Christmas 2014

Up until this past month if you asked me what the hardest part of our infertility journey has been, I would have said it was the period of time between about six months to a year of trying to conceive. It was so difficult because I had a foreboding sense that something was wrong, yet we had not yet reached that "one year mark" of trying and therefore our fruitless trying could not medically be considered "infertility." We had not told anyone because there was not really anything yet to tell. We were worried, alone, and heartbroken.

Four years later, I have to change my answer. It was the first three weeks of December 2014. The grief of our loss and the fear of never conceiving were heavy on my heart.

The other night Arie woke up while it was still dark. The clock in my and John's room is on John's side of the bed and since I wear contacts, I can't read it when I get up at night. Taking the pitch darkness as my clue, I took Arie for a quick potty trip and then tucked him back under the covers whispering, "It's still nighttime. Go back to sleep."

Back in my room, I reached for the phone on my dresser to check the hour. Almost 7am! Arie wasn't waking up in the middle of the night; it was morning. The day was just about to break.

This experience, but opposite, describes how I felt about our failed frozen embryo transfer. Going into the transfer, I felt like it was almost morning after a very long night. I thought the day was about to break. When I heard the nurse deliver those words "not pregnant" it was like being thrust back somewhere into the night, to some unknown hour in the dark.

Perhaps the hardest part of being lost in the dark has been that I don't know what time it is. I can't see the clock. I have no idea when morning is coming. It often feels like it's just not coming at all.

I know how dramatic that sounds. I don't mean to be negative and honestly I considered not sharing this at all, but I've always promised you I would share this journey honestly because I believe it is important. I know I am not alone. I want to hold out my hand to those of you who are in this night with me and say, "Me too."

But let me share something good, too. In grief there are bad moments on good days and good moments on bad days: for Christmas I had a whole beautiful strong of the good moments and good days. Going into the holidays I had no idea how I would feel, but I am so thrilled to report that they were wonderful! My family (parents, both siblings and their spouses) came to stay with us for four days and we had an incredible time.

I still feel like I am in the darkness, but it was like they came into my home and turned on all the lights, just for a while. It was exactly what my heart needed.

My parents arrived on the 23rd and siblings later on the 24th. This allowed me and John to continue our tradition of opening gifts with Arie on the morning of Christmas Eve. We came down in our pajamas, I baked some breakfast biscuits, and we poured our mugs full of coffee before unwrapping our gifts.

 I don't have another child to compare him to, but I think Arie is the most fun gift-opener I've ever met! He greeted his gifts with big eyes, clenched fists, and squeals of delight!

My favorite quote of the morning was when he opened a wooden Russian church block set and confidently declared: You can throw away that picture box Mom. I already know how to make a Russia. 
Nailed it. 
That evening my siblings arrived along with John's mom and sister. We enjoyed our third annual Russian food Christmas Eve dinner. I made piroshki (stuffed buns), vareniki (perogies), and braised cabbage and beef. Not to pat myself on the back or anything but... let's just say it turned out better than Arie's Russian block project.

Christmas morning had John up and at church bright and early, preparing for the service while the rest of us juggled showers and mirrors for getting ready. I made a Christmas breakfast which would.not.set until 15 minutes before departure time! Luckily I come from a family of fast eaters! We scarfed it down and packed ourselves into the minivan, arriving at church just in time! We filed into our front row pew just seconds before the opening carol. High fives all around.

After church we set out a smorgasbord of snacks, filling our plates before exchanging gifts by the tree. Nine people x 9 gifts each = something like 392 gifts (I'm bad at math)... it took all afternoon but was great fun! Arie almost died of waiting forever between his turns, but still relished each gift and wanted to play with them right away.

Everyone was spoiled with gifts but more importantly we had a truly wonderful time together. We shared cups of tea, filled up on way too many Christmas cookies, went out to eat, played games together, and laughed until we could hardly breathe. When my family left after four days I was exhausted but deeply happy. I thanked God for the gift of those four days filled with love and light in the midst of the darkness. I also prayed with fervor that someday I will be the matriarch of such a family; welcoming my children with their spouses into my home to cook and converse together in the kitchen, to sit on couches with hot mugs of coffee, and to share that special connection we call family.

Looking forward to the dawn and praying it comes in 2015.



Factor V Leiden

Yesterday was my 29th birthday. Normally I get pretty excited about my birthday and I've never understood people like my husband who don't want their loved ones to make a big deal out of it.

I mean- please! By all means: make a big deal. ;-)

But I met yesterday with mixed emotion. I was happy and grateful for my 29th year, excited to see what my 30th year will bring, but also somewhat sad. More and more lately I have been feeling the ache of empty arms. Arie is growing older, kindergarten is approaching, and I am filled with such intense longing for another child. Already suffering from infertility, my biological clock is ticking louder and louder as I age and I fight against the fear that it will never happen.

Even so, I am comforted to know I'm doing everything I can to realize my dream of carrying a baby and I am in the best of medical hands.

After my failed embryo transfer my doctor ordered a long list of blood tests. When I went to get the blood draw the nurse actually stopped in her tracks and said, "Woah. It's going to take me a minute to enter these into the computer." I bet there were close to a dozen vials by the time she was done! I've now had every infertility relevant blood test I could have.

The results came back last week and revealed something new: I have a genetic blood clotting disorder! I got the news via voicemail and I admit I fist pumped when I heard it. I knew there was something we were missing and I am so happy we found it! I'm beyond grateful to my doctor who tested me for this disorder after my first failed FET; I've heard so many stories of women who suffered multiple miscarriages before their doctor ordered this test. While we don't know if this genetic mutation caused my failed FET (he didn't think so, but there is not enough research on the topic to know for sure), we do know that there is a possibility that if I had become pregnant not knowing about this mutation I could have lost the babies, even late into the pregnancy. I am so thankful we found this issue now so that when I become pregnant in the future, we can prevent any issues that would stem from it.

There are two forms of this mutation: heterozygous (one copy of the mutation: less severe) and homozygous (two copies: more severe). I have the less severe one. (Biology class was not my favorite in high school so apologies if I am explaining this poorly.)

I'll start taking a low dose of aspirin right away and when I do become pregnant I will have to take a prescription blood thinner called Lovonox. In the case of our next frozen embryo transfer, I'll actually start the Lovonox a few days before the transfer.

 I feel like we finally have the full picture of our infertility woes, at least as much as modern medicine can reveal. There have been a few points along the way on this journey when I have been amazed by and grateful for the medical care I am able to access: this is one of those times. Outwardly my body gave me no signs of trouble. Even with charting my basal body temperature, I had no reason to believe anything was amiss. It was so frustrating to not understand why I wasn't getting pregnant! Three diagnoses later (diminished ovarian reserve, endometriosis, and Factor V Leiden) I can say there is a certain relief that comes just knowing what the problem is. Right now modern medicine can't cure any of my diagnoses, but I am thankful that we do have a way to treat them so that I have hope of carrying a child. I thank God for the continuing work of dedicated doctors and scientists who seek to find more answers and, someday, cures. It truly is amazing!

I know I'll get some questions from women wondering if they should be tested for FVL. Of course this is a question for your doctor but from what I understand if you have had multiple losses, are of European descent, or have a personal or family history of blood clots it would be worth looking into. At fist I thought I only fit into the "European descent" category but have since found out about a family history of clotting I didn't know about!

I'd love to hear from you if you have experience with Factor V Leiden or other clotting disorders. You can leave me a comment below or on facebook so others can gain from your story or if you prefer send me a private message on facebook. Thank you in advance!



'Tis the season!

Have you ever gotten sick- say with a stomach bug or flu- and suddenly realized how much you had been taking your health for granted? Find yourself throwing up in the toilet bowl, thinking of all the things you could have been doing with your day if you weren't too weak to get off the bathroom floor? Curl up in bed, shivering with fever, wondering why when you were healthy you weren't absolutely skipping through each day, singing the praises of good health and capability?

I certainly have! It's a lesson that I recently re-learned when I was mostly couch-ridden in November from the pain of my progesterone shots. Suddenly the most basic tasks became huge chores and my standards for parenting, housekeeping, and everything else were significantly lowered. I temporarily went from thriving to surviving. It was only for a short time and I had lots of help from my husband and friends so I had no reason to complain about my situation, but it did renew in me a zest for living! I spent a lot of time marveling at people who live with chronic pain and became sharply aware of how much I take for granted.

(I also spent a lot of time wishing I had deep cleaned my house before I was stuck on the couch.)

Now that I'm back to my usual self and the Christmas season is upon us, I've determined to not lose sight of that lesson and to carpe diem every day. Okay maybe not seize every day-let's not go overboard- but certainly seize the season! Though I am certainly sad that I am not pregnant this Christmas like I dreamed I would be, I am so grateful to have my health, my family, and my faith for the holidays. I'm determined to enjoy all three this season!

John, Arie, and I welcomed the season like most families: by trimming our tree! Arie is such a fun little boy to do this kind of stuff with! As John and I brought boxes of ornaments and decorations up from the basement, Arie's body bounced up and down, hands clenched, little squeals of delight escaping from his lips. John and I watch his reaction and grin at each other, marveling at our little boy and wondering how we got so lucky to be his parents.

I love the ritual of re-discovering our special ornaments. Our tree tells a fuller, longer story each year as our marriage- and we- grow older. We hang the kitschy penguin John and I bought on our honeymoon in Niagara Falls almost seven years ago; it's hollow stomach holds a black and white engagement picture, one my dad took in 2006. There are six metal brown stars in a box from The Pottery Barn; I remember how excited I was to receive a gift card to this expensive store in the first year of our marriage. I picked those stars and an adorable silver twig-like reindeer that sits on our hall table. They are still my favorite pieces of Christmas decor! On our tree we also hand an ornament that looked like a Tim Horton's coffee cup (a tribute to my homeland!), a red owl that I bought as Arie's "first Christmas" ornament, and two "Burden Family" ornaments with the year we became a family marked in celebration: 2012. They always make me smile.

This year we hung a few snowflakes on our tree as well: one impressed with to pairs of tiny baby figurative baby feet, given to us by our church in memory of the two embryos we lost last month. We also hung two big, beautiful, sparkling snowflakes that John bought me a few weeks ago: a symbol of the two embryos we have waiting, frozen, and the hope and prayers we offer for them this Christmas.

When we were done, I took a moment to admire our work and my heart is flooded with the hope I feel each Christmas.

My sweet reverie was soon interrupted by a soft crunching sound. I found our cat Jasper under the tree, chewing on the branches! I shouted at him to "get out of there" and Arie joined me, delighted by both the permission to yell while inside and to be "in charge" of someone for once in his life... even if it is the cat! Yesterday the bottom fifth of the lights on our tree went out. I'm really hoping our cat didn't chew through a wire. (I promise to check it: fire safety and all.)

Next on my "seize the season!" list was a walk in a winter wonderland. Saturday morning proved the perfect opportunity to enjoy a winter hike since our sun finally showed itself after a long week of hiding.

We took off to a wooded trail, relishing the sound of crunch snow underfoot (me), picking up sticks and acorns along the way (Arie), and even sighting a woodpecker high above (John)!

Finally, we got a head-start on our holiday baking. We are hosting my family for Christmas this year (yay!) and with that full house for three or four days (eight adults, one child, a cat, and my dog-nephew) I anticipate chomping through our fair share of cookies. Arie and I spend an afternoon in the kitchen mixing and baking three dozen each of sugar cookies, peanut butter cookies, and oatmeal raisin cookies. Turns out Arie is actually pretty good with a rolling pin! Our goodies are packaged up and waiting in the freezer for a later December date.

On Sunday we began our advent activities (we're doing the Jesse Tree this year and- of course- a chocolate calendar!). Still waiting on our list is a Santa Breakfast at Arie's preschool, a car ride with hot chocolate to see Christmas lights, wrapping all our gifts (already purchased- yay!), mailing Christmas cards, and enjoying a Christmas ballet with John's mom. Seizing the season!

Did you get your tree up yet? What festive events or traditions are you looking forward to?

Happy, hopeful advent to you.



Five ways to strengthen your marriage during infertility

I wrote this post for our local Bethany Christian Services blog on the topic of infertility and marriage.

Infertility is hard on a marriage. There are many elements of the journey that can threaten to tear couples apart: feelings of guilt, inadequacy, blame over the cause of infertility, disagreement about treatment options, financial stress due to the cost of treatments, and the all-consuming nature of infertility treatment. Though the challenges of infertility can not always be avoided, they do not have to tear you apart! They can be used as opportunities for you to grow closer and stronger as a couple. My husband John and I began our infertility journey four years ago and while we have not always done it well, we have found ways to grow closer and stronger through it. Based on our experience, here are five suggestions for keeping your marriage strong during infertility.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...