35 Weeks

Tomorrow will be 35 weeks.  But tomorrow Davie Ann gets tubes in her ears, so I think that will trump any incubation news.

Not much new to report on that front, anyways.  His movements are smaller (must be getting crowded in there), but reassuringly regular.  Sleep has gotten more difficult – it’s almost exhausting trying to sleep.  I can only lie on my side, and my hips and lower back give me at most two hours before the pain wakes me up and I begin the arduous process of rolling over.  My bladder is the same – I get about two hours at a time before I have to go again – but it’s not necessarily synched up with the hip/back pain.  That would be way too convenient.  I’ve also picked up a symptom I had with Davie – my fingers, hands, wrists and sometimes my whole arm will go numb.  Usually the arm I’m lying on when I’m on my side.  That wakes me up pretty quickly.  It’s weird to wake up and not be able to use my fingers for a minute or two.

If all that wasn’t enough to keep me awake, pregnancy-induced insomnia has made for some interesting late night moments.  It’s so strange to wake up at 2am and not be able to fall back asleep for an hour or two.  My mind is tired, but it’s busy.  My body is exhausted, but twitchy and achy.  Usually a hot bath helps a lot.

But all of this is temporary, passing, and insignificant.  Despite the symptoms and all appearances, it doesn’t seem real that I’m growing a human being.  You’d think since we have a daughter I’d be able to wrap my mind around it all.  But it still doesn’t seem like there will be another person in our home at the end of this.  How could we be that lucky, that blessed?  Who are we to have our prayers answered – not once, but twice? 

In these final weeks, I’m feeling more emotion, more nostalgia.  I’m not afraid like I was with Davie.  I feel the reassurance of his movements, I know what the aches and pains are, so I’m not scared every day that he’s gone.  Even with the discomforts I’m enjoying being pregnant.  Being capable of being pregnant.  I am lucky.

And there is the knowledge that this is the last time.  I’ll never be pregnant again.  I’ll never feel life move inside me.  I’ll never carry my baby around with me everywhere I go.  In less than two months, we’ll be two separate beings forever.  I’ll never be so completely enmeshed in another again.

There are so many reasons I’ll never be pregnant again.  This pregnancy was brutal for a long time.  The hyperemesis gravidarum is hard to explain … it consumed my entire being, physically and mentally.  It was hard on my family, my husband and my daughter.  To be pregnant again would mean leaving this baby behind, too.  It wreaked havoc on my work relationships and our finances.  Not to mention the obvious – I’m already 42.  If I get to breast feed, it’ll be at least a year before we can try again, and it took us 3 1/2 years to get Davie and another 2 years for this one.  I don’t know if this old body can handle a pregnancy at 44 or 45!  And even if we were lucky – how frickin’ old will I be when that last kid graduates?!? 

Not to mention, our fertility insurance coverage is all gone.  Only … suddenly, it’s back.  Troy’s insurance is making another global policy change, from United to a version of BCBS, so everyone starts over from scratch.  It’s not as great – it’s a lifetime maximum of $15,000.  Just one try for us.  With ICSI, a fresh cycle costs us about $12,000 a pop.  And with eggs like mine, it’s unlikely we would produce a viable fetus. 

But it does put embryo donation back on the table.  I like the idea of being to carry our adopted baby.  And we still feel a pull in our hearts toward adoption, although all of our focus was on foster-to-adopt.  But the truth is, it’s rare to be able to adopt an infant through the foster system.  Much more common is heartache and loss.  I understand, I really do, that the true purpose of fostering is to facilitate a reunion between child and parents.  I have to admit, my heart isn’t in that.  I want our child to stay with us forever.  And of course I worry that our extended families may not love and accept our adopted child(ren) as they do our biological ones.

Maybe it’s time to “resolve.”  Time to appreciate the two we are blessed with and not ask for more.  I feel a pull towards that peace.  To know our journey to grow our family is forever complete, to fully revel in what we have, to let go finally of the heartache of the journey (whether through IF treatments or adoption).  I think this is where Troy is, and I want to respect him. 

As this pregnancy draws near to the end, I am so excited to meet this new person who will change our lives.  I can’t imagine ever being as deeply immersed in and in love with another human being as we are with Davie Ann.  I know it all changes when they come, the love grows, it just doesn’t seem imaginable now.  I also find myself grieving the ones we lost along the way.  From our first miscarriage before we got pregnant with Davie ’til this very pregnancy where we lost a twin at 8 weeks – or even the other two embryos that didn’t take at all; whether it simply wasn’t God’s time, or my body failed them, or my eggs were too old … whatever the reason, they were wanted and loved.  I hope they know, I hope they know. 

This is long and rambling with no real resolution.  I think I’m just in a process, evolving.  To the next step, whatever it may be.  And whatever it is, may it bring peace.

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23 Weeks

It’s so strange to be here.  To feel him kick so often, to know he’s real but still struggle to believe it.  I want to savor every moment of this last pregnancy but I’m afraid it’s slipping by before I can even grasp it’s reality.

Throughout our infertility struggles, I pictured what it would be like at the end.  Sometimes I pictured that we had just what we wanted – we had the three kids we would’ve had if we were normal fertiles, with minimal help, no losses.  Sometimes in the depths of dispair I saw us at a tragic end with no baby, no more hope.  But I have to admit that somehow, neither of those images ever seemed truly real.  I never believed we’d have the perfect ending, but I didn’t think we’d end up hopeless, either.

So here we are, somewhere in the middle.  We started out declaring, “if it’s not a baby made of you and me, it’s not meant to be.”  And ended up with hearts open to growing our family by any means – by adoption, embryo adoption, IVF, FET … however.  It’s funny how absolutes are never really absolute in Infertility World.

Our journey to Davie Ann was long – 3 1/2 years – but had little loss.  We started with timed cycles, went to Clomid timed cycles, to Clomid IUI’s, to Gonal F (injectable) IUI’s, to IVF – which led to our first ever BFP and our first miscarriage.  But that miscarriage, although heartbreaking, was also full of hope – after endless BFN’s, my body had responded, there was a chance we’d be successful again.  That IVF was followed by one more Gonal F IUI cycle (we couldn’t do IVF #2 because the embryology lab was closed for cleaning), and bam!  a BFP that turned into a dream come true.

When Davie Ann was 4 months old, I returned to work and my milk quickly dried up.  When she was 7 months old, we resumed fertility treatments.  After all, my ovaries weren’t getting any younger!  This second journey was so different from the first.  It’s been shorter – only 2 years this time – but so much more brutal.  Physically and emotionally, we were beaten and broken.  There was the first IVF, which ended in an early miscarriage (chem preg).  Then the FET that was a BFN.  Then another IVF and another miscarriage.  Followed by our last frest IVF cycle, which ended in a painful ectopic pregnancy requiring two rounds of methotrexate and surgery to repair an ovary that burst open and bled out into my abdomen.  I’m surprised to find that tears well up in eyes even now, so long after this happened, it’s still hard to return to that place.

I was broken.  We took some off.  We opened our hearts to adoption and signed up at our fertility center for their new embryo adoption program, which hadn’t officially started yet but already had a waiting list.  We began the long, arduous process to become liscenced to foster-to-adopt here in Texas.  We learned how long the odds were that we would be able to adopt an infant or toddler, but still, we kept our eyes focused on God and pressed on.  Many months later, we finally finished the process, and began the long wait for final approval.

During the wait, the last four frozen embryos from all our IVF tries began to weigh on my mind.  I needed to close that chapter, to know we’d gone through every door.  Our fertility insurance coverage was gone, so we saved and maxed out our medical flex spending accounts.  And put all four eggs in one basket.  And from a place of calm acceptance that this part of our fertility journey was over, we waited peacefully for the inevitable miscarriage.  Our hearts and minds were already focused to the future, on adoption, ready to close this book and open the sequel. 

And God sent us a BFP.  And still we expected to lose the pregnancy.  We watched while two fetal poles appeared.  We rejoiced for a week in two precious heartbeats.  We mourned the following week when there was only one.  Three months later, we finally got our final approval to become foster parents.  We told them about the pregnancy, and they decided to put us on a “hold” list until after the baby is born.

Even though this will be my last pregnancy, I don’t know that it will be the last child we welcome into our family.  With hope that all goes well, next March Newt will be four months old, and we will be able to go back on the active list to foster to adopt.  I had wondered if Troy would want to do it.  This weekend we were watching the news and it told of a horror story where a toddler was beaten to death by a foster parent.  As a result, foster requirements are becoming even more stringent.  The representative put out a plea for more people to apply, to open their hearts and homes.  Troy looked at me and spoke what we both felt, pride that we had accomplished such a difficult process, and broken hearts that the same system had failed that beautiful, innocent baby.  Although I don’t know if we’ll go beyond the next year that our lisence will be good, I know without a doubt that with much prayer and thanksgiving, we will absolutely go back on the active list next March.

If we hadn’t been successful this pregnancy, I know we would’ve tried at least one FET with adopted embryos.  I know we couldn’t have afforded more than two tries, since it would’ve been entirely on our own dime (no fertility insurance coverage left).  If those two tries at embryo adoption had failed, we probably would’ve renewed our foster-to-adopt liscence at least once.  After that, we would’ve been in our mid-forties, so we probably would stop at that point.

So I guess I’ll never know what it’s really like to reach the end of all hope.  Although physically and emotionally painful, we didn’t experience the utter depths I’ve read about on other blogs, like a late term loss, or the loss of a newborn, or being forced to return a child we had hoped to adopt to less than perfect circumstances.  I didn’t lose my ovary and fallopian tube like many others have.  Eventually I will have a hysterectomy, so I’ll never see my endometriosis get as bad as it has for others.  I’m grateful I have been spared those depths.

So here we are at an end I didn’t imagine.  An end that is different from the ideal but wonderful in it’s own way.  And end that has possibilities. 

I am grateful to leave this leg of the journey behind.  And I am grateful to have walked through it.  I am a better woman, a better partner, and a better mother for having taken this long road.  I am humbled. 

Thank you, Lord Jesus, that I never walked a step of this path alone.  Thank You for the hard-won peace and joy we have found.  Keep our eyes focused on You, lead us to the family You have planned for us, and to the children You have entrusted us to raise in Your image.

“‘He has brought me here

when I did not want to come

for His own purpose.

I, too, will look up into His face and say

‘Behold me! I am thy handmaiden

Acceptance-with-Joy.” 

~Hannah Hurnard, Hind’s Feet On High Places

Foster To Adopt

I’ve been meaning to address this topic, but the hyperemesis has controlled my world for a while. 

After we finished our home study in March, we became aware that it was going to be a while before everything was finalized.  That’s when we decided to go through with the frozen embryo transfer.  I honestly did not expect it to be successful.  Since it was our last attempt ever to have a biological child, I wanted to be done with it before we were matched with a foster child.  We had pretty much mourned our chance for a biological connection, and were ready to move on whole-heartedly with adoption.

Unfortunately, we are all too aware of micarriage statistics for my age group, so even after we got our BPF, we decided to give it some time before reporting it to Pathways.  By then, it had been a month since we’d heard anything more than, “We haven’t forgotten you, it’s a busy time for us and we’ll follow up with you as soon as possible.”  Which was fine, it gave us some time to see how things would go with the pregnancy.

After that, we lost the twin, then the hyperemesis took hold and it became difficult to focus on anyting other than moment-to-moment survival, as dramatic as that sounds.  Just the past five days, I’ve finally been able to slow the weight loss and find a few good hours here and there.  It feels sort of like I’ve been in a coma for a month and am just starting to become aware of the world around me again.

We finally heard from Pathways just this Wednesday.  They sent us our final contracts, which we signed and sent back in.  All that is left is to email a digital family picture of us for our file, and we are done!  We are officially approved as a foster-to-adopt family.

When I got the email from Pathways on Wednesday, I realized I should have notified them earlier when the pregnancy seemed to be successful.  It’s just hard to pinpoint that … how can an infertile ever be confident in a pregnancy?  So I wrote to our case manager, Rebecca, and explained everything, from the pregnancy to the hyperemesis.  She was very supportive and happy for us.  Of course, we are not the first family to become pregnant while waiting to be approved, and it is Pathway’s policy to have the family wait until at least a few months after a major family event (such as a birth) before placement.

So, although we are now licensed to foster-to-adopt, we are now considered ‘inactive’.  Our license is good for two years, though, so we can return to ‘active’ status next year.  Troy and I truly believe God led us to Pathways for a reason.  Our hearts and our home are open to His plan for our family.

We can finally say with all complete honesty and no reservations that after this pregnancy (hopefully successful, but either way) we will not pursue another pregnancy.  We do not want to try for another biological child.  I’ve read that hyperemesis gravidarum often becomes more severe with each successive pregnancy.  I just can’t do this again.  And that doesn’t even factor in my age and the fact that we are out of fertility insurance coverage.  Besides that, I already was at peace in my heart with being done.  Whether or not we were successful this year, I did not want to spend another year of our lives trying to conceive.  I’m happy to grow our family, but not biologically anymore. 

So that’s where we are.  I’m a little sad we aren’t ‘active’ after all those months of prayer, hoping, inspections, paperwork, and classes.  But I know this isn’t the right time to bring a child in crisis into our home.  I’m barely giving any of myself to my kid and hubby, much less to a baby who needs every ounce of attention and love we can give.  Pathways has the experience to know what’s best for the children they represent.  And God’s timing is perfect.

Sorry I didn’t post yesterday. It’s been overwhelmingly crazy at work and I was sooo tired by the time we got Davie to sleep.

Although the HCG seemed low to me, Dr. Silverberg did not seem worried about it at all. I’ve decided to just trust in his experience. More than that, I’m trusting in the Lord, in His plan for us and for the lives of these little ones. That being said, I was all zen and peace … even when I was stuck in a horrible traffic jam that was going to make me late to the ultrasound … then I freaked out when I couldn’t find a parking place. Way to focus, Stacey.

Baby A is measuring right on target at 6w0d, with a beautiful heartbeat of 103. Thank you, Lord!

Baby B is measuring smaller, although Dr. S said he doesn’t measure how many weeks/days they are unless he is actually measuring the embryo. Inside the sac is a beautiful fetal pole, though. Dr. Silverberg was totally excited about it! I told him of Dr. Berger’s feelings that the second one wouldn’t stay, but he said after reading her notes she had miscalculated the number of days since the FET. He feels confident that seeing a fetal pole at 6w0d is a great development and that we’ll see a strong heartbeat next week. However, he did categorize me as “threatened miscarriage” and he cautioned me to take it easy for the next week. No lifting, no sex (much to Troy’s dismay. He’ll live.)

Last night I started feeling that same discomfort on the left side, so I went to bed early. I’m still feeling it today. It’s sort of a stretching/achy feeling on the lower left side, usually in the front but sometimes in the back. If I get up too suddently, it can be painful for a moment, but for the most part it doesn’t actually hurt. It doesn’t feel like a cramp. I have seen a little dark red tint to the Crinone grit that comes out, but only when I wipe and not every time. Been feeling a little nausea, breast tenderness and fatigue, but nothing more than the usual I can feel during my period. Nothing that definitely says “You’re pregnant.”

So, for now, I just keep praying – A LOT. I have to give these sweet babies back to Jesus over and over again. Praying that His will for them will be carried out in their lives and in ours. Thanking Him over and over for this time I have with them. Praying that if there is a child that will come join us through adoption that He will bring them safely to us, too. Just re-focusing on Him, over and over, all day.

And, Lord help me, I named them. Six years I’ve been in this trench. I know better. But every night I sing softly to them, little Newt (Baby A) and BB (Baby B). I can’t wait to hold you, little ones. You are loved.

Back Pain

Yesterday we took Davie to JC Penney’s for her 2 yr old photos.  We also need a family pic to go with our adoption profile, so you know, two birds.  Davie slept great Friday night and woke up easy Saturday morning, but for some reason within an hour of waking up she was in a HORRIBLE mood.  We did not have much hope the photo session would go well, so I called Mom and asked her to say a prayer for us.  She went above and beyond – she showed up to help us!  She was a miracle worker!  It took some work, but we made it thru the session.

By the time it was over, I had an intense burning sensation in my back on the left side.  I’ve had some weird sensations going on the left side, usually in the lower front.  This was the first time my back really gave me trouble.  I thought either it was a harbinger of things I don’t want to happen – either a UTI or even worse.  So I gave the after-hours staff a call at Texas Fertility, and they were immediately as sweet as ever.  They encouraged me to come right away.  I got a lab slip to take a urine specimen to the lab, and then they decided to do an early sonogram just to check things out.

I knew it was unlikely that if it’s an ectopic that I would be feeling symptoms yet.  Dr. Berger confirmed that usually an ectopic can’t be felt until 7 or 8 weeks.  But she still felt it was worth checking out, so bottoms off and feet up in the stirrups.  I saw it immediately … two dark spots in a sea of white static.

One measured closely on target at 5w3d (I was 5w4d yesterday), and the other is lagging at 5w0d.  Both had a yolk sac and are positioned high in the uterus.  We couldn’t see a fetal pole or anything else but it’s really early and I’m heavy so it’s hard to get a good look even under the best circumstances.  Dr. Berger felt the larger one looked really promising and strong, but she didn’t feel hopeful for the smaller one, even though it has a yolk sac.

So, that’s two embryos accounted for.  We’ll keep praying, keep focusing our eyes on the One in Control.  Hopefully the back pain was just an oddity and will pass.  I will get the results of the urinalysis today so we can either treat that or rule it out.  As far as an ectopic, we’ll just have to wait and see.

And keep praying that it is His will that both little ones will come join us in this life.  Please grow, grow, grow.  We’ll see them again on Tuesday when we have our “official” six-week ultrasound.  Hoping for two fetal poles and two beautiful heartbeats.

 

Home Study

Our Home Study is done!!  Our case manager, Rebecca, arrived at 9:30 this morning to interview us.  It was so nice to talk with her.  It felt relaxed and natural.  We were each able to talk freely about our hopes from the program (adoption, of course!) as well as our fears (losing a baby we’ve come to love).  She asked us each about our childhoods, how we met, how our marriage has progressed, our path to parenthood, and our plans and hopes for the future.  We talked about parenting and discipline styles, strengths and weaknesses in our marriage, and our extended family and support system.  After that, we walked around the house and she asked to see where the foster child would stay (we have a crib in our bedroom and a spare room), took a peek in our medicine cabinet, and checked out our pantry and laundry room.  That was it! 

Next Rebecca will write up our biographies and our home study interview into a family profile.  It’ll take her about two weeks to get it done.  This weekend we have Davie’s two-year pictures scheduled, and we’ll throw in a family pic while we’re there.  I’ll use the family pic to finish our family collage photo (I’ve been trying to do one on Shutterfly but it’s not cooperating), and Rebecca will add that to our profile.  Then we’ll officially be on the waiting list!

I’m just so excited.  This is a big year for us, a year of change and growth.  I just feel so at peace.  I feel close to God.  I know there are no guarantees, but I am choosing not to let the fears win.  It’s a constant effort to stay in this place, but it’s worth it.  I’m so full of love for my husband and my daughter, and for the child(ren?) who will join our family.  I can’t wait to see how He will work in our lives, how the next member of our family will come to join us.  I feel blessed.

 

Looking Good

Today we wanted to see an HCG between 1216 (67%) and 1456 (double) and we got 1390. I’m happy with it!  Progesterone was worrisome on Saturday – we went from 6.5 to 7 to 4, but today it’s up to 8Dreamer – I called about the PIO shots – I thought of them right away when my progesterone went down, too.  But the doc has done studies and found the Crinone preferable and he convinced me to stick with that.  He did up my estradiol dose from 2 pills a day to three, which seems to have done the trick for now.  Another milestone I didn’t know we wanted to achieve – Tx Fertility likes to see an HCG of over 1,000 by 5 weeks, and we’ve gone over that at 4 weeks 6 days, so that was encouraging to hear, too.

My nurse Heather will get back with me later today to let me know what Dr. Silverberg wants to do next.  He will probably want to stop blood draws until the ultrasound a week from Tuesday, and I’m ok with that.  I think it’ll help me stop thinking about it so much and do a better job of keeping it in perspective.

On the foster-to-adopt front, tomorrow is our first Home Study!  We spent all weekend scrubbing and cleaning the house.  I’m so excited!  I really love the young woman who is our case manager, Rebecca.  She taught several of our classes last month.  It seems like we’ve been doing this so long, it’s always been far away in the future.  Finally it’s here!  After our home study is complete and approved, we’ll be on the waiting list!