Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Pouring my heart out...Cautiously optimistic

"We have every reason to be cautiously optimistic," she had said, as I pressed my cell phone harder against my ear, wishing so much that I had misunderstood her.

While tears filled my eyes, I asked, "So are you saying that there's very little chance that we'll have any viable eggs to work with?"

"Well, no, I didn't say that.  I think we should just be cautiously optimistic," she tried to explain.  I imagined her on the other end of the line, keeping a close eye on her watch, anxiously wanting to get off the phone with yet another desperate, yet hopeful infertility patient.

My chin quivered, my hands shook and it felt as if my heart would burst right out of my chest.  "What EXACTLY does cautiously optimistic MEAN?!" I screeched loudly into the phone.  "Does it mean that you think my eggs are crap?  Does it mean you've seen eggs like mine make beautiful embyros?!  What the HELL does it MEAN?!"

Tim reached over from the driver's seat and touched my arm, silently willing me to end the phone call and just accept the news for what it was. 

We had been driving home after my egg retrieval during our 1st IVF cycle, when my RE called to deliver the news that most of the eggs which had been retrieved were not in good shape.  She had called them "dark and grainy". 

No one had ever used the phrase "cautiously optimistic" with me.  

Was it a good thing?  A bad thing?  I had no clue at all.

Within time, I came to learn that it meant something bad was in store for us...something tragic, heartbreaking and completely gut-wrenching. 

The phrase soon became a personal jinx of some sort.  Everything would be going along just fine and then a doctor or a nurse would randomly throw out, "We should just continue to be cautiously optimistic" and I knew our fate had just been sealed.

As we anxiously waited for the blood results of that first IVF cycle....let's be cautiously optimistic.

As we sadly listened to our RE explain that sometimes 6 weeks is just too early to see a heartbeat...let's be cautiously optimistic.

When we learned that we had lost that baby, the good news was at least now we knew I could get pregnant....let's be cautiously optimistic.

As we switched RE's and were given all kinds of false hope that the 2nd cycle would be successful...let's be cautiously optimistic.

When that same RE looked me straight in the eyes and told me my dreams of having a biological child had already slipped out of my grasp but there were still lots of options available to us...let's be cautiously optimistic.

During our 3rd IVF when we begged and pleaded with him to allow us to transfer 4 embryos because we simply couldn't bear any more heartbreak, we compromised and agreed to transfer only 3...let's be cautiously optimistic.

After we learned I was pregnant with twins, every time I would experience sudden cramping and/or bleeding...let's be cautiously optimistic.

Each time my body went into pre-term labor...let's be cautiously optimistic.

After giving birth at 32 weeks, I watched with both overwhelming joy and anguished sorrow as my first-born miracle babies were whisked off to the NICU...let's be cautiously optimistic.

Soon enough, we stopped hearing that dreaded our twins were released from the NICU after 26 days and we entered our home for the very first time as a family of four.  Something we believed would never happen.

After four months had passed, I lost another pregnancy....yet I had no idea that I had been pregnant until I was in the midst of a miscarriage.  Even though there had been no time for dreams and hopeful expectations, I still grieved, blaming my damaged body once again for another devastating loss.

When I went in to my doctor's office for a follow-up, I asked him if he thought I may be able to get pregnant again on my own in the future.  His words stung me as I heard, "I would like to think so.  You have every reason to be cautiously optimistic".

Soon, there came a time when hearing that phrase didn't hurt so badly anymore.  I'd hear someone casually mention those two seemingly innocent words and it wouldn't phase me in the least.  The pain and burden of infertility had finally passed and wasn't as fresh in my mind anymore. 

Until we decided we wanted more children.  I knew exactly what was in store for us as we begin another IVF cycle with our frozen embryos when our RE said, "All I ask is that you be cautiously optimistic". 

Yes, cautiously optimistic....with tragic results yet again.  Another pregnancy loss.  More tears and agony.  And even more anger, bitterness and confusion than ever before.

After the loss, as I broke down in my OB's office, I begged her to explain to me why....WHY did this happen again.  Was I selfish for wanting more children?  What had I done wrong?  Is it because I wasn't cautiously optimistic? WHY?!

She answered, gently, "These things just happen, sometimes we're never meant to understand why.  I know you want more children.  Maybe it'll happen, maybe it won't.  You'll come to terms with it somehow.  I know you will."

Never once did she mention the distressing phrase I had come to despise hearing.  Every single time I had heard it, throughout my journey of trying to conceive, my stomach would turn and my heart would sink.

As I went about my daily life, I knew I had to accept that more children may not be in our future.  It was difficult and there were still times that I would find myself sobbing out loud, especially as my babies began to outgrow their little onesies and my broken heart reminded me that there may never be another baby to wear those same clothes.

"Let's be cautiously optimistic", I thought I heard God whisper to me one morning while deep in prayer, as I begged for relief from the burden of grief.  I thought I had overcome it but deep down I knew I hadn't.  There would always be a void in my life for what could have been...what should have been.

Three months later, I became pregnant with Garrett and Landon...our 2nd set of twins.  A completely (and surprisingly) spontaneous pregnancy. 

It wasn't supposed to happen.  They had all said we would never conceive a take-home baby on our own without medical intervention, even as they made empty promises and advised us to be cautiously optimistic.
But finally, after everything, we had beaten the odds.  Suddenly, it was okay to be hopeful, to feel excited and full of joy, to experience nothing but happiness and pure be optimistic, WITHOUT caution. 

* If you want to pour your heart out too, go visit Shell at Things I Can't Say.... Registered & Protected


singedwingangel said...

OH Hun I have so much respect for mom's who like you have endured what you have to get your miracle. I got pregnant while on BC, which apparently for me was the fertility drug of God to my body. I am not sure I could endure the hurry up and wait and the loss of a desperately wanted baby.
But look what God can do.. and yep he has a sense of humor. Almost an anything the docs can do I can do better, I can take one egg and turn it to 2.

Rebecca said...

The anguish with which you recall this is all too familiar. So glad you didn't give up on your dreams and were able to fill your heart. What a beautiful post.

Evonne said...

This is a sad story, but at the same time it's beautiful. I don't like the term cautiously optimistic either, but I think your story shows that it's not always negative.

The Mother said...

THE single most overused phrase in a doctor's vocabulary. I think it should be banned.

Unfortunately, people don't want to hear the actual statistics. They generally prefer these platitudes. Ack.

Eva Gallant said...

So glad all that heartbreak had 4 beautiful, happy endings!

MommyLovesStilettos said...



varunner said...

What a frustrating combination of words. I know you're thankful for all 4 of your children and glad those days of cautious optimism are in the past :-)

Kristina P. said...

You definitely have a tremendously hopeful story.

Shell said...

I have tears. How painful that phrase must have been to hear all the time. And what miracles your kids are!

IASoupMama said...

With children as lovely as yours, I would throw caution to the wind, too!

When I think about the losses I've had, I am saddened, but try to remember that if those pregnancies had worked, I wouldn't have my son or the twins I'm carrying right now. Unexplained loss stinks, but I believe that I have the children I'm supposed to have because of those losses.

Go Mommy said...

Hugs and you are so strong to have continued on with your dream. Babies are little miracles.

MiMi said...

I knew why the name of your blog, but after reading this post, it really hits home!

Tylaine said...

You are such a beautiful writer Helene and such a strong and courageous woman for what you went through. I can't even imagine. I've often thought what I would do if in a situation of infertility or miscarriage and I don't think I could handle it. You are so blessed to have four beautiful, perfect angels. What a miracle! :)

Jen said...

I love these posts.

I can so relate.

I see myself in your words.

I feel the guilt of wanting more kids. Why wasn't one enough?


wonderchris said...

Love this post in more ways than I can express in one little comment.

So gorgeously written.

Thank you.

Crossed Fingers said...

What a beautiful post - sometimes it just amazes me what our body will do when we least expect it. I had no inkling this pregnancy would even happen, and yet...the children we're meant to have show up in our arms one way or another.

Natalie said...

For anybody that's been through it, this post is so special. And for those that never had to deal with it, they can understand now. Beautiful post, Helene!

Mayet said...

a very encouraging story of someone courageous with so much hope and optimism.

really touching...

Heather said...

And they are gorgeous! All four are : ) I'm so glad you got to experience getting pregnant on your own. Didn't it bring a certain sigh of relief? Jule left me with a calm certainty that we were done, and I was ok with it ; )

Dysfunctional Mom said...

Happiest ending ever! I love the amazing story of your children's beginnings. =)

Kimberly said...

Wow. This? Powerful. So powerful. While I never had fertility issues I had other heatlh issues that posed a risk to me and my baby. By a miracle I did have a baby and it was a difficult time carrying. I wore a back brace in second tri and was on bed rest for thrif tri...but all the while I was so grateful and happy.
I was poised with a question at my neurosurgeons the other week and he said I'd need a second surgery and if I wanted another baby. Of course I said yes and he said I needed to do it ASAP before my spine won't let me. I am just coming out of PPD and yikes it's scary to wrap around. While I know this doesnt relate to the immense grief and frustration and sadness you have felt, I know what it's like to want something so badly but our bodies choose to not let us.
Hugs. You are a strong woman to have endured that and I am so happy that you took that statement spit on it and kept reaching for your dream.
This is a very inspirational story and I thank you for writing about this. Also...sorry for the long winded comment :(

Christina said...

Sometimes I think I'll want more kids...but then sometimes I think about what I went through with them, and think no way. Why chance it? Why put myself through it again? I can't get pregnant on my own...right? I guess sometimes, you just never know.

MommaKiss said...

what a fab ending to your story - way to pour that heart out!!

blueviolet said...

I can't even imagine how you must have felt. Being told those words while still trying to hold out hope must have been so difficult!!!

Liz @ Sugarplum Creations said...

What a heart-wrenching and joyous story, all at the same time. You are such a strong woman.

Chocolate Covered Daydreams said...

As sad as this was, the spirit of optimism was what brought you here now. I'm so very glad that you didn't lose hope. By sharing, just think of how many you've helped.

Helena said...

Oh my, what a beautiful, heartbreaking, and wonderful story. I am so glad you got your happy ending- Twice.

Aimee said...

As heartbreaking as the story was (I cried so hard I had to stop and come back to finish reading) you tell it so beautifully. When I grow up I want to be able to write like you.

Nezzy said...

My heart aches that you had to go through all this to go from point A to point B but look now girl. Both your heart and your home are full!!!

Little optimism and a pinch of faith...what a recipe!

God bless ya'll and have a beautiful day sweetie!!!

Holly at Tropic of Mom said...

You have been through so much, and I just know you are helping others through your words. It would be great to read your well-written essays in a magazine someday soon.

Tiffany said...

Wonderful post as usual. Thanks for sharing your journey with us, and giving us hope.

The Girl Next Door Grows Up said...

I hate that phrase. It is such a stinky phrase.

Ms Bibi said...

What a wonderful story. You had me crying, but so happy that it all ended with 4 little angels.

Twins Squared said...

Yeah - what a hard road. Not one any of us would choose, but maybe helped prepare you for the insanity that would follow. At least in my case I know it helped me keep things in perspective when things got tough. But still. So glad you have your four miracles!

Liz said...

You are such a good writer! We needed to adopt our first in order for my body to start working...I wouldn't change a thing now.

Following you via Follow Me and I'll Follow you! Club from lil-LIZ-bits, lil-bits from my Homeschooling Navy Wife Life Mom-prenuer adventures. Love to see you on Facebook too!

Anonymous said...

I finally came to the conclusion that being unable to let go of a dream is because God does not want you to let go. Our 4th and 5th were babies we were not supposed to be able to have. I understand that grief - that loss - but I also find joy that one day I will meet my little girl in heaven (cause she didn't make it into my arms here).

I love how you say, "optimistic without caution." So powerful!

I think I decided, too, that through the challenge, God prepares our hearts for His plan - because His plan is bigger than we can imagine and our hearts need to be big enough to live it:)

Karen Peterson said...

I love your story. I know the road was long and painful, but so inspiring, too!

Zeemaid said...

Ack.. This hit my heart as did everyone's comments. (I say ACK cause I hate to get teary). ;)

Such a long journey with such amazing results. I think treatment providers need to find new phrases. I know they are trying not to give you overly false hope to sort of prepare you in case you are disappointed but really who goes into something like this without hoping against hope?

I'm so glad you made it through. :)

Andrea said...

Wow. I haven't blogged in months and months, and you probably forgot who I am, but I just thought of your blog and wanted to jump on here. This post jumped out at me, so i read thru it. It was like God just sent me here to read it. I had one embryo left from my IVF cycle with my girls. I just tried it in Sept and had every reason to believe that it would work out. It didn't. It's been really hard to box up their clothes each month--wondering if I'm done. Anyway, I think about your situation a lot. I've never forgotten it--from when I first found your blog over a year ago. Thanks. would love to hear from you.

I figure that if the children are alive when my husband gets home at the end of the day, I've done my job.

----Roseanne Barr

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