Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Family, Food, Flowers, & Funerals

Grandma died on Friday afternoon. It was peaceful and dignified according to the family members who were there. I was sad I was not able to see her but I am here for the funeral and I know that would have meant a lot to her. The funeral is today. In a few hours, actually.

The past few days have been filled with receiving visitors and eating the copious amounts of food they have been so gracious to bring. I'm glad my parents have two refrigerators! It's been nice to see so many friends and family members. My brothers' in-laws have both sent lovely flower arrangements (one in a vase that is so cool my mom and I might come to blows over it) and brought food. My in-laws? Nada. Maybe this is yet another cultural difference? Do people not do funerals like this in New York? I would think at least a card or phone call would be appropriate.

Everyone seems to be holding up pretty well. I'm dreading the funeral for no other reason than the fact that I hate funerals. I prefer memorial services that are celebrations of life. My grandma's body will be there, open casket, but she's not so I just don't get it. She's with Jesus, praise Him! There is no sadness in that. None! When I think of how He welcomed her to Him on Friday, I just smile. That's the thought I go to when I'm sad. I will miss her--don't get me wrong!--but she is with her Savior and she now knows first-hand His true and perfect love.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

HOTlanta

Oh my goodness, it's hot and humid in Atlanta!

I forgot how many soldiers are in the Atlanta airport at any given time. So far I've witnessed a soldier being greeted by his family and a wife saying goodbye to her husband. I was the freaky woman off to the side sobbing. Just now I saw a soldier walk by with what I assume are his parents. He didn't look old enough but most don't. It's almost therapeutic to shed tears for someone other than myself at this point. I was getting a little sick of my problems anyway.

People watching is so much more rewarding in the South. If I weren't so darn tired, this would be some great blogging material. I would probably also need a camera (which I left at home) and I could just put a black strip over the people's eyes like they do in the Glamour "Do's and Don'ts" column.

I must now go and decide which delectable fast food treat I am going to choose for dinner.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Going Home

My grandmother was born in the Panhandle of Oklahoma. She lived there about twenty years and then moved to Oklahoma City to support the war effort and ended up getting married and moving to the town where I was raised. Nevertheless, she always referred to the Panhandle as home. It never made a lot of sense to me but now it does. Tomorrow I am going home.

The doctor said yesterday it could be a matter of hours or days; there is no way of knowing. She is comfortable, though. I'm just praying Psalm 23 over her again and again. I want her to feel God's presence and love welcoming her home. Her final home.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

It's Thursday...

...which means it's time for a good hysterical crying fit. Headache and swollen eyes included at no additional charge.

I called my dad this morning when I woke-up. My grandmother's situation is deterierating. They discovered a 2x2cm infection on the lead to her pacemaker which is too large to treat with antibiotics and surgery is also not an option. She has been moved to a heart hospital and is very comfortable there. It is an outstanding facility. She has not mentioned dying since Sunday but it now looks inevitable that it will be soon. But soon is a relative term. I am so confused about what to do. The cardiologist they met with yesterday refused to provide a timeline and wanted to consult with colleagues about a treatment plan, if any. I have already made the decision to go only for the funeral or when the end is very near. That probably sounds selfish, cruel, and harsh but I cannot make one trip to say good-bye and another for the funeral nor can I just go and stay until the end. Another complication is our scheduled trip to Spain. Do we cancel and wait here for the phone call? Do I go and hope I can get out quickly if I need to? I just don't know what is the best. I'm praying there will be some information given today that will help provide some guidance.

This morning TOIAW said he was was bummed we might not get to spend a week alone together [in Spain] but that he's totally onboard with whatever we need to do. Unfortunately, I heard something like, "Your grandmother should pick a better time to die." Are we the only ones who have these time-space continuum anomlaies that lead to gross misunderstandings? He went to a conference today and I cannot speak to him although we did "make-up" quickly before he left. I was crying too hysterically to say anything he could understand but I think he got the basic message.

The follow-up appointment with my doctor went pretty well. I need to make some phone calls this morning regarding the perspective new plan but I'll post about that later. Look for a title that says "Ugly American" because I'm afraid that's how I am going to appear.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Overwhelmed!

I've been absolutely overwhelmed these past few days...but in a good way! Your kind comments and emails have truly touched my heart. Every time I read a new one I cry...but in a good way! Suffice it to say, I'm doing much better. Friday morning was certainly the nadir of my despair but it's only been up from there. Yeah, someone should have taken away my laptop during those moments so my blog doesn't end up being as painful to read as The Kite Runner (for the record, I liked the book but geez Louise it broke my heart).

Saturday was a better day emotionally but physically I didn't feel very well. I had been too uncomfortable to sleep so I self-medicated with a pain killer/sleep aid combination and woke-up totally refreshed! I even ventured out of the house for the first time since arriving home from the egg retrieval (sad, I know). I picked a great day though because it was sunny, warm, and gorgeous. TOIAW and I met some friends for lunch and shopped ON A SUNDAY. This is extremely rare in Germany; in fact, in this particular town the stores are open on Sunday only twice a year and those are special festival days. Thanks, M & N for inviting us!

We also booked a week at a Mediterranean resort. We're leaving in two weeks! For me this is about as spontaneous as it gets. Planned spontaneity, that's how I roll.

The only IF-related item we are going to even think about before our holiday (for you, M!) is a follow-up appointment with our regular RE. He has reviewed our case with a couple of colleagues and will discuss his thoughts with us then. I'm trying really hard not to be bitter and angry with the whole debacle. Those aren't healthy emotions and they can seriously cloud reasonable judgement. I have a feeling God and I are going to have a lot of long chats in the near future...

Tomorrow I'm going to work on getting our house back in order. I'm also going to respond to all of your kind emails. For now, however, I'm going to enjoy my sweet puppy. She just returned from puppy camp (sans macaroni crafts) and our house instantly felt warmer the minute she walked in the door.

Again, thank you all so much for you thoughts, prayers, and kind words.

Love,
Rachel

Friday, April 18, 2008

Harsh Light of Morning

I feel like I'm trying to breathe underwater. This feels as crushing as the miscarriages and ectopic it's just a less drawn-out process. Just one phone call and you know...no waiting two days to see if the hCG doubles or praying that the spotting stops. Nope, just a phone call saying it's all over but you can try again in a couple of months. Super.

Yesterday I spoke to my sister-in-law the geneticist. She kept saying nothing added up and she thinks we should try again and demand ICSI. [I'm very upset that ICSI wasn't done this time because we did consent to it. The answer TOIAW received (because I was in no condition to talk to anyone yesterday) was that it didn't look necessary based on the "super" sperm.] From the moment TOIAW came home to tell me the news, he blamed himself and his sperm but this just doesn't seem right. How could that be? They had to dilute it for goodness sake. Then it hit me, although I can't say I've fully accepted it yet, it's my eggs. They're bad. Bad as in not good. It all makes sense...poor response to stimulations, one early miscarriage, one chemical pregnancy, four medicated cycles resulting in nothing, and seven mature eggs not fertilized. It's easy to explain away one of those or even several of them but the only way to explain all of them is bad eggs. I tried to tell TOIAW but he didn't seem to believe me or maybe he didn't want to believe me. I don't want to believe it either.

I'm not sure what we do now. Our RE wants us to come in to talk to him next week but I can't even bring myself to dial his number and I know even if I did I would cry and sound pathetic. Donor eggs are not an option in Germany. Another IVF cycle sounds like torture, frankly. Like a human experiment but instead of getting paid to be the subject, I have to pay them.

TOIAW had to work today. He's very busy at work but he's still been with me a lot this week. I'm not sure what he would do if he were here but at least I wouldn't be alone. The reality is he won't be home for several hours so I think I'll ground myself from Google and go organize my craft room. Organizing is free therapy.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Game Over

Another cheater post but this was difficult enough to write the first time:

I wish I had good news to share...oh, how I wish I had good news! TOIAW, received a call from the doctor and none of the seven good eggs were fertilized. None. The sperm was deemed "super" and I've gotten pregnant naturally three times but put the egg and sperm in petri dish the size of a nickel and nothing. Go figure. The doctors offered little explanation but the IVF doctor did say the first IVF is often referred to as a diagnostic IVF. I wish someone had told my heart that.

This is so pathetically sad and I'm really sorry for that. I know there will be many tears over the next few days but I'll be fine. I know the One true source of hope, peace, love, and comfort. He may not always answer my prayers when and how I want but He is enough for now and forevermore. Praise Him!

Shalom,
Rachel

In the words of Tom Petty...

...the waiting IS the hardest part! It's 8:26 and I have to wait until noon to call the doctor and find out how the fertilization went. Gulp. Usually I'm quite adept at wasting time but today it seems to not be working so well. I planned on sleeping in a bit but when TOIAW woke-up at 6 and told me about the SNOW I got up to see and couldn't go back to sleep. It's 17 April and it snowed at least 4 inches last night! It must have caught even the Germans by surprise because the roads weren't clear and it took TOIAW more than double his usual travel time. It's beautiful though and I don't have get out in it so I can't complain.

The egg retrieval went well. We left very early and got a great parking space right across the street as opposed to the further away parking garage. I know that probably sounds like a small thing, but it was a huge blessing for us. The ambulatory operation office had me a bit concerned because it didn't exactly scream sterile and clean (and the Germans are nothing if not fastidious about their cleanliness) and the nurses kept whispering and giggling while cutting their eyes in our direction. It didn't exactly inspire conficence so I prayed this verse for myself which helped immensely. It turns out the nurses were very nice but they were young and nervous about speaking English and I can understand that. The only things they did for me was tell me to get undressed, help me on the operating table, and then assist me in the recovery room. The anesthiologist did the IV and my doctor did the quick procedure. I was up and dressed less than 2 hours after the procedure. [By the way, the operating room was very clean and sterile.]

TOIAW told me 7 very good eggs were retrieved. The doctor seemed surpirsed at the maturation quality, but I wasn't. I had a total peace about it. TOIAW's sperm were deemed "super," a fact which he clearly remembers although I was still a little groggy when we met with the doctor. The IVF doctor recommended that we transfer 2 embryos on Monday or Tuesday. His reasoning for 2 is obvious, to eliminate the chance of triplets. His reasoning for a later transfer is so that we know how good the embryos are at transfer so that if I don't get pregant we can know we need to do further investigation. After much prayer and a consultaiton with our regular doctor, we agree with him on the 2 embryos but disagree with the later transfer. We will proceed with the transfer tomorrow assuming fertilization is going well.

TOIAW was feeling a bit left out of the process so he talked the embryologist into letting him "assist" her with the fertilization which basically consisted of dropping some washed sperm onto the egg in a small petri dish. He was and is very proud of this. I'm happy he's happy but I would prefer that these things are only done by professionals in sterile environments. In any event, he only did a couple and she did the rest.

The rest of the day I slept and rested. For entertainment I watched TOIAW prepare dinner (I had prepared the main dish ahead of time so he was only responsible for side dishes and serving). It amazes me that he has commanded 170+ people and plans major training events for 4,000+ but finding the lid to an 8"x8" pan is a challenge. And have I mentioned that we have a very small kitchen? We have 3 lower cabinets under 3 drawers so when I say something is in the cabinet under the utility drawer he has a 33% chance of getting it right the first time. When he opened the second cabinet and still couldn't find it, I thought he might give up and order pizza (and if we lived in the US, we totally would have had take-out but there is only so much Italian take-out I can handle and that's our only choice in our town). By the third cabinet he seeemd downright mad at my organization skills. I love him, though :) He took excellent care of me! God has indeed made us and equipped us very differently and for that I am grateful!

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Let's Do It...

I am so tired right now I'm not sure anyone is going to be able to understand this post. Yesterday started at 5:30am due to a very early doctor's appointment. TOIAW went with me because I was afraid of bad news. That wasn't necessary because I received very good news (7-8 follicles which some of you may not consider great, but it's better than the 4-5 I had Friday)! The arrangements were made for the tomorrow's (Wednesday) egg retrieval.

I was sent to meet with Dr. Funk, as in Dr. Wolfgang Funk. [Just thinking his name makes me laugh.] For some reason, the Germans insist on an anesthesiology consultation prior to every surgery. In theory, I can see the merit but the reality is you fill out a questionnaire and they tell you the side effects are nausea and vomiting. Dr. Google can tell me that. In any event, I checked that box. Who knows, with enough time I might even learn to embrace all this beauracracy!

I was glad TOIAW made it to his important meeting because he received orders not to go on the short business trip to the combat zone. Woo-Hoo! Also, a briefing he was set to give tomorrow was rescheduled for today freeing him to be my caretaker all day.

I'm praying God will watch me and protect me and grant the desire of my heart: a baby. I trust Him; He is my strength.

I lift up my eyes to the hills—
where does my help come from?

My help comes from the LORD,
the Maker of heaven and earth.

He will not let your foot slip—
he who watches over you will not slumber;

Indeed he who watches over Israel
will neither slumber nor sleep.

The LORD watches over you—
the LORD is your shade at your right hand;

The sun will not harm you by day,
nor the moon by night.

The LORD will keep you from all harm—
he will watch over your life;

The LORD will watch over your coming and going
both now and forevermore.

Psalm 121 (NIV)

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Redundancy

The following is a copy of an update email I sent out to my family and friends. AOL was being difficult so I didn't get everyone copied on the email; I primarily sent it to people who don't read (ahem, or know about) my blog. If you received the email, you can skip this post :)


Many people have been amazingly kind and gracious to pray from me during our first IVF cycle. I have an update which also happens to be a prayer request. The good news is the injections I've had twice a day for the last 10 days have succeeded in developing several follicles (the follicle is where the eggs develop). The bad news is there aren't as many follicles as I would like. Quality is much better than quantity here, so that's what I'm praying for. Nevertheless, I was very disappointed today when I found out the fabulous number of follicles I did have had been halved to five (the average being 9-15). The current plan is to continue with the medication until Monday which is when the decision will be made as to what day the eggs will be retrieved (looks like either Wednesday or Thursday).

As I took the all too familiar path out the door of the Amberg klinikum, the Old Testament story of Gideon and the Midianites popped into my head (in the interest of full disclosure, I should tell you that I revisited this story several weeks ago as part of the Bible study I'm doing; Judges isn't a book to which I am frequently drawn nor do I have a good enough memory to recall all of those Sunday School lessons from long ago). Gideon had raised a great army of Israelites but twice God told Gideon to pare down his army and Gideon obeyed. With three hundred good soldiers, Gideon defeated the Midianites but the glory all went to God! Sure Gideon could have used the massive army he had assembled but then the Israelites would have taken credit for their victory. God wanted it to be clear that the victory was for His glory and His alone!

I have no idea what God's plan is for this IVF cycle (I don't even know what His plan is for the next ten minutes), but I know He has me in His hand. I would be honored and humbled if you would please continue to pray for me. Thank you from the bottom of my heart!

Much love,
Rachel

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Your Majesty Queen Elizabeth II,

Ma'am, I wanted to sincerely thank you for your generous offer to feed my husband, TOIAW, US Army, lunch for the next fortnight. It is most gracious of you, indeed (considering the number of times I've paid the entrance fee to the Tower of London to see the Crown Jewels and hear the dreadful tale of Anne Boleyn, I think we're even). He has given me smashing reviews of the meals you serve to Your Majesty's troops going so far as to catagorize them as gourmet. Well done!

If you should ever need to send Princes William or Harry here to Themiddleofnowhere, Germany for training, rest assured they will be receive the very best of everything their rank affords them (you might consider promoting them a notch or four before shipping them off and I do speak from experience).

In light of the generosity you have already shown, I feel rather guilty making this request but, alas, I do have a small favor (or favour, as you say) to ask of you: Would you kindly facilitate the unscrewing of the situation in Basra, Iraq? Your Majesty's troops are in command of the area and I think we can both agree that things are not going as smoothly as we would hope.

Thanks again for hooking a sister up on the not having to make lunches at 5 am thing.

Very truly yours,
Rachel

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Pure Bliss


Have I been under a rock for the past 21 years? I tried this flavor for the first time last week. I purchased my second container yesterday. It's so yummy! Moreover, not only is it yummy, but it is cherry ice cream and you know what that means, don't you? It counts as a serving of fruit and a serving of dairy.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Hire a Sitter

I don't want to be one of those people who, before they have kids, goes around making "I'll never ______" statements but this is the exception. A few nights ago, TOIAW and I went to see Rambo (the new one). We got there before the doors were opened and were standing in line reading (me: The Economist, TOIAW: some stupid science fiction novel...yeah, we're huge nerds). A family was behind us and it appeared as if their children had brought along some friends (I estimate their ages to be between 7-12). I heard one of the girls say she was not allowed to see rated R movies. Being well over the legal age for everything I never notice movie ratings but I was pretty confident the movie we were about to see was rated R. I've never actually seen any of the Rambo movies (shocking, I know) but I had a general idea of what to expect.

After an adequate amount of movie trivia, unscrambling actors' names, and advertisements for smoking cessation classes we stood for the national anthem and then the movie began. Let's just say I wasn't wrong in my expectation for extreme violence. Sure it starts off peaceful enough with Rambo catching poisonous snakes in a lovely river valley somewhere in Thailand but that is very brief. Cue the Burmese army slaughtering men and women while kidnapping young boys to serve in the army. Honestly, I had my head down most of the movie but suffice it to say there were there things in the movie no one should never ever see.

Remember the kids who had been behind us in line? They were sitting in front of us in the theater and I just kept thinking, "Why are their parents allowing them to see this? WHY?!?!" I'll give the parents the benefit of the doubt and assume they didn't know how violent the movie was but after the first three terrifically violent scenes, you think they might have figured it out and left. Seriously, is it that difficult?

I cannot believe parents put so little effort into protecting their children's innocence. Considering what many of the parents around here do for a living, you would think they would be keen to prevent them from being exposed to such horrors even if it is "just" on a movie screen. Guess not.

After I finished ranting about this very topic, I asked TOIAW to explain the use and purpose of mortars (they're used in the movie and I had never seen them before and was curious). I'm quite sure I am now certified to teach classes on mortars weapons systems. When it comes to all things army, simple answers are not given. The following is a snip-it of the conversation:

TOIAW: "They used 81mm mortars in the movie."
Me: "Are you sure? They looked more like 82mm to me."
TOIAW: "It's possible because the Russians manufacture some 82mm. It just depends on who their weapons supplier is. It was kind of hard to tell from the shots they showed in the movie."

He never even knew I was being sarcastic.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

A Better Day

After much discussion, I'm coming around to the idea of moving to the US in September. We talked about fighting it and staying here but TOIAW thinks it would be an excellent timeline for him so obviously I must do what is best for his career. Some of my early concerns have been acknowledged and addressed so that helped. Since they want us to move to a large metro area, I was concerned about Princess Poopsalot; she is used to going on most walks without a leash and most of the housing in our price range is the townhouse/apartment type which wouldn't offer a yard either. TOIAW says he doesn't have a problem commuting by public transportation which is a huge bonus that would enable us to live in the 'burbs and have a yard. Another concern was not being near a military installation in order to take advantage of commissary shopping. Every time I hear "average Americans" discuss the current economic situation, they mention rising food costs. Granted, we're only a family of two (and even if we add a third while we're there, he/she won't be eating too much) but every bit helps. Of course, I love me some Whole Foods Market and we prefer organic everything but I like to save when and if I can. We'll just have to get there and see, though, because this is a city where I've always wanted to live and I don't want to be too far removed from the action. Thanks for the kind comments (here and IRL) yesterday...it helps to know others undertand!

In other news, my follicles seem to be chugging right along. I have another appointment early tomorrow morning where I should get a better idea of the timeline for the rest of the week. It seems like I waited so long to finally begin IVF but the process has flown by thus far. Of course, it will certainly slow down during the two week wait.

TOIAW took PP to work with him today so I am going to use this opportunity to clean the floors. Fun times, indeed.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

My Head is Spinning

Wow. I've typed the opening sentence about four times but I keep deleting it. TOIAW called me from his office about two hours ago to tell me most all of our plans for the rest of this year have changed. We're still moving but rather than move within Germany, we're currently scheduled to go back to the States. I'm having a very difficult time wrapping my mind around this which, in turn, is preventing me from deciding if I welcome the change or not. But I just keep thinking that if I was excited about it, I would be excited immediately and I was not excited immediately. I've given it a little time (not too much time, but some) to sink in and I'm still not excited.

It took me a bit, but now I really like living here. I've hit my stride, so to speak. I enjoy the pace and way of life. The German healthcare system is all I've ever known for my infertility treatments. I'm not ready to move in six months! I wanted to buy furniture in November during my favortite store's annual sale. I still have many destinations on my list of places to visit. I want to go back to Poland to buy more pottery. I want to live in Garmisch in the heart of the Bavarian/Alpine culture. We just bought a new vacuum that is 220 voltage because we thought we were going to be here for two more years; we haven't even had it a week!

And the schedule they have for us? Ridiculous! Move to the US in October for a year, move to country X (back across the ocean) for a year, move back to the US for two years, move to different (but yet to be determined) country for three years. TOIAW is very excited while I'm completely overwhelmed. I'm quite positive any conversation we have is going to be emotionally charged due to the hormone factor. Even now I'm having to fight back tears and I have a huge lump in my throat. I want to be supportive but this just seems like such craziness.

I wish I could read my own mind! If I could, I would know if I'm upset about the plans being changed or if I'm upset about the difficulty and stress of the new plan. Determining that is a good place to start, I suppose.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Here We Go!

Since my last post I have received not one shot but SIX shots! That's right, I began my stimulations Wenesday and so far, so good. I'm getting two shots a day which is a bit tricky with TOIAW's schedule since he seems to work more than twelve hour days but we're working it out. Today is the first day I can feel my ovaries working; let's hope they keep up the hard work! I will go tomorrow and Monday to check the progress via ultrasound so my doctor can know if any medication adjustments need to be made. Lots of *good quality* follicles, please, please, please!

The past ten days have been insanely busy for me. Anything not written in my calendar didn't get done which is why I have a mountain of laundry, not a small number of dirty dishes in the sink, a dog who hasn't been properly exercised much lately, and a kitchen table that might very well collapse if one more item is placed on it. (Oh, and I only read a few opening chapters of my book club selection but I still attended the meeting. The worst part is I was only slightly embarassed by it.) I suppose it's obvious what I will be doing today, huh? It's necessary to get everything done now anyway since I will probably become increasingly uncomfortable from the abdominal bloating that accompanies ovarian stimulation. A bonus is that TOIAW is working this weekend so he won't be around to undo everything I do today. An even better bonus is that TOIAW's friend, whom he invited to stay with us while working in the area this month, is not coming until tomorrow thus avoiding an awkward moment of him walking into our house and recoiling in disgust. By the way, while he's here I'm going to try to get a picture of him to post because I swear to you he could be the brother of the new Bachelor from London only he's not from London, he's from Scotland and everyone knows their accents are widely favored.

It's off to the races for me...I'm going to be working around the house while my ovaries are working on producing those fabulous follicles :)