Today I Wasted Time

I just put her down and I hear her soft, sweet, zombie-like coos over the monitor as she babbles herself to sleep. It is otherwise silent in the house. The clock was moved back last night and the world is collectively sleepier than we should be at this hour. It is dark and cozy and there is something about tonight that feels sacred.

I’ve found myself staring at her lately, even more so than usual, and today I ruined (and thus completely underutilized) a precious, rare, ever short-lived nap. Almost down to one a day now that she is about to be one year old. That birthday is why I stare at her. I stare at her and take her all in, her tiny nose, her wiggly hands, her round belly and disappearing luscious thigh rolls. I pray, “Lord, help me to remember. Help me to etch this moment into my brain, the feel of her in my arms and on my breast into my memory, her smell always on me, her soft hair as I kiss her for the thousandth time today forever on my lips.” What I really mean is, “Lord, don’t let this moment ever end. It’s all passing too quickly.” Deep down I fear I can’t handle it.

This past year has been full of those prayers. The “Lord, don’t let this moment pass” and “Lord, help me to remember, cause me to cherish every second” prayers. The “Lord, she is going off to college soon!” prayers. I prayed that one in the hospital last Thanksgiving, her first full day of life.

Like there are a thousand kisses a day to be given to my baby, there are a thousand ways I am changed by being infertile. I have written scores of blog posts in my mind over the past year and a half since becoming pregnant describing them. There is of course the hyper-vigilance and -paranoia in pregnancy. The foreign experience of being just another OB patient at the normal pregnant people doctor. What do you mean you don’t remember me from last month? The squeamishness of sharing your pregnancy with others, not wanting to hurt anyone else who may be going through infertility. And do you post delivery news or pumpkin patch photos on facebook? What if I’m contributing to the depressing news feed of an unbeknownst infertile friend? The cleaning out of hospital bills and seeing that your doctor had written in the medical record on your baby’s birth day “This was a very desired baby; she is welcomed by her parents with immense joy and they will be a great mother and father.” The laughing at your doctor’s insistence that you use contraception with a newborn. The struggle over whether you have the right to complain about the avocado stains on your pants because you wanted her so badly and moved heaven and earth to get her here. The wondering about her semi-twin, the frozen embryo and your other baby you pray and ache for from 15 miles down the road. Will he (she?) actually become a baby in my arms? The how do you answer too-soon questions about when you’ll have more children. Truly, the list goes on and those may have been helpful blogs to actually write. For me, the emotions were too overwhelming and at times confusing to share on a public blog. I have struggled with guilt over dropping off of the blogosphere and potentially hurting “friends in the computer” I had made. It just felt like too much to sort through and that work has had to be done behind closed doors with the Lord. The “I know you were there but where were you?” prayers that I don’t like to admit to but that He is answering because He is good and gracious and patient with me.

Had I really given it thought beforehand (but who has time for that amidst appointments, injections, worrying, and endless neurotic internet searching), I may have suspected some of these ways your infertility follows you even after you have a baby. What I did not anticipate is that, although she has been in my arms now for almost 365 days, I am still infertile and in some ways I can now count that as a gift (not one I ever would have chosen, mind you, or likely would choose again). Because of being infertile I am keenly aware – daily – that my daughter is a miracle and the greatest gift to have been given to me aside from Jesus and my husband. Like those gifts, I did not earn her or deserve her. The Lord did not owe her to me. I could even still be baby-less. But He did. He brought her to us and took that darkness away, and here she lies with those long eyelashes and chubby cheeks, having fallen asleep in my arms. I should go do some laundry or shower, but instead, I am washed over with gratitude and awe and stuck staring.   I’m sure every mom ruins nap times and gets nothing done just watching her baby – I realize I am nothing special. As an infertile mom maybe you let yourself do that more or maybe you just understand a bit deeper why that feeling overtakes you like it does.

I am perhaps a tad more patient, a tad more accepting of the sleeplessness, a tad more grateful for my daughter than my 26-year-old with a baby self would have been. Grateful for and swept up in those quiet, sweet sacred moments and also for the – the cloth diapers stink, poop up the back, here she goes again pulling every single book off the shelf – mundane kind of sacred moments. No, I don’t enjoy discovering there is still carrot in my hair at my husband’s fancy work event, and to be a good mom (infertile or not) I don’t have to. But I am glad that I can thank God for it. I am grateful to be grateful and, dare I say, if suffering had a role in getting me here, I also will thank God for that.

There is so much you lose being infertile and going through any kind of suffering. I still don’t understand exactly what God is up to as He allows it for a time on this earth. And I am beginning to see a tiny glimpse of what can be gained. Gratitude. Freeing yourself to waste some time and to be present and to let go of all that doesn’t matter. Finding the sacred in the mundane. Worship.

As I mentioned in at least one previous post, a song that guided me throughout infertility is called “10,000 Reasons” and it meant so much to me because it basically is a prayer that we would be grateful and praise God at the end of the day no matter what. At the end of that darkness for me was a baby, but I still pray to the Lord that I would praise Him no matter how dark it might be again in the future. That I would have praised Him had a baby never come. That I will praise Him in the sadness that likely will plague me when she actually does leave and go to college (Lord willing). I pray that I will praise and trust Him should she ever be hurt or, God forbid I speak my and every mother’s deepest fear, that I lose her. I wish I would have trusted Him more in my infertility suffering but know there is grace for that, and pray that I will trust him more deeply now.

I fear this most definitely will come across as trite, but I pray for other infertile women out there waiting, trying desperately, crying out to God, doubting, maybe reading this blog, and I implore Him that out of His goodness we all might experience and trust His love for us and that we all would be grateful to Him not for what He does for us now but for who He is and for what He ultimately has done for us.  That whether He brought me a baby or not, whether He spares her and me from all future suffering or not, He has a plan to put an end to all suffering and to redeem us and our broken bodies and this needy earth. He cares that we are suffering and wants it gone and is taking care of that. I am so thankful for that promise that I know with my mind and pray to know more deeply in my heart, and hope that I might one day value that and Him above all else, even this precious baby.

I fear I cannot handle my baby growing up – we prayed and fought so very hard for her – just like I feared I could not handle each successive step of infertility. The truth I’m beginning to see is that I can’t, and I couldn’t. Infertility has given me the gift of seeing my utter need for the Lord to breathe and have life, to physically get through each day, to have any amount of a kind heart, to be grateful. Just as He breathed life into my baby, I need Him breathing Himself into me so that I can trust Him and praise Him no matter what.   These are the sacred gifts gained as He’s redeeming the ugly suffering. Let me be singing when the evening comes.

Today I Fit into a Real Shirt!

…And ran errands, and wore my very own normal kind of bra, and took the stairs!   I even am going to try to co-walk the monster puppy with Hubs this evening because it’s Meatball’s first birthday.

I can’t even tell you how grateful I am for these little things and beginning to feel like a normal person again.  I was able to button up one of my real shirts today which is major progress from having to wear Hubs’ big t-shirts to my big t-shirts, to now a normal shirt.  Also, I have knees again.  Ankles and back, not so much, but I’ll take what I can get for now.

I had an appointment with the RE this morning to check in and am down lots of pounds, with ten more to go.  Word on the street is that I may not lose all of it since my ovaries are still enlarged, my uterus is growing, and hormones are a-raging, but I am happy if I weigh whatever as long as this belly goes down a bit and I don’t have to keep explaining why I look so very pregnant at a mere 5 1/2 weeks.  I also would love to have the luxury of being able to wait through the first trimester to share my pregnancy with patients and everyone else.  So much is taken from you with infertility, that would be a treat.

Also my Beta this morning was 4970 so I am happy about that.

It’s a good day to wear real clothes and a good day to celebrate our sweet Meatball.

Meatball is going to be a big brother and he is happy about it.

Meatball is going to be a big brother and he is happy about it. We both fit into real shirts today…mine was about this tight, too.

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Today I Did My Hair

What a couple of weeks it has been.  I feel like I am living in bizarro-land.  There has been so much happening but I have not had the capacity to write the past several days.

In short, I was in the hospital two days getting two Albumin transfusions and left Sunday feeling a bit better and better able to eat and drink on my own, my Albumin (protein) levels just below normal range but high enough to give my doctor satisfaction.  By Monday I was again very full in the abdomen and still fighting the nausea and pain.  I also awoke that morning with some new symptoms, in particular swelling in other areas of my body.  I went in to my RE in hopes of another tap but the ultrasound indicated that a tap actually would not be able to drain much fluid because the fluid had now begun to spread throughout my body — stage two of OHSS.

Over the course of the next four days I gained 15+ pounds of fluid throughout my body, putting the total fluid weight gain at 25 pounds in about a week.  My clothes do not fit, fluid on my spine makes it painful to rest on my back, my feet and toes are swollen to the point of numbness and tingling, and all of that adds up to a good bit of difficulty walking and getting around.  The rest of the week involved more IV fluids at my RE’s office, an ER visit to ensure I didn’t have a blood clot because of asymmetrical swelling in my legs, and, finally, an appointment with my RE on Friday where we finally saw my kidney function improving.

While those symptoms I just mentioned are still true today, I also am beginning to notice some improvements.  Late last week I began peeing normally (sorry if too much information), indicating that new fluids entering my body were being processed by my kidneys.  Now it is a matter of the fluids stored up from the past two weeks getting pushed to them and peed out — that’s right, we’re looking at peeing out 25 pounds worth of fluids over the next week.  This process, thankfully, has already begun and I’m down about 4-5 pounds.

Let me be clear about this: I do not care about the weight.  What I care about is the extreme discomfort and how I can’t get around so well.  Percocet and anti-nausea meds have been my friend the past week and are helping to relieve enough of the pain to be able to eat and get up and around for a bit at a time.

Perhaps more importantly, let me be clear about this: I am so grateful for this pregnancy and I am not complaining in that regard.  I am so so grateful.  And this pregnancy, to potentially have a baby at the end of this, is worth every ounce of discomfort.

Last Sunday when we were discharged my RE’s partner, who was on call and making rounds, let me know that OHSS typically lasts nine days in women who are not pregnant and 21 days in women who are.  At that point, about 11 days in, I could not imagine being able to tolerate another ten but getting these slowly-increasing Betas certainly has pushed me on and makes it all worth the while.  In fact, my RE told me about my first Beta on the Thursday before we were supposed to find out.  She called to let me know some of my other, worrisome numbers and to have me come in for fluids, labs, etc. but then said she also had good news, that she had run an HCG the day before (1 week post transfer) and my Beta was 51.  I of course was shocked but this news buoyed me, helped me to push through the pain, to continue to force feed and hydrate myself despite feeling as though there was zero room for anything else in this body, and I wouldn’t be surprised if that was an intentional move on her part.

I can’t imagine going through this process of OHSS and not being pregnant, my heart goes out so deeply for women who do.  Staying on the OB mother/baby floor last weekend, I could only imagine how cruel it would be to be there, not pregnant, hearing the cries of the babies and in such pain.

My betas have continued to rise, but not at normal rates due to the OHSS.  My doctor told me this from the beginning, not to expect the doubling every other day that we typically see, because blood levels in a woman with OHSS are so skewed because of the enormous amounts of fluid in her body.  So after the initial sneaky Beta of 51, my second was drawn in the hospital at 1 in the morning and my RE texted me the result at 3 a.m. — 86.  Still pregnant.  So very early still, but pregnant.  That was when I first began to believe and let it sink in.  Last Wednesday it registered at 581 and Friday at 1315, it actually did double in that two-day period.

I am doing a lot of hanging on and a lot of waiting — what we infertiles do best.  With OHSS it is a game of waiting it out and of symptom management.  Today is day 21 of this, but as my doctor has reiterated I don’t know how many times, we never can know how long someone’s body is really going to take to get through it.  The trick now is for the effect of my Albumin levels, hopefully continuing to rise because of now being able to eat, to overcome the effect of the HCG, hopefully continuing to rise because of the growing pregnancy.  My dear mother-in-law who is a dietician has me on a high protein diet and I am trying to waste no bite on anything that does not contain protein.  Save the fried pickles and pretzels outing that Hubs and Jess took me out to over the weekend which involved airlifting me into the restaurant.

This morning as Hubs went to church I watched a streaming Easter service online and wept thinking about God’s salvation and taking a broken, messy situation and redeeming it, breathing new life into it.  His goodness to us to make us beautiful again, his goodness to me to allow me to be pregnant.  I showered and put on a dress I could zip half-way (yay for Anthropologie baggy styles) and actually did my hair and make-up.  I took a few minutes to put a tablecloth and the china out on the table for Jess and Hubs and my Easter lunch, and those little things felt like big accomplishments.

So today, much like my body is requiring me to do, my mind and heart move slowly, one foot in front of the other.  So grateful for each increasing Beta, celebrating each pound peed out!, beginning to let myself dream a little about baby names and nursery colors, and holding my breath until that ultrasound next Monday and looking for our little heartbeat.

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Today I Am Grateful

Today I am officially, legitimately pregnant. It is crazy to write those words. I am so very grateful.

I write this morning from my phone in my hospital bed so I’ll keep it super brief. They decided yesterday, after another tap (1950 mL), to admit me so I could get some protein transfusions (Albumin) and continued IV fluids. This will help replace what has been lost through the leaky vessels and taps and hopefully point us in the direction of the OHSS resolving. We’re thinking I likely will go home later today. I’m definitely feeling a ton better than yesterday morning when I was gigantic in the abdomen and couldn’t keep any food/fluids down.

It is wild to be on the OB floor and being asked how far along we are and when we’re due; I had to ask my RE last night when she came for rounds! By the way the answer is 4 weeks and a day, and the latter is, appropriately, around Thanksgiving.

So yes, very grateful — an understatement.

Today I’m Tapped

It was just a matter of time before I used that pun.  After getting back to a pretty painful place late last night, I spoke with my nurse this morning and she wanted to lay eyes on me.  Jess was so so sweet to rearrange her afternoon and take me in so that Hubs wouldn’t have to cancel his work day again.

So back we were at the clinic, and of course that led to being tapped again.  Another 1800 mL!

I feel a good bit better, have some new nausea meds, will be starting lovenox shortly (to further prevent blood clots), and am praying praying praying for my body to equilibrate to these changes — and to the hopeful little one causing all this trouble.

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