Twenty (one) Fingers and Twenty Toes

It sort of feels like we have been keeping a secret. I would say that I didn’t intend to but that wouldn’t be the complete truth. Granted, the time to blog or put any thoughts down is pretty rare with twins but this is something I’ve wanted to write for a while and have shied away from for longer than I’d like to admit.

Now that you’ve all read our harrowing (though hopefully not too graphic) birth story, I’ll pick up where they’ve just wheeled me into my room after the PACU and Chad and his mom are waiting. In a haze of pain and anesthesia, I found myself searching for two baby beds and looked longingly at Chad to explain where they were. My sweet husband, knowing me so well, pulled out his phone and showed me my first pictures of my babies. His first words were “they’re breathing on their own” and then their weights, probably the detail I had been most anxious about during my pregnancy. Little did I know that 8 pound babies can end up in a NICU just as easily as 5 pounders. He then smiled at me a slightly strained smile and announced “Luke has an extra thumb.” He knew that this detail would shake up his usually-fragile-but-currently-already-shattered wife. Excuse me, what? Beg pardon? My baby has 11 fingers? What is this, The Princess Bride? Jokes aside, I was rocked by this news. Instantly, I felt like I had done something wrong in my pregnancy and that Luke was suffering those consequences. Would this extra digit mean developmental issues to come later? It was one of many scenarios that I had never even thought to consider.

I feel that I need to pause here and do some explaining. Some of you might be reading this and thinking “chill out, woman, it’s a thumb, not an extra head.” Some of you might be totally freaking out. I want to give you the space to do either. I can only tell you my own process and how I have been changed by this precious boy that God has entrusted me to raise.

I’ve had a long, long battle with appearances. For most of my life, I have wanted to project that everything is fine, everything will be fine, and I’m good. Infertility had a lot to do with changing that. I now crave honesty and authenticity. I surround myself with people who desire the same and are active in that pursuit. Those willing to be vulnerable but also proactive in their own growth. When your husband tells you that your baby has 11 fingers, you kind of forget about that battle against appearances and just have a panicky thought of not only “what does this mean?” but also “what will people think?!?”

If not for Chad, I probably would have stayed in that panic. If not for Chad, I don’t know where I’d be. I am a woman truly blessed. Chad calmed me and wiped my tears as I allowed the anesthesia to wear off and this new realization to sink in. My baby was born with a genetic abnormality. He was not “perfect.” And he wasn’t in my arms.

I read an amazing article when the babies were about 3 months old that really resonated with me. It was one woman’s story about how she, and we as a culture, are trying to create what she called “superbabies”. She talked about how she ate only organic, exercised daily, attended all the birth classes, and did everything perfectly and her baby was born (in a water birth, no less) underweight, underdeveloped, and with a fairly severe chromosomal disorder. She is 5 and still in diapers and weighs only 22 pounds. This woman’s story is not my own. Shoot, my biggest pregnancy craving was a Southern greasy fast food joint called Cookout. Ketchup could have served as it’s own food group for most of my pregnancy. But I think there is a part of every woman who wants that “superbaby”. The oft quoted phrase of “we don’t care if it’s a boy or a girl, we just want a healthy baby” rang in my ears like a sad failure. Was my boy not healthy?

What about the babies who aren’t born healthy? Do their parents not rejoice when they first see them? What about the babies like mine, who are fortunate by many, many standards, to have had what’s considered a short NICU stay? What about my daughter who has a hemagione (cluster of blood vessels) in her hair? Or my son with his sweet little lobster claw hand? Or what about Jimmy Kimmel’s son born with a terrifying heart condition? Or the countless other babies in the NICU that surrounded my babies for 8 days and 20 days respectively. Are they any less wonderfully made or knit together by God?

I’m terribly ashamed to admit that I watched Luke insanely closely for the first 2 months of his life. My first glimpses of him and moments with him were spent in awe but also fear as I tried to see if there was anything else “wrong.” I would read into his grunts and his cries, looking for there to be something more. Was his colic different or worse than Leia’s? His hair is falling out, Oh Lord, is there something wrong? He’s really solid and dense, what does that mean? He sure does cry a lot! What’s up with that? None of it was helped by the fact that we couldn’t get him to finish a bottle for the longest time in the NICU. It wasn’t that he would get full or fall asleep, he would just stop sucking. He knew he would get the rest through his nose tube so why go to the effort? He’s Chad’s son, after all.

I hate that I spent the first two months+ of his life looking for what was wrong rather than seeing what was absolutely right about him.

Luke came home from the NICU on Wednesday, February 1st. The babies original due date was Wednesday, February 1st. These babies and their milestones and accomplishments will never be in my timing. This baby boy of mine will not be rushed. He will do things in his own time and we will celebrate with joy when he does. I will move heaven and earth to help him but I had to learn when he was 20 days old that it’s not going to go according to my plan.

The changing point for me happened when I saw him smile for the first time. Sappy as it sounds, the boy smiled (in response to a fart, of course) and something lifted and I felt a peace about Luke I had never felt before. This boy of mine, this big-feeling, loud, strong boy who kicked my bladder mercilessly for months, will always keep me on my toes. Just as I will form and shape him, he will do the same to me. Loving him will change me. I had to stop and let him be who God intended him to be, whether that meant he was “perfect” or not. I had to embrace the ways he was different and allow myself to begin to do the same in my own life. I am his model and will be a voice in his head and I so badly want to be one that assures him how awesome he is in every way. His smile was my rainbow from God, telling me that my son is in much greater Hands than my own. This left hand that scared me and worried me was uniquely designed by Him and all of Luke will hopefully be used for His glory.

In a little over a month, we will wake Luke up and take him down to Levine Children’s Hospital, as renowned and wonderful a hospital as I could ask for, and they will operate and remove Luke’s extra thumb. I can say with complete sincerity that I, for one, will be sad to see it go. He will be in a cast for 3 weeks but the surgeon expects there to be no complications and said that she wouldn’t worry about any other developmental disorders. She sees no cause for concern. His polydactyl is the most common type and the one they remove the most. Luke will go on for the rest of his days with just 10 fingers, barring any freak accidents or stupid hijinks. To the rest of the world, he will be perfectly “normal.” But I know, and now you know, that Lucas Richard Beach bears a unique thumbprint of the Almighty and he has since the day he was born.

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Some Lessons Learned In Infertility

I wrote this in May, just for reference!!

Sometimes you go on a date night on Wednesday night to celebrate good follicle growth on cycle day 12.  My blood work and ultrasound showed today that we have not one but 4 matured follicles that could be ovulated.  Our second IUI is scheduled for tomorrow at 11 am, which is two days sooner than I thought it would be.  It’s times like today when I feel the emotional whiplash that can happen in life.  Even good things create it.  Getting married.  Having babies. New pets.  New jobs.  I have had head down for the last 12 days, going through the motions for our second IUI but largely not letting myself hope too much.  I then get a call from the doctor that they need us to verbally confirm that we are ok with having that many viable follicles because our chances of multiples is very, very high.  We are already 5x more likely than the average 32 year old couple to conceive multiples because of the treatments but the nurse wanted me to know that this is serious.  She cautioned that some couples postpone IUI’s because they don’t want to risk it.  I assured her that this is something we have prayed about and that this womb is open for ALL THE BABIES.

And then I went in search of a paper bag and a quiet corner because holy God, all the babies?? 4? I joked with the doctor doing my ultrasound asking him if I was going to have quadruplets and he said no but multiples were definitely a possibility.  Similar to the idea that if you are going to have sex, you need to be prepared for pregnancy, if you are going to do infertility treatments, I feel you need to ready yourself for the idea of multiples.  My mom is an identical twin so it already runs in our family.  (Yes, this makes our chances EVEN higher).  We have always hoped that someone in our family would have twins or multiples but when it’s staring me in the face, it’s driving me to my knees.  It’s always been a fun thought but in reality, even one kid sometimes scares so the idea of a whole gang in my uterus makes me hyperventilate sometimes.  And sometimes, it makes me over the moon excited.  I love a deal as much as the next girl but 3 or 4 babies for the price of 1 is a bargain that could kill me!

Chad and I have talked about the possibility of multiples several times.  We are firm in our belief that life begins at conception, so the idea of “reducing” or terminating any pregnancy is not on the table for us.  It’s not so much that we want more than one newborn at a time but we understand that the odds of us having more than one at a time is an option.  Also, I am not the woman and we are not the couple who will never complain about pregnancy, labor, delivery, recovery or parenting simply because it took us so long to get pregnant.  I am an equal opportunity whiner so I will exercise my right to whine even in those situations.  It’s not all going to be magical.  Like currently, I’m having a hard time getting a deep breath into my lungs just trying to imagine breast-feeding more than one child at a time. What do I do with my arms??

Breathe. Jesus take the wheel.

On our impromptu date tonight (sushi, because I’m eating all I can before the next IUI), I realized that just like most things, there is a beautiful layer to this hard time in our life.  There is beauty in the intentionality that comes with infertility.  To know the exact day and time that our baby was formed in my body is amazing.  To know that we can tell our future children that there is no way they are here by accident.  That we have prayed for them and gone through blood, (lots of) sweat, and tears for them.  It’s kind of cool to know that tomorrow, your whole life could change.  That tomorrow, a miracle could take place.

I am not good at living in the moment.  I have a hard time just being in this season and not looking ahead to the next one.  Infertility is painfully teaching me that I have to take today for today.  I get to cherish today because tomorrow everything could be different.  And for this woman who likes to plan every detail, that’s a rewarding experience.  It’s not a hipster concept of YOLO, it’s a deep gratitude for today and everyday I have to be with Chad and those I love.  To snuggle my 11.5 year old puppy.  To treat each day as a gift and be in this sacred moment of waiting.  And to finally begin to understand that Solomon tells us in Proverbs about not boasting about what can happen tomorrow for we don’t know what a day might bring.  I pray that all of us greet tomorrow with the hope of a miracle.

Our First (Spoiler Alert: Unsuccessful) IUI

I wrote this in April, just for reference! Doesn’t everyone have a sharps container by their coffee maker??

Two things my cervix was compared to today would be a.) a powdered sugar donut and b.) an eyeball.  What has two thumbs and will never eat a powdered sugar donut again? This girl! Three days ago, Chad gave me a double shot of Ovidrel which is basically straight up HCG to make you ovulate in order to do the procedure we did today at 11 am, the intrauterine insemination. This week has been the hardest week of our infertility journey as yet.  I have been at the clinic by 7 am 4 out the last 5 days and today we went back at 11 for the procedure.  That’s four days of blood draw, three shots, four ultrasounds, several crying meltdowns, one delayed IUI procedure waiting for progesterone to peak, one successful IUI procedure, and a whole lot of uncertainty over the next two weeks.

The first IUI procedure only carries about a 20% chance of success in the first cycle.  It’s success rate climbs with each cycle after that but there is an 80% chance that we will be doing this all over again next month.  It’s hard to think about the fact that we care closer than we have ever been but also possibly very far away.  In preparing for the IUI today, I did some research and gained perhaps a little perspective into why infertility seems to be such a lonesome journey for so many people.  I read the blogs, books, posts from other women and if anything, it only makes me frustrated and more anxious.  I read one woman’s blog about her four year, 4 IUI, 4 IVF cycle battle with infertility with no insurance coverage and thought, dear God, what if that is us? You never know.  You hear of people conceiving with IUI all the time but the details are unclear.  And it is assumed that if a couple does IVF and handles the $13,000 expense, they are going to have a baby.  But that was not this woman’s story and it’s so easy to hear her battle and make it your own.  It’s straddling the bridge between hope and realism.  And I have to confess, when reading a lot of these other people’s struggles, I feel inadequate.  They have these beautiful, prosaic things to say that are so true but seem so far out of the realm in which I live.

The way our clinic is structured, you check in on the second floor, and then typically move to the third floor for blood draw and labs.  Procedures are done on the first and second floors.  The third floor also houses what I dub “the sperm suite” for the male samples.  I have realized in the last 6 weeks that Chad are either the most immature people who have fought infertility or the only ones who have a sense of humor.

Chad has had to frequent the sperm suite three times.  It is off the blood lab so there’s no mystery at all what the men whose name get called are doing mere yards from you.  The funniest part to both of us is the mural on the wall in the blood lab that has a volcano with sperm coming out of it and eggs wearing coconut bras. It’s hysterical.

So we wait to get our respective labs done and neither of us can help but smirk when a man walks in and then out.  Today, Chad swore he heard a man “doing his business” to what sounded like clown porn!  Yesterday, a woman’s partner was called back when she was in the bathroom and she interrupted all the blood work (and other sample accumulation) to demand to see if he had her purse. If we can’t laugh about it, we wouldn’t be true to who we are!! Our doctor allows us and indulges our perversion or humor depending on how you look at it and we like her all the more for it.  This doesn’t have to be the Victorian era where a woman is put into confinement for three months and can come back into mixed company after she has been “churched”.  I don’t want to sit across from someone at dinner and talk about the catheter full of my husbands swimmers that was injected into my cervix today.  But I do want to tell you that we had an IUI and that we are trying and that it’s been hard.  I probably also want to tell you about the sperm volcano too but that is because I do border on inappropriate sometimes!

This last week in April is called Infertility Awareness Week.  Only one friend has spoken about her journey and it left me stymied.  She has had four IVF cycles. 4! She is the mother of two beautiful kids but I had no idea that she suffered so much.  I grew frustrated reading it because I wish so much she had been honest when it was happening.  She ended her post asking people to pray for their friends because “the journey is hard but it doesn’t have to be lonely!” Heart emoji.  But she never posted about it so we couldn’t pray for her.  And what’s more, I’m not posting about it either.  It will remain a lonely, scary journey if we don’t talk about it.  And I don’t mean talk about it how I often hear people talk about it with things like “God brought us through so much!” Or “believe that God is going to bless your efforts as He did ours.”  People only want to hear about it if it’s a success story.  And I would rather know how someone was feeling in the midst of it.  Not when it has been resolved or we know what is happening.  I want someone to preach to me about the difficulty of infertility and the faithfulness of God simultaneously.

One would think that I would be alone at the doctors office at 7am waiting for bloodwork and ultrasounds.  Guys, it is jam-packed, line out the door, people waiting for the doors to unlock busy.  Every morning, there are men and women standing outside the door in downtown Charlotte waiting for the doors to open at 7am.  As I learned this week, 1 in 6 couples will deal with infertility.  But how accurate is that statistic when so many of us don’t talk about our problems?  Undeniably, you know someone who has struggled to conceive and I hope that you better understand what they went through from our journey.  That’s my only hope greater than you drawing closer to Jesus during confusing complicated times.

Because I want to be honest, the IUI wasn’t painful.  It is a speculum situation again but it’s not painful.  Apparently, the cervix while also being like a powdered donut, is porous and there is an opening.  Didn’t know that. There is some cramping but I have had other biopsies done that hurt a lot more and won’t possibly result in a pregnancy so I didn’t find the IUI too bad.  The hormones and injections leading up to it are a bitch.  No way around it.  The trigger shot of Ovidril has made me feel 100% pregnant the last three days.  I am peeing all the time, four times a night.  I am slightly nauseous.  Pretty sweaty.  And also usually weepy.  But there is no way there is a baby in there and that sucks to feel that way before you conceive.

Once we were in the room today, my apprehension over it not being an organic way to make a baby sort of evaporated.  Without a doubt, I can look my baby in the eye and let them know how badly they were wanted.  The lengths and needles we went to to get them.  The things that we don’t talk about in polite conversation that became our routine were all for those precious lives we get to mold and love.  The agonizing two week wait to see if our procedure resulted in a life was all worth the wait.  So while our story will not be unique, or “normal”, or easy, it will be ours and it will be funny, true, authentic and full of awe in the One who made us.  And one day, we might even be able to take our child to see the sperm made out of construction paper that leads to a volcano.

(Trying to) Handle the Disappointment

I majored in sociology not psychology so I know less about brain development and brain formation than I would like.  Of course, I could educate myself more but why would someone do that?  All that to say, I’m not sure what part of your brain gets triggered most by parenthood or relationships but I feel certain that infertility is somehow centered right in the feelings part of the brain.  It’s not logical.  It is science, but never try to tell a woman who can’t get pregnant logical stuff because chances are, she’s living most of her life all up in her feelings.  Or perhaps that’s just me.

At our results meeting last week, our doctor told us of two women she was working with who got pregnant spontaneously on their HSG (fallopian tube procedure) cycle.  I am in that same cycle so I admit to hoping more than was probably wise that we wouldn’t even need to enact this great plan Dr. Johnson came up with because I was already with child. As we planned and plotted, the hope was that I would be calling her after April 21st and saying I had not started my period yet.  Otherwise, I would call on cycle day one and we would get this big, gigantic infertile ball rolling.

Well, today I called for cycle day one. Yet another cycle of hoping, not drinking, cutting back on caffeine and praying but my period still came.  I am not pregnant. Again. This is the 9th cycle that has come and there is no baby.  And I am so hopeful and excited to know more of what is going on in my body and my husbands body and now have a plan to move forward.  But today, I am just devastated.  Like Hannah in 1 Samuel 1, I am weeping before the Lord.  I am a woman deeply troubled.  I stand with Hannah and millions of other women at the alter and beg the Holy Spirit to speak the words that I cannot speak through my groans (Romans 8).  Granted, it could be because I’m weepy from my cycle but today, I am just overwhelmed with sadness.

It isn’t just the 9 cycles where we have tried and not succeeded. It’s the 30 years before when I have held this dream of being a mother and the reality that it’s going to be different than I ever imagined it would be. It’s seeing my husband smile at babies in restaurants and knowing his desire is to have one of his own and we can’t produce that.  It’s looking at Facebook and seeing another pregnancy announcement and tons more pictures of women who’s bodies did what they were made to do.  It’s knowing that God is the giver of all good things and that He knows the plans He has for me and that might not include being a mom.  And in the end, I want Him more than I want a baby and I will accept if that’s not His will.  I will still know with all of me that He is faithful.  But until I can feel His peace about it, I will still probably weep before His throne when my womb stays empty.

I think I am grieving the fact that it’s not going to happen naturally for us.  I don’t know how to wrap my head around the fact that something that is supposed to be so sacred is becoming so scientific.  That I have to call and report my monthly cycles to a third party.  That my child will be conceived with doctors looking on and calculating the odds of the first cycle of intrauterine insemination vs the third cycle and how all of that pails in comparison to one round of IVF.  How do I reconcile all of that with the fact that I am a devout believer in miracles?  Will my doctors think I’m crazy because I want to pray before they put a catheter of my husbands sperm into my fallopian tubes?  Do they share the belief that though I have been barren, my God could breath and life would form where there had been none? Do they believe like I do that every child is a miracle?

We live in a world that increasingly scares me.  We are so divided on matters of faith, politics, and human rights. And I for one, don’t want to take something so divine as carrying a child for granted.  I don’t want to treat it as if it’s something that happens because a doctor decided a more aggressive treatment for our case. I don’t weep in the exam room at Reach, begging for a child.  I try my best to take this desire to the Only One who can knit a child together in my womb.  Who knows the life that Chad and I will get to bring into this world, or the life that already exists that we get to love.  I have put together a playlist on my iPod called “You are Ever Faithful” and I put songs on it that draw me back to my deepest and truest love.  To my Savior.  To the One who touched Sarah’s womb and filled her days with Isaac and laughter.  To the One who heard what Hannah said though she spoke no words.  To the One who holds my tears in a bottle.

One of the coolest things about the Old Testament to me is God’s practice of renaming people after encounters with Him.  In Genesis, Sarai becomes Sarah meaning princess.  Abram, her husband becomes Abraham as he is promised to be the father of many nations.  In my deep sadness, I wondered if perhaps this might be where He gives me my new name.  A name I won’t know this side of heaven.  But what if, just what if, God renames me something that is so counter to what I feel? I, who feel barren and empty, like a wasteland.  Used up, dried up, and weary.  What if He might call me Fruitful?  Rich, lush, productive, bountiful, overabundant.  This became one of the things that I drew comfort from.  Just as God carefully chose my name while he formed me in my mothers womb, He can christen me again.  He can take the places that feel empty, and fill them.  He can with yours too.

There’s a ‘Friends’ Quote for That!

A while ago, we saw our primary doctor at the clinic for the results of Chad’s analysis and all of my tests.  Despite the drama that happened during the HSG (by the way, it was priceless to see my doctor’s face when I told her.) everything was looking pretty good in both my procedures so I had prepared myself for somewhat good news.  We had already gotten some preliminary results on Chad’s testing and a big part of me was thinking that perhaps he was really the root of the problem, as he has so ardently wished to be.  That’s love, people, a husband who wants to be the problem because he knows how hard it will be for me to hear that it’s really me that has the issue.

So, drumroll please……it’s BOTH of us that have issues.  Immediately, my mind flashed to the show of my adolescence, Friends, to the episode where Monica and Chandler hear the results from their doctor of why they are not getting pregnant.  “Chandler: Apparently, my sperm have “low motility” and you have an “inhospitable environment.” Monica: Oh. Well, uh, what does that mean? Chandler: It means that my guys won’t get off their Barcaloungers and you have a uterus that’s prepared to kill the ones that do.” You know you are a product of the 90’s when you get not great news and instantly your head fills with a Friends quote.

I have always, always wanted to be a Rachel.  But the truth is, I am a Monica.  I become more Monica with every day.  Cleaning products excite me.  Organization is sexy.  My voice sometimes gets this high pitch quality to it that hurts even my own ears.  I am fiercely competitive.  None of those things are Rachel.  Apparently, we Monica’s have a hard time having babies.  (Not to fear: I understand that they are all fictional characters!)

Similarly, I remember during my 20’s hearing that everybody wanted to be a Carrie Bradshaw in Sex and the City but nobody was a Carrie.  Darren Starr, the creator, flat out said that.  She encompassed too many facets to be contained in one tiny body.  It was sadness that I realized, not only am I not a Carrie, I’m a Charlotte.  I’m more prudish than I’d care to admit.  I love a bow.  I believe in social graces and I love a good King Charles Cavalier Spaniel.  I just realized that both these characters had infertility written into their roles. How appropriate.

Why do I digress and tell you about my similarities to two fictional (though amazing) characters from the late 1990’s? To show you the fact that finally, at 32, I know myself.  I am old enough to understand that though I always wish I was the fashion icon with effortless hair and perfect blue eyes, I can finally grasp the beauty in being who I am.  I feel better able to be myself and own the things about myself that I like and don’t like.  Monica’s run the freakin’ world, people!! Monica is who you want in a crisis.  Charlotte has a heart of gold!  This knowledge of myself only fuels the fire of wanting to be a mother.  It’s no longer the hubris of youth that makes me think I’ll be great at it.  I’m genuinely terrified of screwing up my kids.  I also know it’s going to happen.  Wanting to have kids and struggling to have them can really clarify things for people.  I don’t want to be pregnant because it is so on trend right now.  I want to be a mother because it feels like there is something missing in my life.

My friend, Alexandria, has this beautiful story of her mom walking with her family and looking around and saying “someone is missing”.  She could just feel it.  This feeling led to her having IVF at an advanced age to make Alexandria’s younger brother who is currently climbing the New Mexico high school tennis rankings.  I feel the same.  I walk hand in hand with my husband and feel this surplus of love that we have that I want to give to someone else.  Someone is missing and I can feel it and it hurts.

Ok, so back to the results.  We are not exactly Chandler and Monica but we bear some resemblance. Chad’s sperm has slow motility and they are shaped funny.  His count is really, really high which he refuses to admit but I think is a source of pride for him.  Men and their sperm?? Who gets it? Their tales are not straight as they should be, they rather have a little curly-cue tale which I will always and forever attribute to his deep and profound love of bacon. The good laugh that we had making fun of his sperm with the doctor was highly inappropriate.  With his ADHD and extreme extroversion, we have joked that his swimmers were all just partying amongst themselves swimming in circles rather than doing the job they were supposed to do.  He has joked a couple of times that if my ovaries were pork-scented, I would’ve been pregnant much faster.

My womb is not “inhospitable”, it’s just not functioning how it should.  We saw a picture of the ultrasound and, man, did that uterus look small and empty!! This is where Chad said “I’m probably more of the glass half-full one in our relationship.”  Which is very true.  The results for me were that two of my aforementioned players were doing great, pulling their weight.  And two were firmly stuck on the bench.  The bad part was that the two players that we need to be the MVP’s are the ones who are riding the bench.  Therefore, my ovarian reserve is actually looking older than a 32 year old woman’s ovarian reserve should be.  I have just read that sentence four times as I just typed it.  Hearing it was not worst case scenario.  Hearing it was confirmation that we were wise to come to the clinic when we did.  But hearing it also meant that there is absolutely something wrong with my body.  It doesn’t work how it should and as a result, it isn’t getting pregnant despite our efforts.  It brought the truth into startling clarity, that there is some part of me that is broken.  I have tried my hardest to avoid this thought as I clung to hope in the midst of trying each month to conceive.  I have read and re-read Psalm 139:14 throughout this journey.  I have wept to the prayer that God would show me that I am fearfully and wonderfully made.  And for a moment, when I heard these results, it felt like I had lost some battle that I wasn’t even very aware I was fighting.

I have a bit more perspective now.  Fearfully and wonderfully is not perfectly made.  It doesn’t imply without defect.  Being a Christian does not guarantee me from pain and suffering or infertility.  The long-held belief that trouble comes to Christians because of sin in their life is so over-used and incorrect when we look at the revolution Jesus created on this earth.  Just as Jesus was not, we are not immune to the state of the fallen world we chose.  Childbirth hurts. Man has to work.  Being naked causes insecurities.  Kids are orphaned. Wives and husbands die.  And sometimes, wombs lay empty though you desperately want them to be filled.  And undeniably for this woman, God is still very good and very faithful simultaneously.

The result of our results is that our doctor is going to try a more aggressive approach than she normally would.  A big part of establishing the ovarian reserve was to see how I would respond to fertility treatments should they decide to give them to me.  Rather than starting with just trying to get me to ovulate and conceive on my own, with the problems Chad’s sperm presents, the better option for us is going to be insemination.  That way, Chad’s ADHD sperm has no option but to go where it is supposed to.  It’s like the IEP for sperm! If there was a way I could get some  tiny airport crew into my fallopian tubes to wave lighted cones to show them where to go, I would.  And if I could will my egg to be in a good place without injections and medication to receive them, I would.  I would put a huge X on the egg and lock on their location (think Star Trek) and beam them into my uterus! Man, I’ve been married to a nerd too long!

Essentially, this is what the insemination is going to do.  We will try three rounds of insemination with our chances of conceiving growing each time. If those don’t work, we will then try in vitro fertilization which has a higher success rate.  In my glass half-empty mode, I was sad. It was difficult to hear that our conception story would be in a sterile doctor’s environment.  Not that I’m that big on conception stories anyways! I had a high school friend who’s mom would always tell her kids where they were conceived and thinking about your parent’s having sex is gross.  Chad, in his glass half-full was just grateful that we live in a time where this science exists and there is still a chance that we can have a biological baby.

And so we venture on in this journey.  There is a plan.  And there is renewed hope.  We have more people who are taking it seriously that we want to have a baby.  All of that feels good. But hope can be a dangerous thing.  Hope is a beautiful, powerful, devastating thing for a believer but it is a word that I am clinging to. Not because I know that I will emerge from this time with a baby in my arms.  But because I feel it to my core that at the end of this journey, as I am saying in the middle of it, I will be able to look back and realize that everything God created is fearfully wonderfully made.  Because with David, the Warrior King, a  sinful man after God’s own heart, I will be able to say that I know this truth full well.  Whatever God is knitting in my womb, whether it’s preparing me to have biological children or love someone else’s, my broken body still bears His thumbprint. It is indeed, fearfully and wonderfully made.

The Most Awkward Thing Ever??

Come along, friends, walk with me the magical journey that is infertility tests.  Several weeks ago, I had an ultrasound by a male doctor (that was a first, but surely not the last).  The ovaries look good! I was just happy that he didn’t get in there and see ovaries shriveled to the size of prunes and cobwebs where my other parts should be.  It feels like it sometimes, man.  The womb can feel like a wasteland with tumbleweeds and coyotes when you’re struggling to conceive. It’s the wild wild west minus the catchy beat and Will Smith swagger.

Anyways, last week brings the amount of fairly invasive procedures to my lady regions to 4.  At least as far as this infertility journey is concerned.  Last week, I got to go to the bottom floor of our reproductive endocrinologist which houses the operating room and the IVF lab.  Husbands can’t go with you to this part of the center.  I was scheduled for my HSG, and I couldn’t tell you what that stands for. (A hysterosalpingogram or HSG is an x-ray procedure used to see whether the fallopian tubes are patent (open) and if the inside of the uterus (uterine cavity) is normal. HSG is an outpatient procedure that usually takes less than 5 minutes to perform.- thank you reproductivefacts.com). My doctor described it as a quick little thing where they inject dye into your fallopian tubes to see if they are open because the dye will drip out if they are.

So I walk back to the room, not exactly excited for what was going to happen but pleased that I would get some immediate results which never seems to happen in this baby-making world.  I walk into the room and see a table with stirrups that are literally straight up in the air, at a 90 degree angle (as pictured above, for your viewing pleasure). They also have these velcro things that strap around your foot (think straightjacket for your feet) and this big x-ray machine that sits above you. I have some mild claustrophobia so that didn’t look inviting.  Immediately, I just stare at the angle of the stirrups and realize that perhaps we haven’t conceived yet because we are just inherently not limber enough. I didn’t realize that I would have to be so flexible for an HSG.  The nurse laughs and tells me they adjust but to you know, go ahead and strip down to nothing and she’ll give me something that is basically the equivalent size of a washcloth to cover up with. Delightful.

Now, this is where it gets really really good, friends.  Come into the doctors office with me, I promise, I won’t be too graphic.

So, Chrissy, the nurse steps out as I somehow maneuver between the scary stirrups and manage to not give myself a concussion on the x-ray machine above me, all while my butt is hanging out, catching the breeze.  I get settled, cover up with my tissue, and Chrissy comes back in.  I tend to be quite uncomfortable with silence.  It has been something that I have worked at in my career, to allow there to be silence in the counseling room.  My un-comfortability with silence reaches new proportions when my legs are now velcroed into stirrups, I am spread eagle in front of a woman whom I just met.

I start shooting the breeze, asking her about herself, praying she isn’t as aware and I am of the fact that my cooter is 100% exposed and thats a part that is supposed to stay on lockdown for us good Christian girls. She asks how we heard about Reach and I told her that 4 different people referred us and she proceeds to tell me that she is somewhat new but has huge respect for Reach and their reputation in Charlotte.  Oh good, my vulnerable nether-regions are in good, respectable hands.

The doctor comes in and the awkward conversation kind of stops. The doctor, all business, asks me if I know what procedure I am having and I sensed, probably correctly, that a gender reassignment joke would be in bad taste.  She critiques how Chrissy has set up my spread eagle position and pushes the manacled feet further apart.

Ok, so, after being asked if I am allergic to betadyne or iodine about 4 times, we begin.  Speculum goes in, my empty womb appears on the screen with a large metal object invading it.  From that angle, speculums look just as uncomfortable as they feel.  Doctor critique number two, the speculum isn’t long enough.  So Chrissy fumbles a bit for a new one.  Wait for it! The doctor (never met her before, mind you) looks at Chrissy, the nurse, and asks her WHO TRAINED HER.   Chrissy makes a comment that she shadowed someone yesterday but was alone today.  At the doctors question as to why she was by herself today, she looks to the doctor and asks if they can discuss this after the procedure is over.  Great idea, Chrissy, absolutely on board and a fan of that plan! Let my pause here for a second to say that some people approach the world with their senses (sight, smell, hearing, etc.) and some people use their intuition to discern about their outside world.  Its best explained in a test called the Myer’s Briggs Personality Indicator, try it, it’s great but pay for the real one and get your correct type.  I am intuitive to a fault.  I don’t care if you are telling me that the sky is blue if I feel like it’s grey.  I believe that both approaches should be appreciated.  I hate doctors office lobbies because I just sit there and analyze why people are there.  I suck as an addictions counselor because I don’t care if you are telling me you haven’t relapsed, if I feel you did, I won’t believe you.  As a matter of fact, I don’t work with addicts.  But, all this to say that for a person who feels emotional currents as the main way I perceive the world and make my living, it was like a 5.0 on the Uncomfortable Richter Scale.

It was kind of this moment where things went a little fuzzy and I was strapped in thinking, “is this really happening??”  It’s not possible.  I am a person who has strange things happen to them. Strange people confess to me.  Doctors and lawyers tell me too much information.  People talk to me when I go to the bathroom in a public place, etc.  This could not be happening to me, nobody would believe it.

So, the doctor responds to Chrissy’s question if they can talk about it later with a snide comment that it won’t be any better if they talk about it her office later.  I can’t see the doctor as she is attending a part of my body that is obstructed by large black velcro like boot stirrups but I can see Chrissy, the nurse.  I kind of make a “is this really happening?” look and she rolls her eyes.  I look away to focus on my fallopian tubes but when I look back, she is crying.  Not little tears running down her face tears. Big, gulping sobs with black eyeliner and mascara running down her face.  The doctor asks for a different size catheter to inject dye and Chrissy is now crying so hard that she says she has to leave.  The doctor tells her to find the right tool first, Chrissy does, and then crawls around screens and x ray machines, all of which shift from the right position, and leaves the room on a great, big, breaking sob.

So, I’m there, legs bent, catheter in place, and the doctor is silent.  No, “sorry that happened”.  No “another nurse will be right in”.  No nothing.  About a minute goes by and then Carol, new nurse walks in.  She’s chipper and explaining things to me about the procedure but no one has addressed the gigantic, sobbing elephant that just left the room.  So, Carol adjusts the screens and x ray and then they inject the dye into my tubes. Great news, the dye drips out.  It creates a rorschach like looking pattern that to me looks a lot like a nurse in fetal position, moaning about the wrong size of catheters. Dude, seeing that my tubes were open was great, but it was entirely anti-climatic after the emotional Gettysburg that just went down in exam room 3.

The doctor pats my strapped in shin and says she’ll send the results to my primary doctor and Carol comes to free my legs from the stirrup boots.  My legs were almost dripping with sweat and it wasn’t because I was hot flash.  I cannot tell you how uncomfortable I was! Carol helps me scoot awkwardly back up under the x ray machine and proceeds to make sure I am ok because any procedure on your cervix can make you unsteady on your feet.  Right, because my unsteadiness should be attributed to iodine and not the emotional train wreck that just down.

I get dressed and come out of the room, all the while looking for the nurse Chrissy to see if she’s ok.  They tell me I can go home and I walk out to try and tell my husband about what had just happened.  There were other women in the waiting room and I wanted to tell them to brace themselves but I also very much wanted to get out of there.

That night I called my mom and my mother-in-law and neither could believe it.  I told my best friends and they all thought it was hysterical and typical.  They also thought that perhaps I should leave some of my business cards at the Reach office.

So, many days hence, and I don’t really have a lot of wise parting words about this hsg.  My internal plumbing is good.  Great news is sometimes hard to come by in this world of infertility.  And my one thing of immediate results was somewhat tainted as I felt that I might have to mediate a fight between my nurse and my doctor while having an extra long speculum in my whoo-ha.  The box got checked off but left lingering doubts about the professionalism and procedures of the most reputable fertility clinic in Charlotte.  Crap happens.  Infertility happens.  Now I have the task before me of trying to figure out how to tell this story as an ice-breaker, get to know me, kind of story and where in the world a story like that might be appropriate.  Perhaps the former nurses at Reach who have been verbally insulted by their doctors support group?

Buckle up, I’m blogging!

I’m just sayin’, this world of infertility is strange.  It’s staring at HGTV with dozens of other couples in the waiting room watching Property Brothers and doing your damnedest not to smirk when a man gets called back to “the room”.  It’s the pharmacist calling you into the private consultation area rather than ask in front of everyone if you need more of the vaginal medication or just the Prozac.  It’s bills, and bloodwork, and sperm counts, trigger shots (why all the needles???), hopes, dreams, sweat, abnormal irritability, disappointment, joy, and seemingly, not a lot of bonding over arms that look like we are heroin addicts (that joke fell totally flat, dude!).

I would love to tackle infertility like some women do with perseverance, intellectualism, and grace but I’m just not sure that’s who I am.  I’m the comic relief.  I married the class clown.  Our journey is different.  It’s not gentle tears that course down my cheeks at bad news, it’s sobbing and mascara rivers. Tammy Faye Bakker-style.  It’s not “oh well, there’s next month!”, it’s crap! I really thought this was it.  It’s not stoicism during procedures and tests and results and more tests and results all in the quest for a baby and to the point that we no longer recognize our lives anymore.  It’s laughing, and crying, and sweating, and yelling at your husband in the middle of IKEA because he’s talking super quietly and you can’t hear him.  This is our journey.  It may not be yours and that’s ok.

Blogging is not something I have ever thought I would do. It feels slightly voyeruistic and 100% terrifying.  But where do I take all these questions, these concerns, the hilarious stories that seem impossible but are really happening.  So you get to benefit (?) from them and perhaps gain insight into anyone else in your life who has gone through infertility. I have been journaling about this process since we got started last July.  Having read some other women’s blogs, I feel like I’ve found a lot of blogs written for women that inspire hope and health.  Shoot, some of the women could have MD’s in reproductive endocrinology with everything they learned.  But I had a hard time finding the people who were frustrated, who were transparent, who were overwhelmed like me.  More than once I thought, am I just the most immature, emotional woman who has ever been unable to conceive?  So I thought, maybe I’ll write a blog of what we have done, what I have felt, and the unexpected laughs (and sadness) on the way.  Over the next few weeks, I’m going to be posting about the procedures, medications, and tests we have experienced 1.) because they are strange and funny and 2.) because they might feel more like your girlfriends guide to infertility than reading a medical blog.

Reading some infertility blogs I think, where are the women like me? The whiners? The complainers? The ones who don’t think that vaginal progesterone is amazing and a medical marvel? Where are the women who giggle and cringe when the RN tells you to go in past the clenching muscle, to the second knuckle.  I can’t make this stuff up! There is nowhere on earth where this is appropriate conversation for polite company and it is my everyday life.  Baby making, baby birthing, and problems therein are just for behind closed doors.  Baby raising, and now apparently, breast feeding, are things we talk about all the time.  They are the beautiful parts of children but the sad story of how we get there is not talked about.

You should know, I don’t want to be the one who changes that stigma.  I am actually perfectly fine with our segmented society where I don’t seem a woman’s breast at dinner or a woman who ran a marathon without a tampon to advocate for women’s rights.  You do you, girlfriend.  I don’t need to see that.  I am actually quite uncomfortable with the idea of other people knowing my business and my life. But I think I struggle more with the thought of going through this alone and not telling people what is really going on in our lives.  It is isolating but it is only isolating if I don’t say anything and I suppose saying something is also my style in my quest to be authentic.  As I said, this is our journey and no doubt, it’s very different than anyone else’s but I want to encourage you to share yours. Please, share yours. Because the world needs to know.  You matter, your uterus matters, and more importantly, your heart matters.