TRANSFER DAY

Today marks the anniversary of our embryo transfer and I think this might have been the fastest year of my life. Last year, we drove to Knoxville on the 16th. Before we left, I worked from home for a couple of hours then went to get a massage. I wanted to be as relaxed and calm as possible. The massage therapist did some reflexology to help make my uterus as hospitable as possible (can’t hurt, might help) and I left the spa feeling fantastic. I had a clear head and was ready to get on the way down the highway. My very pregnant sister-in-law stopped by before we left and I picked up some good baby energy as I rubbed her belly and instructed “Monkey” to stay put until we got home. We made the five-hour trek and arrived at our hotel before dark. Not that we’re superstitious or anything, but just as we did when we had our successful mock cycle in May, we went to O’Charley’s for dinner and to Target. According to the transfer protocol, we needed to get some ibuprofen and because we rarely take medication, we had none in our house that hadn’t expired within the last two years. Additionally, we wanted to get a couple of games to keep us occupied while I kept my feet up in our hotel after the transfer. After our outing, we settled into our room and got a good night’s sleep.

On transfer morning, I woke up, had my prayer time and I took my medications as prescribed, which included valium and albuterol. Albuterol is used as an asthma medication so I wondered why I was taking it, but my best friend has a PhD in Pharmacology and explained that it relaxes certain muscle tissue, including the tissue of the uterus. I’m a total lightweight and wanted to be able to walk out of the hotel, so I only took one valium at first. I didn’t feel the first one, so I ended up taking both. I was very relaxed upon arrival to the office for our transfer scheduled at 10:45. The albuterol gave me the shakes, so I was both relaxed and having tremors…it was an odd feeling. On top of that, as directed, my bladder was full.

We didn’t wait long and I was soon ready to go. Dr. Keenan checked in on me and asked if we had any last questions. I didn’t have any, but thanked him for the calming Christian music playing overhead. Carol Sommerfelt, the embryologist, came over and explained that four embryos were thawed, but only three plumped up like she wanted to see, so they were going to transfer three and see what happened with the fourth. If it survived and divided again (which it ended up doing), she was going to refreeze it. We received a picture of the three embryos and I remember thinking how cool it was that we already had a picture of our babies.

I went into the operating room and Jeremy waited in the recovery area. Turns out my bladder was WAY too full and I was instructed to empty a little, which I was glad to do. Now, we were ready. Nurse Jennifer Garcia was extremely comforting during the process even though she was pushing down on my full bladder with the ultrasound and Dr. Keenan completed the transfer where I saw an ultrasound picture with three tiny dots inside my uterus. Dr. Keenan stated, “Well, you are pregnant, now you just need to stay that way for 9 months.” The whole process took less than 15 minutes. I went to the recovery area where I got to lie down slightly inverted for the next thirty minutes or so. The next obstacle was my bladder. I really needed to pee, but was inverted, so that presented a challenge. One of the nurses brought over a bedpan and strategically placed it so that I could go, but not have a river up my back. Then I waited and waited and waited. I just couldn’t let go. Finally, Jeremy did his job as a good husband and made me laugh and I was in good shape. After waiting the prescribed amount of time, we got a receipt for our transfer so I could run the expense through my flexible spending account and headed back to the hotel. I decided to go into one of my favorite yoga poses, which is legs up a wall, and let our little embryos settle in. Jeremy ordered pizza and we hung out for the rest of the day watching TV and playing Pig Out and Uno. I eventually, took my legs off the wall and braved the bathroom. Logic told me that they weren’t going to fall out, but why take any chances, right?

I slept well that night, woke up early the next morning and we got on the road back home. We hit some construction and very bumpy roads near Corbin, KY and I instructed our embryos to stay put. We were settled back home by noon and would spend the next eleven days wondering if we had any clingers.

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MY BLESSING

After leaving my Bible study group I went grocery shopping for the pro-life students that were going to staying with us. Five girls from Mississippi were going to be arriving at my house Friday night and would be staying through Sunday. I did not know their schedule, which meant I did not know how many meals I needed to prepare to have on hand. So I just got enough for breakfast and two other meals.

The next day the children and I woke up and started right away preparing for the girls’ visit. By 9:30am I had made orange salad, spaghetti casserole, vacuumed the downstairs, cleaned the kitchen, and washed all the sheets. The comforters were still in the wash and at this time my Aunt Nancy called to see if she could come and help me! What a blessing she is.

When Nancy arrived she played with the twins while I finished vacuuming the upstairs and scrubbing the stains out of the carpet. Before Nancy got there, Natalie and Julian both helped me to clean by getting a rag and scrubbing the carpet as well. They were such troopers. I was so exhausted after doing all those chores that I did not get to scrub the stains from the stairs or downstairs. So I sat down for a while and visited with my aunt.

That night, Brian and I had a date night! A local church babysat while we went to eat and a movie. We did not get home until 10pm and had the twins sleep in our room. Their room had to be used as a guest room, since we did not have enough room for the girls otherwise.

Three of the girls did not arrive until around midnight since they had a flat tire. The other two had to drop off the boys with them to another house before arriving at mine. I got to spend some time talking with the girls and hearing about their experiences regarding pro-life. All of the girls were just such a blessing to be with and it just pleased my heart knowing what a difference they are making.

One girl’s testimony, particularly spoke to me. She told me that her mother was pro-choice. Then she went on to tell me that her mother wanted to abort her and her grandparents would not allow her to since her mother at that time was only 15. This girl admitted that her mother was not meant to be a mother. Her grandparents had raised her and her Dad had raised her other two sisters. She told me it was hard for her to understand why some people could not have children and other people, like her Mom seemed to do it so easily without even wanting to be a mother.

As she spoke to me, I could see that God had a hand in all this. Yes, it was very sad that she did not have the Mother that she so desperately wanted, but what a testimony she had to share. God is using her to let people know that every life matters, even if your own Mother does not think it should.

THE FIRST SHOT

On this date last year, I started my progesterone injections. Because Jeremy and I had never gone through any fertility treatments, this was a first for both of us. Due to the location of the injection and size of the needle, I didn’t think I could give myself the shot so I convinced Jeremy that the deed was his. I needed a morning and evening injection and because we worked opposite shifts, I only saw Jeremy in the evenings. Instead of going straight to the gym when he got off work at 6:00 a.m., he would come home and give me my shot. That morning I prepared my syringe and was ready when he got home. This would become a normal routine for the next two months. I assumed the position making the upper outer quadrant of my rear end available for a long needle. That morning, Jeremy was nervous and had to think about what he was doing. He finally stuck me, but was too timid and didn’t get the needle in far enough. He retreated and started over. This time he was successful and we both waited until the thick oil was finally emptied from the syringe. As instructed by others who went through embryo transfers, he massaged the injection site to make sure the oil didn’t cause a sore knot. Jeremy would eventually become a professional. He would make sound effects when giving the shots and only caused two bruises. Many times, I couldn’t even feel the shot and I knew he was done when he wiped off the site with alcohol and declared “no blood.” It had been nearly a year since we started our embryo adoption journey and it finally felt real…we were really going to have our embryo transfer and in only three days, we would see Grant and Maria for the first time as tiny little embryos.

A TIME FOR PRAISE

Most Thursday nights I go to Bible study. It is a group of women who mostly have gone or are going through infertility. The study we are doing right now is called Stepping Up, by Beth Moore. One part of our homework was to pray face down on the ground and humble ourselves before the Lord.

My Mom always told me what a blessing I was to her; so, I prayed that I would be a blessing to others like my Mom thought I was to her. The next day I got a call asking me to host a group of college students traveling to Tennessee to attend a pro-life conference at Johnson Bible College. God sure did answer that prayer fast!

I went to Bible study ready to tell my story about how God had worked this week in my life, when one of the girls revealed that she was pregnant. Oh what a celebration we had! After four years of praying her through IUI’s, surgery after surgery, and finally peace (doctors felt they had done all they could). This woman did not have assistance of any kind, except God’s. That night we learned how God had used this situation already to minister to her friend who had yet to receive Christ as her personal savior. We were all just in awe and were reminded once again that God’s timing is always perfect. His plan is beyond what we can see or understand.

Of course this is not how everyone’s story has gone. We still have women who are waiting for God’s perfect timing. My own story did not go this way nor has it for many of you who might be reading this blog. I have learned through my infertility journey that everyone’s story is different, just like God’s unique children. It never did me any good to feel envious of other women who had what I so desperately wanted, but it did not mean that it did not sting. Today I can say that there is no longer a sting, but I know all too well that many women are just waiting for their answered prayer. All I can say is to not give up the fight. God loves you and has not forgotten you!

REMEMBERING 9.11

Nine years ago I was a 21-year-old college senior.  As most people who were adults at the time, I remember very clearly where I was on 9/11.  I was putting on eye makeup and listening to the Today Show when I heard Katie Couric’s first report of a plane or helicopter crashing into the World Trade Center.  I finished getting ready for class and turned on the TV downstairs where my mom and I watched in horror as the second plane hit.  Neither one of us verbalized it, but we both wondered about my brother.  The plane we saw looked much too big to be the Continental commuter jet he was flying at the time, but still…we wondered.  Nick flew the east coast regularly and the first report that my dad heard was that it was a Continental plane.  It would be several hours before we heard from Nick.  He was safe and sound in his hotel in White Plains, NY.  He had slept through the whole thing.   By the time I went to class and returned home for lunch, both towers had fallen, the Pentagon had been hit and United 93 had gone down in Pennsylvania.  I went to work and we cancelled our second shift operations.  It seemed that everything just stopped that day.  I remember trying to get gas on my way home and all the gas stations were clogged up as people rushed there in fear, not knowing what was going to happen.  My mom and I went to a prayer service at our church that evening and held hands with perfect strangers.  We cried and prayed and wondered.  That night was eerily quiet.  The sky was silent as all planes sat grounded and thousands of families feared the worst about their loved ones who were innocent victims that morning.

9/11/01 is etched in my memory, but so is 9/11/09.  We were only 6 days from our embryo transfer and I went to get an ultrasound and blood drawn.  I waited to hear from Dr. Keenan’s office to get clearance to begin my progesterone injections on the 14th.  That afternoon, the office called and confirmed what the ultrasound tech told me, which was that the Estrace was doing its job.  Not only could I cry at the drop of a hat, my uterine lining was thickening nicely and I could start my injections.

This year on 9/11, I’m praying for our country and the families of all those who lost their lives.  For a short time, America banded together with resolve to never let something like those terror attacks happen again.  Nine years later, it seems the nation is more divided than ever.  I’m also praying for the couples who are preparing for their embryo transfers.  May God prepare their minds and hearts to face whatever the future holds.  Finally, I’m praying for Dr. Keenan and the NEDC staff.  May they have wisdom, strength, and endurance as they continue to advocate for the tiniest among us.

HIGH EXPECTATIONS

I had been looking forward to Labor Day Weekend all summer. I know it signifies the unofficial “end of summer,” and has always meant it was time to head back to school, but I was excited this year for a few reasons. The way my work schedule fell, I knew I would have the entire weekend off, holiday included. It was also my birthday and 20th wedding anniversary. It had been a beautiful summer weather-wise, especially compared to all the rain we had last year, and despite the threat of rain from Hurricane Earl, we were promised nice weather early on.

Sometimes when you anticipate something, it doesn’t transpire as you had hoped, which can result in disappointment. In our 20 year marriage, Jim and I have found this to be true on many occasions, one of the most trying being dealing with our infertility issues. This year especially has been a case in point. Although the weekend turned out okay in the end, it was rough going during part of it. Ryan has always been referred to as the “Party Planner,” because he loves the planning aspect anytime we are expecting company. We would joke from the time he was 5 yrs old that he would throw a party “because it was (fill in the day of the week here).” Last year he insisted Cathy, who has the memory of an elephant, had our anniversary wrong, and that it wasn’t 19 yrs, but 20. He insisted to the point she gave in. He planned an elaborate surprise party at our house with the help of her and my in-laws. We were banished from the house for 2 hrs prior, and thought it would be a small cookout with my in-laws. We were surprised to find the driveway full of the cars belonging to our family and friends, with an elaborate party set up inside and out. The nicest thing about this looking back on it was that Auntie was still with us (she died this past June), and had he waited until our actual 20th, she wouldn’t have been here. Sometimes gifts take an unexpected form.

Well, although his heart was in the right place this year with his celebration planning, he went way overboard which caused big problems. He decided to go all out and buy a cake, flowers, and balloon bouquet. He made a wonderful anniversary card using photos of Jim and I from Cassie’s wedding last year. The card would have been plenty; there wasn’t any need to spend the amount of money (approximately $40) he had on things which aren’t practical. I got very upset, because for years I have asked not to be given these things, for I feel they are wasteful. It has taken almost the entire 20 years, but Jim has finally learned. Now I think Ryan has learned his lesson as well. The fact that Jim was also upset for the same reasons aided in instilling the lesson. Needless to say, Ryan was upset and surprised by our reaction, and once we explained how the money could have been better spent on something we all could have enjoyed, such as dinner out or a shrub for the yard, etc., he understood. I tried to explain that those things are nice, but he goes overboard, and they are only nice if the person receiving them likes and wants them. I had suspected he was up to something in the days prior, and had specifically told him not to buy or do anything. I was upset not only by the expense, but more so in the fact that he didn’t abide by my wishes.

Although I felt my birthday/anniversary had been a bust initially, I think everyone learned valuable lessons, and it wasn’t a total loss. We did eventually celebrate as a family; we went to an inexpensive local hamburger joint that I had never been to. We enjoyed burgers and fries, but best of all, each other.

PAYBACKS

I believe it’s every parent’s responsibility and right to do embarrassing things to their kids. My dad is a believer and did his best as we were growing up. When we’d go to the grocery store he’d start to walk with an exaggerated limp, or pull his pants up under his armpits, or sometimes do a combo limp plus armpit pants. My brother had the wherewithal to evaporate. I, on the other hand, drew more attention by insisting that he stop. Other things my parents did included strategic placement of my brother’s “Little Mr. Oldham County” pictures where the new love interest would see them or rehashing of me peeing in my pants in the limo at my Mama Kosko’s funeral when I was four years old then hanging my wet “blankie” on the shrub near her grave. (Mom claims she still feels bad about not letting me use the restroom before we left the church. It wasn’t as if they were going to leave without the daughter-in-law and granddaughter, however, I’m not so sure how bad she feels.) Now that we’re parents, Jeremy is finding great pleasure in doing things like putting pants on Grant’s head and taking photos and I’m sure that some of the outfits I’ve put them in or stories I’ve told in my writings will be adequately embarrassing to them one day. No matter what, your kids are going to embarrass you at some point in their lives, so whenever possible, it’s important to take advantage of opportunities to offer up payback. Just don’t take it too far…one day they’ll be picking out your nursing home.

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