MUSINGS OF THE SLEEP DEPRIVED

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There is such a thing as the infant phantom cry. I listen to it for hours each night until it becomes a reality. Then I stumble and trip to the source.

— I miss taking showers at normal hours. I miss checking emails during the daytime.

— Tygh tells Sienna boys only want one thing — to get in her diaper.

— I want my own vibrating chair. And my own sleep sack.

— I wonder what breastmilk tastes like. No, I’m not going to try it. But I wonder.

— Breast pumps were made by men. Wanting to experiment in torture techniques. Torture techniques of cows.

— At what point does it become bad form to step out into public wearing the same clothes? 2 days? 3 days? A week?

— I want to paint Sienna’s toenails. Don’t worry. I’m resisting the urge.

— I wish I had memories from when I was 2.5 weeks old. But for Sienna’s sake, I’m glad she doesn’t.

— We went to a seminar on adoption and attachment the other night. I’m still processing my feelings about it, but will write on it soon.

— Tygh came home the other day to find me sitting outside feeding Sienna, and Brae running around the driveway in a shirt — just a shirt. No pants, no diaper, no socks, no shoes, just a shirt. His wet diaper was strewn next to the garage. His pants were nowhere in sight. And he was playing basketball (of course). Tygh walked up to me with a smile and said, “Darling, have you just given up?” Yes, yes I have.

MEET EMBRYO DONOR JENNIFER WINTER

 

 

 

 

 

Meet Jennifer Winter. She and her husband donated embryos that were adopted by the Colton family, and recently resulted in sweet Sienna. Thanks to Jennifer for sharing her story.

My name is Jen and I am a mother of nine year-old boy/girl twins conceived through IVF in October 2001. Throughout our infertility struggle, we never really thought about the possibility of having “extra” embryos nor did we even consider what we would do with any remaining embryos. I was completely consumed with my goal of achieving a pregnancy so I don’t think I could look beyond the present at the time. Who would have ever thought I would be sitting here writing about our choice to have our embryos adopted nine years later?

We achieved pregnancy and our twins were born in May 2002. Approximately 2 years later we were wrestling with whether or not we wanted to add to our family. We were concerned about another twin pregnancy if we pursued embryo transfer (it was a difficult pregnancy for me) so we decided to go the au-natural route and see if God wanted us to have another. If not, we decided we were very happy with two. Shortly after this conversation we started talking about our stored embryos. What do we do with them? We were paying an annual fee to have them stored in some frozen tank some distance from our home but somehow that didn’t seem fair to them. If we never used these embryos, what was to become of them? We would never consider donating them to science…our faith and beliefs about these embryo babies would forever prevent that. So, what were our other options? As far as I knew, there were no other options but to keep them frozen indefinitely. It seemed like life deserved a chance.

Until I found the NEDC on the web on a random search in 2006, I had never heard of embryo adoption. I met my husband for lunch that day and brought some printed literature from the website. I was met with enthusiasm from him. This really surprised me. So many thoughts about why we shouldn’t do this raced through my head. What if one of our kids meets one of his or her siblings without knowing it and gets married? How would we ever explain this very unusual situation to other people without being looked at as freaks? My husband was adopted so we were comfortable with the idea of adoption, however this was very, very different.

The worst obstacle that I had to overcome with embryo adoption was this nagging concern that I would want to take back my genetic child once he or she was born. I know logically I would never want to destroy another family in that way, but it was a real concern for me and I had to overcome it before we could proceed. It literally took me two years to overcome this fear. As weird as it sounds, I think I was imagining that these embryos were my two children. My husband finally said to me “Jennifer, these embryos are each a different child…not either of our kids. Different souls, personalities, and looks…and can be as different as siblings can be from one another.” I had to digest this for some time but I finally realized that he was right. These embryos (and we had nine!) may resemble (or not) our children but they will be each very different from our kids.

It does almost sound like a science fiction movie…embryos conceived on the same day as our children (who were also conceived via embryo transfer during IVF) are born 9 years later to someone else. How far has the “test tube baby” gone? How is it possible that sperm and embryos can be frozen and eggs can’t (or at least they couldn’t be frozen when we were in IVF)? It is really hard to wrap your mental arms around it all.

In late 2009 we decided to get started. I turned the ominous 4-0 the following year and we had never conceived on our own. It seemed like God was directing us to move on. I didn’t want a baby at this point. Our twins were 8 years old and things felt right. We met our first adoptive family through the NEDC and were eagerly anticipating the transfer. It looked like the stars were aligning with this couple, really. We had a lot in common with them and we thought it was the perfect match. It was not meant to be. Our embryos (part of them) never made it out of the “defrosting” (I don’t know the technical term). We were deflated. We had three embryos left and I wondered who would want to adopt just three? What if no one wanted them? Were we stuck? We reluctantly agreed to the idea of “pooling” our embryos if someone didn’t want just three or less, but that would require patience, for at least a year, to determine genetic links (if a child was born). We also wanted an open adoption and wondered if we would ever find another family interested in such an arrangement.

A couple of months later we heard about another family who seemed to match us really well. The mother had already adopted a little boy and was interested in experiencing pregnancy. We seemed to be really drawn to one another and she was so extraordinarily open. We started exchanging emails and got to know one another even before anything was official. I worried a little about getting to know this adoptive mother before we were connected by anything other than an agreement. She was not yet pregnant but we were so hopeful. I didn’t want to be let down again, but I put my faith in God and felt that having another friend in this world was better than nothing. Plus, if I was her friend and the embryo transfer didn’t work, I could possibly provide moral support for her as she made another attempt.

We both agreed on the embryo adoption and the process started again. This time, however, it was successful. We had two of the three remaining embryos survive and they were transferred. It was amazing and surreal. The reality of the whole situation surfaced. We anxiously waited to hear if the embryo or embryos had implanted and if there would be a positive pregnancy. It was difficult waiting, but I know it was not nearly as difficult for us as it was the adoptive family. We were somewhat removed from the situation, except the contact we had from our frequent emails. It really felt good to be able to provide support to the adoptive mother during this time and I was surprised at how relieved I was when it was confirmed that she was pregnant. Maybe I was even more open to this reality than I had once thought I could be.

Our adoptive mother and I had constant contact with one another throughout her pregnancy. It was enjoyable seeing her pregnancy through her writing. She eventually started blogging on the NEDC website and that became another source of information toward during the latter half of her pregnancy. I made a conscious effort to always speak of the baby as “her/their baby” and “their family’s addition.” I never, ever wanted to put myself in the place of the “mother” of this child, both for my sanity and for her security.

The baby was born this month (June 2011) and she is a girl. She is a beautiful, healthy baby girl. I’ve seen pictures (and so has everyone else following her blog!) and feel a sense of relief and confidence that this was absolutely the right thing to do. God meant for this to happen and it is a very, very good thing. No longer will I have to fret over what God would want me to do with my remaining embryos because each one was given a chance at life. One baby girl is the result of all of that hard work, but that one life means more to one family than anyone could possibly know.

The future is uncertain about if, when, where, etc., we will meet this fabulous baby girl. I imagine someday we will meet and someday I will tell my children that they have a sibling living in a different State, nine years younger, yet conceived on the same day. We think that is a lot to handle, even for an adult, so that conversation will have to wait. Right now my children know that we have a friend in another State that just had this great baby girl. They’ve seen pictures of her and think she is “soooooo cute!” When the time is right, they will learn about their connection with her. When the time is right we will meet her. Unlike the traditional adoptions, we cannot be called the “birth parents” so I imagine we are considered more like the “genetic parents,” but that doesn’t bother us. We have all been blessed in so many ways and this experience, however unusual, has brought closure to my fertility journey and joy to our lives.

MUSINGS FROM A 12-DAY-OLD

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From Sienna:

— I LOVE to be held. I cannot reiterate that enough. I can be fed, changed, and completely exhausted, but if I’m not in your arms, I throw a fit. Daddy says I’m high maintenance and if we don’t get this need to be constantly held under control, a whole host of issues can occur — teenage insecurity/rebellion, followed by lots of tats and piercings, followed by me marrying some guy named Vinny at a midnight ceremony in Vegas.

— I don’t much care for my crib. It’s hard and uncomfortable. I prefer to sleep (only after being held) in my vibrating chair.

— I don’t think I’ve worn anything other than pink since I was born.

— Mommy puts these gawdy huge bows on my head. They get in my eyes.

— I poop with every single feeding. And it stinks.

— Nursing is going better, although I still recognize that milk just comes faster from a bottle than from Mommy. Sorry, Ma.

— I love my big brother. He’s always watching out for me. He gives a play-by-play to Daddy in the car. “Daddy, uh-oh, Sienna lost her binky.” “Daddy, uh-oh, Sienna’s crying.” “Daddy, uh-oh, Sienna’s missing.” (That last one had Mommy in a tizzy).

A FATHER’S LOVE

PhotobucketI’ve had the joy and the blessing of not only watching my husband be a loving father to his three older children, but also to see him try to be better and better for them everyday. He’s reflective and goes to the Word. His heart is open to their feedback, and to mine. I’ve often said that if I had not seen Scott be such a thoughtful father I wouldn’t have had the courage to bring a child or children into this world… leaving Cambria and Julia unborn.

Our conversations and prayers lasted years as to whether we were supposed to have more children. Through those times I grew a great deal while also learning so much more about Scott. I faced my own fears and strengthened in my faith to trust someone other than myself. God used every one of those days to lead us to the beautiful family we have right now.

I couldn’t imagine three older children loving their baby sisters any more… even our son, who desperately wanted a brother!! I can only say they follow his example of the patience and kindness that Scott has displayed for them everyday. His older children know without a doubt that their dad’s love is unending… just like God’s. They have no fears that they have or will ever become anything less is his eyes because we have brought two more children into our family.

God gave us the perfect recipe for growing our family through embryo adoption, in that the older children have been able to be involved since the beginning and we all feel as if we’ve adopted together. It’s only strengthened our family rather than create divides. It’s a sentiment that Scott and I talked about quite a bit and made a conscious effort to translate to the big kids, but the inspiration came from God… we’re all brothers and sisters in God’s kingdom.

I love our family… we call it the Splendid Blended Family… and it all came to be from the courage and vision my husband has had as a father and to step out on faith, trusting that God would lead us through. Scott never expected to have five children, but he stepped with obedience onto the path God placed before us when He introduced us to embryo adoption. Already having three beautiful children, and quite frankly being personally fulfilled as a father, Scott opened his heart and completely embraced whatever God had prepared for us next… and I know without a doubt he wouldn’t change a thing… he loves our little miracles with all his heart. I thank God for him, as well as my precious little girls, everyday.

I love you sweetheart. Thank you for bringing our babies, two more of God’s precious children, into this world… He is very pleased. Happy Father’s Day.

1 Chronicles 29:17 I know, my God, that you test the heart and are pleased with integrity. All these things I have given willingly and with honest intent. And now I have seen with joy how willingly your people who are here have given to you.

SIENNA’S BIRTH STORY

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So here it goes, before I forget it all!

— A week ago today, I went in for my 40 week “due date” appointment. I was still not dilated, still 80% effaced, and she was still about station -1. The doctor said that it was unlikely I was going to dilate on my own if I hadn’t already, so we scheduled an induction for the 14th (tomorrow). The dr. said that unless my water broke, I wasn’t going into labor on my own.

— Tygh and I left that appointment at 4:30. Two hours later, as I’m squatting down at Brae’s bookshelf to pick out some bedtime stories, I feel a “gush”. I paused. No, it can’t be, I tell myself. Then I go to the bathroom, and sure enough, there was no doubt. Just trust me, there was no doubt.

— I go downstairs, numb, to Tygh. He and Brae are watching TV. I say, “Um, I think my water just broke.” Now, keep in mind, we had a false alarm about 2 weeks ago, so he’s a little skeptical. Then, he looks at the floor. He looks at me. He sees what has puddled on the floor. Then, very calmly, he says, “okay, well, let’s get our stuff.”

— As I’m running around the house trying to gather things and call people, my heart is just racing. Two hours earlier I thought I had another week to go.

— Tygh’s mom arrives to pick up Brae. As she’s holding him, I kiss him and say, “Brae, we’re going to get Baby Sienna now.” His eyes widen. He nods his head. I know he has no idea what is going on, but he doesn’t let it show.

— We arrive at the hospital and are put in triage. They confirmed my water had broken. But still not dilated. Behind the curtain next to me, I overhear a sweet young woman just brokenhearted. She’s alone. She’s having false labor pains. She is talking to her nurse saying she is choosing adoption for her baby. She has no way to support him. She says she loves him, but she knows she just cannot provide for him. She lives on the psych ward in the hospital.

— I don’t believe in coincidences. I ask Tygh to pull the curtain back. I call out, “Hi, roomie.” Silence. “Hi, roomie.” “You talking to me?” “Yes. I couldn’t help but overhear you. I just wanted to say that my husband and I adopted our son 2.5 years ago from a birthmom. I just want to tell you that I think you are amazing.” The conversation went on for a little bit from there. She was going through Catholic Charities. She hadn’t chosen a family yet. Minutes later, the doctor told her they were taking her back to the psych ward. As she left, I told her I’d be thinking of her. Then, as she left, I started praying silently for her. Her name is Stephanie. I pray for protection over her, that baby boy, and the family she will choose.

— I arrived at our birthing suite. Our nurse, Brenda, was phenomenal. She swung us a HUGE suite. I settled in, thinking I’d have a baby in the morning. It was about 9 p.m. I watched The Bachelorette (Bentley is a jerk!). I’d already eaten, so wasn’t hungry. Tygh settled in. My mom and sister arrived. Still not dilated.

— By morning, I was in pain. The contractions had started, and I’d asked for pain medication (which I never thought I’d do, aside from the epidural). They started pitocin. A few hours later, when I was around 2-3 cm, I got the epidural. But it never really took on the left side, which, as it would turn out, would be the biggest source of stress and pain of all.

— I was getting hungry. And thirsty. But I was only allowed ice chips and popsicles. Family and friends flowed freely in the room. Contractions were about every 4-5 minutes. For the most part, I was alert until a contraction came. Then, I just would close my eyes, moan softly, and someone would be rubbing my head, my arm, or my lower back.

— Around 6 p.m., I was only 5-6 cms dilated. I was in a LOT of pain. I hit a wall. I’d been at the hospital for nearly 24 hours, and I was only halfway dilated. Are you kidding me?! I felt emotionally and physically exhausted, drained, and just. done. I was done. Literally. DONE. I cried to the nurse, “Please, just give me a C-section. I can’t do this anymore. I can’t even think of pushing or going through this for any longer. Just get her out of me, please,” I begged. “Honey, you don’t want a C-section.” “Yes,” I pleaded, “I do.” Tears were streaming down my face. I was shaking. “Please, I can’t go through this anymore. I’m done.”

— After hearing this, the doctor ordered everyone out of the room. She said she wanted me to have time to rest. I felt like no one was listening to me. They were pushing me to have a vaginal birth. I couldn’t feel my legs or my toes from the epidural. I’d been in a bed for over 24 hours, had no food or water, and was having strong contractions every 2-3 minutes. And I was only 5-6 cms dilated? “Dear God,” I prayed, “Please help me get through this. I feel defeated. I’m worn down. I don’t want this anymore.”

— Then, I fell asleep for 4 hours.

— When I woke up, the “transition phase” started. That’s when you go through the 7-9 cms dilation. It was brutal. I was shaking all over and didn’t have control over my body. I was sweating, and yet the room was at a cool 60 degrees. I was throwing up, and yet all I’d had in the last 30 hours were ice chips and 2 popsicles. I felt like I could die. Sienna was still sunnyside up, so the nurse put me in a variety of side positions to try and gravitationally turn Sienna around.

— Around 11 p.m., the nurse checked me again. I was 9 cms dilated. Thank you, Lord! On the one hand, the end seemed in sight and I was relieved. On the other hand, this definitely meant I was not getting a C-section, which meant I had to keep going. I was not done yet.

— Sienna was SO low (she’d been low the whole pregnancy), the nurse thought that even though I was at 9 cms, and still had to get to 10, if I pushed, I may just get to 10. So, with a little push, I got to 10. The pain on my left side was excruciating. The epidural had never fully taken on that side, and that’s the side that Sienna was on. It felt like someone was digging and twisting a long, sharp knife into my lower back. The anesthesiologist came back in to “top off” the epidural, which only further numbed my right side, but offered little relief to my left. If you’ve ever been completely numb from the waist down, but completely coherent otherwise, it is the most helpless feeling. You cannot even wiggle your toes, try as you might.

— Around midnight, the nurse wanted me to start pushing. The doctor was at another delivery (not my doctor, but the on-call doctor). I did about 2-3 sets of pushes, and the nurse could see her head. She called for the doctor. Then, we waited. This was the hardest part. Sienna was almost here, and yet I had to wait. And wait. Because of the epidural, there wasn’t really much pain, just a lot of pressure.

— Tygh is very queasy. When I’d gotten my epidural, even though he didn’t see any of it (he was in front of me, holding my hand), he nearly went over. So, I knew he wasn’t going to make it through the delivery. But, when he’d heard that I was getting ready to push again, he came in, gave me a kiss, and said, “I love you. You can do it.” Then, he returned to the waiting room. My mom, my sister, and the nurse remained.

— The doctor came in and around 12:30, we started pushing again. I did about another 2-3 more sets of pushes, and she was out! In total, I pushed for about 26 minutes. The doctor said that was one of the fastest first-time deliveries she’d ever seen. After 31 hours of “labor,” 26 minutes was like lightning. Thank you, God! She was born at 1:11 am. I went into the hospital on Monday. She was born on Wednesday.

— I didn’t know it at the time, but learned just yesterday a very cool side story. My dear friend, Rhonda, who has walked this adoption journey with me, and has adopted a son of her own, sent me an email. Around midnight/1 p.m. on Tuesday/Wednesday, she said she awoke to the sound of 3 knocks on her door. Or, so she thought. She got up, and went to check on her son. He was fine. Then, God brought me to her mind. Rhonda knew I was in labor, but had last received a blog update around 6 p.m. the night before. She didn’t know whether I was still in labor or had delivered. She felt God impressing on her to pray for me. She began praying. By the time she finished, it was 1:30. She didn’t know it, but Sienna had been born. (Thank you, Rhonda. I still tear up). (We have a very similar story for when Brae was born — an acquaintance was awoken in the middle of the night and felt impressed upon to pray for our son, who had yet to be born. She did, and he was born the next morning).

— I thought for sure I’d want music playing during the delivery. I even had my iPod playlist all ready. Nope. I wanted none of it. And I didn’t want to be touched. I wanted it dark, cool, and silent. No one spoke, except for the doctor to count.

— I saw Sienna come out and it was surreal. This little person has been growing and moving inside of you for all this time, and she’s finally here. I can’t describe it. I was overcome with emotion, but too exhausted to express any of it. This little life was transferred to me in cell form, and here she had eyes, ears, a mouth, toes. She was a person. She grew inside of me. I still can’t wrap my head around it. My sister started to cry. My mom cut the cord.

— They placed Sienna on my chest. I felt her warmth. Her little heartbeat. To this day, I’m still amazed.

— As they took Sienna over to get cleaned up, weighed, and measured, the doctor tried to deliver the placenta. But, it wasn’t detaching from the wall. After another 30 minutes of increasing the pitocin and still contracting, the doctor finally had to go in and get it. OUCH. Hurt way more than the delivery of Sienna. (Can I just say the placenta is a remarkable-looking organ? But no, I don’t want to keep it or freeze it or plant it.) But, the doctor said because of the quick delivery of Sienna, I barely had any tearing. I had “skid marks”. She did a few stitches, but said everything should heal just fine.

— Tygh came back in and held his daughter for the first time. Family and friends slowly began to come in and greet our baby girl. I was still way too exhausted to show any kind of emotion. All I wanted was a Sprite. My dear father-in-law scoured the hospital, and finally came back with two Sprites. I downed them.

— A few hours later, I was transferred up to the recovery suite. Family, friends, and Tygh went home. As hard as it was, I asked to have Sienna in the respite room so I could get some sleep. I knew I needed sleep for her, and for me. But, after 3 hours, I couldn’t take it. I asked for her back, and we slept together.

— I came home Thursday evening and was so ready to be home. The hardest part of the recovery was actually regaining sensation in my legs. I’m thankful for the quick delivery because it really has made for an equally quick recovery. I’m really not in pain, and the cramps are only mild. The hardest part has been the pain and frustration associated with nursing. Sienna doesn’t have the best latch, and despite several sessions with a lactation specialist, I probably will not be able to provide Sienna everything she needs with nursing. That was hard to accept at first, and I had to wrestle with some guilt, but the girl needs to eat. So, I’ve been doing some nursing just to help with the bonding, but am mostly pumping and bottle feeding.

— I know most moms say this, but Sienna really is a dream baby. Last night, she slept 5.5 hours straight. She really doesn’t fuss, she loves to be held, and she’s just so very sweet.

— Brae has been remarkable. He was at his grandparents for 2 days while I was in the hospital, and as much as he loves them, I know it was hard and confusing for him. He went to school a couple days last week, and the teachers said he wasn’t eating or sleeping well, and seemed teary-eyed. ; (

— Tygh and I have made special attempts to spend time with just him alone. We had a good weekend. Brae hasn’t shown any sings of aggression toward Sienna. He’s actually been a good helper (bringing me a bottle for her, turning on her vibrating chair, wanting to make sure she has a slice of pizza too, etc.). But he definitely has shown jealous tendencies — wanting to be held when we’re holding her, demanding more of our attention, etc. This morning, when I dropped him off at school, he threw a tantrum and didn’t want me to leave. Broke my heart. I know he’s going through just as much of a transition as the rest of us. I don’t want him to feel replaced. He’s not. He will always be the child that made us parents. He will always be the child that filled such a longing in us.

— So, such has begun my summertime maternity leave. And it’s raining outside. But inside, next to me, in her little butterfly vibrating chair, pursing her rosebud lips, lays my daughter. My “promise from God.” My Sienna.