Twins Did Not Destroy My Body (Hope for Preggo Moms Who Can’t Stop Googling)

Author’s Note: (Hey, that’s me!) I wrote this post two years ago, but never published it. I sat on it for TWO YEARS. I have always pushed it back, deep into the drafts section of my blog. I have worried that it is inappropriate to discuss body image, or that it could sound like whining, or that it could sound like bragging, or, of course, that it could be too personal. I am still struggling. I won’t be able to be 100% open here because this is not a completely anonymous blog. I have decided, however, to post a portion of the truth. The reasons I want to do this are:

1) To help (give hope to!) other women currently pregnant with twins or recovering from twin pregnancy
2) To help (remove blame from) any women who are struggling with post-baby body crap
3) Because someone did this for me and I want to pay it forward.

I am an LDS (Mormon) woman who keeps her body covered from shoulders to knees while in public, unless swimming. My husband and I made this formal commitment during our temple marriage. So I’ll spare you the “before and after” picture nonsense. Anyway, it is extremely important to me that I convey what I have to say in a manner that adheres to the fact that I consider bodies to be sacred. It is also extremely important to me that I say what I have to say in a humble way. I hope I get this right, y’all. Here goes. 

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Twins did not destroy my body.

Well, yes they did. But not in the ways I expected. My twin boys are two years old now, their little fat bodies asleep in their cribs. It’s the middle of the night and I can’t sleep from the adrenaline of another day of keeping up with them. My handsome husband, unaffected by child-chasing adrenaline, softly snores beside me. I flip back the covers suddenly and wander into my bathroom. I look at my reflection in our huge mirror. I take off my clothes and I don’t know why.

The house is still, and for the first time in two years, I am still too. I have been in fight-or-flight mode for two years. I feel like I’m seeing my own body for the first time since the hellish pregnancy. I am having flashbacks to the way I needed my husband’s help to undress near the end of the pregnancy, and to the way both of us would gawk at my daily changes before he helped me into the shower. Sometimes my body looked like a freaking miracle in that mirror, and sometimes it reminded me of a vampire pregnancy from a popular young adult novel: grotesque and progressing too quickly. My naked body in the third trimester of a twin pregnancy was a speeding train that I couldn’t stop (despite the fact that it could barely walk or roll over). Even though six years of infertility treatments had answered all my prayers, and my twins were healthy in my huge womb, I was still enough of an ungrateful jerk to worry about stretch marks and permanent weight gain.

I snap back to the present. I focus my eyes on my current body. Two years have passed in a haze of sleep deprivation. My body has not been the focus for so very long. All I have known about my body was that it was always very tired. Now I am focusing my lens right into this mirror, right onto this body. This body that couldn’t get pregnant, and then did, and then carried twins, and then almost died during childbirth, and then came back to life, and then raised two newborns into toddlers. My body is…. fine.

The twins didn’t destroy my body. Well, yes, they did make me gain 80 pounds during the pregnancy. They did almost kill me during the birth. They did leave my belly as floppy as a waterbed. They did do some pretty wonky things to, well, some of my insides (you’re welcome for the generalities). And, we recently found out that the weight of them, both in my belly and on my hips, did give me scoliosis.

However, none of those things were the things I panicked about before they were born.

I did not get stretch marks.

I did not have trouble losing the weight.

I want to share what I have learned: genetics and circumstance are to blame or to praise for these things.  I want women to quit beating themselves up for problems that they have less control over than they think.

I did not get stretch marks because my mother did not get stretch marks. It is as simple as that. There are no secrets, no creams, no magic remedies. It is just genetics. It’s not a woman’s fault if she gets stretch marks, and it’s not to her credit if she doesn’t have stretch marks.

I lost the baby weight because my dad is thin. Yes, I mall-walked and trail-walked and ran on fumes like all mothers do, and I carried babies until my spine bent, but my metabolism is a genetic gift from my father. (Along with migraines.) I have no secrets or magic cures. It’s not a woman’s fault if she can’t lose the last of her baby weight. It’s also not to her credit if she did lose it all.

It’s just the way it is.

My body in this mirror is… fine. It’s sore and it’s tired and it can’t sleep tonight, but it’s fine. I see my mostly flat belly. I see my mostly smooth skin. I see my strong arms from carrying those fat toddlers who are asleep in their cribs right now. It’s time for me to appreciate all of this stuff and get back in my own bed beside my warm husband.

I know there are wide-awake moms, pregnant with twins and a big dose of panic, presently Googling something morbid like “twin pregnancy belly” just because they can’t sleep. Why can’t they sleep? From the discomfort pain of an octopus of limbs in there? From anxiety about wondering how to burp one twin without detaching the other nursing twin? From just now realizing that she has TWO SETS OF GENITALIA inside her right now?!

Well, wide-awake panicked mommas staring into the bathroom mirror and/or their search engine in the middle of the night, I want to tell you something. I know it feels like you are on a careening train that won’t stop and you want to get off it sometimes. I know you think there is no hope and that only a plastic surgeon could fix what multiples have done to you. But listen to me: There’s a chance you will look the same afterwards. I do. I went from 118 pounds to 198 pounds to 117 pounds in the space of two years, and I am mostly the same as I was before.

The internet is flush with momma-pride articles, giving women with stretch marks and permanent baby bellies a voice. I celebrate with them when they take ownership of those “tiger stripes” and eschew any shame. I applaud them and even gain strength from their stories. Women should always stick together and gain strength from each other. Women should never apologize for bodies that have built and birthed human beings. I agree that it is not anyone’s “fault” when we end up with stretch marks and baby weight. It isn’t because you didn’t buy the expensive cream, you know?

But also, it isn’t to your credit if you didn’t earn those tiger stripes. Just as I wouldn’t have been the cause of stretch marks, I am not the cause of my lack of stretch marks. You see what I’m saying? It’s the genetic role of the dice. I hope that by sharing my story, I can actually further the cause of the mommas being proud of their post-baby bodies.

I am not bragging. I am trying to get you to stop Googling and go the eff to sleep.


***

PS, I know there are regular pregnant moms (you know, the singletons ones, the ones with only one penis in there) who also can’t sleep and are also Googling stuff they shouldn’t. To you I want to say: My doctor said that multiple pregnancies are more challenging for the body than a multiples pregnancy. Therefore, since I had three children for the price of one mega-pregnancy (twins + adoption), I might have to eat this essay if I ever miraculously get pregnant again.

It’s Mother’s Day. I am alone. And I am so happy.

It is the opposite of when I used to be alone on Mother’s Day, and I was so sad. Many years of infertility led to many years of crying every Mother’s Day – and skipping church to hike in the woods with my momma so I wouldn’t cry when they handed flowers to each mother in the congregation.

This year, my husband has taken our three small boys – ages 6, 3, and 3 – to his mother’s house for the day. I am alone, and I love it. He made both his mother and his wife so very happy today, all in one fell swoop. Grandma got time with the grandkids (and her son), and I got time to myself –which is a very rare commodity.

My husband got up with the kids this morning. He handled all their needs and requests and fights and commotions and teeth brushings and clothing wrestling. I took a leisurely hot shower and didn’t think about anything. I wandered down the stairs when I was ready. The inside of my head felt so… clean. So empty. So relaxed.

wp-1456004293423.jpgHe had made breakfast for the kids, and they were all sitting at the table in their nice clothes, shoveling scrambled eggs into their slobbery mouths. He coached them to say “Happy Mother’s Day, Momma” in unison. They all had big smiles. Their voices sounded so sweet and beautiful – because I hadn’t yet dealt with any whining whatsoever. They were pristine little innocent voices, untouched yet (in my mind anyway) by the needs of the day. It was perfect. They were perfect.

Their little chorus of “Happy Mother’s Day, Momma” really got to me. It wasn’t just their adorable little voices. It was the memory of all the mother’s days that I had spent longing for these voices. All the years spent longing for a full breakfast table. All the years of injections or adoption paperwork or failed cycles. I was having a moment! I got so choked up that I had to turn away (after kissing each fat messy cheek first, of course).

How easy it is to forget each day, during the trials and constant demands and pure exhaustion down to my bones, that I desperately wanted these children. How easy it is to forget how very hard we worked for them. How many years it took for them arrive. How I truly almost sacrificed my life to bring them here.

In a house of twins/”triplets”, special needs, anxiety, migraines, and the regular nonstop pace that never ever slows down, it is so easy to forget how very very lucky I am.

I’m lucky to have them – and lucky to be alone today!

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Okayest Mom and Okayest Mom’s Mom on Mother’s Day

I’m not letting myself worry about any of my chores and messes. Just think of what I could accomplish today without all the pitter-pattering (i.e., stomping and running and crashing) of little feet! But no. Today is mine. Maybe to see my own Momma for a little bit. To write. To reflect. To remember how precious and treasured my children are to me. The distance is clearing my head.

This kind of alone is so much better than the other kind of alone. During infertility, I was alone against my will. During motherhood, I am alone out of choice. Just for today.

I am so happy.

 

***

 

To those of you who are still fighting and still in the trenches, I haven’t forgotten about you. I will never forget about you. I love you all! Here are some posts just for you …

Mother’s Day Can Sometimes Feel Like a Bruise

To My Readers Who Are Struggling With Infertility

Adoption, Infertility, Miscarriage, IVF, Twins, Oh My!

 

 

 

I Sold My Triple Stroller Today

first walk

Our first walk

I sold my triple stroller today. I’m not gonna lie: I cried a little bit.

I hated that thing. I hated how much it cost. If I had bought it new, it would have cost more than our old pickup truck did! The market for triple strollers is extremely limited. At the time, there were only three triple strollers on the market. I was stuck buying a four-wheeled vehicle without a motor that retailed for more than one of our four-wheeled vehicles with a motor.

I hated that thing. I hated how much it weighed. It was 37 pounds *without* children in it. All I can think about when I look at it is how it broke my back to get it in and out of the van, and how it weighed more than I did with all my kids in it, and how it felt to push it uphill. I think of the friends who had to help me lift it or push it.

And now it’s gone… And so are my babies. They are three years old now.

I remember buying that stroller from another twin mom when I was pregnant with the twins. (Before the bedrest, obviously!) Her twins were three at the time. I was already huge and lugging a very unhappy two-year-old with me. I was scared – not scared of this rich lady I found on Craigslist, though. I was scared of the twins in my belly. I was scared to see if that triple stroller would fit in my VW. I was scared I wouldn’t be able to lift it. I was scared I wouldn’t remember how to unfold it. I was scared to pay the amount I would have to pay (which, at half the retail price, was still a staggering amount).  I was scared that my hyper-sensitive toddler would flip out with the commotion of her twins that day (he did) – and his twins in the future (he would).

Most of all, I was scared that I would never survive until my twins were three. I would never make it as far as she had.

I almost didn’t.

And then I did. I survived. My house isn’t as nice trendy clean as hers. I probably suck at twin-momming way more than she did. But I’m here. I did it.

And now I’m selling the triple stroller to another mom.

triple strollerI loved that stroller. It was my only freedom. It was my only way to leave my house to get fresh air, even for something as simple as a walk down the street. I was not physically able to maneuver three children under three with my own body.

I loved that stroller. without it, my only options would have been drive-thru fast food and drive-thru pharmacies. It was my only freedom.

My babies are gone. In their place, I now have strong, hearty three-year-old twins and a strong, hearty (and still hyper-sensitive) six-year-old son. They are beautiful and boogery and filthy. They are angelic and horrid. They smell like dirt. They smell like Burt’s Bees soap. They smell like snot. They smell like coconut oil. They smell like engine grease and sawdust like their father. They smell like rosewater and saffron ice cream.

cleaning triple stroller

The triple stroller was my albatross and my only freedom. Now my kids are cleaning it for me instead of being dead weight!

They don’t have wheels like that triple stroller. They don’t have an engine like the old truck that cost less than that fancy stroller. But, somehow, they have become completely self-propelled. They are fast and wild. They are slow and meandering. They sometimes hold my hand, but I never carry them. If they have a tantrum in public, I can’t carry them out: I have to wait them out while the whole world hears. If they get hurt and cry, I can’t heave them onto my hips: I have to sit on the floor/gravel/pavement/dirt and let them climb into my lap for comfort. They each now weigh more than that triple stroller ever did: 45 pounds, 40 pounds, and 38 pounds.

It’s another mom’s turn to have a turn with that monstrosity. I wonder if she is scared. Probably not, because she is having her sixth child. She will be fine.

So why did I cry? Of course it wasn’t really for the stroller. It wasn’t really even for the memories of my tiny babies in the seats. It really wasn’t even for my non-babies who are now so self-propelled.

It was for the future babies that I can’t have. As I drove away and left that stroller behind, I knew I would never have another baby to put in it.

And if by some miracle, I did have another baby, it would only be one baby… so obviously I would only need a single regular stroller anyway.

I really hated that triple stroller.

 

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This isn’t an affiliate link or anything, but since so many people have asked me, you can buy this Valco Baby stroller here. It is a twin stroller with an additional third seat called a “Joey” attached. And, since this isn’t an affiliate link, I’m allowed to say, buy that thing on Craigslist!

Okayest Mom’s Okayest Wish List

The Okayest Family

The Okayest Family

Okayest Mom is easy to please. I don’t have unrealistic expectations for Mother’s Day, or for any other day. Okayest Mom doesn’t know how to dream big. Therefore, I’m not asking for what I really want (which we all know is sleeping in and a day alone so I can binge-watch Netflix). Nope. Gotta get my head outta the clouds. If anyone asks me what I want for Mother’s Day, I’m gonna give them this Okayest Wish List.

To have a day where someone does not clock me in the jaw with their shoe, fist, head, or monster truck

To eat a meal without showing my partially chewed food while I yell, “Don’t talk with your mouth full!”

Not to hit my head on the van door

Not to step on a Transformer while I leap over the baby gate like a Olympian hurdler

Not only to go to the bathroom with the door closed (duh!), but also to go to the bathroom without anyone outside the bathroom experiencing Grievous Bodily Harm

To put away a little bit of laundry

To be on time to something

Not to get sweaty during the day

Not to experience the Tri-Cry (all children simlul-crying)

To sleep in until 7:00 AM – nothing outrageous like 7:15 AM or anything

To have no one poop (Yeah, you heard me. So what if that’s not healthy? They poop too.dang.much.)

Not to fix a meal ten minutes too late (No matter when I fix it, it’s ten minutes too late.)

To remain seated during most of my meal (I wouldn’t want to get greedy and expect that I would never have to get up…)

Not to allow any of my fears for my children’s well-being to escalate into unreasonable proportions in my mind

Not to get a headache

To see more smiles than tears

There. So reasonable. So okayest. We got this. What’s on your wish list this year, dear readers?

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Mother’s Day is a complicated holiday for many of us, whether because of a loss of a child, or of a mother, or of a dream. While I am infinitely grateful for my hard-to-acquire and super-precious children, I have not forgotten how this holiday used to be one of the hardest days of the year for me. I have not forgotten you! Last year I posted one of my personal favorites, Mother’s Day Can Sometimes Feel Like a Bruise. I hope you like it too.

“Adoption, Infertility, Miscarriage, IVF, Twins, Oh My” was published on BabyCenter.com!

BabyCenter.com calls itself “The #1 Parenting Resource” with over 40 million visitors per month. Recently, THEY contacted ME and asked me to write a post for them for RESOLVE’s National Infertility Awareness Week. I  was so honored and flattered, but realized I am not used to writing with deadlines, assigned topics, and word counts. I hope I did all right by you all, my loyal readers! They published my post on April 21, 2015 here. I have reprinted the entire post below with their permission.

Adoption, Infertility, Miscarriage, IVF, Twins, Oh My

Have you struggled with infertility? I understand. Have you had miscarriages? I empathize. Have you wanted to run over the “Expectant Mother Parking” signs in parking lots? Me too. Have you gone through IVF? The adoption process? I get it.

After having been infertile for almost a decade, I now finally have three small children, none of whom were created in my own body (one is adopted from someone else’s body; two are from petri dishes).

I can empathize with those of you who are begging for children, and also those of you who are begging for five minutes away from your children (even if you have to hide in the bathroom with that jar of Trader Joe’s Cookie Butter and an US Weekly). I know what it’s like to cry at a poster of a baby in Walmart because you desperately want one yourself, and I know what it’s like to cry because your children won’t stop crying.

After having finally had success with adoption and with IVF (twins!) within the space of two years, I can totally identify with the adoptive moms and the moms of multiples.

I know what it’s like to have black and white children as my three boys are of various races and genetic makeup.

wpid-wp-1430331810741.jpegI know what it’s like to wait years for a baby. I also know what it’s like to bring a baby home all of a sudden, after a birthmother picked me only three days prior. I also know what it’s like to suffer through the endless nine months of torturous twin pregnancy and bed rest, feeling like it will never end.

I know what it feels like to be fingerprinted for an adoption home study, to suffer through painful fertility procedures, and to try to go to sleep one night knowing that the baby inside you has died.

But I also know what it feels like to sniff that newborn’s head and want to eat him. I know what it feels like to get an hour or two of sleep a night for seven months. I know that surge in my heart when my children giggle, or run to me, or hug each other, or turn a single-syllable word into four syllables.

wpid-img_20150426_185249.jpgI understand the pain and the joy of so many of you moms out there. By the bad luck of my own biology, and by the miracles of adoption and modern science, I am all of you.

You know what I don’t know?

I don’t know what it feels like to hold any of my babies on the first day of each of their lives. (Due to adoption paperwork and a near-death childbirth experience, I still have weird misplaced guilt about missing those first days with all three of my children.)

I don’t know what it feels like to go into labor and give birth. (I had a Cesarean section with the twins.)

I don’t know what it feels like to have two children. We went from one to three instantly.

I don’t know what it feels like to have a pregnancy without fear.

I don’t know what it feels like to make a baby for free, or to make a baby in my husband’s arms, or in my own bed.

I don’t know what it feels like to worry about birth control choices, costs, or side effects.

I don’t know what it feels like to carry a single baby to term.

I don’t know why our birthmother chose us.

I don’t know how to teach my black and white sons about race.

You know what? None of it matters. What I know, what I don’t know – maybe it doesn’t really matter. If I could go back to my childless and hurting self, what would I want myself to know? What do I want you to know?

I want you and I to know that we are mothers long before our children arrive. We become mothers the moment we decide we want to be mothers.

I want us to know that it doesn’t matter in what body our children arrive. If their souls are meant to be in our family, they will come.

I want us to know that the pain is only temporary.

I want us to know that someday, although the acute pain of infertility will fade, we will refuse to forget. We are going to remember the hurt, on purpose, so that we might strengthen others who are forced to follow us.

I want us to know that so many women out there understand what we are enduring. I want us to open our hearts to each other and embrace our shared pains and joys and hopes. It’s going to be okay.

I know this because I’m an Okayest Mom!

Something Haunts Me About Successful IVF

IMG_4072Sometimes successful in vitro fertilization has haunted me. Yes, you read that right. Successful. What could I possibly worry about? I am beyond grateful for my two-year-old IVF twin boys, but I can now see why some people may not feel comfortable with such extreme measures to create children.

The idea of “playing God” didn’t really worry me. After all, isn’t that what normal fertile people do when they create a baby in the bedroom? We had already done seven rounds of fertility pills, and six rounds of IUI (Intrauterine Insemination). We had had miscarriages and we had adopted. Wouldn’t all that also be playing with creation? We couldn’t see what we were doing, because it was happening inside my body, or inside our birthmother’s body, but we were still rolling the genetic dice.

The difference with IVF is that we were about to take the eggs out of my body and actually see – with our own eyes – what we were doing with them. We would subject them to microscopic scrutiny. We would sign legally binding documents to determine how they would be handled before, during, and after fertilization.

Those eggs, and later, those embryos, would be our property, but they would not yet be in my body. They would be our genetic offspring, but not yet our children. Some of those embryos would be dismissed for growing too slowly or too badly. A scientist or a doctor – and not my body – would decide which embryos were strong and which ones were weak. The weak embryos would be left to “stop progressing” and… discarded.

I think about the six embryos that didn’t grow during our second (and only successful) round of IVF. The ones that were… discarded. I often wonder what they would have looked like, had they progressed and finally grown into children. Would three of them have looked like my husband and Twin A? Would the other three have looked like me and Twin B? Would they have each have looked completely unique? Would they all have been boys? Would they have inherited my migraines or my husband’s allergies? Each of those things was written into those tiny eight-celled organisms.

I’m not sure I really know (believe?) that eight-celled embryos have a soul. Even my conservative church has stated that we don’t know when a soul enters the body. And yet, my heart hurts for the six that never grew. They weren’t my children, because I wasn’t pregnant, but what were they? Maybe they are our children. Will we raise them in the afterlife? They didn’t die, really, but weren’t they alive?

And the most haunting part of all is my two embryos that did live to be implanted in my uterus. As I have written before, we made the decision to implant both with a shrug at the Roy Rogers when my doctor called with her recommendation. “We have two clear frontrunners, but they are growing more slowly that I would like. Therefore, I change my recommendation to two embryos, as long as you understand that your risk of twins is 40% at your age.” She told us that they were not strong enough to make it to freezing, so it was now or never.

Shrug. Okay. It’s not going to work anyway, so we might as well.

I am haunted by that moment. I will be haunted for the rest of my life at my shrug, at my casual decision. Yes, it’s true that carrying those twins and birthing them nearly killed me. You might think that I regret my casual decision to implant two embryos because it put my life in danger. No. I would have happily died to give them life, although it hurts me to know how much that sentence must hurt my husband.

What haunts me about that moment is how casually we could have just decided to implant one embryo. What if we had just as casually shrugged and said, “Nah. Let’s just do one.” We would have had every right to do that, legally, ethically, and otherwise. We would have even perhaps been considered wise to do that. It would have been a more sound financial decision, and my life probably would not have been in danger.

What if?

Which one would it have been? The idea that one of my precious two-year-old twins could have been left to “stop growing” in that Petri dish makes me feel like I can’t breathe. Like I’m going to be sick. Faint. I can barely go there in my mind. It even hurts to type it.

My precious Twin A, with his big Charlie Brown head and his big pouty lips and his horrible siren-like cry, and his big feelings and his crooked toes and his perfect hugs? My precious Twin B, with his long eyelashes and his fiery temper and his shrieks of joy and the smell of his baby-head that never seems to go away?

What if?

How could I have been casual about any of that? How could I have made that decision in the Roy Rogers? (Granted, we had one hour before the procedure and had to decide.) What other decisions have I made that have had such far-reaching consequences, both good and bad?

What if one of them wasn’t here? …Discarded.

It haunts me.

Genes Are a Funny Thing

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wpid-wp-1425383125280.jpegOne of my two-year-old twins, Twin B, still has that baby smell wafting from the top of his head. The other twin, Twin A, lost it when he was still a baby. I catch my husband inhaling that baby-scented toddler skull when he gets home from work. He breathes it in like a drug – I can tell. He catches my eye with a sheepish grin. I, too, find myself inhaling that kid’s head when I am stressed out, or when he wakes up from nap with tremendous sweaty baby-fine bedhead. He’s always clammy, like me. When I take off his winter hat after he has been playing in the snow, the humid smell from the last hour got all trapped inside and it’s a rush of baby scent. I wish I could trap it for my husband while he’s at work.

wpid-wp-1425383049220.jpegTwin B’s hair is still baby-fine and wispy. Twin A’s hair is the exact same shade, but long ago lost the baby smell. Also, Twin A has a manly head of hair that needs haircuts twice as often as his twin. Coincidence? Perhaps not. We have called him “The Toupee” since he was very small. Twin A isn’t clammy at all. Like his father, he is always dry and warm. He feels like a heavy blanket straight out of the dryer. His head is never humid!

I watched my twins grow from the time they were each an 8-celled embryo in a Petri dish, outside of my body. How many of you can say that? I know that they were equally 50% of each my husband’s and my DNA… but when they came out of my body, I was astounded by the fact that I made them. Me. Alone. Like any mother, I was just in awe of the fact that I built every hair on their heads, every bone in their bodies, every eyelash and organ. No wonder I was so sick: I built them. I made them from scratch. At the same time! After being infertile. It was amazing.

When I was three years old, I suddenly declared to my mother that I would stop sucking my thumb when I turned four. I used to rub the tip of her thumbnail with one hand, while simultaneously sucking my thumb on the other hand. While I was trying to quit the thumb-sucking, my mother gently told me that I could pick thumb-sucking or rubbing her thumbnail, but I couldn’t do both at the same time anymore. I guess this was her baby-steps plan for me. I remember thinking that her idea was both incredibly sensible and frustrating. I indeed quit sucking my thumb precisely on my fourth birthday. My mom said she checked on me often that night while I was sleeping, and I had an iron will, even in my sleep. My thumb would automatically raise to my mouth, and I would drop it while sleeping. However, I am fairly certain I kept rubbing her thumbnail for a while.

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Fast-forward thirty years. One day while nursing, Twin A began to rub the tip of my thumbnail with his fat little baby finger that has those inverted little knuckles. I burst into tears. Of three children, he was the only one to have “inherited” that particular trait. Even at two years old, he continues to do it when he is sick or just watching TV in my lap. How can that be a coincidence? But how could that be inherited? Our bodies are so awe-inspiring. He never saw me do it, so was it possibly picked up via “nature”?

My oldest son, who came to us through adoption, never rubbed my thumbnail or had that baby smell past the infancy stage. He has, sadly, inherited my absolutely worst trait: picking his cuticles. When I am nervous or anxious (all the time?), I pick at the skin on my fingers. It is gross, and Mr. Okayest absolutely hates it. I am certain that this is the only thing about me that he actually hates. If we were ever on a game show and the host asked me what my husband hates about me, this cuticle picking would be the answer. We would both win all the money because we would both answer the same thing. (In my defense, I have cut waaaay back. And I am constantly trying to stop.) My oldest son started doing this at eighteen months. I am absolutely ashamed that he picked this trait from me to “inherit”. He picked up that bad habit 100% from the “nurture” category. He sees me do it, and he does it.

Why have his twin brothers – who are biologically from my genes/ my body/ my nature- not picked up this nasty cuticle-picking trait? They have also seen me do it. Neither the nature nor the nurture has inclined them to harm themselves. My only guess is that they are just not anxious or nervous people. My oldest son must be more like me in that way, and this habit “works” for us. (Dr. Phil says people do it because it works. The pain actually releases the endorphins or dopamine or whatever to relieve your anxiety. That is why it is so hard to stop.) Let’s hope he picks up a good trait or two from me as well.

image

He isn’t warm and dry like Twin A and Daddy. He isn’t clammy and cold like Twin B and Momma. He’s just him. He’s cool and dry, like none of us – or like all of us put together.

I look at his beautiful brown body, cool and dry, and I am in awe of his birthmother. Was she cool and dry? She made him. She built him from scratch. She carried him for 8 months and made every hair on his head and every bone in his body. She also gave him many of his traits, but I will probably never know which ones. I did not give him a single fingernail, but I gave him cuticle picking. And everything I have. And all my love.

Why am I telling you about these things? One son’s baby-head smell, one son’s rubbing his mother’s thumb, and one son picking up a bad trait? I’m not sure. Genes are a funny thing.

The Twins Destroyed My Body (No, Not Like That)

My ever-present wrist brace helps me hold this heavy flower (the first flower my kid ever gave me!)

My ever-present wrist brace helps me hold this heavy flower (the first flower my kid ever gave me!)

Everyone talks about the pain of childbirth, but what about the pain of child-rearing?

You think I’m going to talk about stretch marks? Wrong. The twins destroyed my body in a whole different way than I expected: they are breaking me. At just over a year and a half old, they weigh 32 and 34 pounds each, and apparently that’s too much.

I don’t really carry them anymore. I taught them to go up and down stairs on their own as soon as possible. I don’t even pick them up when they’re crying- I just sit down on the floor and let them come to me. (That’s a trick I learned during bedrest with a toddler!) But, when you have two fat children under the age of two, there is still a lot of lifting and hauling. Every day, there is hauling in and out high chairs (2 twins x 2 times per meal x 3 meals = like a thousand times), hauling in and out of cribs for naps and wake-ups and bedtimes, heaving them into carseats if we go anywhere (I long ago calculated that one trip to anywhere means four buckle/unbuckles per child: in at home, out at destination, in to go home, out to come inside), and heaving them off their brothers during tantrums over the empty Tylenol bottle.

Oh, and let’s not forget the heaving them onto the changing table for every diaper. Yes, yes, I know that I could change them on the floor or the couch. Yes, yes, I know that most of you don’t use changing tables. I don’t want to hear it. I have changed approximately three trillion diapers by now, and I know what works for me, and it’s the changing table. I am just not good enough to keep a poopy diaper away from the dog or the other twin if I change someone on the floor, okay? Also, I’m tall, and I don’t want to bend over more than I have to. Also, maybe I just suck at changing poops, because I can make a mess and I prefer to keep that e.coli contained to one area that I can disinfect. OKAY?

Anyway, as you see, the children are heavy and ridiculously large for their age and still need to be lifted many times per day. Also, as you can see from any of my photos, I am not large for my age. I have zero muscle tone. Well, not zero, but I think it would take some major steroids to make me even look like I have any muscle definition. With my first son, everyone said, “Don’t worry; you’ll get stronger.” Ha! Now I reply, “I don’t get stronger; I just get sorer.”

I hurt everywhere, all the time.

Do you other moms hurt this much? If so, how can anyone look at a young mother with her arms full of a baby or a toddler and not rub her neck? This kid thing HURTS. Everyone talks about the pain of childbirth, but what about the pain of child-rearing?

My neck hurts. My back hurts. My wrist hurts. My head hurts. My hips hurt. Let’s just say that everything from my hips to my skull hurts all the time. Tell me I’m not alone in this, or else I’m going to have to see a doctor.

I primarily lift babies on my left side, so my left shoulder and back are all bulked up – at least compared to my right side. I probably look like I have a disorder. My left shoulder sits so much higher than my right, and I spend all of yoga class trying to get it down again (that is, when I’m not staring at the dude in front of me who is wearing my same skin-tight women’s workout capris, but with his shirt tucked into them).

My left wrist started to give out when the babies were about three months old, so I received cortisone injections several times. Now the doctor won’t let me do any more, so my choices are surgery or hold on until we can turn the cribs into toddler beds and the high chairs into regular chairs.

Even my muscles in my throat hurt! I feel like I’ve been looking down for 4 1/2 years straight, and now I have foreshortened the muscles in front of my throat. I am always stretching my head backward to help. Is that weird? Has anyone else experienced this? Almost five years of gazing into their eyes while nursing and bottle-feeding, and then looking down at their short little toddler bodies from my great height …. seems to have put me in a permanent downward-facing position.

My neck is all kinked up. I have had migraines my entire life, but they are worse lately with all the muscle strain. I do yoga and I stretch out on a foam roller every night and I try to take care of myself, but there is really nothing more to do until I get these kids more independent.

What the heck, kids? My husband said I feed you too much, because you just poop too much and weigh too much, at least compared to the pooping frequency and weight percentiles of your little friends at the playgroup. I guess it’s my fault you’re so heavy. It has nothing to do with the fact that your father weighed almost ten pounds at birth, right? (My twins were seven and a half pounds each at birth, at 38 weeks gestation. I shudder to think how big they would have been at 40 weeks as a singleton. However, bedrest and tator tots helped them get to be that big. On purpose.)

I’m lucky: my husband has magic hands. He can find every knot and every tender spot. He can just touch my neck with his fingertips and I might start to cry with relief. He takes over most evenings and most weekends, doing all the heavy lifting to let me recover before the next round.

From now on, the only gift I will give a new mother will be a massage therapist to visit her house every day for three years, or for as long as her child needs to be lifted, whichever comes first. Just kidding. That’s what I’m giving myself. When I win the lottery.

 

***

I understand that there are other ways to maneuver children. I worked at a Montessori school for a while, so I know that an ideal situation would be to have everything at the child’s level. No lifting/hauling/heaving would be needed. In the Montessori method, crib mattresses are on the floor from birth and children’s tables and chairs take the place of high chairs. Their feet should be on the floor when eating and they shouldn’t be restrained behind buckles or bars. I saw this method in action, and I can attest that it works in a Montessori environment. I can also attest that my house is not a Montessori house, and that one of my twins is a hurricane. I chose the buckles and bars and all of that as a way to keep my sanity in the short term, so I have myopically chosen to sacrifice my body for my sanity.

 

Mother’s Day Can Sometimes Feel Like a Bruise

Like many of you, my feelings about Mother’s Day are a little complex. Despite the fact that I have those chubby toddler arms (x6) around my neck, there are still “tender feelings – the way a bruise is tender” (to quote a sensitive leader of my church). My heart goes out to all of you for whom this day may feel a bit like a bruise.  My heart goes out to all of you who have lost a mother, or have adopted this year, or have placed a baby for adoption, or have experienced miscarriage, or have lost a full-grown child, or have chosen not to parent, or biology has chosen not to allow you to parent.

I think of my son’s birthmother today, on Mother’s Day. To say that I am thankful for her is an understatement. My heart hurts for her, and my soul is filled with love for her. I wonder if she is thinking of him. I hope she knows I am thinking of her.

Melissa and MomI think of my own mother today, on Mother’s Day. I am completely thankful for and in love with my own mother, who raised me well and taught me everything I know about parenting (well, almost… she didn’t know much about twins). She is a wonderful grandmother to my children. And, during my miscarriages and infertility treatments, she used to skip church with me on Mother’s Day to hike in the woods, so that I wouldn’t cry when they passed out flowers to the mothers in the congregation.

I think of my mother-in-law today, on Mother’s Day. She raised my favorite man. She gave me the gifts of teaching her son to hug perfectly and to listen well and to notice everything. She gives me every Tuesday morning off from motherhood while she plays with her grandbabies. I hope I can offer my future daughters-in-law even a fraction of those gifts.

I’m so lucky to have these women in my life, who have loved us and are still here with us to wrap their arms around us to literally hold us up. I am so lucky to have my three sons here on earth with me, to wrap their fat arms around my neck, to literally hold me down.

And yet, I miss the ones I have lost.

And yet, I think of you, the ones who might be hurting today. I am thinking of you women who, like me, have tender feelings for one reason or another. You are loved! I have not forgotten this wound, which is now just a tender bruise, and I have not forgotten you.

 

***

Sorry I posted this *after* Mother’s Day. I am just Okayest, after all.

***

Notes:

“While we tend to equate motherhood solely with maternity, in the Lord’s language, the word mother has layers of meaning. Of all the words they could have chosen to define her role and her essence, both God the Father and Adam called Eve “the mother of all living”- and they did so before she ever bore a child.” -Sheri L. Dew, “Are We Not All Mothers?”, LDS General Conference, October 2001

This blog post says it better than I can: http://www.messymiddle.com/2012/05/10/an-open-letter-to-pastors-a-non-mom-speaks-about-mothers-day/

 

 

My Infertility Through Scripture

alone togetherDuring my desperate phase: “Give me children, or else I die!”Genesis 30:1

Rachel had beauty and the love of her husband Jacob, but no children. Her sister, Leah, who was married to the same man, didn’t have the love of her husband, wasn’t blessed with beauty, but had seven of his children. This particular scripture, “Give me children, or else I die!”,  is Rachel beseeching her husband. The next scripture tells his response: “And Jacob’s anger was kindled against Rachel: and he said, Am I in God’s stead, who hath withheld from thee the fruit of the womb?” (Probably like a modern-day husband would respond if you screamed something so dramatic at him.) Like Rachel, I was desperate. I felt like screaming, “Give me children, or else I die!” to my husband and to God. I probably did.

adoption of RUpon adopting our firstborn: For this child I prayed.Samuel 1:27

I didn’t pray for just any child. I feel like I prayed for him. His soul was meant to be here, and it didn’t matter in what body he arrived. He is our firstborn son.

This particular scripture is not about adoption,  but it was how I felt about my firstborn son. This scripture is about Hannah. The Lord loved her but had “shut up her womb”. When she “wept sore” about her infertility, her husband said, “Am I not better to thee than ten sons?” (I must confess, Mr. Okayest is kinda even better than ten sons. )

twin pregnancy bellyFinally pregnant: “And God remembered Rachel, and God hearkened to her, and opened her womb.”Genesis 30:22

Eventually, Rachel conceived. Eventually, after much trial and tribulation, I did too, with the help of modern medicine (which I believe God wants us to use and has given to us as a blessing).

 

 

feeding timeAt naptime with three boys on my lap: “I will…open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it.”Malachi 3:10

Even though this scripture is technically about tithing, this still expresses how I feel each naptime, when I settle three big baby boys on my lap for their milk. Combined, they weigh almost as much as I do. They take up all the space on my chair. My lap literally cannot hold them all. I get weepy and emotional each day during this rare quiet five minutes. It’s the only time of day I get to cuddle them all. I think of this scripture each day during this time, because there is “not room enough to receive” them all. My arms are full. My lap is full. The windows of heaven opened, and, I must say, we worked really really hard to open them.

I understand that not everyone will get the blessings for which they pray, or even the blessings that they deserve. I don’t know why my particular trials happened in this order, other than it may have been the only way our oldest son could make it into this family. Perhaps I had to go through infertility to bend enough to consider adoption. I have been taught that God always answers our prayers, but not necessarily with an affirmative. Sometimes the answers are “no”, and sometimes the answers are just “not yet”. For many years, my answers were “no” and “not yet.” Then, three times, my answers were “yes.”

I have also been taught that if we do not receive the blessings we ask for and deserve in this life, that we will receive them in the next life.

The trial that was infertility is over for me. If it is still happening to you, I hope you will gain strength from my story. I have other trials now – and here’s to hoping you will, too!

Setting the Record Straight

Sometimes people misunderstand my snarky tone. I hope I can write well enough that everyone understands my intentions. My intentions are to convey the absurd in my daily life. I want to be truthful. The truth is:

1) I love my kids. This is indisputable. Everyone loves his or her kids. Every parent wants to do his or her best for  the children. If I wrote a blog about that, it would be really boring.

2) What I do is really hard: There are only 2 people on the whole planet, besides myself, who have done this job alone all day (my husband and a friend from church). Usually it takes 2-3 grandparents to replace me for a day. Having three children under three, or three children in diapers, does not occur often in nature. Number 2 does NOT NEGATE number 1.

3) What I do is really ridiculous: My daily life is absurd. It’s weird. It’s crazy. Normal people do not live this way. If I didn’t find humor in what is happening here, I would crack. I might literally crack in half from being tense. Number 3 does NOT NEGATE number 1.

My blog is trying to tell the truth about numbers 2 and 3. I have mothers all over the world messaging me about how grateful they are that I am telling the truth. I have infertile women all over the world telling me that they are sobbing while reading my story because someone finally understands them. I have friends telling me they are crying with laughter or crying with tears at something funny or sad that I wrote. How are we supposed to help others if we don’t tell the truth? How can we relate to others if we don’t show our weaknesses?

If you have read my “about me” page, you know all this already. I have overcome trials as we struggled to build our family- some of which include infertility, miscarriage, adoption, IVF, carrying twins, and almost dying. I want to tell my children what it was really like to “acquire” them.  It was hard, sad, funny, ridiculous, embarrassing, and wonderful. I also want to record what these early days were like for us. Soon enough, they will be in school, and none of us will really remember these painfully beautiful and painfully hard days. I have a bad memory, and I am seriously sleep-deprived –  both of which indicate that I will not remember the majority of what is happening here.

A friend of mine has a sign on her wall that says, “The days are long, but the years are short.”

This blog is written for my children. A question I answered in my “What Happens When You Start Blogging” post was, “Why are you writing in a public forum if the information is really for your children?” The answer is that I have discovered that I am incapable of keeping a private journal for them – I just don’t make the time. However, when I am blogging, I know I have followers who are waiting for my new posts. I currently have just shy of 1500 followers. People tell me that they eagerly anticipate the email notification that I have posted something new. That knowledge is excellent motivation to keep writing. So, yes, this information is recorded for my children, but you readers are the motivation. And I thank you for that!

With all that cemented, let me set the record straight by doing something I never do: brag about my children. Here are some amazing things about them… just so you know they are loved. wink wink.

My oldest son (R, age 4):

  • Has a very long attention span
  • is obedient, despite tantrums
  • has excellent motor skills, both fine and gross
  • can recite some scripture stories and knows how to pray
  • can talk about Jesus and Heavenly Father
  • is very thoughtful
  • has favorite foods that include salmon, blueberries, falafel, quinoa, and veggie juices
  • doesn’t know what a “Happy Meal” is (even though he loves french fries, I admit)
  • does not watch TV (but does watch a limited selection of DVDs)
  • does not know how to manipulate any sort of smart phone, computer, or device (this is my choice)
  • protects his babies from all sorts of dangers
  • has an above-average vocabulary (according to a speech therapist) and even understands a bit of Farsi

My middle son/oldest twin (E, age 16 months):

  • looks exactly like my husband’s baby photos, but with lighter eyes and hair
  • is a hugger. He will even pause to hug the stairs, the wall, or a boot
  • has a lower lip that slays me
  • rubs two fingers together when he is nervous
  • is much larger than almost all singletons his age
  • is already learning to share and take turns, because he has no choice
  • has favorite foods that include avocado (he can eat a whole one every day), eggs (he can eat 3), salmon, falafel, and plain yogurt
  • does not watch TV
  • knows a small amount of sign language and says many words

My youngest son/youngest twin (G, age 16 months):

  • looks exactly like my baby pictures, but with darker hair and eyes
  • is quick and sneaky, like a ninja – or a chess player.
  • has the most kissable head… His oldest brother calls him “baby doll head” (he made that up)
  • was in charge in the womb and is in charge now
  • is much larger than most singletons his age, but is way smaller than his twin
  • has favorite foods that include all the same healthy foods that his brothers like
  • does not watch TV
  • knows a small amount of sign language and says some words

I love my kids (duh, boring), and what I do is really hard and really ridiculous. There you have it. The record is straight.

To My Readers Who Are Struggling with Infertility

I don’t just sympathize – I truly empathize with you. I feel your pain. I walked in your shoes. Whatever you are going through or feeling right now, I probably experienced it:

…..Miscarriages, adoption paperwork, IUI, IVF, Clomid, Follistim, Bravelle, Lupron, progesterone suppositories, 1.5” needles, glass vials, cysts, insensitive comments from strangers or non-strangers, meeting with social workers to prove that my house was suitable for children, getting fingerprinted at the police station like a criminal to prove that I was suitable for children…

…Spending $1500 out of pocket at the pharmacy for one month’s medications, enduring laparoscopic surgery for endometriosis, waking up in agony after egg retrieval surgeries during IVF cycles, wasting thousands of dollars when my period started and that cycle didn’t work, breaking down in tears at family parties, screaming in pain during not one but two HSG procedures (barbaric), blood tests every other day, vaginal ultrasounds sometimes EVERY day…

…Genetic testing for me and for my lost fetus, trying to change everything from the lotions I used (parabens!) to the temperature of the water I drank (the ayurvedic doctor said only hot water!), crying  in Wal-mart because I saw a poster of a baby, wanting to run over the “stork parking” signs in parking lots, hating my body because it couldn’t do something that teenagers/ out-of-wedlock couples/ drug addicts can do by accident… (And I’m worrying about the kind of Teflon on my pots?!)

Did I forget anything?

The whole thing was infuriating, and it made me feel powerless over my life and my body and my future. I wanted more than one child, and the clock was ticking.  I even listened to my doctor say, “Well, if it hasn’t happened in five years, it’s probably not going to.”

So, yeah, I get it.

But, I am here to tell you something. I not only survived infertility, I kicked its butt! I never want to dull the pain of what happened to me, because I want to support those who are coming down the infertility path behind me. I want to be a small source of hope for you. Everyone is probably telling you stories (like “My friend so-and-so…”), but I don’t want to be that person. I just want you to know that I felt how you felt at one point, and now it’s over. It’s over. And it will be over for you someday too. I know it.

I experienced all of those things, and more. After 13 rounds of fertility drugs, 2 rounds of IVF, miscarriage, and adoption, I now have three beautiful boys. Although we haven’t used birth control in nearly a decade, none of those children were conceived in my own body. One of them came to us through adoption, and two of them came to us (simultaneously) through IVF. All of them have souls that belong in this family.

While the acute pain of infertility has ended, I refuse to forget about it. I think I know what you are feeling. And that feeling won’t last forever.

"Not room enough to receive it."

“Not room enough to receive it.”

I reflect on my infertile time each day at naptime, when I settle my three big baby boys on my lap for their milk. Combined, they weigh almost as much as I do. They take up all the space on my big rocking armchair. My lap literally cannot hold them all. I get weepy and emotional each day during this rare few moments. It’s the only time of day I get to cuddle them all. I think of a scripture each day during this time: “I will…open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it.” (Malachi 3:10) That scripture runs through my mind as they try to sit there on my lap because there is literally “not room enough to receive” them all. My arms are full. My lap is full. The windows of heaven opened, and, I must say, we worked really really hard to open them.

We may have never had this lap full/chair full/ house full of children if we had not prayed, or had miscarriages, or done the adoption paperwork, or decided to do IVF twice. I don’t know. All I know is that, in my case, I had to wait. I had to wait and learn and be patient and work really hard. But, most of all, I had to break. I didn’t bend when I was supposed to bend. I was not a strong branch. Eventually, instead of bending, I broke. But after that, I accepted my life/journey/path/challenge (ugh, each of those word choices is equally as cheesy as the next). I reached a state of peacefulness and true patience somewhere around the eight-year mark – and that’s when my children started arriving.

There was not room enough to receive them.

***

[And, yes, I do know that the verse from Malachi is about tithing, not IVF.]

How to Avoid Being a Jerk to Your Infertile Friend

infertilityThis topic has probably been beaten to death, but I’m going to add my voice to the commotion anyway. We were married for eight years before we adopted our oldest son, so we’ve heard a few things along the way. We would like more children, but we’re not sure we can conceive again. I still align myself with the Infertile Myrtles, despite the fact that I have three children in diapers (none of whom were conceived in my own body).

What Not to Say:

“Just relax.” Ummm, Do you think that a physical problem can be remedied with a long bath and a vacation? If it could, don’t you think I would have figured that out by now? I saw a t-shirt that said, “Guess what? Relaxing does not make a baby!” Also, permit me to say that relaxing while enduring daily doctor appointments, shots, and weird comments is impossible.

“Maybe you should ‘just’ adopt.” This one was my own personal most-hated phrase. First of all, adoption is a very personal decision that can only be made between the couple involved. There are many reasons that adoption may or may not be appropriate for a family. Second of all, there is no “just” involved in adoption. Adoption is called a “paper pregnancy” because the paperwork alone can take as long or longer than gestation. And you are “just” bringing a human being into your lives permanently for your next 60 to 80 years. Adoption is hard work and not for the weak.

“My friend so-and-so …”  Do not begin any sentence with this statement. Just don’t. (Anyone who has had cancer can maybe relate.)

“It was God’s will.” Okay, I am as religious as anybody. Maybe I even believe it was God’s will that any of this stuff has happened to me. (I do believe that we endured miscarriages so that our son R could come to our family through adoption. How else would he have made it our family?) But that does not give you the right to say it.

“Surprise, we’re pregnant!” It’s the “surprise” part of this sentence that is a big no-no.  If you are about to announce a pregnancy, please take pity on your infertile friends or family members by telling them personally, ahead of time, so they are not blindsided at the family Christmas party. Let them deal with their pain and sorrow in private, so they can then put on their Big Boy Panties and deal with it before the party. Sometimes, even a kindly worded email can be enough if you want to spare the person the experience of trying not to sob on the phone.

“You can always do IVF.” Um, no, you can’t always do IVF. It’s crazy expensive, especially in states where it is not covered by insurance. It is crazy hard, too. Daily injections and daily vaginal ultrasounds and daily hormone-induced breakdowns are just not for everyone. It’s also not appropriate for all medical conditions. And, how do you know that she didn’t already try it? It only works about 30% of the time… so maybe she was one of the 70% who spend ten grand for nothing and didn’t want to tell you about it.

“You should be glad you don’t have a baby. It’s so much work!” Just don’t ever say that. It does not help. I wanted to be immersed in the poop and the crying and the sleepless nights. Besides, I was not trying to have a baby; I was trying to begin a human being. I am trying to bring a soul to this family and to this world. Who cares about how much work that is? That statement is some kind of middle-school version of psychology.

“Why the rush? You have plenty of time!” The decision of when to have children is a personal one between a husband and wife, and maybe God. For me, it was a spiritual feeling that their souls were missing from our home and were trying to get here. Are you gonna argue that with me? Plus, I didn’t want just one baby. If I did, maybe I could afford to wait until I was 45 (just kidding). However, making multiple babies multiple times might mean starting a little earlier than that.

“Is it your husband’s fault?” Short answer: none of your business. Long answer: most husbands are feeling already emasculated about this whole situation, and most wives are rightfully reticent to throw their husband under the bus about infertility. I don’t think any husbands welcome anyone talking about their sperm. It’s hard enough to listen to the doctor do that. Plus, I think a good marital team adopts a no-fault system, like California divorces. Your problem is my problem and that’s all there is to it.

Okay, so now your lips are zipped and you’re too scared to make a peep. Now what? Here are some things that others said or did that actually helped me.

What You SHOULD Say/Do:

  • Yes, do invite your infertile friend to that baby shower. No, don’t expect her to come to it, but don’t leave her out either. Let her make the decision. I never ever went to baby showers, but I appreciated being included. Some of my stronger infertile friends continue to go to showers.
  • Yes, do tell your infertile friend that you are pregnant. As I mentioned above, telling her in private before everyone else finds out is the best and kindest thing. You can even tell her by email or phone. Just don’t let her be ambushed, where she would have no choice but to hide in the bathroom to avoid a public meltdown at the big family function.
  • Ask her how she is doing, and just listen. A well-timed, “Man, that really sucks” is all you need to say. Really. We don’t need advice- we need friends!
  • Check up on her often. Infertility is so lonely. Messages, cards, emails, phone calls, texts all count. It doesn’t matter how you do it, but it matters that she doesn’t feel forgotten. Just say “I was thinking about you today.” Or just say “hi”!
  • Don’t talk about babies. If you have kids already, tone it down and wait for her to ask about them. Visiting with her is not a playdate.
  • Face that elephant in the room: Although I suggest avoiding talking about your babies, this is not a license to avoid talking about her situation. You can even say, “I don’t know what to say, but I want you to know that I am your friend.” She may or may not want to talk about the whole thing, but give her the opportunity, and then follow her lead. Personally, I was an open book about it all, because that was my therapy. I had a good friend who never talked about it, and that was what was best for her.
  • If you have kids, maybe don’t bring them around. However, some women prefer some good ole’ fashioned “baby therapy” and might appreciate holding your little one. You will have to be  a good and attentive friend to figure this one out!

With possibly one in six couples facing infertility at some point in their lives- even possibly after having a child- the chances are great that you already know someone who needs your support. Good luck!

My Birth Story: How I Almost Lost My Uterus, My Life, and a Twin

I originally began writing this in December 2012, when the twins were two months old. I didn’t finish it until August 2013, when they were ten months old. It took me that long to address some of the hard memories.

*CAUTION: Medical grossness ahead. This post includes the phrase “torrent of blood” somewhere, as well as the word “uterus” eight times. *

preg belly and r photoshopped

(I had many months to go here!)

My Birth Story: How I Almost Lost My Uterus, My Life, and a Twin

It was scary. It’s true that I almost died, and most certainly came close to having a hysterectomy. More than a couple doctors and nurses  said that if I had been at any other hospital, my outcome would not have been good. I had postpartum hemorrhage and uterine atony (i.e., when the uterus can’t contract again after losing so many placentas, babies, and blood). I lost 5 LITERS of blood – enough to kill me. They worked quickly and ended up doing three other procedures after my c-section, that same day, to save me. I only remember one of them- the most pain I’ve ever experienced (and I would like to think I’ve had my fair share of pain)- and then 2 other procedures while sedated (thank goodness). I woke up with my hands tied down and a breathing tube in my throat and I didn’t know if I still had my uterus or if G had even made it. I never met him until his third day of life.

I had been on modified bedrest for the last trimester of a high-risk twin pregnancy, with a demanding and often quite sad 2-year-old. The women from my LDS church set up a rotating schedule for R during my last month, where a different sister picked him up each morning, and returned him each afternoon. They took him to their houses, or to the playground. For a major introvert like R, this was pure hell. Besides being pure hell, it was also a major contributing factor to the success of my pregnancy, according to my doctors. It was all I could do each morning to get him dressed and fed. I would hide my tears of pain from him as I got up off the floor. I had been having contractions since 18 weeks along. I had very carefully gained my recommended 75 pounds, and then 5 to 10 more of water weight – or tator tots. (I had been in the “underweight” BMI category.) By some miracle, I made it to 38 weeks, which is the very earliest the hospital would schedule a c-section. My pain was so great by the end that I was on narcotics for the last month. Don’t judge. Every ultrasound tech sucked in their breath and clucked with sympathy when they saw my babies’ head positions – dropped and locked. Together.

The day of the birth came. It was October 2012. I was so relieved.

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I hadn’t slept or sat or eaten properly for weeks. Twin pregnancy is a living hell that I wouldn’t wish on anyone. (Anyone who says otherwise is probably the kind of person who says they can climax during labor.) Thirty-eight weeks is considered full-term for twins. I was doing good, technically. The last ultrasound showed that the babies were only 5 ½ pounds each, which is respectable enough for twins. I had been 2 centimeters dilated for a few weeks, and having irregular, disorganized contractions. Everything looked good on paper. I was technically fine.But I knew something was wrong – or I just knew something was going to be wrong. I am not a pessimist. I just had this foreshadowing kind of a feeling.

The c-section started out normal enough. As they pulled E out, I literally (obviously) felt a huge weight lift – I cannot express the relief of taking a full breath. I saw him, and I could hear my husband exclaim, “He looks like my Dad!” I remember thinking, why is that baby so pink? I had almost imagined him as an African-American, like our first son. And then I couldn’t keep my eyes open. I was going dark. I was in and out of consciousness as they pulled G out. I never saw him. He wasn’t breathing. I wasn’t breathing. Things were going wrong, but no one seemed super concerned. I could hear the various professionals around me commenting on upping my this and my that, but they weren’t rushing and they weren’t nervous. I wondered why no one thought things were that bad. At some point, my husband tried to take a family photo of us with E, just as I had asked him to do. I don’t remember him taking the photo and didn’t see it until much later. My eyes are closed- BECAUSE I AM UNCONSCIOUS! –  and I look gray. It is not the kind of photo you put in your album.

My husband told me later that G first responded to his voice. The doctors and nurses were working on him, somewhere behind me, and it wasn’t until his Daddy whispered to him that he took his first breath.  Many, many months went by before I read all the detailed paperwork and realized G did not take a breath until he was 4 ½ minutes old. He was intubated and whisked off to the NICU.

The babies were huge for twins – or huge for a momma with an underweight BMI. They were 7 ½ pounds each. Well, maybe- they had weighed G with his intubation tube in, so they told me we don’t have an actual weight for him. My husband said to the doctor, “Why can’t you just subtract the weight of the tube from the birthweight?” She replied, “It doesn’t work like that.” He said, “Um, yes, it does.” In any case, the babies were far from the predicted size of 5 ½ pounds each.

As I lolled around, only halfway understanding anything, they wheeled us into the recovery room. I remember thinking, this is weird. I am not okay. Why are we moving ahead here? They gave E to me and my husband put him to my breast. We had a perfectly normal, yet out-of-this-world five minutes together as a family. E began to suckle. I couldn’t sit up and I couldn’t hold him, but E edged his way to his first meal. As a mom who previously did not give birth or breastfeed my “firstborn”, this was a heavy moment.

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(our five minues of heaven with E)

My heart was elsewhere, though, as I fretted for my unknown baby in the NICU. And then said heart started to feel very weak. I sensed the nurses beginning to rush. I wouldn’t say I heard or saw them, because I was getting fuzzy again, but I sensed things changing. It might sound weird, but my true thoughts were, “Finally. Someone knows that this isn’t right. Someone finally knows something is wrong with me.”

My husband took the baby and stood in the corner of this small cubicle as the nurses shoved him aside. They began to poke and prod me. I could understand that I should have been bleeding, and I wasn’t. I was only leaking water. While this sounds like the opposite of hemorrhaging, it is indeed hemorrhaging. I was bleeding on the inside. Two huge placentas and two huge babies detaching from my uterus so quickly can make hemorrhage and atony more likely. My uterus couldn’t adapt. Or maybe I have some sort of bleeding problem. We will never know. The blood is supposed to come out, and it didn’t. The uterus is supposed to contract, and it wouldn’t.

The surgeon rushed in. She began “uterine massage.” This phrase is perhaps the most poorly named phrase in the history of the world. She worked quickly and she worked HARD. She pressed from the top and from the inside at the same time to stop the bleeding. I don’t want to make anyone faint or anything, but I will just say that this is the most painful thing I have ever experienced in my life- AND I WAS STILL A LITTLE NUMB FROM THE SPINAL BLOCK!  Please remember that she was pressing down on an area that had just been cut open and sewn back up.  This procedure left me bruised for weeks, so much so that I couldn’t burp my babies for three weeks because I couldn’t bear the pressure of their tiny feet on my belly.

I was levitating off the table. I was screaming. All I could think of, when I was screaming with blinding pain, was poor little E, there in my husband’s arms, three feet away. I prayed that my husband could read my mind, and he did. He covered E’s ears. What does that do to a child – to hear nothing but misery as he arrives? My husband later said that what he saw was a torrent of blood. His eyes and brain were scarred and I don’t think he has ever  told me the extent of the gore that he saw. He felt completely torn in half. He wanted to hold me, and he wanted to get E the heck out of there.

It didn’t work. I endured that pain for nothing. They whisked me away. I watched my husband and baby get smaller and smaller. I didn’t know what they were going to do to me. I didn’t know if I would hold E. I didn’t know if I would lose my uterus. And, worst of all, I had never even seen G with my own eyes and didn’t know if he was okay.

They mercifully put me to sleep. I don’t remember anything for a while. I woke up two days later, in the ICU, with a tube down my throat. It was dark. I was in terrible pain. I didn’t know where my husband was. I didn’t know if I had had a hysterectomy. I didn’t know if G had survived. It was the lowest point of my life.

Everything was okay. I had not had a hysterectomy, although I had come close, and the doctors told me that I most certainly would have if I had been at a smaller hospital. G was doing very well in the NICU, and was breathing on his own. My tube would come out.

My husband tried to piece things together for me. I was under a lot of narcotics, and this time is very hazy to me. He said that I had actually been conversing with them a little bit during my ICU stay. I didn’t believe him, so he showed me the papers where I had tried to scribble my questions when I couldn’t talk while intubated. He told me that my mother and father had been there too and he had pictures to prove it. I couldn’t remember any of it. Anyone who has ever been in the hospital for an extended stay would understand. I had been sedated into some sort of twilight phase. Sometimes, he would tell me something and these weird, underwater memories would seep back to me. I would cry from pain and confusion.

He told me, several times until I could remember, what had happened to me. When they put me to sleep, they immediately did a D&C to stop the bleeding. It did not work. Then they tried one last procedure, where they inserted a “balloon” into my uterus  to stop the bleeding. They left it in for a couple of days, and slowly decreased the size of it to help my uterus contract. It had a tube to let all the blood out. The balloon works by applying pressure to the uterus from the inside. Like an internal tourniquet. It was this balloon procedure that had saved me.

On the third day, I was wheeled into the maternity ward to learn some things, like how to pee and how to walk. It was an extremely painful week. I remember sleepless nights, although they were sadly from my pain and not from my babies. I remember having the catheter for far too long for anyone’s comfort. I remember tremendous amounts of narcotics – so much that I would get the shakes and the chills and flu feelings an hour before my next dose. My husband was by my side for the whole thing. He brushed my hair and my teeth. He brought back pictures and reports from the NICU, where G was, and the nursery, where E was.

They finally wheeled me down to meet G in the NICU as soon as I could possibly sit in a wheelchair. It was a momentous occasion, but meeting him was almost more than I could bear, physically. Sitting up made me sick and weak. I couldn’t hold my neck up and I didn’t know why. I later learned it was because I had had six ports SEWN into my neck for two blood transfusions. My neck was now bandaged into an unmovable position. I tried to hold G and feed him, but I started to cry and had to be taken back. Just getting back into the bed was more than I could bear. I was hooked up to all sorts of machines and had bandages all over my body for reasons I didn’t know.

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(the first time I met G, in the NICU, 3 days old)

There were some nights when I thought I would never get out of there. There were some moments when I thought I did not have the strength to ever walk to the bathroom again. (Even my throat and neck were searing from the pain of the intubation tube. I was hoarse for weeks. ) What I did felt like it took superhuman strength and willpower. I am not the first person to be hospitalized. I am not the first person to almost die after birth. I am not the first person to recover. I know that. But when it is happening to YOU, suddenly the world is a very cruel place. I can’t even look at hospital beds on TV shows without feeling sick these days.

The worst  pain is that, when I look back on my one piddly little week in the hospital, I don’t remember much about the babies. I didn’t hold them. I didn’t nurse them, although we put them to the breast for comfort. I didn’t burp them. I certainly didn’t change them. I missed their first bath in the nursery. I missed G graduating from the NICU to the nursery. I missed out on a lot, which made me so angry after having missed out on the very beginning of R’s life as well (from the adoption). It wasn’t fair to any of them.

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My husband’s parents kept R for that entire week. They brought him to see me every day at the same time. It was the best and worst part of each day. He was so scared of me. He was so sad. He was so confused. He wouldn’t sit on the bed with me or hug me. He was not exactly an adaptable or happy kid anyway, so this major life event had thrown him. I tried so hard not to cry or show my pain when he was in the room. My husband would always take him down to the cafeteria and try to not let him overwhelm me. My mommy guilt was sky-high. I found out months later that he had thrown up in my in-laws’ Cadillac on the way to the hospital because he was so scared.

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(the first time R would go near me… please know that my kind husband heavily photoshopped this photo to make me look healthier or something)

That first day had been hard on everyone. We had four grandparents, two aunts, two cousins, and our firstborn son waiting in the waiting room for that joyous moment when my husband would come down and shout, “They’re here! Our two boys are here!” That moment never came. Little by little, they began to realize that things were going wrong and they would have to go home. Over time, I heard from each of them about what that day had been like for them, from their perspective, and it breaks my heart. One aunt described it the best. She began to sob as she said, “The whole day can be summed up in one moment: watching your mother-in-law walk out of the hospital with the balloons and flowers she had brought for you.” The joy left the hospital that day.

It was all so scary for me, but I feel the worst for my husband. He saw some major gore, had to deal with all our family’s questions, and had to go home alone that first night. He said that was the worst part: not knowing if I would make it, and having to go home anyway (there is nowhere to stay when someone is in the ICU), and realizing that all 5 of us were in different places. I was in the ICU, G was in the NICU, E  was  in the nursery, R was with grandparents, and even the dog was at the kennel! He wrote me a love letter that first night and sent it to my email…. and I got it a week later when I finally checked my email. Bless him. That was probably the most romantic, yet sad, gesture I can remember. It is too sacred to me to ever share.

I have recovered. I am probably 90% back. It was so slow- I had to learn to walk again. I came home  with a physical therapist and a walker. The whole thing was brutal. As the weight started to come off and the swelling went down, my ankles looked like cartoonishly skinny. My calves looked like a coma patient’s calves. Also, because of the blood transfusions, I almost didn’t make any milk. The doctors told me that transfusions messed with my pituitary gland, and that I might never make any milk. I surprised even the lactation consultants, when it came in later than they had ever seen – somewhere around the eleventh day. I am grateful that I can give my babies a little immunity even if I can’t make them full.

Nobody really likes us to talk about what happened. Only he and I knew how bad it really got. The days and weeks after were filled with sleeplessness, painkillers, a rotation of grandmas/aunts/cousins who never left us alone at night, meals provided by the church sisters,  two tiny babies who needed constant love, and a disgruntled 2-year-old who also needed constant love. He seemed to be dealing with his own PTSD symptoms after having his mother go into the hospital and stay there. Despite all that, my husband and I would catch a quiet moment together now and then, and he would tell me another little piece of my story from that week. He would show me the scribbled notes I had tried to write him when I couldn’t speak- and his translations beside them. He would show me another picture from the ICU. I don’t think I found the pictures of G in the NICU and his oxygen tent until months later, and I burst into tears because I still had no idea what had happened to him during those days when I was sedated. The mommy guilt was crushing. We also had practical concerns to address –  like what would happen if I were to leave him with three little ones!  We leaned on each other and cried, both from relief, and from fear. We had a lot to process together.

I sit here with G strapped to my chest in a carrier, R “fixing” his cars with his tools at my feet, while my husband does the dishes with E in a front pack. Life is good. I’m glad to be here.

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So, What Is IVF Really Like? (A Thesis)

This is more of a thesis, not a blog post. I have had so many people – even people I have never met – seek me out for help on this topic. I am an open book about my experiences with infertility, precisely so it can help others. However, I was hesistant to share THIS much. It’s a doozy. Caution: medical grossness ahead.

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So What is IVF Really Like?

It sucks. It’s weird. It’s expensive. It’s embarrassing. It hurts. And it sucks.

IVF stands for In Vitro Fertilization, which means “fertilization in glass”. The eggs are actually removed from my body (while I am under anesthesia, thank goodness) during a surgery called “egg retrieval”, then put in a Petri dish with the sperm. After they grow for 3-5 days, they are put back into my body in another procedure, called embryo transfer (while I am only under Valium, unfortunately).

The weirdest part is leaving my little fertilized eggs in Maryland while we just…drive home. Bye, little eggs! We will back for you in 3-5 days! No problem. This is not weird, right?
Anyway, since we did 13 drug cycles before beginning IVF, we had already dealt with the emotions that come with infertility. The rage, the unfairness, the questioning – it’s all old news. I was comforting another woman going through infertility the other day, and I realized that I had actually made progress. I was giving her advice! I truly empathized with everything she was feeling, but some of it was actually over for me. I hadn’t realized that I had progressed.

In our previous 13 drug cycles, I either took pills (Clomid) or did injections (Follistim), combined with IUI (Intra-uterine Insemination, or, basically, a turkey-baster method). We never got to the point of actually taking the eggs out of my body (IVF). We experienced one confirmed pregnancy, which we lost at ten weeks after having seen a heartbeat and everything. I had to have a D&C for that, which was as traumatic as losing the baby in the first place. They did genetic karotyping afterward on the fetus to determine why we lost it, and it was determined to be a common chromosomal abnormality. Just “bad luck”, according to my dear doctor. They also determined that “it” was a girl.

We had several other suspected pregnancies, which ended in monstrously painful periods that left me locked in a crouched position and sobbing (when it was possible to sob between contractions, I guess). We also basically told my doctor that I had endometriosis, and he did laparoscopic surgery to see if I was right. Indeed, I had Stage 2 endometriosis, which they burned away with lasers. Yes, lasers! Congrats, you were right, and you get lasers as a prize. The doctor told me to expect to be back to my old self in 3 days. Ummm, it took 4 days before I could even sit up, and 10 days until I could drive my stiff clutch again. Never never believe them about how many days you need to recover.

During these past 6 years of “trying” (ugh, how we Infertile Myrtles detest that word!), and our many many attempts at intervening-with-modern-medicine, we verrrrry slowly stopped wondering “why us?” We started just dealing with the “new normal” by always planning and plotting what we would do next. Infertility is a loss of control, and the only way to mentally deal with it is to regain control… either by jabbing yourself with needles, deciding to watch reality TV on E! until your eyes bleed, or by filling out adoption paperwork. When I finally gained a testimony of adoption, it was because I wanted to be a mother more than I wanted to be pregnant. Some women take a long time to tip that scale. I sure did. But once I was tipped, I wasn’t looking back. I am such an advocate of adoption that I now serve in a public capacity to promote adoption.

Our adoption story is too big and too wonderful to be included here in my epic epistle of infertility. We can call this bracket and ellipses my adoption story of our son R: […..]

Once our son turned a year old, it was time to start thinking about how to get Baby #2 to our family. We had many “woe is me” moments about how unfair it was that we have to pay big bucks to get a baby into our family. But you know what? My husband worked his butt off for, and has been blessed with, an excellent and stable career that allows us to even have conversations about adoption and IVF. We are very fortunate. I once heard someone say that if we all took our problems and put them into a pile, and then were allowed to choose a new problem, we would all just take our own problems back.

We had reached the end of the road with all other intervening-with-modern-medicine options, and we had three different doctors tells us that sooner was better than later for IVF. (By the way, it feels like a kick in the gut to hear a doctor nonchalantly say, “Five years, huh? Well, it would have happened by now if it were gonna happen.”) My endometriosis, combined with my advanced egg age of 31, was not appealing to potential embryos. We had saved and saved and saved for IVF, all the while managing to pay for the adoption and a (small) down payment on a new house. I had quit teaching years before, but I had dog-walked my way to the adoption. The adoption tax credit that our government gave back to us, combined with our savings, allowed us a 3-try IVF plan. (By the way, again, can I just shout from the rooftops about that adoption tax credit?! If more people knew about it, more people might adopt!) Once we had decided to go for it, and had the money in place, we still had to get our paperwork together. Since we had moved, we were starting over with a new doctor, or, to be more precise, with the first and largest fertility clinic in the country. Their motto is “Where We Have the Best Pregnancy Rates But You Are Just a Number”. Anyway, let’s just say that these brackets and ellipses serve as the paperwork hell that included doctor wrestling, injection classes, repeats of many painful tests, lots of babysitters for R, and ridiculous amounts of faxing: […..]

So, it was time to do IVF Round 1. I saw some sort of chart that depicts a woman’s state of mind during IVF, and it was a little scary. The line goes up as she gets started (ah, the control you feel when you wield that needle! I will “shots” myself to a baby! I am in control!), then goes down as the side effects take over (Crazy Woman!), then go up as your surgery happens (Finally, Some Progress!), then goes down when you see how few eggs fertilize (Dismay!), then goes up as they implant some back in (Hope!), then goes down when you get your pregnancy test back (Negative. World Goes Black. You Just Wasted Ten Thousand Dollars.).

So, we were prepared. We had been through so many procedures together, and we had become old pros at injections and getting bad news, and I had seen the dang graph about my emotions. I was prepared. We had been waiting years for the Big Daddy IVF. Bring it on!

They start you easy enough: just birth control pills for 3 weeks. Isn’t that ironic?! Irony is something with which we Infertile Myrtles are familiar. The doctor wants to completely control your cycle, so after being infertile for 6 years, we were once again popping those dang pills. I felt so detached from my body while I was on birth control pills. I missed the familiar ups and downs of a normal hormonal body. I felt like a robot – with no crying at commercials anymore, but also no interest in my husband anymore.

During this time, it’s time to go to the pharmacy to see what injectable meds they have in stock, don’t have in stock, or will never have in stock. Then it’s time to work with specialty fertility pharmacies that will get you the latter. After countless phone calls/trips/emails/price checking among my local pharmacy, two specialty pharmacies, and my assigned nurse, I finally had what I needed….at the lovely discount price of never-you-mind. It was so much medication that they gave it to me in two shopping bags- with handles! Picture yourself walking out of the pharmacy with that! Also, could you ever picture yourself smiling with relief when the cashier tells you that one week of one kind of medication would be $1000? Well, I did. I was so happy because they had previously quoted me $2000 for a different brand of that same medication. The $1000 version involved two injections per day, but the $2000 version involved one injection per day. We decided the extra injection each day was worth saving the daily $100.

After three weeks of pills, it is time to stop the pills. For some women, this may not be a big deal. For me, estrogen withdrawal (also known as a period) causes a 4-day migraine. In case you’re not familiar, this is the kind of headache that makes me not want to have children and pass down my bad genes. I vomit, I feel seasick, I sometimes can’t see out of my right eye, I can’t eat, I can’t move my head, and lights feel like ice picks in my eyes. Sometimes it’s so bad that I could picture actually stabbing my head with said ice pick to get some relief. I don’t actually sleep for real, because the pain is cutting through my sleep. I look gray and talking is difficult. I grind my teeth and can’t move my neck from bracing myself against the pain. Now, please remember that I do have a two-year-old to take care of all day while my husband earns the money for these pills and shots that make me feel this sick. I am technically allowed to take my migraine medicine at this point in my cycle, but the headache is so bad that it barely takes the edge off – but at least enough to make me eat.

In the meantime, it’s time to go to the doctor for a “Lupron Evaluation”, which is just bloodwork and a vaginal ultrasound to test my readiness for the next step. So, before the migraine even subsides, the doctor puts me on Lupron injections once or twice a day. Thankfully, I get to use the small subcutaneous insulin needles, so it doesn’t hurt much. Lupron is a liquid medication that shuts ovaries down. The doctor wants them totally at rest so she can build them back up again her way. In IVF, a woman needs to make as many eggs as is safely possible, but they all need to be the same size. Guess what a side effect of Lupron is? More migraines.

For the first few days, I think, “Oh, this is easy. No problem. I feel fine and normal.” And then, BAM! Here is a little list of the Lupron side effects for me:
• Menopause: Hot flashes; night sweats that make it seem like I’ve peed the bed
• Insomnia : So I can stay up and make lists
• Anger/rage: Even though I am a person who never really gets mad
• “Nerve aggravation”: This is a weird one. My husband thought I was just having the heebie-jeebies from all the shots, but I kept telling him that my skin was crawling all the time. I finally noticed this excellent phrase listed in the fine print.
• Feeling stupid: My ability to concentrate decreases as each day passes. By the end, I can’t even understand basic sitcoms that I watch every week.

After a few days of that, it’s time to start the Big Daddy Drugs. Starting them is actually a relief because it makes my estrogen climb again, which relieves the migraines. Plus, starting more injections means More Control! My Big Daddy Drugs protocol includes Bravelle and Menopur injections. These are powdered medications that come in old-fashioned glass vials. We mix several vials of each with a vial of sterile water and meticulously get every drop of them into a needle. This needle is much bigger than the insulin needles, but it is still a subcutaneous injection, which means just under the skin, and not all the way into the muscle (i.e., less painful). However, unlike the Lupron, this is a large amount of fluid being injected, and it BURNS under the skin. It continues to burn for almost an hour. Sometimes my thigh gets lumpy, and sometimes I limp. As a side note, women are encouraged to inject in the abdomen, but I find this ridiculously uncomfortable. I think my BMI is too low for that, so we inject in my fattiest part. Yep, my thigh. The purpose of these medications is to stimulate the ovaries to release more than one egg at a time, and also to mature more than one egg at a time. We got so good at it, that Mr. Okayest didn’t even have to wake me up for the morning injections. He just mixed the vials, threw my covers back, jabbed me, kissed me, and left for work. What a man.

Soon enough, the side effects waltz on in. For me, they include:
• Swollen ovaries
• Swollen abdomen: pants not fitting, pants hurting, belly distended more each day
• Wearing jammies all day
• General stiffness and soreness: Perhaps as a result of not being able to exercise
• Decreased urination: The ovaries and follicles are filling with fluid. The doctor told me to double my water intake, but, no matter how much I drink, I am still peeing less than normal.
• Moodiness: “We” had to instill a no-chewing-ice-policy while-on-the-couch. That about sums that up.
• Waddling: By the end, I have to hold my belly up whenever I laugh, go up stairs, or get up from the couch. I know I walk funny too.
• Not being able to lift my 30-pound toddler: At the doctor’s request, there is no more lifting after a certain point because it can cause “ovarian torsion”, which can cause the loss of an ovary. The doctor did not specify how exactly I was to get R into the crib, highchair, or carseat without losing an ovary.
• Dumber by the minute, can’t focus eyes toward the end

These medications are dangerous. The doctor needs to see me every other day, and then, every day, for bloodwork and vaginal ultrasounds. The doctor did not specify how exactly I was to get to the office every morning without R in tow. Did I mention that the clinic has a no-children-in-the-office policy? I can certainly understand why – I am not that far removed from crying when I saw pregnant women, or posters of babies in Wal-mart. However, I feel like R is a shining example of how adoption can bless the lives of women. I want to parade him around and say, “Get out of this fertility clinic and run straight to the nearest adoption agency!”

Anyhow, we got extremely creative with childcare for R during the two weeks or so that I had to go to the doctor every day. Mr. Okayest went in late to work, various relatives watched him, various church members watched him. Sometimes I even snuck him in with me…. He was silent as a mouse in there. Sometimes he saw my nether-regions, which might be why he was silent.

Every day, when you go in for your “monitoring” (i.e., bloodwork and vaginal ultrasound), you hope and pray that the doctor will tell you to stop the shots and start prepping for surgery. However, my body was slow as a tortoise. Not to veer from its usual path, it took forever. Much like late puberty (14) and slow fertility (6 years), my body took great pride in stretching two weeks of shots into three. “Sorry, dear, a couple more days.” This comes with a horrendous side effect: having to go back to the pharmacy- or worse, overnight special-order the drugs. Often, my slow egg-building would result in several hundred more dollars per day.

Finally, FINALLY, the day comes when the doctor says, “Ok, you’re ready!” She has decided that your eggs are exactly big enough- and not too big- to be released. This is when the shots cease – all but one- and you schedule your egg-retrieval surgery. This is the day you skip out of the office with a thick packet of instructions of how to inject THE SHOT. THE SHOT, a.k.a the “trigger shot” is the HCG injection, an intra-muscular injection (i.e., the most painful) that triggers your body to release all those eggs at the same time. They give you an EXACT time to inject it based on when your surgery will be. If the hospital schedules your surgery for 3 PM on a Friday, then you must wake up at 3AM, 36 hours before, to inject that sucker. They only allow a deviation of 5 minutes. If you miss it, you miss your surgery, your eggs die, and then you have to start all over.

Our surgery was scheduled for a Friday night at 6:45 PM. This meant that I had to trigger at 6:45 AM on Thursday morning. These injections are not designed to be self-inflicted. In fact, you are required to have someone else do it. The injection site is a precise spot on your butt/hip- don’t worry, because there’s a diagram for that in your giant packet. A diagram of someone’s butt, with lines drawn all over it, dividing it into quadrants based on your butt crack placement and other hilarious things. Again, we are old pros at this injection, too, but it’s never easy. I numb the spot with ice and lay flat (weight on that leg will make you hurt for days- don’t tense that muscle!), and then Mr. Okayest makes a few well-timed jokes about me being Mr. Burns from the Simpsons (you know, the episode where he gets a shot and it goes all the way through his arm and out the other side…). The needle is 1.5 inches long, and it’s supposed to go in to the hilt. “Hold it like a dart!” (Thankfully, because my BMI is low, I got special permission this time to use a smaller 1” needle.) Since my husband usually leaves the house very early, he has to go in late to work just to inject me first.

Once the trigger shot is done, you bite your nails and wait. Friday came and I wasn’t allowed to eat, since it will be a surgery under anesthesia. My mom came over to help with R since I was pretty woozy. She also planned to stay here with him while we went to the hospital.

Going to the hospital was a relief – we are seeing the finish line! The date is January 27, 2012. The hospital is in another state, which is quite a long hike, especially on a Friday evening. They have me get undressed, into the paper gown, and lay in a waiting cubicle. There are 3 cubicles in a row, and each is only curtained off. I can see them wheel Cubicle Lady #1 into the operating room. Half an hour later, they wheel her back out, moaning and crying and groaning. Repeat process with Cubicle Lady #2. I am starting to sweat. It’s a nightmare to listen to women groaning and crying as they come out of the same anesthesia and surgery that you are about to endure.

Then they lead Mr. Okayest away for his “sample”. The poor husbands do not get any attention or love during this process. It’s very clinical and weird, but his portion is just as important as mine! I cry to see him leave me. They have had me hooked to IVs this whole time, which makes the waiting more gross, and so they walk me and my IV into the operating room. They have me sit on the edge of the table and repeat my name and birthdate again. I see my stats written on a white board – my number of eggs, my diagnoses, etc. The room is freezing. No one will make eye contact with me. The IV goes cold and they lay me back and that’s all I remember.

My ears always wake up before my eyes. I can hear the nurse saying my name. I can hear my husband’s sweet voice. I can feel him stroking my head. Then the peace disappears and my bottom feels like it’s on fire. My belly hurts so badly and the pressure on my bottom is horrendous. I am groaning and I can’t tell them. They want me to open my eyes but I just can’t. I try to roll onto my side and he understands what I need but the nurses don’t. We wait it off. I think they give me lots more pain meds. (As a side note, he later tells me that the anesthesia gives me the absolute weirdest bad breath. Great, I didn’t think it was possible to make this baby-making even more un-sexy.)

Much much later, my personal doctor explains that the endometriosis makes this process far more painful. The surgery is more intense. Plus, they had to work around my cysts and the surgeon was far more aggressive than usual, trying to get the eggs that were behind the cysts. She also says that skinny women feel the surgery worse because they get beat up a little more.

The report is that they got 11 eggs. Eleven beautiful mature eggs. They are fertilizing them, and we just have to limp home and wait. Fertilizing them, is of course, more expensive and difficult for us than for other people. Because of certain issues, we have to use ICSI, which is a $2000 flat-fee procedure where they choose 1 good sperm to inject into each egg by hand (instead of just putting the swimmers in a Petri dish with the egg like usual). Well, maybe not by “hand”. Probably with the smallest glass needle ever invented.

I get a Wendy’s Frosty on the way home as a reward.

At home, it’s Vicodin around the clock and waiting for our “fertilization report” that will come the next day. EIGHT! Eight eggs have fertilized. This is amazing news, because last time only 1 fertilized. We can’t believe it. Our emotions soar. I don’t feel so beat up anymore.

Every day we get a fertilization report from the doctor. It’s heart-attack-inducing every time the phone rings. May I just say how hard it is to wrap my head around the idea of these embryos? I mean, they are alive, but they are not babies. They are mine, but they are not in my body. I made them, but they are in a different state. My DNA has finally combined with my true love’s DNA. I begin to repeat a mantra every time I worry about them dying: “They are embryos. They are not babies.” But, every day they look very good and the doctor gives us great hope. They make it to Day 3, which is excellent. Since we have so many, and so many “Grade A” embryos (no longer just eggs- they are embryos now!), the doctor recommends that we push onward to Day 5. This is the Holy Grail of IVF. If your embryos reach Day 5, they have moved on to “blastocyst stage” of development, which is perfect and wonderful and amazing, but I don’t know why. Also, if you have any leftovers on Day 5, you can freeze them for later! This is also part of the Holy Grail of IVF. If you freeze embryos, then the next time you do IVF, you don’t need to go through the agony of injections and surgery before implanting them!

Day 5 arrives. February 1, 2012. First, we went for an acupuncture session at the urging of my mother-in-law. We had also had one before the retrieval. It has been shown to help with IVF statistics, but I hate it! We left R with my mother-in-law for this session, and also for the remainder of our day. I’m allowed to eat, since the egg transfer is done without anesthesia (grrrrr), so Mr. Okayest and I stop by Roy Rogers for lunch. (Yes, probably the last remaining Roy Rogers in America.) As soon as our meal is over, we receive THE CALL from our doctor. This is THE CALL – the last one- where she tells you exactly how your eggs look 1 hour before your transfer, and how many you should transfer back in. So it is here, standing outside the Roy Rogers, during THE CALL, where my doctor tells me that our embryos “look slow.” (Are you calling my kids handicapped!?) Pay attention, because this is a life-changing conversation.

As a back-story, Mr. Okayest and I had always agreed to follow the advice of the doctor regarding how many eggs to transfer. In 2012, the general consensus among doctors is that you should transfer one embryo if you are under 35, and 2 embryos if you are over 35. Our doctor had always wanted us to transfer one embryo because of our age, and also because our embryos were “Grade A”. Contrary to popular opinion, a fertility doctor’s goal is to impregnate you with ONE baby. Multiples are considered a big no-no in 2012.

So, to get back to THE CALL, our eight embryos had suddenly slowed their growth significantly on the Holy Grail of Day 5. Our doctor said there were two clear “front-runners” of equal growth, but they were looking slower than she would like. Furthermore, the other six didn’t look good. She believed that we would be highly unlikely to get any to freeze. This fact was a great sorrow to us both. More on that later… Most important is this: She said, “Based on today’s fertilization report, I recommend that you transfer two embryos. As long as you are aware of the 40% chance of twins and are comfortable with that.” We looked at each other and shrugged. Okay.

When we got to the hospital for our egg transfer, I was allowed to take my one piddly Valium, apparently because I am a wimp. The truth is, anytime they mess with my cervix, it’s excruciating, and I am still very bruised and banged up from the surgery five days earlier. The procedure takes place in a small room with low lights. There is a large screen showing MY OWN EMBRYOS in the lab next door. They open the door to the lab and I get a glimpse into the clean room where my babies were conceived. Not a bed, not a bedroom, not in my husband’s arms…. But in a clean room. Oh how I have a love-hate relationship with modern medicine at this moment. My legs are in stirrups, my bladder is ridiculously full to the right level, my hand is in his, and I am asked to sign a waiver about the number of embryos they are putting in. I look at Mr. Okayest one more time, and sign for my two babies. We never thought it could work, so why not put in the two? Then my eyes are glued to the screen. The lab door opens again and they bring in a catheter loaded with my two babies. They are so careful, it’s as if they are handling a live bomb. It’s over in a couple quick and painful minutes. We actually watch on the screen, live, as the catheter goes through the cervix and the two tiny dots go into my uterus. They just float on in. Then the doctor tells me to lie there on my back for five more minutes before I can relieve my bladder, tells me good luck, and leaves. We just stare at each other. The babies are back in my body where they belong. I am not pregnant because they haven’t implanted, but I am not not pregnant either.

We walk slowly and gently out of the building, with our odd instruction sheet. They say that you can’t sneeze, cough, or pee the embryos out, but no one says exactly WHY not. I mean, I saw them just floating there. They are microscopically tiny. And they are just lying there against the side of my uterine walls. What if he drives too vigorously on the way home?!

Now, after months of hormones, and daily doctor appointments, they just leave you alone. Yes, I have detailed instructions about the hormones I have to take 5 times a day, but that’s it. It’s just two weeks of waiting. I go home to my 24 hours of bedrest. Bedrest, by the way, is totally awesome for the first 3 hours, and then you just get a headache and get the fidgets.

The next day, we get our last fertilization report. The remaining six embryos have not made it to blastocyst stage, so they are gone. Just like that. Despite how many times I’ve repeated my mantra, how can I possibly not be sad? They were alive, and now they’re not. I can’t wrap my head around it. Even in our conservative church, we don’t necessarily believe that the soul enters at the time of conception. The prophets have hinted that the soul has not entered that early. So, with no soul, and no implantation, it’s not a baby. I know this. But they were alive, and now they’re not. The only thing that makes it better is when Mr. Okayest says that we just have to think of them as a vessel. They were a vessel, and it didn’t work. It’s time to focus on the two in my body now.

The two week wait is known as “2WW” in the infertility world. It’s the worst of any fertility cycle, because there is not much to do at this phase. The feeling of control is at an all-time low. I am taking estrogen pills twice a days and progesterone inserts (yes, inserts!) three times a day. I am not pregnant, because they haven’t yet implanted, but I am not not pregnant either. I have to remind myself of this every day. The hormones are called “implantation support” because they try to trick your body into implanting. During an IVF cycle, your brain does not make the right hormones, because you have tricked it into being pregnant. Therefore, you need to take them throughout the day and night to keep your hormone levels high. Inserts are totally messy and disgusting, by the way, and I don’t want to write about that or think about that ever again! Anyway, as Tom Petty says, “The waiting is the hardest part.” I tried hard to take things day-by-day and just not need headache medicine. We were expected to wait until Valentine’s Day for our in-office blood draw to determine if we were pregnant- that is, if the embryos had implanted. It would either be the best or the worst Valentine’s Day ever.

The HCG injection stays in your body for a certain amount of time. The half-life of it is based on your dosage and your size, but it takes about ten days for it to disappear from your system. Therefore, if you were to take a home pregnancy test during this time, you would get a false positive, which is way worse than a real negative. I’m an old pro, of course, at calculating when it is out of my body. During our first IVF, we were very obedient and did not take a home pregnancy test before our official blood test at the doctor’s office. That ended badly, because we got the call about our negative result in Target! Yes, Target! “Sorry to inform you that you have just wasted ten grand and your not-baby has died.” This time we wanted more control and more privacy, so together we decided to take the home pregnancy test at the right time- that is, after the HCG was out of my body and before the blood test at the doctor’s office. This day came on February 11th.

Before I go any further, let me explain that one more way infertility procedures are cruel: The hormones give you pregnancy symptoms. Therefore, nothing that you feel or sense means anything. For a woman who is pretty in-tune with her body, this is absolutely maddening. Yes, I feel pregnant. No, that doesn’t mean squat. What matters more in this situation is my spiritual life. I had made a pact with myself to read my scriptures every day during my cycle, and I kept that promise. If I were honest with myself, I knew in my soul, my heart of hearts, that the first IVF wasn’t going to work. This time, however, when I was sometimes able to part the clouds of anxiety and fear, I could feel the sunshine and calm assurance that this time it could work. Those moments were brief, and it took superhuman strength to break through the fear and PTSD of the last six years, but they were there for the taking.

So, on February 11th, 2012, in the privacy of our own bathroom, we got to experience something intimate together: taking the pregnancy test. We left the pee stick on the half-wall by the toilet, and then went back in together. TWO LINES! We were pregnant. I started shaking uncontrollably. The first thing I said, as we hugged, was “Will I still be pregnant tomorrow?!” Our joy was so tempered by the bad experiences we had had over the last 6 years. It was not the jumping up-and-down, screaming with excitement of the other pregnancy. We were too battle-weary and too knowledgeable about what could happen.

I learned a valuable lesson that day: The positive pregnancy test is only the start of the worry.

On Valentine’s Day, 2012, I took the blood test at the doctor’s office and they called me a few hours later to congratulate me on the positive news. My HCG levels were sky-high. I knew from research and from previous experience that they were extremely high for my particular day of pregnancy…. And I also knew what that meant: possibility of multiples. I didn’t know if I was happy or sad. Really, I didn’t know anything at that point, other than fear.

At this point, we were subjected to a second “two week wait”, as they don’t perform your first ultrasound at the fertility clinic until you are six weeks along. (A positive pregnancy test happens at 4 weeks, even though that is only 2 weeks after conception.) This 2ww just might have been more challenging than the first. I knew that a “clinical pregnancy” is possible, as are a hundred other things that would result in no baby. During this 2ww, we did blood tests every few days to determine if my HCG levels were rising/ doubling at the appropriate rate. This testing helps determine if it will be a viable pregnancy. My numbers were rising ridiculously quickly, which again indicated a possibility of multiples. The doctor did not hint at this, but I knew.

At the first ultrasound, Mr. Okayest was there with me. We knew we wanted to be together whether it was good news or bad. We would need each other. R sat silently on his lap. I searched the doctor’s face as she manipulated the ultrasound, and then she looked up and said, “What would you say if I told you it was twins?”