Sunday, January 17, 2016

Life is a Roller-Coaster

This is a long overdue post. I don't really know where to begin. I have been writing over the past year, I have been updating, I just haven't been making any of the posts public. So much has happened, so many emotions have been felt and days have passed and now we are in a totally new and different place than I could have ever possibly predicted.
After the loss of our embryos in November, 2014, Ryan and I were completely devastated. We grieved for a long time, and we grieved hard. We allowed ourselves to be sad, and that was probably the best thing for us. We hid away from the public and really took some time for ourselves to just be. Although it was the saddest, hardest time of my life, I am so grateful for the love and support we had through that time, and the people in our lives who allowed us that time and space. We needed it and without allowing ourselves to do that, I don't know that we would be where we are now. It took about 6 months before we even went out to a social event where more than just our family or closest friends would be. That was a hard night, but it started me on my upswing, and I am thankful that we decided to go out that day. Most people were very kind and compassionate and I appreciated that. It's hard to show your face in public when everyone knows that you have been hiding at home in sadness. But, we got through it.
Shortly after the loss of our embryos we decided to open the door to adoption. It had always been a part of the plan; we just thought we would have a biological child first. It took months just to get our applications processed and for the agency to let us know what the first steps would be. 
By June we were still waiting for the first step in the adoption process, which was a training day to become educated about all the different types of adoption and what it all entails. I had been calling the agency but nothing moves quickly and so we were still waiting. I had my annual cardiology appointment at the beginning of the month. It was bad. We were at a point where we were feeling pretty desperate so we decided to ask about myself getting pregnant one more time.... the Dr. told me that not only should I not be getting pregnant, but that I was going to need to start taking more meds, and that these meds would effectively ruin the quality of my eggs. Another slap in the face.
At that time, it hit me hard that we had spent the past 5 and a half years planning and living our life based around my heart condition. It pissed me off and broke my heart to realize that, and I didn't want to allow my heart to define me or my life anymore. It never defined me as a child and I was angry that I had allowed it to consume so much of my adult life, and SO much of my relationship with Ryan. Once again I gained a new level of respect, love and appreciation for him. He's loved me through all of that, through so many sad years. I am a lucky lucky woman.
So I allowed this new information from the Dr. to push me to accept being done with surrogacy. I felt I had no choice and that the door was being closed on me, since there was likely no way we would be able to afford another egg retrieval. My cardiologist said we could wait one year before I needed to start the new meds, so that we could possibly save for another egg retrieval and get that done before the quality of my eggs became shot from the medication. I finally became OK with not having a biological child, I accepted that this was the path I was on. I started to get really excited about the possibilities in the adoption world. Ryan was not on the same page. As I had been dealing with the loss of being able to carry my own baby for many years, for him it hadn't made much of a difference. I already had felt a disconnect between the child being biological or not with the use of a surrogate, since I wouldn't be carrying it. Yes, it would be my baby, but I wouldn’t realize it until it was in my arms and looked like me. I have been developing attachments to children through my work for years, so I fully understood that I could love an adopted child or a biological child just the same. Ryan understood it intellectually too, but his emotions hadn't caught up. He was having a much harder time accepting that he would not have a child with his genetics.
At that point we decided to tell our friend who had been lined up to be our surrogate that we would not be getting to try again, as we could not see any way we would be able to save enough money in time. Her life had changed a lot over the course of time, since the loss of our embryos. She was making plans for her future and was moving forward. She was sad and disappointed for us, but she understood. We thanked her for everything she had done, and been willing to do. We will forever be grateful for her.
My brother's wife had offered in the heat of the moment to be our surrogate years ago when we first got the news that we should use a surrogate in the first place. She and my brother hadn't started their family yet though, so as kind of an offer as it was, it wasn't realistic at the time. About a week after telling our friend that we were not going to get to try again, I was visiting with my brother and his wife. I was filling them in on the Dr. appointment and everything else. During that conversation, Heather (my brother's wife) said that if the opportunity did come up for us to actually get to do another round of IVF, that she would sincerely be willing to be our surrogate. I bawled. I knew that we would need a miracle to happen in order to get to do it again, but the thought that she was still willing after all of these years, was so heartwarming. 
Ryan and I felt so blessed and lucky to have not only had a friend offering to do this for us, but also a family member. Some people who need to use the science and gift of surrogacy to make their family don't have anyone to do it for them, but we were lucky enough to have had more than one person offer. We just couldn't afford it.
A few days later I told Heather that as gracious as her offer was, we would need a miracle to happen in order to be able to do another round of IVF and, like we had done with Diane, thanked her for what she was willing and offering to do. Our surrogacy door was officially closed.
Or so we thought.
The very next day we got a call that changed the path we were headed down, yet again. We had gone out on a date, had had a very nice evening, and were beginning to feel like our old selves again when the phone rang. It was my Mom and she was frantic! Now, in my family, when someone calls and is frantic it is almost always because something terrible has happened. With my sister's health as precarious as it is (I need to write a whole different blog about that part of my life), I immediately thought something had happened to her. Nope. My Mom was calling to tell us that she had been sharing our latest situation with some people she knew, and privately, one of these people offered to help us pay for another round of IVF. She swore this person was sincere and serious and she explained their situation to us. Ryan and I were both speechless and I don't think we said more than 5 words to my Mom on the phone. I think both of us thought it was a joke or that this was something said in jest and the next morning they would retract it. After all, our experiences previously had always ended up in disappointment, so it was hard to grasp that something so huge and wonderful could actually be happening. We told my Mom we would think about it but we didn't talk about it at all that night. I don't think either of us believed we had actually received that call.
The next day we got another call from my parents saying that yes, in fact that person had come and talked to them about it again and that they were 100% serious. They explained this person's situation to us just a little bit more and told us that they wanted to be kept anonymous. An anonymous donation. For us to have a CHANCE at a baby. Are you kidding me!? It was a miracle.
Ryan and I were totally in awe and disbelief. We had just closed the door on all of this. We were finally at a point where we were accepting we would not have a biological child, and then we get this miracle offer. We were in shock.
It took us another day to respond and agree to accept the offer. It is a difficult and humbling thing to have people offer to help you in ways that you cannot help yourself. Everyone involved knew that this didn't guarantee a baby, that the same thing that happened to our embryos last time could happen again, or a million other things could go wrong. Everyone understood and agreed to help anyways.
Because we had already told our friend that we would not be doing this again, and she was in full swing of making plans for her future, we didn't want to ask her again. We felt so guilty having brought her along on our roller-coaster as far as we had without having a positive outcome. Heather's situation was a little easier to navigate as she had just had a baby and was finishing her maternity leave. We would need to do a new legal agreement either way; with our friend because of the changes in her life, or with Heather because we hadn't done it with her yet. We didn't want to halt Diane's momentum as she had so many positive things happening. We decided to ask Heather if she was still up for it.
I called her and asked her if she believed in miracles. She said she didn't know but it sounded like she I explained what had happened over the past couple days and she was excited. She agreed she wanted to do it.
So, with the help of family and friends of family, we were getting a miracle opportunity to TRY again for a biological baby.
We already had an appointment booked with our fertility Dr. in July to discuss not moving forward, so we just kept that and instead discussed moving forward. We got our protocol and a retrieval was scheduled for the beginning of September. Over the summer we also attended our training day for adoption.
We went from feeling the door closing in on us to having it swing wide open.
I had some much needed holidays booked for right before I was supposed to begin taking my hormone injections at the end of August. I relaxed and it was glorious. The very first night of hormones happened to also be the same day as one of my closest friends’ weddings. We had agreed to keep everything very quiet for fear of it not working out again and having to go through a public loss a second time around. However, because we needed to do the injections at the wedding, and the wedding was at the family home, we let her in on the secret. That was quite the night, a beautiful wedding and some needles!
This time I had extra hormones added into my protocol. It was rough and took a toll very quickly on my body. I ended up needing to be off of work nearly the whole time and felt awful every day. It was worth it though because this time we ended up with 3 beautiful frozen embryos! We were overjoyed that we were successful this time. During my cycle Heather was approved to become our surrogate, and we started on getting everything done to make that happen. We had to do counselling, a new legal agreement, and everything else that we had done the previous year with Diane. I was in shock the whole time that we were actually doing it, again.
In the meantime, there had been no movement in the adoption world. We were waiting to do a cultural training, which ended up being available immediately after the egg retrieval. Unfortunately we had to decline that day because we had so much else going on, but were lucky to get booked in for a training day in November. Things were finally falling into place and happening for us. Everything was much less stressful than the last time.
In the middle of all of this, I had made another appointment with my cardiologist to talk about starting on these new meds. Since we had been able to do another egg retrieval, and so quickly, I didn't want to wait to start the medication since it was obviously something that was going to be beneficial to my health. That appointment was crazy.
My cardiologist told us that somewhere along the road some of my tests were either read wrong, or done wrong because the results from a scan involving radioactive dye that I had had over the summer came back looking way better than my previous echo-cardiogram! He sent me for another echo immediately, and I got the results an hour or two later. According to my Dr., the previous echo had not been done well enough, or whoever read the results read them wrong, because my heart function has actually improved! Yes, improved! It was so shocking because my heart condition is not something that can get better or be resolved. In fact, the Dr. compared it to being diagnosed with cancer, then going in for a follow up and finding it has shrunk. It is near impossible. After talking awhile, he realized that my heart function has improved due to the current medications I had been on, and because of the results of the newest echo, he told me I don't need these new meds and I can in fact get pregnant! Another shock! 
Ryan and I discussed it in great length and detail both alone and with our families. We came to the decision that based on the fact that I still have a heart condition, and we have had yo-yo results for years, the risks are still there and it is not smart to tempt it all now. Ryan said he looked at it as though we are all given a certain number of heart beats, and that I was just given some extra beats, so why do something that could potentially take those beats away again? We have been faced with so many huge, difficult decisions, and this was just another one. Making these decisions has not been easy, but the best part this time was knowing that I am healthier than we had thought, and that is the biggest blessing of all.
Finally, our lives seemed to be on the upswing. We had been getting good news after good news. It was wonderful.
We decided that we would keep our family in the loop as to what was happening with everything baby related right up until we signed our final consents. At that point we would just be waiting for a transfer day and we wanted to be able to do something "normal". So, the day we singed our consents we told our families we were "officially trying to get pregnant" and that we would not be telling them anything more until we were either pregnant or if none of the embryos survived the thawing process, that we had gotten that far.
We had our cultural training day for adoption. It went well and we were excited to check another item of things to do off of our list.
Transfer day came and everything went perfectly. Heather was a champion and our embryo snuggled into her uterus right in front of our eyes. We got it all on video! After the transfer we began the dreaded "two week wait". The two week wait is the time between conceiving (or in the IVF world, transfer day) and when you can get a positive pregnancy blood test. During that time people in the TTC world (trying to conceive) love to take home pregnancy tests and post them online and analyze the lines, they compare pregnancy symptoms and beta numbers. It is so stressful. It is a world I now know much more than I care to know about. Based on the dates of everything, the first day that we could possibly expect to get a positive on a home pregnancy test happened to be on Christmas Eve.
Christmas Eve!! It was Christmas Eve, 2009, when my cardiologist first said that I should not get pregnant or try to carry a baby. 6 years later, to the day we were getting to pee on our first stick. To those of you reading this that have never struggled to get pregnant or have a baby this may seem silly to you. But to get to pee on a stick with the hopes of having a positive was something I had dreamed of doing. After personally avoiding pregnancy like the plague, this was a hugely welcomed experience.
Ryan and I both had to work on the 24th, so once we were done, we went over to Heather's. My brother, Andrew, and their kids were all home too, so it was a fun and highly anticipated moment. She went and peed on the first stick, brought it out and put it upside down on the table. We anxiously were waiting for the 3 minutes to pass, when Ryan's Mom phoned! Since we were keeping quiet until we were pregnant, our families didn't know we had done the transfer. It was such a precious moment. As soon as Ryan got off of the phone we flipped the test over, and we saw a big fat “+YES”!!! There were so many hugs and tears and shrieks. I freaked out. 6 years to the day later, we got our positive. It was perfect.
We planned to announce to our families over Christmas. Of course we were technically only 3 weeks pregnant, and it was so early that we still had to wait to do the blood test on the 30th to confirm. But we couldn't wait to tell them. We had already waited so long to get to this point. Because Heather had to take weeks of hormones before the transfer, we had time to tentatively plan how we would announce to our families. We knew it would likely be at Christmas. Christmas Day we announced to Ryan's family, and on Boxing Day we told mine. Those 3 days, the 24th, 25th and 26th are days that I will hold as 3 of my most favourite in my life. There was so much love, excitement and joy. We got our announcements on video too. They were perfect.
Heather continued to pee on sticks for the next week, getting positive after positive. She went for her blood work on the 30th and although we knew we were pregnant, it was still so nerve wracking waiting for the confirmation call. It came late in the afternoon that same day. Ryan and I both were off work that week, which was our first week off together in 3 years. We celebrated and soaked in every single moment. We were pregnant, on holidays, and it was the holiday season! I couldn't have planned it better. Our two week wait was not painful or dreadful, it was amazing and I was so grateful. We only told a couple friends, because it was still so early, but plans for making an official announcement came into the works. We were given a due date of September 5th! I even began looking up personality traits for Virgos....not that I really believe that stuff, but I was so excited about my baby!
On January 8th I got a phone call at 6:40 am. I was on my way to work. It was my brother. Heather was bleeding. Our next nightmare began. We had a miscarriage which was confirmed a couple days later. Heather was 6 weeks pregnant.
This baby was our first embryo out of the 3 we had frozen. So we still have 2 more.
We are heartbroken and there are definitely times when it is hard not to feel sorry for ourselves. But we are resilient if anything else. Heather is a very strong woman and is willing, able, and hopeful for trying again. We are clouded in love and support.
In the meantime while we wait to be able to do another transfer, we are still waiting for our home study to be booked with the adoption agency. We are hopeful that we will become parents one day, one way or another, and we are determined to be proactive and see every option through.
We are also exhausted though. We have been on an emotional roller-coaster for over 6 years now, and though we have been close to making our dreams come true, we are still on this ride for who knows how much longer. Our energy is spent, our emotions are tired and we have no idea what the end result will be, or if it will all have been worth it. We are tired of having our lives consumed by this, especially because it is such a draining and taxing thing to be consumed by. We are hopeful that it will all be worth it in the end, and that one day we will be able to live our lives in a way where we are no longer waiting for something. It has been 6 years of waiting for appointments, waiting for results, waiting for this and waiting for that. We know that once we have our baby it will have all been well worth it, but it's difficult to be certain that it will work out when things have gone so far up and so far down so many times.
We feel beyond lucky, blessed and grateful for the incredibly generous and selfless help we have received along the way, and vow to do our best to pay it forward in all the ways that we possibly can for the rest of our lives. We can never repay what we've been given, but we can pass it on in other ways and we are determined and happy to do so at every opportunity.
I am sure there are things that I have missed or forgotten, things I have skipped over and some that I have left out completely. But this is the majority of what has happened and been happening with us since my last post. This is where we are now and it is the roller-coaster that we are on. It is scary having everything be public knowledge again, knowing that we may end up just having more and more bad news to share. But, we are hopeful that we will get a positive result at some point, and look forward to being able to share that. We have had so much love and support through everything which we are so grateful for. We want to share our story to help other people know they are not alone in their struggles, as we know we are not alone in ours. We are so thankful for the silent love we have gotten from people who have respected our privacy, and for those who have supported us out loud too. We needed some space and we needed to sort ourselves out, but we are still here, still fighting and still going strong.

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