Holiday Craft Exchange – Part II – Receiving

With impeccable timing, my holiday craft arrived yesterday evening!
J and M over at Adventures of Two Moms sent us an adorable doggy stocking, and a knitted kitchen dish cloth!

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We have been so busy this season, that we completely forgot to put up the dog stockings, and this was a perfect addition to our mantel. (Clementine and Juno were very pleased with this- more presents please!).

The dish cloth was shaped into an angel, which is super symbolic, given our year.

They also hand wrote us a full-page letter, which was very thoughtfully written, full of encouragement and support. With the letter, they also included a beautiful birth announcement, for their baby boy.

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Thank you so much to J and M, for their super thoughtful gifts!

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Infertility as a Prison

Okay, so I’m back. I spent some time the entire time sulking about our last blastocyst not sticking around, about our grand IVF failing, about being two years older, 3 miscarriages wiser, and thirty plus grand poorer.

Infertility as a Prison
The only way I can describe how I feel is by comparing it to being in prison (which, is quite a silly analogy because I’ve never been to prison, and I’m sure that my assumptions will piss a whole whack of people off). I feel like we are stuck in IF (infertility) prison- friends and family visit once in a while, sharing details of their normal daily lives, which feels foreign to me because my life has been all about IF prison and getting out of it. Visitors try to express their sympathies for me, but it just comes off as pity, which makes me sort of angry, but I’ll take anything because I feel so alone. They tell me stories of how so-and-so’s SIL got out of IF prison once she stopped stressing about it, and how IF prison can’t be that bad- you’re off work and get to work out and go to yoga classes in the slammer. Friends are either scared to tell you that they were granted Furlough, because no one gets Furlough, and really, they will be super stressed the entire time that they are out of IF prison, scared that they will be sent back there early, a miscarriage. You develop friendships with other IF prisoners, a real sisterhood, sharing your dreams of getting out, oooohing and awwing at sistahs-who-got-out’s baby bumps, which you are genuinely happy about, but it still stings a bit because you’re still stuck in IF prison, without any chance at parol in the near future. That is, until you start a new IUI or IVF, and you start planning your appeal/speech at your parol hearing, when new hope is restored that you will finally get out of this shithole, especially with your good behaviour. And you believe it. You believe that the cocktail of drugs, infusions, herbs, acupuncture, energy healing, and exorbitantly expensive amounts of CoQ10 will do the trick. You try and try, getting more desperate each time, and if you’re like us, and have been at it for a long time, all of the IF rookies you started with have gotten out and are enjoying their lives with their babies, and you feel particularly slighted by fate. When will it be your turn? Rest assured, will get out of IF prison, with or without a baby, if it doesn’t break your spirit first. In the meantime, we watch longingly from the sad side of the fence.

Don’t worry, I managed to pick myself up off the floor, and there is a plan in place, which I will share with y’all after the massive leg day I do in the IF prison yard today.

Holiday Craft Exchange – Part I – Giving

(Feature picture from: http://www.ipscene.co.uk/art-crafts/)

Allison at Two Moms organized a craft exchange this holiday season. The idea was to make something crafty for another blogger (and their family) who has been assigned to you. You also receive a surprise holiday crafty gift from your secret blogger person, who is assigned in the same way as a Secret Santa is done. We’re all encouraged to familiarize ourselves with the blogger’s blog that we’ve been assigned, and send off our crafts so that they arrive before Christmas.

My assigned recipient was Allison herself, who I have been following since before we even started TTC-ing. Her and her partner Jen have two littles, who they have sweetly nicknamed the “Bean” and “Sprout”, and they are such beautiful kids. I knew that I wanted to make something for each member of the family, and brainstormed for weeks before I finally came up with a plan.

Unfortunately, I lacked the foresight to take photos of my finished products, so I had to borrow photos from her blog: http://2momstobe.blogspot.ca/2014/12/crafty-goodness.html?m=1

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These two ornaments I made from yarn and hockey tape! The hockey tape (which I have tons of at home because I couldn’t play this year) was used to create the overall shape of Allison and Jen’s first initial, which was then wrapped in the yarn and fixed into its final cursive letter shape. I was inspired by the cursive “d” necklace that I have from Tiffany and Co.

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This third gift is actually a pocket, which is meant to keep “little treasures”. I know they have a cat, so the little artisan cat button that I have been keeping for the past ten years was perfect. The button was a treasure that I bought at Granville Island in Vancouver, and while I had no plans for it, thought it was so cute and have kept it in my button bag for this long.

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This last craft is a stuffed animal owl that Allison’s kids have already named “Eggnog”, which I think is just the perfect name for him. His green body was knit from a beautiful Japanese wool that I bought back in the Christmas of 2006, while I had a short layover in Taiwan. That was the Christmas that my dog died due to an accident at the kennel he was staying at while I was away. I was so devastated by his death that I couldn’t bring myself to knit anything with that yarn.

I had a lot of fun making things for our craft exchange, and highly recommend joining next year if you’re interested.

The past week has been really tough for me, coming to terms with the fact that our last embryo didn’t stick, and that the whole IVF was therefore a bust. But 2015 is just around the corner, and I’m just waiting to hear back from our clinic what our next steps are. DW and I have already decided to proceed with another round of IVF, and it’s just a matter of when the meds start, and when we can move forward.

Rest In Peace, Sweet Embryos

For several weeks now, I have been brainstorming ways in which DW and I can pay tribute to, or memorialize the spirits of our six angel embryos. I know that they aren’t babies, and don’t have a personhood, but they existed, had cells that divided, shared half of my genetic material, and we projected so much love, intention, and hope into them. We both shared a vascular connection with them. They thrived for varying periods of time through these connections, and though we wished they had stayed, heaven needed them more.

I have been very sad about our losses, and while I’ve wanted to write more about my grieving process, mostly it has me unable to communicate very well with words. Part of me wishes that I had been tracking the various levels of my sadness, anger, and happiness throughout the past two months, but even in the same day, I have felt those emotions change. What I do know is that repeated loss seems to have a cumulative effect on my grief levels.

Our first loss was in February 2014, after a year of trying via IUIs, we finally splurged on a reciprocal IVF. It was sold to us as a “guaranteed” means of getting pregnant. In many ways they were correct. We have gotten pregnant with every embryo transfer. Staying pregnant, however, has been the challenge so far. Anyway, that first time was like a dream. We thought we had it all… My eggs, my wife’s loving womb, an October baby… And probably many more frozen embryos left over. We even talked about donating our remaining embryos to friends of ours who were in line for adoption. The day that my wife got our very first BIG FAT POSITIVE, was quite possibly one of the happiest days of my life.

Her HCG was in the lower end, so we knew it wouldn’t be twins, but we were still pleased. When the repeat beta failed to show a rise in HCG, we were confused. We were also quite upset, as DW received the news at school, right before having to teach her last period class. Her heart was broken shattered, but she still pulled it together, put on a smile, and confidently walked into class. We thought we were guaranteed a baby out of this- we were healthy, I am young(ish), the embryos were fresh and rated as high quality and over achieving…. Thinking back on it, I think I was in shock. It didn’t make logical sense to me. Why didn’t it work, when everything else looked so promising? Being in shock, I really didn’t take the time to sort through my feelings, because they were buried so deep. I resorted to being anxious to try again. It is “just a numbers game” right? At least that’s how the Canadian reproductive endocrinologists seem to treat it. More tries = more likely to be a mom. So, as quickly as we possibly could, we decided to get back to it. DW’s cycle was a bit messed up though, as she had her miscarriage bleed, then another bleed two weeks later. In the time that we waited for her next embryo transfer, we went on vacation, we got in a car accident (not our fault), and I applied for a position at a different school. We were so busy that we swept our sadness under the carpet and got on with our responsibilities as we waited. I am so sorry my angels, that we didn’t give you a proper goodbye.

Embryo transfer #2 happened in May. I hand made DW some Aboriginal Canadian moccasins the day that we got her BFP. Each time I punched out that leather, I thought how happy I was that we would be mothers. I even saved all of my scraps (and other people’s scraps) to make baby moccasins. We still have them hidden away in a fancy box in the dining room. The beta was mis-scheduled this time around. The nurses booked DW for blood work on 12dp5dt, not 10dp5dt. It was just as well, though, as by 12dp5dt, her beta HCG had fallen to 20. This time, no tears before class, but we had become so accustomed to just burying our sadness and pain, and carrying on. We decided that since we only had three embryos left, that we would switch to transferring them into me. No identifiable reason was found for why DW miscarried our first four embryos, but we felt the nudge to change our approach. By this time, it was June, and school would be winding down, summer vacation in view. It seemed silly to be sad, when such happy times were just ahead. Again, those sweet angel babies, never got a proper goodbye.

Part of the burden was not telling anyone what we were doing. The education system was transitioning through some terrible (and illegal) contract violations by the government. They stole all of our banked sick days which were negotiated as compensation in previous contracts, and limited us to 11 sick days for the entire year. Which is fine if you get the flu once a semester, but sucks when doctors are only booking appointments during regular school hours, and you have monitoring, procedures, specialists appointments, a spouse to drive to medical appointments, and etc. to go to regularly. So work probably thought I was a slacker by using up all of my sick days, except for half of one day, which is what I had left by the end of June. My colleagues probably thought I was either terminally ill, or taking days off to finish piles of marking. Our friends, likely thought we were snubbing all of their invites for booze-centred partying, or that we had become boring, with our 10pm bedtimes. We skipped out on a couple of beer nights with our hockey teams, and missed a paid trip to Vancouver. Worst of all, I had nobody to confide in. I really wanted to tell people, mostly because I’m naturally a very open person, but also because I needed support. It left me feeling very isolated and alone.

The first month of summer, we took an awful course that was necessary to get a pay upgrade be specialist teachers in our subjects. DW also taught summer school, which was torturous for her. The second month, we transferred embryos #5 and 6, but into me. Things were good, summertime, and the livin’ is easy. I experienced my very own BFP! This was a first for me. This was HUGE. And being pregnant didn’t feel anything like I thought it would feel. I was dizzy, super tired, bloated, had weird twinges, my nipples were so sensitive and sore, I had to pee all the time, I was out of breath, I craved beef then wanted nothing to do with meat. I don’t know what I expected pregnancy to feel like… Maybe a tummy ache and some constipation? My HCG started off low, but quickly climbed, and by week 7 had reached 43,000 or something like that. I had returned to work sometime during week 6, and at the end of that week, had started spotting brown. This lasted for a week, and ended when I took my first sick day (end of week 7). The next day, we had the ultrasound where we were expecting to see the heartbeat (I chose to defer our ultrasound). Sadly, we had no heartbeat. Just a gestational sac that kept growing, and growing, and growing…. School was extremely stressful for me. I had applied for a particular position, they offered me a different one, and then they gave me a different one even from that! They made me their dumping ground for high-risk, behaviourally challenged teens, who can’t read or write beyond a grade 4 level, who can’t settle into a regular classroom, all who failed different subjects, and I was supposed to help all 18 of them (by myself) in an hour a day, recover (pass) these courses. I threw my hands up in the air! This is impossible! I was staying at school prepping past dinner time, and was under so much stress that I stopped eating and sleeping for 3 nights in a row. I would literally come home from work shaking.

I haven’t been back to work since I found out that the embryo had no heartbeat. Frankly, I’m terrified to go back. That place was so negative, and toxic for me. Being new, people would always say “if you need anything, just let me know”, but on the eight occasions that I did ask for help or resources, I was either shunned, told “oh, I’ve never taught that course”, “aren’t you supposed to figure that out?”, “I’m too busy, I have my own classes to prep”, “nah, I don’t teach _____” (that one was my department head), “sorry, I don’t remember”, and unanswered emails even though they told me to email them. I also once got a pile of dusty old photocopies from the 1990’s that referred to “smoking in the classroom” as being a science lab hazard (obviously!). Anyways, I get so much anxiety thinking about that place still, and the totally horrendous violation of my privacy that occurred two weeks ago, jacked up my anxiety to a new level. I wish I could easily link that post in here, but I’m typing with two fingers on my iPad, and can’t do fancy things right now.

On the 18th of September, I finally had my D&C. I tried to miscarry naturally, but my body was holding on tight to the pregnancy. It didn’t want to let go. I didn’t want to let go. Since then, I have been trying to get over it, but my emotions around the miscarriage is so intertwined with my unaddressed grief over the first two miscarriages, and my anxiety and anger around work. It’s like this big tangled mess that I’m trying to untangle, fibre by fibre, but it’s taking a lot more time than I had expected, and sometimes it seems to get more tangled despite my efforts. I feel like I should be better now, but I’m not. I just need more time.

Recently, I read about the five stages of grief: denial/shock, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. I feel like my journey so far has been: denial/shock, depression, anger, depression, anger, and I’m not really sure where I am right now. I am still pissed at work, I’m anxious about a lot of things, I’m kind of stuck in my head, lightly floating through my days. I think my mind is preparing for this next FET.

During the past two or three weeks, I have been thinking of how to properly say goodbye to our six angel embryos. With birds having been such a presence in our lives this year, I thought that a bird feeder would be appropriate. Truthfully, I had never really noticed the birds much before this summer at our cottage. In the mornings they woke me with their sweet songs. In the afternoon I watched as the hummingbirds buzzed just feet away, drinking from a sugar water feeder. In the evenings, I held hands with the chickadee-dee-dees as they picked seeds out of my palm.

I researched different bird feeder designs, and found a couple that I really liked. I kind of sat on it for a bit, until I realized that I might get my period next week, and it only felt right to say goodbye to our past so that we can embrace our future with hope. I guess it’s a way for me to symbolically let go of all of the sadness, and finally grieve all of the losses so that I can move on.

So DW and I made a bird feeder building date for today. We settled on a design, and headed to Home Depot.

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We came home, and started measuring, marking, sawing wood, and sanding. Then we marked, pre-drilled holes, assembled, and hammered nails into place. The measurements were done by feel, and not from blueprints. I was inspired by this artist’s Barcelona Birdfeeder.

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Finally, we attached eye loops, threaded wire through, crimped the wire, and attached the wires to each other using a key ring.

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The finished product, with some sunflower seeds.

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This bird feeder was made from a 4 foot long piece of 1×8 pine wood, cut into seven pieces. Six pieces that form the walls and the roof, and a large seventh base piece that completes it. I felt that this was so perfectly symbolic.

Our six angel embabies, rooting for us from heaven, sending so much love and hope for their last sibling, and their mamas. With every bird song that I hear, I will know you are close. I will put out seeds so that you know I am always thinking of you, and so that you can find home. I love you, all of my baby birds. I will always love you.

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Immune Testing Results

You may recall that I had some testing done after it was revealed that I miscarried a chromosomally normal embryo back in September.

Here’s the post about it, if you don’t remember.

Anyway, it’s been three weeks now, and the results have come in for most of them, except for the natural killer Th1/Th2, the $640 test that is sent to California for testing.

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It has all come back normal.

I’m skeptical on many fronts, as I have very little confidence in the reliability of lab work that isn’t repeated. In 2010, I had some abnormal blood work results that forced me, my GP, and some specialists down an ovarian cancer rabbit hole. The abnormal blood work was corroborated by some abnormal ultrasound findings, which suggested a rather large multi-chambered tumour on my right ovary. The blood work was repeated a month after I had given away my chiropractic practice thinking that I was going to die (who wants to work during their last year of life?), and was totally normal. A slew of medical specialists were convinced to see what they wanted to see, all because of what we speculated to likely be a “mix up” in the blood lab.

Anyway, I am not sure what to make of all of this. I’m not sure that my RE’s testing is comprehensive, but we are led to believe that my immune system did not kill the embryo.

If our embryo is truly chromosomally normal (I question this sometimes too- though I’m told that it’s a bit more reliable because they culture the samples for a long time to distinguish between mama and embryo tissue), and my immune system did not kill our embryo, then what did?

As mentioned above, I’m still waiting on the NK cells results. How much do you wanna bet that they will be normal too?

Right now we’re waiting for my period to begin (in probably a week or so), and then we’re off to embryo transfer #4, with our last embryo. I’m particularly anxious about the chance of success with this transfer, as we’re only transferring one. Each of our previous transfers, we’ve transferred two. I’m trying to remain hopeful, as this embryo deserves to come home, and be loved. It’s just difficult to be hopeful when 2013 and 2014 have been filled with disappointment. I’m trying to find meaning in it, maybe something that I’m supposed to learn, but I’m struggling and it’s really breaking my spirit.

Anyway, lone star, you are so loved. Come home and stay with us forever. Your mama et maman have been hoping and praying for you to choose us.

Insomnia Sucks, And Cooking Fails

It has been over a week now, of the worst insomnia that I’ve ever had. I go to bed with DW at a reasonable time, but can’t seem to fall asleep without the help of 3mg of melatonin. If I take the melatonin, I fall asleep only for 3 hours, and then wake up and can’t fall back asleep. If I don’t take the melatonin, I lay in bed, frustrated, only to fall asleep at about 5:30am for 3 hours.

My sleep routine is good. I have a glass of Natural Calm (magnesium) drink after dinner. I am not consuming any caffeine all day. I get in some good exercise in the morning or afternoon. I load my carbs during my evening meal to increase serotonin. I’m putting away my phone an hour before sleeping. Our bedroom is dark, cool, and there are no dogs sleeping with us. I have tried guided meditation, which only sometimes works to get me asleep, but again, I wake up three hours later. I have also done some acupuncture treatments on myself to strengthen my lung meridian, as it is closely related to anxiety when deficient.

But, I’m still not sleeping.

I have also noticed, that I am more prone to insomnia and sleep disturbances when in my follicular phase. The progesterone floating around during my luteal phase makes for better sleeps. Although, there were several nights during my pregnancy when sleep was hard to come by.

Anyhow, if it doesn’t improve this week, I don’t know what I’m going to do. I can’t go on any medication- as most are not pregnancy-friendly. Benedryl and related over-the-counter meds don’t seem to work on me. They actually give me jittery nerves for some reason.

All I can do is wait to ovulate, it seems.

The little dog also doesn’t like mornings. Here we are cuddling with our morning decaf tea:

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I have been craving cheese bread lately, and went on a mission to try out this recipe: http://www.ca.momtastic.com/food/380469-gluten-free-cheddar-bread-recipe/

It baked up real nice:

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And I let it cool for a good twenty minutes before cutting into it, but it had a terrible texture. It was far too gummy and dense, probably due to the tapioca flour.

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After forcing down two slices, I decided that it wasn’t worth it. I toasted it in the oven as crostini, and then as croutons. DW had some crostini with pumpkin soup for lunch today, so the terrible bread is getting eaten.

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It also snowed yesterday. In a panic, we harvested all of our red pepper plants. I have so many, I am thinking of giving some away to our neighbours, or donating them to DW’s school’s hospitality program that cooks for the cafeteria.

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Other than that, nothing really to report. We are still waiting to find out the results of my immune and thrombophilia bloodwork, and for my period, which will probably be in two weeks or so.

There has been a lot of excitement here in the blogosphere. Marriages! Inseminations! BFPs! Heartbeats! I am so happy for all of you. As I anxiously wait for a proper sleep rhythm to return, I will be cheering all of you on!

Faith? Therapy Part II

Apparently I need to believe in some greater plan that things will work out the way that they are supposed to.

I had my second session with my therapist, and I left feeling worse than before our session. I was really unsettled, and I’m not sure if that is normal- to have a finished puzzle taken apart and shaken up because the process of putting things back together is the therapy.

About a week ago, I started to notice that the shock of our miscarriage started to wear off. The bouts of crying at random times has significantly reduced. I’m starting to pick up the pieces of my life, I am starting to be more aware of my feelings in a more rational way. I feel like I am starting to grieve properly.

Then, at some point this week, I realize that I only have one month left until my reevaluation with our GP, and that as it stands right now, I’m supposed to return to my hellhole of a workplace the first week of December. Of course, my GP says that she won’t have me return until I’m ready, but as far as my workplace is concerned, I’m supposed to return in a month. This terrifies me, as I feel like I’m just starting to heal, and have taken a few steps back because of my work-related anxiety. I haven’t been sleeping again, and am finding myself dwelling on things out of my control- like the timing of our next FET.

DW has also been unhealthily busy at work- with her principals course once, sometimes twice a week, her union meetings out of town, and the extracurriculars she runs for the kids after school (I do really miss the extracurriculars that I did with my students- they were what fulfilled me at the end of a really long day). Bless my wife, she comes home then has so much prep to do for her lessons the next day, because she is the “yes” person at her school- the problem solver who takes on more work to alleviate timetable conflicts in the school. I believe I was that person at my work, except, I never actually said “yes”, but ended up being that person, miscarrying at the peak of stress- and that is part of why I am terrified to go back to work.

Anyway, at my therapy session yesterday, I was stuck in my own head. I could only catch bits and pieces of what the therapist was saying. I also felt like she didn’t “get” me yesterday, so much of what she said wasn’t connecting with me. She was also having some repairs done on her home, and her dog barked the entire hour at the repair men, so that distracted me as well.

But I did take home some good points that she raised:

– I need to start using my voice and standing up for myself. If I advocate for myself, people will adjust to it, and will respect me more. I need to respect myself more.

– I need to let my GP know that I have a mental fixation on this official “end date” for my medical leave. Perhaps she will reassure me that it is open-ended, as needed. DW is certain that our GP agreed that I should be off the entire semester, but that she wanted to be kept in the loop via reevals. Sometimes I won’t let myself believe that people will stick to their word, I guess.

– I need to work on my anxiety. She recommended meditation, and a vision/dream board. I’ve been going to yoga every other day this week, and will try to make it more often if possible, because it ends in a meditation component. I can’t seem to bring myself to a meditative state on my own for some reason. I’ve also noticed that I’m feeling uneasy about making a vision board (of where I see my life in the future), because it includes things that would absolutely break my heart if they didn’t happen. Basically- kids.

This is where she said I need to have faith. Not necessarily in a Jesus Christ kind of way, but just a knowing that things will work out such that I’m happy. So having faith that there is some master plan, and all the worrying in the world won’t change it. That all of my attempts at controlling situations won’t change the overall outcome.

I don’t know the rules around having faith. Do I just have faith that my babies will happen? Do I just have faith that work will miraculously treat me with the respect and fairness that I deserve? Do I just have faith that DW will be happy with her decision to be or not to be a vice-principal? Do I just have faith that we will be able to love where we live and have enough money to live comfortably? Can I assume that my life will be a fully happy one just on faith?

I don’t know how to have faith. My life experience has me believing that you make your own fate. You work hard, and it pays off most times. If you don’t put forward an effort, things are unlikely to happen for you. I am in control of my own actions, and subsequently the results of those actions.

But, there’s also the other part of each interaction- the response from the world. That part I can’t control, and that’s what is giving me the anxiety. Even if I prepare my body perfectly for this next FET, anything can happen. I have no control over that outcome. Even if I talk (again) with my administration and department heads about my work concerns, will they dismiss them again like they did that first week? Or will they reconsider their poor planning as it resulted in me (possibly miscarrying and) going off on a medical leave? I have no idea.
Faith would have me just trusting that everything will work out. The therapist described it as a “things will rearrange and the puzzle pieces will naturally fall into place”. I have a very hard time with believing this.

DW thinks that having faith is more knowing that whatever happens, we will adjust our lives to be happy. We have each other, and if we don’t have babies, we will have the time and money to go on amazing trips and continue to eat organic food.

Unfortunately, I don’t think I can be happy with that. There will always be a large chunk missing. Sadly, at this point, for me, life will be incomplete without our babies. There is a part of my heart that is reserved for loving them, and if they don’t come, it doesn’t just get used for something else. It will just be a big empty void. A reminder of how my body failed, and of how cruel this world really is.

So maybe knowing that these kids are my deal breaker with the world, I should have faith that they will come into fruition?