Thursday, September 19, 2013

Dear Miracles


Dear Miracles,

You do happen.  I actually have two to prove it--my two blessed kiddos, my Miracles who continue to complete me.  It's been a while now, but I always think back to when you happened as a reminder not to take Life for granted.

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I just had a feeling.  In my early 20s, I had a feeling that I had endometriosis, something that cannot be diagnosed without surgery nor dealt with until I was ready to have children, which was still years away.  Treatment for endometriosis includes a variety of ways to "shut down" one's reproductive system, since hormones are the culprit that inflames the symptoms.  For years, I dealt with the pain and fear of infertility.  And when Dear Husband and I were ready to have a family, no signs of pregnancy came for months, and then years.

There was no doubt in my mind since I was a little girl that I wanted to be a mother.  It was something I knew with all of my heart and with absolute certainty--like the way days follow nights, or the precision of mathematical calculations, or that kindness and compassion define humanity.  And when something you want so badly cannot be yours, your heart breaks a little, each day, each month, each year.

We went through the standard infertility treatment, a check list that brought us to the last resort: in-vitro fertilization (IVF) center.  During the initial workup, an ultrasound found chocolate cysts (endometrial adhesions) on my ovaries (the only form of endometriosis visible without surgery).  You can't really say that I was surprised.  That sent me directly to the OR for a laparoscopy to 1) officially diagnose and 2) remove endometrial adhesions and cysts, before attempting IVF (the presence of endometriosis bypasses intrauterine insemination, or IUI, the less invasive infertility treatment).

I had always known that had I been born in another time, I would have remained child-less and likely forever broken.  But I was fortunate enough to have had access to modern technology, good doctors, and a fantastic insurance plan (one great perk of being a teacher).  Even though my surgical notes indicated that I had moderate-to-severe endometriosis, I still had a glimmer of hope with this next step, IVF.

The first IVF consultation we had was overwhelming to say the least.  The amount of drugs that had to be ordered was staggering.  It has been over a decade, but I still remember much of the details: daily shots in the belly fat, blood draws every other day to monitor hormone levels, and ultrasounds to monitor follicle development prior to egg retrieval, to start.  Which, for the very-hopeful me, was all fine and dandy.  I followed the directions to a T, making sure everything was done exactly as directed, down to the exact minute and milliliter.

Then came the day I was told that our first IVF attempt failed because I hadn't produced enough follicles.  That they would readjust my meds to ensure better production next time.  DH still remembers how we drove home: him driving and me crying; him being helpless and me sobbing uncontrollably; him saying "we'll try again" and me thinking "in two more months."  Two more months.  Waiting is a cruel, cold-hearted beast.  I feared that I didn't have enough heart left for breaking during that length of time.

They upped my dosage while I feared hyperstimulation (which can be severe enough to land you in the hospital).  This art of "just right"--not too little but not too much--is where doctors demonstrate their expertise.  This second time, my doctor got it just right.  After successful egg retrieval and subsequent in-vitro fertilization, we had to "trick" my body into thinking that I was pregnant, meaning more shots.  But these were not the shots in the belly with the half inch needles.  These were the 2-inch 22-gauge ginormous needles that inject progesterone oil (think thick) into the muscles of the buttocks.  Everyday.  "Bruised" takes on new meaning when you have butt cheeks that are the color of green and purple.

The only reason I was able to go through with giant needles in my butt was the promise of a baby... but all the while fearing the promise would be yet another devastating disappointment.

But that promise did finally arrive, and DH will never let me live down how we found out.  The fertility center took my blood that morning, and when the lab results came back, a nurse was supposed to call my cell phone and leave a message.  I'd check the message, and then call DH.  But for whatever reason, the nurse called my home phone instead and left a message there.  After hearing a ton of number gibberish, I finally heard the word, "positive."  In my state of shock, joy, or momentous relief, I just assumed that DH got the message since he can access it.  That or I just forgot about him altogether and I ran downstairs to tell my teacher colleagues who had been following my IVF saga.

DH was not the first to find out.  (But I think he's almost forgiven me for that.)

To celebrate this great news, I was rewarded with another month of progesterone shots.  By the time that was all done, 1) the color of my rear end was not human, 2) DH was shooting me up with one eye closed--like a rock star, and 3) we saw the baby's heartbeat.

That beautiful, pulsating, black-and-white blip on the screen was the culmination of my surgery, IVF, and years of longing.  So we had to do this a little differently than most other people.  But we had ourselves a baby.  

And then I had nine more months to wait.

We went through the exact same thing with our second baby.  Except because I had stopped working, and DH's insurance was a joke, we had to take out a home equity loan for the second IVF.  And in a short few year's time, the injections changed from syringe and vials to syringe pens: just attach a needle, click the dial to the correct dosage, and shoot.  This pen in the pic is one helluva souvenir from IVF #2.

And I made sure that DH was the first to find out the good news this time around.  After all, he was my rock through these trying times.

In the end, our challenges of conceiving our babies still pale in comparison to the trials others go through, and we were the lucky ones that had happy endings.  It's been a long time, and I've always meant to write down--for memories' sake--our "makings of a family" story.  It's interesting to relive, however difficult it was at the time to live.  And here it is.

During our chaotic days filled with the kiddos' endless activities and wants and needs, taking a moment to think about how they actually came to be can be refreshing and provides some much needed perspective.  Of course it is always during those times of I-can't-take-this-anymore parenting moments, during the distress of having to tame wild heathens children--to the point where I actually question the reason behind having said monsters children--when DH looks at me with the most serious look and says, "And you wanted children?"  

And this is when I tell him he's not funny.  The man thinks he's Jimmy Fallon or something. 

(I continue to be treated for endometriosis--even though there will be no more babies--since it has a very high chance of recurrence.  I am now living mostly pain-free and completely spared from reproductive worries.  Do you hear the angels sing?

-----

So, Dear Miracles, indeed you are life-changing.  When I look back at my child-less self more than eleven years ago, I still feel a pang of sorrow, because I instantly remember that empty feeling.  Now on the other side, I know how much my life has been enriched by my own two Miracles.  Life works in mysterious ways.  Perhaps this serves to make me cherish what I once didn't have, and now have been blessed with absolute certainty.  I am most grateful for having the chance to be a mother.

Sincerely,
Me


18 comments:

  1. I love this letter, Sandra. As someone who only got to know you after your kiddos were many years old, I never would have known of your struggles to conceive ... just as you never would have known of Gavin's premature start. It's amazing that modern medicine has helped the two of us become mothers when, during another time, we might have been robbed of such an opportunity.

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    1. Nilsa, I've read some of your posts regarding Gavin's "early start" and all your struggles at the time, and I can't even begin to imagine your worries and emotions. Looking at our children now, one would never guess the hardships we endured previously. We truly have been blessed. Thank you for reading!

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  2. Thank you for sharing this, Sandra! I'm so glad that your journey brought you your two little miracles! And that your endo is under control and you are pain free.

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    1. Thank you for reading, Rachael! Sometimes I look at my Miracles and think I could have had a completely different life had I not been blessed with them both. Scary thought. I am mostly pain-free with the endo, since old internal scarring still pulls from time to time. But it is drastically improved from my 20s. I am so thankful!

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  3. Thank you for writing and sharing this Sandra. Blake

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    1. Thank you for taking the time to read and comment, Blake! I've always wanted to chronicle this past part of my life--it makes what I have now so much more meaningful. I really appreciate you stopping by!

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  4. Yes, you would have been childless if born in a different era. Endo made you a better person, hard to believe.

    I am curious to know whether I still have it, I have been pain free (mine was on my ovaries mostly) since having my second child.

    Glad you were able to have two miracles.

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    1. Hi, Laura, can you believe that that was the beginning of our friendship? Those chat boards from all those years ago?! :) That is awesome that you are pain-free (assuming your are not under any hormone treatments?)! It was pretty apparent that all my old symptoms were coming back after I stopped nursing, so my doctor started treatment again. It's unbelievable, to have quality of life back!

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  5. Just the description of that huge needle is amazing. And that DH had to administer that. Wow. Your kids certainly are miracles! And to think you went through it twice! I hope your kids appreciate their "creation" one day and the struggle you both went through even before you were even pregnant.

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    1. Lisa! I actually forgot to mention that I had to do my 2nd ever progesterone injection BY.MY.SELF! DH was not able to be with me at the exact hour I needed the shot. It was scary as heck, but it ended up not hurting as much as I anticipated.

      I totally don't expect the kiddos to appreciate what we did, since it was our wish to have them. Whatever they do appreciate down the line, we'll have to earn it from them. I'm totally not old-fashioned that way, if you know what I mean. :) Thanks for reading, Lisa!

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  6. Sandra, I'm so happy that your dream did finally come true. I couldn't even imagine all that you had to go through.

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    1. Thank you, Susi! I'm so happy, too, and grateful! It was a most challenging time of my life, that's for sure! Now it's all done and I'm even happier about that. :) Thanks for stopping by!

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  7. Sandra,
    thanks for sharing this story. So strong of you and DH to have endured all that you did.

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    1. Tran, thanks for reading, as always! I guess when you really want something badly enough, this is what you willingly go through. It's amazing that they're both here today. I love my two Miracles! :)

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  8. Oh...those needles. You were strong and brave. I am happy for you to have your happy endings and two miracles. Children are precious and do enrich our lives in so many ways. :-)

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    1. Hi, Imelda, I think most of it is easy to forget, but the size of those needles are NOT. I'm lucky that all of this paid off, too. Many people are also not as fortunate as I am. Thank you so much for reading!

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  9. This is such a sweet letter. That is quite a process you went through - I'm not sure if I could've done it. You're right, babies are miracles. I'm glad you had the opportunity to blessed with two miracles :)

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    1. Thank you, Janna! Yes, all babies are miracles, and they bless us with more than we anticipate! :) I don't often think about all that we went through, but when I do, I know how incredibly grateful I should be! Thanks for visiting and commenting, as always!

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