Continue following our journey over at http://www.boundlessmotherhood.com
See you there!
Continue following our journey over at http://www.boundlessmotherhood.com
See you there!
I think I drank too much tea this afternoon, because as my husband is snoozing away beside me, I am wide awake and doing entirely too much thinking.
In 12 days, I begin my leave of absence from work so that we can begin IVF. Many people keep asking me if I’m excited, and I absolutely am, but if I’m being completely honest, I’m terrified.
For over two years, my life has been a cornucopia of loss and infertility. The crushing blows to my heart have come one right after another, leaving me with little to no time to brace myself for impact. When Aria died, it took every last ounce of energy in my body to keep me going.
A year and a half later, after months upon months of praying for a second chance at parenthood, I miscarried my second pregnancy. I laid on the ultrasound table and sobbed as the technician failed to find a heartbeat for a baby that I had already grown to love.
My world went into a deep tailspin that day. My faith in God turned into searing anger. Every ounce of good that I believed my life had left felt like it was slipping out of my grasp.
And yet, I stood once again and we kept praying that another baby would come. As the months went by, and the doctor’s appointments came and went, we put our hope into two rounds of fertility treatments (IUI). Each time I felt this would be it, and each time I was called by a nurse to inform me my labs came back negative for pregnancy.
When we won this round of IVF, my heart immediately sang. I felt redemption and new hope. But as it all has begun to sink in, the fear has returned.
I remember the joy in my pregnancy with Aria. I remember the excitement, and the dreams I had for her future. But I also remember the devastation that came when she died.
I remember the jubilant tears that flowed as I jumped on Brian and excitedly told him I was pregnant with Aria’s sibling. But I also remember the way my chest caved as the doctor told me I was miscarrying.
So as I sit here filled with so much hope for what this round of IVF could bring, I’m absolutely torn apart by the thought of experiencing a negative outcome once again. I guess you could say it’s something like PTSD.
But we are trying so hard to trust in the goodness we can’t yet see.
Earlier I mentioned that we were considering opting into PGS (preimplantation genetic screening) to ensure we knew which embryos were genetically perfect or not. We wanted to do whatever we could to prevent another loss. But after discussing the reality of PGS not being a guarantee, and the financial burden of this testing, we’ve decided not to do it. Those reasons were big factors, but the thing that really cemented our decision is this; Throughout everything we have walked through in the last two years, God has given us the strength to keep moving forward. So even if the worst comes again, we know our hearts will be held. We were not, and will not be abandoned.
Here is where I would like to ask for a favor from all of you. Will you help ease my restless mind and heart by praying for us in the coming weeks? This is a critical time, and will be trying both emotionally and physically for us. Please pray for calm hearts, a lot of patience and of course, healthy embryos.
I told Brian recently that I felt like I was starting to leave Aria behind. Despite his accurate rebuttal that I could never, and would never move on from her, I can’t help but feel the mama guilt from time to time.
I hate that sometimes I’ll get so caught up in life that I realize I haven’t cried in weeks. It makes me feel like I’m forgetting, because crying feels like grieving, and grieving feels like remembering.
I used to say I couldn’t wait to get to the part where things wouldn’t hurt so bad, and now that I’m here, I regret wishing for this because it makes me feel like I’m neglecting Aria’s memory.
I’m not “over it” or “moving on” but the waves of grief come fewer and farther between these days. It’s extremely bittersweet for me.
Now that we’re investing so much of our energy into preparing for IVF, and potentially bringing home another baby, I’m so concerned that we are leaving Aria in the dust. All I want to do is scoop my sweet firstborn into my arms and hold her tight. Instead, I hold her legacy in my heart and keep pressing forward. I know it’s what she wants me to do. At least, that’s what I’m really hoping.
I’ve noticed over the last two years that grief has molded and changed me in so many ways. It took over a year for me to see for most of them, and I’m sure I still don’t realize all of them. Grief causes you respond so differently to things you normally wouldn’t get upset about, or even things you ordinarily would have been happy about.
There’s the obvious ones for us loss parents, like eye rolling and getting upset over yet another pregnancy announcement. Then the less obvious, like slamming a door in your husband’s face because he didn’t buy the right brand of almond milk.
But we both know it’s not about the almond milk. It’s not even really about the pregnancy announcement is it?
It’s a grief glitch. Instead of responding rationally, grief steps in and says things like, “Look at her so glowing and pregnant and happy. Aren’t you just so sad and mad that you don’t have that?” Or even, “Doesn’t your husband not buying the right thing remind you of that other time that things didn’t go right? You know, when you planned to bring your baby home from the hospital, and then didn’t.”
Now if you’re anything like me, you probably think these things, and a million other worse thoughts, then end up feeling like the absolute worst person in the entire world. The guilt of a grieving parent is completely unparalleled.
But it’s time to talk about grace. First of all, it’s not really you who is coming up with those thoughts. It’s your grief. Right before you could open your mouth and respond in a rational way, grief jumped in front of you and said “Don’t worry, I got this!” Then did way more harm than good.
Eventually you’ll find a way back to rationale. You may even be able to pull the reins back on your grief and tell it to hang on a second, because it’s being a little overzealous about almond milk right now. Yes, it’s always going to be there in the back of your mind, but it won’t always be like this.
In the mean time, give yourself some grace. Ask yourself in those moments what you’re really upset about, then tend to that. Don’t start stoking the fire without figuring out what you’re actually burning first.
(This letter was drafted in October of 2016, but was not immediately published. I wanted to wait until we were ready to share the news we were planning to grow our family before sharing this letter. As our countdown to IVF gets closer and closer, it finally feels like the right time.)
I went to the doctor today, and for the first time since the day you were born nine months ago, I was told it was safe for me to become pregnant again. It was really overwhelming to hear that my body had finally recovered. To be honest, those were the words I really wanted to hear, but they brought so many unexpected emotions. The biggest was guilt, and an overwhelming desire to run to you and explain myself.
Sweet girl, I want you to know that no matter how many babies grow in my womb, you will always be equally loved. Your place in this family will never disappear, and you will always belong. A million babies would never be able to replace you, for you were uniquely made, and rarer than the most flawless of diamonds. Your life will always hold great value.
We aren’t choosing to have another baby to take your place. It isn’t because you aren’t enough for us. You are more than enough. But your Dad and I both share a feeling I often refer to as “empty arms syndrome.” My body grew you, my motherly instincts developed and intensified with every passing day. Your Dad put together your crib, and helped hang pictures in your nursery. We prepared for you, hoped for you, and prayed for you. We talked about all the things we wanted to do with you, our sweet firstborn baby girl. We created a lifetime of hopes and dreams. We envisioned our future as parents and all the wonderful opportunities parenthood would bring.
Then, our plans changed in ways we never imagined. When you left this world, all of our hopes and dreams remained but held so much emptiness. We wanted a baby to hold, but all we had left were memories and heartache.
We are choosing to have another baby because our hopes of parenting a child on this earth still remain. We have so much love to give, and so much energy for changing diapers, fussy temper tantrums, and late nights spent rocking a sleepy baby. We had always known you were going to be the first of several little “rosebuds”, so in some way this is still a part of the plan.
This decision is not without guilt, both for you, and for our future child. I ache because I don’t want you to have to share my love with anyone else. I don’t want you to feel left out, or like you aren’t as important to us anymore. But I think about your future sibling and I feel guilty that he or she will be born into a home that has seen so much heartache. I can’t say I’m going to be the mom who walks through pregnancy without fear. I’m already a nervous wreck. But I do know that those nerves come from a place of deep love, and an overwhelming desire to protect my child. In some ways, I think the path you have placed us on will allow us to give your siblings a love we never would have known before we had you.
As long as I live, you will live within me. This is not moving on, nor is it leaving you behind. You will always be along for the ride.
And the sweetest part of all is that deep down, I know you wouldn’t let your siblings pass through heavens gate’s on their way to us without showering them with kisses and hugs. So I want to thank you in advance for loving them first.
All my love,
We’ve gotten a few questions from people wondering whats next on the agenda following the exciting news that we won a free IVF cycle with CNY Fertility.
As with all things related to fertility treatments, there’s a lot of “hurry up and wait.” We need to have an initial consult with the doctors there in order to go over the details of our journey thus far, so that we can create a plan for IVF that suits us. Our consult is set for the end of March, which was actually quite lucky! They had a cancellation, and if it weren’t for that we would have had to wait until the end of May! I’m looking at the next month as an opportunity to fully clean up my diet, get back in shape, and focus on preparing my heart and soul for the road ahead.
If you’re not familiar with IVF, I’ll go ahead and give you a little breakdown. We start our round of IVF with the egg retrieval phase. I will be given daily hormone injections to stimulate my ovaries to mature as many eggs as possible, which is quite different from a natural cycle where a woman would only produce one egg at a time. In order to retrieve the eggs, I will be placed under anesthesia and the doctor will perform a procedure which will extract them from my ovaries. Once they are collected, they will be sent to the lab. Then each of my eggs will be injected with a single sperm cell from my husband in a process called intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI). Then we wait a few days as the embryos grow in a warm, nurturing environment.
Right now, we are heavily considering preimplantation genetic screening (PGS). If we go this route, our embryos will be biopsied on their fifth day of development, and frozen while we await the results of that testing. PGS will then tell us the gender of each embryo along with information about our embryo’s chromosomes. We will be able to know which have normal chromosome development and which have an abnormality such as Trisomy 13 or 18, which are both fatal. Most miscarriages and many later term/infant losses are caused by chromosomal defects, and our hope is that PGS could potentially spare us from further heartbreak should we go that route. I want to make it clear that we aren’t doing this just avoid a special needs child, and I’m absolutely not shaming anyone who chooses PGS for this reason. It is a deeply personal decision and one that we do not take lightly. We simply do not wish to bury another child, and having the opportunity to even marginally decrease that chance is obviously very appealing.
However, I will also say that Aria’s CCAM diagnosis was not genetic in any way and while PGS wouldn’t have prevented or detected Aria’s defect, we have been assured many times that this type of defect is random and not caused by any environmental factors. It just happened, and it should not happen to us twice.
If we do end up choosing PGS, we will begin medication to prepare my body to transfer a thawed embryo once those results are received. The rest will remain frozen for future use. If we don’t choose PGS, it is our clinic’s protocol to do what is called a “fresh transfer”, where all but one of the embryos are frozen and we do an embryo transfer in the same cycle as our egg retrieval.
Once the transfer happens, we will hopefully be on our way to a successful, healthy pregnancy! If the first transferred embryo doesn’t take, then we will try again by transferring one of our reserved embryos.
This process will take place over the course of approximately 2-3 months (hopefully) and I’m really praying that we will have completed our IVF cycle by the end of June. But I make no promises! This infertility stuff can be quite complex and unpredictable.
I’ve been so open throughout this journey and quite frankly, I know we wouldn’t have won this cycle if it weren’t for all the wonderful supporters from around the globe who took the time to nominate us. So my heart strongly feels that I should share each step of this process as we go through it. But that would also mean announcing a potential pregnancy right at the start, which brings a lot of fear for me too. So I’m still not sure, and am asking that you understand if updates are sparse or vague as we move forward. One way or another I promise you’ll be included in this next chapter!
Wish us luck!
In case you missed it on Instagram or Facebook this week, we have HUGE news on the infertility front.
Yesterday, I came across a giveaway for a FREE IVF cycle. It was from a clinic that someone in my loss support group had mentioned to me months ago. I knew it was such a long shot, but we entered the contest. Then so many wonderful people supported us by posting videos to nominate us!
And I am still in complete shock as I type this, we won!
I was with my best friend when I got the news and I instantly burst into tears and screamed, “Oh my God!! We won!” We hugged each other so tight while ugly crying. Just a few days before we were hugging while sobbing because our last round of IUI failed, and now things have totally changed.
I quickly FaceTimed Brian, and he was completely speechless as I gave him the news. He was totally shocked, and tears filled his eyes as the news sank in. All he could say was, “Wow.”
Fast forward to this morning…
I was grumpy for a moment when I woke up. I actually thought that I had dreamt about this winning this IVF cycle. As the sleep cleared from my eyes and I came to my senses, I remembered that this is REAL LIFE! And then I cried again. I still cannot believe it. I don’t think I’ll ever get over how amazing this is. We are forever indebted to all of you for supporting us, and CNY for making our dreams a reality.
Infertility after loss has been the absolute cruelest thing I have ever had to endure. As much as I hate to admit this, I was beginning to lose hope. In the blink of an eye, our prayers have been answered and hope has flooded every inch of my body. That light at the end of the tunnel that was quickly vanishing from sight has suddenly flooded everything around me, and all I see is light. Life feels full and wonderful.
The thing I love most is that Aria feels so present in this. I can’t thank her enough, I know she’s been guiding us every step of the way.
I cannot wait to begin this next chapter. It’s time to have a sibling for Aria.