted me to sit right next to her during dinner. We played tic-tac-toe and colored a clown together. She talked my ear off and was just so dang cute. She's 4 years old...the same age that Braylen would be had he been born alive. The other kids at the table were very curious about me and asked all kinds of questions that were cute and innocent.

While I was disappointed in not getting a prophetic reading on Saturday night, I went to the service on Sunday morning hopeful that he would be drawn to me this time. There were no prophecies given on Sunday, just a 2 hour service about healing the heart and spirit. I related a lot to what the man was talking about, yet I felt it difficult to pray to God for healing when he asked the congregation to do so. I always have trouble praying, like that wall is blocking my prayers from getting to God. The most healing part about church on Sunday for me was one of my friend's taking me up to get communion for the first time in my life and praying over me as we took it.

Looking back over the weekend, I was surrounded by babies and children, and I loved every minute of it. On Saturday afternoon I stopped at a high school classmates house to pick up something and I held her 6 week old baby (about the age Audrey should be if she were born) for 40 minutes and enjoyed every second. On Sunday morning in church my other friend had her two children with her and I held and danced with her 9 month old baby (about the age Logan would be if he were born) during the worship service and felt so much peace during that time. On Sunday evening I went to my best friend's sister's house to pick up my bridesmaid dress and spent an hour playing with her twin boys. Being around children brings me the most joy to my heart.

I know that there will be a day when all this pain will be no more. I know there will be a day when I will be blessed with my own children (biological or adopted). I know there will be a day when I will embrace my babies in Heaven and will never have to let them go again. I don't know when any of these days are going to come, but there WILL be a day when they do. And when these days come, I won't remember the tears I've shed waiting for them. This song is a perfect reminder of how life can beat you down but there is a glorious reward waiting at the end.

For now, as I wait for the storm to pass over and the rainbow to appear, I will continue to adjust my sails to keep me balanced on this ocean that I am traveling on.

Monday, June 16, 2014

A Father's Grief

Several months ago someone in one of my online pregnancy loss support groups posted this poem:

A Father’s Grief
By Eileen Knight Hagemeister

It must be very difficult
To be a man in grief.
Since "men don't cry" and "men are strong"
No tears can bring relief.

It must be very difficult
To stand up to the test.
And field calls and visitors
So that she can get some rest.

They always ask if she's alright
And what she's going through.
But seldom take his hand and ask,
"My friend, how are you?"

He hears her cry in the night
And thinks his heart will break.
And dries her tears and comforts her
But "stays strong" for her sake.

It must be very difficult
To start each day anew.
And try to be so very brave-
He lost his baby too.

I cried the first time I read it and I have cried every subsequent time I've read it. I cry for my husband. I cry for the father of my heavenly children. I cry because it is true, a father's grief is rarely recognized because men rarely are willing to talk about their grief. As a woman in grief, we often feel like our husband's don't share our grief because they can continue to move forward in life with more ease then we can. The truth is, they are just better at hiding their emotions then women.

I remember back to the day I gave birth to Riley. I remember how young we both were and how Alex never once left my side during my pregnancy. He was the one who had to make all the phone calls to our parents to tell them Riley had died and I would be getting induced within the next 24 hours. He was incredibly strong when I needed him to plan her funeral. He questioned God just as much as I did when we lost her.

When I miscarried Braylen and was sitting in the ER crying my eyes out he was right next to me holding my hand the whole time. I remember him telling me he hated seeing me going through this again.

When we found out at our 11 week ultrasound that Logan's heart had stopped beating, he immediately grabbed my hand and sobbed with me. He couldn't believe we were going through this again. When my mom called me after I send her a text that I needed her to call, he took the phone from me when I couldn't speak a word and he delivered the news that we had lost our 3rd baby. He was the one who called the rest of our family for us. He cried with me before and after the D&C. He woke up so many times in the middle of the night to me crying out for our babies. He would hold me and dry my tears when I needed him to.

As scared as my husband was to try again on our own, he did because he knew I needed to know for certain that the reason we have kept losing babies is because of the translocated chromosome that we discovered I have after losing Logan. When we got pregnant again, he shared in my excitement with me and bought me flowers to show me how much he loves me. He took a picture with me each week like I wanted him to and he would read my scrapbook journal when I shared it with him. When we found out we had lost the baby again, my husband sat with me in my car and just held me while we cried together. He wouldn't let me drive home and made me leave my car at the hospital and had me call into work because he knew I couldn't deal with working a 12 hour shift with psychiatric patients while I myself felt like I didn't want to continue living this life. I remember when we got home he immediately went upstairs and worked on our demolition in the bedrooms and after a hour I went upstairs to join him. Taking a sledge hammer to the walls felt so good and I finally understood how men grieve and why they grieve the way they do.

After losing Audrey, Alex was okay with whatever option I wanted to do-adoption or IVF with pre-implantation genetic screening. At first I thought adoption, but when I allowed my emotions to settle I knew my biggest dream in life was to give birth to our child, and especially after all that Alex had gone through with me....all I wanted to do was give him a child. When our IVF with PGS failed, we were once again devastated and felt hopeless. But when my sister offered to donate her eggs to us, we both felt a sense of renewed hope.

This year on father's day I decided to show my husband what an amazing father and husband he has been. I made him a picture frame with pictures from our pregnancies and got him a card that I wrote him a heartfelt message in. At first, he was upset that I got him anything and felt like the picture frame reminded him of what we don't have. He later apologized to me after he read the card I got him while he was alone in the bedroom because he realized I was trying to do something nice. His initial reaction showed me how much all of this really does affect him. It affects him so much more than anyone else could know.

Father's Day has always been rough on my husband. 15 years ago he lost his father when he was 15 years for 15 years he has not been able to enjoy this day at all. Then 6 years ago we lost Riley and within the past year we went through 2 miscarriages. It's a double wamy to the heart for him. Not only does he not have his father, he does not have his children either.

We decided to go to dinner last night instead of cooking and our waitress asked my husband "are you a dad?" He quickly said "no" and she said "well then it's no happy father's day for you." I asked my husband how often people ask him if he has kids (because I get asked all the time) and he said every time he meets someone knew, especially at work (he's a banker). I asked him if he ever gets tired of that question and he responded "It's life....I just get tired of saying no." Wow...if that statement didn't speak volumes about the desire that my husband has to be a parent, I don't know what does.

So this Father's Day, my heart goes out to all the men in this world whose family is incomplete because they have lost a child or because they have not been able to conceive children. My heart also goes out to everyone who has lost a father and was unable to spend the day with their father or by calling their father to wish them a Happy Father's Day. I am so proud of the man I am married to and even more proud to know that he showed our babies nothing but love while they were with us.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Step by Step, Day by Day

We knocked out the Saline Ultrasound on Tuesday. It was literally less than 5 minutes for the whole process. I was a little crampy during it but it wasn't bad at all. Good news is, my uterus is clear of any scar tissue, polyps, and fibroids. That means there should have been no other reason why our previous IVF didn't work other than possible genetic issues with the embryo, maybe lining issues since I don't remember them ever telling me how thick my lining was, and possibly my progesterone level not rising properly. So hopefully this next time, we are able to prevent all three of those things from happening.

I think we have a pretty good prevention plan-with doing this test cycle we will get to see how thick the medication I will be on during the actual cycle will make my uterine lining. With doing Progesterone suppositories instead of shots, we will know the progesterone is being directly absorbed into the uterus and won't have to worry about rather or not we are doing the shots correctly. And finally, by using my sister's eggs instead of my own-we hopefully won't have to worry too much about chromosome issues with the embryos-although I do know it could still happen as a random "one of those things that happens." It is my biggest fear that our luck could be so terrible that that would happen to us, so I know for sure we will do a 5 day transfer to make sure we pick the embryos that are the furthest along in their development and the best quality.

I started the Lupron injections yesterday which is part of my test cycle. The goal is to make sure my ovaries are shut down and not releasing any eggs. Of course, I forgot to take my injection today before I left for work, so I need to try to remember to take it as soon as I get home tonight. I was on Lupron during our last IVF cycle too, and they are just as hard to give as they were the last time. The needle is hard to push in-its not like the needle for the stimulation meds that just glides right in. But-these injections are no where near as hard as the Lovenox injections I had to take during my last two pregnancies and will have to take during any future pregnancies.

Speaking of Lovenox injections, I am so impressed with Dr. Hofmann at Bethesda Fertility Center. During our consult with him he was concerned that I had been on Lovenox in the past. I told him it was because I'm at risk of developing blood clots during pregnancy due to having Homocystinuria. So he checked my Homocysteine level that same day and it came back high at 41.3. He called me himself to tell me those results and to tell me he did research on Homocystinuria and he is in agreement that I would need to be on Lovenox to protect myself from blood clots. During my Saline Ultrasound he told me that him and his intern "learned a lot about Homocystinuria recently." I am just completely impressed that he chose to educate himself on a condition that I have that DOES impact pregnancy. I know my level was high because I sometimes slack on taking my medication and food supplements and eat way more protein than I'm supposed to. So I gotta get that back in check before we get to the point of transferring a growing baby in me. I need my body to be a good home for 9 months!

Really, the last thing to do before we go "gung ho" with this egg donor cycle is to meet with Dr. Braverman in New York to make sure there are no other issues we should be treating to make sure my body is baby friendly. We have our appointment scheduled and hotel booked! We decided we will be going to New York from July 26th-July 29th, celebrating our 2 year wedding anniversary on July 28th and meeting with Dr. Braverman early on July 29th! We got a 50% discount on our hotel room thanks to our Time Share package and hotel discount certificate, and thankfully, the I was able to find a hotel that was not listed on the Bed Bug Registry. You wouldn't believe how many hotels in New York were listed on that site....unbelievable. So the Sheraton Tribeca won our 3 night stay, and it seems to have great reviews and is close enough to the majority of the things we would like to do while we are there. Now we just have to decide if we will drive or fly. I say drive, but my husband is not so keen on this idea since he hates city traffic and long car rides. I just hate the price of flights right now.

It's a step by step process that I'm trying to take day by day. I know I tend to think far ahead about things, but I'm working on that one. I've been feeling a lot less stressed out about all of this lately, because I know we are doing everything we can to make this last attempt go right.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Testing, Testing, 1-2-3

It's been over 10 days since I wrote my last blog post. The last time I wrote was about comparing two clinics that my husband and I were trying to decide between. Well, we have chosen the clinic. Drumroll please............Bethesda Fertility Center with Dr. Hofmann is the winner!

We've accomplished a lot on this next endeavor on our baby quest since we decided to go with Dr. Hofmann. I am a week into the test cycle to see how my uterus responds to the medication I will be on during our actual egg donor IVF cycle. I started birth control last Sunday and I will start the Lupron injections on Wednesday, June 10th. My last birth control pill will be taken on June 18th and then I will start Estrace on June 23rd for 17 days, increasing the dose every 5 days until my ultrasound to check my uterine lining on July 7th. After we check my lining I will only be on Estrace 3 more days with the dose decreasing each day AND I will start Provera for 10 days to jump start my next menstrual period.

So for the test cycle, this is what my meds have cost us, and will cost us when we do our egg donor cycle:

Birth control pills: FREE(thank you OBAMA CARE)
Lupron injections: 145.00 (not covered by insurance)
Estrace: $55 (co-insurance)
Provera: $3.09 (co-insurance)

This is not bad at all for the meds. When we do our actual egg donor cycle, I won't be using Provera since the goal is to get pregnant and NOT to have another menstrual cycle for 10 months. The egg donor cycle itself will cost $11,872 for all of my sister's prescreening, injectable medications, monitoring ultrasounds and blood work, and egg retrieval with sedation. The fertilization will cost an additional $1400-$1900 depending on how many eggs are retrieved, and the embryo transfer will cost an additional $5170. For one egg donor IVF cycle we are looking at $18,650-$19,000 with everything except the embryo freezing and storage if we have any left to be able to do that with. We are hoping the risks we are taking with doing the one cycle with Dr. Hofmann will be a risk that was well worth it and hoping this is money well spent-since we are not doing the Money Back Guarantee program with Dr. Awadalla at Institute for Reproductive Health.

I am happy with the clinic we have chosen, and I know this is really our last chance at myself giving birth to a baby because my sister wouldn't go through this more than once anyways. It's a long process that takes a lot of her own life too.

On Tuesday I will be traveling down to Cincinnati to have the Saline Ultrasound completed by Dr. Hofmann to check my uterus to make sure there is no scar tissue or fibroids in my uterus from having two D&C's last year.

On July 19th me, my husband, and my sister will be traveling to Cincinnati again to have our psychological evaluations completed. My husband and I will meet with the psychologist for about an hour while my sister has to take a personality/psych assessment on the computer. When we are done, we will head to our doctor's office to have my husband's updated semen analysis done, meet with the Embryologist, meet with the financial coordinator, and also meet with the nurse to sign all of our consent paperwork while my sister stays with the psychologist to have her interview completed. We will be there from 8:30am-12:30pm...what a long day!

Other than all of that, we need to meet with a lawyer this summer to sign a legal contract with my sister and then most likely in August or September my sister will need to get all of her STD and hormone testing completed. My husband still needs to check with his new boss about when we can go to New York to meet with Dr. Braverman. I have a copy of all my labs from the testing we did with him-I just have NO CLUE how to interpret any of it! We are hoping to go to New York July 26th-July 29th because our 2 year anniversary is July 28th:) Plus, my best friend gets married August 2nd so I am already off work July 28th and August 1st for her bridal shower, bachelorette party, and wedding I would just take the whole week off instead if we do go to New York the 26th-29th.

Lots of testing to get done this summer....but we are well on our way:)