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Monday, April 29, 2013

Weekend Recap & The 10K That Wasn't

After a very emotional week last week pouring my heart out in my infertility story, it sure is nice to get back to daily grind. I did really well all week with my workouts, I tweak it a little but was still able to get in some good workouts and runs before getting sick on Saturday, womp womp.

Monday - Insanity Cardio Power & Resistance
Tuesday - Pure Cardio and Ran 3 miles (all hills)
Wednesday - Plyometric Cardio Circuit
Thursday - Cardio Recovery and Ran 4 miles
Friday - Cardio Power & Resistance
Saturday - Ran 2 miles (nauseous the WHOLE time - and it was all down hill from there)
Sunday - I was supposed to run the Schlotzky's 10K Bun Run, but it just didn't happen :(

Feel the burn!

Today, I am almost human again. Not sure what the deal was? I was the only one who got sick, whatever it was. So, I'm going to take another rest day today just to be sure that my body is nice and recovered. It just kinda sucks because I haven't really been able to use the cool new toy the hubs got me yesterday(so I could use it on my 10K on Sunday, how sweet is that?!)...

Garmin Forerunner 210
 

Or this awesome shirt that I had planned to wear in the race :( I was thinking about cutting it into a running tank - seems a propos.


I feel I should explain that I live in Austin, TX
 
So, here's what's on tap this week as far as workouts go (starting week 3 of Insanity):

Monday - Rest
Tuesday - Insanity & run hills
Wednesday - Insanity & run speed
Thursday - Insanity & run tempo/pace
Friday - Insanity & date night Holla!
Saturday - Insanity & run endurance
Sunday - rest

We bought this awesome blender yesterday.

Ninja™ Professional Blender with Single Serve Blending Cups

I know! I'm like "honey? did we win the lotto or something? How do we all the sudden have iphone money?" Uh, we didn't. He insists that we already "bought" the blender when we bought the juicer (that was such an epic fail that it needs it's own post), and then returned the juicer (I know, we're horrible people, relax it's not a shelf near you, we told them it wasn't working right), so in fact, using his theory, we made money on the deal. mmmkay. How is it that we never make money on any deals involving clothes from Kiki La Rue or Ruffles with Love, or hell, even Target?! Anyhoo, I digress. So the hubs has been whippin up some pretty freakin good green monsters lately, and bonus... the kids are loving them too! I've been having them for breakfast, although mine are with considerably less fruit than J and the kids' (good 'ol Met B). I've also been using the Ninja to make my protein shakes and have been adding in some spinach, and whaddayaknow, you can't taste it at all - SCORE! Jason says he's going to keep adding fruits and veggies in there until it stops tasting good - he's like a kid in a candy store at the grocery store now!


I'm going to try to post some more recipes this week too, so be on the look out for those. And if you haven't already done so, you've gotta hit up my girl Leigh Ann's blog over at Elle Noel - girlfriend has got the jams to get your earbuds rockin during those workouts yall! Seriously, I don't know what I would do without her boss lady jams!

I hope you all have an awesome last week of April!

-Candice 

Adventures in Potty Training, Day 1

Well folks, we did it! We took the plunge into the deep end of the cesspool that is potty training!

Thanks to the little miss, the day started at 4:15 this morning. Not quite as early as I had planned, but who needs sleep, am I right?! Oh yeah, I DO! Or I turn into the grouchy diva from the snickers commercials. #notamorningperson


Nevertheless, the show must go on. So around 7:00, we ate some breakfast and then pulled out a trash bag for step 1 of the 3 day potty training method. Bag in hand, we scoured the house for diapers, and one by one, threw them ALL away, including the nighttime diapers! Next, Jason and I changed what we hope to be, our last diapers (at least for Max & Emma). We let them throw away their dirty diapers and pick out a new pair of big girl/big boy underwear! Emma chose to start off with some fancy Dora panties and Max opted for some ever so popular spidy-roos. Lookin' so fly in their new intimate apparel!

 
 
 
Next on the agenda... telling them 30 million times a day to "let mommy know if you need to go pee pee or poo poo, ok?" Or "panty check, is Dora still dry? Is red Spiderman still dry? They are?! Yay! High fives! Pound it! Y'all are sooooo BIG!"

Oh, and we can't forget coloring our new posters. You've gotta have somewhere to put all those pee pee stickers! And of course, our new "grown up" water bottles, you know, cause we're big now!

complete with princess stickers
 
Chowin' down on some cheese (that's ideal for potty training, right?!)

So far so good I guess??? Max got distracted and had a pee pee accident but was able to finish in the potty, then he pooped his pants (which was to be expected). Emma had a very traumatic incident where she started peeing all over Dora while coloring her poster and was sooo upset that she "got Dora all wet" and was in tears about it. Poor thing. But that was her only uh-oh so far today. They went down for a nap... in their underwear... about 45 minutes ago. Here's hoping I don't end up eyeball deep in pee when they wake up!

Goin' pee pee like a big boy!
The little man got a little over zealous with the green marker while coloring his poster

Look at me mommy - "I go pee pee too!"

Bye Bye pee pee!
 
 
Hopefully we survive the next 2 and a half days and end up with 2 potty trained toddlers in the end!
 
-Candice

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Birth Story & Reflections: The final chapter

If you want to get caught up, you can read from the beginning here...
Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5
Part 6

He gives the childless woman a family, making her a happy mother. Praise the LORD! - Psalm 113:9

Well Max and Emma arrived, kicking and screaming and absolutely perfect on Wednesday, 10/20/2010. Max Austin was born first at 8:07am weighing 5 pounds and 6 ounces and about 18 inches long with an apgar score of 8 (no nicu needed). One minute later, Emma Ryan came into the world at 8:08, weighing 5 pounds and 15 ounces (almost 6 pounds!), 18 and a half inches long with an apgar score of 9 (no nicu needed). I just cried and cried, I was so happy when the nurses told us that they were perfectly healthy! I am so very thankful and blessed that everything went so well with them.
 
Emma on the left and Max on the right

Unfortunately, things didn't go so well with me after their delivery. After they were delivered, Jason went with them back to our recovery room while the doctors finished with me. Before he left, I remember telling him that something was wrong. I have neurocardiogenic syncope (I know right, I am one f-ed up mess y'all), and because of it, I would occasionally have sudden drops in blood pressure and pass out. I felt like I had a syncope episode coming on. It felt like all the blood in my body had dropped to my feet, almost like a whoosh, and I immediately began to feel faint and light headed. Something was wrong. I told the anesthesiologist that I didn't feel well and I started to feel a little nauseous. A few minutes later, Jason was being ushered out of the OR with our babies. As he was leaving, Dr. G met him in the hallway to fill him in on what was going on with me. Apparently, my placenta was attached pretty deeply to my uterus and was not wanting to detach. Because of this, I began to hemorrhage and was quickly losing a lot of blood. Shortly after telling the anesthesiologist that I wasn't feeling well, they gave me a sedative which all but knocked me out, I could still hear things going on around me, but I was out of it and couldn't speak. Despite the doctor's best efforts and using every trick he could think of, my uterus just would not contract, and I was losing too much blood. They had to make a decision to keep going and risk me bleeding out, or to remove my uterus. They had no choice, they had to stop the hemorrhaging. I had no concept of time while I was in there, but I do remember Dr. G and they other doctor talking about other woman who had this condition, and how a few of them had died. Yeah, this was their topic of conversation as I lay there on the operating table, having just given birth, and wondering if I was going to have the same fate as those other women. By the time they stapled me up, over an hour had passed and I had lost half my blood volume. They were on the fence about whether or not to give me a blood transfusion, but ultimately decided against it. Jason later told me that Dr. G had told him that they were going to do whatever they could to keep my uterus, but that he couldn't make any promises. He also told him that he was not allowed to come back in the OR, so I can only imagine what kind of roller coaster of emotions he was going through, sitting in a small room, all alone with our two, just minutes old, tiny babies. Not exactly the way we imagined this special day would go, or how we imagined meeting our little ones for the first time. Once everything was all finished, they took the sedative off and I was able to join Jason and our precious babies in the recovery room. 

In recovery, first time holding my little angels

Dr. G had sent my placenta and uterus off to the lab for testing and he called a few weeks later to let me know why all this had occurred... and apparently I had what they call placenta accrita - which means that the placenta attached itself too deeply to my uterus and there was nothing they could do but to remove it. My doctor went on to say that I did not fit the rule book for this condition as I never had any of the signs, like bleeding during my pregnancy, nor had  I ever had any uterine surgeries or previous c-section(s). So in light of this, I felt just that much more blessed that the Lord has given us these two beautiful, healthy, and perfect babies. I guess He really knows what He's doing after all, and He really does have a plan for us all, even if we can't see it or understand it.

I certainly had my moments in those first few days when I would get very sad and cry thinking about how I would never get to experience being pregnant again. I would never get to pay it forward and be a surrogate for a couple. I would never know what it would be like to be pregnant with just one baby. I would never know what it would be like to go into labor and have a natural vaginal birth. It may sound crazy, but that was something that I had dreamed of doing. I feel very fortunate that we decided to schedule a C-section, because had I not been in the operating room, I very well could have bled out and died. It's alot to deal with, especially after everything I/we had been through to get to this point. It also didn't help that I had the most wonderful pregnancy anyone could ever ask for - bedrest and all. I just really, really LOVED being pregnant. My advice to anyone out there that is pregnant, take the time to really experience your pregnancy and embrace it and take the time to acknowledge the awesome power God has given you to grow a life within yourself - you'll be so glad you did - and you never know what can happen or when it might be the last time you are given this awesome power and opportunity.  

So...since I had lost so much blood, I became anemic, which made my recovery quite a bit slower. I was finally able to get out of bed and walk to the bathroom and even take a 5 min shower (sitting down of course) on Friday (2 days later) and was allowed to eat solid foods again. This was a huge improvement. The day of their birth, I wasn't even able to sit completely upright in bed without fainting. It was kinda like this...

I'm gunna pass out. I'm passing out. Gone.

 After that, each day was a little easier and I was able to actually get out of bed, go to the bathroom, walk the hall and shower unassisted by Sunday morning. I was released on Sunday, and things went relatively well when we got home. The incision was still pretty sore, and my body was still adjusting to its recent lack of blood, but thankfully my mom was there to help us. Nursing was a little touch and go ,considering all that was stacked against me with the twins being early and being anemic, not to mention the post-partum hypothyroidism that I developed and didn't find out about until 6 months later. Yeah, that happened too. Yup, my luck is still alive and well! I was nursing the babies, pumping, and supplementing with formula. My hope was to be able to exclusively breastfeed, but with all that had happened, and a really low milk supply, it just wasn't meant to be. I stressed about it a lot for the first 4 months. I really beat myself up about it and felt like a huge failure. I had literally tried EVERYTHING you could possible imagine to try to increase my milk production, but at some point, I had to just give in and admit defeat. I continued to try to breastfeed occasionally, but it just wasn't meant to be and I had to just let go of that image and idea of how I thought things would be. It would be ok. I was giving my babies everything I could, and they would still be healthy, productive members of society with or without formula. I continued to pump for 8 months. I had a love/hate relationship with my pump, but eventually I just started to feel depressed (this was 6 months after birth, so it wasn't the baby blues, and later I found out that it was depression from post partum hypothyroidism) and I beat myself up a lot over the decision to stop pumping, but ultimately, I cut the pump strings and just let it go. There was a lot of guilt with that decision that I carried with for a long time. But over time, little by little, I started to feel better about it, and stopped giving myself such a hard time. I was doing the best I could. I know I wasn't perfect. No one is perfect. No one has it all figured out. No one tells you that you will sit in shower and cry because you think you're doing everything wrong. Ok maybe I'm the only one that does the whole shower thing. This is the time that your support system really needs to step up to bat. It's not enough to just bring a dinner and ask how things are going. You need to just KNOW, as a fellow mom, that things are NOT ok, no matter what face they are trying to save. You as a friend, need to reach out over and over and make sure that your new mom friends feel supported, and to just let them know how you struggled and how badly you screwed up (not really, but you know what I mean). You have these visions of what it will be like to be a mom, and then when you're in it, you look around and realize that while incredibly amazing and wonderful, it's not what you expected.

Not to my surprise, Jason was/is such an amazing, amazing man, husband and father - I honestly don't know what I did to get so lucky! Jason was especially amazing in those early days/weeks when it was difficult for me to get around. He would wake up with me, bring babies to me, change countless diapers (ALL of them actually for a while), and got peed on several times! Jason has never been a baby person. I literally had to force babies into his arms leading up to our own being born, and here he was, completely thrown into everything, and he handled it with such grace, never once complaining - in fact he seemed to take pride in his awesome diaper changing techniques and master swaddler title :) My heart just swells with all the love I have for our little miracles and for my best friend, husband, and father of our children.
Jason and Max (taken minutes after being born)

Jason and Emma
 

This verse is used often, but that doesn't make it any less powerful.
I prayed for this child, and the Lord granted me what I asked of Him. 1 Samuel 1:27
 
So about the hypothyroidism... So, I turned 30 about 3 months after the twins were born, and apparently my general physician's office likes to make their patients have yearly physicals starting at 30. So, I made my appointment and went in. They ran a battery of blood tests and I went back to talk with the doctor. The doctor asked how things were going, how I was feeling, etc. He asked if I felt tired a lot, and I was like, uh yeah, I have twins, did you not hear me JUST tell you that?! Then he asked if I was finding it difficult to lose my baby weight (I should note that I only gained 34 pounds during my pregnancy and it was almost ALL baby, a week after delivery I was only up 8 pounds from my pre-baby weight, however over the past 6 months I had slowly been gaining weight, which was kinda weird because I had never had any issues with weight before, but I also wasn't doing anything active and wasn't getting a whole lot of sleep, so I didn't think anything of it), so I told him yes, but that I also wasn't doing anything to get rid of it and that unfortunately, I was not one of those women who breastfeed and lose a ton of weight. He made some notes and moved on with more questions. He asked if I had experienced any feelings of depression. Now, I'll be honest, I almost lied and said no. I felt like it would reflect badly on me as a mother if I said yes, that I had been feeling sad. I mean what kind of mother would I be having gone through this whole journey to finally get a baby(s), and now I was sad?! There is such a stigma attached to people who are "depressed" and take anti-depressants, and I did NOT want to be categorized with those people. But, I told the truth and told him that yes, I had been feeling rather down of late, but that I attributed it to lack of sleep and additional life stressors (we were about to sell our house in order to move into a cheaper home so we could afford for me to stay home with the babies, and because of the housing crisis, we were finding out that we were slightly upside down on our house, partially because of the refi that we had done the year before, but alas this was our luck, never fails). By the end of the appointment, my doctor told me that he believed that I had a thyroid issue, and that it was likely the culprit for all of my issues (excessive tiredness, inability to lose weight, mild depression, etc). Sure enough, when my blood work came back, my thyroid levels were through the roof! Apparently, it is quite common for women to develop post pregnancy hypothyroidism, but it almost always goes away on its own. Ahh, but not me. Nope, I've got it for life ese (imagine me saying this in my most hardcore gangsta voice). So I had to make an appointment with another endocrinologist (this time not the reproductive kind). She got me hooked up with some thyroid meds (that I have to take for the rest of my life), and it took a little tweaking, but eventually we got the right dosage that I needed to level out my thyroid, and I slowly started to feel human again. The pounds started to come off, I started feeling less tired, happier (thank you Viibryd), more energetic, and just feeling more like myself again. It was amazing. I felt so stupid for not going in sooner! I was pretty pissed though that I didn't know about this when I was breastfeeding, and I often wonder how different things could have been if I would have had this taken care of in those early weeks/months. But there's no point in "what if's", life is what it is, and you don't get any do-overs. All you can do is live it the best you can.

So, what now? I'm not sure where we go from here. Lately, I have been feeling pretty sad. After the twins were born, I was so caught up in how blessed I was to have them both, and that they were healthy, and that I had survived their birth, that I didn't really process the loss of my uterus. Clearly, I knew what it meant... no more babies, and I was just thankful that God had given us not one, but two healthy babies, and they were all we needed. Well, fast forward 2 and a half years, and I can't shake this feeling that our family is not yet complete. I'll say it... I want another baby. We've got our 4 totcicles (IVF slang y'all) from our last round of IVF, but I struggle with wondering what God wants us to do. I do know that, short of winning the lotto, there's no way we can afford the $20-30,000 that a surrogate would cost. Our plan is to just continue to pray about it and hope that He will make it known to us which path we should follow in this next year, be it surrogacy, adoption, or nothing at all. All we can do is what we've always done, and give it all up to the Lord. Cast away all our worries, doubts, and anxieties and just trust in Him. Know that He always provides.

Now here are some pics of my cuties...


These were the onesies that we had bought our parents when we told them we were pregnant

first recorded smile



Easter Sunday 2011

Max 6 months old

One year pics


Max hugging his sissy

This was our Christmas card photo this past year (Max & Emma 2 years old)






 
 
So in reflection... I have to tell you, I am incredibly humbled by the response I have received over the last few days. I honestly didn't think anyone would read this, but my hope was that it would reach just one woman. Just one woman, who thought that she was alone in her struggle. Just one woman who felt like giving up. Just one woman who had given up hope and lost her faith in God. Please, what ever you do, don't feel sorry for me or pity me for anything that I have gone through, for everything that I have overcome in my life has lead me here, to this...
 
 
It was all for a purpose much greater than myself. My faith was tested over and over and over again, just as I'm sure it will be again. I have been humbled and broken but saved by the unfailing mercy and grace of God. Everything in my life has brought me closer to Christ, and for that I have been truly blessed. In church, they are always telling us to "spread the gospel" and to "share the good news" and "be disciples of Christ", and I have never felt comfortable with that. I have always felt unworthy or not "Christian" enough, and scared that someone might ask me a question about the bible and I would have no idea how to answer them. Truth be told, I totally have to cheat and look at the alphabetical order of the books of the bible on my iphone, and before watching The Bible series on tv, I couldn't have told you who half those people were or what they did - heck I still probably can't. But what I can do, is share my story of how God has worked in my life and how he continues to write my story. I don't know where my life will take me, but I know that I am never afraid because my God is always with me.
 
Thank you for letting me share my life and my story with you,
 
-Candice 

Double Blessings

If you want to get caught up, you can read from the beginning here...
Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5

"Isaac pleaded with the LORD on behalf of his wife, because she was unable to have children. The LORD answered Isaac's prayer, and Rebekah became pregnant with twins." - Genesis 25:21

It took everything in me not to shout our news from the rooftops. I also knew the risks involved and wanted to guard myself from the heartbreak of having to un-tell people if I were to miscarry. I 100% leaned on my fellow infertility sisters that I found through the support website, DailyStrength. Yet, even though it was the internet, and I didn't know these women, I still didn't tell them that we were using donor eggs. I guess I felt ashamed about it. I guess I felt like, if no one knew, then maybe in my mind I could pretend or convince myself that they were really mine. (yes, I know, I've got issues)

Finally, the much anticipated day was here. I don't think I would let myself really believe that I was pregnant until I saw it with my own eyes. The nurse warned us ahead of time that it would probably be too early to hear a heartbeat(s), but that we would definitely hear them at the next sono scheduled for the following week. By this time, I was becoming much more comfortable with the "magic wand" aka the vaginal ultrasound stick, but it still took several deep breaths and finding my happy place in order for it to happen! I was a mess of emotions sitting in that little dark room, holding Jason's hands, praying that there would be a baby in there. I had been reading WAY too much stuff on the internet, including stuff about ectopic pregnancies and molar pregnancies, and I just knew that with our luck, we would surely have one of the two.

The nurse flipped the switch on the monitor, inserted the wand, turned the screen, and said, "there's your baby". Jason squeezed my hand and kissed my forehead. Tears started rolling down my cheek. Not 10 seconds later, she says, "...and there's another baby"! TWINS! Hold crap! It worked, it really freakin worked! Jason squeezed my hand again and said, "oh my god!". In my mind I was thinking, gosh I hope she doesn't find anymore in there! Nope, just two perfect little sacs. What happened next was the most awe inspiring thing ever... she turned the volume knob up and zeroed in on one of the sacs, Jason and I held our breaths, and then heard the most beautiful, wonderful, amazing sound in the world... MY baby's heartbeat! I am still just so blown away and can't even wrap my head around the fact that something as small as a grain of rice can have a heartbeat. God is so good! She then moved over to the other sac and we heard a second heartbeat, strong and steady! We had never felt so blessed as we did in that moment.

 
This was totally worth all the ups and downs and disappointments and heartaches... and HIVES! We wanted to wait a little while longer to tell our friends, just to be safe, but couldn't wait to share the news of twins with our parents! When we told them we were pregnant, we gave them a gift and in it were cute little onesies that read "Grandpa's Sidekick" and another that said "I love Grandma". Well, when we learned that we were having twins, we went out and bought the same onesies again, put them in a gift bag, again, and when we gave our parents ANOTHER gift, they were quite puzzled. I remember Jason's mom being quite confused, like "um, yeah you already gave these to us", and we were like, "yeah, we know, but you're going to need another set - do I have to spell it our for you?"  #awkward #revealfail - once she got it though she was so excited and started crying. We did the same thing with my parents, except that we wanted to tell them in person, and since they live 5 hours away, we had to wait until after we already knew it was twins to even tell them we were pregnant. I felt sooooo bad that they were the "last" to know, but it meant so much to me to see the look on their faces.
 
A bunch of us were going to be taking a trip to Vegas in April for a surprise 30th bday of one of our close friends, so we knew we had to tell our friends before the magical 12th week, I can only fake being "sick" or "on medication" so long before they started to suspect something. confession, I'm kind of lush, or at least I was! So, we got everyone together for dinner one night, I ordered a beer just to through them off the scent (and don't think I didn't catch the glances darting across the table as the girls were thinking, damn I guess we were wrong) and when Jason told them all that we had something to tell them, they all thought we were moving, or worse, that one of us was dying or something. He told them all we were pregnant and the table erupted with congratulations and high fives, then a minute later, he said, oh there's more... it's twins! Once again the table erupted with a collective OMG! Lots of hugs and tears and fist bumps were had. It was awesome. These people who have supported us and encouraged us and shared in our suffering and sorrow for so long also got to share in our joy, finally! It was like, it wasn't just Jason and I that were pregnant, we were ALL pregnant. We owe everything to our support system, without them, I don't know how we would have been able to keep truckin' along. Of course, they were pissed that we didn't tell them anything about it, but they understood. We were just SO overjoyed and felt so, so blessed to get to be parents to these tiny little sacs. You pray and try for so long for just one baby - and then to get two - WOW! I think the greatest thing I heard at our 8 or 9 week sono appointment, was my doctor telling us that we now had a less than 5% chance for miscarriage - talk about a giant wave of relief! For some reason, I had this crippling fear of miscarriage - I guess that's normal though (or at least that's what I like to think). One cool thing about doing IVF is, you get to have lots of sonograms and check up on your little growing bundles of joy...

Isn't amazing how quickly they grow and change?!
 
I was 11 weeks along when we went to Vegas, and it could have been more fun, but I would sacrifice tequila shots for H2O shots any day!
 
Cheers!

Mmmm - H2O

 
Somehow, I managed to go my ENTIRE pregnancy without any morning sickness AT ALL! Finally, Candice caught a break! I also never had any weird cravings or any of the other strange things that happen during pregnancy (well, except the hives of course). In fact, if it weren't for my growing belly, you'd never even know I was pregnant at all! I was loving every single second of being pregnant!
 
I had a completely normal and healthy pregnancy - Praise the Lord! I won't lie, I held my breath in nervous anticipation at every.single.appointment until I heart their precious hearts beating. Literally, every time! I went in for sonos every 2 weeks until my 27th week, then it was every week! So you can imagine the pile of sono pics I collected :) My little mementos. I was able to fill an entire photo album with them and I treasure them so much. If my house were one fire, that would be one of the things I would carry out with me. Here's a little "evolution of the bump" pics from the baby book I made:
 

 

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

If at first you don't succeed...

If you want to get caught up, you can read from the beginning here...
Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4

"He staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief; but was strong in faith, giving glory to God." - Romans 4:18

I'm not sure how I could have forgotten this part, probably because I try to block it from my memory as much as possible. While sitting in the RE's office after our first failed IVF attempt, our RE placed several binders on the table in front of us. In the binders were page after page of donor profiles. Since the donor industry is a constantly changing enterprise, we chose to take our search to the interweb in order to get all the possible options available. We were referred to a specific donor agency (same one that had the binders in the doctor's office) and found a donor that looked like she would be perfect! She a donated before and had a great medical history. We actually started to think to ourselves, that maybe this might go pretty smoothly after all! Ha ha ha - yeah right! I found some relief in the fact that this donor had done this before and knew the process. It was so hard with my cousin, and all the not knowing, and how uncomfortable she was. As we started to proceed with the cycle we kept getting the run around from the agency, and come to find out, the donor we chose was freakin pregnant! Well, alrighty then. We had a backup donor picked just in case, and just moved down to the next one on the list, however this really should have been our first red flag about this agency. The second donor we chose had also donated before and with great success, so we really didn't have any apprehensions about it, and I'm a go with the flow kinda girl, so I didn't think much about it. We told the director that we were looking to move pretty quickly on this cycle. This was just me trying to be in control, all about my timing you know. As a teacher, you want to try and plan your pregnancy to work with your work schedule. I had not fully accepted the idea that God doesn't care about YOUR plans, and that everything is in HIS divine timing. Well, we kept waiting, and waiting, and waiting, and the director kept putting us off, ignoring our calls and emails, saying that they all of sudden started going to her spam folder - yeah right. At this point, Jason and I started to get really pissed, I mean what's the freakin deal lady, let's get this show on the road already! Eventually, we got the call, from our RE nurse of all people, that OUR donor was in the middle of a cycle with another couple! What the hell?! And why the hell is my nurse telling me this and not the agency director?! By this point, I was livid. We had already paid this agency a great deal of money and we just got royally screwed. Here's part of an email that I sent to the director that kind of sums up a little of what we went through with them:

"Throughout this process, we have given your agency the benefit of the doubt and hoped that you would do the right thing.  Yes we signed a contract, but this contract was signed with the pretense that (Agency) properly screened their donors.  We understand that you cannot control all actions of your donors, but it is quite clear that you are not in the least bit thorough with your screening.
 
The first donor that we chose ended up being several months pregnant.  While you cannot ensure that your donors will not become pregnant, if you were calling them each month to check in on them as you stated, this would have come up.  The donor that we moved forward with ended up being very deceptive, was working with another agency and was in the middle of a cycle for another couple.  As an agency, you are aware of that donors have profiles with different agencies and you should have asked if she was currently in the middle of a cycle or if anything had changed since she filled out a profile for you.   The agency is the only buffer between the donor and the recipient.  The recipient must put their trust into the agency and is paying them to provide a quality donor.  Even if you were lied to throughout the process by the donor, the fact that you asked us if we were interested in doing a shared cycle with the donor that had just deceived us shows your true colors.  This donor was obviously a horrible person who had lied to us and set us back several weeks, yet you were still willing to work with her.  
 
After we cancelled our contract, it took you two months and a barrage of calls before we received money back.  This put us in a huge financial strain.  I left several messages begging for a call back.  Not one was returned.  I'm not certain we would have received any money had we not annoyed you into writing checks. 
 
Throughout this ordeal, we have found several others that have had similar issues with (Agency).  This shows that you are not in this business for the right reasons.  On the Better Business Bureau website, it shows that (Agency) has seven complaints against it and an 'F' rating.  There will soon be an eighth complaint. 
 
Below is an article that (director's name) wrote in 2005 followed by two quotes that I pulled from it.  I'd suggest you re-read this article several times to remind yourself how a surrogacy agency should be run.
 
"The agency should provide thorough screening of all donors and surrogates."

"All agencies should provide couples and surrogates with 24 hour access to the staff. ""
  
 
It never occurred to me that someone would go into a business such as Donor Egg Donation and Surrogacy and exploit its clients vulnerability, violate their trust, and essentially steal their money. The director had promised to refund us all the money, granted I sign a waiver vowing to never discuss our experience with them. We never saw a dime. Shortly there after, she closed her business. All I can do is be thankful that no one else will ever have to experience what we did with that agency. We moved forward with a different agency that was completely professional, but we all know how that ended.
 
So, after all that craziness, we decided to take a break from family planning and just focus on us for a while. 2009 was not a good year for us and we could not wait to put it behind us. We met with our RE after the 2nd failed cycle to discuss options moving forward, and to be honest, I was DONE. I had been sticking myself with countless needles and hormones for months and was just over it. Our RE offered us his services for free should be decide to go through another round of IVF. And as incredibly generous of an offer that that was, I didn't think I could emotionally handle anymore of this. I was not cut out for this kind of drama and constant heartbreak. I'm pretty sure I could never make it in Hollywood either.
 
We made it through the holidays trying not to dwell too much on our own pity party that was going on and tried to focus on the positive things in our lives. I know that their intentions were pure in nature, but I was about to stab someone in the eye with a fork if they told me again to "just relax, it'll happen", or my favorite, "you know, my doctor told me I wouldn't be able to have kids either, but then I had 8 of them!" Ok, so maybe it didn't go exactly like that, but that's pretty much all I took away from it. I wanted to scream from the roof tops "Look people, no amount of relaxation is going to help me get pregnant! I could be in damn coma and not get pregnant!" I know that people just don't know what to say, I understand that, really I do, but it's so much better to just say "I love you and I support you and am here for you". That's it, I don't need to hear an antecdote about a friend of a friend and blah blah blah.
 
I remember writing this as a way to help me remember to be thankful for all that I DID have in my life:
When life stresses you out, sometimes it's easy to overlook the good things in your life. In trying to become a healthier person, it is important to me to not leave out my emotional, mental and spiritual well being. With that said, I have compiled a list of reasons why I am truly blessed:

I have an amazing husband who loves me for who I am, flaws and all
I have wonderful, loving parents who have always provided me with all that I need
I have a cousin who is more like a sister to me who is generous beyond belief
I have a beautiful puppy dog who fills my life with joy and makes me laugh everyday
My husband and I have a great home in a nice neighborhood where we always feel safe
I don't worry about how I am going to pay my bills each month
I know I can call on my best friends when something is bothering me or if I just want to talk
I am healthy (relatively speaking)

The list can go on and on... but at the end of the day, sometimes you just need to remind yourself that despite what may be going on, you really are blessed.

"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30

We talked and prayed about our future a lot in those last few months of 2009 and ultimately decided that we would give it one last try. I can honestly tell you  that the financial aspect of it was a big determining factor in our decision. The fact was that we just didn't have the money to adopt, and here was our RE offering thousands of dollars of services for FREE! We had also agreed that if it didn't work again, then we DONE, for good. We would get a bunch of dogs or something, but we both knew that we could not emotionally keep putting ourselves through this craziness. We had a new found optimism and hope for 2010. I coined it the baby makin year. We also resolved to not tell a single sole about this cycle. Part of the hearbreak was having to tell your loved ones and friends who had been praying for you, encouraging you, and supporting you through this whole journey that it didn't work, and God forbid you forget to tell someone, and a little while later they bring it up and ask how it's going - talk about reopening a wound! It would just be easier this way. Well, then New Years Eve came around and my best friend confided in me that she was pregnant and scared shitless. She was married, but it was a definite surprise for them. She never really saw herself being a mom and was terrified about whether or not she would be a good mom. It was then, at a bar, in a bathroom stall, somewhere around midnight, that I told her that hopefully in a few weeks she would not be alone in her journey, and maybe our kids would be best friends too. She was the ONLY one that knew, and I know that just the mere thought of having me go through this with her calmed her nerves considerably! It was also nice to be able to tell someone, someone I could trust not to tell anyone else. We took a no-stress approach to it. It was almost as if it wasn't even happening at all. We really didn't talk about it much, we didn't obsess over follicles or embryos or timelines. I even took it upon myself to do my own bum injections, and would you believe that they were WAYYYYYY less painful when I did them myself?! Why did I not do that sooner! So that helped with the stress level too! We celebrated my 29th birthday on January 10th and by February were ready to go big or go home (whatever that means). You won't BELIEVE what fate had in store for us next!

We went through a completely new agency this time around, making it our 3rd agency. We liked the one we went with last time, but we donor we chose was with a different agency. We took out a loan from the bank to pay for the donor and hospital fees (anyone else go broke trying to get pregnant? No, just me? Cool.) Our donor had successfully donated once before and it ended in a pregnancy, so we felt pretty good about that. She was set to go in to our RE's office and start her stimulation meds on February 6th. After her appointment, I got a call from our nurse. I didn't think anything of it, I assumed she was just calling to give us an update and our timeline, but that wasn't the only news she had for us. She basically asked if I was sitting down and went on to tell me that the donor was very nice and seemed to be very responsible but there was something a little peculiar about her, and after looking into it a little further, discovered, are you ready for this? She was the freakin sister of the donor that deceived us in round 2! MIND BLOWN! Are you f-ing kidding me?! Seriously folks, I said it before, but you can't make this shit up! Our nurse had called the doctor that this donor used in her last cycle to get the inside scoop on her and was only given glowing reviews of her responsibility, punctuality, and demeanor. Soooo unlike her sister. Seriously though, at this point all you can do is laugh and say, of course she's her sister! It's us were talking about. This crap would only happen to us! Now, this donor had no idea that we had tried to use her sister or who we were at all. It was 100% fate. I guess in hindsight their profiles would have been practically verbatim, but they didn't look alike at all, and we had literally looked at hundreds of profiles, so it never occurred to us that we had seen it all before. I had to tell Jason when he got home, and he had pretty much the same reaction that I did, and then we laughed about it some more. Y'all if you can't laugh about life, it's going to get the best of you! We both came to the conclusion that our kid(s) we meant to have these genes, and that this was a God thing and we didn't think twice about moving forward with cycle. Who says God doesn't have a sense of humor?!

The egg retrieval was scheduled for February 17th. On the day of the retrieval, we ended up with... wait for it.... 30 eggs! That's right I said thirty 3-0! We could not believe it! WOW! Now we just had to pray that a good number of them would fertilize and that Jason's boys were good swimmers! The next day (Thursday), we got the news that a whopping 27 of the eggs fertilized! Jason and I were over the moon excited to hear this news! In our first cycle we got 9 eggs and only 7 fertilized, and in our 2nd try, we only got 5 eggs, and only 2 fertilized! So you can see what a huge difference this cycle was for us! The transfer was schedule for Monday (2/22). We would not receive another update until the transfer on Monday, so naturally we waited with baited breath. I guess our prayers must have been heard, because when we got the hospital on Monday, we found out that we had two PERFECT blasts to transfer and possibly 4 more to freeze! They tried to convince us to just transfer one embryo - but we took into account our luck - and opted to put them both in and risk the high chance for twins. I literally told my doctor, "Look, this is the third time I have sat in this room, put the damn eggs in!"
That's what 2 PERFECT blasts looks like :)

We went home and vegged out the rest of the day and I took the next day off too (not wanting to take ANY chances this time around. I sat anxiously waiting for the call to find out how many/if any embryos we had to freeze, and... we've got 4! We have never had any to freeze before - this is such a relief - it's like a huge weight has been lifted and we can finally breath a little easier. FINALLY, things seemed to be going in our favor! I knew this was going to be a good year!

My beta test was scheduled for Tuesday March 4th, however that was a TAKS testing day for our school and there was no way I could even sneak out for 1/2 an hour to go get my blood drawn, so we would have to wait yet another day before learning our fate! Ugh, the anxiety! I tried not to think about it, which it was really hard to think about anything else besides that and my aching bruised bum (those injections are killer!) So there we were, all we could do was wait, and pray, and hope for the best, oh and buy a home pregnancy test! We had not done a home pregnancy test with either of the last two cycles, maybe it was because I somehow subconsciously knew what it would say? I don't know. But this time felt different, so with knots in my stomach, I trucked my way to the grocery store and proudly plopped down my purchase on the conveyor belt and thought about how badly I wanted to see those two pink lines. I had read that you should wait until morning to do a HPT, that you get the most accurate readings, so held out until Monday morning (I am seriously proud of myself for letting that test just sit there on my bathroom counter and not rip that bitch open and use it right away). We woke up and started our normal getting ready for work routine, the only difference this time, was that I held a little stick in my urine stream while I peed. I set it on the bathroom counter and walked away. I sat on the bed watching the seconds tick by. I honestly don't remember where Jason was or what he was doing, he could have been right next to me for all I know. I was in the ZONE. My heart was racing a mile a minute, I was on the verge of tears, mentally convincing myself that it was just going to be another negative and already talking myself off the ledge. It was time. Is it weird that I am reliving the exact emotions of that day right now, as I type? My hands are literally shaking right now! I walked into the bathroom, picked up the stick and this is what I saw...
 

 

Holy Shit Y'all! Are serious right now? Jason and I embraced each other, and I just started to cry. I think really he was the only thing keeping me from falling to the floor. I couldn't even feel my legs at that point. I just cried and cried in disbelief. It's a good thing I didn't already put my make up on! You couldn't have wiped the smile off my face if you tried. I knew that there was still a chance that it wasn't "real" and that only the beta could confirm a pregnancy for us, but this was farther than we had ever come in our journey, and I just knew that our luck had turned around and it was OUR time, it was our turn. God always provides, and whatever you ask for in his name, he will deliver. I was confident. I may or may not have taken like 5 more tests just to be sure though :)

Obsessive much?
 
Wednesday rolled around and I went in for my beta test. Even the phlebotomist told me she felt like this was the one! A few hours later, Jason and I sat anxiously on the coach awaiting THE call. I picked up the phone, and the nurse immediately started with, "well, I've got some good news for you", and there ya go, I lost it again, tears streaming down my face, but finally, FINALLY they were happy tears. She went on to tell us that we had a beta level of 668, which is pretty high. All I knew is that I WAS PREGNANT - HOLLA! Suddenly it occurs to you that, Oh my God, there is another human growing inside me RIGHT NOW, and I don't care who you are, that shit is cray! We had to wait a whole week before our second beta - which was torture! I thought for sure that we were going to receive bad news, as I was experiencing absolutely no signs of early pregnancy at all! But... low and behold... Jason called me at work with the good news that our second beta level was 12,000! Crazy high! The nurse said she was very interested to see the ultrasound - will there be one in there or two???? My kids were questioning me all day as to why I was crying and why I was smiling so much! One change of events that started shortly there after (March 7th I believe) that is not so pleasant was... HIVES! Jason ended up having to take me to the ER one night because he was so concerned (first time ever in an ER) - but in classic Candice style... apparently 1% of pregnant women develop hives because of the elevated hormone levels in the body - lucky me! Yup, I was allergic to being pregnant. Awesome. So I was covered in hives head to toe for about a week and a half before getting referred to an allergist.


He basically said he wasn't sure what was causing the hives, but he gave me a prescription for some Xyzal and gave me a back up plan if that didn't work. It's rather hard to be so happy when you are constantly scratching and itching and in such a state of discomfort. It was awful. Seriously, I wouldn't wish that on my worst enemy. Well, I take that back, I can think of one person (ahem, agency director).
We were set to have our first ultrasound at 6 weeks (which was actually only 2 weeks after finding out we were pregnant). I couldn't wait to have confirmation that a) I was still pregnant and b) whether we having one baby or two! And the very best part... getting to tell our parents. Remember, they had no idea that we were even doing another cycle, so imagine their surprise when we told them we were pregnant! For once, we were like every.other.normal.couple giving the good news of impending grandchildren! Jason and I were both the oldest in our families and our parents would be first time grandparents, so to say they were excited would be quite the understatement! Sharing the good news was by far my most favorite thing ever! But it doesn't end there.

"But the angel said to him, Do not be afraid, Zacharias, for your prayer is heard; and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John. And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth. "  - Luke 1:13,14

Second time's a charm??

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

May your unfailing love rest upon us, O LORD, even as we put our hope in you. - Psalm 33:22

I started my daily Lupron injections on September 29, 2009, and our donor was set to start taking her stimulation injections on October 17th. At this point, Jason and I had to refinance our house in order to afford a second round of IVF. Donor eggs don't come cheap people! Some people will pay upwards of $20,000 to a single donor! We didn't care if our donor was a Harvard supermodel with ties to the Kennedy's or the Royal family, so we settled for a very lovely young woman, with a great medical history, and who only wanted $5000 (the average going rate at the time).

Before starting our first round of IVF with my cousin, Jason and I took a "Last Hurrah" cruise, since we thought it would be the last trip we would take together as a family of two. Well, we all know how that worked out. So we decided to have a "Last Hurrah" Take 2, and hit up New Orleans for Jason's birthday. We really needed this time to unwind and reconnect before jumping back on board the crazy train when we got back. The mini vacay was awesome! I had actually never been to New Orleans before, so I was beyond excited! We had such an amazing time! I had asked my physical therapist (oh sheesh, I guess I forgot to mention that whole mess! I'll get to it in a minute) for advice on places to go since she was from there. We hit up all the usual spots, as well as some lesser known gems! Like this one. Can I just say... wow it was amazeballs (for all my mama laughlin readers)!
The Pecan Waffle was the bomb!
 
This was our first stop - and Jason got totally hammered after 2 grenades! We had to go back to the B&B and take a nap.

The town was BANANAS! LSU was playing Florida and crazy college co-eds were EVERYWHERE - you'ld think we went during Mardi-Gras - It was awesome!

 
 
OK, so a quick side note about the whole physical therapy business. Some details of what you are about to read may be slightly fictionalized - should certain people, ahem my parents, read this one day. I'll let you decide which part that might be. So, shortly after getting married and having relations for the first time ever, I discovered that it hurt like hell pretty much every.single.time. And I would inevitably bleed afterwards every.single.time. While I'm sure it did wonders for my husband's ego, I was not having it. You hear all this talk about how great sex is, and yet here I was YET AGAIN, different from everyone else. Can I just catch a break here? If I can't get pregnant from sex, can I at least ENJOY it?! Well, this went on for YEARS. I'm not saying I never enjoyed sex, in fact after the initial pain of insertion went away, it was quite enjoyable, but then when it was over, the pain came back, lasted a few days, and then the cycle repeated itself all over again. I had told my doctor, and she suggested lube (really doc? No shit!), then she prescribed some estrogen suppositories. Um yeah, that was gross. I think I'll take the pain over having damp, dripping, creamy, panties all the time, uhthankyouverymuch. Lovely description, huh. If only I were making this stuff up people. This crap really happened. Feeling better about your own life yet? No, well just wait, it gets better! So, when we had made the decision to start trying for a family, I decided to switch to a new doctor (ob/gyn) that was closer to our house. Upon several recommendations of friends, I chose Dr. G. Can I just tell you that he is THE best doctor on the face of the planet! On my very first appointment (my annual), within maybe 2 minutes of being all up in my business, he peeked up from behind the sheet and asked me if it hurt when I had sex. Um, yeah, only always, how did you know? Long story, short... I have vaginismus along with everything else - yay me! If you don't know what it is, you can read all about it here. So there are many possible causes for how/why a woman develops vaginismus, but I think mine is directly related to the events that occurred when I was 15. Regardless, it's not as easy as here take this pill, or perform this surgery to fix it, no no, it's much more involved than that. I went to a physical therapist that specialized in pelvic floor disorders - who knew this even existed?! I went every week for several months, where she would essential torture me, or at least that's how it felt, and I was ordered to do dilator therapy at home, and in time, I would be able to control my muscles and reverse the tightening reactions of my pelvic floor. Why not, right? We're made of money! Naturally, insurance covered pretty much none of these therapies. So yeah, that's the story behind the physical therapy. Jealous?
 
Now, where were we? Oh yes, so while we were in Nawlins, I began my Lupron injections (in my belly). On the 26th, we got a call from our RE's office letting us know that, unfortunately, the ultrasound was only showing 5 follicles with our donor. All we could do was hope and pray that each follicle would produce an egg, and that one, just one of them would become our baby. They proceeded with the egg retrieval on the 28th, and Jason went up to clinic to do his part. Again. I'm pretty sure when Jason asked him mom where babies came from, she forgot to mention the part about beating off into a plastic cup in a small room at a clinic. How weird would that be, walking in, everyone knowing exactly what you're doing behind that door - ugh I shudder. All 5 follicles did indeed produce eggs, however they did not seem to be developing properly once fertilized, and by day 2, our RE wanted to go ahead and do the transfer. If you recall, we had 10 eggs with the first round and transferred 3 embryos on day 5 -so this was all kinds of different for us. On the day of the transfer, only one little embryo was viable.
 
 
There will come a time when you can't make it on your own
And in your hour of desperation
Know you're not the only one
Prayin', "lord above, I need a miracle
I need a miracle"
-Third Day "I Need A Miracle"
 
The RE even questioned whether it was even worth it to us to go through with the procedure. Needless to say, he did not have high hopes for this little embryo. But, we had come this far, and I  went back to my mantra, "all you need is one", and we went for it. I have never prayed so hard in my life. I was in constant prayer every single second of the day. For 9 whole days. I went in for my beta (blood test) on 11/11, hoping that it would be our lucky day. I had plans of cute ways to surprise Jason with the news. There are so very few surprises in the world of IVF. I remember this day so clearly. It was an awful day. For some reason I wasn't working, maybe it was a Saturday? I was at the mall returning something, my head was in a fog all day, I couldn't focus on anything, including driving apparently. When I was pulling out of the parking lot, I straight up slammed my car into another lady who was also backing out. Great. Luckily, there was no damage, so we didn't even exchange info. I got in my car and started crying, like I already knew how this day was going to end. I was supposed to meet up with my friend who was in town at a different mall across town, so I started heading that way. I pulled into the parking lot and was about to get out when my phone rang. It was my RE's office. I thought they were going to wait until later to call, and for a split second I thought to myself that maybe they were just so excited with good news that they just couldn't wait. Yeah, I was wrong. The beta was negative. Again. My heart sunk. It was as if all the blood in my body drained down to the floorboard of my car. I was alone. After several minutes of punching my steering wheel and mascara running down my face, I put my big girl panties on and resolved to not lose it until I got home. Just focus long enough to get home. Then you can crawl into a ball and cry until you have no more tears left. And that is exactly what I did.    
 
I hope to have part 4 up today.