Monday, March 25, 2013

IVF Medication Video #1

Like I've mentioned before, in vitro fertilization can be a controversial subject for Christians. As I continue to blog I will hopefully address this subject in a thoughtful, Christ-centered way. In the meantime I would like to share with you some of the medication videos I've created to help those who are going through IVF, and those who are not, understand what goes into the medication side of this process. Please don't laugh at my amateurish videos! A movie star I am not!

This video deals with mixing Follistim, Menopur, and Lupron. These three are very common IVF drugs that most patients use.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

A True Portrait of a Miscarriage

            Three months later the pain is still searing. Sitting in the dentist office, arms crossed, waiting for my 4:00 appointment. At this point, I am so glad I teach high school instead of the elementary babies I used to teach. I don’t think I could handle seeing their sweet faces every day. I hear her laughter first, mom carrying her into the waiting room to look at the fish tank, pointing out colors and textures. Grabbing an object from her diaper bag, the mom begins to read the tiny board book of fuzzy animals. The tears are slow at first. It’s been three months. They shouldn’t come this easily. They drip quickly as I try to wipe them away before anyone notices. Babies are like magnets. One enters the room and everyone stops to stare and coo. I already know the woman sitting next to me is judging my lack of interest in the tot as everyone else looks on adoringly. I stare out the window at the unseasonably warm January day. With these temperatures, buds should be forming on trees, spring should be coming alive. But the truth is it is winter. Everything brown. Everything dead.
                I remember the day we found out we were pregnant. We didn’t cheat. They told us to wait. We didn’t take a home test until the blood test was confirmed, and then only took the home test so we could finally see that magical word: pregnant. I’m pretty sure it was less than a week later that my husband declared confidently that we were having a boy. At first it was thought we might be having twins. Exciting, considering our four year period of wait.  But the first time I heard his heartbeat- it didn’t matter if it was one, two, or seven. That was our baby. It’s almost the perfect sound; the thumps a recurrent reassurance of hopes and dreams to come.
                I started bleeding at week nine. It was a pretty normal day in September: the day I wore my first maternity dress. I just sat down after heating my lunch in the microwave. Students chattered on about honors classes and assignments; downing chicken sandwiches and the cold cardboard they pass off as cafeteria pizza. It felt like a rush. I stood up quickly, telling the other teachers in the room I was running to the bathroom, even as blood streamed down my legs. A co-worker-seeing the rivulets and my blood soaked shoes- ran after me. They rushed me to the emergency room. On the ride to the emergency room I prayed fervently for God to take care of the baby. Once there, feeling like I was dying inside, I leaned against a wall and begged an uncaring nurse to please take me first from the packed waiting room. I was feeling dizzy. I knew I was losing him. Bringing out a wheelchair they wheeled me back, took vitals, and then on to a room. A kind faced doctor performed an exam and, of course, was careful about what he said. I was wheeled on to the ultrasound room where it seemed like she took over one hundred pictures.  Even though I knew the answer, I asked about the baby. She told me she couldn’t say anything. But she looked into my eyes. She pressed a button. And there it was: thump, thump, thump. The most reassuring sound on the planet.
                Discharged, I went home to rest. Sub-Chorionic Hemorrhage was the official diagnosis. He would be okay. I would be okay. We would be a family. On October 18th I attended professional development for my job.  A day-long workshop on how to scan testing documents. I was tired. So tired. And crampy. This hadn’t been unusual for the past several weeks- attributed to the previously diagnosed hemorrhage. I propped my feet up on the chair next to me, tried to relax. I drove home, fighting 5 P.M. traffic and crawled into bed, exhausted. Thursday night, only one more day before the weekend.
              I woke two hours later, still not feeling well. To be on the safe side we called our doctor. She happened to be on-call at the hospital- a half hour away. She told me it could be early contractions and to drink plenty of water and lay on my side; to call if the cramping got any worse. An hour and a half later I couldn’t walk without help. We called the hospital once again and were advised to come in. As my husband broke speed limits and possibly the time-space continuum to get us there, I felt death approaching. My death. The words I spoke were soft and mottled with pain, “If I die, I love you.” He drove faster.
                Reaching the emergency room, he grabbed a wheelchair. As I stood, there was an immediate release. I had given birth before we crossed the threshold of the hospital. In the dark hospital bathroom, filled with shadows and hopelessness, I will never forget my husband’s face as he cradled his perfect son in one palm. Ten perfect toes. Ten perfect fingers. Huge, beautiful eyes and his daddy’s chin. He was perfect in every way, except no breath came through his rosebud lips. No cries of wanting passed his tongue. No color warmed his pale skin. Our Grayson was gone.
                In shock, I watched my husband crumble. Trying to care for me and Grayson as an unprepared hospital staff tried to figure out what to do with us. We placed him in a tiny, shallow container, lined with a small blanket. As the doctors treated me, he stayed with us. When they tried to take him from us, we resisted. We wanted our son. It’s not done, they said. It will be, we said. They took his tiny body to pathology with a promise we could come back in two hours to get him.
                My clothing soaked with blood, we drove to the nearest Target to find clothes for me and to wait out our sentence.  Life had stopped for us while moms with tots and Starbucks cups in hand perused baby clothes like a regular Friday morning. We picked out his baby quilt that day- a task I hadn’t had enough time to complete:  to make one, as planned. It would be reminder of our son, something to hold close to us.
                Riding back to the hospital we signed paper after paper so we could take our son home with us. With an apology, the pathologist sweetly handed me Grayson in a tiny, off-white box. She told us we were the second couple in fifteen years to request our child. Almost dropping to my knees, I handed our son to my husband. “It’s not the way I pictured us walking out of the hospital.” I murmured, tears filling my eyes. Quietly, we carried our son home.
                A celebration of Grayson’s short life took place two days later. Immediate family joined together to bury his sweet body. I wanted it to be a celebration. I wanted to imagine him there with us, eating dinner on the deck, enjoying the campfire after. It would never happen, except in my mind’s eye.
                The next few weeks were pure, unadulterated emotional pain. I would fall to the floor, sobbing for my baby. I would lie in the bathtub and wonder what it would be like to sink, fall asleep, and be in the arms of the Lord with Grayson next to me. I was jealous that my Grayson got to meet Jesus before me. My sweet co-workers gave me the gift of time. They donated their sick leave so I could pull some semblance of myself together. This is one of the most compassionate things I have ever experienced.
                 Three months later the pain is just below the surface.  The dental hygienist called me back then- “Sarah? How are you today?”  “Good, “I lied. I sat in the chair and listened into the hallway where I could hear the hygienist- the grandmother to the tot in the lobby- coo sweet, reassuring words to the toddler. I can function. I can go to work, drive a car, and finally get through a day without sobbing. But I am not the same. I am a mother without a child. I am a mother with a fear that I will never have another child. I am a mother. And that is the problem.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Origins of The Gray Sparrow

Hi! My name is Sarah and I'm the author of The Gray Sparrow. People write for many different reasons, and my reasons are no express, to vent, to explore my emotions, thoughts, and feelings, to connect with others who are like me or who have gone through the same experiences as me, or want to journey this road with me. 

The name 'The Gray Sparrow' is not random. I spent many hours thinking and pondering what to call this outlet of mine. My story is not unique, but perhaps my perspective is...I mean as individuals, aren't all our perspectives different?

In 2012 my husband and I started on a journey that will effect our lives for as long as we breathe. After four years of trying to conceive on our own we sought out the advice of fertility specialists. Twelve years ago when we met, we would have never dreamed we would be in this situation. We married young; I was only 22 when I said my vows almost ten years ago. We had plenty of time to have children. We had to finish school, find jobs, buy a house, and adopt a couple of dogs. I had a teaching career to begin. All of these endeavors take time. Precious time. 

So we did those things. In 2008 I graduated from a small Bible college with a degree in Biblical Studies and Elementary Education. We moved from Iowa to North Carolina, where my husband is from, to begin my career and for my husband to finish his education. After we moved, bought our house, and I started my career, we thought adding to our family would be a wonderful idea.  Month after month the tests came up negative. As my friends began to announce their pregnancies my heart sank a little each time. 

We had done everything right. We waited until we were married to have sex. We both graduated with degrees in Bible and Religion respectively. We were kind, loving people. We adopted homeless animals. I worked for the public school system. We loved Jesus and wanted to serve Him. I mean, we were awesome, right?! (Perhaps you can catch a glimpse of my self-deprecating humor here...) But it didn't happen. 

(Our adopted pups, Luna & Bella)

After undergoing tests we got a diagnosis of unexplained infertility and our doctors recommended we try In Vitro Fertilization. This is where it starts to get tricky. As Christians, we had to sort through our beliefs and feelings about In Vitro. We believe that human life is created at conception. By undergoing IVF we were creating lives, not just embryos that could be discarded. After much thought and prayer, we decided to undergo our first IVF cycle in July of 2012. 

After implanting two embryos we ended up with one pregnancy. We were so excited...the word excited does not even begin to express our feelings! We were finally the ones with good news! We were so excited to share this with our family and friends. However, knowing that one in four pregnancies end in a miscarriage, we waited until we were at eight weeks gestation to tell everyone.

On a Thursday morning in September, at nine weeks gestation, I had just sat down to eat my lunch in a room full of high school students who were busily working on their papers and assignments. Almost immediately I stood up, looked down, and saw bright red rivulets streaming down my legs, past my very first maternity dress that I had donned that morning. I got my co-teacher's attention and told her I needed to go to the restroom. She must have heard the panic in  my voice  because she followed me to the restroom. I had never seen so much blood in my life. It would not stop. My other co-teacher rushed me to the emergency room, tears streaming down my face, pleading with God to save my baby, where I learned I had a subchorionic hemorrhage. They wouldn't tell me if the baby was alright. When I went for the ultrasound I begged the tech to tell me if the baby was okay. She told me she couldn't, but then pressed a button. The 'thump, thump, thump' sound of a rapid heartbeat filled the room. My baby was alive!

Three weeks later I attended a professional development workshop. I felt crampy, tired, and uncomfortable but attributed it to the subchorionic hemorrhage. I came home at 5 P.M. and laid down. I was exhausted. Around 8 P.M. I woke up with heavier cramping. We called my OBGYN and talked to the doctor on call. She told me to rest, drink plenty of water, and to call back if the cramping got worse. At 11 P.M.  I was hunched over and unable to move without assistance. We called the doctor back and were told to come to the ER, where she was on call. My husband, who is a speed limit teetotaler, raced me to the hospital, 35 minutes away. On the way to the hospital I looked over at him, his face full of worry, and told him I loved him, and that if I were to die I wanted him to know that. I have never been in such pain in my life. 

As we pulled up to the hospital I felt a release. I couldn't walk. I was raced into the ER in a wheelchair where our baby, a boy, was born at 13 weeks gestation. He had perfectly formed fingers, toes, legs. He had his daddy's chin and both of our big eyes. He was our son, yet no life came from him. Our experiences at the hospital will be saved for future posts, but that day, October 19th, 2012 became our son, Grayson's, birthday. 

In the days and weeks that followed so much kindness was poured out on to us. I heard stories from other mothers who had miscarried. I heard stories of pain, loss, and love. Most of all, I learned. I sought counseling because I could not deal with my loss of control, which I never had, mind you! I learned from my counselor, I learned from other mothers who had experienced loss, I learned about my husband, I learned about how deep love runs, I learned what it is like to lose a child, I learned about myself. But most of all, I learned about God. A verse from college, that I had heard in Chapel from a mother who lost her son, as she knew him, while in surgery came to mind:

Matthew 10:29-31
Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered.  So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.

God loved Grayson. God loves me. He loves my husband. He cares for us and will continue to do so forever. Was I angry? Absolutely! But God lost a son, too. God gave His Son so that I could live. He understood my pain. Grayson is my Gray Sparrow. He rests now in the arms of Jesus. In the two days before we buried his tiny body I held him in the palm of my hand. Perfect, sweet Grayson. Smaller than even a sparrow, one of God's smallest creations, yet worth so much more. 

As we continue our infertility journey, I hope that you join me. Life is not perfect. I am not perfect. These are simply my reflections of faith, doubt, love, and hope. Words are so powerful. Please share, be comforted, and know that you are worth more than many sparrows. 

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