Thursday, June 30, 2011

Infertiles Are Fathers Too

Good grief I have let my blogging slack! Two weeks? Too long! Well even though it was two weeks ago now, I still want to take the time to share some thoughts on Chad's very first Father's Day.

I have long believed that my husband is the greatest guy there ever was. He is incredibly smart, talented, funny and has the biggest heart of anyone I know. And as much as I knew I loved him, I had no clue how much the years we spent journeying together to become parents would expand that love.

If you've read up on my blog, you may have noticed that our struggles with infertility all stemmed from my body. When we were in the testing stages of our journey, we learned that not only was my plumbing seriously clogged up, but that his was in beyond perfect condition. I felt so guilty. He wanted so baldy to be a daddy and I knew he would be an amazing one, the only thing keeping him from it was me. I cried and hurt over that but he never for a second saw it the same way. We were an us and it was our infertility not mine. He went through every step of the journey with me and shared the heartache of every pregnancy announcement and the hope of every monitoring appointment. He learned just as much about cycles, sperm counts, follicles, injections and uterine linings as I did. And he can discuss all of it with batting an eyelash and is quick to do so any time he hears anyone in need of an education on such matters. He cried with me and held my hand through it all. He kissed me on the cheek before every single injection during IVF and FET and never stopped thanking me for being the one to go through all of it so that we could both be parents. He bought the first and only gifts for Sprout and made the most amazing tribute video when we lost that pregnancy. He began planning and preparing years before his little girl was born and in so many ways, he was a daddy long before she was even conceived.

Once she was conceived and I was officially pregnant, he continued to be an amazing dad. He dubbed our miracle FET baby "Snow Pea", and came to every single doctor's appointment. He rubbed my feet and pressed his head to my tummy to hear her heartbeat. He read her stories and got up a million times a day to get me water or bring me a blanket. He asked how I was doing every afternoon and then asked how she was too. He held my hand and encouraged me throughout labor and hugged me and told me he was proud of me when I had to have a c-section. He cried as she came into the world and held her tight as he brought her to me for the first time. He stayed with her in the nursery and took care of her by himself the first 24 hours in the hospital while I was still bed-ridden.

When we came home from the hospital and I was struck by the baby blues, he held me and let me cry on his shoulder. He took on extra responsibilities with the baby and worked from home a little longer. And now that we have been parents for over 2 months and are beginning to find our routine, he still gets up with her in the middle of the night and changes almost every diaper he's home for. Every weekend he makes a bottle and kicks me out of the house for a few hours so I can have me time and he can have daddy-daughter time.

On Father's Day I was overjoyed to put Eliana in the bib I had bought for him years ago, before we even knew that becoming parents would be such a challenge. Many people buy lots of things for their babies before they're conceived and have hope chests full of cute outfits and adorable toys, but I have only ever had that bib, that hope that one day I would be able to see my amazing husband become our child's amazing father. I am so grateful that day has finally come. But even if it hadn't come yet I would still want to celebrate him and his devotion to fatherhood, just as I want to celebrate all of the amazing would be dads in the world. The men that struggle with their own infertility, the men that support their partners through treatments, tears, home studies, and heartaches and go through it all themselves too. It seems that the world not only forgets about dads when it comes to parenting, but they also leave out the men who long to be fathers. To me these men deserve celebration on Father's Day too, because even before their children come into their lives physically, they love them and dream of them and do everything they can for them. Just like any good dad.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Return To The Jedi

I'm late posting this, since it was 2 weeks ago now, but I still just had to share this amazing moment. The moment when Snow Pea met the amazing fertility specialist that helped us take her from dream to reality. She broke into a huge smile as soon as she made eye contact with him. It was like she knew. It was incredible. I couldn't help but tear up a tiny bit and think about the pat he gave my tummy after my transfer as he told our embies to snuggle in tight and grow into healthy, happy babies. And Eliana did just that.

Dear "Dr Jedi"

I don't even know how to begin to show my appreciation for all you have done for us. Thank you just doesn't seem to cover it. You and your staff are by far the most genuine and caring medical team we have ever encountered. We have never felt like less than a top priority in your office. You are such a caring and genuine doctor with an incredible bedside manner. You genuinely wanted us to succeed and it showed. You kept us very involved in the process, allowing us to have the all the information we needed to make each decision along the way, and you were always patient and thorough in answering my questions.

We love that your practice is smaller and we felt like the staff's top priority every time we walked in. Everyone there knows my face and some nurses even know my voice on the phone. I never waited more than a minute or two for any appointment. Even 8 months after my last appointment at your office, the staff recognized me when I called to schedule this meeting. I can't say that I am surprised because, like you, they always seemed to truly care.

Honestly, I can't say enough great things about you or your practice. I have no doubt that the care with which you handled every aspect of my treatment is the reason I am able to hold my daughter in my arms today. We couldn't have dreamed of a better doctor to help us make our biggest dream come true.Thank you for helping to make us parents. We couldn't have done it without you.

Friday, June 10, 2011

2 Months

I just posted my little girl's birth story (which you can catch up on here if you missed it) and now in the blink of an eye she is two months old! I can't believe how quickly time flies. Or how much I have yet to blog about. I have a running list of posts I have been writing in my head and another list of topics that I still need to write in my head and then eventually here, on my actual blog. It's amazing how little I seem to get done in a day lately. I have so much respect for full time mommy bloggers! It takes a lot of energy and commitment for me to just write personal updates, I don't know how they do it! One day I hope my list will get written, but if I'm honest there were a million infertility and pregnancy topics I have yet to write so I am not incredibly hopeful. Especially considering I have gotten worse not better about writing new posts.

I am trying not to wait too long to write milestone posts though, which is why even though I am dying to turn on the TV and veg out, I am going to write about Snow Pea's 2nd month of life first. I know that years from now I won't be able to even remember what TV show I thought was so important but I will cherish re-reading these simple memories of my daughter's babyhood.

The thing about writing this stuff down is that there really are no words that sufficiently describe what I want to say. I keep trying to put how I feel about each new smile, coo and cry into some tangible form but it's just not possible. The mere fact that she simply exists blows me away every single second, and then the realization that she is my child hits me and it's too much, I can't compute. It's like trying to truly understand how vast the universe is and how small we are in it. Trying to fathom that this perfect little person that I wake up to every day is really here and really my daughter is just too big to fully process. And if that's impossible for me to wrap my mind around, I know I will never be able to comprehend, let alone explain, just how much I love her.

Now that she's two months old so much has changed, and at the same time not much at all has. She is too young for any of the huge, obvious milestones that my friends keep asking about. It will be a while before she crawls or talks or even picks things up on her own, and to most people she is still in the "boring" stage. But to me, every turn of her head and curl of her lip is exciting and fascinating. It just amazes me because there is so much I see her do. For the very first time! In her life! I mean that is incredible! Things we do every day and take for granted I get to witness a new person learn to do for the first time ever! It is nothing short of amazing.

This month she has been smiling more and more at me and Chad. Especially when we get her up in the morning. She is happy to see us and nothing melts your heart more than a baby whose face lights up once you make eye contact, no matter how exhausted you are. And (very) luckily, we aren't even all that exhausted anymore. At exactly 6 weeks, she slept through the night for the first time! From about 10pm to 6am she was out like a light. At first we thought it might have been a fluke, but 2 weeks later she is still doing it. I'm excited because not only is great to get a full night's sleep, but it is another way that she is growing. And she is definitely growing! At 2 months she is 12.5lbs and 23.5in, which puts her in the 95th percentile for weight and the 90th for height. I have a strong feeling I am going to be the shortest person in my house one day.

Now that she has hit the 2 month mark, it is also time for the dreaded S word- shots! She had hers today and I have to admit I was incredibly nervous. I scheduled the appointment for first thing in the morning and had Chad go in to work late so that he could come with me for support. I was just so worried she would be hysterically and that if she was, I would be. The visit with the pediatrician went very well. She was smiling and happy and didn't even fuss at the cold stethoscope. When the nurse came in with the tray of needles and vaccines, Eliana was laying on the table turned toward me with a happy look on her face that seemed to say, "Hey, Mom, this is a fun, new place. Look at all the fun things to see!" Which is why I felt tears welling up as soon as the nurse began the oral vaccine and Eliana's face went from happy to confused about this weird new taste in her mouth. She wasn't upset about it, just unsure.

Then came the first injection. She was definitely caught off guard by it and it took a little while before her face dropped and she started to cry. It wasn't too a terrible of a cry, I have heard worse when she is cranky or hungry, but it was definitely a different kind of cry, one that said she was shocked and hurt by what this new person and just done to her poor leg. Then came shots two and three and her screams got a lot louder. It was so hard seeing my baby upset like that but really the worst part was the seeing it surprise her like it did. There she was just minding her own business, smiling at me and making little squeaky noises and BAM! needle in the leg. Honestly though, she didn't react that badly and even though my tears welled up in the beginning, they never spilled out. And although she cried real tears, she was smiling again by the time we got into the car. (I credit Chad for that, he has a magic touch and sometimes I swear she likes him more than me- a post for another time). I was so proud of her and me for getting through the first injections relatively easily.

Now as we embark on month 3, Chad and I are anxiously awaiting her first laugh. We think she came really close tonight. We were putting her in her car seat to leave the house for dinner this evening and she looked me right in the eye with a smile on her face and did a 5 second giggle. Chad and I turned to each other with eyes and mouths wide open in disbelief and excitement. Did that really just happen?! Was that a real laugh? I turned back to her to see if I could get her to do it again and as soon as I made eye contact and smiled at her, she repeated the same noise that made us so excited the first time. We high-fived in utter shock and joy. Then she started crying. Loudly. So we aren't calling it yet, because that "giggle" sounded a lot like a pre-cry noise too, but she is definitely getting close and I think a genuine laugh is just around the corner, if tonight wasn't in fact the real deal. Either way, just hearing and seeing her make that new noise for the very first time, whether a cry or a laugh or something in between, was yet another reminder of how amazing each and every second of witnessing and being a part of my daughter's life really is.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Birth Story Part 3: Our Star is Born

If you missed how Snow Pea's labor started you can read Part 1 here or if you need to catch up on the sudden turn of events in her delivery, read Part 2 here.

Once the call was made for me to stop pushing and get prepped for a c-section, my first thought was just one thing: water! I was so incredibly thirsty from all of the breathing and pushing I had been doing for the past couple of hours. The cup of water Chad was passing to me had barely grazed my fingertips when a nurse intervened and took it away. I nearly cried at that moment and I think she sensed my desperation so I was allowed one tiny ice chip before the staff began shuffling me carefully onto the the gurney for my trip to the operating room.

On the way, I was hurriedly trying to send a text to my friends and family across the country letting them know what was happening while also trying hold myself together in spite of my growing anxiety. Chad held my hand tight and kept reassuring me that despite my disappointment with myself, I had not failed and everything would turn out great. All too quickly we were outside the OR doors. My new nurse wasn't exactly patient with me or my emotions and despite my requests for one more minute to text my family and hug my husband, she told me to hand him my phone and sent him off in the opposite direction to be prepped as she wheeled me into the room. I had been disappointed when shift change happened but now I wished more than ever that my previous nurse was still on duty.

Once in the OR, I was shuffled onto the operating table and my gown was pulled up to my waist as the curtain was placed above my chest. My anesthesiologist arrived to re-do my IV and prepare me for surgery. As he worked and the nurses did their prep, I kept asking my nurse questions about what to expect. I was getting more and more anxious with every second and even though I knew a lot of the answers from having read the books and attending the classes, I felt as if hearing the answers again would somehow calm my nervous energy. Unfortunately, as I said my nurse wasn't very patient with my anxiety and I could tell I was getting on her nerves. it didn't help that as I talked I was staring at the door waiting for Chad to appear. I knew that he was really the only person that could truly make me feel any better.

Luckily, my anesthesiologist, Dr Thoughtful, was one of the nicest and friendliest people I have ever met and he did a great job of soothing me until Chad finally arrived. It had only been 15 minutes that we were apart but it felt like an eternity. I was so relieved to see him, and even though I was laid on the table with my arms out as if on a cross, I did my best to hug him when he swooped down to kiss me on the forehead.

Dr. Casual came in and asked Dr Thoughtful when the medication would be sufficiently in my system. He said I was all set and that we could start at 8:50pm, which was in about 10 minutes. I held onto Chad's hand and began directing my questions at Dr. Thoughtful. He said I could keep my arms unstrapped but I did need to keep them out and away from the curtain. He also told me that the anesthesia would remove all pain but that I would still feel tugging and pulling sensations. It seemed like within seconds I was feeling exactly what he was talking about. As soon as it started my focus seemed to turn inward and thanks to the drugs, I have very sparse memories from this point onward. I remember knowing that the incision was being made, and feeling the tug as my abdominal muscles were pulled apart. It didn't hurt but it did feel completely unlike anything I have ever experienced and I groaned with many of the pulls, largely aware that my insides were being tugged and moved.

The birth part of a c-section is quicker than you can imagine, and suddenly Dr Thoughtful's hands were on my temples and he was chanting my name as he guided my face up to look into a mirror he held for me so that I could see the other side of the curtain. I stared into it and saw a curved little body resting on top of a sea of red. Snow Pea's back was curved up with her legs tucked under her with a swirl of darkened, wet curls on her head. I held my breath and stared at that mirror for what simultaneously seemed like a nanosecond and an eternity before hearing her very first life-changing cry. I let out the biggest exhale of my life as I squeezed Chad's hand and looked into his tear filled eyes. At 8:57pm Snow Pea was born.

As Snow Pea was cut free from my body, Dr Thoughtful told me I would feel a sting in my hand. I quickly replied "there it is" and that was it, I was in a medicated daze. No one had sufficiently prepared me for the morphine or it's effects. I felt like my body was trying to force me into a coma like sleep as I fought against it with everything I had and that feeling lasted for hours afterward.
I hate that I was so drugged for the first few hours of my daughter's life. I can only remember Snow Pea's birth in bits and pieces and so much of it is so fuzzy in my memory, but thankfully the most important moments are with me, imprinted on my soul forever.

I don't remember Chad leaving my side but once she was in the warmer, the neonatologist called him over. He hadn't wanted to cut the cord, he thought it seemed unnecessary, but the doctor extended the scissors and being in the moment, Chad went ahead and cut away the length of umbilical cord still attached to Snow Pea's tummy. He talked to her and took pictures as she was weighed and wrapped to be brought to me. Once she was ready, he held her for the first time and carried her to me.

Like I said, I don't remember this time period but I know I was still being stitched up when he nudged her body toward my face so that I could see and hold her for the first time and that I do remember. As soon as her body made contact with mine, my free arm- the right one- wrapped up around her and held onto her as tightly as possible. I nuzzled my face into her body and just fell into that moment. Nothing else existed in those few seconds but her. There really are no words to adequately describe that first embrace. It was like time stood still and the whole universe just fell away. There was only my body holding onto her tiny little body and every ounce of pure love that has ever existed seemed to flow through me. I can't describe it as intense because it was so much more peaceful than that. It was what I always imagined a state of nirvana might feel like. I didn't think of her as my daughter or myself as her mother. I didn't think about my past or my future or even my present with doctors sewing up my insides, it just me and her and nothing else. And then Chad was there holding me and her together and it was just the three of us. In our own little bubble of joy and love, nothing else seemed to exist and even if it did, it didn't seem to matter.

The next thing I remember is being in the recovery room alone with my nurse as she checked my blood pressure. I was panicky inside wondering where my family was. Why wasn't Chad or Snow Pea with me? What was going on? I felt like someone had amputated my heart, they should have been there with me! It turned out that Snow Pea had a lot swelling on her head from having her head trapped during labor in addition to some concerns about her breathing so she was in the nursery for care and observation. Poor Chad was shuffling between my floor and hers, not sure where he should be. Finally, my hour of recovery was up and I was cleared to be moved to my room.

First, my nurse wheeled my gurney to the nursery so that I could see my sweet baby girl. I tried furiously to force my eyes open as I looked at her struggling to breath under the nursery warmers. I tentatively reached out to touch her and received a very wet, rattling cry in response. I realized my hands must have been freezing to her and quickly shrunk away as I apologized. I gave my fingers a chance to get warm before placing my index finger into the palm of her hand and stroking the back of my hand with her thumb. It was the first time I had made direct skin to skin contact with her and all too quickly it was over and I was wheeled into my room to wait until she was released from the nursery.

I slept off and on until they finally brought her back to me at about 1am. The neonatologist explained the tests they had done and told me that if the ultrasounds they planned to perform on her head swelling revealed any blood, that she would be taken to the NICU. I held my breath at that and prayed that wouldn't be the case. The nurses came again at 3am and took her for her first bath. Normally they do this in the room with the parents there to be a part of it, but they were still concerned about her and wanted to do it in the nursery and keep her in the warmers again afterward. I was so devastated not to be there for that and then again when I realized she had been alive for 6 hours and I had yet to feed her or even truly hold her, let alone name her!

Morning came and the sun rose over our new view. This time instead of an ocean scene, our window faced a building. But not just any building, we were just across the street from the very building where it all began. It was the building where my egg retrieval took place, as well as the fertilization of those eggs. It was the building where our embryos are currently on ice and where one of those formally frozen snowflakes was transferred back into my body on July 15, 2010. The embryo that stayed and grew and thrived and became our Snow Pea. When I was finally able to truly hold her, I showed her that building and told her what an epic ninth month journey it had been for to get to the other side of the street.

Then at long last, just before the staff member came to collect the paperwork for her birth certificate, Chad and I decided on our daughter's name. We already knew her middle name would be Sue, after not only my sister who has the same middle name, but also both of our mother's who are Susie (mine) and Sue (his). With that much family connection, there really was no other choice for me. Her first name however, we could never commit to during my pregnancy. Finally looking at her face to face though and feeling the enormity of all we had been through to get her here as well as the extreme gratitude at having her to love at long last, we realized only one name on our list would do. I am not a religious person but I do believe in a loving spirit outside of us. Eliana in Hebrew means "God has answered me" and after years of hurt, loss, hope and now finally holding her in my arms, I know that he certainly has.