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Thursday, July 30, 2015

Three Years in the Making

On Tuesday my husband and I "celebrated" our third wedding anniversary.  I say "celebrated" because we didn't do anything together besides kiss each other good-bye when my husband left for work that morning, talked to each other on the phone during his lunch break, and slept next to each other that night (he was already sleeping by the time I got home from work).  But you know what....this year we have something far greater to be thankful for than getting to go on a vacation like we did the last two years to celebrate our anniversary. We are anxiously and excitedly waiting on the arrival of our son, who has been in the making for the past three years!

Holding Riley after she was stillborn
Although our journey really started before we got married, we didn't mean it to.  But it definitely helped shape our path to becoming parents.  Our first two pregnancies were unplanned.  Nevertheless they both ended in devastating loss-a funeral for our daughter Riley and a miscarriage. A few months before we got married I was diagnosed with Homocystinuria, a rare genetic disorder where I cannot metabolize protein and a disorder that can cause stillbirth and/or miscarriage due to blood clots. We were told this was a probably cause for our losses and would be required to see a high risk OBGYN and be placed on blood thinners once we became pregnant again.

Our Wedding Night
We actively started trying when we got married...okay, actually like the week before we got married because we didn't want to miss my ovulation.  We were so sure that because I had gotten pregnant so easily and irresponsibly the first two times that it was going to be no big thang to get pregnant again.  I remember so clearly at the end of our wedding night, when we were saying good-bye to all our closest friends and family who helped us close down the reception, saying something like "we're going to go make a baby!" It wasn't as simple as we thought it was going to be after all. 

After trying to conceive for the first five months of our marriage we finally saw those two pink lines again.  This time we weren't scared....we were thrilled because we were finally in a place in our lives where we were ready to become parents.  Our relationship had drastically improved during the three years between our second loss and when we got married.  We were ready to bring a new life into our relationship and truly thought because we were a healthier couple, and because we were treating my genetic disorder just how the doctors recommended, that we would never experience another loss.  But that's not how loss works.  It doesn't chose people because of how unstable their relationship is, how young the parents are, or how financially broke the couple happens to be.  And sometimes what you think caused your previous losses isn't what really caused them, or at least isn't the only thing that caused them.

Pregnancy # 3
We lost our son to Down Syndrome at just 11 weeks into my pregnancy.  It was just as devastating as burring our daughter.  We heard his heart beating on two ultrasounds.  We had just taken maternity pictures and announced our pregnancy to our extended family members.  It was hard for my husband to hear he lost a son, especially when his intuition told him the whole pregnancy that we were having a boy.  It was hard for me to hear that our son had Down Syndrome, especially when I knew I would be a damn good mother to a child with special needs.  It was difficult to decide how we were going to proceed in building our family after learning that the most likely culprit to our recurrent loss (three in a row) was my translocated chromosome-two of my chromosomes sticking together causing our babies to have an extra chromosome when they are created.  Our options were either to try in-vitro with pre-implantation genetic screening where I would undergo an egg retrieval and my eggs would be fertilized in a sterile lab and grown for several days before being biopsied to determine which embryos were affected with chromosome abnormalities and then discarding the ones that were and transferring and freezing the ones that weren't. Or we could try again on our own and hope and pray the forth time around our luck is better. 

We decided we would try the IVF route if we were selected for a grant through Baby Quest Foundation which I had found online one night out of desperation to figure out how in the world we could afford a $25,000 procedure to prevent future heart break.  When we weren't selected as grant recipients we felt our only option was to try one more time on our own.  In a way...I was almost relieved that this was our only option.  I wasn't ready to try such a drastic procedure and choosing a baby based on genetics just wasn't sitting right in my heart. 

Visiting Virginia
We had been trying for two months again by the time our first anniversary came around.  We planned a last minute trip to Virginia to get away from work and stress, and to celebrate that we made it a full year as a married couple despite all the unexpected struggles we faced (not only did we lose our baby, we lived apart during the week for the first 7 months due to a job change for me, I lost my job three weeks after my miscarriage, and we bought a new house after we both found new jobs where we could live together full-time again).  I thought for sure we would be able to get pregnant during our anniversary trip since I was ovulating right in the middle of the vacation....but it wasn't until the following month that we conceived our forth baby. 
Pregnancy # 4
8 weeks later we discovered our forth loss, a blighted ovum.  Genetic testing confirmed a girl with Down Syndrome.  It was, at that point, a no brainer that no matter what our next step had to be IVF with pre-implantation genetic testing.  We couldn't continue to get pregnant only to lose our babies.  That wouldn't be fair to us or the babies we were creating.  So we applied once more to Baby Quest Foundation and by the grace of God were chosen as 1 or 4 couples for that grant cycle. 

First IVF Embryo Transfer
And so our journey into the IVF world began.  We were super hopeful that by testing our embryos before they were transferred and implanted into my uterus we could prevent another miscarriage and could prevent an abnormal embryo from growing into a baby with a heart beat.  After a countless number of shots, between the Lupron, the Bravelle/Menopur combo, the Progesterone, and the blood thinners.....we ended up with a failed cycle.  What started out as looking like we could retrieve about 25 + eggs from my ovaries ended up being 12 eggs due to an unmedicated, painful egg retrieval.  In the end we had 4 embryos biopsied for pre-implantation genetic testing.....three came back with abnormal results (2 were randomly abnormal and not related to my translocation at all) and one came back with an inconclusive result.  We were once again faced with taking a leap of faith or not risking another potential loss by choosing not to go through with transferring an embryo that we didn't know was affected or not by abnormal genetics.  We took the risk and ended up with a negative pregnancy test at the end of our cycle. 

Visiting New York
It wasn't long after finding out that our cycle had failed that me and my sister started talking about egg donation.  It was certainly a relief to my husband and I that there was another option available to us if we all agreed it was the right thing for all of us to do.  Months went into the preparation of our egg donor cycle.  And at times we didn't know if we were going to be able to continue on the path we had started with my sister.  But eventually everything fell into place.  We wanted to make sure we were giving ourselves the best possible chance of becoming and maintaining pregnancy. So we sought out specialized testing with a reproductive immunologist in New York and took a trip to meet him and discuss our results over our second anniversary week.  Through his testing we discovered more areas that we needed to treat to insure we wouldn't face another miscarriage even with a healthy/normal baby.  Between the cost of the egg donor cycle and the testing/treatment with the New York specialist, we were looking at another $25,000+ cycle. We received such great community support that we were able to raise a third of the money we needed to fund this second IVF cycle.  We were able to rearrange our finances and figure out how to come up with the remaining money needed.  My sister took the injections like a champ.  We were amazed with how well the egg retrieval went-23 eggs collected from my baby sis' ovaries! Day by day we received good reports on our growing embryos. And by day 6 we had two beautiful looking embryos ready to be transferred into my uterus and three more ready to be placed in the freezer for future use. 

Egg Donor Retrieval Day
Second Embryo Transfer Day
Today I am now 38 weeks pregnant with our son.  I have injected myself with hundreds upon hundreds of needles to be able to keep this miracle growing in me.  He truly is our "golden egg" and would not have been made possible without the help of my sister.  Three years ago if anyone would have told me that the only way I would have been able to carry and deliver a baby would be through egg donation I would have told them they are crazy and I would never consider anything like that.  But every step we took over the past three years to create our family has led us to this moment.  It taught us more about our relationship and how to survive through some of the worst situations a couple could face together.  It taught us to be open-minded and to appreciate that families are created in many different forms.  It taught us not to give up on our desire to become parents. 

This pregnancy hasn't been uncomplicated.  I experienced bleeding a couple times in the first few weeks.  At 20 weeks we were told the baby's umbilical cord was not attached in the proper spot on the placenta and could lead to growth problems.  I was seen every three weeks up until 32 weeks and then twice a week after that.  But this has certainly been the best pregnancy I've ever had and has helped me regain confidence in my body.  I've loved every minute of carrying our son within me, feeling him kicking, hearing his heart beating, and watching us both grow together.  He's such an overcomber already....measuring at 40 weeks today and a whopping 8lbs 3 oz with still a week to go before we force him out of me.  We have a scheduled induction at 4:00pm on Friday, August 7th unless little man decides to grace us with his presence before then.  Mommy and Daddy are sure hoping he does, after three years in the making....we can't wait to count fingers and toes and kiss his cute little nose!

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Finally Full Term

Ohhh emmm Geeeeeee!!!! Can you even believe it?!? Today, my friends, marks the first day of being considered FULL TERM! Holy Moly! Good God Oh Molly! We did it! We made it! The impossible has now been proven to be possible!

Have you ever felt in awe of your own body? Because that's exactly how I feel today! I feel proud. I feel strong. I feel like a fighter.  I feel like an amazing woman.  For seven years all I encountered was doubt, and shame, and grief, and death.  But I am celebrating confidence, and pride, and healing, and life. And of course feeling as though I could pop any minute!


Baby M and I have made a great team together.  We both seem to have strong-willed personalities and a desire to persevere against all obstacles.  He has not let his cord insertion cause him any distress.  He continues to wiggle and roll inside of me and his breathing has become a lot more consistent on our weekly ultrasounds.  I was, however, anticipating being told today that he was measuring over 8lbs and was kinda shocked when the sonographer told me he is measuring 6lbs 15 ounces.  Three weeks ago he was measuring 5lbs 11 ounces and two weeks ago he was measuring 6lbs 13 ounces.  So you could imagine my state of shock.  How could he only have gained 2 ounces in two weeks?  Is he not growing or did they get his weight that wrong two weeks ago?! At the same time, you could also probably imagine my state of relief......this means there is really no way he's going to be 10 lbs when I get induced at 39 weeks! The good thing is he is still over the 70th percentile with his weight and we continue to have twice weekly testing to monitor his growth so there is no need to be worried right now. 

Speaking of getting induced.....we are exactly two weeks away from our induction date! We did have a bit of a false labor experience last Friday maybe, just maybe Baby M will come out on his own before August 6th.  Last Friday I started having some moderately intense cramping that started in each of my hips and moved inward to my mid belly.  It was uncomfortable and happening pretty frequently towards the end of my shift at work so I decided to download a contraction timer app on my phone.  When they were timing exactly 5 minutes apart and lasting anywhere from 40 seconds to a little over a minute....I thought I was possibly going into labor.  I called my husband when I got off work and told him what was going on.  We decided it was best for me to drive myself 10 minutes from the hospital that I work at to the hospital where we will be delivering instead of driving an hour home.  My husband was funny....he got all excited and started asking me what all he needed to finish putting in the hospital bags that I had started.  I told him it was okay if he wanted to wait until I got there and got triaged to figure out what was going on but he insisted that he was packing up our bags and heading to the hospital! I had my last intense contraction walking into the hospital....of course! Once I got hooked up to the monitor there were no more contractions...just a really really irritable uterus.  The nurse checked me and I was still 1 cm dilated.  My doctor was actually on the floor delivering another baby so she came to talk me and let me know "you will have a baby Lindsay...just not today."  So there ya have it.....I've now experienced false labor and got sent home.  My husband was about half way there when I called him to tell him he could turn back around.  As ready as we really are for this baby to fill our arms...I am glad I have been able to make it another week and can officially say we are full term.  The likelihood of a NICU stay now is very very slim....still possible...but slim.  The knowledge that I will be giving birth to our baby that we will be getting discharged home with two days later is pretty amazing:)

I haven't really had any more contractions since last Friday. Maybe some mild ones....but nothing alarming to me.  I just feel like a turtle turned over on my shell when trying to get out of bed which can be pretty uncomfortable to the belly.  I wasn't checked for dilation at all this week either but I go back to the doctor on Monday for my last scheduled NST and will most likely be checked then to see if I've made any progress.  For right now, I will just bask in the glory of knowing in two weeks or less our baby boy will be filling my arms and joining us as an official member of our families!


Monday, July 13, 2015

What's our Exit Plan?

What goes in must come out right?! This past weekend my husband and I completed two days of birthing classes to learn all the "ins and outs" of the birthing process.  Now, I have given birth to a baby before, but this one is going to be much different.  The first time I gave birth we already knew our baby was going to be born silently.  We didn't have to think about how we were going to get her out safely and alive.  I only had to dilate to 4 cm to push out her tiny little 1 pound 4 oz body.  This time I am anticipating close a 9 pound baby with a huge head that needs to fit through a completely dilated cervix.  I needed to know how we are planning to get this baby out since it is such a drastically different situation than my previous birthing experience.

So what's our exit plan going to be?! First and foremost-our plan is to GET THE BABY OUT. SAFELY. I've learned over the years that a "plan" cannot be something that is stuck to completely. There are twists and turns throughout life that we cannot control.  We have to be flexible enough to ride the tidal waves as they come and learn to adjust our sails a bit so our boat doesn't sink.  Coming into the final weeks of this pregnancy, we have an idea of what we want to happen....but we know it may not go as smoothly as we want it to go and we may need to adjust our plans a bit to make sure this baby boy is delivered safely and alive. 

At this moment in time we are planning a vaginal birth.  The umbilical cord and placenta have moved enough away from the cervix that it is safe enough to attempt this more natural route.  One of my biggest fears is the baby's big 'ol head getting stuck in the birth canal.  If this happens we have two options-a c-section as long as his head is not crowning or a suction/vacuum if his head is already crowning.  My doctor's do not use forceps which makes me feel better since I've heard about the damage that forceps can do from my sister-in-laws first birthing experience.

I've determined that I was a spiritual, relaxing (as much as possible), emotional, and motivated birthing experience.  To help accomplish this type of experience, I've created a spotify playlist that will be playing in the background while working through the contractions and pushing part of the birth.  Here's the playlist so far:

1. Hope in Front of Me-Danny Gokey
2. You Make Me Brave-Amanda Cook
3. Roar-Katy Perry
4. Wagon Wheel-Darius Rucker
5. A Thousand years-Christina Perri
6. Through All of It-Colton Dixon
7. Day One-Matthew West
8. All of Me-Matt Hammitt
9. Lord I'm Ready Now-Plumb
10. My Destiny-Katherine McPhee
11. Somewhere Over the Rainbow-
12. Champion-Plumb
13. God Gave Me You-Blake Shelton
14. Holy Spirit-Kari Jobe
15. Brave-Moriah Peters
16. Guardian Angel-Leah West
17. Circle of Life-Carmen Twillie, Lebo M.
18. When you Believe-Whitney Houston, Mariah Carey
19. Best Day of My Life-American Authors
20. No One-Alicia Keys
21. The Climb-Miley Cyrus
22. Bless the Broken Road-Rascal Flatts
23. Miracle-Celine Dion
24. Small Bump-Ed Sheeran
25. I won't Give Up-Jason Mraz
26. Your Guardian Angel-The Red JumpSuit Apparatus

As of today, I am 1cm dilated and 40-50% effaced.  During my NST I was having several contractions but couldn't feel them.  Based on my contractions, the doctor was thinking I was going to be 3 cm dilated when she checked me.  Baby M was moving around great and his heart rate continues to to be stable and reactive.  We are hoping our baby boy will decide to come out on his own the last week in July or early the first week in August.  But we know he could come this week or next week sometime too.  And we know that he may not come out on his own at all.  If he hasn't come by the beginning of August, we will have our scheduled induction on August 6th.  We will go into the hospital on that Thursday afternoon and have a baby either that night or the next day.  I was really hoping they would induce me a day or two before I make it to 39 weeks so my sister would definitely be able to be in the delivery (she has Tuesday's and Wednesday's off work) but the doctor said they are not allowed to induce prior to 39 weeks unless they are seeing a medical problem with me or the baby.  I really do think he's going to come out on his own in the next 3 weeks though.  We will see how the next couple of appointment go and just be flexible with whatever baby boy decides to do. 

We got to tour the maternity unit yesterday where we will be giving birth.  It really helped reality set in.  Walking through the unit I felt myself tearing up thinking about the moment I get to hold our son on the outside for the first time.  What a moment that will be.  It still amazes me that this is all happening when for so long I never thought it was possible.  I feel fully prepared, okay...almost fully prepared for Baby M to come now anytime! We have everything we need organized and all the "equipment" we will need the first couple months put together.  We just need to install the car seat and finish packing our hospital bags.  Gotta get the camera and video camera both in working order so we can capture all the special moments that will be taking place on the greatest day of our lives:)

Stay tuned for more details as my body starts preparing itself for the birth of this miracle! I will leave you with our sneak peak pictures from our maternity session last week! More pictures to come soon when we get to see them all:)

Thursday, July 2, 2015

The Final Month

"Oh boy! Oh boy! Oh boy!" is right! I honestly cannot believe we are in the final month of this pregnancy.  I feel like I have accomplished the world right now and have proven so much to myself.  Let me correct that-God has proven so much to me about myself. 

There were so many times throughout our journey that I doubted that I would ever be at this place in my life.  I doubted my ability to carry a baby this far into a pregnancy.  I doubted my ability to keep a baby safe inside my womb.  I doubted that thousands of dollars being poured into fertility treatments would bring us our rainbow baby.  Yet, despite all the doubt, I still hoped my body would be strong enough and healthy enough to bring a new life into the world and I still had faith that God would grant us our miracle. 

I stood in front of the mirror today and was proud of my 34 week pregnant belly.  I was proud of the perseverance it took to accomplish this milestone.  I was proud of the strength my marriage has gained because of the struggles we have endured together.  I was proud of my sister for giving us this chance of becoming parents and helping me prove to myself that I AM capable of growing a baby and keeping a baby safe well into the final month of pregnancy.

Our baby boy continues to do amazing this week.  We passed the non-stress test and the ultrasound with flying colors again.  This week he decided to cooperate better during the ultrasound and we caught him breathing immediately after she placed the probe on my belly.  Since all is going well at this time, the high risk OB said she would not be recommending an induction prior to 39 weeks, even though my genetic doctor who manages my Homocystinuria was recommending a c-section at 36 weeks for my own safety.  She said she found no supporting research for his recommendation.  I tried to convince her to approve an induction at 38 weeks for my own peace of mind that Baby M is out safely but that was a no go:( I was also hoping we could have our little guy either on our wedding anniversary (July 28th) or my dad's 60th birthday (July 31st).  But sounds like that won't be happening unless he decides to come out on his own.  I think I will start the pep talks now in hopes that just maybe he will make his grand entrance the last week in July! Otherwise....looks like the first week in August will be the earliest the doctors will force him to come out-that is unless he starts showing signs of distress during my weekly appointments. 
We continue to make SLOW progress on our house project.  I finally got fed up with not hearing back from our contractor and my husband not doing anything about it so I took matters into my own hands and contacted the guy.  He admitted that he "dropped the ball" and "didn't realize how much still needed to be done."  Sometimes things only get done when the woman gets perturbed apparently.  I'm looking forward to the carpet being installed next week so we can get things moved into Baby M's bedroom and out of our dining room where it is all currently piled up.  Hopefully my husband gets all the painting finished up in the next couple of days-he's been dreading the stripped wall I'm forcing him to paint in the nursery but it will be so cute when it's done! I've been problem solving our space issue in our current down stairs "master" bedroom where we will have to remain for the next couple of months with the baby until our stairway gets redone and is safe to carry a baby up and down.  I think I figured out solutions and I'm starting to feel a tad better about bringing a baby into our home.  My niece was a big help this past Sunday in getting all of Baby M's newborn and 0-3 month clothes washed and put away and also helped me pick out sleepers and his going-home outfit for the hospital bag.  We are getting there...slowly...but we are getting there!
I hope everyone has a fantastic 4th of July here in the states this weekend. We can't wait for our annual fireworks display:) By the way-tomorrow marks 4 years since my husband proposed to me! It's been one heck of a journey before AND after that proposal but we can finally celebrate being in "the final month" of a very very long journey to parenthood! We have finally broken free of the curse we have felt under for the last 7 years.