I so wish there weren’t so many parts to this story. As much as you enjoy reading it, I wish I didn’t have so much “drama” to share. I often wish my life was “boring,” to be honest. Yes, in my flesh, I wish my life were easier, but alas, it is the life to which I am called. More than that, my life is the one to which I am not only called but called to share for God’s glory and purpose. Though its ups and downs can get tiring, it’s a life I feel privileged to live, a life I wouldn’t trade for a second.
Let us review: Why did we halt our adoption?
The simplest answer is because we cannot afford to pursue adoption and surrogacy at once.
*For more on why we before 3 weeks ago we never dreamed surrogacy would be an option, and how we were both finally at peace with moving forward with our adoption plans, please see Part 1.
*For more on the Facebook message I received 3 weeks ago from practically a perfect stranger that would rock anyone’s world, please see Part 2.
*For more on our surprisingly spirited 1st reaction to that message, please see Part 3.
*For more on the questions we both had, and the emotional struggle I went through, once the surrogacy option was presented to us, please see Part 4.
*For more on the initial, God-filled meeting I had with the woman who strongly felt God may very well be calling her to be our surrogate, please see Part 5.
*For more on the extremely disheartening news we received the day after I met with the woman who appeared to be an angel sent by God to carry our biological child, please see Part 6.
*For more on the strange, but strong, intuition I was feeling just a little over a week after our dream of surrogacy seemed to be slipping from our hands, please see Part 7.
*For more on all the signs that just weren’t going away and ultimately pointing to my intuition being most likely true, please see Part 8.
*For more on the dramatic turn of events that took place one early morning, please see Part 9.
I drove toward Columbus full of every emotion known to man.
I was at peace.
I was full of fear.
I was convinced I was pregnant and losing the baby.
I was convinced I was insane and need of clinical help.
I was, for lack of better words, a hot mess.
About forty-five minutes out of downtown Columbus, I called my transplant nurse, Ashley, and filled her in on the past week-and-a-half or so of my life. I told her the symptoms of pregnancy I had been having and what had transpired earlier that morning. I assured her that John and I certainly hadn’t been trying to get pregnant and begged her not to be upset with me if I was. I told her about the negative pregnancy test I had on Sunday, but how I wasn’t convinced that my pain this morning was caused by just a late period.
I didn’t tell her, but I’d asked her just on Friday if she’d been reading my blog because I had a sneaking suspicion that the next conversation we would be having was the one we were having at that moment. By “prepping” her with my blog posts, I wanted to drive home the fact that trying to get pregnant was the last thing on our minds the past several weeks, not that we had been trying before, either. She hadn’t had time in her busy schedule to read any of the blog, though, so my plan was thwarted. Ashley did her best to assure me that no one was going to be upset with me if I was having a baby, that we’d all get through it together and to just take my time driving into town. She’d order the HCG blood test to be added to my labs. I wouldn’t go to x-ray afterward. I’d just come up to clinic, do my pulmonary function tests and wait.
It would all be OK.
We’d have answers soon.
I walked into Nationwide Children’s Hospital’s Outpatient Care Center, knowing full well that life would never be the same. I walked in fully aware that I could be wrong about my intuition and sent home to deal with my emotional demons, ones I wasn’t prepared to face and had no idea how to handle. Worse yet, I was also very aware I could have actually been right all along but now possibly losing the baby, the one I had unsuccessfully tried to convince myself for over a week didn’t exist.
I headed straight to the bathroom first and was thankful to see that the bleeding had tapered off, at least for now. Like I had done dozens of times before, after I finished up, I took the elevator down to the lower level to get my blood work. I checked-in at the front desk and went back to wait for someone to come out and draw my numerous viles of blood.
The wait, though only a few minutes, seemed like a lifetime.
And then some.
Though I have given probably thousands of viles of blood in my life, not a single one of them seemed as important to me as one of the several they were about to take – the one which would be processed for HCG (human chorionic gonadotropin), the hormone which is produced upon one becoming pregnant. A quantitative HCG blood test, especially in the beginning of pregnancy, is far more accurate than any urine test. A concrete answer was finally just a few hours away.
The lady who came out to draw my blood was a very familiar face. She knew me by name and was very excited to see me. I don’t go to the hospital nearly as much as most transplant patients, so the lab ladies don’t get to see me more than 2-3 times a year. If just seeing me didn’t make her happy enough, upon reading the blood work ordered for the day, she enthusiastically proclaimed, “HCG! Oh, Amber! HCG! You are going to have a baby? I have am so excited for you!” As I sat in the chair with my abdomen still cramping, I did my best to keep my composure and say, “Well, I don’t know. I definitely think I could be. If I am, we certainly weren’t trying.” She took the multiple colors and sizes of viles of blood she needed, gave her congrats, said she hoped to see me and my “big belly” soon, and sent me on my way.
Instead of making my usual next stop at Radiology, I headed straight up to clinic to wait for my fate.
I was given a room and proceeded to have my vitals taken. My blood pressure was sky-high, but whose wouldn’t be in my situation? My exceptionally high reading was chalked up to nerves; everything else was thankfully fine. I left the vitals room and met my respiratory therapist (another friendly face) who performed my pulmonary function test, a test I’ve been doing – and competing with myself in – since around the age of four. I couldn’t help but “spill the beans” to her, and the other therapist who I knew very well, before we started the test. I was beyond nervous and felt I needed to justify my upcoming, lackluster “performance” on the test before we even began. The therapists, too, were intrigued with my symptoms and couldn’t wait to hear the results. Like I suspected, my numbers were a bit off. After several attempts, I would have to settle with a 98% for my lung function; it was less than my usual 100%+, but my head really wasn’t “in the game” at that point.
I didn’t want to do the test in the first place.
I just wanted to know – was I pregnant or not?
I got back to my exam room and was met by my nurse, Ashley, and the team’s new social worker, whose name I honestly can’t remember. They were both clearly anxiously awaiting my blood work results, which were ordered STAT for all of our sanity’s sake. The three of us chatted for a while until Dr. Kirkby showed up and once again assured me that everything was going to be fine. We’d figure this out. Things happen. As Ashley said, things don’t just happen; they happen for a reason.
Of course they did. If I was pregnant, God was sovereign over that fact and had allowed it. We weren’t even trying to conceive. If I was indeed with child, the baby was known by the Lord before the foundation of time. Things like this just don’t “happen”, even for a “reason.” They happen because God’s ways are thoughts and ways are higher than ours. They happen because God works in mysterious, glorious ways for His glory and our good.
If I was pregnant, though, and hadn’t already lost the baby, there were no easy answers. Our transplant program had never dealt with one of their patients becoming pregnant; we would be in uncharted, somewhat scary, territory. As I’ve said before, there aren’t a lot of women who have become pregnant after transplant; therefore there isn’t a lot of research on post-transplant pregnancy (favorable or unfavorable). Because of the lack of data, doctors’ usual advice is just to play it safe and not get pregnant. Despite the risks, some women still have consciously chosen to get pregnant and have thankfully had successful pregnancies and a healthy life afterward; other women’s results were sadly the complete opposite.
There was no way of getting around it – pregnancy post-transplant was a gamble, a huge gamble. Of course we believed in God’s ability to get me and a baby through a pregnancy unscathed, no matter what risks were present. We also believed, though, in personal responsibility and being wise, too; this certainly wasn’t planned. If I was pregnant, there was no turning back now. Abortion wasn’t an option in our minds. No child is EVER an accident, no matter what that meant for my future health. If I was pregnant, I wasn’t going to murder our baby to save myself, and no one was going to convince me otherwise.
If my intuition was right, even if I came into things with absolutely no medical history, the bleeding I currently was experiencing probably wasn’t a good sign. On the other hand, I knew women who had a scare like this early on in their pregnancy and went on to deliver a perfectly healthy child. As I sat surrounded by medical professionals, like I had so many other defining moments of my life, I had to face the fact that not only was I bleeding, I did come into all of this with serious health complications; if there was a baby, and it made it through this scare, there was so much else to think about, too. It was clear from the beginning that we wouldn’t be going into pregnancy without an extreme risk for complications. That is why all along John and I weren’t planning on going down that road, no matter how much we desperately wanted to do so. It appeared we had “gone there,” though, so as we awaited my test results, an action plan was already starting to form.
I already knew my current drug regimen was going to pose a serious problem. Due to one of my current anti-rejection medicines not being “pregnancy friendly,” it would have to be changed immediately. There would be no easing off of it, no slow detox. I would have to begin a new drug cocktail and forgo the medicine I had religiously taken every 12 hours for almost 7 1/2 years, the medicine my body was trained to anticipate. In addition, since I was a CF/double lung transplant, I would not only need a local OB/GYN but also a “high risk” obstetrician in Columbus. I would need to most likely deliver in Columbus, too, which was almost a two-hour drive from our home.
If things went as well as they could, there were still no guarantees that the baby – or I – would come out of the pregnancy unscathed. Only time would tell.
Finally, the results were back…
Ashley peered over her computer and began to utter the words we had waited hours to hear. I couldn’t breathe as I waited for her to speak. The results revealed that my almost undetectable HCG levels showed I wasn’t – and never had been – pregnant. Sighs from my transplant team of admitted relief quickly filled the exam room. As Dr. Kirkby walked back into the room, his response to the news was, “Smile! You’re not pregnant!”
My eyes immediately filled with tears, not of relief but of horror.
I really was crazy, then.
I thought to myself,
“So, this IS what it really feels like to have an emotional breakdown. Great.”
Ashley and Dr. Kirkby both quickly assured me that it is very common for women to convince themselves that they’re pregnant when so many symptoms don’t seem to have another cause. According to them, I had no reason at all to feel badly for thinking I was pregnant. These things happen, more often than you think. Besides, I had been under a TON of stress; babies had inevitably been on my mind. They were so thankful I had been so pro-active and let them know what was going on. It was always better to be safe than sorry, but no, I wasn’t – and hadn’t been – pregnant; they were very, very sure of it. They didn’t want me to feel stupid and not be as pro-active if this happened again (again, seriously?). Though Ashley felt bad for me, she admittedly was relieved. She told me that, though, 25% of her wanted me to be pregnant, 75% didn’t; she knew the road ahead of me would have been full of risk, too many risks for someone who had done so extremely well post-transplant.
Driving home, I felt more conflicted than ever. Though I desperately wanted to be, I still wasn’t convinced I wasn’t pregnant, or more specifically, in the midst of a miscarriage. I tried to talk myself down by talking to the only friend who knew what was going on and to John; both assured me that the test had confirmed the truth. I wasn’t pregnant, nor had I had a miscarriage. I was just having my period (albeit a rough one because of the stress I was under) and life was about to return to normal. For the remainder of the day, between Googling on miscarriage and HCG levels, I prayed and cried once again. I petitioned to the Lord for the symptoms which had planted the seed of hope that I was pregnant (and then the seed of despair once I thought I was having a miscarriage) into my mind to just go away once and for all, for this supposed “period” pain to subside.
It was over. I had to move on. I had to let it go.
After all, I had my results.
I had my answer…or did I?
Part 11 to come.