Friday, June 3, 2011

Confessions of a Mama Blessed

© Jami 2011. Jami provides us with perspective on infertility, traumatic birth and miscarriage. Her journey includes more than one birth. Loss is mentioned.


I am pregnant and very blessed. I have no words to express how thankful I am. I have PolyCystic Ovarian Syndrome and have struggled each time to get pregnant. My dream in life, what I have always felt called to do and to be was to be a mother. It has been the biggest dream I've had for my life for as long as I can remember. So the struggle with infertility has been a hard one, but I haven’t missed the blessing and hope. I have known since I was a teenager there was something wrong with the way my body worked, because it didn't. I never had normal cycles. But no one would diagnose me; they just wrote it off as irregular periods and unexplained weight gain and tried to throw me on the pill. The pill never helped, it only made the problem worse. 

My husband Jon and I started dating when I was 16 and he as 17. We fell very quickly in love and by the time we were 19 and 20, we were living together. We had known we were going to get married for quite a long while (to be honest, I had known almost immediately, at 16) and decided we were open to trying for a baby. I had always feared it would be a struggle with my irregular cycles, but hoped it wouldn't. I went off the pill at 19, in March 2001, and we have never done birth control since, choosing instead to trust my body. Eventually I also learned about natural family planning and the fertility awareness method, which opened my eyes to how my body worked and didn't.
 

Because of the PCOS, we had a hard time getting pregnant, and since no one would treat me, or take a 19 year old trying to get pregnant seriously, I took things into my own hands. I did research and worked at getting healthier. At 20, I gave up all soda, fast food, and bad habits and started a 6-day a week workout plan. I lost 80 lbs in about a year, felt great, and was much happier. We were planning our wedding for July of 2003. We had been trying with no luck the whole time. I probably took dozens of pregnancy tests, always negative, and would cry each time and feel like a failure. Eventually I stopped taking them, just would rather see a period than a negative test.

Then, that June, I noticed my period hadn't come, and I had very sore breasts, to the point I was holding them and crying at work. I was nervous to test and kept talking myself out of it as I couldn't bear another negative. The day after my bridal shower, I took a pregnancy test and discovered we were finally pregnant after 26 months of trying! The method of getting healthy had worked and we were ecstatic and overjoyed!

 I was kind of amused and kind of insulted when some people had suggested Julianna was an "oops" because I was newly pregnant at our wedding. She was so far from an oops it was ridiculous. By our wedding, we had been together over 5 years, had been living together for over 2.5 years and trying to conceive for over 2 years. Yeah, some "oops."

Julianna Lynn was born February 14th, 2004. We felt so blessed to have her, had both hoped for a girl, and were thrilled with her from the start. She was our little miracle, the start of our family, and the answer to many prayers. We decided after she was born, not to prevent, but not to actively try to get pregnant for awhile. I had a traumatic birth, a terrible forced c-section, and a very long hard recovery. Part of me was scared at first to ever try to get pregnant again. I was afraid of another traumatic birth.

But I knew in my heart that I would overcome that fear and we would have more babies. We were content to trust breastfeeding to help with child spacing. I was breastfeeding on demand and committed to child-led weaning. I also knew that my body had issues conceiving so that was always in the back of my mind. 

When Julianna was around a year old, we started talking about our plans to have more kids, and when my cycles returned we didn't try but didn't avoid and just watched to see what my body was doing. As she approached 2 years and we were still not pregnant, we decided it was time to really try again, that "not preventing" wasn't working. We started actively trying the month she turned 2, in February 2006, hoping it would happen quickly this time. I naively thought that since it had already been 2 years of not preventing, that it would happen fast and I would be pregnant by spring.
 

When I wasn't pregnant by fall and going into a deep depression over my body not working at all thanks to the pcos (not cycling or ovulating and 2 yrs of not preventing and over 8 months of active trying), we pursued medical testing, with the hopes of getting me diagnosed and treated. I was diagnosed with PCOS in October 2006, but no one would treat me because I was breastfeeding Julianna (and refused to wean), so I started working again at my health and lost about 30 lbs.

In December, I finally convinced them to treat me with metformin (which is completely safe with breastfeeding), a medicine used for treating PCOS (as well as other things). I was getting to the end of my rope, crying daily, thinking it would never happen... trying to have faith and praying endlessly. I was still working to lose weight, was working out 6 or 7 days a week, reminding myself each day that the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow was another beautiful baby. 

I had been told by the doctor we were seeing that my body wasn't working and to just keep taking provera to make my body cycle. In February of 2007, they did progesterone testing that showed I hadn't ovulated and told me to take more provera to bring on a new cycle. I chose not to take it and give my body more time. A week later, I ovulated finally and because I was charting and paying attention to my body, we caught that egg and became pregnant with Jacob.

I can't even explain the joy, the feeling of pure happiness and thankfulness we felt. Julianna and I literally danced around the house when we saw 2 lines show up on the test! He was our miracle we had prayed for and worked so hard for. It took 36 months total, 24 of not preventing and 12 of very hard trying, and we finally had been blessed. We loved him so much, all 3 of us, from the second we saw 2 lines of the test. :) 

Jacob was born on November 23rd, 2007 and his birth, though a successful VBAC, was very hard and again traumatic. And the recovery was even harder. His entire first year I was very sick, in and out of hospitals, had surgeries, developed PTSD from his birth. It was a nightmare. Having more babies was not on our minds at all. I was very scared through that time, not knowing why I got so sick or what exactly was wrong, and prayed probably hundreds of times a day. Somehow I made it out the other side, with God's help.
 

After I began to get better, I decided to go back on the metformin and try to get healthy, which was a struggle again, up and down. All the while had not been preventing since 2001. In the winter of 2010, I started to see signs of cycles returning and we began talking about our plans for more children. My husband was nervous after 2 very bad births, and 2 awful recoveries, but by spring we were watching for my cycle, charting again, and decided that we were going to see how things went and if we weren't pregnant by 2011 we would be actively trying. I saw the first ovulation through charting in August 2010 even before the first post partum cycle, and there was a slight chance from not preventing, but I got my cycle finally at 33 months post partum.
 

The next month, in September, we decided that it wasn't the date we had said, but since my cycle was back and I appeared to actually be ovulating, we might as well try and see what happened. We got pregnant that cycle, much to both of our shock after so many times of trying with Julianna and Jacob. It was years of not preventing, but to get pregnant the first month really trying, well, we didn't think that would ever happen for us. We felt blessed, ecstatic again.
 

Right away though, I was nervous. The day before my positive test, I had a horrible nightmare that I had gotten pregnant and had an ectopic pregnancy. I woke up shaking and in tears. I couldn't shake a negative feeling, as much as I tried. I didn't feel like I had when pregnant with Juli or Jacob. Jon thought I was just worrying too much, but I trusted my instincts.

At 14 days past ovulation, 4 days after my positive test, 4 weeks pregnant, I called the midwives I had been to from Jacob and begged them to do some kind of testing. They also thought I was probably worrying for nothing. I had had 2 healthy normal pregnancies. But they ordered the testing. I just knew it was not okay. They had me go at 14 and 16 days past ovulation because they need to see how the pregnancy hormone doubles, and also tested my progesterone, the hormone the body needs to stay pregnant, to sustain the pregnancy.

By the time they got back to me with my results at 19 days past ovulation, I knew it was not okay. I had been crying for days. The bloodwork confirmed that the pregnancy hormone had just barely doubled as it should, but my progesterone was less than half what it should have been and holding steady, not rising at all. I knew I was going to lose the pregnancy without intervention.

I begged them to help, but they refused, telling me, "What is going to happen is going to happen." I refused to accept that, saw several other doctors and midwives and begged for help, but no one helped. I ended up losing our baby the day I was 6 weeks, a few days after I had found out my numbers had started to decline, showing the baby was gone. It was devastating. I cried so much in the days leading up to the miscarriage that I was physically sick from it. 

To make it worse, they weren't sure where the pregnancy was, in my uterus or a tube, because they couldn't see on ultrasound. So the fears from my dream haunted me. They told me to watch for the signs of an ectopic when the bleeding started and to get to a hospital ASAP if I saw any because I could bleed internally and die. Nice. Great thing to tell someone with anxiety issues and PTSD from birth trauma. I was terrified. So in addition to losing my baby, I was also filled with fear, afraid of dying and leaving behind my son and daughter and husband.

The day the miscarriage started, I was home with just the kids and no car. Jon was at work and I was supposed to be getting Juli ready for her dance class Halloween party that evening. I was contracting like I was in labor and bleeding horribly and in pain, and afraid of an ectopic, watching for signs of anything dangerous, and trying to get everyone showered and ready. Most of the time I was crawling around on the floor in tears, doubled over in agony.

By the time Jon got home most of the contractions had subsided. They had lasted between 6 and 7 hours and I was lying on a towel covered in blood on the floor by the time he got home. He helped me clean up and we finished getting everyone ready and took Juli to dance. I felt like death and it took everything in me to get her there, because I knew how important it was to her. It was an awful day. A few days later Jon and I took the kids trick-or-treating, even though I could barely walk from the pain and bleeding. But, life doesn't stop and my kids needed me. 

I spent many days crying, ate a lot of chocolate, ended up telling off the midwives from Jake's birth when they called to see how my pregnancy was going, the pregnancy that they refused to help sustain and was over by then. That felt good. I went through the stages of grief rapidly at times. I began to feel stronger, but still emotional, still talking to the baby every single day. So did Juli.. she and I took it the hardest, cried together, held each other, mourned together for our angel baby. Months later we still are mourning. We never got to see or hold our baby, but we loved him or her, all of us. And we always will. 

We decided that there was no need to wait to try again. My primary doctor agreed with me that the only reason to wait is for emotional healing. But for me, time would make it worse. I had to work at getting pregnant while my body was still ovulating before the PCOS took over again. I had lost 50 lbs from June to November, but after the miscarriage I regained almost 10 and by Christmas was beginning to get it back off. The first cycle after the miscarriage, we only half-heartedly tried, and didn't succeed. The second cycle after, in January/February we tried like hell. 

I had re-lost most of what I had gained after the miscarriage but got sick and had a crazy long cycle, so logically I thought there was very slim chance of success, but in my heart I had a feeling we would be successful. And we tried, and succeeded. This time happy as I was, I was also scared right from the start. I knew I was pregnant before the first positive test, and knew it was again not right. I made dozens of phone calls to find an office that took my insurance, that could see me quickly and do testing and was agreeable to progesterone supplementation.

In the meantime I found an endocrinologist to do testing, and they confirmed my fears, that my progesterone at 8 days past ovulation was only 9.4 (it should be over 15; with Jacob at 7 days past it had been 46.5!!!). So I was scared and knew I had to fight to save this baby or end up in another miscarriage. 

The day of my first appt. with the OB (yes, I went to an OB, after long ago vowing to never see an OB, but I knew it was my only chance), was the day of my first positive test, at 12 days past ovulation. I told them the situation and they agreed to help, but only after doing bloodwork. It was a Friday and I had it done that day and then was to repeat on Monday. Monday was Juli's 7th birthday, Valentine's Day, and they called me that day with the results. They were bad, as I feared.

My progesterone had fallen to 8.6 and they said they weren't going to supplement because it was likely not a viable pregnancy. Those words were a knife in my heart, I cried hysterically and begged them. The pregnancy hormone had only been 14.3 the day I had it tested the previous Friday and they said that was too low. I kept begging, cried that entire day. They finally agreed, after I told them I was going to lose my baby and it would be their fault. They called in the best progesterone supplement. Then the insurance refused to pay for the it, wouldn't cover it at all, and it was $500 a month and I'd need it till I was 12 weeks, and we couldn't afford it at all. More crying. More begging.

Finally the insurance company said they would try to cover it if they got an affidavit from the OB saying it was medically necessary. By then the office was closed. By the time it was all straightened out, it was 2 days later when I got the progesterone. And by then I didn't know if it was too late, the pregnancy could have been failing already, that was my fear. I was having anxiety attacks so often there was almost no break between them. I talked to my mom, to a good friend, and to God for reassurance. The only good news was that I finally had the medicine, and that my numbers had gone up. The pregnancy hormone is supposed to double; mine more than sextupled!! Proving it was viable!

So I took the progesterone everyday and went for bloodwork every 2 days from 4 weeks till almost 6 weeks. The blood lab technician and I got to know each other well. By 5.5 weeks, my numbers had risen enough that they said they'd be able to see on ultrasound if the pregnancy was developing normally, and they needed to see to keep giving me the progesterone. They said all they needed to see was a gestational sac, but I pushed the ultrasound off as far as I could, hoping we'd see more than just an empty sac. I had the ultrasound at 5 weeks and 6 days, and we saw a sac, a yolk sac, the fetal pole (the beginning of the baby) and the start of heart motion. It was not strong enough to pick up a real heartbeat but it had begun to move, which was reassuring. For a few days, I was on a cloud, feeling relief and joy and HOPE. Then the fear crept back in as time went on. I still worried about losing the pregnancy, and the doctor told me the real test would be if we heard a heartbeat after 10 weeks. 

I had 4 long weeks to wait and pray and try to make myself stay positive, not always succeeding. At 10 weeks and 2 days, I went to the OB again, nervous as can be. He came in and told me that it was still early and we may not hear anything and to be prepared, but he would try. I closed my eyes and prayed, while the kids ran around the room goofing off and acting silly and Jon tried to quiet them. I asked God to please let us hear the heartbeat, for our baby to be strong and healthy. The OB kept looking. It took him several minutes, but he found it!! A strong, steady heartbeat of 169-170!!! I cried and thanked God. 

I believe with everything in me that this baby was meant to be, that God saw that and helped me save this baby. He helped me push when everyone else wanted to give up. God stood with me, held my hand and helped me keep pushing and having the strength to fight for this baby. I know it in my heart. I know some people don't believe, and I know some people think miracles are made up. But until you have FELT God in that way and witnessed His miracles, you can't understand it. God saved this baby, and so did our angel that we lost months prior. Without our angel baby, and how traumatic it was losing them, we would not have been as determined and pushed so hard right from the start this time. 

Tomorrow I will be 15 weeks pregnant. I have heard this baby's heartbeat 4 times now and each time I thank God. God saw, and God saved. We have chosen a boy name and a girl name for this baby. The names, one of them means "God beholds/sees" and the other means "God is salvation". We believe this baby is here because God saw this baby was meant to be and saved them. 

To say I feel blessed is not enough. I didn't intend to write all of this, but to explain how blessed I feel, I had to tell our story. Every one of our 4 babies is a miracle. We have 2 miracles in our arms, one that is with God, and another growing stronger each day inside of me. We are BLESSED. To anyone who doesn't believe in God, all I can say is, whether you believe in him or not, He is there, watching and guiding and He does perform miracles. I have witnessed several of them, 4 of which are my babies. I love each of them with all my heart. 

I am working on a project to clear the stress and emotional baggage in my life. This project is about them, all of them, about our whole family, about healing the trauma from horrible births and the miscarriage, about moving forward towards a peaceful and healing homebirth. Healing for me, and for all of us. I know that God will be with me again. I need to do the work, but he will be holding my hand every step of this journey, as in everything. I said way back there somewhere about the blessings in this journey of infertility, and there are several. My babies of course are one. The way it has impacted my faith, and strengthened my marriage is another. And because of it I will never take my babies for granted. Not for a second. It’s hard to think of it this way, but in many ways, it has been a blessing in my life and has taught me how to truly value what I have and to trust in God's plan. 


5 weeks, 6 days
A joyous update on the new baby, Jessica Lea!

2 comments:

  1. Thank you so much for posting Guggie :) Reading through it again brought me to tears, all that we've been through. I know God has been with us in the good times and the bad and always will and for that I'm thankful. I will be 20 weeks pregnant tomorrow, and baby Jessica (meaning God beholds) is growing and doing wonderfully. We are blessed. :)

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  2. Jami, you are a wonderful, dedicated mama. I love you sweetie and couldn't be happier for you and your family!!! Reading your story just brought tears to my eyes.
    ~Kelly =]

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