Over the next several weeks, I’m going to slowly unify my old writing pieces into this one location here at The Smartness. On Mondays, I’m going to post entries from my old blogs (excluding I’m a Smart One, since that stuff is already here), working my way slowly up until everything has been moved over. I’m choosing to do it this way instead of doing a massive import because this is writing that pre-dates our acquaintance with each other, Dear Reader. Unless you’ve dug back through the links I previously had up on I’m a Smart One, you’ve not read this material before.
My first foray into writing regularly was during my pregnancy with the twins. Given the fact that this was in 2000-2001, “blogging” wasn’t yet the it thing to do. I actually don’t even remember hearing the term until early 2002 when I used to follow an embedded journalist’s web log after the start of the Iraq War. Blah, blah – anyway, at the time, I was an active participant in the SheKnows community, which at the time existed as ePregnancy. It was there that I found my first “community” of other women who had trouble getting pregnant. For the first time, I didn’t feel isolated in my inability to conceive. Once I got pregnant with the twins, I applied to be one of their feature journalists and was accepted. Those journal entries – now over ten years old (!!!- how the shit did THAT happen so quickly?) are essentially my first blog. I also kept a blog (a real one, this time) through my one successful gestational surrogacy, so once I’ve run through my pregnancy with the twins, I’ll follow with entries from my experience with Baby M and my former intended parents, Former IM and Former IF.
I haven’t read through most of these entries in a few years, and it’s somewhat surreal to see where I was as a person and as a writer eleven years ago. My voice is definitely consistent (less the curse words, since I was writing also as a representative of ePregnancy), but the snark and humor is definitely there.
One thing I’ve noted – I have never been “preachy” by any means, but eleven years ago I was quick to subscribe to the “things happen for a reason, even the bad ones” philosophy. I still believe that at least in my case, “God” (the Universe, Whoever) laid out events and timing to work in my favor. At least I think I believe that. Maybe. But then how does that explain why things never work out for others, why some have to endure losses and unresolved infertility? I refuse to believe that it’s because God is teaching some huge, ridiculous lesson that must come at the expense of unborn children and infertile parents. Shit happens – that’s what I believe. But then that begs the question – why does it happen (and keep happening) to some and not to others? That’s a question line I tend to avoid these days, mostly because it makes me start feeling all stabby at the Powers That Be, and my hiatus from blogging was in part spent getting rid of the stabbies. Maybe with more time and distance I’ll be able to return to that line of processing. Probably not.
In the meantime, feel free to point your finger and laugh at the pregnant Moxie of eleven years ago.
Growing up, I was one of the lucky people who managed to achieve whatever goals they really set their mind to. High school was relatively simple, college was a breeze, and falling into my dream career as a teacher was a piece of cake. In the midst of all of that, I even managed to fall in love, get engaged, and marry my high school sweetheart.
Now this is not to say that it was all easy. Believe me — I’ve done my share of struggling and hard work. But of all the things I expected to struggle over, getting pregnant was never one of them. My name is Moxie, and after almost three years of trying to conceive, my husband Frank and I are expecting twins in early July. It was a long, hard road to get to this point, and I would like to share my experiences and the rest of my journey with all of you.
First, I think I should brag on my husband a little bit. After all, none of this would have been possible without him. Frank and I met when I was a freshman and he was a junior in high school. We are both military brats, and both of our fathers retired here at Dirty South, GA. Actually, Frank was my boyfriend’s best friend. We were all marching band nerds, and that’s where our history began — at band camp. Through strange twists of fate, my boyfriend started dating mybest friend, and Frank and I started dating each other at the end of that year. I know it sounds rather Jerry Springerish, but for a while, the four of us were inseparable.
Frank and I dated off and on during my sophomore and his senior year, and in ’93, he graduated and enlisted in the Army. A couple of weeks before he was to go to basic training, he came to visit me, and we’ve been together ever since then. He was stationed about four hours away at Fort Bragg, NC, and we endured a long distance relationship. He was able to come home about every two weeks and for holidays, so we never went long without seeing each other. At my graduation party in ’95, he proposed, and naturally, I said yes. We were married the next summer when I was 18 and he was 21, and when he reenlisted he was blessed to be stationed here at Fort Dirty South, so I never had to move while I was in college. We’ve been married for more than four years now, and I must say that we are blessed to have found what some people spend their whole lives looking for. He is my best friend, my buddy, my pal, and I love him more and more each day. He’s my sexy, sexy man.
Unfortunately, in 1998 he was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. MS is a disease that affects the Myelin sheath that covers the nerve endings of the brain. Everyone has myelin, but in MS patients, it grows too thick and becomes a white substance called plaque. This plaque begins to interfere with the nervous system and the signals the brain receives, and can lead to eventual paralysis, blindness, and/or loss of control over the limbs. The awful thing about the disease is that it’s unpredictable — some people have few symptoms, others eventually die from it. There is no cure.
So far, Frank has been very healthy, and right now he is in remission. He has no major symptoms, and we have not had to make any adjustments to our lifestyle. However, the military considers MS a disease that makes one unable to serve, so Frank is currently in the long and tedious process of being medically and honorably discharged from the Army. Which is fine, since he was going to get out anyway. I’d rather have a 100% healthy husband, but his MS is considered a disabling disease, and he will be monetarily compensated since he was diagnosed while he was in service. If he’s going to get out, he might as well be paid for it, right? I just pray to God that his health does not fail us.
You may ask what in the world all of that had to do with me being pregnant. Well, it was his diagnosis that put me in that fertile frame of mind. Who knows what his health is going to be like in ten years? If it’s in God’s plans for the MS to take over, I wanted him to experience fatherhood while he was healthy enough to enjoy it. We started trying in early ’98, and by fall of ’99 I was ready to scream with frustration. Everything I saw was related to babies and pregnancy. I tortured myself by watching “A Baby Story” and reading every pregnancy book or magazine I could get my hands on. Even worse, I happen to live in the county which has the highest per capita teen pregnancy rate in the nation. Being a middle school teacher and the assistant band director at the high school Frank and I graduated from, I was faced with pregnant teens everyday. Some of them even confided in me as their teacher before they went to their own parents. I had never been so stressed out by anything before.
The most devastating blow was delivered last November when we found out that my then 17-year-old sister, Chanel, was pregnant. She was just a senior in high school, and for her entire pregnancy I was racked by an evil blend of emotions. I was angry, confused, and happy at being an aunt, sad, elated, and depressed all at once. You can imagine how hard it was for me to host her baby shower with a smile on my face. In July, Chanel’s labor was induced, and together with my mom and my youngest sister, Danielle, we watched her give birth to a beautiful baby boy. I was overjoyed and saddened at the same time.
The end of Chanel’s pregnancy was not the end of my misery. Instead of watching her belly grow, I watched this baby who I loved as if he were my own grow. Frank had previously had a semen analysis done, and the urologist told him that with his swimmers, I should have been pregnant ten times over already. That made me feel a lot better (yeah, right). In August, I finally relented and went to see a fertility specialist. Given my past menstrual history, I was immediately diagnosed with having anovulatory cycles and was prescribed Clomid. Around that time, I also found the TTC 6+ Months boardhere at Pregnancy & Baby, and quickly became a dedicated poster. The support I found from those women was irreplaceable; no one but those who experience it truly know what infertility is like. I could vent, fuss, rant, and rave to my heart’s content and no one on that board ever thought I was crazy. Which was good, because I think Frank, bless his heart, was almost ready to have me committed!
Near the end of my second cycle on Clomid, I bought a First Response early detection pregnancy test which can give you a positive result three days before you expect your period. After almost three years of negatives, I honestly did not expect to see two lines. You’re supposed to wait three minutes to read the results, and after just a minute I checked just to be sure it was working properly. There were already two dark lines indicating a positive result. My heart dropped, and I sat there with my mouth open for who knows how long before I could move again. It had finally happened — I was pregnant. Over the years, I thought of all these cute ways I would tell Frank that he was going to be a daddy, but I was so excited that I grabbed the test, ran down the hallway (with my pants still down around my ankles) and just blurted it out. That was the first time I have ever seen him get teary-eyed. He couldn’t believe it. He kept staring at the test and asking me if I was sure. To reassure him (and myself) I took four more tests of two different brands. All positive. We had an ultrasound that same week, and they scared me half to death when ultrasound technician could not find the baby. They scheduled me for two blood tests three days apart to see if my hCG levels were rising properly. The first test was normal with a level in the 200 range, and the level should have at least tripled for the second test. The second test results were better than normal with a level in the 2000range. I knew that elevated hCG levels were sometimes an indication of multiples, but I was just so elated that everything was okay that I didn’t give that possibility another thought.
I was scheduled for another ultrasound a week after the first, and the tech immediately found the gestational sac, and everything was normal, thank God. I could see the worry lift from Frank’s shoulders. The tech kept looking around, then froze and started squinting at the screen. My first thought was, “Oh God, what now?” The tech asked me how much Clomid I was on and I replied, “50 mg, for two cycles.” Then she held up two fingers, and I was like, “Yeah, two cycles.” She grinned, shook her head, pointed at this blob on the screen and said, “That’s your otherbaby!” I almost fell of off the table and I think Frank had his mouth open for so long that he was drooling. We were absolutely thrilled. I feel like all of that struggling was well worth these precious gifts we have been blessed with.
Ironically, I have the same due date Chanel had — July ninth. This feels significant in some strange, cryptic way. Another irony is that Frank’s MS has come to be sort of a mixed blessing. He should be out of the military by the time I start maternity leave in my 28th week, which just happens to be during Spring Break when there’s only about a month of school left. This means that he will be with me during my maternity leave, and we’ll both be together without the burden of work during the summer and the first few difficult months of parenthood. Most importantly, Frank is going to be a stay at home dad with the babies when I return to work in the fall. Does God not have impeccable timing, or what? It was meant to be this way, and I think all of that infertility was God’s way of telling me, “Hold your horses, kid; I’ve got a better plan for you.” And now, at thirteen weeks into this pregnancy, I get to share with you my hopes and fears, my ups and downs, and these two miracles Frank and I have been blessed with.
See what I mean about that whole “God has the bigger picture in mind” philosophy? Part of me still agrees with that, because for the most part, that worked out with my life in singularity. Now having been part of the greater infertility community and have tried, and especially FAILED at helping others become parents, part of me wants to reach back into time and bitch slap myself a little. One thing is for sure – I’m a lot less Pollyanna than I was eleven years ago.