Last week, our family lost the most amazing man. He was a caring Father, Son, Friend and Great-Grandfather to my children. He never spoke unless spoken too and never spoke ill of anyone he knew or encountered.
This is a man who immigrated from Italy when he was just 12 years old with his Mother and Sister back in 1933. He was the son of a shoemaker in New York. His younger sister went off to college and Grandpa-Joe went off to war in the US Army Corps Search and Rescue for downed pilots. This is a man who served 2 consecutive terms with the search and rescue team only to be relieved by another radio-man who never returned from his tour.
Grandpa didn’t have cancer, heart disease, or even a headache. He turn 94 years old less than a week before he passed, and died at home, with family.
In Italian tradition, as I am learning, you have a wake/viewing, service and burial for each member of your family. This was worrisome to me, as my daughter suffers from Social Anxiety and Sensory Integration Disorder. This means, that any new situation or change in routine, typically tends to send her into a full physical and physiological panic attack. I was worried about having her see Grandpa in the casket, worried about the crowds of people, worried about questions she may have at the burial.
There were lots of questions; “Why is Grandpa sleeping?” “Why are his hands tied up?” [Rosary] “I thought Grandpa went to Heaven, why is he still here?” “Mom….IS THIS HEAVEN?”
As my two-year old ran around shouting ‘Wake Up Gam-pa!” My 4-year old pondered the concept of death. To her, people were crying because Grandpa was tied up in a box and no one could wake him up. To her, adults were sad because they missed a man who was actually right in front of them. To her, this man of faith, was simply sleeping because he was tired. To her, death was an easier concept then to most adults.
Bean wasn’t scared, she wasn’t worried. She wasn’t confused. She simply asked questions out loud and we as parents, hoped we had the right answers. A good friend put is perfectly when she said, “There is no fear in death but only an understanding of Heaven.” Perfectly stated if you ask me.
I learned that my child’s simplistic view on life is one we should adopt as adults. I learned that the way she was comprehending death was the same way Grandpa lived his life; in the moment. Bean woke the morning after Grandpa passed telling me she was angry because he went to Heaven before she could give him the card she had spent the afternoon crafting….I had not told her that Grandpa had died. The days following she woke with multiple dreams of Grandpa and short but vivid visits from a man she only got 4 years with.
Do not fear facing death with your child, but instead take away some of how they do it and apply it to your life.
Be childlike in your faith but mature in your thirst for an understanding and history of it.
Defend those you love with passion, courage and consistency and without reservation or fear.
Love deeply and without boundaries
Mourn those you lose without losing yourself
Find the ‘happy’ in any and all circumstances
You see, this opportunity to ‘face death’ and ‘teach’ my daughter about death was really about me, learning from her. It is not something to fear, but only a part of life. Eternal life.
Today is one of those days when I feel like I got parenting all wrong.
I lost my temper, a lot. I did enough yelling to make my voice hoarse.
I carried my son out of a store this morning, screaming in an under-arm, football hold. I didn’t leave the store as he started his tantrum, but instead, put into my cart what I came in for and held him under my arm, screaming and kicking, as I waited in line, paid and loaded the shopping cart.
I still had to run into the grocery store to get a few necessities….tantrum #2.
I continued through the store and tolerated not only my son’s screaming and kicking from the top seat of the cart, but I also endured the stares, nasty comments and pointing from onlookers. I walked as slow as I needed too, continued to check my list and compare it with the items now in the cart and head to the checkout lane. As we waited for the cashier to finish the customers purchase in front of me, I handed my 4 year old a bag on M & M candies. She had been an angel during this morning of torture brought on by her younger brother and deserved an unexpected treat.
Kicking and screaming, my son, continued as we loaded the car, buckled and drove home.
Upon arrival, I took off his shoes, kissed his face as he swatted at mine and told him he needed to rest. I placed him calmly and quietly into his bed, shut the light and closed the door.
A well-deserved silence followed.
A nice afternoon on our bikes, leaf pile jumping, playing with our dogs and in the neighbors hot tub and we headed home for dinner.
The tantrums ensued just in time for a bath and continued as I washed his body, his hair, put on a diaper and his pajamas. I combatted the pinching and the face smacking with a yell or a quick tap on the rear. Deservedly I think.
Instead of leaving him in the room this time I shut the door, left on the light and I sat on the floor; watching as his screaming continued. I didn’t try to talk to him, or to calm him down. I didn’t worry about how loud he was or how badly it was paining my eardrums. I sat and waited.
When he was ready, and not a second before, while still screaming, he made his way to me still criss-cross-applsause on his floor and he placed his arms around my neck. One big breath and he collapsed into my lap, eyes already closing and needing to rest.
I kissed his sweaty forehead and realized that through it all; the yelling, the punishment, the structure, the screaming, the kicking, the pinching… he still knew that I loved him. And that was a win for me.
You see, our kids may not always get the best of us as parents, but they deserve it every minute of every day. We all struggle and we all have those days when nothing seems to go right. We tend to beat ourselves up every time our child doesn’t measure up to ‘normal’ instead of celebrating how they are unique. My son is usually very easy-going, kind-hearted and loving….what did I do to make him so angry today? Our internal monologue only deepens the knife we used on ourselves.
But – It’s ok.
You see, in those moments when you think your child doesn’t deserve your love, is when they possibly need it the most. Be kind to yourself and take comfort in the fact that you are not the only one out there having THIS day. There are other parents burning the midnight oil because they need a moment alone after a long day or they simply like to revel in the quiet after bedtime.
No one ever said that being a parent is an easy job, in fact I most often hear the opposite. You can only do what You believe is right for your family and for your children.
Be thankful that you have each other. Period. No matter what kind of day it has been.
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.
So there I was, New Years Eve, and 2 hours from the start of 40 friends and family coming for a party and I was curled up on the cold, damp garage floor sobbing because of the news the Fertility Clinic just called with; our baby was dying.
Everything no one tells you:
although there is a high chance of conception with fertility assistance there is also a higher chance of miscarriage
every pregnancy conceived under ‘normal’ circumstances has a 31% chance of miscarriage (about.miscarriage.com)
each miscarriage you have increases your chances of future miscarriage
No One, not even your doctor can give you the actual reason you miscarry. They don’t really know
I had to pull it together and muster the strength to get through the evening. I went into the house, freshened up and did exactly that. As friends and family shouted Happy New Year with smiles and laughter I faked a grin and tipped my glass (of water) to theirs.
I felt embarrassed. I felt ashamed. I felt as though God was taunting me with things I wanted but wasn’t ready to have. I wanted someone to blame and the only option seemed to be myself.
January 4th – in for more blood work. This afternoon phone call was different then all the others had been in the last 8 months; I didn’t want it to come. When, ultimately it did – the results were the same- our numbers were too low to sustain a pregnancy but not low enough to confirm a miscarriage.
This meant – that even though the Doctors said we were losing our baby, my body wasn’t ‘doing that correctly either.’ My body was hanging on to hope. My body was continuing as if the pregnancy was ‘viable’ and all numbers were where they needed to be. It was on this cold day in January that I decided to stop listening to the Doctors and start listening to my body.
I gained Hope. I gained Faith that my Child might be able to pull through. That maybe I could beat the odds. I even went as far as to talk to my son. Tell him to ‘Hang in there’ and ‘Don’t give up yet.’
Somewhere in my mind I knew he couldn’t hear me, but it made the pain more tolerable to think he could.
January 8th – More Blood work.
January 11th – Blood work and ultrasound for confirmation of pregnancy loss.
On the Evening of January 11th the spotting began; a sure sign that I was going to miscarry. The Doctors celebrated – I mourned.
Spotting January 11th – 17th with no pain.
January 18th – more blood work and another ultrasound.
If you have not been tracking the time line I was about 8 weeks pregnant. I had developed an image, relationship, status for this pregnancy that the doctors said never existed. They did photos of my empty uterus other than what they referred to as a Yolk Sac….as if the word ‘baby’ made them ill. After a second ultrasound with no visual change they told me I needed a DNC.
The last thing a woman needs when she is mourning the loss of a baby is to be told she needs surgery to ‘get it out.’ That she needs to go through physical pain in order to heal the emotional. That her body, yet again, isn’t doing what it should, and it needs medical assistance to ‘move things along.’ To be told she needs to ‘get on with this and move forward.’
After a lengthy and private conversation with the office’s Nurse Practitioner Staff the Doctor begrudgingly offered a secondary option; Misoprostol.
“Misoprostol is a medication used to start labor, induce abortions, prevent and treat stomach ulcers, and treat postpartum bleeding due to insufficient contraction of the uterus” (Drugs.com)
It can also be inserted vaginally for inducing abortions – which just happened to by my doctors recommended. Punishment I guess for refusing the DNC. I was to insert 4 tablets for 2 days in the evening. Nothing other than that was discussed, no side effects other than passing the ‘yolk sac’ and bleeding precautions.
I followed instructions for two days until in the middle of the night, day two, I woke to empty my bladder and felt some of the most horrifying pain I have ever felt in my life. I was less than half way between my bed and the bathroom and it hit instantaneously. The pain was so furious I lost control of my entire body and fell to the hardwood floor. I couldn’t speak, I couldn’t catch my breath, I couldn’t muster the strength to make it all the way to the bathroom…so I stayed in the middle of the hallway shaking in pain. My husband was about 20 feet away from me and I couldn’t even call him for help. It wasn’t until a few hours later that I woke, in a cold sweat, still in the hallway and in disbelief at what had happened. The pain was still present, but tolerable.
I slowly stood and made my way to the bathroom and then back into bed. I was too embarrassed to call my husband to help; I mean I wasn’t even woman enough to keep a baby safely growing within me so I didn’t feel like it was his responsibility to feel sorry for me.
I cried. I cried until my body ached and finally I fell back to sleep.
My baby died. I will carry that with me for the rest of my life with the wonder of what he looked like, whose eyes he would have had and whose sense of humor he would have inherited. I will never know.
There was only ONE thing that was said to me through the entire ordeal that felt helpful or supportive. My mother, who suffered miscarriage herself told me, “At least you know they will be there to greet you when you get to Heaven.”
Something to look forward too. That is what I needed. Thanks Mom.
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.
So, with the HSG gone and done with we waited. Again.
My Prince and I sat at Dr. O’s desk, just waiting for whatever news he had to give us this time. The results were in and he opened with a stinger: As a couple, and after reviewing both your files, I have determined that you have less then a 5% chance of conception without fertility assistance. Your diagnosis, ‘Unexplained Infertility.’
What the crap is ‘unexplained infertility?’ I thought we were here to figure out why we cannot conceive, not so you could tell us what we already figured out! I removed myself from an instinctual daydream in which I jumped over Dr. O’s desk, placed my hands around his neck and shook him violently as I yelled. Yoga breath in……….
He continued, “I suggest starting with a drug called Clomid. This is a very commonly used drug to treat female-related infertility and will help us in verifying that you are ovulating. There is about an 80% success rate in female ovulation with this treatment. We would also use an IUI or Intra-uterine insemination along side this treatment to increase your chances of conception.” He took a breath as he realized my Prince and I were silently staring at him…likely with fire balls coming out of our eyes. “Without treatment, you have less then a 5% chance of getting pregnant. A couple without any fertility issues has about 20% of conception every month and Clomid will give you about 10% chance. We have found that pairing the IUI with the Clomid increases those chances by about 5% more so you would be at about a 15% chance. “
I didn’t know if I wanted to hear any more. I wanted a 100% chance….a guarantee for a baby. I wanted to go home and forget this every happened, and wake up one day to two little lines and react with ‘oops’ instead of being in awe at a miracle. I wanted simplicity in life. Wanted my ducks in a row with no bumps in the road. I hate being a statistic.
I felt my Prince’s hand squeeze mine a little tighter then before in order to bring me back from my daydream sob-story. It did.
I wanted a baby; no matter how we got there.
We nodded at the Doctor, don’t remember uttering a single word actually. Got our papers, prescriptions and a cute little red folder from the office to keep all of our ‘fertility’ stuff in. Guess we are in it for the long haul now…..We picked up our little white pill the next day and reviewed the schedule of Day 3, 5, 7 internal ultrasounds and blood work, seman samples and impromptu HCG injections and ovulation testing. We began treatment as soon as we were allowed.
My husband and I didn’t tell anyone we were going through fertility treatments. We were still in the ‘ashamed’ stage of the process and I frankly didn’t want the continued questioning. It was bad enough I had family members who made assumptions of a pregnancy anytime I said ‘guess what.’ I wanted to protect our privacy from gossip, from conversation and from rehashing what we were going through as word spread. It was no one’s business – no matter what role you played in our family.
Just an aside – If You are going through a fertility process of any kind, please remember that you don’t owe ANYONE an explanation! Don’t be afraid to say ‘back off’ or ‘it is personal’ or ‘it is none of your freekin business.’ Sometimes people believe that because you have their last name, that everything you go through requires public disclosure. It does not. Do what is right for You and stop worrying about the consequences.
So let’s talk facts; the most common dosage of Clomid is 50 mg, taken for five days, on days 3 through 7 of your cycle, or days 5 through 9 of your cycle. (With day one of your cycle being the first day of real menstrual bleeding, and not just spotting.) The drug, though useful in treating some fertility issues does come with a LIST of side-effects:
Possible side effects of Clomid include:
Enlarged and tender ovaries (14%)
Hot flashes (11%)
Abdominal tenderness, due to enlarged and tender ovaries (7.4%)
Lets focus on the last one…MOOD SWINGS. Yup – they aint kidding! My poor Husband was living with Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde all over again – poor guy. I would cry when he stepped on and killed ants and laugh when he had a bad day at work….terrible……but a little hysterical looking back.
Well worth is all in the end I guess.
Month 1 – Clomid with IUI. Here goes nothing.
(Source on CLOMID – www.infertility.about.com “Clomid Treatment 101”)
Results? A Clean bill of health…..yup…..there was absolutely nothing in our samples that would lead the doctors to believe we would have trouble conceiving. So now what? I was even more frustrated at this point because I had no answers!
I am not getting pregnant and now they are telling me that I there is no reason for it! Do they think I am doing something wrong?
The Nurse on the phone continued politely and spoke softly, “Dr. O would prefer if you have what is called an HSG (hysterosalpingogram). This test will show us if you a have a blockage in either of your tubes by injecting dye into your abdomen and taking an x-ray photo.”
She paused, obviously sensing that I was both terrified and frustrated. She spoke to break the silence, “Why don’t you talk to your husband and think in over tonight and if you decide to do it we will schedule in the morning. OK?”
A brief silence. “No. Schedule it now.” I was ready for anything they were going to throw my way as long as it meant we would have an answer as to why we did not have a family of our own.
The HSG, or hysterosalpingpgram, is a photograph (x-ray) of your abdomen to include your uterus, fallopian tubes, ovaries and the areas surrounding them.
There is a balloon placed in the cervix and inflated slightly in order to place the contract material through the narrow space and into the reproductive system. Once set up, x-rays are taken as the dye enters and travels through the fallopian tubes. This allows the scan to detect any blockages in fallopian tubes which could prevent travel of egg, travel of sperm to the egg or both. This scan can also help in detection of issues within the uterus which could hinder blastocyst implantation. The dye in this test is also sometimes used to clear small blockages that my exist. (Paraphrased from WebMD.com)
The day comes for the test and I get ‘admitted’ to the hospital. This is a necessary process for paperwork, but completely unnecessary for your anxiety level. They send you up to x-ray, give you a changing room behind a curtain and tell you that you must be stark naked before putting on your ‘gown.’ Now if I may say…a hospital ‘gown’ is the most poorly named article of clothing in all of history. Most definitely not “a long dress, typically having a close-fitting bodice and a flared or flowing skirt, worn on formal occasions” (oxforddictionaries.com).
ANYWAYS….I digress. I do as asked (there is a lot of that in fertility testing and infertility treatments; just doing as you are told to do).
I am walked into the x-ray room by an x-ray tech where we meet up with Dr. O. He is sitting in the corner of the room reviewing papers. God I hope those are not directions….
He explains the process, “Ok, I am going to have you lay on this table and place your legs in the stirrups.” I did so, without question at this point. He talked to himself more than he did me at this point and every now and then when I thought a direction was meant to be heard; I followed.
The balloon catheter went in and he stopped, “ok, now I am going to blow some air into the balloon and dilate your cervix. This will allow me to get the larger catheter through in order to inject the dye. I need you to tell me once the level of dilation get uncomfortable so that I can stop. Ok?” I nodded.
TIP: Don’t try to be a hero in infertility. If the doctor tells you to say STOP once you are uncomfortable than DO IT! Don’t try to bite the bullet and let him get your cervix open enough to deliver a child and then say STOP. I WISH someone was there to give me this advice…
I waited too long before saying STOP and I was in more pain then I had felt in longer then I can remember. Dr. O reached over to the button under the x-ray bed to get it to move up and in position for the x-rays. There was a click and Nothing. The bed was broken. The Doctor looked up at me with fear in his eyes and after he spoke I realized why, ‘uhm, I am going to need you to lift yourself and scoot up higher on the table so I can get the right angle on the x-rays.
So, cervix artificially dilated, speculum in place, catheter hanging, in a glorious hospital gown which was now lifted over the waistline baring everything I wanted to hide and in massive pain…I did as asked and without protest or complaint.
In 30 seconds it was over. The, dye injected, x-rays taken and balloon deflated and withdrawn. One deep, yoga-breath later, Dr. O was gone and the x-ray tech was back to make sure I didn’t pass out as I sat up.
“Everything looked good from what I saw,” she said kind while she waited for the color to come back to my cheeks. I smiled at her, but didn’t have the energy to speak.
I went behind my curtain down the corridor, changed into public appropriate attire and headed home. I waited. I waited for a reason why I didn’t have a baby yet. I waited to find out what was wrong with me. I waited for what I thought was the answer I was actually searching for.
In infertility, you want nothing more than answers and reasons for why you are facing what you do, but something the journey teaches you more about yourself and your partner. It will grow you together or grow you apart. Force it to grow you together. The journey is not easy and you will need each other.
Doctor O said “Ok, we will need samples from both of you before you go home today so that we might have a baseline. This will allow us to compare results from future samples as well as let us know if there is something hormonally abnormal for you [Me].” My Prince and I nodded and said our good-byes with standard hand-shakes. With wide-eyes in anxiety we headed to the lab (which was actually within the same office).
I sat in the chair of torture, reminding myself of that time in High School when I passed out getting routine blood work. I smile, facetiously as I felt my heart begin to beat harder with fear of history repeating itself. I HATE needles….but I knew it was a necessary part, for US, towards becoming a family. I offered my left arm, with the good vein, and found my Husbands eyes to distract me. She poked…..
“Hum…” The plebotomist shrugged as she pulled out the needle, “I really thought I had you there.” She looked up at my face as an apology, “I am going to have to stick you again. Sorry Hun.”
My mind immediately went into a fury. Hon? What the crap is that, some kind of an apology? Does she not understand that we are here because we cannot conceive on our own? A little freekin sympathy would be nice!
AN ASIDE: What is difficult to understand about getting and going through fertility assistance of any kind, is that there is instant shame in those experiencing it. There is some kind of unexplainable embarrassment for couples who cannot do things the ‘normal’ way and it makes us extremely defensive over everything.
“Hey,” My Prince whispered as he lifted my chin back towards his gaze as a distraction. Then he silently mouthed ‘relax’ with a half-grin. I listened.
Baseline testing for fertility requires a number of very specific tests. I will try not to go into too much detail as the risk of boring you, however, I believe it is important to know some of this stuff.
FSH – Follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) helps to control a woman’s menstrual cycle and more specifically the production of eggs.
Estradiol – This is an important form of estrogen and it measures a woman’s ovarian function and helps in the evaluation of the quality of eggs the woman will likely release during this cycle.
Luteinizing Hormone Level – (LH) This hormone is linked to ovarian hormone production and egg maturation. The LH test measures woman’s reserve (egg supply).
Serum Progesterone – Progesterone is a female hormone produced by the ovaries during ovulation. It causes the endometrial lining of the uterus to get thicker, making it receptive for a fertilized egg. A serum progesterone test is used to determine if ovulation is occurring.
Prolactin – The hormone prolactin is made by the pituitary gland and causes milk production. This test is done to find out why woman are not menstruating, or why they are having infertility problems.
Androgen – Testosterone is probably the most well know androgen and it affects function of both men in woman in the conception process. For woman this test is used to determine the cause of irregular periods or a low libido.
(Paraphrased from www.fertilityauthority.com)
After a third poke and 12 vials of blood, I was finished. I took a deep cleansing breath and sat up. My husband took the seat of torture. I spoke as an effort to convince myself I was not going to pass out, “Your turn for torture!” I pointed at him like a gossipy teenage girl. The plebotomist turn to us “Oh no. I am sorry they were not more clear. They do not need a blood sample from you, they need a specimen sample.” My husband and I looked at each other in confusion and then back to the now red-in-the-face young girl. “They need a Sperm sample.”
My naïve mind pictured how the heck they were going to get that and I felt my head tilt to the right as my eyebrows scrunched together. The young woman, whom we would get to know very quickly as Elizabeth, pointed down the hall from which we had just walked. “I will get someone to take you.”
My husband and I joined hands, sweaty palms and followed the Nurse Practitioner. I felt more like I was walking the Green Mile then I did a Doctors Office. She stopped in front of a door with a window, bordered by dark brown faux-wood, vinyl blinds closed. She placed a sterile cup on the counter with a brown paper bag and started her rehearsed speech as she pointed throughout the room like a seasoned flight attendant.
“There are magazines in the lower cabinet as well as videos in the upper cabinet. Please be sure to fill this form our completely so that you can turn it in with your samples today. You can turn it in at the checkout counter.” She left the dungeon without a salutation.
My Prince and I looked around the room in disbelief. There was an IKEA made brown ‘leather’ love seat in the corner of the room nestled next to a small end table with a Walmart-priced lamp. In the corner, between the ‘upper’ and ‘lower’ cabinets there was a stainless steel sink with a hospital grade paper towel dispenser. The focal point if the room however, was the chair in the center of the room…..looked like a dentist chair more than some kind of chair which would make one feel more ‘at home’ for what we were required to do in here. My eyes glanced towards the door imagining myself abandoning my husband, but my gaze caught some sort of religious statue on the table next to my escape route……I guess to pay our pennants for what we were asked to do in this dungeon of shame.
We looked at one another and just started laughing….seriously, if you cannot find the humor in all of it, then what were we going to do?
My husband and I did as asked, walked the hall of shame to drop off our brown paper bag, placed on our sunglasses and bowed our heads as we exited the lobby.
I wept in the car from sheer embarrassment…..for some reason my husband seemed very proud.
We wait for a phone call.
PS There is a lot of waiting in fertility testing and fertility treatments. Get used to it.
Upcoming Blog Post: Fertility Testing for the Ladies
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
We are starting a segment on this blog in the coming weeks called ‘Everything no one tells you.’
It will start with a segment on conception; the truth, insane as it may be, on what we do and do not truly know about the conception, growth and birth of a baby. It will then move into Everything No One Tells You about Pregnancy and Birth. We will laugh as fellow mothers, cry as friends in loss and rejoice in holding our children for the very first time.
It will walk you through a 7 year journey to parenthood. A mother’s first pregnancy loss as well as first successful pregnancy and birth. You will endure the physical and emotional struggle with her as she journals the events.
The Blog is going to cover what no one tells you about these events in life, both medical and emotional as well as open your eyes to the honest, and yet sometimes raw, truths about becoming a parent.
Please share with anyone you know who is struggling to get pregnant, or maybe a friend who just suffered a miscarriage because we will work our way through these events in laughter, tears and joy. Healing is on the horizon my friends!