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I just sent off a completed draft of my dissertation proposal to my advisor. I'm not sure I ever thought I would get to this point... with all that has happened in the past three years, finally finishing my PhD felt like a distant possibility.

In reality, it is still pretty far away, as goals go.

But I am a step closer, and that is more than I have been able to say in the last three years!

Thanks for reading... off to continue my happy dance...
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It has been quite a long time since I have been able to return to the blog, as chaos in my "present day life" has kept me from continuing my journey through the past... Long story short, I got sick with a cold/flu that turned into a horrible sinus infection, and then Julien got "hand, foot, and mouth disease", which is evidently running rampant through our area. And if that weren't enough for the poor guy, he developed a serious double ear infection (they found strep/pneumonia bacteria in the culture!) Needless to say, it has been a challenging couple of weeks. Especially given that I was crazy enough to brave the 6+ hour drive to MD for my best friend's baby shower... I was thrilled to be able to attend the shower. But I learned one important lesson- traveling alone with the twins just does not work. I can handle alot on my own- but not an overnight in a new environment with no help. We cut our trip early and drove home right after the shower- just in time to celebrate my 32nd birthday with a nice meal, just Jeff and I.

Despite the challenges, I do believe it was the happiest birthday I have ever had. Mainly because I realized that I am happy with my life and with myself in a way that I never have been before. And before I am justifiably accused of suggesting that my life is a picture-perfect "achievement", let me explain. There are plenty of challenges, rough edges, frustrations, areas of unfinished or unresolved business. PLENTY! But I am so fulfilled by where I am... so able to embrace the good and bad, beautiful and ugly (most of the time, at least) that I can't help but wonder if this is truly as good as it gets.

And I am deeply, profoundly grateful. Grateful to my husband for sticking with me when he probably wanted to run the other direction. Grateful to the family (and family of friends) who has shown me love, taught me love, and never for a moment let me doubt this love. And grateful to my children. To Carynne and Lucas, who never lived outside my body, but whose presence altered my very core. To Julien and Isabelle- who have taught me that being a parent doesn't mean "having" children. They are not mine. I am theirs. I am lucky enough to be given the opportunity to be a part of their lives, to love them, to hold them, to laugh with them, to try to use all that I am to nurture and guide them.

And so, in the wake of sickness and sleepless nights and birthday celebrations...

I am profoundly grateful.
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OK, I am back. I have to be honest, these posts have been somewhat emotionally draining, and I find that I need some recovery time in between them. My emotions get thrown out of whack, and I forget why it was I started writing about this in the first place.

Which is, indeed, a good question. One that the therapist in me can't help but ask. Why now? There may be a couple reasons... my babies are now a year old. They are no longer fragile infants- instead, they are active toddlers with very distinctive personalities and minds of their own. My role as their mom is changing. I am considering part-time daycare so that I can increase my college counseling hours AND find time to work on my dissertation. I am sure that on some level there is a sense of guilt in leaving them for any amount of time, and for picking up pieces of my adult life that lay dormant during their first year of life and to some extent during the previous years of treatment, pregnancy, more treatment, more setbacks (read on for more about that!), more treatment, and then pregnancy. And then there is also the issue of my dissertation topic- focused on infertility's impact on marriage- that has me re-examining my own experiences as I delve deeper and deeper into trying to understand others'. So for these reasons, and I am sure others that I am not fully aware of, I have returned to this process.

Recently, I posted a comment on a blog regarding how, for me, grief has a cyclical nature. Rather than a linear process of "moving on", mine seems to be one of moving around that black hole of grief... getting a little distance from it, gaining a new perspective, and then returning to experience it once again from a new vantage point.

This is a time in my life when, for whatever reason, I am returning to this experience. "Rapprochement", we might call it in psychological terms. And it is hard, but hard in a good way. I feel closer to the babies I lost, I feel their presence in my life. And I know their spirits live on within me.

That said, I find that this blog triggers a certain sense of vulnerability. There are so many people who I know both in real life and online, who do not know this side of me. They may know that I lost twins, but they know little about what this experience meant to me. In their eyes, I am Isabelle and Julien's mother... there are two children in our family, not four. And so I feel, quite honestly, a little apprehensive about what they might think should they stumble across this blog. It all seems so dark and heavy! How can this part of my life be more integrated with the parts of my life that the outside world sees? How can I live as the mother of four children- rather than two? I so want this truth to be told, and feel so lacking in terms of a finding a way to tell it. I hardly want to respond to the question (often asked by strangers): "are these your first children?" with "no, I had another set of twin and lost them when I was 20 weeks pregnant". It feels way too personal to share, yet at the same time, there is a part of me that I am denying the very existence of my children, and feel horrible in doing so. And so, Carynne and Lucas have become parts of my innermost, most private identity. And quite honestly, I think this blog has become a place for me to "try out" making their presence known more publicly.

And so, I return to my story. January, February, and March of '06 were a blur, really. I remember the day I returned to work quite vividly. It was about a week or so after my loss, and I was eager for the routine distractions of my former life. The first day was hard... each time I faced a colleague for the first time, there was that horribly awkward moment in which the dark truth of what had happened needed to be addressed. Even not addressing it represented a response laden with meaning for me- there were certainly people who seemed to think that ignoring the proverbial elephant in the room might be easiest, might be best. Sometimes it was. Often it wasn't. Honestly, no response was the right one because nothing could diminish the sense of loss that lay just below the surface.

Nothing, it seemed, except moving forward mentally and logistically to my next IVF. I needed that next "fix" of infertility drugs to keep me going. My breasts were still leaking when I attempted my IVF in March, and this is telling both in terms of my emotional and physical state. The pregnancy was still living in me, fighting to hold on, had not yet let go. But I moved forward anyway... foolishly... thinking a new pregnancy might be just the solution we needed. I think my inner ambivalence manifested itself on many levels. I have no recollection of how many eggs were retrieved- only that they weren't great quality. The day after my transfer, I walked 3 miles- not exactly the way to support a potential pregnancy. My mind may have longer for another positive pregnancy test. My body and my emotions were simply not ready- and no good could come from this misalignment. The pregnancy test was negative.

I jumped right back on the trying to conceive train. By mid-May, I was doing a frozen embryo transfer. The quality of the embies upon thaw was so crappy that they stuck all four of them back in me (which in retrospect, makes me realize how pessimistic my dr was about my chances). I wrote the cycle off. Surprise, surprise- two days after our second wedding anniversary, I had a positive pregnancy test.

My beta was very low, however. And in the subsequent weeks, it behaved abnormally- sometimes doubling, but in general remaining way too low to be a viable pregnancy. If only the story ended here! This pregnancy proved to be extremely complicated. There was a sac in my uterus. A blighted ovum, most likely. But there appeared to be something in my tube, as well. So, I got a shot of methotrexate to eliminate the pregnancy. Went back for another beta. I was in the bathroom at Target when I got the call (this I remember vividly). My beta had gone UP, not down, following the treatment. Got yet another shot of Methotrexate. Everyone was optimistic that this would do the trick.

I didn't feel good that weekend. I had heard of people having GI issues as a result of the treatment, I figured that was the case. Called my Dr on Monday am, just to let her know. She asked that I come in for an ultrasound, just to be safe.

I walked into the clinic before work, thinking I would be in and out. Much to my surprise and everyone else's, the U/S revealed that my abdomen was filled with blood. My tube had burst. My wonderful Dr drove me in her car to Duke Hospital, where I was met by my husband and rushed into surgery. I lost my tube, but fortunately, the rest of me remained intact.

Everything except my sense of being able to continue to try to achieve a pregnancy.
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I am not sure how much I can write about my first twin pregnancy right now. It is a deep well of pain and loss that I keep tightly sealed as I navigate my current life. Typing their names brings tears to my eyes.

It was a wonderful pregnancy- I was blissfully, naiively, deeply happy and grateful.

It lasted twenty short weeks.

And then on December 29, it all came crashing down around me. This is the email I wrote to my best friend (who was in India for a wedding) the day after it happened. It is all I can do now to read it again, and re-live the memories...
Dearest J,

I am sure that by now you have received my email from yesterday and know the news. I really feel the need to sit and write about all that happened- and knowing that I can do so to you is tremendously comforting. So know that even though you are far away, I feel your presence here supporting me and it is a gift to be able to share this experience with you by writing.

So we had spent a few very busy days in New York- alot of walking. I was feeling good, though a bit tired. By the end of the day on Tuesday I felt pretty exhausted and my abdomen felt heavy. I was looking forward to returning to Dover and having some "downtime". We arrived that evening, and I felt some pain. Honestly, I thought it was just that my pants were too tight. I lay down for a few hours- it didn't get better, and when I realized that the "pain" seemed to have a rhythm to it, I began to worry. I decided to go the ER to have things checked out. They found two healthy heartbeats, but couldn't find my cervix (they thought it was just "tipped back") and sent me by ambulance to Brigham and Women's. At this point, I figured I had just gotten dehydrated, would need some fluids, and maybe to be on bedrest for a day or two. The Dr. at the Brigham, a young female resident, did a pelvic exam and her eyes filled with tears. She put her hand on my stomach, and with tears in her eyes told me that the amniotic sac had already descended to the vagina; my cervix was fully open and there was nothing they could do to stop the labor. The cause was uncertain, perhaps an "incompetent cervix" or perhaps a uterine infection- there was no way to really know for sure. Of course, I asked if there was something, anything we could do. The chief resident came and basically told me that there was virtually no chance that they could do anything that would allow these babies to live prior to 24 weeks... and if they were born at that time, they would likely die or have severe developmental disabilities. All I could think of was that I didn't want these two perfect little babies to have to suffer in any way... and it was unimaginable to think about trying to hold onto them because I wanted them to be born on my time frame. It was such a difficult shift after the controlled process of IVF, pregnancy... doing everything "right" in order to keep these babies alive and growing and well... to realize that doing "right" by them meant letting them go. The guilt on my part (did I walk too much in NY? Did I allow myself to get dehydrated? Is there ANYTHING I could have done differently?) also made it hard... but the doctor's were great about being very up-front and direct. We called my parents immediately- I wanted them there with me. It was amazing that Laurie and Patrick were around to stay with Shannon and Reagan- we couldn't have picked two better people to be with them so that the rest of us could feel totally confident that they were OK.

And so, we went forward with the labor. They gave me an epidural so I would feel no pain, and morphine and Atavan to keep me relaxed- and I was very aware of everything that was happening, and of what I was feeling, but less anxious and scared. I know you of all people can imagine how wonderful my parents were... and I worried about them... I didn't want them to have to go through this horrible process without the benefit of the drugs that I had- but they stayed with me the whole time. Jeff could not have been more wonderful to me... he just told me again and again that we would get through this together, that we are a team, and that we will be stronger as a team for having gone through this together... and that our dream of becoming parents will come true when the time is right.

I felt so unprepared- as to what to expect from labor, and even more so what to expect from such an early labor. And I had no idea whether I wanted to see and hold them when the arrived. But one of the nurses encouraged me to do so- and I realized that the one thing I wanted more than anything was for them to be kept together from the time they were both born. I didn't want them to be separated a moment longer than they had to be.

They started me on Pitocin, and the contractions came very regularly- and it was painful for a while and then they adjusted the medication so I felt nothing at all. At one point, the nurse checked me, and my water broke, and I pushed a few times, and the first baby, Carynne, came out. I remember crying so hard when they carried her over to the bassinett to clean her up, and then they brought her to me. She was tiny, but she had the sweetest face. It looked as though she were smiling in her sleep. I held her and touched her and told her how much I love her, and how glad I was that she was so peaceful. Jeff and my parents did the same. Shortly thereafter, the second baby, Lucas (yes, Jeff and I had just agreed on his name the week before) was born. They cleaned him up, and wrapped him in a blanket with Carynne and brought them both to me. They looked so different from one another- two little people- and I held them for awhile and talked to them and told them how loved they are.

Lindsay arrived, and the nurses had dressed the babies in teeny outfits and lay them together in a bassinet. It looked as though they were holding hands. We stood there around them, holding hands, and she baptized them and blessed them while all of us, including the nurses, cried. And then I was ready to let them go... they had taken pictures and later gave them to me in a satin box with the outfits they had worn. I plan to add the little album of all the ultrasound pictures I had of them- there are so many- and also the many many emails, letters, and notes I received from all the people who love them and us so much. I honestly don't know if there have ever been two unborn babies as loved as those two- and those are the things I want to keep to remember them by.

I have struggled to find my own sense of spirituality for so much of my life, and from time to time, Jeff has always told me that my turning point would come and I would find it when I wasn't looking for it. I do remember telling him at one point that night that I had made it to that turning point- and somehow what I believe to be true became so unbelievably clear to me. I believe that those babies came into and also went out of my life in the time and way that they did for a reason... and that one day I will look back and know that all has happened as was meant to happen. All my life I have worked and struggled and manipulated (as you know!) and tried to control my life so it would happen on my time. This is the ultimate lesson in the reality that life just doesn't work that way... and as I look back, I realize that some of my greatest blessings have thwarted all my best-laid plans. I also know that the life, the spirit, the energy that was within Carynne and Lucas still exists- it did not go away even though their little bodies did. They are still out there, there are still with me, and their energy and spirits will manifest themselves in my life when the time is right. I can't really describe that feeling in words, but I know it with more certainty than I have ever known anything in my life. And I also know that I have two choices- I can either move forward from this with anger, disappointment, and bitterness- clinging to the idea that this is NOT fair (which it isn't) or that this shouldn't have happened to me or that somehow I brought this on myself. But what a sad legacy for two perfect little creatures to leave behind! The only other choice is to face this head on- and to go through all the pain and sadness and loss and disappointment without denying it- and then to use what I have learned to change myself, my life, and what I do with my life- as a parent, a partner, a friend, whatever... for the better. That is the kind of legacy that I would wish for those babies to leave behind on my life- and maybe even on the lives of the other people who loved them so much. I don't deny the trememdous grief I will feel as time goes on, and know that the next months will be hard, and also that I will get through it- hopefully with alot of love and help and encouragment from the people in my life. It is truly in times like this that you learn how extensive and strong your "family" is- and just in the 24 hours that have passed, I have been overwhelmed by the outpouring of love- not only for Jeff and I, but for our family... who are also struggling greatly. Who would have know that one could feel so blessed during the darkest of times.

Ah, it feels good to have gotten all those thoughts out in writing. It's incredibly cathartic for me, and also meaningful knowing that I can share this with you, my second sister. I know your support and love are with me even though you are so incredibly far away.

I love you, J, and will look forward to visiting in person as soon as we can make that happen. In the meantime, ENJOY the rest of your time in India, and give my love to A.

Love always,

and her response...

My dear friend,

It is so difficult to know how to respond. And I regret that, sitting in an internet cafe surrounded by curious onlookers, I do not feel completely free to take the time I need. It seems that no matter which direction I contemplate, I fall short for not wanting to allow myself the tears that are so close to the surface.

So, for now, let me say again how much I love you. Thank you for sharing the details of your experience with me. My heart goes out to you and Jeff and your whole family, and of course to those two beautiful children of yours. I am so sad that they will not know you in the way we expected, for they could not have come into a family that loves them more. I really understand your desire for them to stay together--it is a comfort somehow to know that they have each other as we have had our family in times of unexpected grief. I guess we must look for the little rays of light--thank God there is something here to hold onto.

Traveling as a group has certainly made me think a lot about our trip to Europe years ago (dynamics are a challenge here as they were there)--I know how you have struggled to find a sense of peace in relation to your own spirituality and have a good sense of how far you have come. Hearing you speak of a turning point was all the more poingant as I have been struggling alot with similar questions as we try to put together a wedding ceremony that is meaningful. A and I have had some important conversations about how we want to go forward together as a married couple. I tell you this, because I want to share something of what it was like for me to hear your news.

Certainly, I was inexpressibly sad. You are my family, and so are your children. I know that you and I are connected, but I was surprised to notice the emptiness I felt in my own body. Nothing compared to what you are going through, but I think at least an indication of how connected we are. It helped me feel less guilty for being away...less upset for lack of something to do. Before I called you, I came back to the guest house we were staying in and cried with A. AR and J came to find out if things were ok--I hope it is ok that I told them what had happened. We all cried together and AR helped me understand what had happened in medical terms, based on what little we knew of the details. I needed to know that you were going to be ok physically. And somehow hearing a little more about what may have happened helped (nothing compared to your own words, but something to hold on to for the time being).

J folded two beautiful paper cranes, which I took to my room. Adrian and I sat together and I prayed with him...something I don't think I've ever done. My first thought was for your comfort. I was so relieved to understand that you were in Dover with your parents and Jeff. And then I felt very clearly that those two little people will remain with you throughout your life. I told A how sure I am that they will manifest again when the time is right. I can't help but hope that they will return to this Earth in body so that you can continue to explore being their parents; but, perhaps they have given their gift and have left it to you to love additional children who also need you. I am so confident that you and Jeff will have the opportunity to be parents together again. And as sad I am, I am also quite awed by your strength and clear thinking. As parents we are sometimes called upon to do what we think is impossible...I can't imagine two people on this Earth who have demonstrated their capacity and sincere intention in more ways.

Please let me know as you decide how long you will stay in Dover. I really want to see you when I return and will either come to Dover to Durham...whichever makes the most sense. I return on Jan. 4th (Wed), but there is no reason I can't take "sick" days on Thurs or Fri to travel--afterall, Indian food is quite hard on the digestive track.
Just let me know. I know you have all kinds of wonderful people around you, but I can't help wanting to hug you myself.

Allow yourself to grieve. And don't try too hard to find the "reason" in all this--things will become clear when the time is right and you will know how to move forward.
I wish you and Jeff and Carynne and Lucas peace. Love each other ferociously. And trust yourself to do for each other what is right and good.

I love you.


I sit here now, two and a half years later, with tears streaming down my face. What I felt that day was deep, true, and in such a sad way, beautiful. And even thought it has been such a long time since I have read the words I wrote, they are with me.

They are written on my soul.
So to continue this storytelling journey...

After my first m/c, I became all the more obsessed with achieving a pregnancy. Unfortunately, my body didn't cooperate. Ovulation didn't seem to come naturally (or monthly) for me. We saw an RE. We tried Clomid. I became evil. A crazy, raving psychobitch.

My body ovulated on Clomid. Barely. And after days and days of waiting.

And then my husband took a new job in North Carolina. I was devastated, but it would ultimately be a blessing. Along with his job came insurance coverage that included 100% of infertility expenses. As many of my readers know, this is winning the IF lottery. It is nothing short of amazing. The company we both ultimately joined was partnered with a company in MA for insurance purposes- and thus, we were the beneficiaries of MA's infertility coverage mandate.

Just an aside- if you have ever thought of finding a "cause" to support- the push for mandated infertility coverage is one that can make a HUGE difference in peoples' lives... I am one of them. And if it makes you as angry as it does me that Viagra is routinely covered, thus insuring that men can be "potent" throughout their lives... and women are routinely denied treatment for what I consider a far more devastating blow to their lives, well-being, and families... well, WRITE TO YOUR LOCAL LEGISLATORS. Let them know you care. Join RESOLVE's efforts.

OK, off my soapbox.

So, my new RE at Duke - the wonderful and fabulous Grace Couchman - did an HSG and discovered a uterine septum. Anyone see "Baby Mama"? I think the line was "I don't like the look of your uterus". That was me. This septum had likely caused my first m/c. So, off I went for surgery, which was a success. And then, after a three month break, on to my first injectable / IUI cycle.

My body, we came to realize, likes Follistim as much as it hates Clomid. I developed bushels of eggs, my e2 went through the roof. There was talk of cancelling my cycle. But thanks to the wonders of our insurance, we simply converted the cycle to an IVF cycle. It was a bit touch-and-go, and I had to coast for a while... but at the end of the road, it worked.

I got my long-awaited BFP. And it was twins. My prayers had been answered, my dreams realized, my IF journey was over.

Or so we thought.