[Guest Post] Becoming Superwoman: Part 2

I’m honored to have one of the most amazing women I know guest post this month. Anne Mashek has been more like a sister to me than a friend ever since our college days. It is my pleasure to have her as a guest blogger.  ♥♥♥



See Part One here.

Several times on this journey, I have been asked a different set of questions pertaining to pregnancy and infant losses, other than the usual. Questions like, “Do you think my miscarried baby is the same one I’m pregnant with now?” Those kinds of questions are fascinating to me, and I have wondered the same thing over the course of my life- even long before trying to have a family. I always had my own theories, and after our fourth pregnancy ended in April 2014, an IVF PGS one, I finally checked out a book that had been suggested to me for years. This book and the concept of it has opened up my world to see more than meets the eye.

If you are open to trying new things or are interested in the concept of Spirit Babies, check out Walter Makichen’s book Spirit Babies. It is “out there” to a lot of people, but I found a lot of comfort reading through it. Several friends had told me about this book, and I found many of the things Makichen writes about are beliefs I had already thought. He teaches people how to communicate with their spirit babies before and during pregnancy, amongst other things. You don’t have to be pregnant or trying to conceive to enjoy reading it. After I devoured the book, I loaned it to my mom, who also appreciated his unique perspective on babies, children, and people in general. Makichen covers all kinds of infertility situations, and he includes stories from people he has counseled over the years.

There are some meditations in the book, too, and I liked trying those out. I felt silly at times, but they worked to help me get started on recognizing my spirit babies and how they communicate with me. Each one has tried multiple times to get here in my arms, and their personalities are really awesome! One of our pregnancies, the aforementioned #4, was an angel. He is who led me to the concept of spirit babies and everything that has happened since that time. He told me his name was Austin during my acupuncture session immediately following our FET in February 2014, but I thought maybe it was just a delusional dream from the Valium. (I had had a nice nap! Haha!) He doesn’t come around very often- only once in a while to check in and encourage me. The main two, my longtime spirit babies, have shared themselves with me over time. I first “met” the boy with our fifth pregnancy two years ago. He loves rainbows, nautical things, the beach, and is a laidback but also very serious sort of chap. He first communicated in subtle ways, letting me know he likes music with a good bass beat like the Red Hot Chili Peppers. I met the girl with pregnancy #6, Mr. Right’s and my Layne Adaline. She is a book unto herself… She is an old soul and can communicate boldly. I’ll come back to her later. The third spirit baby is very new to me, and while I understand why he is around and how he came to us, I’m still unclear on how things may go in the future.

When our fifth pregnancy was ending, I lit a candle for him on a chilly November night, the night before my third D&C for a missed miscarriage. It is something a lot of us do at some point- light a candle intentionally for our child who is no longer growing. It brings a lot of comfort and light into a dark time. Most notably, there is October 15th, the date for the Wave of Light within the PAIL community. On this day, people all over the world light candles for their little ones, forever remembered with love. When everyone lights a candle at the same time in their local time zones (7pm), and leaves them burning for at least an hour, it creates a literal Wave of Light around the world.

Well, that night before my procedure, I lit #5’s candle and talked to him, telling him how much I had enjoyed getting to know him and how sad I was that we had to part. Much later that night as I was going to sleep, I heard a voice say, “Don’t worry! I’ll be back soon!” It was a female voice, sounded in a hurry, and it surprised the heck out of me! An updated visit with a fertility psychic (do not laugh- I told you this is all very odd and “out there!”) told me a girl would be next, and she would arrive in a few months. I hadn’t told the psychic about that little voice saying she’d be back soon, so I was even more intrigued by this whole spirit baby thing, especially because I was pretty sure #5 was a boy.

Fast forward a couple of months, and our miscarriage testing results showed an unbalanced boy, so we were correct in thinking #5 was a boy. So where did that leave us with a girl spirit saying she’d be BACK? We did not have to wait long before seeing those two pink lines again in February 2015, confirming that we were pregnant with #6. Let the rollercoaster begin (again). Sure enough, I soon got the feeling that this new life was a girl, falling into line with all of the signs/messages I had received.

It is difficult to explain how spirit babies communicate because they all have their own style. For Layne, it began with that voice, but it also goes along with feelings that come to me that are not my own. I “tried on” the names from our baby name list for her, and I would get a feeling, yay or nay (mostly lukewarm receptions and nays), that didn’t come from myself. Our main girl’s name got a very big NOPE from this spirit, and I was baffled. There were names on that list that Mr. Right and I had loved for over a decade. Seriously, these were names we had written down over ten years prior, yet this child was not having it- nope, nope, nope. I told her she’d have to let me know when she liked something because I was nearing my wit’s end.

One weekday evening in March, I was reading about the Lane Frost Memorial Rodeo, how it was beginning to get organized for the next year, and she got excited! I asked her questions- Did she like Lane Frost? Did she like bullriding? Because I loved Lane Frost. I watched him every weekend on television growing up and was so very sad when he passed away in 1989. He was like Elvis to me! I saw the movie “8 Seconds” several times in the movie theaters when it came out during my junior high years. I have a copy of it on VHS and DVD, and I still adore Luke Perry for doing such a good job in the movie. I got a “yes!” when I asked about her liking him, and I got a “It’s okay…” about bullriding. Haha! She liked the name Lane, and she also liked his spirit of toughness and kindness.

I asked Mr. Right, “What about Lane? Do you like that for a girl? I guess it could be for a boy, too, if we’re wrong on gender.” He thought about it and said it “wasn’t bad,” which means he’s not sold on it just yet, but that he kind of likes it. The name worked well with our main middle names, sturdy names that are easy spell and say, family names. I soon realized she was not too happy with Lane by itself. It needed extra oomph! Layne. It really, truly fit and felt good to both me and Mr. Right! Perfect. She has a name, and now all we needed to do was stay positive and hope she is a healthy baby. I (and Layne, obviously) went to see the “Age of Adaline” movie, a movie about a woman who mysteriously never ages, the next month. We both were enchanted with this chick flick, and Adaline became her middle name (again…shunning our decade old choices!). Layne means “from the long meadow; path or roadway,” and Adaline means “noble.” The stars aligned for this name, for this specific little girl growing inside of me, to be our noble path forward in our journey to being earthly parents. I had a good feeling about this.

We soon got news that our baby girl was not as healthy as we had thought… I had pressed for an NT scan (looks at the nuchal fold, amongst other things) with my local Maternal-Fetal Medicine department because I needed to see that everything was looking as it should be, that our baby was not unbalanced. Our precious girl had an NT of 10mm. A normal/healthy measurement is under 3mm. Our MFM doctor suspected she had Turner Syndrome, and he offered us to have a CVS on the spot (this is the test where a sample of the placenta is taken to be tested). We agreed, in shock, and it was all said and done within an hour. We were told we would get results in two weeks. Of all of the things we had worried about and discussed, Turner Syndrome- a chromosome abnormality completely unrelated to my balanced translocation, something that happens at cell division when an embryo is first formed and only affects girls- was not one of them.

I became a research machine, looking up everything and talking to everyone I knew about what was happening, what would happen, and what we needed to do, choices we had to make. A fellow BT sister has an amazing kid who also happens to have a chromosome abnormality completely unrelated to her translocation, and she told me how her doctor had said it was akin to being struck by lightning twice. That is how Mr. Right and I felt. We felt shell-shocked that we finally had a baby who was not affected by my translocation yet was saddled with this other thing, this thing that would most likely take her from us, too. 99.7% of Turner Syndrome babies diagnosed in utero do not make it through pregnancy alive.

We had two and a half more months with Layne Adaline, physically. She was born on a sunny blue sky of a Thursday, July 9th 2015, at 5:22pm. She was 23 weeks and 2 days along, gestational age, and did not survive delivery but was a rock star until the very end, and I am so proud of her. Our baby girl was 2lbs, 3.7oz and 11” long. She was a chunky monkey for her age, had the sweetest button nose, and had a bullish forehead that made us laugh. She looked exactly like her personality: solid, sweet, and stubborn.

We had spent the week leading up to her birth in the hospital to monitor a fluid leak I’d been diagnosed with (preterm premature rupture of membranes, or PPROM). I was not in labor at the time, but since I was leaking amniotic fluid, I had to stay at the hospital until she arrived, whenever that would be- we hoped to be there a long time. That week in the hospital was lovely, in all honesty. I was not scared. I knew the doctors and nurses were some of the best in the state. We stuck to our plan, and she is still with me in spirit form. I knew we were in good hands and good hearts at my hospital, and I think of those doctors and nurses often. They gave me strength during my weakness.

Layne’s pregnancy gave me confidence. She made me feel like Superwoman, like I could do anything. I always have a calm, peaceful outlook when pregnant with her. She is a very strong spirit, a Ye Olde Soul kind of gal, very sober/dry yet hilarious; she always has a good sense of humor about everything, very witty and sharp. She would only let me eat fried chicken for protein, and she hated apples and avocados. She loved butter and anything lemon (Lemon Oreos are very tasty!). She has a soft spot for ’90s country music, and she loves her some Dierks Bentley. Layne adores the color purple, especially amethyst. She has been and remains our sunset rainbow baby, guiding us through the storms and showing us beauty in the dusk, getting us ready for another day on this path to parenthood.

The friends who recommended the Spirit Babies book were from my online support groups. The members of these groups are as diverse as you’ll ever find, with many interests and backgrounds and located all over the world. Because of the time zones, there is always someone up who can talk. I could not ever do this journey without my balanced translocation (BT) girls and guys. I mean, I guess I could, but I would not be in this healthy of a mindset without them and their enduring support. If you’re struggling right now, I encourage you to find your people, your tribe or squad, the folks who understand what you are going through and how much it feels like hell. I promise, you are not alone. No superhero ever gets their job done without the help of their friends, and these groups have helped me develop my own strong sense of self, currently childless but certainly not hopeless.

Thank God for the internet! None of us would ever have met, otherwise. I thank my lucky stars that I have all of these amazing souls along for the ride with me on this rollercoaster, both here on earth and in spirit. My babes have given me new life and new eyes to see the miracles all around us. My BT sisters have shown me what true strength is and what part it plays on this rough road. I have learned more than I could ever say about how to live with grace from each one of them. They keep me going, they love my spirit babies, they love my Mr. Right, and their stories and beautiful children bring this Superwoman hope that one day Mr. Right and I will bring our own super children home, healthy, strong, and happy.


[Guest Post] Becoming Superwoman: Part One

I’m honored to have one of the most amazing women I know guest post this month. Anne Mashek has been more like a sister to me than a friend ever since our college days. It is my pleasure to have her as a guest blogger.  ♥♥♥ribbon1

Howdy, y’all. Since it is October, that means it is now officially Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month. No, it’s not as flashy as the pink ribbons everywhere nor as well-known, but it affects 25% of people directly and countless others indirectly. Infertility is the inability to conceive and/or the inability to carry a pregnancy to term. This is not an “infertility awareness month” (that’s in May), but October is a very big month in infertiles’ lives because many of us can and do get pregnant, but we lose them, one way or another. I am a self-proclaimed infertility veteran, and I’m still in the trenches trying for a healthy take-home baby.

Thankfully, I married my Mr. Right. He is amazing! I couldn’t do this with anyone else. My Mr. Right is the perfect husband for me and the perfect father for our babies. We have been together for over a decade. He’s my rock. I never thought I would still be doing this at 35. In my head, I saw me in my cute little house, with my ruggedly handsome husband and our adorable ragamuffins, snuggling our cats every night and making precious memories. So far, I have that life….minus the ragamuffins.

Mr. Right and I began our journey to parenthood in December 2010. It has most definitely not gone to plan! We had six months of nothing… not even a blip on a pregnancy test. My doctor had me try Clomid to jumpstart my ovaries. Success! First cycle on it! BFP! (Big Fat Positive!) And then our world decidedly turned cloudy, gray, and stormy. It was a blighted ovum. All sac, no baby. I elected to have a D&C procedure since I was supposed to be 10wks along, but nothing was in there, nothing was changing. Scared to death, we went to the hospital for my minor surgery, but it was all okay. Things went textbook perfectly, I had a laughably easy recovery, and we were back in the saddle, so to speak. Thinking of it now, that was another world ago. We’ve gone on to experience many more miscarriages (six more, to be specific) and a stillbirth.

The miscarriages have all been different. It is such an individual thing. I have to admit, I never could wrap my mind around the concept and reality of “miscarriage” until after my fourth one. No two miscarriages are ever exactly alike for any couple. It’s never the exact same experience. The dates, seasons, causes, and recovery are different. Are some of them similar? Sure, but no two are exactly alike. Each one is as unique as the brief life it held. We are always going to be in a different place in our lives for each one. Some of them are “easier” than others. Some of them are hell, pure and simple. None of them are positive, and if you can spin a miscarriage into a positive, well, you just might be an infertility veteran like myself because I do that frequently.

I’ve grown a lot through our journey to parenthood. Physically, I’ve grown. Hormones wreak havoc on bodies, and the constant pregnant/not pregnant merry-go-round can be hard on a woman’s body. Personally, after every miscarriage, I jump back onto the Super Healthy Bandwagon. I walk and jog. I try to eat whole foods and very clean. I lose weight. I get pregnant again. I eat whatever will not make me sick. I have zero energy. I gain weight. The pregnancy ends… Rinse. Lather. Repeat. We won’t even touch the physical changes that fertility treatments bring about to “enrich” our lives. Ha. Clomid mood swings. IVF injectables and surgeries. There’s a reason why we say, “Feed a cold. Starve a Fever. Give (Clomid/IVF meds) ANYTHING IT WANTS!” (If you’re laughing, don’t worry- I never not laugh at this one! It’s funny because it is true!)

Emotionally, I have grown. There is a certain maturity in growing up that allows us to better control our emotions, at least until something big happens. Going through the losses, I have grown to appreciate realness. Authenticity. Genuineness. It takes too much energy for me to be fake and to deal with people who pretend to be someone else. I now know that being myself, feeling whatever it is I am feeling (guilt, jealousy, giddiness, joy, love, sadness, anger, hope…) is what I need to feel. My feelings at any given time are valid. So are yours. I’ve learned to truly feel those emotions, to not bottle them up. Stuffing growing emotions into a jar and forcefully screwing it tightly shut will only make it explode. This does not benefit anyone, especially myself.

It takes emotional maturity to see a much-loved friend or family member announce their pregnancy and acknowledge that yes, I am SO HAPPY for them, yet at the exact same time, I am SO SAD for me. I’m not sad just for myself, but I’m also sad for my Mr. Right, our parents who so desperately wish for us to have a healthy baby, our sisters who so desperately want to be an aunt to a living, breathing ragamuffin, and our friends who want us to be happy and be the fantastic parents they know we will be.

It takes emotional maturity to brave that little home pregnancy test (red dye, obviously…never use the blue dye tests). It takes extreme courage to look at said little plastic test and see what the lines reveal. If it’s a BFP, then I immediately feel like shouting HALLELUJAH! OH, HAPPY DAY! (Sometimes I do!) And it never fails that after I see those two little pink lines that I immediately sit down and soberly think, “Welp. How are you going to go?” This emotional rollercoaster is intense enough to buck off even the most stoic, seasoned, strongest of folks. It takes a very unique, bold, special soul to be able to handle the infertility wild ride. To be strong yet vulnerable. To be happy yet sad. To be giddy yet terrified. To continue living while being at a total standstill in many ways. Juggling conflicting emotions simultaneously is a skill that doesn’t come easily.

There is an intellectual curve ball that is thrown to infertiles, especially ones like me who have a genetic condition and is the reason why we’re struggling to conceive a healthy ragamuffin. I have what is called a reciprocal balanced chromosomal translocation (BT for short). What this means is that part of one of my chromosomes has translocated, switched places, with another part of another chromosome. My specific BT reads 46XXt(1;3)(q44;q21). It looks like another language, right? If you’re a typical woman, your karyotype reads 46XX. If you’re a typical man, yours reads 46XY. That’s it. 46 chromosomes, including the sex chromosomes of X and Y. Super short, simple, and no problems to reproduce lively offspring, at least not at the chromosome level. For me, this means that it is very hard to conceive a baby that is healthy- healthy meaning a BT carrier like myself, or a “typical” noncarrier like my Mr. Right. Does your brain hurt yet? It is a whole new world! Genetics can be fascinating and terrifying.

Infertiles learn an entirely new vocabulary. *TTC. BFP/BFN. BD. DTD. DPO. CD. GC. DPT. OTD. OPK. LH. HCG. IVF. PGS. PGD. FET. SET.* Do you know any of these? If you do, chances are that you, too, have been in the trenches. I salute you, strong mama and daddy! I can’t personally see BD (“baby dance”) without thinking of the dancing lady emoji. Hahaha! It’s not uncommon to read in an infertility support group that someone is around ovulation time, and someone else comments to “get their BD on!” These are the hopeful times for infertiles. This is where we think, “Yes! Ovulation! Come on, healthy baby. Maybe this month is The Month.” I have learned that it truly is a miracle that any of us are here and that any babies are conceived and birthed in a healthy manner because there are a million things that have to be just-so for a baby to get here, earthside. I know more about baby-making than I ever thought would be possible. We have learned so many new words, terms, acronyms, procedures, theories, and have read research that constantly gets updated as science and medicine changes so quickly while on this journey. Several medical advances are available now that were not around even five years ago! This brings me hope.

I have grown to appreciate the doctors who are eager and excited about these new tests and procedures, and at the same time, I have also grown to appreciate the doctors who say, “Well, now, wait a minute. There is not enough research about that yet. I personally would/would not do x, y, z.” These doctors are both our cheerleaders and our confidantes. These doctors know what they’re doing, but I have also grown into being my best advocate. Doctors are awesome when they’re awesome, but they can be downright horrible when they’re not on top of their game. It’s up to me to be my own advocate. I must speak up, put my foot down, ask questions, do my research, and make my own decisions. No doctor will ever, can ever, tell you what to do in your situation. They are not in your situation; you are. Honestly, I go with my gut instincts. I still read as much as I can and get as many anecdotes as I can from friends in my support groups, still listen to my doctors and their suggestions, but only I (and Mr. Right) can decide on what is best for us and our future growing family. Doctors do not know everything, and that is a powerful thing to learn.

Ah…now we have made our way to Spiritual Growth. To grow spiritually, one must have experienced something that moved him or her to the core, to the soul. Infertility can certainly fit the bill. Anyone who has been on the infertility rollercoaster for even a second will tell you that yes, they’ve changed in some permanent way. There is a Before/After clause with infertility. Even if you had “only” one miscarriage. Even if you had “only” one year of trying to conceive. Even if you had “only” one consultation with a reproductive endocrinologist (the name of our fancy schmancy fertility specialist doctors). You’re changed. Sorry to say, but you now know more, think more, feel more, and are now spiritually more enriched.

Spirituality is a very personal thing. I have grown spiritually in spades. I think differently. I see things differently. I treat people differently. Everything has changed for me over the past six years. It is incredibly hard, as a Christian, to go through infertility and miscarriages and a stillbirth. We are taught from the womb that God gives babies. Well, I have not made those same assumptions of the great Supreme Being. Maybe He does not do that. Maybe He allows babies to be conceived, and it’s all science. Along this thought path, if God does not gift children, perhaps it is not He who takes them away. Maybe it’s simply science. I know in my particular case that with my abnormal chromosome arrangement, God did not say, “Anne is a strong and old soul, so I think I will throw her DNA out of whack to see how she does.” No…this is not how God functions. God is love. Jesus is love. The Holy Spirit is love. The Holy Trinity does not test us nor does it punish us. Bad things happen. Good things happen. $#!% happens. Science.

I rely on God to see me through the highs and lows of the rollercoaster. I feel Jesus with me in those freezing cold exam rooms, sitting on the table with a sheet over me, waiting on yet another ultrasound to tell us if our precious cargo still has a heartbeat. I know the angels are with me as I fitfully try to sleep after getting bad news (or after getting good news- see “emotional growth” above).  I know my Spirit Babies are fluttering around my ears, buzzing me information about themselves or the situation or trying to boost my own spirit. I now meditate and practice clearing blocked chakras. I practice mindfulness and notice nature. Staying in tune with my body, mind, heart, and spirit is hard work, but it is worth it. I am worthy.

Infertility can be a bitch (pardon my French). However, in the vein of gaining strength through weakness, I feel like I am Superwoman after going through so much transformation. I feel like a new person, inside and out, and not in a bad way. There is a lot more I want to say, so it looks like a Part Two is in order. Until then, take care and be gentle with yourself. This road is full of potholes, but there are also many breathtakingly beautiful views around the twists and turns of the hilly journey.

*TTC: trying to conceive. DTD: do the deed. DPO: days past ovulation. CD: cycle day. GC: genetics counselor. DPT: days past transfer. OTD: official test day. OPK: ovulation predicter kit. LH: luteinizing hormone. HCG: human chorionic gonadotropin. IVF: in vitro fertilization. PGS/PGD: pre-implantation genetic screening/diagnostic. FET: frozen embryo transfer. SET: single embryo transfer.

The wife of a touring musician tells it like she sees it…

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