So throughout this pregnancy, it has been all about me. The showers, the pictures, everything. But I am not going through this alone. I have a wonderful husband by my side. So I asked him if he wanted to write a guest post, an opportunity to share his point of view about this experience. And in true Todd fashion, he made it all about…me. Read on.
“Let me share with you the secret you heard at your birth…You are my greatest miracle. You are the greatest miracle in the world. Those were the first words you ever heard. Then you cried. They all cry…” – Og Mandino, The Greatest Miracle in the World- The God Memorandum
I am honored to have been asked by my dear wife to write an entry to her blog. When she asked me if I’d like to contribute, of course I said yes, and I immediately started feeling a stirring in my heart and a welling in my eyes. As I sit here and think of everything related to this journey, especially this last leg, I am sobbing, again. I have cried more in the last 2 years than I have in the previous 10+ years that my wife and I have been together. I rarely used to cry, because frankly I didn’t see the purpose, nor feel the need. Crying gives me a wicked sinus headache.
I’m 43 years old. Lilia and I met when I was just turning 31. You don’t have to be my age to understand what I am about to say. As long as you are over 25 you’ll get it, and if you are over 43, you’ll understand better than I do. Time is the breeding ground for reality to set in. The tears I shed is directly correlated to the severity of my reality.
I have shared my wife’s and my journey to parenthood with a small number of people, some close to me, and some I hardly know at all. I was sitting next to a co-worker the day Lilia and I went public with our news. He gave me the obligatory “How’s it going?” I told him, “Well, it looks like I am going to be a dad.” It went on from there. Over the next 30 minutes I shared our journey, and he told me his. The birth of his first son made him an unexpected father at the age of 21. He spoke about how getting launched into parenthood changed him, and how the miracle of life and the birth of his son saved him from a life that was heading in bad direction. Despite the fact that there was no plausible explanation, a couple of grown men had tears rolling down our faces in the middle of our work place. Until now this memory was only mentally filed under “What the heck was that?”
If you have been following this blog from the beginning you’ll know that over the past 9 or so years my wife and I of course tried the natural method, as well as IUI + drugs for the first few years and then graduated to IVF. Every time we had a failed cycle Lilia was heartbroken, she would sob to the point I thought she might need an IV. I just felt empty and terribly sorry for her, but for the most part though, no tears. I think that what helped me keep it together was that I had a deep faith that what is supposed to happen, will happen.
We ended up having 5 IVF cycles in Akron, 1 fresh and 4 frozen. We thought we hit the mother lode when they pulled 22 mature eggs from her, of which 19 fertilized. With our protocol that gave us 5 attempts. Rough statistics and odds told us at the beginning were 50/50 for any given cycle. We felt very fortunate and hopeful with all of these chances, wouldn’t you? Flip a coin 5 times in a row and tell me how many of you come up tails 5 times in a row. The odds of getting it wrong once was 1:2, twice in a row 1:4, 3 times in a row 1:8, 4 times in a row 1:16, and 5 times in a row 1:32.
Reflecting back I don’t remember crying too often the first, second, third or fourth failed cycle. I cursed our bad luck. I became increasingly angry at, and intolerant of God, and statistics. It’s WAY easier for me (men) to choose mad over sad. When I did cry, it was because my heart was breaking to see my dear wife go through all of the physical and emotional pain. The injections, drugs and complications required of an IVF cycle sent her to the emergency room twice. Over 7 IVF cycles I stuck her with more needles than I can remember, but its worth the time now to figure it out.
My wife found out that that she has Type 2 Diabetes when we decided to turn to the care of Dr. James Goldfarb and University Hospital two years ago. Women who have untreated diabetes have much poorer odds of getting pregnant, a greater chance of miscarriage and greater risk of harm to a baby born to a diabetic mother. The group down in Akron never tested or suggested testing for diabetes. One would think a competant fertility clinic would screen for diabetes. Turns out our odds weren’t 50/50 after all. I’m not going to go down this path, Ill just go back to the needle tally. Above is my wife’s insulin needle. This cycle has her taking 5 shots a day for 7 months = 1,050 needles.
This is the lancet to test blood sugar levels 4 times a day in the finger for 7 months = 840 needles. Her finger tips look like I dont know what.
This is Follistim. Fresh cycles get 1 shot a day in the stomach for about 18 days. Follistim is a man-made form of a hormone that occurs naturally in the body. This hormone regulates ovulation, and stimulates the growth and development of eggs in a woman’s ovaries. The pain of the Follistim shots paled in comparison to the pain and fright she endured with Ovarian Hyperstimulation Hormone Syndrome. Over 5 pounds of fluid collected in her abdomen and ovaries over the course of 48 hours. Ovaries which are normally the size of olives became the size of grapefruits, which sent her to the emergency room. People die from this.
This is Lupron. Fourteen shots of Lupron were administered during her 3 fresh cycles to prevent early ovulation of the eggs growing in her (dangerously overstimulated) ovaries.
This is for progesterone in oil, in the old gluteus maximus. This is the big boy, and it sucks. Since it is oil, it’s a really slow, painful injection. About 20 of these were administered for our four unsuccessful cycles, 90 of these for this pregnancy and somewhere in between the 2 times we lost the baby. I did my best to try to find spots where oil had dispersed well into the muscle. She would take my hand and say “feel here, and here, and here” so I could get an idea of where the bumpy pockets were. She would say to me “What if this is all for nothing, again?” She cried in pain nearly every night, I felt like I was dying inside.
Since I am not the greatest when it comes to grammar, I asked Lilia to proof read my entry earlier today. Both she and I failed to notice that I had forgotten to include the 300 shots of Lovenox she has taken over the past 6 cycles. Lovenox was a just-in-case protocol we decided upon after our first cycle, which reduces the risk of blood clots which could potentially cause a miscarriage. So just in case clotting was a factor, she took 300 of these.
This is Ovidrel. Ovidrel provides the hormone (hCG), which stimulates the release and final maturity of eggs, the trigger shot, taken the day before egg retrieval. One of these for the 3 fresh cycles.
Needles not pictured-
Blood work- around 15 needles per cycle.
Egg retrieval- through the vaginal wall into the follicles of Lilia’s grapefruit-sized ovaries on the fresh cycles. She is knocked out for this, pain meds are administered. Regardless of how it sounds it’s not nearly as fun as you would imagine. We aren’t certain what happened on our 6th cycle, but the pain was bad enough to send her to the ER and get admitted into the hospital overnight. About 20 needles into the ovaries per fresh cycle.
So let me tally it up. I’m sure there are at least 50 needles I am forgetting about, but I’m coming up with 2,100 over this 7th cycle, 850 for her 6th cycle, 120 for first cycle, 100 each for cycles 2, 3 and 4, and 115 for cycle number 5. That’s a grand total of 3,485 pokes plus or minus a couple hundred. I’ll be keeping this snapshot below for our daughter’s teen years, and remind her that this is about 5% of what her mother went through to give her life. #warriormom
The emotional pain of each loss was exacerbated as she felt she (her body, her chemistry) was the reason we couldn’t have a baby. This wasn’t the truth anyhow, I wasn’t the ideal candidate to knock-up her up, nor was she the perfect candidate to get knocked-up (I’m pretty sure knocked-up is the correct medical terminology).
On a number of occasions Lilia would ask me, “What if I can’t give you a baby?” I would tell her we would deal with that if we ever came to that conclusion, that it’s not her fault, and that she had done everything she could. It wasn’t until a year ago that my heart and my brain finally acted in concert and the real answer came out, “If I can’t have a baby with you, I don’t want to have a baby”, and with that, we cried together. If you love someone with every fiber of your soul, you’ll eventually find the right words.
With the theme being tears I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the moments that define these 9+ tough years.
The time we were driving to Akron on April 27, 2011 for a check up on our first positive pregnancy hoping to hear the heart beat at six weeks. On the way to the clinic Lilia started to bleed. We coped by letting go and saying goodbye in letters to our dream. My dear wife’s words:
“…I was terrified and incredibly grief-stricken. But your dad was a champ. Although he too was struggling with his emotions, he held it together for me. He drove as fast and as carefully as he could, and tried to keep me calm. I looked up at him and saw that he was saturated with sweat. We got to the hospital and he pulled up to the curb and left me in the car … came back with a wheelchair and a blanket to cover myself up with. We got up to the doctor’s office and they led me into a room and asked me to lie down. Once daddy helped me get up on the examining table, he finally broke down. He laid his head on my stomach and we sobbed together.
There are literally no words to fully explain the grief and loss I felt at that moment. I felt like someone had come and sucked all the air out of my body. I felt empty, completely void.
The doctor came in, and although generally speaking he wasn’t the warmest guy on earth, he looked genuinely concerned. He spoke to me very softly. Then, his voice broke through my fog of despair and he said “Lilia, I’m going to need you to pull yourself together because you have a baby here.” Completely in disbelief I looked at the monitor, and there you were. You were a teeny tiny little thing, but you were there. Not only could we see you, but we could also hear your heartbeat; a strong 101 beats per minute.
I have never before experienced such a rapid change of such varying emotions. One minute I was inconsolable and the next I was on top of the world. We were going to have our miracle baby after all! You were such a little fighter, you were really doing your best to hang on!
Thank you baby for trying, for wanting to be a part of our lives as much as we wanted you to be.
The feeling of this being a miracle really set in when the doctor told us your due date would be December 22. Daddy looked at me and told me that was the day his mommy had gone to heaven. It just occurred to me that you are there with her.
We went home and I continued cramping and bleeding throughout the day and evening. There was one particular moment that I knew was THE moment… the pain was so bad that it made me light-headed. I started to fall and your daddy rushed over and caught me.
As I went to sleep that night, I placed my hand on my belly and told you how much I loved you and asked you to please be strong and keep hanging on. But you were already gone.
I woke up the next day and felt an absence of those same pregnancy symptoms that had helped me believe in the reality of you. We went to the doctor for a blood test, but we were just waiting for him to confirm what we already knew…”
In November of 2012 we had our 2nd positive test. We went in for a check up and they found a heartbeat, but it was slow, only 74. Dr. Goldfarb took us into his office and said he was sorry, but he was not going to lead us to believe this was going to be a viable pregnancy. Nonetheless we went back 2 days later, and the technician doing the ultrasound said the heartbeats were still there. One was 84 and… the… other… was…. 77. The OTHER? She turned up the volume and I heard one, and I heard the other. I lost it.
Later that evening Lilia asked me why I started crying at the office. I told her they were tears of HOPE. Slow or not there were two hearts beating in her womb. Sadly my tears of faith were dashed a couple days later when we went back and there was nothing left to hear.
This final round has been the true test. We were so very fortunate to have chosen the UH fertility clinic and Dr. Goldfarb. You see the first round only rendered 7 eggs, only 3 of which fertilized, and as you now know, only 2 took hold for a short time. Compare that to the Akron group, when we had 19 ferilized to make a go with. Seems natures clock was ticking.
To try again would normally mean another $12,000. Since I have set all humility aside, Ill let you you know, we didn’t have $12k and we weren’t going to charge it. We would have to save for maybe another year.
UH has a benefactor who funds a grant for couples whose incomes do not exceed a certain amount. Luckily we qualified for their Partnership for Families grant. I have cried alone thinking about how absolutely amazing it would be to have the resources to literally make someone’s dream come true. I have cried tears of hopelessness imagining leaving this world without the legacy of a child.
I knew through friends and thorough research that Dr Goldfarb is a true pioneer in his field and put my faith 100% into his recommendations. When we only came up with 3 viable eggs in our prior cycle, he admitted it was less than what he had expected and hoped for. He had done studies and statistics on the success rates for lower protocol. Remember 22 eggs, no babies? We had 3 that fertilized and 2 that worked. Despite this, less is more is not what my wife wanted to hear, not when its $12k a pop.
With the grant, the money was no longer an issue. We went in full steam ahead, hoping for more than 7. We upped our dosage of Follistim, and if you have been reading along, youll know this time we ended up with ONLY FOUR mature eggs! How could this happen? More tears, more frustration, more despair, and quite frankly the hope and faith tank was damn near empty. To make matters worse, of the four, only two ferilized.
We looked down at the photographs of these two embryos. One of them was all funky looking, a fragmented 5 cells. That one was probably like his dad. However, the other looked really nice, 8 cells, all uniform looking, dare I say charming, like her mother. She looked like a gamer to me. But honestly we had already seen two dozen great looking embryos, and they all gave up the ghost.
The 12 days between embryo transfer and your pregnancy test is the longest 12 days you will ever live. If you haven’t been there, you cannot imagine. Don’t try to imagine, because it’s a little more than 1,000 times worse for me and 100,000 times worse for my wife.
Something happened the evening before our test this time. It wasn’t good. My wife looked at me and said “I dont feel pregnant.” You are right now trying to imagine… what might 11 days pregnant feel like? The last cycle my wife “called her shot” that she said she was pregnant with twins. So I guess I began to trust her intuition, and sadly I agreed with her. I had convinced myself this was it. No kids. Just you and me, babe. We cried, and cried and cried, and held each other. We talked about going on an amazing vacation to celebrate our upcoming 10th wedding anniversary, made up our minds that although it was very sad we would love our lives together.
The next day we got the call late in the afternoon. The call was always late because we imagined someone drew the short straw and was putting it off until the last minute. We stood in the produce section of Giant Eagle. She said, Hello, yes, uh-huh… IT IS? IT IS?!! HOW HIGH?!, OK! OK! I WILL! Like two crazed nut-jobs we kissed and hugged for 2 minutes straight, right next to the baby spinach on sale. And we cried.
And the very moment I had given up ALL hope and faith, Someone said “I’ve got this”.
I am so grateful, so proud, so humbled for everything my dear wife has done. I cannot begin to give back what she has given.
As we get close to welcoming our miracle baby into this world, I’m going to ask you for one more solid week of prayers.
#Happytears is trending.