I have been asked by a lovely friend to do a guest post on her blog. I'm honored, especially since I don't feel like I'm a great writer or have any profound or eloquent insight to life. I'm just honest about my feelings and hope that my experiences can help others in my situation so that they may not feel so alone. Everyone has a story to tell and this is mine...
Michael and I met in 2006 and were married later that year. I honestly never really thought about having children until I met him. I always knew that I wanted children and would get married, wait a couple of years, get pregnant, you know, the usual steps. I met, fell in love, and married Michael and I could not believe how much I wanted to have a baby right away. I wanted to be a mother and really wanted to make Michael a father. We were both still studying and wanted to enjoy the time we had together so we didn't do anything hasty but the urge was there and I couldn't wait until it happened!
Fast forward to 2008. After about 18 months of marriage and Michael's graduation, we felt like it was time to start "trying". I assumed, probably like most, that we would get pregnant pretty quickly. The first and second months were disappointing but maybe expected. The subsequent months of negative pregnancy tests and watching other people get pregnant was progressively, excruciatingly painful. After 10 months we decided it was time to start investigating to see if everything was okay in the fertility world. After several tests, we found out that no, things were not okay. We needed in vitro fertilization (IVF) to have our children. Other people hear of a diagnosis like this and think problem solved. But it's not that simple or unemotional, it's a devastating diagnosis. IVF is emotional, painful, time consuming and above all, expensive. I don't know many people have an extra $15,000 stuffed in their mattresses and it took us a year to be able to afford our first round of treatment. Trying to relay the emotional roller coaster we found ourselves on would take more cyberspace than I have so feel free to head over to my blog to read about those months and years of heartache and joy.
To sum up 4 long years of infertility we attempted our first round of IVF. We were so confident it would work that they might as well have just handed us a baby. But yet again, another negative test. Up until recently, that was the worst day of my life. A year of saving a lot of money and anticipating finally becoming pregnant and it didn't work. We didn't know what we were going to do or how we were going to afford to do it again. Fast forward a whole year and we were ready to try again. Different doctor, different plan and we found out we were finally pregnant! That joy lasted a split second because we quickly realized it was not a healthy pregnancy and after 10 weeks of waiting and hoping and praying I underwent a D&C. The baby had stopped growing at about 6 weeks. We were devastated once again. How could this happen? To be honest, however, the miscarriage was not as devastating as the first IVF failure because I was happy to know that I could get pregnant. We had one frozen embryo left from our second cycle and it was something we did as soon as we could to "get it over and done with". After two failures, you kind of anesthetize yourself to the situation and go through the motions. After 4 years, we found out we were finally pregnant and it seem to be a healthy pregnancy. Nine months later, this little monkey was born...
My pregnancy was joyful, easy and exciting. Having a child makes the heartache of infertility dull and distant. I will never forget what Michael and I went through but he makes it easier to look back and smile. Although painful, I wouldn't change a thing because we have him, not any old child, him. He is truly our ray of sunshine and nothing short of a miracle. We have loved every minute of being parents and have been eager to give him a sibling.
I always wanted my kids to be closer together in age than farther apart. My sister and I are 18 months apart and I love it! So around Sam's first birthday, we geared up to do IVF again, maybe for the last time. We went through the motions again and were excited to find out we were pregnant once again. What a blessing! Nervous and excited we went to our first ultrasound to find out we were not only pregnant but we were doubly blessed with two strong heartbeats...
First trimester jitters out of the way, we went to our 12 weeks ultrasound. Excited we saw two strong heartbeats again but something was a little off on Baby A. The baby had an early marker that could mean nothing at all to a heart condition to a chromosomal defect. My heart sank. I desperately tried to convince myself that all was well but over the next two weeks of testing I also found myself preparing to have a child with special needs, most likely Down's Syndrome. We opted not to have an amnio but did a DNA blood test instead. After two weeks of waiting and praying and preparing we got the results. Our baby's chromosomes were completely normal and we were having two girls!! What a miracle! What a relief!
We spent the next two months, watching our baby girls grow and just being blissfully overjoyed at the thought of raising twin girls along with our precious boy. Our family would finally be complete.
The time had come for our 20 week ultrasound and I was very nervous. Having had dozens of ultrasound scans I find it easy to read the technicians. When everything looks normal, they are all happy to comment on how perfect your baby looks. When things are not as they should be they become very silent as ours did. They doctor quickly came in after the ultrasound and let us know that a few things were abnormal. She said her heart didn't quite look right (something we had been nervous about since week 12), her right foot appeared to club and another marker pointed towards a chromosomal abnormality. We already had a test that was negative for the most common abnormalities so we were terrified we were dealing with something extremely rare. We opted to have an amnio at this point - I'm the type of person that needs to know so I can be prepared for what is to come. Three days later, just after Thanksgiving, our doctor called and wanted to talk to us immediately (never a good sign). My heart sank once again and all I could think was, "please let it be Down's Syndrome". It's funny when things turn a corner, you find yourself wishing for the very thing you feared the most.
It was not Down's (Trisomy 21). It was Trisomy 18 or Edward's Syndrome. Our initial blood test was wrong even though it is supposed to be 99% accurate. All I knew was that this diagnosis was labeled "incompatible with life". That's a pretty harsh label for such a precious baby. Our world crumbled. After four years of infertility, a miscarriage, failed IVF cycles, we were told we would most likely have to bury our daughter. How could this happen? Were we not exempt from things like this happening to us? That is what I really thought. I thought we had gotten past the hard part. We had endured our trial.
Anger, crying, screaming and questioning ensued. Even now I look back to the severe meltdown I had in the shower and it brings me to tears. I literally thought I was going to punch a hole in the wall. I wanted to punch a hole in the wall. We spent the next month letting things sink in, researching, trying to accept our daughter's fate. It's still, to this day, hard accept because she is doing so well. She is a tiny, little fighter. She does not show many of the typical anomalies that Trisomy 18 babies show. Just a mild club foot and delayed growth. Her heart is perfectly normal and she is a mover. We have been told she can pass away at anytime but if she lives until birth we should expect her to pass away within a day to a week.
We don't know what to expect but here I am, 31 weeks pregnant with twin girls, trying to enjoy every moment and make memories with Cora while her heart still beats. I grieve many things daily: I grieve for her sister that they will never get to share that bond of a twin on earth; I grieve for her brother who is still too young to understand what is happening (which I find a blessing in disguise) and I grieve for her loving father who will not get to snuggle his two daughters together in his big, loving arms. She is still very much of us and we are doing well but we haven't had to say goodbye yet. We are making arrangements and preparing for the many scenarios that might take place and it's an odd feeling. No mother should ever have to think of funeral arrangements while her child moves within her. I used to think, "why us?" but then...why not us?
I've simply been chosen to be this special little girl's mother and I have been honored to carry her for as long as God will let me.