Friday, October 24, 2014

Happy 5th Anniversary!

Today marks five years of marriage for Jason and I.  I honestly feel like I am the luckiest girl in the world.  I am married to a man who makes me laugh Every Single Day, but who also makes me think, makes me grow and always makes me feel loved.   I don't just love my husband- I admire him for his amazing talent as an artist and musician and for his kindness and compassion.  This is a man who still makes time for his Little Brother (from the Big Brother/Big Sister program) , whom he met when his "little" was in 8th grade and who now is 22.  This is a man who regularly keeps in touch with a chronically ill teen that he met briefly at a holiday party, by inviting her for lunch and a tour of his office and planning a pottery-painting date.  For all these reasons and more,  I know he will be an amazing father and I am so blessed to have him as my husband and best friend. 

Admittedly, the first several years of our marriage were not the easiest.  Infertility does a number on a marriage.  The top two reasons most married couples fight are sex and money, and infertility definitely affects both.  Here's a tip- if you ever meet anyone who is struggling to conceive, don't joke with them and say "At least you're having fun trying!".   Infertility sucks the fun out of trying.  Timed intercourse is mechanical, scientific and anything but fun.  As for money- for the past four plus years, all our savings has gone to fertility clinics, hospital bills, attorneys fees, and surrogacy compensation.  We are fortunate that we have had help with some of these bills from family, but we have still stressed out watching our bank accounts get depleted- especially when until this year, it was typically for naught.  

Infertility affected our marriage in other ways.  The sadness and disappointment month after month when we couldn't get pregnant, the anger and defeat when we lost pregnancies, the hopelessness and helplessness that ruled our lives for the better part of our marriage- that certainly has an impact.  Jason and I had to learn to navigate all those feelings, both individually and as a couple.  We both cope differently- Jason often turns inward and wants to be alone to process his feelings.  I, on the other hand, need to talk about my feelings.  In the beginning, Jason would try to be there for me even though it made things harder for him.  In time, I learned to allow him to have his space and would seek support from friends or family.  We slowly figured out a way to meet our own needs while also helping one another. 

In spite of all those issues, I think Jason and I did surprisingly well.  We still managed to enjoy one another and have fun, count our blessings, and grow as individuals and as a couple.  This past year, without the pressure of trying to conceive and of course, with the knowledge that Baby O is on his way, I finally feel like we have been able to experience the happily every after that we imagined we would when we said our vows five years ago.    That weight that I spoke of in my very first post has been gone for about 8 months now and boy does it feel great!  

On our first anniversary, Jason and I celebrated by giving each other the traditional paper gifts.  Interestingly enough, we gave one another similar presents.  I gave Jason several different framed prints from our wedding.  He also gave me some of the same photographs from our wedding, yet he included a poem he wrote on one of them.   It warms my heart to know that FINALLY, after five long years, the dream he wrote about is on its way to becoming a reality.

I love you more than words can express Jason! I'm so excited for this next chapter in our lives.   You and me, together, we can do anything, baby! I love you more and more along the way...

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Rock-a-bye Baby Shower

Saturday was the most amazing day! It was Baby O's baby shower and it couldn't have been any more perfect.  Eight of my friends co-hosted the shower and I was so impressed by all the special touches they included. We are doing a music themed nursery in gray, aqua and yellow and the hostesses reflected that theme throughout the party.  I started crying right when I walked was just so emotional to FINALLY be having our own baby shower and I just loved all the thought that was put into making it truly special.

I was truly overwhelmed with all the special details and with the love and friendship I felt from all the guests.  Ellen and Chris were there and it was so exciting introducing them to friends and family and letting everyone see Baby O growing inside of Ellen.  Several of my friends cried when they met Ellen, which of course led to tears from both Ellen and I. It was really nice having happy, joyful tears.

Here are some pictures from this amazing day:
                     The adorable invitations
                   Yummy food and decor

                    Delicious cake

                       "For Those About to Rock (Candy)" sign is just one example                                                                   of the music- themed signs throughout the party.  So creative!

My beautiful hostesses along with Ellen and I. 

             Photo shoot by the tree
Ellen's girls always do a signature hip pop in their pics.  It does make for a cuter picture (even with the WTF looks from the guys)
Family photo shoot-  Jason and I with Baby O's aunt, uncle, cousin and YaYa!
 Here's a video which captures the emotion of the day- if you watch all the way through you might catch Jason spilling the beans about Baby O's name. (the peanut gallery commenting was one of the hostesses husband's who was watching the Bama game. He provided much needed comic relief when I was having difficulty expressing myself!) 

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day

In October 1988,  President Ronald Reagan proclaimed October as National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month.  "When a child loses his parent, they are called an orphan. When a spouse loses her or his partner, they are called widow or widower.  When parents lose their child, there isn't a word to describe them. This month recognizes the loss so many parents experience across the US and around the world. It is also meant to inform and provide resources for parents who have lost children due to miscarriage, ectopic pregnancy, molar pregnancy, still births, birth defects, SIDS and other causes".  October 15th has since become "Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day". 

This isn't going to be an easy post to write and I imagine for some it may be equally hard to read.  As joyful as I am about Baby's O impending arrival (we get to meet him in 6-8 weeks!) I have to be honest about the mixed emotions I am experiencing right now.  The fact that this is happening around Infant Loss and Remembrance Day is not lost on me.

Our journey to parenthood prior to surrogacy was a rocky one with lots of sadness, loss and disappointment along the way.  During the nearly four years that Jason and I were trying to conceive, we experienced three miscarriages and one chemical pregnancy (which is a very early miscarriage before a pregnancy can be seen on an ultrasound).  Each loss was devastating, even the very early one.  I actually documented my second loss right as it was occurring because a local radio show was asking for listeners to share their infertility story at the same time I was experiencing the miscarriage.   If you are interested, you can read what I wrote at that time here.

With Baby O on the way, the heartbreak from those losses was finally starting to fade.  Until this past Sunday that is.  I woke up at 6am Sunday morning with intense cramps.  I couldn't remember ever having such a painful period.  I tried in vain to go back to sleep but mostly just writhed in pain, feeling nauseated and miserable.   Jason slept through most of it but finally woke up around 8am when he heard me moaning.  I told him that I could never have a baby because I couldn't even handle these period cramps.   I began pacing, lying on the bathroom floor, dry-heaving- I didn't know what to do with myself and didn't know what was wrong.  Finally, around 9:30, I felt a severe cramp and then TMI WARNING: I expelled a large clot.  Soon, an all-too-familiar sensation began happening.  I began bleeding.  A lot.  It was at this point that I began to think that maybe this wasn't a just a period. I thought back to the last time I had a period and realized it had been over a month.  I had been late back in August  and remembering thinking that I could be pregnant, but then I started spotting so figured that I wasn't.  Now I was beginning to wonder if perhaps I had been wrong.

After soaking several pads, I finally called the doctor and she encouraged me to watch the bleeding and if I soaked more than two pads in an hour I should go to the ER.  Not again!  I really, really did not want to have another hemorrhaging episode and did not feel like spending time or money at the ER, especially when I wasn't even certain what was happening.  Poor Jason had plans to go to a Falcons game with his buddy from college who was in town visiting.  I know he certainly didn't want to spend his Sunday in the ER either.  I told Jason that if it came to that, he could still go to the game.  "I know the drill" I told him.  I was surprisingly flippant about the whole thing.  More annoyed then anything. "Have fun with your friends. I'll be fine," I told him.  If I had to go to the ER, I knew I didn't want to be alone, but we agreed his mother could go with me if it came down to that.  When the bleeding didn't subside, I called the doctor again and ultimately asked her if she could just call in  a prescription for methergine, a medication I had taken in the past to stop the bleeding.   She agreed but insisted I go to the hospital if the medication didn't work.  I promised that I would and just hoped that that I wouldn't have to.  While at CVS picking up my prescription, I also picked up a pregnancy test.  I didn't really think it would show anything- I figured if I was pregnant, it was probably too early for it to even register on a pregnancy test. But figured it couldn't hurt to see.

When I got home, I took the methergine and then, out of curiosity, took the test.  I was floored with how quickly the results showed up.


Thankfully, the medication seemed to do the trick and the bleeding subsided.  Physically, I was doing okay. Emotionally?  That was another story. It is still really hard to wrap my head around all of this.  Unlike my other miscarriages, this one didn't feel like a loss because I had no idea that I was even pregnant to begin with.  But it does feel like just another reminder that I have a crappy uterus.  What is wrong with me?  Why can't my body do what so many woman have done from the beginning of time?  Did I REALLY need this reminder?  Wasn't the hemorrhaging after the last D&C enough?   

Yes, I know I have a baby on the way and I am ever-so-grateful for that.  But I'm not going to lie- I've always still had a fantasy that we could get pregnant on our own and that somehow, without all the treatments and the meds, I would carry our miracle baby to term.  So I guess I do feel a loss- a loss of my hope and fantasy of experiencing pregnancy and childbirth on my own.  And I'm left with that oh-so-familiar feeling of being broken.

Monday was a surreal day.  It started with our regular 8am ultrasound appointment for Baby O.  He looked great and I was of course pleased, but I was still reeling knowing I had to have my own u/s later that day to make sure the pregnancy had passed.  If it hadn't, I would no doubt require a D&C.  I had my u/s that afternoon and thankfully, the tech said she couldn't detect anything in my uterus other than some clotting.  I was relieved.  When I met with my OB/GYN she did an internal exam and was very surprised to see pregnancy tissue.  She asked me if she could do an endometrial biopsy.  Ugh. I had this procedure after my last D&C and it was brutal.  It basically means scraping the uterus to try to get out any leftover "products of conception".   Jason likened it to getting the seeds out of a pumpkin.  Lovely image, but actually quite accurate. The procedure is done without anesthesia (though I think she used some lidocaine) and although brief, its incredibly painful.  I knew doing this would save me from having to do a D&C so I agreed.  During the procedure, the doctor told me that based on the size of my uterus, she presumed I was probably about 6 weeks pregnant.  Ouch.  That stung.  She also suggested that Jason consider getting a vasectomy, as I cannot be on birth control due to a history of a blood clot. She wanted to prevent me from getting pregnant again. I had a hard time digesting both those pieces of information.

To think that I was six week pregnant without even knowing it was really mind-blowing.  I spent so many years charting my menstrual cycles, timing intercourse, obsessing over pregnancy symptoms, wishing, hoping praying to get a positive pregnancy test and now, when I wasn't trying to get pregnant or paying any attention to my cycles or symptoms I find out I am six week pregnant?  Or should I say was six weeks pregnant.

The vasectomy piece was troubling too.  Once Jason got over the initial queasiness about the surgery, he was surprisingly okay with it (as long as he can do it during March Madness so he can watch basketball while he's recovering).  "What if something happens to me and you re-marry and want to have another child?" I asked. "I'm not planning for that contingency," he replied.  If I'm being honest, I think I'm actually less okay with the vasectomy idea than Jason. If he gets a vasectomy it means that I can never get pregnant again.  Which I know is the goal.  No one wants me to experience another miscarriage.  But the thought of me not being able to get pregnant again...of that fantasy never becoming a reality...that is hard for me to accept.  I'm sure I will be able to in time....I still need to process it all though.

It's been a little tough as well because Jason and I really aren't on the same page with all of this.  He doesn't seem too upset or affected by this latest miscarriage. He doesn't really get why this is so hard for me.  I think men have a much easier time compartmentalizing.  It's very matter-of-fact for him- the fact is, I can't carry.  I feel like for me, I have to grieve that fact all over again.  I have to let go of that fantasy.  For Jason, we are still getting Baby O and this was always his end goal.  For me, Baby O was the end goal but I still wanted to experience that means to the end.   I guess since he is a guy and was never going to be pregnant or experience delivery he doesn't feel like he is missing out.  For me, this loss just opens up old wounds and reminds me of what I can't do. 
I'm really, really glad all this happened last weekend and not this upcoming weekend. This weekend is Baby O's baby shower.  I would hate to have missed it because I was miscarrying! I'm pissed that this all had to happen now because it definitely taints my excitement about the weekend.  But I'm going to try and shift gears and focus on all the good and positivity ahead.  Once again, I'm left with those conflicting feelings that I first discussed on my "I'm on a Boat" post -  of gratitude and anger, of feeling robbed and feeling blessed.  I'm furious at my body.  I'm sad that I'm so broken.

Yesterday, after I got home from work and tried to process everything that had happened over the last two days, I was looking on FB and saw this much-needed post from one of the mothers in my Intended Parents FB group.  Monday's are days where members are encouraged to post what they are grateful for.  Here was her gratitude post: 

Grateful Monday: (love this!) as I sit here nursing my son to sleep at the close of the day, it's obvious to me what I'm most thankful for. I'm thankful for what I've been given, despite what's been taken away. I'm grateful for my healthy little boy, who loves me, even if I'm a little less whole. This is the only way he knows me, and in his eyes I'm not broken. I'm just mama.

In about 8 weeks (minus the nursing part) I know that I will be feeling the same way about Baby O.  That's what I'm going to try to focus on...

Monday, October 13, 2014

Progression Part 2

So it's been a while since I've posted any pics of our little man.  Little was the operative word there for a while.  We initially went to the specialist because of the Previa (which completely resolved by our second visit). However,  Baby O was measuring below the 10th percentile, which means we have to go to the specialist every week to make sure he is growing appropriately and to check that he has adequate blood flow from the cord and placenta.  They measure his growth every other week and measure his blood flow on the alternate week.    Initially, he was measuring in the 6th percentile.  Then he had a bit of a growth spurt and made it to the 7th percentile.  Two weeks later he dropped to the 4th percentile(Yikes!)  Thankfully,  the following two weeks he made it to the 8th percentile and just last week, he grew to the 9th percentile!  It's been really nice because we've been able to have lots of guests join us for the ultrasounds. My mom was in town and able to go to one at around 25 weeks, Ellen's two youngest came to one around 28 weeks, her eldest came to one at 29 weeks, and Jason's mom and Ellen's mom both attended our most recent ultrasound at 30 weeks.  Jason has had to miss about three ultrasounds, and all three of those happened to be ones where we got to see 3-D images of Baby O.  Jason has yet to see a live 3-D image of Baby O (he is far less alien-esque on the monitor than he is in the photos) because he's always in a bad position (hand over his face, breach) so he has to settle for the regular images.  I think he's starting to get a complex about this!

During the third trimester, they have begun doing weekly biophysical profiles (BFP) in which they measure fetal heart rate, movement, muscle tone, breathing, and fluid levels.  If they are able to get an accurate measure of all these in 30 minutes, he earns 8 points.  We only learned about this because one day he fell short.  He earned all his points for everything but breathing.   At around 30 weeks, he is supposed to be practicing his breathing, evidenced by movement of his diaphragm.  Hiccups apparently count as breathing practice too. The week prior,  we saw his breathing right away but this particular week, he was not showing off for us.  The tech ended up pulling out the buzzer, which is a Taboo-like buzzer that makes a loud noise and vibration designed to startle/wake the baby.  We definitely saw Baby O jolt when she used the buzzer the first time, but after that he was unimpressed and didn't really react.   This meant he had to go on the heart monitor, so we could be sure that his heart rate was accelerating and decelerating appropriately.  Of course, the minute he went on the monitor he began hiccuping, but we still had to monitor his heart rate for about 20 minutes.  It was all good and he ended up earning 8/10 points.   Better late than never I guess.

Here are pics of Baby O from the beginning up to where he is today:

Baby O went from this:
To this:
5w6d measuring right on time

To this:
6w6d measuring 6w1d Heartbeat 132 BPM (beats per minute)
 But Yikes- why did it only grow 2 days worth in 7 days???

To this:
7w6d measuring 7w1d (still behind but at least its a week of growth!) HB 167

 To this:
9w4d measuring 9w1d- HB 183 BPM

and in 3-D this:

9w4d- A bit alienesque- a face only a mother could love!
To this:
10w5d measuring 10w4d   HB 167 BPM
To this:
13w measuring 12w4d HB  164 BPM

 We had to wait 7 weeks but then we started getting weekly ultrasounds again



Our little boy is all growns up!




Sunday, October 5, 2014

I Can Tell That We Are Gonna Be Friends

When I first began looking for a surrogate, I was hopeful that I would find someone local so that I could attend doctors appointments and be as much a part of the pregnancy as possible.  I also hoped to find someone that I would remain connected with after the birth of our baby. I hoped to send regular photo updates, invite them to birthday parties, and stay in touch every once in a while. Never in a million years did I imagine finding a surrogate that I would feel so connected with during the pregnancy.  That is exactly what has happened though. If you had told me a year ago that I would be hanging out with my surro and her husband at an Outkast show, I wouldn't have believed you.  We did that last weekend, and it wasn't the first time the four of us have hung out together.  

Sure, we mostly see one another at doctors appointments (which are weekly at this point) but we have also done a ton of socializing with them sans doctors.   The first time we hung out was early in our surrogacy journey- in fact, Ellen was just six or seven weeks pregnant.  We were at a festival with a bunch of our friends and Ellen and Chris had a night without the kids- in fact I think it was their anniversary.  I remember being really excited and kind of shocked that they chose to spend their anniversary with us.  I was a little nervous about introducing them to my friends (would they fit in? how would we explain how we knew them?)  but everything went great.  We played cornhole and giant Jenga and had a blast.  It was then then I discovered Ellen and Chris share the same competitive nature that Jason and I share.   They gave us a ride back to our place that night and we figured they would just drop us off.  To our surprise, they came in and we hung out for a couple more hours just the four of us.  It was a really nice day and it showed us that we weren't just going to be surrogate/intended parents- we were going to be friends.

Since that first outing, we've spent time together at family gatherings (Easter and 4th of July), the  Dragon Con parade, multiple visits to the zoo, a Willy Wonka musical and now, a concert.   Each time we hang out is better than the last.  We are all just so compatible.  And the family gatherings...well they are really special too.  Ellen has a huge family (she is one of six kids, who all have plenty of kids themselves-fertility is clearly not an issue for the Courts).   We met the whole family for the first time on Easter.  Ellen was just six weeks pregnant and I was still feeling pretty nervous about everything since we had just had a bleeding scare the week prior.  I was also nervous about meeting everyone- I wasn't sure how they would feel about this strange couple who had enlisted Ellen to carry their child.  They couldn't have been more welcoming.  In fact, I was blown away when Ellen's mother handed me- ME- a gift just as we were leaving.  She gave me some parenting books and a pillow that Ellen had made in home-ec in high school (that she hoped we might share with Baby O one day)  and the most special, supportive card.    Jason spent most of the day playing corn hole with Chris and Ellen's brothers and brothers-in-law  (Jason and Chris were  undefeated!), we participated in an adult Easter Egg hunt/white elephant exchange (I scored some much-needed wine glasses) and we feasted on the most amazing food.  It was a really blissful day.

As we approach the end of the pregnancy (we are almost at 31 weeks)  I can't help wonder what the friendship will look like when the baby is no longer the thread that binds us.  Ellen and I still text multiple times a day. Is that going to change? I hope not.  I think I will have withdrawals if it does.  Will we still hang out as a foursome? I hope so.  Ellen and Chris are among our favorite couples to spend time with.   Will we grow apart when our lives are consumed with sleepless nights, tummy-time, and a crying baby? Perhaps.  But hopefully not for long.  Baby O brought us together but I'm hoping our friendship endures long after his birth.   And speaking of birth- today is Ellen's day of birth! Wishing the happiest of birthdays to one of my favorite people in the world (and I would say that even if she wasn't carrying my baby!)