Cancer Ever After

Musings on Infertility, Adoption, Parenthood and Cancer

Eye of the Storm

The adoption is really the center of this blog, but sometimes the rest of my life spills over.  My husband and my children, including the one we are adopting are undoubtedly the center of my world.  Still there are other parts and pieces of my life that makes me balanced and enriches me.   Balancing all of the parts and pieces of my life continues to be a challenge, and no more so, than during the final weeks of this adoption.

I want to be the best mother possible to my twins that’s my #1 priority.  But I also balance this with having a career.  I started a new job after they were born, and I have a responsibility to live up to the job I was hired to do.  It’s become more difficult to balance this as we’ve moved forward with the adoption.  This week, I’ve begun to feel as if I’m in the middle of a hurricane.

I got promoted at work, er, well, sort of.  I’m being promoted to the position I was originally hired to do (long story)– I’ve spent the last-year building an on-boarding and training program for my company and I’m now going to transition into the role I thought I signed up for from the start.  I asked for the change and am excited about it, but it also means that I have to hire and train two replacements so that I can transition to the new role -during the final weeks of the adoption.   The baby is coming early. Life could not be more complicated or out of control right now.  I have evening meetings every week to help plan and prepare work for my leave;  I’ll have to travel shortly after I return from maternity leave due to the new job responsibilities.  It’s going to be a challenge.

The baby coming early means  our well-laid transition plans are out the door. I don’t even have time to interview anyone, let alone get someone hired and trained!  My company is also experiencing a rapid period of growth right now, so the workload is growing exponentially.  And then there are those other pesky little details: hire a nanny, get the baby’s room ready, travel to see birth mom, plan for the birth, pack up everything the girls will need and arrange for childcare when the baby is born, legal issues, pay adoption bills, apply for a loan, take not one but two cars in due to recalls. The list has grown out of control and there are days when I feel like the storm is just swirling around me getting worse every second.

I had a bit of a meltdown over the enormity of all we need to accomplish in the next two weeks. But after my meltdown, I found my moment of zen.  We can do this, we’ll tackle each item one at a time, and it will all work out.  Yes, I’m obviously crazy to have taken on a job change in the middle of all of this, but we will figure things out.  I embrace crazy; I’m over-the-moon at having three children under two.  Crazy is obviously my middle name.

We will adapt.  And if we can find the eye of the storm, we can remain calm as the world is crazy around us. In the end, the job change is the right thing for my family.  The pain of the change will be temporary.  And I need to keep my priorities clear. It’s not easy to be a working mother, but it’s not easy to be a stay-at-home mom either.  Everyone has to prioritize and find balance.  I need to keep an eye on my priorities as I navigate this change.

My challenge is to find this balance as we welcome a son into the world.  I may not have a replacement trained before my maternity leave starts, but it won’t be the end of the world. My coworkers are wonderful, compentent people, they’ll pick up the work and do their bests. Clients will understand.  We’re having a baby!  Life rarely goes as planned when there is a baby involved.

The challenge for myself is to not get so caught up in the shuffle, the craziness at work that I’m not able to fully enjoy the birth, our son,  and my maternity leave.  This is precious bonding time that I’m able to have with my son.  My husband doesn’t get the same thing.  He’s going to have a single week to bond with him.  That hardly seems fair.  So, I’m going to find a little piece of calm in the middle of this crazy and make sure that I enjoy the time I get to bond with Baby H.  I’m going to revel in having more time with all of my kiddos. It’s going to be crazy, but you know, sometimes crazy is just another name for fun.

 

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Ultrasound

The news of a last-minute ultrasound had us rushing west to visit our birth mother. I was so excited! Excitement about an ultrasound may seem normal to you, but in my world, the infertile world, ultrasounds were usually the source of despair and bad news, not good news.

I’ve had at least 100 ultrasounds, and I’m not exaggerating that number. You have ultrasounds with intrauterine insemination procedures to see how follicles are developing, you have ultrasounds to see if cysts are developing and if your cycle has to be canceled. You have ultrasounds three or four times per IVF cycle to see how you are responding to medicines. Those ultrasounds are tense as you wait with bated breath for “good” news. But it’s hard to quantify. Everyone responds so very differently and it’s hard to know if something is “good” news.

And then there are the ultrasounds that are branded in my mind. The ultrasounds when they tell you something is wrong, or you just know it is. When the doctor told us we were carrying mono/di twins and it would be a high-risk pregnancy, worry overcame the joy of finding out we were finally pregnant again. That ultrasound sent us scurrying to research TTTS (Twin-to-Twin Transfusion Syndrome). When they couldn’t find a heartbeat–any heartbeats–those two ultrasounds were branded in my mind. They do an ultrasound right before they do a D&C. It’s final confirmation that the pregnancy is over. That’s the ultrasound that quashes the unreasonable hope you’ve held dear.

When they thought we were losing our miracle babies, that was one of the worst ultrasounds of my life. The ultrasound tech was unskilled and it took over an hour to find out just a few key pieces of information. I thought Tim was going to whip the wand out of her hand and do it himself. He did end up telling her how to measure the fluid and find the key items to confirm if the pregnancy was possibly still viable. Him being there kept me sane as I endured a very uncomfortable ultrasound on one of the worst days.

I realize if I looked at my ultrasounds objectively, calculated and added them all up, I’ve actually had far more good or benign ultrasounds than bad. But infertility has made me an obsessive worrier. With all of the complications we had in our successful pregnancy, ultrasounds were a constant source of anxiety. I couldn’t breath until they checked everything off this list. They were worried about the fluid level around the babies, they were concerned about the constant bleeding and they continued to make sure a placenta had not torn further. And a lot of it was simply my anxiety. Each ultrasound felt like a judgement on whether or not my girls would make it. For so long, the doctors would say “We’re just going to take this day by day. It’s too early to say how this pregnancy will turn out.”

This ultrasound was different.

Maybe it’s me. Maybe I’m simply less afraid. I know he’s in a body that is more equipped to carry him. And the pregnancy is going well. It’s so far along. Whatever it is, I could not have been more excited about this ultrasound.

Getting us all in the room? Well, that was a bit like watching the Three Stooges. No one was available to watch the girls, so we had twin toddlers, the two of us, the birth mother and the ultrasound tech crammed into a space really meant for three people. We were juggling blankies, sippies, squiggly toddlers and a very pregnant birth mom. It was a ridiculous amount of work just to get us all situated in the room.

1-Hand 1-Foot

And then we got to see him. Wiggling and moving. So gloriously wonderful! He was waving his hands and his lips were puckered up. It looked to us as if he was blowing us a kiss. I got to see him kick and move. He kicked so hard the birth mother’s stomach jumped! It was wonderful. There was a little sadness too, that I’m not the one who gets to feel him grow, but those feelings faded as I got to see him on the ultrasound. Perfect little fingers, perfect little toes, the spine, the face, the head. Everything was perfect. He will be perfect. He will be ours. I’m so glad that we were able to get this glimpse before he arrives. It helps make it even more real, it helps how close we are TO HAVING A BABY sink in.

We’re having a baby in mere weeks! There is so much we have to do!!!!! Cue the panic.

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EARLY!!!

Can you make it back for an ultrasound tomorrow?

Things that are bound to give me a heart attack and cause me to worry incessantly should never come via text.  As usual, my phone had run out of juice and this was the message that greeted me when it finally chirped to life. How many hours had passed since the text was sent? Was there something wrong with the baby? Why did we need an ultrasound so soon?  They just said at the last appointment that there wouldn’t be any more ultrasounds.

My mind pinged back and forth imagining all sorts of things, as my fingers frantically dialed.  Luckily my mom answered right away.  She had called Tim when they couldn’t get a hold of me. The doctor wanted to schedule the ultrasound ASAP and Tim agreed to scheduled it for Friday afternoon.  Why?  Because they are pretty sure the baby’s big and it looks like the safest thing to do is to induce and have him come early.

This gives the birth mother a better chance at a natural delivery and less chance of complications during the birth.  She’s small. The baby is big.  You do the math.  Ouch!

An induction is really a best-case scenario in our minds.  We are a four-hour drive away, plus the time it takes to pack two toddlers and a car.  Our birth mother would like us to be there for the birth of our son. We want to be there for as much of the birth as possible. We all feel better with the delivery being scheduled.

I also know that they have you go to full-term whenever possible because it’s best for the baby.  Part of me worries about another preemie, but he’s already pretty-well cooked.  When a baby is born a little early, there is a small chance of breathing or feeding issues, but usually not many major issues.  We have to trust in the doctors judgement on this one.

When it began to sink in that he will be early, my knees started to shake and my stomach began to hurt so bad I thought I would throw-up.  I’m so unbelievably excited, but I’m also a little scared. We’re going to have THREE children.  Is anyone every fully prepared for that? And it’s finally real.  There are some strange parts to adoption.  It’s harder for me to remember exactly how far along we are or how close time is getting without the aches and pains of an actual pregnancy.  Time is more abstract. This made it real.

This text slammed home how quickly we will have a son.   Soon.  So incredibly soon.

I’m giddy, I’m laughing, I’m ready to shout my joy from the rooftops. I can’t help myself. I give a little twirl and chant “We’re going to have a baby.” My coworkers look at me a little strangely, but I can’t contain my excitement.

Life. Is. Good.

 

Want to help support our adoption? 
Visit our youcaring page and make a donation. Until March 1, each $20 donation will get you entered to win a 3 night stay at the Lake of the Ozarks in Osage Beach, Missouri. View here for more information.

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In Pursuit of Baby

Lately, not a day goes by when I’m not asked, “How did you lose so much weight? What is your secret?” For those that know me, the weight roller coaster has had more ups and downs than usual over the last several years as we’ve dealt with infertility.

I gained a lot of weight after our first miscarriage. I was so upset, it was the dead of winter and working out just wasn’t in the cards. Food was a source of comfort for my sorrow.

And then we started treatments.

This began a vicious cycle of “lose weight, it will make you fertile” and “you can’t work out, you’ll torque an ovary and/or lose the baby(ies).” I was on bedrest for every pregnancy and miscarriage. It’s hard to stay in shape, when your limited to laying on your side.

Because of this, I’ve undoubtedly gained and lost hundreds of pounds during our infertility journey. In fact, I have four different wardrobes of clothes from those years that I’ve been slowly working my way back through. I still haven’t hit the smallest clothes.

I’ve lost 77 pounds from my highest weight after the girls were born. This is why so many people ask me how. But they are asking the wrong question. The question they should be asking is “Why?”

Anything is possible if your motivation is strong enough. I lost 40 pounds in three months before our first IVF cycle, because our clinic required it. I had a deadline and a goal, so I consulted with WebMD and created a plan of action. I ate no more than 1200 calories a day, as close to zero carbs as possible and did 2 hours of cardio a day religiously. It’s not a path for the faint of heart, but if the motivation is strong enough, it’s possible.

I gained that weight back after my next miscarriage and had to work to lose it all over again before our final round of IVF. Three pregnancies in four years took their toll on us emotionally and me physically. The five months of bed rest didn’t help. I couldn’t walk around the block after the girls were born. My muscles were too weak; I had to relearn how to function in a vertical world. Stairs were brutal.  Between the incision and loss of muscle tone, it was tough to do simple tasks like carry my girls around.

Which brings me back to “Why?” My husband had agreed that, if I lost weight, we could “leave it in God’s hands”. We would simply see if we could achieve that miracle pregnancy on our own. The doctors had all recommended weight loss as a weight to mitigate some of the potential pregnancy complications, even though they still felt I’m at higher risk for additional miscarriages, pre-eclampsia and hemorrhages due to my complex medical history.

When I looked at it this way, weight became the only barrier between me and another child.  There wasn’t much I wasn’t willing to do to have another baby.  If my weight was the obstacle to a healthy pregnancy and a healthy baby, and losing weight could possibly increase our odds of conceiving. I was on board. Tim also agreed to try IVF again if I hit my ideal weight.

Honestly, I’m not sure he ever thought it would be possible. But as anyone who has struggled with weight will tell you, people who struggle with their weight are really, really, really good at dieting and exercise. They have willpower to spare–with the proper motivation. I had just found mine.

My motivation doubled after I had surgery due to some complications after having the girls. My heart had issues during the procedure and they had to strap me to heart monitors for observation. Once they said, “We need to make sure you aren’t having a heart attack.”,  I vowed then and there I would lose the weight to be around as long as possible for my girls.

They are also the best motivation in the world to keep the weight off. The roller coaster ends here.

I enjoy singing Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes with my girls. The weight loss makes this easier and more enjoyable. I want to be able to play and chase them and I can do that so much better now. The good news is that overeating is tough when you’re lucky to get a few bites during a chaotic family dinner! And I wouldn’t change it for the world.

How did I lose all of the weight, you ask? I found happiness. I found purpose. I found my motivation. I could drown you in numbers and studies on the science of losing weight, but the reality is, being happy and having the right motivation makes all of the difference.

It’s funny, but now that we are adopting my original motivations for losing the weight are moot. But my motivation for keeping it off is now one child stronger.  I want to be here, be healthy, and be able to enjoy and play with all of them, for the rest of a very long life.

Want to help support our adoption? 
Visit our youcaring page and make a donation. Until March 1, each $20 donation will get you entered to win a 3 night stay at the Lake of the Ozarks in Osage Beach, Missouri. View here for more information.

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Another Leap

We started this process of adopting by taking a leap of faith. Our hearts simply screamed “YES!” when we were offered the chance to adopt Baby H and we had to follow our hearts. As we leapt heart-first, we decided would worry about the practical details later.

We took another leap when we dove into the world of adoption fundraising and realized that money would be a barrier to completing this adoption. We decided that we would share our story and hope that others would want to help us complete our family; that there would be others that felt that us bringing Baby H into our hearts and homes was worth supporting.

To be honest, we thought we’d be lucky if we raised $1,000. Neither of us had ever tried to fundraise before and we lacked knowledge and skill as we blindly entered into the process. Today we are blown away to realize we’ve raised over $6,000.00. That’s enough for a car, a down payment on a house–that’s enough to cover most of the legal expenses for this adoption. An insurmountable hurdle to having a third child has melted away due to the generosity of friends, neighbors, and even strangers. We have been so blessed by those who have rallied to our cause.

There are so many people that we can’t even begin to thank them all. The unpaid editor of my blog, the friend who has done all of the graphics work and helped set up this website, the friend who helped us brainstorm fundraisers and get publicity, everyone who helped serve at the pancake feed, friends who sold our raffle tickets… the list goes on.

This process has made me more aware of the generosity that surrounds us. It’s the little things that make a big difference. During one particularly rough week, when bills were piling up, someone left a stack of coupons for Silk yogurt at Target. They were expiring soon. It was nothing for them to leave a coupon they wouldn’t use.

It made my week. It made it possible for me to treat my diary-free toddler to her favorite food on a week that we were cutting back on everything to afford this adoption. Another person donated $10 to our youcaring site and said “I know it’s not much.” But it is: that $10 means so much. The fact that you are giving me the only $10 you have to give to help support this adoption says worlds about your heart. Thank you.

I’m blown away by the parents and neighbors of coworkers that contributed to our cause after hearing our story. They don’t even know us. We know that the world is full of generous, wonderful people thanks to our fundraising. We’ve been the recipient of that generosity first-hand.

I’ve also learned that everyone has a story behind what you see every day. As we’ve opened up to others throughout this process, people have shared these struggles. I’ve heard stories of miscarriages that were never shared, secret desires to adopt or stories of adoptions that fell through. Others told of their struggles to pay for medical bills and asked how we went through this process and how much time it takes. What I’ve learned is that you never truly know what is on someone else’s plate at any given moment. We judge others by the cars they drive and the houses they live in, but give little thought to what life may have thrown at them after those purchases were made. Hopefully, I’ve learned something through this process about helping others and being more aware of their needs.

And now we leap again. We need to leap heart-first into welcoming our son into our home, hearts and arms. To do this, we will put a pause on any fundraising. Our youcaring page will stay active, but we need to focus on welcoming our son. The time draws near. We must take a leap of faith yet again. We will have faith that the costs will be less than we project, the adoption will go uncontested, that we will be able to line up a loan for any gap in what we have raised and saved. We will pray that everything goes smoothly from here on out.

We will also leap into the unknown world of having three children. That leap brings me to tears. For someone who couldn’t have any children to have a chance to end up with three, it’s a dream come true. I’d take that leap any day.

 

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