Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Time Goes On

Over a year ago I purchased a 5 year diary. You know, one of those books where you write a sentence or two about your day, every day, for 5 years. Most of my days are boring "went to work," "date night with hubby," "sick AGAIN." A year ago, things were a little more dramatic.

A year ago we were still reeling that we had lost our baby from our first IVF transfer. My RE told me I had many options to choose from to "eliminate the products of conception." I could wait and see what my body wanted to do, I could take a medicine that would initiate the miscarriage, or I could have a D&C.

I couldn't imagine waiting and wondering when it would happen. And I wasn't quite ready for a surgical process. So I chose the medication. I read about it and heard stories from other women who had used it so I could prepare. What I wasn't prepared for was contractions. I was only 7 weeks so they weren't as intense as they were supposed to be 30+ weeks later, but they were stronger than anything I had felt before. I did it on a day off, when I would be by myself and when my husband would be at work. I wanted to be myself. I wanted to feel this pain, selfishly, alone. It was quick. Within an hour of taking the medicine, it was all over. I was no longer pregnant.

Our 5 year anniversary was two days later.

Fast forward a year later and I a pregnant again. It's my third pregnancy, but the only one that has made it this far. The only baby I have ever felt kick, who has ever made me feel sick, who has kept me awake at night. But he isn't the first baby to make me cry.

In a year things have drastically changed. I learned that I would never be able to carry a child without surgical intervention each time. We went through a long, emotional process when we discovered both our dogs had cancer, and then when we lost one. Then, before I thought I was ready, we found a new dog, who ended up healing me in ways I couldn't have imagined.

This has been the worst year but the best year. I have become a completely different person than I would have expected. My marriage to my husband has become something impenetrable. Sometimes he has been the only person to hold me up and I feel that we are stronger now than ever.

And then there's Huey. My son, who I have loved carrying these past 7 months. I love feeling him kick and move around. I love watching my husband's face as he feels his son kick his hand. I am terrified and ready to become a mother. I am so excited to watch my husband become a father.

Sometimes I can't believe that only a year has passed. Life changes in an instant.

And our 6 year anniversary is in two days.

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

The Story of Harley

Harley came into my life almost 10 years ago. I don't remember the exact date, but she was just a few months old, still very much a puppy.

I was living with my then-boyfriend's (now husband) sister and her friend. The friend had three cats so we weren't allowed to have any pets. I had always wanted a dog. I met a girl in my year at grad school who had her own apartment and had a dog and I ended up spending a lot of time with her. We talked about how when we came back from winter break we would move in together somewhere...and I could get a dog.

I was away somewhere, maybe home for Thanksgiving, when a dog wandered up to another friend's house. He let her in and she hopped up on the couch like she owned it. He already had two dogs so wasn't looking to keep her, but remembered that I had spoken, often, of wanting a dog. My friend sent me a picture of her and she was THE CUTEST thing imaginable. We agreed that the dog, soon to be named Harley, would live with my friend and go home with her for winter break until we moved in together at the beginning of January.

For the next several weeks I spent as much time with Harley as I could. I took her for walks, attempted to teach her to potty outside and cuddled with her. She was underweight, but not too much, when she first arrived, so we had to get special puppy for her. She never was a dog that could get fat, but I remember her puppy rolls and how big her feet were, before she grew into them.

I learned that she was a chewer. Many leashes and collars were destroyed. Destroyed pairs of shoes.

But each night, I tucked her into bed with me. Sometimes she would face me and put her paw on my neck or head. Sometimes she I would just hold her as she fell away into puppy snoozes. Sometimes she wanted her own space and slept on a pillow on the floor.

She hated cars. I think she was terrified of them at the beginning. We would be on walks and she would see a car parked on the side of the road and would stop in her tracks. Sometimes I get coax her along, sometimes I would have to carry her past the car. I think maybe her first car ride was when she was abandoned.

If I had to put her in the car I would have to pick her up and place her in. Most of the time she got sick while riding in the car. Eventually, after several weeks of taking her somewhere in the car (either to a friend's house, dog park, or just for  quick ride) she learned to LOVE the car. She would hear the word "car" and would perk her ears and go absolutely crazy. She loved car rides. Even on her last day when I asked if she wanted to get in the car, she perked up.

We had our ups and downs. Sometimes I would get mad at her, sometimes I would annoy her, I'm sure. But she was MY baby. She was MY little girl. And for almost 10 years she was my best friend, my constant companion. For almost 10 years she let me love her and take care of her. For 10 years she rescued me. Now there is  Harley-sized hole in my heart and I'm doing my best to heal, but when she left me she left my heart shattered into a million pieces.

My only solace is that I hope one day she will come back to me, one day she will find me again. But until then I will tell her stories, I will think of her everyday and I will love and miss her forever.

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Letters to Harley

Harley, my love, my first baby,

You've been gone 5 days now. My heart is broken. Today is your birthday. You would have been 10. I thought we had much more time than that. I wanted more time than that. I am so sorry. I am so sorry I couldn't save you. I am so sorry that that your last days were filled with doctor appointments and procedures instead of the love and comfort you deserved.

I am so sorry that when your lesions were oozing I wouldn't let you up on the couch or on the bed for fear of getting things dirty. Things can be washed. Things can be cleaned. I chose clean over the comfort that you needed. I chose clean over snuggling you. I am so sorry. I am so sorry I was more worried about doing extra laundry than I was about making you feel better. I thought we had more time. I thought we had years and that you would get better.

I am sorry that when we brought you to the vet on your last day that I just looked at you on the floor. You were looking up at me and I knew something was wrong. You couldn't hold your head up. You couldn't stand on your own. You were looking for love and comfort and I couldn't get down on the floor with you. The next time I held you a few minutes later you weren't looking at me. You were already slipping away.

I hope you know that I loved you then. Even when I may have shooed you away or not let you do something, I always loved you. I love you still. And I am so sorry. I don't know that I'll ever forgive myself for everything that happened. But I hope you're at peace. I hope you know you are loved and that we were there with you at the very end. That mommy held your head and kissed your ear at the very end. That I felt your chest stop rising at the end.

Sometimes I think I see you lying on the couch. Or snoring. Or I see your little foot hanging off the couch. Sometimes I smell your smell; a good warm smell. And I like to think you're close by.

I want you to have fun and be free and get lots of good running and naps in. But then I want you to come home. Come home to me. Come home and let me love you and snuggle you and comfort you. You deserved everything. And I failed. Come home and let me make it up to you. I don't know how to be without you here with me.

I love you and miss you so much.

Love,

your mommy

Thursday, July 19, 2018

The Newells Ride a Rollercoast of Emotions

Harley:


Shortly after my birthday this year, we noticed that Harley was acting different. More lethargic, not getting excited. She stopped eating. And after two days of her being like this we took her to the emergency vet, since it was a weekend. The initial diagnosis was pancreatitis, though he thought something else might be going on due to her bloodwork. We went into two days later for an ultrasound and the whole world shattered.


The vet said he suspected stage III stomach lymphoma. Her prognosis? Not good. Especially if we couldn't get her to eat. If we did IV chemo we could optimistically have a year with her left. But most likely 3-6 months. I was by myself and that was all the information I retained. I spent the rest of the appointment holding myself together. Not because I didn't want to cry in front of the vet, but because I didn't want to stress Harley out by crying. I was given a bag of medication and sent home.


I rolled the windows down in the car and cried the whole way home. I figured if Harley had her head out the window, she couldn't hear my sobs.


I nearly collapsed out of the car when I got home. It was awful. Absolutely the worst feeling in the world. Because how do you explain to a dog that she's going to die? We went inside the house and I put Harley on the couch with me and just held her. Trey and I stayed up with her and just wanted to spend time with her.


I felt so guilty going to work. Leaving her home alone. We arranged to have our dog sitter come by and check on her, mostly because I was terrified she would die while I was gone and I would come home to her, by myself.


One of the medications, a steroid, started to get her feeling better. We were told this would happen, and it would allow her to eat and get her strength back, but it wouldn't cure the cancer.


We got a referral for a specialized practice with an oncology center and waited. I felt sick the whole time. How late is too late? How come I didn't know she had this? How could I have let her get this way? I felt like a horrible dog mom. I felt incredibly guilty. I cried every single day.


Harley is not just my dog. She's MY dog. She knows me. It's almost as if she can read my mind. When she hears me laughing she comes to see what we're laughing at so she can get in on the action. When she hears me crying she lays down next to me. She has been by my side through the worst parts of my life. Some days I cried so much on her that her hair was soaked. But she didn't care. She loved me and I loved her.


The day finally came to take her to the oncologist. It was a really nice place. The room was nice, not stuffy. I guess they want you to be comfortable when they tell you your pet is going to die.


Harley had a barrage of tests. We were there for hours. She was poked, prodded, xrayed,  ultrasounds, needle aspirations.


And guess what.


They did not think her test results and symptoms were consistent with cancer. Her cells were fine. Her ultrasound unremarkable. Her xrays-well, that was a different story. They did a chest xray, which was consistent with pneumonia. The previous ultrasound we had from the hospital showed thickening of the stomach wall. This was due to acute gastroenteritis. My baby did not have cancer. She had some other things, but curable things! We just needed to get her on antibiotics and watch her while she ate to check for aspiration (which is what they said caused the pneumonia).


We have xrays in a couple of weeks to check for improvement and then bloodwork and another ultrasound after that to make sure nothing has changed. But oh, I cannot tell you how worried we were. I was not, am not, ready to lose her. And I'm so glad that she's back to her normal self and still has a lot more time with us.


Briony:


A few weeks ago we noticed a bump on Briony's belly. Thinking it was just an inflamed nipple (maybe Harley had bitten it or something), we didn't really worry too much. Then it got bigger, and harder. So in the middle of all of the Harley's stuff (and some other personal stuff that we'll talk about later), I made an appointment to take Briony in.


Once again, I was by myself when I received bad news.


I am never going to the vet by myself again.


The vet stated that she thought it was a mammary tumor. Since Briony was older when she was spayed she has a higher risk of developing these. At this point she didn't know if it was benign or malignant, but recommended we remove it and send it for testing. UGH.


Can we please catch a break on our dogs??!!




***Update:


Briony has been diagnosed with osteosarcoma of the mammary tissue. This is a very rare cancer as it's a bone cancer found in the soft tissue of her mammary gland. We did have the whole tumor removed and we have clear margins. The initial xrays showed nodules on her spleen so we started chemo. At her last xrays there were no nodules on her spleen and she is doing great!


She seems to tolerate the chemo well and is doing very good with eating, drinking, etc. We are hopeful that she will be with us a little longer.




Harley, on the other hand, is very sick. A couple of days ago she had some cysts on her neck. They opened up and began bleeding. We took her to the vet and she suspects fibrosarcoma and believes that's what is causing her discomfort eating and drinking. We are waiting on the results from the pathology on the masses.

What it feels like when your heart breaks out of its ice cage

It's been awhile since we've provided an update. Unfortunately for y'all, you won't see this for some time after it's happened, anyway.

You see, on March 22 we transferred 2 embryos. It was our third transfer. We transferred the 4th and 5th embryo. I was in a state of being and feeling blank. I felt nothing. No excitement, no anxiety. I even took a nap while waiting for the doctor and embryologist to come in. I had removed myself.

Trey would constantly have to remind me about the shot. I would forget. I was not involved because why would I be? We have lost all the other embryos ever transferred, why would this be any different?

Went for beta, came back as 40, which is pregnant. The RN sounded excited, but I couldn't muster any sort of feeling in my voice. Next beta, came back as 95. A little low so they wanted a third test. "Of course. This is it." I told myself. This is the beginning of the end. Next beta: 225. Doctors ecstatic. It had more than doubled! Ok, great. Still doesnt change anything, I thought. I've had great numbers before, and still, nothing.

Went in for early ultrasound. Empty gestational sac. Just like the last two times. Just like EVERY OTHER TIME. And because I had walled myself in I didn't feel anything, except validated that I was right.

Went in for 7 week ultrasound. Tried to convince Trey not to come. "It'll just be the same 'no longer viable shit' " I said. He said he was coming anyway.

I didn't ask to see the screen. I didn't look at anything or anyone except the ceiling.

"Ok, this looks great. We've got the pregnancy right where it needs to be *zoning out* and here you have a yolk sac-"

"I have one?!" I exclaimed. You see, we had never seen anything at the 7 week ultrasound. It had always just been empty. So that's what I was expecting. When your body continually fails you. When you continuously experience disappointment and failure coming from yourself, you don't expect anything else.

We saw the HEART BEATING. And the ice melted from mine. A flood of everything came over me. I broke down after the doctor left the room. Trey just held me and let me cry. How could we have had good news??! I asked "Is this real?" It didn't feel real. I kept expecting to wake up.

We were given pictures. We took them. We had never taken the pictures offered at 7 weeks before. We were given a due date. A due date. I had a due date.

I went home. Still trying to figure out who's dream I was in. Pinching myself. Doing things that I wouldn't normally do to see if I would wake up. It was real. But it didn't feel real. It felt surreal.

The next day, at the 2018 Race to Parenthood, we were so excited. SO excited. I would have a baby at the next R2P. I would have a race baby.

And then. Blood. A river of blood. I tried to ignore it. But then, I felt something. I went into the bathroom (aka porta potty) and things were falling out of me. I couldn't see what it was. Was it just blood or...something more? I knew it was gone. I had lost it in a porta potty for fuck's sakes. Of course. Of course this would happen less than 24 hours after we saw our little beans. Of course. Because WHY would we get our dream?

Went home. Put my blood soaked clothes in the washer. I didn't want to wash them right away because I didn't want to lose the last of our miracle.

"You know you're the strongest person I know." Said to my while lying in bed praying this was a dream. I turned to liquid inside. I didn't feel strong. I felt weak. Felt like a failure. We were going through this again because I can't stay pregnant. Because no one wants to grow inside of me for nine months. Because this is all my fault.

Went in for ultrasound. It was a Saturday and most of the office was out at the race. We waited maybe 20 minutes which was an eternity.

I was anxious to see, but terrified to look.

And there on the screen was our answer.

Our baby beans was ok. Bigger even. Stronger heartbeat. Everything fine.

Everything fine? I asked.

Sometimes it just happens and we have patients who have healthy babies. It certainly freaks us out
(how do you think it makes us feel???) but try not to worry.

Ok-I'll try and not do the impossible, thanks Doc.

But baby beans is still there. And, for now, I am still pregnant. For now, everything is still ok. I will walk around terrified and worried, overanalyzing everything, in between appointments. But for now, the three of us are ok.


We were discharged from the fertility clinic at 8 weeks. I never, ever thought this would happen. I was going to be a regular patient at a regular OB office. No one would automatically assume we had spent years getting to this point. No one would automatically assume that we had to do what we did to make this baby.


When I called the OB office to make my first appointment the receptionist was ecstatic. I'm sure that I sounded less than enthused (I was also attempting to get over a horrendous cold). Because I was terrified. It wasn't real. This was obviously not my life, because we didn't deserve this. I didn't deserve this. I thought the rest of this journey would be filled with heartbreak and loss and devastation. And I am still having a hard time believing that this is happening.


Every time I see baby beans and I hear the heartbeat it's a miracle. Because in between ultrasounds I have convinced myself that I've lost it and I just don't know it. I've convinced myself that this time isn't going to work either. And then, there it is on the monitor, a strong heartbeat.


At our first visit to the OB, just over 9 weeks, we got to hear the heartbeat again. AND, it didn't look like a blob anymore. There was a discernible head, body and little limb buds.


We've been putting the sonograms on our whiteboard and each time I pass by it I wonder if that's the last picture we'll have. I know many of you are yelling at me right now, telling me to enjoy this and stop being so morbid and negative. But, you see, when all you know is losing babies, that's what you expect to happen to you. When something magical finally does happen, it doesn't feel real. At least, not for awhile.


The horrible thing about being a patient of a regular OB office is that I don't get my weekly ultrasound. I don't get to see my baby every week. I have to wait a MONTH until my next visit. A month. Four weeks. If you thought I worried and freaked out waiting a week, can you imagine how I feel waiting a month???


**Update:


So far, at almost 20 weeks, everything is going well. We found out we are having a baby BOY and I am anxious to get the nursery set up.


I never thought this would happen. I thought for the rest of my life we would keep losing. Some days it doesn't seem real and some days I have convinced myself that I am living in a fantasy world. I still convince myself that the baby is gone. The closer we get to appointments, the more anxious I am because in between I can pretend that everything is ok. That we are ok. That he is ok. How do I get through the next half of this pregnancy without having a panic attack every month? It's difficult, but we take one day at a time. Each day that nothing horrible happens, is one more day closer to when we get to meet our miracle baby.

A Letter to God

Dear God,


I know we don't talk much. We have a long past of me not talking to you, unless I'm angry or grateful. I've been mostly angry and hopeless lately, so you've been getting a lot of that.


But now I'm coming to you on behalf of someone else. Still for purely selfish reasons, but it's for someone else.


You see, just a few days ago we transferred a couple of embryos. I have mostly been annoyed and ill-tempered while waiting to see if they stick. If these don't, then we only have 4 more embryos. That means I will have lost five. I will have lost more than what I have left. And I can't. I need someone to live. I need to not feel like a failure again and again. I need to not say goodbye all the time. I can't lose another baby. I can't only be a mother to fur babies and angel babies. If that is going to be Your will then You will need to change me. You will need to change me into a completely different person, someone who doesn't want children. Someone who doesn't hurt every time someone else has a baby. Someone who doesn't get jealous or frustrated or cry themselves to sleep at night because they feel to empty. You will have to change me into someone else.


These embabies don't deserve this. They deserve to be warm and cuddled for 9 months and then warm and cuddled by me for the rest of their lives. They do not deserve to be buried in the flower garden. They do not deserve to be called "the products of conception" after it is discovered they are no longer viable. You have already caused this hurt to three of my embabies already. Don't do it to the rest. Give me something. Please don't leave me with nothing. Please don't leave them alone and in the ground. No parent should have to bury their child...no matter how old they are.


So you see, this is a plea for them. So that they can live. So that I can show them this beautiful world. So that I can teach them to make it a better place. So that they can fall in love and be loved by someone and have wonderful friendships and passions and hobbies. So that maybe one day they can change someone's life.


You have already taken too many. You already have enough of my children. Let me get to keep one. Let me hold one and raise one. Let me have one. All I want is one. Just don't take anymore from me. My heart can't take it anymore.


I am begging you.                                                                                            

Monday, January 29, 2018

The Mark of Loss

This journey is painful. Emotionally. Physically. Mentally. Financially.


As I sit here, with no shots to take. No pills to gag down. No anxiety of the next test. Or the next transfer. Or the next...something. I wonder.


When did I turn into this person whose life is measured by how many embryos she has left? Or by how many weeks of shots she has left. Or by how many losses I've had?


I was first diagnosed with PCOS in 2014. We have been on this journey for almost 4 years now. Four years that has changed me. Changed my perspective. Changed my ability to see the good in situations. Because I've been disappointed. And I've been hurt. And sometimes you have to build a wall around yourself and around your spouse so that the next time something awful happens, it might not hurt as much. But the thing is...


Now you have a wall. How do you feel when you're constantly surrounded by a wall? The inside boils and the negativity stays around. And the outside, no matter if it's light or dark, can't get in. Without light, I think that we become a shell of who we once were.


It's hard to not let it affect you. In fact, it's damn near impossible. I know that I see things differently. It's harder to see the good in some things now. Sometimes I go days without having a happy thought. Some days are fine. Some days are pitch black.








I digress.


At one point I was worried that when this was finally over, when we finally had the family we wanted I would forget the babies we'd lost. But let me tell you a story...


...During the transfer part of IVF many doctors prescribe progesterone shots. These go in your butt and the needle is very long and very big. It has to get through a lot to get to the muscle. It hurts like hell.


So I ice it. Icing the area before getting the shot really cuts down on the pain. Then after the shot, I use a heating pad to warm the area so that my muscle doesn't knot. Unfortunately, this plan can backfire.


One night after my shot I put my heating pad on. It was a little too hot, but because of the icing beforehand I couldn't really feel the heat. Until it was too late. Not only had I given myself a huge bruise, but, and I didn't know this at the time, I had burned myself.


I tossed and turned that night. I couldn't sleep. I was in too much pain. My skin felt...prickly. That's not really what it felt like, but it's the closest word I can think of. Actually, that's not true. It felt like shredded skin. Like that area had been completed macerated.


For days it felt like that. And then one day I felt the area and noticed that I had a very large scab, like the area was healing. I realized then that I had burned myself, pretty badly. The healing area was half itchy, half hurting, and it had a very think scab over it.


Now, several weeks later, it's completely healed. I only get little pinpricks of pain every now then. But I have a scar. A scar in the shape of the burn. A scar, that I hope, will remain with me forever.


It's the only physical evidence I have of the most recent loss.


One day, I hope that I can tell my children how much we loved their older siblings. How they changed us forever. And how they were so wanted, but how they couldn't stay. One day, maybe I will show them the scar. One day I will tell them everything we did to bring them here.


But for now, I will look at that awkwardly shaped scar and remember everything we've lost. And hope, that everything we want, is coming.