The Illusion of Preparing

Today, I am 34 weeks pregnant. I don’t really believe it. I mean, sure, I have this bowling ball attached to my stomach which moves without my control, and, yes, people are starting to touch said bowling ball like it’s another person and not part of my body. But this idea of another little human appearing seems a bit far-fetched. No wonder the myth of the stork emerged, it does kind of feel like a baby comes from out of the sky. Boom, one day, a crying infant pops out of your body and within a couple days you take this newly breathing lifeform home. Weird.

Plus this whole process so far is so counter my experience with Jordan, I don’t know what to make of it. The little bean is looking good? Really? Still? With Jordan, most of the pregnancy was trying to grapple with the reality of his diagnosis. I remember waiting for the worst, him passing away in utero. Instead, after a dramatic placental abruption at 30 weeks, he arrived alive and fighting.

I’m skimming against 40 and this is my longest, most “normal” pregnancy.  The process feels like a strange new world where other people can relate to my experience. I go to prenatal yoga and discuss reflux, insomnia, and hip pain with the other 14 pregnant women in my class. People repeatedly ask how I am feeling/doing and I am cheerful in my reply without a hesitating thought regarding a genetic anomaly.

Then, there’s the planning. My husband and I are discussing cord banks and making appointments to visit the maternity ward at the hospital. I’ve ordered curtains and cushions for the nursery. Friends and family bombard us with pink onesies, muslin blankets, and bath toys at a tropical pink shower. This must be how the majority of people experience pregnancy, I think to myself.

I am, however, well aware of all the what-if’s, could be’s and maybe’s that come with pregnancy. I am grateful that we have weekly ultrasounds and non-stress tests (NST) ordered by my doctor. I catch my breath every time the ultrasound tech is searching for the heartbeat, even though the baby may have moved just an hour or two before the appointment. And despite the continuing good news I worry about the delivery and then after the delivery. And I try really hard not to imagine all the dangers and the pitfalls that this life is going to throw at this little one.

So I go back to thinking about what to pack for the hospital or obsess over which pack n’ play to purchase knowing there is nothing that fully prepares you for the baby that falls out of the sky. “Whoops!” They say as they catch the slippery little bundle. “Here is your own special brand of chaos,” they add as they hand her over. Enjoy! Take care! We are waved out of the hospital and into the world.

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My Fertility Protocol: MTHFR and late-thirties pregnancy

I’ve been meaning to write about the steps we took to get pregnant. I wanted to have this out there for women who are trying to get pregnant with the MTHFR gene or because they are on the older side of the optimal fertility timeframe. So I will outline my issues and the steps taken to overcome those issues. Currently I am 26 weeks pregnant and 39 years old. So far all the ultrasounds and testing have come back with positive results, but we still have 14 weeks to go. That is my first disclaimer. My second is that what works for one woman may not work for another. This is probably pretty obvious for any woman currently trying to get pregnant. My point in publishing my protocol here is for women to have a starting point conversation with their doctors. I encourage any woman who has had multiple losses of pregnancy to check their genetics and see if they have an MTHFR gene mutation or another clotting disorder.

During our process we saw a fertility doctor who specialized in helping women get pregnant without the use of IVF. We’ve had two miscarriages and a baby with Full Trisomy 18 (which means it was spontaneous and not related to genetics. If it were partial or mosaic then it could have been related to genetics). Ultimately, we could get pregnant, but beyond that things got sketchy. So unless we wanted to do pre-genetic testing on the embryos (and we didn’t), there was no point to doing IVF.

The fertility doctor ordered ultrasounds to watch the progress of my cycle, namely ovulation. He also had blood drawn at certain times of my cycle to watch the level of estradiol and progesterone. The results were this: 1) the lining of my uterus didn’t get as thick as he wanted, and 2) my progesterone was clearly low on the back end of my cycle. With this information in addition to my MTHFR C677T homozygous diagnosis this is the protocol my doctor prescribed and I followed (for the most part):

Prior to trying:

  1. 5-MTHF-My Ob/Gyn prescribed a compound with L-methylfolate (or 5-MTHF) , a biologically more digestable form of folic acid. In combination with the 5-MTHF, the compound also contains B12 and B6 to help with absorption. This can also be put together through separate pills of each, but I like less things to swallow, so I get the compound through a local pharmacy even though my insurance doesn’t cover it. For more information on MTHFR, you can check out this link or check out Wellness Mama, she has a very complete article on the gene mutation as well.
  2. Progesterone- A month or two before trying to get pregnant, I started with the Progesterone (200 mg) three days after ovulation for 10 days.
  3. Baby Aspirin- A month before trying I started taking baby aspirin everyday. I noticed long lasting bruising so my doctor said that I could go to every other day.
  4. L-Arginine– 3000 mg twice a day. The fertility doctor prescribed this for increased circulation, helping with clotting and with increasing the lining of the uterus during my fertile window. This was a bit of pain since I could only find it in 1000 mg for awhile, but if you can get ahold of the 3000mg, then it is much easier.
  5. Myo-inositol– Basically this is supposed to help with egg quality and follicle development. There is more detail here.
  6. Fertiaid– I took this for awhile, but I was taking so much. I kind of gave up on this one. However, my husband was very good about taking this to make sure his “contributions” would be as healthy as possible.

During the cycles of trying for pregnancy, I continued all supplements and added:

Letrozole- This was prescribed by my doctor and I don’t know the dosage. But I took it on days 3-7 of my cycle. However, with this protocol I kept getting sick (a cold usually) by the time of my fertile window. So I looked online and found another protocol that recommended taking the Letrozole on days 5-9. I reasoned my ovulation usually came later anyway and perhaps just shifting the days a little would help me avoid getting a cold and ruining the timeframe when we should be trying. And with that shift, we were able to try and to conceive successfully!

During pregnancy, my goal is to keep circulation up  and avoiding clotting-

  1. 5-MTHF compound.
  2. Baby Aspirin daily
  3. Fish oil/Vitamin D (I alternate)
  4. Pre-natal with folate (NOT folic acid)
  5. Calcium and fiber

Again, we still have weeks to go, there are no guarantees. But this is the longest, least eventful pregnancy we have experienced. Praise God. Speaking of the God, that is the other angle to this pregnancy. Although we consulted doctors, we also consulted many, many spiritual people. With the loss of Jordan, attempting to have another child was mentally and emotionally challenging. Without the prayers of people in our lives and God bestowing his grace, we would not be where we are right now.

Loving Again

I am feeling a little restless these days. There are lists of things for me to do, but instead I just pace around like I’m waiting for the baby to come. Part of me had this brilliant idea to apply for graduate school. That’s pretty irrational since I am scheduled to have a baby in August, but hey maybe it will take my mind off of the looming due date. I can just think about something mundane like school and classes rather than wrapping my head around the life change coming my way again.

It is such a human response to be scared of change, to worry about myself and what I won’t be able to do.  But if I think back 5 years, geez, I was so happy when Jordan was born. I was so freaking happy. I’ve never been that happy before or since. And it was so hard after he passed away because I had all this love, this massive amount of mommy love to give and he didn’t need it anymore. He had God’s overwhelming and penetrating love; he had relief, and quiet, and grace, and everything we’re all searching for. That was so difficult, not having somewhere to put all that. Now I am nervous about generating all that love again. About loving someone with that veracity.

When my husband and I started dating, I was a scared little girl with a big attitude. He is very honest with his emotions and I felt like he wanted too much from me. And in the early part of our relationship, I tried to hold back parts of myself. Honestly, it was habit, something I had been doing for so long I didn’t recognize it. Over the years, I hope I have greatly improved, although, I have my moments. But with Jordan, with my child who needed me completely, there was no way to hold back. The love just came pouring out like an overwhelming dam and the world pivoted 180 degrees so that the sunlight hit right on his face. How can you have that, lose it, then come around and do it again? I’m not sure. What if I am able to hold something back because I’ve been hurt and because I miss Jordan, and I am not the mother for this baby like I was for Jordan?

It sound foolish as I write it. I can blame some of this rant and insecurity on hormones. Yes, let’s blame those hormones, but also let’s be honest–we are flawed human beings.  I will not be perfect and I can’t possibly control all the emotions I will have in this process. As this pregnancy continues, I am sure I will have more times of doubt and worry. That’s what pregnancy is for, apparently. But God willing, and God bless us that we will be greater parents for having and losing Jordan. That’s what I’m praying for today.

 

Ta Da! Normal is the new Weird

My little imp
Koliva for Jordan’s Memorial

Jordan passed away three years ago, Tuesday. It is strange how quickly time has passed. I still miss him almost daily and memories hit me at random times resulting in a smile, longing, or tears. In general, I don’t feel as raw as I did in previous years. I suppose that is why they call it healing. People still say stupid things sometimes, but I try to forgive them for their lack of understanding, because that is what it is. How could they possibly understand if they haven’t lost a child? Thankfully, I have a group of women I meet with every couple of months. Everyone one of them has lost a child, mostly older children but it doesn’t seem to matter. The grief and the acceptance of that pain is common among us all. I am thankful for that group which would not have happened without my neighbor who, unfortunately, lost her son in a car accident. That loss brought a lot of lovely mothers together. Life is weird.

Speaking of weird. I’m 19 weeks pregnant! And, yes, absolutely, there is a mountain of anxiety I try to tame daily. Plus, the comparison to my pregnancy with Jordan which adds another level of strange. But so far, according to doctors and tests, everything is going on in a normal, average fashion. Thanks be to God. We found out around Christmas and survived the first trimester fairly well. Probably because I didn’t tell anyone, and I wasn’t showing, so it didn’t feel completely real (except for the daily naps). Now with the growing baby bump, we’ve told more people in our lives and I thought it was time to make it official here.

Although the big, official Growth Ultrasound happens next week, we got a glimpse of the little bean last week. I think most moms might feel this way, but it is surreal to see a little growing alien in your stomach. I wasn’t exactly sure what I felt after I saw its head and spine, and its little fingers as they waved us away. And the little bean was hiccuping, which apparently is normal. So yeah, weird.

People ask me now how I’m feeling or how are things going, or is everything alright. All I can answer is, as far as I know, yes. Since I haven’t had your average pregnancy, it’s hard to tell. What is normal? It just hasn’t been my world. The best I can do is focus on the next milestone. And if that goes well, then I’ll focus on the next milestone. Despite the myriad of things to worry about (like truly a long list) I vow to try to stay calm and think good thoughts. It does helps to think that Jordan is already watching and praying for his sibling and for us. In fact, there are a lot of people: friends, and families, monks, and nuns, that are praying for us. When they tell me that they’re praying, I do feel a moment of relief. We are not alone.

Wait for it…

If anyone was a fan of “How I Met Your Mother” maybe you remember one of Barney Stinson’s catchphrases “Wait for it…” usually interjected between Legen- and -dary. This is the voice I hear in my head right now. Telling me to just hold on a little longer, that a change is coming.

When Jordan passed away, a chaplain visited us in the ER room. I was holding my son’s body in my arms and just balling. And the chaplain, clearly uneasy, said something to the effect of “Many families find that having another child helps them get over the loss.” Uh, what? Strangely I wasn’t angry at the time, nor am I really angry now. I just think it was a super stupid thing to say.  For one thing, dude we JUST lost our child! For another, there is no way we were emotionally prepared to struggle with the unknowns of pregnancy and the worry of having another child so soon. And as Jordan’s three year memorial looms in April, I realize how hard this journey has been and how you cannot force yourself to be ready, whether that is to be a parent again or to make some other kind of change to your life. Even as I look back at our experience, last year, when we tried to conceive, versus how we are coping now, there is a vast emotional difference.

We’ve been praying for almost three years for help and for guidance and there have been definite times when I was frustrated with myself and with God. But little tweaks to my soul and to my mind were, in fact, taking place. And all those little changes needed to percolate and to simmer.  And ,God-willing, in this new year we will see the fruits of those changes.

My friend sent me an brief article called “Redeeming Time and How to Wait.” by Faith Eury Cho. She writes, “The waiting season is an active season. It is not to be mistaken as as a time when nothing happens.” Then she summaries a story from Acts of the Apostles:

In Acts 1, Jesus appeared before His people after His resurrection for a period of 40 days. It’s glorious. I am sure the disciples were hyped. However, over a meal, Jesus gave them a strange command. He told them to wait, to wait in Jerusalem, and to wait for a gift. And of course, they wanted to know when and how.

To this, Jesus replied, “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority,” (Acts 1:7). They were basically commanded to wait without knowing, without understanding.Yet, after the believers in Acts 1 diligently waited, the Lord delivered what He had promised. The Holy Spirit came, and the first church was born.”

There is a reason people say good things come to those who wait, because God has a plan and for damn sure it’s not my plan but that’s okay. Because whatever the outcome, it will be bigger and better than I could have imagined. Jordan was this explosive little gift. So, I believe the future will be blessed. It will be legen- wait for it… -dary!

 

A Sunny Birthday for Jordan

I woke up to the smell of incense, a spicy myrrh used in church services. I thought for a moment that Jordan was behind the aroma, like his mere spiritual presence had left behind, what to me, was a sacred scent. Once lucid, I realized my husband must have lit the incense in honor of the birthday boy. Despite the lack of the supernatural, it was a comforting way to wake up and start celebrating Jordan’s life.

The day itself was beautiful, warm and sunny. We did some of the usual day-off errands then headed to the cemetery to visit Jordan’s grave, sing Happy Birthday, watch some videos, and just be next to him.

There were definite moments of sadness, but by the end of the day, I felt joyful. I am so blessed to have had this baby, and he is still sending us blessings. My husband and I talked about the experience lbs we’ve had since Jordan’s repose. We’ve made inspiring connections and gotten to be near many holy places and people.

We felt that once again when we visited St. Tikhon’s Monastery outside of Scranton, PA. We arrived on Monday of the holiday week and discovered we were the only visitors. The Abbot, Archimandrite Fr Sergius, visited us and our parish as the speaker for a retreat weekend last February. We felt, in turn, we should visit his “home” as well. We were received so kindly and with amazing hospitality, it hardly felt like a monastery visit but rather a few days in the country.

We were able to have time to talk with Fr. Sergius in his office. My husband and I lounged on a stuffed couch. Fr. Sergius leaned back in the adjacent upholstered chair, his foot propped up on the coffee table. This apparent informality had an effect, instead of feeling self-conscience I found myself bringing up all kinds of things, some I didn’t even know I was worried about. What a welcome relief it was to let those seemingly small things off my chest. Fr. Sergius’s words were simple yet profound guidance and reassurance.

So with that grace and positive energy guiding us, we faced another birthday and another heap of memories. And although, I allowed myself some moments of” why” and “what if”, I returned to the one fact I know, Jordan was and is a blessing to me. Thank God for him and for this day.

The Push Back

View of Mauna Lea, Big Island, Hawai’i

I felt restless and agitated at the beginning of our recent trip to Hawaii’s Big Island. I needed something, but I couldn’t put my finger on it. Part of the problem may have been that my husband attended a conference during the first part of our trip. That put a cramp in my adventure plans (and this is all about me, right?)  Walking around the resort didn’t satisfy. Watching the dolphins in the Dolphin Lagoon didn’t quench the need. Once, we were able to get out of the resort, I felt better. Beyond the manicured lawns, and the carefully constructed activities, adventure beckoned. What I needed was something challenging , something where I need to push myself, something adventurous.

Lava fields and Golf course around Hilton Waikoloa

We kayaking a couple of times, once out of the bay of Puoka Bay on the Big Island where we snorkeled and encountered bright fish, sea urchins, and hono (sea turtles).  We hiked across the Kings Footpath through age old lava fields to a secluded beach. After the conference, we hopped over to Maui via the small aircrafts of Mokelele airlines. That was in fact, an adventure, which my husband promises never to take again. Once in Maui, we took another kayak trip around the boats and waves of the Lahaina Bay. Still, simply rowing through ocean waves didn’t quite satisfy. We slapped on our hiking shoes again and tramped across the ridge of Waihe’e.  Yet, the climbing and scampering didn’t hit the spot either.

Hiking the Waihe’e Ridge Trail

I encountered the SUP, or Stand Up Paddleboard, at Lake Erie in August and I loved it.  The feeling of standing up, riding the waves, and pushing my way around the water was soul satisfying. That was the missing something on this trip.  I wanted to stand up paddle!

The concept is simple enough, but during our trip the trade winds decided to pick and and were blowing around the island. So I put off the SUP, hoping the winds would die down. That stubborn restless itch wouldn’t go away. Finally, one morning, my husband wanted to kayak, so I decided I was going to do it–I was going to rent a flipping paddleboard and do this.  We drove down to Lahaina and flip-flopped our way into an ocean-sports shop.

Sunset Kaanapali Coast, Maui

There was a decided lack of enthusiasm for my SUP adventure.  “The wind has really picked up since the morning,” the rental guy said. His face covered with dubious concern. My husband echoed the rental guy’s concern, repeatedly asking me if I was sure I wanted to this. Without much encouragement, I contemplated giving in and just renting a kayak. I’d only SUP’d once, maybe they were right and I wouldn’t enjoy it.

But, I’ve got a stubborn streak. And the more these two men looked concerned over my dainty welfare, the more I wanted to prove them wrong. I picked up the board. The wind blew hard, almost pulling the foam board out of my hands. But I got the awkward mass of styrofoam to the water, and dropped it down. I straddled the board and used the paddle to get out from the shore line.  The wind was intent on pushing me back in, but I told the wind where it could stick it, got on my knees and started using my core and counter weight to get deeper out into the bay. Once I got some momentum, I moved further down along the shore. The wind died down and the water calmed. I put my paddle across the board, pressed my palms down, and carefully stood up. The waves flowed under the board, and I felt the awesome rush just like I remembered.

In the grand scheme of things, me standing up on a paddleboard in the Pacific may seem insignificant.  But at that moment and in my remembrance, it felt profound. As I dug in my paddle over coral and blue water, I thought about struggling with the winds and how my life felt like that sometimes, like strong winds pushing against my goals. At that moment, I thought maybe I’d let life push me around just a little too much. And I think the bullying started a long time before losing Jordan.

I’ve always been a go-with-the-flow kind of girl–to a fault. If there was too much resistance to what I really wanted, then I would give up thinking maybe it wasn’t meant to be. This particularly applied to my career, or lack thereof, and, now, with fertility. Perhaps, I thought, as I traversed the waves, if I just pushed back a little harder maybe I would achieve the things I really wanted. I turned the board back towards my starting point. As I approached closer to Lahaina, the wind whipped up and almost pushed me off the board. I dropped to my knees feeling a flash of panic as the water pushed my board sideways, threatening to flip it over. I tamped down the fear and cranked my lone paddle into the water guiding the board in the right direct, cutting through newly created waves. Laughter escaped my lips. I cursed the wind a moment ago, but now I laughed. Ahh, silly wind, you’re just a bit of resistance, no big deal.

Indeed, there is resistance in my quest for a healthy baby but,  I reminded myself, I have some options and I just need to dig in and commit to them. And, too, I am afraid of rejection with my writing but, again, there are options and I just need to dig in and practice, practice, practice. This bravada to dig in and push back might all be a huge mistake. But, so what? We have an angel praying for us, what is a little failure? Plus, I don’t want to live with the “What if’s.” They’re lame and sad, and who needs ’em? Not I.

Double Rainbow Maui