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Back to Work

  • Posted on December 17, 2010 at 3:16 pm

So, Monday was my first day back to work after being on leave since May.  Thankfully, I was able to use my summer vacation as part of my leave of absence.  When school started in the fall, I took 12 weeks off as a bonding leave to care for my daughter.  I simply could not justify returning to work when Gracie only weighed about 6 lbs and for all intents and purposes, was equivalent to that of a 3 week old baby.  Plus, I was trying to work out a nursing schedule with her to give her the best food to plump her up.

And, boy did she plump up.  She now weighs over 14 lbs and is finally on the growth chart for her regular age.  She’s even better on the growth chart for her adjusted age.  But, just seeing her on the growth chart at 6 months old, when she spent the first three months of her life in the NICU, is pretty dang amazing to us.

I wasn’t sure how the first day would go.  I didn’t know my students, but I hadn’t really heard anything negative about them, either.  Last year’s 10th graders were crazy.  Well, what a relief!  My students seem to be pretty good.

I’ll have to admit, though.  It’s been a crazy week.  I get up at 4:50 AM, change Gracie’s diaper and feed her.  I hold her upright for 20 minutes, and then put her back in her pack-n-play while I get ready for work.  I bring my computer, my pump, my lunch, and my purse with me every day.  I feel like I’m going camping with all the crap I bring with me.  Then, with very little time to spare, I run to the bathroom during nutrition.  I come back, pump for 10 minutes, and while the kids are waiting outside, put everything away.  If I time it just right, the kids are coming in for the next class right about when the bell rings.  I pump again at lunch.  Thankfully, there’s a little bit more time during lunch where I don’t have to rush as much.

I come home and before I even say hello to my daughter, I take the pumping stuff that’s been sitting on the drying rack from the night before and place it to the side so that I can wash the two sets of pumping stuff I took with me to school.  After that’s washed, I strip and place all my clothes into the dirty hamper and take a shower.  Only when I’m squeaky clean can I hold my daughter and give a big kiss.  Since I work at a school, the cootie factor is pretty high.  I am constantly using hand sanitizer and Lysol wipes to clean my desk.  I’m just worried I’ll bring something home and Gracie will catch it.  Being a preemie, her immune system isn’t as robust as a full-term baby’s system, so we just can’t take the chance.

I have to say, though, this week was exhausting.  I’m lucky in that I can now take three weeks to recuperate from it all.  Still, I have no idea how I’ll be able to keep up the pumping and nursing.  Gracie is eating more solids.  Eventually, she’ll be nursing less and eating more.

Christmas is just around the corner.  I haven’t done hardly any shopping and probably won’t do much with lack of money.  Being on leave was nice, but not getting paid was a bit difficult.  I’m not even really in the Christmas spirit.  We don’t have our Christmas decorations up, either.  No tree, no ornaments, nothing.  Maybe when I get home, we can get the tree set up.  It is Gracie’s first Christmas, after all.  I also received some ornaments for Benjamin and I would like to place them on the tree.   Maybe when we get all the pretty ornaments out and put the tree up, I’ll feel more Christmas-y.

I truly though that returning to work would be emotionally difficult.  I haven’t had a chance to really think about anything other than work and the business of teaching 10th graders, so I guess that’s good.  In a way, I feel guilty for not thinking about Benjamin as much.  I still think about him every day, but just not as much, or not while I’m working.  It’s when I’m home and holding Gracie that I remember him.


  • Posted on November 25, 2010 at 11:04 pm

I truly have much to be thankful for.  My daughter turned 6 months old today.  With the exception of having to go back into the hospital for surgery to correct her pyloric stenosis (after spending 11 weeks in the NICU), our daughter has thrived.  She weighs over 13 lbs, she laughs more than cries, and is a joy.

I’m trying to enjoy these last few weeks I have left before I go back to work.  I wish I didn’t have to.  I wish I could just stay home and take care of her until she’s old enough to start school.  Then, I’d go back to work.  But, money is a necessary evil and so is insurance.  I have to work in order to provide insurance for our daughter, so off to work I will go.

We spent a quiet Thanksgiving with family.  It wasn’t the big to-do like last year and I needed that.  The coming holidays are firsts for us:  first holidays for our daughter, and first holidays without our son.  For every milestone our daughter reaches, I am so happy, but another part of me is so sad.  Even though I only got a very small amount of time with my son, I miss him.

This next week, there’s a memorial service we were invited to for parents who have lost their children.  I’ve been nervous about going because I know it will open up feelings I’ve been keeping hidden for months.  When our son was buried, we were not there.  I still feel terrible that I wasn’t there to say goodbye to him.  A friend told me that going to the memorial service would possibly be good for me since it would a chance for me to actually have a memorial for him and to say goodbye.

I look at my daughter and I wonder what our son would have been like at the stage she’s in right now.  I wonder if she feels his absence as much as I do.  Still, I am incredibly thankful for her and I count my lucky stars every day for her.  I am also beyond thankful for my husband and for all the support he has given me since March, when we found out our son would be lost to us.  I really don’t know where I’d be without them.


  • Posted on November 10, 2010 at 10:03 pm

I was admitted into the hospital on May 4th because my cervix had shortened and I was dilated 2 cm. This is not good for someone who is only 24 weeks! I was admitted into high risk Labor and Delivery because it looked like I would actually deliver that night, but they managed to get my contractions under control and eventually, I was transferred to the Women’s Ward for the long-term to be monitored and given medication to control the contractions I was having every day. My doctor was able to give me two rounds of steroids – one at 24 weeks and one at 26 weeks – to help with lung and brain development.

At 25 weeks, I was checked again and my cervix was still holding at 2 cm. My cervix looked to have shortened more, so I was kept in the hospital for the duration of my pregnancy. Once the cervix shortens, nothing can be done to fix it, other than strict bedrest and lots of hoping for the best.

I also was diagnosed with Gestational Diabetes, which was a pain because my diet was strictly monitored and I had to be poked for blood sugar checks at certain times of the day and night. I got over the control of my diet, until the food department started messing with my food tray. One morning, after getting my insulin shot (you’re supposed to eat 30 minutes after the shot), I lifted the lid of my food tray, only to find a plate with 3 strips of bacon and nothing else. I usually ordered the egg and cheese burrito because it was the only thing worth eating. Because I had already had my insulin, the lack of food on my plate could have had some very bad negative effects. I was PISSED at the food services. I was diligent in finding out exactly how many carbs I was allowed per meal and I even asked what each meal’s carb total amounted to so that when I ordered, I didn’t have to keep asking. The lady who took my order every day told me I was allowed a certain number of carbs. Well, apparently, the idiots in the food service had a different number for me, so when my food order was placed, the techs would look at my plate and then pull food randomly because according to their number, I was over my carb allowance. It got to the point where the person in charge of food services was going to have a big meeting to get to the bottom of the issues I was having. Every day, they messed up on my food. And, one of my nurses said it best: When you’re stuck in the hospital and on a restricted diet, the only thing you really have to look forward to is your meal. So, when they mess up on it, it becomes a huge problem. Not only that, but I was on a higher number calorie diet, due to the twins. The pharmacist who was working with food services told me that she didn’t think I was getting enough calories based on what I was eating every day. It was just a huge mess. 🙁 And, through all of it, all I wanted was a chocolate chip cookie.

For the three weeks I was there, the days were the same: I’d have contractions (very minor ones) in the afternoon from around 4:00 PM to 8:00 PM. Then, they’d go away. I got pretty complacent, thinking I would make it to 32, 34 weeks.  A few days into my 27th week, I started to feel Baby B kicking.  I didn’t know what to think.  I wanted to feel my Baby B kick, but feeling the baby kick would just make everything so much more difficult when I went into labor.  The baby kicking made him or her real, and no longer something I could ignore.

On Sunday, May 23rd, while watching the final episode of “Lost,” I noticed my contractions were a little stronger than they had ever been. Earlier in the day, when I was hooked up to the monitor for the day shift, I had 10 contractions in an hour (which was more than normal for me) but the doctor said it was OK. So, I paged my nurse (who was beyond awesome) and she put me back on the monitor. Sure enough, the contractions were stronger and she contacted the doctor on call. The next thing I know, the doctor is coming in and checking my cervix. I had dilated to 4-5 cm. At 1:30 in the morning, I was being whisked down the hallway to labor and delivery, terrified out of my mind. This wasn’t how it was supposed to be. I so desperately wanted to make it to at least 29 weeks. That’s what the NICU doctor said they were most comfortable with when it came to preemies – 29 weeks or higher. But, considering that I’d held off delivering for 3 weeks, it was better than delivering at 24 weeks.  Much, much better.

The following day was misery. I was pumped full of magnesium to try and stop the contractions. I was on it for 12 hours and boy, that stuff hurts going in! Then, it was a waiting game. Since I had to be flat on my back and my back was starting to really, really hurt (like bringing me to tears, hurting), I asked for my bed in my room. They brought it and that gave me some relief.

The main source of my pain, though, was the catheter they put in. Since I was flat on my back and not allowed to get up, I was told I could use a bedpan. I used it once, but then about an hour later, I had to go again, even though I had postponed it as long as I could. Mostly, I held it because I knew I’d have to use the bedpan again.  I tried and tried, but couldn’t do it. I started crying, I was so miserable. My back hurt, my arm hurt where the magnesium was going in, and my bladder hurt, but I couldn’t go. So, the nurse said I could get a catheter. She made several attempts to put it in, but couldn’t, so got another nurse to do it. That nurse shoved something that felt like a tree up my urethra. I was told it would burn at first, but then the pain would go away and I wouldn’t even feel it. Ha ha. Right. Every time I moved, I felt that thing. It burned and hurt, all day long. 🙁

To make matters even more interesting,at about 1:00 in the afternoon, one of my nurses came in and told me that my doctor would be in at 5:00. I stared at that clock for 4 hours, willing the time to go by faster. It didn’t. I tried to sleep, but the catheter burned every time I moved. All I wanted was to go back to “my room.”

At 5:00, my doctor didn’t arrive. At 6:00, my doctor didn’t arrive. I asked the nurse about it and she said that my doctor was there, but that she was doing her rounds and she’d get to me as soon as she could. She also said that whoever told me my doctor would see me at 5:00 probably shouldn’t have told me that. All it did was make the wait longer. My doctor finally arrived around 7:30 or so. It was a very long day.

She checked my cervix and noted that I hadn’t dilated more and was holding at 4 cm. She asked me what I wanted and it went something like this, “please take the catheter out.” Done. I can have a bedside commode brought to you… wait, the bathroom’s another foot away. I don’t see why you can’t use the bathroom. Just don’t stand for very long. “I’d like to take a shower.” Done – but no more than 5 minutes. “I’d like to eat.” Done. Anything else? “No, just the catheter.” She went to take it out and commented after the vile thing was removed that it was the WRONG SIZE. She said, “don’t they have one that’s smaller?” I was so mad at that evil nurse who shoved that thing up there. And, because of the too-big size catheter and the other catheter that was put in, I ended up with a UTI. What is wrong with some people???

After I took my shower, I noticed I had a contraction that was stronger than normal, but thought it might have been because I was standing. I was hoping that the contractions were gone because once I was off the magnesium, the nursing staff was monitoring me. If I didn’t have any contractions in the next 12 or so hours, I’d most likely not be going into labor and I’d be able to go back to my room. So, having a contraction here and there was not a good sign, but I was hoping it was nothing.

I sent my husband home around midnight to get some sleep and I was confident I’d be going back to my room on Tuesday morning. About 3:00 AM, I was awakened by a rather strong contraction. I thought it might have been because my bladder was full. I went to the bathroom, and for the first time since the week before I was admitted into the hospital, I found I was spotting. I alerted the nurse. She told me not to worry, they’d let the doctor know, but it was probably nothing.

Nothing? I haven’t had ANY spotting while in the hospital and every day, when the doctors do their rounds, they ask me if I’ve had any spotting or bleeding. So, I was a bit worried.

Sure enough, by 4:00 AM, the contractions started in earnest and they were like nothing I’d ever felt before. The doctor checked my cervix at 4:30 and I was dilated to 7 cm.  The doctor who examined me was startled because right when she checked my cervix, my daughter kicked her hand.  My placenta and my daughter’s foot were bulging through my cervix.  I had progressed so quickly into full labor, the nurses didn’t have very much time to prep me for the OR.  My doctor was actually a little peeved that it took so long.

I kept asking when I should call my husband and at 5:00 AM they told me to go ahead and call him and tell him what was going on. I called again at 5:20 to let him know I was being prepped for the OR and for him to hurry. Not to worry – he was already on his way when I called the second time and had just enough time to put on the scrubs and hold my hand as we rolled down the hall to the OR. I didn’t know what to do. The contractions were so painful, I was tensing up with each one. In the 2 minutes it took for me to get from the Labor and Delivery room to the OR, I counted 5 or 6 contractions. They were right on top of each other. My doctor was starting to wonder what was taking the nursing staff so long to get me to the OR and called to see where I was.

I am so thankful my own doctor was at the hospital that night and into the morning. I did say something funny to her when I saw her again. The night before when she was granting me my wishes, she said before she left, “Dana, the next time I see you, I just want it to be a social visit, OK?” When I saw her again, I said, “Dr. M, I thought you said the next time you saw me it would only be a social visit!” She laughed.  At least there was some humor that morning.

She was also a bit upset that the nurses took so long to prep me because of the danger of having my water break before the surgery. I was even having a rather nasty contraction while the anesthesiologist was trying to do my spinal, which caused me to not sit straight on the table, and I was sitting on the new catheter line they put in (this one was MUCH more comfortable – I couldn’t feel it at all!). Dr. M asked me if I was having a contraction while sitting on the table and all I could do was nod my head. She said, “This is why I wanted her here earlier!”

While they were prepping me, I laid there on the table and stared up at all the lights and saw all the people around me, working on me. I said, “there’s no modesty in the OR, is there?” The anesthesiologist leaned over me and said, “Nope.”

After lots of pulling and tugging, Grace Kayleigh was born at 6:27 AM and Benjamin Kristian was born at 6:28 AM on May 25th, 2010. Grace weighed 2 lbs. 3 oz., 14 1/2″ long, and Benjamin weighed 1 lb. 15 oz., 12 1/4″ long. Benjamin lived for about 20 minutes and then passed away.

I had many people in the course of the three weeks I was on bedrest in the hospital tell me how lucky I was.  We were lucky my doctor caught my shortened cervix and saw to it to check.  Otherwise, I would have gone into labor at 24 or 25 weeks and there would have been nothing anyone could do to prevent the birth of our twins.

Lucky.  I do feel lucky to have been able to spend the short time I did have with my son.  But, with that luck, I feel an incredible amount of sadness.

2nd Trimester

  • Posted on October 24, 2010 at 6:19 pm

On March 23, 2009, my husband and I excitedly made our way to a perinatologist’s office for my formal ultrasound.  I also had a genetics screening with a counselor the same day to go over the results of blood work done.  Despite my age at pregnancy (36) , I was confident that nothing was genetically wrong with my twins.

We sat in the office with the genetics counselor and she went over all the statistics of what she found.  We were as normal of a pregnancy as we could be, which was really nice to hear.  Even though I was more at risk for having a baby with Down’s Syndrome because of my age, the blood work came back that there was a very small chance the twins had it.   Everything was normal.  She did mention that I could have an amnio done on both babies to be absolutely sure, but I had already turned down the test before because I didn’t want to run the risk of having a miscarriage.  The chance of miscarriage is present enough when an amnio is done that I didn’t want to risk it at all.  After all the heartache, drama, and blood, sweat, and tears we went through to be at the place we were right then, I had no intention of causing any kind of risk, no matter how small, just to find out something I would eventually know about when they were born, anyway.  Plus, the idea of having a long needle plunged into my abdomen really squicked me out.

After the genetics counseling session, we were escorted to a room with a lot of very expensive-looking equipment.  The whole reason why I was having my formal ultrasound at this office and not my regular OB/GYN was because they had the very expensive-looking equipment that could do all sorts of interesting things, and my OB/GYN’s little po-dunk ultrasound machine could not.

I remember laying down on the table and waiting impatiently for the ultrasound doctor to get started.  This was a momentous occasion for us.  We were finally going to find out what our babies’ gender.  I really, really wanted a girl, but also wanted a boy.  How perfect would that be?  A boy and a girl.  That’s the ultimate perfect family.  One boy and one girl.  I kept saying it in my head.  I hoped the girl would look like me and the boy would look like my husband.  I just knew in my mind that we were having one of each.

The ultrasound doctor came in and briskly started the ultrasound, taking measurements as he went.  Focusing on Baby A, the doctor talked over our heads to the ultrasound nurse, rattling off numbers in conjunction with lengths of arms, legs, abdomen, etc.  I was fascinated with what I saw on the monitor.  There was one of my babies, moving and kicking, looking as perfect as could be.

Then, the ultrasound doctor moved on to Baby B, rattling off measurements and numbers as he did with Baby A.  He seemed to be spending more time focusing on Baby B, so I asked what he was looking at.  He said, “I’m concerned about the lack of amnionic fluid around Baby B.  I need to go get another doctor.”  When he left, I remember feeling hot and cold, all at the same time.  The ultrasound nurse continued to push down on my stomach to try and get a good angle on Baby B, but Baby B couldn’t change positions.  Another doctor came in with the original one, and they continued the ultrasound.  It felt surreal – like watching this all happen in a dream.  There I was on the table, there the doctors worked over me, conferring here and there about what they saw, the ultrasound nurse moving the wand around to try and get a better angle.

At one point, I heard over all the measurements and words being discussed about Baby B, that Baby A was a girl.  I remember feeling bereft, almost robbed.  Where was that ultrasound all new mothers talk about?  The one where the doctor says, while beaming down at the new mom, “You’re having a girl!” and points out the girl parts with a cute little arrow on the monitor, typing the words “IT’S A GIRL” next to the arrow.  Then the new mom goes home on a cloud, staring at her ultrasound picture in awe, imagining what her baby’s nursery will look like, what linens to buy, what colors to paint the walls, and what crib set will go best with the color scheme.  And, of course, within the hour, the ultrasound picture with the jaunty little arrow gets posted on-line to share with family and friends.

Instead of all that, my husband and I find out we’re having a girl because the ultrasound nurse was looking at the ultrasound pictures while the doctors worked on my belly to try and get the best angle they could to figure out what was wrong with Baby B.

My little Baby B was stuck in a placental prison, no amniotic fluid to swim in, grow in, or develop lungs in.  All the pressing down on my belly was to try and locate kidneys.  They couldn’t find any.  My little Baby B had Potter’s Syndrome, a congenital disorder where the absence of kidneys or kidneys that aren’t functioning cause the low amniotic fluid, which then cause the baby to not develop properly for lack of space, as well as lack of lung development.  The doctor found something else with Baby B’s heart.  We were asked to come back in a few days so that a Pediatric Cardiologist could look at the heart to determine what else might be wrong.

I sobbed.  I couldn’t believe what was happening.  I had told my family, my friends, all my students, and my coworkers that we were going in to find out what our babies were going to be.  I remember being so excited for one of my coworkers who was having twins, too.  She was six weeks ahead of me and had just found out a few weeks before that she was having a boy and a girl.  I wanted that, too.  I wanted to feel that excitement.  Instead, I was ecstatic for our little baby girl who was perfectly fine on one side, and my poor Baby B, squished and not able to form properly on the other.

Why do bad things happen to good people?  People have told me countless times that things happen for a reason.  God only gives us what we can handle.  God had a plan.  I don’t know what to say to that.  Despite my upbringing, I’m not a very religious person anymore.  Too many times, I’ve seen religious people turn mean and have treated those I love in a very unkind way.  I’m sure people had good intentions when they said they’d pray for us.  I even had a few people who didn’t believe what the doctors said and that we should just believe in miracles and our Baby B would be just fine.

If anything, we were not “just fine.”  We were anything but.  I don’t even know how we made it through the second ultrasound with the Pediatric Cardiologist.  As if having Potter’s Syndrome wasn’t enough, let’s give him yet another congenital defect that’s fatal!  Baby B’s tricuspid valve wasn’t closing, allowing blood to backwash back into the heart.  Eventually, the cardiologist said, fluid would develop in the heart and around the lungs.  If I were to go full-term with the twins, Baby B would pass away in-utero.

All I could remember thinking at this point was there had to be some way to save our Baby B.  With all the technology available today, couldn’t the doctors do some sort of surgery where they could give the baby a kidney?  And, the cardiologist did say that people can live with Ebstein’s Anomaly.  I’ve seen episodes of “House” – I know they can do surgery on babies while they’re still in the womb.  Of course, that’s just Hollywood.  In real life, if a baby doesn’t develop kidneys, the baby’s lungs won’t develop.  I remember the doctor telling us this in a matter-of-fact way, that our Baby B would not suffer and would slip away peacefully.

Peacefully.  How can losing your baby be peaceful?  It’s anything but peaceful.

1st Trimester

  • Posted on October 11, 2010 at 11:46 pm

Every day that went by, every Sunday that I stood by our dining room wall for a snapshot of my belly, was a step closer to what we wanted so badly:  a family of our own.  Two squirmy, little babies that we would love beyond all measure, dress in ridiculous outfits, and seeing them smile at us for the first time, laugh at their surroundings for the first time, and all the other firsts that come with raising two babies.

Every week, I had to go to the fertility clinic for an ultrasound to see how the embryos were developing.  Right after I arrived for my 6 week ultrasound, I felt I had to go to the bathroom.  I hurried into the bathroom and what I saw made my heart sink.  It felt like the ground dropped from beneath my feet – I was bleeding copious amounts of blood and huge clots.  I thought that there was no way I could still be pregnant and we’d have to start all over.  I kept saying, “no, no, no!” as I passed a few more clots.  I didn’t have any kind of pad or napkins to keep the bleeding at bay, either.  What a mess.  I cleaned myself up as much as I could and went out into the main area of the fertility clinic, telling the nurse in a wobbly voice that I was bleeding large clots.  She told me to wait in the lobby and they’d get me into a room as soon as they could and to try not to worry too much.

My husband was waiting for me when I came back into the lobby and when he saw the look on my face, he knew something was wrong.  I was pale and shaken.  I told him what was happening and we waited together for a room.  It was the longest 20 minutes of my life, it seemed.

When a room was available, we were ushered into the main area and I headed to the bathroom again to try and clean myself up.  Again, I passed some clots and more blood.  I started crying in the bathroom and was terrified to see what was going on inside me.  I didn’t want to know, but I also had to know what was going on in my uterus.  Were the little embryos we saw the week before still there?  Or was there nothing, like I suspected?

I bled on the table while the doctor examined my uterus.  There, on the monitor, were two little embryos, flickering at me.  The doctor said they both had heartbeats.  I had never felt more relief than at that moment.  The bleeding?  The clots?  What of that?  He explained the bleeding and the clots most likely were from my cervix having to compensate for the twin pregnancy – my uterus was already stretching and growing at a faster rate than a singleton pregnancy would.  Most likely, it was a burst blood vessel and it was probably nothing to worry about.  He recommended I stay on bedrest until the bleeding stopped and discontinue the baby aspirin I had been taking.

When I went in for my 8 week ultrasound, the bleeding had gone down to a persistent spotting.  When the doctor examined my uterus, he noted that there was blood in my uterus, which if it didn’t go away on its own, could cause some problems with the pregnancy in the future.  Yet one more thing to worry about.  However, by week 9, the blood clot had thinned out and looked like it was being absorbed by my uterus.

During the entire 9 weeks of monitoring by the fertility clinic, I had to have a Progesterone shot every night.  Because I didn’t produce enough Progesterone on my own, the nightly shot was vital for my pregnancy.  Without it, I wouldn’t have been able to maintain the pregnancy on my own.  I hate my body for that.  If only it would produce enough hormones for me to keep a pregnancy!  Then we wouldn’t have to pay exorbitant amounts of money for the privilege of having a family.

Eventually, I was weened off of the Progesterone – by week 9, my placenta would take over and I wouldn’t have to worry about not producing enough hormones to maintain the pregnancy.  I was released to my regular doctor with my fertility doctors’ blessings.  I missed them.  I missed their professionalism, their kindness, and their expertise.  But, most of all, I missed seeing our babies every week.  I was spoiled rotten by that fact.  Most women who have normal pregnancies don’t even get to see their babies on an ultrasound monitor until at least 8 weeks or later.  Our fertility clinic not only did an ultrasound once a week, but we got ultrasound pictures of them, too.

I was told to go ahead and call my regular OB/GYN and schedule a tentative appointment to come in for my first visit, as long as there were no issues by week 9.  Since there wasn’t, I was able to go ahead with my appointment, not scheduled until the end of the 11th week of my pregnancy.  I was crazy with impatience those two weeks.  I was so used to seeing our babies every week, that being expected to wait for over 2 weeks before I could see them again was pure torture.

That first appointment was frustrating, to say the least.  I don’t want to go into it here, but after being coddled by the fertility clinic, I felt almost neglected by my OB/GYN.  She didn’t seem to think my pregnancy should have been deemed high-risk because of my age and the fact that I was carrying twins.  She harped about my weight, which bugged me because I knew I had gained weight due to the hormones I was on for months and months.  While she was doing the ultrasound, she showed me exactly why the image of the babies was so fuzzy by pointing out the layer of fat on my belly that the ultrasound wand had to scan through.  Gee, thanks for that!  I was scheduled to come back in 4 weeks’ time for another ultrasound.  4 WEEKS????  Seriously?  Why so long?  I was told that once-a-month ultrasounds were the norm for pregnancies.  Again, I felt neglected, but there was nothing I could do.

The 4 weeks of waiting was torture, again.  But, I tried not to worry too much about it and kept myself busy with looking at my ultrasound photos from the fertility clinic.  When my appointment finally arrived, I was 15 weeks pregnant and feeling pretty good about myself.  I was feeling more confident that the pregnancy was progressing nicely.  My OB/GYN did another ultrasound to check the babies out and I remember seeing them on the screen, bouncing around.  They moved more than I had ever seen them move before, which made me laugh, which caused the wand to bounce and the image to move.  Then, she made a comment that kind of startled me, but I brushed it off as probably nothing.

“Hmmmm.  Baby B’s amniotic fluid looks a little low.” She didn’t seem to be too concerned about it, so, I decided I didn’t need to be, either.  The fertility clinic ultrasounds didn’t show anything, and how could something as drastic as low amniotic fluid happen so quickly between 11 and 15 weeks?

I was referred to a perinatologist office for my formal ultrasound at 17 weeks, where we’d finally get to find out the gender of our babies.  Waiting those two weeks seemed even more torturous than the 4 weeks I had waited before.  I wanted to know what we were having so I could start the preparations.  You know, buying clothes, deciding on a crib and changing table, room color, decor, etc.

I remember the excitement during that time.  Each week that passed, I felt more and more confident.  I could not WAIT for that appointment on March 23, 2009.

Infertility 102

  • Posted on October 7, 2010 at 6:16 pm

Once it was established that we would not have a family of our own unless we pursued IVF with ICSI, we decided to forgo buying a house and put all our efforts into starting a family.

This was no easy task.

In no time, I was met with a rather large box of drugs and had to start injecting myself with all sorts of hormones.  The color-coded calendar I had was rather intimidating, not to mention the first time I had to give myself a shot to stimulate my follicles.  I remember my hand shaking with the fear that the shot would really hurt.  I probably shouldn’t have looked at youtube videos about the kinds of shots women have to give themselves for IVF.  I remember one woman had bruises all over her belly from all the shots she had to give herself.

Thankfully, the follicle stimulation shot didn’t hurt… most of the time.  At one point, I had four different shots to take, all at very specific times of the day.  I even had to use a color-coded calendar to help me make sure I was taking the right drugs at the right time.  My husband also had to give me a shot in my hip every night after the transfer, all the way up to the day of the Beta blood test.

During the chaos of the first cycle, I had five ultrasounds in five days.  The fertility doctors had to monitor my follicles to the exact point where they’d be best for retrieval.  My follicles were responding so well to the drugs, one of the fertility doctors was very close to canceling my cycle because I had too many follicles.  Too many follicles can cause the follicles to not grow to the right size for egg retrieval.  Not only that, but my ovaries were maxed out and I was teetering on the edge of Ovarian Hyperstimulation Syndrome, which causes fluid to leak into the abdominal cavity and can be potentially dangerous.

When I look back on all of this, it seems so confusing and so overwhelming.  I really don’t know how I went through it all, other than to say that I had a one-track mind that was focused on nothing but doing what I needed to do to get pregnant.

Pregnant.  It seems like such an easy thing to do.  Egg and sperm meet, baby is conceived, nine months of joyous anticipation for the blessed birth.  This did not happen for us.  I had to shoot myself up with a ton of hormone drugs, have a wand shoved up my hoo ha more times than I could count, and I got very used to almost-strangers looking at my girl parts to the point where it didn’t bother me anymore.  I remember a time in my life that the mere thought of having a well-woman exam scared the crap out of me.  I had to deal with bloating and weight gain and my clothes not fitting me anymore.  But, worst of all, I had to deal with what seemed like EVERYONE around me getting pregnant and having cute, bouncy babies.  EVERYONE but me.

That first cycle seemed like such a surreal dream.  Here I was, standing on the precipice of something I had never experienced before in my life: having a baby grow inside me.  Even though my doctor was tempted to cancel my cycle because of my over-stimulated ovaries, he did not.  Apparently, my follicles grew enough to where they could be retrieved safely.  So, on with the cycle we went and I administered the shot that would ripen my follicles so they could be retrieved.  I went in on a Tuesday morning, my husband driving me to the clinic.  I remember feeling extremely bloated and uncomfortable, and well, nervous.  Who wouldn’t be?  We had just spent thousands of dollars on a procedure that wasn’t a 100% guarantee.

I was asked to undress and wear a hospital gown with the ties in the front.  I didn’t bring a pair of socks, which now that I think back on it, if I had known, I would have totally rocked a pair of cute socks.  I have a whole drawer full of cute, funky socks.  Instead, I went barefoot.  My legs were put into some sort of leg holders and strapped down and I was asked to scootch myself down to the very edge of the bed.  And then, the anesthesiologist put me to sleep.  When I woke up, my lower abdomen hurt and I was completely groggy and out of it.

The news was good, however.  I had produced 17 eggs.  SEVENTEEN!!!!  I couldn’t believe it at first, but then, looking at my swollen abdomen, I did believe it.

17 eggs retrieved, 15 of them were mature, and 14 fertilized.  That is an extremely high number.  Many women end up with maybe a couple of mature eggs and have to repeat the entire first cycle over again.  Two embryos were transferred and the rest were frozen, leaving us with ten embryos.

We were very lucky.

We went in for the embryo transfer.  It wasn’t a pleasant experience at all.  I thought one of the three fertility doctors I had been working with would be there for the transfer.  Instead, I got a doctor I didn’t know and he didn’t know my body very well because he couldn’t get into my cervix.  He had to place a SUTURE on my cervix to bring it up enough in alignment to where he could send the embryos on their way.  It was so painful, I tensed up and had tears rolling down the sides of my face, pooling in my hair.  After the procedure, and the two very best embryos (3-day blastocysts!) were placed through my cervix and allowed to float around in my uterus, I was told to lay there for 45 minutes and the table was placed at an angle where my feet were higher than my head.  I laid there in pain, the 45 minutes slowly ticking by.  Why is it that when you’re in pain and you’re forced to lay there, time moves excruciatingly slow?  My back was killing me because of the awkward angle I was in and all I wanted to do was go home.

Because I had a moderate case of OHSS and the fluid in my abdomen was pushing on my organs to the point where I couldn’t eat more than two celery sticks cut in half with peanut butter, my 2-day bedrest was pure misery.  My poor husband also had to run up and down the stairs to fetch me my breakfast, lunch, and dinner, since the only thing I was allowed to do was go to the bathroom.  I had movies to watch and books to read while I lounged around in bed.  Except, I was in massive pain.  I couldn’t sleep because I had been laying in bed all day and my back hurt beyond all measure because I had been laying in bed all day.

Needless to say, the entire experience of the first cycle was miserable.  I went in for my blood test on July 24th, 2009 and waited on pins and needles for my Beta result.  When the nurse called to tell me I wasn’t pregnant, I completely lost it.

It just didn’t seem fair.  We had put so much hope and faith and so much of ourselves into what we hoped would be the start of our new family.  In retrospect, it was most definitely for the best that I didn’t get pregnant that first cycle, especially considering the OHSS I had to deal with.  A pregnancy would have exacerbated my condition to the point that I could have had my abdomen drained of fluid.  Who knows?  It still hurt to know that it didn’t work.

With the high number of embryos we had, we were lucky that we were able to continue IVF with ICSI without having to go through another egg retrieval.  I told my husband that I didn’t think I could go through that again.  And yet, there are women out there who have to do one for every cycle.  The amount of stress it caused was unbelievable.  The 11 days I had to wait for my results was mind-numbing.  And all the doubt!  When I found out the first cycle didn’t take, I kept thinking it was something I did wrong.  Did I lift something that was too heavy and cause the embroyos to shoot out of my uterus?  What about that time I had a piece of chocolate?  Or how about that coffee?  It had to have been something I did, right?  I mean, two perfectly good, top-quality embroyos were placed in my uterus, floating around in there.  Why didn’t they take?  I guess that’s just how the human body works.

For the second cycle, I had to go in for a practice transfer to make sure they wouldn’t have to resort to putting a SUTURE in my cervix to align it properly.  All this because the doctor who did the first transfer had such difficulty.  The practice transfer went swimmingly well and it was determined nothing was wrong.

The second transfer went fine.  In fact, I felt absolutely no pain and was surprised that I didn’t.  Everything felt so right: I didn’t have any pain, I wasn’t bloated from OHSS, and I knew the doctor doing the transfer.  I was positive the second transfer would be successful.  I would find out a few days after my birthday.  What better birthday present than to have the gift of starting a family of our own?  Instead, I found out my sister-in-law was pregnant with her second child.  The devastation hit me like a brick wall.  I felt so miserable.  I didn’t want to feel jealous, but I did.  I didn’t want to be angry, but I was.  My thoughts were right back to what I was thinking before we started the IVF:  why is it so easy for some women to get pregnant and others, not?  That was a dark time for me.  I felt really, really terrible for thinking the way I did.

I had a few more tests run on me to make sure there was nothing causing my infertility, like polyps or cysts in my ovaries.  I had a hystersonogram just to be sure because he thought it interesting that I said I had spotting for several days before my cycle started and my cramps were out of this world painful.  I told him I thought all women had spotting before their periods – how else would they know it’s coming?  Oh, but that wasn’t true at all.  Most women might have a little spotting a couple of hours before their cycle starts, but not for days before.  This was news to me.  The doctor told me that there might be polyps and/or cysts in my uterus, causing irritation and not allowing the embryos to take hold in the lining, which would also explain the spotting and the horrible cramping I had every month.  He couldn’t find any reason why the 2nd cycle was unsuccessful and wanted to make doubly sure there was nothing in my uterus causing trouble before we proceeded with the 3rd cycle.

He said that if there were no polyps and/or cysts, then it was most likely that I had what was called a dysfunctional cycle.  And, that’s what I have because my uterus was pristine and clear as a bell.

For the 3rd cycle, my fertility doctor felt it would be best if we took a more aggressive approach and transferred three embryos, rather than just two.  Obviously, two embryos didn’t work in the past and I wasn’t getting any younger.  And, with three being my favorite number, and it being our 3rd attempt at a pregnancy, we agreed to have three embryos transferred.

This time, the original doctor we had our consultation with, the one who perused my medical chart and noticed my hormone levels were not normal, was the one who would do the transfer.  I was relieved because I felt he was the best doctor and the most thorough.  This is not to say that the doctor who did our second transfer wasn’t good enough – she was.  I just felt that if Dr. R did our third transfer, maybe we’d have a better chance.

And, we did.  Not only was I pregnant, but I was pregnant with fraternal twins – two of the embryos took.

Oh, I remember the joy.  But, I also remember the anxiety.  Looking back on my pregnancy, I really wish I could have enjoyed it more, but I was too scared I would lose the pregnancy and we would have to start all over again.

Infertility 101

  • Posted on September 30, 2010 at 10:37 pm

My husband and I tried for two years to start a family.  I tracked my cycle for months, peed on sticks ten to twenty days a month, used a fertility monitor (which became just a very expensive cycle tracker), took my basal body temperature for that tell-tale sign of a temperature spike at the ungodly hour of 4:00 AM, and peed on countless pregnancy tests, crying into a towel in the bathroom to hide my sorrow and frustration when none of them said “PREGNANT.” Sometimes, as a cruel joke, my body would wake up at 2:00 AM to alert me that I had to go to the bathroom, but I couldn’t go until at the earliest 3:00 AM.  There is nothing worse than knowing you have to pee, but not being able to for fear of messing up your basal body temperature.

I was told by my OB/GYN that I had to try for a year before we would even be considered for a referral to an infertility doctor.  I knew something was wrong, even before I met my husband.  But, I couldn’t have any testing done until after that coveted year.  I fudged it (we didn’t wait the coveted year), and, even though my doctor knew I did, went ahead and referred us to a fertility clinic.  I had a battery of tests done, as well as my husband, and even though my OB/GYN said my hormone levels were “Normal!,” I still knew something was WRONG.

The fertility clinic we were referred to was nice enough, but we couldn’t escape the feeling that they wanted our money right then and there.  We felt we were being pressured to start the first cycle right away and they were preying on our desperation to have a family.  I didn’t like the feeling of being pressured to start, not even giving us time to research the clinic or the procedures that would be done on me.  The doctor called some number while we sat in his office and spoke in a fast dialogue about the two of us.  It was all rather weird and strange and not something we really felt any comfort with starting.

I went home and researched the clinic we were referred to, as well as other fertility clinics in the area.  It became obvious after I was able to compare fertility clinics that the one we were referred to was not the clinic we would want to use.  Despite all the pictures of happy babies from happy clients decorating the lobby, the fertility clinic we went to had the lowest success rate for a woman my age (35 when we started) compared to other clinics in the area.

After looking over the data available, we decided to go with the clinic that had the highest success rate, with several offices smattered around southern California.  I called to make an appointment and because of my wacky coaching schedule, managed to finally squeeze in a consultation appointment for $250.00.  That’s right… despite having the best insurance coverage I’ve ever had in my life, to the point where I could add my husband onto my plan for free, it did NOT cover the cost of infertility.  My family doctor, bless his beautiful, old soul, managed to get expensive tests done on me that I only had to pay the co-pay for.  If he hadn’t written up the hysterosalpingogram as a necessary test to see why my cycles were so severe, I would have had to pay for the test myself, and that would have just added to the exorbitant amounts of money we would ultimately have to pay.

I brought all my test results, the hysterosalpingogram (normal), my progesterone levels (my OB/GYN said it was normal!), and my husband’s lab results to our consultation.  The fertility doctor looked everything over and said, very succinctly, “Your progesterone levels are NOT normal.  You are producing progesterone, but not enough to maintain a pregnancy.  Your husband’s results are not enough for us to determine whether you’ll need to do an IUI or IVF.”  So, my poor husband had to go and have more tests done.

It was determined that we both had nasty fertility issues, me with low progesterone, and my husband with a Kroger count of 1% (the normal range is 5-6%).  The only available option for us was IVF with ICSI.

Stay tuned… Part 2 in a few days.

And, we’re off….

  • Posted on September 28, 2010 at 5:56 pm

After many years of wanting my own website, I finally created one.  I have been blogging for years and before that, I wrote journals.  I love writing.  I love journals to the point that I have several blank ones, waiting to be filled.  But, my writing stopped on March 23, 2010.  That day, I found out I would lose my son.  I’m using my blog and my new website as an outlet of sorts, to sort through all the heartache, the anger, and the sadness of these past several months.  I also want to write about my IVF experiences and how that changed my views of pregnancy.

I’ve been wanting to also move some of my journal entries from my livejournal account to here so I have an archive that stretches back to 2002, but not sure if I want to even deal with it.  A fresh start might be just what I need and anyone who stumbles upon this site can have that fresh start right along with me.

Time to go… my daughter is squirming for more food.