Sunday, August 21, 2016

3rd Times the Charm, Right?

Each year, our family takes a road trip through one state. This year, it was Wisconsin. So many things about this trip spoke to my heart but one family left an enormous impact. It was one of those nights that you just knew was a "God Moment".

The thing with our family trips each summer is that we don't plan out a single detail, we may create a "points of interest" list but we do not make any reservations at campsites or pre-determine what town we will camp out at each night.

Our final night was a rough one, it was Friday night and we were coming up empty-handed. The sun was starting to set and every campground was packed full. We pulled out our atlas and spotted a tiny town with a campground around a lake. It was about 20 minutes from our current location, with no guarantees and no cell-service to call. We bravely made the drive, hoping to find a spot and get set-up before dark. We were shocked to pull up to a campground in the middle of nowhere that was HUGE! It took us about 10 minutes to even drive through the campground to get to the office. I walked in, expecting to be told no tent sites were available but instead got a rather lengthy list of options. "This one might be too loud because we have a DJ until midnight tonight, this one is right by the bathrooms, ohhh, this one is my favorite spot on the edge, we are celebrating Christmas in July this weekend..." the office attendant kept going on and on, pointing to a massive map of possibilities. My indecisive mind just stared dumb-founded at her, "you are giving me too many options!". Two gentlemen with kids were standing behind me, one leaned forward and pointed to the map, "Choose this one, it is quiet, right by the bathrooms, we are camping beside it." So I picked that spot.

We drove away from the Christmas in July party and DJ to a secluded spot, setting our tent up right by the two families who picked out our spot. Immediately their kiddos came over to play and we soon found ourselves surrounded by a swarm of 15 kids, catching lightening bugs in empty PB jars. One of the moms came over to introduce herself asking how many children we had. She had 8, three of them being biological and five adopted. Her story touched my heart. After having 3 biological children of their own, her and her husband thought their family was complete and made a permanent decision to keep it that way. Only later did they realize that maybe they were intended to have more children. They adopted a little gal from Ethiopia. Through the foster care system they later adopted 2 boys, who happened to also have another brother they adopted. Then, by chance, a previous foster child's mother called saying that she was not in a good place and was wondering if she could turn over permanent guardianship to them. It was a series of events over 3ish years that turned their family of 5 into a family of 10. I shared my insecurities and hurt of losing our two babies and she prayed over me. I told her how God had been slowing opening up my heart to fostering and adoption. It was such a refreshing conversation and friendship, my heart ached when we packed up the next morning and said goodbye.

I think it was this ray of hope that I needed that even if our time was done having biological children, God may be opening other doors for us. I continued to pray about the possibility and God showing us when/if the timing would be right.

In the meantime, we switched doctors and called to set up a consultation before pregnancy occurred again. The thing with small towns is that doctors are busy, the first available appointment was a month away. I scheduled the appointment, being told that if a pregnancy test came back positive, to call right away. Sure enough, on July 29th, I found out I was pregnant again! Seriously, I thought, a miscarriage can't occur AGAIN! I notified my OB/GYN right away and went in for lab work (HcG and progesterone). Labs were within the normal range but I was told by my fertility specialist to request progesterone immediately, even if labs were "normal". The thing with progesterone is that it is cyclical and can change throughout the day and you can't "overdose" on it if your body doesn't need it. I was told to come in Monday for another set of labs to see if my levels were rising. I once again requested progesterone, this time saying it was vital I take it because I was still nursing Isaac 3-4 times per day. The reply I received was to discontinue breastfeeding. I am a social worker, one that teaches people to advocate for themselves, this was a moment I should have done that but failed to do so.

Monday, I went back in for my lab work and waited all day to get my results. I was finally able to have a telephone conversation with my new doctor on Tuesday morning. "Jamie, your lab results on Friday were great. Unfortunately, your lab results on Monday were about the same. They should have at least doubled in that time period. I expect you to miscarry within the next week. Your pregnancy will not last. I am so sorry this is happening to you." I took a couple deep breathes, shed some tears, and walked back into work, numb. What is going on with me? Why is this happening? I've had 3 perfectly healthy, normal pregnancies and now 3 losses?

I summoned my prayer team and immediately set to work hoping something was off with my lab work. Wednesday, I requested another set of labs. This time, my numbers were about half of what they were on Monday- meaning that not only was this pregnancy coming to an end, but quickly. By Saturday, the miscarriage had started.

I called my OB surgeon and requested to meet with him. I shared the whole story, explaining that it could have been a fluke miscarriage or actually caused by me not taking the progesterone like he requested. He cupped his head in his hands and murmured, "I bet you wanted to curse her for not giving you the progesterone." "Nope", I replied, "I have friends that curse for me." The appointment ended with me deciding not to undergo fertility testing at this time and getting a referral to a new OB/GYN with more specialized experience, one that guaranteed to give me progesterone right away. My prayer team was still working hard, the miscarriage seemed to be almost flawless and pain-free- my body did what it needed to do without intervention.

There are days that are good, days that I think maybe God has a bigger plan for me than I anticipated. Maybe he is putting people into my life to let me know that things will be okay. My friendships have definitely changed over the last year and different children have come into my life that have pulled at my heartstrings.

There are days that I try to be content with the three children I have, thinking this may be it and that is okay too.

Then there are days that just down-right suck, the ones where you want to be so happy when someone announces their pregnancy but you later cry it isn't you or the days a friend has their baby and you just stare at all the tiny newborn features and long for your own.

So here we are AGAIN...waiting. We wait to see if God will increase our family with biological children, allow us to bring in other children through foster care/adoption, or show me how to be content with our current family.

I am learning to accept the fact that one day I will look back and think my life is beautiful, wherever i it may have brought me.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Another One Bites the Dust...

I've got friends that pray and friends that curse, some do it simultaneously.

No one ever talks about pregnancy after miscarriage. About the raw emotions that coincide with it. The sheer excitement your heart feels about the news but the inability to open your mouth to tell others because of the doubt and anxiety that creep up telling you the pregnancy won't continue.

On Maundy Thursday, March 28th, I discovered I was pregnant, two cycles after our precious Gabriel entered and left this world. I was so excited but so anxious that I opted to keep the news to myself, texting only person (out of state). I couldn't even muster up the courage to tell Kyle. I wondered how long I could before it was necessary I had to share the news. On April 1st (ironic), I had the guts to tell Kyle I was pregnant. It had been over a week and I was still pregnant. His first reaction with it being April Fool's Day was that I was pulling a prank on him. I think the conversation went something like this:

Me: I'm Pregnant!!
Kyle: That is insensitive to say that on April Fool's Day (sarcasm).
Me: For real, Kyle.

I even took another pregnancy test, no luck convincing him. The next morning he asked, "So are you still pregnant?" Sure am...

Labs came back normal and at my first prenatal doctor's visit, everything seemed to be going smoothly. There was no evidence of clotting issues like before. I requested a dating ultrasound, more so to see my little cherub on the big screen, than to figure out a due date. The ultrasound tech measured multiple times and determined the baby was about 7 weeks, 1 day along. That seemed a bit off from my estimates but everyone reassured me that it was typical to see some variation in dates.

The pregnancy progressed as normal, no special treatment. On my 12 week prenatal appointment, I expressed some concerns I was having. My symptoms had completely diminished, my energy was back to normal, and my stomach wasn't growing as I thought (especially for someone who was just pregnant). My doctor tried to ease my anxiety, I was nearing the second trimester and could naturally just be feeling better and I stay active. He tried his hardest to locate a heartbeat but mine was beating so fast and loud things were getting jumbled up. I was adamant I wanted an ultrasound when a heartbeat couldn't be found. I was secretly walked over to radiology for an off-the-record ultrasound.

With Miles, the token middle child who can't leave my side, we waited for the ultrasound tech to reassure us things were just fine. Instead, the probe immediately went on my belly and couldn't find a baby. "Are you sure you are as far along as 12 weeks?" Yes, most definitely sure. "Bummer," is all I could muster. She had me empty my bladder to try a trans-vaginal ultrasound. Sure enough, little baby was there. 7 weeks, 2 days along (1 day of growth in 4 weeks) pressed, lifeless, against the sac. "Oh, crap!" and tears is all that came out this time. Little Miles, looking from the sidelines, "Mama, what is in your belly?" "Nothing buddy, nothing anymore." The nurse escorted us back to our exam room, only being able to say "I am so sorry!" over and over again. My options were, a D&C the next morning or medication to induce labor on it's own. I called Kyle to meet me at the hospital and get Miles so I could be alone.

I opted for a D&C, I wasn't going to wait around for a baby to come and have to re-live my labor and delivery with Gabriel that was still a bit too fresh. You know that feeling that you are so sad and so angry at the same time- it isn't a pretty one. I wanted the anger to go away- to just subside. The only way I knew how to do that (other than praying) was to text my friend to curse for me. She's a good one, a good friend and a good curser; she gladly accepted the challenge.

My mom drove up to watch the kids the next morning and we were off bright and early for surgery. While waiting, I had two songs stuck in my head on repeat, "I Need Thee Every Hour" and "Another Bites the Dust".

I recalled sitting at the funeral of my friend's stillborn baby, the first words that the pastor said during his message was something along the lines of, "After all that...". I felt it, I've been waiting, just waiting. Pregnant for 13 weeks, pregnancy ends; pregnant for "12 weeks", pregnancy ends. It's just waiting, praying, waiting, praying. I feel like I've had some good lessons from God on patience, I've got 3 kids of my own and care for countless other families everyday. But this, this waiting is really testing my patience.

We did what we did after our last loss, we drove to Illinois. I don't know what it is about that place that feels like home and I needed it, to be surrounded by friends.

One of my favorite verses that I often recite is Romans 12:12, "Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, and faithful in prayer." So here we are again, waiting, praying, and remaining hopeful.




Wednesday, July 27, 2016

The Story of Gabriel John

I didn't think I would have to write this story. Research shows that 1 in 4 pregnancies ends in miscarriage- I imagined my story to be much different; hoping if the statistic was true that the pregnancy would end before I even knew it had started.

It all started on October 17, 2015. I took a pregnancy test, hoping that it would come out positive. My period was several days late and I just "had that feeling". I watched the test and did not see a second line right away so I quickly discarded it in the trash. With it being the middle of harvest, I spent the day out on the farm- at one point getting to drive the combine for an hour. I talked with my mother-in-law about the disappointment of not receiving a positive test. Later that evening, I went back home and something nudged me to take the test out of the trash. Sure enough, there were two lines, showing me that I was indeed pregnant. I immediately called my mother-in-law exclaiming the news and waited for Kyle to get home from farming to tell him. The next morning I took another test to confirm and received another positive test. We headed to church and midway through the service something didn't seem right. I went to use the restroom and discovered what appeared to be my period. Being so early on, my doctor said to just keep an eye on my blood loss and expect my period to be a bit heavier and longer than usual. It lasted 15 long days.

The next month, my period did not arrive right away. We were not actively trying to conceive so I did not expect a positive test. I opted for a digital test this time and received a positive test on Black Friday, November 27 (the same day I discovered I was pregnant with Isaac)! I called my doctor hoping to get right in to ensure my levels were all on track- they scheduled me an appointment on December 14th.

In the meantime, my pregnancy symptoms were right on track. I was tired, hungry, and feeling sick all throughout the day. My stomach was slowly starting to grow and I wasn't sure how much longer I would be able to keep it a secret. On my December 14th appointment, I was expecting to be around 7 weeks pregnant. The doctor was able to squeeze me in for an ultrasound that day and we soon discovered I was closer to 11 weeks pregnant. My heart sank; I knew something was not right. I kept asking the ultrasound technician why I bled for 15 long and hard days while I was actually pregnant the whole time. No one could provide an answer- my ultrasound appeared normal and baby was happily moving around inside the womb.

Later that evening, I attended a school board meeting. Upon getting up to leave, I felt a rush of liquid and knew something wasn't right. I called the Emergency Room but no one wanted to see me because I was "too early on" for a "viable pregnancy". I went to bed that night thinking that my baby was gone. The next morning, I went to work as normal and scheduled an appointment for later that day. A pelvic exam showed a closed cervix and no signs of any "products of conception". An ultrasound following the appointment showed a healthy, happy, and growing baby. I was at a loss for what was occurring. The ultrasound technician, not able to say anything at the time, noted a large blood clot between my baby and the cervix. My doctor could not provide an explanation for why my body had produced such a large blood clot nor could he give assurance on a continued pregnancy. It was such a difficult thing to experience: wanting to share the news of the pregnancy but knowing that it may not last.

My body continued to show signs of a healthy pregnancy: fatigue, growing stomach, and sick feeling. On Christmas Eve, I wanted one last appointment to hear the heartbeat before telling extended family over Christmas. My doctor squeezed me into the clinic and let me listen for a long while to the baby. His heart was beating around 180 beats per minute. I cried during that appointment- maybe I knew deep down it would be the last time I would hear that sound.

The next day, Christmas Day, we celebrated at Kyle's parents house. I told his sisters that I was expecting and was around 13 weeks but ended my announcement with a BUT.... It was hard and emotional but I am glad that I told them. A little while after supper, I began to feel uncomfortable. I wasn't sure if the tightness of my stomach was related to eating too many sweets and still squeezing into my regular clothes or if my body was having contractions. I told Kyle we needed to head home. On the drive home, I sent a text message to my good friend that I had a strange sense of peace and thought things would be over soon. As much as I longed for this baby, I also had this uneasy/anxious feeling all day. After getting Lauren and Isaac to bed, I laid in my bed for awhile and realized that I was having contractions about 1 minute apart. They were requiring my attention and slightly painful. I went to the restroom and passed two very large clots. I wasn't sure if my body was going into labor or just ridding itself of the clots (which my doctor said may happen). I read a book to Miles, tucked him into bed, and told Kyle to get some sleep as I anticipated it being a long night. Around 11:00pm, I went to the restroom again and delivered our precious 13 week old baby.

No one can prepare you for a moment like that. To go into labor, deliver a tiny baby, and then have to decide what to do next. I woke Kyle up and we stared in awe at our precious boy. At his ten fingers and toes, the tiny umbilical cord, his nostrils, lips, eyes, and precious arms and legs. Everything about him was perfect. We called the Emergency Room to be told that we were not to come in unless I was soaking more than 1 pad in an hour. So, there we sat, in the living room, starting at each other, while our small baby lay on a hanky on the kitchen table. Within about 30 minutes, I had soaked through 4 post-partum pads and we worried with my blood clots and low iron. A friend came over to sleep on the couch and keep an eye on the kids while we drove the 2 blocks to the hospital with the baby in my purse. The ER Doctor was able to remove the rest of the clots and it was determined that we would send the baby into the lab for testing. We got home around 3am and tried to sleep.

The kids were awake bright and early and wanting to keep a sense of normalcy, we drove the two hours to the scheduled Christmas party at my parent's house. We told each other funny stories on the drive, sang to the radio, and tried to completely push aside what happened just hours before. My heart ached inside knowing that I would eventually have to tell my family that not only was I just pregnant but that our baby had just left us. Physically, my body needed to heal as well. We made it through the majority of the day, I only stepped outside once to cry and finally near the end of our visit I told my family. When my family later posted pictures of the day on Facebook, I could just see the tired hurt in my eyes.

The next day, we slept in, skipping church and lounging at home. I probably shouldn't have traveled the day prior and my body was rejecting me because of that. Later that afternoon, I felt something odd and decided another visit to the ER was in order. I left Kyle at home with the kids and went in by myself. The ER Doctor and nurses treated me much different this time around- providing sympathy for my loss. I later realized that many of the medical professionals that night had never seen a tiny baby in person and thus couldn't relate to what I was feeling. It was discovered that my placenta had not yet come out so the doctor and nurse were able to help it do so. In the matter of 24 hours, I had lost half a liter of blood. There was talk of a blood transfusion if my numbers continued to decrease. Thankfully, at a blood draw 3 days later, my numbers had increased a tiny bit.

The pathology report came back with no abnormalities and confirmed our suspicions that the baby was a boy. We named him Gabriel John Rouse. Gabriel for the Christmas angel and John after my paternal great grandfather. Christmas Day 2015, one I will never forget.

Each day gets better- knowing my body and soul are slowly healing but still trying to process what happened. Sometimes I imagine what I would look like if the pregnancy had continued or what names we would be adding to our list. I posted a partial picture of Gabriel on Instagram and Facebook. As much as I am a private person, it was a hurt I could not continue any longer and needed to make known. We keep trusting that God has not only a plan for this experience but also our future.