very inspiring blogger award

20140726-very-inspirational-blogger-award

I am truly honored to be nominated by My Perfect Breakdown and F*%k Infertility for the Very Inspiring Blogger Award. I have tremendous admiration for these two bloggers and am continually inspired by their raw, courageous, and honest accounts of their difficult journeys. I felt quite touched when I first saw my name on My Perfect Breakdown’s post. To be nominated a second time by F*%k Infertility warms my little heart.

(Since writing this post I’ve also been recognized by City Life/Farm Wife, The Cat BedFinding Hope After a Miscarriage, and Hope Anchors the Soul – thank you, thank you!)

I learned of these nominations shortly after getting a negative on that wretched pee stick, the first failed cycle after our last miscarriage. I was in the midst of a very difficult moment; a moment when I suddenly felt the weight of this entire 18 month journey come crashing down around me. A moment when I felt deeply every sting, every loss, every bit of crushed hope, every thud in my gut, every moment of searing jealousy, and every crazy-making moment the constant waiting and uncertainty has caused in the past year and a half. I could feel all of it, all at once. I felt overwhelmed by its magnitude, and by how much energy and stamina it takes to manage emotions that are by definition so untamed. I didn’t feel like I could make it through the day, let alone continue this conception journey. I certainly didn’t feel inspirational.

But receiving these nominations lifted me. And I realized, this is how we inspire each other. The constant support of a genuinely empathetic community. And we watch each other keep going, and we cheer. Despite feeling some of the most intensely crushing emotions, we continue, we keep hope. I know so many of my readers and fellow bloggers have suffered far longer than I have. You’ve lived through more losses, and survived the extreme disappointments of failed IVF and IUI cycles. And no matter what your journey has been, you inspire me. You have given me the strength to continue, and the courage to take a hundred leaps of faith. I see how you all hurt, and how much you struggle while managing the hardest emotions.  But you persevere. And along the way, you find joy and take the time to celebrate the small things in life. You stop to offer support, encouragement and love to others. You are a life boat to so many of us struggling. And I see so many of you make it to the other side, and it gives me hope.

With that I’d like to share my list of nominees for this award. I know many of you have already been recognized, but I’d like to underscore how deeply valued you are, and how much you have truly helped me. Thank you.

Bloomingspiders

Laughter Through Tears

The Cat Bed

My MMC Story

Unicorns and Baby Dust

Preggo My Eggo

My Hope Jar

Dear Noah

Infertile is the New Black

When Dreams Become Rainbows

Pregnancy Pause

Waiting for Baby Bird

A Calm Persistance

Look for Rainbows

The Way I’m Making Sense of Miscarriage

To accept this award, here are the things you need to do:

1. Thank and link the amazing person(s) who nominated you.

2. List the rules and display the award.

3. Share seven fun facts about yourself.

4. Nominate 15 other amazing blogs and comment on their posts to let them know they have been nominated.

5.  Optional: Proudly display the award logo on your blog and follow the blogger who nominated you.

Seven Fun Facts About Me:

1. When I was in first grade, I attended a private elementary school in New Hampshire and was the only girl in my class. I have no idea how that happens, but I was desperate for girl friends and was thrilled the next year when three other girls joined my class!

2. I am happiest when I’m creating or working with my hands. Ever since I was young, I could spend hours drawing, building, painting, knitting, decorating, and anything on crafty. I also love ceramics and throwing on a potter’s wheel and have also taken a handful of photography classes.

3. One of my favorite experiences in my whole life was the trip my husband and I took to Morocco, when we rode camels through the Sahara dessert and slept in a tent under the stars. We woke up early the next morning to climb the dunes and watch the sunrise. A truly magical experience.

4. My husband and I got married in the mountains of central Mexico in a town called San Miguel de Allende. Fifty of our closest friends and family traveled with us to watch us get married.

5. I grew up 25 miles away from my husband in Massachusetts, moved to NYC at the same time he did, and worked at the same company as him for three years before we actually met.

6. When my husband was in business school, I joined a boxing club to get in shape for our wedding. Boxing and kickboxing have always been my favorite forms of exercise.

7.  When I was a little girl I was obsessed with cats (I’m now horribly allergic to them). I had three and named them Anastasia Bumble Bee, Jillian, and Whitey.

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i should have become a mother today

Another date I will never forget. 

I should have become a mother today. Our second chance, after losing our first baby. Due just days after the anniversary of our first miscarriage. I consoled myself when l learned that I had another growing bean inside of me by thinking how much I would love this baby too. I would never forget my first loss, but knew once I met my baby I would feel so much love that just maybe I could make peace with that loss. Because without the loss, this person I would love so much wouldn’t exist.

But we lost this one too.

Instead, we are spending today with ovulation sticks, analyzing temps, obsessing over timing, and probably most crushing of all, hoping.

Hoping.

Learning to embrace the ambivalent relationship we all have with hope. Feeling afraid to hope, but also clinging to it as the only means to get through this treacherous experience. I had almost forgotten what this felt like. After a seven month long break, we have officially started trying again. Entering our first two week wait in almost 10 months. Facing the wild swings of excitement and hope, to despair and disappointment. 

And these dates stay with me, haunting me. The one year anniversary of our first miscarriage on Monday. Yesterday marked six years since my husband and I first started dating. Today, an another empty due date. 

I find that I veil the grief that these dates cause by overreacting to the other stress in my life. A small argument brings me to tears. A busy day, and I feel completely overwhelmed. Over the last few days I’ve broken down over anything and everything that’s not actually what I’m upset about. And when I do, the grief starts to climb its way out. I’m no longer thinking about whatever small thing triggered these tears. All I can think about are my empty arms.  I’m thinking about how overwhelmed I feel by this struggle, and the yearning for our baby that continually clutches my chest. 

I wish more than anything I was becoming a mother today. It makes my heart ache. Sometimes I don’t know what to do with the intense longing, or the uncertainty that drives this period. It bubbles up, consumes me, tightens and twists inside of me. I think about it everyday. I think about our lost babies, I think about what more we will endure, I think about when it will finally happen. 

Today I say another goodbye, and bid another due date farewell. I wish I could have met you. 

and finally, some good news

We were told we needed to wait 3 – 6 months after my husband’s varicocelectomy to see any possible improvements from the surgery. After exactly 3 months we repeated his SA and eagerly waited for the results, bracing to be disappointed, keeping our expectations low….

“This is the most dramatic improvement we could have hoped for,” the urologist told us. 

The most beautiful sentence I’ve ever heard.

His numbers improved drastically across the board. Like, shot way up. As in, he now has super sperm.

I am fearful of letting myself get too excited or optimistic during this journey, but I couldn’t help but get a flicker of hope that things might start to look up.

Deciding to have the surgery was difficult, scary, stressful (read about our urology appointment here). We got conflicting advice from different doctors. More than one rolled their eyes and said it was unnecessary, we were getting pregnant. Surgery is a big deal, and we shouldn’t jump to go under the knife too quickly. Our urologist, and my own gut, told us differently. His varicocele was causing poor morphology, and slightly elevated levels of sperm DNA fragmentation. High levels of sperm DNA fragmentation have been linked to repeat pregnancy loss. And it remains somewhat controversial what role poor morphology has.

But, in two-thirds of men, the surgery will improve these parameters.

Two-thirds of men.

Statistics have been my enemy lately, offering me little solace, as we continue to fall into slimmest probabilities (your chance of miscarriage drops to 5% after you hear the heartbeat! the chance of having two miscarriages in a row is only 4%!).  Anything less than 100% was going to give me nightmares. 

But we knew we needed to stay to true to the vow we told ourselves. That we would test everything, and do anything we could to possibly lower our chance of miscarrying again. That we wouldn’t try again until we have turned every rock, pushed for every test, seen every kind of doctor. That we would be patient. I knew it was the only way to get the courage to try again. 

And now I’m starting to get courage. I can breathe easy and at least know that nothing on my husband’s end will increase our odds of losing another one. 

Pressure’s on, uterus…

the first doctor i could trust

“You’ve been through a lot,” were the first words she said to us. Despite hearing over and over from respected Los Angeles doctors that all we needed to do was just try again, I had decided to see a fertility specialist. Her response to us was soothing. She understood, as opposed to the shrug we received from the perinatologist, followed by his telling us there was nothing else we could do. Making us feel silly for even asking.

We went over all the testing that we should do. My regular OBGYN had tested us for basic chromosomal problems and blood clotting disorders, but our fertility doctor would fill in all the holes and do a full fertility workup. She decided I needed a saline ultrasound, so she could check for uterine abnormalities. I had asked my OBGYN just a few weeks prior if I should have something like that done. She told me no. The likelihood was low that we would find anything wrong. I had hesitantly believed her. But when my fertility doctor suggested it I eagerly agreed. I wanted to test everything.

While performing the saline ultrasound she discovered I had a uterine septum. A uterine septum causes infertility and miscarriage, she explained. An embryo has trouble implanting on a septum, and if it does, it will not get proper blood supply and you will miscarry. And even if you don’t miscarry and the pregnancy progresses, the fetus is likely to run out of room to grow, and in that case you will have preterm labor. In other words, it needed to be out, and I needed surgery to make that happen.

When she gave me the news I felt an overwhelming urge to cry. Not because I needed surgery. I didn’t care. I knew it was a good thing that they found a likely culprit. No, I wanted to cry because I had been told by 4 doctors already to just try again. Told not to see a fertility specialist. Told that there was no more testing we needed to do. Had I listened, I realized in that moment, we would have been staring straight in the face of loss #3.

I had felt so alone after my second loss. Alone in the research I was trying to do, alone in trying to solve the medical mysteries that so often define recurrent pregnancy loss. I could never trust my doctors, feeling like they were basing their recommendations on probabilities and likelihoods, rather than the thorough, thoughtful approach I was hoping for. Antiquated medical advice based on limited research. I was looking for someone to help me do everything in my power to avoid another loss. But I was constantly skeptical of every doctor, and the generic advice I constantly received.

In working with my fertility doctor, for the first time I stopped feeling alone. I started to trust. I knew she couldn’t predict the future, and I knew there was always a chance of more losses, but she was my advocate. She wanted me to succeed. I finally felt like I could put down Google.

embracing the dark

“Just think positive.” Well meaning advice I heard over and over, but those words made me cringe, grating on my grieving heart. I grew tired of that cliche during my short-lived pregnancy following my first miscarriage. Feeling positive was a risky place. How could I let myself feel positive, only to feel soul crushing disappointment if the pregnancy didn’t last? Wouldn’t feeling positive make the fall that much harder? I thought that if I could somehow manage my feelings enough I could make the grief of a second miscarriage less devastating. I wavered between not wanting to get my hopes up, counting on my inner pessimist to keep me grounded, and daydreaming of our baby, full of hope that the next ultrasound would show us exactly what we wanted to see. Feeling negative wasn’t going to make another loss any easier, I decided every once in a while, and would slip into another daydream of when we would get to make our pregnancy announcement.

Once I miscarried a second time, I still received the same advice. “Positive thoughts! Third times a charm!” It was true, when you’re carrying the grief from a fresh loss, choosing a positive outlook makes you feel like a strong person. That this blow wasn’t enough to rock your faith in the world, that it couldn’t take you down. But somehow getting that advice from others made me feel like they didn’t truly understand what I was going through. That they didn’t get how hard it is to trust that you will get your healthy baby one day. Or what it’s like to harbor the increasing fear that something could be truly wrong, that this could happen again and again, and perhaps ultimately end with childless arms.

In my darker moments, I would confide in those closest to me that I did not think I would end up ever being able to have a child.  And of course, everyone told me that wasn’t true. I would have a child. But just because they thought that didn’t mean I wasn’t embroiled in my own dark grief, believing that I was facing the reality of motherhood lost.

Eventually, I came to feel positive and hopeful, with only sporadic pockets of fear and pessimism. But I couldn’t be told. I didn’t want to feel like everyone else thought all it takes is positive thinking to overcome this battle. I knew it took embracing all the negative emotions first. All the fear, the anger, the despair and the grief that have led me to my darkest place and shaken me so hard I wanted to explode. I needed to sort through these feelings, let them have their place and time, and then when the time is right put them away, and breath in the positive thinking that would ultimately carry me through this.

parallel pregnancies

With my first pregnancy, my best friend and I had due dates two days apart. After our positive tests we shared giddy glee, bewilderment and amazed that we would get to experience this side by side. I miscarried four weeks later. The grief following a miscarriage is intense; it will double you over and you’ll find yourself clutching your heart between your deepest sobs. When you realize you’ve been left behind, that the closest female in your life will go on to experience and have what you’ve just lost and so desperately want, it becomes unbearable.

A situation like this is truly complex and heart wrenching. You feel like you should still be able to feel only happiness for your friend, despite your deep pain. Isn’t that the definition of strength? To rise above your own misfortune to be able to relish in the joy of those you love? “You’ve been through a trauma,” I was told. “You can’t expect yourself to be able to do that.” I battled my conflicted feelings in the days following my miscarriage. I wanted my best friend’s support during my toughest days, to tell her everything I was experiencing and cry out the pain. But I couldn’t go near her. In my moments of strength I thought I could. “Update from my ultrasound today. I’m actually 11 weeks along right now, not 8” her text read. “Congrats” was my weak reply, before sobbing into my husband’s arm. “She didn’t even take her folic acid!” I wailed, knowing I sounded ridiculous. At our ultrasound two weeks prior we saw a slow-developing embryo, just three days away from it’s final heartbeat. I would have done anything to learn I was actually 11 weeks along, just one week shy of the desirable 2nd trimester.

As I focused on how difficult this was for me, she slipped away. Hearing of my misfortune, the agony and pain I’d been in, hit too close to home. She didn’t want to see her worst nightmare, personified in the form of her best friend, reflected against her own growing belly. She had too many of her own fears as she navigated pregnancy for the first time, and felt it was best if we stayed separate during this time.

I not only grieved the loss of my pregnancy and the loss of the baby I thought I would have, but I grieved for the loss of my best friend. I grieved not being able to be a part of this time for her, not being able to be her cheerleader, the way we both were for each other’s weddings. I became paranoid I was suddenly a pariah to pregnant women, as if somehow they would think what I went through was contagious. I thought I just needed to get pregnant again, to fill the void and mitigate the pain and jealousy. But it became so much more complicated than that.

The night of my wedding, as I was pulsing with love and appreciation for everyone who traveled to central Mexico to see my husband and me get married, I grabbed onto my brother’s soon-to-be wife. “I think we’re going to be pregnant at the same time!” I whispered to her delightfully, with all my innocence and naivety intact, giving her a booze-fueled hug. I knew she and my brother would be trying for a baby soon, just as my husband and I planned to. During my second pregnancy I had strong suspicions that she was finally pregnant. We spent three days over Thanksgiving nauseous and exhausted, complaining but never acknowledging to each other the culprit. I miscarried shortly after, at nine weeks along.  A few days later my husband walked into the kitchen and held me. “It’s true,” he said gently. It was something I already knew but still hit me like a thud in my gut. “She got pregnant the same week as you. She has your due date.”

I had wanted to be tough this time, to avoid the deep pit of emotional wreckage I experienced following my first miscarriage. But with these words,  every bit of displaced emotion emerged, and I collapsed into my husband’s arms and cried, sobs coming from a deep and broken place. “That’s MY baby!!” I wailed over and over, knowing I didn’t make sense, but believing it nevertheless. “She has my baby! That’s my baby, that’s my baby,” I cried, not knowing why I was saying it. “Where is my baby?” I finally asked my husband faintly, feeling overwhelmed with heartbreak that this question couldn’t be answered. I had tried to convince myself that this time it was easier, an embryo had never developed – there was never a baby to be lost. But in that moment I knew it didn’t matter. That familiar grief filled my body as I crumpled with the same heavy sadness.

Again, I anguished over the way I was feeling. I had looked forward to being an aunt for so long. I loved my brother and sister-in-law so deeply and was devastated that I would feel anything other than happiness that they were expecting. Their pregnancy announcement became about me, not wanting to cause me more pain, not quite sure how to share the news. I had robbed them of one of the more exciting parts of getting pregnant – sharing the news with loved ones. Once again images of them at their ultrasound getting good news, your baby’s heart is beating and is growing right on track, something we had yet to experience, filled me with that same sick feeling, the envy that pulsed through every bit of my being, the ugly pit in my stomach I had grown to hate. I knew from experience that time doesn’t dissolve these feelings; as she becomes more pregnant I will feel more and more empty.

I don’t understand why I had to endure such a difficult situation twice, why one of the more painful aspects of my first miscarriage had to replicate a second time with my sister-in-law. It seemed cruel, and unfair. But I knew I needed to use what I learned through the first experience to keep my relationship with my brother and sister-in-law healthy and loving. I knew the best way to make it through would be through love and communication. And I knew with silence comes misunderstanding. You start to project what you think the other person is thinking and feeling, always assuming the worst. She’s mad because I’m not going to her baby shower, I had thought of my best friend’s silence. She doesn’t understand what I’ve been through. She has no empathy! When we finally spoke I found the opposite true, she had been harboring feelings of sadness and guilt throughout her whole pregnancy, often so deep she had trouble maintaining contact. Because of the distance I felt the first time with my best friend, I immediately started grieving the loss of my brother and sister-in-law. I thought they would slip away too, in a blurry mess of awkwardness and not knowing how to not cause me more pain.

I know I’m being tested, and I know that I will need to harden myself enough to not let the seeping pain control me and cause me to experience the loss of more people in my life. I’m going to be an aunt and I’m going to let my love for my brother’s unborn child, my future niece or nephew, help me get through this.

losing my baby, again

After our first miscarriage, I felt like the only thing that would take the pain away would be to get pregnant again. My body, hormonal and raw after losing the first baby, was craving it, needing it. My husband, motivated by some kind of biological urge to impregnate his wife as quickly as possible, agreed. It took us three months of trying, a short amount of time in hindsight, but to us felt like an eternity. Every period that arrived after we started trying again reopened the wound. When I would see the drop in my temp and the faint smear of blood, I would cry. The loss would feel so fresh, like it happened yesterday. The blood caused visceral feelings of pain, reminding me of the moment I realized I was miscarrying and losing our baby. After a few days, my resilience would come knocking, and I’d prepare myself for another hopeful month of trying.

I already knew I was pregnant again before taking the pregnancy test. I knew what the familiar flutter in my lower abdomin meant. The slight bloating and the fatigue had already kicked in. I had just gone through the first few weeks of pregnancy less than 6 months prior, and the symptoms were very familiar. Even still, my heart was pounding when I took the test, and then was flooded with mixed emotions when the word ‘Pregnant’ stared back at us. My husband and I just looked at each other. We weren’t sure how to feel. I was happy and relieved, but I knew how this could end.

I called my doctor and she said to come in for some early bloodwork to test my hcg, progesterone and thyroid levels. I made an appointment for an early 5-½ week scan. At the scan, we saw an empty gestational sac, when we should have seen a fetal pole and yolk sac as well.  A flood of dread washed over me combined with crushing disappointment. I can’t go through this again, I said over and over in my head. My doctor said it could just be too early, and this happens sometimes. Even still, I went home and cried, reliving the grief of my past miscarriage, anticipating the grief of my next one.

I googled “empty gestational sac at 5-½ weeks” over and over, and kept finding happy stories of women that had seen no embryo, only to return a week or two later and see their little bean with a healthy, beating heart. It was so common, and slowly I started gaining hope. My feelings that I was just counting down to seeing the dreaded spotting and subsequent blood dissipated, and I started to feel optimistic.

I didn’t think I was capable of enduring a second miscarriage. I thought I’d break down and lose it, unable to go on, unable to function. When we finally received the bad news at our next scan, I was numb. I was afraid to look at my husband. I remained as hard as I could, even though tears started to stream down my face as I put my clothes back on. When we walked past the waiting room to my doctor’s office, I thought I heard a collective sympathetic “ohhhhhh….” as the tears hugging my face gave it all away. I still don’t know if it was real or imagined, but I rushed by the waiting room of pregnant bellies as fast as I could, head down.

My doctor told us that the fact that this miscarriage was a different situation that the first one was good news. It was less an indicator that there may be a problem, and more of an indicator that we may just be the victims of bad luck twice. Our first miscarriage, the heart had stopped beating at 9 weeks, this one, a blighted ovum. She said we could start with doing a blood karyotype on both my husband and me, to see if either of us carry an extra chromosome that we may be unknowingly passing on, and perform a blood clot test on me. She gave us my options for terminating the pregnancy.

I tried to go numb. I already knew what this would feel like. To truly grieve for a lost baby, a child I would never know, a little person I was hoping to hold in 7 months. I wanted to swallow the disappointment, move on, not acknowledge the aching heart. But it consumed me. I couldn’t run. Those same feelings came after me again. But this time, I was scared. Something wasn’t right.