Thursday, August 21, 2014

Manatee

Some day I will write about what really happened after we met with our fertility doctor. 

But not today.

Today, I will skip over everything else because I want to tell you about the day I met my tiny boy.

The first time I saw him, he was just a clump of cells, a small blob. I didn’t think about what it had cost to get to that point. I thought I could never love anyone or anything more than that little blob.

Getting pregnant the old fashioned way is a miracle. Getting pregnant through IVF feels equal parts science experiment and magic. I don’t know how else to explain it. You give yourself shots and take the pills and obediently show up for all your tests hoping it will work. And even though your doctor and countless people before you have done it, it’s still hard to trust the process. Can you really grow me a baby? Can you really make me pregnant? It’s all out of your control, and it’s so, so frustrating. Not to mention that giving yourself shots is the pits. It’s better when someone else gives you shots, but if it were up to me, I’d vote for NO SHOTS. Tell me I have to take 37 pills everyday, but don’t make me get shots every day, several times a day. I hate shots

But when I saw him, I realized that everything we had done—everything I had endured—was to get us to that point: I did it all so I could meet my tiny boy.

I thought my heart would explode.

After all this time, he was finally here, and he was mine.


Most of IVF is focused on preparing your body for pregnancy. I thought the shots and pills and blood tests would never end. Getting pregnant is actually anti-climactic: one minute I wasn’t pregnant, and a few minutes later, I was. Our doctor pointed to a tiny white speck on the dark screen said, “There he is. Take good care of him.”

Sorry it's hard to see. I felt the same way.
After implantation, you enter into a period known as the two-week wait. If implantation is successful, your tiny baby should burrow within 24-48 hours, but you don’t get results for two weeks. My body seemed to change overnight. 

It was terrible.

I experienced what my doctor and nurse called “terrible cramping” for almost a week and a half. I’ve had cramps before. I wouldn’t describe what I felt as “terrible cramping”. Remember that infamous diner scene from Alien when the baby alien explodes out of that guy’s stomach? 

It felt like that.

When I called my nurse about it, she said it was normal—that my uterus was stretching, which was a good sign. “Your body doesn’t know you’re pregnant. Usually the hormones would prep your body for the baby so you wouldn’t feel this much pain, but you’re tiny so you’re going to feel everything.”

I should’ve been happy that she said I was tiny, but I didn’t care. I just wanted it to stop. Did I mention I was bloated? Like severely bloated. Like I looked over four months pregnant. Like my body decided to speed up my pregnancy to give me a belly even though I was only  a few days pregnant.

I couldn’t stand up straight, and I thought my skin couldn’t possibly stretch to cover my swollen belly. All of a sudden none of my clothes fit, and I could no longer sleep comfortably in any position. And I had a UTI.  

But none of that mattered when we found out we were pregnant. It worked. At our first ultrasound, our doctor pointed to a blob on the screen and said that was our boy. I couldn’t see anything though. I thought, my phone takes better pictures than that! Then he flipped a switch, and all of a sudden, we heard the steady thump of his tiny heart beating sure and strong. He said our baby looked like a sea creature with flippers, like a manatee. 


Seriously, what am I looking at?

Judging by what he saw and heard, he said we had a 95 percent chance of carrying to term. That’s a solid A. 

You may think it’s silly to start dreaming of your baby when he’s that small, but when you’ve struggled with infertility for years, it doesn’t feel too soon. At first I was wary about celebrating, like it was too good to be true, but our people helped us celebrate. They loved us, fed us and helped us through the entire process. My nurse-friend, Jen, came over every three days to give me my dreaded shot in the butt. If the other shots were thumbtacks, the butt shot was a sword. We couldn’t do it ourselves so she made my butt shots part of her life. So when we got the news, our people celebrated. It wasn’t just happening to me—we were having a baby.

Though it was premature, we decided to celebrate with a gender reveal for our families. They were going to be in town for Father’s Day so we thought it was a good time since everyone would be together. I will never forget that day.

We went in for our second ultrasound the day after Father’s Day. Our ultrasound tech asked questions while she took measurements. We saw our manatee on the screen, but there was no flickering light—no movement—and when she turned on the sound, we didn’t hear anything. 

“I’m sorry, but I can’t detect a heartbeat.”

I was stunned. She kept looking and taking measurements, but nothing changed. Our baby was there, but he wasn’t. 

I kept thinking, This isn’t happening to me. This is a routine check-up. Everything is supposed to be fine. But it wasn’t. And then Mike squeezed my arm and said, “I’m so sorry,” and I realized it was happening, but it wasn’t happening to me: it was happening to us

The rest of the details from that day are hazy. My nurse said I had two options: have a miscarriage at home or have surgery—a D&C. If I had a D&C, the doctor would order tests on the baby and on me to find out what happened. She told me I could take some time to think about it, but if I chose the surgery they wanted to do it sooner rather than later.

I navigated through periods of calm and hysteria all day and night. It was exhausting. I have never cried so much in my life. I felt like I was experiencing the world all wrong, like I was turned inside out and was trying to claw my way out of my body. I thought if I could just break through my skin, I’d realize it was all a bad dream, and everything would be okay. I wondered how the sun was still shining--how the world kept spinning--when we were suspended in time by grief. 

Since I was no longer pregnant, we had the two things I missed the most—sushi and wine—for dinner. I hoped it would make me feel a little better but the flavors were off. Everything tasted of tears and loss. Instead of feeling full, I felt terribly empty.

Saying Goodbye

The next day, we ran away. We ate the last of the gender-reveal cupcakes for breakfast, put Crosby in the car and drove away. We hid in a different city where we could pretend we were on vacation, sat on the beach and talked about the boy we would never meet. 

Did he know how much we loved him? 
Did he know how much we wanted to meet him? 
Did he know how terribly sorry we were that we’d never get to know him?
Did he know that we did everything we could to keep him with us? 
Did he know that we were dying a million deaths over him? 
Did he know much we already missed him?

We did what we do best: we hung out. We drank wine and read books and played Scrabble. We talked and laughed and cried. We weren’t worried about work or finances or when we would try again. We were just Mike and Bean. That night, as we sat beneath a thick blanket of stars, we cried and said we loved him—our tiny speck, our little manatee—and we said we would never forget him. That night, we said goodbye for now.

We had the ultrasound on Monday, and I had surgery on Friday. 

It was a terrible week. 

I knew that after the surgery, he would be gone from my body, and it would be like he never existed. He was so young that some might say he was barely a person. But he was—he was real to me, and he was mine, and nothing will change that. 

Moving On

It should be easy to revert back to life before Manatee, but it’s not. Sometimes when I wake up, I forget, and I am so happy. But then I wake up—really wake up—and remember that he’s gone. 

It hurts. I miss him.

My doctor ran tests on me to see if I have Lupus or natural killer cells. (Don’t ask me what those are. I barely know myself.) Tests on our little guy came back normal, and the tests didn’t show that there’s anything else wrong with me.

We will probably never know why we had a miscarriage.

But we know it’s extremely common: one in four women have a miscarriage. I am one of those women. Most people don’t talk about infertility because it’s complex and agonizing and personal. It can also be incredibly lonely. 

I don't think it should be.

think it should be okay to talk about infertility and loss and the things that break our hearts over and over again. We tend to keep these terrible secrets hidden inside our bodies, like they're not relevant or worthwhile parts of our stories. But they are. They matter.

If you’re going through something similar, know that you’re not alone. If I could say anything to you, I’d say this:

You are not a failure. 
It’s not your fault. 
I am so, so sorry. 

If you know someone going through this, please say something. Anything. Don’t let them feel like they’re alone or that there’s something wrong with them. Don’t hold back because you don’t know what to say. Say you’re sorry they’re going through this because it is terrible and shitty. Acknowledge their loss. Respect their grief. Love them. It doesn't fix anything, but it helps.

9 comments:

  1. Lina and Mike (even though we have never met), I am so sorry. I am sitting here in tears and feeling helpless and sad. I was so excited when I first saw little Manatee's picture! My good friend Karla has been dealing with infertility/loss for a while now. I wish I could fix it for her or at least tell her that everything is going to be okay. I think I slipped into that group of people that doesn't know what to say so just doesn't say anything, which as you said is very isolating.
    Thank you so much for sharing, and I hope you know your lime meringue pie is here WHENEVER you want/need it.

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    1. Nikki! Thank you so much for taking the time to say such kind words. I cherished them. Saying something is so much better than the silence. Saying something validates my struggle and makes me feel that I matter. I hope your words will bless Karla in a similar manner. If we ever make it down there, I will take you up on your offer for lime meringue pie! It sounds DELICIOUS!!!

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  2. Lina,
    My heart goes out to you. I was so happy for you and Mike when I read the part about you being pregnant, and I was absolutely heart broken when I read about the loss of your precious baby.
    I can't imagine the pain you guys are going through, all I can tell you is you're not alone. You guys are surrounded with family and friends that love you. People who will come along side and put and arm around you. ( in my case it might be a virtual hug, but I'm still here for you ) Don't lose heart dear cousin, trust in God. And and take comfort in knowing that you will get to see him one day. If you need anything I'm just a phone call away. ♥♥♥

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    1. Thank you, Ruth. God has made sure we've felt incredibly loved through this entire process. He continues to send people to be his hands and feet, to love us through the rough spots. Thank you for your prayers! We are so grateful to be covered in prayer. It absolutely has helped with the healing process!

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  3. Lina, this is absolutely heartbreaking. I am so, so sorry for your loss.

    I think you are powerful and brave and, most of all, exceptionally loving to share your story with everyone. To be experiencing such sadness and still, in the midst of it, think of all the others out there with relatable experiences is, I think, incredibly thoughtful and profoundly generous. You are an amazing woman and I truly admire your grace, your honesty, your strength, and your writing. Know that you and Mike are in all our thoughts and prayers. If I could pass a virtual hug through the internet, I would. Until that technology is developed, please imagine my noodle-y arms engulfing you with a deep understanding of my lack of upper-body strength. I can't help it. I hate the gym.

    Love,
    jh

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    1. I don't even know where to begin, but "thank you" seems appropriate. Thank you, Juliane, for your kind words. I am savoring each one because they are so generous and kind, but also because I am shallow and loved being affirmed. (HAHA! Sad but true.) Mike and I cried all over again last night as love and support poured in from everywhere. I am grateful to the internet for helping us bridge age/cultural/geographic/generational chasms. We felt really loved last night. I don't think either of us realized how much we needed it till we received it. Also, I so appreciate your noodle-y arms because mine are noodle-y, too. It makes hugging so much better--softer and kinder the way hugs should be. (I freak out when people try to break me in a hug.)

      I also hate the gym.

      Thank you again for saying something. I don't think you realize how much it means to me. Hope you are well.

      Love,

      Lina

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    2. Haha well let me know whenever you need an affirmation and I'll by more than happy to send one your way! Be advised, though, that only the first one's free. I don't care how much you've earned it, or how wonderful a person you are, or how sweet and big your heart is, or how supremely considerate you are, or how resilient you've proven yourself to be... a gal's gotta make a living. ;)

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  4. I am reading this thinking, where have you been all my life!? ;) Is it sick to say this is just what I needed today? To read the heartbreak of your miscarriage (we had one in July) - and to discover just moments ago that you're PREGNANT!!!!! THANK YOU! and I'm so glad I was on Twitter during that instant. I had my FET on Friday and I test on Monday and I'm nervous as hell. I feel no different. Which is how I felt the first time we did this and I had a chemical pregnancy - pregnant one day with low HCG levels, not pregnant by day 3... We have 2 embyros left - we did PGD testing. We've put one in at a time... and for that I know I should be thankful. But if this doesn't work this time I think I'm going to need a break. And I'm considering looking at adoption websites. Fingers crossed. But seriously congratulations to you and your husband. Inspired me to write more about this experience. I did back in January but lots has happened since then... (tried logging in as me, wineandquill.wordpress.com, but wasn't working)

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    1. Hahaha! I feel like we are already friends. I mean, you have a rescue bulldog. I have a rescue pitbull. People who adopt bully breeds are basically the best people alive. :)

      Also, I don't think it's sick to say this post is just what you needed today. It is humbling to hear that, and it makes me so happy to know that my tiny boy's life made a difference in yours today. I'm sorry you understand the heartbreak of miscarriage. I wouldn't wish that on anyone! We transferred twins in August, and though we heard their heartbeats a few days before our official 6 week ultrasound, there was just one lonely heartbeat when we went in for our appointment. We don't know what happened, but it felt just as bad as it did the first time.

      I understand about wanting to take a break if this round doesn't work out. My doctor was ready to try again, but I wasn't. I took over a year off. We celebrated what would've been Manatee's birthday in January, and then I just had "me time". (Read: I didn't want to admit that I was avoiding trying again because I was afraid, and because I HATE SHOTS. Seriously, I don't even get the flu shot.)

      If this baby is born, we will try again with our last frozen baby. But that one has the lowest chances of making it (50%). I'm not sure what I'll do if it doesn't make it. I don't know if I could go through another round of IVF. We are open to adoption, but I want to make sure that I don't quit because I'm afraid (of the process and of failing). I want to move on to adoption because I'm ready.

      Ugh, it's all so hard. Thank you for reaching out and saying something. I am so happy we've been talking in 140 characters or less. Hit me up if you ever feel like venting or talking to someone about what you're going through (thisislinafox@gmail.com). I'm happy to listen and commiserate! It's hard! There are good days and bad days, but know this: You are tough as shit, and you're already a great momma.

      P.S. I said I was going to write more, and then I didn't. I just chronicled the journey on IG. I really should write about it though. #suchabadwriter
      P.S.S. Your blog posts are proof that we are kindred spirits.

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