Sixteen Going on Seventeen

This year was not my best. It was stressful, and disappointing, and scary and heartbreaking from time to time. But we laughed a lot, and had a lot of fun too (when I wasn’t sobbing).

It sort of reminds me of these photos, which are some of my favorites from this year. They look good, but really, each one was taken in the midst of a disaster.

In the first one, our trip to the train museum was a makeup trip from the week before when Gus threw up on everything (and everyone) in our car.

The second one was taken in the middle of a full-on meltdown/refusal to participate in a class I’d already paid for, and that – up until that very second – he used to love.

The third was taken after I spent the morning packing a cooler, and a beach bag, and slathering lotion on everyone, and hauling 25 pounds of stuff down to the beach, and 15 minutes later he was like, let’s go to the pool, I hate it here.

So I try to remember that sometimes annoying things happen, and you’ll be stressed and frustrated and tired, but something good can still come out of it. (At least as long as you’re willing to let your toddler wander fairly far away from you, and you happen to be holding a camera).

I hope that everyone has a happy(ier) and healthy(ier) 2017

Recovering

I’ve been out of the hospital for just over a week now, and I’m slowly getting better.

Somewhat ironically, the best way to describe how I feel now would be to compare it to morning (mourning, now, more like it) sickness.

I can’t eat much. When I do eat, nothing sounds very appealing. After I eat, I occasionally regret it.

It’s not pain, so much as never-ending queasiness.

But I lied, because there’s also pain. One of my doctors explained it best, I think, when she compared pancreatitis to having your body fill up with leaking battery acid. My back aches most of the day, so I stay glued to a bottle of Advil and a heating pad, and there a small area along my abdomen that feels numb, tingly, and sort of dead.

And I haven’t figured out why, or how, but every night, between 4-6 a.m., I wake up totally nauseous and unable to fall back asleep.

It’s a real pretty picture, isn’t it?

I miss just feeling normal. Not even good — just normal. Just going to bed and waking up in the morning. Or grabbing any food and eating it without being terrified of how my body will react.

So, I’m nowhere near 100% yet, but I’m so much better than I was a week, and two weeks ago, it’s insane.

Emotionally, I’m a dumpster fire.

The initial relief of finding out I’m not allowed to do any more rounds of IVF has been replaced by heart wrenching grief that we’ll never have another child. And then I feel guilty, because I have Gus, and he’s perfect, and I shouldn’t be greedy. And then Gus wraps himself around me and tells me how much he loves me, and oh boy, here come the waterworks again.

And then people tell me they’d carry a baby for me, and I think ok yes! but also, how in the world can you ask someone to do such a huge favor? And I pepper my friends with adopted brothers and sisters with overly personal questions. And then I wonder if I can try again, without estrogen? Is that even a thing? And then I get exhausted, and cry some more, and can’t think about it anymore.

See? Dumpster fire.

Silver lining? Between my two hospitalizations in November, and the limited recovery diet/forced starvation treatment for pancreatitis, I’ve lost almost 25 pounds, and counting.

So it’s not all bad.

A Sudden and Unexpected End of an Era

I just came home from another 10 days in the hospital. Collectively, I spent nearly half of November in a hospital bed.

I missed Thanksgiving.
I missed Gus’ first trip to the dentist.
I missed my cousin-in-law’s entire trip out for Thanksgiving weekend.

I got out of the hospital (my 1st trip) after three days, feeling like my old self, just taking the occasional tylenol and ready to get on with our planned embryo transfer, which was pushed back a few days to give me time to heal.

And I did heal, and we had our transfer, and I was feeling really optimistic and got a few positive pregnancy tests starting six days after transfer. A little darker on day 7. I never got to test on day 8 — the hospital took over at that point.

A week after my embryo transfer, and 16 days after my first hospital stay, my body exploded from the inside, and I genuinely believed I was dying.

Dying in the car on the way to the emergency room. Almost fainting from pain, until someone caught me in a wheelchair (so cliché!).

Dying in the emergency room, when there were no beds and I willingly, joyfully laid down on the waiting room floor, and enthusiastically emptied my stomach into charming little plastic bins.

Dying in a small room, begging for drugs, or for someone to just Looney Toons-style knock my ass out with a frying pan to the head. Anything.

“It’s pancreatitis!” I shouted at everyone. “I need an IV! And morphine! And another CT scan! And I’m pretty sure I’m pregnant!”

They all agreed, and they tried to help me. They did help me, but nothing was helping.

I just kept comparing it to last time. Last time, I felt better by now. Last time morphine worked quickly and consistently.

This time the pain was 1,000 times worse, and nothing was managing it for the first four days. The first moment of relief I felt was several days later — After feeling like something exploded in my chest, when I couldn’t breathe, screaming at Mike that I love him, make sure Gus knows how much I love him if something happens to me, while a rapid response team doubled my meds and rushed me sobbing to a CT scan.

So, what happened?

Apparently labs came back after the first hospitalization, that showed I had elevated triglycerides. This means nothing to me, but a doctor assures me they shouldn’t be higher than 200, and mine were more than 800. That was what they were when I left the hospital the first time, but since I’d been discharged already, no one gave us the results. (I have strong opinions about this as a policy)

Do you know what can make triglycerides really high?

Estrogen.

Guess what I was taking a crapload of, for even longer than originally planned?

Want to guess what my triglycerides were when they tested them the day I went back to the ER?

More than 5,000.

Also, I was pregnant.

But you can’t take estrogen and lower triglycerides at the same time, so all my meds stopped immediately. I was also insanely dehydrated, and wasn’t allowed to eat or drink for 90 hours, so none of us were surprised when on top of everything else I started bleeding.

What happens now?

Literally right this second all I can do is sip clear fluids, and eat a few teaspoons of food a day and hope it stays in my body and that they didn’t send me home too early.

I feel horrendous, and am trying to remind myself that recovery is going to be more severe, because this time my illness was much more so as well.

I’ve been advised by multiple doctors that I should never, ever, undergo another round of fertility treatment again. That if I take any estrogen therapies in the future, it could kill me.

And so just like that, I’ll never get pregnant again. I’ll never give birth to my own child again. And, maybe it’s because I don’t have a say in the matter, but it’s a bit of a relief to step away from all the needles, and the anxiety and the worry and the fear that comes along with trying again.

I have seven healthy embryos left. Maybe someone will show up at my door and offer to grow one of them for me (I’ll name them after you!). Maybe I’ll win the lottery, and I can pay for a gestational carrier. Maybe we’ll adopt. Maybe we’ll do all those things.

Mike and his parents, and his cousin, and my parents have been so amazing, taking care of Gus and of me. I’ve gotten so many texts and calls and emails, and I literally can’t talk about it without getting winded — I’m not ignoring you, I literally can’t talk, or stop crying, but thank you, and I love you all.

I’ve been home for a day, and we’re all settling into our new temporary normal. I can’t wait to feel normal again. I miss normal.

Mike told me tonight, after the 15th time I was crying on his shoulder, to think about karma. I asked him if I was being punished, and he told me that something wonderful would happen soon.

Maybe he was talking about the painkillers? Only time will tell I guess.

What a Difference a Week Makes

A week ago I was just getting out of the hospital, terrified of eating, and still a little sore.

I was also pretty confident we’d be celebrating our first female president on Wednesday.

Shit happens – usually when you least expect it.

While I’m not at all excited about the outcome of the election (I’m sad, and scared for families that don’t look like mine) I am taking comfort in every spiteful Joe Biden meme I see, and proudly wearing my safety pin.



One little bright spot, at least for me, was the news that my sudden bout of pancreatitis did NOT mean that my frozen cycle needed to be cancelled. My RE suggested pushing everything back five days to give me time to recover.

A week later, transfer day is fast approaching, and I finally feel like my old self again.

Fingers crossed.

Dear Gus: Three

Dear Gus,

The details are starting to get a little bit fuzzy, but here’s what I remember about the day you were born: the drive to the hospital was excruciating, the nurses were lovely, the anesthesiologist was eating a sandwich while I was demanding some drugs, and then the next thing I knew it was 3:57 AM and you were here — and we were parents.

You looked like this:

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Now, you look like this:

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In the last year, you have changed so much. You use the potty, like a big boy. You can walk up and down the stairs (all by yourself!) giving me a small heart-attack every time. You can sort of swim. You can do somersaults, and walk on a balance beam, and bounce all the way down a trampoline. You can run, and you jump on EVERYTHING.

You go to school now, and you LOVE it. You have friends from your classes, and in our neighborhood, and you ask to play with them all the time. You love your cousins, and you talk about them all time.

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You’d still rather play than eat (a choice I’ll never understand) but when you do want some food, you prefer pretzels, French fries, more pretzels, and cheese.

You never. stop. talking. You are so imaginative, and hilarious — the things that come out of your mouth are unbelievable, including:

“Mom? What happens if the moon pops?”

“Surprise! I’m in your birthday cake!”

“We have an emergency! I saw an ant!”

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And let’s get this out of the way: The Terrible Twos have a well deserved reputation, for being, well — terrible. And you sir, can be terrible with the best (worst?) of them. Usually, it was because you were sick, or teething (molars are the devil’s teeth) or we had just spent large sums of money on fertility treatments trying to make you a sibling, and God just has a sense of humor. Thankfully, those moments were few and far between, because when all those unfortunate things aren’t happening, you’re really a pleasure to be around.

Your counting skills, which used to include the occasional letter and color, are legit now, and you know your fair share of letters too. You also know your full name, and our names (this year you went through a “what’s your name?” phase, in which you asked everyone their names, including total strangers at the grocery store.)

You have names for all of your grandparents now: Nan, and Pop, and Grandma & Pacha. We have no idea what Pacha means, or how you came up with it, but it suits him.

You still LOVE Curious George, and now we can add The Incredibles, the Lion Guard, the PJ Masks, Daniel Tiger & Co., and the Paw Patrol pups to that list. You love to build planes, and towers, and animals with our blocks and duplos, and you love to sit at your train table and play with trains and cranes and cars.

You still adore all animals, and our nighttime routine now consists of pretending to be dogs, or sharks, or gorillas, or tigers, or elephants, or various members of the Lion Guard. If we’re not animals, than we’re race cars and a tow truck, or a train, or we practice gymnastics.

You’re still sleeping in your own room (thank you baby Jesus) unless you’re super sick, only now your menagerie of animals has grown to include: George, Duck, Mickey, Little Appa (the elephant), Cornelius the crocodile, Cow, and Big Appa (another elephant) — not to mention whatever little toy you ask to bring upstairs every night.

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You are not shy, at all. You talk to anyone and everyone, and the second anyone sets foot in our house, to ask them if they want to see your room, or play with your trains. You continue to charm older ladies whenever you get the opportunity to do so.

We finally found a place that can give you a decent haircut, without any screaming, or thrashing, or crying. I think the 1) pretty ladies who work there, and 2) lollipops and toy cars they give you help tremendously.

You are super affectionate. You hug all of your friends and cousins goodbye. You smother us with body slam-esque hugs, and huge sloppy kisses. Sometimes you’ll just take a break from jumping on the sofa, to hug us and say I love you, or lay with us to watch something.

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I swear we just planned your second birthday party, like three months ago. Time is flying, and I’m sure it’s only going to get worse.

You’re so sweet, and so funny, and so smart. You’ve learned so much in the past year, and we’re so proud of you.

Love, Mom and Dad

Back in the Saddle.

As we get ready to start another FET cycle, I’m trying to get as healthy as possible.

And along with that comes (or goes?) all the usual suspects.

Caffeine.
Sugar.
Artificial sweeteners.
Alcohol.
Refined Grains.
Good ole’ gluten.

Goodbye old friends. We had a good run, didn’t we?

And, unfortunately for me, since our last loss I have just been eating my feelings (they taste like pizza and ice cream!) for months. Then, that rolled into vacation eating.

And so all that had to stop.

And then I did something unthinkable.

I started going to the gym again. On purpose! Repeatedly! It’s not as often as I’d like, and I can’t work out as hard as I used to (who remembers when I was thin?!) but it’s better than never, ever going to the gym, which is what I’ve been doing for, ohhhhhhhh, six years?

And after all these years of infertility treatments, and pregnancies, and breastfeeding, and going dairy-free, and then eating ALL THE DAIRY, I honestly cannot tell you what my pre-pregnancy weight was.

The good news is, I’m not focused on being a certain weight, or a certain size. This body of mine will never be perfect, but it gave me Gus, and that’s a body worth celebrating as far as I’m concerned, even if it doesn’t look perfect in a bathing suit. But leggings and tunics seem like they’re here to stay awhile, so amen and hallelujah for stretchy pants!

My goal is to lose as much weight as I can (healthily) between now and our FET, while getting stronger and eating these things called “vegetables” I’ve been hearing so much about.

So far, so good.

PGS Results

We had 10 remaining embryos on ice, and after our last loss, we decided to have them all PGS tested.*

Before our embryos could be tested, they’d need to be thawed, biopsied, and re-frozen. We also needed to participate in a consultation with the lab that would be doing the testing.

We were told since we (me, really) were both 31 when our embryos were made, we could expect around 60% of them to be normal, and the rest, obviously, abnormal. I knew that all my embryos had made it to Day 5 before they were frozen, but I’d never known what they were graded.

They were ALL 5AA.

If you’re blessed in the fertility department — this is practically unheard of. If you’re currently undergoing IVF — I don’t need to tell you how amazing that is.

So, two weeks ago, all ten were thawed and biopsied. Nine out of the 10 survived the process and were re-frozen.

Yesterday we got the call from my nurse, and EIGHT of the nine are chromosomally normal!

I know that a PGS diagnosis of “normal” is no guarantee, but I’m very optimistic about moving forward with a frozen cycle this fall. I also can’t help but wonder if we really DID hit the 60% mark:

1st transfer — Chemical Pregnancy, one embryo
2nd transfer — early loss, one embryo
3rd transfer — healthy baby, two embryos
4th transfer — early loss, one embryo

So we’ve used 5 of the original 15. Assuming the ones we lost or didn’t take were abnormal, plus the test results we have now, that means 9/15 (60%) were/are normal.

We’re on schedule to try again in October. Now if only I could stop eating and drinking like I’m still on vacation. 

*Preimplantation genetic screening (PGS) is a powerful genetic test that may be performed on embryos during IVF treatment to screen for numerical chromosomal abnormalities. PGS is performed on a small embryo biopsy prior to transfer and identifies which embryos are chromosomally normal.