We’ll always love our first baby.

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Since the beginning of this process, I’ve committed to sharing the ups and downs right here. This is raw, real and may be tough to read.

There are two other drafts of blog posts I wish I was sharing with you. One about the day we found out I was pregnant. One of a miscarriage scare at about 6 weeks that ended well.

Instead it’s this one.

I was almost 10 weeks pregnant and things looked hopeful. Somehow this complicated and draining process was working out for us on the first try, and thank god, because I don’t know how on earth we could try again anytime soon.

But those weeks were all we got.

We’ve spent the last seven days in “cautious optimism” with me playing the role of cautious and Russ playing the role of optimism.

We were told not to panic and to be cautiously optimistic last week because the sac and baby were measuring four days behind, but there was a strong heartbeat.

I’d been feeling so good. Symptoms were minimal outside of the pain from my daily shots.

It all ended today.

I knew the moment we saw the first glimpse of our baby on the grainy black and white screen that the heartbeat we’d seen was gone.

A baby we’d affectionately called speck (no idea why) since the day we got its first photo.

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We’ve fallen in love with this baby. I knew not to get too excited, but at almost 9 weeks and multiple ultrasounds showing heartbeats, I’d broken my own rule. I was starting to think about how we’d decorate a nursery and starting to argue about names (not Tom Brady). Speck was due on April 11.

Now I’m deciding when to schedule a procedure to have Speck, whom we’ve talked to and told we loved, removed from my body.

There is nothing anyone around us can say or do to make us feel better and I feel for those who have to try.

This is not a fixable situation.

My emotions are a wreck. Russ is devastated. People who’ve known about my pregnancy are lovingly checking in on me and I want to throw my phone at a wall and disappear – which is entirely unfair to the people who are reaching out because they love me, but dammit, that’s all I feel like I can handle right now.

Still, I can’t disappear. I have to go about my normal life and act like everything’s okay. I have to pretend like I’m not spending every second wondering why this is so damn hard for us – why we don’t get to live out the one thing we’ve both always dreamt of – and how we’re going to manage to do this again.

It’s a wildly expensive process, but it’s not about the money. We’ll move some funds around and make it work. I know there is a way we can make it happen.

Beyond the monetary costs, I don’t know how my body and mind can handle all of this again right now. I was supposed to do 67 intramuscular shots of progesterone. They’re painful – not every day. Sometimes they’re okay, but there are days when I can feel the pain radiating all the way down through my calf and I feel like I can’t use my entire leg because of it. I’ve taken unexpected days off from work because I simply couldn’t sit or stand for long periods of time.

I haven’t been able to run, despite being allowed to during pregnancy, because my body is too sore.

I was supposed to do 67 of those daily shots. I made it to 65 and then we learned the baby died.

My body isn’t ready to do it again.

My mind most certainly isn’t ready. I am in the depths of darkness. I can’t see anything positive around me except Russ and I want so badly to disappear. My biggest dream is to be a mom. My next biggest dream is to see Russ as a dad.

I need space. I need to know what I’ve done in life to not be able to have something that comes so easily to others.

I need to know why we only had a few weeks to live our dream.

We loved Speck. We will always love Speck. We’re just heartbroken.

And we love you all for walking with us through this and sending us love.

Real men

I recently saw a Facebook post that got me all kinds of riled up.

It shouldn’t have, because… well, it’s Facebook, but it did and I’m going to blame the meds and my emotionally charged state.

The post initially was about someone being annoyed when they see a woman pumping her gas while a man sits in the car.

I could’ve waved it right off as one of those “some people might be better off just staying in their own lane” type of posts, but I read the comments.

One of the sacred (I’m mostly kidding) rules of journalism is to never read the comments.

People were going off about men who do that not being real men. One person went so far as to say her dad walks over to men when he sees them doing that and preaches to them about it.

Y’all.

I have to admit something.

Russ doesn’t always pump my gas for me.

I also have to admit that I’ve been guilty in the past of wishing he would always offer.

But he doesn’t.

And really why does he have to? He always pumps gas when he drives. I never offer to do it for him. Like him, I’m a perfectly capable adult. Heck, thanks to South Carolina’s extremely lax license rules, we probably got our driver’s license in the same year, so I’m betting we’ve been pumping our own gas for the same amount of time.

He doesn’t always pump my gas for me and it really is fine, but those “not a real man” comments had me some kind of fired up.

For over six months we’ve been going through the toughest thing we’ve ever faced and that’s just since we enlisted the help of fertility specialists. In that time, well, I honestly can’t even tell you all of the awful stuff Russ has held my hand through. It’s just too personal.

He’s seen and learned things about a woman’s body that I would’ve expected to make him, at the very least, cringe. And even if he has internally cringed, he’s never once shown it to me.

There are things about womanhood that are pretty easy to keep to yourself when you’re going through the normal patterns of life. But when stuff hits the fan in the fertility department, a whole lot of that privacy goes away pretty quickly and embarrassment becomes a bit of a lost cause.

Still, he’s never made me feel like this whole process was anything less that worth it.

The man even let doctors open up his most delicate part of his body so we could find out if he would even be able to have kids.

On top of all of that, he’s picked up even more than his usual share of cleaning around the house and he’s started cooking more dinners.

He got over his own fear of needles and blood so he could give me the daily shots that I can’t easily give myself.

He constantly checks on me to see how I’m feeling and if I just need a break.

And he’s reminded me time and time again that we don’t have to do this if it’s too hard, that he’d be okay with using a donor if I want to go through the physically easier process of insemination rather than IVF.

If that’s not a real man, then I’m not even sure I want one.

And a fair warning to the preaching type: The first person who walks up to our car to preach to Russ for not pumping my gas is likely to be the first person I’ve ever punched.

Hormones, people. Ugh.

When I started the medications for the retrieval part of the IVF process my brother joked that I was going to be a bit of an emotional challenge.

It’s not an off-the-wall prediction to say that pumping extra hormones into your body might make your brain react in weird ways.

I actually braced myself for this in those first few weeks. I fully expected to be kind of an emotional handful for those around me. I was pleasantly surprised. Aside from what I believe to be very reasonable fears that the process might not work out, I actually felt pretty mentally stable. It was nice.

Of course, my brother didn’t necessarily believe me when I told him that I never really felt out of my norm. I believe his exact words were “I’ll see what Russ says about it”. That’s fair and it’s also not an unexpected response from a sarcastic brother.

As it turns out, this process I’m in now is ripe for the mental meltdown. I’m taking what feels like a boatload of estrogen – granted, I have no real concept of how much estrogen is normal and how what I’m adding compares – but this feels like a lot.

I’ve been on it for a few days now. It started with two pills a day. I’m now up to seven pills a day.

And I’m noticing.

This week has already been extremely emotional. We have some big changes coming over the next few days as our best buds move away followed by more great friends moving away a few days after that.

I’m not handling any of it well.

To put it lightly: I’m a wreck. I cried when I saw the U-Haul in our friends driveway three days before their actual move. I’ve cried because my body looks and feels different to me right now. I almost cried while Russ and I were running yesterday. I’m tearing up while writing this.

I said when I started sharing this stuff that I would be as honest as possible about the ups and downs. There’ve been a lot of ups. I have to believe that our experience so far has been about as good as it possibly could be. It’s funny how quickly we went from feeling this whole situation is wildly unfair to celebrating the little victories – perspective matters and ours has shifted like crazy over the past few months.

We’ve had a trend of getting better than expected news from each step of the process. It’s been great – kind of like winning the slowest heat in the 100m great –  but still, pretty great.

There are downs. This week is quite clearly one of the low points. I feel physically great, but I’m overly emotional about everything and that’s hard on me and even tougher on Russ.

I’m currently trying to reel it in because the last thing an embryo needs is to try to make a home in a stressed out body. Running helps. Little things like Russ cleaning the kitchen and turning on Jeopardy without my prompting help. Messing around in our garden helps. The new baby birds who just hatched in our yard help. Unexpected text messages from friends who are just checking in help.

We’re getting really close to the end of the first attempt at this whole process. I felt like a superhero during the first part. Giving myself shots without much hesitation really boosted the ol’ ego.

Of course, if you know me well, you know the fact that my emotions are the biggest challenge of this journey makes absolutely perfect sense.

If you’re the praying type, prayers help. Prayers for staying calm and positive and, if it feels appropriate to you, prayers that this whole thing works out. We’re so ready to love on a baby.

July is here

I haven’t had much to share in a few weeks because June has been a much-needed and much-appreciated break from all things IVF.

IVF is hyper-personalized. For a lot of couples one IVF cycle happens a lot faster than ours has. It is most common to do a fresh transfer. A fresh transfer means embryos are transferred into the uterus within just a few days of the egg retrieval.

For an impatient person, that sounded like the best option, but according to our doctors who know the ins and outs of this process and have much more educated insight into what we actually need, that just wasn’t the right fit for us.

I’m becoming more convinced every day that this whole process is a way of kicking my butt so that I finally learn how to be at least a little patient. I am notoriously impatient. It’s one of my worst qualities.

In our particular situation, it was recommended that we do a frozen transfer. We have chosen to trust the doctor recommendations throughout this process, despite some of our friends and family’s best efforts to convince us there might be a better way (hey, we know it comes from a place of love).

Honestly, outside of my impatient self not wanting to wait several extra weeks to see if this all worked, we never really doubted that frozen was the best option for us.

A month ago we didn’t know if we would have a shot at having Russ’s kids. That alone was a good reason to wait a few extra weeks. Otherwise, if his operation had gone differently, we might’ve found out on a Wednesday that we needed to use donor sperm and by Monday or Tuesday that baby could already be cooking.

That didn’t turn out to be an issue, but looking back on this month of just relaxing and living like normal, I am grateful that our doctors suggested we wait.

June has been a gift. I started running again a few weeks ago and I’ve been able to enjoy some beer and wine. We took a little trip to Raleigh with some of our best friends. We had a great visit with Russ’s Aunt Sharon. We finished our bedroom floors! We started using our pool membership. I celebrated a bachelorette weekend with some of my favorite family members. Did I mention running? It’s amazing what it does for my mood.

Honestly, if you never opened up our fridge in June to see the half empty tubes of Gonal-F and bottles of hormones shoved in the door next to our milk, you might never know what we were up to in May.

If you didn’t look in the box full of the half dozen meds and accompanying syringes necessary for the next part of the process, you might never know that our July is going to be the total opposite of June.

I start taking meds again on the 5th and I’ll start injections later in the month. This time around Russ is going to have to learn how to administer them, so that should be an adventure of its own.

On top of that, several of our good friends are moving away in July – SEVERAL. We’ve spent most of June pretending all of this wasn’t really happening, but it is and it’s going to be tough.

A few years ago I watched a movie called ‘Conception’. I don’t remember much about it, but I keep thinking about Connie Britton’s character and her husband who had to give her some sort of fertility shots in her booty. At the time, it was funny because it was an awkward situation.Now it’s funny in a dark humor, this is too real, try not to hate Russ every time he sticks me with a needle kind of way.

July is going to be emotional, to say the least, but I think June was exactly the break we needed to collect ourselves and get ready to move forward with the process. Plus there are so many things to get worked up about this month that I don’t know where to start. I think that’s going to work in my favor.

Here’s to July and to hoping it works out the way everything else has so far.

Annapolis

I don’t know what to say about what happened in an Annapolis newsroom yesterday.

We don’t know full details about a motive, but reliable sources report he had history with the paper after a story was written about him years ago.

We don’t know his exact motive for acting on that anger yesterday — we don’t know what fueled the violence years after his run-in with the paper.

But we do know there are people actively cheering on social media over journalists being killed. We know there are tweets saying journalists aren’t humans and this is what they deserve.

I know what it’s like to huddle in the smallest room in a news building because a threat has been phoned in and I know what it’s like to walk past posters taped to walls and doorways showing the face of a man who should not be let into the building.

“Call police if you see this man on the premises.”

Threats and vitriol are delivered to newsrooms daily by mail, email, Facebook, Twitter and phone call.

That’s been the case for decades, but I’ve watched it get worse over the past couple of years.

So many people have told me when people in power speak badly about journalists, they mean the big guys — the CNNs or the NYTimes. They don’t mean local journalists serving the communities in which they live.

I was told I was taking it too personally when I was upset with the words our President used to describe journalists.

I was made to believe this couldn’t happen to a journalist like me; someone who covers feature stories and things that, by and large, make people happy.

That was wrong.

This wasn’t the big guys, not that they deserve to die any more than the rest of us — they don’t.

This was a newsroom at a newspaper of a similar size to the one I work for in a city that is comparable to my own.

These were people working at their desks just trying to meet their deadline on a normal Thursday.

Earlier this week I listened as our President came to South Carolina and pointed at my friends and colleagues working a long day to cover his visit and called them “the enemy of the people” in a room of thousands. And it hurt me. I can’t lie about that. It bothered me. But it comes with the territory these days and I’m often told I need a thicker skin.

That is, in some ways, a fair critique.

But if a gunman comes into my newsroom with the intent to kill indiscriminately, it won’t matter that I generally write stories about good things happening in our community like development or the graduation ceremony of a young woman with a severe handicap whose parents thought they wouldn’t get to see her grow past age three or four, and it sure as hell won’t matter how thick my skin is.

It will only matter that 12 years ago I decided on a career path that would make people hate me enough — without ever speaking to me in person– to end my life.

My heart is with everyone in the capital-gazette newsroom who not only lost people they care for, but had to watch the violence happen and with the families who won’t get to speak with their loved ones again.

I just found this in a drawer

I just found this in a drawer. I’d forgotten i bought it. Last July we briefly thought I was pregnant, thanks to either a faulty test or a chemical pregnancy. That week I went out and bought this book for our future son or daughter. I still can’t wait to introduce our kids to my hero someday.

Results (so far)

I can’t even tell you how many 400 meter hurdle races I’ve run in my life, but there’s a very distinct pattern to the emotion of my favorite race.

Like every track event it starts with the adrenaline at the starting line, a burst of energy or even a chill as you place your feet in the starting block and give your legs one last shake out. There’s the stillness before the gun goes off that seems far longer than it is.

Then you’re off and facing the first curve and the first hurdle.

You’re confident. At this point there’s no doubting you’ll easily clear all of the hurdles.

But it’s a brutal race. It’s a quarter mile at a full-blown sprint pace with 10 hurdles spread along the way.

When I coached track I always told the 400 runners “I love the 400 because it’s just long enough to make you want to quit and right about the time that feeling hits, you reach the finish line”.

For me, that desire to quit used to hit somewhere around the last straightaway of a hurdle race when I was far enough in to know what I’d already accomplished but tired enough to wonder if I might have trouble with the last hurdle or two.

I’ve never experienced anything like it.

Until IVF.

IVF is emotional whiplash. The process, if you’re lucky, is filled with highs, but each one is met with the almost-immediate realization that the next hurdle may take away everything you’ve worked through so far.

Right now, we’re somewhere in the final curve having cleared so many hurdles along the way.

Last week was huge. Russ had surgery on Wednesday and we learned, after months of wondering, that we might actually be able to have a kid (hopefully kids) of his own. I’ve never been so thrilled about anything, but it was followed by the very real fear that my Thursday egg retrieval wouldn’t pan out like it should.

Thursday went well too. They were able to get 19 eggs. 19 eggs! I was IV drunk after the procedure and I think I asked about that number about three times before I believed it.

But here’s the thing, numbers in this process change dramatically. We knew that. So, we reined in our excitement and waited for the Friday phone call about how many embryos we’d have.

16 eggs were mature enough to attempt fertilization. 14 were successfully fertilized.

We started with 14 embryos with the knowledge that the number would again be cut down and probably in a big way. The embryologist estimated five would continue to grow like they should until this week when they would freeze them for later transfer.

The embryologist was correct.

So here we are with a finite number. We have five chances. If you know anything about the statistics of pregnancy and IVF procedures specifically, you know that doesn’t mean five babies.

Though five used to be the number of children I always said I wanted, we’ll be thrilled to have just one and we’ll figure out the sibling thing later, ideally using leftover embryos, if everything works out.

Right now, we’re facing what’s ahead. I get to be normal for a few weeks until I start more shots ahead of the transfer process. I can run and enjoy some beer and just generally feel less like a pin cushion and more like myself.

Those last few hurdles are still there. We don’t know that the embryos will all survive the thawing process and we don’t know that any of them will lead to a successful pregnancy and I’m terrified that we have a maximum number of chances and it’s just five, but we’re also thrilled that it’s not the zero we thought was a very real possibility just 10 days ago.

If my over-the-top metaphor proves true, right about the time this process makes me want to quit, we’ll find some relief.

details

This is a look at my meds through phase one of the process.

One shot and three pills in the mornings.

Two shots and one pill at night.

The box full of meds still waiting for after the egg retrieval is daunting, but I’ll face that when it gets here.

The morning shot is the one I added on Friday and, to be perfectly honest, it sucks. It’s okay going in, though the needle is larger than the others, but it hurts after. Every morning so far I’ve found myself using google to try to determine if I’ve accidentally hit muscle or something.

It turns out I’m doing it right, it just sucks. That’s normal.

To be totally honest, I’m feeling the effects now. Sitting for a long time or riding in the car just aren’t comfortable. I’m also getting tired really easily. All of this is normal and still not as bad as it could be.

Also, missing running was a joke. I haven’t missed any activity this week. I’ve gone on a few two mile walks, but I’m maxed out by the end thanks to the heat and just general fatigue. So running can definitely wait and I’m cool with that.

I’ve had a lot of people ask me questions about the process. I’m fascinated and thrilled with what science can do for us, so I thought I’d share the basics:

The stimulation phase is for pumping up the ovaries so they mature way more than their usual one egg. Basically the ovaries are pumped up from the size of almonds to the size of two bunches of grapes – LOVELY.

In the meantime, there are several doctor visits for ultrasound and labwork.

At my last appointment some follicles were already the size they need to be to release a mature egg, so I started that new morning shot.

It’s meant to stop me from ovulating before the doctor has a chance to go in for the egg retrieval.

The day before my retrieval those shots will stop and they’ll be replaced by one final trigger shot that helps release the eggs for retrieval.

Something that’s been on the back-burner for both of us is Russ’s surgery. It’s a huge deal, but with so many different things to focus on that are happening *right now*, it’s been easy to just put that one out of our minds.

Russ has, to no one’s surprise, been going way out of his way to make sure I’m comfortable and supported and loved. And that probably has a lot to do with why I haven’t been feeling down throughout this process – that and my friends who’ve reached out by phone, text, snail mail and in person just to let me know they’re thinking of us.

Now Russ’s surgery is coming up on Wednesday. It’s a big day and not a small surgery.  My retrieval may be the same day, but the recovery is supposed to be far easier for me. I’m looking forward to my chance to be the support for him. He’s looking forward to playing a lot of Xbox and really good pain meds.

Update

A few years ago when Russ and I were newly engaged we spent Record Store Day in late April going from store to store in Greenville picking up records. I couldn’t tell you how many we bought that day, but there was a stack of three or four we were given for free.

They were sitting on a stool by the door of one store and had no price tag. I saw Lionel Richie’s 80s mustache on the cover of one and recognized the title as a song I’d done a dance routine to in high school.

The shop owner said he didn’t want to charge for any of the records on the stack, so we grabbed a few.

For whatever reason on night three of the stimulation phase of IVF I dug out Lionel Richie and blasted ‘dancing on the ceiling’ while i gave myself multiple shots in my stomach.

The nightly round of shots has become a little routine. I play music loudly and Russ sits in the bathroom and provides casual commentary while I rub an alcohol wipe on my stomach, fill a syringe to the right line, pinch some skin, insert the needle and slowly push the drugs I know so little about into my body.

I enjoy a bit of ignorance. I trust these award-winning doctors and I just really don’t want to know all of the details. I have gotten enough details about fertility to last a lifetime over the past few months.

Night three was only made easier by Lionel and the fact that Russ was actually in the room unlike the night before.

It wasn’t his fault. I told him he didn’t need to be in there while I did the shots. I didn’t need him to help me physically give myself shots, so I assumed I didn’t need him in there at all.

I’ve been wrong before.

As I was pressing the last of the medicine into my body by myself in our guest bathroom, the weight of everything we’re doing just to try to have one darn kid hit me in that suddenly can’t breathe, overwhelmed with fear kind of way. I leaned against the counter and cried quietly for a few minutes alone before I walked back into the living room to let him know I needed him there.

It was the only moment of its kind since I’ve started the medicine. I’m lucky in that sense.

The massive packet of information we were given at the beginning included warnings of emotional effects – things like depression, anxiety, disinterest in normal activities, even thoughts of suicide.

It’s funny to think I was so concerned about the shots themselves. I honestly thought that might be the most difficult part of all of this.

Sure, my stomach looks like a pin cushion, if pin cushions could bruise and sometimes I need a couple of deep breaths before I stick myself and I know the shots are about to multiply, but anything that can be made better by a little dancing to Lionel Richie and Russ sitting next to me discussing what the Patriots did at OTAs (or whatever) is a pretty small deal compared to what else may be to come.

I’m writing all of this knowing there’s a lot more ahead in the next several days and there’s still no guarantee that any of this will work, but we’re feeling optimistic. Last night I had a dream we were signing our kid up for kindergarten, so I guess even my subconscious is buying into the optimism – which is a pleasant surprise given the warnings.

Today I’ll add a third injection to my daily routine and given the fact I got off the couch like a very pregnant woman this morning – you know the lead with your legs and push off with your arms maneuver – I’m sure it’s only going to get more strange from here.

We’re still appreciating all of the kind messages, prayers and support and will continue to lean on those when we need it. We love all of you.

I can do this!

 

I did it.

I survived my first night of giving myself shots and I didn’t even panic. I felt fine about it all day and there was a brief moment right before when I had to pause and just say aloud “this seemed less terrifying before I actually had to do it.” Then, dressed in my ugliest and comfiest shorts, I rolled up my shirt, bent over, pinched some stomach skin and just made it happen.

Having to focus on getting the injection right really helped distract me from my fear of needles.

Russ sat right there with me but I asked him just to talk to me. I think this will all be easier if I can control the situation.

There’s a long road ahead and a lot more shots, plus I’m told my stomach will bruise and it may be tougher once that happens, but getting over the fear of the first night was a big success.

I’m feeling really tough and proud right now.

I think I can handle this.