Sunday, March 25, 2012

Latest Update...

...equals more frustration!! This month, we went into the IUI cycle planning for this to be our last month of treatments, at least until we figure out what to do next. If you will recall, last month we did all of the treatments up until the IUI, and then didn't get to do the IUI because the egg would be coming from the right side, which is the side with my blocked fallopian tube. That gave us a 15% chance to get pregnant, so we decided to just try on our own and then do our last IUI in March.

Well...the exact same thing happened this month! In a typical woman, the ovaries switch back and forth each month which ovary releases the egg. Apparently, I am not the typical woman, because it just keeps coming from the right. It's so frustrating because we know it CAN come from the left ovary, because it did both times I got pregnant. The problem is, there's no way to make it come from one ovary or the other, we just have to rely on my body to do the right thing.

At my appointment, when Dr. K asked me what I wanted to do, I asked him, "What do you think I should do?" His response was, "I don't know, I'm kind of stumped." NOT what you want to hear from someone you are paying a lot of money to in order to get you pregnant! He then proceeded to lay out several options, none of which were promising, and asked me to talk to Mike and then call him the next day. He said he would also think about it that night and would hopefully have a better idea the next day. I do appreciate his honesty and his willingness to take the time to figure out the best plan instead of jumping into something...but it's still not very comforting to hear that the specialist is stumped!

Our options basically consisted of trying on our own, doing the IUI anyway, going to IVF, or doing a surgery to try to clear out the tube. We tried on our own last month and it didn't work, a 15% chance is not great odds to pay for an IUI cycle, and we're not ready for IVF just yet. When I asked about the surgery, he said that he could get in there and not be able to do anything, or he could clear it out and it still not be a good tube, and it could make me more susceptible to a tubal pregnancy. We also found out later that it would cost us about $4500 even with my insurance, so we immediately ruled out that option.

After talking to each other and Dr. K, Mike and I decided to just try on our own this month, and then try one more month of IUI in April, doing the IUI no matter what. We decided that surely it can't come from the right side AGAIN, right? We figure it's either the third time's a charm, or 3 strikes and we're out! Either way, next month will be our last month of treatments and then we will be taking some time off to pray about and research other options, mainly IVF and adoption. We both want to feel a peace about whatever option we choose, and we know finances will also come into play, as neither option is cheap by any means! Of course, in the meantime we are praying that we get pregnant in either of the next 2 months so we don't have to worry about any of this, but we can't bank on that. This whole process is such a balance of taking one day at a time, but at the same time having a plan of what to do next.

We would greatly appreciate the continued prayers for us. I feel like each month gets harder...each month we are a little more heartbroken, a little more frustrated, and sometimes even a little more bitter. I have also noticed this taking it's toll on Mike in ways it hasn't before, and that is hard for me to see. Mike never gets stressed or down, so when he does with this infertility stuff, that's when I know we're probably getting ready for a break from all of this. Realistically, I know even if we stop treatments, we won't be really getting a break, because it will still consume our minds as much, and our desire for a baby will not lessen. We are just praying that during the break we will feel an all-consuming presence of the Lord, and that He will give us a sense of peace and direction that can only come from Him. Our prayer is to know beyond a shadow of a doubt what to do next...because right now we are at a loss! As always, thanks for the continued prayers and support. When it's hard to be hopeful and keep the faith for ourselves, it's comforting to know that we have so many people around us praying and hoping for us!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

December until now...

After our second miscarriage in early December, Mike and I were feeling very drained and not wanting to jump back into trying to have a baby like we did after the first miscarriage. It was almost bizarre how differently I felt after the second miscarriage when compared to the first. I was much angrier this time, and felt like I was saying, "Really, Lord? REALLY?" It is such a hard thing not to become bitter in this journey, and that is definitely something I have struggled with, and still struggle with to this day. Mike and I had to take a month off after the miscarriage, and we weren't even sure we would resume treatments in January. Dr. K asked us to come in for blood work so we could try to figure out why I was miscarrying. He felt like we had figured out why I couldn't get pregnant, and now he wanted to figure out why I couldn't sustain a pregnancy. We did the blood tests and Dr. K said he would call us to come back in January after all of the tests were back to discuss the results.

Mike and I had been praying that through the blood tests they would figure out why I was miscarrying, and that it would be something we could fix. I was extremely nervous going into the appointment, but tried to stay calm. When we sat down with Dr. K and he opened my file, I immediately noticed that on the page of test results, one line was highlighted. I felt like my heart stopped...all I could think was, "They found something!" but I didn't know if that was going to be good news or bad news.

After explaining all of the things that weren't wrong, he said that one of the tests came back abnormal. One test was positive for a DNA mutation in me, called Methylenetetrahydrofolate Reductase (MTHFR). Try to say that 3 times fast! Basically, it is a condition I was born with that makes me severely deficient in Folic Acid, Vitamin B6 and Vitamin B12...all of which are very important in being able to carry a baby full term. [On a side note, when I told my younger brother that I had a DNA mutation, his first question was, "Are you an Xmen??" He even gave me an Xmen name! LOL] This deficiency can also make you more susceptible to blood clots, heart disease, miscarriage and neural tube defects in babies (like spina bifida). Obviously, all of this sounded really strange and scary, but then Dr. K told us the good news...the treatment for this was vitamins! For the rest of my life, I will take a vitamin called Folguard that has very high doses of Folic Acid, Vitamin B6 and Vitamin B12 in it, in addition to my prenatal vitamin. Once I become pregnant again, I will increase the Folguard vitamin to 2 a day, plus my prenatal vitamin. Dr. K said he had now checked everything on me and he was very confident that this was the reason I had been miscarrying.

We really felt like the Lord has answered our prayers about finding something they could fix...and as easily as taking a vitamin! We felt like this was the first ray of hope that we had received in a while, and it gave us the desire back to resume treatments. Another good thing was that we could start back in right away with an IUI cycle for January. We felt confident and excited that if I could just get pregnant again, we would have a much higher chance to carry full-term.

We completed the first IUI cycle of 2012 in January, but it was not successful. The day I found out, I was just crushed. I guess I just thought that we had gone through this really hard past year to find out this important information about me that we probably wouldn't have ever found out otherwise, and now it was time for this to work for us. I always think that maybe I will get used to the negative pregnancy test after so many months of the same result, but it's never any easier. In fact, it's harder each month...harder not to want to just quit and give up, harder not to become depressed, and harder to not grow bitter with the Lord and the 6,754 other women around me announcing their pregnancies and celebrating the births of their children. Of course, I am so happy for those women when it happens for them because it's something I want with all of my heart, but it's so hard not to think, "When will it be MY turn?"

Mike and I had decided in January that we would do 3 more IUI cycles and then take a break from the treatments for awhile. So the day after I found out I wasn't pregnant in January, I was back at Dr. K's office to begin our IUI cycle in February. [That is such a hard thing about fertility treatments...there is no break in between cycles! You have no time to grieve the loss and the disappointment before you're back at it gets exhausting!] In February, we did the normal dosages of Clomid and the Follistim injections, and in my first sonogram Dr. K noticed that my right follicle was larger than my left, which meant that my right ovary would release the egg. Because my right fallopian tube is blocked, we really want the egg to release from the left side. (I had released from the left side when I got pregnant before.) They had me do more injections and come back for some more sonograms (4 total this month...yes, I was at Dr. K's office 7 times this month!!) At my last sonogram, the left follicle hadn't done anything, so they were convinced that the follicle would be coming from the right side. Dr. K said that meant we had a 15% chance of getting pregnant this month., not the odds we wanted to hear when we're spending so much money to try to INCREASE our odds! Dr. K suggested that we wait until the next month to do an IUI to save us some money. (In reality, we still spent MORE money than normal because of all of the extra sonograms, and we didn't even get to do the IUI! SOOOO frustrating!!) Dr. K told us to try on our own and then come back in 2 weeks for a blood pregnancy test.

Unfortunately, we did not get pregnant in February either. I wasn't really that surprised, since I knew it was a 15% chance, but of course I was still so disappointed. I was also frustrated that we had spent $2500 in 2 months and had nothing to show for it. (And I got even more frustrated when I realized we've spent almost $7,000 since August with nothing to show for it!) After those results, I told Mike, "I only have one more cycle of this in me right now, and then I'm done for awhile." Mike agreed, so we decided that March of 2012 (which marks 2 years that we have been trying to conceive) will be our last IUI cycle, at least for now.

Dr. K actually recommended the same thing, and said that if this month doesn't work, he would recommend In-Vitro Fertilization (IVF) as a next step for us. In the past, this has always really scared me, but I felt like he gave us some encouraging news about IVF. He said that because of my age and my eggs, it would probably have a 60% chance of success for us. Also, because I respond well to the fertility drugs, I would need a much lower dosage of them, so it would only be about $11-12,000 instead of $15,000-$20,000 that it normally costs. All that being said, that is still a LOT of money for something that's not guaranteed. And if we do that, we would have no money left in savings for adoption or anything else. This only reinforced mine and Mike's decision to try once more with IUI and then take a break to pray about the situation and see what we feel like the Lord wants us to do.

So that catches you up to present day...we are currently in our 3rd IUI cycle of the year, and the last one for awhile...maybe forever. I'm almost scared to be hopeful this month, which is a place I don't want to be but don't really know how to prevent. Of course I would love to think that THIS will be the month the Lord will bless us with a pregnancy, but I think that every month and it's only happened 2 times out of the past 24 months. In a way, I think a break will be good for me, because this process is so draining on me time-wise, physically, mentally, emotionally, and financially (same for Mike, except for the physical part). But another part of me knows that I am going to be really sad when we stop treatments because I will feel like I'm giving up. Because it's been so hard for us to get pregnant even WITH the fertility treatments, I'm so scared to try on our own while we figure things out because that will just delay the process longer. No matter what option we are faced with, it will mean more waiting, and that is so hard because we have already been waiting 2 years to have this dream realized.

We do know that we serve an Almighty God who has plans to prosper us, not to harm us, and plans to give us a hope and a future. I think my prayer this month (and the next however many months) is for the Lord to reveal to us how He plans for us to start our family. We firmly believe that we will be parents one day, we just aren't sure how or when. We ask for your continued prayers as we face this month, waiting on the Lord for direction and patience.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Our Second Heartbreak

As I wrote in our last post, we found out we were pregnant for the second time on my birthday, November 4, 2011. After having to go in every few days at first for blood work, Dr. K finally said my levels were steadily increasing at a pace that he was comfortable with, so we scheduled our first ultrasound appointment where we would get to see our baby for the first time and hear a heartbeat. We were eagerly awaiting this appointment, since we didn't get to this point with our first pregnancy. 

The day of our appointment, Mike met me for lunch first and then we went to the appointment. I remember us talking about the appointment over lunch and about how excited we both were. I even remember saying to Mike, "You know, the funny thing is, I'm not even nervous about this appointment. I feel like the Lord has just given me a peace about this pregnancy." You would think that after already having one miscarriage, I would have been scared to death about this pregnancy, especially with the way things started out, but I really just felt like everything was going to work out. 

When Dr. K came into the room, he congratulated us again and asked how I was feeling. When I told him I had been really tired and hungry, he gave me a high five and said, "Sounds like pregnancy to me! Let's take a look at your beautiful baby." I remember asking him if he could take pictures that we could show to everyone and he said, "We can take as many as you want!" He began the sonogram and then said the words that made my heart stop:

"Have you had any bleeding?" 

I knew at that point that something was wrong, but told him that I had not had any bleeding or cramping at all. He finished the sonogram and said, "Well I'm afraid I don't have the best news for you." (UNDERSTATEMENT OF THE CENTURY!!) He told me that instead of seeing the gestational sac, my uterus was filled with blood, which meant that I would be miscarrying sometime in the next few days. He apologized and left the room, and told me to come to his office when I was dressed so we could talk about it. Mike and I were both stunned and just sat there, and as soon as Dr. K shut the door I broke down. I just remember saying, "I can't believe this is happening again." I don't think Mike said anything. 

We went into Dr. K's office and he again apologized profusely, but said that he saw no evidence that this would be a viable pregnancy. I asked why my hormone levels had continued to rise, and he said he thought something must have happened in the week between my last blood test and my first appointment. He said in several pregnancies, sometimes they don't see the gestational sac at 6 weeks, but he said that was a very rare occurrence out of thousands of pregnancies that he saw. So I said, "So basically I just have to go home and wait to miscarry??" Dr. K's response was, "Unfortunately so."He gave me a prescription for some pain medication for when it did happen, and just said to call when it did. He went ahead and did some blood work just to check my levels and said he would wait on those before he offered any other solutions. 

We left the office devastated and angry. What was supposed to be one of the happiest days of our lives had quickly turned into one of the worst. I remember calling Christen, my best friend, after the appointment. It was her birthday and she had been joking about me calling to tell her I was having twins on her birthday. When she answered the phone, she said, "So, is it twins??" And my response was, "No, it was bad news..." I had also told the church staff where I worked that I was going for our first sonogram that day, and told them I would come by after the appointment when they would all be in staff meeting with pictures for them to see. I went back by to deliver the news, which was so hard. Then I called my mom, who was out of town for Thanksgiving, and I know it was so hard for her to be so far away when this was happening. I told her we didn't really want to see anyone anyway. 

That night, Christen and Ronnie came over to bring us dinner and hang out with us for a little while. The rest of that week, we spent pretty much alone, not wanting to see or talk to anyone. That Monday began one of the longest weeks of our lives. Since it was the week of Thanksgiving, I was only planning to work that Monday and Tuesday, but we were supposed to go see my family for Thanksgiving like we do every year. I just couldn't do it...I was afraid the miscarriage would happen there, and I remembered how painful and messy the first one was. I also didn't feel like being around many people when I was so down I couldn't even pretend that I was okay. Mike and I ended up spending Thanksgiving dinner at Cracker Barrel...not my favorite Thanksgiving by any means! We just held on to each other and waited....

Dr. K called the next day to check on me and to let me know that he got my blood test results back. He said they were at 3200 (which sounded good to me!) but he said it was not nearly what he would expect to see at this point in my pregnancy, so he said he thought I would still miscarry. He said that if nothing had happened by Monday, to call him back and they would have me in for another scan. 

With each day that passed, I became more frustrated. I had so many questions...why would my levels increase and get us excited, if I was only going to miscarry? Why the sense of peace about this pregnancy when it was going to turn out like this? Why the wait?? If I was going to miscarry, I wanted it to just happen so I could get it over with. I knew the physical pain and heartache that was coming, and I just wanted it to start so it could end. 

By that Sunday, I was starting to wonder if maybe Dr. K was wrong, or maybe the Lord was going to work a miracle out of this situation. When nothing had happened by that Monday, I called Dr. K and went in for another sonogram. He said that the results were still the same, and he still knew that this was not going to be a viable pregnancy, but he wasn't sure why it was taking so long to happen. He then gave me 3 impossible choices: 1. Continue to wait for it to happen on its own. 2. Have a DNC (a surgery where they go in and remove all of the tissue and evidence of  the pregnancy) or 3. Take a pill (which is basically a pill form of Pitocin, the drug they use to induce labor in pregnant women) that would make the process start. I felt like none of these were good options!! I wanted to be carrying this baby full term, not deciding choices about miscarriage! I felt like the DNC or taking the pill were always going to make me wonder, "What if I would have waited??" Rationally, I knew there was no way this pregnancy could work, but emotionally I knew I would always wonder. And I had already been through the most agonizing wait you could imagine the entire week before. Dr. K told me to think about it and they would call me that evening to see what I had decided. 

We went home and I told Mike to go back to school to get things figured out while I slept. I knew Mike needed his time away from the house to process things, and I needed to be alone with my thoughts, and with the Lord. I talked to Mike's aunt, who has been through 4 miscarriages herself, and asked her what she thought I should do. She was the best person to talk to, because she told me she had basically done it every way and was able to tell me how each worked. She didn't tell me which one to choose, just gave me the information and empathized with the horrible decision I had to make. 

After I got off the phone with her, I really began to just deal with God. I was so angry, and I remember my prayer exactly: I prayed, "God, if this is going to happen, please just let it happen. I don't want to make this decision. You say that you never give us more than we can handle, and making this decision or continuing to wait is MORE than I can handle." I don't think I've ever prayed that angrily or emotionally, and as soon as I said, "Amen", I felt the blood. I know this is a weird thing to say, but I felt like the Lord completely heard my cries at that point and honored my wishes. I felt such a peace in that moment, even though I was still angry, hurting, and confused. The cramping and bleeding picked up shortly after that, and I figured it would all be over soon. 

But I was wrong. I always joke (it's a defense mechanism, I know) that this was the never-ending miscarriage. While the first one began and was over within 48 hours, I felt like this one lasted FOREVER. We already had the week of waiting, and even though the bleeding and cramping started Monday, the worst of the miscarriage didn't happen until Wednesday and Thursday, with complications on Friday. It was awful. 

I knew that when the cramping got intense, it would really be the beginnings of the miscarriage, but that didn't start until late Wednesday afternoon. Of course, that was the day I had volunteered to go pick up the Christmas presents for my clients and the other girls' clients who work with me! It started to get really bad that afternoon, the excruciating pain that I remembered from the first miscarriage, and I passed the tissue later that evening. 

*Disclaimer: this part may be TMI, but it's an important part of this whole process, and the part I think of as the most traumatic.* During the worst of the cramping, your uterus is basically having contractions in order to expel the "tissue" that is inside the other words, your baby. I believe in life from conception, which is why I viewed that "tissue" as my baby...passing that into the toilet and flushing it is one of the most devastating things I have ever experienced, in both miscarriages. I know that is way more than most people want to know, but it's a reality and something that most people who haven't experienced don't think about. This process was worse this time, since I was about 7 1/2 weeks along at this point, but I finally started to feel a little bit of physical relief after this part was over. 

The next morning, I had decided I would get up and drive down to Austin where we were having our big work meeting/Christmas party. I thought it would be good for me to keep my mind off things and be distracted. Since I told Mike I was going to Austin, he went back to work and I started getting ready. About halfway through my morning routine, I started to feel nauseous and started to cramp again. I thought maybe I was just having some after-effects of the miscarriage, so I just brought a stool into the bathroom, and figured I would just take some Aleve after I ate breakfast. Very quickly, the pain and nausea got worse, until I was lying on the bathroom floor, unable to move. After about 30 minutes of lying on the floor, I finally made it to the bed and grabbed my phone to call Mike. I don't remember what I said, but something to the effect of "You need to come home now." I must have sounded bad, because Mike was home in about 5 minutes!! He said when he walked in and saw me lying there, he freaked out. He could tell I was in so much pain. I thought something was wrong, because all of this pain should have been over by now. He called the doctor and they said for him to bring me in right away. It was another 20 minutes or so before I could even get up, and before we left, I went to the bathroom and passed another large piece of tissue. The pain had started to subside again, but we went to the doctor just to be sure. He did a sono (JUST what I wanted to have done that day!!) and said it looked like most of the tissue had passed and the worst was probably over. We went back home with more pain meds and I ended up sleeping half the day because my body was worn out! 

There is no way of knowing this for sure, but I believe this pregnancy was twins, since I passed the separate pieces of tissue at such different times. Of course, we can't know since we never got to see anything on the sonogram, but I think that is something I will always wonder about. The next morning (Friday), I again was feeling better so Mike went back to work. An hour or so later, I began feeling pain again and was thinking, "Not again!!" Mike came home and when even the pain meds weren't working, we went back to the doctor. This time, the pain was from a UTI (urinary tract infection), probably from the length of time that the bacteria, tissue, and blood was in my system trying to be expelled completely. This was just the icing on cake after 2 weeks of HELL! (Yes, that's really what it felt like, or the closest thing I have come to it before or since.) They sent me home with antibiotics and by Saturday I was finally starting to feel human again. 

These 2 weeks will without a doubt be considered 2 of the hardest weeks of our lives. We are both still grieving this loss, as well as the loss of our first baby, and I still have so many questions. In January of 2011, we began our first fertility treatment, and here we were finishing out 2011 with nothing to show for it besides 2 miscarriages, a LOT of money spent, and a lot of grief. Whereas with the first miscarriage I was ready to jump right back into getting pregnant, this miscarriage was the exact opposite. I needed a break from fertility doctors, appointments, and this whole process. I was bitter, overwhelmed, sad, and just...numb. I felt like this was happening to someone else, and I almost didn't want to deal with it. Dr. K wanted to run some tests to see what was causing the miscarriages, so we did about 12 different blood tests. As I said before, insurance doesn't cover any of the treatment for infertility, and my doctor suggested I called to see how much the tests would be and if my insurance would pay. When I found out the blood tests were going to cost $3700, I about had a heart attack! We had already paid $3000+ dollars in 3 months with the specialist, which was taking it's toll on our finances. Luckily insurance paid for all of the tests, and we were so thankful for this blessing! 

Dr. Kaufmann suggested we wait until January, when all of the test results came back in, so we could discuss them all at once. We spent the holidays relaxing and enjoying it with friends and family, trying to grieve our losses in 2011, and try to find a way to be hopeful for 2012. 

We are so thankful to be blessed with so many wonderful friends and family who supported us through this past year. They brought us food, prayed with us, cried with us, and loved us. When you are going through the pain of infertility and miscarriage, it is so hard to remain hopeful and keep the faith, but that is something that our friends and family do so well for us. When we have nothing left in us to hope for, they continue to hope and believe that one day Mike and I will be parents to our own biological children. It is this faith and love from our friends and family that reminds us to continuously give this struggle to the Lord and to remind us that His plans and timing are better than our own.