Tag: IVF

“I’m a little messed up.”

Hurry up, but wait.  Relax!  Keep tracking though, take good notes.  Have fun!  Don’t worry about this right now.  We’re “on a break”.  Ross, anyone?  But did I take my temperature today?  Log that in the app.

I thought the mood swings would stay away so long as the needles full of lady feelings stayed on top of the fridge and away from my belly/butt/arm. Wrong.

While this is the “summer of fun” and we have technically put our IVF worries concerns thoughts “on a shelf way up high where we can’t reach it” (courtesy of therapy), we know that we still have to be wise.  If we go back to Jackson to our FE for IVF, we want to have the best protocol targeted to our needs.  In order to get that on the first go ’round, we need information.  Lots of information.  Lots of data points, that have to be collected ahead of time.  Three months ought to do it, right?  Good.  We have eight.  Five post surgery, by the time its all said and done.

Ideally, we won’t go back to Jackson.  It will just *happen*.  But we’ve noticed some things with me that may be signaling that my body just won’t *happen* on its own.  It still may.  I’ve not lost all confidence in my parts.  I just have realistic expectations, I think.  Maybe.  Is anyone else confused?

Here are things I know for sure.

  1. We really want to be pregnant.
  2. I still have some lingering biological issues.
  3. “Relaxing” shouldn’t be this much hard work.
  4. I’m over the mood swings.
  5. We are not pregnant.

I have warred so much with myself over the last month, and increasingly over the last two weeks.  I bounce back and forth between states of being.  First I’ll stay off of the blogosphere (accept for sweet friends who’s stories I am invested in, y’all come right to my inbox), be still and know, live in the now, etc.  Then I’m getting restless, and I need to have my sad time, reading other stories of frustration, finding solidarity with women like me, both those that I know personally and those that I feel like I know thanks to the great wide interwebs.  After that, I usually binge on encouragement.  I am a fiend looking for wisdom and encouragement from Jesus, King David, Paul, Hannah, Rachel, Sturgeon, Lewis, Dumbledore, Aslan, Gandolf, Charlotte York, Pheobe Buffay, Amy Farrah Fowler, my best friend(s), all of the smartest and wisest and most encouraging people I know and don’t know and aren’t real.  Rinse, and repeat.  I am wiped just thinking about it.

So today, I’m going to cycle back to being still and knowing.  I’m going to take my vitamins with my red raspberry leaf tea (with ginger), when what I really want is a whiskey, neat with a twist.  I’m going to belly breathe my way through a lower back targeted yoga session instead of channeling my inner Grinch.  I’m going to laugh.

You’ve all been there.  Don’t tell stories.

I’m going to keep reminding myself that He knows my babies’ birthdays.  Every one of their days is planned even now.  I am going to be quieted with His love, and know that he will listen to me scream tomorrow.  Peace be with you, fellow sisters in the struggle, who are in the midst of one of these fertility-minded cycles of crazy.

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.

Big Plans, Set Dates

Hurry up and wait.

That has been our lives, it seems, since Christmas.  Lots of waiting.  Waiting for phone calls from doctors, waiting for paperwork, waiting for insurance,  etc.  We’ve still got some waiting to do, but there’s now a light at the end of the tunnel.

Excision surgery is set for April 16th in Atlanta with the Center for Endometriosis Care.  A plan of procedures has been made, my employers have approved the necessary leave time, and our insurance companies didn’t laugh at us.  I will be having a cystoscopy, hystroscopy, laparoscopic excision of existing endometriosis, hysterosalpingogram, and a presacral neurectomy.  

Those are all great big med school words, and I had to google the last two.  As big and scary as it sounds, it will be three small incisions to get in, all of the major work happening under the skin. Two of these procedures are necessary for us to start IVF, so it’s nice to go ahead and knock those suckers out on one operating table.  One of these procedures (presacral neurectomy) is actually the removal of the presacral nerve, as it originates from the base of the spine, splits, and wraps around the uterus.   This is admittedly the more invasive procedure.   My current OBGYN in Hattiesburg once told me that my body was actively having contractions, just like labor contractions, every week, dealing with and trying to process the abnormal growths of endometriosis.  He jokingly told me that labor would be a breeze for me, and then wisely moved out of arms reach, lest I go to swinging.  The removal of this nerve will eliminate the pain caused by these contractions.  In that same thought, a side effect is that I may not feel contractions (that actually bring about a baby) should I get pregnant.  As I sit here towards the end of a really hard and painful week dealing with endo,  I just can’t be mad about that.  Contractions for years, with no baby?  Pretty sure I’ve earned it.

April 4th, I will be running my last half marathon with rampant and unchecked endo.  I’ve run the distance before.  I’ve run this exact race before.  This race, however, will probably be an emotional one.   It will hurt, it won’t be pretty, and it sure won’t be fast.  It is the most ladylike way I can think of to give endometriosis the middle finger.  Will I be cured after this surgery?  No.  I will always live with, always fight this disease, until the day the Almighty calls me home.  There is no cure.  Yet.  The best I can hope for is remission, until the day they find a cure.  If I can run my halfs and finish my full marathon with is disease in full force, unchecked and running amuck in my body, I just might be able to fly in remission, sans pixie dust.

Another big date has been set, and an appointment has been made.  We have our initial appointment to start our first cycle of IVF on June 1st in Jackson.  My wonderful doctor moved clinics on me (just across town), and joined another FE.  With that move came a few new nurses and staff.  I was wary, because I’m very emotionally attached to my IUI nurses.  I don’t just ugly cry in front of anyone, and “concentrated lady feelings” come with a lot of ugly cry.  They reassured me they were still there, there’s just more of them.  Since he has joined up with another doctor, their pricing structure has changed and is actually more affordable than we were initially planning.  Medications will be ordered, our wine shelf will again become the “lady feelings and needles” shelf, more awesome band aids will be purchased, and the ovarian stimulation will begin on June 1st.

So far, these two things have been just a concept.  Now, they are hard dates.  I can count down to this, look forward to this.  I know that I could wake up on April 17th and be well on my way to remission.  By the end of April, there’s a good chance that I will be virtually pain free, with every organ system south of my rib cage functioning properly.  If my prognosis is as good as it’s expected to be, we could be parents to itty bitty blobs in Petri dishes by June.   I could ugly cry just thinking about it.

I have hurt for 15 years.  I’ve gone to school, gone to work, gone to church, gone running, and lived life with this for more than half my life. Not because I’m brave.  Not because I have a high pain tolerance (that’s something you develop out of necessity, in my opinion).  Not because I’m “handling this well.”  Because this has been my life, and it has to be handled.  I can’t ignore it.  I get up and deal with it, because that’s what I have to do.   This isn’t the way most little girls imagine how their family would come to be, but I am already seeing God be glorified in the process.

We do have some specific things we covet your prayers for:

  • Preparation for surgery:  Finacially, that we would use what God has blessed us with wisely; physically, that I can maintain a healthy weight up until surgery, as I will likely lose a good bit immediately afterwards, and that all surgery prep will go smoothly; emotionally, that my pre surgery anxiety will be replaced by His peace.
  • Procedurs will be uncomplicated, go as planned, and nothing extra be needed.
  • Healing will happen as planned, with no complications, and I will be able to return to work and life on schedule
  • Safe travels:  Mister and I, along with my parents and my sister, will be in Atlanta for 5 days.  It takes a village, and God gave us a good one.

We still have a long way to go, our journey is far from finished, but our God goes before us.  Sometimes he is a cloud, sometimes he is a pillar of fire, but His presence is always known.  We are His, and He knows our babies’ birthdays.

Ten Years

As a senior in high school, our bible study leaders asked us to think about where we wanted to be in 10 years. At that time, I was pretty focused on finishing up scholarship applications, planning my senior trip with my best friends, wrapping up my senior project, and not failing Coach Jones’s AP Biology test that week. Where I wanted to be in 10 years was not a priority, but I made a list anyway. I still have the list (I also still have all of Coach Jones’s notes). Today I looked back on it, as I hit the 10 year mark, and it was bittersweet. Today I am Anna at 28. Anna at 18 was ambitious, very traditional, incredibly naive, a little weird, and young. Bless her heart.

Written in a Veggie Tales notebook (see above referenced “weird”), dated 2005:

In 2015, I will be:
Graduate of Southern Miss
Home owner
A deaf educator or stay at home mom
Mother to two children

A few other life experience goals thrown in, but these were the headliners. To me, this was the (Southern) American Dream. This was the yellow brick road I just knew would take me to the Oz of family life and fulfillment. This was how life was suppose to go! Graduate by 22 and immediately Husband-up. Have 2-3 years of “no kids” time, and then babies. Fool proof.
I find comfort in the fact that most of us at 18 are idiots. Bless our hearts.

I’m married. Nailed that one. Thanks, Mister.
I did not graduate from Southern Miss. Student loans are no joke, the economy tanked, dumb decisions were made, and it turns out you don’t necessarily need calligraphy on a piece of paper to hold down a decent job.
I am not a deaf educator. I found I had a low tolerance for politics in the class room, and a particularly low tolerance for how polarizing deaf education methods can be. If I were a teacher, you’d probably see me on the news telling a state politician exactly where he could stick his “education policy”.
I am not a home owner. Rushing into six-figure debt never does any one any good, and property maintenance can be tricky.

I was fine with all these things. I’ve actually laughed about a few of them for the last few years.
The “mother” bit is stinging today. More than I thought it would. Anna at 18 had endometriosis, and was at the beginning of the great adventure of Birth Control Roulette (a terrible ride, I don’t recommend it). Anna at 18 had no idea what was coming, or how that disease was wrecking my body. I fully believed I would have two completely “cooked” kiddos by now, and likely be planning the next ones. I had no idea that Anna at 28 would have two (endo related) surgeries notched in her belt or be well versed in self administered hormone injections.

I’ve started comparing Anna at 18 and Anna at 28, and have come to a realization:
We are not the same people.

I am not the same woman I was 10 years ago. Praise be to God.

I’ve learned really hard lessons over the last 10 years, and dealt with some hurt that I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy. Had my life just plopped into place like the story book I’d planned, I would not know my God the way I do today. My God is glorified in my weakness, and wowzers has he had some glory moments in the last 10 years. I would not have planned my life as it is today, in any aspect, but praise God I am where I am. My plans and lists have been completely scrapped and rewritten. I just can’t see everything yet.

On my birthdays, I look back and am thankful for the multitude of witnesses that have helped shaped who I am today. In the same spirit, I look forward and see where I want to go from here.

During my year as a 28 year old, I will likely face the most change and transition in life since I moved out of my mama’s house and down to the Pine Belt 10 years ago. In April, I am having surgery in Atlanta at the Center for Endometriosis Care. I have been accepted by a wonderful surgeon and his team, and my prognosis for functional improvement and successful fertility is good. They’ve got a laundry list of xxx-scopys and xxx-ectomys that mostly translate to me being pressure washed and roto-routed and gutted and replumbed. In June, we will begin our IVF journey. In between now and surgery and IVF, we are purchasing a car and becoming home-loaners.

Big things are happening. It’s terrifying. It’s overwhelming. It’s a lot of hormone fluxes, which translates into a lot of feelings. God bless the men that live with me, because emotions. Praise God the success of the next 6 months does not hinge on me.

Praise God that my list was a terrible flop.
Praise God I am broken and a failure – my success and joy lies completely in Him.
Praise God I am not Anna at 18.
Praise God for who Anna at 28 is.
And praise God for the woman that Anna at 38 will be, whoever she is.

Praise God.

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.