Tag: faith

My Therapist Said…

This is the summer of fun.  Try new things, make it a point to spend time together, take mini-vacays, laugh a lot, and relax.  She said we need to relax a lot.

Therapist?  Therapist.

For the last few months, Mister and I have been seeing marriage counselor.  Are we in crisis?  No, not at all.  However, with the amount of stress and obstacles we were/are facing this year, we recognized the fact that we could turn a corner and meet crisis quickly.  We knew that our stresses would not be decreasing in 2015.   If anything, they would be increasing, building on each other. We decided that we would rather use counseling to help us reinforce our relationship as we hit small bumps, rather than as a crisis intervention after things explode and we’re looking at wreckage.

We see the same therapist as individuals and as a couple, and while it’s taken some adjustment, it’s been one of the best things we’ve done.  With the help of some friends, we found a great therapist that is of like Spirit, and is helping us reinforce and enjoy our marriage.

While we were researching fertility clinics, we noticed that several required so many sessions of “infertility counseling.”  The clinic we ultimately chose did not require this, but the more we thought about it, the more it seemed like a good idea.  This whole journey of chronic pain and infertility stirs up so many feelings of inadequacy, hurt, self loathing, anger, confusion, depression, constant frustration… And that’s just on my end.  Mister is dealing with his own feelings of helplessness, frustration, depression, and the stresses of being our provider.  

There is a lot of feelings swirling around in one house.  We aren’t perfect.  We don’t always handle conflict or differences of opinion in the most respectful way.  None of that was going to get any easier as we get closer to purchasing a vehicle (done), surgery (done), physical therapy (in progress), purchasing a home, IVF, and a crazy busy season with both of our jobs.  Marriage counseling was not an admission of defeat for us, but rather a proactive defense against the attacks we know are coming.  

For a long time, I assumed marriage counseling was only for the “really rough” marriages.  All the stuff that seems to be crisis-centric. I also assumed that I would never do IVF.  I assumed I would be a teacher, and never a small business owner.  I was wrong about a lot of things.  Therapy is not something to be ashamed of, it doesn’t mean we’re broken.  I means we refuse to be broken by our circumstances.  As difficult as it is to talk about the inter workings of our relationship, the ugly, the hurt, the parts that no body else sees, it’s worth it.  

If marriage is hard, life is hard, and you are seeking counseling, I applaud you, and I blindly and silently encourage you.  Crisis or not, you are fighting against circumstances that seek to break your commitment, and it can be a lonely battle.  If you are managing without therapy, bravo to you.  That doesn’t mean your marriage journey has been a cake-walk, just a different walk, in different shoes, made by different people.

We are committed to enjoying our summer together.  We’re running a 5k together.  Mister is teaching me a lot regarding the studio side of his photography.  Our small business is growing.  We’re both excelling at our “real” jobs.  We have put a date on our focus on fertility worries and concerns, and until that date, it is not a central part of our lives.  We’re spending time with some of our most favorite people.  The next couple of months will be fun, relaxing, and not a giant stress ball of a science experiment.  

Do I hope that is summer brings us news of an addition to our family?  Duh.

Will I be sad if that doesn’t happen?  Probably so.

Will we be ok, regardless?  Yes.

The Almighty brought us to one another (through Southern Miss football, a newspaper, and sorority sisters), but we wake up and make a choice each day to be married.  To mirror the love of Christ to one another, no matter what our circumstances bring, no matter if the other one’s being a total grouch (sometimes this is an hourly choice, I can be a real Cranky Pants).

Here’s to Team Bush’s summer of fun!  May we come out of this season more satisfied in our marriage and our God than ever.

Case Review

It’s been two weeks since we started grieving our last negative test. Two weeks I have been “hormone free.” Emotionally, we are still healing. It took less than two weeks for my endometriosis to realize nothing is holding it back any more. It’s time for the moving on.

The last week has been difficult, physically. Daily cramping and strong consistent pain is back to the point that it’s occasionally difficult to eat and it’s often difficult to sleep. I am going to work, and that’s about it. I missed homecoming at Southern Miss, I’m not very social, and I stay still a lot. I carry a heating pad in my purse. If you don’t see me plugged in somewhere, I’ve probably got one of those stick-on disposable heating packs strapped on.

We have now taken the next step towards IVF. We are having our case reviewed by the Center for Endometriosis Care in Atlanta, GA. This includes nearly 40 pages of “Potential New Patient” forms (not even “actual” new patient forms, those come later??), a 2600 word “Personal Narrative” on my physical/emotional/psychological experience with endometriosis, a picture of me and the Mister, and 150+ pages of medical records that pertain to endometriosis. Basically a manuscript, everything but the kitchen sink and a DNA swab. I’m sure that will come later. Until then, 200ish pages are currently on their way to team at the CEC.

This wonderful facility is the leading research center on endometriosis and has the largest case study on the disease (5,000 patients followed over 20 years). If anyone knows this disease, it’s these guys. We are hoping for an aggressive conservative treatment option that focuses on removing the disease from all organs and tissues, while leaving the necessary organs in place and properly plumbed. We have the support of both our doctor in Hattiesburg and our doctor in Jackson. We are hoping that if our case gets accepted, we will be able to have surgery soon.

We came to the decision that if we were going to do IVF, we wanted to do it to the best of our ability. My insides between my belly button and my kneecaps “kind of look like a war zone.” That’s a direct quote from my radiology tech. Clearly, it’s not pretty. Things don’t hang out where they’re suppose to, they don’t function like they’re suppose to. It’s just a mess, really. With IVF, we will undoubtedly be creating life. Those little blobs of cells will be my children, whether or not we see them grow that far. From the beginning, we want to give them the best that we possibly can. Isn’t that what parents are programmed to do?
I don’t want to put my little embryos up in a sketchy “pay by the hour” motel. Right now, I’m afraid that’s my current condition. I at least want to be able to give them a Marriott or a Hilton. An extended stay suite, if you will. I have come to terms with the fact that God did not make me like a Four Seasons. I am not a Duggar. We feel like having this surgery and removing as much of the disease as we possibly can will not only significantly improve my quality of life, but give our children the best possible chance at healthy growth in-utero. It’s not a guarantee. Nothing is a guarantee. We do feel like it’s the best we can offer, and we do not want to go into IVF with less than our best.

Sometimes during weeks like this last one, it’s easy to get sucked into a sad-sop trap. I have been diagnosed with a disease for which there is no cure. No one even knows what exactly causes this disease. It’s easy to let myself get overwhelmed and exhausted with this constant battle for normalcy. My daddy would never claim to be a theologian, and most of the time our conversations are weird, bordering on inappropriate (burps are rated and those stupid Sonic commercials make us giggle every single time). However, when he slips into Serious Dad, his advice is normally on point.

Pray like everything depends on God, because it does. Act like everything expends on you, because it does.

I have based much of my personal theology around this simple (and paradoxical) idea that my father has repeated to me since I was a little girl. God has called us to walk in faith. We must actively do (the walk) and we must actively trust (the faith) that He is greater. We have not been given an easy walk, and He has not given us the option to “sit” in faith. We believe that, if our case and treatment plan are accepted, this is the final step that lies between us and IVF. It will be invasive. It will involve at least three different organ systems, possibly more. We will know by the end of the month if this surgery is in our immediate future. That is a little bit scary.

We are still grieving what wasn’t, but we are also ready to see what happens next. It’s a little frustrating that we can’t flip to the end of the book and make sure everything turns out ok (you know you did that to make sure Harry beat Voldermort…).

God has been good to us. He has provided for us and sustained us. We know He will continue this work in us until its completion.

And Harry doesn’t die.

“Why don’t you just adopt?”

Try as I might, I won’t adequately address the many facets of this question in one post. I’ve been preparing this for weeks, but I know I’ll leave something out. It is my goal to be as edifying and biblical as possible.

This question (and many derivatives of it) is probably the most frequently asked question when someone learns that we are struggling. It’s usually asked in exactly those words, verbatim. I hate it. It is soul crushing, for many reasons. Reasons you probably never considered. If you’ve asked me this question, bless your heart. I know you didn’t do it with ill intent in your heart (most of you…). I know you are honestly just concerned. Curious maybe. I hope to answer this question in the post, and share why this can be a painful question when asked in such a flippant manner.

“Just adopt…”
We are well aware that there is a great need for more families to adopt in this community/state/nation/world. In fact, I’d wager that no one is stirred more regarding unwanted and parentless children than a couple who cannot have any. I’m sure you have a friend who has adopted. Maybe adoption is within your family. With that thought, have you discussed the actual process of adoption with these friends or family members? It’s not something you “just” do.
There is no Target or Amazon.com for insta-families. The shear amount of paperwork and approval process and travel involved is the only thing I can think of that is more stressful than actual fertility treatments, and it can take even longer. There is nothing easy about adoption.

As we face our struggle with endometriosis and starting a family, we are striving to approach it as biblically as possible. This includes the financial aspect. Long term, endometriosis can affect quality of life in a crippling manner. At times, it has kept me from maintaining a regular full time job. It has been years of treatments, doctors, surgeries, and medications. None of that is free, and none of that is stopping anytime soon. To protect our future and my quality of life, this disease must be treated as quickly and efficiently as possible. Pregnancy now is our final shot before scrapping the whole kit and kaboodle. There is no cure, only remission.
In addition, in our price comparisons and in our situation, fertility treatments, including 3 full rounds of IVF (egg retrieval, fertilization, implantation), is less expensive than one domestic adoption. Domestic.. Not even international. I could write another several posts on why this is so messed up. We feel very strongly about approaching this in financial baby steps. We will not go backwards and dig ourselves in deeper debt to add to our family. That is not being a good steward of resources. The steps we have taken so far and the coming steps are reflective of what is affordable and what is recommended by our doctors. We will always strive to be good stewards, both with our finances and human life.

Some derivatives of this question that I feel I need to address:

“If you just adopt one, that will take the stress off and BAM! You’ll be able to have your own!”
At no point is a child from adoption ever a “consolation prize”. At no point is adoption EVER a “last resort.” We will never use a child as a lucky charm. Again: I know you mean to be encouraging (bless your heart), and I know you probably have a friend (of a friend) that knew someone that did this and it TOTALLY worked… But stop it. Please stop using that logic. It is insulting to both the adopted child and the conceived child, it is insulting to the parents, it is insulting to those of us who desperately want to be parents.

“I get it. I don’t know if I could love an adopted child as much as I love one that’s mine.
I don’t think you get it. Bless your heart.
Adoption has been something that Mister and I have talked about since our first year of dating. It’s something we both want, something we both feel called to, when the time is right. When we adopt, it will not be a last resort. When we adopt, it will be our child in every sense. Needing to combine and duplicate our DNA has absolutely nothing to do with our decision to have a family. Our love will extend equally to our children, regardless of their genetic make up. Our Father has called us His own, our Jew and Gentile roots irrelevant. We will imitate our Heavenly Father.

Some of you, with whom I have an intimate friendship, have discussed this with me. You know my heart, and I know yours, and I thank God every day for placing you in my life. Most of you are not that “some of you.” Sometimes, this is difficult to discuss outside of very intimate friendships. I understand that it can be difficult to understand, difficult to relate to for you. I believe there is no way for you to honestly wrap your head around it unless you have experienced it. I pray you are never able to wrap your head around it. I hope that this has helped shine some light on our specific situation, and highlighted that people make family planning choices for very specific, very personal reasons. It’s not always easy. It’s very rarely black and white. Most of life is grey.
I hope this has brought great respect to those who have adopted and are in the process of adoption. We are all called to glorify The Almighty. Thank you for responding to the call of adoption, and glorifying Him in your journey. We are striving to glorify Him in our journey of infertility.

We are anxiously awaiting the day that he calms our storm and is glorified in the growth of our family.

Rinse and Repeat

At dark thirty this morning, we headed to See DocJax up 49N a ways. No matter when we leave Hattiesburg, we will always hit gridlock traffic in Richland. Coming and going, it’s the most miserable part of our trip. It boggles my mind that it is 2014, and no one in our great state has built a way around the misery that is Richland, but I digress…

With a fresh cycle starting, we went to see DocJax to get the all clear to start our next round of treatments, which would start with Menopur shots tomorrow. Checked in and weekly lab work done, we made our way to the ultra sound room.

Immediately, once the ultra sound started, DocJax gave me a familiar, “Oh. Hmm. Well…”

That’s never good. Ever.

I looked up at the screen to try and decipher some of the nonsensical white noise (which I’m getting pretty good at thanks to the many I’ve had), and I see a familiar large black blob.

Medusa.

He pans over to the left and clears that side as “normal.” Normal is good. I love normal. I wish I could live in Normal. He pans back over to the right and starts to measure on his display.

Medusa the Cyst is back, at 5 cm. it is completely blocking my entire right ovary, as it is 2x bigger than the ovary.

DocJax: When will you start your next cycle?
Yesterday.
DocJax: Well, shoot. We can’t do anything until it ruptures. It doesn’t look like it will be rupturing with this cycle, since it’s already started. We have to wait, it’s just too dangerous right now.

So we went back down 49S.

We were sent home with another ticking time bomb, to wait for it to explode rupture, and pray that it does so (again) in a way that doesn’t require hospitalization.

We weren’t really expecting a breathing period, a pause between cycles. This is our last try at IUI before moving on to IVF and another potential surgery. Everything has been put on pause until this giant sucker decides to deflate. Again.

So we will wait.

It will not be pleasant. I will feel pretty crummy. Such is the lot in life with ovarian cysts, until someone (probably a female) figures out a better way.

Until then: ibuprofen, yoga, deep breathing, heating pad, prayer, rinse and repeat.

Surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of The Lord forever. Psalms 23:6

Look out, Jackson town

Every time we get in the car and head to Jackson to see my FE, I get Jackson stuck in my head. Good thing I love some Johnny and June Cash.

Our first visit with my FE was at the beginning of April, 2014. My Mister now goes to every “uterus themed” doctors appointment with me. At the beginning, that made him super uncomfortable. The whole idea of “the chair” completely freaked him out. Like the champ he is, he got over it. REALLY quickly. He’s a fantastic support system, and takes his job very seriously. When seeing an FE and starting fertility treatments, both players have to be all in. All chips are on the table. It’s high stakes, and there is no room for wishy-washy.

Our first visit was just suppose to be a consultation. “Regular” chairs, everyone keeps all of their clothes on, no funny business. DocJax (FE) is wonderful, supportive, and explains our options to us. With pictures!. Mister akinned it to a Madden play illustration. Yay, football!
After our chat in regular chairs, all of our clothes, and no funny business, DocJax decides he’s ready to get started that day, if we’re in.
Chips on the table… All in.
Mister enters the room with the chair. Like a champ. Shows no sweat. I had my first fertility focused ultrasound.
Where we discovered a fist sized cyst, just hanging out on my right ovary.
huh.
I named her Medsua. She got a “Good Lord!” from DocJax, and he’s seen a lot of scary stuff.
I name a lot of things. Maybe it’s a coping mechanism? That’s for my therapist to decide at a later date.
On the other estrogen blockers I had been taking, follicles (that’s what releases the egg) had developed, but never ruptured (released an egg). When that happens, they just keep growing, and growing, and growing… Until they rupture.
I’ve had cysts rupture before. It sucks. It’s excruciatingly painful, usually involves significant blood loss, and no ER will do anything for you unless you can prove to them that you are hemorrhaging to the point of losing vital functioning. They’ll pat you on the head, give you some pain medicine (maybe), monitor your vitals for a bit, and wish you luck in the horrible lot of life that is “ovarian cysts.”
This cyst was bigger than anything I’d ever had. We needed it to rupture, but we needed me NOT to end up in the hospital. We gave it a week, with a surgery to drain it as the ultimatum. Within a week, I woke up with excruciating pain in the middle of the night. I knew what it was. Enter learned pain management techniques of alternating pain relievers, yoga, heat, deep breathing, and pleading with the Good Lord for mercy and relief.

Fertility treatment is expensive, and you’re lucky if your insurance covers even the doctor visits. You can forget coverage of medication and actual procedures, especially in the forward-thinking State of Mississippi. I say all that to say, I went to work. The Bushes have bills! I grabbed a giant protein packed smoothie and started to replace fluid volume. I continued my pain management regimen. Thankfully, I got to sit at my office (where I am the only one there) most of the day. I was quite dizzy and in a good bit of pain, but I got through it.
God will always give you exactly what you need, when you need it. That is a recurring theme in our story.
We saw DocJax the next morning. Our ultrasound showed the Medusa had indeed deflated. And I did it with out the hospital, or missing work. That earned me a DocJax high five. We had our medication shipped overnight from a special Fertility Pharmacy in New Jersey.

DocJax accurately assessed that estrogen-blockers didn’t work for me, so he went straight for the big guns. He started me on 75 mg of Menopur (highly purified and concentrated LH and FSH), injected subcutaneously (in the skin, similar to how insulin is injected) daily, for several days. I was monitored every other day, to make sure Medusa did not return, and to make sure my ovaries didn’t all of the sudden have an identity crisis and think they belong to OctoMom.
Being monitored every other day means driving to and from Jackson. Every.other.day. As stated before, the Bushes have bills! If we’re going to pay for these treatments, we’ve got to work. So all of our Jackson appointments are bright dark and early in the morning. It makes for rather long days and frequent oil changes.

After 8 days of liquid fire ant Menopur injected into my belly by the greatest sorority sister/friend/roommate/neighbor a girl could ask for, I had two follicles ready. Sister Nurse gave me my trigger shot (10,000 units of HCG) right in muh buttocks (thanks, Forrest Gump). I was pleasantly surprised when that one didn’t hurt, initially. Twenty minutes later, I thought I’d been shot with a bullet rather than an IM needle. I sat funny for 3 days.

We had our first IUI procedure 12 days after Medusa bade us farewell, and I started heavy progesterone supplements immediately afterwards.

One week later, I had my progesterone checked, per doctors orders. My numbers topped the chart. Actually, the chart didn’t go high enough to support my numbers. I’d ovulated, and DocJax and his wonderful nurses were thrilled and incredibly hopeful. It was the first time Mister and I had ever received any good news regarding Ursula (the uterus… I name things). I almost didn’t know how to respond to good news!

A week after that, I went for the test.. The HCG and progesterone test. This would tell us if we were finally pregnant. I cannot pee on a stick, due to the outrageous amounts of hormones I am on, and expect an accurate answer. The blood test came back negative.

We were devastated. We had hoped for the first time in so very long, and we were crushed. I cried a good bit, got a box of Cheez-Its, and had a slob night. I read about Hannah and Rachel and Elizabeth and Sarah and the great women of scripture that struggled with being “barren.” I read how God sustained them, how He blessed them, how He kept his promises to them, even if it wasn’t how they’d planned.

Five days after our first negative, we started our second round. More shots. More visits to Sister Nurse. More monitoring. More bruises. Same song, new verse. The good news was my body responded even more quickly to the meds than it did the first time, with two more fresh follicles. Our second IUI procedure was three weeks after our first. My progesterone came back with fantastic numbers. All of this is very encouraging.
We still were not pregnant.

Because of the drugs, my usual month-long cycle speed was amped up to 3 weeks. In six weeks, we had done two fertility treatments. We needed a break, physically, emotionally, and financially. Did I mention we had to buy a washer and a dryer in the middle of all this? And that we were paying cash for the treatments?
God will give you exactly what you need, when you need it.

We took a much needed two month break. We worked, we prayed. We sought wisdom from friends and family. I didn’t count days or record temperatures or over analyze every pain and discomfort and feeling. I ran more. We did a LOT of weddings (Mister is the greatest photog). We gave Sister Nurse a break from seeing us before her nightshift every day. She loves me. I’m the best patient, really. And she doesn’t judge me when unladylike words jump from my mouth because those shots burn like crazy.

We took a collective deep breath, and geared up to start again…