Monday, July 27, 2009

Thankfulness

It can sometimes feel like infertility is the heaviest cross in the world to carry. I know that so far in my life it has caused me more pain and stress than anything else I have had to deal with. I'm not used to things not working out for me! But when I start to feel sorry for myself, I try to think of people that we know who are suffering under such great crosses. We are truly blessed to have a joyful marriage, good jobs with stable income, good relationships with our friends and family, and our health. I know that the health thing can be questioned considering that my reproductive system is obviously not working properly, but overall I am a healthy person.

We know two amazing couples who are dealing with cancer – one that knows it is terminal. Both are young couples with children. They are such an inspiration in the way that they handle the physical, emotional, and spiritual struggles that they face. My husband told me that our recent adventures with the cat reminded him of the struggles that some of our friends go through because of the physical ailments of their children. If we were under so much stress and had so much concern about a cat, imagine if your own child was ill. One couple we know has a son who has had over 50 surgeries in his four short years. Most involving his brain! Can you imagine what they go through each time they hear that their little boy will need yet another surgery? Other friends have children with Downs Syndrome, Cystic Fibrosis, Spina Bifida and the list goes on. They are amazing parents that have been handed a special role.

When I hear that we will always have struggles in this life, sometimes it makes me want to cling onto my infertility for fear of what may lie ahead if we are blessed with a family. I am comfortable with the IF, I feel like it is something I can handle, even though that can change moment-by-moment depending on my mood.

God has truly blessed my husband and I in so many ways. And one of those ways is through the friends he has put in our lives. Their faith, hope, and trust in God, and even their joyfulness are an inspiration. They serve as a reminder that it isn't all about me. That anything can be dealt with if we maintain our relationship with God. And that as much as we need prayers, we are called to offer prayers for others – to mutually help one another through the struggles of this life. We may never find lasting peace in this life, but we are living for more than this life – we are living for the life to come.

"The Lord is a stronghold for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble. Those who honor your name trust in you; you never forsake those who seek you Lord." Psalm 9:10-11

"For I long to see you, that I may share with you some spiritual gift so that you may be strengthened, that is, that you and I may be mutually encouraged by one another's faith, yours and mine." Romans 1:11-12

"Bear one another's burdens, and so you will fulfill the law of Christ." Galatians 6:2

Reflection Questions

  1. Do I have friends that are in extra need of prayer right now because of the crosses they bear?
  2. What might I do to help them (prayer, meals, notes of encouragement, running errands, etc.)?
  3. What can I learn from others who struggle with difficult crosses?

The following is an excerpt from our Archdiocesan newspaper. They are doing a special series on marriage and I thought this was an appropriate reflection.

"He [God] promises when we marry that He will meet us wherever life takes us. Usually where it takes us is beautifully ordinary. But God also will use the difficult times to make us more holy…They teach us to forgive, to be patient, to be more kind, more compassionate, more trusting in God and others. In short, these times teach us to sacrifice, and they introduce us to the great paradox of our faith – that we gain our life when we give it away."

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Adventures of Herbie – Part 3

The vet said we were supposed to try to keep the cat from running or jumping for two weeks, until he got his staples out. That was definitely going to be a problem. He wasn't too bad for most of the week, but in the last two days we were home he was definitely starting to get more energetic. We decided he needed to get boarded during our vacation so that someone could keep an eye on him to make sure he didn't pull his collar off and we figured it would ensure that he wasn't running and jumping around too much.

So I researched all the kennels in our area – from the basic places to the fancy pants pet resorts. I called a few up and explained our situation. I decided on one after talking to the owner about our cat's situation. I liked her because she started telling me the modifications they would make for him. "She is on the ball with this," I thought. I wanted to visit them just to make sure, but we didn't get a chance to during the week.

So on Saturday afternoon, the day before we were leaving for vacation, we headed over to the kennel. It was in a country-type area and there was a house where I think the owner lived that looked pretty dilapidated. But I knew she had done a lot of work to renovate the kennel area, so I was hopeful that it would be better. We walked in and met one of the staff members. "This is the cat area," she said, pointing to a small little area to the left of the front desk. The website said that the cats were separated from the dogs, but the only thing dividing the two areas was a single door – like a bedroom door. Anytime anyone went into the dog area all the dogs would go crazy – we sometimes couldn't even hear the lady we were talking to because the dogs were so loud! And it definitely smelled like dog in there.

So we were in the cat room, talking to the lady and she was showing us the cats they had in there and talked about how sweet this little kitten was who was boarding there. The cat was sitting in a cage right next to a table that had a time clock on it. The time clock clicked over and the kitten jumped up, startled. "You would think she would be used to that by now," the lady said. "That clock clicks over every minute." I still simultaneously laugh and feel bad for the kitten thinking about it trying to doze off for a cat nap and being startled every minute or so! Couldn't they move the clock??

When the lady looked at our information in the computer, she realized that the owner was going to put our cat in a dog cage since the other cages were kind of like tall bird cages with three perches for the cats to jump up on. She told us there wouldn't be room in the cat area for the cage, so it would probably be put on a table in the bathroom. "It's the best room in the whole place," she told us. "It's cool in there." We tried to imagine our poor cat sitting by himself in a bathroom all week long and then having the staff come in to use the facilities while our cat sat there and watched. Yikes!

So we left and of course were not happy with the situation. We called all the other kennels in the area that afternoon, but most were closed and the ones that were open weren't answering their phones. The next day, a Sunday, we were still feeling guilty about sending our cat to sit in a bathroom all week. We decided to call a vet that is just up the road from us that had Sunday hours. I originally hadn't even contacted them about pricing or anything because I read in their boarding policies online that if you don't pick up your pet within 8 days of your scheduled pick-up date, they were authorized to "dispose of or destroy" your pet. No way did I want to put my cat over there – even though we aren't the type to leave our cat somewhere indefinitely.

We went and visited and it was definitely a better situation. Being at a vet's office was a definite bonus in case he ended up getting to his staples again. So we decided to board him there. It ended up being the most expensive place in the whole area. Even more expensive than the fancy pants pet resort that told me "for an extra $13 per day, we will give your cat play time, a tuna treat, and spring water." Say what? Why would I pay extra for my cat to have spring water?

We picked him up from "camp" on Monday and he got his staples out and cone off on Tuesday. Hopefully he is done with his adventures! So now you know more than you ever cared to about my cat. Hopefully I won't be posting about him in this much detail in the future! Although it was very expensive, this was probably a blessing in disguise. Instead of getting very self-centered and down over the past few weeks, we were able to focus a lot of attention on the cat and he gave us lots of good stories to share.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Adventures of Herbie – Part 2

So the day after the surgery, the doctor said we could pick Herbie up in the late afternoon. The doctor described him as being "stoned" from all of his drugs and he definitely was as you will read later. Before we got to see our kitty, the vet came in to talk to us about the surgery. I asked how long it had taken since if they really went in for surgery at 2:30, the surgery would have lasted over 4 hours! She said it was actually only about 2 hours – they started late. "We were going slowly, trying to be careful," she said "because we aren't expert surgeons – like we aren't board certified or anything." Say what??? We were glad we didn't know that beforehand. I wonder why they have someone listed as a surgeon on their letterhead if they aren't really certified – I guess things are a little different in the animal world.


So the cat came home in a soft e-collar. The vet said he looked like a little flower in it because it was a blue collar. He looked like an amateur groomer had gotten a hold of him. His whole belly was shaved and he had 24 staples! My sister and I started calling him Frankenkitten because of the staples. They had also shaved parts of both of his front legs for the IVs. But what really had us wondering was why the shaved the back and part of the side of his tail? My best guess is that maybe they tape the tail down during surgery?? Here is a picture of him when he came home.

He was put on the following meds:
1. Clavamox – antibiotic
2. Tramadol – pain med
3. Pepcid AC – antacid – Yes, we were sent to the pharmacy to pick up Pepcid for our cat – then had to divide the pills into 8ths so we wouldn't OD him.


I had never heard of Tramadol before, but a few days later I was reading some messages from an Endo listserv and realized that the women who have really bad endo pain are prescribed Tramadol! Wow – that is some powerful stuff. Herbie only got ¼ of a pill, but he got it 2-3 times per day!


The cat was definitely stoned all week. His eyes were constantly dilated all week! The first night we brought him home, he was walking like a drunk. Anytime we pet him, he would just fall over on his side. But you never saw anyone so happy to be alive. He purred the entire first night he was home and after that, he still purred anytime we would pet him. And of course he slept a lot, even for a cat. I kept checking him to make sure he was still breathing – it freaked me out to have to tie that collar around his neck – I was always scared I might get it too tight and he wouldn't be able to breath.

Another thing we learned last week is that if your cat is constipated, feed him pumpkin. The vet said cats love it. We decided to go ahead and feed him some preemptively and he really did gobble it up! One of the cutest things I think I saw all week was one night looking in the kitchen and seeing my husband standing in front of the toaster oven. He had put Herbie's food and pumpkin on top of the oven and was heating it up for him!

So in the week following the surgery, we had to take him to the vet three times.


1st Visit: The second night we had him home he got the collar off and pulled out 4 staples and got his incision open a bit. The next morning I brought him into the vet. Instead of re-stapling him, they just glued his incision back together. Apparently they were a little haphazard with the glue and dropped some on his lower belly. When I got him home and out of his cage, I realized that his tail was glued to his stomach! He could have cared less – he was just laying on his back purring. I got out the scissors to cut his tail from his belly and after that he had a tuft of fur glued to his stomach! The vet recommended we keep him in our room at night so we could hear if he was pulling his collar off. So for the rest of the week, we got a taste of what it is like to have a newborn in the house. We were up about every two hours because he was either trying to pull his collar off, or rolling around, or trying to groom himself but instead all he could do was lick his e-collar with that sandpaper tongue.


2nd Visit: I came home at lunch every day to check on the cat. I felt like Angela from The Office going home to check on my sick cat and give him medicine! The day after our first vet visit, I noticed that he had a protrusion around the area where he had pulled out his staples. So I called the vet and got another appointment for that evening. It wasn't anything serious – apparently sometimes when air gets into the body from a wound like that, the pocket of air will get filled up with some fluid and that makes the protrusion – a "seroma." In addition to all his meds, we were told to give him warm compresses 2-3 times a day on the seroma. Have you ever tried to put warm compresses on a cat? Not too easy. It wasn't too bad if he was knocked out from his meds, but if he was more alert, it was definitely difficult to get him to sit still for very long! We had also noticed that his sides had gotten red, we thought from him scratching, but our vet thought it was probably razor burn!

3rd Visit – Two days later we were back again. The cat had gotten his collar off once again and this time had really gotten into his incision. They had to re-staple him. He also got upgraded to a hard plastic "cone of shame." He wasn't used to the extra clearance he needed when wearing the new collar versus the soft one they originally sent him home in. The rest of the day we would hear him bumping into the sides of doorways, chairs, and walls with the cone.


So instead of having our neighbors take care of the cat during our vacation, which would have been practically free, we decided it would be best to board him. And that is a whole other story…

Here is a video of the cat trying to groom himself. This is what we would wake up to at night. I don't think he even noticed that he wasn't actually licking himself!

video

Friday, July 17, 2009

Adventures of Herbie – Part 1

In honor of my vacation, I am taking a break in both format and content from my normal blogging to share some stories about my cat. He has been a great comic relief and distraction in what would have otherwise been a more difficult week. Many people have told me I need to write these stories down, so here they are! Hopefully you guys are pet people, otherwise you will probably think we are crazy, like we used to think about pet people were. I know SOME of you aren't cat fans (GIMH), but I'm sure if you met our little angel, you would love him.

You endo ladies will love this – my cat had to have a laparotomy on July 4th. And let me tell you, it is expensive to bring a cat surgeon in on a federal holiday! It all started on the Thursday before the 4th. When my hubs got home, he noticed that the cat had gotten sick. We didn't think much about it. All day Friday we were at home and we noticed that though the cat seemed to be hungry, he wasn't eating. We thought maybe he was rejecting his new food (we had just switched him from kitten to cat food the week before). So I went to the store and got him a different kind of food. He ate some of it that evening, but then got sick again. After that, he started getting sick every 20-30 minutes. He would be sleeping, and then all of a sudden he would stand up, make a funny meow, and then get sick. When my husband would hear the meow, he would jump up and grab a paper towel and try to put it under the cat before he could get sick on the carpet. At about 10:30 pm, my hubs had been looking stuff up online and said he thought we needed to take the cat into an emergency clinic. I was trying to put it off as I was tired and the clinic was 20-30 minutes away, and who knows how long we would be there. My parents have a cat about the same age who had done the same thing the weekend before and she ended up just having a stomach bug and got sent home with anti-nausea medicine. He seemed to do fine during the night, and the next morning he was purring and playing a bit, but he still wouldn't eat or drink anything. Then he started getting sick again, so we knew it was time to take him in.

At the vet hospital, they recommended that we do hundreds of dollars worth of tests. The first thing they did was and x-ray and sure enough they found something. They came in and showed us the x-ray and there was some stringy looking stuff wound up in his stomach. We were trying to figure out what it could be. We thought it might be a guitar string as my hubs had just changed his strings the weekend before and the cat was playing with them. But he said he counted all his strings before he threw them out, and it seemed like he would have problems earlier if it was really a guitar string. They recommended surgery of course, and we okayed it. They said the surgery would be about an hour, maybe a bit longer depending on what they found.

They gave us a call at 2:30 to say they were going into surgery. At 5:00, we were getting ready to head to our friend's house, so I asked the hubs to call and check on the cat. Still in surgery… By the time we got to our friend's house at 5:30, I was ready to cry. I thought that we had waited too long to bring him and it was all my fault for not listening to my husband. At 6:30, one of the doctors called me. She said they were still sewing him up, but she wanted to give us an update. They had opened him up and started palpitating all his organs when they felt something in his small intestine. Not only did he have something in his stomach, but he had something in his intestine too! It turned out to be one of those plastic screw covers that they give you to use on put-it-together-yourself furniture. In his stomach, they found two ponytail holders! One had been chewed in half and the other he swallowed whole!

A few months back the cat had somehow figured out that he could get the screw covers off our furniture and he would pull them off and then run away. We have baggies full of screw covers that the cat had pulled off, but I guess he found one that we didn't know about. Then a few weeks ago, he started really getting into my ponytail holders. He would grab them off my nightstand in the middle of the night and take off. We'd find them throughout the house in the morning. It had run through my mind a couple times that maybe he shouldn't be playing with those, but I didn't think he would actually eat them. Kitty was to spend the night at the hospital and we were supposed to call the next morning to see if he was ready to be picked up.

So this is the end of Part 1, which actually isn't too entertaining, but the stories get better from here, so keep tuning in!

Saturday, July 11, 2009

An Emotional Day

Friday was an emotional day. I have felt very blessed with the peace God has given me over the past couple weeks. Although the ultrasound days were always hard, since I was having no physical signs of m/c and most of my pregnancy symptoms had disappeared, I just kind of went on with life as usual. It was easy to forget that I was even pregnant! Even on Friday morning I was feeling pretty normal, not overly sad as we drove down to the hospital. I definitely could sense the extra stress coming out in being impatient with my husband, but other than when the nurses at the hospital would say how sorry they were about our loss, I wasn't overly sad. I was beginning to think, this D&C thing is sooo much easier emotionally than having a natural m/c. Especially when you can do it before the symptoms of m/c begin to occur. I also wondered if I was just getting really hardened to all of this emotionally.

We had a really hyper pre-op nurse who kept us pretty distracted while we waited. When she found out that we were both Catholic she proceeded to tell us that she and her husband were both raised Catholic and each had 6 siblings. She then told us about how she joked with her parents and in-laws about them not understanding the rhythm method. Are you kidding me??? This was the nurse that God decided we needed today? We weren't sure whether we should be witnessing to her or if it was just God's way of inserting humor into our day.

Because of some communication issues at the doctor's office, I didn't get my surgery scheduled until Wednesday afternoon leaving me no room to request a specific day based on which doctor was on call. The scheduler let me know that Dr. P was on call for Friday, which I was disappointed in. I have seen every doctor at T.epeyac (other than Dr. F who everyone raves about) and she was my last choice for the D&C. When she came in this morning, she definitely didn't increase my confidence at all, but I just trusted in the Lord that all would be okay.

It wasn't until right after we spoke with Dr. P and they were getting ready to wheel me back that the emotions started to come. I was failing miserably at holding the tears back as my husband leaned over to remind me that Hope was up in heaven praying for me. This hospital is not real great at privacy for outpatient surgery. As they were wheeling me down the hall and I was trying to hold back tears, it seemed that every patient's curtain was open and all their loved ones were staring at me. I decided to close my eyes and act like I was already under anesthesia. The anesthesia nurse met us about half-way down the hall and gave me some of the good stuff. I think I had some type of weird medicated dream because the last thing I remember before waking up was being in the operating room and them pushing my stretcher up next to the operating table and telling me to switch beds. Surely that was a dream because I cannot imagine any doctor telling someone that had just been shot up with anesthesia to do anything involving movement!

Next thing I knew I was waking up in the post-op area and immediately began crying again. They brought my husband down and once he was there the nurse pulled the curtain to give me a little privacy. Thank goodness. Before that, I could see the girl directly across from me who looked totally knocked out, but her loved one kept staring at me as I burned through a few tissues. Luckily I didn't have to spend too long in post-op. They just wanted to make sure I could pee, so off I went walking down the long hall past all the patients and their family/friends to the restroom, a nurse walking closely behind me with a tight grip on the back of my gown to make sure I didn't moon anyone or collapse. Isn't it weird that they had me walk all the way to the restroom (which was down two hallways), but I had to be taken out of the hospital in a wheelchair? There is no consistency there!

The ride out of the hospital was the worst. My husband went to pull the car around and the nurse wheeled me halfway down the hall and then just left me there. A few minutes later two other ladies came up and started to take me downstairs. When the elevator arrived a guy walked out and quickly realized he was on the wrong floor. "Sorry," he said, "my wife just had a baby and I haven't slept in five days." Uughh! Then the nurse starts saying how lots of babies were being discharged that day and that Friday's tend to be like that. THEN she said, "Today I had a man who pulled up in a classic red mustang with pink balloons tied to it. It was the SAME car that his dad brought him home from the hospital in." OMGoodness – I couldn't believe this was really happening! They had me sit in the front entrance area for a minute while they clipped off my arm bands and I wondered why in the world I decided it would be a good idea to leave my sunglasses in the car. At least if I had them, I could try to pull off a Jackson-family funeral look where maybe not so many people would realize I was crying. I couldn't wait to get into the car and was even more excited about getting home. Unfortunately, there was traffic on the beltway and it took us two hours to get home! They had pumped me so full of fluids that by the time I got back from my pee-run down the hall in post-op I already had to pee again. I was quickly regretting deciding to wait until I got home to go to the b-room. We finally got back and I shut myself up in my room for the rest of the day. Today I am feeling a lot better emotionally. I think Dr. P did a good job because I am also feeling really good physically with no cramping.

I know this is getting really long, but two more prayer requests and then I will stop begging for prayers.

  1. For a healthy recovery that there will be no complications that could affect my future fertility or ability to carry to term.
  2. That we will have a good vacation and be blessed with the grace we need to get through the difficult times. We will be with about 50 of our family and extended family members, including my 20 nieces and nephews and one great niece. The great niece is the exact same age that baby Gabriel would have been (we were due about 2 weeks apart) and it has always been really hard for me when we see her. We live pretty far away, so I have only seen her 2-3 times, which I think makes it more traumatic than if I had more contact with her. It kills me to see my husband holding her. I'm sure we will be getting lots of words of consolation and that type of stuff always brings tears to my eyes. I also dread any questions we may get from the kids. Some of my bro and sis-in-laws have told their young children about our miscarriages in the past. I think they are way too young to be learning about this type of stuff, and since kids are naturally inquisitive, I have gotten some very direct questions from them in the past which have been really hard for me to deal with emotionally.

One last thing I wanted to share. I have been working my way through the bible for the past couple years and right now I'm reading through Psalms. I have found so many great verses for the IF experience. A few nights ago I read Psalm 56 entitled, Trust in God, and loved some of the verses and one of the footnotes. I have read them every night since. Here they are:

"O Most High, when I am afraid, in you I place my trust. God, I praise your promise; in you I trust, I do not fear. What can mere flesh do to me?" Psalm 56: 3b-5

"My wanderings you have noted; are my tears not stored in your vial*, or recorded in your book?" Psalm 56:9

"This I know: God is on my side. God, I praise your promise; in you I trust, I do not fear. What can mere mortals do to me?" Psalm 56: 10b-12

*Footnote from NAB Personal Study Addition:

56:9: Are my tears not stored in your vial: a unique saying in the Old Testament. The context suggests that the tears are saved because they are precious: God puts a high value on each of the psalmist's troubles.

Thank you to everyone who has been praying for us. I have really felt wrapped in prayer. Know that I pray for you as well.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Prayers Please **UPDATED

UPDATE: Thanks to everyone for your comments and prayers. I have really felt lifted up by prayer and the past couple days have not been as hard as expected. I was able to schedule my D&C for Friday at 10:45 am, so please say some prayers that all will go well. This is my first and it definitely makes me nervous!

A little less than a month ago, with a mixture of joy and much trepidation, I found myself holding a positive pregnancy test. We were cautiously optimistic that perhaps the third time was the charm. We hoped that the endo that was removed back in January was the cause of my previous miscarriages and that I would now be able to carry to term. My NAPRO doctor has been watching me like a hawk, and though my HCG levels have steadily increased, the ultrasound just doesn’t lie.

For the past three Mondays we have gone in for ultrasounds. The first was right at the 6 week mark. We clearly saw the fetal sac, but nothing more. We tried to hope for the best, since it may have been a bit too early to see the baby, but considered ourselves warned. At seven weeks, we had a second ultrasound that showed the same. A fetal sac with no yolk sac, no baby, no heartbeat. The next morning happened to be our first ob visit with Dr. B at T.epayac. We decided to keep the appointment. While the nurse was taking my vitals, Dr. B opened the door with a big smile on his face to say hi to us before he headed off to see another patient. We let the nurse know about our ultrasound so Dr. B wouldn’t come in dancing for joy as you patients of his can probably imagine him doing. Instead he came into the room with much concern and immediately came over to hug me. He thought we should have one more ultrasound just to be sure, but estimated that there was about a 90% chance that I would miscarry. That afternoon my NAPRO doctor’s office called and said that the fetal sac had not grown in the week between ultrasounds, but they also wanted me to do just one more.

So first thing this morning we headed in for our Monday ritual and unfortunately there was no change. Luckily we had a very compassionate ultrasound tech who had some fertility problems herself. She offered lots of words of consolation and encouragement. At the end she asked to hold my hands explaining that someone had done this for her. She said she was done having babies and wanted to pass her turn along to me (or something like that). Then she closed her eyes and I think she was praying, but who knows!

We decided to name our baby Hope because of the hope that he or she gave us that we will one day carry home a baby of our own.

I am going to try to schedule a D&C for later in the week. I don’t really want a D&C, but even more than I don’t want to go through that procedure, I don’t want to miscarry next week…on vacation…at the beach…with my husband’s entire family (40+ people) around. We lost our first baby while we were visiting his family over Thanksgiving and it was so difficult to go through such a private moment of suffering so “publicly.” So please say some prayers for my husband and I as we grapple with this new loss and try to find healing and hope. Also please pray that I will have a safe and successful D&C.

“Naked I came forth from my mother's womb, and naked shall I go back again. The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD!” Job 1:21b