Thursday, October 9, 2014

My Love

In September of 2004, God put a plan into work to change my life.  I accepted a job with UPS, and the offer was that I would work from Oklahoma City but would start my time with them on a project in Tulsa, my hometown.  I was ecstatic that I was going to get to go home and spend some extra time with friends and family.

On Friday, September 24, three days before I was to start in Tulsa, I received a call from UPS that I was going to be put on a project in Abilene, Texas, instead.  I was devastated.  If you have ever been to Abilene, you know that there just isn’t much there for a young, single woman.  It was too late to change my mind about taking the job.  However, if I had known what I know now, I would have been rejoicing and thanking God.

On Monday, September 27, 2004, I reported to the UPS center in Abilene.  I met my trainer and the other supervisors and managers in the center.  They were all very friendly, and my gloom was starting to change.  I even met a handsome lad named Todd.  J  After introductions in the office area, I was standing against a set of storage cabinets.  Todd came over to me and said…wait for it…this is the start of a beautiful story, y’all, so brace yourselves for the awesomeness that is coming…”So, what’s your name, again?”  I was immediately smitten!  In hind sight, his attempt at hitting on me was lacking,!
We were so young!
A mere ten days later, on Thursday, October 7, 2004, we began dating.  I was 23, and Todd was 33…or was he 32?!  (That’s another story for another time about how Todd accidentally told me the wrong age at the beginning and was afraid to tell me his real age later for fear that I may think he was too old.  32 was not too old in his mind, but 33, well that’s a different story!  <enter sarcasm font here>  It wasn’t until I took him to Urgent Care with an asthma attack that I learned his real age, but only after he still tried to cover it up for fear that I would break up with him.  Hmmm, I guess that’s a story for now, not another time.  No suspense for you, dear reader.)

We spent four-and-a-half years making sure that there was absolutely no way in the world that we would get divorced if we decided to marry.  Afterall, there were children involved, now.  This was a tough 4.5 years, but we had a lot more fun than we did pain.  For the majority of our dating period, we did not have the support of most of our friends and family.  (There were exceptions.  Some never doubted.  Some came around sooner than others.  Regardless, there were plenty of naysayers.)  They thought we were making a big mistake for multiple reasons, one of the biggest being that I didn’t understand what I was getting into with a blended family since I had never been married nor had children.  I am positive that each of them would tell you that they have eaten their words, now.  J

On March 27, 2009, we took the kids to church for a spaghetti dinner and movie night, Fireproof.  Between the dinner and movie, Taylor (our middle child) made a comment about my mom coming to watch the movie with us.  (We have since realized that Taylor’s strengths do not lie in her ability to keep a secret.  Consider yourself warned.)  I told her that maybe my mother was watching the movie with my dad in Corpus Christi (10 hours from where we lived in Dallas), but she was definitely not coming to watch it with us.  Still, I continued to peak around corners, wondering if there was some surprise in store.  By the time the movie had ended, I had forgotten about Taylor’s little slip.  After the movie was played, Todd was asked to lead the congregation in a closing prayer.  I didn’t think much about it because that was the type of thing he would do.

Then, this happened…
I am aware how adorable this is!
My sister helped the girls make the signs.

My mom did fly in from Corpus Christi to surprise me!
That's my sister, Amber, and my niece, Campbell, in the middle.
Exactly one year later, on March 27, 2010, this happened…
We both cried.

Every bride has to check for deodorant balls, right?!
My soon-to-be daughters
My handsome guys
I wore my mom's wedding ring on my right hand.
Cutest flower girl ever, Campbell
I'm a daddy's girl.
Todd's dad married us.
This family of four welcomed me.
And we danced...

And we danced some more...
Maggie, my college roommate, brought the entertainment.
Taylor danced on Todd's feet.
We sang...
"And Todd, you can now call me Harry."  My dad's toast was unforgettable.
Mom, Paula (Jenny's mom), me, and Jenny (my best friend from childhood)
It was an OSU garter.
My cousin, Bradette, with our girls
It was the most magical day of my life.

Almost six months later, on October 20, 2010, we met Dr. Prough to discuss our options for having a baby.  You know the rest of the story.

There isn’t a day that passes that I don’t think about how lucky I am that I have Todd as my partner in this life.  My mother has been known to say that he is the nicest man she has ever met.  He makes me laugh like no one else can.  He’s genuine, compassionate, and selfless.  People that know him agree.  I literally get teary-eyed just thinking about how awesome he is.  My body begins to ache when I’m away from him.  God has blessed us immensely with our relationship.  Even if God never intends to give us a child to raise together from the beginning, we will live the rest of our lives knowing that He gave us something else so incredibly remarkable and special…our marriage.

Tuesday marked ten years that we have been together.  Ten short and long years full of happiness and sadness, growing and regressing.  For the last ten years, I have often thought about how sad I was that we weren’t younger and couldn’t spend more years together.  Since our wedding, I have regretted not getting married sooner, so we could celebrate more anniversaries.

Tuesday, I had an epiphany.  I realized that the years are just numbers, like age.  What matters about those years is how much life you live during them.  Tuesday, I realized that I have already had the miracle of living enough happiness with Todd in 10 years to fill an entire lifetime for some people.

I am so blessed. 
Thank you, God, for my love.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

It doesn’t have to be perfect to beautiful.

Last night, I went to dinner with a woman that is easily one of the strongest woman I have ever met in my life.  I have had the good fortune of meeting and/or getting to know a lot of wonderful, brave women, but Becky…there are no words for her.

In August, I talked to Becky the week before we were supposed to go on vacation.  At the time, she was 36 weeks pregnant (by my doctor, Dr. McKinney…woot, woot!).  We talked about the need to get together soon as you do with so many of your girlfriends.  However, life was just busy, so we promised to do it the week I returned.  As I returned to the states after vacation, I was browsing Facebook, and I learned that the most awful, awful, awful thing had happened.

Becky had to have an emergency c-section.  Her little girl had underdeveloped lungs.  They spent 38 hours with her, and she passed away.

This is a pain I cannot fathom.  This makes my heart ache to think about how bad she has hurt.  Becky, though…what a woman. 

Since our 3+ hour dinner, I have thought a lot about everything we discussed.  I have picked three things that I learned and/or realized about myself that I wanted to share.  Maybe these will help you in some way, too…either dealing with your own grief or helping your friends to deal with theirs.

When you don’t know the right thing to say, listen…and maybe hug.  This was probably the biggest thing that I took away from our talk.  I have been feeling inadequate lately when talking to my friends that are grieving.  Unfortunately, I have two other friends that just had failed IVF cycles, too.  Plus, I have a couple of friends going through other non-fertility-related struggles.  When I talk to them, I always try to think of the best thing to say…what I think I would want to hear.  I now know that is wrong, though.  What I wanted to hear after my first cycle is not what I wanted to hear after this last cycle.  I have changed.  The circumstances have changed.  To add to that, my friends are not the same person as me.  They don’t want to hear what I would want to hear.  I have been so wrong, and I am so sorry to all of you for that.  Instead, I should have just called them and told them that I cared and I wanted to listen…and hug them, if they were ready for that.  I should have made the time to just hear them, to hear their pain.  I can’t fix my friends’ problems or make their pain disappear, but I sure can listen to them.  I do pray that someday, I will be better at knowing what to say in every situation.  (I should follow this by saying that all of the things that have been said to me since this cycle ended were awesome.  Well, except for the few “you should just adopt” comments that I have received…never a good idea.  I used to be a lot more sensitive to everything anyone said to me, but I’ve changed a lot in the last 18 months.  Not saying anything still hurts a little, though.  I can’t lie there.)

You have to get up and keep moving forward.  Becky told me last night that she and her husband knew they could dwell on the loss, stop living, and drift apart from each other, or they could get up and learn to move forward.  They chose to move forward.  I understand this completely.  This is a decision that I feel I make  I’m going to get up and do more than just show-up at work and get through my day.  I’m going to do my best to enjoy my life.  I don’t want to look back at the end of my life and think, “I remember when I had some hard times in my thirties, and I just gave up.”  Instead, I want to think, “I remember when God gave me an opportunity to really grow in my thirties.  Thank God for allowing me those struggles and helping me to find the strength to thrive during them.”  This isn’t an easy lesson, and I still struggle with it on a daily basis.  However, just as I struggle daily, I choose to continue to move forward…one day at a time.  My past does not determine my future.

It’s okay to find happiness during this grieving period.  Becky and Eddie had the opportunity to spend last week in San Diego.  What a much-needed treat for them.  However, she said that one thing she thought of regularly was that she felt guilty when they let their guards down and had fun.  I can completely relate to this.  I continually think about how I put happy moments on Facebook every day.  (I’ve been doing it for 98 days without missing a day, for the record.  Yes, I’m patting myself on the back because this was one challenge I wasn’t sure I was going to be able to complete.)  Anyway, I can see how most of my friends and family think that I must not be hurting too much because I seem so happy in all of my posts.  Don’t get me wrong…I am happy.  I choose to find something every day that makes me happy.  Surrendering my problems to God has made this easier.  However, I’m still in pain.  I have pain all of the time.  In a moment’s notice, I can cry for you, and beware that I may.  J  Who wants to be around that, though?  Grieving is necessary, but if I were constantly depressed, even I wouldn’t want to be around me.  Again, I choose to try to keep a sunny disposition as much of the time as I can.  And at least once a day, I go to a private spot (or Todd’s chest when he’s home) and allow myself a really good cry.
I realize that I am still a huge work in progress.  However, I read a quote the other day:
It doesn’t have to be perfect to beautiful.

I am far from perfect.  My journey has many flaws.  Sometimes, I forget that I have given something to God and start worrying about it, again.  I am still God’s work in progress.  However, the changes that I have gone through (and I know there are many more to come) have been so beautiful in the end.  Each day, I become a better follower, a stronger child of God.
Becky is a wonderful inspiration to me.  Emerson, I know you are so proud of your mommy and her strength.


One more thing I learned last night is that I’m still absolutely terrified of spiders.  I can actually still see the spider that was sitting below our table that we didn’t find until we had been there for nearly 2 hours.  “What if it had crawled up my leg?” was asked more than once…by both of us.  “Don’t step on it.  It’s so big, it will crunch,” came from Becky a couple of times.  No worries, my feet were way too far off the ground by this point for me to step on it.  Another woman from the back of the restaurant had to come to our rescue…not the man sitting at the table behind us, instructing us to step on it.  Man, that sucker was big!
Seriously, using Google to find this was terrifying.  Don't do it.
No way was I about to put a picture of an actual spider on my blog. 
Other spiders might take that as an invitation.
On a completely different note, Todd has been on a work trip since Friday.  Friday, y’all!!  Therefore, I have been living at my parents’ since Saturday.  Tease me, I don’t care.  I love hanging out with my mom and dad.  They are supportive and loving and have a kitchen full of food.  Oh, and my mom gives really good back scratches while we watch TV.  It’s my little slice of heaven.  That being said, this has been one super tough week for me.  I’m not used to being away from Todd for more than 4-5 days and especially not this soon after a cycle.  I have physical aches from how much I miss him.  Tomorrow, though…it all ends.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Claiming My Blog on Bloglovin'

<a href="">Follow my blog with Bloglovin</a>

Bear with me.  I know this is an ugly post, but I'm trying to figure this out.

By the way, if you're on Bloglovin', come follow me. 

Now that I've claimed my blog, does anyone know if I can delete this ugly post?  :)

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

An Update: WTH Appointment

After our first failed cycle last May, our friend, Carri, told us we would be having our WTH Appointment.  Basically, this is the meeting with the doctor to figure out what the heck went wrong during the cycle.  Well, ironically enough, when TFC books this appointment and puts it on your portal, it says “IVF FU Appointment.”  Now, if that isn’t irony, I don’t know what is.  (By the way, FU stands for follow-up.  Personally, I think the doctors at TFC have a sense of humor.)

We had our WTH/FU appointment on Wednesday.  Dr. McKinney spent at least 45 minutes talking to us.  It was wonderful, if you ask me.  Todd and I left there with all of our questions answered.

Basically, she said that we have a lot working against us with my eggs being old and in low reserve and Todd’s sperm being immature.  She said that there might just be an awesome month that hits sometime, or we may never get quality embryos.  This is where God comes in the window, and science flies right out.

Also, Embryo 3.0 that we had hoped to transfer the Thursday before was only at a morula phase, which is the phase before blastocyst.  It has to reach blastocyst before they will transfer, so if we hadn’t done the genetic testing, they would have made us wait until Friday to see if it developed any further. 

If we hadn’t done the testing, chances would have been that it could have developed to blastocyst stage by Friday, we would have transferred, and it wouldn’t have worked because it was so chromosomally abnormal.  It could have even been a perfect looking blast, but we now know it was too abnormal to lead to a viable pregnancy.  (Even perfect-looking embryos can be chromosomally abnormal, and you don’t know it until you do the genetic test.)

In the end, she was telling us that we wasted our money on the genetic testing on this cycle.  She probably won’t recommend we do the testing next cycle, either. 

During our WTH/FU, she started talking to us about donor eggs, donor sperm, adoption, etc.  We have discussed the idea of adoption.  However, we have always ruled out donor eggs/sperm for personal reasons.  Everything is back on the table, but it’s something I don’t want to discuss just yet.  Right now, I want to concentrate on finding ways to make the best eggs possible for this next cycle.  If that doesn’t work, we have a backup plan that still does not involve donor eggs/sperm or adoption; it involves a doctor in St. Louis.  I’m praying that we don’t need our backup plan.

As for the next cycle, we found out that we will have our baseline ultrasound on October 22.  (My stomach turned flips when I saw the dates.  Suddenly, it was “so real.”  That’s for you, Todd.)  I can speculate as to when my other appointments will be, but they are just guesses.  All of it will depend on what my body does.  I won’t even know when we start the stim shots until the day of the baseline ultrasound.

She is going to change my shot protocol some, so we are crossing our fingers that it works.  Based on my best calculations, this could raise our costs for meds by about $1600.  Ugh.
Overall, I’m kind of a nervous wreck.  Todd left town for an 8-day business trip on Friday.  My anxiety pulled into town with a U-Haul on Sunday.  I set a last-minute appointment for acupuncture this afternoon.  I’m grateful he could squeeze me in because I need to try something!

If you happen to see me in the next few weeks and I seem to be talking to myself, don't worry about me; I'm just praying.  J

Thursday, September 25, 2014

This is the alley…

There is an alley at work that I use to get to and from my car.  I have been using this alley for over two-and-a-half years.  I have walked through it well over 1,000 times.

Until this week, this alley was just an alley to me.  It wasn’t until I returned back to work this week that it dawned on me that this alley now had new meaning.

When I returned to work this week, I entered the alley and had an overwhelming sense of failure and disappointment...from beginning to end. 
This is the alley where I sat when Claudia called to tell me that I was pregnant, but the beta number was so low that I shouldn’t get my hopes up too much. 
This is the alley where I bent down to hear Mary Kathryn tell me that we had lost the pregnancy. 
This is the alley where I leaned against the wall and Dr. McKinney proceeded to explain to me how both of our embryos were not viable for transfer. 
This is the alley where I called Todd three times to tell him that the news wasn’t good.

It was fortunate that it took so long for the significance to dawn on me, that it didn't happen with the first bad news last year.  It is unfortunate that I can’t help but think about it each day when I walk through it, now.

I won’t be brought down, though.  I take a deep breath, enter the alley, and pray…from beginning to end.

Thank you, God, for the opportunities you have given to us and the strength you are giving to me.  Amen

Thursday, September 18, 2014

And just like that, it’s cancelled…

After our first cycle failed, my good friend, Ashleigh, sent me this poem that she had started reciting for me before we received the news:
Now I lay me down to sleep
I pray the Lord their souls to keep
And if they should die before she wakes
I pray thee Lord their souls to take
And if they should live for other days
I pray the Lord will guide their ways.
This was one of those messages from a friend that just about took you to your knees.  I cried.  Todd cried.

I don’t know if I have thought about this prayer since that week.  It’s not because I didn't love it because it’s one of the most amazing combinations of simple words that I have ever heard.

For some reason, I thought about it today.  I was headed home from work to be with Todd, and it came to my mind.  I already knew the fate of our two embabies, but I still needed to rest assured that I had asked God to care for their sweet souls for us.

This day was perfectly planned.  I was going to go to work for a couple of hours.  Then, I was going to go have an acupuncture session because there are some studies that show…yada, yada, yada.  I would run by the house, wash my face of make-up (none allowed in the operating room at TFC), hop in the car with Todd, change clothes on the way, and arrive at TFC for our 12:15 “transfer talk” with Dr. McKinney.  Transfer would start at 1pm…and hopefully no later because I was nervous about having to hold a full bladder for very long.

God had a different plan.
One the way to work, "Say Something" came on my radio, and I hesitantly listened.  At the end of the song, I realized that it didn't give me the awful, drowning, "our dream is ending" feeling that it used to give me.  I actually thought to myself how much I have grown in the last 9 months.  (Ironic that it's been 9 months.)

Right around 9am, I was doing a happy dance with two coworkers because I was getting “knocked up” today.  (It’s funnier to say it that way.)  So, there we were celebrating when my phone began to vibrate.  When I saw it was Dr. McKinney’s office, I immediately assumed they had forgotten to tell us something.  When I answered and heard Dr. McKinney’s voice, I immediately assumed that this wasn't going to end well.

Embaby 2.0 had stopped dividing.  Basically, he had discontinued growing, which is what they call “arresting.”  Embaby 3.0 had more than 50% abnormal chromosomes.  She began reading off everything that was wrong with him, and I started to wonder if there was anything that was okay with him.
She continued with a lot of statistics about how 70-80% of all embryos are chromosomally abnormal, and I began wondering where they come up with these statistics.  If one couple has 70% abnormal chromosomes, and another couple has 80% abnormal chromosomes, on average, 75% of chromosomes are abnormal, right?  Why would they say 70-80%?  It’s just such a strange way to put it.  Then, I realized that I was analyzing something ridiculous.  This is what my brain does, though.  When scared, flee towards the numbers.  (I’m an Engineer.  You can’t blame me.)

The bottom line is that I have always hated statistics because it’s not mathematics…it’s too grey.  Today, I realized a new level of hatred that I have towards it.

I was telling Todd last night that I really thought this was going to be the cycle to round everything out.  We have now had 6, 9, and 12 eggs retrieved (not in that order).  In the same order of cycles, though, we had 1, 2, and 3 eggs transferred (if we had made it to transfer today).  "Third time is the charm."  I think there were some other silly things, but I wanted this to be it.

We have now had a cycle end with a chemical pregnancy (miscarriage), one with no implantation, and one with no transfer.  I think we have covered the main categories except full-term, viable pregnancy.  Am I right?!

That being said, Todd and I are doing fine.  We had planned to spend the last half of our day cuddled up on the couch watching funny TV shows/movies/comedians…whatever we could find that would make us laugh.  Oddly enough, we are going to spend the last half of our day doing just that, plus maybe a glass of wine and some sushi.

It seems that we are getting better at having failed cycles.  And it kind of sucks.

Oh, and Embaby 3.0 was a little girl.