Thursday, August 21, 2014

Why I Miscarry (most likely), and Broken Down and Busted: The Tale of a Retroverted Uterus

Broken Down and Busted
In the last few months we've learned I'm even more infertile than we thought! Really at this point it's kind of funny, amusing at least, and really weird. At this point I think I have 5? Five different parts that don't work properly? (Going through the reproductive system in my mind)...yeah, five diagnosed issues working against the possibility of ever creating a child. Here is all the latest.

I had a pelvic ultrasound back in the beginning of July to check out how things were going in that area. Ya know, say a quick little hello to my baby-making area. There has been a bit going on in the last 6 months so I don't remember exactly what this particular ultrasound was for. 

I've had a ridiculous number of ultrasounds in the last 7 years. A really ridiculous number. And I'm one that is always asking questions and trying to understand what is going on so I'm pretty sure at this point I could do my own pelvic ultrasound. Anyway, I knew something wasn't right as soon as my insides popped up on the screen.

Ultrasound tech: "Whoooa..." 
Me: "What the...."

Something was missing. She pushed a little harder with the ultrasound...nub? What is that thing called? The thing she pushes on my stomach with. Anyway, she pushed harder, moved it around, kind of dug around.

Me: "Wheeerrre is my uterus?" It was conspicuously absent from where I knew it should've been.

After a little more digging...

Me: "Is THAT it?"

Ultrasound tech: "Yes it is. Have you ever been told you have a tilted uterus?"

Me: "What?! Never. I just had an ultrasound a few months ago and it was right in it's normal place!"

Ultrasound tech: "This is EXTREEEEMELY extremely retroverted. My goodness..."

Looking at the screen it didn't even look like my uterus. It looked like a deflated balloon who had given up on life, then been beaten up and thrown into a crumpled heap in the corner of my pelvis, oh AND bent in half. What in the world?? It was literally bent at a 90* angle just after my cervix, then curled all the way backward, pressing, wedged tightly into it's current position. Well, that explained the pain. I hadn't felt lower back pain like this since I was about 35-37 weeks pregnant. 

Ultrasound tech: "Yeah this is going to make it a lot more difficult for you to get pregnant, but not impossible." 

I laughed :) I let her know there were several other things making pregnancy impossible, a crumpled uterus being among the least of them. I wasn't too bothered by one more broken part of a system I wasn't using. She then gave me some pretty detailed instructions on positions that would give us the best chance of "getting his little guys up there".  

I couldn't stop giggling. :) Partially because this was weird of course. Partially because I get this kind of advice ALL THE TIME and it still amuses me. When people find out you're infertile it's like suddenly all social boundaries evaporate and nothing is inappropriate or off limits. I have gotten some of the weirdest baby-making advice from some of the most unexpected sources :) I don't find it offensive or anything, people are just trying to help, but oh man, it's still funny. Some of the more basic stuff I want to reply "Really, you think we didn't try that?" and some of the weirder stuff I can only laugh awkwardly and back away slowly...

Anyway, coming from her it was weird :) She is this incredibly sweet, much older woman. I felt like she should be giving me a sticker and sucker after the ultrasound, not SEX advice! :) 

Having my uterus in it's current "I've completely given up" state not only makes pregnancy even less likely (is that possible?) but it also increases the chances of miscarriage. It can probably go back, but might not. It's alright, we're considering just getting rid of the whole thing anyway. :-)

So there it is. This was hurdle, blockade, "biological babies won't be happening" reason #4. THIS is #5...

Why I miscarry (most likely)
After our second miscarriage we were told by the fertility center that because of the nature of our miscarriages there was likely something genetically between Daniel and I that was creating babies incapable of surviving. We had accepted that and happily moved on to adoption.

A while ago I met with our family practice doctor about something unrelated and mentioned that biological children (even if the odds were different) were out for good. I absolutely could not risk another miracle pregnancy with the risk of another miscarriage, saying "if I have another miscarriage, I will quit, I will literally give up on life. I cannot handle losing another child." I'm actually very afraid of ever having another miracle pregnancy for that reason. Even though I know the chances of pregnancy are essentially zero, I've still been afraid that somehow it would happen again and yet another of our babies would die. So to put me at ease and try to hopefully provide an explanation for why I miscarry she ordered a blood panel.

The results were something I hadn't heard of before. I immediately let Daniel know and got to work researching the latest studies and medical journals. It turns out I have a genetic mutation that increases our odds of miscarriage by about 600%. 

The main issue is this mutation makes it so my body doesn't effectively produce the enzyme that converts folic acid (synthetic folate) into readily usable folate. Folic acid helps prevent neural tube defects (in those who can process it), issues that usually lead to miscarriage, and my body is barely able to do more than zilch with it. All that folic acid in all the FDA required enriched foods? Most of it just floats around my body in its unusable, synthetic form. So now we (hopefully) at least understand why our babies didn't survive.

I can take a more broken down, ready for my body to use, form of folate as well as add some more foods to my diet that are high in folate. I still don't fully understand all the implications (the diagnosis wasn't very long ago) but I know it means I also have issues breaking down and using other B-vitamins (I think B-5 and B-12). So, I did some research, found out what the usable forms were and picked those up as well. 

What's nice is for the most part I don't need to make any major changes to my diet. The only thing I need to cut out is Folic Acid. I eat almost entirely veggies, fruit and lean meats and all of those are best for this mutation. I'll just need to add some other veggies I don't often eat. The hardest (probably the only hard) change I'm going to make is cutting out enriched pasta (I LOVE making pasta dishes). Daniel is completely on board with helping me and said we're going to learn to make our own pasta :)

So yes, we've found a likely explanation for our miscarriages which is really really fantastic :) I feel incredibly lucky to have an explanation. Pregnancy is still out because of all the other reasons, but at least now I don't have the fear of losing another child hanging so heavily over my head, making me so afraid of another miracle.

And that's the latest :)

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

How We Responded

Some comments were made that if we had things so well documented then why didn't we take action against them? Why didn't we do something? We did. We handled it correctly, appropriately.

First, at our base we are "turn the other cheek" kind of people. Well, Daniel is, turning the other cheek isn't usually my gut reaction, but it's what I work toward. While it may not be my first thought it is the standard for actions I actually take. I try to look at my motivation, my purpose, for the things I want to do or say. If my purpose and motivation are to hurt, if it's to retaliate, to antagonize I don't do it. This is why we didn't lash out at anyone. We did what we could reasonably do and then took it to the right people in positions to appropriately handle the situation.

Most of the things from my earlier post were done by people with, at the very least, a professional obligation against doing what was done, people working for LDS Family Services. For what happened people needed to be held accountable, if for no other reason than to keep any of this from happening again. 

I want there to be no mistake, our experiences with LDS Family services as a whole have been really great. We have loved all of our caseworkers, and the caseworkers from the other office ours is kind of partnered with. Everyone else we've worked with is kind, professional, and genuinely cares about the couples and expectant parents they work with. Like with any large organization though there are always a few who...don't represent the whole.

There is a grievance process within LDSFS to address things that aren't handled properly. Once we learned the woman who threatened our family had many (many) grievances filed against her by local families, that she actually had this reputation in the adoption community, we knew we needed to speak up about our experiences. Because she had been permitted to continue in her position despite all the documented grievances against her we knew the grievance couldn't be sent to her boss, it needed to be taken to the top of the chain, the president of LDSFS.

On May 5th we sent off a 6-page grievance addressed to the president of LDSFS. A woman (who asked not to be named) helped us carefully craft the grievance, making sure only the issues carried out or created by employees of LDS Family Services were recounted, that the facts were presented and that we included kind of a victim impact statement, outlining the ways these actions had affected our family. The grievance covered each event that LDSFS had a reasonable responsibility over or carried out directly. About a week later we received a response.

His response was very PC but offered a heartfelt apology for what our family had experienced, explaining it was not acceptable and that he immediately took action to address the issues. He explained that each person involved would be corrected and properly trained on how to handle these situations.

The woman who threatened our family no longer works for LDSFS. She left shortly before our grievance was received by the main office. Our caseworker was the one told to pass along her threat and this woman then confirmed (in front of 5 witnesses) at his funeral that she had threatened our family because she (in her words) "didn't want to step on anyone's toes".

So just so everyone knows, we weren't silent victims without recourse. We took the appropriate steps, and other than that particular woman getting out before being corrected, we're completely satisfied with the results.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Jess Learns to Cook: #2 - Garden fresh, homemade tomato soup

With five tomato plants (2 Celebrity, 1 Heirloom, 1 Cherry, 1 Grape) in our garden we've run into a bit of a surplus. We should probably be learning to can them so we can be knee deep in jars of salsa and pasta sauce all winter, but we haven't gotten around to that yet. So with tomatoes piling up in the kitchen I decided to try my hand at tomato soup. When I sat down to write this post though I realized I didn't save the recipe I used. Oops :) Oh well, I didn't love it anyway. So here was my experience and the tips gained along the way.

Our tomato supply. Mostly Celebrity, lots of Cherry and Grape, a few Heirloom.

I first started searching for "homemade tomato soup", but almost all of them call for canned tomatoes, dried this, canned that, etc. I suppose I could've just eyeballed the equal amount of tomatoes from our garden and substituted our fresh ingredients, but oh well. After looking through a bunch of from-the-can soup recipes I searched for something along the lines of "no really, homemade, from my garden, I grew this stuff, coming straight out of our backyard, I want to make it, tomato soup...from the garden...for reals.......homemadetomatosoup". 

The problem with a lot of the "real" homemade tomato soups though is that they're a little ridiculous. By ridiculous I mean an unrealistic amount of time and using more advanced techniques to prepare each ingredient. Sure, if all I did all day was cook and I didn't have kids (or a house, or a life) then I would make the crap out of fancy tomato soup on the regular. Realistically though, those kind of recipes will only be cooked by me once or twice a month, let's be honest. That's even considering we cook dinner nearly every day, only going out to eat once or twice a month. 2+ hours of constant work is entirely too long to be preparing ONE meal for a family of 3. I do make an exception for first time recipes and recipes that'll result in lots and lots of leftovers.

Anyway, when I find a new recipe I search for what I want and read through several. That way I know which ingredients are almost always used, which ones might be a nice addition and the various ways of preparation. The end result is usually largely following one recipe with a few slight alterations. Somewhere in that process this time I got all twisted up, thought I was making a 30 minute recipe, but actually started a 90 minute recipe. Oops.

One of the first things it said to do was "core the tomatoes". I'm sorry, what? Core them? Like an apple? They don't...what? Why would I cut out the center of the tomatoes? Either my understanding of "coring" was off or they were asking me to do something unnecessary. The middle of a tomato is just fine, thank you. So I cut out just the top bit where the tomato connects to the vine.

The recipe called for a few garlic cloves but I didn't have any on hand so I just used the store-bought minced garlic. I use fresh garlic when I can but if it isn't a major part/taste of the dish and I don't have any cloves on hand then the pre-minced kind works just fine.

I put the tomato halves, onion slices and minced garlic on a baking sheet, drizzled (...bleh, I don't like that word) with olive oil, threw on a bit of salt and pepper and put it in the oven at 450*.

I've never used my non-stick baking sheets for anything but cookies and I'm still not entirely sure if this is alright. Oh well :) 

I had a lot of "oh well" moments with this recipe.

I know olive oil has a pretty low smoke point (temperature it'll start smoking), turns out its only 375*. I knew this would be a problem but it really wasn't as bad as I was expecting. While everything was baking the smoke alarm kept going off (obnoxious), but thankfully I have a tall husband who can reach the smoke alarm :) Other than the smoke the food and oven were fine. It smelled SO GOOD. SO good. Even with the smoke it...oh my goodness I could've eaten them straight out of the oven.

While those were baking I put the following into the stock pot and brought to a boil:
2T butter
1qt homemade chicken stock
2 bay leaves

The tomatoes, onions and garlic baked for 20-30 minutes then went into the stock pot too.


Then it was simmered for about 30 min. This was the point I realized I was using the long recipe :)

This is the part where it could've ended up so much worse. I used one of those strainer spoons and scooped everything out of the stock pot and into the blender. You know that hole in the top of blender lids? This is a time to open that. Yeah, I didn't know that. I blended everything up as quickly as I could, hoping my boiling hot soup bits wouldn't cause an issue for our blender. The reason you're supposed to open that hole in the top is so the steam doesn't build up inside and make your blender explode hot nonsense all over the place and you. I didn't have any trouble with that but next time I know to open the hole AND COVER WITH A DISH TOWEL!!! Don't go blend something with the whole WIDE open.

Anyway, then I added some chopped fresh basil from our garden. Doesn't that sound fancy? "Fresh basil from our garden" I feel almost pretentious just typing it. Ha! :) Then cooked it longer. 20 minutes I think? And viola! Tomato soup from our garden!

I should've made a smiley face of cherry tomatoes. What was I thinking?
Doesn't it look great? No? Yeah, not so great. The texture was thicker, but kind of a weird thicker, almost like a bisque.

I'm going to find and try a different recipe but for now, here are my issues with this one.

- It took forever. Granted, a lot of that was somewhat idle time, waiting for boiling, baking, etc., but still. I've spent lots of time growing, loving, weeding and harvesting my garden, I don't want to spend forever cooking from it too.

- More detail was put into things that could be simplified. Yes, those tomatoes and onions were *muah* delicious. But you know what else is delicious? Throwing all that nonsense together in the stock pot and spending time with my family while it does it's own thing.

- Texture. Texture is a big thing with Daniel. He dislikes fish not because it tastes like fish but because if feels like fish. Yeah. So the texture of the soup was a bit much for him.

Tips Learned:
- Open the "hole" in the top of the blender (and hold dish towel over it) when blending hot things.
- Double check a recipe before starting to cook

Overall this particular recipe wasn't worth the time and effort BUT for my first try at tomato soup it did turn out pretty tasty I think. I'll probably not make this one again (especially since I haven't recovered the recipe), but I do think it's a fantastic idea for people with tomatoes coming out their ears :)

***In the next few weeks I'll find and try out a more realistic recipe and I'll make sure to post it***

Monday, August 18, 2014

Getting Back to It

Last weekend I met two people I didn't know (well, one knew me as a child) and both of them said they had read our blog and knew our story. I don't think I can adequately describe how it feels when I hear that, to know so many people are reading our blog without having a personal connection to us, without it popping up in their news feed on Facebook. It gives tremendous purpose to all we've been through and validates how I've felt about the purpose of this blog from the beginning. I write mainly to help other people and as a cathartic outlet for myself. Some of the greatest help to me has been knowing others have been through the same things, and then to have them so perfectly verbalize things I'd been feeling but hadn't understood. It' great, so extremely satisfying to know I have been able to do that for other people.

One of the people I met encouraged me to get back to writing, saying our story needs to be told and it needs my raw honesty, the kind that allows readers to feel every crack of my heart. Writing our story since Noah left is something I've really struggled with. I've mentioned on our blog before that I didn't know how much of our story I would share after the point of letting Noah go. I'm still not sure. I'm trying to find the balance of sharing our story, being honest, and not...publicly shaming?...the cruel people and events that have intentionally, maliciously caused our family so much pain. It's insane really.

I don't want to focus on the pain, I want to focus on the joy, the peace. At the same time though I still want people to KNOW about the pain. The joy and peace are so much sweeter when you can see the pain and darkness that they followed.

It's kind of weird because in person I freely tell every horrid detail of what really happened from the moment we made that phone call to our caseworker. For whatever reason though I don't feel all the details are entirely appropriate for the blog. I am more ready now to share some bits and pieces though. There were moments of victory and tender healing that brought brief moments of relief. There were far more experiences of horrifying, mind-boggling cruelty and absolutely agonizing, soul-crushing grief.

However bad you may guess our experience has been, I promise you it was so much worse, so much more unfathomable. We and Noah's birth family were lied to constantly during the time between our initial phone call to our caseworker and him having new guardianship. We and his birth family were on the phone with each other constantly during those few days, trying to make sense of the conflicting information. After calling the source of the misinformation (lies) to get some clarity, our family was threatened. We were threatened into signing over our physical custody of our sweet little boy, told if we didn't do everything we were told he would be ripped away from us immediately. We still didn't have legal custody so we felt entirely powerless to stop it. It made no sense! We had made this choice, we weren't fighting against it! We were doing everything we could to make this the best possible situation for him, I only wanted clarity, I wanted the truth! We were tricked (lied to again) into an early morning meeting where we were told to sign over custody right then. What was already such an incredibly difficult experience for our family, an experience we chose, was made so much worse so unnecessarily.

That was just the beginning. 

The grief counselor we started seeing shortly before Noah's passing took note of every bizarrely absurd text, every inexplicably cruel word and action, as well as our measured response (or lack thereof), telling us anything further would require us to file a report with the police. None of it made any sense. When I directly asked the people involved why this was happening, what we had done to cause it, I was brushed off, told it was wasn't actually happening (what?) and that clearly it was all in my head (.....what??). There was no explanation, and everything that happened has left even our counselor baffled, with only grim guesses as to why all of this was done.

Daniel always thinks the best of people, gives them the benefit of the doubt maybe to a fault. I, on the other hand, have seen vividly the ugly cruelty some people hide behind the smiles they parade for the world. I feel strongly that every person is capable of loving kindness, charity and compassion, I believe that completely, no matter what their life has been. But I also believe that anyone is capable of anything. When our adoption workers ask what causes arguments in our relationship (part of the many interviews involved in adoption), this is one of those things, Daniel's over-trust (my own opinion), my lack of it. This whole experience was one of those times I wish desperately Daniel had been right and I had been so very wrong. Unfortunately, it wasn't. For now, that's where my recounting needs to end.

So now I'm going to be back to blogging. We've got some updates I'm ready to share, some perfectly, beautifully mundane things that our life has been made of lately, and mixed with those will be bits of untold parts of our story.

Monday, August 4, 2014

First Disneyland Trip

A few months ago we went to Disneyland and it fantastic. Disneyland is already one of my favorite places, Disneyland with kids is giddy and magical and all things childhood should be.

We don't live very far from Disneyland so we were planning to leave in the morning and drive it in one leisurely go, but a big storm changed our plans and we left the night before and stayed the night in Las Vegas. Oh my goodness, here's a tip for you. Go to Vegas mid-week, off-season and ask for a free upgrade. We stayed in an awesome villa for dirt cheap and it was a blast :)

We spent four days at Disneyland and California Adventure, so here goes the picture overload...

This was what Aurelia wanted to bring, some stuffed animals and the balloons from Noah's last hospital stay.

Our countdown calendar, run by the 3-year-old :)

Aurelia has a set of princess keys and she told Daniel he HAD to use the princess keys to get us to Disneyland. So Daniel taped the keys to the car key and drove all the way to Anaheim like this :)

Jumping on the bed in our Vegas hotel room :)

We rode the carousel first thing in the morning and as one of the last rides at night (that's why her jacket is on in every picture) :)

Meeting Mickey, Daisy and waiting in line to meet Elsa and Anna.

We stayed in a hotel literally right across the street from the entrance to the parks, and we brought our own food. That meant we could easily go back to our room to have yummy lunches and dinners.

Princess Sofia holding hands with her daddy in line. 
Rides, rides, rides! We LOVED the 3D Toy Story ride in California Adventure.

Princess overload: Ariel, Cinderella, Aurora, Rapunzel, and Elsa

Talking to Aurora.

Every night the teacups were one of the last things we did. They have these colorful lantern lights on at night that make it extra magical. 

The fireworks were *sigh* so fantastic

Little Miss was so tuckered out each night :) There was too much fun and excitement to stay awake all the way back to the hotel :) Pretty much as soon as we did the final rides and said we were headed back she just curled up and zonked out :) One night we walked to Cold Stone after leaving the parks and Daniel and I had a little ice cream date with Aurelia asleep in the stroller. She didn't wake the slightest bit through the whole thing :)

It was really really great to get away and spend time together as a family.