So far, I have administerd nine Heparin injections in my belly (subcutaneously, or in the fat). After giving myself the Follistim injections in the belly so many times (that's the med that made me produce follicles), I thought this Heparin thing wasn't going to be a big deal. I was wrong.
The needle, while very tiny, doesn't slide through the skin effortlessly like the Follistim needle did. So, at first, I was pushing it through the skin, and the skin was giving a little resistance. Then, I figured out this isn't a problem if I just stab myself. That, of course, is a little scary and causes me to have to work up a tiny bit of courage every time. Plus, a couple of times I have gotten overzealous and stabbed myself so hard that the needle bounced back out, and I ended up having to stick myself again!
My belly is bruised--black and blue. From nine injections, I have nine bruises on my belly and nine little red blood spots that look like polka dots. It's a little tender, but nothing I can't handle. Maybe one of these days you'll be lucky enough to get a picture of these bruises. I'm going to have to think long and hard about letting you see me that naked. I do, afterall, want you to keep reading!
Now, I'm only telling you about the downside of these Heparin injections for the sake of this blog and of keeping my beloved readers in the know. I am in no way complaining about them. I will do anything to bring this baby(ies) home. And, after everything, I barely even register these little pokes and bruises as pain.
This pile of syringes is only for the first two weeks! Crazy, huh?
It's Heparin, which is a blood thinner. I have to take 0.25ml twice a day along with a low dose aspirin. My miscarriage on September 10 with Tater Tot was due to Antiphospholipid Syndrome. Basically, it's paternal antibodies. My body has it out for all men, and it took it out on my tiny Tater Tot.
Antiphospholipid antibodies can cause the blood vessels to constrict and blood to clot, resulting in fetal demise. The purpose of the Heparin, though it is a blood thinner, is not to thin the blood. The dose is so small that it doesn't thin the blood that much. The Heparin attaches to the antibodies and then flushes them from my system. It does not cross the placenta, so there is no danger to the baby.
I started the Heparin today because it needs to be in my system before the embryo(s) attach. Makes sense, right? If we wait until it(they) attach, the antibodies would get the first shot.
You know, at first I was angry about what happened to Tater Tot with this whole antibody thing. I can't say that I'm not still angry or that I don't feel wronged in some way. To be fair, I never let myself get angry over what happened to Gabriel, so I felt entitled to a little angriness. When I look at all those syringes, though, and the Heparin vials and know that I am empowered every single day with something that is going to put this new baby(ies) in my arms, I feel very blessed. How many women have gone before me with multiple miscarriages before their doctor figured out the antibody syndrome? How many women have gone before me, losing all their babies, before medical science had even discovered this Heparin treatment?
When you know that speculum is coming at you, it can be a little scary. I've never actually seen a speculum, believe it or not. I'm so afraid of them that I worry seeing one will only intensify my fears. Things have widened up down there over the last year after having two babies; so, this time wasn't a big deal at all.
The nurse who performed the IUI (intrauterine insemination), said that she could tell I ovulated because I had lots of cervical mucus (Who doesn't love a compliment about their cervical mucus?). She also said she thought the procedure went just perfectly. She got into my cervix easily, and nothing leaked back out.
So, that was it. I lay on the table for 30 minutes with my hips elevated and then came home and lay in bed most of the day. Lying in bed all day is not a requirement. Technically, I could have gone back to work, but why would I do that?
Now, we wait and pray and believe. For the first time ever, I got the nurse to tell me the date of the blood test in secret so Skyler wouldn't know. I have never been able to surprise him before. With Gabriel, he just pretended he was surprised because I told him to. With Tater Tot, I couldn't handle the stress, so I had to tell him about the waiting. This time, I"m going to surprise him and have that wonderful, delicious moment . . . and all the other moments after that, too.
This morning was the much awaited follicle scan. It was preceded, of course, with plenty of anxiety and a sleepless night. I have been so nervous about the whole process this time. Yes, I'm nervous every time, but this time I'm going overboard. Most of my fear has been that I made a huge mistake buying the meds from the pharmacy in Israel just to save a few hundred bucks. I wouldn't have done it if I wasn't sure it was the same stuff with just a different name. Still, I think, Why would I do anything differently when I have this much at stake? Leading up to the scan, I've been simultaneously afraid I would only have one or no follicles and afraid I would have too many.
John 14:27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.
Those big black spots are my two follicles (a fluid filled sac on the ovary with a mature egg inside). They are both on my right ovary. My left ovary did not produce anything. I've only had a follicle on my left ovary
once out of four cycles (Tater Tot's cycle). My right ovary has produced two follicles every time.
Two follicles is a desirable outcome. The nurse said, "Two follicles are good; three follicles are great; four follicles . . . we start to get a little nervous." I got pregnant with Gaby Baby after having two follicles, and let's not forget that I did just have an HSG. So, there will be nothing keeping those little spermies from getting to one of those eggs. The nurse also said I have a "lucious lining." That's a big part of it, too. You aren't pregnant until that embryo grabs onto that lining. They always tell me I have a fabulous lining. Apparently that's something I'm actually good at.
Tonight at 8:00PM I'll give myself an hCG injection (This one goes in the butt.) to make me ovulate (get those follies to burst off the ovaries) in 36 hours. That will have me ready to go Wednesday morning!
Thank you guys so much for praying. Letting you all "see me naked" in this blog is adding to the stress of all this. I'm doing it for Gaby and because I want you all to be praising God when He gives us this long awaited miracle and because I think having hundreds of people praying for us can't possibly hurt. Still, it's hard on me. I just don't want to let anyone down.
Please pray that God makes me a healthy baby, and please pray for peace in my heart so that I can enjoy this amazing opportunity. From this moment on, I am making the choice to relax and hold my arms out in expectation of a miracle.
After last night, I know I didn't really mess up the medicine like I feared when I wrote this post. I have three vials of Follistim. Each night I am supposed to inject 125IU. So, that's 250IU out of each vial. Last night was my fourth time. I compared the two used vials, and the plunger is in the same place in each vial. So, I know I've done everything correctly. I just let my nerves (and fear) get the better of me. I didn't need those couple of hours of sleep, anyway.
I feel a lot better now, and we are excited to go Monday morning and see how it all worked out!
Happy 1st birthday, Gaby Baby! Daddy and I are celebrating your birthday tonight having fun and remembering you. Daddy is fixing chicken fettuccini Alfredo (that was your last meal—what we ate the night before you were born); I am making a birthday cake; we are going to watch The Patriot, which is the movie where you got your name; and we will dream of what it would be like to have you here eating your very first birthday cake with us.
Your first birthday. Wow. Where did the time go? Yes, even angels grow up too fast. I had seven months with you, and now I’ve already had one year without you.
You remember Mommy’s promise to be okay after you left, my promise to keep living and being happy and not let grief and sorrow rob me of my life after you were gone. I know you’ve watched over me this year. I know you know that promise wasn’t easy to keep. I know you know there were some days, many days, when I didn’t keep my promise.
Mommy doesn’t usually like to make promises she can’t keep. I didn’t make that promise for you, Gabriel. I made it for me. When you were still in my belly and I was forced to think ahead to the time when you wouldn’t be here anymore, I knew it would be hard. Really hard. I knew I would need something to hold onto to keep myself from letting go. A promise to you, my little boy who gave everything for me, would be something I wouldn’t let go of.
Of course, Mommy didn’t know how hard it would really be. I had never had a baby before, so I didn’t know that, even though my head would know you were gone, by body wouldn’t know what happened to you. It spent the first two months searching for you, refusing to listen when my mind told it you were gone. Sometimes, though, I didn’t tell. Sometimes I pretended you really were there, just to make myself feel better.
I hope you understand that I had a lot going against me, and I tried really hard to make you proud of me. I still try really hard every day to make you proud, but part of our deal, Gabriel, was for you to send Tater Tot to me so I would have someone to look forward to. Tater Tot leaving, too, was not part of the deal. Did you know she was going to have to fly away, too? I think you must have known.
One year is a big marker of time when you’ve lost someone you love so much. I learned this when your grandma went to Heaven. From now on, I’ll no longer be able to say, “One year ago I was pregnant with Gabriel, and we did this.” Or “One year ago when Gaby was in my belly, I felt this way.” From now on, it will just be a really long time since I’ve seen you.
Gabriel, Mommy loves you so much, and I’m still so very proud of you and thankful for you. I hope that your first birthday can be a turning point me. I know you understand—I know everyone understands—that I have been sad this year. It’s time for Mommy to straighten up, though. I don’t want to go on living life as a sad person. I don’t want others to think of me as a sad person. I don’t want to think of myself as a sad person. I won’t make any promises about this because I know there will be sad days; there will always be sad days. I’m just going to try a little harder to be a little happier, a little bit more okay.
I love you, Gabriel Nicolas. Happy Heavenly birthday.
This is the second day for "Liquid Gold" (Follistim), and my mind is already playing tricks on me. Tonight, as I dialed the pen to 125IU, I got to thinking, Did I dial the correct dose last night? I can't remember doing that. I don't remember dialing the pen to 125. I was very preoccupied with loading the pen correctly with the new vial. What if I just wasn't thinking clearly and only dialed it to 25IU? What have I done? I have three 300IU vials. I compared the used vial to the new ones, but I can't tell. The vial doesn't have marks on it. I won't know until Friday night after I've used the new vial two times and compare them. Then, it will be too late to call the doc and ask what to do. I'm freaking out. Something like this happens every time.
I just had a talk with Gaby about this. God makes babies. Not doctors. Not medicine. God doesn't need me or anything I can do to make this baby. Still, he doesn't need me to be careless, either.
I was super excited to give myself a shot in the belly tonight. No, seriously, I really was. This is my fourth time using Follistim, though, and it is no less nerve racking than the first time.
It is so nerve racking because it is so expensive! The last time I ordered these meds (Summer 2010), we paid $856. This time, I did some price shopping. I found a pharmacy that ships meds out of Israel. Apparently, European drugs are much cheaper. It only (only?) cost $628. The difference is in Europe they call it Puregon. So the packaging says Puregon and it has Israeli (I guess it's Israeli) writing all over it--kinda funny. It's the same stuff, though.
Why else does it make me so nervous to do the injections? Not because I can't handle the needle; it's tiny. It's because I have to take this tiny glass vial of very expensive medicine that has been shipped to me from the far corners of the world and load it into a dial-a-dose pen cartridge and administer it to myself under high pressure circumstances. I always sit on the bed to load the vial into the cartridge. I'm afraid if I stand at the kitchen counter, I might drop it on the floor and shatter it. It's a vial of liquid gold . . . No, more like liquid baby.
Follistim is FSH (Follicle Stimulating Hormone). FSH is needed for the growth and development of follicles in the ovaries. Follicles are small round sacs that contain the egg cells. FSH stimulates the ovaries to produce mature eggs.
This is my fourth time using Follistim. The first time was September 2008. I took a 100IU daily dose and produced two follicles. I did not get pregnant. As I mentioned in "Walking Down the Street Naked", I believe it was because I didn't have an HSG. For the second round in June 2009, I wanted more follicles to increase my chances of getting pregnant. So, the doctor prescribed 125IU daily. This upped the price significantly, and I still only produced two follicles. But, low and behold, I got pregnant with Gabriel. The third round of treatment was June 2010. The doctor wanted to do the same protocol since I proved I could get pregnant with it, so he prescribed 125IU daily again. I had three follicles this time! I was shocked and scared out of my mind that I would get pregnant with multiples. Skyler never even flinched at the idea. And, you know how the story goes, we got pregnant with Princess Tater Tot. 125IU daily again for six days (today through Sunday). Every cycle is different. How many follicles will we get this time?
I started taking Femara today. It is an oral medication that I will take twice a day for five days. Femara is actually a breast cancer drug (used to decrease the chances of the cancer returning), but it is used off-the-charts as a fertility drug also. Off-the-charts because it is not FDA approved for this.
Femara is an aromatase inhibitor. Aromatase is an enzyme in the body that signals the production of estrogen. When estrogen production is suppressed, the brain sends a signal to the pituitary gland to increase the FSH (follicle stimulating hormone) production. That means producing one or two follicles when maybe none would have been produced without the medication. It also regulates the cycle because you start taking it on a certain day depending on when you want the procedure scheduled. This prevents it from needing to take place on a weekend when the doctor's office is closed.
We tried this in September 2008 back when I really didn't think I had anything wrong with me. After taking only the Femara with no other drugs, an ultrasound showed I produced no follicles. Not even one. I was shocked. Devastated. I couldn't believe it. The procedure that I had waited so long for was unexpectedly canceled. I just thought, since when do I need medication to ovulate. Now, truth be told, we don't really know that I need more intense drug therapy in order to produce follicles and ovulate because we have never had another ultrasound of my ovaries when I wasn't on medication. I just take the other medication because it definitely works, and if I'm going to do all the other stuff, I don't want to leave anything to chance.
Oh, I was adventurous today. I left the house at 6:15 AM (before daylight!) and drove 2 1/2 hours to Nashville, TN to attend a meeting of the Middle Tennessee Christian Writers. I was pretty proud of myself for doing this because I haven't been to Nashville in several years, and I certainly have never gone there by myself. Despite the snow, I made it to Nashville easily, but my Mapquest directions weren't exactly correct. So, I had to make a last minute decision (shoving panic aside because I was alone and it wasn't going to help) to exit right or stay straight (both paths contained portions of my Mapquest directions). I veared right moments before it was too late and thanked God when I saw my next exit. Whew! I did not want to get all the way to Nashville just to have to call my hubby crying that I was lost! While he had plenty of faith in me to knock their socks off at the meeting (His exact words were, "You are way too pretty for anyone to believe you are as smart as you are." No, seriously, he really did say that.), he wasn't so sure I could find my way around the big city with no help. I did make one wrong turn after this but quickly corrected it and arrived safely and on time.
The MTCW is a group for Christian writers of fiction. Yes, I wrote a memoir, which is nonfiction, but memoirs read like novels because of character arc (how a character evolves over the course of the book), cliffhangers, and story structure. They are also driven more by writing style than platform. Plus, I hope to write a novel this year, so I thought this might be the group for me.
One of the things I struggle with is telling people in conversation what my book is about. When someone asks, "What is your book about?" I want to say, "Hold on a sec while I write it down, then I'll read to you what it's about." I can write it all day long (My sister says that's because I'm the queen of BS when it comes to writing; She means that as a compliment.), but to say it out loud is not so easy. On the way down, I practiced my "elevator pitch." Not that I thought I was going to be pitching (trying to sell my idea) to anyone, but because I knew I would be asked what it was about, and I would need to be able to say it in a couple of sentences. I called my salesman husband to have him listen to what I came up with, but he thought my first version was too rehearsed, too mechanical. He wanted me to make them feel it and want to know more. I hung up on him, practiced something else, and called him back with this:
"My memoir is our story of overcoming infertility . . . and then early infant loss . . . and then a miscarriage. It is letters to my baby telling him of his miraculous life and how I planned to give him to Jesus. Then, he becomes my conscience, and my promises to him help me through my most difficult times of living without him."
(Pause from my husband) "That's perfect."
"But now I'm about to cry!" He thinks that's good, that I want them to feel that, too. It worked; I got the typical smiles from around the room when I introduced myself and then the classic shoulder slump, sorry eyes, and awwwww when I say the words "early infant loss." No one is ever ready for those words. If I ever do get to pitch to an agent one of these days: #1, I think the pitch will have to be much shorter; and #2, I can't cry!
Of course, it's me, so this trip can't end this smoothly. After being so proud of myself for finding my way to the church in Nashville and then finding my way out of Nashville so successfully, the low fuel light comes on at about the same time that I see the HENDERSON 27 miles sign (Henderson is home). No big deal, right? Wrong! I guess I didn't realize there are no gas stations on that road! I kept driving, and the needle kept getting lower. And I kept driving, and the needle kept getting lower. After about 12 or 15 miles, I realized I would not be coming across any gas stations. I was wearing heals and it was freezing and my husband was out of town! I started praying and calling on the name of Jesus! I had to slow way down so I didn't waste any gas. Just when I thought the gauge couldn't get any lower, I finally made it to the Zion Rd. exit and a gas station. Seriously, it was a close call!
Today is Day 1. I can't tell you how happy that makes me. Leading up to this, I thought I was going to feel nervous and robbed of the excitement and joy I felt the previous times, if simply out of caution--caution because maybe I'm just not completely sure this can happen anymore. But when the clock struck twelve and the calendar rolled to 2011, I felt different. I felt hope. I began counting the days and anticipating a year in which wonderful things will happen to me.
I counted to today. Day 1. My fertility medications came in the mail today ($628 for Follistim 900 and Novarel). I called the doctor's office to let them know it's time. The nurse gave me the much anticipated schedule of events:
Jan. 9 = Begin taking Femara (an oral medication to regulate my cycle) twice a day for five days.
Jan. 11 = Start Follistim (a hormone to make me produce mature follicles (eggs)) injections each evening for six days.
Jan. 17 = Follicle scan at 8:15 AM to see how many follicles I produced (I had two when I got pregnant with Gabriel and three when I got pregnant with Tater Tot)
Jan. 19 = THE BIG DAY!!! Be at the doctor's office at 8:00 AM for the IUI
This is it, my faithful readers. This is really going to happen. Please pray, pray, pray. And thank you, because I know you already do.
That's a bold statement, but I choose to believe . . .
Making it to 2011 has not been an easy feat. I won't go into it other than to say that recovering from the death of a child is unlike recovering from any other loss (at least that which I have experienced). Coping with the death of a newborn baby makes you feel crazy and makes you want to do crazy things. By the grace of God, though, and by your prayers, I didn't do anything to crazy. Thus, I made it to the best year ever.
I found my 2009 New Year's resolutions written in a notebook. They were:
1. Get a haircut (achieved)
2. Read at least one chapter of the Bible each day (not achieved)
3. Get into the 190s (pounds, that is) (not achieved)
4. Get pregnant (achieved)
Understandably, I did not write any resolutions or goals for 2010. One year ago, I was living one-day-at-a-time, thanking God every morning for the kicks that told me my baby was still alive. Yes, God did give me the sense to plan ahead for Gabriel's funeral, knowing that I would handle things better if the details were planned out. I did not, however, have any interest in looking ahead to life without my baby. We lived to enjoy each day as God gave it to us.
It's time to make goals again, time to quit making excuses. As a boycott against resolutions, which rarely work out, I am making goals. Some goals I will make for the year and some month-to-month to make them more attainable.
1. Get Gabriel's book published
2. Read the entire Bible using The One Year Bible
3. Get something published besides my book, like a short story or article, in a magazine or journal
4. Write a novel
5. Attend a writer's conference
6. Give birth to a perfect, healthy baby and BRING IT HOME!
January 2011 Goals:
1. Get pregnant with the perfect, healthy baby referred to in #6 above
2. Pray more. Pray everyday. Pray for people other than myself.
2. Follow Weight Watchers points system unwaveringly throughout the month
3. Swim at least twice a week
Note: I feel very bold saying I plan to write a novel this year. It seems very out of reach. It is hard for me to remember what it was like at the beginning of 2010 when I wanted to write a book. It felt unattainable, but I just started doing it. I taught myself how. That's what I will do this time, too. It just might take me a while.