Putting Fertility Into Perspective

October 17, 2012 by  
Filed under Lex Jacobson, Same Sex Parent

By Lex Jacobson

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about fertility. Since I’ve become pregnant, two of my good friends have also shared pregnancy news, as well as three colleagues in my relatively small office. So far, I’ll be the first to give birth, if everyone goes full-term.

I honestly don’t know what I’d do had we not conceived and had we still been trying to get pregnant and I heard all of these announcements. Although it felt like forever at the time, we were actually incredibly lucky that we got pregnant in nine months of trying with fertility treatments. It was an incredibly tough road, but reading other people’s journeys – especially those of LGTB couples – puts everything into perspective.

Unfortunately, when I couldn’t get pregnant, I also couldn’t let myself be happy for other people who got pregnant, no matter how close they were to me. I couldn’t help it – I really wanted to, but couldn’t find it in me. Selfish, maybe, but definitely something I felt I needed to do to get by.

Every time I’m on Facebook and see that my sister-in-law, who has four beautiful children, posts yet another status about how she can’t wait until school starts so she doesn’t have to deal with the kids all day or how there are too many mouths to feed or how she needs booze to get through the endless soccer games and gymnastics practices or how she should be paid for her incredible homemaking, I can’t imagine reading this without crying every time. Her comments are heartbreaking and I wish I had it in me to tell her how it might be hurtful to people trying to conceive – or how much harder it was for me to read when I was trying to conceive – but so far, I haven’t had the ovaries to do so. She thinks she’s being funny.

I feel similarly about people who update their statuses 5 times a day about their children, and though I do “get” this one a little more than I do bitching endlessly about your children, it’s still tough sometimes. I am a big fan of STFU, Parents and use that as a good meter of what not to do when the time comes. (I will not be updating my Facebook status during labor.)

At work, I can’t imagine what it would be like to see all these women around me grow beautiful, big bellies, when mine was just getting emptier. I realize I wouldn’t have the strength to deal with these everyday meanderings – on social media or at work or within my group of friends – had I still been trying to conceive. I just don’t know how this would look. Devon and I have one friend who refuses to see me right now, as it is too painful. She’s been pregnant 5 times and has lost each and every baby. I understand why she wants to sever ties, but wonder whether I would do the same. But maybe this is the only way to deal with the pain.

I’m incredibly lucky that things worked out the way they did, and there isn’t a day that goes by that I am not thankful. I think dealing with fertility setbacks has taught me a lot about how to deal with certain situations, and I am not that pregnant lady that won’t shut up about every single aspect of her pregnancy. My personal blog is really the only place where I let loose about everything… and that’s one of the purposes of the blog for me, but I still feel horrible that there are some readers out there who are struggling to conceive, and there I am writing about how awful heartburn is.

Puts things into perspective.

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The Mourning and Grief After a Miscarriage

August 15, 2012 by  
Filed under Family

By: Rachael Moshman/ Rachaelmoshman.com

 

One moment I was lying in bed, calmly reading a novel. Then the main character became pregnant and I snapped. I got up and searched through my jewelry box for the pointiest pin I could find. I pulled out a large, vintage yellow daisy pin. I grabbed the condoms from the night table and started poking holes in them. Poke, poke, poke. Jab, jab, jab. The pin was too large and left big, gaping, noticeable holes. Just like the ones I felt inside of me.

Looking at those holes in the silver wrapper was a big wake up call for me. I hid the condoms under tissues in the bathroom garbage can, sat back on the bed and sobbed. I’d been hiding my feelings for so long. I hadn’t allowed myself time to mourn or grieve. The pain couldn’t be held back any longer and came out in a big ball of crazy condom poking.

I had experienced a miscarriage several months before. The pregnancy wasn’t planned. In fact, babies weren’t in the plan at all. My husband made it clear from the beginning that he didn’t want children. I told him that I was willing to sacrifice babies for him. I actually thought he’d change his mind. He didn’t and I struggled with letting go of my strong desire to have a child.

We were in a really stressful place about six years into our marriage. We were trying to sell a house in a market where no one was biting, after feeling forced to vacate it due to harassments and threats from the people across the street. We were living in an empty home owned by my mother-in-law until our house sold and provided us with the funds to buy again. We weren’t happy living there and the situation created all kinds of family drama. Finances were tight. My husband was a full time student. His father was extremely ill. We were stressed to the max. I forgot to take my birth control pill for three days.

I was sure the exhaustion, headaches, and nausea were from the stress. I thought stress was also what was delaying my period and that my breasts were so incredibly sore because of PMS. I assumed I was having a bad reaction to my toothpaste when I threw up several mornings in a row. Being pregnant didn’t even cross my mind. Sex was scarce during that time, so I didn’t think much of it. Plus, I’d missed doses here and there in the past without problem.

Then I woke up in the night and a pool of blood hit the floor the moment I stood up. Pregnancy still didn’t enter my head. I thought my period must be extra strong because it was late. I called my gynecologist the next day when the heavy bleeding continued. The doctor called it a “missed pregnancy”.

I was numb and in shock. I stayed in bed crying and eating chocolate peanut butter ice cream for a few days, but I didn’t fully deal with my feelings. I shoved them down. I went back to work. I pretended I was okay. I told myself I was fine.

I wasn’t fine. Women who are handling things “fine” don’t poke holes in condoms. I was a mess. My husband was sad when he learned of the miscarriage, but it was only because he knew I was hurting. He was relieved there would be no baby and terrified pregnancy would occur again. I finally realized that he wasn’t going to change his mind. No matter how much he adored me, he did not want a baby.

Would I have actually gone through with using the condoms if the holes weren’t so big and noticeable? I like to think I wouldn’t, but I don’t know for sure. I’m glad the holes were so glaring. It forced me to stop what I was doing and to acknowledge my grief and pain.

I opened up to my husband about all the feelings swirling around inside of me. I wasn’t just mourning the loss of my pregnancy, but the hope of any future pregnancies. I felt so ripped off, like the universe was playing a cruel joke on me by allowing me to get pregnant, but then miscarry before even getting the chance to be happy or excited about the prospect of motherhood.

We talked and talked. The conversation kept coming up again and again for months. I had a lot to process. Through these talks two big points became clear. My husband wasn’t totally opposed to being a father, he just didn’t want a baby. I just wanted to be a mother and how it happened actually wasn’t important to me.

We’d thrown around the possibility of older child adoption for years, but never seriously talked about it prior to this. We started to really consider it. We made it a tentative “some day” plan. I dove into research. I was shocked when I told my husband about upcoming classes to get licensed to adopt from the foster care system and he said, “Let’s sign up.”

A year after we officially started the process, our daughter moved in with us. She was nine years old and had been in foster care for five years. She had suffered abuse, neglect, poverty, homelessness, abandonment, instability and many other things children should not have to face. We finalized the adoption six months later.

Parenting a traumatized child is challenging, but it is also so very rewarding. Our daughter has made huge progress since coming home to us. She’s learning to control her anger, work through her feelings and trust us. I felt a pull to her from the moment I saw a photo of her sweet face. She is my daughter. My baby. I was made to be her mother. My husband is an amazing father. Nothing brings me more joy than watching the two of them laugh together. She has healed me. She has completed me. The holes in my heart were waiting for her to fill them.

 

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Grief after Miscarriage

March 31, 2011 by  
Filed under Family

By: Hollye Dexter

miscarriage

This January, I somehow managed to get pregnant again, at forty-seven years old. I “felt” it, even as I went about my travels to Arizona, to Texas…but convinced myself it couldn’t be so. Surely I had missed my period because I was at that certain age. Just to assure myself, when I returned home from Texas I took a pregnancy test, and that’s when the roller coaster ride began. Yes, as crazy as it may be, I was pregnant. Troy and I couldn’t believe it, so he went and bought another test. Still pregnant. I looked it up online. At forty-seven, a woman has a .07% of becoming pregnant naturally, and a 50% chance of carrying the pregnancy to term. Leave it to me and my crazy life to beat the odds, I thought.

At first I cried. I wasn’t ready for this. I was afraid of all the things that could go wrong at my age. I would never, ever, ever have a moment alone with my husband. I already had two grown children, a five-year old, and even a grandchild living in my house! This was insane!

But then I looked at it from a different angle. Hadn’t God just put us through one of the worst years of our lives? For all the loss and grief we had gone through, here was a little sparkle of hope and possibility. I mean, I was just as frightened when I became pregnant with Evan, and look what a miracle he turned out to be. Maybe this was a gift, a sign that our luck was turning. Troy looked at me with such warmth in his eyes. He took to calling me “Little Mama”, patting my baby bump affectionately. My husband was smiling again, and that was miracle enough for me.

I was six weeks along.

Sunday morning I woke up bleeding.

My heart sank, but I knew nature was taking care of its own. I got up and went to the bathroom, and that’s where everything took a turn. I was suddenly overcome with intense nausea and ringing in my ears as I began to lose consciousness. Troy ran in and held me up as I collapsed. I was dripping in sweat, soaked through. Even my socks were wet. I could feel a pushing sensation in my lower back as everything went blank. A minute or two later, when I started to come back to awareness, I knew I had passed the baby. It was over, just like that.

All I wanted was to curl up quietly in my bed to cry and let this pass. But my doctor was concerned about internal bleeding, so I was told to go to the ER. I resisted but Troy didn’t want to take any chances with my health, so we went, and that is my greatest regret.

After sitting an hour in the waiting room, my name was finally called. Just then Brahm’s Lullaby was playing on the overhead speaker.

The nurse smiled at me. “Hear that? It means a baby was just born upstairs!” I was ushered into a room. “What are we seeing you for?”

I looked at the floor, tears in my eyes. “I’m having a miscarriage.”

“Oh. I’ll need you to pee in this cup.”

In the bathroom, I slumped against the door and cried. I couldn’t believe the irony of the moment I was living. Upstairs a young woman was crying tears of joy, holding her newborn baby. Downstairs a middle-aged woman was weeping in the ER bathroom after losing her baby in a toilet.

Ten minutes later a young doctor with a blonde bouncy ponytail burst into our room. She grabbed my limp hand and shook it vigorously.

“Congratulations!” she said, smiling.

I was shocked, speechless.

“Your urine test just came back. You’re going to have a baby!”

I felt like I had been punched in the gut.

“I’m losing my baby…” I barely squeaked out.

She pulled her hand back. “Oh.” She fumbled with my chart, mumbled something about hormone levels, and cheerily insisted I could still be pregnant, you never know.

They sent me for ultrasound in another department where the technician called me “dude” repeatedly while poking and prodding my tender, bleeding insides with an ultrasound wand and asking me what I thought of American Idol this season. Troy held his head close to mine, squeezed my hand and wiped the tears away that were now soaking my hair.

They sent me into another room to have five vials of blood drawn. Then to another room to have yet another pelvic violation by an obstetrician with a stunning lack of bedside manner. For five hours I was passed from doctor to technician to specialist, as my body emptied itself of the life that was thriving only hours before.

What all these people had in common was complete lack of empathy for what I was experiencing, treating me as someone with a routine “condition” that had to be handled.

I guess I can consider myself fortunate that this was my first (and only) miscarriage. Although my heart has broken for friends who have been through this kind of loss, I had never felt it myself. Now I’m in the awful club.

You may be wondering why I chose to put such private moments of my life on display for all to read. This is why. Because so many women out there have lost a baby to miscarriage or abortion, and have done so in silence. How many women have hidden their first three months of pregnancy just in case they should suffer a miscarriage? How many have carried that grief and loss all their lives – the pain, the shame, the feelings of failure and guilt, tucked away inside them?

We aren’t private about losing a parent, a friend, or a spouse. In times of grief, our community surrounds us with support and love. They make the phone calls for us, notifying every person in our phone books. They show up with meals, help take care of our kids. So why do women go underground with the loss of a baby?

Having gone through the myriad of emotions I think I know why.

I sobbed for two days. I felt like a failure. I lost the baby. It was something I did, or didn’t do. Something I ate, or didn’t eat. Or something I thought. I didn’t pray enough. I’m too old; I’m defective; I am the reason the baby died…I felt shame, guilt, worthlessness. The hormonal storm brewing inside didn’t help either.

Part of the reason I wanted to stay private with this is because I didn’t want to hear comments like:

“It’s for the best.”
“You’re lucky you already have three other children.”
“It’s nature’s way.”
“Did you really want a baby at forty-seven anyway?”

Yes, all the above are true, but I still lost a baby and I need my time to grieve. I don’t want my loss minimized or judged, and as a society we tend to do just that. What I’m left trying to figure out is why? Why is there such a lack of support for the women who are going through this? Why are there ten thousand websites telling you how to eat, sleep, exercise when you’re pregnant, but not ONE telling you how to take care of yourself when you’re going through a miscarriage or post-abortion? Should I stay off my feet? Eat more protein? Should I exercise? Silence…It’s up to you to figure out how to care for yourself physically in the throes of baby loss.

This is a very real part of life for women. It has happened to more of your friends and family members than you know. This really needs to change. We need to be able to talk about it, and to support each other through this.

On Monday, I stripped the bed; I washed everything; I threw things away. I lit candles everywhere. I took all the bloody remnants of the day before and burned them in my yard, letting the smoke wash over me. I put the ashes in a silver box, along with the EPT which had once said “pregnant” but now was strangely blank, and buried it under my orange tree, placing a heavy concrete angel statue on top. I sat there on my knees under the orange tree, and in that moment I realized how lucky I was that nature decided this for me. This pregnancy was defective, and by the grace of God I was not forced to decide whether I could handle carrying that pregnancy to term. My dog Stitch nestled against me as I cried and said a prayer of gratitude. Just then I heard a hummingbird above me. It flew down in front of me, hovering, closer, then closer again, until it was inches in front of my face and I could see its tiny black bead eyes staring at me. We stayed like that, still, for a few seconds. Even my dog didn’t move. And then just as quickly it flew away, and somehow I knew…everything was going to be okay.

Dedicated to the memory of every little bird that flew away.

[Photo Credit: Flickr image: Golly Gee Damn]

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India Bound

October 25, 2010 by  
Filed under Family, Kerrie Olejarz, Surrogacy

By: Kerrie Olejarz

February 20, 2008 is a date that changed our lives. It was this day that we lost our little girl at 20 weeks gestation. The devastation was immense and the feel of finality was overwhelming.

Over ten years had passed since our last loss at 32 weeks, a boy, whom we buried at a local Presbyterian cemetery. The analysis from the doctors at the Special Pregnancy Unit came a few days before the 20th. As a result of my inability to produce the protein necessary to support its growth, the placenta was not functioning properly.

Hearing this made it so painful and so final. That was the end of my optimism. The future looked very dark, knowing that my body was not capable to support a pregnancy, ever. There was nothing that could be done to fix this, nothing synthetic to substitute, no help; we were just numb. Knowing this sent me into weeks of uncontrollable sobbing. I was angry with myself for not being able to control my tears; the conscious part of my brain was telling me how ridiculous this was, yet the rest of me became so vulnerable and weak.

During this time, I also received news that the company I worked for was closing down my division and my last day would be some time in July. My now husband unfortunately had to return to work and I was left sobbing the days away until I finally decided to go back to work for the last few weeks and get some normality back. There is nothing like returning to work after this devastation! Some people were slinking around trying to avoid me, and others came over and gave me a big hug (but no words) in an effort to acknowledge what had happened. Normal was far from normal, but I am strong and forced everyone into a quick chat about the impending job loss. I know one of my strengths is helping others feel comfortable, so this was me –taking control of the situation. The second day back at work was normal; my tragedy was forgotten and everyone wallowed in self pity about losing their employment and having to look for new opportunities. I had been successful in making everyone feel comfortable and self absorbed!

Within a few weeks, I had contacted Canada’s leading expert in surrogacy. I can get pregnant in a snap but cannot carry, so working with a surrogate seemed to be the next best option. Working on solving the problem is what I do. I rarely give up on problems and am persistent in finding solutions for the tough ones. “So, good, I have a solution” I thought. Then the package arrived about surrogacy in Canada and within ten minutes of opening it we were back to ground zero. Immediately we did the cost analysis. Yikes, this is not doable; this is the cost of buying a small condo in the suburbs!! So we put the package back in the envelope and filed it away, out of sight out of mind.

I was still determined to work with a surrogate but wondered how we could ever afford it without taking out a second mortgage. Thanks to the internet, I was able to start my research. I spent the bulk of my day at work simultaneously job hunting and researching surrogacy. I continued to come across stories of Dr. Patel in Anand, India, not aware that she had recently outted India and its surrogacy boom on Oprah. Ugh, I cannot stand Oprah and her self righteous blabber. Overlooking my disdain for Oprah, I dug deeper into Dr. Patel’s story and opened up a can of optimism. I continued to find articles on surrogacy in India and the constant in all of them was the financial gain for these women who carry international babies. The other interesting thing I found in my research was that this was an affordable option for Westerners. I thought about this long and hard. I was at first over the moon with excitement that we may have an option here, and then the concern set in. Is this legitimate? Are the surrogates treated fairly? Are the surrogates of poor health, slum dwellers or run and owned by the mafia?

You can imagine that my excitement about this opportunity quickly went away as I started to wonder if this was indeed an option for us that would allow us to sleep at night. I needed to find out more. I needed to be sure that this was ethically sound, morally stable, and ultimately not a scam for our hard earned money.

Fast-forward a few weeks. We were driving down Ford Drive, a two-lane country road between Mississauga and Oakville. We had our Tim Horton’s coffee (a staple here in Canada) and I needed to tell Mark about our possible next option. It is not like me to keep a secret but this was so huge and I wanted to be sure before I said anything to him so I first took a few weeks of reading and research. I sipped my coffee and casually told him thad I’d found an option – an exciting opportunity for us to try and have a baby…in INDIA. Gulp. He turned to me and said “Let’s do it!” I started rambling on at the speed of light about everything I knew so far and he listened and asked questions and I could see a glimmer of hope in him. He was as excited as I was. We had an option and this was going to be so easy!!! We can get pregnant no problem so this option was the best, and to do it out of country made the story a little bit more enticing. We talked non-stop about how we would have a baby next year and the dreaming started.

I committed to Mark that I would start contacting clinics in India that day. Let the emails begin!! When we got home, I showed him a few websites for clinics and then he got nervous. He was scared to death that this was a scam. We needed to work through all of this, the emotional fear and the optimism. Over the next few weeks we contacted, and heard back from, many clinics. Most were very professional and forthcoming with information. Only one (out of ten) seemed sketchy, with an email that read, “Send me twenty thousand dollars today and I am going to Mumbai to get you surrogate soon.” Hmm, it is not often that we give all the money upfront. When we work with contractors, they get a deposit and we pay them as the project progresses. Most of the clinics had a pay-by-progress plan in place and to us this felt fairly transparent. One appealing detail of working with India is that English, our mother tongue, is also their national language for business, so communication was going to be easy.

After a few weeks of communications back and forth with various clinics in India, we decided on one. We were thrilled to have locked down the first of many choices and get rolling…

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We’re Pregnant

September 15, 2010 by  
Filed under Family, In Vitro

By: Heather Somaini

We’re pregnant – pretty amazing words. I was finally able to say them…out loud. We were pregnant. It even sounds cool today five years later. We were so excited. Elated…it had finally happened. It only took six vials of our donor, one operation, and some drugs, but it worked!

We told my parents. We told our closest friends. I told my boss and his wife. Everyone was ecstatic, especially us. We had no idea what was really happening, if it was one egg or two and we had to wait…again. Dr. C said we should come in for a routine ultrasound at 8 weeks. We were only two weeks in. How were we going to wait another SIX WEEKS?!

We waited and waited and waited. It seemed like forever but at least this time we had good news instead of the torturous limbo from before. This time we could talk about baby room colors and strollers and pre-schools and well, we could talk about anything we wanted. And we did. We talked about everything for six weeks. For six weeks, the world was our oyster.

About two weeks before our ultrasound appointment, Tere had a complete meltdown one morning on her way to work. I answered the phone and immediately knew something was really wrong. Maybe some of the pregnancy hormones had finally kicked in but she was in a state. She had come to the conclusion that by six weeks she should have had some morning sickness and she hadn’t had any.

I calmly and rationally explained that not everyone has morning sickness. Maybe she was one of the lucky ones and would skate through with none of it at all! I must have done a pretty decent job because eventually she laughed and smiled and went about her day. As I hung up the phone, I wondered for a moment if I should be worried and then immediately put it out of my mind. I’m sure it crept back in a time or two but I banished it as quickly as possible.

Finally the day arrived for our ultrasound appointment. We were happy – giddy even. Everyone at the doctor’s office was so happy for us – they knew how much this meant. We chatted with the nurses until they were ready for us in the ultrasound room. The technician explained what she was going to do and what we should expect. I had searched online for 8-week ultrasounds pictures so I knew what we would see – well, sort of. There just isn’t a whole lot to see at that stage. The ultrasound started and I desperately tried to make something out on the screen. No luck. We weren’t going to know anything until Dr. C came in. She arrived and ran the ultrasound again. I waited.

It was one of those moments when your head finally takes over the job which your heart has been in charge of. Time slowed and then sped up and then slowed again. The room was silent. I watched Dr. C and so desperately wanted her to say something but feared her words. Each moment that passed brought hope and devastation. I looked at Tere and then back to Dr. C. Nothing had changed. She gave nothing away but my heart sank. I knew. My world was about to tilt and spin.

I looked at Tere again and realized she hadn’t noticed the change; she was still expectant. My heart sank further knowing I would have to watch as it happened. I held out the smallest hope but knew it was in vain. Dr. C asked when we did the insemination and then checked her pregnancy chart.

I couldn’t bear to look at Tere but I knew I had to. I forced myself to. She was still waiting, hopeful. I could see it in her eyes. Something inside of me died. I was crushed, knowing that I could do nothing to shield her from the next few moments. I couldn’t soften the blow. There was nothing I could do. I knew it was about to happen and tried to steel myself for her pain. I knew the only way I could make it through was to not feel and be strong for her. It was the only way. I could deal with me later. Right now it was Tere that needed all of me.

Dr. C told us there was no heartbeat. I waited. We weren’t pregnant.

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