Pregnancy #3, Update #3: Graduated

imageIt’s the day every IF patient prays for: getting discharged from her RE’s office back to her OB. Because she is pregnant. Graduating.

Today, I graduated. I was in for my 9 week sono, and I knew my day was coming, but I wasn’t sure it would be today.

We had a great visit at 8 weeks. Measurement: 8w1d. Heartbeat: 151

We had another great visit today, at 9 weeks: Measurement: 9w0d. Heartbeat: 165.

And with that, I was done there. They had done their job, and it was time to hand me over to my OB.

The past two visits have been so good. So healing. There was still the nerves the night before and the heart palpitations the morning of. There was still the deep breaths on the table, waiting to see what we would find.

But this time, there was excited chatter as the sono tech explained what we were looking at. Questions not laced with fear and dread. Laughter.

Laughter. During a sonogram. Imagine that. Something I’ve never experienced.

I never had an 8 week sonogram without getting ominous, hopeless news. I never had a 9 week sonogram with a baby that survived.

This time, I did. Not just ‘surviving,’ but ‘doing great.’ ‘Strong.’ (Their words). The wiggling of the hands and feet buds.

Never had that. But today, I did.

A year ago, I had just found out I was pregnant with number #2. Right around my mom’s birthday. That was my gift to her – news of grandbaby #9. But within weeks, it was over.

This year, I’m 9 weeks along with a healthy pregnancy.

I still have my worries and fears, but with each positive sonogram, I am breathing a little easier.

I’m feeling pretty nauseated on most days. It comes on at 3pm and 8pm like clockwork. I have it through most of the night, so sleep isn’t so great lately (guess I should get used to that. For the rest of my life, lol). I don’t really have a lot of symptoms otherwise: boobs occasionally sore, but not much; fatigued at times but not consistently; crazy dreams – but that is really it.

Work is definitely exhausting for me right now (a big reason why I haven’t been blogging. So much take-home work, so worn out by the time get home). The beginning of the year is always draining no matter what, but I’m teaching a new class this year as well as trying to get caught up on the summer projects I didn’t get to finish. On top of the normal stuff. All of which wearies me.

My clothes are getting tight, and my belly is pushing out. Not sure if it is bloating, hormones, leftover IVF meds or whatever, but I’m bigger. And, it’s getting harder to hide at work. It looks like I’ve been pounding down the cookies, but I hate people thinking I’m just gaining weight for no reason! We still have 3 more weeks until our news is public.

I have a feeling (and a fear) that our news is more public than I’d like. Now, I know. It’s probably my fault. I mean, I blog about it. It’s out there. But, I guess I just don’t want random people to know about it yet. For instance, a student in our school – one I don’t know and have never had in my classes – asked my coworker ‘how far along is Mrs. Landry?’ What????

I don’t look that pregnant – so, someone must have said something. That’s the kind of talking I don’t want. I guess I want to be the one to control who knows and who doesn’t. Frustrating. Even though it would be easier to tell, I know it’s smarter to wait until 12 weeks to share it officially.

So, what’s next? Not sure, exactly. I dropped off my records at my OB today, and hopefully, they will call me tomorrow to schedule an appointment. I’m not sure how often they will want to see me. There was something very comforting about my RE looking out for me so closely. I’ll miss that.

It was bittersweet leaving there, today. As they were getting my paperwork today, I said, ‘So I guess this is it, then?’ And it was. And, suddenly, I got all choked up. I started thinking about all we had been through, the past years of miscarriages, failed treatments, bad news, disappointments, heartaches, so many days of fear and dread, so many nights of crying myself to sleep…

And here we were. Pregnant. With a healthy pregnancy. Graduating. And I started tearing up. I felt so grateful for this team of people who had helped us so much. So grateful.

So I gave a hug to the doctor, crying. To the nurses, crying. To the sono tech, the phlebotomist, the NP, the receptionist – crying the whole time. I was sad to leave them. A little bit scared to leave them. I felt like they were all on ‘Team Landry,’ coaching us and cheering us on – an intimate part of our this whole roller-coaster, emotional experience – so invested in our failures and success. And finally – something to celebrate.

It was really hard to say goodbye to them – even though I knew that the fact that I was leaving was a really, really good thing. They had done their job. They were tools in God’s hands to help us get pregnant. Part of a miracle.

Another major milestone reached. Many more to go, but I’m going to celebrate each one.

All I can really say is – to God be the glory. It’s all Him. We still have a long road ahead, but I’m sincerely moved to tears thinking about how good He has been to us. Humbled. Thankful.

And I’m smiling. It’s graduation day.

[And for my IF sisters still in the fight, I'm praying diligently for you, for your miracles. God doesn't have a limited supply. I'm still following your stories, and I'm still praying. Thank you for your prayers and well-wishes, even though you are still struggling through yourselves. I'm sincerely touched, and I'm believing God for your babies.]

[Photo Credit: Pixabay]

Pregnancy #3, Update #2: Another Victory

isaiah 66Oh my goodness, I do not take one of these victories for granted. Not one.

I had my 2nd sonogram on Tuesday, where I was 6w5d. If you’ve been following this blog, you know that this is the sonogram where I’ve always gotten bad news.

Finally, something different.

I usually can stay pretty calm in between appointments, but this one? I started the countdown a few days out…”Only 96 more hours….only 72 more hours….only 48 more hours…” until it was the night before, less than 12 hours.

I managed to fall asleep early that night, but my husband came to bed late after watching college football. Well, as he went into dreamworld, I came out – and never went back. So, probably from about 1 am until it was time to get up, I tossed and turned in bed all night. I just couldn’t turn off my brain. My nerves were on edge by the morning. Ugh.

We had a little stress getting to the appointment. My husband was running late, and every single minute I was delayed just heaped up more anxiety. Hadn’t I waited long enough??? Finally, I said I would go on ahead and meet him there (we already needed to take separate cars, anyway), figuring I would have to wait before being seen.

Of all days, the RE’s office was empty. I mean, EMPTY. Not one other person ahead of me. Not one other person waiting. They took me in right away. Sheepishly, I asked if there was any way we possibly could wait a few minutes to start the sonogram until my husband arrived??? Please??? Thankfully, it was no problem for them. For me? Just more agonizing minutes waiting on that table…

At that point, it was hard for me to pray. I prayed for good news. I prayed to be strong. On the drive over, all I could do was recite Psalm 23. I didn’t know what else to say. Now, I was just waiting.

Finally, my husband arrived, the sono tech came in, and things got going.

From my past sonograms, I’ve learned to not wait for them to tell you things. Sometimes, they aren’t allowed and have to wait for the doctor. Sometimes, it’s bad news. But I wasn’t having any of it. I started asking lots of questions as she was going – getting ahead of her, actually – but I didn’t care. For better or for worse, I needed to know.

With my first pregnancy, I had an enlarged yolk sac and the fetus was measuring small. Last pregnancy, there was no fetal pole at 6 weeks. So, I began asking about the yolk sac – how does it look?…the fetal pole – was it there? The right size? She confirmed that everything was right where it should be. What about the heartbeat? “I’m still getting there,” she said. (Oops. My bad). “Yes, we have a pulse.” She didn’t tell me the bpm, but on the screen, I think it said 139 (I knew I was supposed to be somewhere between 103 – 125).

Then, she put the sound on so we could hear it.

The first time we ever heard one of our babies’ hearts beating. A surreal moment. We were really listening to the heartbeat. At 6w5d.

She was wrapping things up, and I asked, ‘So everything looks good?” “So far, so good,” she said. “The doctor will go over everything with you.” That worried me for a second, but I tried not to go there.

We met with the doctor, and he confirmed that everything looked good.

Before I go into specifics, let me give a little back-story:

As I was praying the week before my appointment, I was thinking about my last 2 pregnancies…measuring small, slow heartbeat for P#1; measuring 2 weeks behind for P#2. And I said to God, “Lord, I don’t want to measure a little behind this time. I don’t even want to measure on time. I want to measure ahead. Lord, give me one day. I just want to measure one day ahead.”

So, as the doctor was giving me some of the details, he revealed that I was measuring 7w1day while, in fact, I was only 6w5d. I was measuring Three.Days.Ahead. Not one. Three.

As we left the office, I was in tears in the parking lot, trying to explain to my husband what had just happened (I hadn’t told him what I’d been praying). My heart was so overwhelmed by God’s graciousness to me in that moment. Not one day. Three. Considering my past history, that is amazing in and of itself, but I totally took it as a personal gift from God to me. It really made me feel like things might be okay.

So our day went on as usual (I’m back to teaching now), and prior to this appointment, I knew I’d be walking into the school building either in tears or rejoicing. So, so many times for me in the past 2 years, it’s been tears. Uncertain news. Bad news. Finally, finally, it was good news. Finally – rejoicing.

My next sonogram is this upcoming Thursday, where I will be 8 weeks. Again, these are all make-or-break weeks for me. Eight weeks has never been good. Always bad news. But I’m beginning to believe that maybe those days are behind us and we are on to something new. I pray that is the case. I know it’s early. I know we have lots of weeks ahead of us, but it feels so good to have some feelings of optimism and hope going forward.

The doctor is still keeping me on progesterone, estradiol, and lovenox. I’m still have nausea on a mostly-daily basis, several times throughout the day (although nothing too severe). I’ll be honest. I’m grateful for the nausea. I never felt it with any of my previous pregnancies, and I will embrace any difference and not complain, not even if I feel nauseated every single day of this pregnancy.

There definitely are times when my fears try to get the best of me, and I am fighting that with all I have. As so many of you have reminded me – fear is never from the Lord!

I am trying to force myself to take one day at a time – not to worry about tomorrow, and let tomorrow take care of itself. I am reminding myself that there will always be something to worry about – even if all goes well; the worry doesn’t stop after the baby is born. Worry is not my friend, and it needs to go, one way or the other.

I pray constantly for this baby – any moment I have a break in my thoughts – and I know that is all I can do. It is the best thing I can do.

For those of you who have prayed for me – thank you, thank you, thank you. I don’t know how to adequately express how incredibly grateful I am for your prayers. And please – keep praying!

For those who know me in ‘real-life’ – we are still keeping this quiet, although more people know than I would like! I am happy to share and talk about it with those who are interested enough to follow my blog – as long as we are having a private conversation! :)

So it’s more waiting. More hoping. More trusting. I might as well get comfortable with that. It doesn’t look like that is changing anytime soon (for any of us). Always the bottom line: Wait. Hope. Trust.

[Photo Credit: Dana Arcuri]

Pregnancy #3, Update #1: One Bun in the Oven

infertility, TTC, pregnancy
I was a bundle of nerves leading up to my sonogram on Monday morning.  The rest of our vacation was great – relaxing, fun, restful – and for most of it, I had [relative] peace of mind and joy thinking about our pregnancy.  Once we got home and Monday morning loomed closer, the knot inside my stomach made its presence known in a more pronounced way.

I went to this sonogram alone; J wasn’t able to take off any more time after being away for two weeks.  I toyed with the idea of asking a friend to come with me, but in the end, I decided to go solo.  I had a fair degree of nerves and nervousness, but as the appointment came closer, I kept reminding myself of God in this big picture. I wasn’t alone in this. He would be with me and give me what I needed, whatever news I received.

I was waiting on the table I knew so well, praying, taking deep breaths. As I was laying there, I heard Zac Brown come over the PA system.  My husband loves Zac Brown, and I was hoping that was a good sign.

Both the sono tech and the NP were there for the sonogram.  Immediately, she found the first sac.  The only sac.  One of our embryos held on, measuring right on schedule, in just the right place. Five weeks, four days. Cue huge sigh of relief.  My face must have been blank because the NP asked me if I was disappointed.  Disappointed? No. Just relieved. So, so relieved.

The sono tech relayed a few measurements to the NP, who wrote it all down, most of which was meaningless to me.  There was some fluid in my ovaries, but they didn’t seem concerned.

It was a pretty uneventful meeting (trust me, I’m not complaining).  Basically, she told me that everything checked out for the day’s visit,  confirmed my meds – progesterone, estradiol, and lovenox – and told me to get in touch with my OB to tell them I’d be discharged to them in a few weeks.  That was it. My next sonogram is next Tuesday.

As soon as I got outside, I sent J. an email at work and let him know the good news.  Obviously, he was excited but still a little sad that we lost one along the way.  This saddens me too, but I am just so grateful for one. One made  it.

So, since then, I’ve had some increasing symptoms – a little tugging, pressure and intermittent pangs in my abdomen, slightly sore boobs, and some nausea, especially at night when I’m trying to sleep.  I’m also back to work this week, so that really is a blessing in disguise.  Keeps me distracted and my mind busy.

My emotions fluctuate between the ‘what-ifs’ and fighting fear that tries to force its way in – and letting go and having faith.  Worrying, wondering, even trying to figure out what is going on with my body won’t change what will happen.  Right now, I am still choosing to believe the best about this pregnancy, that this one is going to make it.

I know each milestone is an opportunity for worry if I let it, but next week is a big milestone for me personally.  When I have my next sonogram, I will be 6 weeks, 5 days.  With both of my previous pregnancies, the 6-7 week sonogram was the one where things went south. I’ve never gotten passed that point with good news on my side.  Logic (and faith) tells me that there is nothing that says this one is going to end the same way the other ones have. Yet, that fear is always trying to work its way in.  Like I said on my last post, I have lots of reasons to believe this one is different. And I’m going to believe that, until we know for certain that it’s not.

I’m constantly reminded to put my hope in The Lord.  Hope – a confident, expected end.  I’m seeing in a very real, practical way, that I need to do this on a daily, even hourly, basis. My hope is in God. He is in total and perfect control of this situation.   He has me and this baby in the palm of His hand.

One of my best friends from college recently went through a double mastectomy for breast cancer, around the same time as my IVF.  We were texting back and forth frequently, and she shared this verse with me: “She is clothed with strength and dignity; she laughs with no fear of the future” (Prov. 31:25).   Her courage and faith has really been an inspiration to me, and I want that verse to characterize my approach through every step of this pregnancy.

Strength. Dignity. No fear of the future.  It’s a tall order for me, but I want to handle whatever comes with faith and grace. I don’t want to be freaking out with every visit, over-analyzing everything I feel (or don’t feel) going on in my body, living with a constant cloud of anxiety over my head from appointment to appointment.  I want to be in peaceful trust.  Honestly, that feels like an impossibility for me, with my natural tendencies.  But just as I am believing God for a successful pregnancy, I am equally believing God to give me grace to walk through this with peace and trust and faith.

With strength. Dignity. No fear of the future.

[Photo Credit: Pinterest]


IVF Update #5 – Not “Pregnant Until Proven Otherwise”

imageNope – not ‘pregnant until proven otherwise.’ Now, I’m ‘just pregnant.’

It worked. Up to this point, our IVF was a success. I’m officially pregnant.

We got the news last Thursday. As I mentioned, we are on vacation, and we knew that we would get the results while away. This was definitely a blessing. We had J’s parents with us in the High Country in North Carolina, and there was definitely enough to keep me distracted. I did pretty well not symptom-spotting (I knew my body was all jacked up from meds anyway), but I was a little concerned about any kind of activity: “Am I exerting myself too much on this hike? Am I sweating too much? Is the gravel on the bike trail jostling me too much?” I tried to eat all of the good fertility foods like dark greens, pineapple, avocado, peanut-butter, oatmeal, and Brazilian nuts (which I couldn’t find anywhere, but ended up finding them in a spinning rack of snacks in no-name town gas station food mart. Go figure.)

My nerves really started kicking in on Wednesday night, knowing that the next day, the verdict would be in.

I tossed and turned most of the night, and once I did finally doze off, J. woke me up with a kiss: “OK. Time to get up now. Big day today.”

The process was fairly easy; we opted to go to the outpatient lab at Ashe Memorial Hospital, as they could deliver same-day results for the beta test; the hormone tests would take longer, but that was okay; my doctor was keeping me on progesterone and estradiol as a precaution until I got home.

The lab tech told me that she couldn’t call me with the results, but they would fax them immediately to my doctor, who would call me. I was good with that; good or bad news, I would rather hear it from them.

After we left, J. asked me if I wanted to take a home-pregnancy test – just so I wouldn’t be tortured wouldn’t torture him all day. I opted not to- too much fuzziness for false positives or negatives – and really, I just wanted to get the news from the doctor.

In the meantime, I was trying to steel-up and get myself in a strong state-of-mind, whatever the news. I reminded myself of the last few blog-posts I wrote, about trials making faith stronger, not weaker. About how the ones who hope in the Lord get stronger, mounting up above troubles with wings like eagles. I knew if I got bad news, it would be hard. Disappointing. Sad. But I really wanted to purpose to be strong, whatever happened.

Strong like an eagle. An eagle rises above the storm. A person whose hope is in the Lord can be strong in a storm and rise higher.

Well, I didn’t have wait too long. By about noon, as I was sitting out on the porch, the phone rang. I didn’t even have time to contemplate whether I should let it go to voice-mail or answer. Instinctively, I picked up.

“Hi Katherine, we have your results….”



“It’s positive! Congratulations!”

The nurse went on to tell me that my number was 182; they were looking for anything above a 5, so that was good! (This was Day 14 after egg-retrieval, the equivalent of Day 28 of a regular cycle). They wanted another blood test in 2 days, which was fine, since I had the script for that anyway. Again, she congratulated me, told me to start my Lovenox injections, and I would check in after the next test.

J. was listening to the whole conversation, so he knew the good news. Immediately, he hugged me, and we prayed a prayer of thanksgiving. As this was happening, we saw an eagle drop down and fly over the river that was across the street from us. I knew God was present.

My second blood test was Saturday. By this time, we were in Tennessee with J’s parents, and I had to go to a different hospital. This didn’t go as smoothly. First, there was poor old Betty, who got stuck on the computer in a patient chart with the same name and couldn’t get out. We would have been waiting a long time for either, A. – Betty to figure it out (wasn’t happening), or B. – for the Help Desk to answer her plea. As nothing moves quickly in the South and my NY impatience was beginning to get the better of me, dear, sweet, competent Shelly came to the rescue and took care of us.

Then we had a second issue. The diagnosis on my script was coming up invalid, and they couldn’t do the bloodwork without it. You’re kidding, right? Not to be put off or discouraged, I asked if she could call my doctor, and yes, she could if they were open. Thankfully, I knew they were, and the rest was taken care of pretty quickly, and I was out of there, blood drawn and all, in about 15 minutes.

In the meantime, we were leaving J’s parents and heading to Gatlinburg for week #2 of our vacation. I called my doctor’s office around 1 p.m. to see if they had gotten results. They hadn’t. They were closing around 2:30, and if they got the results before then, they would call.

I was going to just let it go, but J. urged me to call the hospital to follow-up. Well, good thing I did. The lab tech tried to tell me they couldn’t fax the results to my doctor, and I would have to go through medical records. I knew that couldn’t be right. I explained my situation, that my script was from NY and that the doctor wrote the fax number on it specifically to get the results ASAP.

Turns out, at this hospital, the blood was drawn in the ER and then sent down to the lab. The lab didn’t have my actual script with the fax #; all they had was the lab order in the computer. Once the lab tech confirmed what I told her, she faxed the results right away.

At 2:27, just minutes before the office closed and while J. was in Food City, they called. Beta number had gone up to 468. According to my research, levels are supposed to double every 48 hours, and mine doubled in 1.5 days, so I was in good shape. The next agenda-item to come is a sonogram when I get home. I figure I will be between 5 -6 weeks by then.

So. First. Huge sigh of relief. I know we have such a long way to go, but I am going to celebrate each hurdle we cross. At least one of our embryos stuck. Victory #1.

My beta levels were moving in the right direction. Victory #2. I have to be grateful along the way, no matter what happens.

I am also grateful that we can spend the rest of our vacation with relative peace-of-mind and optimism, instead of needing to console ourselves over another loss.

As for how I’m feeling? Physically, I’m good. I’m trying not to symptom-spot too much. I feel a little tightness and twingy cramps, which I know from my last pregnancies – all normal. I actually felt nauseated 2 night ago and again this morning (not sure if this morning was because I took my vitamins on an empty stomach, though).

As for how I’m feeling emotionally, I am definitely glad I am away and out of my regular environment. Lots of distractions. Of course, fear is always looming at the door, but I am choosing not to acknowledge it. I feel more optimistic about this than my other pregnancies, and I feel this is different in a few ways:

*With my past 2, I spotted with implantation bleeding. I know that is normal and nothing to worry about, but I lost both of those. I didn’t spot with this one.

*I didn’t get BFPs on my home-pregnancy tests until after my period was due – anywhere from 4-6 days later. To me, that says I implanted late. This time, from what I can tell, likely I implanted earlier.

*I’m not sure why I miscarried the last two times – whether it was from my blood issue or if the embryos were abnormal or something else. If it was from my blood issue, I’ve been on baby aspirin for a while and now I’m on Lovenox — so that addresses that. If it was due to an embryo issue, while I know that there are no guarantees with the ones that were transferred, I feel like the best sperm and the best eggs were chosen, and the best embryos were transferred and placed in the ideal location of the uterus. All of those increase our odds, in my opinion.

At this point, if I’m worrying, I’m just borrowing it. To my knowledge, at this very early stage, there is nothing concrete to worry about, only ‘what-ifs.’ And, I am refusing to go there. There will be plenty of time for that if the time comes. I will definitely be holding my breath at my sonogram next week (out of all my pregnancy sonograms, from both pregnancies, every single one except the 5-week sonogram for pregnancy #2 was bad news and more bad news.) I might really need to draw on that eagle-strength in the days to come, but for today, we are pregnant.

We have a long road to go still, very true. But today, things are as good as we could have prayed for, and we are enjoying the happiness of it. It’s been a long, long time since we have felt joy about anything fertility/pregnancy related. Even if it is short-lived, we have this week to enjoy it and dream a little.

So, until then, we’ll have fun knowing that we are back at our honeymoon spot, but this time, pregnant. We’ll have fun wondering if there are twins in there. We’ll have fun imagining that this pregnancy might really be it.

And, Lord-willing, it will be.

(PS – Real-life friends: Shhhhh!!! ;) )

[Photo Credit: Public Domain Images]

IVF Update #4 – “Pregnant Until Proven Otherwise”

Babies' First Photo Shoot (Disclaimer - Picture might be upside-down)

Babies’ First Photo Shoot (Disclaimer – Picture might be upside-down)

It’s official. ‘Pregnant Until Proven Otherwise’ (or, affectionately known by the IF community as that annoying adorable little acronym ‘PUPO’).

So, I didn’t go in Sunday for a Day 3 transfer. I had a minor freak-out Sunday morning because they hadn’t called to tell me if I needed to come in. We live an hour away, and we were at that point where, if we were going to get there on time, we needed to leave right then. And, my husband’s work schedule that day was pending this appointment.

I tried calling every number I could find, but everything was closed because it was Sunday. I finally broke down and called the emergency number, like a typical, neurotic IVF patient, and the answering service finally tracked someone down.  Nope, I wasn’t going in. They decided to do a Day 5 Blastocyst transfer.

Well, Day 5 was yesterday, and we are over another hurdle. (Sigh of relief.)

My transfer was at 11:15 a.m., and it turned out my doctor wasn’t going to do the procedure. He left me a message that morning informing me (and reassuring me) that I was in the best hands. Instead, I had an older gentleman doctor with a German accent. I was good with that; Germans are very precise.

So, before the procedure, we sat down to talk, and he told me that we had 2 gorgeous embryos to transfer.

“So, the embryos are good???” I said.

“No. Not good,” he said in his German accent. “Gorgeous.”

He then pulled out the first pics of our ‘babies’ and explained why they were such great embryos. They started to ‘hatch’ (yeah, not sure what that means. He kinda lost me), but apparently, that is a great thing. J. and I were a little concerned, though, because the original plan was to transfer 3. The German doctor was good and immediately got our doctor on the phone, who was in full agreement with transferring just two.

Why the change? Well, he explained, the original plan was designed for how they would typically proceed with a 40-year-old IVF patient. However, I responded so well, with so many eggs and good embryos, that really, as far as  IVF was concerned, I was more like a 30-year-old. (Awesome!!! I’ll take 30 any way I can!!) So, it was definitely wiser to just transfer 2; transferring 3 could end up with a lot of complications.

So, two is was.

The feel of this procedure was similar to the retrieval, except that I was awake for this one. I’m looking at the big operating-room spotlight above my head in a dark room, seeing the nurse come out of the lab with a dish to confirm that these were my embryos, hearing the doctor with the German accent give directions to the other nurse as she pressed the sonogram machine on my full bladder. It all seemed like science-fiction. How did they ever figure all of this out?

It wasn’t extremely long (10-15 minutes?) and it wasn’t extremely painful (some pressure and tugging here and there), but soon enough, the nurse showed me my two embryos all snug in my uterus.

A little surreal. ‘Pregnant Until Proven Otherwise.’

So now that those little embryos are tucked away in there, all that’ s left to do is to take it easy and wait.

I haven’t been too neurotic about googling stats and odds of success and things like that. What I have been googling is ‘Activity after IVF,’ ‘What to Eat for IVF,’ ‘Bed-rest and IVF’ – things along those lines.

Mostly, the consensus is common sense – return to normal activities, nothing overtly strenuous, everything in moderation (But I did read that pineapples, avocados and Brazil nuts all help with implantation and pregnancy. Can’t hurt, right?).

It’s just waiting, which is actually an odd comfort to me. It’s been doctor’s appointments, injections, meds, creams, running to clinics for weeks on end, and now? Just waiting. For once, waiting is a welcome relief.

So, the waiting has actually, finally, given me a little time to emotionally and spiritually process, now that the physical part (that I can control) is over.

Before the transfer, my fears were swinging back and forth between extremes: “What if this doesn’t work?” and “What if I end up with triplets????” Now that triplets is (likely) off the table, I’m settling in more peacefully.

Everything I wrote in my other post, I stand by: God is in control, He has a plan, He has perfect timing for our family. I believe that; they aren’t just cliches to me.

But something else God has been speaking to me over the past few weeks: About faith. Not just faith to believe that God is going to come through, to do what He’s promised, to show up with miracle, but more about the flip side of faith – faith to keep believing when God doesn’t come through – or at least not the way you wanted Him to .  Faith that still believes God, even after things aren’t what you expect.

Faith isn’t just believing God for good things; it’s believing God NO MATTER WHAT.

Here’s what I’m learning about faith- and myself. Usually, when things go south, my faith is shaken.  I feel like the rug has been pulled out from under me, and I’m completely disoriented.  It should be the opposite.  My faith shouldn’t weaken but get stronger. The trial is supposed to make me stronger, not weaker.  It should make me even more determined to believe God for the good outcome He’s promised, even if I have to wait for it.

There are so many examples in the Bible of people who went through this: a hope or a promise from God, things looking hopeless, faith getting stronger.

I’m thinking about Abraham, who considered his body as good as dead, but he wasn’t put off by it. He strengthened in his faith, not weakened, knowing God would be true to His promise.

I’m thinking about Mary and Martha, after Lazarus died. Jesus could have gotten there on time to heal him, but He didn’t. They had to wait, but God had something even more amazing in time. They still believed.

I’m thinking about the children of Israel, waiting to be delivered from Egypt, waiting to go to the Promised Land. Their faith wasn’t strengthened – they didn’t believe, and it cost them dearly.

Here’s what I’m seeing – the waiting, the believing, the delays, the trials aren’t meant to deflate us.  They are actually meant to strengthen us. “Those who wait on (hope in) the Lord will renew their strength” (Isaiah 40:31). There’s a connection there; that’s God’s purpose – stronger faith for us, more glory for Him, and a great outcome at the end of it all. That is bottom-line truth.

So, how is this connected to IVF? Well, don’t misunderstand. I’m not fatalistic and convinced this won’t work and that I’ll have to wait even more. Right now, everything has gone beautifully, things look great, and I’m hopeful. Really hopeful.

However, a failed cycle is a possibility. I realize that. But I want my mind-set to be that if there is another set-back, I am going to let it prop me up and strengthen my faith, not weaken it.

So much of this infertility journey has been the crash after the let-down:  failed treatments, failed pregnancy tests, bad news. While it is true that my faith kept me from feeling completely destroyed, I think there is room for it to be stronger.

That being said, I’m trying to ‘land’ as far as my ‘mind-set’ during the wait. I’m not the type to let myself get overly optimistic – nor do I want to ‘prepare myself for the worst.’ I’m praying every day over and for my babies, J. is praying over them, I’m waiting with lots of hope that this might be it.

God is knitting them together cell by cell in my womb. Not science or nature. God. Whether that continues to full-term or whether He takes them home early, I don’t know. But I am going to love and pray for those babies until I know otherwise. And, I know He is lovingly superintending and watching over every minute detail of each of those embryos, and I trust that He will do what is right and best and most loving for all of us.

We are leaving for vacation Thursday night, and as much as I can, I just want to be present. In the moment. Not in anxiety and not in over-the-moon excitement or feigned certainty. Just in the present.

And for the present, we are blessed that this went so well – beyond our or the doctor’s expectations. We are blessed to even have this chance for IVF.

We are blessed that, for this moment, I am pregnant.

Until proven otherwise.

(P.S: If any readers know me in ‘real-life,’ would you please keep this news quiet and between us? I haven’t gone ‘public’ with it and don’t plan to until we know for sure that we are in a fairly safe spot in our pregnancy. Thank you!)

IVF Update #3 – Retrieval and Impending Transfer

imageAt this moment, we are potentially less than 24 hours away from our embryo transfer. So close to crossing another hurdle!

It’s hard to know where the hurdles start -it feels like every day is another milestone. But certainly, our retrieval was a HUGE one, and thankfully: success.

We went in Thursday, leaving at the crack of dawn because of typical, nightmarish, Long Island rush-hour traffic. God smiled on us, however, (the HOV lane helped), and we got there about an hour ahead of time. With a little time to kill, we hunted for a bagel shop or deli for my husband (not me – no food allowed), took am impromptu tour of the area (i.e. got lost), and hung out at a park for a bit while J. ate. After J. was fed and happy, we headed back to the center and checked in.

After just a little bit of nervous waiting, I was called in for the pre-procedure warm-up: vitals and one last sonogram to make sure my eggs were all still there (they were). Not long after that, we were sent across the hall to gown-up for the big procedure. Our doctor met us there, and J. and our doctor made some small talk. The doctor complemented J.’s Jets shirt, J. put in his request for twins so we could be one-time-and-done. As if it’s that easy, right?

Then, J. had been waiting to share his joke that he was so proud of with our doctor: “So, 15 year from now, when our kid is acting up, can I just say to him, ‘We should have kept you frozen’?” (Ever see the Seinfeld episode where George comes up with the best come-back line and can’t wait to use it? ‘Hey! The jerk-store called, and they are out of you!’ Yeah. That.)

A little comic relief was good, but there was more that was funny-slash-strange-slash-disconcerting. Both my doctor and anesthesiologist said to me, ‘So, what are we doing here today?’ and I’m thinking, ‘Don’t you know? Because if you don’t, that is a really big problem.’ Not sure if they were asking to make sure I knew why I was there? My husband and I got little chuckle out of it but were wondering – were we in trouble???

So, it was my turn to say goodbye, and I walked into the procedure room. It had the feeling of being like a set for a TV show – nothing felt real. Everyone, including myself, seemed like actors, playing a part, reading from a script. Was I really going in for this?

The doctor and the anesthesiologist introduced themselves and shook hands (they hadn’t met?), and then the anesthesiologist had trouble getting the IV in my veins (Par for the course with me; same trouble drawing blood, too). And honestly, that was the most painful part; while he was digging in, I am positive he was hitting bone. Finally, I was all hooked up and was told that soon I’d be in dream-land. I had this kind of anesthesia for my D&C, and this time, I wanted to pay attention what I was thinking about before I went out. I said to myself, ‘I want to be thinking something about God, so that is my last thought’ – and I didn’t get beyond that. Gone.

Next thing I know, I’m waking up in recovery, and the nurse tells me that they were able to extract 22 eggs. Twenty. Two. Eggs. Twenty-two! We were stunned. Definitely beyond anything we anticipated!

The nurse went over my instructions, gave me cranberry juice, and we were told to wait for the phone call the next day for the embryo count. As far as how I was feeling, I definitely was sore and crampy. The pain wasn’t terrible, but it was worse than I thought it would be. That being the case, I had every excuse to take it easy on the couch for the rest of the day, and my husband graciously obliged. The med plan was to start Doxycycline, Crinone cream and Estradiol that night, and to get back on the baby aspirin.

I woke up the next morning feeling pretty crappy – still crampy and sore, but in the meantime, I developed a bit of a cold or something. Non-stop sneezing and dripping nose. That aside, I was staring at the phone, waiting for the nurse to call.

Finally, at around 9:30, we got the call: they fertilized 19 eggs and we had 17 embryos. Seventeen embryos. They were very, very pleased with those numbers as was I. Unbelievable. I’m not sure what I was expecting, but I wasn’t expecting that.

The plan is to watch them, see which ones survive and develop the best, and then schedule the transfer. The nurse thought I would be blastocyst transfer (Day 5 rather than Day 3), but I could go Day 3. With so many embryos, those extra days allow them to see which ones have developed the best.

Well, they called today, and tentatively I’m scheduled for tomorrow at 10:25 a.m. However, they said they would take one more last look at the embryos in the morning and see if I’m going to be a Day 5 transfer. I’ll know by 8:30 a.m. So, we wait and see.

The plan is to transfer 3 embryos. Because of my age, studies show this will give us the best odds. Of course there’s a chance of multiples, but there also is a chance of none. So as per the doctor’s orders, we are going ‘aggressive.’

All in all, it is such a relief that this part is done and successful. I know we still have a long way to go – to see how our embryos develop before transfer, to see if they survive transfer and stick, to see if I can carry past 9 weeks – which seems to be my limit, to see if I can carry to full term. Still many more hurdles.

But for today, all has gone well, and I can’t ask for more than that.

We are holding on to hope.

[Photo Credit: via Pinterest]

IVF Update #2: All Systems Go


This just got real.

Tomorrow is retrieval day at 10:30 a.m. Gah!

I’m a bundle of nerves tonight. It’s surreal that tomorrow this will all be underway.

After my last update, my week consisted of a few more doctor visits – bloodwork, sono, the usual.  Everything was looking good and on Saturday, I added Ganirelix to my injection list. Ganirelix shots in the mornings, Follistim and Menopur in the evening.  

So, for several more days, my belly was a pin cushion. We had a repeat of an in-the-car injection that made me feel like we were part of a shady drug deal – 2-inch needles, mixing powders, flicking syringes to get out the air bubbles. (This time, we were tailgating before the Darius Rucker concert. Lots of people around us, but I’m pretty sure most of them were too hammered to notice.) Apparently, we were successful because we had a good report on Monday.

I went in Monday – more of the same – sono and bloodwork. Everything was looking good. Really good. Lots of eggs brewing, hormones all where they should be. I was on the cusp of triggering with Novarel on Monday night, but they decided to give me one more day.  

I went in Tuesday – and this time, I got the green light to trigger that night. At 11:30 pm.  My RE liked what he saw, said that it should be ‘easy-pickings’ on retrieval day.  So last night, J. gave me my last injection in my belly, and thank God. I was running out of places around my belly button that weren’t bruised.

I went in again this morning for a final sono and bloodwork, signed my post-retrieval and post-transfer instructions, and discussed the final plan. All systems go.

It was up in the air whether or not my RE was going to do the actual retrieval, but it turns out that he is. It’s in a different facility, but he rearranged his office visits to accommodate us. So grateful.

So, here we are. Tomorrow. Retrieval day. I’ll be under anesthesia, so no food after midnight, no contact lens or jewelry tomorrow. We are going with ICSI (Intra-Cytoplasmic Sperm Injection) for the procedure. Basically, they are hand-picking the individual sperm and hand-fertilizing the eggs, rather than putting a bunch of sperm in a dish with eggs and letting it happen. Tomorrow night, after the procedure, I start the Crinone (progesterone) cream, Estrace (estrogen), and Doxycycline.  No complaining here; I’ll take that over injections any day.

The plan is that they will call me on Friday to tell me how many embryos we have. Then, they will call on Saturday to see if we are doing the transfer on Sunday (Day 3) or Tuesday (Day 5). After that, it’s bloodwork on Day 7 and pregnancy test on Day 14. (Normally, they would do bloodwork on Day 10 but we will be on vacation already.)

I’m grateful we made it this far with no complications.  The only kink in the plan is that we are going to be on vacation from Aug 8 – Aug 23. So, that means, I won’t be in NY to have my pregnancy test; we’ll have to do it out-of-state. For better or worse, we will find out if this was a success while we are on vacation.

My doctor has been super-proactive to make sure that I am all set with a plan while I’m away on vacation. He has already met with the nurses to make sure they set up a plan for me to have all of my scripts, paperwork, meds all scheduled out while we are gone.

Yeah, so that is that. Tomorrow officially starts the notorious two-week wait.

My feelings on this?  I am trying to stay optimistic – or at least neutral. I can’t even go down the negative ‘what-if-this-doesn’t-work’ road. Just can’t yet. Just doing my best to stay in a positive head-space. But clearly, this has been running in my brain like non-stop background music.

Of course, God has been reminding me I’m not alone in this. A few truths this week that are keeping me somewhat grounded:

*God has a perfect timing for us. If it isn’t this time, He’s not denying us. It just isn’t our time. I truly believe that this is going to happen for us at some point in time, in some way. And I believe God has spoken that to us.

*If God does delay, the delay is motivated by His love for us, and the result will be for our good. At the minimum, stronger faith for us and more glory for Him.

*God knows exactly what He is doing. If this doesn’t work now, He still has a plan for us, and it is unfolding exactly like it should be, regardless of how it looks.

*No matter what happens, God loves us and God is faithful to us.

*Nothing is impossible for Him. There is not one example of a barren woman in the Bible who desired a child who was left childless. I’m not looking at what I can see or at others; I’m trusting what His Word says. Like Abraham, we know God is faithful to His promises, no matter how it looks.

Ok. Deep breath.

Here we go.

IVF Update #1

imageI’m just about 4 weeks in. Here’s an update of what’s been happening:

Week 1
We knew we were doing IVF before we even got the results of our last IUI, so on CD3 (June 30th), I was in the office and ready to go. After the usual bloodwork/sonogram, I was prescribed birth control pills to take for about 2 weeks. I also needed to get a precautionary mammogram to make sure there was no chance of breast cancer before we started the process (Everything came back normal for that).

Later that week, I had another appointment to go over the whole process of IVF and sign the paperwork – the risks, liability and waivers, in addition to our choices about the embryos should something happen to one of us (if I die, if he dies, if we both die, if we divorce). That part was a little surreal to talk about, but we forged through, took the leap of faith and officially signed on.

Week 2
I had another appointment with bloodwork/sonogram; getting stuck with needles and having wands inserted in my lady-parts is pretty much standard-operating-procedure for me at this point. Happens 2-3x a week. I laugh when I think about how modest I used to be in the doctor’s office. My meds were ordered this week as well.

I had a ‘test transfer’ procedure done as well this week. I had to drink a lot of water, as they did an external sonogram this time (a refreshing change). The procedure basically measures and maps out the shape of my cervix and uterus, so they know exactly how and where to place the embryo on the actual transfer day. This practice run is so they have an idea of what it looks like inside, so there are no surprises or ‘oops’ moments the day-of. The actual procedure, from my end, was similar to an IUI. Didn’t really hurt, but just some pressure. Everything looked fine.

J. also had his appointment for a semen analysis as well as to have his sperm frozen. They do this as a pre-caution in case, for some reason, on the day of the retrieval, we weren’t able to get fresh (if he were out of town or in the hospital unexpectedly, etc.). We had to take a trip to the facility about an hour a way for this (which is where IVF will take place), and we ended up making a day of it. There’s this great all-you-can-eat sushi place that we typically wouldn’t make the trip for, but since we were there….

Week 3
I finished the birth control pills on Monday. They told me I would probably get my period also by the end of the week, which I did. Also by the end of the week, I was to start my injections. My huge bag of drugs came a few days earlier – no Nigerian night delivery this time, but two-brown-grocery-bags-FULL. Definitely overwhelming to look at. I was a little frustrated because the meds didn’t come packed on ice this time, and I didn’t realize that I was supposed to refrigerate some of them. Grrr. Thanks to Google, I learned that this wasn’t detrimental. (Just annoying.) The dosage is 1ml of Menopur and 225iu of Follistim. Have to say, though – I’m grateful for our insurance. We have thousands of dollars of meds, and it only cost us $99.

Week 4
Still continuing with our nightly injection ritual. Two shots between 5-10pm. The Follistim is just a cartridge in a pen; just turn the cap for the right dosage and push the button. Menopur is one that I have to mix with syringes and an enormous needle. Still feels shady to me when I’m doing this, but I’m getting the hang of it. J. is my injector, and so far so good. I do have bruises all around my belly button from the shots, but they don’t hurt – just slightly tender. The routine is usually that I get all the meds set up, J. comes and we say a short prayer, I wince and close my eyes, he sticks me, and then he hugs me when I whine about having to do this.

I go in again tomorrow to check my hormones and the egg growth. Might have to go in on Sunday also. So, the game plan, as far as I know it (they mostly give visit-to-visit instructions) is that I keep up with the injections until I’m ready to trigger. At the appropriate time, they will assign me the trigger shot, and then 35 hours later, the retrieval is scheduled. I think that will be sometime next week.

Here’s a few of my IVF observations through this process:

1. The meds have made me very moody. Slightly irritable. Very emotional. I like I have PMS almost all the time. Cry very easily. Daily, actually. At least once. That is definitely not me.

2. I don’t know how all clinics are, but my clinic did not give me a lot of help with how to do the injections. I did watch Youtube videos, but I still had a lot of questions, as they weren’t totally specific to my instructions. I screwed up on the dosage of Menopur the first night. My sheet had ‘1’ listed. One what? The box came with 5 powders and solutions. One box? One powder? When I mixed it, was I supposed to inject all of it? One ml? I wished they had walked me through everything at the office first. From what I hear though, this seems pretty common.

3. The meds definitely make me feel a little weird, a little queasy. Usually, a few hours after the injections, I’m a bit sick to my stomach. And the Menopur burns pretty badly when injected. The Menopur shot is definitely the worst part.

4. The worst effects are on my belly, inside and outside. Bruising on the outside, bloating on the inside (well, seen on the outside eventually, too).

5. Not only does IVF take a lot of you emotionally and physically and financially, but it is also takes a lot of time. I do not know how I would have done this if this was scheduled during the school year. I am at the office at least 2-3x a week.

So, that’s where we are at. It’s been a lot to handle, but once again, I am grateful to be able to even do this. Grateful for our insurance (Right now, they are expecting my copays to be only about $250). Grateful for the encouragement and support we are receiving. And honestly, there has been a lot. God has been so good to us in sending so many people, many out of the blue, to encourage us: to tell us that they are praying for us, to give us an encouraging word from the Lord, to pray over us…too many to list here right now, but hopefully I’ll get back to those testimonies.

I’ve been a little quiet on the blog. It is hard for me to write about, and it is hard for me to write about other things in the middle of this. My thoughts aren’t coming together so clearly or readily, and I’m just chalking it up to the hormone overload (it actually is a very convenient scapegoat for everything I can’t/don’t feel up to/don’t want to do). And I’m okay with milking it a little. If there is ever a time when that is legit, I’d definitely say IVF falls into that category.

So, we’ll have updates and hopefully more blogs soon. I’ve been writing a lot of Bible curriculum for school (Genesis and Romans), so most of my writing energy is going there. But hopefully, that will be done soon, and I can re-direct.

It’s Friday. It’s a beautiful day in NY. Heading to the beach with a few friends this afternoon. Yard-saling with the girls tomorrow morning; Darius Rucker concert tomorrow night. IVF appointments all in between. And God is with me in all of it.

All is well.

[Photo Credit: WINFertility via Pinterest]

Summer Lesson #1 – Ditch the Plan


Things never unfold like you think they will.

I feel like this has been the theme of my life. I don’t know why I just can’t get this. When will this reality actually sink in?

I’m about 2 and a half weeks into summer, and it has been everything I’ve planned, but nothing like I thought it would be.

Does that make sense?

I had my checklists and high hopes of what I wanted to get done this summer. Little by little, I’ve been planning, arranging, filling in my calendar with the ‘have-to’s’ and the ‘want-to’s’ – all of my activities to get organized, learn to cook, explore Long Island, make the most of this short summer.

Tried a few new recipes: check.

Shopped at the outlets: check.

Spent the day in Southampton, East Hampton, and Greenport: check.

Cleaned the bathroom and semi-straightened the office: check.

Started work on my curriculum project: check.

Time with friends and family: check.

Not bad for 2 and a half weeks.

Everything I’ve planned, but nothing like I thought it would be.

So, what did I think it would be?

Well, I guess I thought it would deliver a little more. A sense of satisfaction. Serenity. Contentment.

“It’s summer! I’m free! This is what I’ve been waiting for all year!”

But instead, I found myself, in the middle of all of this, in a funk.

Now, maybe, it’s just my typical clumsy-adjustment-to-a-new-routine funk.  Or maybe it’s my I’m-pumped-up-on-hormones funk. Or maybe it’s my task-driven-perfectionist-need-to-be-productive funk. Or maybe it’s my tired-of-this-infertility-plague funk.

Or maybe it’s none of those things.

I started to think and pray about this: “God, what is wrong with me? Where is this coming from? I can’t seem to push out of this.”

Clear as day, I heard this in my heart: “Katie, you expect too much…”

Um, that didn’t sit so well with me.  What did that even mean?

But as I stopped protesting and quieted down long enough for God to finish His sentence, He began to clarify what He meant. As much as I know the truth, I keep looking for things and experiences and people and plans to give me what they just cannot: Perfect joy. Perfect peace. Perfect contentment.

I keep expecting these things to give my heart what it needs. And they can’t. As good as they are, they can’t.

A perfect marriage (which doesn’t exist): Can’t.

A baby (a delicious as he/she will be): Can’t

Adventure and leisure and exploration: Can’t

Accomplishments: Can’t

Good times with friends and family: Can’t

These are all good things, but as far as being sources of joy and satisfaction and peace – they can’t give that because they aren’t the source.  They are temporary. They are flawed. They are impermanent. They will always come up short.

After this dialogue between me and God, two memories popped up in my mind. The first one was when I was in my late 20s sometime. I don’t remember much of the details, but I remember when this verse came to life to me: “In Your Presence is fullness of joy” (Ps. 16:11).  In other words, only by being with Him can we be perfectly happy. I don’t really remember what I was going through at the time – likely a bad break-up or some general discontentment with where my life was – but that verse set me free from looking for anything else but God to bring joy to me.

The second memory that came to me was when I drove the California coast by myself.  I was probably about 32 years old, and it was after God had been doing some incredible things in my relationship with Him.  I look back, and that season of my life was probably the most relaxed, content, happy, and peaceful I’ve ever had. Even to this day.

During that trip, I had 10 days to drive from San Diego to San Francisco.  I didn’t have a real itinerary; I just had some friends in various places along the way that I was hoping to get together with, and that was it.  I didn’t make a list of what to see or places to go. I had zero expectations. Whatever I did and got to see would be fine; it was more than I had ever seen or done in California anyway – so it would all be a plus, no matter how it ended up.

Well, that trip ended up being one of the best trips I have ever taken. So relaxing. So filled with wonder. So peaceful. What I got to see and do was better than anything I could have planned. And it taught me a huge lesson: sometimes it is good not to have an exhaustive plan. Not to have big expectations. Sometimes plans and expectations rob you of what actually unfolds – which is fantastic. But when that is held up against a plan or expectation, we miss out on the greatness of what we have actually just experienced and we aren’t grateful for it.

So, with these memories, I felt like God was saying to me, “Stop trying to micro-manage your summer. Make your lists and plans, but don’t be so attached to them. They won’t give you what you are looking for, anyway. Only I can do that. Make ME your plan this summer, and let Me handle the rest. You might be pleasantly surprised with what I come up with.”

And of course, it comes down to what it always comes down to with me: Giving up (the illusion of) control. Letting go. Trusting.

All my strong points, right?

It’s okay if I don’t cross off everything on my list this summer. It’s okay if I don’t get to see every nook on Long Island. It’s okay if my office isn’t perfectly organized by the time school starts in September. It’s okay if I don’t nail down this blog-thing by the end of August.

I need to stop expecting summer (and people and experiences and plans) to deliver what they can’t. They are limited and finite and imperfect. They can only deliver so much.

Only God can deliver what my heart really needs: Peace. Joy. Safety. Security. Satisfaction. Contentment. And it’s not that He gives those things. Those things are found only IN Him and WITH Him. “By His side are pleasures forever.” He cannot give them apart from Himself and His presence because they don’t exist anywhere else.

So, summer.

It’s still early enough for me to re-group. To re-adjust. To rework the plan.

The new plan is this:

1. Let God make the plan.


[Photo Credit: Wikimedia]

The REAL Cost of that 4th of July BBQ

Nothing says, ‘Welcome to Summer’ like a 4th of July BBQ. Most years, my thoughts about the 4th of July range from where we are watching the fireworks to what we are eating to what sales I can take advantage of.

God bless America, right?

I’m not knocking these things; we are blessed to have the freedom to enjoy them. But I am guilty of these things being the first thing I think of when July 4th rolls around.

Eventually, I get around to remembering that it’s a day we celebrate the fight for America’s freedom. My thoughts might wander back to the Revolutionary War and the Declaration of Independence. I might sigh a quick prayer of thanks for living in the U.S.

But really, that doesn’t go far enough. Yes, our forefathers paid an enormous price for the life we enjoy – but they aren’t the only ones. In fact, people today are still paying.

A while back, I wrote about a project my class was doing this year as part of our school’s service-learning pilot. To keep it simple, my class was going to interview veterans and create a book telling their stories; the proceeds from the book would be donated to the Wounded Warrior Project. I could explain all the ways that this project would fulfill our learning objectives in English 11, but that’s not really my point. We’ll get to that.

Trying to find veterans who were willing to participate ended up being much more challenging than I thought. We needed 25 vets to interview, and I could not get any solid commitments. Finally, as we were getting close to the end of the year, I feared this project might be a bust. However, my adviser and I decided that we were just going to put a date on the calendar for the interviews, get the word out, and see what happened.

As we were planning, the event morphed and took on a life of its own. Instead of just being an informal get-together where the students would interview the veterans, we decided to make it a tribute program for the service-members, honoring them for their service and sacrifice.

Instead of just having a sterile room to meet in on a random Thursday night, we turned it into a celebration of heroes.

We decorated the room in red, white and blue. The students personally served hot hoer d’overs to the veterans, treating them like our honored guests. We had special music sung by our school’s music group. Another group of students created a tribute video. Other students volunteered to read personal letters and poems, expressing their gratitude. In fact, one international student from Korea read a special letter, in her beautiful broken English, from the perspective of someone who had personally benefited from American soldiers fighting for her country’s freedom. Another group of girls spent their weekends making gifts and favors as well as patriotic-themed desserts (thank you, Pinterest).

All of this was in addition to the interview time, which was the main part of the night. I have to admit…I was nervous about how this was going to come off. The day-of, we confirmed that we had our target number of vets – spanning from WWII, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, Desert Storm and those who served since 9/11 in Iraq and Afghanistan. We did a lot of prep in class – interview skills, historical background reviews, proper etiquette for interacting with veterans; we did as much as we could before the actual event to be ready, but at showtime, you just never know.

When it came time for these 16 and 17-year-old kids to step it up and have an adult conversation with a stranger – and actually lead the interview – all very mature tasks – I was praying nobody would embarrass themselves (or me).

Well, before my eyes, I saw my students – the mature, the shy, the silly, the knuckle-heads – transform into mature young men and women before my eyes; that night definitely ranks as one of my proudest teaching moments. Every student, I mean, every single student was fully engaged, fully present, fully participating. The room was alive with the lively yet warm interaction between the veterans and the students. The energy was palpable, and the buzz humming in the room was absolutely electric. Our kids were leaning in, making eye contact, laughing, smiling, looking interested – and not pretending, by the way – and, so were the veterans.

Even when we had to call time, the excited chatter between students and veterans continued on through dessert and lingered through the rest of the evening.

Suddenly, the cliches we hear – ‘fighting for freedom,’ ‘heroic sacrifices,’ ‘being in harm’s way’ – were all personified by these men (incidentally, we had only men come that night). These are men that we likely pass by every day – in the grocery store, at the gas station, in restaurants – yet we do not realize the greatness that just side-swiped us. Heroes. Ones who answered the call to preserve our freedom.

And in doing so, they were never the same again.

I think that was the revelation that became so profound to me. Our service-members sign up for a cause they believe in. They are willing to risk their lives to protect the freedoms we enjoy – everything we are able to enjoy which we would not be enjoying were it not for them. The ones who survive and make it home are the lucky ones. And we think, “They are alive. They made it. Now they can return to their families, their jobs, their lives.”

However, that is not the case for so, so many of them. Their experiences have changed them. Forever. Even after their tours are over.

Many times, they are not the same people they were before they left. Everyone on the homefront is going on with his American existence, but the service-members are different. They have been deeply affected, deeply changed by all they have encountered. We don’t realize that their sacrifice for our freedom is often a life-long sacrifice. They don’t just get to go back to ‘life-as-usual.’

True, some eventually will get there, but not without a lot of work on their part. Others have physical wounds and limitations that they deal with. Every. Single. Day. Still many have others internal scars that those observing on the outside would never see: PTSD. Depression. Anxiety. Damaged relationships and marriages. Flashbacks. Guilt. Survivor guilt. And some never assimilate.

A veteran is no longer the same person he was before he served. That person is gone, and now he is trying to adjust back into his old life as new person. Trying to find a new normal.

One of the comments I heard the most from the veterans after our event was how healing this night was for them. To feel honored. To feel respected. To have their stories heard in a positive light. Especially the Vietnam vets, who were vilified – not celebrated – for their sacrifices for freedom and loyalty to our country.

One veteran said that, for 20 years, he never spoke about his experiences in Vietnam. Never told anyone. Felt ashamed. Was called a baby-killer.

He had been keeping those stories inside for 20 years. This was the first time he shared them openly.

To be honored and accepted…to be able to share without being condemned…to be treated like ‘kings’ (their words)…it did something to their hearts. Some of my contacts told me that, months later, they are still talking about it.

At one point in the night, I stood against the back wall and soaked it in. I knew I was witnessing a life-changing moment – in my student’s education, in the hearts of these brave men. In me, too.

So here’s my point: your 4th of July BBQ (and mine) didn’t just cost your expenses for the food, your expenditure of energy, hours of your day in preparation. That’s what it cost YOU. But it cost someone else a heck of a lot more for you to be able to enjoy that BBQ. And everything else American.

By all means, enjoy the BBQ. Watch the fireworks. Shop the sales. But please don’t do it without taking a moment to say a prayer of thanks for those who paid a high price so we can do all of those American things that we love. A prayer for those who are still paying a price even today: former service-members who still struggle on a daily basis and present service-members who are in danger right now fighting for our freedom.

Even better – thank one of them. Personally. Get involved. Make a donation. Teach gratitude to your kids from a young age; let them know that their good lives cost someone else a lot. Go to parades. Send care packages. Do something. We owe them for everything we as Americans love and enjoy.

Their sacrifices must never be forgotten.

[Photo Credit: Wikimedia]