Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Tiny Shining Light

The end of the school year was so busy, that I didn't even have time for myself, let alone time to write on this blog. The month of June has been busy too, but busy in a much different way.

At the beginning of the month, my husband and I took a much needed vacation to the northwest US to visit his aunt in Vancouver, Washington. While we were there, we did so many fun things and saw so many great places. We visited Seattle, Portland, and the Oregon coast. It was a week full of early morning car rides and late evenings arriving back home, but well worth it. I got to cross a few things off of my bucket list like, visiting Oregon and Washington (two of the four states I have not visited & now I just have Alaska and Hawaii left), getting my husband to attend musical theatre (we saw Putnam County Spelling Bee & it was hilarious), and watching Cirque Du Soleil (we attended Kooza...SO AWESOME). It was sometime during our trip that I realized that we have a pretty awesome life together. Even though the past few years have been full of heartache and frustration, we are very lucky to have each other and are fortunate to be able to do such fun things together. I realized that not everyone gets to marry and spend their life with their best friend and that is not something that I should take for granted. My husband and I experienced so many new things together on our vacation, that it will be a hard trip to top in the future.

Soon after arriving home from our trip, I met my friend for lunch and shopping at the local outlet mall. It was so good to catch up with her and have a little girl time together. Of course the conversation turned to her son, which she lost last winter. I suddenly found myself giving her advice about dealing with loss based on what my family went through when my mom passed away. That was very odd for me, but it made me realize that it's okay to talk about my mom and it made me feel good to actually speak her name. Why in the world have I not done that before with my closet and dearest friends? Weird I know, but hopefully I will continue to do it in the future and soon maybe talking about my mom will get a little easier.

This month we also finally began to do some decorating around our house. My husband finally got to hang all of his Iowa wrestling stuff in our garage since we finally got around to painting the inside of it. He told me once it was all done that it was just like he wanted it and he had always dreamed of having a garage just like ours. Who knew that a garage would make him so happy! We also recently painted our livingroom/kitchen. I got the chance to decorate it just like I had always wanted and for days now, my husband has been complimenting it and telling me how nice it looks. Again, having our house turn into a real home makes me realize how lucky we are to even have our house. We have a wonderful home that we get to share together and hopefully fill with children someday.

Speaking of children, this month we also moved forward with the adoption process. We passed the informal stage with flying colors and moved on to the formal application stage. It took a few weeks to gather all of the information needed for our application, but we again passed it with flying colors. Now we are awaiting paperwork to begin our home study. So far it's been a smooth process and one that we are ready to take on full force. We are still on a waiting list at UIHC for embryo donation and recently we were told that we are now the 3rd name on list one. That is good news and it gives us hope that someday we WILL have a child of our very own.

The whole month of June has been a huge eye opener for me. This summer has been so much fun and VERY different then last summer, which was filled with horrible news and just plain sucked for us. This summer I have been keeping a positive attitude about whatever comes my way and it seems to be helping. I have been exercising 3 times a week and that has been helping too. I have been focusing on the more important things in life and that has REALLY been helping a lot! I can see a tiny little light at the end of the tunnel and I know for sure now that good things are definitely in store for us in the future.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Guilty As Charged

Now that we've decided to fully work towards adopting, I don't feel as guilty about not yet being a mother. The guilt of not being able to become pregnant has haunted me since the day my OBGYN told me that she wanted to send me on to a special clinic for a more detailed evaluation.

I have been so weighed down with the fact that I have not be able to start a family with my husband. I have cried and cried with him, telling him that I wouldn't blame him if he left me for another girl that would be able to help him become a father. Of course, he thinks that's ridiculous and tells me that he wouldn't leave me for anything. I do secretly think though that if he were married to someone else, he would probably have had the chance to be a father years ago.

The fact that his parents are not grandparents yet haunts me too. I can't tell you how guilty I feel for not being able to give them the grandchild that they so deserve. My parents have other grandchildren, so it doesn't feel like I'm letting my dad down as much, but for my husband's parents, we were their first chance at a grandbaby. I'm sure they had huge dreams when we got married of lots of grandchildren in the future, but leave it to me to be the one to squash all of that!

I'm sure it has to be hard for them to see their friends and siblings have grandchildren and they are still just waiting patiently with nothing. I feel like such a failure in that department knowing that they are missing out on a huge part of parenting just like us. I can't change it, but I still am very critical of myself and how this whole situation has turned out. I know that it's not my fault, but it's still hard not to feel bad about it.

I think others feel bad for us too because we have had a few people offer to be surrogates for us. It's funny though because we don't need anyone to carry a baby for us because I can do that part. It's the getting pregnant part that we currently can't overcome. I still find it odd that anyone would care that much about us to even offer to make such a sacrifice, but it speaks to how special some of the people in our lives are. I will forever be grateful for how much support people have given us and frankly, somedays it gets overwhelming. It's just hard to imagine why people would care so much about little old me, but I'm sure glad that you all do. Someday maybe I will care as much for myself as everyone tells me I should, but until then, I'm just going to work on one thing at a time.

Sunshine After the Rain

In early April we finally decided to start exploring the idea of adopting a child. We had been talking about it for awhile, but hadn't really started to act on any of our discussions. I finally began to contact people that I knew would be helpful in gathering information.

We knew a few things going in, one being that we wanted to use a faith based agency or organization. I contacted our priest and he gave us some contact information for a Catholic agency based out of Des Moines. They emailed us back right away and told us that they currently were not doing any infant adoptions. Well, that was a disappointment, so then I started exploring some other options.

I read up on a few agencies and asked them to send us information. We got so many things to read from each agency in the mail and it was slightly overwhelming. We thought that maybe we should attend a few of the adoption workshops that different places offer and that might help answer some of our questions.

When you start thinking about adopting, so many things go through your head. Do we want an infant or an older child? Would be want to adopt a minority child or a child from another country? How would we feel about our child having any special needs or unknown issues that might show up in the future? What if we aren't given much information about the biological parents or there was no prenatal care?

I was very nervous to attend our first workshop because I just plain didn't know what to expect. We took the day off of work and drove all the way to Denison for the workshop. When we got there, there were a few other couples close to our age. We had to wear name tags of course and tell about ourselves and why we were there. That was the first time we had really publicly told our story to anyone that was not close to us. Telling our story to complete strangers was interesting, but after hearing their stories, I finally realized that we were not alone. Their stories almost matched ours to a tee and I felt normal for the first time in months! Being around people who had been through failed IFV's and were now faced with the choice of to adopt or not was a relief. One couple had even been using the same clinic at the U of I and is on the same donor list as us. They told us privately that they found out they can't have children at all. I felt so bad for them since we know we are able to have a biological child. Just when you think you have it bad, someone always is worse off than you.

The workshop was good. We gained a ton of knowledge about all of the aspects that go into adopting a child. We felt the agency would be a good fit for us, but still wanted to explore other options to be sure. In the meantime, we are attending other workshops with other agencies to gather as much information as we can. We have another meeting at the end of this month, which I'm really excited about.

One of the issues we discussed at the workshop was attachment problems that can happen for babies when adopted. It was so weird because the very next week at my night class, attachment disorders in early childhood was our topic. It just so happened that the story of the lady who sent her adopted son back to Russia on a plane by himself with some money had just been in the news. We got on the topic of attachment with adoption and everyone had an opinion about the mother on the news. The comments the college students were making were really interesting. After about 30 minutes of listening to them blab on and on, one of the older women in my class piped up and said that she had adopted all of her children, one of which has special needs. She told us her story of adopting her son from Korea and how many attachment issues they had to work through when he was a toddler. She was so brave for speaking up and verifying that yes, there can be issues with adoption, but contrary to what was happening in the news, adoption can end up being wonderful.

After she told her story, one of the quietest girls in the class spoke up and said that she and her brother were both adopted when they were babies. She told her whole story and it was so awesome to hear what an impact being adopted made on her life. She said that she doesn't know what her life would have been like if her parents hadn't adopted her and here she is now about to graduate from college. Such a sweet girl and the way she told her story really impacted me. I left class that night knowing in my heart that I truly would be okay with becoming a mom through adoption. Up until that day, I had not been fully sure if I would still have a yearning to carry a child and be pregnant. I wasn't sure if I would be able to give up the chance to experience all of that, but I figured out that I'm not giving up the chance at all. I'm giving a baby a chance at life, which is such a huge thing! Just because I'm not giving birth to a baby doesn't mean that I can't be its mother.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

The List

I've been away from my blog for a few days now and it's given me a chance to reflect back on what I've written. Most of my posts have had sort of a negative tone to them and I'm afraid that I may have depressed a few people. That was not my intention, so in order to brighten up the mood, I am going to tell our story of getting put on the list.

After our second failed attempt to get pregnant through IVF, we met with the doctors. We of course had many questions to ask them. I didn't know where to start. My main question was why wasn't this working and what could I be doing to help better our medical situation. The answer I got was that there was no answer and that I was doing everything that I should be doing. Well, thanks for telling me the obvious, but can't you just lie to me and tell me something I can work on?

What they did end up telling us was that after looking at all the information they had gained through the course of our treatment at the clinic, was that we were both reproductively healthy. Individually we were just fine, but put us together and we were not compatible. If you have ever watched the TV show Friends, you might remember the episode where Monica and Chandler find out that their sperm and eggs don't get along. Well, that is essentially what we were told. I guess my eggs are just bitchy and won't let the sperm come to their party!

We will never really know if the eggs don't like the sperm or if the sperm just plain don't like my eggs. What we do know though is that there are other ways of going about becoming parents. At our last meeting with our doctors, they asked us if we would like to try IVF again. Immediately we said no. We had many discussions at home before meeting with the doctors with us ultimately deciding that neither one of us wanted to put ourselves through the torture of it all again.

They did tell us though that we are perfect candidates for a donor embryo. Because I can completely be pregnant and can carry a baby just fine, all I need is a healthy embryo. We decided to go for it and they put us on their waiting list. How it works is that there are five lists, with list one having the most priority. List one is for people that are young, healthy, and do not currently have any children. We made it on list one and are number 5 on that list. I'm hoping by now that we have made it higher up (we were put on the list several months ago), but we'll just have to wait and see.

It can take about 18 months or so to get to the top of the list. Of course, we're hoping the list moves a little faster! When you get to the top of the list, you get to look through a binder full of information about people who have donated embryos. Thank goodness there are people out there willing to share the embryos that they did not use during their own IVF procedures! When you have more than enough to use, you can choose to freeze them. Once frozen they are yours to use in the future or you can donate them to another couple going through the clinic or to the clinic to use for research purposes.

The binder contains all sorts of information about each male and female attached to the embryo. You will know their age, hair color, eye color, religion, jobs, family medical history, level of education, success with other pregnancies, etc. It's amazing to me the way science works and how people have even figured out how to do all this, but thank goodness some doctor was interested enough in the subject of reproduction to work on creating a way to take a frozen embryo, thaw it out, implant it, and have it produce a beautiful healthy baby.

Once we get to the top of the list, the U of I will call us and ask us if we would like to choose an embryo. Some people decline due to many reasons like getting pregnant on their own while waiting or adopting. If we decide to do it, we can choose an embryo that has the characteristics that we want. We could even choose one that has a mother similar to me and a father similar to my husband. How weird is that!

Right now we're playing the waiting game with the list. In the meantime we are also exploring our options with adoption. Whatever road we choose to go down, our journey is definitely not over!

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Babies, Babies Everywhere

Somebody needs to write a book about what to expect when you're NOT expecting and everyone else around you IS. Right now at this very minute, I have 8 friends that are currently expecting babies and 10 friends that just had babies in the last year. Not to mention the three parents in my classroom that are also expecting new babies. That's a lot of pregnant woman around me!

It's always an odd situation to be in when someone announces they are pregnant and you are wishing it was you. I am always happy and excited for that person, but I also secretly want to crawl into a hole and cry. I want so badly for us to be the couple announcing that we are expecting, but deep down inside, I know that is most likely not going to happen. Even though our doctors always tell us that we can't say that it will 100% NEVER happen, we know that there is a slim chance.

One time last year, a coworker of ours announced that she was expecting a new baby. I was so excited for her because I knew that they had wanted to have another child for awhile. I congratulated her and then went right back to my classroom to cry. I didn't realize how much it was affecting me being around so many pregnant people. It's so in your face every day and you can't get away from it. It's a constant reminder of what you can't have. It's almost like dangling a piece of candy in front of a child, telling them how awesome the candy will taste, and then taking it away from them.

My husband knows how sensitive I am in this area and so it's funny because he'll feel me out to see what kind of day I'm having before he tells me that one of his friend's wives is pregnant. I feel bad for him too because he has several friends becoming fathers and I know that he wants so badly to be one too. I can't help but feel guilty that I might possibly be the reason why is not yet a father, but I know that is not a fair assessment of our situation.

I can not tell you how hard it is to watch literally almost everyone around have babies. We so desperately want to have one ourselves, but at the same time, we are extremely happy and excited for those around us who are experiencing the joys of parenting. We just want to be given the same opportunity.

When someone out there finally writes a book about what to expect when you're not expecting and everyone else is, they need to include the top 10 comebacks to say to people when they ask you when you are going to have children. Once you have been married a certain amount of time or reach a certain age, society says that you should be having children. We get asked that question so often and it gets a little old. We obviously want children, so we just tell people that someday we will have children.

Another chapter in the book should be how to handle all the baby showers that you will have to endure when all of your friends are having babies and you are not. You have to put on a brave face, shop for gifts that you wish you were buying for yourself, and be happy for your friends. It is exhausting doing all of that while you are dying inside. I love holding newborn babies, but at the same time, it's hard because I feel like I may never get to do that. I am missing out on so many experiences that my friends get to have everyday. I love my friends with all of my heart, but it's really tough to feel dual emotions (happy for your friend who is having a baby and sad for yourself who is not) at the same time. I wish they had a handbook about how to handle that.

Another chapter in the book needs to include tips for people that are supporting those of us struggling to have children. No one ever knows what to say to us and we hate it when people say they're sorry. What are you sorry about? It's not your fault. That makes me mad when people say that because the last thing I want is sympathy. There are much worse things happening to people out in the world and we have a lot of things to be happy about. I wish people would just say a kind word, give us a hug, and move on to the next topic. No one wants to hear the details of our situation, nor do I want to tell everyone, so it sometimes becomes an elephant in the room. It's okay people, we are not dying, we are just having a little bit of bad luck in the baby department!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Little Boy Brock

The holiday season this year was helpful for me. It was nice to be able to spend time with family and take our minds off of all we had been through. Usually the holidays are the worst time of year because I think about our family Christmas's growing up and it makes me sad for all the holidays that my mom has missed.

We spent a lot of time with both of our families this holiday season and even got to finally begin painting the interior of our new house. I say new, even though we have lived here a year and still have what I refer to as "construction white" on our walls. The only room that has been painted is the guest bathroom. Imagine that, the one room that we don't use very often and that's the one we decide to start decorating!

At any rate, the holidays were good and New Year's was even better. We spent a quiet, yet fun night at my brother-in-law's house hanging out with good friends. Nothing like spending time with friends to make you feel better! Friends is not an area that either of us are lacking in.

I have been super lucky in regards to having really great friends in my life. There is a group of 4 woman who I have been friends with since preschool and elementary school. The 5 of us still get together for girls weekends and even our husband like to hang out with each other. We have been through just about everything you can imagine between all of us and have been there to support each other, no matter what the issue is. What I love about these woman is that they don't judge me for anything that I do. In all of the years that we have been friends, they have never said one negative thing to me about any of the choices I have made in my life.

Our friendship has evolved over the years. In college it changed slightly as we all made new friends to add to the old. When we started getting married, we were of course all in each others weddings (or will be once we are all married I'm sure!). Two of us have had children, which again changed our friendships, but for the better. When you see your closet friends become mothers, it's the best thing in the world. You picture your own children spending time together just like you did. My two friends are the best moms. I say that with a little bias, but I really do look forward to being a wonderful mom just like them.

Like I said before, the 5 of us have been through just about everything together. We have supported each other through our own health issues, our parent's health issues, dating problems, engagements, the joys of weddings, and whatever else you can think of. One thing I never thought we'd have to go through was the death of one of our children.

It was January and I was sort of getting back into a funk with my emotions. The holidays were over and it was depressing to think about having to face our two failed IVF procedures again. I didn't have much to look forward to because spring break was a long ways away and the end of the school year wasn't even on the radar yet.

One day after school my cell phone was beeping. I never have my cell phone out during the school day, but I decided that I had better check the message. It was one of my friends. I could tell by the sound of her voice that this was not a good message. She could barely mutter out the words that I needed to call her at the first chance I had. I figured I had better just call right that second because I wanted to make sure that everything was okay.

I should have waited until I got home, but I didn't. Standing in my empty classroom, my friend told me the worst news possible. Our other friend's barely 2 year-old son had passed away in his sleep. We had just been there the weekend before playing with him, so at first I didn't believe her. I had to sit down and didn't even know what to say. She cried and I cried. After a few minutes, we got off the phone after deciding that I would call her again that evening.

I immediately called my husband at his school and asked him to please stop at my school on his way home. When he arrived, he rushed into my room and I told him the news. He started crying and we embraced. I then did the ugly cry and hoped that none of my coworkers in the rooms around us could hear me.

I couldn't believe that he was gone. He was the cutest, sweetest little boy that you could ever meet. His personality was just starting to blossom and he already had his parent's sense of humor. I just couldn't believe that God would take him away. What was wrong with this world and why did he take him so early from everyone?

I just didn't get it. The next few days were really hard. It took me forever to call my friend to console her. I had texted her, but didn't call right away because I just plain didn't know what to say. Here I had been grieving the child that I was not able to have and now she was grieving the child that had been taken away.

We went to the memorial service and the funeral. It was one of the hardest funerals I have ever been to. He just looked like a little doll in his casket and I just kept thinking he should be jumping out and running back to his house to play with his dog, which was also his best buddy. It just plain was not fair!

It took all of me not to be mad at the world and to be there for our friends. My husband had a really hard time seeing her husband, who had become his good friend, grieve the loss of his son. Us wanting children so badly and them losing their child was just too much to take.

I think Hallmark needs to make cards for people that are grieving the loss of not being able to have a child. When someone dies you can send flowers, or cards, or make food, but no one does those things when people are mourning the loss of not being able to have a child. Why is that? I never got flowers when I had all of my procedures or even when they all failed to create a pregnancy. Is that because people are uncomfortable with the topic or is it because they don't know what to say or do? That is something that I will have to think a little more about.

I love my friends dearly and I can't say that I know anything about losing a child. What I do know is that grieving is not easy. It is a process and it takes time. My hope for the future is that my friends begin to heal and have joy in their lives again. I also hope the same happens for my husband and I.

Love you forever Amy, Neal, and Brock!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Try #2

The clinic's next up-time happened to start right before school was supposed to begin again. I immediately told the doctors that I would not be in the right frame of mind nor would I be able to relax and rest at the start of the school year. People that have not taught have no idea how stressful the beginning of the school year really is! Plus I had just moved to a different school in my district and was still getting used to being with new staff in a different building. I didn't think it would be the best time for me to be dealing with all the things that come with IVF.

We settled on the next up-time which was at the beginning of November. That would put our procedures right around Thanksgiving. We thought that might work better because things would have settled down and it would be closer to when we would have time off for the holidays.

When it got closer, I decided I had better inform the other kindergarten teachers about what I was about to go through for the second time. I also informed my principal who was so completely understanding and supportive. I was so glad to have a boss that understood the emotions that come with trying to have a child and she was willing to flexible with me as far as time off for doctor appointments and such.

This time around that shots were a little better. My husband had become a pro at giving them to me and we often joked about how maybe his calling was not to be a PE teacher, but instead to be a nurse. I did have a bad reaction to one of the injections though that I did not have the first time and had a softball size area on my hip that was bruised, bright red, and hard as a rock. I remember going to school one day and I acted like nothing was wrong, but man it hurt so much to walk! My class kept bumping into it as they moved around the room and I winced every time!

As the time for the retrieval and the implantation came closer, I started counting the days on the calendar. I realized that if my levels followed the same rate as the last round, I might have one procedure on a Sunday and the other on actual Thanksgiving. Well, guess what?! That is what happened. We went in on a Sunday for the egg retrieval and I went right back to work the next day. On Mondays in my classroom we often do a weekend update activity where the kids tell what they did over the weekend. If they only knew what I had been doing all weekend that time!

That Thursday we went in for the implantation. I told the nurses how sorry I was that they had to be there on Thanksgiving. They told me it was no big deal and that they were actually cooking Thanksgiving dinner in their lounge as they were working with me. I laughed and we joked about multitasking.

Knowing what we knew from the first round, they decided that they would go straight to ICSI and so we knew going in that our embryos were much healthier. They looked good and the team chose the two strongest to implant. It was a really smooth procedure and the nurse held my hand this time. She said a little prayer while stroking my head and it brought a tear to my eye.

We again stayed there the allotted time and went home to cook our own Thanksgiving dinner. My husband made me lay on the couch, but we did have a nice dinner together that day. I remember thinking that even though we didn't get to be with our families on that holiday, it was okay because we were trying to make our own little family.

We waited the 15 days again. That was the worst. I had to go to work every day and wonder and not be able to talk to very many people about it. No one really knew and that again made it difficult. It was the holiday season and you are supposed to be jolly, so I put on a brave face and did just that.

Well, to make a long story short, our results were again negative. This house was not going to have a baby in it. No baby would be sleeping in our extra room that we had decided would be our nursery. We would not have great news to share with everyone at Christmas.

I went into a dark place within myself. I have always been really hard on myself and my husband has always told me to not put so much pressure on myself. This was not good for me. I didn't know anyone that had been through this and so I didn't know who to turn to. Every time I talked about it to anyone, I immediately started to cry. It was taking over my life and I didn't know what to do. Thank goodness Christmas break came fast because I have never needed time off so much in my life!

No Pot of Gold Under This Rainbow

We waited for what seemed like an eternity and then the day finally came. To find out your results, you go have your blood drawn in the morning and then call the patient line after 3:00 PM. It's weird because the nurses record a message for you to listen to. I suppose because they don't want to have to personally talk to you if it is bad news.

After our attempt at IVF, we called the patient line and got bad news. I was not pregnant. The nurse said in the message that they would discuss our case at their next team meeting and our doctors would figure out what our next step should be. They always record on there that if you need emotional or mental support to contact them so you can meet with one of the therapists on call.

I needed more than a therapist at that point! Good thing that my husband had a strong shoulder to cry on because I needed it. I felt like nothing in my life had ever been easy and hadn't I been challenged enough by God already? If he had a plan for us, why was he making us suffer so much? Why all the heartache and defeat?

I was really angry at the world and one day in the shower I actually had to hold onto the side because I was crying so hard. I never in my life have experienced emotions like this and really didn't know how to handle it.

We had only told our closet friends and family about IVF at this point. That made it really difficult to cope when it didn't work because people didn't know what we had been through. To the outside world, we were two teachers enjoying their summer off, but that certainly was not the case. We had to put on a constant face that showed everything was fine, when in reality, we were both barely holding on.

I remember having to leave parties and social functions that summer to have Eric give me my timed shots during the preparation period and people asking why we had to leave early. How do you explain it without lying or having to tell your whole story? It makes for a very weird, depressing conversation that can really put a damper on a party.

We chose to be private about it and I often felt very offended when people knew second hand information about our situation. People told others about it and I felt it wasn't their information to tell. The reason why that upset me was that it took away my right to tell people our full story when we were ready to do so.

After a couple of weeks the doctors contacted us and we set up an appointment. At our appointment they explained to us what they had learned from our first attempt and what we could try differently next time. I was pretty hesitant to say right away if I wanted to try again using IVF. I wasn't sure if I could handle it all over again. That meant more shots, more medicine, more procedures, and more keeping secrets from people about what was going on in our lives. My husband and I discussed it over the course of a few days and decided that on the clinic's next up-time (the times when they are doing IVF and not just woman's medicine) we would try again. They put us on the list for the next round and that was that.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

No, These Are Not Pine Tree Needles!

These are some of my lovely needles that we used for my injections. Notice the size of the individual is the length of my whole pinky finger! That is just the end of the needle without it's syringe, but that entire thing had to be pushed into my hip. Not fun at all!

Waiting for An Egg to Hatch

Last year my husband and I decided to go ahead and go for it. We were going to give IVF a try. After talking with our team of doctors and learning how the process would work, we decided that we would wait until school was out. We figured it would be best to be able to relax after the procedure and summer would be the best time to do that.

The day the box arrived at our house containing all the medicine and needles we would need, I was in shock! The box was as big as a TV, contained a cooler full of medicine, and had more needles in it then I had ever seen. I immediately looked at my husband to see what his facial expression was, as I was beginning to have second thoughts.

We went through the box, checking the specialty pharmacy slips (our insurance required us to use a special mail order pharmacy) to make sure that everything we needed was there. The idea that all of this medicine was needed to have a baby was devastating. This was not the picture I had in my mind when I had dreamed of having a child. I never once thought that timed shots full of burning medicine would have any place in my journey to becoming a mother.

The first night of shots was interesting. We tried our best to remember what the nurses had told us and remind ourselves what we had learned when they taught us how to give the shots into a rubber ball. Pushing the needles into the rubber was no big deal, but the thought of pushing needles into my abdomen, thigh, and hip was awful. I wasn't sure I would be able to do it all without breaking down.

My husband gave me the 3 shots every night at the assigned time. Some of the needles were large gauge needles and some were insulin size. Some of the medicine was ok and some burned like crazy when injected. Every third day I had to go get blood drawn at the U of I to see what shots, what amount of medicine, and at what time we should do the next round of injections. Between the injections and blood draws, I was a bloody, bruised up mess.

Finally after several weeks of oral medicine and injections, my blood tests showed that my levels were good for egg retrieval. During the egg retrieval, you are put under and your eggs are basically harvested out using a needle. They suck the eggs right out! Luckily you feel nothing as you are asleep, but it doesn't feel very good once you wake up. I will spare you the details.

My husband tells me that when I was waking up from the procedure, I was hilarious. I apparently was telling funny stories about our dogs to the nurses. They really got a kick out of me! They were the best nurses though and I am so grateful that they were there to help us that day.

After egg retrieval, they send you home and you rest and take it easy until implantation day. On the day of implantation, they take the embryo (the egg and sperm that they have watched in a dish in the lab) and they implant it into your uterus. They can do the implantation after 3-5 days.

On one of those days, we woke up to a phone call. It was the doctors from the clinic telling us that we had stumped them. What do you mean we have stumped you? After all we have been through, the months of testing, the weeks medicine, the who-knows-how-many number of shots, and you have bad news to tell me and you can't explain it to me? You are a specialist that has been working in this clinic for many years and you're telling me that our egg and sperm have defied science and you have no explination for it? Excuse me? I didn't just spend tens of thousands of dollars on this to not have a baby and have you tell me that we STUMPED YOU!!!

I cried and cried and cried. My husband cried and cried and cried. It was not a good day. Our embryos were not growing and the ones that were, were not looking healthy. There was a large chance that we would have nothing that would be healthy enough to implant. They asked us if we would be willing to let them do ICSI, which is where they intervene in the lab and basically force the egg to allow the sperm to enter. Some couples opt out of ICSI because it goes against their religious beliefs. I on the other hand told them to do whatever they needed to do to make this work and I hung up the phone.

They watched the embryos for a few days, updating us on what was happening. A few ended up growing, but the success rate since we had to wait so many days, was going down by the minute. They decided that two of them were healthy enough to implant. We crossed our fingers that even though the odds were so far against us, it just might work.

During the implantation procedure, you are wide awake. Your spouse is allowed in the surgical suite with you, as well as a few nurses and your main doctor. They have warm blankets, music, and a little window that they hand the embryo through straight from the lab. It's so weird because they actually had a CD that said "IVF Mix" on it to play. They didn't play that one for us, but we have always wondered what songs are on that CD!

They give you a little report card where they have rated your embryos and show you pictures of how they have grown. You actually get to watch on a screen as the embryo is implanted into your uterus. It's the only time that you can actually see the conception of your child. Weird, I know, but true.

After it's over, you stay in the surgical suite for quite some time. They give you a little picture of the embryo in your womb, as sort of the baby's first photo. After you've stayed your required time, you leave the hospital and go home. Then you play the waiting game. About 15 days later you return to the clinic for a blood test to tell you if it was successful. For someone like me that has no patience, those 15 days were the worst ever!

Monday, April 19, 2010

The Build-Up Leads to Reality

This might be the hardest post for me to write...The real reason for this blog is to help me work through some feelings. This particular post is going to be one that will surprise people, but will hopefully give people a new perspective on their own lives.

We had the best wedding a girl could imagine. I had so much fun planning our wedding and the process was not stressful at all. I enjoyed every minute of it and on our actual wedding day, I was not nervous one bit. I loved my husband-to-be so much and I just knew this was the beginning of a great life together.

The first two years of our marriage were awesome. We spent time really getting to know ourselves as a married couple. We bought a house, added two beagles to our family, and both had great teaching jobs that we really enjoyed. We were loving married life, but knew that our marriage had another create a family.

We tried on our own for almost a year to have a child. When that wasn't working, I asked my doctor about it. She suggested we try some drugs and so I started taking Clomid. Again, after a few months of no luck I asked my doctor what the next step was. She suggested we visit with the doctors at the U of I Reproductive Clinic. This was the first time I knew in my heart that something was wrong. I knew that they don't refer normal people on to that clinic, so I panicked. My husband thought it was no big deal. He thought they would do some testing and help us figure out what was going on.

We had a few different appointments at the clinic and a TON of testing was done to both of us. I can not tell you how many times I was poked, pricked, looked at, x-rayed, ultrasounded, etc. After weeks of different tests, they decided that we fell into the category of unexplained infertility. Apparently about 25% of couples experience some sort of infertility issue, with about 10% being in the unexplained category. The best way to explain what that means is that we are both completely healthy, there is nothing wrong with us medically, and we can very much have a biological child.

With that said, I was upset and very frustrated. All that testing and you can't explain to me what is going on? I actually wanted there to be something wrong with me so they could fix it! Of course it wouldn't be that easy.

The first thing they had us try was IUI. We did IUI a few times with no success. It was gut wrenching to wait every month to see if it had worked. Every month was a huge let down with me feeling like a failure, my husband having to console me, and us grasping for reasons as to why this was happening to us.

After the failed IUI's, we asked about other options. They began talking to us about IVF. This was an option that freaked me out completely! All I knew was that surgery and a lot of needles were involved. I also knew that it was really expensive. I didn't know if I was strong enough emotionally after all we had already been through to go through with it.

After much thought and research on our own, we decided to go for it. I spent a lot of time on the phone with our insurance company and found out they would cover a good portion of the procedure. We figured we might as well at least try it and what did we have to lose? We really had no idea what was in store for us by trying IVF. I think I better save that story for the next post!

That Was the Preface, Here Comes the Build Up

When I went to college, I threw myself into school. I went to college about 5 hours away from home for two reasons: 1. Because it was the best place to go to become a teacher and 2. Because it was as far away from home as you could go without leaving the state. For many reasons, I no longer wanted to be close to my hometown. It was a place full of good and bad memories, with the bad very much outweighing the good. If you know me well, you know that I rarely go to visit my hometown anymore to this day.

Anyway, my first few years of college were interesting. I was in a long-term relationship and we were engaged. I truly in my heart thought that we would get married. I was working my bootie off to put myself through school and wanted to make my older brother and sister proud. They had both gone to college and had done well, so being the youngest in my family, I wanted to do the same. I made some new friends, but kept MANY of the old and always had a good time when not studying.

Then it was the end of the world, or so I thought! My boyfriend and I broke up. At the time of our break-up we had been living together for a few years. We were going separate directions in our lives and just grew apart. I mostly blame myself, but I knew that in the end it wouldn't have worked out. Still to this day I am grateful for that relationship because it was a loving one that outlined for me what I wanted out of relationships in the future.

I was still recovering from our breakup when my room mates at the time wanted to go out to the bar. I wasn't really into it that night, but we all went together. We met these guys there and started talking. They were really funny, crazy, and having a VERY good time together. My room mate thought one of them was cute, so she somehow convinced me to go to the dance floor with her so she could get a closer look. One thing lead to another and she ended up slow dancing with him, while I got stuck dancing with his friend.

Turns out his friend was this amazingly nice, cute guy who was also going to school to become a teacher. We talked, and drank, talked, and drank. At the end of the night, he asked to walk me home the one tiny block to our apartment. My room mate would not let him come with us. As we walked away he asked for my number. I turned around and shouted it out to him as loud as I could. He didn't write it down or anything, so I figured that was the end of it.

The next day, the phone rang. My room mate said, "It's for you and it's a guy!". I was so confused but picked up the phone anyway. He had actually called me to ask me out. Long story short, that man has now been my husband for almost 6 years. He still claims that I am the only girl who gave him their number that he actually called in college. Lucky, lucky me!

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Motherly Love

I grew up with the best mother a child could imagine. She taught preschool & piano lessons, was our church organist, was great at redecorating our house, and often baked goodies for us after school. I knew from a very early age that I wanted to be just like her. She actually influenced me to become a teacher and I have always hoped that someday I can be half the mom she was to me!
The summer between my 7th & 8th grade year, my mom passed away from cancer. She had been sick for quite awhile. We watched my mom change from a very active, vibrant woman to someone that didn't even seem like the same person anymore. I often helped her do things when she was no longer able to and at the time, I hated every minute of it. I wished that my mom was like all the other moms who were able to take their daughters shopping or could go watch all their athletic events. I resented her so much for getting sick and not being the same mom that she used to be. I couldn't have friends over anymore and it was embarrassing to have to tell people why.
When summer was over and it was time to go back to school, it was weird. It seemed like no one even knew that my mom had died. I had gotten cards from friends and teachers a few times over the summer, but no one really knew what I had been going through. It was a tough transition and I felt like since people didn't know, I didn't have a lot of support. Death is not a usual topic for 8th graders, so I guess I just never brought it up.
It makes me sad now though that I never did tell people. I should have honored my mother's memory and told people about her. Some people that I went to school with still have no idea that my mom passed away and they just assume that my step-mom is my real mom. It hurts me that my close friends knew my mom, but we were so young and so now they don't even remember her. She was such a great person and I wish they had a chance to really know her.
I have always felt guilty for being mad at her for getting sick. If I had only been a little bit older, I think I would have understood a little better what was happening. I wish that I could go back and help her again with all those everyday things that I hated doing at the time. I would gladly wash her face and paint her nails now if I had the chance to do it all over again!
I still love her dearly and think of her almost every single day. There is not one major decision in my life that I have not thought to myself about what she would think. Every time I see a picture of her it reminds me of how lucky I was to have her in my life for 12 short years. I only wish that she was here to see her grown children, her 5 grandchildren, meet her children's spouses, and visit all her other family. I think she would be really proud of all of us!

Why did I call this Stepping Stones?

I had to pick a name for my blog and I asked my husband for ideas. He said "Just don't name it something dumb". Well, that makes for a wide range of things!
I ended up deciding to call it Stepping Stones for a few different reasons. Have you ever come to some water that you needed to cross and you looked along the edge for some rocks to walk on? Those "stepping stones" form a bridge for you to cross over to the other side. I think this blog might just help me get over a hump or "cross over" if you will, to something on the other side. The other side for me is a place where good things happen and I have a positive attitude and outlook on life!

My friend, my rock, my husband.

A Little Nervous

So today is the day I decided to finally start a blog. I asked my husband for permission since it involves him too and he said, "If it helps someone else, then go ahead". So here we go...wish me luck!