Friday, March 29, 2013

Is This a Test or a Torture Device?!

December 2012- A Break from Meds and More Testing

A test was set up that I was not looking forward to, a hysterosalpingogram. I knew this would not be an enjoyable experience and I was NOT looking for to it. (As if any part of this is an enjoyable experience, but I digress.) I was ready to have this test done as soon as my doctor suggested it, because we could not move on with further treatment until it was done. The dilemma was this: it was December. Our insurance would not cover this test until our deductible was met. This one test would complete our deductible for the year and then they would pay the rest. I wanted to have it done then, as soon as the doctor set it up. We had this money, let's get this thing done. We could have put it off until January, and then our deductible would be met for this year... makes sense right? Not in my infertile brain. In my brain this would just delay our progress. If we waited until January it would make us "sit out" for two - three cycles. That could be three whole chances of the possibility of pregnancy just out the door... I may procrastinate on some things, but this would not be one of them. The doctor says I need a test... the doctor says she cannot treat me anymore until I have the test... so we did the test.
 
A hysterosalpingogram (or HSG) is a test done by a radiologist where a catheter is inserted through your cervix, a balloon is inflated to block your cervix and then x-ray dye is injected through your uterus and ideally fills your fallopian tubes and spills out into your pelvis. Sounds fun right? But what part of this hasn't been fun? Bring it on.
 
I knew what I was in for. I knew the process of this procedure from ultrasound school. I knew it from the experience of friends. I knew it from my own research. I knew that when my doctor said it would be "rather uncomfortable" translated to *this is going to hurt*. For once I would suck it up and tell my husband that "Yes, I do need you to take off work to take me to this appointment, please." Even though I know that he hates hospitals. I was not offended when he declined the offer to come back with me when the test was being done. If there is anything he hates more than hospitals, it is seeing his beloved in pain. Hospitals don't phase me... watching procedures doesn't phase me. I was thrilled when they fixed the screen so I could watch the x-ray images as they were being taken. The thing that does phase me? Needles... and that catheter was close enough to a needle to get my heart racing. I was so nervous. Okay let's be real here.. I was downright scared.
 
I had taken a light painkiller about 30 minutes before my procedure at my doctor's suggestion. Boy was I glad that I did, I actually wished I had taken a whole one instead of just the half that I took... but the other half would have to wait until afterwards. The catheter was uncomfortable... the balloon however? Holy cow. That was intense. Luckily the "radiologist" doing the procedure and the x-ray tech that was assisting were well aware of this fact and did not try to downplay it. They also knew my medical background, so I assume that they knew pretending that things weren't how they truly were wouldn't work on me... just as that process doesn't work on most people that have ever worked in a hospital or in the medical field.
 
The procedure was rough... it took longer than I anticipated. They had trouble getting the catheter placed exactly right in what the "radiologist" referred to as a small uterus. They had to move me around... a lot... with all the equipment still in place, if you know what I mean. The dye being pushed through was fairly uncomfortable in itself. Let's just say I would be hesitant to want to have this procedure done again, although I am happy they went on and suggested having it done at this point in our journey.
 
I watched the screen. I watched the dye. I saw it spilling out into my pelvis. Good right? Until the "radiologist" says, I think your tubes are narrowed, that can cause fertility issues... and so on and so on... My heart dropped. "What can they do about that?" I asked... he suggested that was a question for my gynecologist. So I left... hurting and feeling so defeated. I was so upset at the idea that there was even more wrong with me than we anticipated. I actually cramped for several days and felt pretty sore after this procedure, although for some people this feeling only lasts for several hours.
 
Soon after I had the follow up appointment with my doctor. "Did you have your test?" "Yes, they said..." and I relayed everything this so-called "radiologist" had told me. She looked concerned and then said, okay let me go pull the report. In a few minutes she came back looking confused. "Who did your test and told you this information?" I told her... describing the "radiologist"... Then she said something that stunned me. "This report says that your test was completely normal. This is no stenosis in either tube, they were completely normal." I'm pretty sure my response was... "Wait... what?" Turns out this "radiologist" was actually a resident and I was his practice case. Now, I know all about such residents... I don't mind my test being done by a resident... but for the Love of God... TELL ME YOU ARE A RESIDENT!! And don't make assumptions about a test before consulting the real radiologist. And don't tell patients there is something wrong with them unless you are 100% certain and have a radiologist to back you up!!! Seriously!! Part of me was so mad that this guy had me so upset and worked up and never once revealed that he was NOT in fact a radiologist yet... but then the reality of what she was saying sank in. After she apologized that I even had to deal with that... My tubes were open! They were open! Hallelujah! All that anxiety over what this guy had told me was wrong with me was gone.
 
Then we received the next part of the plan. A new medication. It was too late in my cycle to take it at that time (because the HSG has to be done between days 7-10 of your cycle), but we were told to keep trying that month, because in lots of cases just the hysterosalpingiogram can actually BOOST your fertility for up to two months! If my body decided to spontaneously ovulate there would still be hope for our Christmas baby being conceived after all!! And if not, I would be given Femara (Letrozole), a medication that works similarly to Clomid but with a different chemical makeup and can have less side effects... in some people.
 
So we tried.... we prayed... we were happy and hopeful.
 
We spent Christmas Eve with my family. I prepared my first big Christmas dinner for the people I loved. I felt so accomplished to have everything decorated and creating a delicious successful meal... my first from-scratch yeast rolls... my from-scratch everything really. Cooking had become my therapy. We oohed and awed over my little nephew playing in the paper during his first Christmas... we laughed together... I looked at the angel wings on my tree we purchased in remembrance of our little one in Heaven. My husband and I talked about how much fun it must be to celebrate Christmas in Heaven... I cried in the bathtub missing my child, wondering how much fun he would have had playing in the wrapping paper with his cousin and the puppy dogs on his first Christmas... after I cried I felt okay but weary from the journey thus far... I went to bed, thankful for the blessings that I was fortunate enough to have.  
 
I started my next period on Christmas day. So much for the thought of a Christmas miracle. We celebrated Christmas together as a couple, just the two of us (well, the two of us and our three pups)... we went to see Les Mis, in our sweats... each of us somewhat melancholy at yet another disappointing failed cycle. At least we had each other. That is what we focused on.
 
Time for the new medicine. New year and a new start right?


Monday, March 25, 2013

It's a Marathon, Not a Sprint!

From where I'm standing, Lord, It's so hard for me to see
Where this is going and where You're leading me
I wish I knew how, all my fears and all my questions
Are going to play out, in a world I can't control
 

June to November 2012

Those six months we were on clomid were each challenging in their own way. You've seen the story of our first round, the next five were less eventful. I only ovulated three times out of the six (that count is including the first round when I was over stimulated). So, in actuality we only had two shots at conceiving out of the six. There were many times in there where we thought we were pregnant, but those symptoms were mostly due to the progesterone supplements I took on the months that I did ovulate. By now you know how sensitive I am to side effects from medication, those supplements are no different. The "tell-tell" signs of pregnancy are mimicked by my body on said hormones... nausea, vomiting, bloating, breast tenderness, extreme fatigue ... etc. etc...
 
Because of the bad reaction I had to the first low dose we took, our doctor was hesitant to increase the dosage even after I had months of anovulation. Even now it seems like those days just dragged... time stands still when you really want things to happen. Every month was the same, the side effects never got better (minus the bout of OHSS I had the first time). I became accustomed to them... so accustomed that I forgot what "normal" felt like. My days were filled by managing symptoms, charting the optimum time for us to try to conceive and putting every twinge I felt under the microscope to see if it could possibly indicate something more than what it was.
 
There were countless moments of discouragement and disappointment. Those moments were often magnified by the announcements of others which seemed to inevitably fall on the days I would have a negative test or got the blood results of failed ovulation. Some people call this Murphy's Law of Infertility. I like that... I like anything that gives me the ability to laugh through our struggle. I saw babies being born... I did ultrasounds for my best friend to tell her that her son was developing perfectly to put her worried mind at ease. I watched her belly grow just as I had watched my sister in law's grow. I am proud to say that she has a perfect son, and I love him dearly.
 
There were countless moments of tears, either through emotional outbreaks from the medicine or the disappoint of yet another failed cycle. But there were also moments of comfort and joy... after joining an online support group I found out I was not alone in my feelings and that makes all the difference. I watched my perfect nephew go through many  milestones (often wondering how my child would look if they were side by side through these milestones). Those six months were a roller coaster really. There was one time I thought I might have OHSS again, but it was a false alarm... just "normal" pains, as if any pain should be labeled as normal... my doctor never once discouraged me from calling and being checked out just to make sure there wasn't anything wrong again. I was grateful for that.
 
On the sixth round my doctor finally made the command decision to increase my dosage, I was apprehensive but anxious to keep things moving forward. It was November 2012. I ovulated that cycle, but still did not get pregnant. We got our negative pregnancy test on Thanksgiving day. It seemed no matter how hard we tried, it just wasn't happening for us. It was a hard day for me to be thankful... but we put on a happy face and made it through the day... after shedding a few tears alone in the bathroom before the festivities.
 
After my last round of clomid, I had a follow up appointment with my doctor before we could move on. She walked in and said "How are you doing?" and before I even had a chance to answer she went on to say "Let me guess, frustrated?!" Talk about hitting the nail on the head. We talked more about me that visit than anything else. That is the joy of having a doctor that talks to you like a friend, you can open up to them... you aren't afraid to tell them how you are really feeling. She offered to put me on antidepressants if I wanted them, but encouraged me to try other routes first. She then ordered more tests on me before we could move on with further treatment options.
 
On that visit she encouraged me to start doing yoga on a daily basis. (We also discussed acupuncture but the cost of the visits ultimately discouraged me from doing so.) I did some research (because, that's what I do...) and ordered a yoga DVD from Amazon. I encourage anyone who is interested to check it out. It is called Restoring Fertility: Yoga for Optimal Fertility. The developer has an entire website devoted to helping increase fertility... www.restoringfertility.com The neat thing about this workout, is that it has a different exercise for every phase of your cycle... If anything doing these exercises has helped with my anxiety level... well that and spending a lot of time in prayer, and in research. Oh, me and my researching... I find myself comforted when I can understand exactly what is going on (or not going on that SHOULD be) in my body. The exercise even helped with the muscle aches and headaches I continued to experience...
 
It was during this six month period that I realized this process, for us at least, was going to take some time. We were running a marathon... a marathon that we had not trained for. Anyone can muscle through a 5K without training... but a marathon?! No way. Every month was a struggle to keep going. But this was the path we were being led down... I had faith in my doctor and faith in myself that we were doing the right thing. I had more and more faith in our marriage... the harder our struggle got, the more we learned to cling to one another instead of pushing away. On this same note... little by little I was learning to lean more on God. Piece by piece I was handing him parts of my struggle to help me carry... it wouldn't be long before I gave him all of it, but that is a story for another day.
 
We still haven't reached the finish line... but we keep on truckin' down this rocky road. At least we are on this road together. "Together" makes all the difference.
 
From where You're standing Lord, You see a grand design
That you imagined, when You breathed me into life
And all the chaos comes together in Your hands
Like a masterpiece of Your picture perfect plan
 
One day I'll stand before You and look back on the life I've lived
I can't wait to enjoy the view and see how all the pieces fit.
 
Song: Already There by Casting Crowns

You Haven't Known Love

I want to break from our story for a second... I've had a bad day, and I want to tell you why...

I know to some people this might sound silly, getting upset over a shared Facebook photo, but on this journey? Sometimes it doesn't take much to throw you off your game. This one cut me to the core.


There have been many times where I've had to take a break from Facebook, hide pregnant people from my news feed, hide pictures, etc... I'm happy to have this option... but on the flip side, you have to see the picture before you hide it, so either way, it is in your face frequently... random surprise pregnancy announcements, people complaining about pregnancy symptoms and so forth. But this one? You haven't known love.

To this I would like to reply.... until you have been put through the microscope in more humiliating ways than you ever thought possible... until you have wrecked your body with every kind of hormone you are deficient in... until you have been jabbed with needles more times than you can count... until you have taken every medicine you are offered to make your body work properly... until you have charted every single day of your cycle and peed on more sticks than you can count, just to give yourself a slight percentage of a chance that you might be able to get pregnant... until someone has said that you can't do something that is one of your greatest desires... you haven't known determination.

Until you have felt your world coming to an end... until you have had to tell your husband that he will not be a father after all... until someone has said "I'm sorry the baby is gone"... until you have passed the tissue of what was your baby... until you have felt like your womanhood was completely stripped away... until you have said goodbye to your child before they even had a chance to live ... until you have said goodbye to someone you love unconditionally with all your heart... you haven't known loss.

Until you have been beaten down by life... until you have been so broken that you were laying in the pile of pieces that was once your life... until you admit that you cannot survive this by yourself... until you would be willing to give anything to be able to give your spouse the child they deserve... until your spouse has to remind you on at least a weekly basis that you are worth everything... Until you have completely handed over your life and fallen into the open arms of JESUS... you haven't known love.


So before you judge those who are childless... take a moment to put yourself in their shoes. The fingers I count are much less in number than the amount pills and supplements I have taken to even be given the chance to try to get pregnant. The toes I count are those my fur-babies that crawl all over me and give me millions of kisses when the pressure of the world is too much and I fall into a heap of tears... The hand that I hold is bigger than both of mine put together, it is the hand of my love, my comforter when I cannot hold myself together... it still sends tingles through my spine even though our journey has been and continues to be more challenging than we ever anticipated. The noses that I kiss are wet and cold and always make me giggle through my pain. The tummy I soothe is often my own due to the countless side effects of the lengths we are willing to go to try to conceive and the hormone supplements I use every month to sustain what might become a pregnancy. The stories I read are to you, in the hopes that if you find yourself in this or a similar situation that you might be comforted in knowing that you are not alone. The booties I have to deal with are accompanied by three wagging tails... that are always anxious to welcome me home and love me no matter what kind of mood I am in. And the tears? Those are often my own... occasionally my husband's... but mostly mine, and they are wiped away by my sweet sweet spouse, who feels my pain, even when he doesn't completely understand why I am hurting.

Now I know this picture is not passed around out of malice... it was not shared as a jab to us infertile women... but that doesn't make it hurt less. One simple little share, the poster probably didn't even think twice about completely broke me down, if just for a little while.

I know love. I know it in a thousand different ways. I know the love that I have for my child even though I will never see his face until I get to Heaven. I know the love of a man who loves me for me and would turn a mountain to rubble with his bare hands if it would make me smile. I know the love of a wide range of friends who have been supportive through my struggle even if they have never struggled themselves. Most importantly... I know the love of our Heavenly Father... who sustains me each and every day... who tells me I am worthy of said love, regardless of where I have been in my life.

That, my friends, is true love. During this Holy Week... take a moment to realize what has been given freely for you. Love. When things in life make you feel unloved, remember... God loves you so much that he willingly sacrificed His son. Christ loves you so much that he willingly sacrificed himself on the cross... If you are going to share stories of love, share them in such a way that it lifts people up... the most loving thing you can do for your fellow man is to share the gospel.

1 John 4:9-11

In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. 10 In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.
 
 
You do not have to be a parent to know love... you do not have to be infertile to know love... anyone can know love. Love is what guides us in this life. Love is what makes the world go 'round. Love is what makes your soul sing. Love is what sustains your marriage and your relationships even when you feel inadequate and unworthy. Love is the whisper from God that says "I am here with you, every second of every day... lean on Me and I will sustain you... I have a plan for you... just trust Me."
 
I know not everyone reading this is on the infertility journey, I know not everyone reading this has lost a child... But the main purpose of this post is this: I want to encourage you, no matter what journey you are on, no matter whether your path is easy or hard, no matter what difficulties you are dealing with today, no matter what kind of pain you are in this very moment, no matter how bad you feel about yourself, no matter what has broken you down... even if you feel totally happy and great today!! ... you need to know... YOU ARE LOVED. You are loved by the one who created love. It doesn't get any better than that.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Clomid, the Jekyll and Hyde of Medicine

June 2012


So there we were with these magic pills that are supposed to make my ovaries work. I felt like Jack with his magic beans... this will work. I knew it. It had to, right? I took them as directed. Whoa.

Now if you do your research... you will find that the risk of side effects from this medicine, especially the low dosage that I was on (25mg), is pretty low. I had all of them.
  • Hot flashes. These were particularly bad at night, I would wake up drenched in sweat. It was gross and uncomfortable. Not to mention that I work in the only doctor's office in the world that is perpetually too hot. Not a good combination.
  • Bloating and abdominal discomfort. Good thing I wear scrubs most days. Whoever invented that drawstring thing is a genius. The other time I would have to spend in either sweats or leggings.
  • Weight gain. Yep, I gained 10+ pounds in a matter of days. That's normal right?
  • Mood swings. Goodness... the mood swings. I could go from being the nicest person in the world to being the angriest in a matter of seconds. Oh and let's not forget the crying. Just one "joke" from my husband could put me in the floor in a pile of tears in no time. This would take some adjustment. We argued, I got mad at anything he would say. Oh you don't want to eat what I cooked for dinner? Welcome to World War 3. Any jokes felt like a good swift kick in the stomach. Instantly I could produce enough tears to fill a salt water swimming pool. It was awful. I didn't feel like myself. I knew my husband had to be wondering where this person came from and how he managed to marry this lunatic... the hardest part was that I couldn't help it. No one warned us that it would be this bad. For that "medicated" week, I didn't even know who I was and why I had no control over this!
  • Nausea. Check.
  • Dizziness. We aren't just talking a little bit. We're talking, try to lay in bed and watch the world spin around you kind of dizziness. Like after taking strong pain medicine and seeing "trails" behind things. Like drinking an entire bottle of wine and then trying to work.
  • Headaches. Ugh. I have battled migraines and chronic headaches all my life. Why not take a medicine that would compound that?
  • Alopecia. To pile on top of how bad I felt about myself... my hair began falling out. Fantastic.
So here I was... with this whole list of things that no one warned me about. Okay so I was warned about maybe one or two. Apparently my sister in law is the Hulk when it comes to taking medication because she barely had any side effects, if only I could be the same way!! I was very sensitive to this medication. You would think that would be a good thing right? I could take this small dose and then voila- PREGNANT!! Nope. Insert severe abdominal pain and more weight gain. Enough to make me call my GYN.

So I went in and they did an ultrasound to see what was going on. "Wow" the girl said... "there's a lot of cysts here." Boy, was there. More than 5 large ones on each ovary, and a variety of smaller ones as well. I knew that stuff was supposed to produce follicles... but that many?

Then I was taken into my Doctor's office, and she closed the door. Well this can't be good. "Are you in pain?" Yes. "How much weight have you gained?" More than I should in a matter of days. "Okay, I'm going to tell you something and it is going to upset you" ... "You shouldn't try to get pregnant this month" WHAT?!? But that's the whole point of THIS!! "You are suffering from OHSS, ovarian hyper stimulation syndrome. The risk of a great number of multiples is too high, and you are my top priority. I think it would be too much of a risk to your health if that was to happen." Tears. "I'm sorry, I know this sucks." What is the risk of this happening? "Well that's the hard part to explain, I have never in my career seen anyone get hyper stimulated from this low of a dose." Ugh. Go figure, me, the interesting case. "I'm so sorry this is happening." At least that was genuine. The thing is, if you get pregnant while suffering from OHSS, it gets worse... much worse... and lasts throughout the first trimester. She got misty eyed herself watching me take all this in. The infertile woman who is now too fertile and told she can't even try for a baby this month. It was awful. Yet another time I regretted telling my husband not to take off work to go with me to an appointment.

When I left I called him on my way home and gave him yet more bad news. I was sentenced to go home and rest. Take the next day off work. AVOID water because that can apparently make the condition worse. Load up on Gatorade and/or PowerAde. No I would NOT be able to run that fun LuvMud 5K we were looking forward to, but I could go and watch, as long as I sat most of the time, and didn't get overheated.  

It was on the way home from that 5K that the cysts began to rupture. Holy cow. It was intense. Miserable. Even with the pain medication. When I got home, all I could do was either lay in the bathtub in the hottest water I could stand or lay in bed on a heating pad... trying to manage the pain. I drank as much as I could... the thirst was indeed excessive. There would be no baby making this month.

Later I would regret agreeing not to try that month. But I would have many "if only" months ahead.

This is when I would begin a strategy to avoid falling back into my depression. I keep a list of blessings in my head. On those bad days I would go through a list of good things in my life. Sometimes it kept the depression away, sometimes it didn't. I still found myself asking many times... "God, why is this happening to me?" "Why does this have to be so hard?" I still wasn't leaning on Him like I should. I should have been casting my burdens upon Him, letting Him help me to carry them... instead I was questioning Him a lot... At least I was talking to Him. FINALLY I was talking to Him on a daily basis. Progress.

I prayed for strength to get through this. At least I didn't have to be admitted to the hospital as many women who suffer from OHSS do, I had a mild case... and if this was a mild case I sure as heck did NOT want to experience a severe one. I would be closely monitored from here on out.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

An Interesting Case

I had just started my first round of fertility medication. I was taking 25mg of clomid for five days. Right after I started the medication I would have my first test, a sonohysterogram (also can be called a sonohys, or a sonohystogram). The reason this test was ordered was that there was a defect in my uterus on a prior ultrasound that my new doctor wanted to see the degree of. I knew this defect was there only because my friend who had done my ultrasound at the previous office showed it to me. Those doctors never even mentioned it, much less that it could cause a problem with me conceiving in the future. But my new doctor was way more thorough... and cautious.

Initially the test was scheduled with the nurse practitioner at my new office who performed these tests quite a bit. When I arrived at the office, I was immediately taken to the secondary waiting room while the sonographer set up the room for my procedure. She took me back, I got undressed and she did a transvaginal ultrasound before the procedure began. I was only slightly nervous about this exam, I had learned about it in school, I knew how things would go... and everyone made me really comfortable there.

A few minutes later the nurse practitioner walked in and said "I'm sorry but I won't be doing your exam today," --oh that's weird, I thought-- she continued "Dr. Williams was able to be here today after all and she would prefer to do the test and see everything herself." I was caught off guard, but in a good way. Oh! Well, great!!

The doctor came in and explained the procedure to me. I wasn't prepared for what she said next. "We have a student studying to be a nurse practitioner here today and I was wondering if you would mind if she and our NP watched?" "No, that's fine, I was a student once too, I understand." So there I was.... in stirrups, spread eagle on this table when the two walked in. "Thank you so much for letting us watch Mrs. Jewell... it's just that you're such an interesting case, we don't get to see cases like this too often." Great... I remember being a student... getting excited about the "interesting" cases. NO ONE wants to be an interesting case however. An "interesting" case means you have something wrong with you that most people don't. I never realized until that moment just how uncomfortable it felt to be that "interesting" case. Especially on a gynecology table where they were face to face with my goodies... But it was what it was. I really didn't particularly mind being the subject their learning experience, however I wished I didn't have to go through any of it. Honestly, I just didn't want anything else to be wrong with me.

Based on previous ultrasounds, they thought I had a partially septated uterus. A septate uterus is a congenital malformation, where the endometrium is split to some degree, this can range from a mild septation to a complete septation. In some cases this causes no problems... but in others it can cause implantation issues, miscarriages, preterm labor, etc...

Initially I was told that this procedure might be a little uncomfortable. Whoever said that has never had this procedure done. It HURT. It was not your normal pap smear speculum. This thing felt like a 16th century torture device. Then the catheter was inserted through my cervix. "You might feel a little pinch"... yeah, I almost came off the table. Tears ran down my cheeks... I wasn't crying, it was just a reaction from the pain. She was so sweet about it though when I told her it hurt. She talked me down and I was OK. The speculum was out and the fluid was about to be inserted. She warned me that I could feel heavy cramping as my uterus filled with saline. Oh boy... I did. They let me watch the screen though, and that occupied my curious mind enough to finish the procedure. All in all, the procedure didn't take too long. When I was done, I was SO uncomfortable. She gave me some Advil and a sprite.... and I waited for a diagnosis. At that point, I wished I had taken Mike up on his offer to take me to this appointment. I was not prepared for how uncomfortable I would be... and I was not looking forward to the 30-45 minute drive home.

After she looked over everything, she brought me into her office to talk to me about a diagnosis. I actually had an arcuate uterus. This was good news. An arcuate uterus is an anomaly where there is only a mild indention in the endometrium, and not a septation.

More good news... I was told this type of mild defect is not commonly associated with reproductive issues, although she warned me that although it is not common, it could become a problem. If it was to be a problem in the future she said it could be surgically repaired. The risk in that instance is that scar tissue can form in its place and theoretically cause the same kind of problem that the arcuate uterus could possibly cause in the first place. So which is the lesser of two evils? We would move on as planned from here on out. I was praising God for this not being as bad as she initially thought. More good news? I had follicles forming within my ovaries on both sides... she said this was a good sign that they were being stimulated by the clomid.

I left very achy... very ready to be home and called Mike and told him (once again) "you were right... I should've let you drive me... that was awful!" But we were both happy for the good news. We were cautiously hopeful that this would not become a future problem. I was exhausted. I went home... took some pain meds, a bubble bath and waited for a new day.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

How Miscarriage and Infertility can Grow Your Marriage

In Lieu of offering the next chapter in today's post, I would like to focus on a topic in honor of our wedding anniversary. Yes, you read that heading right...

How Miscarriage and Infertility can Grow Your Marriage

 
 
Or at least, how it grew ours...

I know what you're thinking. I know what you've heard. A lot of marriages fall apart after the loss of a child, no matter the age of the child. A lot of marriages fall apart during the "infertility journey". I've heard it a thousand times... a thousand different stories of women who are struggling with this alone. My heart breaks for those women.
 
Here are a few mistakes we made at the beginning of this journey:
  • We expected each other to read the other's mind. I know this is a common problem in general for us women, but I found him doing it too. I wasn't telling him when I was sad, I was lashing out at him because I was angry that he couldn't just 'sense' when I was having a bad day.
  • He wasn't telling me that he was feeling the pain too. Some men are so stoic, and my husband is definitely one of those men. He commonly joked at the beginning of our relationship that he didn't have feelings. Once that facade cracked however... he was human after all.
  • I am naturally a crier, but I wasn't telling him when I just needed to 'get it out' and when I needed his support and kind words. So a lot of the time I cried alone no matter what the case was.
  • I took my anger with myself out on him. Mostly in the form of a bad attitude.
  • He never got angry. [Yes, this is a mistake... because anger held in is volatile]
  • I was trying to carry all of the burden on my own, I believed everything that was happening was my fault and I was ashamed and guilty.
  • I was focused on getting pregnant again. It became my top priority.
  • Honestly, I half expected him to bail at any moment. I was the infertile one. I had lost our baby. I was the one who was an emotional wreck.
  • We weren't prepared for the side effects of our treatment.
 
Then there was a long long long night of fighting... post breakdown.
 
Here is how we fixed some of those mistakes:
  • He told me that a lot of times he needed me to tell him when I needed him and exactly what I needed from him.
    • I know in our subconscious we wish that we did not have to do this, that if he really knew us he would just know what to say and when to say it! Right?! Yeah, right. Life doesn't work that way. How can he give you exactly what you need when he has no clue what that is??
  • I told him I needed him to be more emotional.
    • I know in guy mind this is crying over weepy chick flicks and such. I just needed to know that he HAD emotions... for me and for our baby in heaven and for how all of this infertility stuff just sucked.
  • He checked up on me more... more genuine questions... "How are you really doing today?" "Do you need anything?" "Is there anything I can do for you?"
    • I also found myself reaching out to him more in the same way... him initiating these questions reminded me to do the same for him.
  • We agreed to be honest about our anger. When we were having a bad day and someone was being crabby... the other would say "Okay, now tell me what you are really upset about."
    • This immediately catches the other person off guard and makes them stop the hissy fit and focus on the real problem. Then you can work it out together.
  • I know I've mentioned this before, but he never placed the blame on me... he always used the term we. The more I heard him say this, no matter whether the subject was our loss or infertility or being childless... he always said we. ALWAYS. He never even let one "she" slip. He still hasn't.
  • We finally both knew we were in this together.
    • Yes I am the one going to the appointments... I am the one having blood drawn every 4 weeks. I am the one who had the painful tests. I am the one on medication that wreaks havoc on my body in ten different ways. But HE is the one who always brings out the we. (I can't emphasize the importance of this enough, if there are any men out there reading this) "Okay so what do we do next?" "When do we test again?" and so on... and finally I accepted the fact that he would be by my side no matter what.
  • We prayed together.
  • He read me bible stories, teaching me countless things I had never learned before.
  • We went to church together.
  • He bought me flowers more often.
    • This is the one way ticket straight to my heart. Flowers always make me smile, no matter how sad or angry I am. This was a simple way to show that he loves me. He still does this... in fact, I'm staring at beautiful red roses as we speak. And YES flowers from the grocery store count!! I want to be frugal too ya know!
  • We re-read passages from the book we had to read during our premarital counseling.
    • Love and Respect by Dr. Emerson Eggerichs. I recommend you have this book in your home no matter what is going on in your life. I can't tell you how much it helped us grow as individuals AND in our marriage.
  • We put GOD first. Next on the list was our marriage.
    • I know battling infertility and loss can make getting pregnant your top priority. Don't do that... YES it is important, but without GOD being first and your marriage being the most important thing after Him, your marriage will suffer.
  • We agreed to follow whatever path God was leading us on.
    • This was a tough one... and it would take me a while to fully trust in this path, but now that I have, it has taken so much tension and pressure off of us. I'm not saying our life is all rainbows and butterflies since we made this decision, but I can truly say it is a thousand times better.
  • He learned to take things in stride when I was medicated.
    • Fertility medicine can wreak HAVOC on you emotionally and physically. I was/am a basket-case during those days. I'm talking full on Jekyll and Hyde. So, I tell him exactly when I start medications so he can be prepared.
  • We stopped fighting over the little things.
    • Once you face "real problems" in life... the little stuff just doesn't seem to hold any significance. Sure, there are times I get irritated when the kitchen sink is full and there is random "stuff" laying all around the house the day after I clean the entire thing... but really? Is that something to fight about?! Come on! They're just dishes... it's just laundry... etc...
  • We say "I love you" more.
    • A simple gesture that can change the world.
  • We learned to joke about our situation.
    • It takes the pressure off... especially if you're having one of those "everybody is pregnant but me" days... like after you hear that someone 6-10 years younger than you is unexpectedly knocked up, or that girl who has 3 children by 3 different people is suddenly "with child" once more after a drunken night at the club...

Our marriage is not perfect... NO marriage is perfect! But it is perfect for us. We are beyond happy together. You just have to make the best out of whatever situation you find yourself in... the most important lesson here is to not alienate your partner. Lean on each other!! You are PARTNERS! Remember that, when you feel yourself getting mad or irritated! You are on the same team, you are fighting the same battle... and you do NOT have to do it alone!

Marriage isn't easy... it takes work. But the work is the fun part! Work to love one another more and more everyday! Then, together... you can overcome anything!

Bottom line. I would not be able to do any of this without him. I would not have survived our loss without him. I would not be able to battle our infertility without him. He is my strong fortress when I feel like the world is caving in on top of me. I am constantly amazed at the man he has become... at the HUSBAND he has blossomed into. He is my rock. He is my soul mate. He is my God-given partner and I love him beyond what any words can describe. We have been through so much in our short time together, but it feels like we have been together a lifetime. I wouldn't trade one second with him for a thousand years with anyone else.

Monday, March 18, 2013

A New Start... and a Plan

Beginning of June 2012


Believe it or not, finding a doctor was an easy task. When my sister in law had her baby, I was amazed at how her doctor treated her as not only as a patient but as a caring friend, offering "suggestions" to her instead of telling her how she thought everything should go. She had urged me to go to this doctor before but I didn't want to change at that time. Now? I was ready... I was MORE than ready. I never wanted to step foot back in my regular doctor's office again! And I haven't! (well except to pick up my medical records)

So, I called her doctor... got the nicest receptionist I have ever spoken to on the phone... "I would like to make an appointment with Dr. So and So please."... "Oh, Absolutely! Have you seen her before?" "No, ma'am." "Okay well it might be a couple of weeks before we can get you in as a new patient, is that okay with you sweetie?" "Yes!" if I had anything it was time right? I got an appointment just in time to start medication for my next cycle, if that's what she wanted to do.

In the meantime, I went on a trip. A much needed trip with my mother to the beach. A few days in the sand and sun and outlet malls. I thought of our baby so much on that trip, I spent a lot of time deep in thought, scared of what was to come, going over and over what had brought us here in the first place... but by the end of it I was really missing my husband and ready to start our "infertility journey"

 
 

My first appointment at the new office had finally arrived. I was ready. Scared but ready. I waited all of about 10 minutes before I was taken back to a room. Already an improvement from the hour and a half long waits at the previous office. Once they did my vitals, I waited for the doctor, who was in the room before I knew it. She introduced herself then asked me a few questions... then suddenly she stopped and looked at me and said "you look so familiar, have we met?" Wow yeah once. "We met when you delivered my nephew, 'the mom' is my sister in law." "Yes! I knew I recognized you!" Even more progress. Talking to her was like talking to a friend I had known forever. There was no intimidation, there was no talking down to me, there was only her talking me like I was a person that she cared about!! Talk about PROGRESS!! We went over everything that had been done so far. What my labs were, what they should be, what isn't working. The she asked how I wanted to go about this.

She gave me a list of options:
  • We could keep trying naturally for a while.
  • We could try clomid.
  • We could try naturally and then add progesterone later.
  • We could try clomid and progesterone supplements together.
Then she gave me her recommendation... first she asked how badly we were ready to get pregnant? I had told her about her first pregnancy and all my feelings, etc. I told her we were ready to be parents yesterday. She giggled and then said, "okay then. If we are going to do this, I think we should give it all we've got! Here's what I think we should do to give you your best shot..." So there was a plan. I would take clomid on days 5-9 of my cycle. We would start taking ovulation tests on day 9 until I got a positive one and then a negative one. We would start progesterone supplements 3 days after a positive ovulation test and continue them until I either started my period or through the first trimester if we were to be pregnant. She also recommended that we continue charting using the basal body temperature thermometer. She also wanted me to have a sonohysterogram (an ultrasound guided test where your uterus is filled with saline and the interior of the uterus- the endometrial cavity- is evaluated). I left feeling confident... confident about our plan and confident that she REALLY wanted to help us. Just the fact that she cared brought me so much comfort. I was so grateful that she had come into our lives! I remember thinking on the way home... "Okay God, I'm ready... let's do this!" I'm always comforted when there is a plan of action, a direction to head that I can focus on.

I was not prepared for how my body would react to that first round of medication...
____________________________________________________________

If you are starting your infertility journey, the first thing I would ask you is... How do you feel about your doctor? If you have a good relationship, fantastic! If you are iffy... LOOK AROUND! So many doctors these days treat you like just another patient. This is a journey where you need your doctor to be an advocate for you! If you feel like you aren't being treated as well as you should... then that very well might be the case. I know it can be hard making a transition to a different doctor, especially if you have been going to the same one forever. Find someone who has been in your situation, ask them about their doctor, the tests they've done etc... Do research on what should or should not be done in your situation, ask questions... LOTS of questions. Write them down so you don't forget them. Don't be afraid to asks for tests to be done. BE YOUR OWN ADVOCATE TOO.

Second... This process is overwhelming! You are going to need a 'sister' to lean on through this that completely understands what you are going through. Find a support group or someone you can call, text or e-mail when you have questions or thoughts or just need to vent! I understand no one wants to be a member of the 'sisterhood' of women who have lost babies and/or are infertile, but I can tell you that you won't find a better friend than someone who has walked in your shoes. If you are in need of a support group I can recommend one to you. If you need a friend... I'll be your friend. I am here to answer anything you want. thejewells319@gmail.com

You always think the only thing you need to get pregnant is a man... but in our case, we need a doctor too... and a WHOLE lot of faith... and a WHOLE lot of support!!

Sunday, March 17, 2013

May

I had my blood drawn in May 2012 and was told that they would have the results in a day or two. I waited... no call... I called, left a message... no call... waited again... no call... Called AGAIN, left another message... no call... After over a week of trying to get the results to ONE blood test, I was angry. I was beyond frustrated with how that office had treated me with my miscarriage, now they won't even tell me about a simple blood test?! So I called again, insisting on speaking with SOMEONE. So I get my doctor's nurse. I told her I had been trying for over a week to get the results to my progesterone test. Her response was, "well the doctor is too busy to look at your results." "Too busy? After a week?! Can't you tell me anything?" after a very loud obnoxious huff... she says, "fine, it's low" "What do you mean low?" "I mean, low... abnormal" "Okay... so I'm not ovulating?" another huff "Probably not" ... "When will I hear from the doctor?" "Whenever she has time to look at your results." "Well, since she is so busy, when will that be?" "I don't know!" "Okay, well she had talked to me about getting on clomid if I wasn't ovulating. Will that be called in?" "No... you'll have to see her first." "Well when can I see her?" another huff then she gives me an appointment.

This all transgressed on the day my beautiful nephew was born. I was angry about the call. I was upset that my body wasn't working. I was overwhelmed about my nephew's birth. So I found a place to go cry quietly alone for a few minutes. *breathe Stephi, you've gotta get through this day* So I would hold most of it in until I got home. That day wasn't about me. It was about my beautiful sister in law and my amazing brother and the birth of their child. Medication worked for her... maybe it would work for me too. Ethan's birth gave me hope.

My nephew was perfect. Beautiful. Ethan James was in the world. My first thought was, I wish I was holding my baby. But I was overwhelmed with joy for my brother and his wife. So I held him and cried. He was perfect and healthy. It was such a long happy sad emotional day.

I would let it all out when I got home.


 

Soon, it was time for my appointment. This would be my last appointment at this office. After being tossed around during our loss then the fiasco to even get lab results... I was fit to be tied... then there was the straw that broke the camel's back. The doctor that I had been seeing for nearly 10 years, since I was 17 walks in and says. "Hello Stephanie, I'm dr. so and so, I hear your having trouble getting pregnant and want to get on clomid?" Hold on... you're introducing yourself to me as if you've never seen me? "Uhm, I was in here a few weeks ago, you did my yearly checkup, I've been seeing you since I was a teenager... and YOU were the one who wanted to prescribe me the clomid..." She had this deer in headlights look, looks through my chart... and then gives a half hearted... "Oh yeah..." I got my prescription and left. I stopped at the front desk and immediately told them I would need a copy of my records and wouldn't be back, I was finding another doctor. Getting those records was the best $25 I ever spent, of course they were 'too busy' to get them right then, I would have to come back to pick them up in a week or so.

I had done as much research as I could do on progesterone deficiencies and annovulation, they all had the same conclusion... infertility. I hated the idea of that 9 letter word... I-N-F-E-R-T-I-L-E. It made me feel like a disgrace. Like I hadn't felt like that enough when we lost our baby. Now suddenly, me saying "I'm not worried about getting pregnant" to my mother seemed ludicrous. How did I not know there was something wrong with me? First I had a new mission. I was finding a doctor that actually wanted to help me. Not just a careless office that herds you through the doors like cattle.

Then I went home... thinking the same thing I had thought a thousand times prior, but now it was more compounded... "God, why is this happening to me?"

I told my husband everything... at this point I fully expected him to want to trade me in for a newer better model of a woman, one who could carry his babies... one who was capable of giving him babies. I had never felt more like a failure. His response? "We will do whatever we have to do"... there he goes again with the "we"... never laying the blame on me, taking some of the burden upon himself instead. He was also tested that month, and passed his test with flying colors. Even though he had no issues himself, he would still help me carry this burden.

There was some good news that month, however... our sweet Sophia was getting better. Although our vet warned us that she could go up and down for a long time... for this time, she was better... and she became a light of hope in our broken world. This little puppy was living evidence of answered prayers and miracles...

Saturday, March 16, 2013

The Secret Garden

A relationship with God isn't instant gratification... although you feel different. You don't decide just to give Him your heart one day and then suddenly your life is perfect. No one's life is ever perfect... no matter how it looks from the outside.

A relationship with God is a lot like putting together a garden. First you have to decide whether or not to build the garden. Building anything is work. You have to put in the time and labor. The good news is, this garden doesn't cost you anything... The price has already been paid.

John 3:16 "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life."

1 Timothy 15-16 "The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am foremost. But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life."

Then, you have to cultivate the land. You have to give over your whole self. The good and the bad. The land has to be cleared and tilled, some might say the land needs to be broken down ... and sometimes healthy dirt needs to be brought in to enrich the soil. God can do this for you. He can wipe your slate clean.

1 Corinthians 3:9 "For we are God's fellow workers. You are God's field, God's building."

Someone has to plant the seeds. At times, these seeds are already there in your heart... waiting to be properly planted. Other times, you are broken down before the seeds even come to light. But you need the seeds to grow. It can be a dear friend who loves you that simply says in your time of need "God loves you... and so do I, you are worthy of love... so much love". It can be something you heard on TV about faith... something you heard in church about 'new life' and being forgiven. It can be a piece of scripture you randomly come across when you were begging for a sign. It comes in many different forms... but commonly it is realized by a central feeling. The seed is that tugging on your heart. That nagging feeling... when God is whispering "I am here... come to me..."

Matthew 13:31-32 "The kingdom of heaven is like a grain of mustard seed that a man took and sowed in his field. It is the smallest of all seeds, but when it has grown it is larger than all the garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches."

Next, you have to invest time... getting to know God and listening to his word. His word is like the water to a dry garden... he is the living water. Only God can fulfill your true thirst and your real hunger. And when you dive in... you want more and more.

Isaiah 44:3 "For I will pour water on the thirsty land, and streams on the dry ground."

John 4:14 "But whoever drinks of the water I give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life."

Over time, it is your responsibility to weed the garden. You have to get rid of all those bad habits that you collected over the years that drag you down. You do NOT have to be perfect. As a human here on earth, there is no perfection. Changing is hard labor, it isn't easy, but it is a labor of love. These weeds of anger and resentment will be replaced by mercy and forgiveness. Go slowly if you need to, God has patience. Let's face it... humans are creatures of habit. It's our nature to want to keep living as we have been... but once you give yourself over to God... you become an example of His grace and mercy... you never know who is watching, who might be led to God by your example. Lucky for us, we have a guide book on how to live in this broken world, The Bible.

Titus 3:5 "He saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy"

Matthew 13: 37-39 "He answered, 'the one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man. The field is the world, and the good seed is the sons of the kingdom. The weeds are the sons of the evil one, and the enemy who sowed them is the devil. The harvest is the end of the age, and the reapers are angels."

This growing trust in God is like fertilizer that allows you to grow both spiritually and emotionally. Soon enough the gardens will begin to sprout new life. God has given you this new life.

Colossians 3: 2-4 "Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on Earth. For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is our life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory." 

There will be bad days full of high winds and strong storms, but with God as your strong foundation... you will not be overcome. His love will shine down upon you through it all.

James 1: 12 "Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him."

Psalm 34:18 "The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit."

John 16:33 "I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world!"

Soon you will see beautiful blossoms... as all these pieces fall into place. You will realize that God has a plan for you. Will you trust him in that plan? Even if it isn't always easy? The most important thing to keep in mind is that God does not make mistakes. He chose you... He loves you... He wants to be in your life just as He wants to be in mine.

No matter how overgrown my land had become with sin and anger and pain... God renewed me. He continues to renew me every day. And I continue to see more and more blossoms opening to show their beauty to the world. Though the path was hard... it continues to be hard. I wasn't ready for the next leg of our journey. I wasn't ready for how hard our path would truly become. I wasn't ready to fully trust God yet, I thought I was... but I was not... I would get there though, slowly but surely.



If you are intrigued by this garden idea... I highly recommend reading Crossroads by William Paul Young. It is amazing. I also recommend that you read his first book as well The Shack.

Friday, March 15, 2013

A Gift from God

We disagree about our due date. My 'fertility friend' app had said April 21st while Mike's pregnancy app said April 19th. We finally agreed to disagree and gave ourselves the date of April 20th. We were never given an official due date by our obstetrician because all hell had broken loose the Friday before that appointment. So although we feel the desire for our child every day, that is our day to celebrate what would have been our child's "birth" day.

I was so scared for experiencing those days, the apprehension... the sadness was palpable, it was like feeling the loss all over again. I cried a lot. I spent a lot of time in the shower, (because isn't that the best place to cry?!) I also cried with Mike that weekend. He was feeling it too, though not as acutely as I was, I could feel the emptiness in my belly. It brought me comfort to see him wishing our child was in our arms rather than in Heaven as much as I did.

We talked about our baby a lot. We knew it was purely selfish of us to want our baby with us. I mean our baby was born to heaven! How amazing is that? Our child would never have to feel any pain or sorrow or disappointment. Our child would experience nothing but joy and the love of God. How awesome is that?! As for us? We were feeling all of it.

The day passed slowly. Very slowly. Very very slowly. For most people it was just another day, but for us... we felt like we were drowning in our sorrow. But we survived. I remember praying that night, asking God to kiss our baby for us and to tell him "happy 'birth' day" from mommy and daddy, and that we can't wait to get there and all be together... one big happy family.

I had several dreams about being a mommy when I was pregnant. In most of those dreams we had a little boy... in a few though it was a girl. We didn't know for sure what our baby was. The only name we ever agreed on was a girl's name... "Lily". This was not our Lily, that didn't feel right... so that name would be saved for later. We could not agree on a boy's name, then we lost the baby... and for a while it felt like it no longer mattered. Then I read Heaven is for Real.  Then suddenly it seemed to matter again, after I realized that our baby was born to heaven. There is a part in this book where the husband is talking about the miscarriage and how they joked to one another that they couldn't agree on a name. So they began to tell each other whoever got to heaven first would get to name the baby. That became our joke. It still is. It's like a race... whoever crosses the finish line first gets naming rights to our little one. It makes us laugh, it brings us comfort...

After we survived the day, it was time for bed. I fell asleep quickly. Sleep has always been a difficult thing for me. I sleep fitfully, I toss and turn. I have night sweats. I usually have nightmares. The kind of nightmares that are so bad, you don't even want to tell people any of the details. This night would be different. You know how sometimes in a dream you just appear in a place? ... this is what happened:

Suddenly we were in a hospital room. It was just Mike and myself. I was pregnant. VERY pregnant. I looked at all of the monitors I was hooked to. I looked at the type of room I was in. It was a maternity ward. I was having a baby! I was in labor, but I wasn't in any pain. We were holding hands, laughing. He was touching my belly, feeling it contract. Then suddenly it was like a time shift. I had the baby. He was in our arms. We were crying. He was beautiful. He had my eyes and Mike's thick head of hair. He was perfect. We had a son. We had a son. It was glorious. He was smiling up at us with those big blue eyes. We laughed about still not having a name. We pretended to argue about who would name him. We stared at him forever. Then as sudden as it began, it was over.

I woke up. I was in my bed. My baby was in heaven. I cried. We had a son. I knew this was my gift from God... for our child's "birth" day. I was thankful... I was missing my child more than ever. My arms were empty. No baby. But I had that moment.

I will cherish the memory of that dream for the rest of my life. I haven't had a dream about our baby since... except for my daydreams... I still thank God for this night. My most cherished memory of our first baby.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Bad news and MORE bad news...

Sweet Sophia

 
Our first night with Sophia was good... Mike was concerned that she wasn't eating but I assured him it was just because she was a young puppy in a new environment, besides, we had enough bad luck... of course she was fine. Copper could care less about her... and Isabella had a new friend.
Our first full day with Sophia was not so good... she started throwing up... a lot. To the point where we took her to the emergency vet. We thought she would be fine. Then she tested positive for Parvo. Parvo is a very contagious virus in dogs that attacks the intestinal system. It causes severe diarrhea and vomiting which leads to dehydration, and death in some cases... especially puppies. We had to sign a waiver agreeing to pay a large amount for them to keep her overnight and give her IV fluids. We also had to agree to pick her up by 7AM the  next morning and take her to our own vet.
My husband and I argued on the way home about the money. It would be over $400 for that one night... how much more would it be at our vet? But I couldn't just let her die!! I had lost my baby and couldn't do anything about it... I was NOT about to lose this puppy that we could potentially help!! I was determined. And he agreed to at least see how much it would cost.
I called our vet after I picked her up and they would see her immediately. They could only give me an estimate of the cost, we would have to see day by day what she needed. She also had a cough and some sneezing and watering from her eyes so as they were running their own test they also suggested that she be tested for distemper. An even deadlier disease. They said the chance was slim that she had it but they wanted to make sure. I agreed. It was going to be a wait and see process. In the meantime... I called the animal shelter we had gotten Sophie from and told them of her diagnosis. They were about to call us. Soph's sisters had died. All of them. The boys of the litter were fine, they were in a different area as the girls. She was already one step ahead of the rest... and they agreed to pay the vet bills.
A few days later we received the results of the other tests. She had distemper as well. Nearly a death sentence for puppies... she had a 20% chance of survival if she only had distemper, but she had gotten parvo as well and her chances were even lower. And I was heartbroken.
"God please help her... please don't let her die too. I can't take it. I can't lose her too!! God please help us!! You were faithful with the financial aspect... please get her through this."
Distemper attacks basically every system in the body. It began in her respiratory system then progressed to her intestinal system which made her susceptible to parvo. We knew eventually it would attack her nervous system... but we didn't know how badly. We visited her every day, sometimes twice a day, while she was in the animal hospital. She was quarantined from all other animals. They kept a radio on so she wouldn't feel alone when the nurses weren't with her. Mike helped me find K-Love on it so she would hear joyful music all the time.
We got a miraculous Easter present... we got to bring our little girl home. Since I had experience in the medical field they said it would be better for me to treat her at home than for her to be there alone all weekend. I was ready to nurse this pup back to health.
It was hard... she was so sick... we took turns sleeping in the guest bedroom with her... terrified that she would die in the night without us knowing it. We kept her airways clean so she didn't suffocate... we kept her hydrated with pedialyte. We gave her every bit of medicine we could. I researched distemper and how to also treat it holistically. I gave her vitamins... I ordered special vitamins online. Our vet was okay with that because her system was so depleted they said any vitamins could help. She was so fragile. I didn't even realize how much of a distraction she was to me that month, the month that our baby was supposed to be born into the world.
She got better and then she would get worse... and back and forth it would go.
 
Then I started my next cycle. No baby. Try and try again.
 
But at that time I was too distracted willing Sophia to fight and live.

 
 

Annual "Check-up"

Next it was time for my yearly appointment with my GYN. She asked if we had started trying again... I said, yes since we were cleared in October. I broke down in tears, telling her about how sad I was sometimes... and the baby shower... and how I thought we would've been pregnant by then. She did my exam... and as we were finishing up she said "You know... you're awfully thin. Have you always been this thin?" ... Yes. "Well do you want to check your progesterone to make sure your ovulating? It's a common problem in women who are super thin like you."... Uhmm.... Okay. I agreed. This had to be checked on a certain day of your cycle so we made the appointment to come back May 4th for the blood test to check this level. In the meantime I would do so much research on progesterone that I thought my computer would explode. I mentioned it to Mike that night... the more I read the more anxious I got... Could I not be ovulating?! But I'm in great health... why do all these sites keep mentioning this type of "infertility" ... But I was healthy. I didn't smoke. I had never done any drugs. There's no way I could be infertile... I was too young to be infertile! My mom never had any problems... My mind was racing. Then I had more important things take over my mind... Our due date was fast approaching. And the anxiety was growing with it.
 
In the meantime... I would take care of Soph to the best of my ability. I prayed over her every day and night. Real genuine prayers... healing prayers. Unselfish whole hearted prayers. I was learning to pray... and give thanks for our blessings. I was trusting that God would see her (and us) through this ordeal. And I MEANT it. I TRUSTED him with this. COMPLETELY. And that was major progress. I still wasn't where I needed to be, but I was learning.


March Madness

Mike and I had talked about getting another dog for a while. We agreed that if we weren't pregnant within 6 months of our loss we could get one... so it was time to look around. He found one he fell in love with and when I saw her picture I fell too. She was in Forrest City, Arkansas and we would be able to get her March 31st. That happened to be the day of my sister in law's baby shower as well. Good... at least I would have a distraction after the party.

Motivated by a strong sense of guilt by not being more involved in her pregnancy, I finally forced myself to volunteer to help out with her shower. I will admit that I had previously denied a request to do so by the other two hostess... her best friend and her brother's wife. They were very understanding. But I felt awful... I felt awful for weeks so finally, I volunteered. I was put in charge of some decorations and games... I went to party stores and would stand in the baby shower aisle... and then my heart would begin to race... pound actually. I would break out into a cold sweat. I would feel sick. Then I couldn't breathe. Then I would run out of the store and sit in my car and cry, feeling like I was hyperventilating. This would be the first of several panic attacks in those weeks. I was prescribed anxiety medicine. Not for daily use, but for those "panicked" times... like the upcoming shower. I ended up making the decorations myself, terrified of these stores. I was even more terrified of going to the "baby" stores. I bought most of our presents online. The one I had to get at the store, my husband took me. We went in and out as fast as possible. He always made things easier... making me laugh when I was about to breakdown in tears.

Then I started my next cycle... still no baby. Still more tears. Still more anxiety. But at least we were growing our four legged family.

At last it was THE day. We got up early to go get our new pup. We were so excited. She was adorable. We named her Sophia. It was fantastic to have that time of joy and laughter before I had to get ready to go to the shower.

One of my best friends attended the shower with me. I needed a wing man- so to speak. And I was thankful for her. The shower went great, although I panicked as soon as I drove up. This was the first time I took the anxiety medicine. I was grateful for it... soon, my pulse returned to normal and I was able to be okay. I had to excuse myself three times to the bathroom to cry, I survived. The games were better than most lame baby showers, lol. Everyone seemed to have a good time. The food was excellent. But the most important thing... my nephew had lots of new goodies and his mommy was happy. That made me happy.

You see, it wasn't easy for her to get pregnant. I knew she never took one moment of it for granted... and I knew she felt sorrow for me and our loss too, and I hoped she knew how genuinely happy I was for her... and Ethan. My perfect little nephew. Who's arrival was greatly anticipated.

I thanked God all the way home... for getting me through that day. And my faith in Him was growing. Slowly but surely. I had a husband and a new puppy to get home to. I was thankful for that too.