Saturday, October 31, 2015

Six times shattered.

It's Halloween. 

I should be posting about pumpkin carving and costumes and fall festivals.

I should be recapping our weekend camping trip with friends in Georgia. 

I should have been posting our cute pumpkin announcement on Facebook making my pregnancy official...

But you can guess why I'm not. 

Wednesday, my heart, my faith... shattered. No heartbeat on our ten week ultrasound. As soon as she inserted the wand and my uterus came into view, I knew. I didn't beg God or pray. I have laid in that position many times, feet in stirrups, hands on stomach, tears streaming down, yelling in my head, please, Abba, Father, to no avail. It made no difference in the outcome. So I just watched solemnly as she measured. It had only barely grown since the last ultrasound, though my uterus itself had expanded. Before, the baby took up so much room, but now there was more room but it was clearly not needing. Silence. We listened. We stared at the little body where the fluttery movement of the heartbeat was, now still. I willed the little hands and feet to wiggle, but they too were still. Dr. T confirmed what we knew quickly but kindly. She made no attempt to apologize or rationalize, which I appreciated, but kept a comforting hand on my leg the entire conversation. She tenderly said she wanted more information and was rushing me down the street to Presbyterian Maternal Fetal. I already had made an appointment with them for November 6. But we went over there now to hear if they could give us any other information. Funny, I imagined the doctor inserting a gloved hand up and through my cervix, reaching up and performing one-fingered CPR and bringing him or her back to life. I even knew this was a ridiculous idea, and I began sobbing when it hit how hopeless it was. Dr. A confirmed the same thing with yet another ultrasound as I continued weeping, then unlike Dr. T, prophesied that my age was a good thing, and "just getting a sister" to carry for me would be my best bet since "there's always adoption" but you gotta be careful since you get kids with that "addiction gene." Jake was in cold stare mode. I could tell it was only his salvation that kept his mouth closed and his fist away that doctor's nose. So we left empty handed. Then made the phone calls. We stopped for coffee, but I struggled to be in public so we got it to go. We stopped for take out because neither of us could stand cooking. 

While Jake went inside to pick up our dinner, which we would both struggle to eat any of, the dam broke and weeping turned to screaming and praying to shouting, and praising to cursing. I let my anger flow out and I cursed God, yelled out in disbelief and said the words aloud I longed to say. You aren't really there. You're just something we've made up so we don't feel so alone and scared of life. Or worse... You are there and yet repeatedly ignore us because You don't really care. I hate you. Your promises are nothing but lies. 
Pretty bad, huh? A friend from Sunday school had just messaged me that God was strong enough to take my anger. I could only say I hope so. 
So I sat in my car alone in the pouring rain sobbing and screaming these things aloud with eyes closed. I gasped for breath and opened my eyes, and directly in my sight, right in front of me was a rainbow. I thought, well played, God

Jake returned and I told him what I had said and he just chuckled through teary eyes, squeezed my hand and kissed me. 

I went to work Thursday and shared the news with coworkers, and worse, my students. They cried. Gathered around me to pray for me. They didn't try to tell me what God's will is, or try to explain why, or offer any comments that began with "at least..." They did none of those things and had more wisdom than many adults. Have you ever been held by a group of 13 year olds? They held me, each one. They asked to pray, and joined hands and cried out through tears for comfort, and showed faith when mine was broken. A few dear coworkers jumped in to help me gather materials for sub plans and secure a substitute, and I juggled writing the plans up, finishing grades for verification, attending two parent conferences, while playing phone tag with the doctors. It was physically and emotionally draining, but my students poured (or prayed) strength into me. Coworkers came often with hugs.

I had a D&E scheduled Friday morning at Presbyterian. We had to be there at five in the morning. Dr. T did the surgery. She was fabulous as always, but the experience itself was the worst. I had no bed and had to walk myself into the operating room. Recovery was in a recliner that wouldn't recline. I was forced into my clothes before I could lift my head fully. And I was booted to the car before I could stand or pee. I have since been in bed or on the couch with Vicodin and Gatorade.

So now. What next? 
Genetic testing on our baby is most important. If the baby was genetically normal, then we know this ended because of more mysterious autoimmune problems. The thing is, we pulled out all the stops, took every medication known to treat this, and followed every research based best practice we could. There's nothing more to do than what we did, this could mean there's no way I will ever be able to sustain a pregnancy. It's my worst fear.
Secondly, the baby could be genetically abnormal, meaning something that could go wrong in any pregnancy did go wrong and this would have been a "normal"  miscarriage like 20% of all pregnancies. 

Obviously, the latter would give us some hope. 

Our only options now:
1. Try again and expect the same thing. 
2. Try again and do IVIG - an expensive, unorthodox plasma transfusion process that's risky and costly and experimental and not at all proven to work. 
3. Find a healthy friend or family member with a history of healthy pregnancies to let us borrow their uterus. Also, risky and costly. 
4. As the insensitive Dr. A put it, "just adopt" again. But we know there is no such thing as "just adopting" and it too will be risky and costly. 

I don't know what our next plan will be, and I don't know when we will know. I am certainly not on good terms with God and my faith needs time to repair before I'm ready to seek His direction. In fact I need time to feel if He's even there at all.  

Please pray for us. I just don't know. I don't understand. I'm shattered. I don't know if I glue myself together for a sixth time. 

Friday, October 16, 2015

Do not fear. Do not fear. Do not fear.

It has been a much quieter week, and for that I am oh so grateful.

Last Thursday, I had to leave abruptly in the middle of parent teacher conference and go to the ER. It was crazy. The first nine weeks conferences are always a little stressful. My 7th graders have never taken an accelerated or honors course, plus something happens to their brains upon entering middle school, and between juggling so many teachers, new higher expectations, lockers, drama, hormones, plus harder course work, well, grades plummet at first. So it’s my duty to talk parents off the cliff - explain that it’s normal, help them see what skills their students need, and help them understand their role and ways they can support their children. Long, tedious, and exhausting conferences, for sure, but very satisfying to help a worried mom relax and find do-able ways to hold her son and daughter accountable and help them make that shift from a child to a young man or woman.

Anyway, so I’m chatting with a dad, feeling jittery and breathless, and I look down, and my hands are NAVY BLUE. Like smurf blue. Like I was turning into Avatar. It. Was. Freaky. I tried to carry on, but in a lull between appointments, I walked down the hall and a few of my coworkers were immediately alarmed. I thought maybe my sugar dropped since it was a very late night and I felt anxious and fluttery, but using a coworker’s meter, my sugar level measured at 97. Normal. At my coworkers’ urging, I called Dr. T at REACH and they told me to go to Urgent Care. Jake and I carpooled, so a sweet coworker offered to drive me. We made it Urgent Care only to be told that I had to go to the ER since I was pregnant. By then, Jake had arrived, so he and I went on the the ER. They ended up taking me straight back - I bypassed all the waits! - and the ER doctor diagnosed it as Reynauld’s Syndrome - albeit an extreme case, usually triggered by stress and/or coldness.  Fortunately, the treatment she wanted to give me - a steroid and blood-thinner, are medications I would already be taking each night, so no medications were needed. As it turns out, Reynauld’s is actually a common phenomenon in autoimmune patients like me, and it is in the same family of disease as Lupus, Rheumatoid Arthritis, and APS. So despite being scary and all, it actually confirms I am finally, finally, after five miscarriages and so much grief, being treated for the right thing… It didn’t affect the baby.

In fact, Saturday morning we went back to the doctor and saw the heartbeat AGAIN. 153 BPM and 9.79 CRL - and it was beautiful. I took lots of time to rest this week - and have worked hard to listen to my body - eat when I’m hungry, drink lots of water, rest as much and as often as possible. I have a heating pad and space heater at work now. And it’s been a better week. The extra rest helped me power through some grading and some grad school work, and I’m ending this week less stressed out than I have been in a while. I’ve battle CRAZY morning sickness all week- but it’s been a little less the last few days. 

I go back to the doctor today at 4. As always, I am scared and nervous. Ultrasounds make me scared and nervous. In fact, I couldn’t even post about Pregnancy Loss/Infant Loss awareness day yesterday for the fear of thinking about it. And today would have been my due date last year - baby number 4’s. Right now it’s too scary to even remember. Keep praying for us, friends.

Wednesday, October 07, 2015

What matters.

What a whirlwind week it has been. And I am 100% depleted, exhausted, wiped out. I don’t think I’ve ever been so tired.

Last week, Makinzy brought home all As and Bs on her progress report. It’s literally the first time she’s tasted this kind of success in her academic career. I don’t know if it’s just that 3rd and 4th grade were so challenging, that 5th grade is finally feeling like an attainable goal, or if it’s truly just easier, or if she’s had some intrinsic blooming of motivivation and focus, but for whatever the reason, we are celebrating success. So we rushed out to Target as promised and used that three hundred dollars she’s saved from birthdays and Christmases and finally got to buy her iPod. And wow! What a motivator. She knows it’s the first thing on the chopping block to go, so her attitude and behavior have been super. It’s been a blessing this hectic week not have to battle! And it goes without saying, I am really, really proud of her, and it was really, really great to show and tell her that.  

This past week I also had several school and church commitments to keep, parent conferences to schedule so like 80 kajillion emails, and a sweet friend’s wedding shower on Thursday, and then the doctor’s appointment Friday, and I was actually in the wedding over the weekend. Needless to say, I went into the busy weekend exhausted, and never got a chance to breathe.

So, Makinzy spends the weekend with my parents since we had the ultrasound at 4 on Friday and had to immediately jet across three counties to make it to the rehearsal and arrive on time on Saturday ready for the wedding. Friday, we held our breath and drove to REACH and I ventured up on the table, threw my wedding-pedicured feet in the stirrups and prayyyyyyed. And tears of joy! One, perfect, embryo, well on his or her way to full on fetus status. Then we zoomed in and heard a HEARTBEAT. 115 beats per minute. 4.5 mm crown to its tiny little rump. Exactly in the 50% percentile for a ob/us at 42 days gestation. In the doctor’s words - a very textbook ultrasound; she said she couldn’t have asked for anything better. So off we zoomed to rehearsal joyous! I go back on Saturday and I am full of jitters. We have never had a positive outcome of a second ultrasound, so nerves abound, but I am refusing to let worry consume me.

I fell into bed after the rehearsal and woke up the next day still tired and jetted off to the hair appointment only to end up in a car accident on my way. It was 100% my fault - I thought the light turned green when the bus beside me began to roll and make a right turn - but it was still red, and I rolled right into oncoming traffic. I don’t know how I didn’t flip with the man going full speed. He had to be doing 35 or 40 mph. I slid across the intersection, and managed to get the car out of the roadway before it gave out. After 911, phone calls, and such, the policeman did not ticket me, even though I told him I deserved it - I took full responisbility. He was taken aback by my honesty and said he said nearly everyone looks for something to blame. Perhaps at blame was “pregnancy brain” and near exhaustion, but regardless, I thanked him and eventually made it to my hair appointment where they pulled a “glam squad” moved and got my hair and make-up done quick enough for me to make it to the church on time. Fast forward through the beautiful wedding (sweet new friends, numb toes, sore cheeks from smiling, and a few tears too) and we finally make it home Saturday night. I collapse in bed again.

Things haven’t slowed down. I had grades due for progress reports, an upcoming day of conferences, more doctor’s visits, and then there’s grad school and trying to keep afloat in general.

Speaking of afloat more literally,  my heart is so broken by all the SC flooding. I am seeing it directly affect college friends, towns and cities and roads and bridges I regularly drive through, destroying places I love. It is heart-wrenching. I am feel so blessed that up in NC (and really the Upstate of SC) missed the brunt of it. Though it’s rained incessantly, it’s not been to that level… can you imagine that on top of everything else? Most importantly, I am so grateful my friends have mostly escaped the dams breaking and while many of them have damaged property, maybe lost jobs, and some possessions, they have their lives.

Despite how close to sheer exhaustion I am…  I can’t help but be happy. We are so abundantly blessed. Our babies are both thriving (both in school and in the womb), our friend is celebrating their new marriage, our homes are safe, and cars can be replaced while people cannot. I can’t get over God’s protection, provision, and grace. I have been reminded all week by God that material things are of no eternal value and to not get caught up in the busy-ness that I forget that His grace and mercy are all that matter - His love that radiates through us and to us and between us and within us.