Did you know that no two snowflakes are the same? God, in his infinite wisdom created each individual snowflake with its own signature that compound to fill the beautiful snow that we get to experience here in the North Country. We finally experienced our first decent snowstorm and it’s so soothing for me to watch. It really had me thinking God’s amazing design for this Earth and for us.
God doesn’t make mistakes. And He didn’t make a mistake with me or you either.
“I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works, my soul knows it very well.” ~ Psalm 139:14
I’ve always been somewhat of a people pleaser and i’ve always been so hurt when people don’t like me or approve of me, but over the years I’ve learned the hard lesson of being myself no matter what. Deep down I’ve often wondered what my parents would think, what friends and family will talk about behind my back, or how people will judge me for certain things that I do.
That’s certainly not fun and it’s no way to spend your life. Becoming a Mom myself changed so many things about me (as it should). I often reflect on how I’m living and examine it through their eyes. Am I demonstrating behavior that I want them to replicate and showing them a healthy way of living? I love my children for who they are and who God has destined them to be, not who I picture they’ll be. But I never want them to constantly stress about what others think so I need to be the example.
If you live trying to please others or change for who you’re dating, what your parents want (As an adult), what a “friend” wants then the world is missing out on someone truly amazing! You’re never going to be everyone’s cup of tea and that’s okay!
Most people hate the cold and the snow, but we LOVE it. A lot of people hate tattoos, and we love them. I’m sure people disagree with aspects of our parenting, my political beliefs, my sports teams, etc. In the words of Rachel Hollis in Girl, Wash Your Face, “Someone else’s opinion of you is none of your business!”
If people sit and listen to gossip about you (especially without defending you), those are not your people. If they hate the core of who you are, they are not your people. If they don’t care whether or not they miss out on important events in your life or if the relationship is always one-sided, they are not your people. If they don’t care about hurting you, not your people either. Surround yourself with those who love the raw, real you no matter what!
Now, I’m not one of those who believes that if it’s not harming others then it’s okay. As a Christian the Bible is my guide. My spiritual leadership aids in this. And, as a wife, my husband is my other half and I submit to Him as the leader of our household.
Life is too short. And the world deserves ME. Not a filtered chameleon.
I’ve always wanted to be a twin mom. I had the most wonderful expectations of the type of Mom that I would be and I was determined to meet every single one. Pretty sure we’ve all been there and just smile and nod when we hear others make the same mistakes. Then I actually became a mom…and a twin mom at that. Guys, being a mom (or a parent in general) is a lot tougher than it looks!
It’s no secret that we prayed for Logan & Emma and went through our own struggles before God gave us our dream. It took 3 failed rounds of fertility treatment, 1 successful IVF cycle, many tears and heartache, thousands of $$, feeling like failures, judgments and negative remarks from family and friends, doubts about ourselves and our future and too many moments to mention. But, looking back I wouldn’t change a thing. We wouldn’t have Logan & Emma and our 4 babies waiting for us if we’d gotten pregnant any other way. I wouldn’t be eternally grateful in the way that I am and know what a true miracle the gift of life is.
However, our struggles didn’t end when we had our babies like I thought they would. I truly believed that going through so much heartache and infertility would make every moment absolutely perfect. I thought that I’d be so grateful that I would never have to deal with anything like postpartum depression…I was wrong. I wrestled with it for months because I didn’t want to believe that it was something else that I and my body failed at. It wasn’t until Ryan called my doctor and kept the kids that I finally admitted that something was wrong. Breastfeeding twins what felt like nonstop, hundreds of doctors appointments, working 20-25 hours a week from home, a spec ops husband that was gone 14+ hours a day and living off of ZERO sleep for months on end can take a toll. I never wanted to admit that I wasn’t super mom, but guys, I should have admitted it a lot sooner for the benefit of me, the kids and my poor saint of a husband! Our home has been much happier and life has continued to improve.
I’m also learning to listen to my body (and my husband). As of the end of March I’ll be a full time SAHM (Stay At Home Mom)!!!! I’m wicked excited and I truly feel that this is the best move for our family. With a husband in flight school and two VERY active toddlers who want and need my attention, i’ll feel much better about everything. This has always been my dream and has been the ultimate goal, but I always felt that I should be contributing financially. But, taking care of kids IS a full time job and they need me more than my money. (My Boston Terrier, Yawkey, is curled up with me agreeing) 😉
I’m admitting to all of this because it’s also been an insecurity for me. We’ve been told by family members (and via hearing gossip repeated) that I “couldn’t handle” working and my kids…that I “Couldn’t take care of her own kids”…and that I “wasn’t meant to be a Mom” because of our struggles. Well, I’ve been working at all of the above for over 19 months and kickin butt, if I do say so myself. I did all of this while battling postpartum depression ZERO help from family that all seemed to disappear after the babies were born. I was also so jealous of the people I saw on social media (a very, very dangerous thing to get sucked into) who had family and friends visiting, helping out with their kids or just giving them adults to talk to. It forced me to lean on God and my husband. Our “Team Grim” did it and we’re stronger than ever!! Not everyone has a “tribe”, but I’m okay with that now.
We all have our struggles, our insecurities, our imperfections…but we all need to be a little more lenient with ourselves! I guess I’m just here to admit that I have my own and I’m still here living to tell about it. My kids still give me 1000 hugs and kisses a day and my husband still wants to come home to me every night so I must be doing something right!
I’ve struggled for awhile on how to put this all into words. IVF, In-Vitro Fertilization….I keep saying those words and it is still so surreal that this is real life for us. Mayo Clinic defines it as“…a complex series of procedures used to treat fertility or genetic problems and assist with the conception of a child. During IVF, mature eggs are collected (retrieved) from your ovaries and fertilized by sperm in a lab.”
It all sounds so very clinical, simple, and unemotional. Well, that first part can be true, but the rest is far from it. This has been the most difficult, emotional, expensive, trying, beautiful, scary, exciting, exhilarating experience of my entire life. The first time we met with our Reproductive Endocrinologist he walked us through the process of diagnostic tests that we would need and gave us our options moving forward. Hearing IVF made my stomach tie up in our knots, but I never truly believed we’d have to go this far. IVF is just something someone else does…lots of people get pregnant from IUI/Superovulation, right? By the time that our 2nd round of SuperO failed and we put down the deposit to reserve our start date of 24 NOV it started to hit me, but it wasn’t until we went to our orientation that everything hit me. Seeing the many, many drugs arrive on top of what we had done, reading through the file of documentation/paperwork/releases and having slips to get tested for all kinds of different diseases so that our embryos wouldn’t possibly be infected or affect others is just so much to take in.
Pretty much everyone I know in real life that has been through infertility did super-ovulation (like we did first) or IUI’s (similar to super-ovulation, only instead of intercourse, the sperm is placed inside the cervix to naturally fertilize any eggs) so I didn’t even have a community of people who understood. Thankfully, I found an online community/support group of AMAZING women who understand and are going through/have gone through the same path that we’re traveling and understand all of the emotions. Infertility, and especially IVF is very isolating. While we had so many distant friends and family that were so supportive, we dealt with so many insensitive comments. A few people even made us feel even worse by invalidating our feelings because it’s not “as bad as cancer or real problems”.
The first part of the process, the “Stimulation Cycle” was pretty close to what we had been through with our 3 superovulation cycles with a few new drugs. However, it was definitely more intense. There was so much riding on each of the appointments and we were much more nervous to make sure that my body was progressing the right way. Plus, I was more sore since we had to have many more eggs than before (in superovulation, you only want one or two eggs to release).
The toughest part came after the retrieval “surgery” when I came off of all of the drugs. My body had NO IDEA what to do going through withdrawals from all of the hormones and the wait to find out if we had embryos/would they make it/would they be healthy/would he have some left to freeze…the whole week was unbearable. I also had some pretty insensitive comments directed toward me, but I guess many people just don’t think and empathize what someone is going through. It was extra hurtful though being that I wasn’t in my right mindset either.
IVF is just so much to wrap your mind around. The idea that your embryos are being created in a lab is a lot to come to terms with and be okay. What I wasn’t expecting was the need I felt to protect them and be close to them. After my surgery I missed my babies that I didn’t even know I had…I just wanted them back! It’s like my maternal instincts kicked in automatically. Poor Ryan had to deal with a few emotional breakdowns that I had that week, but he’s always the best at calming me down and getting me through it. I can’t imagine the gut wrenching pain of losing babies that have been implanted back in you. No matter how early it’s still the same or close to the same pain of having a miscarriage. While many might disagree…our babies were our babies before they were ever put back in me. I can’t explain how thankful we are and how blessed we truly are that they are both still with us!
It’s still hard to think about PCS’ing and having to leave the other babies behind until we can use them again, but i’m still thankful that we have some left for the future. I still feel like it’s all been a dream and I can’t believe it’s finally our turn and it finally worked!!!
On Friday, we received the go ahead from our doc to do our last night of injections and add in the “Trigger” HCG shot at 8pm!!! The HCG shot helps your follicles to complete their final maturing process and exactly 36-39 hours later you ovulate. Everything is extremely time sensitive as you can imagine, so we were scheduled to be at Dr. Blohm’s office on Sunday by 0730 to prepare for an 0800 egg retrieval time.
Shots by a tree
My shot administrator 🙂
Trigger Shot Time
We arrived at Dr. Blohm’s office a few minutes early (Ryan always has to be there 15 minutes prior to the 15 minutes prior) and got settled in. It was a little weird not having a coffee or water since I was NPO (nothing by mouth) from midnight the night before, but so worth it!
I was taken back to the pre-op area that was connected to the OR (all private for my Dr.) to get changed into a hospital gown and ready to go. My anesthesiologist was already in there waiting with my nurse and she got the IV started for me. After I asked when Ryan could come back she looked a little surprised and said he wasn’t allowed back at all. I was a little upset that I couldn’t give him a hug and a kiss before the procedure and give him my jewelry, but she gave me my phone so I could text him and even took a pic of me all ready to go. She was so awesome and constantly made me feel relaxed and in good hands. 🙂 Besides, he had a very important job to do himself! 😉 Finally I was taken back into the OR and transferred to the operating table for the procedure and the anesthesiologist got me started on the good drugs. LoL I don’t think I was awake for another minute after that and didn’t wake up until I was back in the pre-op/post-op area.
I was told that I did great, but my eggs were a little difficult to get out of my follicles in my ovaries. The procedure took at least twice as long as it should have normally, but we were able to get 13!!!
Again, after hearing that so many people get between 20-30 it seemed like a small number, but I was confident that they would all fertilize and we would have “Quality over quantity”. We were also doing a procedure called ICSI (Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection) where the sperm would be injected directly into the eggs to up the chances of healthy fertilization.
I was still groggy, but ecstatic while I was getting changed. My nurse, of course, had to take me outside in my stylish wheelchair and Ryan already had the Xterra pulled around to get me. 🙂 I stayed on bed rest the next 1 and half days partly due to the doc’s orders and partly since I was so sore. Having needles jammed into you to get out stubborn eggs isn’t always the most pleasant. The most important part was that it worked and everything was all so worth it in the end!!
We would soon learn that the hardest part of the whole thing would be the wait between the Retrieval and the Transfer. We had to wait two whole days to find out if and how many embryos we had. With the procedure that we were doing (ICSI or Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection), the sperm would be injected directly into the eggs to ensure the best chances of conception and pregnancy. Finally, late in the afternoon on Tuesday, Dr. Blohm told us that we had 10 4-cell embryos left!!!!! 10!!!!!! We were so ecstatic that I just started crying…it was such a blessing. He told us “I’ll be honest with you, Melissa, I didn’t think you’d have any good eggs with as hard as it was to get your eggs out. It would be easier to pull your molars than it was to get these eggs. I’ve been doing this for 25 years and it’s an absolute miracle that you guys are here right now.” GOD IS SO GOOD!!!! He was also confident that we could do a 5 day transfer instead of a 3 day…which was also our prayer. It’s better to see how well the embryos survive in the lab to transfer the ones that will have the best chance of sticking. The next few days were spent in MUCH prayer and hope that we would receive more good news on Friday during our Embryo Transfer!
First shot: Saturday, 21 NOV 2015 I took my last BCP (Birth Control Pill) and began my 0530 shot called Lupron. The Lupron basically stops your body from ovulating on your own so that the mature eggs don’t release before the doctor has a chance to the retrieval. It’s a drug that I was on during my last two cycles of Super Ovulation, so at least we were used to it. Ryan set an alarm and gave me my shot every single morning. 🙂 This would continue every morning until the day of my trigger shot.
First IVF Appt: Tuesday, 24 NOV 2015 We counted down to this day for over 6 weeks and were so excited to go in for my baseline ultrasound and blood work. However, while everything looked good to proceed, we had to wait a few days because my body wasn’t quite ready to begin the stimulation drugs. With IVF, everything has to be absolutely perfect to go forward to each next step (you are putting thousands of $$ into this after all). We left the appointment extremely disappointed and felt like it wasn’t the best way to begin the cycle of positivity, but by the end of the day I got the call that we could begin the stimulation drugs in 2 days…on Thanksgiving.
Day 1: Thursday, 26 NOV 2015 Happy Thanksgiving!!! We were so excited to get started on the rest of our shots (FINALLY!!!!) and it couldn’t have worked out any better to begin them on Thanksgiving. No doubt about what we were thankful for. I started off on 250 IU’s of Follistim (again, a drug I was familiar with from my 3 Super Ovulation cycles) and 1 vial of the Menopur (a new drug). The Menopur required mixing right before giving the shot (daily at 6pm on the dot) so Ryan handled all of that while I did the “easy” Follistim. 🙂 They definitely burned a little, especially the Menopur, but they were subcutaneous rather than intramuscular so not too bad.
Day 2: Friday, 27 NOV 2015 So far so good and still not a whole lot of symptoms (except for the headaches and hot flashes) and I couldn’t take anything but small doses of Tylenol as NSAIDS aren’t good for the eggs and can make you ovulate prematurely as well. (Follistim 250/Menopur 1 Vial)
Day 3: Saturday, 28 NOV 2015 Shots were still going well and the headaches were starting to dwindle. No real side effects except a few hot flashes. I was actually feeling scared and anxious that I wasn’t feeling any pain or discomfort. Was everything working?? This road can feel so overwhelming and you can’t help but to worry about every little thing. Thankfully, Ryan was there to remind me to “Just Be Held” by God and give Him control. That always seemed to calm me down. 🙂 (Follistim 250/Menopur 1 Vial)
Day 4: Sunday, 29 NOV 2015 Still feeling good and positive, although getting more and more nervous for my first appointment in the morning! Since I wasn’t feeling any pain, was everything working?? (Follistim 250/Menopur 1 Vial)
Day 5: Monday, 30 NOV 2015 (Ultrasound/Bloodwork) Definitely started to feel a little bit of pain and cramping my ovaries being pushed. First progress ultrasound scan and bloodwork. The goal is to have as many follicles as possible while balancing your hormones and staying healthy/not overstimulating. Originally Dr. Blohm had told us he wanted close to 20 for retrieval so we had the odds in our favor for a good amount of mature eggs that were able to be fertilized and make it to the transfer back into my body and/or cryopreservation (freezing for later attempts and/or siblings). Left Ovary: 10, 9, 9, 8, 5 – Right Ovary: 10, 10, 9, 9, 8 From everything I was told, this really disappointed me. I was hoping for at least 10 on each side! This was only 10 total…half of the amount that we should have had. My doctor assured me that it while it wasn’t perfect, it was still good numbers and that he could work with these. Quality trumps quantity after all. Again, I left in tears, but a few of my friends through my IVF support group made me feel TONS better. While some had had better numbers, I was doing very well. However, we did up my drugs a bit to push my follicles to a little more growth. (Follistim 300/Menopur 1 Vial)
Day 6: Tuesday, 01 DEC 2015 Back to regular stimulation and definitely feeling the cramping and some pain from all of the drugs. Very normal for an IVF cycle, but nothing I couldn’t handle. It was also Yawkey’s birthday!!! Hopefully it’s his last as an only child 😉 (Follistim 300/Menopur 1 Vial)
Day 7: Wednesday, 02 DEC 2015 Still sore and had another headache, but just felt like pressure (kinda like a sinus headache but all over). I allowed myself to take a little bit of tylenol and a half a cup of coffee to knock out the headache since i’d given up caffeine. (Follistim 300/Menopur 1 Vial)
Day 8: Thursday, 03 DEC 2015 (Ultrasound/Bloodwork) Was REALLY feeling the discomfort of the shots now!!! However, we were getting really close by our appointment that morning. Left: 18,17,16,16,16,14 and Right: 18,17,16,16,15,14. Doc asked us to come back the next day to see if we were ready to rock and roll. We were just getting more and more excited to be getting close to the important parts of the cycle: Egg Retrieval and Embryo Transfer! (Follistim 300/Menopur 1 Vial)
Day 9: Friday, 04 DEC 2015 (Ultrasound Bloodwork) Dr. Blohm said everything looked great!!! I was still a little nervous that I didn’t have more follicles and that some were still on the smaller side. He reassured us that some of the smaller follicles can end up having better quality eggs that are more mature in them so I felt a lot better about that. He also said my uterus was PERFECT and ready for us “to place two beautiful embryos in here and be good to go!” Pending the results of my blood-work down in the lab after my appointment, we were ready to rock and roll! We left with all of our instructions to do one final shot of Follistim that night at our regularly scheduled time (1800 hours or 6pm) and then to “trigger” at 2000 hours or 8pm with the HCG shot intramuscularly. We were ready for the egg retrieval come Sunday morning at 0800! (Follistim 300)
Once again, we had an amazing church service this morning at Latechurch where I felt like God was speaking directly to us. After a very rough morning and news of what feels like our millionth failed month and first failed round of fertility treatments, I desperately needed some time with God to get my mind right. I wanted to share some of the key points from today to remember later and in case anyone else needed this as badly as we did.
“So many times in our lives we say we want to feel God. But we don’t want to feel pain.”
Wow! That one hit home. How many times do we pray to God for things and tell Him we want to be more like Him and to draw closer to Him, but then we don’t want any of the growing pains? I know I am definitely guilty. We pray, but we only want God’s answer to go one way: our way. We doubt God. We get angry when we suffer especially when it seems some people have it so easy.
God doesn’t always deliver you from the fire…at least not in the way you expect.”
It’s so very hard when you’re going through something so painful or trying in your life to not wonder “Why?”. Why is God allowing this to happen? It’s hard to not blame God or be angry at Him when you see so many people abuse or take for granted their ability to have children when you would give anything for that blessing at least once. However, when we’re asking all of these “Why’s”, we should really be asking “Where?”. When Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were thrown into the furnace they knew that God was with them. Either He would deliver them or they’d be in Heaven with Him…no matter the outcome they were ready for what God would have for them. It’s in the fire that God reveals Himself to us the most. My mom has always said that it’s okay to pray and beg God for what we want. He never tires from hearing from His children and He encourages it! But we have to be willing to accept whatever answer He gives us. That’s the hard part. There is nothing that I desire more than to be a mommy. I want a baby that is part me and part my beloved husband. I want to experience all of the joys and even the pain that comes with carrying a life inside me and giving birth. I want to raise children and share all of our adventures with them as we watch them grow and experience the world around them. The idea that we may never get our dream of having our own children or worse…none at all is gut wrenching. How do you get to the point where you can accept that? When we say “Your will be done”, do we really mean it?
Fire Does Two Things:
It destroys or consumes.
My prayer is that God teaches us the lesson that He wants us to learn from this battle with infertility. We were never promised that this life would be easy; in fact, we were promised the exact opposite. I know that God is in the fire with us and will never leave us…not once. I know that the rejoicing will be 1 million times more amazing and special to us after we’ve gone through the hardest trial of our lives to get there. There has not been a single day of my marriage with Ryan that I have not thanked God for creating him and bringing Him into my life after so many years of prayers and loneliness. I have not once taken him for granted. I know that it will be the same way with our children if it be His will to give us our dream. As difficult as it is, I’m going to stop praying for the fire to end and start praying for the fire to refine me.
“BELOVED, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when His glory is revealed.” 1 Peter 4:12-13
I recently changed the name of the blog to “Team Grim” since this has really become more of a place for my family than for just me and my thoughts. When I originally started my blog it was to get out some of my thoughts and feelings about my husband’s (then boyfriend) first year long deployment. Now it has become a way to document some of our life together and the excitement/difficulties that we face. “Team Grim” was started as a bit of a cute name for ourselves when we got married and stuck when we started running our obstacle course races together. I truly believe that marriage makes you a team and that has never been more apparent than it has in the past year-ish of our lives and dealing with infertility, but i’ll share more on that later.
As most people do, we had a lot thrown at us in our first year of marriage and even a bit prior to our wedding. Surprisingly to some though, there were never issues between the two of us. Ryan was gone for a total of about 9 of our first 15 months of marriage. We started PCS-ing (permanently relocating for those non-military friends) about a month in and he had several schools to attend in order to be spun up for a new unit. That led to multiple TDY’s, schools and a deployment to close out the year. On top of that we had a few very painful family situations relating to both health and relationships that gave us no choice but to learn to depend on each other and God.
I truly believe that our relationship has been made easier by keeping God at the center of our marriage. We prepared a lot for our marriage beforehand and I prayed often for my future husband before we ever started dating. I’m a firm believer that everyone should spend considerably more time preparing for the marriage than for the wedding (as beautiful, magical and fun as ours was). Recently we’ve been told by a few people, who we respect dearly, that we should start training/outreach to other married couples. While I think we still have a lot to learn about marriage ourselves, this truly touched me to hear that people believe that we are on the right track and have something to give back to others. With me as the aspiring counselor, who knows what may be in store for our future 🙂
“I’m a firm believer that everyone should spend considerably more time preparing for the marriage than for the wedding.”
I don’t say any of the above to brag on us as people, but to demonstrate how much God can lead a marriage when you continuously give it over to Him. I want to be a testament to others that marriage can be wonderful and fulfilling! There is no way that we would be this strong and still so much in love were it not for His love and guidance. We are still learning every day to trust in Him as we face the most difficult journey of all so far, but we wholeheartedly believe that He will give us the desires of our hearts. As a dear family friend and former teacher reminded us this week that faith is what it takes:
“He replied, “Because you have so little faith. Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” – Matthew 17:20