Fertile Ground: Allison’s Blog
It has been a long time since I have posted, and it’s been quite a journey from where we last left off until now. Lots of little steps along the path of healing ourselves in the aftermath of the IVF, always a few steps forward and a few steps back. It has been really, really, really hard. As hard, if not harder, than any of our other loses. We were so sure it was going to work and be our magic bullet, so to have it fail so totally and completely was an incredibly bitter loss. All the hope and energy and money and planning and TIME that felt like it was wasted. It was another big universal kick in all the parts that were still tender and sore from the last kicks in the baby making department. The first few weeks after I slipped back into robot-mode to cope… just going through the motions of living. I could muster enough energy to put on a non-scary or alarming face to make it through the work day, but if any one who loved me looked at me too long or god-forbid tried to hug me the big bag of tears would open up and start to spill out. My pretend-everything-is-ok energy would run out close to the end of the day and I would cry my way home from the office often arriving at the house a big teary mascara stained mess to fall into my much-alarmed husband’s lap. He was a little freaked out, but a trooper nonetheless and dealing with his own grief as best as he could as well. It was a really bad few weeks.
Our IVF de-brief didn’t make things any better. There were simply no answers. The doctor was as surprised as we were that we had failed so badly and that not a single one of our embryos made it past four cells. His best guess considering our history was that it could have been a lot of things, but most likely we…I…. had serious egg-quality issues. We are born with all the eggs we are ever going to have, and although everyone is a little different, once you hit a certain age they are less and less viable and have more problems creating healthy babies. He said he would definitely be willing to try the IVF again with us and make a few changes to possibly boost our success, but in the end, bad eggs are bad eggs and absolutely nothing can be done to fix them. That totally didn’t help my mental outlook and just made everything seem darker and more hopeless, and even worse…all my fault. I didn’t know if I had it in me to go through it again with my rotten eggs. Why do ALL of that over again just to get the same outcome? I felt even worse than before and with no where to turn.
A New Path
I had begun seeing Sadie Minkoff at Sage Acupuncture weekly a few months before the IVF in an attempt to maximize the odds of it working. She is a women’s health and fertility acupuncture specialist and had helped me change my diet and get as healthy as possible before the procedure. In the run up to the IVF she became one of my greatest advocates and most compassionate cheerleaders in the process. When I told her what the doctor had said about my hopelessly bad eggs, she 100% wholeheartedly and completely disagreed with him with a quiet ferocity that was AWESOME and total surprise. She explained to me there was a lot that we could do. There is a lot of new and cutting edge research being done in this area, but because not all of it has been tested with multiple double blind studies it has not been accepted by many western doctors.
She sent me home with a list of pills, powders, and herbs to gather, a commitment to dedicate myself to acupuncture, optimum health and the regimen of supplements for 90 days, and best of all…a new focus, a new path, and a little bit of hope. The importance of 90 days is that is how long it would take my body to mature a new batch of eggs from their primordial state to fully mature eggs capable of being fertilized and making a baby. She and I became a team to create the best, healthiest environment for them to mature possible, and give them all the help in our power to give Charles and I what I now believed could be our last best chance to have a baby that was genetically ours.
Collectively I called it “The Sadie Cocktail”…Enzyme CoQ10, Myo Inositol, Pycnogenol, and Multiple Chinese herb mixtures, Goat Placenta (yeah…that’s right), Maca Root, Chaste Berry/Vitex, Royal Jelly, Special food-based PreNatal vitamins, Omega-3/Fish Oil, Vitamins C, D, and E. Their function falls into three categories…balance my hormones so the eggs develop well, rev up their mitochondria so they have enough energy for the chromosomes to divide appropriately, and surround them with lots and lots of powerful antioxidants to prevent any kind of oxidative stress as they grow. I also eliminated all gluten from my diet to reduce the inflammation in my body, cut out alcohol, sugar, and anything else that might be adding to my bad eggs situation. Basically, I tried to be the purest, most perfect incubator I could be. All the pills together filled a giant pill box and taking them 3 times a day became my new mantra and ritual. My favorite task every week was when I would refill the empty box and feel one little step closer to the goal. I finally felt like we were moving forward again.
With a plan in place to fix my body, I knew I also had to do something to fix my heart. I could not go on as the Allie-bot. In August I went to a one day fertility yoga retreat. There was actually very little yoga, but it was an incredibly profound experience. The day began with 12 women, all strangers, sitting in a circle on their yoga mats, but we spent almost the entire day, one by one, sharing our stories. For the first time I met other women who understood. All of them had been dealing with infertility of all kinds, and like me, were just trying to find a path through it. We had so many shared experiences….loss, anger, sadness, fear, and hope, and as each woman told her story we all laughed and cried, nodded with recognition, and passed the Kleenex boxes around the room as we all took our turn. I had never met or talked to other women who had experienced multiple miscarriages or failed IVFs like me, and many of these women had…some dealing with it much longer and had much more tragic stories than myself. Talk about putting things in perspective. When it was my turn to tell my story, seeing all those faces looking back at me that really and truly GOT it…that truly understood the darkness I felt and the giant wounds I felt like I carried with me everywhere I went was a profoundly transformative event. For the first time…I was not alone and more importantly able to put down some of the weight I had been carrying with me. It was huge, and I left that day feeling lighter than I had in a long time.
By September I was feeling better, but knew I needed something else to focus on besides my eggs. Now that we owned our house I really wanted a garden. For a few weeks I obsessively planned it out, collected Texas fall gardens plants, and tracked the sun in my backyard with compasses and solar charts to find the perfect spot. As my birthday neared, my entire family gathered and in one day of hard sweaty work we created 3 raised garden beds in the back corner of my yard. In the weeks that followed I spent every spare moment of daylight I had out there…my perfect sanctuary. Charles would occasionally poke his head out the back door to check on me and smile and wave, the relief on his face palpable to see me happy. And I was…happy, sweaty, dirty, and mosquito bitten. As the garden began to grow and flourish, I felt better and better. It became a daily ritual of checking and caring for each plant. Fertilizing, watering, checking for bugs and nurturing each one, and as I did, it fixed me. It was a different kind of fertility, but fertility nonetheless. Every flower, every tiny green tomato was a little victory. I felt whole and fertile and healthy. It was the best birthday gift ever.
I grew tired of isolating myself at home and went to a best friend’s bachelorette party in New York and laughed for 72 hours straight. A few days later Charles and I drove to a music festival in Arkansas and danced and laughed and remembered who we were and why we loved each other and why we got married. We are our best selves in those situations. It’s how we met, and how we fell in love and I can honestly say that for the first time in a really long time we didn’t even think about babies or fertility or failure or any of it. We were just Allie and Charles having fun together, and it had been a very long time since that had happened. There is nothing better.
Not long after we came home, and as the first fruits and veggies were ripening in the garden, a harvest of a different sort began.
It started like this:
A little road weary, I am not sure how much either of us reacted to it. I texted the picture to Charles with the message, “Well…here we go again” and that was about it. The blood work came back good with everything moving along well and HCG levels rising with a vigor we had not seen before. That was good news, but not enough to get excited. The first few days I wouldn’t even use the “p-word.” I much preferred HCG +. Just a state of being without any meaning attached, and the best way to protect my heart. We both knew this could be over as soon as it started and we shouldn’t get attached.
At 6 weeks and our first ultrasound, shit got serious. There were two of everything. Two sacs. Two heartbeats. Two Babies.
The doctor was as stunned as we were partially because he was so happy for us, but also because he had absolutely nothing to do with it. No drugs. No hormones. Just acupuncture, my Sadie Cocktail, my garden, and dancing in the mud with my super-cute husband. I truly wish I had a picture of Charles’s face in the moment the 2nd baby popped up on the screen. I will remember that face forever and ever. They looked ok and had heartbeats, but one the babies was much smaller and had a slow heart rate. The doctor was a little iffy as to whether or not it would make it, and given our history, we were still determined to not get attached. We were still the 1%, and it was impossible to know if this was our wonderful prize at the end of a very long journey, or a way to twist the knife a little deeper.
At 8 weeks, and in the paper sheet on the exam table waiting for the Dr, I was convinced both of them would be gone and was trying really hard to keep the tears at bay. But they were still with us.
Two strong and healthy heartbeats and our little one had caught up to its sibling. They were identical in size and had exactly the same heart rate. Right where they should be. We could even HEAR the heartbeats. When the doctor turned on the Doppler and the sounds of their little pounding hearts filled the room, it was impossible to not love them. The nurse had to start handing over the Kleenex by the handful because the tears were flowing freely for both of us. Good news like this had never happened to us before!
At 11 weeks, not only were they there…they were bouncing around and wiggling their arms and legs around like they were excited so see us. It was like a rave in there.
We are starting to believe…at least a little bit that maybe this is actually going to happen. Now we are a little over 12 weeks and I have never been this pregnant. There are still many tests to come, but all signs point to there being 2 healthy babies down there. Things have never progressed this well. In all of our previous pregnancies, there was never a single good ultrasound result. Something was always behind or slow or not how it should be, but these little guys have hit every mark along the way. My clothes are all too tight, and I have acne like I did when I was a teenager. Something must be going right. We even “graduated” from the reproductive endocrinologist and are seeing a regular OB. It is nuts and gets more real everyday. We still can’t 100% let our guards down and believe it’s going to happen, and I don’t know when we actually will. Maybe when I can feel them moving around. Maybe not until I can look them both in the eye, count their toes, and hold the best gift…GIFTS… at the end of a very, very long journey.
For now, we are just feeling lucky to have gotten this far…and there is the occasional “HOLY SHIT CHARLES!!! WE ARE HAVING TWINS!!!” freak out moments that I am sure will become more and more frequent as we move along.
The doctors departing words to us as we left his office for the last time (with lots of hugs and promises to keep him updated) were “I think this is just how it was supposed to work out for you guys, and I just couldn’t be happier.”
I 100% agree.
28 Friday Dec 2012