Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Signing off on 2008

The other evening a friend called and simply asked, "2009 is gonna be better, right?" Her 2008 has been nearly as awful as ours: a job in flux (twice) due to political wrangling outside the office's control, boy issues, medical problems all topped off by searing back pain that has her finally assenting to an epidural for relief. My honest response to her:

It has to be. It simply has to be.

2008 was the year that we finally revealed our baby-making intentions to family and friends. That didn't preclude a BFN from our very first complete donor egg cycle kicking off that new year. You showered me with expletives and bad jokes. Because I asked you to.

In February, I said "no thanks" to an endometrial biopsy (stupid, stupid, stupid) and soldiered on with a frozen embryo cycle in March. Hey, I bet you'll never guess what that result was...More bad jokes were shared. I also celebrated 20 years cancer free. Don't bother clicking on the link to the FN post in that post - it's all gone. Grrr...

In April, I turned 34, wizened up and said, "oh yeah, hey, maybe an endometrial biopsy isn't such a bad idea," took bets on what we were going to find, and continued to have incredibly bizarre dreams.

Fast forward to June: biopsy was clean but we found a polyp and the fact that my uterus wasn't as "in phase" as it should be. The polyp was removed, meds were realigned and we were off to the races, all feeling incredibly optimistic.

In July, we transferred two gorgeous 12- and 14- cell embryos with our 2nd FET, and saw Fertility Notes "retired."

In August, we saw crazy beta numbers grow and grow and grow until I finally spit out the "P" word. And the next few months were the happiest of my life. No question. Sure, we were apprehensive, oftentimes not really sure that all of this was happening or if it was some sort of joke. Could it all be real? Our 19 week scan gave us both peace of mind. Let us relax with the idea that yes, we were really going to be parents. To two girls, no less. I wrote this post just a week before the day that everything changed.

And it seems that I've been writing ever since.

December 5, 2008 is the day that our lives changed. The day that we saw Iso.bel and Jo.vita for the first and last times. Since then, we have been grieving, crying, but also laughing, hoping, trying to maintain. Some days are good. Others, not so much.

We have made a lot of decisions over the last few weeks. We will be having a memorial (or two) for our girls. We are going in search of my birth parents. I have decided that I need to run. We are going to try to conceive again.

2009 is going to be better, right?

It has to be.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Running It Out

I ache. All over.

But in a good way. I promise. My arms, my shoulders, my legs (OMFG my legs), my feet...

Let me back up.

Remember the other day when I tried to go for a walk? Well, not only did I get myself out the door and to the library (and the bank and to request copies of the girls' birth certificates), but on the way, I found myself holding back this strange desire to run. To just sprint, dash down the sidewalk, to run and run and run.

For some reason, I thought it might feel good.

So, when I got to the library, I checked out this book. It sat on the table for a few days, and then that same urge struck again. Run, Forrest, er, m. run! I started perusing the book and found a nifty chart that is meant for total and absolute beginners to get into the swing of things. It goes something like this:

week 1: days 1, 3, 5 and 6 run 2 minutes, walk 4 minutes, repeat 4 times.

week 2: days 1, 3, 5 and 6 run 3 minutes, walk 3 minutes, repeat 5 times.

week 3: days 1, 3, 5 and 6 run 5 minutes, walk 2.5 minutes, repeat 3 times....

On the off days (2, 4 and 7), don't run (or do something else). And it's all laid out in a nice little table that I could easily xerox next door at my office and hang up on my wall. By the end of the 10th week, a beginner could theoretically be busting off a full 30-minute run with no trouble.

10 weeks, hey? Well, I got time. And I need a reason to get myself out of bed. And a hobby that doesn't involve ingesting food or alcohol because while that feels great right now, I can't imagine it will put me in the spot I would like to be a few months from now when we can think about trying all of this all over again.

Sunday was week one, day one.

I got out on the riverfront and just started moving. And d*mn if 2 minutes isn't a really long time. But then I walked. And then I ran. And before you knew it I was not that close to home and figured I'd better turn around and come back.

And it did feel good. It did.

Now, I'm sure I'm nothing pretty to look at. In fact, the last time I tried to run was in 7th grade when my (alleged) best friend laughed in my face (in front of boys, nonetheless) and announced that I "ran like a r*t*rd." And that was the end of that. No more running for me.

Well, you know, I just might "run like a r*t*rd" but it just so happens I know a lot of people with that label these days and if that is the company I keep, that is really not so bad. Not so bad at all.

Yesterday was week one, day two - technically an "off" day. So I went to the gym with M. and worked on some things that are always in need of work: my arms and my gut. So add those pieces to the ouchy sore list too.

I am trying not to remember that just a few weeks ago things were all very different. I am trying not to feel how empty my belly feels. How weak my body seems to be. I am trying to get back into this frame of mind. Strong. Ready.

And I am hoping that running helps to get me there.

As a little incentive to myself I picked up not one, but two, new pair of kicks (Can I help it if the footwear store had a buy 1 get the 2nd 1/2 off special??), a watch and some clothes that are a little more decent than those in my gym drawer since I am running along a busy road, here. People might see me! I tested all of those out this morning. This windy, cold morning.

And hey, it still felt good.

Two minutes is still a long time. And my body now hurts from top to bottom. But in a way that makes sense. In a way that I can pinpoint and address. Not like that other kind of hurt.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Where I get my Darlene on...

"You're like Darlene from Roseanne."

That's what my brother said to me when I disagreed with the general consensus that this Xmas eve was the "best ever." Best ever meaning no tears, no fighting, actual civility among parents and our small little circle of relations. We actually got along. Or so it appeared.

Really? Sorry to let you down, folks. Glad you had a blast, but if I never have to do that again, I would be grateful.

After dinner (where it was duly noted that neither M. nor I said grace) that we didn't eat and presents that were craptastic (wow. thanks, mom, for getting M. sweet rose wine he will never drink, my brother a mexican fiesta gift package he will never eat and me a necklace with 2 little girl charms that is so gaudy and so not like anything that I would ever dream of putting on my body that you have guaranteed its return. Nice to know that you have your finger on the pulse of people you allegedly know so well...), M. and I convinced my brother to pull out his Wii and hook it up.

Thank goddess for the g*d damned Wii. Hours and hours of playing this game and getting my parents off the couch and involved apparently counts as the Best Xmas Eve Ever.

M orchestrated the Wii set up, the crafting of the little Miis, the bowling tournament. And it was 100% selfish. Because we knew we would have to linger a bit longer and I honestly couldn't see how I was going to make it without crawling into a corner and going fetal. He could obviously see that too.

In true clueless form, my parents saw nothing, said nothing relevant and were focused solely on themselves: My father's comments directed at all the hours my mom spent in the kitchen and expecting us to lather her with praise, my mom waiting in silent martydom for the praise. A word about the girls? Not a one. A question? A Query about us? No way. Just an acknowledgment that we have arrived and that dinner was ready. Meanwhile, my aunt and cousin were quiet at their seats trying to see through the tension that was obvious to them but apparently no one else. My brother: hungry and just trying to be a good host. His girlfriend: as usual, fairly clueless but sweet. She is usually a welcome respite at these affairs.

Can I just say when I saw the necklace I wanted to punch through a wall? And then I wanted to punch my mom. Wanted to ask, what the f*ck were you thinking when you picked out this piece of shit and is this what the girls are to you? Some tacky charm? Some cheap ass trinket? Is this what you think of your daughter? Do you even know me? Have you ever known me?

I am sure that I am acting like a brat here, but you know what? I think if there were ever a moment when I could, that moment would be now.

It is easy for me to get myself absolutely riled at how awful my parents have been since this all went down. Every moment when they have had an opportunity to show compassion, some love, some empathy, they have managed to avoid it. Every chance that there has been for words, for no words, for acknowledgement, for...for f*ck's sake...something, they have managed to act in the exact opposite way that I would hope for. Every time I see them I feel as if this is something I have done to them. A punishment that they now must bear, a situation that I have created out of spite and because I never really wanted them to be grandparents. You see, it is all about them and I can't help but thinking that somehow an apology, an admission of guilt has been expected from me.

Now, hang on there, m. Are you serious? Is this just an extension of what we already talked about?

Look, all I know is how I feel and I feel like I want to scream every time the phone rings and I see it is their number. I crumple into "Darlene" at the prospect of spending an evening with them. I want to limit any and all interaction with them and this, of course, is obvious and is grounds for more guilt and martyrdom from them.

Ah Eastern European traditions. F*cking great, no?

And here is where I need to pause.

And I need to remind myself that as horrid as xmas eve was, that was how wonderful Xmas day was. I woke up with my husband. Hugged and held. Opened the few presents we bought for ourselves (none of them surprises.) Oh look! A package from vans! oh hey! Santa Matador records came! Oh golly! the elves from Keen shoes must have left this here (rip. rip. tear. tear. hurray!) we do this every year, and you know what, every year we crack ourselves up.

With new pressies on our bodies and bellies full of coffee we went to M's parents' house where we opened (truly fabulous and NOT craptastic presents) and sat around, and ate, and laughed, and talked about the girls and plans for the future and enjoyed each other's company. And simply loved each other. And it was wonderful. I fell asleep on a chair with a book on my chest and a belly full of food. I fell asleep content.

And for as awful as my parents have been, that is how amazingly wonderful relatives like my brother and my aunt have risen to the occassion. I have had shaky relations with both of these folks at various stages in the past and now, dammit, they are my homies. My strongest allies, my biggest supporters. And that is a gift.

And for as thoughtless as mom and dad have been, that is how thoughtful our friends, our good good friends have been. They have surrounded us with love and care, but not smothered. They have asked, but not harped. They have simply reminded us again and again and in so many ways that we are loved and that they are here, as they have been in the past, like they will be in the future.

And that is a gift.

At the end of the day, I am simply thankful that this holiday season (at least the worst of it) is over and that a new year is just a few days away.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

From FN: The Real Meaing of Christmas

Once upon a time, I had this great gig blogging about fertility issues that actually gave me a little cash. To vent, to share, to talk about fertility in the media, on the news, in the blogosphere. those days are past and all the old links are dead. But every now and then, it feels nice to resurrect some old, yet relevant posts. You can find them here under the header "From FN:"

This was originally posted December 9, 2007. Happy Holidays, everyone:

No, I am not going to talk about material vs. spiritual, Santa Claus vs. little baby Jesus. Even though my mom still insists on buying a birthday cake and singing Happy Birthday to Jesus every year (a holdover from our childhood which she thinks we all embrace), we all know this holiest of holy days has actually been around long before Christianity took hold.

Here’s a great article on AlterNet that gives a history of December 25th from its pagan beginnings to it as a shared celebration with Christians and on to its current incarnation. Decorating homes with evergreens probably started with the Roman celebration of Saturnalia. Rob Boston reminds us that,

Evergreen trees had long been viewed as a symbol of fertility by Pagan peoples.
When winter came and most trees lost their leaves and appeared to die, the
evergreen was a reminder that life would endure and that long days, warmer
weather and a harvest would come again.

The Good News says thank German immigrants for bringing the concept of a Christmas tree to America:

Nineteenth-century German immigrants to the United States were among the first
to use a recognizable Christmas tree in this country, so it is often assumed
that the Christmas tree hails from the traditions of northern Europe. In fact,
it is more authentically a product of much older southern traditions. Ancient
Egyptians viewed the evergreen tree as a fertility symbol.

I wonder if this explains why we bought our tree early and if the past is any indication, will probably have it up well into the new year? I love the look of it, the smell, the fact that we keep unearthing ornaments from different places and times in our lives. I love having a huge piece of the forest taking over my living room. I love that that’s not seen as odd. Maybe I just love being reminded on the dreariest of winter days that life will endure and that long days, warmer weather and (hopefully) a harvest (of sorts) will come.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Feels like...Nothing.

Rain. Rain. Rainy. Rain.

Icy, cold, why-the-hell-aren't-you snow rain.

These days have been dragging. Now when was the last time you heard someone say their vacation days were going by too slowly? It's not even Xmas and I think M. and I are both ready for a regular routine. Some hard and fast work deadlines. Places to be. A reason to get out of bed. Days off are great. But not when neither of you can figure out what to do with yourselves.

"Wanna do something?"
"Sure. What?"
"Not sure. Any thoughts?"
"No. "

"Wanna go someplace?"
"Sure. Where?"
"Oh. I dunno. Got any ideas?"
"No. you?"
"Hmm. No."
"Me neither."

But then we come up with some. All of which are vetoed. Too far. Too expensive. Too boring. Too, too. Of course, the weather isn't helping. No point of discussing hikes or outdoor adventures. Not when pneumonia feels like the likely result. A gym visit is good for an hour. Tops. And then we're back to what we were doing before. Either on the couch or in the office. Reading a book or playing video games. Watching TV or checking the computer. And on any other day. Any. Other. Day. This would feel like bliss to me. A welcome respite. A delicious way to spend the day doing nothing with my sweetie.

But that's what this feels like today: Nothing.

We are feeling absolutely rudderless. Aimless. Days are filled with things to fill the day. Nothing more. What to do when you have completely reprogrammed yourself to exist solely for your children?

And your children aren't there.

I know that every day won't feel like this. I know the rain won't last forever. But this is what it feels like today.

And the rain seems like a cruel joke.

Monday, December 22, 2008


Not necessarily forward in a straight line. But motion. Nonetheless.

We now have an appointment with our RE in January to discuss next steps. Nurse intimated that some of those next steps might include another HSG to ensure there was no damage to the uterus and a discussion around transferring only one embryo at a time next time to minimize risks.

I don't know how I feel about that second piece of info. While it probably makes sense on a number of levels, part of me thinks, well hell, if next time is going to be defined as "high risk" anyway (since I now have a history of pre-term labor and will no longer fly under the radar of "advanced maternal age." Shit), and if I will be "watched like a hawk" anyway, is there really that much more risk in transferring two?

Not like we have a cache of embryos here. We have 3 on ice. 3. That's it. And I am guessing they are probably bundled together. As in, thaw one, thaw them all. So, let's just say we are lucky enough to have more than one survive the thaw. I am saying right now there is no flipping way that one goes in and the other goes out the window. Sorry. That's where I stand. Risk or no risk.

So, perhaps I do know how I feel about the 2nd piece of info. As for the first, I know for a 100% fact I am absolutely dreading it. Because I did so great the first time around. Remember?

So there's that. #6 off the list. Along with #1 and #4. (Those were pretty easy.) Working on #9...

Now, how's about #8? That's going, going, going slow. Here is a brief explanation as to why. At least why it is so damn hard to get to some basic info in my state. Still trying to come up with a plan. Still exploring options, including petitioning the court with "good cause." Doors aren't opening yet.

But they aren't closed.

Ambitious Lists

When all of this went down, I was contemplating dropping out of IComLeavWe this month. Granted, it wasn't the first thing on my mind, but it was there.

How can I read about everyone else's lives when mine feels like it's falling apart? How can I share joy? Offer comfort? Commiserate? Laugh, even? Those were my thoughts from what feels like ages ago.

Today, on this sunny, brisk morning, I am thinking that I can. Not only that I can, but I should. And that it will feel good.

This morning, armed with my cup of (decaf) coffee, I am so ready to crack open my computer and visit some worlds that aren't mine right now. Look out, ladies. I'ma comin' over!

And I am not stopping there. After I get my bloggy fill, I have big plans for today which include:
  1. getting dressed (look out, world)
  2. ironing
  3. watering my plants
  4. addressing and sending the remaining announcements and Xmas cards
  5. making soup (and maybe some cookies)
  6. calling our RE to see when we can come over, talk, hug, check out some donor profiles
  7. cracking open my work email (if only to peek. L, don't get mad. I won't do anything useful)
  8. doing more research on possible avenues that might lead me to my birth parents (dear readers - comments and suggestions are welcome)
  9. prepping some walls I plan to paint (because, well, I have all these cans of no VOC paint)
  10. maybe, just maybe, going to the gym
  11. finishing The Big Year and then,
  12. taking a walk to the library
By then, M. will be home and ready to share his latest sleuthing ideas (see #8).

So, did this post really devolve into a mundane "how I plan to spend my day?" Yes, sorry. I'm afraid it did. But for those of you who know me in real life, this should bring a smile to your face. Because is there anything that signals a return to (semi-)normalcy than my anal-retentive lists?

Sunday, December 21, 2008

The Solstice

My dear friend H. shared this with me after reading my last post. I love it. I have to share it. H., I hope you don't mind:

It has often been said that the greatest joy tends to follow deep sorrow. What is so wonderful about the winter solstice is that once we are past that moment of time we can look forward to brighter skies. Slowly at first, then more rapidly as we go into January and February, days get longer and everything around helps us celebrate the increase of light. It speaks well for the human spirit that our greatest religious celebrations take place at winter solstice time, as people radiate warmth of fellowship and love on these dimmer days. The festivals of darker days are really celebrations of light.

In one of his plays, Shakespeare said, "Darkness has its uses." It seems appropriate that our long winter nights shimmer with the brightest stars: Orion, Canis Major, Gemini, Taurus, to name a few beautiful winter constellations. The light they send at night to inspire our minds makes up for the loss of daylight. When we see these brilliant winter stars, migrating farther west each evening, we know with certainty that once more light is on the rise, for we have passed the point of lowest illumination and are surely headed toward warmer days.
Happy Solstice, all. Here's to warmer days.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

The Rebirth of the Sun. The Return To Light.

So many thoughts and words and activity these last few days. Mostly around our search for my birth parents. Mostly backwards movements. Insults to injury (thanks again, Catholic Charities. For nothing.) Lots of conversations and hard (but good!) discussions around our future path to parenthood, rethinking of previously held ideals, negotiating non-negotiables. To say this has been a growing period for M. and me is an understatement. I never thought we could be closer, more connected than we already are. I was wrong.

In the last 48 hours I have been too angry to write (a rarity. Blame Catholic Charities), too at peace to write, too lazy (too tipsy?) to write. I've contemplated starting up a whole new blog for FN-posts, another one for the birth parent search and numerous other things.

But these are all connected. And all relate, deeply, to our quest to grow a family.

So, I think they will all just stay here.

I will get my act together and give you a glimpse of what's been going on. But for now, you should read this post. Luna reminded me about the winter solstice. And that things must, must get darker and colder before the light re-emerges. Most of all, he reminded me that it doesn't hurt to hope.

We will get through the holidays. And when we do, 2009 will be waiting for us. For us and the family that we will build.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Answers. More Questions. Disciplinary Action.

[or, The Not So Nice Parts of the Birth Story]

A few days after the birth of the girls, it was obvious that there were some unanswered questions that were eating away at me. M. kindly suggested that I, "write them all down. Put them in a notebook to take to the doctors, and don't think about them until we are there."

And that's what I did.

And this morning I pulled them out. The first stop in our back-to-back doctor tour was with the perinatologist who delivered us. He got the brunt of the technical stuff.

First, the easy ones:

Are you mad that I've been walking?

Can I start to exercise again? Do I have to wait 4 more weeks?
-No. No problem. Resume your regular routine.

Does that mean everything? Do I have any restrictions now?
-[Do you feel ok? yes.] Then Nope. None.

Now, the harder stuff:

Do you still think an infection caused the pre-term labor?
-Hard to say. We know that by the time we saw you [around 3 am Friday morning], the first baby's sac was fully exposed. Her placenta and umbilical cord were infected. We won't be able to pinpoint at what point they became infected.

If there was an external infection, why were there no symptoms? No discharge. No bleeding. No pain while peeing, nothing!
-It is actually quite common for pregnant women to have bladder infections, for example, with no symptoms. What is even more puzzling is that your 19-week scan looked terrific. No issues there. Something must have occurred within the course of those 2 weeks.

Could my weakened immune system and lack of a spleen had anything to do with the cause, spread, increase of infection? Should I have ever stopped taking penicillin on a daily basis (had done so for years after Hodgkins)
Probably not. Unless you know you have an infection, there's no sense to pump your body full of antibiotics. And you had probably developed a resistance to your dose of penicillin years before you stopped taking it. I see that as a non-issue.

What came first - the infection or the cervix opening? Was the infection made worse by the cervix opening and exposing the sac or did an internal infection cause the cervix to open?
-We honestly do not know. But we do know that we can take preventive measures for both the next time. Trust me. We will be watching you like a hawk.

Is it possible the infection was already there at 19 weeks when I had my scan?
-Yes. It's possible.

Do you see any reason why I would not be able to carry a pregnancy full term? Any hesitation recommending that we try again?
-I see no reason why you couldn't have a healthy and full-term pregnancy next time. We learned a lot. We know what to watch for. Try again when you are ready. We will not lose two in a row.

And here's where it gets dicey:

What are the differences between cramps that are "normal" and ones that should be watched?
-When in doubt, call. Come in. We'll check you out. We'll always err on the side of caution. Especially with twins.

But, we did.

We did call. My doctor's office at 7:30 p.m. that night when cramps became strong and regular. How long apart? About 20 minutes. Any bleeding or discharge? No. The midwife on call told me to relax. Go home. Take a bath. Put my feet up. Call in the morning.

I did that. And the cramps continued. And became more frequent and by the time we could set our watch to them - every 10 minutes - we called again. She told us to head to the hospital. She'd meet us there. That was around 11 p.m.

We were there in minutes. She was not. In fact, we spent the next several hours in a corner stall getting "monitored" as cramps and pain increased, I was urged to give a urine sample (where I am convinced that I could feel the sacs starting to descend) and M. was left pleading to anybody who would listen, "please. I don't want these babies to be born here!"

Medicine to stall the contractions finally arrived and made no difference. The midwife finally arrived, after I had begun to bleed and show a discharge, took one look at my cervix and said, "you are fully dilated. I can see a sac. Your chances of delivery are very high."

And that is when my doctor was called. He was there in less than 15 minutes and had already called the perinatologist en route. They were in our room before we we were.

So, do you think that timing could have made the difference?
-It is possible.

If we had arrived earlier? If we had been seen earlier? Could any of this changed the outcome?
We cannot say for sure. It could have been dicey either way. But yes, perhaps, with more time, we could have at least had a better chance of saving the second baby. how much time, that's hard to say. This is where you start to play the guessing game. I can't tell you when the tipping point would have been.


If time could have made a difference, how much time did we lose when the midwife told me to "go home and take a bath and relax" at 7:30 pm? How much more time did we lose when we lingered in a corner stall in labor and delivery being "monitored" and nothing else until hours after we arrived?


When we got to my obstetrician's office (just down the hall), we learned that he, too, had those same questions. While he didn't say anything at the time, he told us now that when he arrived at the hospital he was very bothered by the fact there had been communication with the office earlier in the day, that there had been such a lapse between our initial voiced concerns and when he was actually called. And that we weren't told to come in and be examined immediately.

We talked with him for a long time. He said there were two questions: "what could have been done to prevent the premature birth?" and "was the best possible care provided and all steps taken at every level?" While we don't have definite answers for the first, he said that in his mind, the answer to the second was no. And that he was going to do everything possible to remedy that. He refused to put his family name on a practice that delivered sub-standard care. You trust people to be on call and be a representative to your practice. In his mind, this was a deal-breaker.

We spent the next several minutes with the HR Director of the office trying to get down an exact time line of what happened and where, in our opinions, there were gaps in care. I don't know what will happen to this account, or what will happen to the midwife who shouldn't be. I am trying not to.

I know that this morning opened up a lot of wounds for M. That he had already come to the conclusions that he could best live with, and that some of the answers we received put those in question. I also know that I needed to hear answers. I needed plain, unsugared explanations. And I needed to know if there were points along the way where I was at fault.

I don't know if a few more hours (few more days?) would have saved my girls. I don't know if Isobel was destined not to be here from the beginning. I don't know if Jovita would have had a chance if we had bought her more time. I don't know. I won't know.

[Updated: I actually just received a call from the perinatologist to clarify: a few hours probably would not have made a difference, especially since my white blood cell count was so sky high by the time they saw me. A day, maybe. But even then there is no way to know.]

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Where I Vent. Just a Little.

mom: how was your week?
me: how was my week? why are you asking me this? what are you wanting me to say?
mom: oh
mom: [ten minute monologue on weather forecasts and variations between here and the eastern shore, sprinkled with "you know..." every fourth word. Kids at home: please do not pick up this annoying vocal tic.]
me: [audible huffing. non-audible eye rolling.]
mom: what do you think about going out to dinner for Xmas eve?
me: I think what I told you last week when you asked me. I don't care. I don't care where. I don't care.
mom: well, I just thought it would be a good idea since your brother is really the only one that enjoys my cooking and M. never eats what I make anyway...
me: that's right. I forgot. It's all about you.
mom: oh
mom: well, we're going shopping for our open house this weekend. You know you and M. and your brother and everybody [everybody meaning my brother's girlfriend of several years whose name they can never remember] are invited.
me: of course I know. Know that it is the last place I want to be and the last way I want to spend my husband's days off.
mom: well, we're not expecting you, I just wanted you to know...
me: I know. Thanks.
mom: well, here's your father...
dad: hi. everything ok?
me: NO! NO THEY ARE NOT FUCKING OK. Why are you even asking me this? Why are you wanting me to say everything is ok? And please, please don't tell me its not raining in Delaware. I already got the full report.
dad: ok. fine, m. I'm gonna go.
me: no. stop. no. I'm sorry for yelling. Don't go away mad. It's just...Things are not ok.
dad: I know. I know. I just don't know what to say. Just know I love you.
I do. And I know they love me. But conversations with my parents work my last nerve on a good day. This one, filled with small talk, underhanded digs, and flotsam was not one I wanted to have as I am surrounded by blank Xmas cards and birth announcements. Trying to figure out who should get what. Which folks get both? For whom are the announcements appropriate? Just family? Friends and colleagues? Those that already sent their sympathies? Is that too much of a double dose? Are there expectations or perceived expectations around announcements? [I don't want there to be. I just want to share the few images we have of Isob*l and Jov*ta with people who I know would have loved them.]

These are the questions I am struggling with this morning. That and whether or not to bathe (don't worry. I'm thinking yes.) Not where I want to eat on Xmas eve or how to politely decline the xteenth invite to my parents' open house without hurting their feelings.

And I know many of you will tell me that now is not the time to care about other people's feelings; that it is entirely appropriate to take care of me and M. right now. I get that. And 99% of the people around me do too. But somehow I am still stuck with navigating my parents' easily- hurt feelings. I felt this in the hospital when they drove down to see us. I feel it now. I feel it all the fucking time.

At the hospital, I felt bad because we weren't crying in front of them. After 36 hours of tears and hard decisions, we just didn't have any left to pull up on cue for visitors, you know? My mom's response: "it's ok. you're just numb." No. You are wrong. Numb is the last thing that I am. I am so far from the numb that I were I were and wish I would stay that way for a while. I just don't choose to share or display my grief with you right now at this moment.

And of course I didn't say that. I just sat and I fumed. And I let things fester. And I could see M. was festering too.

When we got home, she called almost daily until one night when I finally did cry. After that, she seemed placated. Soothed by the fact that I wasn't in denial. She announced she wouldn't call me for a couple of days. I passed the test.

And now, things are completely in reverse. I am expected to respond to their mundane comments with mundanity of my own (sorry. is that a word?) And I can't. I simply can't. I know they have no idea what to say. Most people don't. And I know there are times when I am so relieved, joyful even, to have a normal conversation with friends and others who stop by, call, write, etc. But it just feels like there has been no transition, no gray area with my parents. Nothing to move it beyond. Either we mourn dead babies or we pretend like they don't exist. One or the other.

And I just can't do that. My world is not that black or white.

You might say, hey, m. Why don't you talk to your parents about all this? Why not just put it all out there? Maybe this will all bring you closer.

Hmm. Well, yes. Nice idea. And one I have given some thought to. But based on previous attempts, I don't see it panning out all that way. You see, I tried that a few times before. Once when I thought my mother was being an absolute ass to M., once when I located documents and letters revealing more than I had even known (or been told) about my adoption. And these all ended as hysterical, hyperventilating, who-can-scream-louder-harder-faster-before passing-out-for-lack of oxygen fights. I finally cave because it all just wears me out and I know the end result. My mother crumples in sobs and poor me's and "you always talk down to me"'s and "I never know what to say to you"s and a few weeks later, we are back to talking about the weather.

So, no good.


I think it's time for my daily walk. I can't wait to go to the doctor's tomorrow to hear that I probably should not have been walking this soon. "Light activity only" for the first two weeks my papers say. No exercise for at least six weeks, it also says.


So, the one time I have time on my hand, the time where I really, really need some constructive distractions, and my options are incredibly limited. Like I said, we see two sets of doctors tomorrow, and hopefully walk away with some answers (if possible) and some (hopefully) revised postpartum timelines and instructions.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008


A bereavement counselor phoned a few minutes ago to let us know the remains of the girls were ready for us to have.

After much wrangling and attempting to juggle schedules - "well, I'm not here tomorrow and here Thursday from 10:15 to noon..." I'm sorry, person I've never met before, but tell me again why this is all about you? - I called M., he came home, and we went over right now to get them.

Never mind that I cannot stand the hangdog looks, the muted voices, the silent walk to the office all coming from a stranger, the obligatory gravitas. Never mind that. Please, just give us our girls. And they did.

And now Isob*l and Jov*ta are home. With us. And I am feeling strengthened.

And I have questions. For my strong sisters who have already felt this loss. Please, if you don't mind, would you share with me how you chose to honor and memorialize your children? How long did you wait? Who did you include, if anyone? What felt right to you?

A Stolen List Stolen from Nancy

A few days ago, I found this list over at The New Life of Nancy, who originally grabbed it from Truck Driver Wife.

I've been feeling like it might be a good exercise to remember all of the things I have done and to remind myself that, you know, in the grand scheme of things, my life is pretty great. And there is still room for it to get better. My count so far is at 62 (thanks to S. who reminded me about a foolish yet glorious moment in the sea oh so long ago). But I'm still working on it...

1. Started your own blog
2. Slept under the stars
3. Played in a band (wait, does singing as a guest singer on my birthday count?)
4. Visited Hawaii
5. Watched a meteor shower
6. Given more than you can afford to charity
7. Been to Disneyland/world
8. Climbed a mountain
9. Held a praying mantis
10. Sang/played a solo
11. Bungee jumped
12. Visited Paris
13. Watched a lightning storm at sea
14. Taught yourself an art from scratch
15. Adopted a child
16. Had food poisoning (oh Peru. You pained me so...)
17. Walked to the top of the Statue of Liberty
18. Grown your own vegetables.
19. Seen the Mona Lisa in France
20. Slept on an overnight train (many, many times. And got my backpack stolen on a careless night. Thank you, Poland...)
21. Had a pillow fight
22. Hitch hiked
23. Taken a sick day when you’re not ill (um, like today?)
24. Built a snow fort
25. Held a lamb
26. Gone skinny dipping
27. Run a Marathon
28. Ridden in a gondola in Venice
29. Seen a total eclipse
30. Watched a sunrise or sunset
31. Hit a home run
32. Been on a cruise
33. Seen Niagara Falls in person
34. Visited the birthplace of your ancestors
35. Seen an Amish community (those buggies are a traffic hazard!)
36. Taught yourself a new language (now if only I could remember it)
37. Had enough money to be truly satisfied
38. Seen the Leaning Tower of Pisa in person
39. Gone rock climbing
40. Seen Michelangelo’s David
41. Sung karaoke (I rock a mean David Allen Coe. Holla!)
42. Seen Old Faithful geyser erupt
43. Bought a stranger a meal at a restaurant
44. Visited Africa
45. Walked on a beach by moonlight
46. Been transported in an ambulance
47. Had your portrait painted
48. Gone deep sea fishing
49. Seen the Sistine Chapel in person
50. Been to the top of the Eiffel Tower in Paris
51. Gone scuba diving or snorkeling
52. Kissed in the rain
53. Played in the mud
54. Gone to a drive-in theater
55. Been in a movie
56. Visited the Great Wall of China
57. Started a business
58. Taken a martial arts class
59. Visited Russia
60. Served at a soup kitchen
61. Sold Girl Scout Cookies
62. Gone whale watching
63. Gotten flowers for no reason
64. Donated blood, platelets or plasma
65. Gone sky diving
66. Visited a Nazi Concentration Camp
67. Bounced a check
68. Flown in a helicopter
69. Saved a favorite childhood toy
70. Visited the Lincoln Memorial
71. Eaten Caviar
72. Pieced a quilt
73. Stood in Times Square
74. Toured the Everglades
75. Been fired from a job
76. Seen the Changing of the Guards in London
77. Broken a bone
78. Been on a speeding motorcycle
79. Seen the Grand Canyon in person
80. Published a book
81. Visited the Vatican
82. Bought a brand new car
83. Walked in Jerusalem
84. Had your picture in the newspaper
85. Read the entire Bible
86. Visited the White House
87. Killed and prepared an animal for eating (do crabs count?)
88. Had chickenpox
89. Saved someone’s life
90. Sat on a jury
91. Met someone famous
92. Joined a book club
93. Lost a loved one
94. Made a baby
95. Seen the Alamo in person
96. Swam in the Great Salt Lake
97. Been involved in a law suit
98. Owned a cell phone
99. Been stung by a bee

F*rtility N*tes

Now that I'm spending some serious time on my blog I realize that my links and sidebar desperately need updating. One thing I was NOT expecting was to have my beloved blog project F*rtility Notes redirected to a site that I am not too crazy about.

Just so you know, I had written F*rtility Notes - All the News Your Womb Can Use for over a year using my real name. It was a fact-based blog focused on fertility news and events as well as highlighting lots of you here in the IF community.

When the blog network decided to "retire" the blog, I knew there would be a chance they would merge the content into another blog, but I had been hoping for inclusion in certain ones and not others. Just so you know, if you had a link to F*rtility Notes on your blog, where it goes now is NOT ME. It is NOT F*rtility Notes; it is a completely separate and different blog.

Bummer. This totally bums me out.

But reminds me that f*ck. I still know how to write. I can still gather information. It seems I have some time on my hands and that I will indeed, be back on the IF wagon. My life is still affected by medical research and development, by the emergence of the oncofertility field and the continued ignorance of others. I bet yours are too.

I hereby proclaim that F*rtility N*tes will be resurrected here on this site. Not known by the same name, but certainly the same spirit.

H*ll, I bet I even still have some prizes to give away...

Monday, December 15, 2008

That Girl

I am getting the feeling that this all gets much, much worse before it gets better.

Over the weekend, I think I had convinced myself that going to work today, if only for a little bit, was a possibility and perhaps might even be good. I was thinking that maybe people were overreacting when they suggested I lay low until after the holidays. "Take some time off." Now, I am crying again at the thought of leaving the apartment.

This has to stop, right? It has to get better, right? These metamorphi moments when I start walking back to the kitchen completely composed, get a little teary at the thought of something and then find myself in a crumple of sobs before I reach the coffee pot. What is worse today is that it feels like there are no triggers, no things I can think or not think. I am simply sad. I am simply crying. It is an overriding pain, not one prompted by talking about or looking at the girls.

It feels all consuming.

What is worse is that I know M. woke up with this same sense. Yet, he is out in the world. Putting on a good show and actually functioning at work. I know. I can see the articles he is writing. But I know his heart isn't there.

What is worse is that he walked out this morning simply saying, "I just want my babies back." And I had nothing, nothing to say to comfort him.

If there is anything worse than this hurt, it is seeing someone you love so profoundly hurt as much and feeling absolutely helpless, completely unable to console.

I am the recipient of so many sympathies and so many of you have expressed them through me to M. as well. He will not cross the plane into my blog but I have tried to convey your words to him as well as I can. And that helps. In real life, I can't help thinking he is feeling a little left out in the cold. He is private by nature and I know that many of his friends are giving him the space they think he desires. But I think all he is feeling is a void. And I don't know what to do about it.

I don't want to be that girl who wakes up crying every morning. What husband would want to face that? I don't want to be that family member that everyone has to treat with kid gloves. I don't want to be that woman who gets upset at the sight of pregnant bellies or little babies at the store. I don't want to be that blogger that makes you cry every time you come over to check on me. I am so, so sorry. I would stay away but writing is the one thing that seems to soothe me. Calm me. Help me. You may be hearing a lot from me for a while.

I am walking out of the door right now - to the library and to the bank. A short walk on a warm-ish day. I am drying my tears and putting on my headphones and walking into the air.

Let's see how far I get.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

More on Old Loveless Men

Ok, I thought I could link and be done. Breathe deep and let it go. But it seems I can't. I just can't.

What pains me is the fact that so many wonderful and beautiful women I know struggle on a daily basis to reconcile their faith and their religion with their desire to create and nurture loving families that would also be a part of that faith. Why must there be a dichotomy? Why must these women feel rejected and refused by a god that they want to love and believe in? I love my friends of faith and admire their commitments to their churches even if that is not a path I feel is open to me. And I HATE that this feels like a kick, literally, in their guts. Tell me, other than being women, what have they done to deserve this disrespect?

What confuses me is a doctrine and a dogma that places motherhood as the highest thing a woman can aspire to, yet seeks to dictate how motherhood is achieved and exactly who is worthy of it. Never mind the challenges and obstacles already placed in these women's path that they have already overcome. What, exactly, needs to be done to prove our worth?

What angers me is the Catholic Church's adamant stance that adoption is the one and only option and alternative for unwed mothers, unwanted pregnancies, abortion and infertility. Yet, for years and years and years ruled those adoptions as unquestionably closed and to this day, controls and limits the information available between birth mothers and their children. Adoption is a gift. Yet why was my birth mother shamed into it? My birth father refused the right to see his own child? What did he have to do to prove his worth?

What hurts me is knowing that my mother prays and prays for us, and that those prayers fall not on deaf ears, because that would be more merciful, but on ears that have no interest in the path that we have available to us. I want to tell her, stop! Don't let them in on our plans! It's better if they don't know. But it is her faith and her comfort and who am I to take that from her.

But where is the comfort? Where is the mercy?

Nowhere to be found.

Yeah, What She Said

Thank goodness for Pamela Jeanne, who is able to put feelings into words when those words escape me.

Once again, a big F*ck You to the religion of my youth that is so, so adept at kicking when one is down. So much for compassion.

I could sit here and fume. I could work myself into a frenzy about the misogyny and hatred that has separated me from a faith, or I could direct you to PJ's post which sums it all up nicely and addresses it with a touch of humor.

You old loveless men make me sad. So, so sad.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Writing It Down

M. and I are taking things moment to moment. Some are harder than others. We are so, so thankful for the short time we had with Isob*l and Jov*ta (pronounced yo-VEE-ta ) and we are just trying to keep the memory of their lives fresh before planning any formal memorial service. M. is at work today; I am not sure when I will be returning.

Here is a brief account of what actually happened (please, if you’d rather not know, just stop reading now. It may be a little too graphic for some. But it helps for me to write this down.)

Some of you may have known I have been experiencing some cramping during the pregnancy, but nothing out of the ordinary. Those cramps began to increase in strength and frequency Thursday evening and it soon became pretty clear we should head to the hospital to see what was going on. I wasn’t particularly concerned. I assumed they were Braxton-Hicks (fake) contractions, they’d give me some medicine for the pain, I’d head home.

We arrived and I was monitored, but the cramps (contractions) continued to increase and they began to give me some medication to hopefully slow them down. This is where things started to get incredibly painful. When the medicine didn’t seem to be working, the midwife finally came and examined me only to find that my cervix was significantly dilated (8 cm) and "odds of delivery were very high."

My obstetrician and maternal fetal specialists were called in and that’s when news went from bad to worse. An ultrasound showed that the cervix had probably opened due to a uterine infection and Isobel had already started to descend into the birth canal. Not wanting to be left out, Jovi stuck a foot in there too. We would absolutely have to deliver Isobel or risk serious consequences to both me and the babies. The choice now was about saving my life and seeing what, if anything, could be done for Jovita.

We decided to continue the magnesium shots to try to slow contractions and ease the uterus enough to get Jovi out of the birth canal and back into the uterus. If this happened, we could attempt to deliver Isobel, stop labor and tie the cervix together (cerclage) to buy Jovita more time. Even with the cerclage, there was no guarantee Jovita wouldn’t want to be born the next day or the following day. She could be there for a few hours or a few months. I would be on hospitalized bed rest until that time came (which was fine by me).

Hours and hours and hours passed with M. never once letting go of my hand. Contractions remained constant. An amniocentesis was done on Jovita to ensure that the infection hadn’t spread to her sac. It hadn’t. But her little foot was still dangling. I was literally lying on my head in the hopes that gravity would help us out. It didn’t. It was becoming clear that the situation was not going to change for the better. We could either wait for the membranes to burst on their own, or begin delivery and in the words of one doctor, “let nature take its course.”

During this time, legions of doctors and nurses were in and out of the room. One of the visits was from the head of the neonatal unit who came in to give us our odds. At 21 weeks and 6 days, there was really no question of trying to incubate or resuscitate the girls. If they were a few weeks older (23), that might have been an option, but one with less than a 10% chance of survival. That’s just survival, not taking into consideration very real possibilities of lifelong disabilities or issues. If they were a month older (25 weeks), odds would be better. Even if we could save Jovi, we would be taking things day by day, just hoping she hung on long enough to survive on her own.

After 18 hours of labor, it made little sense to continue waiting since the girls wanted to come out. I received an epidural and we went into the O.R.

Isobel was born at 3:37 p.m. Friday afternoon, weighing 14 ounces and measuring 10 inches long. She was placed right into our arms. When she came out, M. exclaimed, “Oh my goodness!” and I immediately thought something was horribly wrong. That wasn’t it at all. She was just so stunningly beautiful, it took his breath away.

The doctor was nearly successful in getting Jovita back into the uterus when her sac broke. She was born 3:57 p.m. at 12.6 ounces and 9.2 inches.

We carried the two girls back to our room with us and spoke to them, caressed them, loved them, as their hearts beat well over two hours. We had so much to say! There were no cords, no tubes or wires in between us and our daughters. It was only them and us.

And now it is just us.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Checking In

It's all just surreal. This time last week I was pregnant. Filled with babies. Now I am not.

Instead of hanging the holiday cards as we receive them, I first have to sift them from the sympathies. Two distinct piles are forming on the table.


At this point, I think we have told everyone who knew we were expecting. The telling is finally starting to help, rather than hurt.

Thank you all so much for your comments, your cards, your emails, your calls. You may not hear from us for a while. Please know we have read and listened to every single word. And that helps too. We are absolutely overwhelmed by the love and support that surrounds us. In a good way.

Thank you.

I feel like hubby has me on a bit of a suicide watch, trying to coordinate with family, friends and co-workers to be with me when he needs to go to work. I feel as if I should hang a big sign on my front door and one around my neck saying, "I PROMISE I WILL NOT OFF MYSELF." I promise. I love my husband and my life too too dearly to even think of such a thing. My visitors must have given good reports of me yesterday. I was able to be myself today with minimal objection.

We will be sending out birth announcements. Please don't be freaked out. It just seems only fair and right. The issue now is making due with the few fuzzy photos we have of the girls.

What irony. In the home of a thousand cameras, we didn't have one when we needed it most. Who knew that quick trip to the hospital would turn into days? Would turn into this? A low res camera from one of the nurses (thank you, thank you, thank you) and our cell phones hold the only images we will ever have of I. and J. Sometimes I look at our collection of canons and casios and want to smash them. Every single one. But it's ok. We will make do.

Of course the lovely (non-returnable) bedding arrived and of course there was an issue of parenting magazine waiting for me in the mailbox today. It's ok. In fact, it all feels so detached. So foreign. After holding both girls in my hands, I cannot even comprehend them growing to be so big. The bedding will be put away for next time. The subscription will be canceled. We will get through this. We will.

I am still on bereavement leave and I am not really sure how long I will extend it. How can I walk back into the office where this time last week I was propping my feet and feeling my belly? I have months of saved sick and vacation time which I actually need to use before the end of this fiscal year. But at what point do I become my worst enemy? I am trying to figure that out now.

In a week filled with decisions, I have made one non-medical one. I am going in search of my birth parents. I am not waiting or contemplating any longer. The void and emptiness of not knowing has been dug even wider and deeper with the loss of the girls. Like an open sore. I need to find something to help fill my heart.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008


On Friday December 5th I gave birth to our beautiful twin girls.

The two hours they were alive with us and in our arms was the most joyful time of our lives.

We are home now, taking things moment by moment. Trying to celebrate their birth and existence. Trying to manage the pain of not having them here.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

The First Big Purchase

Today, I took the day off work for no other reason than I was craving a trip to Trader Joes and Ikea - both are quite a distance from our home, but were frequent stops after good visits with our RE clinic. You know, back in the day.

Hubby and I were reminiscing about our dwindling supply of TJs booty the other day and he suggested, well heck, let's just go. Today's his day off work. My schedule was clear. Got the green light for a "personal day" from the boss. And off we went.

Ikea was, I admit, underwhelming. I think I had in my mind that it was filled with things we wanted and we would come home ready to assemble the nursery with all that we had found.

No dice.

So, I suggested the unthinkable: "You know, ______ Mall is right here. Why don't we saunter around and take a look?"

And the unimaginable happened. Hubby said, "Good idea. Sure. Why not."

He must have seen my mouth drop and before I had a chance to say anything he warned me: "I've said yes. Do you really want me to doubt this decision?"

Um. No. So off we went.

And in the Pottery Barn Kids store, I finally found an item that spoke to me. That said, "Yes! Me! I need to be in the nursery!" And so, when we got home I promptly went online and got it.

Got two. One in pink. One in yellow (minus the calligraphy). Oh yes I did.

Now, this will make me rethink the painting of the room, but that's not a big deal. I actually purchased 3 cans of eco-friendly paint because I had an idea of where I wanted to go with the room, but no real plan. This (this, this, and this) gives me a plan.

And that plan, it seems, involves a lot of doodles and farm animals. Don't ask me how that came to be. I've been wanting this Blik graphic for a while but hadn't figured out where to stick it. Once we felt comfortable enough to actually begin thinking about where to stick the seedlings, their room felt like the obvious choice.

So here we are. No cribs yet, but darn it, I've got the bedding.