Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Pretty Please With a Cherry on Top

There was a set of twin girls in my grade in elementary school. I secretly envied them, wishing I had a sister who would dress like me, who would play pranks on people by switching places, who would hold my hand on the first day of school when I was all alone. Thinking back about it now, I don't think that getting to do these twin acts per se was what I so desired, but rather the bond that forms as a result of going through life with such a close partner in crime.

As my infertility journey showed signs of a long haul and IVF became a necessity, so too did the possibility of having twins. My personal longing for an age mate turned to a desire for children who would share the connection that struck a chord in my heart back in elementary school. For all three of my IVF cycles, we transferred two embryos in hopes that both would stick. During my first IVF cycle, the night before my first ultrasound that would allow us to see if we had more than one baby, I prayed hard that there would be two. I feel a little kookie admitting it, but I felt as if someone, perhaps God himself, grabbed my face and said, "You will get your twins." The next day's ultrasound was a little disappointing, as there was only one baby, but that in itself was enough to cancel out my greediness for two. For our next two IVF cycles, I never forgot I had been told, very definitively in my mind, that someday I would have my two. When it didn't happen the second IVF cycle, the third time I believed my chances had to be good. Plus, using a young egg donor increases your likelihood for success, so I let myself be more confident that my babies were on their way. When my pregnancy results were in, my hCG levels were very high, a good sign that this was finally it. An ultrasound a month or so later confirmed--I was going to get my twins.

I recognize that hoping for twins isn't necessarily popular. There are the possible risks to babies and to mothers, and there are the financial obligations. But for me these are worth it; I not only have waited so long to have a baby in the first place, but I can't imagine anything more special than sharing a childhood with the person with whom you shared a womb. I want that desperately for our daughters. 

But today as I remain in this purgatory that lies between Baby B's life and death, I grieve the loss, not only of my baby, but of this bond between her and her sister. Although they are spending their first nine months together, upon their birth they will be connected merely in spirit. Baby A will reach milestones--first days of school, getting her driver's license, graduations--without Baby B beside her. Knowing that Baby B will die shatters me deeply, but what feels even more devastating is knowing that Baby A will not have her sister by her side on her life journey. For her loss I grieve even more deeply than I do my own.

This quote from A Midsummer Night's Dream in my painting is Helena's attempt to remind Hermia of the incredibly special bond they used to share. I think it captures perfectly the beautiful connection between twin girls.



Monday, November 19, 2012

My Boots Are Made for Keeping

A year ago I had a series of extremely vivid dreams related to coping with the loss of our second baby and making sense of the upcoming egg donor IVF cycle that lead to my current pregnancy. I had a lot to work out in my mind related to my grief over my miscarriage and figuring out how I felt about another woman giving my future babies life. I dreamed in brilliant metaphor. Here is an example: I was at an indoor swimming pool and I jumped off the diving board two times. On my third time up the ladder I was paralyzed with fear. I was shaking so badly that I could barely move. I realized that the diving board had turned into a high dive, whereas the first two times I dove off, it was a low dive. I don’t think I even jumped off of it the third time, but I remember having an intense desire to go to the top to get my shaving cream. I did make it to the top, but when I got there, I was disappointed to see that there was no shaving cream, but rather deodorant waiting for me. Interpretation: I believe that the first two diving boards represent my first two attempts at IVF. The high dive represents the third egg donor cycle. The shaving cream comes in because I had gone to Target a few days before the dream. I was in the shaving cream aisle and a dad and his little girl were there and he was telling her that he needed to call her mommy because he can never remember what kind of shaving cream she likes. I thought it was so cute and became very envious that my husband doesn't get to do that. I think the deodorant in the dream represents my fear that the high dive/egg donor cycle will ultimately lead to the disappointment of having something that comes close to shaving cream (deodorant/a baby that dies) rather than the real thing (my husband and kid shopping for me at Target). 

Here is another example, which I have been reflecting back to over the last few days: In this dream I was waiting to find out if I was pregnant. If I received a shoebox with a pair of boots in it, then I was pregnant, and if it was empty, I was not pregnant. Time was ticking and I was putting off doing the shoebox test. When I finally got up the nerve to hold the box in my hands, my heart fell because I could tell without even opening it that it was empty. However, when I did look inside, there was a note from Zappos saying that the boots were damaged during shipping and that I could use the enclosed gift card to purchase another pair. When the new box arrived and I held it, I could tell the boots were indeed inside this time. I excitedly opened the box but unfortunately, I was disappointed to find that the purple boots inside were almost exactly the same as the pair I already have. Interpretation: I have used buying Frye boots as a coping mechanism for making it through IVF and my miscarriages. I bought one pair in New York before embarking on my first IVF attempt. I bought a second pair of purple boots (the reference in this dream) as a reward for making it through the first out of two IVF cycles during our second attempt (you actually do two cycles when genetic testing is involved). I bought a third pair after losing our second baby. During the entire second attempt, I told myself that if I didn’t get the baby, I would get boots instead. I almost had a panic attack one day when I realized that the boots I had been pining over were no longer available in my size through the Frye website. I began to shake and tear up, but thankfully, I was able to find them on another website. I think that the dream represents my fear of getting pregnant again, only to face another loss.

Today, in some ways, I feel that this dream foreshadowed my current reality as I face the excitement of holding a full shoe box and the simultaneous disappointment that I've walked a mile in this pair of boots before (although this time they are even more uncomfortable and painful). With the impending loss of my Baby B, I fear that any day now I will open the shoebox, the one I was so overjoyed to receive, only to find it filled with both one new shoe and one old, with both joy and despair. But back to Zappos my box will not go. I hold on tightly, knowing that despite the heartache that looms under the lid, there lives more joy than I could ever imagine.

This painting of my purple boot serves as a reminder that I wouldn't trade my babies, despite my heartache, for anything. 

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Pour Me Another Glass of Lemonade

Well it has been about three and a half months since my last post. A lot has transpired since then. I am overjoyed to report that I am 24 weeks pregnant with twins. I am unbelievably sad to report that one of our babies is going to die. At our 18 week appointment, our perinatologist confirmed that Baby A is a perfectly healthy baby girl. Unfortunately, he also found numerous cysts on Baby B's kidneys. Because her (at least that is the best guess for sex so far) kidneys are not functioning properly, she has very little amniotic fluid around her. Amniotic fluid is what makes lungs develop. Babies don't need lungs in the womb because the placenta does the work for them. However, as soon as they are born, the lungs need to do their thing. Since Baby B will barely have any lung development, she will not be able to breathe and therefore live. She may die in utero or make it to birth and die shortly afterward. Yes, it's shocking. If you know my story, you know that it doesn't seem fathomable that someone who has gone through so much is not only facing another loss, but the biggest one of her entire journey.

At the beginning of my pregnancy, I felt paralyzed in the sense that could not make myself work on my art. Part of it was that I had morning sickness day and night up until about 15 weeks and part of me didn't want to jinx anything by painting or blogging. I finally had an idea and was set to start painting when we got the news about our Baby B. I have so much to write, so much to paint. Just finally being pregnant in and of itself was an emotional roller coaster, but now as I straddle the world of the pregnant and the infertile, trying to celebrate the incredible life of Baby A and mourn the incredible loss that awaits us with Baby B, I again find myself paralyzed when it comes to knowing what my heart needs me to paint. I am trying to remind myself that I have a lifetime to get it all down on paper and that all of it cannot be explicated in one day. So I share my first painting after my long hiatus, hoping that anyone who sees it will understand that this is just one very tiny fleck of all that encompasses my joy and sorrow.

This painting represents one of the many gifts resulting from my pregnancy. As is evident from a few of my other posts (e.g., Human Reproduction, Bodily Forgiveness), I have been working hard on believing in my body after it has let me down numerous times in the past in regards to trying to get and stay pregnant. With each day my belly gets a little more ginormous and I become more and more confident that this time, even in spite of the upcoming loss of Baby B, my body is a strong body. My body is carrying two babies and it knows what it's doing. My body is mushy and rotund just like I've always wanted. My body has what it takes to do the most incredible thing humanly possible. I love it so much, finally. 

This painting was inspired by the brilliant mother of all midwives, Ina May Gaskin, and a quote from her book Ina May's Guide to Childbirth. "Remember this, for it is as true as true gets: Your body is not a lemon. You are not a machine. The Creator is not a careless mechanic. Human female bodies have the same potential to give birth as aardvarks, lions, rhinoceri, elephants, moose, and water buffalo. Even if it has not been your habit throughout life so far, I recommend you learn to think positively about your body."