Friday, March 28, 2014

What Not to Say

In response to my previous post about infertility, I had a lot of people comment that they knew someone struggling with the same thing and didn't know how to help them. I wish there was a magic formula I could give you that would help. Or a line I could feed you that you could say to every person in that situation to make them feel better. But there's not. Every person is different. We all handle trials differently. I know a lot of people said things that both helped me and hurt me, so here are my opinions on what you can try to help someone you know who is experiencing the heart-wrenching sorrows of infertility.

Do acknowledge how difficult their trial is. 
Do try to be sensitive. Particularly if you are pregnant, be sensitive when sharing your good news. Tell them individually instead of in front of a group. Give them some time to grieve. Because they are probably happy for you, but I can speak from experience that most likely the first emotion they will feel is anger and frustration. And then they'll feel guilty at feeling that way, because it's not like we don't want you to be happy with your new little family. It's this never-ending spiral of trying to be happy but just being mad/sad/frustrated and then feeling guilty for having those feelings. So give them time. It took me about 2 months to get over it and get to the point where I could even congratulate a close friend or family member on their pregnancy. (For whatever reason, it was easier for me to deal with pregnancies of those who already had kids. It was hardest coming from those who were younger than I am, had been married for less time, and didn't have any kids yet.) So try to be understanding if they cry instead of smiling and congratulating you right away.
Do remember them on Mother's Day and Father's Day. Those days are particularly hard.
Do send notes, cards, flowers, food.. Make sure they know they are in your thoughts and prayers. And do pray for them.

But still, we're all human. We make mistakes. We sometimes walk around thinking we know things, or jumping to conclusions, then opening our mouths and saying things that can be really hurtful. We don't do it intentionally (usually) and I truly think that most people have good intentions. But there are certain things that should never be said. To anyone. The following is my list of never-to-be-saids.

-"Are you expecting?" Please, please never ask ANYONE this question, unless you know the answer is yes. Let them tell you. There are so many couples that struggle with infertility, and asking them if they are pregnant is another painful reminder of everything they don't yet have. Right along with this question goes "When are you going to have kids?" Prior to going through infertility, I would look at couples who had been married for a few years and didn't have children. I hate to admit this, but I sometimes thought that maybe they didn't have kids yet because they enjoyed the comforts of having two incomes and the freedom of being a couple without children. I know, terrible me. It kills me now that I ever thought that, because I have had people tell me that that's what they thought about Forrest and I before we had Charlie and Caroline. And it really hurts me to hear that. Please don't assume that. You never know what people are going through.

-Upon learning that someone is struggling with infertility, or a single woman struggling with never having children, saying "You can have one of mine" or "You can hold mine anytime you want." Don't. Just don't. Don't pretend that your children can fill the void. Although I will say that being an aunt and a primary teacher to perfect little children did bring so much joy to my heart. But It's just not the same. They weren't mine.

-After hearing how hard it was to get pregnant, saying "Wow. I'm just a fertile Myrtle." or "I just have to hug him and I get pregnant." I think people say this just because they really cannot relate at all, and they don't know what else to say. But trust me, it does not help to hear how easy it is for you to multiply and replenish the earth.

-"The clock is ticking." Really?! Who says that? Don't you think that we are very aware of how old we are and that right now is the best time to have children? (For the record - I am not that old. I am not particularly concerned about my biological clock. But I know many who are.) There is no need for the painful reminders of how much time we have left. I assure you, we wanted to be pregnant years ago.

-"I had a friend who got pregnant right after they stopped trying. So maybe you should just relax and not try so hard." Oh sure that's easy to do. Let me just stop thinking about how much I want to be a mom. If only the stress/pain/emotion was just a switch we could turn on and off. Don't minimize what we're going through by saying things like "Just give it time" or "I'm sure everything's fine." Because it's not fine.

-Anything about adoption. We may get there at some point, but most likely we are not ready to think and talk about adoption just yet. One step at a time.

-Don't complain about your pregnancy and/or children. This one bothered me the most, I think. When all you want is to see your belly growing bigger, it is really difficult to be around other women who are pregnant. It is made 100 times worse when they complain about it. And the same thing for those who have children already. When I was dealing with infertility I had to stop getting on Facebook because it was so painful to see posts about my friends' children, and even worse to hear their complaints about them. Be grateful for what you have, because there are so many who are longing to have it too.

Please know that if you have made one of these comments to me, it's ok. I'm over it. But in truth, it probably did hurt. I know my experience with infertility has made me think a lot more about what I say to and think of people. But I'm not perfect either. Let's just all be a little more conscious of those around us and how the things we say can make them feel.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Infertility: Our Story



I always knew I wanted to be a mother. Playing "house" as a little girl, giving my baby dolls bottles of milk and orange juice, and playing barbies for hours on end... Motherhood was like this perfect little fantasy. You grow up, get married, and have a perfect family and everything is wonderful. That's the idea right? As I grew up, my fantasy started to become reality. My first year of college I met my wonderful husband. We only dated a few weeks before I knew he was the man I was going to marry. We were married and sealed together for all eternity in the Provo, Utah LDS Temple less than a year after we met. Things were looking great. I wanted to start a family right away, but I knew it wasn't very realistic since Forrest and I were both on our college track team, and we had a couple of years left to compete before we graduated. So I thought I'd run for those two years, then have a baby as soon as possible afterwards. Great plan, Holly, really great plan.

Too bad our plans don't always go the way we'd like. Correction - too bad our plans rarely go the way we'd like! Forrest was determined to make it through grad school before we had kids. He felt that he needed to have a job secured before we started a family so that he could provide. I understood his point, but it was so frustrating to me to have to wait! We don't ofter argue, but when to start a family was one of the few things that we didn't see eye to eye on. Finally, after being married just over 2 years, we agreed to start trying to have a baby.

I knew that it took most couples approximately 3 months to get pregnant the first time. I was terrified that it would take us longer. We have close family that has struggled with infertility, and I had seen how difficult it can be. Even knowing all of that, I was devastated when I didn't get pregnant right away. I soon learned to hate pregnancy tests and all the emotions that came with seeing yet another negative result. After about a year of getting my hopes up when my period was a day late, I felt a little nauseous, or had to pee a lot - then crying for hours after taking a pregnancy test, we went to see a doctor. They ran a few tests that came back with pretty depressing results. Sitting in the doctors office, hearing her tell us that while most couples have a 20-30% chance of getting pregnant each month, we only had a 3-5% chance... then her instantly switching from the bad news to pushing us to pay $15,000 to do a cycle of In Vitro Fertilization that month. That was bad. Forrest and I both left the clinic feeling hurt, shocked, terrified, disappointed and so much more. I honestly can't describe what it feels like, knowing that teenage girls can get pregnant without even trying but we couldn't. 

Clearly our experience with that doctor and clinic was.. uh... less than ideal. As soon as we left we decided not to go back. We took a step off of the trying-to-get-pregnant train for a few months while we casually asked around for a good doctor that we could trust. As luck would have it, Forrest had a co-worker who highly recommended a doctor in Newport Beach, which was only a few minutes away from our house. We made an appointment for a consultation, and the minute we walked into the office we felt different. At the first office we felt like they wanted our money and didn't really care about us personally. In contrast, Dr. Anderson made us feel like he cared about us individually and truly wanted to do what was best for us. He recommended some next steps for us, which took us a few months to complete, and then we proceded with what he thought was the best course of action. 

In August 2012 we attempted our first of three IUI cycles (artificial insemination). Each of these involved me giving myself 10-15 shots in my stomach, and having my blood drawn and an ultrasound done every other day. After each cycle is complete, you wait 10 days then go in to have your blood taken for a pregnancy test. After the blood is drawn, you go home or to work or wherever, and wait. Wait for the phone call from the nurse that will bring you to tears, either out of joy or sorrow. Three times I got my hopes up. Three months the doctor told me everything looked perfect and there was no reason that it shouldn't be successful. The last of the three times we even thought we might be getting triplets (terrifying thought, but when you are so desperate to have a baby, 3 for the price of 1 doesn't seem like such a bad option). But all three times I got the phone call from the nurse. I pick up the phone anxiously and the first word out of the nurse's mouth is "unfortunately". I don't even listen to the rest of whatever she says. I shed some tears but then try to hide them as best as I can while I resume working, and hope that nobody asks me what the phone call was about. Then I call Forrest on my lunch break and tell him the news. He tried to stay positive but I know how hard it was for him, and for me, to think that there was an end to it all. 

There are some very dark emotions that come while coping with infertility. Every time I saw a pregnant woman my stomach turned. I lived in constant fear that my friends and family who had gotten married after me would get pregnant and have babies before me (something that did come to pass. I cried, selfishly, every time. Not that I wasn't happy for them, but it's a painful reminder of everything I couldn't have). I got frustrated every time I heard women complain about their children. I couldn't handle looking at pictures of people's kids all day, so I rarely looked at facebook. I alienated myself from so many friends because I just couldn't deal with it any other way. I couldn't walk by the kids and baby sections in stores without averting my eyes. Anything related to babies and children was painful.

During those depressing times we found some ways to cope. One of them was walking. Every Sunday we went to the park and walked. For hours. And we just talked. About work, mostly. Occasionally about our trials with infertility, but we tried to avoid that subject as much as possible. I found a quote that helped me a lot. From Elder Neal A. Maxwell, "Faith in God includes faith in His timing." I tried so hard to remind myself of that whenever I started feeling sorry for myself or started thinking negatively. I also received countless cards, notes and gifts from family and friends who knew what we were going through. Those helped me more than the senders will ever know.

Mothers' Days are particularly hard when you want so badly to be a mother but can't for whatever reason. One Mothers Day, a fantastic friend and her sweet little one baked me cookies and brought them to me with a Mothers Day card. I burst into tears and hugged him (I don't think he understood, but it meant the world to me). I am so grateful for wonderful friends and family. Forrest and I would have been much worse off had it not been for them.

After 3 failed IUI's, the doctor recommended we move on to IVF. It was a lot to take in, but we prayed about it and felt like it was the right step for us. It was November 2012. We had been trying to get pregnant for 2 years. Forrest was working over 80 hours/week, I was in the middle of my 2nd season as head coach of the high school soccer team, and we were swamped. But we felt like we needed to do this. So we proceeded. Thankfully we had infertility insurance, but between the lab costs, medication costs and copays we drained our bank account to make it happen. We barely scraped by, but we had enough. I gave myself over 110 shots, some in the stomach but most in the hip. I again had my blood drawn and ultrasounds done every other day. I underwent surgery to remove the eggs before they were fertilized, then a week of bedrest after the procedure was done. I will forever be grateful to my sister who came and waited on me hand and foot that whole week, and my friends who brought us meals and cared for me while I was down. 

During the procedure, the doctor picked out two perfect little embryos, and they became my little Charlie and Caroline. Perfect as can be. 

When the nurse called with the results from my pregnancy test I was at church. I stepped out of Young Women's to answer. "Hello?" "Hi Holly, this is Raquel from Dr. Anderson's office." Then, excitedly, "Guess what?! You're pregnant!" And I burst into tears. I could barely finish my conversation with her I was so overcome with emotions. I tried to call Forrest and frantically searched the halls until I found him. When he saw my tears he at first thought it was bad news. I finally got the good news out and we held eachother and cried. We went out to the car and called family and cried some more. Up to that point, that was the best day of my life. And I didn't even know there were twins until a week later. 

It is the weirdest feeling, having a trial end after years of dealing with it. Getting pregnant was on my mind nonstop for 2 years, and then all the sudden, after one phone call, bam! I'm pregnant. It was a lot to take in, and it took a few days for it to sink in that I was finally going to be a mother. It was a long hard road to get there. And the thought of going through all of that again to get another baby is terrifying. But so so worth it. I would do it all 1,000 times to have a perfect little miracle (or two) in my arms. 

I'm not sharing our story so that you'll feel sorry for us. I'm sharing so that we can all become more aware of what others are going through, and know how it feels when people ask things like "so when are you going to have kids?". Our experience has changed the way I look at others, especially couples without children. I no longer assume that they are just content and comfortable to live on two incomes without any dependents. Because chances are, they would do just about anything to have one more mouth to feed. I'm also sharing because maybe, just maybe our story can help someone else struggling with infertility, just like others helped us on our journey. 

Monday, March 24, 2014

The First 5 Weeks

The first 5 weeks of Charlie and Caroline's lives were some of the hardest of mine. They were also some of the most rewarding/exhuasting/joyful/stressful/exciting/terrifying... you name it, I probably felt that emotion. 

In the hospital, I tried tandem feeding but it was just so hard. So the first week that we were home, I was feeding them one at a time. And when it took them sometimes up to an hour to get a full feeding, that meant that more than half of my day was spent feeding babies. Absolutely exhausting! And when they need to eat every 2-3 hours, it often seemed like I would finish feeding one, then the other, just to find that the first was hungry again. Things improved significantly (feeding-wise) after that first week, when I figured out how to properly feed them at the same time. Then we encountered a new problem. 

By this point, they were both on different eating schedules, especially at night. In the daytime they did fine, but oh how I dreaded the nights. Getting them on the same schedule was so important to me (because of how much feeding time it saved), so that meant that when one baby woke up to eat, night or day, I woke the other baby to eat too.

I remember delaying going to bed as long as possible because I didn't want to face another night. It seemed like staying awake and not even trying to sleep was just easier. I remember laying in bed trying to sleep after finishing up a feeding, running on 45 minutes of sleep and being so tired that I couldn't allow myself to relax enough to sleep. I remember being so excited when I'd look at the clock and see 3 or 4 AM because it meant that it was almost daytime, and the relief I felt at making it through another night. I remember watcing Wreck it Ralph, DuckTales and Tail Spin all night long, and listening to Forrest play Monster Run on the iPad. We found that it was easier just to stay awake all night and try and nap during the day.

I have been extrememly blessed to have a wonderful husband who was so helpful duing those times. We were so fortunate that his work allowed him 6 weeks off after the birth so I didn't have to endure the difficult times alone. We were also lucky to have my fantastic mom come and spend the first two weeks with us. I am 100% confident I would not have kept my sanity through those times without Forrest and my mom.

In addition to the sleeping/eating difficulties, we were also in the midst of a big move. When Charlie and Caroline were 5 weeks old, we moved from our little 1-bedroom apartment in SoCal to a 2-bed in Salt Lake City. So having newborn twins in our tiny aparment that we were in the midst of pulling apart for the move - ya that was stressful.

Getting settled in our new home in Utah was the start of my sanity returning. We were able to set up their cribs, move them into their own room, and start getting settled. Finally at 6 weeks, the kids started sleeping and so did we. By 8 weeks they were sleeping through the night, Forrest was back at work, and we started adjusting to our new normal. 

Thinking back on those first 5 weeks, it seriously makes me terrified to think of having more children. But as hard as they were, it was all worth it! I am so blessed to have such wonderful family and friends, and such beautiful children. Despite the difficulty of it, we survived! Hooray :)

Monday, March 17, 2014

Mobility

knew this day was coming. But that doesn't make it any easier to prepare for! Caroline started crawling. Well, sort of. She started scooting around on her belly, using her little hands and toes to push herself forward. She gets up on her hands and knees and rocks back and forth. And Charlie can roll across the room in less than a minute to get to whatever he wants. It's darling, really, but the idea of my kids being mobile is more than a little terrifying. We haven't fully baby-proofed yet.. I'm hoping that once we have, it won't be quite so overwhelming. The problem is, I keep forgetting how mobile they are. That they can get into anything, and do get into everything, that I leave on the floor. Those dirty picture frames that I've been meaning to paint that have been sitting on the floor in the corner for the last 3 months? Well now they (and all the germs on them) have been all over in both my kids' mouths. Dirty diapers, my shoes, the remote, my cell phone (oh my, that phone.. Caroline can spot it from across the room and zips right to it every time. My camera roll is full of her "selfies.." see below.) You name it, it's in their mouths. Oh ya, add to that list the bowl of squash puree that I left on the floor after trying to feed Caroline. I walk away for 30 seconds and come back to find this: 


How in the world did I suddenly forget that they were mobile and leave something wide open for them to get into? I have no clue. But they loved it. My carpet did not love it. Seriously though, by the time I found the mess it was already made, so I just let them play there as long as they were happy. On the bright side, they sort of fed themselves for the first time. If you count licking the squash off of your fingers feeding yourself. Oh well, it didn't take long to clean up and it kept them entertained for a while. All it took was an early tubby and less than 3 minutes of floor and clothing scrubbing to get it cleaned up. Not bad :) How I love these two!

Oh, and here's one of Caroline's best selfies:


Haha she cracks me up. She takes videos of herself too, but you can't see most of them because the phone spends most of the time in her mouth. Something about that big red button on the phone - she can't help but push it! 



Happy St. Patrick's Day!


Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Special Delivery!

Most twins are delivered between 34 and 36 weeks. Not mine. We were among the rare few that make it full term. At the time I thought it was awful. I was so ready to be done with the discomfort, and so ready and excited to meet my little miracles! I was scheduled to be induced the day I turned 38 weeks. It was a beautiful Saturday morning in sunny California. My parents had arrived late Friday night, so we didn't get much sleep the night before. Not that anyone could sleep well the night before having two babies anyway!

We woke up, ate a light breakfast, loaded the car seats and bags into our van and drove the hour north to the hospital. I got settled and they started me on pitocin. Within 30 minutes the anesthesiologist was there to give me my epidural. (I think I would have opted for one anyway, but since the chance of an emergency C-section with twins is so high, they very highly recommend getting one.) I was dreading the epidural, but it really wasn't bad. The IV in my arm hurt worse. We sat in the labor/delivery room, playing Bejeweled Blitz and Monster Run on the iPad, and I even read a little Harry Potter while we waited for me to progress. My parents came and visited for a few minutes before going to get some dinner and watch a movie while they waited. Around 6 PM I started progressing more quickly, so the nurse suggested that Forrest go get some dinner before it was go time. When he left at 6 I was dilated to a 6. A few minutes after he left, I started vomiting, so the nurse came and checked me. It was 6:10 and I was suddenly dilated to a 10. So I hurried and called Forrest and frantically told him to come back! I called my parents and told them it was time, so they ditched their dinner and rushed back to the hospital too. While I was calling family, my nurse called my doctor.

Forrest got back right in time. As soon as he arrived, they rushed me into the OR. (Even though the plan was to deliver vaginally, they always deliver twins in the OR just in case they need to do an emergency C-section.) This is where it got a bit crazy. My doctor met us in the hall, and she was accompanied by two other doctors. Once we got settled into the room, the anesthesiologist stepped in (just in case we needed him). My nurse was by my left side, and Forrest was by my right. Then there were two nurses ready to take each baby. As soon as they got my bed in place, one of the doctors started an ultrasound to monitor the babies as they were delivered. The anesthesiologist stood above my head observing the chaos. After pushing through a few contractions, it was suddenly shift change for the nurses. At that point, I think there were 16 people in the room. Like I said, it was a bit crazy. During the shift change, Charlie was born. He was head down, right in place so he was delivered without too much effort. Plus he was tiny, only 5 lbs 10 oz. Caroline had been transverse above Charlie (meaning she was sideways, not head up or head down), so the hope was that she would turn head down and be able to be delivered normally as well. Unfortunately, as the doctor saw on the ultrasound, she put her feel right down and turned breech. So instead of having me try and push her out, one of the doctors reached up, grabbed her feet, and pulled her out. There were a few scary moments when he was trying to maneuver her shoulders out. Six minutes after Charlie was born, Caroline came out purple, not breathing and with the cord wrapped tightly around her neck. I couldn't see her, but the doctor looked at me and told me she would need to be rushed to the NICU because she had undergone so much trauma during the delivery. My heart was pounding about a million miles a minute. Within 30 seconds, though, they had unwrapped the cord and she let out a very healthy little cry. So no need for the NICU. Thank goodness! We were so relieved. We were also a bit surprised to learn that she weighed 7 lbs 1 oz, meaning that I had nearly 13 lbs of baby inside of me. But all the discomfort was immediately forgotten when I got to hold my beautiful children for the first time. 

My poor parents. They hadn't heard anything from the time I called them until Forrest went walking proudly into the nursery with his two beautiful little babies. It had been over an hour, and my mom was beside herself with worry that something had gone wrong. They were so relieved when I called them to tell them that I was ok and that I'd been able to deliver them both vaginally. So was I! (I was - and still am - terrified at the thought of a C-section.) Honestly, I think the delivery was the easiest part of my entire pregnancy. It went so smoothly (largely due to my wonderful doctor and the amazing staff at PIH!) and for that I am extremely grateful!



Saturday, March 1, 2014

The Fearsome Five



One of my favorite childhood memories is of me and my sisters sitting in Leatherby's ice cream parlor, eating ice cream and having a ball on our first ever sisters-night-out. I was about 10 years old and was (well, I guess I still am!) the 4th of 5 girls in my family. No boys, despite my years and years of begging my parents and asking Santa Claus for a baby brother. My oldest and youngest sister are just 10 years apart, so we are all fairly close in age. As a kid, though, having four sisters, one of whom is 8 years older than you, can get pretty annoying. Especially when you only have one bathroom in your house! As one of the younger ones I just had to get used to hand-me-downs, taking cold showers, sitting up to the bar when we had guests for dinner if we didn't have enough chairs for all of us to fit at the table, and spending a large part of my childhood attending my big sisters' activities and events. I didn't mind that last one though - my big sister Ashley was the coolest person I'd ever known and I couldn't get enough of watching her basketball and volleyball games and track meets. I completely idolized her, and she knew it. She could get me to do anything she wanted. For example, as an 8 year old I memorized Mark Antony's famous "Friends, Romans, countrymen.." speech in its entirety while trying to help her memorize it. I knew nearly every word of Of Mice and Men because I read her a few chapters each night before bed, during which she would inevitably fall asleep so I would have to re-read it to her the next night. And then I read her the book report she'd hand-written while she typed it up. I attended every single one of her high school athletic events and even wore t-shirts that said "#13 is my sister." Yeah, I was an awesome little sister. And she was an awesome big sister. She was everything I wanted to be. Still is, for that matter. 

And she's not my only awesome sister. My little sister Kaylee has always been one of my best friends. We are only 17 months apart so we were only one grade apart in school. We shared our little white truck in high school, shared a room, clothes and just about everything else. And even though she lives far away now, we still rarely go a day without talking. 

My big sister Carlia is the one just older than me. Like Sara and Kaylee, she was a cheerleader in high school (which was pretty polar opposite from the athletes that Ashley and I were). She was involved in choir and drama, and one of my favorite things was watching her perform in plays. Funny story - when I was an awkward pre-teen I used to part my hair right down the middle. One day Carlia told me I should move my part to the side so I didn't look so silly. So I did and I was so excited to show her! But apparently I way over-corrected because my hair looked like I had a comb over. When I showed it to Carlia, she told me I looked like an old man. Ha! I'm sure I did. Our relationship survived that blow, though ;) and I can definitely say she is an awesome sister. 

My oldest sister Sara is 8 years older than I am, so I didn't know her very well when I was little. I remember her bringing me some markers and a notepad for my fifth birthday, and I remember hearing about how she asked for a fortune cookie at a Mexican restaurant while she was on a date. Ironically, we didn't really become close until she moved out of the house. Now, though, we are great friends and there's nobody else I can tease quite like her.

We may not have all been close when we were growing up. We quarreled just like most siblings do (I mean, when you have five girls plus their parents all sharing a bathroom, there's bound to be some trouble) but we still had fun together. We sang our hearts out on road trips, played jinx nonstop and had UNO competitions late into the night. Sure, Sara tried to kill me in the car once by jamming an inch-round pencil point-first down my throat (ok just kidding Sara, I know that was an accident!) but we all really do love each other, and now we are even closer than ever. I am so blessed that I can say my sisters are my very best friends!

Why all this nostalgia, you ask? Because next week the Fearsome Five are reuniting! (I nicknamed us that, guys, hope you don't mind..Fab Five was already taken). I haven't been this excited about something for a while. Hooray for sisters!