Just in case

Three powerful words

So I have been thinking about this blog post for a while. I will preface it by saying that this could be a trigger for some of you. I will also preface it by saying I am being so serious in writing about this topic. Some of you might disagree with me and that is completely fine. But I also feel like some of you are waiting for this conversation to start.  It’s a vulnerable and raw topic. It’s just something that’s constantly been on my mind these past few weeks even with the craziness of life. Oddly enough, it was brought up at our MOPS play date this week! I definitely feel like God is calling me to start the conversation. So here we go…..

A little back story:
So I was talking to a friend about two weeks ago and she told me that she was pregnant. It was a really good conversation and obviously, I am so excited for her and her growing family. But she was about 7 1/2 weeks along and she told me that she wasn’t telling very many people until after her first doctor appointment….. just in case. I think we all know what that means. In case you don’t, she wasn’t telling very many people in case something is wrong or something happens in the early part of the pregnancy. If you have ever been pregnant, most of you understand and are sensitive to this… and quite frankly, we all get it and would never blame anyone for waiting….. just in case.

But here is the problem with just in case, it doesn’t matter if we don’t wait and share right when we find out or wait for 12 weeks or 20 weeks; the fact is, anything can happen at anytime and we can’t control what happens. I think we use this idea of just in case as a protection and a way to guard ourselves from the potential of something so unbelievably painful if the pregnancy ends in miscarriage and/or stillbirth. And actually, for anyone to make it through an entire pregnancy without any complications is nothing short of a miracle. It truly is an amazing blessing to have a healthy pregnancy, even in this century filled with so much science and technology!

But why do we do this? Why do we feel like it’s better to wait just in case?

Is it because it’s easier on us if we should lose the pregnancy to have not told very many people? I would argue that it’s harder. In fact, it’s probably pretty lonely.

Is it because we wouldn’t want to bother anyone with our sadness in case of a loss? I would argue that our society would make us feel like our sadness is an inconvenience but the reality is that it’s not. The reality is that miscarriage and stillbirth happen every year in this country.

Now TRUST ME, I completely understand the just in case mentality. When we first started going through fertility treatments, I didn’t want anyone to know.

WHY?

Because I was ashamed. I was ashamed that my body couldn’t do the most basic task it was made to do: to make a child.

I was upset because I felt that my body failed me.

I was angry for feeling like I had done “everything right” and was being punished for waiting to have children until after I got married instead of when I was single after a college party.

I was resentful because others seemed to just “get pregnant” without even trying and I couldn’t.

I was sad that children are conceived every day by people who didn’t even want them in the first place and here I was longing for a child and couldn’t have one.

I couldn’t have a baby. I still can’t have a baby without help.

No matter what I wanted, it just wasn’t going to happen the way I thought it should happen. The way it was supposed to happen.

I imagine that if I lost a child. I would have a lot of confusion, anger, sadness, frustration and even more indescribable feelings. I imagine it would be one of THE most painful events in my life. I think about that. I think about if we can’t bring our next two embryos to term or if I don’t get pregnant the next time we try to transfer…. I think about that. Because to me, that inability to conceive our children in waiting…..would. crush. me. Because to me, they are already here waiting for us. To me, they are already mine. To me, they are apart of our family. So I understand, just A LITTLE BIT, of those feelings that people must go through when a child is lost in the womb. And when I say A LITTLE BIT, I mean A LITTLE BIT. Just a dash. It’s one of those things you would never wish upon someone else but you can only experience it to truly know how it feels. It’s definitely something I hope I never have to feel.

So what are we guarding ourselves from by saying just in case?

Is it vulnerability? Is it trying to control the uncontrollable? Is it not having to answer anyone when they ask you how you are feeling? Is it because we want to be alone in our sadness? I don’t really know.

What I do know is that in the last 2 years that I have started sharing about our infertility journey, I have helped a handful of women, who felt they were ALONE, not feel alone. I have had so many conversations with women – just. like. me. – trying to make sense of this painful (physically, emotionally, and mentally) infertility journey. These conversations wouldn’t have happened without me being open. Without me, being open to sharing our struggles, sharing our journey, and sharing the truth.

So this is my point: If you can share your journey – share it. Because I guarantee you will find that you are not alone. You are far from alone. Whether it’s a miscarriage, infertility or still birth, there is someone there fighting the good fight with you. There is someone there who can mourn with you. There is someone there who can support you and run along side you. There is someone there that can tell you that YOU WILL BE OKAY. YOU WILL SURVIVE.

Share your journey just in case you end up impacting someone else’s life more than you will ever know. 

 

Rachel

 

**This post is dedicated to the survivors.**

It’s time I spilled the Cheerios….

The pregnancy that never ends…

Wow. It’s been 3 months since I’ve written. How is that possible? Well I could give a number of reasons, pretty legitimate reasons, why it just hasn’t happened…. but the biggest reason is that I was avoiding it. Weird, right? But now it’s time to get real. Get vulnerable. It’s time I spilled the Cheerios.

Since I gave birth to Madison, I haven’t been doing so great. Sure, I’ve found a wonderful outlet with Rodan + Fields, gotten closer to friends, have watched my sons grow into little boys, have watched my daughter grow from a newborn to an infant, bought a new house and much more. Those things have been WONDERFUL (distractions).

Life seems great. Life is great. But something is wrong (with me). I mean it in the most sincerity…. something is wrong with me. Those of you that have followed our story know Madison’s pregnancy was “exciting”. It was full of ups and downs and I was emotionally a wreck. Then we had Hurricane Harvey just a few days before giving birth which made her birth story, crazy and slightly stressful. And really I thought it would end after that. I thought all I would have to do between her birth and now would be trying to keep my sanity and raise 3 kids under 3 years old and trying to lose enough weight before my sister’s wedding at the end of February.

Well, somehow different plans have been drawn and I am scared shitless.

Since Madison’s birth:

1. I have had two D&C surgeries.

2. I have been told I might need a hysterectomy after I woke up from my first D&C procedure.

3. AND TMI, I have worn a pad almost every day since she’s been born.

4. I have tirelessly thought about our future family plans.

5. I have considered surrogacy for our last two embryos.

All of these 5 things have consumed me over the last (almost) 5 months. CONSUMED ME. Now I am busy in my day-to-day so I can’t exactly think about it on and on BUT mentally it’s always there.

So what’s wrong? Well, essentially, I somehow have had retained placenta left in my uterus from Madison’s birth. Yep. I didn’t know it could happen with someone who’s had a c-section (let alone two), but it has. I am just as shocked that I was on day one when the OB told me that was a possibility. I really can’t even explain how it happened because honestly no one can explain it to me and I have seen many doctors. Essentially, I haven’t really stopped bleeding since I gave birth. It comes and goes in waves. But it never really stops. So how can you move on when this is happening? You can’t. Or, at least, I can’t.

To put it bluntly, it’s been a nightmare. A nightmare I don’t think I wanted to face or make real by writing it down. But I’m ready. 

Since my second D&C (that I slightly regret doing), I have changed doctors and received a tentative diagnosis. I have been diagnosed with sub-involution of the uterus. Basically, my uterus was having a hard time healing from the pregnancy. It’s a consequence of having retained placenta (go figure). The diagnosis is hard to come to and doing the D&C’s actually lengthened the time my uterus needs to heal because, hello, surgery just aggravates it. But I praise God for this new doctor. I have actually been treated with two  rounds of antibiotics because it was suspected I also had endometritis (inflammation of the uterus) and now am on an estrogen/progesterone treatment to hopefully heal my lining of my uterus. My last scan does show I have some more scar tissue or possible more placenta particles. But we won’t know the state of everything until I have a hysteroscopy sometime in March.

Curious about the pathology report from the second D&C I had – yep. More placenta. Did I tell you this was a nightmare?   

So March. Madison will be 6 months old before I know what is the outcome of all this treatment. I will be 6 months into this 3 children gig. Definitely not something I have been happy about. Definitely not something I have been able to really come to terms with until now.

The worst part is that I don’t know what’s going to happen. The worst part is that I don’t know how this will affect our future family plans until March and really, maybe not until we are ready to transfer the next embryo. The worst part is that I don’t know if my next pregnancy will be my last or if this one was my last one. The worst part is we just DON’T KNOW.

What I do know:

  1. My body is shot. I definitely need a big break until we try again.
  2. If there is an inch of belief that my next pregnancy could be my last, we will transfer the two embryos.
  3. If there is a compromise to my uterus that could affect me carrying, we will consider surrogacy.

Is this stuff easy to think about? HELL NO. I am scared out of my mind but I believe with my whole heart that all of the lives we created deserve a chance. I believe with my whole heart we are supposed to have 5 children. I believe with my whole heart that whatever happens, we will be okay. I will be okay. I do believe that. It doesn’t mean I’m not scared. It doesn’t mean I am not angry about it. It doesn’t mean I’m consumed by it. It doesn’t mean I have all the right answers or know how to fix it.

I just KNOW I have two more lives worth fighting for and that’s all I need to know. 

 

“This really troubled me, so I asked the Lord about it.
‘Lord, you said once I decided to follow you,
You’d walk with me all the way.
But I noticed that during the saddest and most troublesome times of my life,
there was only one set of footprints.
I don’t understand why, when I needed You the most, You would leave me.’

He whispered, ‘My precious child, I love you and will never leave you
Never, ever, during your trials and testings.
When you saw only one set of footprints,
It was then that I carried you.'”

— Excerpt from Footprints in the Sand

 

Until next time,

Rachel

“Momnipotent”

The Not-So-Perfect Woman’s Guide to Catholic Motherhood by Danielle Bean

I started reading this book last night. I have to thank my Aunt Veronica for giving it to me when I was pregnant with the twins. I never cracked it open. During my firestorm to organize as much as possible yesterday (which, by the way, I am paying for it today), I came across this book again. Something prompted me to open it last night and start reading. Can we just acknowledge that when God’s timing is perfect, it’s so perfect?

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I’m not going to lie, my spirit has been wrecked these last few weeks. I don’t mean I’ve had doubts in my beliefs (although that’s totally fine if I have) but I mean, just life has been hard. Last week’s news ignited some serious anxiety issues that I have struggled with for a good chunk of my life. You know when you find something for YOU or plan something for YOU and look forward to that – it’s an amazing feeling. Now take it away – totally sucks. Anyway, I won’t get into it all again – you can check out my previous post if you need a refresher or didn’t catch it last week.

But I’m struggling and I’m overwhelmed. Life has overwhelmed me lately. In ONE week from tomorrow, my due date is THREE MONTHS away and I couldn’t feel more UNREADY. (Is that a word?)

Stress 1: I feel like all the junk has to go. I know it’s not COMPLETELY necessary or even reasonable but have you ever fought with a pregnant woman when she’s made her mind up about something? I don’t suggest it.

Stress 2: Once the junk goes, I’ll feel better about getting ready to bring another human into this world and maybe even start her nursery. Again, I know she won’t live in there for at least 3 months after she’s here because of the stairs we have in our house but argue with a pregnant woman? I think not.

Stress 3: I feel like I don’t have enough time with my boys. They are so fun and so exhausting but I just can’t help but be sad that my first-born children will not be JUST THEM anymore. I’m not worried about loving this girl or having enough room in my heart – I know she belongs there. My heart isn’t complete without her and the future siblings here (2 more to go!). However, it’s sort of funny because I’ve had 2 at one time so you would think adding 1 more isn’t a big deal but it’s HUGE for me. I don’t want this part to end and frankly gets me teary eyed thinking about it. We’ve been through so much together starting from before they were born so it’s a bittersweet change to our story.

Stress 4: The pregnancy itself is a stress. Again, I won’t go into it because I pretty much unloaded last week. And frankly, I’m too tired to unearth those emotions again.

So these are the 4 main stresses I have and then I started reading this book. I haven’t read a ton of it yet but something struck me last night. Spiritual motherhood is something that we, women, are all called to be.

“In makes sense…that while some women are called to biological mothers, every woman is called to spiritual motherhood because motherhood is knit into the very structure of a woman’s being. Women are created with the gift of interior readiness to receive others into their lives, and in doing so, to nurture their emotional, moral, cultural and spiritual well-being. This is an exciting and creative challenge because women can be spiritual mothers anywhere: in the office, at home, with their grandchildren, in the neighborhood, even sick in bed” (Katrina J. Zeno, Discovering the Feminine Genius: Every Women’s Journey, 41).

I found great comfort in this quote last night. I’m not sure why I did but I did.

Maybe it’s because I struggled with infertility so I recognize the want for a biological child.

Maybe it’s because I know people who have adopted or in the process of adopting a child.

Maybe it’s because I have spiritual mothers in my life that have no biological lines to me but have impacted me so much.

Maybe it’s because, as a teacher, I feel like I have been a spiritual mother to some of my students I have watched grow into amazing young men and women.

Maybe it’s because I have seen spiritual motherhood IN ACTION from a multitude of women my entire life – some with children and some without.

Spiritual motherhood. I think I found comfort in it because it’s bigger than me and what I am feeling. This whole earthly motherhood gig is T-O-U-G-H! But somehow, to know that I have something inside of me, that we all do, that feeds our children and the people we connect with around us, that’s bigger and stronger than how I feel right now covers me in comfort and the grace I desperately seek.

Honestly, right now I just feel like I am barely surviving. You know just doggie paddling in the waters of life. My kids probably watch too much TV, get away with too many things, and eat way too many chicken nuggets. I mean, they don’t mind but the inadequacy of how I feel in raising them is suffocating. But right there, in the middle of me suffocating, the Lord says “It’s okay.” The Lord has blessed me, and all women, with this spiritual motherhood because even know I’m totally judging myself (and openly sharing that judgement on my post right now), it doesn’t matter. As long as I am here, present with my boys, they get SOMETHING from me that I didn’t know really existed until last night. I don’t even know if I quite understand what I give to them. But I have been blessed with “an exciting and creative challenge” that I wouldn’t change for the world (Katrina J. Zeno, Discovering the Feminine Genius: Every Women’s Journey, 41).

Here’s to spiritual motherhood,

 

Rachel

Fantasy vs. Reality

Accepting change

Over the last 3 or so years, I have been seeing a counselor. Sometimes consistently and sometimes not. Usually when I am not seeing her consistently is when I really should be – funny how that works. In actuality, it’s really not funny. It’s actually pretty stressful for me when I take breaks for extended periods of time. Anyway, my counselor has been key in helping me sort through many of my life changes. I don’t know if it’s HER or if it’s just the fact that I have someone outside of my life to talk to; an objective person helps so much. If you haven’t tried it, you should!

Fantasy vs. Reality is a hot topic in our sessions. Fantasy – what you think or dream up to be in a given situation. Reality – the actual situation at hand. Some people can just roll with whatever happens in the reality even if it’s different from what they thought; whereas, others (**cough, me, cough**) have a harder time coping with the change. I’ve generally had a harder time adjusting to given changes in my life ever since I can remember. As I have gotten older, I’ve coped with some changes and have had harder time with others. I mainly struggle with the ones that have drastically changed from what *I thought* would be how life would work out.

For example, one thing that I thought would be easy would be having children. Isn’t this what we all think? At least, what we all think when we don’t have any perceived medical diagnosis, anyway? You get married, buy a house and have children. After all, it’s the “usual way” people do things. Now, I realize not everyone does this in that order and that’s totally fine. But this is what I thought it would be for me and my husband.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t that easy. Actually it was the exact opposite. About 3 years into our marriage and 2 years of no baby, I became suspicious of a possible issue. Nick and I were open to having kids but it wasn’t an intentional act of trying and tracking; however, I felt something wasn’t right. In the summer of 2014, after finally convincing my husband of doing some tests, we found ourselves at the Houston Fertility Institute at their Sugar Land, Texas location. We were told in our initial consultation that couples have a 25% chance of conceiving in their first year of trying (that’s WITHOUT any perceived issues) and then after that the numbers drop significantly: down to 5% per year and it lowers every year after that. Talk about a punch in the gut! We were in our second year of being open to children and BOOM, a scientific kick in the pants.

We went on to do some testing. I was having feminine issues with my cycle anyway and during “that time of the month” having a lot of pain. Anyway, the results from my tests weren’t good. I had stage 3 to stage 4 endometriosis. According to Mayo Clinic, endometriosis “is an often painful disorder in which tissue that normally lines the inside of your uterus — the endometrium — grows outside your uterus. Endometriosis most commonly involves your ovaries, fallopian tubes and the tissue lining your pelvis. Rarely, endometrial tissue may spread beyond pelvic organs” (http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/endometriosis/home/ovc-20236421).

I don’t think I could have been more devastated. This is not what I dreamed up, remember? This is not how it was supposed to be for us. This made our chances of having a baby even less. Unfortunately, if we wanted to do any fertility treatments it could and would make the disease worse as it feeds off estrogen in your body; so, if we did do anything, we would be taking the risk of making this worse for us. We just weren’t ready to take that risk. In fact, we were actually trying to avoid it as much as possible. I was 25 years old – this shouldn’t be happening. 

Nick and I opted for me to undergo surgery to remove as much of the endometriosis as possible so we could possibly try to conceive on our own. Here’s the deal: endometriosis grows microscopically so anything they could see and remove, they would but it didn’t mean I was necessarily in the clear. It’s constantly growing. So following the procedure, I would have monthly injections that would essentially put me into menopause to try to reduce the legions as much as possible. I wasn’t too excited about it. Surgery, in general, is usually pretty rough for me – I’ve had a few in my life to know the general gist of what would happen post-op. My body takes forever to get rid of the anesthesia.

The laparoscopic procedure was slated for 90 minutes. The doctor would blow my stomach up with air so they could see the organs and be able to manipulate them to burn off the legions – hopefully without damaging any other organs. The worse part of it was that my ovaries had huge cysts on them. Taking those out wouldn’t be easy and in fact, it would be so important for the doctor to be precise as to not damage my ovaries further. Every time they take a cyst out, they would be taking part of my ovary (not enough to cause permanent infertility but that was definitely a risk). Then, there’s the whole we “really don’t know what it will be like until we are in there” uncertainty and you always hope it’s better than the doctors expect. 

Little did I know this 90-minute-you’ll-be-back-on-your-feet-in-3-days procedure, turned into blowing my stomach up a second time and a 3 hour procedure. Of course, I didn’t know any of this until I woke up from the surgery. The whole 3 days back on your feet was a LOAD OF CRAP. It took me well over a month to feel “normal” again. You know that fantasy vs. reality thing I was talking about before – yep, I was not happy. In fact, I was angry. Well, let me take a step back – I was very glad the doctor took her time – I had such a bad cyst on my fallopian tube that had she not taken her time, I could have lost it or woken up with a cut open abdomen. So, I am very thankful that. But I was still mad. I was so uncomfortable for weeks! Have you ever had gas pumped in your stomach for any procedure, IT IS AWFUL! Again, this is not what I was expecting. And I had a very hard time accepting that.

Honestly, this whole time I had a hard time dealing with the reality of what was happening and how this was my fault. My body’s fault. Nick, in no way, made me feel this way – this was something I was personally dealing with. In fact, he was amazing during this process. I think if you are the one with the diagnosis in the relationship, it’s normal to have these feelings. But it still sucks, to say the least.

By September 2014, I was on those menopause shots. Okay, again – totally not fun. Talk about a wild roller coaster of emotions, literally. But this, again, was our best chance to combat the endometriosis from growing back quickly and to potentially start trying when all this was over. A medically induced menopause at 25 years old – that was really hard to wrap my mind around it. I wasn’t supposed to have a cycle while on this medicine…..until I did. THAT WAS AWFUL. If you’re a girl, you know an unexpected period isn’t fun at all. Nope. Not at all.

After 3 months on the shots, I had an ultrasound in December 2014 and I was devastated. The cysts had grown back. Not as big but they were there which meant the shots really didn’t help. Maybe they did a little bit but the cysts were there. THE CYSTS WERE THERE! SERIOUSLY WHAT THE HELL! I was screaming inside on that table. I felt like I had put my body and my mental health through absolute torture the last 6 months! For what!?!

Nick and I ended up right where we didn’t want to be…..

Facing the biggest personal and financial decision of our lives…..

Here’s to everything in between (including the crap),

Rachel