The Beginning of the End…

It’s been a little less than one month since I had my hysterectomy where the surgeon intended to take only my uterus. Instead, he was forced to take my uterus, cervix, right ovary and Fallopian tube. Needless to say when I woke up and gained consciousness, I was a little taken aback by all that needed to be removed due to my endometriosis. According to my surgeon (no one else saw it), my right ovary was “indiscernible”; no one understood my pain or took the time to understand it. No one except this man. This wonderful man whose bedside manner is something to be commended. He reassured me and hugged me more times than I could have ever imagined. His staff was caring and compassionate and to put the cherry on the sundae that was this experience, he sent me roses during my recovery.

I’m blessed to have had such a great support team, from the doctors and nurses at Mercy Medical Center who took such good care of me and tended to me overnight, to my husband and my mom who never left my side for three weeks during and after surgery. My husband even slept on those awful hospital couches just to be with me. I’m one lucky lady. My mom, who I can’t thank enough for taking three weeks off from her own job to be with me and take care of me, Steffan and our furry family. My school family who called, texted, sent flowers, cards, Meal Train dinners to help lighten our load and focus on healing and taking over my classes; you are all wonderful and I’m proud to call myself a Clipper. My in-laws who came to visit and bring dinner to cheer me up and visit. There are too many friends to list, but your gifts and time meant the world. Lastly to a woman who, despite her own medical issues, took time to think of me and my classes and won a contest and gave my kids the money. Twenty years of knowing this wonderful lady and not seeing her in almost ten, and she still thinks of me. I am lucky.

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There is always a flip-side to the positives. This has not been an easy journey. Surgical pain sucks. Knowing my childbearing years are officially over sucks when all I see are baby announcements. I try to be happy, but it’s a challenge sometimes. I am truly grateful for the people who show empathy for what Steffan and I have dealt with in regards to our infertility; you are our family. Therapy is helping. I’m learning techniques to keep from crying when it gets overwhelming; to put it into the words of Carrie Underwood, “This mountain is just a grain of sand.” Maybe mine isn’t that small, but I know this “mountain” is something I can climb over with time and support.

I’m learning to be kind to myself, which is incredibly difficult because I hold myself to such a high standard that when I am not perfect, I feel like I have failed. Kindness takes a LOT of breathing and patience, but I will get better at it.

Honestly, the hard part comes now. Surgery is over. Healing is underway. It’s time to take on the biggest journey of our lives and we’re ready. We’ve been ready. I know, because I’m nesting the heck out of my home, despite the chagrin of my hubs. Let the adoption process begin! We’re giving ourselves until June to reunite as husband and wife and grow in our love again and heal from this monstrous minefield.( “Dancing in the Minefields”by Andrew Peterson)

We can’t wait to have a child of our own; someone to dress and play with and spoil with love. Our turn is here. Our wedding song talked about “the beginning of the end starts with the words ‘I do'”. Well here is another beginning of the end, and this one is just as wonderful as our first one nearly four years ago. So here we go, time to get ready for another glorious minefield!

If anyone has suggestions for agencies or adoption lawyers, please leave your comments below! Thanks!

~Trenae

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When the Train Changes Tracks Again…

Today was one of those days where I know I need to write a post but I’m overwhelmed to the point I am worried my fingers won’t represent the sheer emotions that we are experiencing at this moment. Here goes nothing…..

Today Trenae and I both took off from work to have a “day off” for doctors appointments. I put it in quotes because it felt more stressful and strenuous then any day of work I have experienced to date. We have been really looking forward to our first appointment with our fertility doctor. After all we thought we stepped foot off this ride a long time ago until we recently received the very generous gift of an embryo from a loving couple that shall remain anonymous. But back we went with the hope and joy that this is the one thing we had been waiting on for what feels likes an eternity.

The appointment went really well…… or so we thought. Our doctor went over our charts and said everything looks great, this would be a great option for us and the probability is about 50% (doesn’t sound high I know but when your probability is zero for so long 50 is huge). Trenae went on to explaining to our doctor that she had a surgery in August and thought it was just like the ones she had before to minimize the pain from her endometriosis. She said the word “ablation” and suddenly the conversation tone changed like when a bad thunderstorm is coming in and you feel the winds shift. Our doctor said he needed to know more about the surgery and if it were the kind he was thinking that we wouldn’t be candidates for a donor embryo because it would have taken away Trenae’s ability to carry a baby at all. We continued on the conversation saying it wasn’t that kind of surgery because we had communicated to her OBGYN our strong desire to be parents if by the stroke of luck a miracle happened. Our doctor felt confident in what we were saying because we were confident it wasn’t that kind of surgery. We left there elated thinking this might be it for us that our ride is finally coming to a stop and we are walking off it rather than falling like its felt for the last two years now. Until our next appointment….

We went to our next appointment with a pelvic pain specialist because since the surgery in August Trenae has had unbearable pain, and I mean what I say there. I have watched my wife cry as she goes to the bathroom, sneezes, and even just stands for a period of time. We went back to her OBGYN after post op and told her all these things and she said I just don’t know, maybe take some Tylenol and use a heating pad. We were in her office for all of two minutes until she dismissed us doing nothing. That’s when it hit me in the parking lot I wasn’t going to stand for this and that something needed to be done. I walked back in with my wife and told the receptionist they weren’t billing our insurance until we had answers and my wife felt relief. Finally she sent us to the amazing doctor we saw today and said we just need to get you pregnant (you’ll see the irony in this statement later). We meet with Dr. M and he reviews Trenae’s file and goes over everything with her to make sure he has the full story. He says to us I see here that you had an “endometrial ablation.” I think there’s that word again, you know the one that if you had this surgery you can’t carry a baby. Trenae looks at me in sheer panic and says to the doctor I thought I had the same surgery I did before just to remove the endometriosis because I told my OBGYN that I wanted to get pregnant. He says no I hate to be the bearer of bad news and it pains me to tell you this but yes you had an ablation and no you can’t carry a baby… see the irony in her statement? I see the sadness engulf my wife like a dark dense cloud. She says I wouldn’t have done the surgery if I had known that, how could this be, I told her over and over we wanted to get pregnant. I sat there holding my wife’s hand feeling the grip get tighter and tighter. Dr. M kept apologizing and said lets see if I can help with the pain at least and you can speak to the fertility doc about the other issue. He exams her and does a couple different test to see what her pain triggers are and tells her to get dressed and for us to meet him back in his office. Now before the exam he told us he thinks it might be nerve damage but won’t know until the exam and when we go back to his office he says I think it may be what is called Adenomyosis. For those of you that don’t know what that is its basically when the endometriosis goes into the uterine wall and into the muscle tissue causing pain and lots of other issues. The crazy thing is before he said that I told Trenae on the way up that that’s what I believe she has through the research I had done. He immediately sent her to the building next door to have an MRI so we can figure out what next steps are. He says if it is in fact Adenomyosis the only option is a hysterectomy. At this point we are both feeling like we’ve been trampled to death. We started out our morning thinking our prayers have been answered and we will be able to have the baby we have yearned for to find out that her OBGYN took that from us and now she has to have a possible hysterectomy.

It is very hard to not feel like you are drowning in this situation. I tried so desperately to stay positive and think that some higher power whoever that may be is telling us we are supposed to adopt and even though we try and derail the path of the train we are being taken back to the original path, but lets be honest it doesn’t make it hurt any less. This news has wrecked both of our worlds, and there’s nothing we can do about it. So now what? we wait for the results of the MRI and go back to saving the crazy amount of money it will take us to adopt. We will have our baby eventually its just painful to feel like the medical system has now failed us. I was okay when it was me it had failed and my doctor ruined my chance of being able to conceive but now another doctor has ruined my wife’s ability to carry because she didn’t take the time to listen to us over and over again saying we want to be parents. It saddens me deeply that this ride has changed tracks yet again but the silver lining in all of this is we may finally have answers for my wife and she can be restored to normal health again. I’m sorry if my post seems to jump around and not make a whole lot of sense. I am finding it very hard to put this all into words but this is my best attempt. Until next time

 

Steffan

A Tale of Two Fears…Well Maybe a Few More…

It’s 12:30 AM and I’ve been up for about an hour now, tossing and turning. You see, officially today, since the clock has passed midnight, Steffan and I have our multitude of doctors appointments to figure out 1. my medical conditions as my pain has only gotten worse since an oblation surgery I had in August to which my surgeon has no reasoning for, and 2. our plan with possibly moving forward with the implantation of a gifted embryo if I’m healthy enough to carry it.

Since school started this year, I’ve been dealing with pain every day. I’m doing my best to manage it, but even two “post-op” surgical appointments and a trip to the ER haven’t given me any relief. I’ve stopped eating dinner, because I can’t keep it down, and I got to the point yesterday where I text my husband in the middle of the day (10:30 AM) because I didn’t even go to lunch because I sat down from the pain and couldn’t get up again; I was afraid I was going to have to leave school. At 11, I put my happy face back on for my kids, but inside, I was dying.

Currently I’m sitting in my living room, heating pad on, surrounded by my two “large and in charge” furry protectors…both of whom are sound asleep and snoring. Jerks. The mini-furry protector is sound asleep upstairs…probably asleep on my side of the bed…again, jerk.

All I can say is, God love my husband. While I was at school yesterday, about to fall down, he was feverishly doing research on the specialist I am to see tomorrow, the possibilities of my disease and what it may actually be instead. For years, I’ve been treated for endometriosis, a disease that typically affects the ovaries, causes pain and often infertility…all things I’ve gone through since before college (call my mom, she can tell you). I’ve had surgery for this three times since college and yet, no relief. I go through stages where I’m ready to just throw in the towel and give up. After my first surgery (right after college), I was engaged to a very different man, who told me “I just wasn’t a good breeder”. Needless to say that didn’t work out. And thank God, otherwise I would have never met the man who continuously fights for me day in and day out. Steffan is the one who has done the research on not endometriosis, but something called adenomyosis. It’s similar to endo, but much more difficult to find unless you are specialized in looking for it; it isn’t even listed on Women’sHealth.gov — go figure. But don’t worry, anorexia and acne are…because that’s what we suffer from. Right ladies? He looked at the symptoms and he looked at me and the two matched more fittingly.

I guess what I’m trying to say in my tired, yet insomniatic state, is that I’m so happy to have someone in my corner who will fight for me when I’m afraid and ready to give up. It’s hard to fight when your tired and in pain. It’s also hard to fight when everyone you’ve asked for help, can’t give you any answers. On one hand, I’m hoping tomorrow I get an answer because then I’ll finally be able to get the right treatment. On the other hand, I’m scared I’ll be let down again by yet another doctor who still doesn’t know what’s wrong or where this pain is coming from. I know they call it “practicing” medicine, but could I stop being the pin cushion for a little while? It’s sucks when you can’t sneeze, cough, twist, or do other daily activities, like, I don’t know, teach your students, without wanting to double over in pain. I’m 32 and I just want to be healthy.

And to put this blog to bed…hopefully metaphorically and literally, there’s the embryo in the mix. That appointment is tomorrow too, as if one doctor a day isn’t enough…the what if game is spinning through my head at a whirlwind pace. What if he says I can’t carry because of these conditions? What if I’ve missed my window to carry a child? I go back and forth with these questions; tell myself I’m okay if that’s the case, then fall apart because I can’t do what comes so easily to others.

Forgive me if this is a sappy post. I’m really nervous. We have to be in Annapolis in seven hours and I don’t know if I’ll be able to sleep a wink tonight. Guess it’s Netflix for me tonight…and time to turn the heating pad up to full blast. G’night y’all. Wish us luck.

~Trenae

 

When God Closes a Door…

It’s been a little while since our last post…probably because the shock of some news that came to us around the middle of September.

Where to begin? College might be a good place to start. Brief, yet important. I went to college at a small university and have kept in touch with very few people from those days. Skip to this month and my husband and I get a Facebook email from an old college acquaintance and his wife that just about knocked the wind out of both of us (in a good way).

You see, on a Monday, I had a second post-surgical  appointment with my GYN about the pain I am still feeling over a month later. She barely touched the area where she operated; she basically looked at my belly button, the area of my main incision, and said she had no clear-cut reasons why “I’m still feeling this way” and said, “If only we could get you pregnant, a lot of this would go away.” She sent my husband away and told me to use a heating pad and OTC pain meds like Advil. I walked out of the office with Steffan in a state of shock and in tears. My bulldog of a husband does not take kindly when his wife is in tears and since he already works in the medical field he marched back in and said he wanted to talk with the doctor again, because he was confused about how she was getting our copay and insurance pay when she spent less than five minutes with us, didn’t touch me, and changed the plan from a CT scan, meds and a trip to a specialist to a heating pad and Advil…needless to say, by our second time out of the office, the original plan was in place albeit I was still so frustrated I told my husband I just about done. I couldn’t take much more.

On Tuesday morning I woke up to the email of all emails from “the angels” . In it, the wife told the story of how they had been through similar situations to ours, and how they have been reading our blog and basically re-living their own roller coaster ride through our stories. At the end of her story, she told us that after their own long journey, they came away with two children of their own who have made their lives full of joy and happiness as a family. To end the email, she and her husband informed us that after their rounds of IVF, they have one frozen embryo left. One. And after an honest, heartfelt conversation between them as husband and wife, and reading this blog, they have offered donate their last embryo to us.

Needless to say, until now, Steffan and I have been left utterly speechless. What a generous gift. What a generous couple. When we asked ‘why’, they simply said, they are better parents because of their deep desire for children, just like ours, and they wanted to pay it forward to us because they have been so blessed.

For days we were stunned. We didn’t know what to say, even to each other. Steff and I had resigned ourselves to the adoption path and we were okay with that, but the timing of the doctor’s appointment and their email seemed all too coincidental. My husband and I aren’t the most actively religious people, but there was just something too undeniable there to ignore.

We talked on on the phone with our generous couple and we explained our medical situation in detail, including our excitement and nerves. They were given until just about the end of October to make a decision about what to do with their embryo; they could pay for another year of storage, donate it to a couple or science, or “trash” it. They chose to donate it to us. This option wasn’t even on my radar, nor my husbands, but how do you ignore such a thing. In my mind, all I could think was: there’s only one embryo (maybe it’s meant for us)…they do kind of resemble us…and we would finally have the family we’ve been yearning for since the week after we got married.

Of course, for every positive, there is an area of hesitation. Would I even be able to carry this beautiful gift? What happens if I lost it? How would we feel psychologically? Would they feel like they wasted this gift on us if I miscarried? Is my job too stressful for me to go through this?

I remember bringing some of these things up to them on the phone and C said, “Trenae, this is our gift to you. If you lose the baby, you tried…we tried. We’re giving this to you. We are better for having kids and we feel you and Steffan would feel just as blessed. Whatever the outcome, we want you to have this opportunity.

We had only just removed ourselves from this fertility roller coaster about a year or so ago because of the uncertainty and ups and downs with every visit. It was like having your stomach in your throat one minute and then in your butt the next! Now we’re getting our next tickets and getting back in line.

At this point, we’re moving forward. We have an appointment with our fertility specialists next week to see if this is a viable option. I mean, we literally have one shot. Is it time? Are we ready to be Mommy and Daddy? I guess we’ll see…because remember, when God closes a door, sometimes He opens a window.

~Trenae

 

A Little Anxiety Goes A Long Way

Guilt and failure. These are both two emotions that I struggle with on a daily basis. They often lead to major cases of anxiety, which are often self-induced. If I were to tell you today, I currently take 10 pills to manage my anxiety from my fear of failure and sometimes my guilt of living. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not going to harm myself or anything (and some of them double as migraine medication), but I go through periods of time where my anxiety gets so high from just living my daily life; things like spending $5 on a coffee, planning a vacation, or buying a new home, that I can hardly breathe. That I get chest pains. That I get nauseated. It’s awful.

For a while, I tried to hide these emotions and it was amazing how quickly they boiled over into my work, my marriage and my family. I didn’t know how to be myself anymore, or even remember who she was. I tried talk therapy and got nowhere, so needless to say…and say without shame, I’m totally medicated and I’m okay with that.

Since the time Steffan and I told our family and close friends about our inability to have our own children, it’s been an emotional roller coaster. The support we get and the guilt we feel is never-ending. We struggle all of the time with this delicate balancing act of how to save the mega bucks it takes for adoption, and still trying to have the semblance of a life that is one that looks like we’re actually living.

If we spent anything extra we both felt guilty. We lived in a modest ranch house that we had been in for almost five years, and were busting out of the seams, and knew we needed more room. As we started to do our research into the plethora of adoption outlets, we learned a lot about the cost; one thing we learned was that any money invested into home studies, etc. is lost if you move at any point during the process. So hypothetically, if we invested $10,000 and then decided it would behoove us to live in a bigger, “family” home, we could stand to lose all of that money and have to start over from square one. That led to a major life call, one that I was excited and nervous about at the same time…buying a bigger house.

Despite the fact that we knew it was the smart decision in the long run: get the family house and then the family, we were nervous about how that order of events would go over with people. In all actuality, we were nervous about how it would go over with us, I mean, we REALLY wanted the family, so how could we justify spending the money on the house before the child? I guess it shouldn’t matter; it’s our money, but it all goes back to what I said at the beginning: guilt and failure.

For a while, we thought every spare dime we had, needed to go to an adoption fund. We are at the point in our lives (early 30s) where if we want something, we can go out and buy it. We don’t Christmas presents or birthday presents anymore. We asked our families to just donate money to an adoption fund that we set up separately from our regular checking or savings. It pained us to think that our family or friends, thought the money they gave us was spent on something else. It wasn’t. I feel like the world is silently judging my choices and it eats away at me. I know it’s all in my head. I know we have the support of our friends and family, but each day we get older, and the thing we want most gets a little further out of reach.

Support is key in this type of event. There have been situations where unknowingly, or not meaningfully, people have insinuated we’re selfish for taking a trip or buying something expensive. What people don’t realize is we work with a financial planner constantly to see what our best options are to make sure we save money and live life.

I guess what it all comes down to is this: please be understanding that every couple who wants to adopt, does so with the passion of a thousand burning suns in their hearts, but we all get to a point where, if that’s all we focused on, we would fall apart in the most gut-wrenching sense of the word. We do all we can to keep our sanity while we endure failed fertility treatments, pregnant friends and family, and the ungodly cost of saving.

And there is always something new around the corner to keep you on your toes. For Steffan and I, the house we bought came smack dab with a beautiful swing set, complete with two slides, a climbing wall, sand box, and two swings. It stares at me while I do the dishes or play with my dogs. We’ve talked about selling it and getting rid of the constant reminder that who knows how far out of reach this dream of ours is, but then again, maybe having it will be a motivating factor to work harder than ever to get what we want.

~Trenae

The Five Stages

After taking some time to think about the devastating news I received from the Urologist I felt like I went through the stages of grief. Denial hit me first and hit me hard. There was no way my doctor of all people got it wrong. Not after the countless times I showed him at my physicals the lumps during exams and he continued to tell me it was normal. Not after
I asked him if the pain would go away and he told me yes. It isn’t real I do not have, not one but two varicoceles. I don’t, I don’t, I cant be. I will father a child this will all go away and I’ll wake up from this horrid dream. Except I didn’t, this dream was my new reality. Then I get to Bargaining. What could I have done to prevent this?Should I at 17 have known to get a second opinion? Should I have been more persistent on telling him I wanted answers? What did I do to deserve this? Of course none of these would have changed anything but I just had to wonder. Maybe if I had pushed harder things would be different for me. Maybe I would be looking into eyes right now that looked like a mirror image of mine. Maybe I wouldn’t be going back to the Urologist to determine my options. I would be at my sons first pediatrician check up. I feel myself drowning in my own thoughts of what if and what could have been that I start to sink into that’s right folks the third stage of grief, the one you don’t wish on your enemy; Depression. At first I just thought this is okay I’m just sad it will go away I can handle this on my own. I didn’t even tell Trenae I was getting in my car each morning and crying to my first appointment of the day almost every day. Because “Guys” don’t do that. We are taught as young boys not to cry that it’s for sissys so I didn’t show anyone my true feelings. The complete desperation of wanting to be a father and realizing its not in the cards for me. I remember sitting at the dinner table with Trenae and her saying to me “what’s going on with you, you’re different, you have smiled in weeks.” It was at that moment I couldn’t hide my depression anymore I remember unraveling like a piece of tattered fabric in front of my wife. I remember crying to the point I felt like I couldn’t breath or get the words out to tell her my heart hurt. I couldn’t tell her that ever since I was a teenager the one thing I knew I would be good at was being a dad and now it’s gone. She just sat there holding me, asking me why I didn’t come to her and tell her I was struggling. I remember saying I thought I could handle this on my own and then she reminded me you don’t have to do that anymore we are married. We are partners through the good and the bad, and this is the bad right now. I felt like a weight had been lifted off of my shoulders because i now had permission that it was okay not to be the “strong one.” I stayed in this stage for about a month or two before I moved onto the next stage. The stage that makes you miserable to be around; Anger. Anger is where I remained the longest. In fact its been the last couple of months that  I would say I have moved out of anger. I was angry at my doctor, I was angry at anyone able to have a child, I was angry at myself, honestly I was angry at the world. Angry because I felt like I had been robbed from a dream I had for so long. My anger turned into rage when one of my fertility doctors looked at the sonogram of my testes when I was 17 and said it’s plain as day here that you had a varicocele ten years ago. My anger wanted justice. Let me preface this with I am not the type of person to sue just to sue, but I struggled with this because I felt like it was my only option. I didn’t want to sue for me other than to at least cover the cost of adoption because really who had $40,000 sitting around I wanted to sue to protect other patients from going down this path. Which crazy enough my little brother would be example one of the same doctor misdiagnosing.  I contacted multiple different lawyers to find out what my options were. Each one heard my case and told me there was nothing that could be done. The statute of limitations had expired because it was ten years ago, but I hadn’t found out I was misdiagnosed until 2013 how could this be?? Well that didn’t make anything better it just fueled my anger even more. What had I done in my life to deserve this? Why am I being punished like this? He took my right to have a child for crying out loud you mean to tell me there is nothing that can be done about it. This man shouldn’t be allowed to practice because now not one but two patients have had the same issue and their in the same family. So how many others are out there? UGGGHHHH See I am getting mad just reliving this. Shhhew deep breath…..The thing that I learned at about this point is that you don’t just go through each stage of grief one by one and once you completed one level you never take a step back. When grieving you feel all five steps multiple times and all together. After a long battle with anger fighting depression I stumble and when I say stumble I truly mean it. I’m talking trip and fall into mud and then fall into feathers stumble into Acceptance. Acceptance and I are still new acquaintances and yes acquaintances because there are still and probably always will be times where I take steps backward. Anyone with Infertility and grief in general will understand that.  Acceptance came from two solid years of counseling like heavy counseling. Not many men are willing to do that but when you are hit with life as hard as I was you have no choice. Counseling helped me realize that none of this was or is in my control. Which try telling that to a type a personality and that’s a LARGE A there folks is really difficult.It was after multiple books, multiple sessions and support from family and friends that I realized I am not supposed to have a biological child. I realize now that my child is out there somewhere who knows maybe they are even being born as I type this. I just have to hope that someday and hopefully someday soon we will meet…..