Telling My Sister

This weekend, I delivered our news to my sister.

I was nervous and my voice was shaking as I told her. I think I was afraid that, because I hadn’t responded in the way she had wanted me to when she gave me the same news, that she would only offer a lukewarm “congratulations”  as some sort of punishment. It is not beneath her to hold a grudge. But, mercifully, she responded in the way I had hoped she would: with unrestrained joy, delight, and excitement. She has sent me two e-mails since then expressing how happy she is for us.

For that, I am relieved and thankful. But I just hope that she realizes this doesn’t change everything. It doesn’t mean I am suddenly a fertile like she is, or that the pain caused by infertility has been erased. It doesn’t mean I get to enjoy a carefree, easy pregnancy like she has had. It doesn’t mean I miss or love the baby we lost, our precious Teddy Graham, any less. It really doesn’t mean anything, except that there is hope.

After hanging up the phone, I felt panic start to rise in my chest. Had I just cursed everything? Would telling my news to the one person who made my loss so difficult mean another loss is inevitable? I know it’s silly. I don’t even believe the universe works that way. But I guess this is what your mind does when you want something this much. All logic and reason go out the window.

After talking with my sis, I also have felt some guilt about my own reaction when she revealed she was pregnant to me. Was I too hard on her? Was my mediocre response unfair, or mean? But I know the two situations can’t really be compared. I had just lost a child, dammit. I had the right to still be hurting, to be unable to feel joy when I felt such sorrow. Can you tell I’ve done a lot of silent justifying to myself over the last couple days?

In other news, I had my husband deliver a dozen and a half cupcakes to our fertility clinic today. My graduation was last Friday and, even though I worried that this step, too, would somehow jinx this pregnancy (will these thoughts ever end?!), I wanted to say thank you. To be honest — they really didn’t do much for me. They monitored my cycles, but there was never any progress when I went in. I took Clomid, but I could have done that through my OB. I never had the chance to do a trigger shot or use my Follistim, so I can’t say the clinic actually helped me get pregnant. But they offered a great deal of support and encouragement when I needed it, I made some friends there, and they did allow me to come in three weeks in a row to check on Skittle. I guess you could say they gave me peace of mind and hope, which is surely something.

Or maybe, it’s everything.

My Story, Part 2

Well, after thinking about my Teddy Graham all day yesterday, I decided it was time to tell his story. Part 2 in our journey to expand this family. And my apologies, but this might be a long story. I’ve never excelled at self-editing.

It was around the time that my Honey and I got engaged that I decided I want a big family. Four, maybe even six, kids. I had grown up as an only child and it was lonely. In fact, the older I have grown, the lonelier it has become. I want a house full of chaos, noise, and children. I want Christmases with too many stockings hung by the fire and too many gifts under the tree. I want to be yelling as I make dinner because there are a dozen tiny feet under my own and I can’t get anything done.  I want to be a soccer, and a ballet, and a dance, and a drama, and a band mom and have to figure out how to be at the game at 10am, when there is also a recital at noon, and a play matinee at 1pm. That’s what I want more than anything. One child, as much as I love her, is not enough for me. She is perfect, and I’m so glad she’s mine, but until I have brought at least three newborns home (and please let there be more, God, please!), I will always feel as if our family isn’t complete. To those of you are still fighting to have your first, please, please forgive me for wanting more.

So the entire year that I breastfed my little Cupcake, I never got my period. Not once. That’s perfectly normal, from what I hear, and I really didn’t expect anything less. And I didn’t even care. I was just so happy that my body did something right and produced enough milk to let me nurse for as long as I wanted. But when my daughter had her last feeding on her 1st birthday, I was glad that we could now move forward and plan for Cupcake #2. This time, I didn’t want to waste time.

So when I got my period just four weeks after I stopped breastfeeding (hooray!), I began Clomid (100mg) right away. The first cycle did nothing. I did get a couple false positive OPKs, but my BBT never rose…so no ovulation, no pregnancy. I started my second cycle at the end of February. As the days went by and my expected ovulation time came and went, my heart sank. And then, lo and behold, I got a VERY positive OPK on day 22, March 14 of this year, my husband’s and my 4th wedding anniversary.  Beautiful, right? I thought so. You can bet that night of baby-dancing was gooooood.

The next two-and-a-half weeks were agony. After I conceived my daughter, I had breast tenderness within two days and it lasted through my pregnancy. This time, nothing. Maybe I was peeing more, maybe I was bloated, maybe I was more tired, maybe I was hungrier, maybe I was even nauseous. Maybe. But maybe not. But by 18 dpo (yes, I waited that long — I like to drive myself crazy!), with my temp still up and no AF in sight, I was pretty sure I knew what that HPT was going to say.

And yes. Yes. Two pink lines. And not only that, but the test line was darker than the control line. In fact, the control line could hardly be seen, it was so light. That worried me until I googled it and found out it’s actually a good sign, a sign that there’s tons of HcG coursing through my system. So not only was I pregnant, but I was very pregnant. It was April Fool’s day and I could only hope that God wasn’t playing some sick joke on me. We took a three-hour road trip that day to visit my in-laws and, on the way, I called my mom and my sister (I’m only kind of an only child), and then we told Honey’s parents, too. On the way home, I saw a rainbow and cried. I had a baby growing inside of me. A baby! And it took us less than three months to get here! It was the best sort of day.

But as the days passed, the worry, anxiety, and fear set in. I was feeling too good. I had frequent headaches, occasional cramping in my tummy and back, and I was tired, but there no nausea and no sore boobies. It was nothing like my first pregnancy. Over the course of three weeks, I took five more pregnancy tests, all of them positive, but it did nothing to easy the panic I was starting to feel. Nothing. When my mom asked me why I was more anxious with this pregnancy than with my last, I assured her I wasn’t. But maybe, I was. In retrospect, it could have been a woman’s intuition, but it was probably that it just all seemed too good to be true. Too easy. And that I have a tendency to believe the universe is against me. And that I do too much googling and can always find something new to worry about (like that I had ovulated so late in my cycle and my eggs were of a bad quality). But mostly, it’s just who I am. I worry.

And then one night, the thing I feared the most came true. My husband was at Urgent Care for a bad cold, my daughter was “reading” a book beside me, and I was on the phone with my mom when I felt a wetness in my panties. Honestly, I wasn’t alarmed by that. I had a lot of mucous early in my pregnancy, but I still always checked “just in case,” and this time, my fingers came back RED. My heart clenched and I raced to the bathroom and pulled off my pants and my conversation with my mom went something like this:

ME: Mom, I’m bleeding!

MOM: What? Where?

ME: I’m bleeding!

MOM: Where?

ME: I’m bleeding, I’m bleeding!

MOM: Where?

ME: Where do you think?! Oh, God, I’m bleeding! What do I do, what do I do?

MOM: How much is it?

ME: A lot! It’s a lot. Oh, God, there’s a lot. Help me, please help me!

MOM: Honey, calm down, I can’t understand you.

ME: I’m bleeding. I’m really bleeding! Oh, God, please nooooooo….

I remember screaming, just screaming, from the depths of my soul. I hardly recognized my own voice. I called my husband after that, then the on-call nurse, then my mom, again and again and again. And though everyone assured me that it might be nothing, and we would know more tomorrow after an ultrasound, I already knew. I knew my Teddy Graham was gone. Dead and gone.

I cried until bedtime, tossed and turned and worried and hoped and prayed all night and all the next morning, until we walked into the doctor’s office and my worst fears were confirmed. I was 7w1d and there was no heartbeat. Just a tiny little bean of a dead baby. That weekend, I went to coffee with friends, I bled and cramped, and I cried. I did almost nothing but cry. On Sunday afternoon, the cramping became almost unbearable and I bled all over the sofa and my favorite skirt. I ate ibuprofen like candy and then, when I went to change yet another pad, I felt something slide out of me as I stood up. There was no mistaking it was pregnancy tissue. And there, in my undies, was a tiny “balloon” about the size of a gumball. The gestational sac. I have no medical degree, but I knew that’s what it was.

So I gathered it and the tissue into a clean container and brought it to my doctor the very next day. He offered his sincere apologies, answered my long list of questions, and confirmed that my offering in the container was, indeed, the remains of my pregnancy. When I read the lab’s notes later in the week, I learned that my little baby was inside that gestational sac. An embryo of 0.7cm, measuring 7w0d. Most likely, he (and yes, I always believed it was a boy), died just one short day before the bleeding began. I cried in reading that report, cried because it made my pregnancy and my loss a reality. There was a tiny little being inside of me! And he was dead! And I cried because I felt guilt for handing over my little baby like he was nothing, for letting him go without a second thought, for not giving him a proper burial in our backyard. And I cried because, in that moment, I realized that while I would never hold my baby in my arms, I had held him in my hands for a very brief time. That thought was the most beautiful gift in the world.

In the aftermath of my loss, I did a lot of reading about the m-word (I can’t quite say it, not yet), about how to prevent it, about how to come to terms with it. I also did whatever I could to commemorate my Teddy. I gave him a name, not just a nickname but a proper, human name (which I will keep close to my heart for now). I lit a candle for him and it burned nearly nonstop until the bleeding ended, and it still burns each time we sit down for dinner, so that he can be there in memory with us, if nothing else. I made a memory box of old pee-sticks and poems and the few belly pics I took. I put together a song of CDs that make me think of the little one I lost. I created a scrapbook page in his memory. And finally, I started this blog. It is too early to tell if any of these things have helped, but in the long weeks that have dragged since the bleeding began, they have kept me busy, given me a purpose, made me feel like I am doing something that matters.

Some might say that it’s silly for me to grieve a child who I never knew, a child who never had a heartbeat or kicked me from the inside out. A child who lived inside of me for just over a month. But to them I say, I loved that child just as much as the one I have given birth to and comforted in the night and kissed and hugged a thousand times. I felt bonded to him, more bonded than I ever felt this early on with Cupcake. Though I had a lot of fear, I also had faith in this pregnancy, faith in a happy ending, and that let me love him faster and harder than ever. And so now that he has been taken away, I grieve him just as much as any mom would grieve any child she loved and lost at any age.

So where are we now? Now, we wait. Not the 2-week wait. We wait for my body to be ready to try again. Now that my HcG levels are back to their non-pregnancy state, I have to wait four weeks before I can start Clomid once again. If I’m lucky, I will ovulate before then and we can try to conceive au naturel.  But I’m rarely lucky and so I will probably have to start progesterone to induce a period in three weeks or so and then we go from there. Will I conceive again this summer? I’m scared, but I hope so. But as we all know in TTC-land, there are no guarantees. We just have to wait and see.

My Story, Part 1

Well, I’m new to the blogging community, but it seems that it’s probably time to tell you (those few of you who are reading this) a little about my TTC background. It seems only fair, after so many have been so courageous in sharing their own stories.

My Honey and I met in 2006 in my (though not his) final semester of college, got engaged the following year, and married the year after that, in March of 2008. I went off birth control that September and we officially started TTC December 2008, exactly nine months after our wedding. The honest truth is that we were not ready to start a family just yet. My husband was still in college and we hoped to begin our careers, move away, buy a house, and get settled before Baby came along. BUT I had always suspected that I might have trouble conceiving and so Honey reluctantly agreed to start trying sooner rather than later.

So why did I suspect fertility issues? Because I don’t ovulate. I just don’t. My whole life, I have never had regular periods and, the older I’ve grown, the longer my cycles have become. In college, it was nothing to go six months to a year without a period. I did get my period shortly after I met my Honey (blame it on the raging hormones!), but that was the first time in a year and a half. It was the longest I had ever gone without….not that I really minded. The bloating, the bleeding, the cramps…ugh! Who wants to deal with that? But it was worrisome, too, because with every year that passed (and especially once I fell in love), the more I wanted children and the more children I wanted.

But no doctor could tell me exactly why I don’t ovulate often. I know PCOS is the most obvious answer and though I do have a few of the more superficial symptoms of that — acne (though that has greatly improved), some hair in unwanted places (ew, gross), skin tags (just two though), and difficultly losing weight (though I am by no means overweight and my BMI is just under 23) — I don’t have any of the major ones. No insulin resistance. Low testosterone levels. Just one very tiny cyst on my ovary. So no doctor is able to confidently diagnose PCOS. I know there has to be an explanation — some hormonal imbalance is my guess — but I don’t know what it is, and I don’t know that I ever will.

So when we first started trying to conceive, we did it the old-fashioned way. Sort of. I was a bit of a control freak, and desperate to not miss any small chance we may have if and when I were to ovulate, so I insisted on doing the baby dance every other day. For six months. By then, we were exhausted! In that time, I did no temping, no OPKs, and had just two periods, one of which was very long (two weeks of spotting and two weeks of bleeding, totally abnormal for me) and pretty heavy. I have a sneaking suspicion that one may have been a miscarriage as I passed some very unusual grayish matter from my noonie (as Tina Fey once called it on SNL), but I will never know for sure and it’s probably best that way. One heartbreak from a pregnancy loss is enough for me, thank you.

After six months of trying without success, the Honey and I made a trip to visit my much-loved OB/GYN. She ran more tests (like the glucose tolerance test), came up with nothing unusual, and then prescribed Progesterone to induce a period, and Clomid to force ovulation, 50mg for 3 months to take on days 3-7. And so that’s what we did from July to December 2009. But not only did we not conceive, I didn’t even ovulate. Not one damn time. I know because I had started temping and OPKing by then (and saw no changes on either), and never did I start my period on my own. And so we went back to the doctor and she increased my Clomid to 100mg and gently warned me that, after three more cycles of this, she would have to refer us to a specialist.

By then, I was feeling desperate and distraught. I did not want to be one of THOSE couples..the kind of couple who needs a specialist to do the most basic thing on earth. I already felt inadequate and disgusted with myself. I hated my body (and if I’m being honest, sometimes still do) for not working right, for betraying me, for not allowing me to have the one thing I wanted most. Worst of all, I felt like less of a woman. Like I couldn’t even call myself a woman if I was unable to bear children. Please know that I do not think that way about anyone else on this journey. I think nothing less (and often only more) of other women who have struggled to conceive. But for me to go through it…it meant something was wrong with me, and I hated that feeling.

And it goes without saying that the costs of such specialists and specialized treatments frightened me, too. In the midst of our TTC, I quit my job because I hated it and thought the stress might be affecting my fertility. A bold and brave move on my part…but not the wisest one, as it meant that our income decreased by about 65% and we lost all health insurance. I could not even fathom how we would afford fertility doctors and injectables and IUI and IVF. Yes, my head and heart were already going there. In fact, by the time my second cycle of 100mg of Clomid came around (the first was another failure), I was pretty certain that I was never going to bear my own children. After nearly fifteen months of trying, it just felt unlikely and impossible. I highly expected that cycle to fail, and the next one too, and that I would make an appointment with an RE, and we’d do what we could afford to conceive and it would all fail, fail, fail and I’d be childless my whole life long. Melodramatic? Yes. But still heartbroken? Oh, yes.

And I know I had no reason to go there yet. We were a long ways from the end of the road. And I know — I know! — many, many others have a harder journey, a longer one, a sadder one. But I truly, fully believed, to the very marrow of my bones and depths of my soul, that I would never have children. I had already lost all hope and that was the darkest, loneliest time in my life. (With the exception of these last few weeks, but that’s another story…stay tuned!)

I know this story is getting very long, but bear with me. I’m almost to the end. So I remember, in February 2010, I received a baby shower invitation for a friend I didn’t even know was pregnant. She was a lifelong friend, but she lived a state away, and I hadn’t seen or spoken to her in months. My mom is besties with her mom and knew all about Lady H’s pregnancy, but had decided against telling me, for fear of crushing my heart. So instead I found out from a stupid invitation about eight weeks before her due date. And I cried. I think I cried for 24 hours straight and then off and on for another week. I wept because it seemed wholly unfair that this girl, who was two years younger than me, only had to decide to get pregnant and then she was.  I raged against my mother (whose intentions were good, bless her heart) and I dropped to my knees to beg God for a baby of my own. I never did go to her shower (I just couldn’t put myself through that) and, one month later, I learned she had delivered her baby.

And the very next day, I saw two pink lines of my own. I had not been expecting it or even hoping for it as the OPK never did show I was ovulating, and I peed on that stick only as proof that I wasn’t pregnant so I could once again start on the Progesterone and my final cycle of Clomid. Instead, I got the greatest shock of my life. And four subsequent tests all said the same thing: positive. I was pregnant.

I won’t make this story any longer, or make you all want to gag, with all the details of my pregnancy (placenta previa), labor (22 hours) and delivery (just 20 minutes of pushing), because we all know how the story ends:

our little Cupcake, born November 21, 2010 at 12:09pm, 7lbs 2 oz, 18 in

And in the end, nothing else mattered. The heartache, the hopelessness, the struggle, the months it took…it just didn’t matter anymore because she was here and I was in love. I look back on that painful journey and I still feel a sense of melancholy and regret. I will never be the same for it. And when I hear of another pregnancy or another birth, it’s like a pin in my heart every time. Because I wanted it to be that easy for me. And I still do…I want a million babies and I don’t want to struggle for every one of them. But we all have our own journeys and this is mine, for whatever reason.

But that’s really just the beginning. On another day, when I’m feeling up to it, I’ll tell you Part 2 of my story. About the Baby Who Almost Was. About the one I loved and lost.