Jul 082013

In my last post, I talked all about infertility and my pregnancy. I had a relatively easy pregnancy – morning sickness, but nothing too severe. It was more like an overactive gag reflex. I had a bad round of stomach flu around Thanksgiving, but that was really it.

January went by smoothly. I was really fatigued, but chalked it up to a normal pregnancy symptom. Everything was going well. Until February 6th.

On February 6th, I had my normal OB/GYN 32 week appointment. As usual, I left it up to Jack if he wanted to come or not. His response was the same as the other times – if I felt I needed him, he would come. I told him not to worry about it. After all, there’s nothing exciting about a normal 32 week appointment. For some reason, on my lunch break, I sent Jack a text message and asked him to meet me for my appointment. I’ll never know what exactly prompted me to do that but I’m so glad that I did.

At the start of my appointment, my blood pressure was high. REALLY high. However, it had happened at the last two appointments and went back to normal later on during the appointment. They had me lay down on the exam table and came back a few minutes later to take it again. Still really high. A few more minutes and a third time…still high. At this point, the doctor came in and explained that they had found protein in my urine – a sign of preeclampsia. With that and my blood pressure readings, Jack was given strict instructions to take me directly to the hospital – no stopping for food, no going home and packing.

I cried the entire car ride – about half an hour. I worried about the baby. I worried about myself. I worried about Jack, should something happen to me or the baby or both. I worried about if the cats had food and water at home. I worried about anything and everything I could think of. I could still feel the baby moving, which was a small relief for me. I got to the hospital and got checked in. I was hooked up to a blood pressure machine to take my blood pressure every 15 minutes. And the kicker…I had to catch all of my urine and put it in a bottle for 24 hours so they could get a better analysis of the amount of protein in my urine. Being 32 weeks pregnant, it was A LOT of urine. At the hospital, I was allowed to eat and get up and move around. One of the other small comforts was a nurse that knew Jack and his family. My blood pressure went down a little bit, on the high range of normal. I had no other symptoms of preeclampsia – no blurred vision, no major headaches, no swelling…no seizures. According to my initial blood pressure reading at the doctor’s office, I should have been having seizures.

It was a boring 24 hours. Jack stayed with me. We watched TV and slept the best we could. I had an ultrasound to check on the baby. While we were waiting for the results, I was brought dinner – Thanksgiving dinner. It was awesome. This was on Thursday, February 7th.

I had finished my food and was getting anxious to go home. I knew I would probably be put on bedrest, but I was fine with that. The next thing I knew, I had several people rush into my room. They started setting me up for an IV. I panicked. I knew this wasn’t good, and I knew it meant I wasn’t going home. I had no clue what was going on. My blood pressure skyrocketed to 170s/130s. I was then told (AFTER getting the IV fluids and being started on magnesium sulfate) that I was being transferred to a hospital with a higher level NICU for the baby. I got a steroid shot for the baby’s lungs (I would get the second one the next night) and was transported via ambulance to a hospital a little over an hour away. Jack had to follow in the car, probably the most excruciating drive of his life. He had no clue what would happen to me or the baby. He called both his parents and my parents on the way. I can’t remember if his parents visited that night, or the following night, but they were there when I got a more detailed ultrasound to determine the baby’s growth. I knew the baby should be between 3.5 and 4 pounds. He was estimated to be about 2 pounds. I was completely floored. I was diagnosed (or rather, the baby was diagnosed) with Intrauterine Growth Restriction, caused by the preeclampsia.

Now, it still bothers me how that sort of growth restriction went on undetected. With all of my ultrasounds and appointments, I wonder if there was ever a time when his growth wasn’t on track, and if so, why wasn’t he checked more thoroughly? I will probably never know.

Jack’s family continued to hold out hope that the baby wouldn’t have to be delivered. I knew in my heart that he would arrive that weekend. I was given the second steroid shot for the baby’s lungs around 6:30pm on Friday, February 8th. The goal was to make it another 24 hours for the steroids to have maximum effectiveness. I had been given a choice to have labor induced or to have a c-section. With the growth restriction, the doctors weren’t sure if he would survive labor if it got rough. It was really no choice at that point – a c-section it was. I worried all night Friday, but managed to get a little sleep. I believe I was given Ambien to help.

I woke up Saturday morning, and tried to make light of the situation. I should mention that I wasn’t allowed to get up out of bed, as magnesium sulfate makes your muscles weak. I also wasn’t allowed to eat. So the last time I had been out of bed and eaten was Thursday evening before the ambulance ride. I had already been told that it would be 24 hours after the baby’s birth before I would be allowed to get out of bed and eat. There was a movie marathon on the TV. I turned it on, since the 40 Year Old Virgin was playing. I at least thought I could laugh a few times. I was incredibly anxious about the c-section and what the outcome would be. At some point during the movie, the doctors came in with a buzzer and put it on my belly. They said the baby’s heart rate was good, but he wasn’t moving as much as they would like. He started moving around with the buzzer, and even kicked at it. I continued to watch the movie and tried not to worry.

Around 1:30, I had a flood of people rush into my room. Once again, no one told me what was going on until it was underway. The baby wasn’t moving around. His heart rate was still okay, but not as good as it had been. They were doing an emergency c-section. I clutched to a stuffed bear that Jack had brought. I told him I wouldn’t let go of it, that way they couldn’t take the baby early. He pried it out of my arms. I told him I wanted my mother, or his mother, or somebody’s mother. Our families weren’t there yet. They weren’t supposed to come until about 4. Jack immediately called them and told them they were taking me to surgery.

They took me to the operating room to be prepped and Jack was left behind to dress in his operating room outfit (which, funny enough, didn’t fit and they had to rig it). I cried through the local anesthesia and the spinal block. It didn’t really hurt but it was my response to being nervous. The spinal block worked immediately. I was also given morphine. The medications made me nauseous, so I was given Zofran.

Jack came into the operating room just in time. I asked him repeatedly if the baby was out yet. He didn’t know. I didn’t hear anything. And then finally, after the longest minutes of my life, I heard what sounded like a tiny lamb. Justin was born at 2:43pm. He weighed 2 pounds 8 ounces, and was just 16 inches long. But he took his first breath on his own, which was encouraging. We knew it would be an uphill battle with a lengthy hospital stay, but he had made his way into the world.

More to follow…

Jan 032013

Subtitle: Why I hated everyone (including myself) for four years

Kind of inspired by Melissa’s post, or more specifically, her sixth resolution. In a way, this is letting go of the past, but also trying to let go of the things that I can’t control.

Jack and I got married in July 2007. It was always a no-brainer for me that I wanted kids. After all, I chose working with children as my profession. While Jack was never adamant about wanting kids, he had said that he could see himself having children with me. By the end of August, Jack’s brother and his wife announced their pregnancy with their first child.

I was jealous. I couldn’t help it. I knew it wasn’t the appropriate time for us financially (not to mention we were still in the process of buying a house while living with Jack’s parents). I remember bawling, and Jack’s mom saying something about how I must be feeling a need to mother something. His mom knew that I wanted a cat as soon as we moved down to our house, but his parents allowed me to get a kitten even though we were still living up there. We (well, mostly I) picked Delilah, a lovely silver tabby girl. One of the stipulations to us having a cat while still living with Jack’s mom and dad was that it had to be female, as their cats were female. Delilah was the only female in the cages at Petsmart (not that it mattered – I fell in love with her the moment I saw her sweet face), so it was fate. But still…we got a cat, they got a kid. It didn’t seem like a fair trade off.

Meanwhile, I knew something wasn’t quite right with my body. I had always known to some extent. All through high school and college, my cycles were never regular. At this point, it was only getting worse and things were increasingly irregular. At some point in early 2008 (February I believe), we decided to forgo any form of birth control. It was going to be a limited time thing, but with my body completely out of whack, it seemed pointless to use birth control. We went several months and of course, nothing happened. I can’t remember exactly when, but sometime that summer I finally caved and made a gynecologist appointment.

Now up until this point, I had never had a gynecologist appointment. Me putting it off was definitely a fear of the unknown. I tend to do that in all aspects of my life. Sometimes I suspect I have some mild form of Autism because of my fear of change and the unknown, but that’s beside the point. At the appointment, I was diagnosed with PCOS. I was sent for bloodwork, given a prescription for Provera to induce my period, and 50 mg of Clomid to induce ovulation. I had no side effects with either medication, even though Clomid has been known to wreak havoc with hormones. Follow-up bloodwork showed that the Clomid didn’t work. I was given an increased dosage of 100 mg to try.

For as easy as the 50 mg of Clomid was the first time, that’s how hard the 100 mg was the second time. It turned me into an irrational, hormonal, anxiety-ridden mess. This was around Christmas 2008, I believe. I’ve truly lost track by this point, and it’s a time in my life that I don’t really care to relive. I was also experiencing difficulties with my job, as it was an environment I was very uncomfortable with, and eventually ended up resigning due to death threats (that’s a story for a different day). I had to pull over on a crowded four-lane highway because of my anxiety attacks. I could barely make it through the stores to finish my holiday shopping. I was pretty sure I had hit rock bottom as far as depression and hopelessness. To make matters worse, the follow-up bloodwork showed that the 100 mg didn’t work. All of the anxiety was for nothing. I made the resolution with myself to try one more time with the Clomid (the maximum my gynecologist would allow before sending me to a fertility specialist), after taking a month or two to regroup. Not to my surprise, the third try with Clomid didn’t work either.

In the mean time, many of my friends were announcing pregnancies of their own. I had never felt so alone. I didn’t know how to react. I wanted to be happy for them, but I just couldn’t be. Don’t get me wrong, I had some degree of happiness for them and I could react appropriately via Facebook and email. Phone calls and face-to-face conversations were a different story – I couldn’t hide my disappointment that I wasn’t able to share in the happiness. And I wasn’t ready to share my issues. So I did the only thing I knew how to do: I isolated myself. Not just from my pregnant friends, but from everyone, up to family and including my own husband.

I was given a referral to a reproductive endocrinologist. It was brutal. They wanted me to continue to try Clomid with closer monitoring (ultrasounds to check my ovaries and what felt like constant bloodwork). I wasn’t thrilled, as I had heard about some different drugs being used for people who didn’t react well to Clomid. The doctor I spoke with wasn’t willing to try anything “new” – she was taking a very conservative approach. When I expressed my displeasure with taking the same approach that failed three times, I was told by the doctor that she would only consider other approaches if I had weight loss surgery first and at that point, I would have to go straight to IVF. That wording is putting it nicely compared to what she actually said. I went through one cycle with that doctor, and decided I was done with the overall attitude I was getting.

I gave up, and sank deeper into the hopelessness and isolation. At that point, I was finding it much easier to withdraw myself than to get into my issues. Around this time, Jack’s brother and his wife announced that they were expecting their second child. I won’t get into specifics about it, but it wasn’t pretty for a variety of reasons. We had already been experiencing a lot of comments about how we were next for kids, and lots of questions about when. My easiest response was that we were thinking we weren’t going to have kids. In a way, it killed me. The comments and questions kept coming and coming. I eventually couldn’t take it anymore, and exploded with several of Jack’s family members about the reality of my fertility issues and the fact that there most likely would not be any children from us. The responses were not what I hoped for. I hoped for some understanding, and to just be left alone about it. Instead I got a lot of the following:

Just relax and it’ll happen.
You should go to church and pray.
Oh, I went through that once for a month or two and I have (x amount of children) now.

All of these comments upset me. First of all, we tried the “just relax” approach. Just relaxing doesn’t change the fact that there is something wrong with my body. As for the going to church and praying…that comment sent me over the edge. It seemed like a feeble attempt to turn me religious, and it wasn’t going to happen. And the last one…I wanted to scream. It hadn’t been a month or two, it had been almost two years at this point.

I decided to seek a second opinion from a different reproductive endocrinologist. While this doctor was much nicer, I got a similar response. That I was still young, I should try Weight Watchers for awhile, and check back in six months if I wasn’t able to lose a certain amount of weight to see if their was a bigger problem than just PCOS. I got the same response to not wanting to try Clomid – that IVF would be the next logical step. Except it really wasn’t for us, not financially. Not when fertility treatments weren’t covered by insurance.

I half-assed tried Weight Watchers, and was easily able to lose a certain amount of weight. It didn’t seem to matter at that point so I gave up. I knew we couldn’t afford IVF. I let myself continue to feel isolated and miserable, and I let myself take comfort in food and I gained more weight. I continually sank deeper and deeper. I didn’t feel like Jack understood at all, and in all reality, he probably didn’t. Having kids was never a deal-breaker for him like it was for me. I felt horrible about myself. I felt damaged. And I felt like Jack deserved better, he deserved someone that wasn’t broken.

This continued, for close to another two years. Almost four years at this point. I had another refill of Clomid sitting in the medicine cupboard in the bathroom, but I couldn’t bring myself to take it. I had a better job and was in a better overall situation, but still couldn’t shake the depression with regards to wanting a child. At the start of my second year of my new job, I noticed several people had lost a good deal of weight. I couldn’t help but ask how. I found out that they had been working with another teacher who had a personal training business outside of school. I joked that I’d never be able to run five feet, let alone lose weight. By this point, my fertility problems were well-known to anyone that asked about children. I figured at this point, I had nothing to lose, and the personal trainer was nothing but optimistic and upbeat, even given the uphill battle that I was facing. Once I buckled down and strictly followed the diet and running plan, I found it easier and quickly found myself losing weight. Not as much as I hoped for at first, and it was slow, but steady. I found myself able to run further and further, and before I knew it, I could run 1/4 of a mile without having to stop to walk. Once the cold weather came around, I had to stop due to my asthma attacks. I stalled, but kept the weight off.

Jack and I were approaching our fifth wedding anniversary in the summer of 2012. We decided we wanted to take a trip to Disney World. I managed to lose another 15 lbs or so before we left, bringing the total to close to 50 lbs. I still had the last refill of Clomid. We decided that since I had lost weight (and I was at my lowest weight since we had started trying for a child), I would take Provera to time my period before we left for Disney, and follow through with the Clomid. The hope was that since I was in a better job situation and that since we would be on vacation, the Clomid side effects would not be as harsh. I knew there was potential for disaster if the side effects were the same, but at this point, I didn’t care. It was Disney World – the happiest place on Earth, right? This was our last-ditch effort. I knew all about having to time sex based on the point in my cycles, and on vacation, it didn’t seem as stressful or as big of a deal. I made the promise to myself to go above and beyond – meaning well beyond the timing of when I should have ovulated. I wanted to make this last-ditch effort count.

We got home from vacation. I knew I was expecting my period around the 25th of July. The 25th came and went…no period. And two negative pregnancy tests. I resigned myself to failure, and for once, I felt at least a little bit okay with that. I wrote my new 1001 things to do, trying to find something to look forward to. The following weekend, we were planning on going to a local amusement park. I still didn’t have my period. Jack insisted that I take a pregnancy test before going, because he knew I would want to ride some rides. Still negative. I told him I’d call the doctor during the next week, since something was obviously going very wrong with my body. We went to the amusement park and had fun. It didn’t dawn on me until almost the next weekend that I still didn’t have my period. I had one pregnancy test left. I decided to take it…it’s not like I had anything to lose at that point. As per my usual routine with pregnancy tests, I did my thing, dried it off, and went upstairs. Jack was still sleeping. It was before 6 in the morning. I sat and watched TV and waited the full 10 minutes, as I had been advised by many doctors to not look at the test right after the initial waiting period. I thought I saw a faint line.

I quickly woke up Jack. I told him I thought it was positive and that I was imagining it. He looked, said it looked positive to him, spouted off something about his dick being magic, and went back to sleep. On his way home from work that day, he stopped and picked up a better (brand name) test. I took it the next morning…and it was indeed positive. Holy shit.

I moved from the “oh my God, it worked” phase to the “this will never stick” phase fairly quickly. Given my issues and our luck, it just didn’t seem likely. The OB/GYN couldn’t get me in until I would be around 8 weeks, and even then, it would just be a yearly exam and a urine test. I tried not to worry for the three weeks in between the positive test and the appointment. I was preparing for a new school year. My appointment was canceled and rescheduled three separate times. On the day of the appointment, I was a nervous wreck. The urine test came up as positive, and I had my yearly exam. I was given a referral for a dating/viability ultrasound. I didn’t expect much, but scheduled the ultrasound for Labor Day weekend (how fitting). I was very nervous that morning, and I think I cried much of the car ride to the hospital for the ultrasound. I settled in on the exam table and tried to relax. I didn’t look at the screen at first. I heard the tech say “There it is.” I turned and saw what looked like a kidney bean flickering on the screen. The flickering was a heartbeat. I almost died on the spot. I expected nothing – I figured it was somehow all in my head.

I had to immediately decide about the NT scan and genetic testing. Jack and I opted out of everything, because at this point, it was a baby, and whatever happened, happened. I spent the next few weeks being very nervous. My first prenatal appointment wasn’t until I was almost 12 weeks. At that appointment, I finally got to hear the heartbeat. I was shocked it was still there. We told Jack’s parents at that point, but asked them to please not spread the news yet. About a week later, we let them tell.

I remained incredibly nervous until the 20 week anatomy ultrasound. I figured we’d find something wrong at that point. We quickly found out we were having a boy, but that was about all we found out during the first ultrasound. The tech was awful and got virtually no measurements. We scheduled a second ultrasound for the following weekend. Everything was fine…except for the spine. They were having trouble finding his spine. The doctor stated they were probably just being overly cautious, but they were sending me to a different hospital with better imaging equipment. I had to wait two more weeks. It was excruciating. And completely unnecessary. He was fine…just very, very active. The issue with his spine was that he was not still long enough for the initial imaging equipment to capture measurements. We weren’t exactly forthcoming with too many people right away. It wasn’t until after that third ultrasound that I told my family. I just couldn’t bear having to un-tell if something bad really happened.

So, here we are. We’re expecting our little guy in early April. It’s been a long journey. And while this post doesn’t make up for me being a shitty friend, relative, and wife, it certainly feels better to have it out there. It isn’t an excuse for me acting the way I have for the past four years, but it is a reason. I’d like to get my friends back in my life, but I totally understand if that is not what they want. Four years is a long time.

If you’ve read this whole mess, thanks for bearing with me. And if you haven’t, well, that’s fine too. In fact, I doubt anyone will even read this mess. But here it is, for better or worse, my feelings for the last four years (five at this point) of my life.