Thursday, January 20, 2011

Infertility & Motherhood (Part One)

You would think that since I've had three kids now this whole "mom" thing would be old hat. However, my journey through the realms of motherhood has been colored with infertility, which makes everything different.

Soren's first year of life was fabulous. He was a great infant and an energetic toddler. I was juggling school and some part time work and Alan wasn't home a lot (he was juggling work and part time school), but we made it. I remember chasing him around the house, playing outside in the fall leaves, filling up the swimming pool in the backyard and letting him run around naked in the summer . . . lots of smiles. But by the time he turned two, we headed to our first specialist appointment to figure out why, after a year of trying, we did not have a new baby on the way. Unfortunately for all of us, the rest of Soren's young years would be tarnished by the tears, stress, anxiety, and frustration of infertility.

There were days when I would grab hold of Soren and never want to let go - wondering if he'd be our only child and wanting to cherish every second I had with him. There were other days when I wanted to be left alone in my misery, crying and pleading with God - wondering what I had done wrong in my life, in my marriage, or in my parenting that God was keeping us from having more children. It was a tough time - especially the first 4 years. I remember sending Soren off to kindergarten and forcing myself to take on a project (painting the interior of our house) to keep myself from sobbing. It wasn't supposed to be like that - I wasn't supposed to be putting my oldest child on the bus and coming home to an empty house. That wasn't the plan - that wasn't supposed to be my life.

I was stuck in this weird place. I didn't belong with the infertile women - I had a child. How could I possibly relate to those that had none at all? And I wasn't a full fledged mom because I only had one and couldn't possibly understand what it was like to juggle a household of children. I didn't have 2-3 kids screaming for my attention or fighting with each other. I didn't understand. No one purposely left me out (to my knowledge), but I felt very isolated.

The isolation increased once we moved to Washington, DC. At this point, Soren was in school all day, so I wasn't invited to any of the mommy groups, trips to the park, etc. (though I don't know if I would have gone anyway). All the women my age were in those groups and I was on the outside. It was a very difficult time for me and I slipped in to what was probably my worst depression to date. I felt as though I had no friends, no connections, no one to relate to or confide in that would remotely understand what I was feeling.

Secondary infertility (unable to conceive after the birth of one or more children) blows. The pain is different from primary infertility (unable to conceive and carry a child to term). I would NEVER say it was worse, it's just different. You just don't fit anywhere. Or, at least, you don't feel like you fit. I never felt like a real mom because there were too many times I'd actually be talking to other mothers and they'd invalidate my opinion (not in a purposely mean way) because I only had one child. That was hard to deal with because in so many ways, I didn't feel like a mom. I didn't have the full picture of motherhood, just a small piece of it. It made those moments where I did actually have a conversation with another mom tainted with feelings of inadequacy. I might technically be a mom, but I wasn't a real mom.

There came a point around the time that Soren turned 8 that I think Alan and I accepted our fate. We'd done 6 cycles of Clomid and none were remotely successful. We decided to put it all behind us and just move forward and enjoy the family we had, however small it was. We started talking about all the benefits of having only one child. Believe me, when you sit down and think about it, the list can get pretty long! And, as a result, our attitudes started to shift. I started being more open to talking about our situation and not being ashamed of it - it was just fact now. I started to embrace who I was, accept it, and move forward. It was during this time that I started to love me. And wow, did I need that! Infertility taught me many things, but most of all it forced me to confront me, accept me, and love me.

When Soren was 9 1/2, I went into my ob/gyn for my annual checkup. He brought up Clomid again and, on a whim, I agreed to do what is called a Clomid Challenge Test to determine egg quality and quantity. This is when our world took a huge turn. This test would forever change our lives and our family. And, seeing as Henry is about to wake up again, I'm going to have to leave the rest of this story for another day.

But getting just that much out has been very cathartic.

Saturday, January 15, 2011


If I stop to think about all the blessings that have flooded our lives over the past 6 months or so, I start to get all teary eyed. But I often find myself stopping and thinking about them and then I have to pull myself together or I'll be in a pool of tears - but at least they are happy tears! :)

When we arrived home on the 6th, we were brought dinner by someone from our church. This continued for days on end. In fact, we have only had one night where someone didn't bring us dinner since our return. How blessed are we?? It's been so nice to not have to worry about dinners, especially as Alan has had to take over everything around the house, for the most part. He's enjoyed the break from cooking.

I continue to thank my Heavenly Father for the job that Alan has now. It was a long road getting there, but the blessings are overwhelming. He was given the entire first week of Henry's life off from work - paid and none of it counted against his vacation time. As a results, he was able to be at the hospital with me every day and night. This past week he was allowed to work from home OR take a vacation day - depending on what we needed on our end. How fabulous is this job?!?! As an added bonus, he really does like it there and, if I haven't mentioned before, it's 2.5 miles from our front door. Goodness sakes with the blessings!

And as if all of that wasn't enough, I have had a flood of visitors - usually at least one per day - who come to chat, hold the baby, and keep me from feeling isolated from the outside world. One visitor is a sweet friend from middle school who I hadn't actually seen since I was 16! (LOVE FACEBOOK!!) I also have two dear brothers & their families who I know are there to help if I call (and have helped already). I have a sister who is coming to help me the last week of this month and another who is going to try and come as soon as she is able. I also have a dear friend who is ready and willing to come as well, we are just figuring out logistics. The love I have felt since Henry joined our family is seriously overwhelming. But I'm handling it just fine, thank you very much! Haha!

Henry is an absolute joy. Again, we have been very blessed to have a new baby who allows me to sleep for 2+ hours at a time (sometimes even 4!), who eats well and consistently, who poops and pees just like he is supposed to, and who rarely cries. After my sweet Caroline put me through the ringer with all of the above, I seriously am close to tears when I think about how good Henry is. If I had a difficult baby on top of a c-section, I dunno what I would do. I'd handle it, I'm sure . . but I'm glad that, at this point, I don't have to figure out how I'd handle it. Haha!

I'm also very blessed to have a wonderful husband who has sacrificed basically his entire life the past two weeks to turn himself into Mr. Mom as well as caretaker of Mommy. He makes sure I'm fed, well-rested, and not doing too much. He lets me watch Gilmore Girls ad nauseam. Basically he really is my knight in shining armor and I love him. :)

Soren & Caroline are adjusting to things as best as they can. Soren's schedule hasn't been disrupted too much, so he's plugging along, trying to get in time with his new little brother as much as he can. Caroline is slowly adjusting to the new presence in the house, though she has yet to hug, hold, or kiss him. Baby steps.

Overall, I am feeling so much love and so many blessings it's kind of ridiculous. But in a good way. :)

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Happy New Year & Happy New Baby!

(Warning: This post is long and contains the birth story of our little guy!)

Can I just say I'm glad to see the end of December?? What a month that was! I wanted it to end almost before it started. And now we are in a new month and a new year! As I type this, I am trying to keep my eyes open because I'm sleep deprived and full of drowsy drugs, but I want to get this all down before the memories start to fade.

After an awesome New Year's Eve party and a busy New Year's Day getting bags packed and the house clean, it was almost time to go to the hospital to welcome baby #3 into the world. I debated about going to church on Sunday, as I assumed I'd be up all night and would need some rest, but decided to go and, in the end, am very glad I did!

That night we headed to the hospital leaving our other kiddos in the trusty hands of my amazingly wonderful sister in law, Kim. She is amazing and I love her for taking care of Soren and Caroline for nearly 3 full days!! Plus my other sister in law, Sarah, pitched in as well as my sweet friend (also named Sarah). This doesn't even touch on the number of people who offered to do anything we needed over the week! We are so blessed to have such awesome family and friends!! Ok, that was a tangent - now back to the story of our little guy!

Admission to the hospital went fairly quickly; no pile of paperwork, just a few things here and there. Then the real fun began! Not knowing how many different drugs I might need for delivery, I needed two IVs thingies (catheters?) put in - one in each arm. Last time I needed a butt load of drugs because of all the complications I had, so they wanted to be prepared. It only took two nurses an hour and a half plus the use of an ultrasound machine to be successful. Apparently I have crooked veins. Who knew? I now am sporting some pretty awesome bruises on my left arm, though. Sweet!

After the IV debacle, we settled in for a night of what we hoped would be a progressive induction. Caroline had taken 36 hours to get the hint that it was time for her to come (for her own safety), so I was preparing for things to take at least that long but hoping it wouldn't! Haha . . . be careful what you wish for!! Anyway, the plan was a Miso tablet to help move things along, then another after 3 hours, then we'd move on from there to Pitocin and a baby!

Miso tablets, apparently, cause a lot of cramping. Sleep didn't really happen because every time I'd doze off, I'd wake back up in pain. Not major pain, mind you, but just annoying enough to keep me from sleeping. Then, of course, the nurse came in quite a few times to check baby and blood pressure and all of that fun stuff. After 2 rounds of Miso, it was time to hook up the pitocin. My nurse changed around 7:30am, but not much else changed. I wasn't progressing very quickly, so they were slowly turning up the Pitocin.

Generally I am pretty tolerant of pain, but during labor I feel like a big wuss. The sooner I can get something to stop the pain, the happier I am. However, no matter how many times and ways I mentioned that I would sure like something for the pain, I didn't get anything. Finally the doctor arrived to assess the situation and I asked her what the general protocol was for giving me drugs. After checking to see how baby was progressing, she told me she wanted his head to be a little closer to the exit before we put in the epidural. I trusted her opinion (she's a great doctor from what I've been able to ascertain), so I went with it.

Shortly thereafter I began to disagree.

I've been induced with each of my pregnancies, so I've done the whole Pitocin thing before. I know that the pain associated with Pitocin (and labor in general haha) sucks, but I was experiencing some nasty, nasty pain. With Caroline, my epidural stopped working 45 minutes before she was born and I went through the final bit of labor without anything to kill or dull the pain. The contractions I was feeling this time were more painful than that. I'd get one contraction, it would start to fade and then before it went away, another one started. Then I'd get about 20-30 seconds before it all started again. This is when I started whining to the nurse! Around 11:30am, after watching me and my contractions disagree for quite a while, she turned the Pitocin down. It was heaven! For all of 5 minutes, anyway. I was expressing my joy at the relief when I felt something familiar. I looked at the nurse and told her I was pretty sure my water had just broken.


Except then I was worried that I'd have to do the labor without drugs again because after my water broke with Caroline, she came VERY quickly! I braced myself for it, but after the nurse checked things out, she looked slightly concerned. She told us there was some blood and she wanted to check with the doctor on the next step. After maybe 2 minutes, she came back in and that's when the crazy started. Apparently I was dripping blood - everywhere. I couldn't see it (thank GOODNESS!!!), but there was blood all over my bed and literally streaming onto the floor, creating a puddle.

The look on the nurses face told me that things were not good. And suddenly there were at least 6 other people in the room. I had an anesthesiologist in my face (his name was Doug and he was super nice, actually) going through the risks and warnings, I had my nurse telling me they were doing a c-section asap, I had a doctor (not mine, of course - she was already in surgery) telling me her name - which I promptly forgot - and saying she'd be performing the surgery, there were papers being tossed in my face to sign, and then I was being rapidly wheeled down halls to an operating room.

By this time I had lost so much blood I was having trouble keeping my eyes open. I tried to do what they told me to so I could get the spinal block and they wouldn't have to knock me out completely. If there was one thing I remembered from the anesthesiologist, it was that if they had to knock me out completely, Alan would not be able to be there with me. I was not ok with this and I knew he'd be pretty upset as well. Thank goodness I was coherent enough to get the spinal block! Before I knew what was happening, the nurses and Alan were trying to inform me that our baby was here.

And he was beautiful.

Our little guy, Henry Alan Tullis!!!
Arrival date: 1/3/11
Arrival time: 12:21pm
Weight: 7lbs, 3oz
Height: 21 1/2 inches

I wish I'd been more coherent . . . I was too weak to even hold him - I didn't trust myself, but I gave him a kiss and told him I loved him. At that point I just wanted to sleep. The nurses needed to take Henry to the nursery because his blood sugar was a little low (and I was in no position to feed him! Haha!) and he was having a little bit of trouble fully figuring out the whole breathing thing. Alan stayed with me while they finished with the surgery. I think it was at that point that the doctor told us that my placenta was torn and that's where all the blood was coming from. Later we were told that it wasn't a "traditional" tear - the placenta hadn't pulled away from the uterine wall or anything, it had just torn during labor. Apparently this happens in less than 2% of pregnancies. I'm telling you, my luck with medical stuff is amazing!!!

Anyway, after they sewed me all up, I was wheeled over to a recovery room where I shook so much I think I caused a minor earthquake. I remember shaking a lot after my Gallbladder surgery, but this seemed more intense. They finally gave me some Demerol and the shaking went away. After about an hour hanging out in recovery with both my nurse (KC was her name, by the way) and our friend anesthesiologist, Doug, they finally let me go back to my room. I think I slept, but I can't really remember.

After over 6 hours, the nursery finally released Henry and he came into the room. I held him and didn't want to put him down or share or anything!!

We were blessed with many visitors at the hospital, but two of our favorites were Soren and Caroline.

Overall, the nurses and doctors were impressed with my recovery. My doctor was almost certain I would need a blood transfusion, but I was very blessed and my red blood count did not dip down low enough to require it. My blood pressure remained low during my entire stay. I was up and walking around within 24 hours of the surgery. Things just looked great and continued to for the rest of my stay. And our little Henry, even though he dropped nearly 10% of his birth weight, was doing really well!

I was released on Thursday afternoon and able to come home and be with my family.

So that's the basic run down. It's time for me to feed our little guy ad then get a nap. I'll be sure to write more about our first week with Henry in our home!