Sunday, June 27, 2010

Waiting for the other shoe...

Last night I had a dream. In my dream I was where I am now, a few days post IVF transfer, awaiting my pregnancy test. 

I dreamt that I was walking along a sidewalk in the city. Each stretch of concrete that I travelled was surrounded by a small patch of grass with little yellow tickets warning that pesticides had been applied. I tried to get away from the harmful chemicals, frantically crossing the street, but as I did, more little signs popped up. It wasn't until I came to an area where there was no longer any grass, that I finally was able to take a sigh of relief - and that's when I saw them. 

Men, dressed in protective gear, were spraying pesticides at weeds growing up through the cracks in the concrete. The smell burned at my nose, and I clasped my hands over my mouth trying not to let any of it in. I held my breath and started running past them as fast as I could, but as I ran, the chemicals from the sidewalk soaked into my socks and shoes, and I could feel the wetness spreading across my skin.

I was desperate to get away. The pesticides, it seemed, were everywhere. Standing in this concrete space, I began screaming and crying for someone to help me. Finally, after what felt like an eternity, a taxi stopped, and I begged the driver for a ride. I told him about my little babies, and that I needed to protect them, but he didn't care. He just stared at me, straight faced, demanding payment. When I checked my pockets, and showed him what few coins I had, the driver told me it wasn't enough, laughed, and drove away. 

I was alone, hopeless, and afraid. It felt like no matter what I did, where I turned, or what steps I took, my poor little embryos would be exposed to some cancer causing agent. When I woke up this morning, I was terrified.

I know they say that stress affects implantation, so I wish I could calm my mind, but as I look around me, I see threats everywhere. Threats I didn't pay much heed or attention to when I was pregnant with Peyton. Don't get me wrong. I ate all organic with Peyton, refusing any processed foods except on the rarest of occasions. I worked out five hours a week, and had excellent prenatal care. I did all these things, and still, she was born with cancer.

Now it is as if my eyes have been opened to a world full of hazards. 

I am afraid to walk down my own street, for fear of what neighbors may be putting on their lawns. I went tag sale-ing with my mother the other day, and couldn't even bring myself to get out of the car for the same reasons. I drive with the internal air being circulated at all times, worried that some fertilizer or chemical truck might pass me and send harmful toxins in through my vents, or that the cigarette smoke from the car beside me will harm these little ones too. And my fears don't stop there.

My husband took me out to eat last night. I got meatloaf. I love meatloaf. But last night I looked at the plate wondering if my veggies had been washed enough. If the beef was grain-fed, or full of antibiotics and hormones. If any of the ingredients came from cans lined with harmful BPA. If the water I was drinking, being city water, was being treated in a manner that could harm them. If the adorable dog who came up to me on the street wanting to be pet, had chemicals on his back. If the cheerios I ate to get me through my bout of nausea, were processed with too many chemicals for these little ones to tolerate. If the computer, on a table in front of me, posed any sort of microwave danger, or the cellphone my husband handed to me, was sending harmful rays.

You can see where this is going.

I KNOW that I need to find calm. I KNOW that I can't allow my fears to take over because stress affects success rates, and believe me, I am trying. But how? How, when the first time I did everything right, and still created a child so wracked with cancer, how can I find peace? How can I trust that these precious little embies who I love so much, will one day arrive in this world safe, and healthy, and alive?


When all I have known of motherhood has been heartache and loss, how can I BELIEVE?

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

My little snowflakes...

are in!

Now, we rest, and we wait.

Due to a very tipped uterus, and an apparently "twisted cervix" (I have never heard of such a thing) the catheterization process was a little more uncomfortable than we anticipated (thank goodness for that half a valium they had me take before hand) but the transfer itself went smooth, smooth, smooth.

Thank you again for all your prayers, well wishes, and positive vibes through the ups and downs of these last few days.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010


First and foremost, thank you for all the prayers and kind messages of support. They have meant so much to me, and better still, they seem to be working!
(I put "seem to be" because Lord knows I have gotten burned on assumptions in the past.)

Thanks, too, for the remedy recommendations. I have given some of them a try, and am happy to report that I am feeling pretty good. My UTI seems to be clear (I am symptom free in that department) but I think the stress mixed with battling an infection, and all the IVF injections and medications, have just left me feeling a bit run down. On a positive note, I must be drinking A TON, because I lost three pounds of medication bloat overnight!

My doc is on vacation this week, but the RE who is performing the transfer has said that as long as I continue to feel well, we will go ahead as scheduled for tomorrow afternoon.

As many of you know, it takes two weeks from the time of transfer to get pregnancy results. Last time I felt so sure I was pregnant, that this time I just don't even know what to expect.

I am hoping (what an understatement that word is) to have good news to post in the weeks ahead, and really want you all to know how extremely grateful I feel for the positive vibes and prayers you have been sending our way.

Here's to two sticky embies!

Sunday, June 20, 2010

You Have Got To Be Kidding Me!

So... I have been a bit mum on here about the fact that hubs and I are fast approaching our next transfer date (namely this Wednesday the 23rd.) It was heartbreaking for me to get my hopes (and that of so many readers here) up during our first cycle, and the idea of having to once again break bad news was a hard thing for me to face.

I can't tell you how desperately I want to be in the club. How desperately I want to be one of the women proclaiming that my turn at a rainbow baby has arrived. How much I yearn for a chance at a normal, mothering, life. I can't tell you how much it hurts that with every step that we take forward, another hurdle falls in our lap.

This frozen cycle has been exhausting physically (I was put on a zero sugar, carbs, or fruit diet in the hopes that low insulin numbers would increase our chances of success) and emotionally (taking testosterone, progesterone, and estrogen, each of which have a different affect on my mood and emotions.) It is for these reasons that I took a huge sigh of relief this morning when I saw that I had finished my Lupron protocol, and was moving onto the drugs that are in direct preparation for the transfer.

Everything has been going really well this cycle. My uterine lining (an ideal at 8 or 10) was even measuring at a beautiful 15.

Like I said, it was all going smoothly.
Too smoothly.

I should have known better.

I woke up this morning feeling really tired and rundown, but for the dietary and emotional reasons stated above, was not particularly surprised. Within a few hours I was having trouble going to the bathroom, and by this afternoon, I was peeing blood.

It turns out that today, four frikkin days before my frozen transfer, my body has decided to bestow upon me my first ever urinary tract infection. I called the doctor, went in for a test, and have started antibiotics. I did all that I was supposed to do, and in short order, but the doctor has warned me that this still might not be enough.

A UTI brings about a less than ideal transfer situation for our precious embryos, and because of this, we have been warned that they may opt to cancel the transfer.

A transfer we had to wait two months to reach after the heartbreak of April's failed attempt.
A transfer that the preparation for has required daily infusions of hormones and medications with side effect warnings that, having witnessed my child's battle and subsequent death to cancer, are enough to make me curl up in a ball and cry.
A transfer that, having no more insurance, we have laid out over $6000 in cash for.

It may sound selfish, with all that so many in this community are going through right now, but I am asking - Please pray for us.

To whatever God, or being, or spiritual presence you are moved by, please pray that this infection clears up and doesn't threaten or cancel Wednesday's transfer.


This Father's Day was hard enough for my husband to keep a brave face through without having to hear this news, and it feels as if my own prayers are falling on deaf ears.


We really need a break.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

On Love - For Better or For Worse

This is today's Facebook status:

Four years ago today, I married my best friend, and while we never could have anticipated as we took our vows, the trials that we would face in just a few short years time, I thank God for having sent me a person of such grace, compassion, love, and strength to be my partner in love, in life, and as an amazing father to our child. 
I love you Dru. 
Happy Anniversary.

I am not usually one to do re-posts, but when I went back and re-read what I had posted at this time last year, I was struck by how true it still felt, and how fitting the words were with what we are facing IVF and infertility wise. It is for these reasons that I have decided to share last year's anniversary post with you again - with some edits in blue.

"For Better Or For Worse" - Originally posted 6/17/09

Three Four years ago today, I married my best friend, on a rainy Saturday over Father's Day weekend. We celebrated with family and friends, made commitments before God, heard toasts and danced, and dreamt of our happy future together. It's amazing how far removed you can feel from the "you" of just three four years earlier, when you are hit with something like we were with Peyton. Yet, despite all the pain and fear and sadness and anger, our love has endured.
The statistics on any marriage making it nowadays are a glass half full at best, and the statistics on marriages surviving the loss of a child are staggering (some studies citing a 90% divorce rate), compound that with divorce rates over infertility, and the outlook for a marriage surviving what we have been dealt are bleak at best.

When reflecting on the arrival of this third fourth anniversary, there is no doubt in my mind as to how we have made it through another year despite the pain of this loss... hard work. 

Marriage is not always easy, it is not always for better, but it is always our top priority. Early on in this journey through grief, we were fortunate to have parents who reminded us that we couldn't just take for granted that we would stay together through this. This dose of reality has inspired us to constantly work at keeping the lines of communication open with one another, even when it would have just been easier to shut down.

Waking up this morning and thinking about this day, about what it means and represents, I thank God for having given me the insight early on to marry not just "mister right," but the "right man." So many couples vow to be together for better or for worse, without realizing that the for betters are not a guarantee, and the for worses are not necessarily fifty years away. They repeat a chain of words that they have heard uttered hundreds of times in life, in movies, in stories, and don't really understand their meaning or the depth of that commitment. 

For Better or For Worse means, I will not run from you when times are uncomfortable. I will not start over with someone else because it is easier. I will not turn my back on you when you have turned your back on yourself. I will not judge you, but instead try to understand.

In our short marriage, the for worse came far more quickly than either of us could have ever imagined. We are just kids ourselves, we could never have anticipated being tested this way or having to endure this kind of pain. I don't know why God has laid this heavy cross over our shoulders so early on, and most days my mind just gets stuck on the anger that I feel over that, but not today. Today I am thankful for the love of the right man, my best friend.

The majority of this last year of marriage has been spent in a state of pain and sadness, and as easy as it would be to get sucked into that abyss permanently, we cannot allow this loss (and infertility) to define our whole marriage. Sometimes I forget how young we are, how many years there are still ahead. Even if just for today, in the bittersweetness of this week that meshes both a day that celebrates our commitment to, and love for one another, and my husbands first  second Father's Day, I will hold out hope and believe that we have had our share of for worse, and the for better days are still to come.

Monday, June 14, 2010

After A While

When I was a Junior in high school, I visited my sister for a "little sibs weekend" at her college, and was introduced over a drinking game to a boy, a fellow "little sib", who for the sake of this post we will refer to as "A".

"A" and I had an immediate chemistry (or so I thought at the time) and what followed that weekend was an intense relationship that lasted the remainder of high school and into my first semester of college (which coincidentally, or not so coincidentally, was at the school that "A" attended).

If you had asked me at the time, I would have described "A" as a Prince Charming. Eleven years, and a lot of maturing and perspective later, I realize that this particular boy turned out to be anything but, and though I couldn't see it when he left, his departure from my life was one of the greatest gifts I ever received.

Shortly after our breakup (and for totally unrelated reasons) I fell seriously ill and was hospitalized with a case of epiglotitis, a throat infection that essentially shut down my airway. I was intubated, operated on, airlifted to a hospital closer to home, operated on some more, and then spent the majority of the following two months recovering.

My parents, upon receiving word of my sudden hospitalization, were forced to make what I am sure was a white knuckled 5 hour drive to be at my side at the backwoods hospital near my college. Once I had been released to recover, they asked me to transfer to a school closer to home so that my doctors could keep an eye on me, and since I had just put them through the emotional wringer, I really didn't feel I was in any position to argue. I conceded, transferring to a school only an hour away that next semester, and the rest, as they say, is history.

This past weekend, while clearing through some things in the garage, hubs and I stumbled upon two boxes that had gone unopened since our move three years ago. Inside these boxes I found a plethora of keepsakes - old yearbooks, cheerleading pictures, quotes from my favorite poems scrawled across a t-shirt. At the bottom of the box, beneath the snapshots, newspaper articles, and old report cards, neatly tucked into an envelope labeled "mail stuff", I came across two pieces of white paper, typed in 12 point font, cleanly folded, and just begging for me to rediscover them.

The first was a letter from my mother, sent upon the completion of my first week at my new school. She asked some housekeeping questions - had I seen my advisor, was I registered for all the right classes. She told me to stay focused on my work, and assured me that if I did, everything else would fall into place.

I should tell you that I now consider my mother a confidant. A friend. A rock. When I was nineteen, obnoxious, and thought I knew everything about everything, our relationship was a little different. I imagine that at the time, reading this letter felt like being nagged. Now, ten years older and marginally wiser, I hear the love and concern in her words.

I can now empathize with my mother from that time, in a way I never could before. She had just watched her daughter fight for her life (a feeling I know the horrors of all too well) and while I can't speak for her, I imagine that having seen her child go to school, have her heart broken by someone she trusted, and then battle an illness all in the span of a few months, probably made watching me leave to start at a new school a little scary. It's no wonder she wanted to keep tabs on me.

On the second sheet of white paper, my mother attached a poem that she had found in the prior day's Anne Landers column.

I can tell you with complete honesty that I don't remember receiving this note, or this poem, after that first week at my new college. I am sure I opened them, glanced quickly thinking that she knew nothing of heartbreak if she would send me such rubbish, and stuffed them away into the "mail stuff" envelope. After all, when you are a teenager with a broken heart, who wants to hear from their mother that hard work at school will make "everything else fall into place," or the words of some poet who obviously never knew your kind of heartbreak.

Maybe I was young, or just too stubborn to grasp the message that my mother was sending me. Maybe my inability to find truth in the words of the poem at the time, just speaks to how little I knew of true heart break, or the lessons that can be learned of it.

Maybe it took a loss, a true life changing loss like that of Peyton, and the depth of love that I feel for and from my husband, to make these words resonate with me, but resonate they did, and with an understanding that my mother could never have imagined when she neatly typed them up for me all those years ago.

I know that this is a space for my words.
My poetry.

That being said, today I am going to share someone else's words, because they meant something to me when I read and re-read them this past weekend, and I have a feeling they will mean something for you too. xx

After a While

After a while you learn
The subtle difference between
Holding a hand and chaining a soul
And you learn that love doesn't mean leaning
And company doesn't always mean security.

And you begin to learn
That kisses aren't contracts
And presents aren't promises
And you begin to accept your defeats
With your head up and your eyes ahead
With the grace of a woman
Not the grief of a child

And you learn
To build all your roads on today
Because tomorrow's ground is
Too uncertain for plans
And futures have a way
Of falling down in mid flight

After a while you learn
That even sunshine burns if you get too much
So you plant your own garden
And decorate your own soul
Instead of waiting
For someone to bring you flowers

And you learn
That you really can endure
That you are really strong
And you really do have worth
And you learn and you learn
With every good bye you learn.

Veronica A. Shoffstall

Thursday, June 10, 2010

how? how? how?

How could this have happened?

Sometimes I can't help but get caught up in these words.

They came to my lips yesterday during an unexpected trip into Peyton's nursery. You could ask me why I entered, and I would have no answer for you. (I haven't been into her room since writing this post in early February.) I can only say that as the knob was turned and I stepped in; as I looked around at the unused baby items, the clothing, the crib, and remembered for too brief a moment what life was like at the time when that room was set up, those words came to my lips... 

How could this have happened?

Tonight a friend stopped over, and out of nowhere, in a way that I haven't in months, I just broke down to her mid-sentence and cried.

I cried that I used to be so in control of things; that I had plans, on top of plans, on top of plans; and now feel that everything is so completely out of my control, that all I can do is collapse into how overwhelming a feeling that is. I feel like a pawn, anxiously awaiting whatever move the universe doles out for me next, and it's terrifying.

I want to be in control of my life.
I want to feel alive.

Even the choice of adding to our family has gone awry. I take shots and patches and pills in an attempt to make happen what had come easily for me in the past, and it doesn't seem to matter.

I see baby items in our house and can't believe that we will ever use them. Not truly believe it. Not in a way that brings any security and comfort to my heart. After all, these things, these precious items that were hung with care, have now been left stagnant, untouched, for a year and a half.

Seeing them makes me feel like they belong to someone else. I feel isolated, left out of a world where babies  happen with ease (or so it seems) to everyone but us. 

Don't get me wrong, I don't want to feel this way.

I have tried positive thinking, The Secret, the law of attraction. I have tried prayer, meditation. I have tried to envision everything working out, but try as I might, right now, I just can't see it, and that hurts.

As someone who so prided herself on five year plans for everything from home ownership to career moves, it breaks my heart that I can't plan five days, five weeks, or five months down the line, because nothing feels within my control. This, too, brings to mind the words...

How could this have happened?

After a blood draw at my RE's office earlier this week, I, like a moth to a flame, walked to the bathroom in the waiting area to wash my hands. I did this, not because they were dirty, but instead for the smell of the soap. Pink and watery, this soap, I had discovered in a flashback of awareness, is the same institution grade soap that we used when scrubbing into Peyton's hospital room.

To anyone else it would smell like soap, but to me it smells like my child. My perfect, beautiful, brave little child who was here long enough to haunt my memory, but too short a time to remain in the memories of others.

Lately Peyton has felt "surreal" to me in a way that hurts like losing her all over again.

I washed, and washed, and rewashed my hands, working the soap deep into my pores, wanting to soak it in, and then as I drove home, I held my fingers just below my nose, breathing in the memory of her, and reminding myself that she was here. She was here. I know she was.

She was real.
I was her mother.
I had a daughter once.

It all felt so cruel to be driving away from the place that signifies my stolen fertility, breathing in the scent of my stolen child, and asking myself over and over...

How could this have happened?

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Meaning Abounds

Since losing Peyton, everything seems to have a deeper meaning, including the songs that I hear. Living on this side of the loss universe leaves me reading more deeply into them, finding connections to the lyrics in a way that wasn't possible before.

Before knowing what it was to love her.
Before holding her as she left.
Before mourning her.

I was working on my novel today, doing some boring rewrite/edit stuff, and this one popped up unexpectedly on a youtube playlist. It touched my heart in a profound way, pulling me immediately from the task at hand to focus on its message, and especially these words:

"To think I might not see those eyes
Makes it so hard not to cry
And as we say our long goodbye
I nearly do"
The significance of the first line for me is the way Peyton's bright blue eyes seemed to pierce right through me. She had a look to her of wisdom, like an 'old soul' who knew that her time was limited here, even before we had accepted or truly understood that.

I see the "long goodbye" as mourning, and can relate to the "nearly do" because I have been stuck in a numb place where, even when I want to cry, my tears feel distant and unreachable.

There have been so many songs that have spoken to me since losing Peyton. Many of them are in my sidebar playlist. How about you? Have there been any songs that you have found to be surprisingly meaningful on your journey?

Run - by Snow Patrol

(be sure to pause the music player in the side bar before pressing play)

Friday, June 4, 2010

Free Pass?

A few months ago, I heard about a woman who had lost two of her three children to infant leukemia. She is the only known case of this happening with non identical twins. Her story sent a ripple of shock and horror through the infant leukemia community because we had all been promised by our own doctors and experts that such a thing could never happen.

Last night my cousin asked me to pray for a 3 year old little girl who was in the battle of her life. Today I learned that her parents, a couple who recently lost their five month old to a congenital issue, have now been dealt the incredibly unfair blow of having to say good bye to her too. Her tiny body couldn't fight off a freak case of bacterial meningitis, something her pediatrician originally wrote off as nothing more than bronchitis.

A woman in my grieving mom's group, a very kind and special and encouraging woman, I learned yesterday, is losing her battle with cancer. Her husband who unfairly had to bury his son, now must prepare to bury her too.

Seems so unfair, doesn't it?

There are a lot of really shitty people in this world. People who hurt and take and think of no one but themselves, and yet, you don't hear about these things happening to them. Why?

You would think that after all a bereaved parent goes through in loving and losing and grieving their beloved children, there would be some sort of free pass. A Get Out Of Heartache Free card. Something along the lines of:

"Your survival through the hell of losing a child entitles you to a life void of any further tragedy."
- God.

I guess this just goes to show that what my doctor told me when she diagnosed my infertility is true: "There is no justice in this world."

These stories are tragic. And heartbreaking. They bring tears to our eyes, and prayers for these families' healing to our hearts. We cry out in anger at God and the Universe for allowing such pain to exist. Hearing them sends us down a road of "Oh, what's the point in even trying," but there is another message here too. An eye opening one. One that must not be ignored.

You are still here. 
You are still alive.
Don't waste it.

It is so important that we not allow our grief to make us complacent in our living. We must not turn our backs on the day to day joys, no matter how minuscule they seem in comparison to the dark cloud that sorrow has cast over our lives. As tough a task as our circumstances make it, and as small as they feel in contrast to our pain, we must remind ourselves of what blessings we do have, and be grateful, because as these stories so cruelly illustrate, there are no guarantees in this life.

I have gotten into the habit of reminding myself before bed of what I do have. Among other things, this practice helps to calm the anxieties that cause my insomnia, and allows me a more peaceful transition to sleep.

I remind myself that I have my health.
My husband.
My family.
My friends.
A house to keep me warm.
Food to fill my belly.
A dog who has brought great joy into my life.
A love for writing.
A bed to sleep in.

You get the picture.

I know this may seem a bit odd, especially coming from someone who wrote in her last post that her life is ruined, and believe me when I say that that feeling is genuine, but even I, the girl with the dead kid and blocked tubes, have to remind myself that while my life may feel ruined, while it may feel at my core as if it has been broken beyond repair, I don't know that yet.

My story has not yet been told in its entirety, and I have to believe, even if believing means pushing through indescribable pain and heartache, that there is a possibility things will get better. The opportunity to live each day with the above blessings is proof of that.

Most of you who read here have lost a child, or loved one, or your fertility. You fight your own daily battles, and struggle through your own dark places.

Life, as we have learned, is not fair. Or easy. Or just.
It is just life.

We have each lost so much, far more than any person should have to endure losing, but I guess my point is that we haven't lost everything.

Each time we wake to see another day, draw another breath into our lungs, or allow a sense of love into our hearts; each time we find enough strength within ourselves to laugh through our tears, or feel that we are in the presence of a message or sign from our children; each time we recognize something beautiful in our surroundings, or feel some measure of peace in our souls, no matter how short lived those peaceful moments may be, we have to remind ourselves that in this broken world of no guarantees, each of these moments is a gift not be overlooked or taken for granted, but instead to be celebrated.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Memorial Day

The town over from us has a Memorial Day Parade.

It's a small town.


It's home to a candy shop, restaurants, riverfront trails, and a green field on a hill made fertile by my child, and my tears.

We sit on a stoop with Charlotte the wonder dog, who barks at everything, and nothing, just because she can.

A young couple with a dog, we blend into the background here.

The high school band sends a rush of excitement through the waiting crowd with their beating drums.

People rise to their feet.

It is at this very moment that I see her.

Young, and waddling, and so much the way I imagine my own child would be.
The way she should be.

She struggles to navigate a stoop.
Waves a small flag.
Smiles and claps awkwardly.

"Do you see her?" I ask. "That's what Peyton would be doing. That's how old she would be now."


Why is there always silence?

She is our daughter, I shouldn't have to whisper her name into the wind.

Flags round the corner and the little girl laughs at a pug, then cheers for the veterans - the Lion's club - the firemen, all the while clinging to her mother's leg.

Would Peyton do that?

Would she reach for the security of her mommy at this age?

"Mommy." I whisper.
I never even got to hear her say it.

I repeat the word to myself.
About myself.
It feels foreign and untrue.

I watch in envy, desperately wanting to return to the normalcy that surrounds this family.

I am hurt.
I feel robbed.
What happened to my life?

We wanted her.
We were ready.
We should be here, watching our daughter wave a flag.

A familiar heat rushes to my eyes.

I feel the tears coming.
And the lonliness.
And the anger.

My child is gone.
I am infertile.
My life is ruined.

Hundreds of faces are smiling around me, and I am fighting the urge to cry.

How can they smile when a dead baby, my dead baby, lies buried not even a half a mile from here?

Do they even know this type of heartache exists in their quaint town?

The band passes, their tap, tap, tap falling off as they march into the distance.

The crowds disperse and I am left in silence, reality laying a heavy boot across my throat.

My child doesn't dance in the street.

She doesn't wave a flag.
Or pet a pug.
Or smile.

My child has died.
And with her, so has my chance at normalcy.