Friday, June 22, 2012

Our 'Oasis' Area

This spring Josh and I wanted to do something to our backyard to add a little pizazz and beauty to it.  We also had been looking for a way to honor our two lost babies as well; something that would be in their memory forever.  After much thinking, we decided to spiff up the area by our deck and create a garden that could honor our babies while also looking beautiful.  It was important to us that we did this work on our own and developed the concept together so it was really truly our doing.  Someday, I'll look forward to taking my kids out here and telling them the story of how this garden came to be and about their two siblings who are in heaven.  Here is the journey...

Before: The future Oasis

Before: Future garden site


Before: A place we've tried to grow flowers,
but it gets flooded easily and just likes to grow weeds!


Middle: Garden area all dug out

Middle: Make area that will have rocks

Middle: Rocks done!

Middle: Flowers bought

End: Eating area (really the only thing that's new here is our place mats ;)

After: Fire Pit! We promised each other
we would use this a lot this year because
 we didn't last year.

After: Water fountain and rocks

End: Garden!  The two spiral trees on each side are for our two miscarriages.   Josh suggested that we get pine-type trees because they don't die in the winter so we could have trees that represented our babies all year round; smart guy that Josh :) 
We will never forget Baby Champ and Baby Poggie

Thursday, June 21, 2012

I See Pregnant People

I need to share with all you readers that I have a sixth sense.

I have been ridiculously accurate at predicting when someone is pregnant.  I'm not talking about seeing someone at a mall with a baby bump and turning to Josh saying, "hmm, I bet she's pregnant."  I'm talking about knowing someone is pregnant before they tell me or anyone and maybe even before they know themselves. 

Cue the creepy Twilight Zone-type music. 

Josh is really the only one privy to my gift that can vouch for me because he's the one I always say, "she's pregnant, I know it!" to.

I think I may be uber in tune to what's going on around me over the last six months to a year.  I notice whether or not people are drinking, I pick up on little cues coming out of people's mouths about babies and timelines and small changes in behavior. I notice if people are talking about eating or being tired or even omitting certain subjects from emails and conversations. 

I have been on fire with this lately. At first, when I would tell Josh I knew someone was pregnant, he would tell me I was wrong usually in the form of  "no way", but he's had to hear a lot of "I told you so"s lately so now I think he knows I'm on to something.

It's important that I mention here that when I do find out about pregnancies, my joy for you is real and genuine with no hard feelings.  As I've been on this path with infertility, one of my greatest accomplishments is being able to grow in the way I deal with the news of a pregnancy.  I have matured enough to be able to distinguish that the fact that you being pregnant is completely and totally unrelated to the fact that I am not.  Each person's own journey to parenthood is individual.   My biggest fear in being honest about what I'm going through is that people will feel sorry for me, worry about me, or love me too much and think that it'd be best not to tell me when they're expecting.  This is, in fact, the exact opposite of how I'd like to be treated even though I understand those feelings are only coming from a place of love.  I'm not perfect; I make mistakes and have had my fair share of set backs and digressions in my "enlightened" way of thinking, but I'm always working on it and always trying to improve.  No matter how long it takes me to become a parent, let me share in your joy because if anyone knows what a miracle this all is, it's me :)  

So the morale of this story is if you're pregnant and haven't told me yet, I probably already know ;)  hahaha

I hope this teaches, heals, and connects. 

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Celebrations and Getting Slapped in the Face

June has brought a lot of celebration into my life...
  • one of my best friends got engaged
  • my youngest sister graduated from high school
  • my sister Colleen had a birthday
  • several people in my life are expecting...some after having been trying for a long time or suffered miscarriages like me
  • the school year ended, I'm in summer mode!!!
  • my amazing husband turned 29!
  • we celebrated my grandmother's 90th birthday
I want to stop on the last event and dive a little more deeply...

Grandma Ort blowing kisses to all of us before she blows out her candles
Last weekend almost my entire Pavona family got together to celebrate Ortensia Pavona's 90th birthday.  My 100% Spitfire Italian Grandma in all her 4' splendor is 90.  How amazing right?!  Most of us went to church where she was honored and then headed to Piazzano's for some yum yums.  As I sat at a round table with my parents, sisters, and Josh, I reflected on the fact that the last time my whole family was together like this was for my brother's funeral.  It felt really good to gather for a positive reason and I was looking forward to spending time with my family while celebrating instead of mourning.  It was great to catch up, laugh, hug, etc, but I have to say in all honesty that grief slapped me in the face that night several times.

One of my cousins has a new addition to their family, an adorable baby girl.  She was born right around the same time my first due date would have been.  Many of my family members wanted to get their hands on her, of course, and my mom was one of them.  My mom is the most amazing mom and is going to be the most amazing grandmother some day.  I know she's wanted to be a grandma since Josh and I got married (although she never pushed or pressured I have to add).  The happiness she felt when I told her I was pregnant both times and the extreme sadness and sorrow when I lost both babies was just as real as my happiness and sorrow.  Seeing her with my cousin's baby made me think about how happy we would all be if she was walking around with my baby and how lucky my kids are going to be to have a grandma like her. I looked at her in a different light in that moment and then came the tears.  Inappropriate I told myself; Why are you crying?  You're just getting to a better place with all of this! I tried for several minutes to talk myself out of how I was feeling.   

A little while later, my Aunt Judy with the help of her husband and kids, made a great slide show with pictures stretching all of my grandma's 90 years.  One of the things she included was pictures of each individual family with my grandparents so of course my brother's picture showed up on the screen several times.  Seeing him brought tears to my eyes almost instantly and gazing at my sisters and parents showed that they had similar reactions.  Geez Kristin, now you've cried twice! Can't you see a picture of Eric and smile because of all the memories instead of having to cry...again?!

(Okay yes, I'm harder on myself than anyone else could be on me)

It's amazing when you think you're in such a good place with a loss or a death and have been moving forward in a positive direction and then it can take a turn for the worse when you are completely not expecting it.  Even a time that should be 100% celebration can have tears of sorrow.  My first inclination, as you saw, was to feel guilty about my reaction to some of the things at this party, but upon reflection on this I've changed my mind. 

I've been through a lot recently.  These feelings of grief are real and genuine and I need to experience them.  Not getting emotional around babies sometimes and not getting emotional when seeing pictures of my brother would be more alarming then the occasional tears that might stream down my face, even at an inappropriate time.   

So I got sad at a birthday party? I think that's okay and I'm okay. 

Us with Grandma Ort :)

Pavona family June 2012

Saturday, June 16, 2012

When Your Doctor Says "Huh" it's Never a Good Sign

Josh and I were in Ann Arbor the other day getting my uterus and ovaries scanned to see how the beginning stages of my injections were going.  On day 3, all seemed fine.  On day 7, all seemed fine.  Then came day 10...

Tall Fellow was actually doing my scan because it was a Sunday.  During the week, there is an ultrasound tech who always does the scans, but she doesn't work on the weekends so doctors do that instead.  Everyone is always surprised when I talk about having to go to Ann Arbor on a Saturday or Sunday and are even more surprised still when I tell them I've seen a doctor, but, like they say at U of M Center for Reproductive Medicine, "a reproductive cycle does not take weekends and holidays neither do we." Tall Fellow is scanning my uterus and so far everything is looking fine, just like the other days.  Then he kinda fishes out from one side to the other of my uterus and then Josh and I hear a "huh" escape his lips.  He looked closer and then tells us that "something is in your uterus."  I'm sorry, something!?

He fishes around for a bit more and shows me where he is talking about and then lists off all the different choices of what this something could be: blood clot, left over tissue they didn't get from my MVA surgery after my miscarriage, or even a baby (that's right he said it). 

Many thoughts flood me from that last bomb because, as bad as this might sound, I honestly don't want to be pregnant right this second.  I was just starting to stop bleeding from what I thought was my period here on Day 10 and this brought back a lot of memories from my first miscarriage.  I thought I had my period, but didn't so I was just bleeding for the first part of my pregnancy and we ended up loosing the baby.  I did not want that to happen (obviously).  Tall Fellow, who is starting to know me well, could read my brain spinning and starting spewing out how little chance that is to be a baby so to "not even think about it!"  He said most likely it was one of the other two choices he listed. 

All three of us had a good laugh while shaking our heads about this something in my uterus because after all, what else could we do?  I think the shaking of the head had a lot of unsaid words to it.  Tall Fellow, Josh, and I would all like me to be normal in my nether regions and it seems like, over the last year that I've been with Ann Arbor, things have been anything but normal.     

He shuffled off to show the scan to a doctor that was working and came back to tell us that we needed to stop our medicine for this cycle.  He explained that he knows this sucks, but regardless of whatever is in my uterus, this is not a perfect environment to fertilize an egg once my cycle was ready for that.  The last thing I'd want to do is get pregnant and then have a miscarriage because my uterus wasn't set up to be a good environment to grow a baby.  Tall Fellow wanted me to come in for a hysteroscopy.  This is a visual examination of the uterus and uterine lining using an endoscope inserted through the vagina.  Basically, he wanted to see my uterus on camera to see what this something was.  Following this, I would most likely need surgery to get it out.  Yay, another surgery. 

So on Thursday, my first day of summer I might add, after a 4 hour long language arts meeting, I also might add, we went to Ann Arbor for my hysteroscopy.  They got a new machine to do this that no one had used before with about a  27 or 30' screen.  The nurse asked me if I would mind having a technician from Olympus be in the room with them while they performed the hysteroscopy so that he could troubleshoot.  I wanted to say, Are you kidding?  So many people have seen my vaginal area over the last two years that you can broadcast it on You Tube for all I care at this point.  I answered instead, "I don't care at all."  I have no shame. 

I'll tell you what, seeing your uterus, Fallopian tube openings, cervix, etc, on a big screen in basically HD was just a treat.  I"m so glad Josh, two doctors (Tall Fellow and my real doctor), a nurse, and a Olympus worker could all enjoy.  We were able to all see clearly that I had some left over tissue that mostly looked dead in my otherwise very normal and great looking uterus.  They took some pictures and then the hysterscopy was over.  Tall Fellow then discusses surgery with us and after a long wait, gets it scheduled for Friday (yesterday, which was Josh's birthday).  I was actually going under full anesthesia and was going to have the surgery at the U of M hospital.

The U of M hospital is insane; we had never been.  The surgery waiting room was packed. After waiting about 2 hours, Josh and I got to go back into pre-op; that place was packed as well.  I found myself wishing that I could've had the surgery at my doctor's office like my last one so at least I was around familiar faces.  A nurse started my I.V. in one arm and then it began to swell like a balloon so we had to try the other (curse you skinny, temperamental veins).  Other people stopped in to talk to me and then finally Tall Fellow walked up to check on us and talk to us again about the surgery.  He said that they would ask about scheduling a post operation appointment, but that I didn't need one because he "sees us enough." :)  

In the surgery room, there was a nurse, three anesthesiologists, a resident student, another fellow from my doctor's office who I've never met, Tall Fellow, and my doctor.  This was some serious stuff!  

Surgery went well and we were finally able to go home after spending 7 hours there.  Tall Fellow told me this was going to be short; I will know better next time that just because the actual surgery takes like 15 minutes doesn't mean my experience will be "short."   What a great way for Josh to spend his birthday and to boot, we had to postpone his birthday dinner with his family since we got home so late.  

Hope you enjoyed this latest installment of the adventures of the reproductively challenged.  Until next time...

I hope this teaches, heals, and connects.      

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Reflections on the 2011-2012 School Year

Wow, I can't believe school is almost over.  When I think back to August and take myself through the entire school year, I couldn't be more flooded with thoughts and memories...

Days before School Started (August)
  • I lost my brother and my first pregnancy within two days of each other.  The day after my miscarriage/the day before my brother's funeral was our school open house where I met all my new students and their families.  I am still in awe that I handled all of that.
  • Our first para-educator leaves our team.  I have the realization that every single person I am working with this year is brand new to our school except for me...yikes!
  • Our special ed teacher moves to students are without support until the end of January
  • Thanksgiving/Christmas...first big holidays without my brother

  • My students raised $250 for Afghanistan: putting in wells, sending kids to school, and giving kids the well-rounded care they need

  • FINALLY, we have a new special ed teacher to help service our team
  • My math and science teaching partner resigns, we have days to find a replacement, my team is in rough shape.
  • My new team mate starts and the team improves almost instantly.  I could write all day about her, but I won't :)  She is phenomenal in every sense of the word and I am looking forward to being dynamite next year.  Thank you for stepping in and stepping up, we in Team 61 are soooo thankful for you! 
  • Another para-educator leaves
  • I have my second miscarriage right before spring break
  • After spring break we go through at least two para-educators who both are only with us for a few days to a week
  • Because of my students and my earlier conversation about 'being the change' I decide to be open about my fertility struggles
  • Another para-educator leaves
  • Towards the end of May we get a para-educator that stays with us the rest of the year! :)
  • I honestly have a blissful end of the year with my students in spite of everything they/I have been through
There a strong part of me ready to shut the door on the school year just like I was ready to shut the door on the year 2011.  I'm ready to move on, move forward and close the book on what' s been a difficult year personally and professionally for me.   

There's also a strong part of me so emotional about this school year ending.  I find myself not wanting to send this group of kids on.  I find myself tearing up at what an amazing relationship our team family has together in spite of all the changes and the often seeming 'revolving door' of adults that's come in and out of their lives.  I find myself in awe of how well eleven and twelve-year-olds handle change; how resilient they are, how accepting, loving, and welcoming.  I find myself feeling closer to them than other sixth grade groups because even though they were not aware of all the things I've had to deal with personally this year, they were there for me, keeping me going every day, giving me a reason to be positive, compassionate, and loving.  I needed these kids this year just as much as they needed me I think :)  I'm sad to see a group of people who love each other so much having to move on.  This group of kids will surely go on to do amazing things, I have no doubt.

I don't know why so much has happened to me during this school year, but I do know I wouldn't have wanted to experience it with any other group of sixth graders.  I am changed because of them and I know I am more positive, hopeful, and have been able to pull through all that I've been through because of them as well.  I know we often talk about how much teachers can make a difference to their students, but I can sure tell you that students can make quite a difference to a teacher as well :)

Goodbye 2011-2012 school year...

I hope this teachers, heals, and connects...    

Sunday, June 10, 2012

The Follow-up Appointment

Josh and I went to see our doctor at U of M as a follow-up to my miscarriage in April.  Lately, because I always have to be moving forward, I have been reading and reading and reading about miscarriage so that I could 'arm' myself with more knowledge to ask better questions and maybe seek out more testing or something

I did some research on the Internet, but also read two books, which were wonderful by the way...
  • Preventing Miscarriage: The Good News by Dr. Johnathan Scher
  • To Full Term: A Mother's Triumph over Miscarrige by Darci Klein
I took lots of notes and had 2.5 pages of questions and topics to talk with my doctor about. One of the main things I learned, besides about a slew of hormonal, immune, and biological abnormalities, was that there isn't much government medical funding put towards miscarriage research so it is a policy that people don't do deeper testing until a person has suffered three miscarriages in a row without having a successful pregnancy in between or anything.  This news fed fuel to my fire and I found myself angry before even going to the appointment expecting them to tell me they wouldn't give me any more tests until I lost another child.

While at the appointment, I was refreshed again as to why I LOVE my doctors in Ann Arbor.  First, we met with the doctor we see most often, even though he's not technically my doctor.  We call him "Tall Fellow" because he's extremely tall and happens to be a fellow (residency typeish thing).  We spent about 45 minutes with him going over a slew of things. 

The first piece we went over was our baby's pathology report.  Our baby had a trisomy (A condition in which an extra copy of a chromosome is present in the cell nuclei, causing developmental abnormalities).  So our baby had an extra '16' chromosome.  At my present age, I was told, each pregnancy has a 1 in 400 chance of this happening and I was unlucky.  The good news is that this is the most common reason for a miscarriage that they see; that helps us to be reassured that there isn't anything chromosomally wrong with Josh or I.  It is also helpful to know the cause was random and not likely to happen again and that it was nothing about my body that did not help grow a healthy baby. 

We also found out our baby would've been a girl.  Josh and I did NOT want to know this, but the paperwork on the pathology report showed that our baby had two X chromosomes instead of an X,Y making it a girl.  However, like Tall Fellow explained, this chromosome abnormality our baby had is not and would never be compatible with human life.  My baby would've never grown female parts or wouldn't have grown body parts at all with this abnormality.  I happened to research that more 'girl' babies are miscarried than 'boy' babies.  Tall Fellow had never heard of that before so maybe I taught him something new :)

He was extremely patient letting me ramble on about all my questions and answered them carefully, detailed, and easily for us to understand.  As expected, I am not getting tested further for other defects or abnormalities just yet.  I did come out guns blazin at first, but then Tall Fellow told me something that made so much sense.  He said that maybe I did have some kind of auto-immune disorder or a clotting disorder or something like that.  However, nothing like that showed up on the pathology report and we have no idea what happened my first miscarriage because no tissue got tested.  If they gave me medicine to help the clotting disorder the next time I got pregnant, let's say, that medicine has its own risks.  In fact, a medicine to fight a clotting disorder usually ups your chance for a miscarriage.  So he doesn't want to put me on medicine for something that may not even interfere with a pregnancy and then add more risks and stress to my life as a pregnant mommy-to-be.  So for now, nothing is going to change with my care.  I'm at peace with this decision.

Stress became the other topic of conversation.  Even though my prolactin levels have always looked normal, I read in one of my books that if you are stressed, your prolactin can get higher and put your baby at risk.  Tall Fellow looked at Josh and asked him, "Okay, how do you want me to answer this question for her?"  We laughed and then he went on to explain that stress is a very difficult thing for them to combat.  He asked me if I was seeing anyone like a counselor or therapist and I told him I was.  We also talked briefly about my job, as he knows that it is stressful.  Josh answered back that even if I didn't have any stress in my life that I was "seek it out somewhere; that's just the kind if person she is."  He is so right :) 

Tall Fellow then asked me what I do to relieve stress and I gave him a few items: eating :), watching TV, reading, spending time with people I love, running, etc.  He then said to me that usually when we try to get rid or stress or change something about your daily life that helps you combat stress (like if he told me to stop running because maybe that's why I wasn't ovulating on my own, for example), it usually makes people like me even more stressed out.  Ding Ding Ding, I thought.  So usually, they leave the stress alone and make sure you have plenty of ways to make yourself feel better.  He also said that if I was not doing anything about the fact that we weren't pregnant yet, I would probably be most stressed out about that, but I am doing something about it so Ann Arbor has taken some of that big stress away from me.  He makes so much sense :)

Finally, we spent some time with my real doctor who said many of the same things.  He still remains "incredibly optimistic" that we will get pregnant and go on to have lots of babies.  All in all, we were there for about an hour and they made me feel completely better about what was going on.  They were also fully supportive of our trip to Europe and asked us a lot of questions about it and were willing to try and get another cycle in, as soon as my period started, before we left or go back at it as soon as we returned from Europe. 

As horrible of a situation this all has been, I cannot be more thankful for doctors who show they care, never give up, and will entertain two Type A personalities with all their questions and concerns for over an hour.  Our decision to start going through U of M for my care was the absolute right decision.  

I hope this teaches, heals, and connects...