Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The silver lining of the red plague

On one of the forums I regularly haunt, there was a discussion on why that time of the month can be a positive thing. At first I scoffed at the idea. After 14 months of trying to conceive a baby, I found the idea that there was anything positive about a failed cycle laughable. But as the idea rolled around in my brain, I realized that there were positives to having a period:

1. I actually get a period every 30 days. I didn't realize what a blessing this was until I started talking to other women struggling with infertility.

2. Soft, squishy, pretty mama cloth. It's my lingerie of that time of the month. I actually get excited choosing out which pattern and luxurious fabric will grace my tush for the day.

3. I can end any stressful days with a glass of wine...or three without worrying if there’s a tiny fetus in there also indulging.

4. It gives Adam and I a break from our regular amorous endeavours. We cuddle more (without it having to lead anywhere) and by the time my week is over, we’re both ready to start fresh!

5. I can play scientist with my Diva cup. Gross but true. I find it all fascinating!

6. It's another three weeks before that familiar pang hits of "what if?"

7. If I'm feeling delusional, my bloat is enough that I can stick out my gut and pretend that I'm pregnant to wig out my coworkers.

8. It means I'm still young enough to not be menopausal, which means we still have a chance.

So there you are. I guess there really is a silver lining to every situation!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Escaping the gloomies

I have been living through an extended period of what I call "the gloomies." I don't want to call it depression. Many people in my life suffer from that affliction and I don’t think what I’ve been going through is as serious as that. I just haven’t been myself. For nearly a year now, it’s almost like I’ve been watching a live stage production of my life instead of being an active participant.

My trip to England earlier this month brought this revelation to light. I had assumed that my struggle was because I’m a mum of two young children who also has a demanding career. When I arrived in England without the weight of my mum, wife, and career-woman roles, I thought I would instantly spring to life. Instead, I felt the weight of my own body and thoughts pulling me back from the fun and interaction I wanted to have. I found myself once again observing others. I realized that perhaps this was more than just everyday stress.

I’ve since found that just recognizing and outing my personality change has been therapeutic. Weaning Fliss has helped to even out my hormones and I’ve been doing a better job of recognizing that I can’t change who people are at work, I just have to find a way to mesh our working styles. I’m starting to feel as if I’m surfacing from a long submersion. I can feel the warmth of the sun again and the world seems a little brighter.

I’m left with a lingering feeling of guilt as I recognize what impact my gloomies have had on those around me. Adam, especially, has borne the brunt of my veiled existence. He has been carefully picking up the balls I’ve been dropping. Rarely complaining. Rarely asking why. Just quietly standing beside me, ready to catch me if I fell. I wonder what my extended family thought (especially those who haven’t seen me in 13 years). I feel as if I wasted a part of my trip by not truly living it. I find myself wanting to go back to have different, more involved conversations. I want to dance on the beach. I want to be silly and cuddly with my cousin’s baby. I want to snuggle with my parents and hug my aunts and uncles more. To just be the person I am instead of this pale reproduction I’ve become.

I’m peeling off layers now; getting closer to who I was. Who I want to be again: The fun one. The social one. The supporter and listener. The one who will comfortably talk with anyone and manage to draw out intimate details of their lives through casual conversation. I feel like any day now, that last gossamer layer will fall away and instead of watching from the balcony, I’ll be a part of the action. The curtains will part and the stage that is my life will be mine again.
Bring on the diva.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

To dream the impossible dream

Lately I’ve been having what I can only describe as a mid-life crisis. It’s confusing and troubling and unsettling because I really do cherish and enjoy the life that I have. While I live my blessed, comfortable existence, something inside of me incessantly whispers that I need something more! Something different! Something exotic! Something exciting!

I’m sure some of this stems from the emotional trauma of trying to expand our family. With no way to change what has happened or to make a healthy baby magically appear in my womb, I grasp at ways that I can control my life. Things I can have influence over. Magic and wonder that I could embrace as my own!

I’ve started with my hair. This weekend I went from this:

To this:

I don’t know how much it’ll help. For now it seems to have taken some of the focus away from that little voice.

In the past, when this adventurous niggle raised its voice, I would either get a piercing or a tattoo. Somehow making holes and marks on my body seemed to quell the beast. I just have a feeling that it won’t be so easy this time…

See, I’m married to an eternal dreamer. Adam is always coming up with crazy ideas on how to make money. His last musing was to start a submarine tour business down in Costa Rica. (We both fell in love with the country and the people when we visited on our honeymoon.) For some reason the idea behind that dream stuck with me.

The reasonable part of my brain says that moving to another country to start all over is crazy and irresponsible. We moved from Ottawa so that our children could know their extended family, living in the southern hemisphere would hardly make that easy. I have a great job that pays well and has amazing benefits. Could I throw that away?

But this whisper speaks right to my heart. “Be free to live YOUR dream!” it taunts. “Live the life of excitement and exotic locations you always wanted!”

I mean, who hasn’t dreamt of leaving Canadian winters behind to pursue a half-baked idea somewhere warm and wonderful. My parents left England in their 20’s to set out on their own adventure across the ocean. Maybe this desire to stake out an exotic life in another country is genetic!

I fear regretting such a life-altering decision. I fear not making such a life-altering decision and regretting my inaction. I never want to lead a life of regrets. In fact, most of my days I make choices based on the fact that even utter failure is full of experience and lessons learned. Not doing anything is the worst action of all.

Ack, I’m so conflicted.

Have you ever been taunted with these crazy dream thoughts? Ever wanted to uproot your entire family to seek out the unknown? What did you do?

Monday, April 25, 2011

A losing streak like no other

The very event that was supposed to bring our family so much joy has instead brought nothing but heartache. This pregnancy was so wanted, so loved. I never even contemplated that such a miraculous blessing could go so wrong.

After undergoing surgery in March for my ectopic pregnancy, my levels quickly dropped from 4,000 to 200 within a week. My doctor assured me that he anticipated no further problems. Then the following week, my bloodwork showed that my hormone levels had climbed again to 600. When a second test came back at 900, my doctor called to discuss further treatment.

When you have a "persistent ectopic pregnancy" the only real option you're given is a drug called methotrexate. This is a chemotherapy drug that prevents your body from absorbing or processing folate - which rapidly dividing cells need to live. So it works on cancer and on fetal tissue.

I asked for alternatives. There were none. I asked for time. There was none. I had no option but to take an injection of a chemical so toxic that they enter the room with hazmat suits and buckets. They check the needle entry site a few minutes after the injection for chemical skin burns. They incinerate anything this substance touches. And they injected it into my body.

It's made me sick. It's made me tired. It's really like having a bad hangover for a week. Let's just say that I have a whole new appreciation for cancer patients who have to take the shot on a regular basis.

It's not the physical effects of the drugs that have really set me back in my healing. This pregnancy not only stole my dream of adding a third child to our family, but with the chemo, it also took from me a special bond with Fliss. With the drug in my system, I could no longer nurse Felicity. I was forced to wean her without any warning. Without any gentle weaning. One day she happily nursed for comfort and nutrition, the next day that option was stolen from her. From us.

I feel like I'm mourning another loss. With our breastfeeding relationship ended, Fliss is no longer my baby, but a big girl. That one thing that I could give her and no one else could is gone. She still asks for her "neh-nehs" five days later. Still slides fluttery fingers down to stroke my chest. And when I tell her that her nursies are broken, she looks at me with those giant blue eyes as if she can understand that I feel the same loss that she does.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Perception is everything

My pastor came to visit me this week to talk about Libi. Being relatively new to our church, I was looking forward to getting to know Mark on a more personal level. I hoped that perhaps he would pray for our family and maybe give me some answers as to why these things happen. What I didn't anticipate was his ability to completely change my way of thinking and in one hour advance my healing more than I've done in two weeks.

Mark told me that he believes that pregnancy is the bridge between the physical world and the spiritual world. It's such a special time for the mama because she's the only one who truly knows and connects with this new soul for nine whole months.

He told me that he believes that when a baby passes in utero or shortly thereafter, that soul is not lost. He or she does not head back to heaven to spend the rest of their days. That soul just waits patiently for another chance to cross into the physical world. He told me to think about my losses not as seven lost babies, but seven times that this soul has attempted to join our family. He said this must be a very tenacious soul who knows that for some reason, the timing is not quite right.

I can't tell you what this change in view has done for me. I no longer feel that I have seven dead babies in my heart. Instead, I feel almost a peace knowing that Libi will one day return in huggable form. I feel encouraged to continue our efforts to grow our family (in time). If this little soul has tried so hard to enter our world, the least I can do is open the door one more time.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Healing hearts

Every so often, my husband does something so spectacularly thoughtful that I fall in love with him all over again. Last night was one of those occasions.

Adam had run some mystery errands earlier in the night. Vague and deflective about where he was, I figured that he was up to no good, buying video games or gun paraphernalia.

Boy was I wrong.

When I went upstairs to go to bed, I cleared off the three baskets of clean laundry from my bed. When I turned around to flop myself into bed, I realized there was a little pile sitting on my pillow. A solitary red rose, a gift box, and a card.

Written on the envelope was this:

Inside was a card which immediately sent me into tears. Adam wrote every supportive word a grieving mother would want to hear. He was sensitive and touching and loving.

Inside the cardboard box was this:
A gorgeous hardwood box with a painting of a winter fairy on top. Given that it snowed the day we lost Libi, it was just perfect. But nothing prepared me for what was inside....
A heart shaped locket with Libi's name and the date that we lost her engraved onto the silver. Inside, Adam had printed the words "Never met, Never forgotten."

I bawled. I cried so hard that I made no noise. I then went downstairs and curled myself in his lap with my arms around his neck for what seemed like hours. With his thoughtful gesture, he had memorialized the little girl we lost. He had acknowledged my pain. He had given me something beautiful to remember her by. He reaffirmed that my choice in a life mate was the best decision I've ever made.

In the fairy box now rest the pregnancy tests that heralded her existence, the hospital band that signifies the end of her journey, and a little piece of my soul. I hope that someday her spirit returns to us so that I can replace the words in my locket with pictures of a little girl who found her way back.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Losing Libi and finding my way

I know this little baby was just a little gummy bear in shape. Only the size of a blueberry. But to me, she was my child. I had a strong feeling from the start this this child was a girl. I have named her Libi. It feels right that with the amount of love I had for her, that she have a proper name. Libi means love or beloved in Hebrew. It seems very fitting.

My body is healing quickly. The incisions are sealing and the bruising has surfaced. My belly is slowly deflating and the bleeding has ceased. The pain is becoming manageable and I have been moving more easily.

What I'm left with are the residual hormones of pregnancy. I feel as pregnant today as I did a week ago. I have morning sickness, pregnancy fog, a keen sense of smell, sore body doesn't seem to realize that there is no baby left to nurture. It seems a cruel reminder of what I have lost.

The lingering symptoms also worry me that perhaps the surgery didn't eliminate everything. That there may be a tiny piece of placenta remaining in my tube, still contributing to the hormonal soup inside of me. If this is the case, I have to take a chemotherapy drug to prevent those cells from dividing so that my body can reabsorb the offending tissue. This treatment would also mean that I'll have to wean Fliss. A secondary blow that I don't think I could handle right now.

I'll be taking blood tests every week to ensure that my pregnancy levels are falling and that they reach zero. I'm praying that my HcG starts to recede quickly. This daily reminder of what I wanted so badly is making it hard to heal my soul as quickly as my physical being. My emotional state lags far behind my scars.

I've been reminded a few times during my grieving that things could be much, much worse. There are stories out there that make my own pain seem insignificant. I've been guided to be thankful for the blessings I can count; my family, my friends, co coworkers, my church and congregation. These people stand behind me and lift me up. I am blessed with so much love and support.

Perhaps this was why I had to lose my little Libi. I needed to be reminded not to take life for granted. Every day is a blessing. Every person in my life a gift. Lesson learned.

Friday, April 1, 2011


For nearly a year, Adam and I have been trying to create another little blessing to love. During this time, we've lost six tiny babies. It's been a hard time.

This past Monday, we received the best news I could imagine: my blood test confirmed that I had a healthy, growing baby about 6.5 weeks old. An ultrasound was planned for next week and I made my first appointment with the midwives. I felt as if our struggles were finally over and my faith had carried us through.

Then on Wednesday afternoon I began cramping. At first, it felt like normal early pregnancy pains but very quickly they progressed to be unbearable. I left work early and by the time I got home, I was in tears from the pain. Adam drove me straight to the ER.

Once there, I was triaged, medicated, scanned and diagnosed within an hour and a half. The pregnancy was ectopic. The baby had implanted itself in my right fallopian tube and was now big enough that there was a threat of the tube rupturing.

I had to sign a form consenting to them surgically removing the baby. Within six hours of arriving at the ER, I was put under and my little healthy, poorly-positioned baby was flushed from my body.

Up until the surgery, I was numb. It all seemed like a bad dream. I was sure they'd get in there and realize they were wrong. Why would God take away a baby that we had waited so long for? Why would He raise my hopes so high only to drag me lower than I've ever been before.

When I awoke from the sedation it all hit me. My baby was gone. I was no longer pregnant. No little pink bundle would be gracing our house in the fall. I was shattered. Although I know logically that this baby couldn't have grown to term in my tube, I feel like I consented to kill the one baby in 10 months of trying that was thriving inside of me.

Physically, I feel like I've been stabbed three times in my belly (it was laproscopic surgery). Emotionally I'm just destroyed. I've spent most of the past few days weeping and mourning the loss of our child and our dream of expanding our family. I know that my heart couldn't take another loss. I have two beautiful children and perhaps that was all I was meant to have.

I know that God tests us sometimes, but I just can't fathom the lesson I've been faced with in trying to grow our little family.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Note to self: Menstrual cycle tasks should be performed alone

This morning as I was in the middle of my morning ablutions, Hayden came in to brush his teeth. Thinking that he was busy watching himself in the mirror, I quickly popped in my Diva cup. When I looked up, Hayden's eyes were as wide as saucers.

Hayden (in absolute amazement): Where did that little cup go?

Me (cringing): I put it in my vagina buddy.

Hayden: That's the best magic trick I ever saw!!

And then thankfully, he skipped off before he could ask any more questions. Moments later, he reappeared, his hands full of little plastic army men.

Hayden: Can you put these in your secret vagina pocket please mum?

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Envy has made me a bitter cow

For ten months now, Adam and I have been trying to create another little life to love. I’ve had a few glimmers of hope. But that little light keeps being extinguished too soon and my own inner light has dimmed.

No one ever warns you that trying to make a baby can hurt your body, your self-esteem, your view of yourself as a strong woman. If my high school sex ed classes taught me anything, it was that it only takes a solitary sperm casually placed to result in a pregnancy. Sometimes it’s not that easy.

After months of trying to conceive and having suffered six early miscarriages, I feel like a wounded fertility veteran. My ability to bear children – the very reason we all still exist – has been called into question. I find myself looking at the pregnant women around me with a mix of envy and venom. Why can she have what I’ve longed for for so long? The fires burn even brighter for those who don't seem to appreciate the blessings they have. I have become a bitter cow.

I’m lucky that I’ve found an amazingly supportive group of ladies online who I can cry to, vent to, heal with. While those around me offer kind words of sympathy or advice, it’s one of those things you have to live through to understand.

I'm surrounded by pregnant women in my life right now. Each swollen belly makes my own ache. As my sister-in-law nears her due date, I’m reminded that if we hadn’t lost our first pregnancy, I would have a babe in arms already. And yet here my womb waits. Empty. Longing. Hoping.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Haydenism of the month

Yesterday I got a call from Hayden's school that he was running a fever, pale and complaining of stomach pain. When I picked him up, he had perked up considerably but was still complaining of a sore tummy. We got to the car and the following conversation ensued:

Hayden: Can I have a special treat?

Me: I don't think that's a good idea buddy. Your tummy is upset. You can have some crackers when we get home.

Hayden: My tummy doesn't hurt anymore.

Me: Well then I think you've been telling fibs about feeling sick to your tummy, and you don't get special treats if you lie.

Hayden: I wasn't lying. My tummy was sad because it was lonely, that's why it hurt. When I saw you, my tummy was happy and didn't hurt any more.

Me (stifling laughter): That's a nice story buddy, but it's hearts that hurt when you're lonely, not stomachs.

Hayden: Well my heart did hurt and then my stomach was crying because my heart was so sad, that's why I felt sick.

How could you not love this kid?!? And yes, he got a "gorilla" bar once he got home.