Today my kids saw it. They saw Mamma reach her limit and crack.
I am not talking about losing my temper or yelling loudly. I am not talking about throwing the dirty laundry down the stairs forcefully enough to make myself feel better. I am talking about that moment when you literally reach a physical and emotional peak and there is nowhere to go but down. I am referring to that moment in motherhood that is extremely magnified when you suffer from anxiety and depression. I am talking about Parenting for Real while still trying to find yourself under all the negative talk the little voice in your head makes.
I don’t like to feel out of control. I like my schedule, I like my routine and I certainly don’t appreciate when people put pressure on me to step outside my comfort zone.
My kids saw me lose control today. It wasn’t even 8:00am.
I don’t know if it was the dirty clothes on the floor stretching from the hallway and down the flight of stairs. I don’t know if it was the yogurt covered raisins covering the kitchen tiles. I cannot remember if it was the mess of blocks that I had just put my OCD to good use organizing. I don’t remember what set it off exactly, but it happened.
My kids saw me drop to my knees and lose control of every emotion I was trying to hold in. They saw their Mamma’s anxiety take complete control over their life and for a split second they were scared of it, and me.
For scaring my children, I feel guilty. For having a complete emotional breakdown in front of them for the first time in both their lives; I feel no guilt. They needed to see me hit my limit so they understand that I have them.
Too many of us suffer in hiding; silently struggling with anxiety and/or depression and a constant internal monologue that we cannot measure up. We fight the urge to ignore those voices, but fail miserably most of the time. We blame it on lack of sleep, being too busy, too distracted, hormonal, spread too thin, or not having enough support. We find every reason we can to evaluate and defend ourselves, but what we don’t do is forgive ourselves for being human. We feel as though, as Mothers, if we are not Superhero Moms, we are not good enough.
We put pressure on ourselves to keep a clean house, to remember birthdays, pay bills, work out a budget, plan dinner, play with our children and still try to support the family financially whenever possible. We were created to be strong because we are so tough on ourselves.
I got into the car to bring my daughter to school and as I turned up the radio, as demanded by the 4-year old in the third row, the words were piercingly poignant; I’m Gonna Dance to the Beat of Amazing Grace and Hold on to the Promise that you made, Cause I know whatever’s gonna come my way – You’re here with me and Its Gonna Be a Good Day.
So here I sit, an outgoing introvert who suffers from anxiety, with my son on my lap and a fresh cup of coffee, trying to fight the butterflies in my gut which want me to stop sharing this with you.
You. Are. Not. Alone. EVER.
No matter which way you look at it.
So throw things, shout, cry or even hit a wall – but Don’t feel as though you don’t measure up as a Mother. You ARE a mother, and that is Superhero enough for me and my Kids.
“You Never completely Heal emotionally from a miscarriage. When you decide to move forward with more treatments, it will sometimes feel as though you are turning your back on the child you lost. You will torture yourself with imagined scenarios of siblings, of your lost child’s reaction to your decisions. You will inaudibly consult your child on decisions that you feel they need to be a part of. A miscarriage creates a scar on your heart- and there is no healing scars. You just learn to live with them. Do not be ashamed of them. Embrace them, and make them part of your life. You will be stronger for it.”
We started our Gonadotropin injections as soon as we were allowed too, having passed the injectable class. It required a daily injection in the abdomen, a trigger shot, an IUI (Intra-uterine insemination) and the usual blood work and ultrasounds. The schedule looked something like this-
Day 2- Blood work/Ultrasound
Day 3 through 11 – Injections + 3xs Blood work
Day 12 – Ultrasound, Blood work and an injection
Day 13 – Blood work, Ultrasound, Trigger Shot
Day 14 – A physical break
Day 15 – Specimen Collation, IUI, Blood work
Day 17 – Progesterone Inserts 1-2xs daily as the doctor checks blood work very 5-7 Days
A side note about progesterone Inserts; They are disgusting. Stop reading and move to next paragraph if you are easily grossed out. The are a cream filled tampon you must insert to which gravity applies. Think about it. They are gross and required everyday after an IUI during an injectable cycle. Invest in some panty liners!
Now, the Prince and I had been through the general process 3 times before this cycle and used to do every step together. Things changed after the miscarriage. We became very determined and goal orientated. instead of taking it step by step.
I no longer walked to the dungeon of shame with him and instead, I sent him on the 1 hour drive alone to give a sample before 8 am, as required, while I waited back at home for the scheduled IUI the same afternoon. It became routine; no longer enjoyable.
To be completely honest, I think the miscarriage took more out of us emotionally then either of us were willing to admit. We still had faith in the process, but had lost hope it would work for us.
Getting a shot in my gut was a tough transition from simply swallowing pill. Even though I took the class, there was still the mental challenge of sticking myself with a needle, on purpose. I envisioned myself trying to fall onto it, or sticking my finger or my husband instead of my love-handle. I knew that the greater purpose for this was a baby and that helped when my husband did the shots, but it was so different when I had to do it myself.
To add a little pressure, all of these medications were scheduled and needed to be given within an hour of the same time which they were given the day previous.
I recall one time in particular; I was on work travel and it was the first time I had to give myself a shot alone. At dinner, I snuck a piece of ice into my cheek thinking I could numb my gut in the bathroom. When I finally arrived to my stall, the ice was gone and I was faced with sucking it up and sticking it to my gut, all alone, or quitting.
I am Not. A. Quitter.
At the risk of being found, passed out on the floor of a public rest room, with a syringe in hand, I took a deep breath, grabbed as much skin on my abdomen as possible and shoved that need in, like a butter knife into a well-done sirloin. As my hands trembled, I pressed the back of the syringe into the front and injected the meds into wherever the tip of the needle had landed (I could only imagine).
The only obstacle now was to exit the bathroom stall with an expression that explained the fact that my feet were no where near the usual ‘sitting on the toilet’ position and my skin tone had gone from a nice fuchsia to a translucent cream.I smiled at the first person in the long line that made eye-contact.
I watched the tiles pass my feet on the floor, to pass the rest.
Round 1 – Not pregnant.
Round 2 – Not pregnant.
Round 3 – and the last round our insurance would cover….. and something went wrong….
My first miscarriage was more painful both physically and emotionally then I ever could have imagined it would be. I realized very quickly that those who knew what had happened didn’t know what to do or to say so, I didn’t talk about it. Instead, I avoided the topic and secretly cried myself to sleep for many nights.
Every time another friend announced a pregnancy secretly hated them.
I build a wall; an emotional barrier that I refused to cross as a means to protect myself and my little angel.
In March, about 8 weeks after the miscarriage, we decided to try a new treatment; Gonadotropin Injections.
A side note: You Never completely Heal emotionally from a miscarriage. When you decide to move forward with more treatments, it will sometimes feel as though you are turning your back on the child you lost. You will torture yourself with imagined scenarios of siblings, of your lost child’s reaction to your decisions. You will inaudibly consult your child on decisions that you feel they need to be a part of. A miscarriage creates a scar on your heart- and there is no healing scars. You just learn to live with them. Do not be ashamed of them. Embrace them, and make them part of your life. You will be stronger for it.
“Gonadotropins are hormones (LH and FSH) that can be given in an injection to stimulate a woman’s ovaries to produce follicles, which contain an oocyte (egg). Women who have not been able to become pregnant with clomiphene (Clomid, Serophene) may be encouraged to try gonadotropins as a next step” (www.uptodate.comcontents/infertility-treatment-with-gonadotropins-beyond-the-basics).
“Gonadotropins are two hormones, luteinizing hormone (LH) and follicle stimulating hormone (FSH), which are normally produced by the pituitary gland. These hormones stimulate the ovaries to produce a follicle, which contain an egg (oocyte).
Most gonadotropin preparations used for infertility treatment are created in a laboratory (called recombinant preparations) and must be injected under the skin to be effective. For most women, a preparation containing only FSH injections is recommended. Women who do not have regular menstrual periods and who have very low levels of LH and FSH require a preparation containing both LH and FSH” ( www.uptodate.comcontents/infertility-treatment-with-gonadotropins-beyond-the-basics).
In elementary terms, it was Clomid in a liquid form that had to be injected in the abdomen once, daily. It was supposed to increase the number of follicles I developed so that upon HCG injection (trigger shot) I would be able to conceive (35% chance I was told) when combined with yet another IUI (Intra-Uterine Insemination).
We had to take a class for this round. From what I was told by my trusty Google searches, I should expect in this class, to use a syringe in a citrus fruit.
We showed up at the class to sit for 2 hours and listen to how to inject yourself in the gut and then sent home. No example, no practice, not even a fruit in the room. Awesome.
For someone who was afraid of needles her whole life, this girl had some major overcoming to get through – but nothing compared to what I had just gone through.
We picked up our mound of needles, vials and booklets of instructions and went home to get prepared….
When suffering from infertility and trying to find away to ‘make things work’ there is a lot of stamina required . You cannot turn away from events you once ran from. You truly have to be able to face all these challenges head-on if you want to get through it. So many couples feel unsupported that they surrender and decide it wasn’t meant to be.
If this is you – Don’t Quit.
Take a break, take a vacation or have a cold glass of wine in a warm and bubbly bath; but don’t quit. If there is a desire, a need, to feel a child grow within your womb, then follow your heart and try anything and everything you can. If that desire is there, it will come. Maybe not in our timing, but it will come.
Try not to despise those around you who seem to get whatever they want. Try not to push them away because they have what You want. Try to understand that they truly are no more deserved then you, it is just in the timing.
You Cannot experience True Joy Unless you have suffered Great loss.
It was Christmas morning, Day 14 Post IUI and I was determined to deliver good news to myself and my husband on this day. I knew that I could get a false + if I took an at Home Pregnancy Test, especially because we took the HCG (trigger shot) injection, but after a trusty ‘google search,’ I decided it was worth the risk. It was 6:00am and although I had to squint, I finally saw that vertical line. I remember distinctly, placing my left hand over my dropped jaw and my eyes welled with tears as my stomach turned and heart skipped a beat.
It was positive.
I cannot explain to you the innate feeling you get when you want something or have wanted something for so long and it is finally right in front of you. The physiological reaction is inexplicable other than through emotional correlations such as happy, excited, terrified, nervous, shocked, scared, and in awe.
I had told my husband after we exchanged gifts that morning and he walked around all of Christmas Day checking on me more often than usual. His protective instincts kicked in immediately at the thought of being a father.
As with any fertility process we still needed to go for blood work on Day 16 post IUI and we did to confirm our already confirmed news. The blood test was also positive and we started to ‘settle down’ with the thought of becoming parents.
When receiving a positive pregnancy test via blood work they look at 2 specific numbers (among others of less importance). They look at Human Chorionic Gonadotropin (HCG = the pregnancy hormone) as well as the Progesterone level (helps build and support lining of the uterus in order to sustain pregnancy after embryo attachment).
According to www.AmericanPregnancy.org there are a few important factors to keep in mind in regards to HCG levels in early pregnancy:
Key things to remember about hCG levels
In 85% of normal pregnancies, the hCG level will double every 48 – 72 hours. As you get further along in pregnancy and the hCG level gets higher, the time it takes to double can increase to about every 96 hours. Caution must be used in making too much of hCG numbers. A normal pregnancy may have low hCG levels and result in a perfectly healthy baby. The results from an ultrasound after 5 -6 weeks gestation are much more accurate than using hCG numbers.
An hCG level of less than 5mIU/ml is considered negative for pregnancy, and anything above 25mIU/ml is considered positive for pregnancy.
The hCG hormone is measured in milli-international units per milliliter (mIU/ml).
A transvaginal ultrasound should be able to show at least a gestational sac once the hCG levels have reached between 1,000 – 2,000mIU/ml. Because levels can differentiate so much and conception dating can be wrong, a diagnosis should not be made by ultrasound findings until the hCG level has reached at least 2,000.
A single hCG reading is not enough information for most diagnoses. When there is a question regarding the health of the pregnancy, multiple testings of hCG done a couple of days apart give a more accurate assessment of the situation.
The hCG levels should not be used to date a pregnancy, since these numbers can vary so widely.
There are two common types of hCG tests. A qualitative hCG test detects if hCG is present in the blood. A quantitative hCG test (or beta hCG) measures the amount of hCG actually present in the blood.
Our first blood test revealed to have HCG levels within the normal range of 5 – 426 mIU/ml.We were roughly at 325 mIU/ml. It was December 27th.
As usual, we needed to return for More blood work in 4 days to confirm everything was going and growing normally. We wanted to see our HCG levels grow right along side our Progesterone levels. We had been directed by the Doctor to continue our ‘progesterone inserts’ as a precautionary measure, as there is no specific research to support or to disprove their ability to aid the progression of a pregnancy.
December 31 came quickly as we had company in town and were expecting about 40 people over that evening for a New Year’s Eve Party. I ran out of the house as early as possible as I didn’t want our family in town to question where I was headed. The last thing I needed was questions or gossip about a process no one knew we were going through.
A side note – with every listening ear, comes a running mouth. If you decide to be open about your fertility process then understand that you WILL be questioned. Even when you specifically ask family members to reserve conversation about it with you and only with you – you will discover that ‘they had questions’ and as a result went to people uninvolved in your life and rambled about your fertility problems to have them answered. Do not be fooled by the label of ‘family’ or ‘friend’ as with many of those that fall into this class there is NO respect for your privacy OR your pain. (Yes – I learned this lesson the hard way and am slighted because of this experience).
I went in as planned and expected a call later that day.
The lasagna was in the oven and my husband not yet home from work when the phone rang. I took the cell phone and ran into the garage, avoiding our house guests who were in the kitchen and TV room.
“I am afraid your numbers have dropped significantly since last week.”
Silence. You know that feeling when you know someone delivers bad news but you haven’t yet wrapped your brain around what it was they said. Sweaty palms, heart pounding, knees weak, vision blurry…..
“What does that even mean?” I was stunned at this awkward conversation and beginning to get angry at the poor Nurse Practitioner on the other line as if she was at fault for this in any way.
“It is not good news.” Pause. “We do not believe, at this time, that this is a viable pregnancy, due to where your levels have dropped too.” Pause. “We need you to come in for more blood work in 4 days.”
“Ok. Thank you.” I didn’t know what else to say….or what to do. So I hung up.
With my mind still racing and not knowing what to do, I called my mother who had struggled with fertility issues multiple times. When I relayed the news to her and she went momentarily silent and then started crying…..I knew all hope was gone.
Our baby was going to die. Before we get to meet her, see her or hear her heart beat she was going to die.
It was 3 hours before 40 guests showed up for New Years Eve and I had company upstairs that had no idea we were suffering from infertility or, at this point, miscarriage and I was more than overwhelmed. The level of emotional strain on my body was too much to handle all at once so I fell. I dropped onto the cold, damp, cement garage floor and I wept.
I wept for a time long enough for people to start wondering where I was. I wept till my stomach hurt and my eyes were puffy.
I watched the snow fall through the garage door window while I caught my breath and wept even more.
No one prepares you for what I was feeling. No one tells you that there was a higher chance of miscarriage when you use fertility drugs. No one tells you how bad it would hurt when you have the best news of your life taken back. No one tells you how bad it would hurt. No one tells you that you carry that lost baby with you emotionally forever. No one tells you that you would start to despise those around you who are pregnant.
What do they say? Everything you don’t want to hear; The Baby wasn’t strong enough. There was something wrong so your body got rid of it. It wasn’t meant to be. It will happen again. At least you know you CAN get pregnant.
I had, in my womb, a baby. Everything in my heart was telling me to protect my child and everything in my blood stream was telling doctors she was going to die. All we could do was wait.
Sometimes the path you have laid out for yourself is not the path He has chosen for you.
Looking back on my previous decades of life, I have decided that personally and as a society, we readily take the ‘steps in life’ for granted. We are born, grow up, go to college, get married and have a family. I know I assumed that when my husband and I wanted to start a family it would come to us quickly and easily. Oh, how I was wrong. A journey that is supposed to be a fun, spontaneous and energetic between two people in love, quickly resulted in the biggest battle we had to face together. We start our journey, in this series “Everything No One Tells You” here, because there are SO many couples out there suffering from what sometimes feels like a shameful disease. In the United states alone, there are more then 6.7 million couples (about 2 in every 10) who face some kind of fertility issues (CDC.gov). That is not meant to scare those of you who are about to start this amazing journey, but instead to give you comfort that you are not alone.
I sure felt alone in my 7 year journey to parenthood; Partial Complex Epilepsy, clomid, intra-uterine insemination, gonadotropin injections, in-vitro fertilization, multiple miscarriage. I felt alone, embarrassed, frustrated, depressed and useless- among many other hormone induced emotions. My Husband became married to Dr. Jekyll and Mrs. Hyde – unpredictability became the norm in our household.
For clarification purposes it is important that you know the generalization for infertility is “not being able to get pregnant after 1 year of trying or 6 months if the woman is 35 or older. Woman who can get pregnant but are unable to stay pregnant” (medicine.net).
So how did it all begin? Well, since I had been diagnosed with Partial Complex Epilepsy (due to doctor error in prescription medication I had been given), I was actually told I should not get pregnant because the stress of pregnancy may induce a seizure. We tried to start a family for 2 years before beginning seizure medications and then after one of the worst seizures I had we decided to call it quits for the baby making stuff and get my health and well being in order first.
Fast Forward 2 years – I had just weaned myself off Kepler and Lamictal, which I had been taking to address the seizures, only to discover that a common side effect with these types of medications was amenorrhea. Right out of the gate, we faced our first challenge in fertility. In short, I stopped all seizure medications, got a ‘normal’ cycle going and still, 2 years later…..nothing. No pregnancy, no inkling of a pregnancy…nothing. My Prince and I decided it was time to get help. Well, lets face it ladies, we decide when it is time to get help because most men have too much pride to ask for help, ever….even if it is 2 am, you are lost with no cell phone signal and you hit a deer so badly your car won’t start….
So, at my physical that year I asked for a referral to a fertility specialist. We made our ‘consult’ appointment and began what I felt at the time, was an embarrassing and shameful, journey to parenthood. My Prince and I both met with the fertility doctor, Dr. O, no pun intended. No, I am not kidding. His office was a fancy corner office, with wall to wall windows. His office space that wasn’t transparent was covered in awards, certifications and degrees. He seemed like a wonderful candidate, professionally, to get us pregnant – right? We sat there, red-faced, as he asked us questions we were not prepared for. He probed for information on our ‘romantic life’ to include frequency, positioning, locations etc. No joke…it felt like my father was interviewing me which made it more awkward and uncomfortable. This setting was NOT helping the shame I felt walking into this clinic.
After a lip biting hour he discussed tests we must go through in order to pinpoint what was going wrong. I distinctly remember having an out of body experience during this portion of the consult. Dr. O was rambling on about the different tests we needed and I only heard words here and there; x-ray, water, histogram, dye in the ovaries, catheter, internal ultrasound etc. I had no clue what any of this meant but I kept nodding as if I were in a job interview I knew I wasn’t qualified for.
I was terrified.
The thought of adoption came to mind.
When my mind and body eventually reunited, Dr. O asked me to give blood work as a baseline for comparison throughout this process. He also told my husband they would need a sample from him. No, not a blood sample, and yes, a story for another blog post.
Our journey had officially begun with the Fertility Specialists. We made necessary appointments and were silenced by fear the entire 50 minute drive home.
Next Blog Post: Routine Fertility Testing for Men and Woman