Wednesday, May 30, 2012

A Summary of Our Experience

(This is a draft of a chapter I've been asked to write for a book about LDS (Mormon) women and their different perspectives and struggles. This is very rough, but I thought I'd share it here as it is refined.) Todd and I had been married for five years before we realized that we might be having problems with fertility. We weren’t clueless; we were just busy – enjoying each other, enjoying our jobs, and enjoying nieces and nephews, enjoying life! I was thrilled that my brothers and sisters and friends were getting married and having children. Their happiness was my happiness. I guess that is what makes my experience with infertility somewhat atypical. Mine is not necessarily a story about personal anguish or my wrestle before God (although there is some of that). My story is about how I learned to accept service. We began the process of discovery only to be told after two years of tests, procedures, and an operation that we had earned the medical diagnosis of “unexplained infertility.” We had done everything within our power up until this point, and we felt that we were at a dead end. We were considering all of our options, and were prayerfully seeking out the best solutions. Of course I was struggling with questions in my mind and heart, but I felt that the Lord was pleased with the path we were taking thus far. Well-meaning friends and family members would occasionally press us for information: had we considered this option or that option? I remember a conversation with my younger sister, Sarah, in which she pressed me harder than usual about what we had tried. She left me with the impression that she thought there was more that we could be doing, but I had assured her that we were doing everything within our power, particularly our financial power. We had tried medications, alternative therapies, artificial insemination, and one round of in vitro fertilization (IVF). It had cost us $12,000 just for the IVF alone, basically our entire savings, and nothing had been successful. We were so disappointed; the IVF had been our “Hail Mary.” We would have like to have tried IVF again, but we could not do it without incurring considerable debt. Sarah decided to become our fertility savior. Sarah created a website, a blog (, a logo, and a Pay-Pay account. She contacted friends and family far and wide. She invited family, friends, and friends-of-friends to donate to the Baby Rhodesbud Fund (Rhodesbud is a play on my last name). Many of these people set up websites and accounts to sell their crafts and hobbies, and the proceeds went into an account for us to be able to explore the IVF procedure again. Others simply sent us a check. Sarah felt that we deserved to have a baby and that if money was the only thing standing in our way, then she would do everything in her power to remove that obstacle for us. It is so difficult to explain what it is like to be the recipient of this type of charity. I remember writing thank you notes to complete strangers and struggling to find the words to adequately thank them for helping us to start a family, to create life! Todd and I felt so humbled by the outpouring of love and support. Here is how I expressed those feelings on the blog: “But my thoughts and feelings are never far from those who have made this round [of IVF] possible. It is so humbling to be the recipient of funds, time, energy, industry, and prayer. I am way more comfortable being on the other end, but I am so grateful… beyond words, song, art, dance, or any other form or expression. If I could stage a fireworks show for all of you, over the water, on a warm summer's evening, after a delicious BBQ dinner and chocolate cake... that would only begin to express it. I love you. I have needed you. Thank you for being there.” During this time, we hosted my family at our home for Christmas Eve. As it came time to exchange gifts, Todd and I were surprised to be presented with the only gift of the evening. All of the nieces, nephews, and family siblings had decided to forgo sending and receiving presents from each other that year, and we were presented with envelopes from each family containing cards, drawings, checks, and cash. I still have one crumpled envelop with a few bills and some loose change that I still can’t bring myself to open let alone deposit. It is a reminder for me of that night, and of that precious gift from a 6-year-old niece. These nieces and nephews served us in other ways as well: they fasted and prayed for us in each family and personal prayer. That Christmas will always be a touchstone experience for our family, one that we will all remember and cherish. All in all, the Baby Rhodesbud Fund raised $25,000. The pressure, then, for these expensive procedures to work was very high. We began the IVF process again, and e-mailed the family and friends to ask them to pray for us, and to let them know what was going to happen on what dates. This time, I became very ill as a result of the hormones with a condition called Ovarian Hyper Stimulation Syndrome (OHSS). It is a very painful condition where your ovaries go into hyper drive and enlarge causing extreme pain and discomfort (you have to sign a waiver saying you understand that it can cause death). We were not able to implant the fertilized eggs, and we had to freeze them instead. Life continues to move forward whether you are ready or not. Sometimes life feels easy, and sometimes there are seasons of stress. The next few months were the stressful kind. We did two implantations using the frozen eggs and one round resulted in an ectopic pregnancy and the other in a non-fetal “mass.” After the miscarriage of the “mass”, we found ourselves in our darkest hour. At this point we were living in someone else’s home (while our new home was being completed), missing our creature comforts, in the darkness of deep winter. Todd and I did a lot of talking, praying, and soul searching at this time. Shortly thereafter, this is what I wrote on the Baby Rhodesbud blog: “Here comes the hard part for some people to digest: I am okay with not having kids. This doesn't mean that we will not continue to pursue options, pray, fast, seek, and ask, but I want people who care about me to know (and to accept) that children may not be part of our earthly path, and while that may be sad for some, I have had 10 years to come to grips with it, and I am okay. I do feel sad that we don't have kids to share the fun things with; holidays and family traditions are SO much funner and more meaningful with children. I do feel really sad that Todd and I might grow old with no one to look after us or care for us or visit us. Our posterity ends here. But I have dealt with all of these scenarios and ramifications and I can handle it, I have to, this is what my life is!” Coming through that time of darkness, I really felt okay. I felt at peace. I felt happy. I felt lucky. I felt blessed. I had so many great things going for me. I was healthy, I loved my husband and he loved me, I had a wonderful family, I had great friends, I loved my job, we lived in a beautiful home exactly where we wanted to live. We really had a lot going for us. So what more could I ask of my Heavenly Father? Todd and I enjoyed the next year by not thinking or worrying about our infertility. We took a fertility vacation. I thought I had learned my lesson, to accept service, although I felt sad that the sacrifice of others had not resulted in a typical “happy ending.” We had spent the vast majority of the Baby Rhodesbud Fund on the previous IVF procedures, and had made a little money on the sale of our home. After much thought and prayer, we decided to make one more sacrifice. We wanted to lay our material goods on the Alter of Life and show God that our desire for family was more important to us than worldly wealth. Once again, we would be wiped out financially in the hopes of becoming a family. This time, we kept it a secret. To make a very long story short, I had a wonderful pregnancy. I was not sick, I was not unreasonably tired, I got to spend the entire summer in Connecticut with Todd who was on a work assignment. I hung out at the pool with a friend, I visited friends and family up and down the East Coast all summer. It was a serious blessing, and no-stress! But God was not done teaching me a lesson about accepting service. Even during the birth of our darling son, Oliver, I was the recipient of many acts of service and kindness. Oliver came very suddenly, over a month early, while Todd was in Singapore on a work assignment. My house was an especially filthy disaster that week, there was no sweet, welcoming nursery set up, and no one to take me to the hospital. A dear friend dropped everything she was doing, calmly helped me make decisions, and cheerfully drove me to the hospital. I was blessed by this friend again as she organized a cleaning party in my home so that when we came home from the hospital with a tiny baby, he was introduced to paradise and beauty instead of filth and chaos. My sister, Amy, and my brother, Chip, hurried to the hospital to be by my side, and Amy stayed with me throughout the 24-hour labor and delivery. She then ran to the airport to pick up my husband and drop him off to be with me and managed to feed him a meal somewhere in there. What in the world would I have done without the help and intervention of others? Again, how could I express my feelings of deep gratitude? The thought of those ladies cleaning my bathroom floor covered in amniotic fluid sends shivers down my spine, and I am humbled by it. I have often said that Oliver does not belong to Todd and me: he belongs to everyone. It may take a village to raise a child, but in our case, it took a village to get one here. I continue to search out the lessons God has provided for me throughout this long journey. I am obviously oblivious to his guidance as the lesson of “you cannot do this alone, you cannot do this without me” was taught to me over and over again through the service of others. I can see now that the lesson I needed to learn was humility, by accepting service from others. It is sinful pride that stands in the way of allowing ourselves to be served by others. It is so much easier to be the one serving! We are commanded to love and serve each other, and to love and serve God. Service fosters love. We serve those we love and we come to love those whom we serve. I need to remember that if it had been my sweet friend who needed a ride to the hospital, I would not have hesitated because I love her! I would have cleaned all of my friends’ houses because I love them! To know that they might have done the same for me, out of love, is sweet and precious to me. So then as I work through my hang-ups about people serving me, I think of the one act of service that I could never repay. I think of the Savior and the Atonement. My continuous lessons in humility are preparing me to further accept my need of the Savior. Our whole existence is defined by His acting on our behalf. The summation of our journey here on earth is dependent on how we make use of that service He provided. My sister, Sarah, did for me what I could not do for myself. Many doctors and technicians did for me what Todd and I could not do for ourselves. The Savior did for us what we could not do for ourselves. When we find ourselves in the greatest need, He is there to help and serve and love. Often, He will help us through the acts of others who are in tune to His promptings and counsel. And He asks in return that we love and serve Him and our fellow man.

Our Birth Story

The following blog was posted on my personal blog a few months ago. It is our birth story: I had a baby. He was 4 1/2 weeks early. He is wonderful, and he has changed my life forever.

Because I need to actually "write" it down before I forget (I am existing in a baby time warp)... here's the full story.


With the exception of the blip of the last post, this had been an AWESOME pregnancy. I am one of those obnoxious ladies who has loved being pregnant. I did not feel too sick or tired. I did not gain weight (except for some crazy swollen ankles and feet). I felt energetic and was able to juggle a very busy semester. However, one of the things I was looking forward to was for my baby to come on time (January 6th) so that I could get everything done that I needed to. I was not looking forward to an early baby.

Todd and I started our Hypnobirthing classes, we were on board with the method, and I was practicing my relaxation strategies at home.

Todd had a work trip planned in Singapore. I really did not want him to go, and we discussed it several times. But eventually I had a very distinct peaceful feeling, finally, that he should go and everything would be alright.


On Tuesday, December 6th, I canceled morning classes, taught afternoon classes, and rushed to Kinkos to do some photocopying before the Young Women's activity (I was bringing the supplies).

At precisely 7pm, I pulled the car up to the back door of the house to run inside and grab some supplies before I headed to the church. I stepped out of the car into the frigid air and my water broke. People always told me that it wouldn't be dramatic, that I would probably mistake it for wetting my pants, that the movies always dramatize it. Well, the movies didn't do it justice. It was a gushing torrent. As wave upon wave of amniotic fluid filled my Kenneth Cole boots I was thinking (imagine this in different font types and sizes...) no, NO, NO, no, no NO, NO, NOOOOO!

"This all wrong! This is WAY too early! I have to go to YW! I have finals next week. TODD IS IN SINGAPORE!"

I turned off the car and literally sloshed into the house. I called Marilyn, my very experienced friend (and the YW president) and asked her to come over and pick up the YW supplies and "oh, yeah, I think my water broke." Marilyn was a dream. She came over right away and was all calm and smiles. She was perfectly composed and collected. Just what I needed. She suggested that I get myself cleaned up and start packing a bag and she would run the stuff over to the church and be right back.

I left bloody footprints down the hall as I waddled numbly to the shower with "no, NO, no, no, NO" going through my head. I had no idea what to wear or what to pack. I am very methodical and like to plan ahead, and this was happening too soon. Just that morning, I had ordered my "birthing gown." I knew that I did NOT want to give birth in an ugly, shapeless hospital gown, or be nekked, so I had ordered a beautiful white night gown so that when my baby emerged from the womb he would think I was an angel.


I did have a "backup" gown, but it was cliche and a little grandma-y, white with pink rosebuds... So I packed the gown and a matching frilly bathrobe, and some RANDOM stuff onto a bag while Marilyn calmly encouraged me.

A lot of people wondered if I called Todd right away. I didn't. I didn't know what to say. I finally called him once I was cleaned up and my bag was mostly packed. I couldn't call him directly in Singapore, I had to e-mail him. My message had the subject title "Call me now" and the body of the message said, "my water broke, not kidding."

Fortunately, Todd's main duties at this event were winding down. He called me AS SOON as he got the message. He was very calm. I found out later that while he was on the phone with me, his co-workers at the event were already looking up flights for him to take home ASAP. The soonest flight he could take was leaving in 6 hours.

Marilyn drove me to the hospital (the University of Utah). While her demeanor was very calm, the only thing that betrayed her nerves was the fact that we basically missed every exit possible. I think it's funny that one of Todd's main concerns about delivering up at the U was that it was so far away and he was nervous we would have a baby in the car. Marilyn and I took the LONGEST ROUTE POSSIBLE plus a few "U" turns and we made it just fine.

I had called Amy and Chip enroute and was so grateful that they could basically drop everything to come be with me. Contractions had started in the car, this was really happening. Marilyn was relieved of duty and Amy took over. Amy had come straight from her own ward's YW activity, and Chip had a presentation the next day and still had a lot of work to do. But they were both there for me and I will be eternally grateful!

I changed into my gown, we moved into a delivery room, and Chip gave me a blessing. How grateful I am to him for that! He provided a service to me that gave me comfort and strength to face the coming hours!

My thoughts were very much with Todd. All I could think of was Todd sitting on a plane and feeling helpless. What a terrible situation. This was the birth of his firstborn! His son! Throughout our years of infertility I have never questioned why, or felt wronged, or that the universe was unduly unfair to us. I accepted our infertility with humility knowing that God was in charge of the plan. But I have to say that this situation I could NOT understand. Why, after all the hardship and heartbreak we had been through as a couple, was Todd not able to be with me now? We have grown so close through our trials, why the separation now? We both feel okay about how things turned out, and we have speculated on why we think God planned it this way (remember my good, peaceful feeling?), but this is one thing I will be asking about when I stand at the pearly gates.

So, labor commenced. It was fine, at first. My first shift midwife, also named Amy, was fantastic. I had my hypnobirthing scripts, mantras, and music. Amy and Chip were great hand holders, shoulder rubbers, and coaches. Now time had very little meaning to me during this time. Bless Amy and Chip, they took turns working and helping and dozing and doing some secretarial work for me, like contacting family members (I HAD remembered to call Mom and Dad before I left). If it weren't for them, I seriously would have forgotten to call anyone until it was all over. I DID ask them to contact my friend, Dominique, who was throwing me a shower the next day, and also my friend, Kara, with whom I was to have lunch. I also remembered to email my humanities professor to ask him if I could have an extension on the paper that was due.

Soon, the contractions really kicked in. They were a bit irregular. I didn't want to be hooked up continuously so I could walk around, but soon almost any movement caused excruciating pain. Later, I learned that the intense pain was back labor because baby had his head turned and was not progressing into the birth canal, he was comfy where he was. So the contractions increased but he was not progressing. I was meditating and for quite a long while I was doing well, but after 12 hours, the professionals agreed that something more needed to be done.

I was tired. Physically, and mentally. As things progressed, Chip graciously excused himself. There are things sisters just don't want to share with their brothers. There was talk of pitocin and c-sections. I was so mentally exhausted from the meditating through the increasingly intense pain. My contractions were so intense in my back and pelvis the nurse or midwife would climb up on the bed to push hard against my tailbone and pelvis. This was too much work for everyone. I felt like my pelvis was breaking. So I had to make a REALLY hard decision. It took a while and a few hard contractions, but I asked for the epidural.

Wow. What a difference that made. My epidural was wonderful. I could still move around and move and feel my legs, but I could not feel my "lady parts" at all. But even with the pitocin, baby was not progressing down the path.


Amy and I must have dozed, we chatted, and generally had a good time. Time passed, shifts changed, and the midwife I had been seeing through the last few months, Peggy, came on duty, how grateful I was! I am also so grateful for Peggy's knowledge and professionalism and that Peggy knew when it was time to involve the doctors. I felt like I was getting such good care!

But time was quickly passing, and we were approaching 24 hours since my water had broken on my driveway. I can't believe it was that long. It went by in a flash. By this time, I was on oxygen (which I really enjoyed) and baby was being monitored because his heart beat was slowing WAY down with each contraction. They needed to get him out ASAP.


There was talk of trying forceps first or else the c-section was imminent. I expressed my SERIOUS concerns of using the forceps, but I felt that I would rather try that option rather than the c-section. Apparently, the first pair of forceps were not long enough to reach baby, so they had to find and use a second pair. Baby was too comfortable where he was. Thank goodness for the epidural. I would not have been able to endure what they did to me without it!

So Todd was basically spared the blood and gore of delivery, but poor Amy was not. She was a fantastic coach helping me push. I didn't push very long, and with the epidural, it was not difficult. I guess I'm a good pusher. I could not feel anything horrible, but I could feel it when Baby OK emerged.


He emerged quietly and serenely. He didn't make a sound, he just opened his eyes and looked around. He was then wisked away to a warming bed (NOT part of my birth plan, but he was considered somewhat "emergency" at this point) where he made his first crying sounds. When they determined that he was indeed breathing, he was just chill, they brought him back to me. HEAVEN!


Little OK was perfect, and quiet, and still. I loved him instantly. He just wanted to hang out there on my chest, and I didn't want him to go anywhere, ever.

But they had to take him to the nursery and do the requisite "pre-term baby tests" to determine if he needed NICU care.


Fortunately, he did not. He was healthy, and breathing, and at 5 lbs 11 oz, doing everything he should be doing. What a blessing!


His face was a little beat up, he had a cut over his eye and bruises on his head from the forceps, but he was so calm. Finally, after what seemed like forever, they brought him back to me!


And we just looked at each other.


I just couldn't believe this was my baby. We looked at each other and I couldn't hide my amazement. He was really here and he was really mine... or ours.

Six hours after OK was born, Todd arrived in my room. Bless Amy, she had been through 24 hours of labor with me and she still went to the airport, got Todd something to eat, and dropped him off with his luggage and everything. I had gotten up and brushed my teeth and hair, and changed my clothes (there wasn't even a DROP of blood on my cheap nighty!). When Todd entered the room I was standing there holding OK in my arms and I said, "I had a baby!" It was a very sweet moment. Todd has been the MOST amazing dad. He has been tender and sweet and loving. He loves his little son so much. We had some very sweet hours together there in the hospital. Poor Todd was CRAZY tired, but he stayed up with us to talk and hold OK.


Little Dude was doing great. We were learning about breastfeeding together.


I remember the lactation nurse coming in for the first time and me thinking, "I wonder when I'll feel something going on there (in the breast-al region) and be ready to breastfeed..." and then the nurse squeezed me like a mammogram and there was something there! When did that happen?! It was a miracle!

Because OK was early and a little beat up, he became jaundice-y and we had to put him on the lights.


This was really hard (for me) because I couldn't hold him. So I sat close and held his hand. By about 48 hours, post partum, I was getting the hormonal weeps. Everything made me teary, and seeing my baby in that contraption brought on the waterworks (Niagra Falls, Frankie...).

But they let us go home!


Todd had to go buy a car seat and pick up clothes for our baby at the house (I didn't even think to pack any even though I had bought his "coming home" outfit 4 months earlier!).


It was WONDERFUL to have our little family together at home. Heaven on earth! The kind and loving ladies in the YW presidency had sneaked in to my house and cleaned up the chaotic mess. They wiped up bloody footprints and cleaned toilets and put things in order so that when we came home our house was orderly and peaceful. That was one of the most important and meaningful acts of service that has even been done for me. Other people cleaning my house is one of the hardest things for me to accept, but I needed it, and they did it for me. I love them. And I love that my baby came home to heaven and not filth!

Todd's mom came up the next day from St. George and was SUCH a HUGE help for the next few days. She did a lot of really unglamorous chores, like dishes, laundry, and baby-clothes-organizing, but again, it was JUST what I needed and she was willing to do it. She is also an amazing grandma and held my baby and loved him!

Those first couple of weeks were awesome. We had a lot to do before Christmas, like attend finals, grade projects, and finish getting ready for Christmas, but Todd was on vacation for the entire rest of the month, and we just enjoyed being together and getting to know this little baby. We had time to do a little newborn photo shoot at my new favorite photo studio, Fotofly, in Draper. There is SO much more to share, and I want to share it with you! More to come! Here are some photos of OK to enjoy.

The Insufferable Mom Who Thinks Her Baby is THE