Happy February! In the March newsletter by, AFA's Director of Development, Cory Whelan, she recounts planning her upcoming visit to Long Island for Manicures and Martinis - a wonderfully fun and inspiring fertility awareness event. In planning for her trip Corey recalls being vividly reminded of her childhood visits to Long Island and…chocolate! Every other month she would make visits to her Aunt Glady's where she was treated to as much chocolate as she could eat. Strange, how a simple little thing such as chocolate can invoke such big memories.
When I think of this time of year, the month of romance, I too think of chocolate, and, when I think of chocolate, I think of all the chocolate triangles and strawberry Häagen-Dazs I craved when I was pregnant with my daughter Charlotte. No wonder she is a girl, she's sweet as can be. I craved beets when I was pregnant with my son (not sure what that means but he is a riot!) It makes me think of the journey and how it all came to be. Looking back I think, wow, what a crazy rollercoaster ride. How did we manage it? So many things keep knocking you down when you're having trouble trying to conceive. But you have to get back up, every time. You must… but how?
That's when it begins to get a bit crazy. You start to feel like you're splitting at the seams, not all at once, but a bit of stuffing flying out here and there, and boy was I trying to hold in my stuffing. On one occasion I was not so lucky. We met some friends for a barbeque, and of course, the dreaded inquisition. "How is the baby making coming along?" This time I had a comeback. We had begun assisted reproduction! This, to me, was a light at the end of an otherwise dark tunnel of loss after loss. I told them with glee about our decision to start IVF procedures. " I'm sure it will work, I gloated, we are on the road to having our baby!" Then like a cloud of rain above my head, our friend's wife asked me, "Well, what if it doesn't work?" Erhrhrh um, rewind… what!???? Did you just ask me that? Stuffing flying out both ears, yikes, I don't know, blahhhhhhhhhhhh! Suddenly, an Ally McBeal moment appeared in my head where I bopped he a good one. All in my head of course.
This was one of what would become many trying scenarios on the ttc rollercoaster ride. Keeping your cool becomes a challenge. I remember getting a receipt from the RE's office, and at the bottom of the receipt it actually read, "Asherman's Syndrome" apparently referring to my multiple miscarriages. I kid you not, can you believe that! On my next visit another receipt, and another strange term. As if to add insult to injury a second time, this one read, "Habitual Aborter" followed by a hefty price tag for the visit. Are you kidding? If I wasn't all ready feeling scared, vulnerable, and somewhat less than a woman all ready, labeling my reproductive capabilities on my receipt was like stamping a big "B" for "barren" on my forehead. This time I wasn't letting it slide, I asked, "What does that mean, and why is it on my receipt?" The receptionist's reply, "Oh that means someone that miscarries repeatedly, whoops, that's not supposed to be on there." Just a few in the many politically incorrect ttc moments from the people that were supposed to be "helping" me. I decided then and there, I'm in this for the long haul baby. Darn right! A little stuffing poking out as I go.
Even then, and all that followed, I was aware during the darkest of times, the simplest kindnesses, I would cling to. They kept me going. A smile, an "are you ok?" from someone who really, really, cares about me, or once from a total stranger. The small things like a crumpled picture from Hawaii I carried around in my wallet that we took on a happy vacation. My husband and I referred to it as, "our happy place." I would need it. I looked at it during exams, uncomfortable tests, or before hearing results from those uncomfortable tests. For example, I remember being overjoyed about becoming pregnant, and then the feeling of being hit by a train when told we had an ectopic pregnancy. The radiology technician would not tell us what was wrong or even what "ectopic pregnancy" meant. I don't think he wanted to be the bearer of tragic news with a hysterical women in his otherwise quiet as a library office. We had to wait an entire hour and a half and drive all the way back to our obgyn's office to find out. Sitting in the waiting room I pulled out my crumpled little photo of our Hawaii haven. "Think of your happy place, " "think of your happy place." Sadly though, we knew it couldn't be good. We found out what it meant: the growing embryo had not mad its way to the uterus and had attached itself in the fallopian tube. Further, left untreated could be fatal to the mother; the pregnancy - no chance. "You must terminate the pregnancy," my doctor said curtly. There was no, "are you ok?" "Oh my goodness, I'm so sorry for you both." There were just the medical facts, swift and severe, as there was no time to be wasted. Sadness overwhelmed us. We even had to drive to pick up the methotrexate medication from the clinic ourselves, contained in a simple brown paper bag that would terminate our pregnancy. I held back my tears as an older blonde nurse handed me the bag. No words were spoken between us. She tilted her head, and with a heart felt look, grabbed me and hugged me. I never forgot that hug. It was the most wonderful kindness from a giving human being. I was injected with the medication, my pregnancy terminated, but that hug kept me going. A little chocolate triangle.
The little things, kept us going. We made the decision to try invitro and the day came where I had my first shots in my belly and bum. I tried best I could to muster up my courage because I had to face the fact that this was the road I was now walking. I was not one of the normies anymore. I did best I could to hold my head high, but in all honesty I felt like I was going to burst at the seams. I was finding it hard to cope. I lowered my head with a sigh, thinking, if this doesn't work, I don't know if I can make it. My husband said encouraging "Now here we go!" Poke. Ouch! "There now, that wasn't so bad was it?" And then he slapped a big fat smiley face band-aid on the injection site! I let out a huge laugh. Then every day I got a new band-aid - a goofy looking shamrock, a cowboy, a peace sign, but they all made me laugh out loud. These small gestures, these kindnesses, were the things that let me retain my humanity, my dignity, my humor, my self, and kept me going. It dawned on me, no matter what road my journey takes me on; it can still take me to a baby.
Little did I know that wasn't even the tip of the iceberg of what was to become in my fertility challenged future. I went on to have a heterotopic pregnancy with IVF. Google it, as most people don't even believe the plausibility of it happening. Unknown to my doctor, and myself I was pregnant with twins. One normal in the uterus seen on ultrasound, the other undetected at first until seen on high frequency ultrasound in the ER, a tubal pregnancy. At 9 weeks, my left tube burst causing a hemorrhage so severe I lost half the blood in my body. This while I was still pregnant with Charlotte in my uterus. I underwent major surgery and a blood transfusion. I had lost so much blood the doctor came to tell my husband it was not looking good for the surviving baby and me. However, she is here today, a miracle, and a little spitfire. The explanation for such a rare situation I am told, that if the embryos are put in too quickly, (they shoot them in sort of in a pea shooter style) they can migrate back up the tube. The other baby did not make it. Charlotte and I, we are here and I love her so much. That is just an inkling of my story. How we get the tenacity to go for it all over again speaks volumes to our survivability. We have a little boy now too, Wyatt.
Just a note, if you feel uncomfortable in any way about the doctor you've selected please find another. I stayed with a doctor I felt uneasy about. It almost cost me my life. My own doctor didn't have time to see me when I complained repeatedly that I thought something was dreadfully wrong. It could have gone they other way if not for a wonderful specialist in the ER that night that saved my life and that of my unborn child. Be proactive. Do your research carefully and interview as many doctors as possible until you find the right one for you. There are many wonderful and caring doctors like our own Dr. Carolyn Alexander, Reproductive Endocrinologist at Cedars Sinai Medical Center. You and your baby's well being are the most important thing.
So many sites approach the subject of infertility from a very sterile and clinical point of view. After you have been poked and prodded, strangers up your skirt every other week, surrounded in a world of professionals trained not to be emotional, sometimes a simple hug can get you thru the hardest of times. The best thing we could do was try to keep the humanity in our lives in tact throughout the myriad of medical procedures, opinions from others, and keep hope that somehow our family would come to us. We would laugh out loud whenever we found the opportunity. Not an easy task, but we were committed to making it happen someway, somehow. When I look back at how my journey began, from the many losses, feeling so inadequate as a women, to the endless tests, being poked with needles, and rubber thingies around my arms, to where I almost lost my own life, I wonder how I made it here with my two little beauties beside me. But, when you are tested during the darkest of times, a little chocolate triangle can go a long way.
Riding on the ttc rollercoaster brings with it a new dedication to tests, doctors, needle injections, paper robes, white cold rooms with faceless technicians, I decided to be proactive. I was not just a number on a clipboard anymore. At ProjectBaby.com we want to be here to laugh with you, cry, find friends, share stories, and watch as we all make our dream of becoming a family a reality. A child may come to you in a way you hadn't expected, but it will happen.
So in the spirit of February, I'm going to count my lucky stars, enjoy a chocolate triangle and put a dollop of pink strawberry Hagan daz ice cream on it, and say, way to go! I hung in there because of the simple pure joys in life, a hug from someone who took the time to care, a smiley face band-aid, and a little chocolate triangle. To think it all began with that first pregnancy stick. No matter what the outcome of that first result, that's when everything changes forever. Your story begins…and it's a new life.
Read Amy's Bio.