Tuesday, November 23, 2010

My birth story through the eyes of my sister

I was so happy to have my little sister with me throughout my entire labor and delivery. She captured the events of the day so beautifully. I will post my birth story in a few days, or rather, shall I say, when I have a second. Here is her recollection of what was one of the greatest day of my life.

----------------
Auntie Chelsea’s Brief Recollections:

I thought before it begins to dull in my memory that I would jot down the events of November 10, 2010: the day when my two precious little nephews made their first appearance in this world.

I was sitting in our lower bedroom sewing an apron when I saw a call from Adrianne. These days anytime that she would call, especially due to the rarity of her telephone calls in general, I would consider “is this it?” Sure enough, after a few phone tags, we got a hold of each other and she had been checked into the hospital that morning.

I got on it and set up dog-sitting for the pups, packed up some belongings, and waited for Robby to get out of the surf and get on home. We made our way up and about ten minutes from the hospital were held up by an unexpected pit stop. Our Honda decided a couple of exits away from a Honda dealership that it would get itself a rock stuck in its wheel and make a horrid sound. So, like the stylish aunt and uncle we are, we arrived to Kaiser in a minivan shuttle.

From my point of view, especially in comparison to labor with Karissa, this all happened rather quickly. On Karissa’s turn a few years back, I had time to watch an entire U2 concert, drive up and wait hours and hours in anticipation, only to end up back in San Diego by the time she decided to come on out.

Robby and I entered the L&D floor to see Adrianne, as expected, hooked up to quite a few monitoring devices. With the epidural in place and the Pitocin dripping, her contractions were going along as hoped. The first OB doc, whom I can’t remember the name of, so I will refer to him as "Dr. McConaughey" (sorry ladies, but I am referring to the Texas drawl, not the looks) and Dr. P each checked on everyone. After a few practice pushes, Adrianne was 10 cm and ready to roll.

Last minute, Adrianne decided she’d like me in the OR. And like her unique personality, her mind was made. It didn’t matter that the room would be jammed full with multiple MD’s, RT’s, RN’s, an anesthesiologist, etc.,…she held the VIP card and got her way. So as I was there at the start (i.e. the conception…not all of it! the IVF part), I was also there for the delivery.

Now for the real show: In a rather swift time, and after some impressive coaching on Daddy Mark’s part, Adrianne worked her little butt (yes, I’d choose another word, but after all this technically is a children’s story)…so she worked her little butt off, okay, so not so little…but she pushed and pushed and out came Preston at 1755 weighing a healthy 5’11 lbs. If you think that’s a good size for a twin at 37 weeks, just wait. As seen in previous ultrasounds, Preston’s little brother thought he’d show his older brother up by giving Mom that much more work. In a controversial vaginal delivery, little Ethan taunted everyone for four more minutes with his tiny feet teasing the OR audience. Following more amazing coaching by Mark and further astonishing pushing by Mama, Ethan was convinced by Dr. P’s shaky hands and some pointers by Dr. M to flex his head and join the world outside of the womb. Weighing 6’1, Ethan said hello at 1759.

After that game Ethan played, it’s surprising to think that it had been Preston that was so much more active in the womb. Of course, it does make sense that Preston has the higher pitch cry of the two, as if to say…just because he put on a big show doesn’t mean you can forget about all my activity over these past 9 months so easily!

After a couple suctions and getting the little guys all cleaned up, Mommy got to hold her long awaited strong baby boys.

The story could continue with details of the joyful grandparents getting to see these little guys, the only private recovery room on the unit that the Dr’s wife got, all the congratulations of Mark’s caring co-workers, a delicious welcome home steak dinner with a bottle of S. Lucia Pinot…but really that’s all just a backdrop to how elated we all are to have Preston and Ethan finally here.


Monday, November 1, 2010

Progress & Heartbreak

This entry was written a few months ago, I just never got around to posting it:

I cannot believe the progress I have made with Karissa's room. I don't know how I did it...must have had a little help from an angel up above. I organized and labeled almost everything and put it all in her closet. The other closet has all her toys and new stuff for the boys which I will put in the other room once it is complete. I cleaned out her dresser and moved it out of her room. A few of her pictures are still on the wall. It is breaking my heart to take them down. We have put some in our room. But, what is the most heart-breaking is taking down her bed. The other day I just cried all day about it. I told Mark that when it goes, it will feel like it is no longer Karissa's room.


I did end up throwing a few things away but I kept mainly everything. Eventually, I will move everything out of her closet but at the time, my mind (and heart) could only process so much. It was very tough. How do you put memories in a box, or, in my case, many boxes?
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Since writing the above, we have made quite a bit of progress. The rooms are done. Actually, they have been done for a while but I just haven't gotten around to taking and posting pictures. The babies will be staying in our room in the co-sleeper until they are too big.

The yellow room was Karissa's room. We kept the color the same. I finally managed to move Karissa's bed out of her room, only I didn't do it. I had Mark and my dad take it down while I was at my baby shower back in September. The last picture is one of the closets in Karissa's room. All of her things, from clothes to special keepsakes to school projects are in the closet.







Wednesday, October 27, 2010

NST's = a little bit of worry & a peek at personalities!

I now have to have NST's (non-stress test) twice a week until the babies arrive. Originally, I was told that because each baby has its own placenta and sac, I would not need to come in for NST's. Last week, at my routine OB appointment, my doctor informed me that there is a slightly higher risk of fetal demise (I love my OB but did he really have to say that?) with IVF twin pregnancies and that both he and my perinatologist wanted me to come in twice a week for monitoring.

So, they monitor the heart rates of both babies and also monitor contractions. From what I understand, the primary goal of the test is to measure the heart rate of the babies in response to their own movements. Healthy babies will respond with an increased heart rate (accelerations) during times of movement, and the heart rate will decrease at rest. The concept behind the NST is that adequate oxygen is required for activity and heart rate to be within normal ranges. When oxygen levels are low, the baby may not respond normally. Low oxygen levels can often be caused by problems with the placenta or umbilical cord.

I have had 3 NST's now and Baby A passes in about 5 minutes. He must have my personality! Baby B, on the other hand, is a little more chill or stubborn (oh, and he's breech too) and usually needs to be woken up with the buzzer. Yesterday, he didn't do much for about 20 minutes. I was getting a little worried. He finally woke up when the nurse zapped him with the buzzer. Once his heart rate finally accelerated, it seemed like it stayed there FOREVER!!! Even though everything is fine, I'm still worried about my little guy.


Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Belly Pics


~33 Weeks~



~34 Weeks~

~35 Weeks~


Saturday, October 23, 2010

Bubble Wrap

As the day draws closer, I find myself becoming more and more emotional about the health of my babies. However, I have absolutely no reason to worry. So far, everything is going great. My OB and perinatologist are beyond pleased with how my pregnancy is progressing. I will be 35 weeks tomorrow and have not shown any signs of pre-term labor and haven't had any other health problems, such as pre-eclampsia or gestational diabetes. I haven't had to go on bed rest and have tried my best to take care of myself. It's all paying off...the babies now weigh 5 pounds 2 ounces and 5 pounds 5 ounces! Wow!! I was hoping and praying that they would make it to 5 pounds at delivery. My OB even seems to think I will make it all the way to 38 weeks. Yikes!! I am already measuring around 45 weeks. I can't imagine how big I will be in another few weeks.

But, while my little guys are doing great, this momma is freaking out. Will one or both have seizures? Will I walk into the room one morning to find one of them blue and not breathing, or even worse, dead? Yes, I'm scared, but it's completely understandable. I don't even want to imagine walking down that road again. Right now they're safe in the confines of my belly. They are with me all the time. Just how I want it to remain...forever.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Moving right along...


I read a few blogs written by women who have traveled the road of infertility and are now pregnant with the help of IVF. Most document their weekly progress. I haven't ever done this, mainly because I don't consider my blog an infertility blog. This week, I thought I would do it for fun.

How far along:
26 weeks

Total Weight Gain: do I have to tell you?

Symptoms: back pain which just started last week; heartburn in the morning that is so bad that I end up vomiting if I eat before noon; coffee, stinky trash and my stinky dishwasher will also induce vomiting; swollen hands and feet, which I imagine, will get progressively worse...I can no longer wear my wedding rings :((; very mild Braxton-Hicks contractions; I am already feeling quite uncomfortable and I still have 12 weeks to go.

Stretch Marks: 3 that are so small and low that you can barely see them. I had them after Karissa so hopefully I won't get any new ones. Good work belly butter!!!

Sleep: Horrible. I wake up every other hour to go to the restroom. I cannot seem to get comfortable and I usually wake up every morning feeling like someone is drilling a large screw into whatever hip I slept on.

Movement:
every night when I am going to bed, there is a battle that goes on in my belly. I swear they are doing tumbling passes too. I love falling asleep to my little guys moving around. They are usually quiet during the day.

Food Cravings: none.

What I Miss: running, cycling, resistance training (P90X anyone?), red wine, soft cheeses and sushi/sashimi.

What am I looking forward to: all the above and of course meeting my little guys!! xoxo November please come quick!!

Milestones:
too many to count! I am so thankful that everything is going well. I have had no signs of pre-term labor, my cervix is long and closed, the babies are growing just as they should and my doctor is very pleased with how this pregnancy is progressing. I hope to make it 38 weeks and with a vaginal delivery but only time will tell... I am doubtful I will meet either of these but that is just my realistic brain talking. I am really still trying to stay optimistic. Only 12 weeks or less to go!!! Oh my!

Now, some belly shots.

~0 weeks and 0 day; a week or so before I got pregnant~


~5 weeks~

~12 weeks~

~17 weeks~

~24 weeks~


~25 weeks~

Monday, July 26, 2010

A change of plans

A few weeks ago we found out that we will be having two boys, not the girl and boy we were initially expecting. After we were told the second baby was a boy, I went completely numb. I really don't remember anything else that happened during the ultrasound. I am still trying to process the fact that I will be having two boys. I cannot quite wrap my mind around the idea. I am still hoping that when I go to deliver my babies, I will pop out a girl.

Just to give you a glimpse into my mind, this is how I am processing things:
I have prayed from the very beginning of this whole process that I would get pregnant. After 2 failed attempts, we were successful. I prayed for twins. Again, my prayer was answered. I have prayed every day since the day we got pregnant that God would protect the little lives growing inside me. I prayed specifically for each of their developing hearts, brains, kidney, and please dear God no seizures. At our last ultrasound, we were told that we have two healthy babies. More answered prayers. I know I have no right to complain. I know I am truly blessed. I realize that it is a miracle that we are even pregnant to begin with. Everyday I am constantly reminding my myself that God is the only one that knows what I need. He has a knowledge of things way beyond my understanding. That is how I am processing things at the moment.

Anyways...

While nothing or no one will ever replace my sweet little Karissa, I had imagined that having another little girl would be like having a little taste of Karissa back in my life. But, maybe having a girl would be harder than I would expect. I had planned to use Karissa's things for her little sister. But, as I am slowly sifting through her things, I don't know if I could actually use them. I don't know if I could bring myself to wash her things for her little sister to use. So, maybe it is better this way. I don't know. My grieving heart is so full of emotions.

Anyhow, here are the long-awaited pictures.



~Baby A~

~Baby A~
~Baby A~
~Baby B~

~Baby B~
~Baby B~
~Both Babies~














Wednesday, July 7, 2010

The day before is the hardest. I don't know if it is the anticipation of the anniversary or what. Last year on the 8th, I don't think I shed a tear. I know that sounds just awful. It was the day before that I was an absolute mess, for both Mark and I. I never knew two years ago would be the last time I would give Karissa her bath, wash her hair and put her in her adorable pajamas. Or read her Goodnight Moon and rock her to sleep. Or tell her to turn off her light. I loved our nightly routine. That is partly why the day before is so hard. It is filled with memories of my little girl and things that I will never get to do with her again. It was the last day she was alive and full of life. Her last day on earth with us. The last day I would see her smile and hear her babble and play.

Today my stomach is in knots. I cannot eat. I cannot get a thing done. I am just aimlessly roaming around the house trying to figure out what to do. I thought I would sit down and write something but even that isn't working. So I thought I would just re-post an old blog entry.

Blog entry on July 7th, 2009

A year ago today was the day before Karissa passed away. I can recall most of what I did that day. Mark and Karissa left the house at around 7:30 that morning. Mark took Karissa to her special day class which she attended 3 times a week. She was usually there for about 4 hours. We had the option of having her there all day but I was uncomfortable with that. Honestly, I didn't want her to do the full-day thing because I missed her too much. That day she was there for about 7 hours...way too long for me. I went grocery shopping and bought a ton of food. We had just returned home from our vacation in La Quinta and we had nothing to eat in the house. I spent most of the day preparing meals for the week. The house was so quiet that day. It was weird. I missed Karissa and all her precious sounds and noises. At around 1:00 I realized that I forgot a few things at the store. I returned to the store, got what I needed and then drove through El Pollo Loco. I was sitting in the drive-thru and that is when, at 1:21, I called the school to see how Karissa's was doing. Actually, I called every day she was at school to get a report about her day. They said she was still napping. Shortly after that, Mark picked her up. Mark called me from the car and I remember talking to Karissa. She wasn't saying much and Mark said she seemed kind of tired. Anyways, I remember feeling sooooo excited that they were coming home. I actually waited on the front porch for them. I remember running out to the car to get Karissa. I was elated! I had missed her so much. When I got her from the car, I was appalled at what she was wearing. Apparently, they had water play at school and they had to change her clothes. Well, they put some other child's clothes on her by mistake. The outfit was mismatched and the clothes were like 2 sizes to big! Ughhhh! I gave her dinner and did the night-time routine: meds, bath, brushed teeth, bedtime stories and then lights out. We live in a 1906 house with the push button light switches. Every night I had her turn her light off. I was so proud of her when she turned the light off. Karissa had a hard time with her fine motor skills so pushing a button was a BIG deal. I always said "light off" and tried to get her to imitate me. I also read Goodnight Moon almost every night. However, a year later, I can't remember if I read it to her. That makes me so very sad. At around 10:30 that night, Karissa was up and about in her room. That was usually an indication that she was going to have seizures the following day. I still can't recall how we got her back to sleep. That makes my sad as well. I had such a hard time sleeping that night. I remember praying and asking the Lord to heal my baby girl. I prayed that He would heal her from her seizures. I also prayed that He would give me strength and patience to get through the days ahead. Having a child with special needs take A LOT of work. I loved it, but it was hard work! Only those that have special needs children can truly appreciate and understand what I am saying. At around 1:30 am, I went into her room. Sometimes I would go in her room and pray over her. I can't recall if I did that night. Anyways, Karissa had a big therapy pillow next to her bed. It was given to us by one of her therapists to help her improve her balance. We would put it in the middle of the doorway to her room so she would have to walk over it. I crashed on it for about 30 minutes. I was listening to her breathing. I ended up going to bed in the room next to Karissa's. I didn't wake up until around 7:30 the next morning. I thought it was strange that Karissa was not awake yet. That was my first clue that something was not right. I can still remember Mark standing right outside her room, just staring and then he said "oh no." I think he said, she's gone. She was cold to the touch and there was nothing we could do. I remember opening her eyes and looking at them. Don't know why I did that. It is all still very surreal to me.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Painful Process

Almost two years after losing Karissa, I am now starting the painful process of going through her stuff. It's a process, I guess. I am not sure if I am doing it because it just has to be done or because I am just ready. I have to wonder, if I wasn't pregnant, would I still be trying to tackle the emotional and heart-wrenching task? A task that floods the mind with so many memories, some that you want to hold on to for dear life and others that you would rather just forget.

I have had a few friends offer to come over and help me. While I truly appreciate them and am so thankful for friends that would be so willing go through this with me, I honestly would much rather face it alone. Maybe it is my introverted nature. Or the fact that I really don't show my emotional side to anyone except for Mark.

Karissa had two closets, one which had all of her clothes and shoes and the other which I refer to as "the toy chest." Over the past two years (well almost), I have stuffed things in both closets to the point that you could barely open the doors without everything crashing down.

Last Saturday, I started with the toy chest closet. I figured that would be the easier of the two. The first things I started sorting through were all her cups, plates, bowls and utensils. I started putting them in a storage container for later use with the twins. All of her cups still smelled of the liquids I use to put in them. A few even had her name on them, so that they wouldn't get mixed up with the other kids things at church or school. Not soon after did I find myself in tears. I went downstairs and said to Mark "I just can't do this." But, as hard as it was, I continued on with the task.

I am trying to figure out what to do with a lot of her things. It is unbearably heart-breaking to think of throwing anything away. Every item has some memory linked to it, some good, some bad. For instance, I was thinking about throwing away her bath toys. They are gross, especially the squirt ones that harbor so much bacteria...yuck!! But, I couldn't bring myself to do it. Some of her bath toys were put away in large ziploc bags the day she died by a close friend. When I went to grab one of the bags, I noticed a lot of strands of her hair along along with the toys. I couldn't imagine tossing that bag. I feel like I would be throwing away the memories of a daily routine, bath time, that Karissa loved so much.

Or, I came across a few bottles of her anti-seizures medicines. I still haven't thrown them away. Why I want to keep them is beyond me. Karissa's seizures were horrific and heart-breaking to watch, especially as she got older. Why do I want to hold on to a memory of the very thing that took her life?

Going through this process and losing a child has made me realize that people are so different in how they process their grief. One thing that I find interesting is that a lot of people would say this process is 'cleansing.' I have heard it said many time before after one has suffered a tragic loss. "It must have been so cleansing to let go" or whatever which is fine. While many people process their grief quite differently than others, this was in no way cleansing. I said to Mark later that day, "I don't know why the H*** people sometimes refer to this as cleansing, this was in no way cleansing to me!!" Anyways, just my thoughts.


~Before~

~After~

~Meds anyone?~

Friday, June 25, 2010

America's Got Talent - Connor Doran - Indoor Kite Flying

A very powerful reminder that people with epilepsy should never be underestimated or told that they cannot do something because of their condition. This video brought tears to my eyes. I loved seeing the reaction of his mom as he performed. She must have been so proud.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

A heart full of emotions

Dear Karissa,

Today we found out that you are going to have a little sister and a little brother. It was so amazing to see both babies, your siblings. My heart is so full of emotions...joy, thankfulness, happiness and sadness...that you won't be able to meet your baby brother and sister.

What I want you to know is that even though you are not here with us, you will always be a part of our family. We are now a family of five. You will never be replaced. Never. We have not taken down any of your pictures. They will remain just as they are, only we will add to them. You will always be a part of this family. We will still remember the day you entered this world and the day you left.

I have had a few people ask me if we are going to tell your siblings about you. Absolutely! Your baby brother and sister will know that they have a big sister, only that you are up in heaven. They will know everything, every detail about you. We will share pictures and videos of you with them. They will know what a sweet big sister you would have been. And when the time is right, they will know how you left this earth.

I hope you don't mind, and I know for certain that you won't, but we have saved all your toys and books for your baby brother and sister. You were always such a kind and giving little girl and I know that if you were here, you would be more than happy to share. Your baby sister will be in your room and your baby brother in the room next to yours.

I know that you were smiling down from heaven today as you saw the joy and happiness on our faces. I only wish you could be here to share it with us. I cannot wait for the day when we will all be reunited again and you will finally get to meet you baby brother and sister.

I love you my sweet little angel.

Love, Momma

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Looking for more answers vs. reassurance

A week ago, Mark and I had an appointment to see the genetic counselor. This individual works with the geneticist who saw Karissa a few months before she died. Anyways, the reason for this appointment was because I am considered advanced maternal age. Nice huh? Oh, and I am 35, just in case you were wondering how old I really am.

So, we get to the appointment and the counselor starts by asking us to tell her about our family history, previous pregnancies, children, ect. How did I start the conversation? Of course by telling her that our daughter died of epilepsy. I informed her that she had seen the geneticist who ran every genetic and metabolic test possible. That he had tested for syndromes that are characterized by seizures and developmental delay, such as angelmans syndrome and fragile X, two syndromes for which Karissa had displayed some characteristics. That he was unable to find anything to explain her severe global developmental delay and why she was starting to show signs of regression.

The counselor proceeded to bring up Karissa's chart and noted that everything was normal. Every test that was done from birth to the day she died was normal. A chromosome study was also done and Karissa had the correct number of chromosomes. They even looked at the tips of every single chromosome, called telomeres, and these were also normal. There was, however, a test that was done when Karissa was 2 weeks old that came up abnormal but when it was re-checked a year later, it was normal. Up until our appointment on Monday, I was never made aware that the test was re-checked and that is was normal. Kinda wished I had known, as it would have eased my mind of all the 'what-ifs' that went through my mind (and still do) following Karissa's death.

Karissa had elevated levels of 3-hydroxyisovalericacid which is associated with defects in biotin (a B-complex vitamin) metabolism. I remember the day the neurologist went over the results of that specific test with me. He said something like "her lab value is slightly elevated but it is nothing to worry about. Infants that have abnormal (elevated) lab values don't end up living very long and her lab value is close to the normal value. I am not worried." And that was it. Thanks.

So of course, you can understand when I tell you that after she died, that was all I kept thinking about. Was that how she died? Did the lab value progressively get worse? Did it increase even more? And the worst thought of all...could we have corrected it thereby preventing her death? The answer, according to my research, was probably so. Almost 2 years later, I can now put that thought to rest. I know that is not why she died.

I was going into this appointment with the understanding that we would be informed of all our options for prenatal screening: CVS, amnio, ect... We declined each one, not wanting to risk anything to our unborn babies. Besides, it would not in any way change our decision to have our baby/babies if something was wrong. What I didn't expect was to delve into Karissa's medical history. As hard as it was, I am glad we did. I was always looking for an answer to why Karissa died. Yes, she had a seizure that was so bad it took her life, but what else? What else caused her to regress in almost all areas of development.

After spending almost half of the appointment talking about Karissa, the counselor said that it is very unlikely that our babies will be sick like Karissa. She said that there is a 25% chance that one or both babies could have epilepsy, IF the epilepsy is genetic, which, as far as we know, is NOT! She even went as far to say that she feels as if both babies will be fine. Only time will tell. But at least I got some reassurance from that appointment. I am thankful.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Vivid. Crystal Clear. Memories.

Perfectly groomed grounds.
Bright flowers.
The smell of the air.
The many many trees that lined the walkways with their trunks painted white.
The waterfall.
Sounds of the maintenance people and housekeeping driving by on their carts.
Stillness of the desert nights.
The porch.
The way the air felt as I held you on the porch while you were sleeping.
Splashing in the pool.
The perfect words you spoke to me that I will cherish forever.
The starry nights.
Beautiful mountains.
Discovering your first two freckles on your perfect little face.
The cool tile of the bathroom floor.
The crickets.
Watching you hold daddy's hand as you walked across the street.
Feels like just yesterday you were here and we were enjoying our very last vacation with you.
I want those days back but all I have left are the sweet memories that I never, every want to forget.
I miss you.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

For those who walk the road of infertility

Thoughts on Becoming a Mother:

There are women that become mothers without
effort, without thought, without patience or loss and
though they are good mothers and love their children,
I know that I will be better.

I will be better not because of genetics, or money
or that I have read more books but because I have
struggled and toiled for this child.

I have longed and waited. I have cried and prayed.
I have endured and planned over and over again.
Like most things in life, the people who truly
have appreciation are those who have struggled to
attain their dreams.

I will notice everything about my child.
I will take time to watch my child sleep, explore
and discover. I will marvel at this miracle every day
for the rest of my life. I will be happy when I wake
in the middle of the night to the sound of my child,
knowing that I can comfort, hold and feed him and
that I am not waking to take another temperature,
pop another pill, take another shot or cry tears of
a broken dream. My dream will be crying for me.

I count myself lucky in this sense; that God has
given me this insight, this special vision with which
I will look upon my child that my friends will not
see.

Whether I parent a child I actually give birth to
or a child that God leads me to, I will not be
careless with my love.

I will be a better mother for all that I have
endured. I am a better wife, a better aunt, a better
daughter, neighbor, friend and sister because I have
known pain. I know disillusionment as I have been
betrayed by
my own body. I have been tried by fire
and hell many
never face, yet given time, I stood tall.
I have prevailed.
I have succeeded. I have won.

So now, when others hurt around me, I do not run
from their pain in order to save myself discomfort. I
see it, mourn it, and join them in theirs. I listen.
And even though I cannot make it better, I can
make it less lonely. I have learned the immense power
of another hand holding tight to mine, of other eyes
that moisten as they learn to accept the harsh truth
and when life is beyond hard. I have learned a
compassion that only comes with walking in those
shoes. I have learned to appreciate life.
Yes I will be a wonderful mother.

Author Unknown

Saturday, May 8, 2010

194 injections, 16 blood draws, 11 ultrasound exams, 1 egg retrieval, 3 embryo transfers, lots of pills and a lot of hoping and praying...

...we are finally pregnant...with TWINS! Oh, and those figures do not include our very first IVF cycle that resulted in our miracle, Karissa. It has been a very long and emotional journey to get where we are today, but it has been well worth it!! I am so thankful and so very blessed. This is a dream come true. Here is a glimpse of our journey, from the time it all began to now.

In 2004, we were told that IVF, or, in vitro fertilization, was our only hope of having a biological child. In May of 2004, we started the intense and arduous process of IVF. We were very successful and pleased with the results, not just because we got pregnant on the very first try, but because we had embryos to freeze for later use. Here is a run-down of our first cycle with IVF:

* 31 eggs retrieved...yes, I am an egg-making machine!!!!
* 17 eggs successfully fertilized
* 10 perfect-to-excellent quality embryos

In July of 2004, 2 perfect quality embryos were transferred back into my uterus, with one going on to implant which resulted in our first pregnancy with Karissa. About a year-and-a-half later, we proceeded with our second cycle which was a frozen embryo cycle or FET. The day of the embryo transfer, we found out that the 10 embryos we thought we originally had was really 8. It turned out that 2 of the embryos stop developing. So, we only had 6 frozen embryos left rather than 8. We also found out 3 of our embryos did not survive the thaw, thus leaving us with 3 embryos suitable for transfer. Our 3 remaining embryos were transferred and we got pregnant again. Unfortunately, the pregnancy ended in a miscarriage at 7 1/2 weeks. At that point, I had decided that I would NEVER put myself through not only the emotional, but physical stress of another cycle. I was perfectly content and had absolutely no desire to ever get pregnant again.

Certain of the fact that we wanted more children, our plan was to adopt. That was the plan, although we never really pursued it. People would ask us "are you going to have more kids?" and the response was always, "yes, we are planning to adopt."

On July 8th, 2008, our world was turned completely upside down. Obviously, any plans or thoughts in the way of having more kids was put on hold.

Early the following year, I started thinking that I wanted to get pregnant again and if that meant going through another round, or 2 or 3 of IVF, then I was ok with that. My heart's desire literally changed. I expressed this to Mark and he said that we should wait until a year had passed since Karissa's death before even considering the possibility of pursuing IVF again. So I waited and prayed and my desire grew even deeper.

In August of 2009, we proceeded with our plans of IVF. We shared our plans with our parents, my sister and a few of my very closest friends. It was by no means an easy decision. First, the possibility of having another child with epilepsy terrified me and still does. Second, other than the epilepsy, we never knew what type of metabolic or genetic problem Karissa had, if any. My faith was tested, and still is on a daily basis. Throughout this whole process and even now, I pray on a continual basis for peace. I am so blessed and thankful that the God has granted me peace and the ability to trust Him.

So, here is the run-d0wn of our third round of IVF, or second fresh cycle done in August:

* 23 eggs retrieved; not as good as before but then again, I am 5 years older
* 17 eggs successfully fertilized
* 11, 5 days blastocysts, or 5 day old embryos

In September, 2 perfect quality embryos were transferred to my uterus. The embryologist said "you may just get twins because these embryos are perfect." Wow! Music to my ears! Two weeks later, we found out we were unsuccessful. Huh? We were all stunned. Even my doctor said he was shocked. Everything we perfect...the embryos, my hormone levels and the lining of my uterus was perfect and ready to support the implantation of one or both embryos.

December 2009 we went for our 4th cycle, which again, was an FET cycle rather than a fresh cycle since we were using frozen embryos. They thawed 3, transferred the 3 and again, we were unsuccessful. To say we were all frustrated is an understatement! My doctor said he thought I would be pregnant by now.

In February we continued on with our 5th cycle, again an FET cycle. This time, 4 embryos where thawed and transferred. I knew from the very beginning of this cycle that we would be successful. I felt very positive. I was right!

On the day of my pregnancy test, 2 weeks after our embryo transfer, I found out that they ran a pregnancy test the week before when I was getting my hormone levels checked. Turns out it was positive and my HCG (pregnancy hormone) was 67. That was a great number, considering how early it still was. The HCG is supposed to double every 48 hours. As I was waiting for the results from my test, the embryologist said she expected my HCG to increase from 67 to 500-600. A good four hours later, the nurse called and said "we have the results of your HCG and it is a very strong number. Your HCG is 1,397." I asked her to repeat the number, like 3 times! I remember saying something like "1,397 as in one thousand three hundred and ninety seven? Are you sure you have the right number?" I immediately got on the phone with my parents, my sister and texted Mark's parents! We were all elated! I knew that we were pregnant with twins but I would have to wait another 2 weeks for a confirmation as to how many actually implanted. On April 9th, 2010, my dream of having twins came true, well, actually, my dream of just getting pregnant came true. I am blessed!

~ 6 weeks 5 days ~


~ 10 weeks 2 days ~

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Another dream

I am still alive and well! I have just been very pre-occupied for the past month or so.

I had another strange dream last night. Once again, the recurring theme that I blogged about a while back was very much present. I dreamt that my house was on fire, only the house was identical to mine on the outside but the inside was identical to my parents. Karissa's room was my sister Chelsea's room, which is ironic because that is where Karissa would sleep when my parents would watch her.

When I saw that the house was on fire, I grabbed Karissa and her ladybug blanket and told the two strangers that were with me that we needed to get out of the house. We ran into the backyard. I was frantic and ran back into the house to get all of Karissa's scrapbooks and her memory box filled with very special items like her first tooth, locks of hair and her homecoming outfit. I wanted to retrieve these items because I figured they were all the memories that I had left of her. Very precious memories that I cherished, especially since she was gone. But wait, wasn't she just outside, alive and well?

Monday, March 29, 2010

To my sweet little girl,

Today would have been your 5th birthday. The day you were born was one of the BEST days of my life. I still remember the first few days after you were born just watching you sleep. I couldn't stop staring at you, our miracle. You were so beautiful. I was so overwhelmed with the need to protect you and keep you safe. I still remember your sweet smell. You were precious, and still are.


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I loved planning your birthday parties. The invitations, food and cake, decorations and of course the theme. Your 1st birthday was a blast. At the time, it seemed like everyone was doing a Disney theme party. I wanted to be different so I decided to do a ladybug theme party. I first thought of the idea when you and I went to visit Gaylin in Colorado. I was looking through one of her cake decorating books and I saw a picture of a ladybug cake. Later during the week, while shopping at the mall, we stopped at Gymboree and I saw the most adorable ladybug dress complete with a little cardigan, socks and your ladybug blanket that went everywhere with you. Perfect! Everything was ladybugs, even down to your cake that your grandma made. You were loved by so many people who all came to celebrate your big day with you.

~The little ladybug party invitation I made~



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We were so blessed to have you with us, even if it was for a short time. In your 3 1/2 years, you brought us and many other so much joy and happiness. You have changed my life in so many ways. So today, I am going to try my best not to be sad. I will never forget the day you were born and even though you are no longer here with us, we will still celebrate your life. Today, on your 5th birthday, your daddy and I are going to go get some balloons and flowers and put them in your room to celebrate the day you were born. I know you will see them from heaven and smile.

So happy birthday, my sweet little angel. I love you. Love, momma

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Haunted and Happy. Another dream.

Two nights ago, I dreamt that Karissa, Mark and my dad and I were on a ski trip. We were out in the parking lot and Karissa started running. She slipped on the ice, hit her head and started having a seizure. I started freaking out and was yelling something like "no, she's gonna die again, we can't let her die like last time." I am still haunted by that part of my dream.

Then, the other part of my dream was that Karissa was playing with a girl the same age named Emma. Mind you, I do not know any little girl by the name of Emma. Anyways, I was sitting with Karissa and I said "Karissa, where is Emma?" Karissa pointed and said "she's right there." Whoa!! I was elated because Karissa was never able to talk and had a hard time with pointing. Babbling was all she could ever really do. So, in my dream, I remember being so shocked that she said those 3 words. I was crying and praising her with big hugs and kisses. I was so happy.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Lovely responses!

So, I got a few responses regarding yesterday's post. All but one is posted on facebook. I love, love, love when people post responses...good, bad and ugly. These were all good, as they usually are.

I love that I don't have to go to work. I am perfectly content staying at home. I will admit that sometimes it does get a little boring. I absolutely love taking care of my home and my husband, and one day, if I am lucky, another child or 2 or 3 or 4...

I guess, all I want is for people to try to understand, which is almost near to impossible unless you have suffered such a horrendous loss, that I am trying to live my life the best way I can. I think I am doing a pretty good job considering that I am still getting out of bed every morning, and have been since the day Karissa died.

Now, of course there are days when I don't get one single thing accomplished because the cloud that is hovering over me is so dark and stormy. I will say though, that the dark and stormy days are getting few and farther between. And then, there are days that are just a bit cloudy. Once in a while I have a bright and sunny day. But my days are usually a bit cloudy.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

"I know you're a stay-at-home mom, but what do you do with all your time?"

I used to get that quite often from those who had no kids. It was one of my biggest pet-peeves at the time. Being a stay-at-home is hard work. Definitely a full-time job. I have heard people say, after they have had kids, that they never realized how hard is was going to be and that their job outside of the home was much easier.

Obviously, I am no longer a stay-at-home mom. However, I still get the same response minus the stay-at-home mom part of course. The reaction I get when I tell people I am not working is ridiculously offensive and quite amusing all at the same time. People EXPECT and ASSUME that if you are not at home raising a family, then you obviously must be working. I hate having to feel like I have to justify myself, when quite frankly, it is really none of anyone's business.

And then, there are some who feel the need to recommend to me what I should be or could be doing with all of my time. Yes, I am not kidding, it has been done and it makes me want vomit. I know most people have the best of intentions but really? Do you really think I am that helpless that I haven't thought of things I could do to fill my time? Actually, I have formulated a list both in my head and on paper. I just haven't really done that much about it. I have talked about my ideas with Mark and a few friends.

I find myself trying to formulate an answer to the dreaded question. The sad truth is, I avoid people and places just to avoid having to hear THE QUESTION. At one point, I thought I would just lie and say I was going back to school. However, this is completely absurd considering that I have both a bachelor's and master's degree and am not really that interested in taking on more school loan debt. But hey, maybe it would get people to shut up!

Very recently, I was at lunch with a friend of mine, expressing to her my very frustrations with this. Her response was, "Just tell them you are married to a doctor and that you don't need to work." Awesome! Actually, I have thought of saying this but I don't ever want to come off as the stuck up, snotty doctor's wife who gets to stay at home and eat bonbons and watch soaps all day or go out for lavish lunches and shopping sprees. Excuse the run on sentence. The truth is, I feel blessed and very thankful that I don't have to work. I realize that I am probably one of the few people that has this luxury. I have friends and family that have lost their jobs or are close to it. So, I don't ever want to flaunt the fact that I don't need to work when others are in dire need of a job, which is why I have held off on that response until now.

But from now on, my response will be just that: "I am married to a doctor. I don't need to work." Deal with it! Ahhhh, I feel so relieved now!

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Landmark Clinical Trial for Childhood Absence
Epilepsy Fills Large Information Gap

CURE would like to call attention to a landmark clinical trial, which has established an initial drug therapy for childhood absence epilepsy—the most common form of childhood epilepsy. The study—lead by Tracy A. Glauser, MD, director of the Comprehensive Epilepsy Center at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center—is the largest pediatric epilepsy clinical trial ever funded by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS), of the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

Published March 4 in the New England Journal of Medicine, data from the double-blind, randomized, comparative clinical trial fill a large information gap in the treatment of childhood absence epilepsy, also known as “petit mal” epilepsy. The research, which identifies important differences between drugs in seizure control and side effects, is expected to impact how physicians select and monitor initial therapy for children with the disorder and ultimately lead to improved outcomes.

CURE Chair Susan Axelrod stated, "This is a groundbreaking study, which will lead to improved seizure control for so many children who suffer daily absence seizures. CURE would like to extend its gratitude to Dr. Glauser and his team for their hard work and dedication."

To learn more, please visit:
www.cincinnatichildrens.org/about/news/release/2010/epilepsy-trial-3-4-2010.htm

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Raindrops falling on your head

The rain reminds me of Karissa, but then again, I guess everything reminds me of her. Whenever it rains though, I am reminded of when I used to do 'raindrops' on Karissa's head. As a child who had problems with sensory integration, Karissa would love when I would do raindrops on her head. The light tapping sensation helped to calm her down and get her to relax. Sometimes, when she had a difficult time falling asleep, I would lightly tap her head and softly sing the word raindrops. I was always amazed at how her disposition would change. It was so very sweet.

Or, when we were in the car during the rain, I would open her window and she would put her hand out to feel the raindrops. I would say, "look Karissa, raindrops, like raindrops on your head." Sometimes she would respond with her sweet "ooooooo." Precious. Anyways, that's all...

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Dreams of a reccuring theme

Often times, I go to bed hoping and praying I will see Karissa in my dreams. I dream of Karissa quite often and have found a re-occurring theme. Like most dreams, last night I dreamt that Karissa was alive and that she was talking and communicating beautifully. No seizures and no funky diets. She was so happy.

But, what I find very strange, is that in all of my dreams, I am waiting for her to die or to just disappear. Like I knew she had died and that she had come back, but only temporarily. Just for a short little visit.

In my dreams I also struggle with what to feed her...do I give her normal food or do I resume her diet? I usually end up giving her whatever she wants to eat, but I find that as she is eating, I am waiting for her to drop dead on the floor from a seizure. I am holding my breath, just waiting for it to happen. Yet, at the same time, I am so happy that she is not on the diet.

Last night my dream deviated from its normal theme. In my dream, I was holding Karissa and rocking her to sleep. I was listening to the sound of her breathing and taking in her sweet smell. And in my dream, as I was holding her, these were the thoughts that were going through my mind: "the last time I held you, you were dead. Gone. You were not breathing and you were cold. But now you are alive, breathing and warm and I am so happy. I hope you are here to stay." Weird. I think my subconscious is trying to send me a message.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

A Note for Karissa

I miss you so much, especially today. I don't know what triggered it. I keep going through pictures of you and remembering your sweet face. Your crooked smile, your little scar above your eyebrow, everything. Sometimes it feels like a dream, like you were never really here. I hate the quiet in the house. I miss your noises and funny sounds that made you so unique and special. I hate doing things without you. The new 'normal' will never be normal. Just when it seems like I am feeling happier I fall flat on my face again. I know you are in a much better place and I am thankful for that. I know I will be with you one day but for now I just keep trudging along without you. I hate it and life is so unfair. But don't worry, I will be ok. I love you so much and my life is not and will never be the same without you.
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Monday, January 18, 2010

Becoming "Those People"

I recently stumbled across a blog written by a mother who lost one of her twins at 24 weeks of pregnancy. I didn't spend to much time on her blog because, along with losing a child, losing an unborn baby, especially that far into a pregnancy, is another one of my biggest fears.

On her blog, she briefly talked about becoming one of 'those people.' You know the ones I am referring to. Those people... the ones who see, live and experience tragedy firsthand. Those people...the ones who you don't know how they do it, how they go on and wake up every single day after losing a loved one. Those people...the ones you hear about through a friend and hope and pray to God that you will never have to go through what 'those people' have had to go through.

I myself have thought the same thing. I know for certain that you have too. When Karissa was in the hospital at 2 weeks of age, when we knew that she was going to be ok (or so we thought), I remember thinking "I am so glad we are not 'those people.'" Those people being the parents of the children in the pediatric oncology ward. The peds unit, where Karissa was admitted, was next to the peds oncology ward. There were several times where we would walk by the peds oncology unit to get to the peds unit. My heart just broke for the mommies and daddies who, I knew, may lose their child to cancer. For those, unlike me, who may leave the hospital without their precious daughter or son. I remember being so thankful that Karissa was going to be ok and that we wouldn't have to be like those mommies and daddies. I remember thinking that I didn't know what I would do if I lost Karissa. I shuddered at the thought of being in their shoes.

On July 8th, 2008, Mark and I became 'those people.' So many of you have told me that you don't know how I do it. How I get up in the morning and live my life without my daughter. Quite frankly, I don't know how I do it either. I just do.

Becoming one of 'those people' has given me an entirely different perspective on life. It amazes me the things people, mainly parents, complain and whine about. Are you really gonna complain about changing your kids diaper? Really? I don't get it. It makes me so angry and resentful.

Your whole world can be turned upside down in an instant. Life is fragile. I just wish I didn't have to become one of 'those people' to realize just how precious life really is.

Friday, January 8, 2010

The Chair

This is the chair that I would sit in, holding Karissa, after a rough morning of seizures. I remember just holding her and stroking her sweet little face and hair. That is all she wanted after having a terrible morning of seizures.

This is the chair I would sit in to read "Goodnight Moon" to Karissa and sing her sweet lullabies. The place where I would hold her and do 'tickle arms.' The place where I would sit and work on different tasks with Karissa.

Or the place I would sit when I would visit with one of Karissa's Early Start Teachers. Instead of having our planned home visit, due to a rough morning of seizures, Karissa's teacher would bring over Starbucks and we would sit and talk while I just held Karissa.

This is the same chair that I sat in 18 months ago, on July 8th, 2008, and the weeks following, surrounded by family and friends, mourning our tragic loss. The same place we sat when we were planning Karissa's memorial.

I have had countless talks with different friends, while sitting in that chair...talking about all the good memories, crying, laughing and, if I am being completely honest, cursing God for taking my little girl away.

Now I sit in that chair and watch the world pass me by, even though it feels like time has just stopped. But time hasn't stopped...18 months have passed. It is the place where I think and pray, read and cry and I dream about the future.