What does a fertile faith look like in the midst of infertility??? Part 1

I don’t touch on “religious” topics too often. It’s not that I’m ashamed of my faith or trying to shy away from it. On the contrary, my faith centers my life. It gives me hope. It keeps me sane. Call me weak…and I’d probably agree with you. Without my faith, I never would have found the strength to endure the road to becoming a physician, infertility, pregnancy loss, severe preeclampsia, having a premature baby, and dealing with the rest of life’s trials along the way.Woman hiker on a top of a mountain

Don’t get me wrong, many people have suffered greater losses, heartaches, and pains than I can dare imagine. Living in the United States makes most of my problems “First World” inconveniences. But, here and there my heartaches have been and still are significant. I’m often asked how I’ve found the strength to make it through 9 complicated IVF cycles with only one baby to show for it. How do I keep going?  Were does my strength come from? How do I find the endurance? What’s the key to making it through?  As I’ve opened up about my infertility journey these questions have continued to ping my inbox. What’s the secret?Closeup On Hands Of Stressed Young Woman

I’ve decided that it isn’t a secret at all. And, while some won’t like my answer, it is still my answer. Feel free to disagree. That’s the beauty of living in a country with freedom of speech and religion. If you don’t have a faith base and find this annoying, that’s fine too. I’m not offended by you, and it’s not my intention to offend you. I’m simply sharing from my own world in life view what I’ve found to be most helpful. Here goes…

Stay tuned for Part 2

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When Pregnancy Swelling Becomes Something More…

 

After years of trying to get pregnant, our dream finally came true. God had finally answered our heart wrenching prayers for a baby. Getting pregnant had been the hard part-being pregnant was a breeze in comparison. That is, until everything went wrong.

Because we had conceived with the help of IVF, I was already a paranoid pregnant lady. Even though I followed all of the recommendations, I still feared a miscarriage, a physical deformity, or a genetic anomaly. I had thought of most potential complications, and every little ting or pain alarmed my fragile state of mind. Knowing too much as a physician didn’t help. I reminded myself that it was normal to be overly concerned considering all that we had been through. It wasn’t like getting pregnant was a walk in the park for us. All forces of nature had conspired against us for years. Now that we had finally gotten a positive pregnancy test, I was a little leery that it was too good to be true. But, as months passed and our baby continued to be a perfect patient, the hypochondriac in me started to lessen. I resolved that I was going to have a happy and healthy baby.Love and new life concept. A woman's hands forming a heart symbo

Around 26 weeks of pregnancy, I suffered the worst headache of my life. My husband and I had recently moved states, and I had just established care with a new OB/GYN. I didn’t want to be the annoying patient who called about every little complaint, but when loads of Tylenol and sleep just didn’t cut it, I began to worry. Knowing that headaches can be linked with pregnancy induced hypertension and preeclampsia, I quickly checked my blood pressure. It was normal, but the pain in my head was not. With tears streaming down my cheeks, I asked my husband to call the doctor.

The physician on call recommended that I come into the hospital for blood work, to monitor the baby, and to get me something stronger for the headache. I couldn’t have agreed more. Thankfully, my blood pressure and blood work were fine, the baby was active, and the Percocet took the edge off.

After that episode, pregnancy life returned to normal. My follow-up blood pressures were fine. I hadn’t had another headache, and my only real complaint was the swelling in my feet. By swelling, I mean absolutely NO shoes fit my feet. I questioned, joked, and complained about my elephant feet, but I just assumed that it was part of the beauty of getting pregnant.

Since we had just moved to a new state without any family nearby, I knew that I needed to establish a support system before the baby arrived. This gave me the bright idea to join a Mom’s group while still only 32 weeks pregnant-I like to think outside of the box sometimes! I loved my “Real Mom’s” group from the moment that I met them. They applauded my assertiveness in joining the group while pregnant and welcomed me wholeheartedly. They didn’t, however, welcome my swollen feet! Instead, they insisted that I prop them up and have someone take a look at them. I reassured them all that I had a doctor’s appointment later that day, and that I didn’t have preeclampsia. It was simply swelling from pregnancy. I had noticed just the night before, however, that my glasses seemed a little tighter on my face, and my rings were even tighter than usual. I voiced my concern to my husband but then brushed it off as paranoia.

Fetus 7 Month In The Womb. Visible Head And Arms

At my 32-week prenatal visit, my blood pressure checked out fine. The Ob/GYN examined my belly and listen to the baby’s heartbeat. After measuring my belly, she recommended that we get a quick ultrasound of the baby since I hadn’t grown much since the last visit.

I waddled off to ultrasound, my feet aching with each step. The ultrasound confirmed that my baby’s growth had decreased to the 10th percentile from the 40th. Something was making her very unhappy inside of me. When I returned to the exam room, my doctor asked for a urine sample (which being pregnant I was easily able to give.) She reexamined my feet and decided to confirm my “normal” blood pressure. On recheck, my pressure wasn’t just a little high; it was stroke worthy! My urine dip screamed protein. And, when my doctor asked if I had been seeing any floaters, I dumbly responded that I had been having a weird, spotty kind of dizziness for months, but it seemed to be positional. Duh! Floaters! Wow, sometimes being a physician really doesn’t prepare you to be a good patient.

Within minutes I was loaded into a wheel chair and whisked to the OB floor for overnight observation. I voiced my concern that my mom was coming from Michigan to pick me up and take me back for a wedding shower. My Ob politely but firmly replied, “Emma, you aren’t going anywhere. First we have to make sure that you and the baby are safe.” By the time I made it to the OB floor, my blood pressure was sky-high, my head was pounding, and I was starting to get very scared. The nurse poked and re-poked me to start the IVs for the blood pressure medications and the dreaded magnesium. In what seemed like minutes, I had developed sudden and severe onset preeclampsia.

I called my mom to let her know the change of events. Knowing nothing about preeclampsia, she asked, “Emma, is this serious?” That’s when I broke down sobbing. Yes, it was serious. I was getting sicker by the minute, and I knew that my baby needed to be delivered soon…TOO SOON.

For more about preeclampsia head to The Preeclampsia Foundation or March of Dimes. Both have their annual walks all across the country in May and June. Sign up to raise awareness and support women who have had pregnancy complications, and help prevent complications for others.

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Little Giraffe and my Tiny Preemie: Discount Code Included for your own Little Giraffe Shopping Spree

Newborn baby boy covered in vertix inside incubatorI have mentioned before that Little Giraffe is one of my favorite baby/child luxury lines. From their stuffed animals to their bath towels…they are the best! My daughter, Ayla’s, very first stuffed animal was the GIANT (not Little as the company name implies) plush pink, grey, and white giraffe. My husband bought her for our preemie daughter while we were living in the hospital neonatal intensive care unit. Sophie (that is what we lovingly named our pet giraffe) stayed in the NICU with us for those trying nine long weeks. She moved around the room, sometimes even stealing the nurses’ work station seat at the computer, adding beauty and laughter to an otherwise stressful situation.Iphone 1944

When our daughter was able to safely be held outside of her incubator, one of her early pictures taken by one of our AMAZING night shift nurses (Chelsea you rock!) was in the arms of her Little Giraffe. At 3 lbs. 2 ounces, our daughter’s tiny size was even more profound in comparison to her plush friend. Over the past two years we have continued to take pictures of Ayla in the arms of her Little Giraffe. I am blessed to say that she is now almost as big as Sophie! I never thought a stuffed animal could be so sentimental…but, our Little Giraffe is more than just the cutest plush you’ve ever seen. To this day, Sophie still sits beside my daughter’s crib as a reminder of all of our answered prayers.994389_627788507281149_541333443_n

So, yes, I have a soft spot for the Little Giraffe company, and I tend to agree with the Company of the Year Earnie Award that they just received. Since they are so excited about their award they decided to invite us to the party!!! Yep, you guessed it, they have a special discount code offering 15% off of their entire online store until November 1, 2014. This never happens! Simply enter LOVEWINS14 at checkout to get the discount.

If you missed my previous review of their bath products…click HERE to get up to splashing speed! Happy shopping…even if it is just window shopping (that’s what I do most of the time:)

From the Mom in Me, MD

 

Our Preemie Journey: Holding My Dream Come True for the First Time

I couldn’t do it. I hadn’t been able to get out of bed with my soaring blood pressure, pounding headache, and magnesium clouded confusion. I desperately wanted to hold HER; but, it had been two days, and I had yet to see my baby. Today was the day! I willed my body, forcing my legs to carry me just one step toward the wheel chair. Un-showered, unrecognizably swollen from the preeclampsia, connected to several IV lines and a foley catheter bag…I was far from a picture, perfect new mother. Actually, I was a wreck! I was trying to hold it together, but it was all too much. My body continued to suffer the side effects of preeclampsia, unresponsive to the blood pressure medications being loaded into my veins. I was terrified for myself and my tiny newborn. But, I had to see her! I had to hold her! I had to touch her!Iphone 1634

Iphone 1729Every tiny bump, even the elevator’s gentle thumping felt like foot-high speed bumps. My head bobbed and my body swayed as though I was on a tiny fishing boat weathering rough seas. Although Dave was probably only moving at a turtle speed, I begging him to slow down. The nurse at his side, there to make sure that my blood pressure didn’t jump any higher and that my IV lines were running appropriately, assured me that we would be to the NICU in moments. I reminded myself to take deep breaths. I could make it. I would make it.

The NICU was a whole new world. Small rooms filled with even smaller babies. IV’s, feeding tubes, heart rate monitors, ventilators, incubators…all in an effort to save these precious little lives. My wheel chair stopped in front of HER room. It wasn’t the perfect pink room with a white crib and velvet curtains that I had planned but hadn’t had the time to decorate. Instead, it was a hospital room with a tiny incubator, purple walls, heart rate monitors, and a hospital curtain.Iphone 1653Iphone 1764

I barely noticed the room. All that I saw was HER. So tiny…so fragile…so transparent. Again, I was terrified. I didn’t see a beautiful, healthy, chubby baby that I could snuggle and kiss. Instead, what I saw resembled a frail, baby bird that had fallen from its nest. Her skin was translucent, covered in downy hair. Her features were far too fine and underdeveloped, lacking the fullness and health that fat brings. Her skin was wrinkly, and her arms and legs almost looked skeletal from the lack of fat. Some may be appalled to read that I didn’t find her beautiful at first sight. I loved her desperately, but her appearance was shocking…even to me, a physician.Iphone 1693

I was afraid to hold her. Would I break her? Her weight had dropped into the 2 pound range-down a little from her birth weight of 3 pounds 2 ounces. The nurse reassured me that SHE would be fine. It took some time to get her out of the incubator and untangled from all of her iv and monitor lines. Just as she was placed in my arms I began to feel waves of nausea. My blood pressure had jumped, and my medications were making the room spin. I had made it this far. I had to hold her.Iphone 1661IMG_2042Iphone 1703

After only a few moments, with tears streaming down my face I asked for someone to take her from my arms. I had to close my eyes. I had to lay down. My body was my enemy. It was preventing me from being the mother that I longed to be. But, I had seen her. I had held her-even if just for a moment. In that moment, in my sick and terrified state, I was in love with a little life that had been gifted to me. She was tiny, but she was precious…the most priceless gift my arms had ever held.Iphone 1832

From The Mom in Me, MDIphone 1738

Our Preemie Journey: Day 1 of Motherhood

When I awoke, I almost forgot that I was a mother. The discomfort from my c-section and the breast pump forced my mind to acknowledge that I had a baby, but I hadn’t seen her. I hadn’t held her. I hadn’t even named her yet. I knew she existed, but she felt like a distant memory. The magnesium continued to cloud my mind. I was sick. Oh, so sick. I knew that I cared about a little being, but it was hard to think about more than my own failing body. I was flooded by feelings of guilt. Did I truly care about myself more than my baby? Was I really that selfish?

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My precious preemie daughter!

The thought brought tears to my eyes. I wasn’t selfish. I loved my baby more than the knot in my throat would allow me to voice. Preeclampsia was to blame. Preeclampsia was the guilty one. Still, I couldn’t shake the guilt. I wanted to hold my baby for the first time. I needed to hold her, but I couldn’t. Even if I would have been able to move out of bed, I wasn’t allowed to leave the obstetrics floor with my dangerously high blood pressure and my magnesium IV still running. A picture of my fragile, tiny baby was my only glimpse into her world. She terrified me. She was so small. Too small. Scary small. I couldn’t look at her picture without bursting into tears.

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My baby in her incubator under bilirubin lights with feeding tube and supplemental oxygen.

A baby that small needed her mother. She needed to know my love and my presence. She had been a part of me for 32 weeks, and I had been her EVERYTHING! Now she was being cared for by people that she had never met. I envied them. I envied my husband who was able to spend hours cherishing our baby on his chest, skin to skin. The two floors that separated my hospital bed from her incubator might as well have been a continent. My heart longed for her. I was now a mother, but I felt childless, empty, hollow. How could day one of motherhood feel this tragic? I wanted my daughter back. I wanted to give her eight more weeks to grow and develop inside of me. I wanted to rewind and then fast forward to a perfect, full-term delivery! I wanted a day one of motherhood “do over.” I knew I couldn’t get my “do over”, so instead I decided to fight toward my next best option…Day 2 of motherhood with my preemie. Maybe tomorrow I would finally be able to hold my baby.

From The Mom in Me, MD

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our Preemie Journey: Delivery Day…8 Weeks Early!

young pregnant woman sitting on the windowMy mind was fuzzy, my vision blurry, and my body on fire from the magnesium! I felt like I was going to burst like a water balloon from even the tiniest poke. I could barely move my fingers due to the swelling, and I was scared. I was terrified for my unborn child and for myself. Preeclampsia had taken over. It didn’t care that I was just shy of 32 weeks pregnant. It didn’t care about what I had already gone through just to get pregnant! It was mocking my plans for a perfect delivery. I asked myself, “Who attacks a mother and her innocent unborn child? How could a disease be so sadistic…so ruthless?”

I waited for Dave to arrive for what seemed like hours. I was alone, alone with my unborn baby…uncertain of what was going to happen next…uncertain if my child would survive…uncertain if my body would fail me…uncertain of what the future held. A sense of relief washed over me when Dave walked into my hospital room. He hadn’t realized the severity of the situation until he saw me. I was barely recognizable from even the night before. Dave had raced from work, stopping at the house to take the dog out and to throw some overnight clothes together. Little did he realize that our overnight bag would need to get us through the next nine weeks.Fetus 7 Month In The Womb. Visible Head And Arms

The next several hours were filled with ultrasounds from Maternal Fetal Medicine, discussions with the neonatologist (NICU doctor), and constant blood pressure checks and rechecks. I was reassured that 32-week old babies can do very well. They can still have major complications including bleeding in the brain, respiratory distress syndrome, vision problems, and much more; but according to my Ob/Gyn, making it to 32 weeks was a great accomplishment. It didn’t feel like an accomplishment. It felt like a failure. My body was failing my baby and me. Once again, my best efforts could do nothing to change the situation.

Because our baby’s lungs hadn’t gotten the chance to fully develop, I was stabbed with the first of two steroid shots to speed up the process. A plan had been put in place. We were going to wait for my 24-hour urine protein to come back, and we were going to try to get both steroid shots in before delivery (these had to be spaced out by 24 hours).

I was a little nervous about a C-section, but I was willing to do whatever it took to keep my baby safe. Because my blood pressure was so incredibly high, an attempt at a vaginal delivery was out of the question. Starting an induction would be too hard on the baby and on my already stressed body.

The minute that my 24-hour urine protein results arrived the conservative timetable was thrown out the window. I was loaded into a wheelchair and told that the C-section was happening NOW! My urine protein was the highest that my Ob/Gyn had ever seen. The baby was starting to have some dips in her heart rate, and we couldn’t wait any longer. Delivery was the only “cure” for preeclampsia. My leg was stabbed too early with the second steroid shot in a last ditch effort to give our baby’s lungs every chance to mature. The magnesium and blood pressure medications continued to run into my veins, in an attempt to prevent me from having a seizure or stroke.

As the nurse wheeled me down the hallway, I pleaded desperately with God. He had answered my heart’s longing for a child. I had watched my belly grow with awe, wonder and gratitude. This baby was my answered prayer. He had to protect her! If not, then why had he given her to me in the first place? I loved this little being that I had never met more than my mind could comprehend. He couldn’t take her from me now…not after we had made it this far.

The spinal was more unpleasant than I had imagined. For some reason the idea of a huge needle poking into the nerve track in my back freaked me out more than just a little. I wasn’t worried about having my belly cut open with a scalpel, but a giant needle wasn’t my idea of fun. I hunched, I hugged the pillow, and I hunched some more. After three attempts, the needle was finally in the correct position. I was transferred to the operating table, and prepped for surgery. I had assisted in numerous emergency C-sections during residency. I had reassured many panicked mothers that everything would be “just fine”. Now I was the panicked mother, and I found that my own advice fell flat.

I remember the tugging and pulling during the c-section, and that the spinal was just as unpleasant as patients have described. My blood pressure dropped fairly rapidly at one point, causing me to vomit.

My C-section!

The C-section felt like an eternity. Just as they were pulling the baby out of my belly, my blood pressure dropped precipitously from the anesthesia, and I began to vomit. I vaguely remember the attending physician showing my baby to me before she was whisked to the resuscitation table. Her skin was dusky. She wasn’t crying! Was she breathing? I couldn’t see. What was happening? And, then I heard her. I heard her first cry. It was a small cry, but it was fierce. She was a fighter. She was in the lightweight division at 3 pounds 2 ounces, but she was a fighter!

My baby was born at 3 lb. 2 oz. She was whisked away to be resuscitated.

Ayla in the Delivery Room being Resuscitated

Before I could catch another glimpse of my precious baby, she was rushed to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit with her daddy close behind. I felt physically sick, helpless, and alone. I was her mother, but I had yet to hold my baby. I wanted to be at her side, but I could barely keep my eyes open. I wanted Dave at my side, but I knew that he needed to be with our baby. My mind was heavy, clouded by painkillers, anesthetics, and magnesium. As the last stitch was placed in my belly, I drifted off. When I awoke to a soaring blood pressure and splitting headache, I realized that I was in a fight for my life. Preeclampsia was still my master, and it wasn’t finished with me yet. Delivery had only made it more determined to destroy me, but I was a fighter too!

From The Mom in Me, MD

Our Preemie Journey: The Beginning

Pregnant Woman holding her hands in a heart shape on her baby bu

After years of trying to get pregnant, our dream finally came true. God had finally answered our heart wrenching prayers for a baby. Getting pregnant had been the hard part-being pregnant was a breeze in comparison. That is, until everything went wrong.

Because we had conceived with the help of IVF, I was already a paranoid pregnant lady. Even though I followed all of the recommendations, I still feared a miscarriage, a physical deformity, or a genetic anomaly. I had thought of most potential complications, and every little ting or pain alarmed my fragile state of mind. Knowing too much as a physician didn’t help. I reminded myself that it was normal to be overly concerned considering all that we had been through. It wasn’t like getting pregnant was a walk in the park for us. All forces of nature had conspired against us for years. Now that we had finally gotten a positive pregnancy test, I was a little leery that it was too good to be true. But, as months passed and our baby continued to be a perfect patient, the hypochondriac in me started to lessen. I resolved that I was going to have a happy and healthy baby.

Around 26 weeks of pregnancy, I suffered the worst headache of my life. My husband and I had recently moved states, and I had just established care with a new OB/GYN. I didn’t want to be the annoying patient who called about every little complaint, but when loads of Tylenol and sleep just didn’t cut it, I began to worry. Knowing that headaches can be linked with pregnancy induced hypertension and preeclampsia, I quickly checked my blood pressure. It was normal, but the pain in my head was not. With tears streaming down my cheeks, I asked my husband to call the doctor.

The physician on call recommended that I come into the hospital for blood work, to monitor the baby, and to get me something stronger for the headache. I couldn’t have agreed more. Thankfully, my blood pressure and blood work were fine, the baby was active, and the Percocet took the edge off.

After that episode, pregnancy life returned to normal. My follow-up blood pressures were fine. I hadn’t had another headache, and my only real complaint was the swelling in my feet. By swelling, I mean absolutely NO shoes fit my feet. I questioned, joked, and complained about my elephant feet, but I just assumed that it was part of the beauty of getting pregnant.

Since we had just moved to a new state without any family nearby, I knew that I needed to establish a support system before the baby arrived. This gave me the bright idea to join a Mom’s group while still only 32 weeks pregnant-I like to think outside of the box sometimes! I loved my “Real Mom’s” group from the moment that I met them. They applauded my assertiveness in joining the group while pregnant and welcomed me wholeheartedly. They didn’t, however, welcome my swollen feet! Instead, they insisted that I prop them up and have someone take a look at them. I reassured them all that I had a doctor’s appointment later that day, and that I didn’t have preeclampsia. It was simply swelling from pregnancy. I had noticed just the night before, however, that my glasses seemed a little tighter on my face, and my rings were even tighter than usual. I voiced my concern to my husband but then brushed it off as paranoia.

Fetus 7 Month In The Womb. Visible Head And Arms

At my 32-week prenatal visit, my blood pressure checked out fine. The Ob/GYN examined my belly and listen to the baby’s heartbeat. After measuring my belly, she recommended that we get a quick ultrasound of the baby since I hadn’t grown much since the last visit.

I waddled off to ultrasound, my feet aching with each step. The ultrasound confirmed that my baby’s growth had decreased to the 10th percentile from the 40th. Something was making her very unhappy inside of me. When I returned to the exam room, my doctor asked for a urine sample (which being pregnant I was easily able to give.) She reexamined my feet and decided to confirm my “normal” blood pressure. On recheck, my pressure wasn’t just a little high; it was stroke worthy! My urine dip screamed protein. And, when my doctor asked if I had been seeing any floaters, I dumbly responded that I had been having a weird, spotty kind of dizziness for months, but it seemed to be positional. Duh! Floaters! Wow, sometimes being a physician really doesn’t prepare you to be a good patient.

Within minutes I was loaded into a wheel chair and whisked to the OB floor for overnight observation. I voiced my concern that my mom was coming from Michigan to pick me up and take me back for a wedding shower. My Ob politely but firmly replied, “Emma, you aren’t going anywhere. First we have to make sure that you and the baby are safe.” By the time I made it to the OB floor, my blood pressure was sky-high, my head was pounding, and I was starting to get very scared. The nurse poked and re-poked me to start the IVs for the blood pressure medications and the dreaded magnesium. In what seemed like minutes, I had developed sudden and severe onset preeclampsia.

I called my mom to let her know the change of events. Knowing nothing about preeclampsia, she asked, “Emma, is this serious?” That’s when I broke down sobbing. Yes, it was serious. I was getting sicker by the minute, and I knew that my baby needed to be delivered soon…TOO SOON.

From The Mom In Me, MD