I remember you

Little light, tiny boy, you were my first. You were supposed to be born in early August. You left us on New Year’s Day instead. I think about you often. As you know we have given our second living son your first name as his second. You are buried in a planter in our front yard. Remember when I dragged that heavy thing, weighing almost half as much as I do, from our old home to the one in which we now live? I remember you. And my love for you lives on always, not only on days like today dedicated to infant and pregnancy loss. 

Little spark, you were with us only briefly and some doctors said you didn’t count. But you did. I remember you. You were wanted. You too were loved.

Miracle Toddler, you broke the spell. Notwithstanding every complication my body threw in your way you triumphed. You have lived through the six losses that followed you. And the one who survived. Your little brother. You were my first miracle who lived. I will love you forever and in all ways. 

Tiny gift, you were welcomed with such hope. My heart broke with a newfound anguish when you disappeared. Too soon. Forever too soon. I remember you. 

Little bean, I was so excited to know you. I dreamed of holding you. I dreamed of you being my best holiday gift ever. But then you too were gone. Too soon. My heart died a little more with your passing. 

Oh, Mandy, then there was you. You were our holiday and special occasion baby. Conceived on vacation. We first saw your heart beating on my birthday. I watched you grow and knew you would be my beautiful baby girl. You were so brave. You fought hard. But it was not enough. I cried begging the doctor to let me see you one more time, fearing you too had slipped away. Knowing something was wrong. And something was. So dreadfully wrong. The Miracle Toddler cried with me as I mourned your passing. Time and time again. I am so sorry I lost you Mandy. I remember you. I always will. You will forever be the daughter I will never get to hold. 

Tiny button, you were our first IVF baby. Your time with us was brief but our love and longing for you deep and plentiful. I remember you.

Dearest whisp, you were with us for Valentine’s Day and the weeks that followed. And then you were gone. Just like that. I remember you. 

Wee Hope, you were my Mother’s Day baby. I traveled far, yearned long and worked hard for you. I did everything right. I thought it would be enough. How wrong I was. You taught us so much. You are missed. And I remember you. 

Little E, you landed in my womb alongside baby Azulito. Little Blue. He lived. You did not although you tried and for that I thank you and, little E, I remember you.

Baby Azulito, you are finally here. You beat every odd and overcame every obstacle my immune system erected in your path. I could not be more grateful. I will remember you in all ways and forever. 

Though my heart is heavy, my eyes burning and my cheeks stained as I write this, little loves of mine, I know I am fortunate and filled with gratitude for the two of you who fill my arms, day and night. I love each and every one of you. And I remember you even when and even if virtually everyone else has long forgotten most of you. 

October 15, 2015 is a day dedicated to pregnancy and infant loss remembrance and awareness where I live.  I typically have a hard time writing on days like this. My feelings are complicated and it is difficult not to feel guilty when I think of others still struggling and facing today and everyday with empty arms. Yet my lost loved ones deserve to be remembered. And so I write. To all of you reading this who are struggling with infertility and or  surviving pregnancy or infant loss please know my thoughts and compassion are with you. 

From Ballpoint to Sharpie

It has been a while. I have been thinking of you and trying to read your updates whenever I can. 

I have been thinking of this blog and my lengthy silence. Yet the words have been evasive, the emotions myriad and oscillating wildly. 

Parenting a highly intelligent and spirited toddler whose parents fought hard to bring him to life and are accordingly doting and indulgent has proven much more difficult than I could have imagined possible. He loves his baby brother but cannot be trusted with him (because too much love can be a bad thing…) and has developed a repertoire of behaviours to test boundaries and confirm his place in our family. 

The challenge of it all has become particularly (and painfully) obvious in the wake of a cesarean delivery followed in short order by a ruptured organ and emergency appendectomy together with a spouse who has had two surgeries of his own (eye, both times) and been wrapped up in trial and other work demands during my slow and occasionally stuttering recovery.  It has felt tremendously difficult and often overwhelming, at times soul-shattering if I am being honest. 

I have never felt more humble. More broken. More defeated. More desperate and without hope. Not at all times. Yet when it happens my ability to see past the tempest and dark sky enveloping it vanishes. 

I have made terrible mistakes. I have said dreadful things to a little boy I love with my entire being. I have cried myself to sleep and back to waking again. The suffering has been great and sadly shared. 

Parenting is hard work. The hardest work. Ever. 

On the good news front? Baby Azulito is thriving. Adjusted for age he recently measured in the 97th percentile for height and weight. I am finally (as of 3 days ago – yes, it took 10 long, exhausting and tearful weeks) breastfeeding exclusively. I have been reticent to write or say that for fear of my supply disappearing and my baby crying out in hunger because I cannot sustain him once again. 

Along the way I made peace with feeding my baby formula. Peace was preceded by tears. And a few scars. 

Mommy shaming is real and truly devastating. It needs to stop. It likely never will. Not in my lifetime anyway. I wish it were otherwise. But I have made peace with that too. 

Without knowing it, without having or finding words to make sense of or name it, I struggled in these past ten weeks with forming a deep and impenetrable bond with baby Azulito. This too has been deeply humbling. Yet with this too I believe I have finally made peace. 

With the Miracle Toddler, the bond crystallized with the endorphin tsunami that swelled and crested with his birth. It materialized in tears that rolled down my cheeks as I looked at his newborn perfection. My heart exploded from the love I had never known or known so intimately and a part of that heart I never knew existed opened up. On it was written the name of my first living child. In indelible ink. 

Not so with the birth of Azulito. The writing was there on my heart. In ballpoint. Tentative. Watchful. I was not ready somehow to surrender to the drowning waves of love. I was not even sure if I had gotten wet yet. Something more was needed. 

Sometime in the past week that something happened. I do not know when. Nor how. Nor why. I only know it happened. My heart broke open and where once was written haltingly in ballpoint Azulito’s given name are now penned those same letters in the bold, black ink of a Sharpie. The waves of love have crashed. My heart has burst open once again. 

If you ask me now what was missing I could not tell you. Not with any certainty. I have some ideas. But they are speculation at best. 

Perhaps it was delivering via surgery and not when planned rather than experiencing all that comes with a vaginal delivery?Maybe this is one more instance of how recurrent loss has crushed my confidence and faith that such a gift could really be mine and might actually stick around? Perhaps having chosen to use donor eggs left me feeling once removed? Maybe being so sick so soon after delivering made a difference? Perhaps being unable to nurse at all when I was sick and unable to sustain my baby with what little milk I was producing before I finally sought and obtained a prescription for Domperidone a few weeks ago had an impact on the bonding process? Maybe our struggles with the Miracle Toddler preyed on my self worth (they still do) and I unwittingly erected a barricade to loving and being loved deeply by Azulito? Perhaps all of the drugs I had taken for my rampant immune system had dulled my emotions?

I do not know. 

What I do know is that I am in love with this beautiful little person, this enchanting old soul who has come home and into my arms at last. My heart hurts with the depth and breadth of this love. 

The ink is indelible at last. And so it shall remain. 

Curveball #47: I “failed” the first test for Gestational Diabetes

Because life and this pregnancy have not mounted enough hurdles in my path yet, today I found out that I “failed” the GDM (Gestational Diabetes Mellitus) test I took last week as requisitioned by my MFM (maternal fetal medicine specialist). The cut-off for “normal” is 7.7 mmol/l. Anything equal to or greater than 11.0 results in an automatic diagnosis of GDM. Mine was 10.7. Not great.

I was uncharacteristically upset about this all morning. I have taken the previa and even the risk of placenta accreta diagnoses more-or-less in stride, but this GDM news had me throwing a pity party and angry with the Universe and God (why me? why now? why this? can’t you cut me a break for a few weeks here?). Things may not be as bad as I feel right now, apparently. I asked Dr. Braverman if he thinks there is any chance this could change (assuming I fail the second test, the fasting 2-hour test, this Thursday, which my Ob considered somewhat likely given I’m still on 40 mg of Prednisone until at least next week) assuming I can get off the steroids or remain stable immunologically on a lower dose (say 20 mg). He said that he’s not a fan of testing and treating GDM before 24 weeks as a firm diagnosis because many patients no longer have blood sugar metabolism issues after they stop Prednisone (which he aims for by 24 weeks if possible).

We saw my ObGyn for the first time this pregnancy this morning. He was awesome at its finest, being supportive of the work we’ve done with Dr. Braverman, explaining what the MFM wrote in her report on last Wednesday’s ultrasound, and generally discussing in a calm, non-alarmist fashion the pros and cons of everything we are doing to keep this pregnancy going and my health risks and those to baby as low as possible. He is always non-alarmist and never condescends to the LP and I, which I appreciate. Today was no exception. He said he will be doing his job and is comfortable letting Braverman call the shots on the immune meds front and to work with the MFM in any further recommendations she may have as she monitors baby and me going forward.

Do you hear that, Azulito/a? We have a team in place for you!

Even though my GP has not yet transferred my care so my OB’s nurse had to look up some of my test results and reports, I decided immediately after our appointment this morning to cancel my last scheduled appointment with my GP and say so long to the stress that is having to wrestle with her disbelief and exasperating “not medically necessary” nonsensical comments at each appointment. Hasta luego o casi nunca, doctora! There is a headache I can live without.

It is such a relief to have a team of doctors taking us seriously and all aiming for a common goal – to support me and this baby to be as safe and healthy as possible until the optimal time for Azulito/a to make her/his entrance into the world outside my womb.

In closing out this wee update, I want to give the Miracle Toddler and the LP a big shout-out.

The LP has been very loving and kind and trying hard to parent as a team with the novel challenges the Miracle Toddler has been mounting of late. Despite having four trials (one lasting over two months) scheduled in March through June and a crazy busy practice generally, he has come with me to all of the scary appointments lately. For this I am deeply grateful. Even if he says almost nothing, his presence lends me strength and a calm I dearly need (the irony of this is lost on most of you but given that the LP is one of the most highly-strung humans I have ever met, trust me when I say there is some irony in this).

The Miracle Toddler has made generous and heartfelt offerings of his own. He has moved me to tears (only rarely of frustration). His newest thing is to tell me multiple times every day that (a) he loves me (and his daddy); and (b) he loves this baby. When I talked to him on the phone from New York yesterday he said “is baby still in your tummy?” and “I love your baby” when I confirmed that baby was still there. I think he likes it when I tell him that I believe he will be the best big brother ever (in case anyone wants to challenge me for using hierarchical language, please note that as the MT’s mother I own without shame or reservation that I will – without hesitation – award him first place even if your kid is a more capable or equally loving sibling. In case you’re wondering, I would expect no less of you.). It melts my heart every time he says “I love your baby” and “I love you, Mom.”

And that, my friends, is enough to keep me going, potential GDM diagnosis and all of the other hiccups and messy stuff being what they may.

My Transformative Introduction to the Brennan School Approach to Energy Healing

Last evening I had an amazing experience with a practitioner trained in the Barbara Brennan School of Healing. Brennan, a former NASA physicist and now healer, speaker and as best as I can tell a successful and effective entrepreneur. Her website describes “Brennan Healing Science” as “dedicated to the evolution of the human spirit.” The system “combines hands-on healing techniques with spiritual and psychological processes touching every aspect of your life” and is founded on a mind-body consciousness that speaks clearly to me at a personal, spiritual and intellectual level.

As of last night, I can say it also speaks to me at a visceral, physical level. After my initial session with a seasoned Brennan-trained healer yesterday, I can say I would recommend this to anyone needing to re-ground, re-balance, re-energize and – above all – heal on so many levels. In my personal experience, a connection to my healers is critical and I am so grateful for a local friend’s recommendation to see the healer I did last night. I also owe warm thanks to Just Another Infertility Blog for first telling me about Brennan energy healing work and opening my heart and mind to this new modality.

For more information on Brennan Healing Science or should you wish to look for a practitioner in the U.S. or internationally (you can also do distance healing via Skype or telephone), please check out Brennan’s website.

I am not emotionally in a place to dive into what my session was all about as it touches on some of the most vulnerable places in my life at the moment. Those vulnerabilities need my tending and time before I can share them or some of them. What I can tell you is that I feel so much better than I have been for weeks. I feel whole again – not super-hero strong, but whole – and both enlightened and lighter. I believe in me and in my abilities to do “this” – all of it, the pregnancy, the immune therapy, the endless medical appointments and risk calculations, the sense of shortcomings and personal failure at work and at home – again.

That is huge, friends. Huge.

I also felt this incredible connection to the spirits of those who I have felt with me on this journey, especially in the months preceding and during this pregnancy, namely my Mom and Azulito/a, this little spirit baby who has stuck around and made comeback after comeback when medicine, my immune system and who-knows-what-all-else failed me time and time again. Finally, I felt and continue to feel a profound bond in my heart and being with the LP. I see now that I needed this affirmation – that despite the strain that our journey to create and now grow our family has had on each of us and on the LP and I as a unit, we have a bond that does have super-hero strength, that is unspeakably beautiful and enduring – as much as any other.

This healing session could not have come at a better time. This afternoon we have our follow-up anatomy ultrasound to assess whether there are any abnormalities that could be attributable to the elevated alpha-fetoprotein test result I received early last week. I am nervous but I am not falling apart. I credit the energy work in which I engaged last night as making a tremendous difference to my state-of-mind this morning and hopefully my mind-body wellness going forward during the next week of medical appointments, medically-necessary travel and testing.

Today, I am in love with you, Azulito. And you, LP. And you, Miracle Toddler, despite your penchant for way-too-late bedtimes and your almost-unhealthy current obsession with all things super-hero. And I am feeling an abundance of love and compassion for me today – a feeling not easy to come by lately but one I realized that has been sorely missing and much needed. Welcome home, everyone. There is room in my heart for all of us. I am so grateful to carry you there with me.