Five Days Later

Thank you to everyone that has sent us love and well wishes from around the world.  It has provided us with the much needed strength and support necessary to survive the hours and days since Simon’s grand entrance into our lives.

Simon is going to be fine, but as of right now, we are still calling the wonderful hospital where he was born our temporary home.  Shortly after being born, while getting his first bath, our sweet boy showed signs of having some respiratory issues. After multiple tests and a chest x-ray, it was determined that he was born with congenital pneumonia.  His pediatrician hasn’t pinpointed the source of the infection, but it could have come from one of a multitude of sources– an underlying asymptomatic infection that Mama D has, an infection introduced via one of the cervical checks in the three and a half days leading to Simon’s arrival, something present in his amniotic fluid, etc. The list is extensive so we will likely never know.

IMG_5874

His treatment plan has primarily been IV antibiotics and monitoring by the nursing staff here.  By all outward appearances, our little chunk has no issues.  He’s even started to look like a normal baby and not an overfilled water balloon. 🙂 But, similarly to an adult course of antibiotics, you have to finish the entire regimen of medication in order to ensure that the infection doesn’t return. For him, that means a seven day stay in the hospital with us.  Thankfully, we have been able to stay in Mama D’s postpartum room at the military hospital, where there are two hospital beds for us to sleep in and we are able to maintain some sense of normalcy (versus the other option for him, which included a transfer one of the many local Korean NICUs, which are notoriously known for limiting visitation to 2x 30 minute visits per day).

The staff at our hospital has been wonderful, going above and beyond to provide all three of us with top notch care.  They have treated Simon as if he was their own flesh and blood, singing to him to calm him, rocking him to sleep, or taking care of him for a few stretches at night so that we can get some much needed sleep.  I am pretty sure that they are just as smitten with him as we are.

Mama D is doing fine after essentially delivering a ten pound bowling ball and has been breastfeeding our little chunk like a champ.  Simon — being born with super strong jaw muscles, akin to that of a two month old — has caused some pretty gnarly pain issues for Mama D during feeding. Until she can adjust a little more to his jaw, the lactation consultant here has been great with helping Mama M set up a way to feed Simon pumped breastmilk without the use of a bottle. She is able to tape a preemie feeding tube to her finger that is then attached to either a large syringe filled with milk or else dangled like a straw into a container of milk. Simon can then feed off of Mama M’s finger, while still getting all of the benefits of breastmilk.

IMG_5872.JPG

Mama M has become the Baby Whisperer, mastering the art of instantly calming a screaming Simon.  Our little family unit is slowly finding a rhythm despite the circumstances.  We are looking forward to starting our life in our own home, introducing Simon to his big fur brothers, Fletcher and Koda, and future visits by family and friends to Korea to come and meet the newest addition to our family.

I promise to write more once we catch up on a little more sleep and break out of the hospital 🙂

IMG_5870

 

 

And Then There Were Three……….

I’ll preface this post by saying that we will now be saying “Carroll-Wakem…table for three”

Most of you know that last Saturday, Mama M and I drove up to Seoul in order to stay at a hotel close to the hospital since we anticipated Shim arriving at some point in the very near future.  Little did we know that we would be waiting for eight more days before getting to meet our child.

On Thursday afternoon, after trying to follow every tip in the book to induce labor, we went to the hospital to be induced.  Again, little did we know that we would be waiting four additional days to meet our child.

After a long and drawn out labor lasting 61 hours, our child, the miracle we’d been trying to obtain since 2015, finally arrived.  World, meet Shim, born at 5:34AM on Sunday, March 11th. Weighing in at a hefty 9lbs 12ounces and standing at 21.5″ tall, we are surprised that Shim didn’t hop down and walk right out the door, considering we had birthed a 41-week mini-toddler.

IMG_7404

This kiddo’s arrival has been long awaited for by not only us, but our Army family here in Korea, our families back in the United States, and all of our friends around the globe.

Shim, now known as our son,
Simon Kevin Warren

9 months later….

24991440_876541482274_2052247889102768815_nI will preface this by saying that I am still pregnant. 🙂

I haven’t written in awhile and I feel like I left some of you hanging…especially those of you that aren’t friends with us on Facebook.  Mama M and I have had quite the roller coaster of a pregnancy that I feel the need to catch you up on.  The last update I provided said that we were finally pregnant!

Now sit back, grab a drink (if it’s wine, have some for me!), and enjoy this recap of the past 3 trimesters!

First Trimester: We found out we were pregnant about three weeks prior to our planned move to South Korea.  At the time, our lease was ending and there was a short, 8-day gap before our flight departed for Seoul.  Our friends, the G family, offered to let us and our 2 dogs stay for the week in their guest room.  Little did we know that this offer would turn into the BEST decision that we had made in a long time.

When I notified the military that I was pregnant, they changed the day that we needed to report to Korea to the second week of September — essentially the end of the first trimester.  We had to make a decision at this point about where to live — do we continue to impose on our very welcoming hosts, or do we find a place with a short term, furnished lease.  Remember, by this time, all of our household goods (minus the suitcases that were coming on the plane with us) had either been put in storage, or were on a ship making the trans-pacific journey to the land of the Morning Calm.  After sounding like a broken record for a few days with our friends….”Are you sure it is okay that we stay?”……..”No, really, are you sure we aren’t imposing?”, Mama M and I decided to continue to stay with our friends, their four kids and their 2 dogs for the entire summer.  It was like one BIG happy family — Mama M, Mama D, our two dogs, our friends, T and J, their two dogs, their four kids, and our little one in utero (Shim — a term created to mean she and him since we weren’t planning on finding out the gender).  What could have easily been a recipe for unhappy disaster turned into the best summer of our lives.  Not only did we get to stay in the United States during a trimester riddled with “all-day” sickness, a diagnosis of hypoglycemia, and just general fatigue — but Mama M and I became part of the extended G family — and intend on maintaining that family relationship for the rest of our lives.

Second Trimester: In September, it was time to pack up our bags (and by bags I mean 8 – 50 lb bags, 2 large dog crates (for our 2 smalls dogs) and our 2 carry on bags…total of 12 bags) and fly to our next duty station in South Korea.

Flying to Korea

We might have over packed…..

Upon arriving, and spending 5 days in limbo waiting to find out if we were going to be staying at Yongsan (Seoul) or Camp Humphreys we finally found out that we were going to be stationed at Camp Humphreys, a larger base located about 90 minutes south of Seoul, in a city called Pyeongtaek.  We again packed up our 12 bags and headed down to Camp Humphreys.  We quickly found a house, got settled into a routine at work, and slowly started planning how Shim was going to fit into this life of ours that we were creating on the other side of the world.  A nursery started coming together,  we were set up with a wonderful OB team at the U.S. military hospital in Seoul, and we started exploring this beautiful country that we had the privilege of living in for the next two years.

Owl

Visiting one of the oldest and largest temples near Suwon.

20171004_154850

Spending the day at the Yellow Sea, which is very similar to Monterrey, CA.

During this trimester, I continued to have pretty much every pregnancy symptom in the book.

Continued nausea?       Check.
Rib Pain?                         Check.
Back Pain?                      Check.
Trouble Sleeping?         Check.
Snoring?                          Check.
Heartburn?                     Quadruple Check
Hemorrhoids?               WTF Check!

The list could go on and on, but essentially, this pregnancy was proving to be difficult for me.  I was diagnosed with hypoglycemia at around the 12-week mark after failing a 3-hour glucose test.  Most women fail this test by having glucose levels that are too high.  I, however, was a rare case of the opposite — my glucose level was at 31 at the 3-hour mark.  This level was considered critical and the staff at the OB’s office has no idea how I was still standing, let alone able to walk out of their office and drive myself home.  At our 20 week ultrasound, we were devastated and worried sick when we were told that Shim had developed calcium deposits on his/her heart.  We were sent to a local Korean hospital within two weeks to have a more in depth exam done and, thankfully, the spots had disappeared during that two week period.  Whew!

Third Trimester: The homestretch of this pregnancy has definitely felt like the longest.  We were lucky enough to start it off with a trip back to the United States, both for Mama D to work, and for both of us to take a few days off and visit with our families and friends. Baby Shim was definitely spoiled with multiple gatherings and showers to celebrate his or her upcoming arrival.

Colorado Family

Our Colorado Girls!

In Denver, Colorado, the place where all of the magic took place to create Shim was the first stop on our trip.  Our “Colorado Girls,” as Mama M calls them, hosted a wonderful brunch and baby shower to celebrate Shim.  The highlight was having everyone create homemade bibs for Shim to wear when s/he is a wee bit older.

After Denver, we were able to visit with Mama D’s family in Chicago.  Her cousin, Kate, opened up her home and her heart to all of us.  It was so nice to see everyone together in one place, celebrating the addition of another cousin to the family.  Shim is so very lucky to have quite the extended family living throughout the Chicagoland area!

Our final stop on our trip to the United States was to visit Mama M’s family in Southern California.  How blessed Shim will be to not only have wonderful grandmothers around, but also his/her great-grandmother, Quyen.  We can’t wait for Quyen, Mama M’s mother, and Mama D’s mother to make the trip out here to Korea sometime in the the next few months to meet our new addition!

25446164_877897000804_2873155419597622696_n

The last highlight of this homestretch was our trip to Pyeongchang to witness some of the 2018 Winter Olympics.  When we found out that we were being stationed here, we knew that we had to see at least one event —- even if I was 36 weeks pregnant!  We were lucky enough to obtain free tickets and transportation to the Final Women’s Luge event.  So, with Shim in tow, we went out the event, braved the bitter cold, and got to witness amazingly strong female athletes in action.  Definitely a once in a lifetime experience and one that I will never forget.  Plus, we can tell Shim that s/he was actually at the Olympic Games a month before being born!
27657690_10103303815589077_5592532063931439550_n
That, my friends, is the Cliff Notes version of the past nine months of our lives.  We are looking forward to having Shim join us in this world, creating memories and adventures together, and, in the next week or so (hopefully!) introducing all of you to the long awaited baby Shim!

Shim

Shim at 32 weeks, partially blocked by his/her hand, but still, an adorable chunky monkey 

 

These legs are meant for…..laying down

Mama D here. Thank you so much for the positive feedback on this week’s flurry of posts!  Mama M’s part of our journey to motherhood was definitely not easy on her.

IMG_4971

But, she was a trooper and hung in there.  Out of the seven eggs that they retrieved on the day that photo was taken, 5 were mature and fertilized properly and 4 of those made it to the blastocyst stage (i.e. grew five days into a nice little ball of a hundred cells).

Similarly to our retrieval in March, we sent her four embryos, plus my one lone embryo from April, off for chromosome testing and hoped for the best!

Fast forward to a few days ago. After my acupuncture appointment (as if taking shots wasn’t enough needles for me, I’ve been doing acupuncture to increase blood flow in my abdomen), we treated ourselves to dinner at an Indian place in Lawrence, KS.  My ringing phone interrupted my enjoyment of a great piece of naan bread.

Oh man……..a Colorado phone number………

“Hi, this is Dr ___ calling with the results of your testing — is this a good time?”

Let me just say that when I am waiting for important news, anytime is a good time.  Feeding my face? In the bathroom? Carrying something heavy? I will stop on the freeway to hear what you are going to tell me. I scrambled to find something to write on — a sharpie in my purse and the restaurant placemat would have to do.

“So, your lone embryo is unfortunately abnormal — an extra #22 chromosome, so incompatible with life.”

“………..oh………..”

“but, the amazing news is that every single one of Mama M’s embryos came back chromosomally normal. You’ve got four great ones waiting for you!”

Mama M told me that my face looked as though I had finally seen Santa Claus, won the lottery, and eaten a super delectable treat — all rolled into one.  Four good embryos!  I’m still in shock.

IMG_4976

It looked like a transfer (and the possibility of pregnancy) was finally plausible.  Finally!

So where do we stand today?

I, for one, am not standing.  I’m on bedrest for the next few days while these guys/gals settle in:

IMG_4974

We spent last night driving here to our doctors office in Denver. This morning, I popped a Valium, did some acupuncture treatments, and focused on creating a temple…..no, a palace…..for these little nuggets to get comfortable in.

There was a slight snafu, and Embryo #2 (a girl) did not survive being thawed, so these nuggets are actually Embryo numbers 1 and 3. We specifically chose to not know the genders. If they arrive in March, as we hope they do, their genders will be a complete surprise to all of us.

IMG_4972

There are a lot of unknowns right now. My body could decide that it isn’t ready to be pregnant….the embryos could say “see ya later gator!” and exit the premises, we could have one embryo implant, we could have both embryos implant, we could (god help us no) end up having one of the embryos split and become twins, thereby having triplets.  Again, lots of unknowns.

One thing I do know for sure, though, is that these little balls of cells that are resting in my uterus are loved by us, our families that have been on this journey with us, and by all of you that have been following along.

Oh, and one other thing I’m pretty sure of — bed rest is the perfect opportunity to Netflix binge and knit propped up — and not be given any flack for it. ❤️

IMG_4975

Pregnant until proven otherwise,

Mama D

 

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.

1530419_646251130984_2053074116_n

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.

2272_511199076384_1253_n

So proud of her one and only miracle child.

img013 copy

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

11667525_728772991514_4327453057905316621_n

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.

The Little Engine That Could

I might be guilty of doing the Carlton dance in my living room about five minutes ago.  The embryologist called and our last little embryo made it through the night and is a 6BA.  Now it is just the waiting game on receiving the chromosome testing results.  For my age, there is a 62% chance of the embryo being normal.  If it does come back abnormal, it will come with a report letting us know what was wrong — i.e. Down’s Syndrome, Trisomy 13, etc.  Any abnormal embryo will be ineligible for transfer and either destroyed or else we’ve agreed to let testing/research be completed on the embryo.

If you aren’t familiar with the grading of embryos, there is a very helpful explanation here.  The grade of an embryo doesn’t equal success — there are 3CCs that go on to become healthy kiddos and 6AAs that turn into negative pregnancy tests.  It really is just the luck of the draw.

 

A visit from my favorite FedEx man

First of all, thank you to everyone that has reached out to us in the past 24 hours to show their support. It has really been wonderful and appreciated and humbling. Our world might be a big place, put the common thread of humanity that we all share really does weave a wonderful, supportive web during some of our darkest moments. For that, I’m so very thankful.

Today starts another round of medication, hopefully leading to a retrieval in a few weeks that will give us better results.  Thankfully, today was an easy to swallow pill and the injections don’t start until tomorrow.  But, to gear up for those injections, I had to wait for my favorite FedEx man to arrive with medications that required immediate refrigeration. Last month, we missed his delivery and ended up having to drive 45 minutes to Kansas City to get our package. I wasn’t going to let that happen this time around. Thankfully there was no school today, so I was able to sit here in my pajamas and devour a box of Samoas while waiting for the doorbell to ring.

Yes, a box……minus one little cookie that I’m trying really hard to save for later. Whatever, I’m hormonal.

Finally!

IMG_4726

Ignore my embarrassingly large stash of cookies, but they are my happy place during all of this

Unpacking the box of medication feels like Christmas, until it sinks in that I’m going to be injecting myself with all of this over the next few weeks.

IMG_4727

Yup, that’s all getting injected in the next two weeks….ouch!

There is a definite bonus to going through all of this — we have definitely acquired a ton of free ice packs!  The nice ones that have a block of foam on the inside!

IMG_4727

Yay for free freezer packs!

The downside to all of this medication?  The cost.  Definitely the cost.  This box contains about 2/3 of our medication for this one cycle.  The other box will arrive next week — at a cost of $1,100.00 for two medications (Saizen and a microdose Lupron).  I’ve been trying hard to not think about the cost of all of this and instead focus on the light at the end of the tunnel — a sweet, sweet little bundle of joy.

IMG_4728

Ouch! This might hurt more than the shots!

Devastated

I feel like my life has been an overall lucky one up until now. I’m the one that wins the lottery scratcher out of the group, the one that has had certain things fall into her lap, the one that wins door prizes and raffles.  But I am definitely not winning the war against infertility.

The embryology lab called today as I was driving home from school. Thankfully, our class had been released early today because those big, fat tears would have been pretty hard to hide from my 14 testosterone-producing classmates. Out of the three eggs that fertilized normally, two didn’t grow at all and the last one is slowly growing but doesn’t look promising. They are going to give that one an additional day to see if it improves. If not,  we are left with zero. Nothing. Nada.

I know that phone call wasn’t an easy one for the embryologist to make.  I definitely held myself together on the phone — even told her to have a good day.  I was numb. Empty. Feeling like a barren old soul that waited too long to enter the race to parenthood.

There is a Facebook group for the clinic that I’ve found some solace and support in, along with a few close friends that I know have struggled with this journey, too. I’ll admit, it is really hard to see pregnancy, birth, happiness, and joy around me when they are all things that are out of my reach, no matter how hard I try.  Facebook is great and man, I am seriously in love with all of the photos, videos, and quips that everyone is posting about their families — but it is often just a reminder of things that I can’t have.

Adoption is becoming a bigger reality, which is fine. I know quite a few families that have adopted and are flourishing. That process, though, is going to be extraordinarily difficult with our looming move to Korea. Adoption definitely doesn’t happen overnight, nor is it any cheaper than another round of IVF.

I start the next round of medication tomorrow. More shots, more pain, but hopefully better results. Please pray for us. This part of our lives is one that we’ve kept to ourselves for two years now. I can’t keep it in any longer.  If you are experiencing infertility, or have gone through rounds of IVF, please feel free to share any words of wisdom. We could use it right about now.

Three

Woke up to a voicemail this morning letting me know that the the little egg that could pulled through. That last egg that wasn’t mature on Day 1, matured and fertilized normally. So now we have a total of three little embryos that have to grow this week. We won’t hear anything back from the lab until Thursday.

Fingers crossed that they grow, divide, and are all normal!