Tuesday, March 29, 2016

our happily ever after

14 years. Looking back it's really hard to believe that we waded through 14 years of heartbreak to get to this year of our lives.  This year where we finally got answers... when we finally saw those better days we knew were just around the bend. 

My name is Shannon and I am a survivor.

A survivor of the unknown.  

I married my husband at the ripe ol' age of 20.  When I met him at the age of 17 I knew he was my other half. From the night of our first date we were inseparable. We finished high school and took on the world together.  We went off to college, got an apartment and did our best to stay afloat. Things were never perfect but we were always a team.  We were married in the fall of 2001.

Our first date: Dec 1997
Our wedding day: 9.14.01
Over the next couple of years we continued to build our life, we moved back home to be closer to our family, we searched for two years to find our own home.  We spent the next couple of years after that renovating that home.  You know that saying... "if you build it, they will come" ... yes, all the while we hoped to get our family started.  

I remember the summer of 2003.  Two years into the game..... someone had told me a story of a couple who had tried for 10 years before they were successful... it stunned me. I remember thinking for the first time... could that end up being us?  And who knew..... it was.

From that point on our story played out like the roller coaster ride that only an infertile knows.  Hope, disappointment, anger, frustration, fear, desperation to numbness.  And then you start all over again.  

We started with my OBGYN and moved on to the closest fertility clinic which is about an hour and a half from our home.  I was 23 years old and S was 24 and the doctors weren't really on board with how serious I felt the issue was.  To them, I was young and still had plenty of time.  Even though in the same sentence they would acknowledge my most fertile years were quickly passing us by.  We started with Chlomid treatments and worked our way through the check list to finally arrive at IUI (intrauterine-insemination).  IUI's were covered by our insurance company.  All in all we completed (5) IUI cycles.  And by the last failure I had reached the end of my rope.  All those  months, all those hormones, all those miles.  I was completely exhausted and the emotional baggage had taken it's toll on our marriage. We needed a break.   So, we decided to take one of the doctors advice ... we started traveling.  Las Vegas, Mexico, Jamaica.... we chased the sun where ever and whenever we could.  We made some beautiful memories.  In the in-between we also worked on adoption through our local foster care system.  We completed our home study and completed the required parenting classes  to become certified foster parents.  This route just turned into another dead end for us due to the circumstances of our local social services department.  So... we booked a few more trips... St. Maarten, Florida and Jamaica two more times.  

Mexico 2009

Jamaica 2010

I studied Yoga and became a certified teacher,  I took piano lessons and I started this blog.

It occurred to me one day how much shame surrounds being infertile.  I sat there thinking of all the couples I knew who had never had children growing up and wondering about their circumstances. Even my own grandmother, who didn't have my father until she was 40 years old (pretty unique in 1960!)  How some of my friends treated me differently because of it.  Why are we so afraid to talk about it? 

I also spent those last 5 years or so obsessing and turning my wheels in anxiety - cleaning my home of toxins. I made my own laundry detergents, soaps, cleaning products.  I cleared the kitchen of anything plastic and cleaned up my diet as well.  I checked acupuncture, massage therapy and energy healing off the list. I had told myself I was "letting go" but in reality I was holding on tighter than ever to the hope that one of these things would be my answer.   I learned A LOT and all of these paths brought me many benefits of a healthier life..... body, mind and soul; they just didn't lead me to any physical answers surrounding my infertility diagnosis.  

Ironically, my last blog entry was in June of 2015. By July I was back at the clinic.  A few things transpired that gave me the courage to walk back into the clinic.  My 35th birthday was fast approaching in November.  A friend reminded me... "it's never too late."  I met two very kind and compassionate doctors who completely changed my opinions of those in the medical field.  

One of those doctors was my new OBGYN and during my visit to meet her we discussed all of these things.  She looked me dead in the eye and said in the most caring but forward way that she could...... "You can spin your wheels with all of that as much as you want but if you want real results ... you have to go back to the clinic. "  

And she was totally right.  I had been searching for answers like a needle in the proverbial haystack. Was it some strange chemical in my shampoo?  I was driving myself (and my husband) bonkers.   I was over it.  I may never know what is/was wrong with my body. Eventually (whether it resulted in pregnancy or not) I was going to HAVE to come to terms with this.  Why not now?

It was then and there I found my resolve.  I cringed as I suggested this to my husband.  He surprised me by getting on board.  He had his reservations... and we talked about them... it's not an easy path to take and we were well aware of all the pot holes along the way.  But we had to try.  My biggest fear has always been regret.  I never wanted to reach that day when reproduction just wasn't possible and think WHY didn't I just do everything I could?  

The hard part was the money.  Unlike IUI,  my health insurance provided no benefit for IVF.  So this is a bit like taking $11,000 and putting it all on black at the roulette table. It's a total gamble.  You could walk away with nothing.  The planets seemed to align for us this time tho as we were approved for a grant through the department of health.  It covered $6,000 of the cost! It was a true god-send and brought our out of pocket expense down to $5,000 plus travel.   

We started the hormone therapies and the next thing we knew we were ready for retrieval (8 eggs!!) and then transplant... we had three viable embryos.  We decided to place two and freeze one.  The procedure went well.  

We had a 10 day wait to the blood test where we would find out if it worked.  I remember my girlfriend trying to talk me into taking an at home test.  I had a bunch of tests in my cupboard... but I just couldn't stomach the thought.  I joked about having PTSD from all those prior negative results.  I had worked so hard at envisioning our future positively for the transfer.... I couldn't figure it out when it came to the actual moment we got our "BFP" (big fat positive).   Every time I tried I just went blank.   I spent those 10 days practicing yoga and meditation and thinking positively.  

The way it all transpired is comical in a way.  I woke up that morning and put on my new tank top my friend had gotten me with the words "POSITIVE MIND. POSITIVE VIBES. POSITIVE LIFE." It was truly my mantra.  I went up to the clinic, they took my blood and I headed back home in a daze.  I was still on the highway when they called.  I pulled over the side of the road and I still get chills when I think about the words I finally got to hear....."Shannon," they said... "it worked, you are PREGNANT!!"  I was literally shaking with joy.    
Our announcement 

I pulled myself together and drove out to my  husbands job site.  There was no way I was delivering this news over the phone.  He didn't tell me until after but he was completely prepared for a negative. He was in complete shock. I think that now, at almost 33 weeks into this, it's just starting to sink in.  I can see him getting more and more excited the closer we get.   

Life is funny the way it works itself out.  

A pic from our maternity shoot, taken on that same dock we married on in 2001

When things don't seem to be working out the way we planned we get frustrated and angry.  We operate out of desperation and fear. Patience and faith are the two virtues that were always the hardest to come by for me.  Hindsight has allowed me to see that part of my barriers back in the early days were my own attitude, my own negativity.    Only now can I look back and appreciate the journey for what is was .... a true adventure.  

Our story... it allowed us to learn and grow into the people we are today.  I'm not sure if any other challenge could have worked on us like this one did.  Now I can see clearly that this IS the best possible time for us to start our family.  We are both in a wonderful place professionally, financially and emotionally.  Had we gotten our wish 7 years ago... things would have been much different and dare I say much harder especially when it comes to working out the logistics of parenthood.   

30 weeks and growing! 

14 years.... and now if feels like our lives are just beginning. We couldn't have made it here if we didn't have hope, but it did take more to create our happy ending.  We had to take action. We are so thankful to the medical professionals who helped us along the way, the medical procedures that made all of this possible and the true miracle that is modern science.  I may never know why my body could not do this on it's own... and finally, I am at peace with that. 

Don't forget to check out Stirrup Queens web page for more blogs and info!

In love and light..