Born. Our Surrogacy Story Part 4

December 24, 2014

The boys original due date was 12/13/14 (cool right?) but we knew with twins we wouldn't be allowed to go full term.  As mentioned before, I refrained from posting much because although the pregnancy was going smooth, I wasn't going to fully accept that I was going to be a mom to my twin boys till they were screaming in my arms.  That. has. finally. happened.

Becky was doing 2x a week appointments to have the boys monitored and have her blood pressure checked.  Due to twins she had also developed minor gestational diabetes so they wanted to be extra safe.  The boys passed every test with flying colors and Becky was constantly compliment "GREAT JOB" by the doctors and us.  I mentioned it before but at just 18 weeks her cervix was measuring under 2cm (anything under 2.5 is worrisome).  We were prepared for the chance of pre-term labor but we wanted to make it into the 30's (Jude and Brinly were born at 18 and 21).  Becky's cervix held strong and always stayed "stable" ranging from 1.2 cm to 2.5.

On Friday, November 14, 2014, just 3 days short from the day Jude was born still the year before, she went in for a weekly appointment and they noticed a higher blood pressure.  After some monitoring they determined she was at the start of pre-eclampsia and since the boys were 1 day short of 36 weeks they decided that would be the day.  My first text from Becky was "I'm being monitored to be safe" then 2 hours later turned to "Today's the day, I'm next in line for the C-section, it will be in about TWO HOURS."

We packed quickly and sped to the hospital.  Although I wasn't in labor, I told Darren this maybe his only chance in our lifetime to speed to the hospital because our babies were on their way.

We got there with lots of time to spare.  I was so so so so so excited. Almost giddy. Although 35 weeks 6 days is still fairly early, this felt like full term to us when we had been praying for at least 30 weeks (and after praying Jude and Brinly would just make it to 24).  The nurses were excited too and Becky looked peaceful and beautiful.  She didn't have much time to get nervous since it was all happening so fast.

Darren and I had hired a lawyer to help us with the paperwork so the boys were legally ours at birth-so the hospital gave us our own room right next to Aunt Becky and Uncle Tom.  The doctors also agreed that although it was a C-section, to let ALL of us (Tom, Darren and I) in the delivery room.

They took Becky back alone to give her the spinal and then came and got us (we were all scrubbed up).  Darren and I got to sit at her feet in the operation room and could see everything.  It was all happening so fast and it felt like a dream.  I asked Tom to pinch me (he did).

C-sections are really really fast.  Within 5 minutes the doctor said "OK, we will have babies out in 39 seconds."  At this point I could see a head moving inside the sac.  My children.  My live children.

This is when the crying began.  The healing type of crying.  Sobbing really.  The reality that exactly one year ago I was in labor with Jude who was destined to die and now 2 new sons who I would hold and hear crying overwhelmed me.  As they pulled them out I was crying "they are so big, they are so big" 5 pounds 10 ounces and 5 pounds 13 ounces.  Most people in the room were probably thinking "these are late preterm babies, they are not that big" but to me, in comparison with my 1 pound son I held last, these boys were full grown babies.

The nurses took them over to their little stations.  It took Noah a bit to breathe on his own, but no NICU for either.  The moment didn't feel real.  Once Beckom was ready to be weighed the nurse said "okay mom (OMG MOM!  Me??) take him over to the scale" and I carried him.  I carried Jude and Brinly's live little brother as he screamed all the way over.  A few minutes later I brought him over for Becky to meet. 

Shortly after, they brought us to the recovery room and I got to nurse them both at the same time.  I induced lactation (more on that later) so I was able to provide them with my own breast milk after birth.   Family came in shortly after to meet the little miracle boys while we took turns snuggling them.

Here are some pictures from the delivery room:


Our Surrogacy Story Part 3: Saint Becky

December 14, 2014

I couldn't continue on with our story without writing a special post about Becky.  As noted in the previous post, this woman signed up voluntarily asking for nothing in return.  She has repeated several times "This is a small sacrifice for you to have a family."  The funny thing is NO ONE else thinks it's just a "small sacrifice."  Allow me to explain.

First off,  she quit her job right before the transfer to "show us how serious she was." She told us she wanted to be all in and wanted to put all her focus on the pregnancy.  Without any asking on my part she gave up all caffeine and artificial sweeteners and did every old wives tell in the book to make sure her uterus was perfect. 

I talked about how she had to do endless tests to be cleared to be our gestational carrier.  Then the 3 weeks on the awful Lupron shot to shut down her ovaries and then 12 weeks of the 2 inch PIO.  I attended the training for the shots with her and she seemed fine until they pulled out that big one-it scares us all.  She is really slender so they were ok with allowing her to go down to an inch and a half-I was also there for her first injection and she took it like a champ.  Over. and. over. again.

It's common to hear people complain about the discomforts of pregnancy, let alone two.  The body grows and stretches more than normal.  Since multiples is automatically high risk pregnancy, the appointments are endless.  Sleep is hard.  At 18 weeks into the pregnancy there was a scare with a shortening cervix (I automatically assumed the worst) and the doctor suggested a pessary (kind of like a cerclage but its a plastic ring they put around the cervix in hopes of helping it hold).  I felt horrible.  Becky had already done enough and now they wanted to insert the pessary.  I told her it was her choice.  Without hesitation she said "If it's keeps these boys in longer, it's worth it." She did it that day.  Through all of this she would never ever complain.  She would just repeat "small sacrifice."

On Mother's Day this year, while she was pregnant with my babies, she sent ME a Mother's Day Card Thanking ME for allowing her to carry my rainbow babies...yes, you read that correctly.  Someone who quit their job, did all the tortuous things that come with IVF, and was dealing with MY twin pregnancy thanked ME.

I have been so humbled by this whole experience.  At my baby shower I couldn't help but compare her act of pure kindness to my faith.  Christ came to earth, died for me, carries the burden of my sin, giving us new life-asking only that we believe in Him-His gift to mankind.  She came to me, risked her health, literally carried the burden of pregnancy for me (because God knows being pregnant right after my loss would have been the most horrifying, scary, and risky thing), all why expecting nothing back for the gift of life she was giving us.

There really aren't enough words to explain what she has done for my family.  I thank God daily for this woman.  She has taught me so much through her loving sacrifice.

1. Selflessness.  As a Christian, I often do kind things for others because I should- and it's so human nature to expect something in return.  I want recognition, I want people to know I did something so nice.  I imagine that for most women dealing with someone else's pregnancy, even if it was out of pure kindness, would sure let the intentional parents know how hard it was, how much suffering was done on our behalf, etc.  Becky has reminded me that when I do something nice for someone to NEVER have strings attached.  To never do something half heartily with a you-really-owe-me attitude.  Her selflessness has been so sweet and so heart-warming.

2.  Love-We live in a world full of divorce, cheating, fighting, and disrespect in marriage.  I really admire Tom and Becky's marriage/relationship. They are a united team. Tom supported Becky's idea to help us from day 1 and was willing to watch his wife go through the trials/hormones of pregnancy all so Darren and I could have a family.  He attends the millions of doctor appointments and has been excited along with us.  He is loving, and patient, and kind.  I see the way he looks at her, with love, respect, and admiration.  Where some men would maybe be turned off to the idea of "losing" their wife for 9 months for someone else's baby, he supported her goal 100%.  They just celebrated 20 years of marriage while she was pregnant with our boys.  They are a great example of how love and marriage should be.

3.  Attitude-After losing Jude and Brinly I became so so negative with pregnancy.  I had been jaded
by their death.  My faith in God and His goodness had been shaken and although I was happy Becky was pregnant, I was scared and still doubtful. Becky's blood type is B+ and she has taken this to heart.  Before the transfer her and I went to Red Robin for dinner and I was expressing concerns of possible miscarriage she scowled at me and said "BE POSITIVE."  That has been her attitude throughout, she has chosen to be positive.  Anytime in the pregnancy I said something doubtful, or got nervous she would respond almost in a cheer "BEeeeeeee possssiittttivvveeee!!" waving her hands in the air with a cheer leader like motion.  I love this.  She has reminded me to chose to be positive.

Tom and Becky and their daughter Kaela went to a wedding this summer and when the found their name card, her's read Saint Becky.
I am so grateful that there are some genuinely caring people like Becky.  A few months ago I came across the quote: "You have never really lived until you have done something for someone who can never repay you." All I can say is Becky has really lived. ♥
Here is a video of the first half of our journey we showed at the Baby Shower:

Our Surrogacy Journey Part 2: The Beginnings

November 27, 2014

I have never known pain the way I did that day that Jude laid there in my arms last November.  The morning after delivering him my husband got an email from a friend/old co-worker who wanted to tell us how sorry she was for us.  She said she didn't know if timing was appropriate but offered to surrogate for us if we wanted to go that route.  She mentioned that she would do it for nothing in return.  I got this email hours after saying goodbye to Jude.

I was touched by her kindness but in that moment didn't think we would need to go the route of  using a gestational carrier (a woman who carries our embryos/genetic kids in her body).  The desire to have a living child became a quick obsession and the ache of burying my twins made me want to try again ASAP but I was told I would have to wait at least 6 months.  After meeting with our specialist, he did say I could try again but would have to get a cerclage (cervix stitched) and take shots throughout the pregnancy-with a 20% plus chance it could all happen again.  When we mentioned the idea of surrogacy to him, he actually thought it was a decent idea.

I emailed Becky a few weeks later asking if she was serious.  Sometimes in the heat of the moment of emotions people say things but in reality couldn't do it.  She replied that she would not have offered if she wasn't serious.  To make sure she knew what she was signing up for, I sent her a LONNGGGGG email entailing all the "delights" of IVF she would have to do-transfer embryos that could miscarry (I had miscarried 50% of what I had transferred in the past not counting J and B).  I had to tell her about all the pokes/prodes she would have to go through just to be approved.  Then of course the 2 inch PIO shots she would have to take for 12 weeks on top of Lupron.  Then the millions of appointments and the pains of pregnancy.  After I sent the email I got a short reply saying "I already knew all of this, I'm in." 

In the days that followed I would often find myself sobbing when I thought of her and this sacrifice she was willing to make for our family.  I would dream about being in the deliver room with her.  I felt so much love and connection to this woman-as if she were my own sister.  She quickly started all the pre-testing/screening and passed with flying colors.  She had two successful pregnancies in the past but both her children are grown now.  We decided that since the embryos were frozen and hadn't been genetically tested that we would transfer 2.  She was open to the risk of twins.  Since our last FET resulted in zero, we all felt like 2 would be the best bet.

On March 27, 2014 her amazing/supportive husband Tom, Becky, Darren and I were all back in that transfer room at OHSU using our 4th transfer we had paid for before.  Becky was calm and we were all so excited.  The RE knew our story and simply said "I hope this works," as he shot our two embryos into the most amazing woman on earth's body.  I knew this was right.  Although I desperately wanted to be pregnant again and to carry the kids on my own, I knew that they were safer in her body.  This picture was taken minutes after the transfer.

The 2 week wait was different because my brain got a break.  Sure, I wondered if it was working but I didn't have symptoms to analyze or obsess over and Becky didn't freak me out with updates of what she did/didn't feel (fyi she had 0 symptoms)  8 days after transfer she texted me these pictures and I cried uncontrollably-hope had began to enter again and I was terrified and thrilled all at once.

Although I was happy, I automatically went back into "guarded" mode.  Now we needed some serious milestones:

doubling beta
seeing a heartbeat
making it to 12 weeks
getting a normal anatomy scan at 20
making it to viability at 24
making it to term

I had been burned too many times in the past by passing the positive pregnancy test and thinking it was smooth sailing from there-we had many many obstacles to get through. 

Although my faith in God and His goodness was not non-existant, I knew that just because I believe in Him doesn't guarantee that this ending would be any better than the last.  I could hardly pray for success but took comfort in knowing so many people were praying in general for us to build our family.

Another aspect of faith this journey required was faith in Becky; Darren and I were putting our lives, our dreams, our flesh and blood, our most desired babies into her body.  From day 1 I had 100% trust that she was going to be the best home away from home to my children.  And she was...

Our Surrogacy Journey Part 1

November 16, 2014

Our Surrogacy Story Part 1

After losing J and B I have never trusted a positive pregnancy test since.  I am too guarded and to scarred from the stillbirths.  This exact day 1 year ago I found out I would deliver Jude and that he would die.

An amazing, selfless friend stepped forward in our deepest grief and offered to carry some of our left over frozen embryos from Jude and Brinly's cycle.  She asked for nothing in return and hasn't complained once (more on her in upcoming posts, this woman is a saint).  Becky has given me a hope I never thought I would have again and has literally saved me from dying of pain for not having live children.  We transferred two.  Both stuck.  Twin boys. 

I have used this blog to mourn Jude and Brinly while hoping, praying, and trying to remain positive with a surrogacy pregnancy.

I was overwhelmed with joy to have the chance to have twins again but also extra scared knowing the risks.  We kept this entire thing a secret from even our own families till she was 24 weeks along-minimum viability.  We couldn't bare the thought of dragging them through the horrors of the slow week to week to make it to a chance of survival and keeping it a secret helped me cope too.

As posted earlier, we took family to Multnomah Falls for Jude and Brinly's memorial service.  My entire family on both sides cried as we said our final goodbye's too Jude and Darren and I spread the ashes.

We then told our family we wanted a family picture at the base of the falls (our surrogate Becky, her husband Tom, and daughter-all strangers to our family-where at the base of the falls).

We got up there and everyone got in front of the falls and we asked a "stranger" (gestational carrier's husband and daughter) to take a picture.  They were really filming.  They counted to 3 and Becky, our surrogate, walked into the picture.  Our families were confused by the stranger so I eventually turn around, touch her stomach, and say "this is our surrogate Becky."   Here is there reaction in the video.  I cannot express how much this woman and her family have changed our lives.

 (if video is not displaying type in: surrogate surprise reveal on youtube to view <3
I will continue to tell our story in my next few posts.  Thank you to all the followers for the love, prayers, encouragement, support, mourning with us and rejoicing with us.

I'll Be the One if You Want Me To.

October 10, 2014

I've mentioned it before but since the loss of Jude and Brinly, it's hard to trust Him again.  Going to church is like going to the gym.  I know I should, I know it's healthy, and I know that discipline pays off, but it's hard to get there, its hard to stay there, and I'm still a bit indifferent. 

Recognizing the need to force myself to do something I know is right, I joined a Bible study on the book of Jonah (for those non-Christian's long story short it's about a guy who ran in the opposite direction God had asked him to go so he got swallowed by a big fish.  This made Jonah rethink his initial choice and in the end, he goes to Ninevah, obeying what God originally asked him to do).  I am not going to lie, it's hard for me to go for many reasons.  They call painful things "divine interuptions" and ask really tough questions that always lead me back to thinking about Jude and Brinly.  It hasn't been a whole year since there loss yet so it still is so overwhelming at times.  I'm in a room full of strangers (minus one of my best friends I drag along) so I haven't mentioned anything about our infertility struggle/loss yet.

On the first night we had to go around the room and say our name and if we had kids (cute ice breaker right?).  I was stressed to the max about how to respond:  2 but they died a birth.  I had stillborn twins last year.  None.  No living children.  My mind swirled and it finally got to me. "No children yet."  I always instantly feel like I betrayed Jude and Brinly someway in these situations but for the love of all things social I don't want to dump this on this proper group of women.

At our first meeting one of the discussion questions was along the lines of "when do you see a divine interruption as something horrible or can't see God's purpose?"  The room was quiet but then someone said "when a child dies."  I was listening.  Another mom, with twin 21 year old boys piped in, "We lost our first son as a baby."  My eyes stayed glued to her.  I needed her all the sudden.  Someone that knew my pain to some level.  Someone that would maybe take me to coffee and listen to my story and share her own.  Someone who would/could acknowledge that she truly understood what I went through opposed to be those that "can't even begin to imagine."  I wanted to grab her email but I didn't get a chance.

This Wednesday her and I showed up late, but at the same time.  I thought timing was perfect.  We were walking in together so I began the conversation:

Me: "Are you the one with twin boys?
Her: "Yes!"
Me: "We lost twins last year.  A son and a daughter.  They were stillborns."
Her: "Oh, I am so sorry, losing a baby is the worst.  I lost a baby too."
Me: "I know!  I heard you mention that last week and I wanted to talk to you and get your email, it was such a horrible experience, I was 21 weeks along...
Her: "Did we pass the house? Oh hi (to her friend pulling up).
Me: "Oh, um, here is the address, here is the house."

The end

Maybe she thought I was going to be really needy (I'm not).  Maybe it's still to hard for her to talk about (doubt it).  Maybe she didn't want to connect/share with a stranger (understandable I guess).  I wasn't hurt but more shocked.  As we discussed Jonah I just sat there thinking about what just happened.  She lost a baby.  She should know how it feels to be treated differently or awkwardly.  In those moments I felt over empowered to BE someone who will listen, talk, hug, comfort, share and validate.  I needed that woman.  She owes me nothing and doesn't even know me, but I needed her. 

When Darren's uncle lost his wife at a young age, he suddenly became the one people would go to if they lost their spouse.  The comforter of the widowers.  Someone who tasted hell, lived a nightmare, and came out alive.  When it comes to baby loss, Darren and I are professionals.  An early miscarriage at 6 week with no heartbeat, miscarriage at 9 weeks after seeing a heart beat twice, and delivering my stillborn twins 3 weeks apart, 1-at-a-time.  I get what a failed IUI feels like.  I get what a failed IVF feels like.  So much hope mixed with doubt you feel sick before you even take the first injection.  Do you need someone to talk that has been though something similar to you?  I'll be the one if you want me to.

I promise I won't be awkward or change the subject.  I promise to look you in the eye and when things get horrific to hold eye contact.  I promise not to say stupid cliché phrases or "christianese" inspirational statements.  I will validate you for the mother you are.  I truly believe we all become mother's once the desire to grow a family conceives in our hearts.  To the mom who has been trying for years, pursuing adoption, going for another treatment, waiting, hoping, praying, you are not alone.  I see you.  I know those paths.  They suck they suck they suck.  They are unfair they are unfair they are unfair.  I think faith is extra hard in these losses-although more fragile and vulnerable, my faith remains in His goodness.  Please, email me, text me, reach out.  I'll be the one.

The Bible talks about sorrow lasting in the night and joy coming in the morning.  The hardest part about that is it never says how long the night actually is and how dark it will actually become.  We have had a very long night and, as mentioned previously, I plan to blog about the morning soon as little sun rays have began to pop over the mountain top giving us hope to believe that  morning isn't that far away.  The morning helps heal the darkness because the sun is more powerful. 

For you women who have been in the night for a long time, or are just entering those nasty nasty dark nights that seem the world will stop spinning forever, I know your sorrow.  I love you already.  I am full of compassion for you and I am so sorry.

Microblog Monday *UPDATED

October 6, 2014

When Jude and Brinly died a family friend gave my mom and I a Magnolia tree in their honor.  We both poured a little bit of Jude's ashes into the soil in August.  My mom told me yesterday (they live out in the country) that several daisies are popping up randomly around it.  She said she looked up meanings of daisies and some of them include: childhood, innocence, purity, and motherhood.  She said they close up at night when it's dark...but they open in the morning.
Mom told me that out of all the 14 trees in her field, Jude and Brinly's tree is the only one with these daisies <3

Isahiah 61:3
To all who mourn in Israel,[a]
    he will give a crown of beauty for ashes,
a joyous blessing instead of mourning,
    festive praise instead of despair.
In their righteousness, they will be like great oaks
    that the Lord has planted for his own glory.



September 7, 2014

Awhile back I purchased a book called "Bringing in Finn."  Many of you have probably heard of the story-long story short a woman went through years of trying and finally did IVF.  She got pregnant with twins and due to unexpected preterm labor she lost them/delivered them right around the same time I delivered mine 21 weeks.  Anyway, the memoir is about how she came to have her son, Finn.  Her 60+ year old mother offered to surrogate (gestational carry) for them after the loss and they took her up on it.  In all honestly, I slammed the book shut in the middle, right after she delivered her twins.  Too many emotions and memories of my own horrific loss filled my memory as my tears filled for this woman because I actually COULD imagine that situation.

Recently I picked back up and came to a part I wanted to share.

While her mother was pregnant with her grandchild, (Sara, the author's son), she approached her daughter and said "You are not broken, you are chosen." 

The mom was putting some crazy spin on Sara's body not being broken, but her being chosen all along to go down this route.  Again tears came.  Although I don't deal with guilt at all (I KNOW I couldn't have done anything different with J and B), I deal with a large amount of sorrow that my body killed innocent, perfect, and healthy lives.  I. Am. Broken.  But chosen?  I wasn't so sure how I felt about this but felt my heart feel happier about that thought than broken.  The mom goes on to tell a story about maggots...

This story is taken right from the book.  It's about a Native American man captured during World War II and held in a POW camp. 

"He was tortured and starved for month, and then, on the brink of his death, he was fed maggots from a dirt floor by one of the guards just before the camp was liberated.  When he returns home to his tribe, he wallowed in grief and self-pity and likely a fair amount of PTSD.  The tribe left him be for awhile and then took him to the edge of large lake with a stone tied around his neck.

'You can either choose to forgive and live,' they said, 'or die.  There are only 2 choices.'

The man walked into the lake, intending to choose death.  He started to sink, when his life force seized him and he began to forgive.  As he struggled to the surface, he face the final situation he'd endured: the guard who had shoved the maggots into his face, moving his jaw so he was forced to swallow, encouraging the other guards to laugh at and humiliate him.  It was too much, he felt, to forgive this man.  He let go of the rock so he could drown. 

At the last second, before all his oxygen had gone, a watery light entered his mind and he saw that same man reading a book while the other guards slept, reading about a way to keep someone alive using protein from the bugs of the earth.  The soldier had not been tormenting him, it turned out, but saving his life."

Sara, goes on to say that her psychologist had said before we label a situation, we must consider the possibility that we many not have all the information.  Before you name something as broken/bad to consider that there may be something "profound and important, not just for you but for the greater good-that could not come any other way.

I don't have all the information.  I accept I may never know why I had to "swallow the maggots" aka lose my babies.  Pain is a part of life.  But because of Jude and Brinly, I have the deepest empathy for people that fight so hard and then lose. Although I would take Jude and Brinly 1 million times before this route, before losing them I would just feel sorry for people that had miscarriages.  I felt scared for people that had stillborns/late losses-and I felt scared of them-what on earth do you say?  You hear these random horror stories and assume it would never happen to you.  How do you approach them?  Like most people you want to avoid eye-contact and are freaked out to bring it up.  But now?  I have a passion to raise my own tattered arms and wrap them around new mommy's that wake up in this nightmare. 

Goodbye My Loves

August 26, 2014

After the marathon of weddings (I was in two weddings in 6 days), I woke up early for Jude's memorial this last Sunday.

It was a perfect day.  The weather was sunny, and our family's followed our request to be there at 9:00am sharp.  Jude's life was short so it was fitting to have his memorial be short.  My mother is law read a beautiful letter she wrote to him-one thing that stood out to it was she pointed out to Jude that if it was for Darren and I and our love, he would never have existed and would have never had this beautiful life he has in heaven.  We gave him that because of our love-I liked it.  Then my mom shared and talked about hope. 

Then I pulled the blanket that I first held Jude in out of my purse and put his box of ashes on it-I held him for the first time and the last time in that blanket.  I thanked Jude for teaching me about empathy.  Before losing him and his sister I felt "bad" for people when they had tough news or a loss, but because of actually getting the pain of death and loss I know FEEL pain for people when they lose someone or get a bad diagnosis.  I cry for them.  He has made me more emphatic.

I thanked Jude for teaching me that stupid cliché phrases like "It will all work out" "It wasn't meant to be" "God has a plan" "Keep trying it will happen" "Relax" "why don't you adopt?" etc DO NOT HELP PEOPLE suffering.  They just don't.  I now know to look someone in the eyes-to really see them- and to be silent or to acknowledge-this is really really crappy and I'm so sorry-and mean it.

Lastly, Jude taught me about my faith.  I've always been a Christian, but it's easy to be a Christian when your life is good.  When sorrow pours down on you and you hit the cement at 10593284032 miles per hour and your prayers go unanswered and you deliver a stillborn and then another stillborn within 20 days??  That makes you question if your faith is real.  Do I still believe in His goodness?  Do I still believe in a loving God?  After ALL the loss and pain and anger and horrific sorrow of losing Jude and Brinly, I still answer yes.

Darren then thanked our family for the support they gave us in the hospital and then my Dad prayed for us.  I don't think there was a dry eye. My family then walked to the base of Multnomah Falls for a family picture and a surprise I will blog about later.

In the meantime, Darren and I walked down to a beautiful stream.  "Bye baby boy," I whispered.  I pulled him out, that small bag of ashes and released him into the stream.  I thought I would be afraid.  I was not.  I saved a tiny pinch of the ashes for a special tree that was given to me in their honor.  I love him, but I truly let him go.

The memorial of course brought up all kinds of sad emotions that had been buried for so long.  My love, my son.  I had so much hope you would make it.  But it was also healing.  And now we press on and hope for our rainbow.

Letting Go Kind Of

July 30, 2014

School starts early September and in my heart I know it's time to let Jude go by spreading his ashes.

It still feels surreal that I type that.  My daughter and son, died, and I have to plan a service for them.  Is this my life?

Brinly is buried in a mass grave the hospital does for free for babies lost before 20 weeks.  I quickly agreed to that because at the time my whole focus was on the live baby, Jude.  When he died, they asked if I wanted them cremated together.  I said no.  For some reason, they left this world at different times, it didn't bother me they wouldn't be buried together.  I'm still ok with that.

At first I wanted nothing to do with the ashes.  The whole thing scared me and made me feel creepy and weird.  My mother in law took care of the whole ordeal and found a cemetery where you could sprinkle them in a garden.  However, I panicked at that idea to and asked her to hold on while I sorted through the insane sadness and blurry grief storm I was in.

I thought of Multnomah Falls.  It's a beautiful falls here in the Northwest in the gorge.  We hike there every now and then.  It's special.  The idea came to me to spread his ashes there, in the water.  That way, I could "visit" him when I go there.  I figured that someday I could take our PLEASE GOD future kid/s there to tell them the story of Jude and Brinly, their older brother and sister. 

There is a part of me that doesn't want to spread them.  It's weird, I don't even have/want them in my house.  Pouring out the box is kind of over, the last time in this lifetime that I hold my son, even though we all know he has been in heaven for almost a year.  Someone suggested pouring out half, but we don't do that with bodies?  I just feel sad about it all.  But then I think that this might be a big step in the healing process.  Letting go.  Saying goodbye with my family with me.  Allowing myself to go there-the deepest darkest saddest places that linger in my soul that I try to forget about.  To weep yet again for the devastating loss.  The unfairness.  The pain that I felt.  That Jude and Brinly felt.

My mom asked "how do you want the day to go?"  I'm not sure.  I guess I say goodbye and my family can say anything they want.  Then, I asked my mom that maybe our family could say a prayer for us, right there, for healing and peace.  For bravery.  For courage.  For hope again.  For redemption.

I've always tried to live my life in a way honoring to God that models His values.  But I told my mom-how on earth would anyone want to choose to follow Christ when they witness something like this?  I'm a Christian, I asked for a child, I got pregnant with triplets, they all died.  From the outside, who would want anything to do with Jesus??  I know I wouldn't.  BUT Christ loves redemption.  It's not always how we plan it, see it, but over and over and over again He does make things right.  I myself have begun to lose hope in that; but of course, I want my story to end with redemption.  I still get goose bumps (in a sad way) that days before my water broke I even wrote those lyrics on a decorative board in my house I write quotes on-"let me see redemption win, let me know the struggle ends."  It was almost like my heart knew something was up.

All this to say, hopefully end of summer Darren and I will have the courage/strength to do a memorial service for him, for them, for us.  And then, take another step towards opening up to building the family. 

Lastly, as we work to slowly rebuild our faith, our hope in His goodness, our trust despite things we cannot fathom to understand, Hillsong's Ocean (acoustic version) is my current favorite worship song.  I cry every time I hear it.  Even though I still struggle to find words to say when I pray, this song helps fill in the blanks. <3

When Your Only Child Dies

July 13, 2014

The waves of grief come and go.  Today I finally had the discipline to drag myself to church.  I went alone, to the one I grew up in (not our regular).  This is probably only the 5th time I've been since the loss.

During the worship service, I can feel the tears starting to come.  I love Him.  I do.  My roots are deep in my faith but there is still a lot of healing to go.  The words in the song "Have your way, rule and reign in me" I battle with.  The tears come because I'm tired of the "surrender" to His will yet they are also there because I know none of us have a choice/control in any outcome.  I cry too because He is good and after everything I can still bring my lips to whisper that and mean it, despites the pain.

The topic was on "Why does a good God allow evil/suffering?"  It started off with a video of footage from the Clackamas Town Center shooting, the Troutdale shooting, the Boston Marathon.  Tears again.  Why don't you stop this??? I find myself angrily asking.  Death and evilness around every corner, striking randomly. 

There obviously is no easy answer and the pastor didn't say anything I haven't heard before.  He reminded us that in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.  On the first few days of creation (plants, animals, etc) he was happy but He wanted to be loved.  His heart was missing that.  The plants couldn't love Him back.  Animals react on instinct.  He had to give us choice-He knew it would be selfish to pre-program us to love Him to seek Him, to choose Him.  He knew that by giving humans a choice-evil could happen if they chose that route.  He did not want to force us to be robots that love Him because we know nothing else. 

And throughout time, several people have made the choice to not choose Him and goodness but to chose selfishness and darkness.  He allows their choices to play out and only promises to make things right, someday. 

This is hard to swallow.  I didn't do anything "wrong" to deserve to lose my children.  No one else did anything "evil" to me to make me lose them.  It felt like a personal attack or personal "denial" from the Creator Himself.  We cry out to heaven and all we hear is a door slam, several bolts lock, and silence (as described by C.S. Lewis).  The pastor reminded us that we don't see tomorrow and He does.  That He is good and all His actions are love.  That even evil things can be redeemed, made right, restored because of His love for us. 

Pretty heavy stuff to process on one of my first times back at church.  One of my mom's friends who I grew up with stopped me on the way out to say hi.  She brought up the loss and I couldn't have felt more loved.  She acknowledged the sorrow and hugged me (so much better than acting like it didn't happen).  I talked a bit about it, through tears.  I ended the conversation with telling her that despite the horror, Darren and I do not accept this fight is over.  Holding Jude only fueled the flames to keep moving forward and I told her that I hope that the peace and that the hope and that the fight to move forward is from Him.

2 popular songs on the radio really get me.  It's crazy how love songs can relate so much to babies.  The song "All of Me" instantly reminds me of Jude "All of me, loves all of you, all your curves and all your edges, all your perfect imperfections",  I picture my favorite black and white picture of his gorgeous face with little bruises.  On the way home from church the song "Stay with Me" came on the radio on the way home and I lost it.  I really really hope that the next baby stays with me.  I cried in a good way.  The cry that helps release the sadness that slowly builds up over time. 

We later went to a family reunion at my parents to hold a casual memorial service for my grandma that died 10 days after Jude.  All my married cousins have kids.  I couldn't help but ache for Jude and Brinly when I saw the family pictures with all their children together.  I can't help but think all of my sister and cousin's kids met my grandma.

Today was a sad day for me and I actually feel ok about it.  I need these days, to process, to remember, to acknowledge and to work through the bruises in my faith.

I came across this article on Still Standing about the pain that comes with losing your only living child.  She says that some moms lose a baby/child but they still have 1 or more living-she explains how our pain is different/empty-but goes on to say she doesn't want to get into who has it worst, it's all worst-our child died.  Anyways, read it if you get a chance, it explains a lot of how I felt those dark months following the delivery.  I still can relate to several of her feelings.
(I took the bottom image from her article)
When your only child dies :

A Baby Monkey Nipped Darren

July 8, 2014

Darren and I got back from our 10 day trip to Puerto Rico and then Carribean Cruise to: St. Lucia, St. Thomas, Barbados, St. Kitts, and St. Marteen last week and things have been insane!  Everyone assumes that since I'm a teacher I "relax" in the summer, but I haven't even had time to catch up on the THREE episodes of the Bachelorette.

This summer I'm doing 3 jobs.  I'm teaching a education class Monday and Wednesday nights at Concordia University. The majority of my days involve hours of prep and planning to make sure my 3 teaching hours are as awesome as possible.  Starting today I will be scoring teacher portfolios from home from 8am to noon everyday until the end of the month.  I'm still teaching Spanish online too!  I'm actually more busy than I am during the school year.  The day we got back from vacation, I had 24 hours to get ready for my first class!  I'm actually looking forward to August (my last university day is August 6) and I'm in two of my best friend's weddings so it should be more fun.

Back to the monkey that bit Darren.  This was by far my FAVORITE part of vacation.  The whole trip was perfect.  Sunny days, balcony room, unlimited food and dessert, gorgeous beaches, getting to spend 24/7 with Darren, etc.  But one day at breakfast I overhead that in St. Kitts you can get your picture with a monkey when you get off the boat.  I looked at Darren with a stern look and said "I'm doing this."  (He usually is opposed to anything that has to do with wildlife and actually dropped my new S5 when I was trying to get him to take a selfie of us both holding pigeons).

When we got off the boat at St. Kitts, there they were.  Tiny little monkeys (in diapers) and some even in dresses!  They are the pets of somewhat "shady" locals who origiannly wanted me to give him $10 to take 3 pictures with my cell phone!  As you are negotiating the price, they literally start putting the monkeys on you...I guess get you more excited?  We agreed on $5 for 2 pictures (eye roll).  Darren followed the rules and only took 1 picture of me and the monkey isn't even looking.  But the real treasure is the pictures (notice plural) I snapped of him.  The locals constantly feed the monkeys (I'm assuming to keep them from biting) but the little monkey was starting to slip on Darren's arm so he boosted it back up...which in turn, made the monkey think he was trying to touch his food, so he nipped him.  For some reason, every time I rethink the scenario of Darren getting bit by the monkey I feel really happy, amused, and to be honest, a bit jealous.  What a great story for those ice breakers where you tell two truths and a lie??

Last summer at this exact time I was gearing up for transfer #3.  Today is a weird day in regards to Jude and Brinly and their frozen siblings at OHSU.   July 8th, 2013 exactly one year ago was when my triplets made it to 5 day blasts and were transferred into me.  This being our 2nd full blow egg retrieval, we had 9 make it to 5 or 6 day blasts-the best two and the lowest score were the 3 we chose to transfer.  So from that cycle we froze 2 single embryos 4AB/4AB, a set of 4ABs and then a set of 6 days blasts-they joined 1 set of 4ABs from our first IVF cycle.  So crazy the start of J and B and all the other frosties was a year ago.  I'm grateful for the "hope on ice" that are waiting for me when I'm ready.  Next step is to plan Jude and Brinly's memorial for the end of the summer/early fall.  I think although sad, it will be another step towards healing and another step in this messy thing called grief.  They are in our hearts every second.  I wrote their name in the sand in the Carribean.

I read a long time ago at the beginning of my blogging that wearing red underwear on New Year's Eve helps increase fertility.  Any one know if monkey bites help?

Formal Night on the ship!

My handsome husband enjoying the balcony

View from our room!

Orient Beach

I was way happy about feeding pigeons in Puerto Rico.

 Best for last, this is the 2nd picture I took, right before he bit.  You can see the look in his eye.

Rainbow Baby Killed in Bike Crash

July 3, 2014

When I lost Jude and Brinly I was quickly welcomed with sad, warm, open arms in a very private and small groups called LAMBS.  Loss of all multiples.  This group has been my saving grace because it's a small collection of women who truly understand the horror and depth of loss and loss and loss instead of just trying to imagine it.  I can go here when I have a dark thought or have been hurt/offended by someone who I KNOW meant well but stung me.  Here the women validate my feelings while gently reminding me people mean well.

Cynthia Jenks is the name of group administrator.  She lost quadruplets in 1998 (identical boys/fraternal girls).  She has been kind and caring to all of us moms (and sadly the new moms each month that join due to losing ALL).  Today she posted in the group and said that she has never mentioned it in the group but that she actually had her rainbow twins (boy/girl) in 2000 (many of us women in the group really really are sensitive to twins/triples and hearing about other people's can trigger lots of emotions, that is why I'm assuming she never told us she has twins).  Anyway, last week, her 13 year old son and daughter where on a bike ride (with a group that trains teens to bike competitively) and he was killed, 3 inches in front of his teen sister, in a bike wreck.

I felt really numb reading her post.  Then I read it to Darren and the reality of the cruelty of life set in.  I'm not in charge but if things were fair (which we all know they are NOT), the pain, loss, nastiness would at least be spread out.  A mommy that had to bury 4 babies that she labored and delivered has put in her time in the suffering department.  To experience the rainbow boy/girl twins and then a sudden loss?  The article took me to her facebook page and just days before she was posting family pictures.

I think about the idea of "rainbow" baby all the time-They are the beauty after the storm.  Things being made right.  With my first miscarriage in 2012, I thought J and B were my rainbows.  If I ever am lucky enough to get my rainbow baby, the pain of losing him/her as young teen is beyond horrific.  I know it's beyond horrific for any family, any loss of a child.

I by no means want to be doom and gloom.  We all know we will die at some point.  I guess I write about her because it reminds me to hold those that I love even closer.  Just like the poem Amy wrote me when Jude and Brinly died Loss and Gratitude , remember to enjoy each and every second you have with the children you have or the husband and wife or friend or sibling.  My heart breaks for her today because I have an idea of the grief that lies ahead...
Olivia and Timothy at Open Water Zones 2013 Wisconsin

Father's Day ♥♥

June 15, 2014

To all bereaved fathers missing their children today and every day-- we honor and celebrate you.  <3Unlike myself, Darren expressed no issues/problems with attending Father's Day events with our families (I locked myself in tight on Mother's Day). 

Darren is the father of Jude and Brinly, although not here, nonetheless, he is their dad.  He is a superhero dad.

I am on a few facebook support groups for "loss of all multiples" and "life after pProm loss."  There I connect with a very small population of women who 100% understand the pain because they do have experienced it first hand.  I found a few "thoughts" on Father's Day there:

Taken from "Physcology Today," it discuses the impact of stillbirth on the father (while pointing out it's usually the mom's that get all the support). "Writes Return To Zero writer/director Sean Hanish, whose son was stillborn in 2005,  “As a husband, a partner, a man you are a passenger on the pregnancy express. You can look out the window and watch the scenery go by, her belly grow, her skin glow, and if you’re lucky, catch your baby’s elbow as it presses against her belly like the dorsal fin of some alien sea creature making it more real for you. But you’re not the engineer. When the crash comes you are struggling with your own emotions, grief and loss, desolation and depression, and watching as your wife, your partner, your life jumps the tracks. Twisting metal tumbling out of control in slow motion. Prepare for impact.”

Darren, although strong and rarely discusses it, has gone through some serious impact on the said "Pregnancy Express." 

Once a father, always a father.  <3

We are healing slowly.  Some days better than others.  Today I gave Darren his first Father's Day Card.  I acknowledge him as a dad and love him deeper for it.  And I also want to acknowledge all the other dad's out there who have lost.  We stand with you.  We see you.  We understand.  And I want to acknowledge all the men who are fighting daily to be fathers, who are longing to be fathers, who are deep in the trenches of building a family and truly have a father's heart.  Happy Father's Day ♥♥

This picture was taken a few days after my 3rd IVF transfer of 3 embryos.  We didn't know it at the time but I was pregnant with triplets.  Issac, Jude, and Brinly.  Here is one of Darren's first pictures as their dad. Although none of them are here with us, we love them every single day of our lives and hold on to the promise of seeing them again someday when the world is made right.

Cupcakes With Pink Filling (Survival of Gender Reveal Take 3)

May 30, 2014

Wow!  It's been almost 3 weeks since my last post.  Here are my top excuses: 

1. I'm a teacher and the end of the school year gets muy loco, I also am teaching a graduate class and an online Spanish course.  Oh ya, I run prom too (here's my BIL, sista, me, and Darren chaperoning our hearts out)

2.  As mentioned, we are on an official break which means there is very little to update.  Although I've been enjoying my runs/gym time, my guilt-free Starbucks, and more spontaneous sex, I've been baby-making obsessed for over 3 years-that doesn't just shut off.  I still feel that first sting when I see a pregnant person, I still cringe at new announcements, I still roll my eyes during diaper commercials, and I still think about Jude and Brinly every breath; and the desire to someday hold their siblings is with me every single second of the day. First official month of "not trying to try" but I still question if I'm ovulating in my brain- although I didn't do any ovulation predicting kits, I'm 99% sure I ovulated on cycle day 18 (I've read this is common to ovulate on your own the month or two after stopping femara).  With that said, I'm 100% sure I'm not pregnant because of A. negative test 12 dpo and B. insane cramps. No surprise here.  I've accepted that unless some miracle randomly occurs, me becoming pregnant lies in our frozen embies on ice.

Holly, when do you plan to go after the embryos you may be asking?  The answer?  It's a little complicado.  I am full of anxiety even thinking about how many to transfer and needles and hospital.  The specialist recommends 1, the RE 2.  My track record (with all great 5 day blasts) is as follows.  First IVF transferred 2-1 implanted but early miscarriage; 2nd FET 2 transferred, nothing stuck.  3rd IVF transferred 3, all 3 implanted and had heartbeats, middle baby B miscarried at 9 weeks and J and B lived healthy little fetus lives till @$@#%@%@ (notice my extra long bad word) hit the fan and I lost them both.  So that is 2 for 7.  5 were probably abnormal to miscarry/arrest.  So do I really want to go through 1 at a time with each transfer about $3,000 a pop and tons of injections?  BUT, I was told that I should NEVER carry twins.  If both implanted, I would be 100% horrified that I would pProm again and kill my children.  Whenever we drive by OHSU I do still manage to shout out really really loud (partly to annoy Darren) "Hi little frozen babies!! I love you!  I miss you!"  I've said this before but the day I said "I do" to Darren I never IMAGINED I would be yelling hello to our frozen children every time we were in Portland. 

All this to say, Darren and I booked a cruise that leaves from Puerto Rico at the end of the month to get out.  I'm assuming I'll make some decision by end of the summer and remain fairly private about it because I don't know if I can handle accepting the reality and horror that may come if it works (scared to lose baby again) and the pain (if it fails).  However, by early fall it's been almost a year.  I want to have a memorial for Jude, let go, and move forward despite the fear.  My desire to have living children is still stronger than my fear, even after this nightmare experience of delivering/laboring 2 babies weeks apart.

On a second note, my younger sister Heidi is 19 weeks pregnant with her 2nd child.  She got pregnant the first month she tried. Again.  I would be lying if that initial announcement didn't kick me in the gut, make me sob,  and force me question my faith once again. Why would God allow something so horrible to happen to me, while making the same thing so easy for her?  I avoid pregnant women like the plague to protect myself but no way on earth would I avoid Heidi.  I would NEVER wish infertility on her, my best friend, my own flesh and blood, BUT, I wouldn't have minded if it took them the normal 3-6 months (and for the record I think even she was surprised they were lucky enough for another 1st month).  It blows my mind that 2 sisters can have such extremely different reproductive systems.  It's not her fault her uterus is amazing and it's not my fault mine sucks.

Before my loss of J and B, I had mastered the "happy for them, sad for me" concept.  But since their loss, I've changed a bit.    In this dark season of my life, I'm mainly just sad for me in all things pregnancy related.  For us.  The voice of the women that have fought so hard and still have empty arms.  It's selfish but it's truthful. 

Heidi just had her gender reveal party.  I knew from day 1 my gut told me it was a girl so I wasn't surprised when I bit into the cupcake and saw pink.  Ahhh Brinly, your sweet little cousin would have adored you like the "cool" older sister.  When I was in 1st grade I always thought 2nd graders were SO cool.  You would have been that to Heidi's little girl.  She would have admired you, looked up to you.  You would be the older sister she never will have-you two would have had slumber parties at each of our houses and been best friends just like me and your Aunt Heidi.  I would have French braided your hair with her and painted your toes with her. 

I had to let go of being the oldest daughter and not giving my parent's their first grandchild.  When I was in the mist of our first IVF Heidi gave birth to Ryker.   With the bite of the pink cupcake I also swallowed the fact that I will not be the first child to give my parents a living granddaughter.  Minor, small, I know, in the big scheme of things, but still, until that bite it was something I could think "well maybe I'll at least have the first girl."  It's nothing new to me that life isn't always fair, that things don't always go as planned.  I accept it.  I accept, even in my pain and bitterness and sorrow, that He knows better.  That the heart of God is kind and gentle and purposeful although in the valley I mainly just see dark.  I asked Heidi if I could throw her shower-the first shower I attend after the loss might as well be their sweet little cousin's. I will love that little girl the way I love her son.  But, good Lord, I so wish my kids were here to play with hers.  And she wishes that too.  And so does her husband and my husband. And so does my mom.  And my dad.  And my brother.  And all those that love us and care for us and are rooting for us.  I love all my nieces and nephews, but they are not mine.  They cry for their own mommy when they need something. 

On the way home from the "reveal" party we were pretty quiet. This sadness doesn't come from Heidi's pregnancy, it comes from the remembering of our own gender reveal celebration and loss.  I didn't cry. Then Darren randomly asks me "Do you think losing Brinly and Jude has changed your personality?"  This threw me off a bit ("has my personality changed?" I quickly ask myself).  I paused for a long time.  Then said, "No, I still feel like I'm me, but I'm a lot more cynical....Do you feel like it's changed yours?"  He replies, "I don't feel like have as much joy about things any more."  Darren is the stronger/stable one in our relationship.  He rarely discuses the loss and to hear him say this, made my heart feel extra sad.  Jude and Brinly's dad has loss so much too. 

Through all our pain, I at least have had my eyes open to the other pain and suffering around me.  When bad things happen to people I know, I feel it a little deeper.  Empathy.  Sorrow.  Compassion.  Although the pain/scar of J and B will always be there, the fix will be someday, somehow, somewhere be when I meet their siblings.  Like I mentioned in a previous post, I bought J and B and book called My Love Will Find You around the 9 week mark.  That love is stronger than ever because I looked in my child's face and knew we couldn't quit.   And I pray that God makes things right. In my scattered prayers I ask, just like He says, that He will make beauty from ashes.  My. Love. Will. Find. Them.

My First "Mother's" Day

May 11, 2014

Like many things (my first biggest fear was J and B's true due date), going to the first baby shower after loss (still avoiding that one), and now Mother's Day, when the days comes and goes and I realize I am still alive, still breathing, I realize it wasn't quite as bad as I had imagined.  As I stayed pretty much cocooned up in the house, I was surrounded by love and kindness.  Here's a little recap.

Yesterday on the way home from the beach with my in-laws, we saw this:
If you look closely, it's a double rainbow.  Sure it's Washington here and sure it's grey and stormy, but in my heart I like to think it was from J and B and God.  Or at least beautiful timing.
The second sweet surprise was I got TWO actual "Happy Mother's Day" cards in the mail acknowledging me as a mom.  I presented them to Darren when he got home and he looked at me hesitantly-"does that make you happy or sad?"  "So, so happy I replied."
Third, my mom put this as her instagram:

There was my name, with my grandma's and great grandma's and mom's and sister's.  Holly Benson listed with the other moms, no long explanation, just my name.  Although I skipped the celebration my mom assured me that the day wouldn't pass with her talking about J and B and that they are always a part of our family.  I cried with love.

I managed to stop by Starbucks to get a drink with my mom after they went to church and my grandma stopped by with a book as a gift and this is what was written inside:
Darren and I did some errands and a few hours later this was on my porch:

On Saturday I also got this in the mail (it says: Brinly and Jude Held Your Whole Life):

And 7 different people texted me this (or something sweet):

In the meantime, I was considering looking at the pictures of Brinly.  They are on a cd and for some reason I thought today would be fitting and I was feeling brave.  I climbed into the attic and opened the bins full of their things.  The precious clothes I had bought them once I hit the "safe zone."  Ultrasound pictures.  Their official gender reports.  His death certificate.  I couldn't find Brinly's CD-must have gotten misplaced during those insane weeks.  Darren swears it will show up and I'm ok with that too.  I peeked into the memory boxes I visit so often and looked at their footprints, I stared at Jude's face and held his blanket.  I allowed the silent tears of love and sorrow to fall down my face and before I could stop it allowed the prayer to leave my lips again, "Please, make it right, let us see redemption win."  And shockingly, this prayer wasn't the angry bitter deeply hurt prayer that I've spit out a few times since the loss.  It was a gentler, broken, humble exchange. 

Grief has waves and they come un-expectantly, the anger isn't gone.  The massive wounds are no where near scarred over, and my obsession to meet their siblings someday grows every second, but today I felt mainly just love for my children and proud to be their mom. 

My Bucket List:

My Bucket List: