Friday, August 23, 2013

Cautiously optimistic

Now that we are where we are, I feel like I can go back and post some of the entries I typed up while we were in the wait-and-see period.  Here's the first one (6 weeks along):

We had been here before.  Almost a year ago.  In the exam room, waiting for our first ultra sound.  The stick I peed on said the IUI was successful.  The bloodwork had said the IUI was successful.  Our first successful fertility treatment in almost three years.  We walked into that six-week ultrasound not knowing what to expect.  What to see.  What to feel.  I laid there on the table with Zac sitting next to me, idling chit-chatting, waiting for the doctor.

A resident, whom we had never met, breezed in the room, cheery, smiling.  She introduced herself as she pulled on a pair of gloves and told us excitedly, "We should be able to hear a heartbeat today!"  Zac and I exchanged looks.  We hadn't expected that.  We hadn't known what to expect, honestly, but certainly not that.  I had purposefully stayed away from reading pregnancy guides or researching things on the internet.  I had let the first few weeks after the IUI to move along in a normal manner, not wanting to over-think the idea of being pregnant. I figured I would wait until the first ultrasound to get some sort of confirmation that I should perhaps learn a little more about being with child.

The doctor prepped the machine and started the exam.  Within seconds her face fell.  The smile vanished and was replaced by a look of concern and disappointment.  Zac instinctively reached out for my hand, which made me catch my breath.  We knew.  Even though we had no idea what that first ultrasound was supposed to show, we knew she wasn't seeing it.  The doctor moved the probe around some, trying different angles.  She said nothing and after a moment gave us a resigned look of sadness.  "There's no heartbeat," she said.  "I am going to go get your doctor."

The resident and the medical assistant left the room.  Zac and I didn't say anything at first.  Finally I mumbled something about not realizing that we would have been able to hear a heartbeat at this appointment.  Zac said that he, too, was surprised that we should have been able to hear that.  "Well, I guess it didn't work," I said with a sigh.  I didn't know how to feel.  We had zero expectations walking through the door, we had our expectations raised by the announcement that should hear a heartbeat, and now in a manner of seconds they had come crashing down around us.  It was the shortest, most devastating roller-coaster of emotions I have ever had.

There was a knock at the door and my doctor, the resident and the medical assistant returned to the room.  He gave me a sad smile and patted my knee.  He also examined me, to confirm what the resident had learned.  "I'm sorry," he said, "but it looks like the pregnancy wasn't viable. You made it about five and a half weeks."  "Ok," I said automatically, "So now what?"  The doctor said we could discuss the next steps in his office.  As they somberly excused themselves from the room so I could get dressed, I sat up and Zac stood next to me.  We were silent for a moment.  Finally I looked at him.  "Are you okay" I asked him.  For the first time I noticed the redness of his face, the welling in is eyes.  "I'm fine," he answered.  "What about you?"  I paused, and the tears came and fell down my face as I smiled at him.  "I'm about as fine as you are."  He squeezed my hand.  We would be fine, but for now we were sad.  So very sad.

- - - - -

So we had been here before.  The six week appointment.  The appointment that we now knew held the potential of a heartbeat.  I was anxious.  Zac was anxious.  We forced ourselves to talk about anything other than pregnancy as we sat in the waiting room for our appointment.  Finally our name was called.  Our medical assistant was excited for us, peppering me with questions.  "How have you been feeling?  Any morning sickness yet?"  I gave her a half-hearted smile and short answers.  "I feel almost normal and no, I haven't had any morning sickness."  I must have made it clear that I wasn't interested in talking more about my condition because she replied with an surprised, "Oh," and left it as that the remainder of the walk to the exam room.  Yes, I'm pregnant, I thought to myself, but I've been here before.  It doesn't always work out.

Another resident we had never seen came in to the room.  Same routine - introduction while putting on gloves and prepping the ultrasound machine.  Medical assistant at the ready.  Zac by my side.

I knew what I was seeing before anyone needed to explain it to me.  A flickering.  A rapid flickering on a tiny jelly bean in my abdomen.  A heartbeat.  I said nothing, but I knew that at least we had cleared one more hurdle.  The resident smiled, "There's a heartbeat!"  He turned on the audio and let us hear the pulsating heart of the embryo.  He continued the exam, printing out photos and explaining some of the things we saw on the screen.  Zac and I murmured appropriate, "Cool" or "Oh" as he explained what we were looking at, but our excitement was subdued, which I think confused the resident a bit.

My doctor joined the exam and happily confirmed that everything looked good.  "So now what?" I asked.  "So it looks like you're having a baby!" the resident proclaimed, trying to pry some positive energy out of Zac and me.  "I'll be excited in nine months when we have a healthy, live birth," I told him wryly.  My doctor shook his head and smiled.  Knowing my personality from our history of treatments, and the miscarriage, he knew that I wasn't going to be jumping for joy at the pronouncement that I was pregnant.  He knew I was cautious, maybe overly so, and at the very least pragmatic.  The risk of spontaneous abortion continues through the first trimester.  My age meant that we still needed to do genetic testing.  There were possibilities that we still weren't going to have a baby.  But my doctor smiled at me broadly and patted my knee.  "I'm giving you medical permission to be cautiously optimistic."  That did it.  I had to smile and chuckle.  "Alright," I told him, "since it's doctor's orders."

- - - -

So there we were, walking out of the hospital almost a year after the miscarriage, but this time with a printout of a picture of a tiny jelly bean.  We had more hurdles to clear, but the first one was over.  In two weeks we would have another one.  The eight-week ultrasound.  If everything looked good I "graduated" from the infertility clinic to the regular obstetrics clinic. Then there would be a ten-week ultrasound.  And genetic testing.  And then, based on those results, decisions.  So many hurdles yet to clear.  But, on doctor's orders, I was trying to be cautiously optimistic.  After all, doctor's orders, right?

Monday, August 12, 2013

Then there's this . . .

I have been blogging, but haven't posted some of my entries because I was waiting for the right time. I guess today can be the right time.  After 3.5 years of infertility treatments, we're 17.5 along and looking good.  Yay!

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Recuperating from volunteering

I was going to jump right in to talking about this month's COMPASS session when I thought, "Maybe I should link to some prior entries about COMPASS."  I did a search of my blog and I was surprised to find that I only had a couple of entries that mentioned it in any sort of detail.  In a nutshell, COMPASS is a three-day Navy 101 course for spouses.  It is taught by mentor spouses who have been married to their sailor for at least three years, have gone through the course, and been trained to be a mentor.  Spouses can attend the course at most major Navy installations across the globe.  We have COMPASS teams in places including Norfolk, San Diego, Seattle, Kings Bay (GA), Rota, Italy and Yokosuka, Japan.  I started volunteering with COMPASS in Hawaii, which is where I went through the course.  I had not been married to my sailor long enough to be a mentor at first, so I simply attended the sessions until I reached the three year mark.  I would bring food to feed the participants and sit in the back with the mentors that weren't presenting at that given time.  I became part of the team before I officially became a mentor and some of my best times in Hawaii were COMPASS-related.

Once I got settled into our life here in San Diego, I sought out the San Diego COMPASS team.  It was a tough adjustment at first.  I felt out of place.  I had dropped into a well-oiled machine that had it's own established systems, patterns, personalities and traditions.  Perhaps I came off as stand-offish, but I didn't feel warmly welcomed by the team.  After sitting through my first San Diego COMPASS session I told Zac that I wasn't sure that I wanted to go back.  It was so different than Hawaii.  I didn't see how my personality was going to fit in with the San Diego team.  I decided to give it another shot, but it really wasn't until the third session that I felt a thaw between myself and some of the team members.  Knowing what I know now, a number of the mentors held a "wait and see" attitude with me.  They had mentors come to the San Diego team from other locations before, or had trained team mentors of their own, only to have many of them discontinue volunteering after only a session or two.  They were waiting to see if I was serious about being there.  I also was finally growing comfortable with the strong personalities on the team, and felt like my voice was being heard.  Starting with that third session, COMPASS began to be fun again.

It wasn't too long after I felt like part of the San Diego team that our Team Leader asked me if I would like to take over for her.  I was shocked and flattered.  I had thought that it would be an exciting challenge to be a Team Leader at some point, but I hadn't thought that the opportunity would pop up so soon.  She said that she liked my attention to detail and my commitment to the program.  She also knew that I had more time on my hands than some of the other mentors.  I agreed and over the next few months she showed me how to do the administrative portion of being a Team Leader.  It really is more of a administrative role than anything.  The Leader's main job are to be the contact person between "Big COMPASS" (i.e. the over-arching program) and the local team while keeping the local team organized and humming along.

I was interested in becoming Team Leader for a couple of reasons.  First, I believe in the program and want to see it reach as many spouses as possible.  It was incredibly beneficial for me and I like being to able to advocate its importance.  Second, it is opportunity to get out of the house and make friends and connections with other spouses.  Third, it helps out my resume.  COMPASS really does help make up for some of the workplace skills that my current work-from-home job lacks.  I telecommute with minimal contact to the mothership back in MN - a few emails back and forth and an occasional  phone call.  But it is disingenuous to say I work as part of a "team".  My supervisor can attest to my attention to detail, my ability to abide by deadlines, and the high quality of my work product.  But I can't advance up the ladder, showing growth and ambition.  I can't take on additional responsibilities.  I can't be in charge of other people.  I can't show off my public speaking or my organizational skills.  Volunteering as an ombudsman and with COMPASS has allowed me to put concrete examples of some of those skills on my resume, and being a Team Leader will give me the opportunity to demonstrate some of the leadership and interpersonal skills.  

So this month was the first month that I was the Team Leader.  This was also the first month since I've been involved with the San Diego where the session almost fell completely apart.  I like to think it was just a coincidence.  

I knew it was going to be an interesting session early on.  At our planning meeting (held three weeks before the session) I learned that almost half of the mentors were going to be unavailable because of summer vacations.  No big deal, as we had enough mentors to teach the topics that we cover over the three days.  We usually have our mentors only teach one topic each session in order to spread out the time and energy needed to prepare that segment.  We had barely enough mentors, but enough.  A little more than a week before the session one of the mentors who was signed up to present a topic had a death in the family.  She was going to be gone for the funeral.  Totally understandable.  Safe travels and my best to you and your family.  The next day I got an email that another mentor scheduled to present was offered a job (after months of job hunting) and started on Monday, the same day she was supposed to present.  Congratulations on the new job!  Oh dear.  That left two gaping holes in our presentation schedule.

I wasn't currently assigned to teach any of the topics.  The Team Leader is usually in charge of conducting the introductory part of the class and the wrap-up/graduation at the end.  In past sessions the Team Leader didn't present any other topics.  Since one of the now presenter-less topics was one that I've taught a number of times I decided to teach it (since it wouldn't require too much prep work on top of the other session prep work I had going).  One of the other mentors decided that she'd help out and pick up a second topic to teacher, which was fantastic because she is an excellent presenter.  Who hoo!  We had found mentors for each of the topics.  Phew!  Once we got past that minor crises, I thought that we were in the clear.  But no, not quite.  

Since the beginning of time we have held our sessions at the same location.  The advantage of this location is that it has multiple rooms to conduct the session, meaning we can have a classroom and a childcare room.  (Plus a room for the kids to eat in so they don't get the childcare room messy.)  Plus there is a kitchen that we can use to store our food.  We can only reserve the space a couple of months in advance and we have never had an issue reserving it in the past.  The out-going Team Leader had put in the appropriate request to reserve the spaces in plenty of time and we were told that our reservation had been approved and the space was ours, as usual.  (Again, we have reserved the same rooms for the third Monday-Wednesday of every other month for a number of years.)  This location also is where we store all of our supplies.

About four days before the session was due to begin, I got a phone call from the out-going Leader.  The panic in her voice was only thinly veiled.  The location had called to let her know that there had been a mix-up with the reservations and while we could have our usual spot on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday had been promised to another group.  Ooooooooh-kay.  She said she was going to call some mentors to see if their churches might let us use their buildings, and I said I'd call some of the Navy resources in the neighborhood like the housing community centers.  I wasn't successful, but luckily one of the mentor's church offered it's building for our use.  (We have used this church in the past for our rare evening sessions because our usual location is only available during the day.)

Monday's class at our regular location went pretty well.  After class on Monday, with a skeleton mentor crew, we packed up all of our supplies, drove a couple of miles down the street, unloaded the cars and set up shop.  And by "supplies" I hope you don't think I mean a few notepads and some pens.  By supplies I mean four of those large, purple Rubbermaid bins plus an assortment of other boxes and bags.  And they're heavy.  We provide three-ring binders to our class participants that have our class materials in them.  They are the study, hard-cover type and contain about two inches worth of paper in them.  We had 20 of those binders to bring.  Plus each participant gets a graduation bag full of publications and other goodies which also weigh a couple pounds each.  It just all adds up.  We also had lugged along all the food from the original location.  By the time Monday's class was done I was beat.  

Tuesday morning, I was a little nervous.  We had reminded the class participants multiple times that Tuesday's session was going to be in a different location.  I was anxious that one or two might forget.  To my delight all of the participants arrived, with their children in tow.  21 children in total.  Many, many children between the ages of 6 months and six years.  So many children.  With so much mid-morning energy.  New problem: none of our babysitters had arrived and class was supposed to start.  21 children running around with no one dedicated to watch them.  The mentors and I frantically tried texting and calling our babysitters and got no answer.  One of the mentors drove to the the usual location to see if they forgot, one of the mentors started the class, one mentor stayed in the classroom to help her with the class and the other two remaining mentors (one of which was me) headed to the nursery to watch the kids.  We had just finished making name tags for the kids when the babysitters arrived, about 20 minutes after class had started.  One of them had gotten lost, the other had attempted to help her with directions, whatever.  I didn't care.  They were there and that's all that mattered.  So the other mentor and I scooted back into the classroom and helped out as we were needed.

[Fun side note: the mentor that had gone to the regular location came back and reported that there was no one using the facility.  No one.  Not a soul.  The rooms we were denied because they had been reserved by another group?  Empty.]

Once we got through Tuesday I was feeling cautiously optimistic.  Only one more day.  We could make it through one more day.  The only thing that made me a little nervous was that I had a doctor's appointment Wednesday morning at 8:30.  I had told the team that I was going to be a few minutes late and one of the mentors had volunteered to kick off the class for me.  That night I tossed and turned, plagued by a dream that my doctors announced at my appointment that I was going to be there for at least three hours.  I told my doctors that I couldn't stay that long.  "I have to get to COMPASS," I kept insisting.  In my dream the doctors ended up locking me in the exam room until the appointment was done.  I had no reception on my cell phone and couldn't text or call the other mentors to let them know I was being held captive, and that someone was going to have to teach my section because I wasn't going to make it.  I finally arrived to the COMPASS session in my dream, where I was given the cold shoulder from my fellow mentors because I hadn't been courteous enough to call them to let them know I was going to be late.  The COMPASS session had fallen apart and everyone was upset. 

I've been having really vivid dreams lately.  It's mildly aggravating.

Anyhow, I woke up Wednesday morning, got to my appointment 20 minutes early, asked the receptionist how long the appointment would take, asked the nurse how long the appointment would take, and then asked the doctor again when he arrived.  They all assured me I'd be there for about 45 minutes.  They were true to their word and I made to COMPASS in plenty of time to teach my last section.  We wrapped up the last day of the session and thanked everyone for attending. 

[Another funny side note: the chaplain came to give his presentation and he asked us why we weren't in our usual location - one of the Navy's chapels.  We explained that someone else had reserved the spaces for Tuesday and Wednesday.  He scowled and said that there was no one at the chapel.  Yup.  Just another day of empty classrooms.  Let's just say he wasn't pleased with the schedulers.  He said if we had an issue with this again we needed to call him directly.]

After all of the participants had left, the mentors sat down and had a wrap-up meeting.  We talked about what went right, what went wrong, and ideas for the future.  There were only six of us (instead of the usual 10+), but we had pulled it off, and quite successfully based on the overwhelming positive feedback that we got from the class evaluations we received.  We packed up the supplies, but away the folding tables and chairs, cleaned the church's kitchen, drove back to our usual location, unloaded the supplies and headed our separate ways.

I was exhausted, but I was thrilled.  If we can overcome a mid-stream change of location, mentors dropping out of the schedule at the last minute (due to completely legitimate reasons) and lost babysitters, I think we'll be able to take on just about any challenge that comes up.  I'm excited to see how being the Team Leader feels with a full mentor roster for our September session.  And you had better believe that I will be triple-checking that our reservations for our regular location will be honored. Oh, and did I mention that Zac and I went to the Food Bank to bag 8,000+lbs of pears later that night?  I was in bed by 9:35 that night.