Mother’s Day and Grandma “U”

Growing up, my grandparents lived two blocks away from us and, as such, they spent enormous amounts of time in our lives.  My grandmother was our go-to babysitter, the holder of a never-ending secret candy stash, the one with plenty of cough drops and tissue whenever you had the slightest case of the sniffles, and my chaperone on tons of elementary school field trips.

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Celebrating my 4th birthday with Grandma Uhlarik

I vividly remember starting the 3rd grade and our teacher, Mrs. McKeever, brought up the topic of field trip chaperones — specifically, moms or dads.  I didn’t raise my hand but approached her after class and asked if it was okay if my grandma came on my trips with me.  I really loved the time that she spent with me — riding the bus to some museum that I’m sure she had seen numerous times, scolding the boys in my class because she always seemed to catch them misbehaving, and in the spare moments in between, sharing stories of her life growing up.  A childhood during the Great Depression, where she was paid a dime to scrub the hallway floors on her hands and knees, where she took typing classes because that was the skill needed to find work, or how she played basketball in high school.

A topic that never came up in our talks was infertility.

Grandma WeddingGrandparents WeddingMy grandparents got married in 1944, in a small ceremony where my grandma proudly wore a blazer and skirt with pumps.  My grandpa was 26, while my grandma was 23.  I imagine that they thought they’d start a family and spend the rest of their lives raising their children.

Fast forward 14 long years, to 1958.  By this point, I’ve been told that my grandma had accepted the fact that she would never have children — it just wasn’t in the cards for them.  After feeling ill for a bit of time, she went to the doctor and found out that a miracle had happened.  At the age of 36, she was pregnant!  I can’t imagine the absolute joy that she and my grandfather felt.  What a miracle my mother was to them.

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So proud of her one and only miracle child.

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My great-grandmother holding her only granddaughter, with my grandma proudly watching.

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Thank you, mom, for everything.  I am who I am today because of you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

When my mother got married, it took four years for her to get pregnant.  Although it wasn’t nearly as long as the wait my grandmother endured, my mom mentioned that it was hard seeing all of her friends get pregnant almost immediately after getting married.  She, too, had to endure the constant questions about why she wasn’t having kids.  The same type of questions that seem to be asked of me, have apparently been around for centuries.  Eventually, I was conceived and motherhood, once again, became part of my family legacy.

My grandmother had to endure Alzheimer’s disease during the last few years of her life.  Her journey here on Earth ended in 2012, shortly before I left for Afghanistan.  The topic of infertility never came up, but oh, how I wish I could go back in time.  Go back to those field trips — to that alone time where we were seat partners on the bus — and pick her brain about how she felt.  The emotions, the lack of medical options, the frustration, the tears, etc.  If I only knew back then that I’d be repeating her story 60 years later, at the same age that she was at.  Maybe this means that this year will be my lucky year — becoming a mom at the same age that my grandmother entered motherhood.

Grandma, if you are out there listening, I’m walking in your shoes.  I’m enduring your heartache, I’m feeling your pain.  Please send a little luck our way this week as Mama M endures hormone shots and, hopefully, an egg retrieval in a few short days.  Oh, how I miss you and wish you were here for all of this.

Same Spot

A few years ago, literally, in the same spot in Chicago that my grandmother stood on her wedding day, in 1944. 

Processing My Thoughts

It has been a hard month for me to process all the different thoughts that have been flowing through my head.  About a week after my doctor’s office froze our one sole embryo, we had a follow up call with him to discuss the way ahead.

After my last retrieval, my doctor was able to do a little bit of analysis on my eggs and he has come up with one conclusion: my eggs are genetically abnormal.  There were a few different scenarios that had been occurring with my eggs:

Egg Scenario #1:  “I don’t need no stinkin’ sperm!”
Some eggs decided to just start dividing on their own, absent any sperm.  I guess they decided they could reproduce asexually and create clones of me.  Unfortunately, this isn’t normal and so they died off after a few days.

Egg Scenario #2:  “Sperm!???!??!  EEEEEEK!  ABORT! ABORT! ABORT!”
Some eggs had one look at the sperm that had entered their territory and decided that life just wasn’t worth it.  They either died upon first sight of their new mate, or else within a few hours.

Egg Scenario #3: “Yawn…….this splitting and growing thing is just plain ol’ boring.  I think I’m going to take a looooooooong nap.”
This scenario actually sounds pretty typical of me.  I’ve been known to have the ability to nap on demand — anywhere, anytime.  My fertilized eggs carried on that trait — except their naps were so deep that they just ended up dying.

Egg Scenario #4: “Fertilization!  Woohoo!  Lets grow, grow, grow!”
This is the best case scenario.  Grow and divide, grow and divide, repeat for nine months!  So far, we’ve had two embryos follow this scenario.  The first one, however, when tested for chromosomal abnormalities, came back as abnormal — and not just abnormal in one way (i.e. Downs Syndrome), but more than three abnormalities.  The word the doctor used was “chaotic.”  Our second embryo that grew has yet to be tested.  I’m really afraid that it, too, will come back as chaotic.  We will find the answer to that question soon.

So where do we go from here?  Our doctor gave us a few possibilities.  The first was to use Mama M’s eggs.  A “her bun, my oven” scenario.  The second is to use a donor egg with our current sperm donor.  The third was to accept and use a donor embryo.  These are extra embryos that were created by other couples for use in creating their own families — but they ended up being surplus.

After a little bit of thought, we’ve decided to try using Mama M’s eggs.  The process to retrieve her eggs is identical to the process that was used to retrieve mine.  The only difference is that I, at the same time, am taking medication to prepare my body for a (hopeful) transfer of 1 or 2 normal embryos that will be made up of Mama M’s egg and our donor sperm.

This scenario has definitely put us in a financial bind due to yet another retrieval and surgery, has resulted in us having to find a new sperm donor (our original donor resembled Mama M…….this new one is a bit more white), and, for me, created a big mental hurdle for me to overcome.  This entry is long enough, though, so that’ll have to wait for another day.

Your continued thoughts and prayers are appreciated as we endure this cycle.  We’ve both started medication and two hormonal women living under the same roof is definitely making for a test of our patience and love.