I see hope, I see strength.

Five years have passed since Justin and I began our journey to become parents.

I often wonder how different life would be if we would have had a successful pregnancy the first time around…or the fifth time. What would life be like today if our twin boys survived, or our perfect little girl? The only thing I know for certain is that my son, Calix Cruz would not be sleeping in his bed tonight if things would have worked out differently.

Even the darkest of times and the most painful experiences have prepared me to be the best parent I can be. Patience, love and respect have all been cultivated through my quest to become a parent. Without the pain and suffering I would have never known first hand how fragile life is.

I am honored to have seen my son’s heartbeat, felt his movements in utero and heard his first cries in the delivery room after a cherished pregnancy. I am honored to be in the position I am in today and answer to the name “Mom”. It is a dream come true.

Image

Every time I look into my son’s blue eyes I see hope, I see strength.

 

 

Our friend, Eric Homan produced a documentary about our experience with pregnancy loss. The documentary features artwork and interviews.

California Mojo

In late October, early November, Justin and I rallied through Northern California on a vacation of a lifetime. We learned how to surf, hiked miles and miles of the Sierra mountains in Yosemite and had our fair share of skateboarding in San Jose. We enjoyed each and every moment that we shared on our great adventure. On most days we ran ourselves so hard that by the end of the night we hobbled into our hotel room barely able to hold up our own weight from total exhaustion.

Due to the fact that we were on vacation for two weeks we were unable to use any medications or participate in any procedures for infertility. We figured what the heck, we could just take a break from all the poking and prodding and try on our own. In the back of my mind I felt like it was a lost cause. We had gone over a year without achieving pregnancy even with highly technical procedures and massive doses of medications.

We had started shifting our focus to adoption and were even taking classes to become licensed in Ohio. Justin and I had long discussions about our adoption plans on our travels across Northern California. All of the thoughts of the unknown, of suffering and hopelessness started to dissipate when we talked and planned for our adoption. We started to feel excitement again.

Even though we were set on adopting I did not want to stop trying to have our own child. It seemed weird even to me but something would not let me give up whatever fertility I had left. I figured it was futile but I was willing to take the risks….just in case.

On Saturday, November 19 after being two days late I took a pregnancy test as a joke. Well, to my surprise two lines appeared and my first words were not of a joyful nature. I immediately started mourning, it is all that I knew how to do from my past experiences. We were on the roller coaster once again whether we liked it or not. I kept hoping that if I was going down the same path as I had in the past I would be smarter this time. I would protect myself from getting too excited and just live as if I was not “pregnant” (minus the skateboarding and alcohol consumption).

Two weeks and 5 days passed. I was still pregnant, was not bleeding and was experiencing multiple symptoms including sickness day and night. I felt a little reassured by these facts but still would not let my guard down. On Friday, December 9 we set off for our first ultrasound appointment at 9:00 am. Scared, shaking and prepared for the only thing I have ever known I somehow made it into the examining room without a major breakdown. It seemed like it took the doctor hours to finally come into our room. When Dr. Kennard entered the room she asked if her student intern could join us. Being in the state that I was all that I could get out was an inaudible groan. She asked the student to wait in the hall. The doctor asked me a few questions before the ultrasound started and I answered yet again in groan format. I guess I had reached my maximum capacity for coping with stress and fear at this point. I do not remember much from the appointment because I went into a state of shock. Luckily, Justin was very attentive and remembers everything that happened that day by heart.

The doctor turned the ultrasound monitor screen away from Justin and I so we could not see the first glimpses of the pregnancy just in case something was wrong (we are pretty much experts on reading early ultrasounds, at least the bad ones). After a few minutes (and four different measurements were complete), the doctor finally said “Well, you have a baby with a heartbeat, do you want to see it?” I grumbled something and Justin stepped in and spoke for the both of us, “Yes!” So the monitor was turned in our direction and we saw a very small embryo and the little flutter of the heart! It was an unbelievable moment and I kept waiting to hear that something didn’t add up. Instead the doctor furiously printed off ultrasound shots. She asked if I wanted one and of course I just groaned. Justin grabbed the picture and said “Yes, we definitely want that!” We watched and listened to the little heartbeat in awe. When the doctor was done measuring and assessing again and again she said “I have no concerns.” “I know you don’t want to hear this but I want to see you again in 7-10 days only because of your history.” I asked, “Can I be happy now?” Dr. Kennard said “Yes”. Then she went on to say, “I knew you were going to have a baby sometime, I just didn’t know how or when it would happen.”  “You may just be having a baby in July!” I told Justin to hug me and he did. Then the doctor gave me a big hug as well. We then made our next appointment, talked to the nurses and made our way out of the office.

On Friday, December 9th, we were those people…the people leaving the office with good news, photos in hand for proof and smiles from ear to ear! I was still feeling numb, still shaking but somehow managed (after several attempts) to call my mom. She answered in her nervous, not sure what to expect voice and I screamed “IT’S GOOD!” “WHAT?” she replied, “OH MY GOD, IT’S GOOD?” There were screams, tears and pure relief coming from her end of the line. I told her we have a perfect embryo and a little heartbeat! I asked my mom where she was and we coordinated a meeting spot in Westerville so we could show her the ultrasound photos. On our way to meet her, I called and text messaged our support team to tell them the news. I think everyone I told  busted out in tears of happiness and relief. Justin and I know that all of our family and friends wanted this to work out for us as much as we did.

It was a long ten days before we saw the doctor again. Justin reassured me through my doubts and fears that everything looked really good at our last appointment. I made him re-tell what happened at the appointment at least twenty times. As Monday, December 19 approached, I became more and more scared and went into protective mode. I wanted this so bad words could not even describe my emotions. After everything we have been through  it was so hard to let go and be able to hope for the best. The only thing that kept my hopes up was the fact that I was very sick all the time. In previous pregnancies I had never experienced morning sickness so I knew something was different about this time around.

It was finally time to check on our California miracle after ten days. We were probably just as nervous as we were at the first appointment, or at least I was. The doctor went straight to business, wasting no time with getting the ultrasound on the monitor. As soon as she could visualize my uterus and the baby she announced proudly, “You’re going to have a baby!” Immediately, Justin lit up with joy. He smiled from ear to ear, holding back the urge to jump up  and down in the examining room. My reaction was subdued. I was numb, just waiting for the doctor to retract her statement. The doctor was so excited, she kept hitting my thigh when she was talking because she could not hold back her emotions. She told us that she only knew one other women that had been through as much as we had and stuck it out and eventually got pregnant (This still blows my mind).

We watched our baby on the ultrasound monitor for quite some time and the doctor admitted she could sit there all day and watch our little miracle.  We saw little tiny arm and leg buds, listened to the heartbeat and even saw our baby’s spine.  Dr. Kennard said that our risk for early miscarriage was very low now since our baby had developed so well. We got our official due date for the first time ever….July 28th, 2012! The doctor made us promise that we would bring our baby in to visit her once he or she was born. At this point I think I finally let my guard down and became excited. All of my fear was washed away with complete happiness. I signed papers to be release to my OB/GYN doctor and away we went. This day was by far the best day of our lives. Justin and I furiously made phone calls to all of our support team (who were all waiting on pins and needles) to relay the amazing news.

We are still in disbelief about how all of this transpired. It feels like a dream, a really awesome dream! Every day that goes by we are honored to be in the position we are in. We feel that we have made it past a huge hurdle by reaching twelve weeks with a healthy pregnancy. Justin and I are thrilled beyond what words can describe. As Justin reminds me quite often as he beams around the house, “WE ARE HAVING A BABY!”

Bothered

It was not until my fifth miscarriage that I started feeling things bother me more and more. Comments that people made, pregnant women and anything related to babies were all so traumatic. I became dysfunctional, refusing to go out in public in fear that I would be exposed to one of the many sensitive issues I was battling. About a year ago I decided that it was okay to protect myself.  I think we can all agree that having five miscarriages in less than two and a half years is absurd, unfair, etc., etc. I sometimes feel like I should be heavily medicated, shaking in a corner somewhere. Surprisingly, I am not. Somehow I find ways to cope with the sadness and grief that I feel. I talk about what bothers me, I write about what bothers me (and skateboard) because that is the only way I know how to deal with hardship. I have to be honest with myself .

Below is a list of things that really bother me. Please don’t be offended if you fall into one of the categories or remember saying something similar to Justin and I about our situation. The list is just a way of getting out how I feel.  Hopefully it will also help educate people on how not to react to someone when they are dealing with infertility.

A  list of things that bother me, get under my skin and eat at me slowly….

  • Those damn stick people family decals on cars. Yes you can breed and yes your very good at it.
  • People that say “Just adopt!” Yeah, easy for you to say.
  • “Maybe you guys should take a break.” What the hell, really…how about I break you.
  • “Maybe you guys are trying too hard.”  Slap. Slap.
  • “God has a plan for you.” Really? I’m not even going to touch that one.
  • “Be patient.” Been there done that. Now what?
  • Ultrasound pictures on Facebook. Yeah, if you have posted one I blocked you. You wouldn’t understand.
  • People that have gotten pregnant around the same (five) times I have. Your pregnancy was perfect. Pictures of your healthy baby slowly torture me.
  • TV shows and movies that involve ultrasounds, pregnancy and/or miscarriages. The Smurfs? Damn, nothing is safe.
  • “Do you guys have any kids yet?” No. Well, kind of. Do you really want to open that can of worms?
  • “How old are you? Oh, you have plenty of time.” Actually, we don’t but I won’t be able to convince you of that.
  • “Things happen for a reason.” Grrrrrrrrrrrr.
  • “Practice makes perfect.” I beg to differ.
  • “It’s fun trying.” Whatever. The trauma pretty much masks any “fun” part of the process.
  • “At least you can get pregnant.” Oh, how comforting.
  • “Maybe you just were not meant to have kids.” Yeah, that’s it.
  • “There is more to life than just having kids.” I’m sure there is, especially if you haven’t endured what I have.
  • Pregnant women. The more it bothers me, the more of them I see. It’s almost humorous the way life is always slapping me in the face.
  • “It could be a lot worse.” That’s it, say something that tops it all so we can move on from this awkward subject.
  • “Did you know you can take hormones to breastfeed if you adopt a baby?” Great! I would love to take more drugs! Thanks! Plus, that’s not weird at all!
  • “When your adopted baby gets here, you will forget all of the pain and suffering.” I can’t wait to forget that I will never be pregnant, that my husband will never feel our baby kicking, that I will never have control over the fetal development of my kids. Whew. Glad that stuff will get washed away in an instant!
  • “Being pregnant isn’t that great anyway.” I’d like to have the opportunity to judge for myself. I loved every fleeting moment that I had being pregnant, and I’m pretty sure it only gets better.
  • “I know x number of people who have adopted and then they get pregnant!” Read: “Your adopted kid isn’t that good, but at least it will help you get a real kid.”
  • “Oh, you don’t want to adopt an older kid. They come with so many problems.” So, your saying these kids are not worthy of having a loving family just because they have “issues”?
  • “I  know a couple that adopted and it ruined their relationship, it was awful!” Just so you know, most couples that endure 3 or more miscarriages end up divorced.  I think we can handle whatever comes our way.

*This blog post is a collaboration with a woman I know who has been through the multiple miscarriage hell as well. Thanks  for sharing your perspective my friend. Whatever it takes, strong women like us will be parents some day….soon.

Beating a Dead Horse

The  IVF procedure was one hell of a roller coaster ride, physically and emotionally. When we found out that it was unsuccessful I felt the last three years of pain all at once. At some point I felt like I was having an out-of-body experience, looking down on myself and thinking “I can’t believe I have gone through all of this!” The worst part is knowing that I have nothing to show for all of the trauma and pain I have weathered. The week following the major let down of IVF I hit an all time low. Guilt, grief, hopelessness and hate consumed my every breath. A series of restless nights coupled with multiple mental breakdowns made it hard to muster up the strength to do much of anything.

Maybe it was wishful thinking for me to assume that the doctor had given up on us.  It would be much easier to walk away from all of this if she was to say “Sorry,  it’s never going to happen, your ovary is dead, all of your eggs are bad or ethically I can’t put you through this anymore.” I had prepared myself as much as I could for what I expected the doctor to tell us at our first meeting after the failed IVF cycle. I should have known we would not escape the wrath of multiple miscarriage hell with any clear answers. So instead of getting the talk about alternative ways to become parents we were told at this point, there is no indication from a medical standpoint that we should stop trying to have our own child. Our doctor said on the other hand, psychologically I have been through enough to send up the white flag and surrender. Given the fact that I handle all of the ups and downs so well and bounce back emotionally, our doctor gave us the go ahead to start a new treatment plan next month.

I have followed my heart in making the decision to press on with our journey. The more thought I gave to the idea of abandoning this dream the more I realized that I couldn’t live with myself if I knew there was still a chance things could work out. My choice may be extremely risky and more  pain and heartache could be in our  future. Our doctor said it best “You can’t win the game if you don’t play.”  With a clear mind and a heart full of love…game on!

The University of Pain

All I really need to know I learned from my struggles with infertility: My top 22.

Do not take anything for granted.

Pushing away family and friends during tough times only makes you feel more isolated.

Your friends will not think any less of you if you cry in front of them.

A quick answer does not  heal years of pain.

Horrible things happen to good people.

Advocate for yourself.

The internet is not a doctor.

You cannot rationalize everything that happens in life.

People say the worst things at the worst times.

Let yourself be human.

Comparing yourself to others does not get you very far.

Experience does not make things easier.

When the going gets tough, cling to the things that you love.

In a perfect world, hard work gets you what you want.

Outsiders that offer solutions to your problems need kicked in the shins.

Your true friends will stick around and support you no matter what.

Have a plan b,c,d,e,f & g just in case.

It’s okay to feel the way you feel.

Vocalizing, writing and sharing your story with others is better than bottling up the trauma.

You cannot lie to yourself.

A mother’s instinct is right 99.9% of time.

Live one day at a time.

Horror Movies Do Not Have Happy Endings

I’m a muddled mess. I can’t see clearly through the tears. Feelings of loss, guilt and sorrow fill my soul. The totality of the past three years is weighing heavy, crushing me slowly. I am the only one that knows how much physical and mental anguish I have suffered through our five miscarriages and failed IVF attempts. The tormenting symptoms, the desperate hope, the fear, the medications, the waiting, the phone calls, the bad news, the surgeries, the ultimate failure….all these events swirl around my head like a never-ending horror movie.

I feel defeated. We have tried everything we could to have our own child. I never thought I would get to the point where I would say I have had enough, I can’t do this anymore. Well, today I feel like I have reached my limit. I am not willing to destroy myself completely, to be a martyr for this cause.

Sure, it’s possible that we could have a healthy pregnancy but at what cost? Will I have to brave more  miscarriages, surgeries, trauma or mental anguish in the process? At this point, I am not even sure I want a baby. Pregnancy, baby showers, baby clothes and gadgets, all these things are lumped together in my mind. When I see these things I get mad, jealous and then the trauma starts seeping in. I think I need something different.

It’s hard to come to terms with ending our journey after all that we have invested. I feel like I am letting everyone down, including myself by saying enough is enough. We all wanted a happy ending.

*I’m probably not in the best state of mind to be making future decisions….but this is how I feel at this moment.

Doors of Reality

The words “this doesn’t look good” resonated in my ears long after our doctor’s appointment. All the pain that we have invested in our endeavor was going to be worth it, at least that is what we thought. Now things have changed. The outlook is grim.

Trying to reason with how things have played out for us on our quest to have our own child doesn’t work. Why did we have to go through this? What did we do to deserve this? The questions go on and on and there are no answers.

Some days I feel like giving up, picking up the pieces and redirecting my energy into a goal that is more obtainable. Having a child should not be this difficult. If we give up, then what? Do we get cheated out of parenthood after all we have survived? I cannot imagine the magnitude of pain I would feel throughout my lifetime if we were never able to raise a child.

Justin and I have decided that we will explore adoption if our situation doesn’t work out. Our goal with adoption is to find a child that completes our family. We know the horror stories of adoption, believe me, we have lived it with my parents (my parents adopted 3 children in 1997). We know the commitment we will be making if we choose this route. Justin and I are willing to take the risks to raise a child, a child who is in desperate need of a loving family.

The more I contemplate adoption, the more I like the idea. By choosing adoption, Justin and I can skip the whole poopy diaper, home bound, sleepless nights, non-skateboarding  part of parenting. Adopting an older child (over the age of 4)  means we have the opportunity to make up for some of the time we have lost in the past three years. I get chills just thinking about how much of an impact Justin and I could make on a child’s life. Who wouldn’t want parents that have a rock solid relationship, are passionate about skateboarding, love to travel and want to share their lives with a child more than anything else in the world?

I am not ready to give up on the idea of having our own biological child. At this point in the game I feel like we need a back up plan. In the last two months, Justin and I have realized that just because it seems that a door is closing and our dreams are slipping away, there are other doors opening.

Whatever it takes, with hope and strength…Justin and I will be parents some day.