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.

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).

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.

Thoughts from Mother’s Day, and I’m making progress

I wrote this on Mother’s Day, and thought I posted it, but it didn’t post:

It is a day to honor mothers. Most years, I only notice honoring of women who have given birth to children who are still here. This year, maybe because I was vocal on facebook about my motherhood status, I have seen more acknowledgement of mothers whose motherhood doesn’t look like the regular, expected kind. It feels validating, and that’s nice.

I was anticipating a very difficult day, since my only children are gone. Therefore, it was a difficult week. I cried and moped quite a bit.

I also had hoped to find out this week that I was pregnant, but once again, I found the opposite. It hasn’t been that many months this go-round, but it being the sixth time trying to get pregnant, with no births and four deaths, every month of failure, of delay, is another reminder of what I do not have. Of what I don’t know if I will ever have. My child; to hold, to raise, to see grow, who will call me mom.

Meanwhile, my therapy is going really well. I’m learning to be mindful in everyday life. To pay attention to my emotions, where they come from and what they are urging me to do. To decide to act in ways that are more effective. I’m learning a lot of different ways to tolerate distress without hiding myself in the basement zoning out in front of the TV, or eating way too much, or both. The ways are mainly distracting myself until it gets better.

Most importantly, the skill I’ve learned from my Dialectical Behavior Therapy is what’s called Radical Acceptance. I had read a little about it pretty soon after I started DBT, and I was certain it was never going to happen. I mean, just accept that all my babies were dead and pretend it’s fine? NO.

It’s way more nuanced than that. It is complete acceptance, but not saying it’s ok, or that I like it. It is the acknowledgement that the things that have happened are my reality, and they cannot be changed. My being angry and bitter that my children are gone was never going to bring them back. There is no way to get them back. My anger only served to cause me suffering. So, it started to seem like maybe it wasn’t the best thing to keep in my head.

I feel so much lighter. The world is not as dark and terrible as it was. A lot of things still suck, but a lot of things are good, and it’s ok to enjoy them. It’s not a betrayal of my children. I will always believe that the last five years would have been happier if I had gotten to keep them with me, even one of them, but nothing can ever change what has happened and what is, I can only change how long I let it keep me from living a life worth living.

Feeling sick and desperately sad

Getting out of bed is so incredibly difficult. I just want to go back to sleep. And then sleep some more.

Falling asleep at night has been tough because the cramps are terrible this month. I haven’t had debilitating cramps like this since before I started birth control 13 or 14 years ago. I’m also having crazy back pain, almost all of it hurts. I tried yoga, but that made me hurt all over; and a massage, which helped for a couple days. The thing that helps the most is baths that are so hot my skin hurts, but more than one of those a day seems ridiculous.

I saw a doctor on Wednesday, and the result was pretty much – I don’t know what’s wrong with you, have some Vicodin. That helps, but it’s not really a solution.

January and February, I was sick for about three weeks with a cold that turned into bronchitis, then there were two days of a flu-like thing. I had two days of not being sick, and then I got something very like strep. Then my period started, and even when the sore throat etc. ended I did a lot of moping.

The last two periods have been so upsetting to me that I just shut down. I want to be pregnant, and I’m not. I want to have a child, and I don’t. In three months, it will be 5 years since we first started trying. We’ve only been married 13 months longer than that. Trying to have a baby has taken over everything.

I tried an increase in anti-depressants, but it made me dizzy. That happens with both of the kinds I take, so I can’t depend on that. Exercise helps on the day I exercise, but it’s so hard to maintain.

I have zero solutions here. Just a lot of whining. If I find any solutions, I’ll let you know.