Sunday, May 9, 2021

The Mother's Day Talk I wanted To Hear

I have hated church on Mother's Day ever since | was a teenager. Do you think Bishop would have still asked me to speak had he known? 

When I was single (starting even as a young woman) it felt so awkward to receive a flower or chocolate on Mother's Day when I was so clearly not a Mother or trying to be a mother. As a married woman I appreciated the spirit of inclusion more but it still felt inauthentic and a little embarrassing. When I was striving to become a mother, it was a painful reminder | was not a Mother and I felt guilt and shame being praised for the motherhood I wanted so badly. I felt like an imposter. 

After a long and traumatic infertility battle, My first mother's day as a mom I triumphantly walked into church ready to finally enjoy my potted geranium. They didn't mention a thing about mother's that day. The years leading up to that moment I would have rejoiced but that year I was a little let down. I thought I was ready to embrace Mother's Day, finally! 

These days, the Mother's Day talks are a mixed bag of emotions for me. So when bishop asked me to speak I decided I would give a Mother's Day talk I would want to hear. 

Mother's Day can be a hard time for many. Those who have no Mother, who have lost their mother, who have a strained relationship with their mother, had a "bad mother;" those who want to be a mother or even a wife; and even those who are mothers but who may feel shame, guilt, or inadequate to receive the praises heaped upon them every May. 

Whatever your Mother's Day baggage (if you have any or not), I hope to talk more what I have learned about mothers in my own personal journey. 

First, you don't have to have any children or birth children to be a mother. Eve was called the "mother of all living" before she ever begat Cain and Abel. (She also wasn't presumably less than a mother because her oldest slain her younger son! Talk about Mom guilt!) Our motherhood is eternal and the divine qualities of womanhood can be fostered and used in this life regardless of our actual parental status in this life. We are all promised we will have all our righteous desires granted in the eternities and God will wipe away all our tears (Rev 21:4). Elder Anderson taught in the most recent general conference, "The unrealized dreams of life are difficult to understand if viewed only from the perspective of mortality. As the Lord's servant, I promise you that as you are faithful to Jesus Christ and your covenants, you will receive compensating blessings in this life and your righteous desires in the eternal time line of the Lord. There can be happiness in the journey of mortality even when all of our righteous hopes are not realized." 

While it is natural to be heartbroken over the disappointments that come with broken dreams of a perfect motherhood, God wants us to be happy and live full lives. Women are that they may have joy! 

We can foster our maternal gifts in all aspects of our lives. Developing our talents, providing service, and reaching our divine potential are all important in our womanhood. I recently learned while visiting "This is the place monument" in Utah that Brigham Young sent many women to medical school in the 1850's because he felt women were more compassionate and fit to be doctors. A woman started one of Utah's first hospitals to help women and children, especially with the delivery of babies. What wonderful mothering she must have provided through her career! Im not sure if we know about whether she was a parent or not, but Esther acted like a mama bear and the true mother of a nation when she courageously defied her husband, the king, to save her people! We can all bring light and love to the world like good mothers do every day at home, regardless of how many children we call our own. 

Secondly, your ability to bear children has nothing to do with your worthiness in the eyes of the Lord. It is easy to mistake empty arms and hearts as a sign of unworthiness but in my studies I have found many or even most of the chosen women in the scriptures were "barren." One of the most painful things to watch while infertile is babies being born to unfit mothers or being terminated for being unwanted. Clearly a barren womb can't mean anything about worthiness when Sarah the mother of nations had to wait until almost her deathbed to bear a single son while some mothers bring their babies into the world without the desire or ability to care for them. Sarah, Rebecca, and Rachel were all mothers to the nations and God's chosen people despite years of heartache and paradoxically small families. Elizabeth bore the precursor to the savior in her old age. Sometimes we have to wait to see God's promises fulfilled whether in this life or the next or have them fulfilled in a way different than what we had hoped. Hannah asked for a child and in return gave him, Samuel, back to the Lord for His service. 

Emma Smith bore 9 children, 5 who died before adulthood and her twins through adoption died as infants after a mob attack. Sister Wendy Nelsen was single until well past her childbearing years when she married a prophet and now has a family of over 200. I fully believe these wives of the prophets have many blessings to receive in the eternities for their sacrifices and patience. 

Women are vital to God's work. You dont have to bear 5 or more children, homeschool your children with homemade lesson plans fit for a mini Harvard, or make gourmet organic non processed meals every night. Your house doesn't have to be as clean as the temple. your children impeccably behaved, or your abs flat as a washboard. God needs women, even with dirty dishes and stretch marks! The prophet has told us we are vital to his plan. 

Next, Embrace your current stage of life. Look for ways to learn and serve and grow no matter where you are! And look for ways to give yourself a break, some well-deserved kudos, and the confidence you are on the right track. Stop living with regret. Stop forgetting to live because you are waiting for the next baby, or until you get married, or until your kids are in school or your house is clean or you lose 12 lbs. You are enough. You are God's child, His divine daughter, and a daughter of a Heavenly Mother who must be one fierce Goddess! Take the picture, wear the swimming suit, say the nice thought, have the party even though you have dishes in the sink, and learn to say no! 

Sometimes we think we have to fit a certain mold to be good enough. Whether it is cultural or church expectations, it is easy to think we need to marry by a certain age, have a set number of children, and look and act a certain way to be enough. It is easy to compare ourselves and feel less when we don't look like the picture we have in our mind of how things are supposed to be or the ones we see on instagram. 

Ruth was a Moabite woman, an outsider. And a widow. She essentially had no status in her society but had confidence to follow God's path for her by lying at the feet of Boaz, a prominent citizen. Mary was a virgin and became pregnant while betrothed. She could have been cast out of her community but like Ruth, she followed God and bore the line of Jesus. They trusted in their revelations and moved forward in faith and changed the world. 

I did'nt expect to leave BYU unmarried. I thought | would be a stay at home mom with 5-6 kids living in Utah and done bearing children by 30. Instead, I went to 9 years of training after BYU, married in dental school, suffered through years of infertility, had twins at 32 after hundreds of shots and multiple failed medical treatments, and live in the Midwest working as a surgeon. My life is nothing like I pictured but so much better than I ever imagined because I was willing to let Him guide my footsteps. A religion professor told me God wouldn't tell a 20 year old girl to go to dental school. Luckily, that wasn't true and God can tell you where to go if you are willing to listen, even if you are a girl! 

Finally, love and support other women. The Relief Society is a sisterhood. We are stronger and better together. As the song says, "Let us oft speak kind words to each other!" It is easy to let jealousy, judgmental attitudes, and comparisons fracture our sisterhood. As Elder Uchtdorf said, "Stop it!" I believe the pure love of Christ has a cleansing power and as we offer it to others we receive it back to ourselves. Conversely, having love and confidence in who we are as children of God helps us feel the love He has for others. We are less likely to gossip, criticize, or judge others when we feel secure in ourselves! The world is hard enough to navigate as a woman sometimes, we need to do a better job mourning with those who mourn, supporting and believing our fellow sisters, and speaking up for what is right or when we need help. I know our RS has been a great example of service and love to me. 

I know God loves his daughters, no matter your story or path. He wants you to feel His love and the confidence He has in you. He wants you to be celebrated today, even if it can be a painful reminder of loss, wishes, insecurity, or even guilt. 

Go forward with faith! Move mountains. Accept the power you possess as His daughter and live your life fully without regret or stagnation. Be willing to go off plan to find something even better. He wants to bless you. Receive His blessings and return them to others! That is what true motherhood, or shall I say Womanhood, is really about! 

Monday, January 1, 2018

No More New Years Resolutions

I gave up on New Year's Resolutions a long time ago.

The long list of exciting and usually unattainable goals I without fail give up on and worse, forget about within a few months just didn't seem worth the trouble and then the let down.

Last year well after the New Year, I came across the idea of choosing a word, or theme for the year. I found this was much more attainable and helpful for me as I lived my day to day. It is easier to remember and I can look back and see I have made some (small) progress.

My word for 2017 was RECLAIM. After years of school, residency, followed by a strenuous twin pregnancy and momming two babies, work drama, and the like, I was ready to take back my life. I had had so little control over who I was, my time, or my priorities that I wanted to regain that focus and control. No more people (or pagers!) dictating my every moment or giving me excuses for missing my goals.

I have to admit that after becoming pregnant my enthusiasm for reclaiming my life came to a drastic speed bump in exchange for afternoon naps and evenings on the couch, but I have seen some changes that I haven't recognized before with my previous list approach.

Some highlights for 2017:

  • Reclaim my body and my health (throw in the pregnancy wrench here, at least on the reclaiming my body for myself): I ran my first 1/2 marathon. This was something I never thought I could do and I am proud of myself for showing I could make it happen, even in the sheer tiredness of first trimester pregnancy. Even though I feel completely derailed with this pregnancy, I know I have more confidence I can get back in shape.
  • Reclaim my home: I gave away over 250 different groups of items in an attempt to declutter our home and instituted a very manageable cleaning schedule (when I am feeling motivated). Again, I have had setbacks with pregnancy, Christmas, and our expanding and growing family biding our time for six months in a house we have outgrown, but I can see some positive changes in the right direction. 
  • Reclaim my time: I started doing a daily morning journal with daily goals and the idea to live my life with intent. I need to get back on the bandwagon (my perfectionist self sometimes self sabotages and I skip days if I don't think I'll be perfect...bad, bad, bad habit!) but I am getting better at not letting my days just happen to me. Along with this is finding quiet time for meditation and scripture time which has made a huge difference in my mental health.

Now I am working on my word for 2018. My feel for the year is similar to 2017. I want it to embody the essence of taking charge and being accountable without making excuses for myself. I'm leaning toward EMPOWER. I'm really not sure though. Maybe that is being too ambitious for the many changes to come for us this year... new baby, new house, new town/state, new jobs! Maybe it needs to be something like GRACE or FOCUS. But I really want 2018 to be a year where I take charge and face each day with productivity and positivity. 

Any ideas for words for me? What would your word be?

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

It's A ... And Only One!

Week 22 

During the study that got me pregnant we did an ultrasound to confirm ovulation. It showed that I had ovulated...three times! Somehow, perhaps miraculously, we are only pregnant with one baby. I chided my doctor for almost getting me pregnant with triplets again and I could tell he felt a little sheepish.

It was confirmed on both of our more recent ultrasounds that in fact, it was just ONE baby. Phew. Part of me would love to have twins again, but I am relieved and hoping this ONE will be a comparative breeze.

* * *

Before we became pregnant, I felt we would have three children, one girl and two boys. I think this was the idea that maybe our son's identical twin would get a second chance to join our family. However, as I continued to experience morning sickness beyond what I remember or had documented in my previous pregnancy, I started to wonder more and more if this baby was a girl. "I was much sicker with my girl," seemed to be the common consensus expressed to me by friends. I even had a dream that we were having another daughter. So I was a little uncertain what our 20 week ultrasound would show.

Unlike last pregnancy where we had ultrasounds sometimes every week, this time we were excited to catch another rare glimpse of our baby. Luckily, baby seemed to have all the parts and pieces they look for on an ultrasound and even gave us an open fisted wave with both hands. Baby bopped around and was quite active, but showed us everything except for the pertinent anatomy! The Ultrasound Technician started packing up shop and wiping the gel from my belly when I said, "So do we not get to find out the gender today?"

Unlike many of our family members and some friends, we are not the wait and see until the baby is born type! We  want to know ahead of time, as soon as the technician knows and as early as possible. So I kind of had to laugh to myself that maybe we'd get a surprise gender reveal, after all. 

The technician quickly said, "Oh yes!" as baby had been pretty shy and cross-legged (very Sheffield-esque) during the scan. She had me lie on my side and right away we could see that baby was a girl! I had been thinking she was in fact probably a girl, but we were still a little surprised. My biggest thought to that point was that Mister would probably have another little mother to gang up on him with his bossy big Sister. Abe was worried by the fact we'd have to choose another girl's name, which was difficult for us last time.

But, we are happy and excited by the turn of events, despite the difficult naming task ahead. Abe made one of his delicious and rare cakes with pink frosting to share the news with family. 

Do you think little sister looks like her siblings? I see some resemblance, especially to her big sister.

Baby A -- Big Sister

Little Sister

Baby B -- Brother
At about 11 weeks I thought I was beginning to feel better. I luckily have had very little vomiting episodes (mostly just from gagging while brushing my teeth!), but have had quite a bit of nausea. The nausea become more intermittent but seemed to worsen. Finally about the time of my 20 week US the nausea had subsided. I told the doctor I was suspecting a girl because of the nausea and wondered if it was an old wives' tale. She said "No, it's true!" I'm still a little puzzled why I would be more sick this time than I was with a girl AND a boy...but okay. My horrible body (but not face?!?) acne thankfully also subsided about a month ago as well. Phew.

I'm feeling big but not nearly as uncomfortable as last time -- by 18-19 weeks with the twins I remember thinking I had already breezed by my second trimester and into my third. I am still sleeping with only one pillow. My rings are still on my fingers (although they did get resized up one full size after my delivery). I haven't had carpal tunnel (hallelujah!). It is a little strange being pregnant in the winter instead of the summer. Instead of trying to squeeze my swollen feet into sandals I am trying to zip coats over my belly.

My doctor warned me that after last time I would feel a lot smaller but would still feel huge because my uterus is all stretched out. After seeing these pictures I am wondering/scared I am as big as last time. Or bigger? Maybe black is slimming? (My belly shape is a little different.) Luckily after just checking today, I have gained 10 lbs less than last time so far (18.4 vs. 28.5 lb). Still a little more than I'd like at this point but I'm not sweating it yet. Hopefully in another week or two I'll have all of the eggnog and Christmas cookies behind me and can slow down a bit.
22 weeks with twins
Almost 22 weeks!

We evidently love pink around here!

About 22 weeks with twins -- funny we are also color coordinated for boy/girl twins!

Singleton Pregnancy Symptoms Week 22:
tiredness, low motivation
insomnia (thank you Unisom!)
some discomfort with sitting at times
feeling movement, mostly about 9 pm
round ligament pain

Twin Pregnancy Symptoms Weeks 22-23:
evening tiredness 
arm/hand numbness -- worse this week
hand and foot swelling -- thank you compression stockings!
discomfort -- it's getting hard to move!
mild acne flare up
no leg hair! I've gone weeks without shaving
feeling movement
left TMJ popping -- I guess all those joints are loosening up!

Monday, November 6, 2017

Study Time

Before the twins and my IVF journey to get them, I did months of oral medications to try to induce ovulation. With a diagnosis of PCOS, that is my problem: I have eggs! I just can't get to them.

When my twin sister had success on clomid I thought for sure I'd follow in her path within a few short months. I suffered through the side effects, which I remember including hot flashes and some mood swings (including an embarrassing emotional outburst at work). At one point I suffered with almost continuous nausea and frequent vomiting which I attributed to the clomid so was switched to its sister, letrazole (turns out it was actually the metformin I was also taking that caused the nausea), and I think eventually ended up back on clomid.

Between these two medications, I was on the roller coaster ride of hormones for about 9 months (much longer than most people try) without ever a sign of ovulation. Never. Not once.

After my failed IVF attempt this spring I felt I just couldn't bring myself to do more IVF. When the office calls to give the bad news they also want to know the plan moving forward. I think the nurse was surprised by the finality of my answer. "I think I'm done."

I mentioned I would consider maybe trying on my own for awhile, maybe with clomid again if that made any sense at all. I assured her I did not have any unreasonable hopes that this would work, but it would be something I would possibly consider.

Shortly after, I received a call from the head of Reproductive Endocrinology. He kindly apologized for the sad news. He mentioned a study he was heading on the use of clomid and letrazole used together. Content with the idea that I was done and might as well get used to the idea, I agreed "all in the name of science." I figured who better could they learn from than me, one who continued to puzzle them with my lack of unexplained success.

Taking the medication was a little FLASH from the past, or should I say, HOT FLASH from the past. Phew. Luckily I was on a relaxing trip to Vail, CO while Abe was at a conference because I didn't sleep a wink before 5:00 am four out of the five nights we were there. I also about had an emotional breakdown, which I realize now, was probably related. HORMONES!

During a follow up ultrasound we discovered I had indeed ovulated, the first time ever documented. Surprise! However, when I took the pregnancy test at the end of the one-month study, it was negative.

As I said before, I didn't have high (or probably any real) hopes for the study. After all, the success rates at our hospital for two rounds of IVF is close to 80%. To offer more perspective, the odds of pregnancy the good ole' fashioned way is only about 25%, even if you are Fertile Myrtle and whatever you would call her virile partner. And as I mentioned before, I was an experienced clomid and letrazole user with zero history of response. You could say I am the anti-poster child for these medications.

But, I had a suspicion. And instead of writing off my normally absent/irregular cycle as just that, about 10 days later I woke Abe at 3 am with this:

I have no previous experience with this but I think that's a positive

It truly is another miracle. I'm not sure which is bigger, the twins or this new rainbow baby, but I guess miracles don't need to be ranked or quantified. The fact this time was physically easier (and cheaper) doesn't discount the miraculous nature for me.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Yesterday Once More

May 22, 2017

Today was my blood test, the end of the infamous "two week wait."

Abe's mom came over early this morning and she helped me get Mister and Sister ready for a walk. We took our stroller to the hospital for a quick lab draw, met up with Daddy for a short time, and came home. On our walk Abe called with the results.

It was a familiar conversation.

Abe: "It came back negative."
Me: "Oh, okay.
(Abe: silence)
Me: "Well, not surprising I guess. Hmmm. (Awkward pause)"
Abe: "I guess I should go get ready for my next case."
Me: "Okay, I love you."

We have had this conversation 5 times now with only slight variations in the script. Maybe that is what made it easier to hear.

So how am I feeling now? I didn't have much emotion at first. I left the twins with my MIL to feed them breakfast while I took some quiet time to process. The tears didn't come until I told a few family members the news. I am so used to disappointment in this way that I feel pretty okay with not being pregnant right now. But the finality of it is something to mourn and for which I shed a few tears. I had kind of expected before the news at the transfer (that the embryo hadn't done well in the thaw) that this would work, that this cycle would work now that my body "knew what it was doing," and that we had a third baby ready to come join our family -- the baby we lost in the womb coming for another chance at a healthy body.

Taken by my MIL as I cried in my room
However, I also feel like God has been reminding me the past few weeks how lucky I am. I have two miracle babies who are wonderful and sweet and make me smile every day. I love how they sing "Twinkle Twinkle" wih a variety of lyrics, from singing about stars, ABC's, BAA BAA BAA's, EI-EI-O's, or even Ma MA MA's, and give each others sweet hugs and kisses. I think He has been telling me, "You have enough. You don't have to keep doing this anymore. You are already so lucky."

So I choose to have faith in disappointment. I would love to have another baby. Just one. (I don't need to get greedy!) Crazy as I feel saying it even to myself, I would love to experience pregnancy again (I guess with the hope it would be easier this time!). I am disappointed I will probably never get that amazing birth experience, meeting and holding my baby in the delivery room without the many negative emotions I experienced last time. I was hoping to successfully nurse without all of the frustrations of before. I am sad thinking I wont get another chance to savor the smell of my new baby or the amazing feeling of cuddling him as he sleeps.

I'm not sure where we go from here. There is a common mentality that I will probably just get pregnant on my own. I'm not counting on that (although I do personally know other IVF mamas where that has been the case). In many ways, it feels easier to decide that I am done. To cut my losses and exit the roller coast of emotions permanently. Or at least for now. If I decide I want to ride that wild ride again, I can always purchase another ticket. Right now I am already dizzy and nauseated and will probably feel like I am still spinning at home in bed for awhile.

Either way, I'm not sure I am ready to throw out all of my baby stuff just yet. Whether that is me holding out a glimmer of hope or for sentimentality's sake, I'm not sure.

Monday, May 29, 2017

Our Hail Mary

May 11, 2017

Our embryo transfer was today. 

At 9:45 am I was picking up Abe from work and I received a call from my doctor. He told me our embryo had split after the thaw and that it "wasn't looking too great." He wanted to give me a "heads up." In the meantime, we would see how it looked in a few hours.

My appointment was at 11:15. My favorite doctor and his fellow (the same one who got me pregnant before -- a good sign?) came in before I changed for the procedure. He sat on the bed (a bad sign, I thought -- a technique taught to doctors to build rapport or to be more personable when giving bad news). They showed us pictures and explained that sometimes embryos don't do well after thawing (we had been lucky up to this point to have all of them survive the thaw). We now had two embryos after the one split. I was hoping he would say they looked good and now we had the chance for twins, which I would gladly do again. (Also has me wondering if we could implant them at separate times and have identical twins with different ages. Weird! -- I don't know that they could re-freeze it.) However, they felt that one looked like it was degenerating and the other looked questionable. It didn't seem to be growing like they expected it would.

#1 shows the split embryos
#2 shows the questionable transferred embryo
#3 shows the non-transferred, non-viable embryo

They offered us to "cut our losses" and we could go home, or we could proceed with the transfer knowing it had a low chance of working.

We decided to try. The biggest negative was continuing with the shots. I reminded them I was an old pro and they laughed in a knowing and apologetic way. Abe said, "Well, we will give God something to work with!"

They gave us 5% odds.

I started to process the idea of a failure for the first time. When we got back in the procedure room I felt infertile. Again. I had forgotten those feelings for about 2 years. I felt bad I couldn't give Abe his big family. I felt sad that I felt like we "didn't even have a chance" this time. I felt broken. And I remembered the many times in this room full of excitement and the disappointments that followed so many times over.

I also felt more modest this time. Out of practice I guess. The procedure took less than a minute -- much easier to get the catheter that delivers the embryo in place than ever before. My uterus must have changed because they always commented before on the difficulty. My bladder wasn't as full as the other times so the five minute wait after the transfer wasn't unbearable as before.

After we quietly walked back to my room in my socks to change, we kept our tradition of going to an Indian Buffet for lunch. (I mention the socks because somehow that feels important. There is a vulnerability of being in a public building without shoes, but also a coziness and warmth of only wearing socks. Is that weird?)

I had the romantic notion of not telling anyone until I was pregnant and starting to show. After the procedure, we decided it was such a long shot we could use the prayers so we decided to tell our families. I think everyone is trying to be optimistic/hopeful/supportive so we got a lot of "exciting"-s and "congrats"-s. In the moment I felt this should be more like condolences since this was my last (perceived?) chance of growing our family but I understand their thought process.

As I have spent more time in the day I have thought of that little baby I assumed we would get. As hard as it was, I want to experience pregnancy one more time. I want to savor one more little baby and all of the precious moments that went so fast before. I want to have a normal delivery and feel the magic of meeting my baby without the fear and separation anxiety of the NICU. I want one more round, less rushed and frantic than two often was (although I understand maybe a mom of three never get that!).


I felt at peace. I felt like an answer to prayer to see and experience the immense joy and wonderful personalities I already have at home, today more than other days. Their laughs and smiles at simple silly things like the name of dinner and their sweet and purposeful kisses today as if they knew I really needed them were like messages from God.

They are miraculous. And enough. If I don't get another baby we still have a perfect family.

Abe and I are putting it in God's hands, one more time.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

T-1 to Transfer Day

May 10, 2017

Do I really want to do THIS again???
I was HUGE and that was HARD.
We were at Costco last night and I picked up a bottle of pre-natal vitamins. The checker asked if we were having another baby. I wondered how he was on to me and didn't know how to respond (he was a stranger so I could probably be honest, but then again, what???) I realized I must look pregnant (something I have commonly been told/asked in the past), especially with my recent weight gain. Then I realized it was just the pills. Ha!

* * *

Tomorrow is the big day, my round #6 of IVF, FET (frozen embryo transfer) #5.

I still don't know what time I need to be there...I better double check this afternoon.

Honestly, I haven't thought about it much. I've been doing my progesterone shots since May 6. I dread them every night although they honestly haven't been bad and easier than before. (Tip: the cold of an alcohol swab on the adjacent skin is a nice distraction.) But besides my TID (three times per day) estradiol pills and the nightly shots I kinda forgot about it. Abe even mentioned something about "Thursday" and I literally said, "Oh yeah, Thursday!"

Am I blocking it from my mind in some subconscious defense mechanism? Am I such an "old pro" at this IVF thing it just doesn't phase me any more? Or maybe life as a working mother of twins is enough to keep my mind busy I haven't had time to ruminate on it all?

I don't know the answer but it is strange to think tomorrow I may be pregnant. And if I find out in a few weeks that I am not, then I am probably never going to be pregnant again. I don't know how I will respond when I actually process that.

So prayers that things go as they should tomorrow, whether that means God has another baby for us or not. And prayers I will be able to gracefully accept whatever that answer is, because right now either answer is a little scary.