Monday, December 19, 2011

Coping with Loss and Infertility Around The Holidays

Loss is a difficult thing to deal with at any time, but around the holidays, when it seems like a requirement to be cheery and happy, dealing with loss seems that much harder. Having suffered four miscarriages myself, I know it is hard not to think about the “could haves”, “would haves” and “should haves” of life and of course, the “what ifs”. I am sending my love to all of those who have suffered through pregnancy loss and who are dealing with infertility this holiday season. Know that you are not alone.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

The Occupy Uterus Movement: An Infertile’s Thoughts on The Duggars’ 20th Child

I am protesting the latest pregnancy announced yesterday by the reality show stars, Jim Bob and Michele Duggar. At the risk of sounding like a sore loser, their pregnancy makes me angry . I am not proud of this statement, but the fact that they are expecting their 20th child makes me feel like a teenager whose prom date left her there for another girl.

I don’t know much about the Duggars, but what I surmise from their situation is that they seem to be nice people. They don’t abuse their children as far as we know. Their children seem to be polite, educated individuals who will most likely grow up to be contributing members of our society. The Duggars can afford to have many children. Their children aren’t starving or neglected. They have a home big enough to accommodate such a large family. There are those of us who may question their ability to be there as a parent to each individual child, or challenge the fairness of the roles the older siblings play in the younger siblings' lives. But for the most part, the way they live as a family seems no more or less destructive than other families .

So why does this make me angry? Oh wait, maybe it is this quote taken from, “The 45-year-old mom told the "Today" show she was surprised to discover she was expecting at her age. 'I was not thinking that God would give us another one, and we are just so grateful.'" They have openly stated that they leave their family planning to God. Well, why isn’t God handing out babies to me? Why do they get 20 babies and I only get one baby? Having suffered through infertility, I have had to leave my family planning up to God, my reproductive endocrinologist skilled surgeons, and many genetic labs and geneticists across the country. Even with all of those hands working on my and my husband's situation, we have come up empty handed in our quest to expand our family.

So am I really mad at the Duggars? Probably not. If I didn’t suffer from endometriosis and have a genetic defect with the majority of my eggs, I may have popped out 24 kids and had my own reality show. So does this mean I am mad at God? No, because unlike the Duggars, I don’t think God “gives” people children. If he gave people children, it would mean he would also purposely not give people children, or take them away. That is not the God I believe in.

So who I am angry at? I think I am just angry at my situation. It sucks that I have had four miscarriages and had over 30 embryos tested, all genetically unviable. It sucks that I cannot have any more biological children. It sucks that my husband and I have had a long, exhausting journey with infertility. It sucks that my daughter will never have a sibling. And it sucks that I have no one to blame.

When I hear the Duggars are expecting their 20th child, it reminds me of my inability to have more children. I feel like protesting the fertile inequality when you compare their family and my own. Maybe I should make an “Occupy Uterus” sign and set up camp. In reality, if I thought setting up a tent outside their compound would land me a baby, I would. But it won't. I know on some level, sometimes, we all need to vent about how life is hard and sometimes unfair.

The truth is, there are probably a lot more people who have more of a right to whine about how unfair their life is. I have a beautiful daughter, who somehow made into our lives, despite all of our infertility issues. I have a supportive husband, who often listens to me whine without complaint. I have a roof over my head and besides an aching desire to have more children, not another complaint in the world. I am pretty lucky, all things considered. Even if I could trade lives with Michelle Duggar and have the mystical power of being able to produce babies with the blink of an eye, I wouldn’t. Though I have had a difficult journey and carry some sadness and pain over my infertility issues, I have to have faith that I am exactly where and who I need to be at this moment.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Top Ten Signs You Are Going Through Fertility Treatments

10. While driving to the store, you start sobbing when you hear Demi Lovato’s new song “Skyscraper” on the radio.

9. You write your father a 100 word emotional, sappy birthday message…on your face book wall.

8. Your husband wears two different shoes to work--two days in a row.

7. If the fertility treatment does not result in a pregnancy, you’re considering a career in the adult film industry with your new hormonally enhanced breasts.

6. You cut off all contact with family and friends, and limit your contact with the outside world to watching shows on the WB.

5. Instead of playing minesweeper or solitaire, these days you procrastinate by obsessively calculating your potential due date on various pregnancy websites.

4. The ultrasound technician at your fertility doctor’s office has seen you more with your pants off than your husband has.

3. You declined an invitation to your co-worker’s baby shower due to a serious, highly contagious, mysterious virus you suddenly came down with.

2. You haven’t cooked a meal or gone grocery shopping in weeks.

1. Your parish priest slips you a drug intervention pamphlet on the way out of church, after noticing the needle marks on your arms and legs from all the blood tests and injections.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

The Infertile Egg Hunt Part 2 of 4 : Egg Donation

In the past three years my husband and I have suffered four miscarriages and have had 28 embryos genetically tested, only to find out they were not viable. This is because I have a translocation, a genetic mutation which causes the vast majority of my eggs to be genetically unsound. Egg donation, embryo donation and adoption are the only options left for my husband and I if we want to expand our family. This week I talked to Dr. Michael Blotner, Medical Director of Westchester Fertility, about egg donation. Dr. Blotner and his caring staff helped me get pregnant with my daughter four years ago. He was gracious enough to answer ten questions I had about the process. Egg donation is a viable option for women like myself, who can carry a baby to term, but cannot provide quality eggs.

What type of fertility issues would cause a woman to consider egg donation?The primary reason for a woman to seek an egg donor would be infertility caused by a very low egg reserve, which also implies a decreased egg quality. This will be reflected in an elevated FSH (follicle stimulating hormone) or a low AMH (anti-mullerian hormone). Also in the cases where in vitro fertilization has failed multiple times, eggs from a donor may be appropriate.

What is a snapshot of the “typical” egg donor like?
The typical egg donor is a woman over 21 years of age, commonly in graduate school or pursuing a career. While financial compensation is a central motivation, there is often an altruistic desire to help other women conceive.

Does health insurance cover any of the costs of retrieving eggs from the donor?Unfortunately, health insurance can only be used for tests and procedures that involve the recipient(not the donor). The costs include those for mandatory laboratory screening; intake appointment and physical exam; medications involved in stimulation of the donor; monitoring hormone levels and ultrasound development of the follicles; the actual egg retrieval with anesthesia and donor compensation for going through the process.

How extensive is the screening for egg donors? Are donors checked for genetic abnormalities that could cause miscarriage or life threatening illnesses in the baby?The donors are screened for sexually transmitted diseases (HIV, Hepatitis B and C, etc) as well as genetic testing for chromosome analysis, cystic fibrosis, and hemoglobin abnormalities. Other genetic tests may be obtained when applicable(ie: Tay-Sachs screening for Ashkenazi Jewish descent).

How are donor eggs retrieved?The egg donor is stimulated with injectable hormones (FSH and LH) on a daily basis from the early phase of the menstrual cycle, and she is monitored every few days by serum estrogen levels and ultrasound evaluation of the ovaries. At the same time the recipient’s uterus is being prepared with hormone supplements to ultimately receive the embryos. When the eggs are deemed mature, the donor undergoes general anesthesia for 15-20 minutes while the eggs are retrieved by transvaginal ultrasound and a needle aspiration of the eggs from each ovary.

What happens to the donors’ eggs after they are retrieved?The donor eggs are isolated in the laboratory and injected with the sperm of the recipient’s male partner (or sperm donor, as indicated). The resultant embryos are monitored and allowed to develop to an appropriate stage for transfer into the recipient’s uterus. Often extra embryos may be present to be cryopreserved (frozen) as a back up for additional attempts or future pregnancies.

Can the egg donor donate multiple times? Do the couple receiving the eggs know about the other babies that have been born using the same donor?Egg donors are allowed to cycle several times. Information regarding prior successes is available, but the specific information regarding other patients and their offspring is protected under HIPAA.

How does a person choose an egg donor?Egg donors are recruited by agencies specifically for this purpose, and are generally selected by the recipients based on shared physical characteristics, desired educational or ethnic backgrounds. Extensive family history screens are also presented for review.

What are the challenges in using a donor’s egg? (monetary, physical, emotional)Donors may be local, which makes monitoring easier, or they may need to commute or even fly from their place of origin. This requires coordination with a fertility center in their locale. This also requires lodging and accommodations for the donor during the time of the egg retrieval. This adds to the financial burden of the entire process. The recipient and her partner must also be emotionally ready to abandon the idea of conceiving with her own eggs.

What are the benefits of the egg donation process?While adoption is an option for many couples, the use of an egg donor provides the opportunity for the male partner to contribute to the genetics of the offspring. The recipient is also able to experience pregnancy and childbirth and bond with their child in that time. The chance of conceiving through donor eggs is approximately 50-60% per transfer, as opposed to less than 5% using her own eggs.

At the end of the day, egg donation is a viable option for couples in our situation. But as Dr. Blotner mentioned, there are many challenges to this option. The expense of using an egg donor is huge, costing anywhere from $25,000 to $30,000. Also dealing with the loss of the dream of having a child with your genetic makeup is something the egg donor recipient has to come to terms with. In the coming weeks, I will explore both embryo donation and adoption.

Michael Blotner, MD, is board certified in obstetrics and gynecology and reproductive endocrinology. For over 15 years, he has been helping patients in his care achieve their goal of having a child through state-of-the-art infertility treatment. Dr. Blotner has dedicated himself to providing personalized professional care in a relaxed environment.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Volunteering Post September 11th, Then and Now

I have been having such a difficult time writing about my experiences on September 11th. I usually don’t write about something difficult or painful until I have perspective and understanding of the situation. I have realized that no matter how much time will pass, I probably never will understand the events of September 11th. I don’t have any have perspective. All I can think about is the pain and suffering of all of those families who lost loved ones that day. I also think about the first responders who have since died or have life threatening illnesses due to inhaling toxic fumes at Ground Zero as they selflessly worked night and day to recover the victims from the rubble. As my husband went into work this past Friday in Lower Manhattan, blocks from the site, I also still have the fear and sense of powerlessness as security is heightened due to threats made to New York City.

But in darkness, there is always light. The light I choose to think about is the heroic acts that saved lives that fateful day. I think about the amazingly strong wives and husbands who have carried their families through the loss of their spouse. I think about the countless individuals who have channeled their loss and personal tragedy into creating non-profits that strive to make the lives of those affected by September 11th more tolerable. All of these souls inspire me. They are my heroes and I feel encouraged to participate in acts of kindness and volunteerism on September 11th in their honor and in honor of those lost.

Like every person in America, I remember exactly where I was when I heard about the twin towers being attacked on September 11th. I was sitting in one of my Graduate Social Work classes at Fordham University Lincoln Center in New York City. An administrator came into class to say that two planes hit into the twin towers and was believed to be a terrorist attack. I immediately called my parents on a pay phone to let them know I was okay. I also called my weirdly calm fiance who was still sitting at his desk in his office, in the heart of Times Square. He said people were staying at work and he was going to wait and see how things unfolded. I told him I was coming down to get him.

I ran down town to get him, fighting the crowds of people who were walking uptown. When I got to his office building he was standing outside with many others, clearly in shock, watching the recap of the planes hitting the towers on the Jumbo Screen. We ran back uptown to Fordham to get my car and drove home out of the city.

I went back to my future in law’s house and watched the news for hours and felt scared, helpless and powerless. I watched the recap of the towers falling again and again. After two days of sitting watching the news, I needed to do something to help. I heard there were crisis centers set up in lower Manhattan for rescue workers and families of the missing. I thought my social worker skills could be useful. I took the train down the city and walked downtown hoping that through divine intervention I would be led somewhere that I could be helpful.

I found a crisis center at Chelsea Piers. I talked to the woman in charge of mental health there. She first said she was only going to take people already with their masters who were licensed, but for some reason she let me stay. I first worked with families who came looking for information regarding their missing loved ones. We tried to comfort them and gave them the latest information on where to go and who to call to try and locate the missing. Sadly as more and more time passed, and the search went from rescue to recovery, there was a greater understanding of the unimaginable casualties that were the result of this horrendous attack.

I spent my days at the crisis center listening to rescue workers who were seeing unspeakable scenes of devastation at the site. I also talked to people who were at the scene during the fall of the towers and witnessed horrific images that will haunt them for the rest of their lives. I worked along side caterers, massage therapists, other mental health workers and other people who came because they felt like I did, helpless and powerless. Helping, even in a small way, made us feel less helpless and more in control. I set up a paper wall outside of the Pier which people could sign and write prayers and tributes to those lost.

I know the volunteer work I did following September 11th was so insignificant compared to the work many did following the attack. I am in awe of those selfless firefighters, police officers and other emergency responders who gave their lives to help others that day(and every day). I would like to think though that all of the small acts put together added some goodness into a suffering, broken and devastated city. I think doing special acts of kindness on a day that signifies such a deep, painful loss for so many is something small that can honor the memory of lost loved ones. Love, resilience, strength and compassion brought New Yorkers together on September 11th. These traits still bring light to our mighty, yet still healing city today.

Friday, September 2, 2011

The Value of Having Fun

"You've gotta dance like there's nobody watching,
Love like you'll never be hurt,
Sing like there's nobody listening,
And live like it's heaven on earth."
— William W. Purkey
This is one of my most favorite quotes. I love it so much because it encourages everyone to live life to the fullest and with your whole heart. Practically speaking, it seems almost impossible to live in this way every moment. Life is complicated and stressful, and sometimes our journey requires us to protect our heart and just “get through” the day, instead of celebrating every second of it.

After having surgery for endometriosis in July, I had been feeling stressed and overwhelmed with life. During my recovery, I was taking life one minute at a time and trying to make it through the day. I hadn’t been out of the house much since my surgery. I really wasn’t even talking much to friends and family. The little energy I had to spare was devoted to taking care of my daughter. Slowly, I started to feel better.

My mom, a devoted Bruce Springsteen fan, called me to tell me there was a Bruce Springsteen and the E Street cover band, Tramps Like Us, playing at a local bar. She told me to get out of the house and come along. I hesitated. Was I really feeling up for it? Was I ready to be out in public?

I was worried because when you are in pain or have low energy, pretending as if you are feeling good takes an incredible amount of energy. My mom persisted, and soon enough I had two of my oldest and dearest friends on board to go out too. My aunt, who recently battled a serious form of uterine cancer, was also coming out. I had no excuse. I brushed my hair, put contacts in, put makeup on, and even put on a tube top. I don’t think I have worn a tube top since 1999. I don’t think I have worn makeup since March.

My dear friend came and picked me up and we were on our way. I started feeling anxious as I walked into the bar. I hadn’t been out in a long, long time. We entered the crowded outdoor patio where the band was playing and I spotted my parents and my aunt who were seated around a picnic table. Within seconds I was presented a beer by my aunt and could hear my mom shouting over the band, “If you close your eyes, it’s like you are at an actual Bruce concert!”

I couldn’t have predicted the fun we had that night. Due to the volume of the music, I was able to “sing like nobody’s listening” to my favorite Bruce songs. After a few beers, the pain from my surgery faded and I was able to “dance like there’s nobody watching” (although I did pay for my excessive dancing the next morning as my inactive muscles protested the festivities). By having fun, we had all escaped our difficult weeks for just a little while.

I forgot how important having fun was. When I am stressed to the max at a difficult point in my journey, having fun can seem trite and meaningless. When I was a little girl and even straight on through college, it seemed life was centered around having fun and hanging out with friends. Now if I see my friends once a month it is a big deal. Life gets hard and complicated. Going out and having fun sometimes seems like it would take a lot of energy to accomplish. Why go out when I can collapse on my couch in my sweat pants?

I came home from that night of fun feeling so good. I felt energized emotionally and spiritually. It felt good to dance and sing and laugh. I was so grateful and proud to be there with my aunt who has gone through hell to fight her cancer. She looked happy and healthy after being so sick for so long. The truth is that all of us out that night have been through our own personal hells, but having fun made life a little brighter. I made a promise to myself to make having fun a new priority in my life. I was incredibly grateful for that night out. I always took having fun for granted but now I know that it's a special thing that I have to make time for.

Tramps Like Us played Bruce Springsteen’s song “Tunnel of Love” that night. My mom had that album on tape and would play it constantly in her 1980 red Toyota Corolla when it first got released in 1987. I was just 8 years old when it was being blasted in our car. Although I knew all the words, they had little meaning to me then. As I sat out on the patio that night, listening to the cover band sing the lyrics, “You've got to learn to live with what you can't rise above,” the song suddenly had meaning to me. There are certain things we cannot overcome. Life brings us some sadness that will be with us forever. There will always be stress and overwhelming parts of our journey. But as William W. Purkey states, we still need to manage to have moments where we “live like it's heaven on earth,” because even through the hardships, it is only one life we get to live.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

What Life’s Hardest Roads Have Taught Me

In the journey of life, it is our most difficult paths that teach us the most. Here are ten lessons that I have learned.

1. I am much more vulnerable than I ever imagined.

2. I can feel alone in the most familiar of crowds and yet, feel comforted with kind words of a stranger who has walked in my shoes.

3. I can start laughing in the middle of crying and cry in the midst of laughter--and both are okay.

4. Time does heal a wound, but the scar, though it may fade, will be there forever and may twinge on gloomy days.

5. Suffering can make me bend until I break. Love, faith and hope can eventually mend the pieces back together, if I allow them to.

6. Fun, laughter, singing, dancing, a good book or movie can be a non-addictive painkiller or sedative to help me cope.

7. There is always someone who has it worse. There is always at least one thing to be grateful for.

8. My true friends will love me when I’m sad, traumatized, despondent and in crisis mode. They will be there for me when and however I need them, when I am ready. And I will be there for them.

9. I can only do my best.

10. I am so much stronger than I ever imagined.

Monday, August 8, 2011

My Return To The Land Of The Living

So it has been way too long since I have last written. Dealing with my endometriosis (including having surgery) has made these past few months very difficult, and at times excruciating. I have spent most of these recent days just trying to keep on my own two feet, and when I had the energy, take care of my little girl.

Endometriosis is a disease where the tissue that lines a woman’s uterus escapes the uterine cavity and attaches outside the uterus. Every month during menstruation this tissue grows throughout the abdominal cavity, attaching to whatever it encounters along the way. The tissue sheds, just like during the “normal” menstruation of a woman without this condition, except the tissue in the abdominal cavity has nowhere to go causing significant problems. Unfortunately, the tissue that attaches outside the uterus causes scar tissue throughout the abdomen. The tissue can also form adhesions, which sometimes causes a woman’s organs to stick to one another and to the pelvic wall.

Five years ago, after many reproductive diagnostic tests, my reproductive endocrinologist diagnosed me with endometriosis. My doctor had suspected endometriosis because I have always had painful periods, which were getting worse over time and I had terrible stomach issues resembling irritable bowel syndrome, which became worse during menstruation. My doctor found adhesions and scar tissue growing on my lower intestines, on the surface of my uterus and on one of my ovaries. My endometriosis wasn’t severe, but even a mild case can cause pain and infertility. After my first surgery I had some amount of relief from the monthly pain and other symptoms. Unfortunately though, surgery for endometriosis only causes temporary relief, because every month the tissue continues to grow outside the uterus, and there is no cure yet for this disease.

Soon after my first surgery, I got pregnant with my daughter. Since my daughter’s birth three years ago, I have had many more fertility procedures and miscarriages (not to mention surgery to remove my gallbladder). Month after month, especially during my miscarriages, I could feel my endometriosis getting worse. This spring, the pain I was having during ovulation and during my periods was intolerable. My endometriosis started inhibiting my daily life. I would have to schedule social events, and even tasks like food shopping, around my period. My husband would have to stay home from work or go in late when my period came because the pain and bleeding were so intense that I felt like I could pass out.

In May, the pain at ovulation was so bad that I thought I was having an ectopic pregnancy. I rushed to my reproductive endocrinologist’s office quite concerned, and after sonograms and tests, he did a physical exam where he could actually feel adhesions behind my uterus. He gave me some medicine to try to stop my period and give me relief. After getting a horrible period and sensing no relief in sight, I decided to go to one of the few experts in endometriosis, Dr. Tamar Seckin. I had heard his name from reading about the “Top Chef” host Padma Lakshmi’s journey with this disease and how this doctor had helped her. Dr. Seckin was one of the few doctors that has dedicated his whole career to understanding and treating endometriosis.

After my first meeting with Dr. Seckin, I knew he would be the one that could help me. He told me that I would have to have another surgery. After a month of tests that included an MRI, ultrasounds and a colonoscopy, I was ready to have my surgery. I was really anxious. During my first surgery, I had felt like I had nothing to lose. I had been desperate to have a baby, and if this operation would help me, I was all for it. Now, blessed with my three year old daughter and being confronted with my second surgery, I couldn’t help but imagine the worst possibilities. What if something happened to me during surgery? How would I recover with my little one at home? How would my daughter be affected by my not being able to take care of her? My husband reminded me that this surgery was for her too. Having a mommy that is not in pain for half the month would ultimately be good for her.

My doctor wanted to do the surgery during my period in order to be able to see the extent of the endometriosis more clearly. The night before surgery I was in intense pain, not able to rely on my usual three Motrin every three hours. My abdomen was so swollen I actually looked like I was three months pregnant. The morning of the surgery I cheerfully kissed my daughter goodbye, told her I loved her and then ran to the car and cried my eyes out. I was so sad to leave her. I got to the hospital and parted with my husband so that I could change into my hospital gown and go through intake. My husband was all too familiar with this scene. During our nine years of marriage, this would be my fifth operation, which doesn’t even include the three IVFs I have had. Every time he sees me in a hospital gown and puffy hair net, he gives me a reassuring smile and looks at me like I am the most beautiful girl in the world.

I met with the doctors involved in the surgery and they reassured me I would be okay. I remember walking into the operating room, lying on the table, bleeding tremendously from my period and feeling overwhelmed thinking about my daughter, the risks of the surgery and the road to recovery. Tears started rolling down my cheeks. Luckily the anesthesiologist came in and took my mind off these overwhelming thoughts with his friendly small talk, until I was in a peaceful slumber. The next thing I knew, I was being encouraged to start waking up from surgery by a gentle nurse. The road to recovery had officially begun.

When I asked my doctor where in my abdomen the endometriosis was prevalent, he replied, “Everywhere.” Adhesions had grown all over both ovaries such that my ovaries had been stuck to my pelvic wall. The scar tissue was all along my rectal area, behind my uterus, on my bladder, on my ureter, adhering it to my pelvic wall, and in other places as well. Dr. Seckin took 16 biopsies altogether. I was very lucky that none of my reproductive organs or my kidneys had to be removed, which is what happens to many women with endometriosis. I was also grateful to Dr. Seckin for performing such a successful surgery.

It has been almost 6 weeks since my surgery and I am still not feeling 100%. The first two weeks after surgery, I needed help taking care of my daughter. Although I was up and walking around and could do a lot of things for her, I didn’t have the energy or the stamina to be there for her for our usual 14 hour day together. By the third week I had her to myself and did okay. Then my period came, and it was excruciating because the inside of my body was still raw and in the process of healing. That was really hard because just when I thought I was better, I felt worse than ever. But that too passed and my energy is back again. After a few months my body will be healed and I should feel better than I have in years.

I am hoping this surgery will provide me with relief from my monthly pain, for at least a few years. I will most likely have to have this surgery again in the future when the symptoms from the endometriosis become unbearable again. I have always been a very strong-willed, independent person. Not being able to do things for myself or for my daughter, having to rely on others and feeling weak and in pain has been emotionally hard for me to take.

I have woken up these past few days doing my happy dance. I am so incredibly grateful not to be in excruciating pain. I am happy to be writing again and feel empowered to talk about endometriosis in this blog. Endometriosis is a disease that affects millions of women, yet no one talks a lot about it, many doctors don’t even know about it, and there is not a lot being done to find a cure. When I first asked my gynecologist about my painful periods, her response was that it was normal and nothing to worry about. I am here to tell you it is not normal, you are not crazy, and there is help and support out there for you.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Honor Thy Mother and Those Trying To Become Mothers

I’m a grateful Mother, with that fact make no mistake.
Not a single breathe from my child’s lungs for granted I do take.
I’m a grateful Mother. My child is a gift.
Her presence here in my life is a everlasting lift.
I prayed to be a Mom each and every day.
I prayed a special soul would be on its’ way.
As months and years passed by without a child for me to love,
Sadness and Anger bruised my heart and I cursed the heavens above.
Holidays and celebrations were colored a dark and gloomy shade.
Even when the sun did shine--there was rain on my parade.
Then a guiding light led my child’s soul to me.
Words cannot express my joyfulness and glee.
I couldn’t believe I was a mom after wanting it for so long.
The Sadness and Anger in my heart finally moved along.
When there was no hope to be found in the darkest storms,
I had my own ray of sunshine wrapped safe within my arms.
My heart did heal instantly. I knew she was mine to keep.
Never had I felt a love so powerful and deep.
I honor and cherish my child with a love so grand.
I am so overwhelmed with gratitude each time I hold my child’s hand.
It’s a gift and privilege to be Mother, a child’s earthly light.
Never take for granted this gift, to honor those trying to be with all their might.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The Infertile Egg Hunt “Part One of Four”

Maybe it’s all the talk about Easter eggs or all the trees blooming and coming to life that has me contemplating my own eggs and my quest to bring another life into the world. Lately I have been mulling over some of the options that my fertility doctor recommended if my husband and I want to move forward with our wish to have another child. When more than 92% of your eggs will lead to miscarriage, the options available are limited and require a great leap of faith. Over the next few weeks I will be researching and writing in greater detail about the three options available to me and my husband at this stage in our journey.

The first option that is available to me and my husband is finding an egg donor. This option would entail the egg donor taking stimulation medications, going through an egg retrieval surgery and then allowing her eggs to be used in an in vitro fertilization where the resulting embryo would be implanted into my uterus for normal gestation. My initial reaction to this option is slight horror. “My husband’s sperm is going to be mixing with another woman’s egg?” I know there are also lot of benefits to this route. But I will be speaking to Dr. Michael Blotner MD, Medical Director of Westchester Fertility,, to learn more about this process.

The second option is embryo donation. Some couples who go through IVF end up having more embryos than they need or want. Certain people decide to destroy these embryos, others decide to donate them to scientific research, and still others, who feel that they can neither destroy nor give away their embryos, decide to put their embryos up for adoption. Couples like myself and my husband, who have a hard time creating viable embryos, can adopt these donated embryos and transfer them into the female's uterus. To learn more about this option, I will be talking to one of the leading organizations whose mission is to connect couples in need with couples who have leftover frozen embryos.

The last option open to us is adoption. There are many women in the fertility community, as well as the larger community, who have answered the call of adoption and have created their family in that way. I will be talking to Dawn Davenport, who created the nonprofit Creating a Family, , an organization providing education and support for infertility and adoption. She also wrote the book “The Complete Guide To International Adoption.”

In my heart I don’t think I am ready yet to start actively pursuing any of these options. I still am grieving our losses and our lost dream. But I am looking forward to researching egg donation, embryo donation and adoption in the next couple of weeks because I think that finding out more information is one of the first steps to seeing if any of the options are calling us to expand our family.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Come on Oprah and OWN Give Us A Voice!

Dear Oprah and The Oprah Winfrey Network,

On behalf of people struggling with infertility, I would like to suggest a concept for a brand new show on The Oprah Winfrey Network: following those on the journey of conception. You have brought countless stories to light, telling the tales of those who have overcome hardship, and it is my sincere hope that you will consider exploring the subject of infertility, so that the world will better understand the silent struggle that some people face when trying to achieve something that comes so naturally to others-- bringing a life into the world.

One in 8 couples will experience infertility. 1.1 million women will undergo fertility treatments this year. Yet, no one likes to talk about infertility. The inability to conceive a child at all, or without the help of medical treatment, is a taboo subject. In the past five years I have undergone one laparoscopic surgery, three in utero inseminations, three in vitro fertilizations and two rounds of embryo biopsies. I have suffered four miscarriages. I have lost twenty eight embryos. And yet, I still have close friends and family who have no idea what my husband and I have gone through, never mind co-workers or acquaintances. It is unreal to me that I can experience something so traumatic, consuming and debilitating without many people ever knowing about it.

From the many connections I have made through Twitter and through blogging, I know I am not alone in my feelings of helplessness and isolation. I have come across thousands of women who have heart wrenching stories that deserve to be told. Their stories comfort me, inspire me and break my heart time and time again. These are strong women who have been on unbelievable journeys.

Anyone who has struggled with infertility would deeply appreciate a show dedicated to their struggles, and all of the friends and family members of those people would certainly benefit from being educated on the topic of infertility. There are so many people who have no idea what it is like to be a part of this journey, to want more than anything to conceive a child but not be physically able to, to wonder why something so natural as reproducing can be so difficult, to grieve for the lost embryos or miscarried babies.

Many of us struggling with infertility watch shows like “Teen Mom” with a heavy heart. It is painful to hear about moms who weren’t planning their pregnancy, who feel inconvenienced by the expected child or who had huge reservations about having a baby. Those of us struggling with infertility sacrifice our physical, emotional, spiritual and financial stability to try to create life. This entails undergoing many procedures, taking many hormones and other medications, and visiting the doctor several times a week. Many couples dealing with infertility lose faith in what they believe in and at times feel utterly hopeless.

As a woman struggling with infertility, I want my voice, and the voices of all the other women struggling with reproduction, to be heard. We are tired of hiding in the dark. We hope that you and your producers read this blog entry and the stories of others at the links in the comments below. We have also set up a facebook group, . Some of these stories are funny, some are shocking, some are incredibly sad, but they all will touch your heart. These stories need to be heard!

So please Oprah, hear us! Be the first network to dedicate a show to the incredible journeys of the strong women who fight infertility for the chance at motherhood.

With Love,
Light and Happiness,

Monday, March 28, 2011

Running For My Life In The March For Babies

We all have had experiences in our lives that have left us downtrodden. Unfortunately, part of being human is feeling pain, whether it be physical or emotional. We all have difficult roads in our life journey that we need to survive and hopefully, ultimately rise above.

Infertility and recurrent pregnancy loss have been a huge and rather difficult part of my journey these past four years. Infertility has left me feeling powerless, weak and helplessly unable to control my physical or emotional self. I have had surgeries and gone through multiple IVFs that have put me on bed rest and have made me physically weak and in pain. The many different hormones I have been on and the overall stress of infertility has put me on an emotional roller coaster that has left me feeling overwhelmed and sad. I have been starting to feel that I am no longer in control of my own well being.

I have also done a lot of waiting these past four years that has left me feeling inadequate. I have been waiting in doctor’s offices, waiting on the phone to fight with my insurance company, waiting for my medications to come, waiting for my procedures to happen and waiting to see if all of this waiting was worth it. The problem with waiting is that you don’t go anywhere. When you wait, life is put on hold and you can’t move forward. There are many situations where you know your waiting will pay off, and the object of desire is right around the corner, but with many things in life, including bringing life into the world, nothing is guaranteed, and your waiting may not pay off.

So what do you do when you can’t wait any longer? What do you do when you come to terms with the fact that what you desire most is not around the corner? How do you heal from such a deep sense of loss? How do you move on without losing all hope? How do you find yourself again, or perhaps redefine yourself?

These are the questions I have been wrestling with since the failure of our final IVF last fall. My husband and I started our journey with infertility in February of 2006. We were so lucky to conceive our daughter through IUI two years later. She was born prematurely in January of 2008, but she is, thank goodness, a happy and healthy little girl today. Six months after her birth we started trying to conceive again. We have spent four years--almost half our marriage trying to conceive--undergoing many procedures, suffering many pregnancy losses, climbing this uphill battle, waiting for another miracle. But it seems, in the world of fertility procedures, there is nothing positive waiting for us anymore. This reality has left me feeling sad, powerless and empty.

I have been wracking my brain trying to figure out something to make me feel strong again, something to make me feel powerful. I need to feel in control again and physically healthy. I recently saw online an advertisement for the March of Dimes, “March For Babies 10k,” an event that will “raise money for research and programs that help moms have full-term pregnancies and babies begin healthy lives…bring comfort and information to families with a baby in newborn intensive care.” My husband, my daughter and I were all preemies and all spent time in the NICU. This organization is very meaningful to me.

I have decided to participate in the 10k, despite the fact that I have zero running experience and have never done a race. But I have been training using a, “Couch to 10k” program, and I am proud to say I ran 3 miles non-stop on the tread mill the other day. I never thought I would be able to accomplish something like this. With all my body has been through the past four years, I didn’t even think I could walk two miles, never mind run three. Training has left me feeling physically strong and powerful. The running seems like a literal, as well as a symbolic, “moving forward.” It is refreshing to have a big goal that I can accomplish through hard work. I feel in control again.

When we struggle through the tough roads of our journey, there is always a time of healing that must follow. I am hoping that crossing the finish line, hand and hand with my husband, who is also running the 10k, will help us move past the challenges and the losses we have faced these past four years. I am hoping to feel like I can “kick butt” again, for who knows what challenges may come next!

Go Team Annie Grace!

For more information on how to support March Of Dimes, visit their website,

Monday, March 14, 2011

You Are Not Fat, You Are Pregnant...

Dear Pregnant Women,

Lately I have been hearing some of you outright trash your bodies during this miraculous state of being and it has infuriated me on many different levels. At five, four or even as soon as three months pregnant, some of you describe yourselves as large, fat, obese or humongous, and one of you even referred to yourself as the size of a “Mac truck.” I am begging you to stop this trash talk, if not for your own sake, for the sake of your infertile friends.

Having had the blessing of being pregnant with my daughter, I have lived through the extraordinary changes a woman’s body goes through during this incredible time. I know and can appreciate how hard pregnancy is. I clearly remember the nausea, the aches and pains, the stretch marks and the multitude of other bizarre and seemingly unreasonable conditions a woman will experience throughout her pregnancy. But having struggled to get pregnant with my daughter, and then not being able to carry my subsequent pregnancies past 8 weeks, I also know what it is like to want to be pregnant more than anything else in the world. I see pregnancy as a miracle, a gift and something to be cherished.

When some of you trash your bodies, it saddens me to the core. I realize these comments come out of great insecurity as you struggle to come to terms with your new body. But when I hear a four-month pregnant woman who is starting to show, say, “I am humongous and gross,” it makes me so angry. I feel she is not appreciating this incredible gift of having a baby growing inside of her. When I look at the same four month pregnant woman, I have feelings of wonder and amazement. Truth be told, there might also be some feelings of envy and sadness as I start to think about my own unfulfilled desire to be pregnant. So when I ask you, “How are you feeling?” and you say, “Disgusted. I am huge already,” I must admit that I am disgusted too, but not by your size but by your negative attitude.

When I was pregnant with my daughter, I was grateful for every pound I gained and every pant size that I had to retire. To me that meant my baby was thriving and getting bigger. Everything on my body got bigger, my butt, my legs, my arms. I don’t even want to talk about my bra size. Let’s just say that I didn’t know until I was pregnant that cup sizes reached well above the DD’s into the middle of the alphabet. I was just grateful my baby was healthy and I was able to be a part of this incredible phenomenon that I had hoped and prayed for, for many years.

I have to be honest, I did not carry my baby to full term. I can only imagine how “large” and “humongous” women feel towards the end of the last trimester, and God help those women who carry well past their due date! I have friends who have carried and naturally delivered 9 and 10 pound babies, and I am inspired by them. I also can’t imagine carrying multiples. But those feelings of being “large” should come out of understandable discomfort and a desire to not walk around feeling like you have 20 pound weights attached to each ankle, not out of a desire to want to look like a super model.

I guess what I am saying is this-- Pregnant ladies, be gentle with yourself and love your pregnant body. Please appreciate and cherish this gift, especially out of sensitivity to all of us ladies dealing with infertility or those women who may never have the opportunity to be pregnant. We as women, pregnant or not, beat ourselves up and often compare ourselves to Hollywood standards. Looking like a glowing and pregnant Natalie Portman did on Oscar night is not reality unless you have a team of people getting you ready each morning. And yes some starlet pregnancies may come and go and their weight may not reach the non pregnancy weight of us real women. But that is not reality either.

So please, cherish and love your body! Enjoy your curves for at least this short period of time! And for goodness sake, remember that the changes your body is going through are on account of a beautiful baby growing inside of you, and there are many women struggling with infertility who would give anything to have your growing belly!


Tuesday, March 8, 2011

What me, Jillian Michaels, Padma Lakshmi, Tia Mowry have incommon!

Lately we have been hearing more and more celebrities speaking about endometriosis-related infertility. Jillian Michaels from the NBC hit television show, The Biggest Loser, recently talked about her struggle with endometriosis and how her journey with infertility has led her to the adoption process. Tia Mowry, an actress known best for her role on Sister Sister, talked about her struggle with endometriosis and her miracle pregnancy. Padma Lakshmi, host of Bravo’s Top Chef and an endometriosis sufferer, also calls her pregnancy a miracle and started the Endometriosis Foundation of America to help other women who suffer from this disease. So what is endometriosis?

Endometriosis is a disease where the tissue that lines and then sheds from the uterus during a normal menstrual cycle, escapes the uterus and then grows on the outside portion of the uterus, the ovaries, the intestines or other parts of the body. During ones period, this rogue tissue also sheds and can cause severe pain and bleeding. Because the blood had nowhere to go, the tissue can exhibit itself as scarring and nodules. Endometriosis causes infertility. Sometimes the scarring from the endometriosis can damage the fallopian tubes. In other cases, the endometriosis can become so progressed that a woman’s entire reproductive system can be fused together. Some doctors believe that endometriosis can inhibit the fertilization of the egg or implantation of a fertilized egg. Although endometriosis affects millions of women, there is so much about the disease that is unknown.

I was diagnosed with endometriosis by my reproductive endocrinologist at the start of my infertility journey. After ruling out many other major infertility issues though tests and procedures, we were left with the possibility of endometriosis, due to my symptoms of painful periods. The only way to confirm this diagnosis was through a laparoscopy. A laparoscopy did show that I had uterine tissue growing on my ovary, my uterus and parts of my intestines. My doctor was able to use a laser to remove the tissue.

This diagnosis gave me a new understanding of my body. I always had severe stomach issues, especially around my period. After many tests and procedures which showed nothing, my gastroenterologist could only figure that Irritable Bowel Syndrome was causing my stomach irritations. I had been complaining of debilitating pain with my period for years. My gynecologist always told me that was normal! My period would also leave me exhausted and drained. I actually have to plan social events and functions around my period. When I was working I sometimes would have to sometimes leave early or call in sick. All of the stomach issues, the pain and the fatigue could now be explained by endometriosis.

There was a feeling of relief that came with my diagnosis. All those years, I had been basically told by medical professionals to “suck it up” . I had been made to feel like a wimp, like this excruciating pain I was in was “normal.” Then my initial relief turned to anxiety. After researching endometriosis, I learned that there is no cure for the disease and no one is sure how one gets the disease. Even though I had my laparoscopy, that was only a temporary fix. The tissue will grow back and can be dangerous. It seems like the best treatment is laparoscopic surgery, which is really disheartening because it is not an easy fix. There are other hormonal treatments, but there are side effects to these medications. I am currently trying to alleviate my symptoms through exercise and diet.

I am grateful to celebrities who come out and talk about endometriosis. I can only hope that making the public aware of this sometimes debilitating disease will help educate women who may be suffering in silence. I am also grateful for organizations like the Endometriosis Foundation of America. This organization is dedicated to learning more about the disease to help alleviate the pain that millions of women are experiencing on a daily basis. Some people in the medical field believe that endometriosis is genetic. If it is, I can only hope that when my daughter’s generation is of age, there will be a cure.

Infertility and Cancer

There is a lot of communication that happens between couples dealing with infertility. It is inevitable. There are lots of decisions to be made regarding treatment options, hopes, dreams and fears that are expressed. Even if you are not a talker (which my husband is not) you cannot escape certain discussions. Yet, I have found that there is always one thing never talked about at length, if at all, one giant, pink elephant in the room. The long term effects on all of these infertility treatments on the woman, and the fear of developing cancer.

I will never forget when my mom first realized how many drugs I actually took for an IVF cycle. As life has a crazy way of working out sometimes, we were in the middle of moving when I was going through my second IVF cycle. I had tried to pack as much as I could before I started my ovary stimulation drugs because once I was stimulated, I couldn’t do much of anything. My mom came in and saw this extra large box in my foyer and asked if it was all of my kitchen items. I informed her that it wasn’t, that was just one of my boxes of medications for this round of IVF and the smaller box next to it was also filled with medications and needles. My mom looked like she was about to vomit and just muttered worriedly, “Oh, Casey.”

I told her the same things my doctor told me to try and put her mind at ease. Because I was on birth control for many years in my early twenties, giving me a break from the constant ovulation and high estrogen , I was at lesser risk of developing ovarian or uterine cancer. I also told her because I was pregnant with my daughter and breast fed I was also at a lesser risk. My doctor also said that he usually stops people at stimulated cycle #10 to prevent long term risks. I participated in 6 cycles. These facts did not seem to put my mom at ease. She had reminded quietly throughout my infertility journey that these drugs cannot be good for me. Honestly, her fears have been my fears and my husbands fears as well. But the feelings of self sacrifice and doing anything for your children exhibits itself with just the mere longing for children.

The statistics are more harrowing for women who never give birth. They are at a greater risk for ovarian and uterine cancer. My aunt, who never had children of her own, was recently diagnosed with an aggressive type of uterine cancer. Within two weeks of her diagnosis she had a hysterectomy and is now discussing further treatments with her doctor. Luckily, she had been to her gynecologist regularly and caught it fairly early. She had been spotting post menopause which is a major warning sign for cancer. A huge problem is that for cancers like ovarian or uterine, often when the symptons of pain and spotting occur the cancer has progressed.

I am terrified for my aunt. The particular type of cancer she has can show up anywhere in her body later on. I hate that this is a part of her journey. I wish I could take away all of her pain and suffering. I feel for all women who carry the burden of cancer. Some of these women have struggled for years trying to get pregnant, only to find their little ones through adoption later on in their journey. Some women have chosen to use their nurture and motherly instinct to help others in their community, either their family and friends or on a larger scale. Others find their calling through creating loving homes for pets. My aunt has spent her life volunteering, being there for family and friends, providing a loving home for rescue animals and spoiling her nieces and nephew!

I also can’t help but think about myself and my risk for developing cancer. Before I got pregnant with my daughter, I had a whatever it takes attitude with regard to fertility treatments and scoffed at worrying about my health. When going through all of my fertility treatments after my daughter was born, I started worrying about my health more. Despite assurances from my doctor that it shouldn’t affect my long term health, I am was nervous. How could the boxes upon boxes of drugs have no effect? At the beginning of trying to conceive again, I kept worrying about my daughter having a sibling. After my third IVF coupled with my third IUI, I started worrying my daughter having a mother. Because of this worry, and my chronic pain from my endometriosis, I have even recently started thinking about a hysterectomy which is a blog for another time!

My heart goes out to those struggling with cancer and to the families who have lost incredible women to cancer. I also pray for those young women who are now cancer free, but now may have limited options when starting a family due to their battle. None of it is easy. In the meantime, I am trying to help carry my aunt through this part of her journey, as she helped carry me throughout mine.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Preemie Story Part 2: Guinness, the NICU and my Sleeping Beauty

So, last we let off, I was waiting for an operating room so I could give birth to my baby girl at only 34 weeks (6 weeks early). I had spent a long night on various medications to try to get me out of labor, only then to have many other medications pumped into my body to prep for my c-section.

My memories from this time are like snapshots,and only when I piece them together can I attempt to recreate the entire story. I remember being wheeled into the operating room by the doctor, who kept slamming me into walls by accident. He kept joking that he was a better doctor than bed-wheeler. I remember all of the staff in the operating room joking and talking about their daily lives. I noted how this was an average day at work for them, yet it was the most important day of my life. I remember my husband telling the anesthesiologist how sensitive I am to anesthesia. After I started dry-heaving during the surgery, the doctor remarked that my husband wasn’t kidding, and then adjusted my meds. I remember telling my husband to take his glasses off, because to my horror, I could see the reflection of my open abdomen.

I remember the NICU staff walking into the room right before my little girl was ready to be taken out of me, assuring me they were going to give the best of care to my little girl. After they pulled her out, I remember waiting to hear her cry for the first time. It felt like an eternity. It probably was anywhere from 30 seconds to a minute. Our daughter's amazing doctor, who happened to be in charge of the entire NICU kept saying, “Come on Princess. Come on Princess. It’s okay, she is just a little stunned. Come on Princess.” Finally she cried and it was the most beautiful sound. Then I cried out of joy and relief. Before the NICU staff whisked my little girl away to work on her and make sure she was stable, I was able to give her a brief kiss on the head.

The doctor then sewed me up and brought me to the recovery room. Unlike after my previous surgeries, I was alert. I needed to see how my baby was. The NICU doctor came in and told us our baby was stable, but there was a long road ahead. My daughter was currently on CPAP which was helping her breathe. Also, because she was born so early, she was at risk for a collapsed lung and for bowel obstructions, among other problems. The doctor said that for now, she was stable and doing okay, but that the next 48 hours were crucial. They wheeled me into the NICU to see her, and as I went to sit up to get a closer look, I am told that I turned a shade of green, then white, and then I collapsed.

I was in and out of consciousness for the next 24 hours; the drugs and the operation definitely took their toll on my body . I would wake up periodically and ask my husband how my little one was. He was running back and forth between me and our baby and kept assuring me she was doing great. The next morning I finally got up, showered as quickly as I could, and got in a wheel chair to go see my baby. Seeing my baby in the NICU, in an incubator, hooked up to monitors, on a breathing tube, was extremely overwhelming. She was 4 pounds 8 ounces and actually dropped down to three and change as all babies lose weight in their first week. The nurses called my daughter Sleeping Beauty and Pocket Princess. They said she was perfectly formed, yet she was tiny. The nurses told me that she probably wouldn’t come home much before her due date.

There were many painful things that we endured during that time. I don’t like to dwell upon these things, because when all is told, we came out of this very lucky. I remember how hard it was not being able to hold my baby for the first 48 hours, until she was stable. I remember how weird it was seeing other people take care of her feedings, change her diaper and look after her general well being. After four days, my husband and I had to leave the hospital, but my little one had to stay. That was the worst day of my life, leaving her there in the NICU. My only comfort was that the nurses and doctors there were angels on earth. I had been watching them for the last few days taking care of my daughter as their own. I knew she was in good hands.

The doctors there had told me that Guinness Beer was good for breast milk. It goes without saying that my husband and I stopped at a local supermarket to pick up a 6-pack before we went home that night, after leaving our little baby at the hospital, although I was too exhausted and worried to take more than a sip

My little one beat all of the odds. Like most babies in the NICU, there are things she had to do on her own before she could come home. She first had to breathe on her own, which thankfully she did after a few days. She then had to be able to bottle feed, as opposed to receiving food through a feeding tube. That was a little trickier. When I was discharged, I tried to make it to the hospital to see every feeding that I could. The feedings I missed, I would frantically call the NICU nurse assigned to my daughter to see if she was able to bottle feed or if it was a tube feeding. My daughter was so little, that drinking from a bottle was exhausting for her, and sometimes she just couldn’t do it. I knew that when the nurse told me that it was a tube feeding, it would immediately add at least a couple of days to my baby's stay in the NICU. I was getting a lot of use out of the breast pump I had bought on a hunch the week before I went into labor. It would be months before my little one would be strong enough to nurse.

The last test before my daughter could come home was the car seat test. My husband and I had to bring her car seat into the NICU so that the doctors could monitor her while she sat in it. If she didn’t go into distress, and her vitals remained stable, she could go home! I remember getting that joyous call that she was finally ready to come home. We rushed to the hospital and watched as they unhooked all of her monitors, which had been on her since moments after her birth. I was so very excited and overjoyed, but I was also terrified. I was pretty sure there was a good possibility that I could break her.

My incredible mother single handedly redesigned my kitchen while I was in the hospital and while I was going back and forth to the NICU. The morning we went to go pick up our baby, my parents, whom I am forever indebted to, were at our apartment scrubbing it from floor to ceiling, removing all the dust and making it safe for our little one. We had a new granite counter top and a new dishwasher that I had ordered the afternoon I went into labor eleven days before. We had our kitchen redone. My brother and father were able to pick up the crib that my grandmother ordered early to complete my daughter's nursery. We finally had a baby in our home, a dream of ours for many years. We were traumatized by all we had just gone through, but so very grateful. Now the new journey of parenthood was upon us.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

A Preemie Story: Part 1- Baptism by Fire

As I left abruptly for the hospital that afternoon, I couldn’t explain how I knew, but I was certain that the next time I would be returning to my apartment I would no longer be pregnant. In fact as I locked the door, I said to my mom, “I guess we won’t be able to get the kitchen redone before our little one is born.” She thought I was crazy and assured me we were just going to the hospital as a precaution, all was well and it will get done. Technically, we were both right. I wasn't able to get my kitchen redone before my baby was born, but I was able to do it before she came home from the NICU!

I wasn’t prepared to have my baby 6 weeks early, at least on a conscious level. Many couples who struggle with infertility have preemies. Some of these couples have preemies because they are having multiples, which puts them in a higher risk category for pre-term labor. Some babies are born prematurely because of medical conditions of the baby's mother. For example, my husband was born 12 weeks early because my mother in law suffered from placenta previa. Seeing as his birth was 30 years ago, it is pretty incredible they both survived. Sometimes, there is no explanation for a woman to go into pre-term labor. I was born 6 weeks early like my daughter, but there was no genetic or medical reason why my mom went into pre-term labor. Even though we struggled to get pregnant, there had been no concerns during my pregnancy. As a matter of fact, the morning of the day I went into labor, I saw my doctor. He did an ultrasound, and besides my daughter being breech, all was well. He assured me there was time for her to turn around and have a normal delivery.

My due date was February 12th. My baby shower was scheduled for the second weekend in January and our hospital tour and birthing class was scheduled for the first weekend in January. As soon as the craziness of Christmas was over, I started panicking over everything I had to do to be ready for our baby, even though we had 7 weeks still to go. I think I knew on a subconscious level that she was coming. The week before my daughter’s unexpected arrival I started behaving feverishly. I just had to buy my nursing pajamas, bras and a robe for the hospital. I also bought a high grade breast pump, even though I hoped to nurse exclusively. My mom’s response to this was, “You don’t even know if you are going to use it!” Somehow I just felt I needed it. I also made my husband order my daughter’s dresser for her room and asked my grandma to immediately order the crib that she was so generously was going to buy for us for the shower.

After my doctor’s appointment on the day I went into labor, I went to Sears and ordered a dishwasher for our kitchen which was to be delivered the following Monday. I also picked out a paint color for our kitchen and the granite for our new counter top. A few days later we were telling our story the head doctor in the NICU while visiting our little girl. The doctor looked at my husband and said, “Your wife just HAD to have and do all of these things so early? Your wife knew this baby was coming! Next time she starts demanding you paint the kitchen to get ready for the baby, you bring her to the hospital right away!” When I first started feeling “cramps” which I would later know to be contractions, my super was in our bathroom fixing our broken toilet. Having a fixed toilet was another one of the many things I was able to cross off my list before bringing home our baby!

My “cramps” felt like they were coming a couple of times an hour. I felt compelled to call my doctor, who to my surprise told me to go straight to the hospital. I immediately called my husband at work, hysterical. He on the other hand was really calm, not realizing what I knew in my heart- this baby was coming! My mom came over and I packed my bag with all of the hospital essentials I just bought and she drove me to the hospital and stayed with me until my husband got there.

Sure enough, once I arrived at the hospital I was having regular contractions only minutes apart. The doctor thought I was dehydrated, and two bags of fluids later, the contractions were still going. And even after two shots of terbutaline, my contractions still wouldn‘t stop for long. On top of it all, my baby was kicking like crazy -- apparently she found it amusing to hear her kicks echo on the fetal monitor. This actually gave me much needed comfort because I was worried about her health and safety. An ultrasound showed my baby wasn’t in distress, but it would be better if she were not born so early. The doctor said that I needed to be admitted to the hospital to try to stop the labor, and I had a night of “magnesium sulfate” ahead of me, which I will always think fondly of as “the fire meds.” They also gave me a steroid shot to help develop my baby’s lungs.

Because I was in a shared room, my husband couldn’t stay with me that night. It was a long, long night. The magnesium sulfate made the hot flashes I got from my fertility meds seem like a breeze! It felt like my body was on fire. I would look over at the monitor every once in a while and see my contractions going strong. I mentally prepared myself as best I could that this baby was coming. I decided then her middle name would be Grace, because she would need all of the grace she could get to flourish despite her premature birth. At 5:00 am, after being at the hospital for 12 hours, the nurse came in held and my hand and said, “Honey, I’m not a doctor, but I feel in my heart that this baby has a purpose, and for whatever reason, needs to come out now.” I definitely agreed, and called my husband and told him to come back to the hospital. It turned out that the nurse was right, because an hour later the doctor checked me and I was 3 cm dilated. Because my baby was still breech, I would have to have a c-section. This baby was going to be delivered as soon as an operating room was available!

Stay tuned for a Preemie Story Part 2: Guinness, the NICU and my Sleeping Beauty