Thursday, February 28, 2013

Our Story

Shane and I met when we were juniors in high school. We were actually set up on a blind date. My friend Jaime hounded me for weeks to let her fix me up with this guy that she insisted would be perfect for me. He was a friend of a friend so I was hesitant, but I finally agreed. The plan was for Shane to come with their mutual friend to one of our volleyball games. Jaime described him as tall with dirty blonde hair. She told me that if I was interested, she would introduce us after the game, but if not she would say I was one of our other friends who ironically had the same first name as me. (Sorry Sherri!) Shane came with two friends and one of them fit the description Jaime gave me. She had apparently never actually met Shane. I wasn't interested in the other guy but as fate would have it, Shane did catch my eye. Thankfully, I caught his as well and Jaime introduced us after the game. We talked for a few minutes and he walked me to my locker. As he was getting ready to leave with his friends, Jaime ran out and asked if he wanted my number and he said yes.  He called me the next night and we talked for over three hours. The rest, as they say, is history.

Although we met when we were very young, we knew that we were meant to be together. We were warned repeatedly that high school sweethearts never last, but we managed to prove them all wrong. We survived a long distance relationship for several months when we first went away to college. After the first semester, I ended up transferring to the university that Shane was attending. While many people (including my own mother at the time) assumed I only transferred to be with Shane, that was not the case. The college that I had originally gone to wound up not being the right fit for me and the university that Shane had chosen had been my second choice. In all honestly, those first few months after I transferred put our relationship to the test. We had to readjust to seeing each other every day and I had to try to find my place with his new group of friends as well as make new friends of my own. We had a few rough patches but we worked things out and we were engaged our junior year of college. Our plan was to get married a few months after graduation. I was told by several family members and friends that we would never make it that far but we had the last laugh. We were married just two months after we graduated college; five and a half years after we first met. We've faced many obstacles over the last twenty years, but we have beaten the odds time and time again.

About six months after we were married, my mother unexpectedly passed away. She and I had always been extremely close and losing her shook me to the core. We hadn't actively been trying to start a family prior to my mother's death, but shortly there after we began to try. We weren't able to try for very long though because Shane left for Air Force Officer Training School a few months later. That separation was pretty tough considering I was grieving but we made it through and moved to our first duty station. We continued to try to start a family for another six months or so with no luck and finally decided to see a doctor. The doctor gave us a few recommendations and told us to come back in six months if we still weren't successful and that she would then refer us to a specialist. At the time we were stationed at a base with a fully functioning hospital which also included a fertility clinic. We got our referral and underwent five months of minimally-invasive fertility treatments to no avail. By this point we had been married for about three years and the frustration of trying to start a family with no success, coupled with the fertility treatments, had started to take it's toll. We decided it was time to take a break and focus on our marriage. Shane got orders to a different base and we moved. About two years into that assignment, Shane got orders to go to Iraq. The deployment was rough on both of us but thankfully Shane came home safe and sound. We decided then that it was time to try again to start a family.

Once again we tried several cycles of minimally-invasive fertility treatments, but after the third failed attempt we decided it was time to move on to IVF. We were terrified but we knew it was the next step. Thankfully, we were successful on our first attempt. We had four viable embryos and on the advice of our doctor, we elected to transfer two of them. The two-week wait was pure torture!!! I was pessimistic and kept insisting that it didn't work. Shane was my rock though and refused to believe that it wasn't a success. When day fourteen finally arrived and I got the results of my blood test, I was ecstatic. I was teaching at the time and I wasn't supposed to be on my cell phone so I emailed Shane instead. All I said was, "You can say I told you so!" He was scheduled to leave for his second deployment to Iraq in about a month but luckily we had an ultrasound at around five weeks. The doc needed to determine whether there was one baby or two. I fully expected there to only be one but Shane insisted that I was carrying twins. When we saw both babies on the monitor, I almost fell off the examining table but Shane once again got to say, "I told you so!"

Shane left for Iraq a few weeks later and we naively assumed that things would go smoothly while he was gone. After all, we had waited seven and a half years at that point to finally be pregnant. We had paid our dues and it was time to just sit back and enjoy the pregnancy and look to the future. Boy, were we wrong!! Just a few short weeks after Shane left I had a threatened miscarriage. He almost came home from Iraq but the doctor put me on bed rest for about a month and everything was stable. The babies were growing and so was my belly!! I sent Shane pics and gave him updates on my doctor's appointments. He was scheduled to return from his deployment around my sixth month of pregnancy. We hadn't planned to find out the babies' genders but my doctor had to deliver a baby in the middle of my eighteen week appointment. (It was the woman's seventh baby so my doc said he would be back in about twenty minutes, and he was!!) By the time he returned he forgot that we didn't want to know and told me that Baby B was a boy. At that point I figured I might as well find out what Baby A was too. Shane had insisted that they were both girls and I kept telling him that it was a boy and a girl. It was finally my turn to say, "I told you so!!"

Unfortunately, our happiness was short lived. I wound up in the hospital on bed rest just a week and a half later and was on the verge of losing one or both of the babies. I was worried that something was wrong and I called the on call doctor who advised me to go to L&D. The doc came in to check me fully expecting everything to be fine and to be able to chalk it up to first time pregnancy anxiety. He was shocked when he discovered that I was one centimeter dilated. I was hooked up to a monitor and spent the night in the hospital. Thank God we had some amazing friends who were there for me because I don't think I could have made it through the next few days without them.

My regular OB/GYN came to see me the next morning and warned me that there was nothing that could be done. That this type of thing normally didn't happen until around twenty-eight weeks and since I was only nineteen weeks along, I would likely lose one if not both of the babies. His plan was just to keep me in the hospital on bed rest and hope for the best. Thankfully, by then I was also being followed by a maternal fetal medicine doctor. I had seen him for the first time two weeks prior and he had warned me that I might end up on bed rest in the hospital so I was prepared. He was a phenomenal doctor and Shane and I will never be able to repay him for the miracle that he gave us. Unlike my regular OB/GYN, he refused to adopt the wait and see approach. He decided to do a cervical cerclage and started me on magnesium to stop the contractions that I wasn't even aware I was having. While he was going over the procedure with me, Shane called me from Iraq. He was in the process of working with the Red Cross to come home a month early from his deployment. The doctor asked if he could talk to Shane and explain the situation and the procedure.  I can't even put into words how much that conversation meant to both Shane and I. The doc knew how scared we both were and he was trying to do everything he could to alleviate our fears. By the time they got me back to surgery and placed the cerclage, I was already four centimeters dilated and ninety percent effaced. If they hadn't done the procedure when they did, I would have likely delivered both babies before Shane ever got home from Iraq. Thankfully the procedure was a success and Shane made it home the next evening.

I spent the next five weeks in the hospital, pretty much upside down almost the entire time. I tried as hard as I could to keep my precious cargo safe where they belonged but unfortunately, things took a turn for the worse at twenty-four weeks. Despite being on magnesium, I was still having contractions. They became quite severe and our baby girl's heart rate was decelerating. There was no choice but to do an emergency C-section in an attempt to save both babies. They were both extremely fragile and sick and faced multiple complications and surgeries over the course of their NICU stay. Sadly our daughter, Madelynn, was much sicker than Shane or I ever realized and she succumbed to the effects of their extreme prematurity just a little over three months later. Our son, Mason, spent a total of one hundred and forty days in the NICU before finally coming home. He truly is a miracle. He overcame the odds and is a happy, healthy six-year old today. His smile and laughter are infectious. He is smart as a whip and quite the little ladies’ man, but that’s understandable given the fact that he was surrounded by all those pretty nurses for so many months!!

We always knew we wanted to have more children but we needed time to grieve Madelynn's death. After about four years, we decided to seek fertility treatments again. We still had two embryos left from our first attempt at IVF, and we felt very strongly that those souls deserved a chance at life. We decided ahead of time that we would only try fertility treatments once more. We knew the toll that it could take on our marriage and we didn't want to force Mason to endure the roller coaster ride along with us. We attempted a FET (Frozen Embryo Transfer) about a year ago and were successful, but sadly that attempt ended in an early miscarriage. We have always wanted to adopt and have talked about doing so ever since college. We were blessed with Madelynn and Mason but we feel very strongly that our family is not yet complete. Mason asks frequently for a baby brother or sister and we want nothing more than to welcome another child into our home. We decided about six months ago that it was time to begin our journey to welcome the next member of our family.

It has been a long road, but Shane and I, and Mason as well, have grown stronger along the way. We have faced many obstacles but managed to continually beat the odds. Our love for each other, and for Mason, grows more each day and we look forward to the opportunity to share that love with another child. We know in our hearts that we are meant to be parents to another precious little one and we are patiently awaiting the day that he or she finds us.

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