{Infertile Me} With shattered HOPE

Some days I wish I could go back to September 2017 and tell myself not to cling to hope. To tell myself that this journey is going to suck beyond belief. That you will put all of this work in to end up with empty arms, just like you did before. You my dear girl, your heart will be broken again.

Yet I can’t. Because 2017 me was so full of hope and faith. Her heart though broken still beat with courage and strength. She believed deeply in the process and had her eyes set on the prize. For her sanity she broken it down into pieces, first eggs, then embryos, then transfer, and finally a baby. The first two parts were easy for her to digest. 15 eggs brought her 3 quality embryos. Those embryos meant the world to her and she was certain she would transfer two and she did. Those two ended with one baby. One baby whose heart beat stronger every day until there was silence. Her world just like before crashed around her with the words “there is no heart beat.” At that moment she was done trying. Her heart couldn’t take anymore. She had given three babies back to God.

Little by Little and day by day she grew stronger and her heart started to look to Embryo #3. She knew if she didn’t go for it, she would always wonder “what could have been.” With withered strength and threadbare hope, she decided to move forward.

Forward with shattered hope. In March I was certain that I could not bare going through a transfer again, yet I am stronger than I think. Yesterday I put the ball in motion. The clinic was so glad to hear from me (I’m sure they say that to everyone). Dr. B has formulated a plan, we are not messing around this time. Workup in July, dilation surgery in August, and with a little luck a transfer in September.

September, Emmet was due in September. I just pray it doesn’t end up being on the 23rd, Emmet’s due date. Then again maybe September will be our lucky month and this one I will get to keep.

{Life Lessons} Photo of Happiness

Out of all the photos we took in Nebraska Jay loved one the most. To me it was unflattering, I was in the process of deleting it from my phone when Jay said “no that is my favorite photo, it’s so genuine.” You can imagine the look I gave him, I immediately pointed out my double chin and how this photo made my look heavy. He told me I was beautiful (he’s a smart man) and that he loved this photo because it shows pure happiness.

I let this photo sit on my phone. From time to time I’d go to it and just look at it. After awhile I stopped focusing on my chubby chin (thank you lymph node and saliva gland removal) and noticed how happy I was in this moment. Sure I was suffering from terrible period cramps (a reminder that I was no longer pregnant), but this photo doesn’t show that, it shows a woman living in the moment, smiling at who knows what. Oh smiling because she was about to burst into a full laugh because Jay was playing photographer.

These are the moments we live for. Moments of pure joy amongst the mundane. These moments chase away the darkness and bring in the light. Our smiles no matter how chubby the chin chases away the darkness and brings light into our hearts. This photo doesn’t show a woman with a broken heart struggling to bring home a child of her own. This photo doesn’t show a woman who has three babies in heaven, it is proof that Love and Joy always prevail. That I have a choice, a choice to grieve or grieve while living the best life I possibly can.

I will never get over the death of my babies, those little ones will always be a part of me. Just as I am a part of them. I live this life for Lucia, Baby E, and Emmet. My boys are the reason behind my strength, my faith, my joy, and my eternal happiness. I chose happy because I know that is what my sons want for me, a lifetime of happiness.

{Infertile Me} Emmet James

As the blizzard poured down around me I looked out the window and remembered that the doctor said Snow Pea’s results would be in on Friday. Friday went without word, so I logged in to my online chart, “1 new message” it said. I held my breath, my heart raced, I knew what the message was. It was the answer, the answer that Jay and I had been waiting for. It took a while for the words to sink in, “normal (46 chromosomes) XY.”

In the moment I couldn’t remember if XY was a boy or girl, Dr. Google told me XY = boy. Jay and I had a perfectly normal boy. Snow Pea was a boy. There is no how behind the why, and the why has yet to be answered. It’s a blessing and a curse. My baby, our baby was a healthy little boy whose heart just stopped. The placenta was perfect and Jay & I are genetically normal, it doesn’t add up, but in the end we still had to give a healthy baby back to God.

Emmet James was called home before his feet even touched this earth. Emmet James was born sleeping on March 5, 2018. This little boy was loved beyond measure, deeply wanted, and is desperately missed. Emmet was courageous, he was the little beta that could, he proved that low betas can grow into healthy heart beats. I carried his little heart for 11 weeks 1 day. He was ours and we were his. Emmet James, my baby you will always be.

Emmet James is my second and Jay’s first son. A son that we had to give back before our hearts were ready. I have to believe that Emmet found his siblings in heaven. That Lucia was waiting for him with Baby E at his side, welcoming Emmet to the other side of the rainbow. I am a little jealous because Lucia and Baby E got to meet Emmet before we did.

Emmet James was cheated out of a lifetime. He will never get to go finishing with his Papa and he will never get to play tic tac toe with his Nana. Emmet will never get to take a plane to California to visit his Nana and Papa, Jay’s parents they got cheated too. I will never get to teach him how to ride a bike, tie his shoes, or take him on a road trip. Jay will never get to teach Emmet about World of Warcraft, computers, and Back to the Future. Yes, Emmet’s name comes from Back to the Future, Doctor Emmet Brown. Emmet deserved a life time, to feel the grass on his feet, to laugh, and to love beyond measure. His life was cut far to short and we sent him off with more love than one soul could ever handle. Our baby, he will always be. Emmet James you dear, will always be ours.

{Infertile Me} Take a seat, let’s get real

I know what you are wondering “did snow pea’s results come back?” Umm nope, the wait still continues. Right now the lab is taking 3 to 6 weeks to complete the testing and provide the results. Trust me I ask the doctor at least once a week if he’s heard anything and it’s been a big fat nope. So we wait.

I am really good at waiting and waiting some more. During this wait, I’ve decided to leave no stone unturned and to go into our final transfer with as much knowledge as humanly possible. I will be meeting with a hematologist in early May to discuss my old friend Lovenox. I personally don’t think I need it, but people with medical degrees feel that I do. I am in an odd spot, I don’t fit in a box, and the doctor just shoved me in one with a Lovenox prescription. The dose is a major question and issue. Just like with Lucia, snow pea’s heart stopped a week after I increased the dose. The manufacture says Lovenox is safe for pregnant women and that it doesn’t cross the placenta. But let’s be real, anything a woman consumes can possibly cross that magical thing called a placenta. I also know one shouldn’t leak like a sieve after injecting themselves or have the injection sites randomly bleed through out the day. White shirts and I were no longer on speaking terms, hello darkness my old friend. I don’t want to be shoved in a box, I want a protocol that is tailored to me and my weird ass body. Why? Because I have no clotting factors, my blood clot was a total fluke, I drew the short straw and my life hasn’t been the same.

IVF is much the same as Lovenox protocols. It’s a one size fits all approach and if you don’t fit, they will make you fit. Very few reproductive endocrinologists are willing to reinvent the wheel. They prescribe the same protocols over and over again. I have no complaints here, we got 3 embryos from our protocol and we did get pregnant. It’s just Snow Pea’s heart stopped without notice or known reason. It just stopped and I have yet to carry a baby to term. At the moment we are tossing around first trimester bed rest, reduced Lovenox dose, and an antihistamine protocol to keep my inflammation down. Will it work? Who knows. I’ve got one last shot at a bio child and I am not willing to blow it on junk science and voodoo.

Speaking of fit, if I fit, I sits. Dexter the cat taught me that and right now this mama doesn’t fit in any boxes…. This mama has fallen off of the healthy wagon and needs to chase that fucking thing down and jump back on. A few years ago I had success on weight watchers. I had lost about 20 pounds before I found out I was pregnant with baby E and then shit just went down hill from there. Losing babies is hard and cupcakes and carbs were my friends. We got along a little to well and mama’s waistline expanded a little to much. This morning I put in my card info and signed my ass back up. I am officially on the wagon and I am not getting off until I am pregnant again.

I am starting this journey at 241 pounds (yup I just wrote that number out loud). This is the biggest I have ever been. I’m not happy, I feel sluggish and I wish I could blame my now juicy ass (juicy as in plump, not, get your head out of the gutter) on the IVF meds. But I can’t, because this mama loves cupcakes, cookies, fancy coffee, carbs, yes give me all the carbs and I despise vegetables and anything that screams “I’m HEALTHY!” This has got to change because I want my body back. I am not aiming to be thin, I just want to be me, a healthy me. If I can get to 200 by the time transfer day arrives, awesome, if I’m still pushing 230 to 220 that’s cool too, because at least I know I’m working darn hard to get there.

{Infertile Me} Genetically Normal Parents

As I walked through the skyway my phone rang. It was a number I have seen hundred of time and I instantly answered with worried hope. It was Park Nicollet, the genetic counselor was calling me to go over my test results. She informed me in a cheery voice that I was genetically normal, I have no deletions or translocations, my chromosomes are perfect. She went on to say that Jay was perfectly normal too and that our risk for an abnormal embryo is .00004%. Which means Jay and I are capable of creating normal embryos and I should be carrying a baby to term. Which is maddening because our baby died. We put two embryos in and only got one very wanted baby.

Relief is not what I feel. I am still holding my breath snow pea’s tests are still in process and right now her story is the only story that matters. I just know she’s gone and we do not have a why or a how to put behind it. Then again I’ve been tortured for eight years knowing that there was no reason for her big brother’s leaving. Lucia was genetically normal, his little heart just stopped and there was no reason for it, it just stopped. Baby E was an easier pill to swallow, poor baby had 69 chromosomes, that baby, our baby had a reason for leaving because one cannot live with 3 sets of chromosomes.

Three. Embryo #3 is safety tucked away in a cryo tank waiting for the day that their mother becomes strong enough to transfer it home. Today my mind isn’t there, I cannot fathom going through another transfer. Tomorrow I will change my mind and cling to the hope of what could be. Flip flopping is what I have been doing. The genetic counselor said that there is a high chance that Embryo #3 will most likely result in a normal pregnancy. It will be easier to make a decision of what to do with #3 when we get Snow Pea’s results. In a way I pray that something was wrong so that I can have a why and a how. It’s maddening, it is a blessing and a curse when they tell you “your child is normal and well we don’t know why he died.”

After Lucia died I honored him by having four small paw prints tattooed on my right foot. I knew in my heart that Snow Pea deserved to be a part of her mama to. So I searched the web until I found the perfect imagine of Snow Pea blossoms. Snow Pea is forever etched in my soul and on my skin, she will always be with us. When I look down it brings a smile to my heart, knowing that her memory is with me where ever I go. My baby she will always be.

{Infertile Me} To Beautiful for Earth

A week from today I was going to share our pregnancy news with everyone. I had plans of taking a photo of a onesie that said “my first baby sitter was an embryologist” surrounded by all of the needles used during IVF. This would have been a striking photo to prove to the world that against all odds, we persisted. That photo has yet to be taken, it’s just an idea that will never come to be.

At 10 weeks 3 days I learned that our baby no longer had a heart beat. Those words just like two times before cut me like a knife. This loss is much harder than my last two. We lovingly called this baby “snow pea.” Snow pea was a fighter our first beta was a low 9.4, then it went to 17.6, then 96, and finally 369. At 6 weeks Snow pea had a heart rate of 104 and was proof that miracles do happen. Snow pea fought so very hard to stay with us and we are grateful for the 10 weeks and 3 days that we had with our baby. That was 10 weeks and 3 days of us enjoying this pregnancy and talking to our little Snow Pea. Snow Pea was loved deeply and desperately wanted. We could not wait for September to arrive, as we wanted to meet Snow Pea and take our baby home.

We will not be brining Snow Pea home in September, instead we will be saying Goodbye. I prayed so very hard that this was the one who was meant for us to keep. It’s cruel, I went through hundreds of shots, dozens of scans, and a dilation surgery to end up with empty arms and a shattered heart. My heart she is broken. Jay’s heart is broken too. Our world is turned upside down as we are no longer planning for this little ones arrival, instead we are thinking about next steps as I cry into his chest repeating over and over “this isn’t fair!”

It’s not fair. I am angry, I am sad, and I am broken. I knew the risks going into this, we were so close to being out of the first trimester. I was breathing a little easier and sharing with my closest friends that Snow Pea was on board. Now I have to try and remember who I told so that I can break the news that Snow Pea was to beautiful for earth.

Right now we have no answers, those will trickle in during the weeks to come. Since this is my 3rd loss we are going to have genetic testing done to look for translocations and any other chromosomal abnormalities. Snow Pea will go through testing as well and we will get to find out if Snow Pea was a girl or a boy. Jay and I are leaning towards girl. If our hunch is right, she will be forever known as CoraLeigh Rae or if we are wrong Snow Pea will be named Emmet James.

I have to believe that Snow Pea is with her brothers in Heaven. That somehow some way Lucia was their waiting for her with Baby E at his side. That Snow Pea is whole and that she is no longer in pain. She was a fighter and whatever was wrong with her was to strong for her little body to fight. This morning we talked to her and told her it’s ok that she had to leave, that we understood and that we loved her beyond measure. That we will miss her and we will always always love her until our last breath.

{Infertile Me} “IVF Got This”

A couple days ago I stood in front of the fridge looking for available magnets to pin up Christmas cards. I knew on the side four magnets held our “operation embryo” calendar. September is when we started this journey. It seems like a life time ago where we spent part of our mornings carefully mixing injections and trying to find the least bruised spot on my belly. Five times. For a week I was getting five different shots a day. Three in the morning and two at night. Every prick was in hope that my follicles were growing strong eggs that would turn into our embryos.

IVF is not for everyone. It’s overwhelming and there are to many variables to count. It’s stressful. It’s painful. It’s emotional and though the bruises will fade your body will never really be the same. Fear sits with hope as you struggle to come to terms with all available outcomes. I was afraid that I wouldn’t get any or many eggs. They don’t really tell you how many eggs you have while you are stiming. They just cheerfully say “everything looks good.” I told myself “if we get five eggs I will be happy.” Anything more than five would just be a blessing.

Fifteen follicles lead to eight mature eggs. Eight. We got eight, eight incredible and non-edible eggs. Seven of the eight fertilized and three of the seven made it to blast. We have three embryos waiting for us and my heart is full. The big three leads to a new set of fears. What if they don’t take? How many should we put back? Oh god what if we put two in and get four? These questions seep in at night and I am reminded to follow my heart. Because of my age and the fact I am only doing this once we are transferring two back to me.

Two. December wasn’t meant to be our month. My anatomy proved to challenging for a proper transfer so our embryos were lulled back into a frozen state. It should be noted that the doctor almost put the big two in the wrong place. Thank God the embryologist checked the catheter and saw that we had hitch hikers. Otherwise the big two wouldn’t have had a proper chance at taking hold and growing into our baby(ies). That part scared me and the clinic has reassured me over and over again the big two are frozen with their sibling, embryo #3. No one was lost, my embryos are safe and sound.

January. January is a month of what could have been. Baby E was due in January, a winter baby you were meant to be. But Baby E was never meant to be ours and we are left with a lifetime of wonder. As the snow softly falls and temperatures drop I will be prepping my body for the big two. The big two who will lead to our take home baby(ies).

If you would have asked me three years ago “AJ would you do IVF?” I would have most likely said no. I didn’t think I was strong enough to go through it nor did I think I truly deserved a real chance at motherhood. Some days survivor’s guilt gets the better of me. Both of my children were unplanned, yet they were very much wanted. Our road to parenthood compared to others is very short. Some women try for years and spend thousands of dollars trying for a baby with no luck. Those women are the true warriors for they never give up instead they search for the next thing that will increase their chances at motherhood.

IVF, its a game really. IVF is about stacking the deck and letting God take care of the rest. Our deck is stacked. I grow a beautiful lining, my hormone levels are on point and our embryos are both 5ABs, which translate to “science did everything it could and now it’s up to fate.” Fate and I have a love hate relationship. Without her I am nothing and with her I am everything. She has left me broken, yet she healed me within the same breath. I pray with all of my heart that Fate evens the score, that some how some way the universe will let us be parents to a take home baby(ies).

IVF got this! Faith, Science, and love will get me through the next phase. Our turn, our rainbow, our take home baby(ies) is just one embryo transfer away and Fate will lead us every step of the way.

{Lucia & Baby E} Christmas #7 without you

This time of year makes me both happy and sad. Happy because I get to spend time with family and friends. Plus hello I love Christmas lights and all things to do with Christmas including Movies and cookies. Now that I have a niece and nephew Christmas is even more fun because I get to experience it through the eyes of children.

Jack is two and he is adorable. He tells me “Auntie I miss you so much” and holds on tight and then asks for another Christmas cookie. On Thanks giving day I took him shopping for Christmas gifts. I watched him as we carefully walked through Walmart looking for the perfect gift for mama and nana. He thought both of them would like Thomas the train because well he is obsessed with Thomas. We settled on something that wasn’t train related and he very happily dropped them into the cart. In that moment he was having fun and didn’t realize that I was teaching him the lesson of giving. It’s better to give than receive.

Sophia is five. She lets me know she is actually 5 and 3/4 as her birthday is in January. She artfully and patiently decorated Christmas cookies while we tell her not to lick them or her hands. Because no one wants to eat grubby cookies. She twirls in the kitchen while reading off her Christmas list. Which by the way is very short. Making sure that Auntie knows what emojis are. These are moments we’ll never get back and I will cherish them for a a million years plus one day.

In these moments my heart yearns for Lucia and Baby E. Lucia would be 7 and Baby E would be almost two this year. Both of them would have eyes filled with wonder and hearts filled with love as they anticipated Santa’s arrival. I can’t help but wonder what Lucia would have on his Christmas list. Would it be filled out with requests for Ninja turtles, dinosaurs, trucks or trains? Or maybe he’d be like his dad and ask for Star Wars, video games, and Superman. Only God knows what’s on Lucia’s list and his earthly mother will always wonder what he would like. Baby E would be easy, I’d just load him or her up with fisher price little people toys, a trike or even a ride on dinosaur. Baby E’s likes and dislikes are only known to God and that is alright with me.

Lucia has been gone for seven years, will 7.5 years to be exact. Seven years does not heal the heart, it just grows to make more room for love. Baby E was never meant to be ours, our little one has been gone for 2.5 years and he/she is proof that a woman can walk this earth with a twice broken heart. I miss my children every single day and especially at Christmas. Yet I am comforted by the fact that they get to spend each Christmas with each other and our Heavenly Father. I have to believe that Christmas in heaven is incredible for children.

Because God needed my children more than I did I will never get to decorate the tree with them. A stocking with their name on it will never grace our mantel. I will never get to load them in the car to go look at Christmas lights on the way to visit the mall Santa. But mostly I will never get to wrap a present for Lucia or Baby E. My children have given me a gift that cannot be wrapped. They taught me the meaning of love, strength and faith. It takes a lot to walk this earth with two piece of your heart in heaven. I am still a mother and my babies they will always be.

Sophia and Jack are too little to know that Auntie has babies in heaven. They just know that I am Auntie and that Auntie loves them without question. Christmas is magical. I like to believe that on Christmas Eve the veil is lifted and our babies and loved ones get to spend it with us. So leave an empty seat at your table, a special ornament on the tree and mostly talk about your loved ones as they will always be apart of your lives. Your loved ones they will always be.

To my fellow STILL and pregnancy loss mamas: “I see you. You are loved. You are strong and you my dear are fucking brave. You’ve got this. Your baby(s) matter and as long as you say their name they will never truly be gone.”

{Infertile Me} October – Pregnancy & Infant Loss Awareness Month

I have mixed emotions this October. My heart she is filled with hope, but my soul she aches for the two babies she didn’t get to keep. I also ache for those mamas who heard the words “I’m sorry but you can’t get pregnant again.” I’ve heard those words, those words didn’t sink in until I exhausted all of the experts. Each one said no and each one said a natural pregnancy was a slim chance. Baby E was my slim chance, God he had other plans, and my baby went to heaven to be with his brother. Baby E had to many chromosomes and wasn’t meant to be ours, yet my baby you will always be.

Lucia, my sweet Lucia was my silver lining to a very dark storm. He was a surprise, April Fools day 2010 I found out he was on board and I loved him from the first scan. However the love that I had for my son could not bring him back from Heaven’s grasp, so I said goodbye and mourn his absence. Lucia should be in First grade this year, maybe he’d be playing peewee football or take up the cello like his mama. My heart was cheated and it forever aches for all the moments that could have been. My son he will always be.

Lucia & Baby E will always be a part of me, because two pieces of my heart rest in heaven. #OperationTakeahome baby is not and never will be a replacement for my children. He or she will grow up knowing that two babies came before them and that mama fought like hell to get pregnant so that they could be here. Part of me realizes that if both my babies had survived I would not be going through IVF. This journey, we never know where it will take us. Because my babies died, because my body never reset itself, I am going through IVF.

All of the loss and heartache I have endured have lead me to this moment. I am grateful, because in the loss I found beauty, in heartache I found strength, and now I have hope that our take home baby is just around the corner.

I am STILL a mother, I am an IVF warrior. My heart she may be broken but she is ready.

{Lucia} Back To School

Over the past week my Facebook feed has been flooded with back to school photos. Normally I click like and move on my merry way. This year the “today is my first day of first grade photos” are hitting me harder than I’d like. The photos of smiling first graders with carefully packed backpacks are tugging at my heart strings causing me to hit like as I fight back tears. This year is hard, my son his photo is missing in my feed. My Lucia is seven and he should be holding a sign grinning back at me as we wait for the bus to arrive.

There will be no bus pulling into our street. There will be no backpack and schools supplies to purchase. No shopping for clothes and the perfect pair of tennis shoes. No lunchbox to fill and no child to send off to school. My son he died, 7 years ago he died and all of the firsts died with him. Lucia got cheated out of a life time of firsts and moments in the sun.

Part of me wonders if Lucia would have been like me, brilliant with the worlds shortest attention span. ADD is a label I’ve been sporting since I was 7, yes 7 is when I was diagnosed. I have to believe that if Lucia did have it his elementary years would be better than mine. That his teachers would not shy away from teaching him, that they would see and harness his potential. Maybe he would learn cursive, lord knows I couldn’t help him practice because I was never taught. His brilliance is lost to this world, only God knows how bright he is and I pray that one day I’ll find out too.

The other day I watched Sophia and Jack barrel down the sidewalk on their bike/trike and thought “Lucia is missing.” In my mind I could picture Lucia racing Sophia down the street on his batman bike as Jack struggled to keep up shouting “Sissy! Lucia! I see you.” Jack would be the third wheel as Sophia & Lucia raced around the neighborhood. I thought about how Sophia and Jack have no idea that they are missing a cousin and that they got cheated out of a lifetime of fun. When they are older I’ll tell them why Auntie really has four paw prints tattooed on her foot, and that Auntie has two babies in heaven, for now they don’t need to know that babies die.

Babies die. Its a hard and lonely fact. I learned this not once but twice. I got cheated out of a lifetime of firsts with Lucia and Baby E. My babies died before they even got a chance to make an impact on this world. One thing is for certain even though the world will never know them, they changed my world forever and a piece of me will always be in heaven.