My first Christmas with a living child

This Christmas was so very much better than the last five, because I actually had one of my children with me. It’s still just over 11 weeks until he’s due to be born, but I have him. There’s a contentment to that, which I haven’t felt in a very long time. I’m starting to believe I actually do get to keep this kid.

Five years ago, in 2010, I was still in the midst of my second miscarriage that year, and hadn’t learned yet that not telling people was going to actually drive me crazy. That left me silently buried in intense grief and so very alone. Every Christmas since then, and honestly, even now, I have resented that I don’t have my kids. I have found it to be true for me that I didn’t just lose babies, I lost every age they would ever be. Josh would be 4 and a half, Caroline would be 4, Anastasia would be 3 and Gregory would be 15 months. I will never stop knowing those numbers as they go up for the rest of my life.

But there’s hope too, if this pregnancy keeps going as well as it has been, Sticks will be born a maximum of 3 months and 2 days from now.

I have just agreed to have a shower before he’s born, which I didn’t expect I was going to be willing to do. I was afraid of having things that would just be painful to know about if we lost him. We’ll probably have the nursery painted by then anyway, so how much more could presents hurt? It’s a co-ed shower with The Dad’s family, which is very large, but pretty lovely. I think I’ll be ok.

Now, it is time to rest from all the festivity.

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Caroline’s loss date yesterday

Yesterday was the 5th anniversary of the day we found out Caroline had died and I was given Cytotec for reasons that were never really explained to me. They also didn’t tell me how much it was going to hurt and that there would be contractions randomly over the next two weeks. It didn’t make for a good Christmas.

It’s hard to believe it’s already been 5 years. A very, very difficult and interminably long 5 years that have gone by in a flash.

I’m almost 27 weeks pregnant with a baby that we might get to actually keep. Everything is going well so far, but I don’t know if I’ll ever stop worrying that it will suddenly stop being okay. We call him Sticks, which I suggested because in my favorite movie, Willow, Madmartigan calls the baby Sticks and The Dad accepted it because we hope the baby sticks.

Otherwise, I’m doing really well with the emotions of pregnancy after loss. I feel very connected to this kiddo. I love the way he dances when there’s music, and he seems to especially like Journey’s “Girl Can’t Help It”, and Billy Joel’s “We Didn’t Start the Fire”. I love how much he kicks when The Dad is talking. He has a silly thing where it seems like he’s trying to get out by pushing about an inch and a half below and to the left of my belly button. I tell him that’s not how to get out, but that I won’t tell him where the exit is because it’s too early.

Surprising no one, I’m finding that having a living child doesn’t make the grief go away. It does do a lot for the deep aching emptiness of having lost all of my children, and the intense longing for physical motherhood, though.

I have a couple painful complications going on, but neither is actually a risk for the baby, so I don’t mind so much. A different muscle in my abdominal wall started having issues as soon as the second trimester started, that can’t really be treated because that’s not safe for the baby. I’ve been doing physical therapy, which mostly made it worse, but since I got a support belt, it’s been better. A little over 2 weeks ago, I started having diastasis symphysis pubis. It’s when the relaxin hormone that’s supposed to loosen ligaments, so the pelvic bones can make space for the baby to come out, is too high and the bones become misaligned and hurt when you move. My physical therapist put it back together pretty well, and now I have a different support belt to hold the bones in place. I have to wear it pretty much all of the time until a month after the birth, and then just during the day for 5 more months. It’s not too bad though. I’ve said for at least 4 years that I’d give multiple limbs for a baby and this way it isn’t permanent.

I was not expecting that!

Yesterday and the night before I was feeling queasy and my breasts were sore and when I felt my abdomen over my uterus, it seemed bigger and harder than is normal for cycle day 7. I told myself I was imagining things and denying reality, and I needed to take a pregnancy test to prove it wasn’t true so I could stop thinking about it.

But that is not what happened when I took the pregnancy test. It looked like this:

2015-07-08 08.25.21

I called my fertility specialist’s office and told them the story of last week’s bleeding and today’s test. They said “Come in for a blood test.” I did that. They said they would call between 2 and 4pm. At exactly 2pm my phone did one of its favorite things, and didn’t tell me anybody was calling, so they had to leave a message.

I may keep that message forever. It was positive! 93! I go in again tomorrow (48 hours after the first) to make sure it’s doubling. I need at least 186.

I happened to be seeing my GYN yesterday afternoon about how it seemed like I had developed ovulation induced migraines, so I told her about the test. She said implantation bleeding can be bright red and last a couple days. She told me the migraines will probably stop, but to call if they don’t.

The Dad and I are so excited! I’ve told all the grandparents and they’re excited too, of course.

I have high hopes and I really, really want this baby. I know we have so much love to give this kid.

I also know that if the child I now carry doesn’t get to stay with me, I will get through. It may take me a little while to want to, but I will live. I don’t want to have those thoughts the day after learning I’m pregnant, but those thought come unasked for when recovering from having lost my first four children.

Our chances of life go from 50% to 85%  with the donor sperm. It’s a pretty good increase, but it’s not all the way up. Nothing is. All of living is a risk of pain. And yet, life is so, so beautiful.

Preparing to try again

I spent most of my post-IUI two-week-wait on vacation. The distraction was incredibly helpful. I relaxed, ate pineapple (not core, my experience of that stuff is like chewing bitter, sour wood pulp, I won’t do it) and drank lots of milk. Unfortunately, the bleeding started on day 10 after the IUI.

I am less distraught and hopeless and despairing than I have been on previous months of failure to conceive. DBT Distress Tolerance skills have been massively useful.

A 24 day cycle means that the next ovulation is pretty certain to occur before the weekend theatre-watching trip in two weeks. It had to be rescheduled for mid-July to accommodate my brother-in-law’s wedding Labor Day weekend, when the trip was originally scheduled. The wedding date was confirmed about a week ago. (I’m really excited for them, they are so good together, and just adore each other. He’s close to 7 years younger than The Dad, and watching how much he has changed the last 8 years that I’ve been in this family has been interesting. He has grown up tremendously since he was the best man in our wedding 6 years ago.)

If a July IUI fails too, and the cycle is average length or shorter, we can fit in an August IUI before the European vacation. All this vacation! I am so incredibly lucky that we can do all of this. I wouldn’t have any vacation left if I hadn’t been fired. They only gave me 5 days a year, and those were only going to start after I’d been there 13 months. That was another piece of stress I didn’t need.

I ordered two vials of donor sperm this time because shipping is insanely expensive, and there’s still an 85% chance that this cycle’s IUI won’t work, so I’m being prepared. If it turns out I’m over-prepared and we need to save a vial for trying for a second kid, storing the vial that long won’t actually cost much more than shipping it by itself would have. Possibly I should just get 8 vials, and be really prepared, but at $825 apiece, I just can’t. It’s not like they’re returnable. Maybe I’ll need 8, maybe I’ll need 3. There is just no way to know and I hate that.

Today was my first appointment with a fertility acupuncturist. We talked about all of my health history for over an hour and a half, and then did a needle treatment. I go again next Monday for a similar appointment, but with more analysis from her. I have hope that it will help.

The IUI should be sometime between Saturday and next Thursday. So I should know by July 30th. In between will be the anniversary of Anastasia’s due date. The anniversary of Josh’s loss date was last Friday, and I have some things to say about that, but in another post.

It’s tomorrow!

I got the smiley face on my OPK today, so the IUI will be tomorrow!

I was hoping for it to be much earlier, because we were scheduled to go to our annual family camp today. It’s Danish Folk Camp, but almost nobody is actually Danish. It’s a three and a half hour drive to a tiny town in southwestern Minnesota where we stay in a dorm for a week with 150 other people, including my mom and in-laws. The Dad’s first time going was 21 years ago, mine was 7 years ago, my mom started coming 4 years ago. Every day we have three meals and two snacks, two singing sessions, at least one dancing session, a discussion (or playing on the lawn with the little kids), two craft sessions, free time in which I often take a nap, and something special right after supper. There are games and chatting until the wee hours of the morning, but I usually just go to bed for 8 hours sleep, so that I stay a pleasant person to be, and to be near. Thursday free time I usually volunteer to help silk screen the year’s logo onto about 200 things, mostly t-shirts, but pillow cases, bags, and tea towels too. I always teach a craft, this year, it’s attaching glass beads to headbands with wire wrapping. The Dad’s craft to teach is coffee roasting, both with his special coffee roasting machine, and air popcorn poppers. We will end up being at least 24 hours late, since the earliest appointment available is 11:15 tomorrow.

I was planning on the IUI coming sooner, since I am on day 15 of a cycle that started 4 days late. The babycenter due date calculator says that if I conceive tomorrow, my due date will be March 14th, 2016, five years and one day after Josh’s due date.

Our doctor said there’s a 15% chance it will work each try, so after 4 tries, more than half of patients are pregnant. We will definitely be on vacation for an August ovulation, current predicted start date is the day we leave for 2 weeks. A July ovulation may be overlapping with a weekend away seeing plays, but only if my brother-in-law needs us to change when that is currently scheduled in order for us to attend his wedding. They haven’t set the date for sure yet. September, October and November look fine, but with my cycles varying in length between 24 and 30 days the last 4 months (less variation than the first 6 months after the failed IVF), who knows?

Someday, we will get to meet our kid(s).

Big step coming soon

I am waiting for the morning when my ovulation predictor test gives me the smiley face. It’s cycle day 13, and so far no luck.

We met with the counselor two weeks ago and made sure we were prepared. The two major things we learned were:

1. Children conceived with donated genetic material usually like to have the option to contact or learn the identity of the donor. Even if they don’t want to use the option, they resent having that possibility taken from them. This option generally comes as a facet of the donor profile, whether he or she is willing to have his or her identity and contact information available to the child at age 18.

2.  These children also appreciate that if they have a sibling, having a sibling with the same genetic lineage. This means for us that it would most likely be better for our second child, if we have one, to have the same donor.

She signed the required document stating that we know what we are getting into.

I also got the lab result back that I am negative for CMV. What is CMV? This surprised me, since I’m pretty sure I’ve had every cold or flu virus that was ever near me. We’ve decided therefore to choose a CMV negative donor.

We have chosen the donor, purchased one vial, and it has been delivered to our clinic. These steps in the process are incredibly expensive and not covered by insurance.

When I get that OPK smiley face, I will call the clinic and we will schedule an IUI (intra-uterine insemination) for the following morning, and get everything ready.

According to the first day of my last period, if I get pregnant this cycle, our fifth child will be due exactly 5 years after Josh’s due date.

 

The next thing to try

Tomorrow we meet with a counselor, actually a PhD psychologist, to learn all about the emotional aspects of building our family with donor sperm.

My therapist, who specializes in baby loss, infertility and parenthood after, reminded me last summer during the IVF to consider donor sperm as a possible back-up, so I wasn’t pinning all my hopes on the IVF. I didn’t want to do it, I did pin all of my hopes on the IVF working, and I was devastated when it didn’t. The massive amount of pain from the extra blood that had hemorrhaged into my abdomen didn’t help.

I have been trying to come to terms with this idea since then. I didn’t want to give up on having a child that was genetically related to my husband (The Dad). There is so much about him that I admire and treasure and hope he passes on to our kids, and I wasn’t willing to let that go. I would have been much more able to give up on passing on my DNA to our kids. That’s mostly because of what my mom has always called “defective brain genes”, the hereditary Persistent Depressive Disorder I get from her.

The Dad was much more willing to move towards donated sperm. He is very logical and patient. He knows that he will be the dad, he knows how incredibly influential environment is for people, and he knows that experiencing, and especially watching me experience a fifth miscarriage would be extremely painful for him.

Last fall we met with my therapist’s clinic partner to talk about being ok with it. She had her children through egg donation and help us through a lot of the conversation. But I still wasn’t convinced. It just seemed like giving up on full genetic siblings for the children we had lost, which seemed like a betrayal.

What finally did it for me was something an OBGYN said to me. I only saw her because I needed urgent appointments and couldn’t get one with my regular one. I had some crazy pelvic pain, (which is being successfully treated as related to the crazy upper left quadrant abdominal pain I’d been having) and some strange bleeding from cycle day 23 to 28 last cycle (which appears to have been weird and undiagnosable, but nothing to worry about).

So I saw this doctor, and she said, “You’re 33 and you want to have 2 kids, it’s time to start trying something different.” I told her my issue with it, and she said it didn’t have to be the end of the line for trying to conceive with The Dad’s sperm. If we had one with a donor, and tried again naturally after, a loss would probably be less traumatic. It would no longer be all of my children. I wouldn’t be a generally-unacknowledged mother. I know I wouldn’t have as hard of a time pulling myself out from under when the most important person in the world needed me.

Technically one of my brothers is a half-brother and one is originally a half-brother, but adopted as a full brother, and they’re my brothers. I never mention the half-brother part, except on those rare instances that I’m explaining why I just mentioned my brother’s dad. There’s no reason it should be any different for my children.

We have already decided that this will not be a secret. If we do successfully have a child this way, we want him or her to know their history without shame. There are medical reasons he or she should know about it. Finding out later in life is often traumatic, and we don’t want that.

Our children are ours, they are loved, and we want them to know that.

P.S. This OBGYN, who I’m 90% sure I’m switching to, said something else that has made a difference. I said I wasn’t sure my antidepressants were doing enough because I was still so sad. She said that I had been going through a lot of stuff that just sucked, and it was reasonable to be sad about that. I liked that. Not the fact that it’s true, but the validation.