Thursday, January 19, 2012

The Infertile Fertile: my story about me

I have received so many emails, and open questions asking about my story. People in my everyday life whether it's at church, work or just friends I have met after my move here to asking about our potential surrogacy or use of donor sperm (since Love is a positive blood type with me carrying) plans since they know I have had children. I decided that maybe I should open up and explain exactly what makes me fall into the infertile community. Likely there aren't many out there who have heard about my specific ailment, so fasten your seat belt, put your thinking caps on and take notes, because here comes the story of How Birdie Is Broken! in technical terms:

My story is different, I am not infertile, yet I walk the same path to expanding my family as many Infertile couples do. Why? I have Rh disease. Rh is basically what makes your blood type negative or positive but there is more. Rh factor deals with antigen d in the bloodstream. This is where most people say "Oh yeah my (insert sister, aunt, mom, cousin, friend here) had that and they just got a shot of RhoGAM, can't you just do that?" The problem is once you have antibodies built up to specific things they never go away. In fact in this case with each pregnancy they start building once again from the vary place they ended with the last pregnancy. There are 2 other antigens also present in the blood stream to express specific blood types, c and e.  My blood type is O- I have a negative recessive blood type. From each of my parents I received cde. Lower case letters are used to show a non- dominant or recessive trait. Each person has 2 sets of these 3 specific antigens. When a woman becomes sensitized to another blood type, either through blood passing back and forth between mother and child, or transfusion, or some other unknown way blood would enter into her bloodstream she builds antibodies against the offending antigen expressed in the blood. This is purely out of protection, if our bodies didn't build antibodies against these things it could not just be harmful , but could cause death. Antibodies are the way our body fights infections, and disease.

In my specific situation I became sensitized to D and C antigens. I never received baseline testing or (Antibody titer) since this was my first pregnancy to see where my levels were. One day Dr W came in and said "oh we missed giving you the RhoGAM shot and need to do that today." When my son Froggy was born we had no clue there was anything wrong. I had a normal pregnancy, but within a couple weeks of my RhoGAM shot (given to me late at like 33 weeks instead of 28 weeks) I went into labor and the doctor had to stop it. The hospital kept me overnight and then sent me home. The next week I was in and out of the hospital and then finally the last time they wanted to keep me in for 23 hour observation after stopping labor again, I said no I want to go home. I will go see the doctor in the morning if that is okay with him. I was exhausted, being poked and prodded all night over and over, I just wanted my bed, at my home. The next morning I went to the doctor, I was sitting in the office and noticed that I started having timeable contractions. I calmly went to the front desk and told them I was contracting and they brought me in back quickly. I was dialated 2 stretchable to a 3 and 70% effaced. The doctor sent me over to the hospital and told them to stop my labor with an IV drug terbutaline.  This gave me time to get my husband home and rested since he was on midnights and had gone back and forth telling work each time I was in labor that indeed that day was baby day. He didn't want to call in to his boss with another false alarm. At this point I felt like the boy who cried wolf. :) The next morning when Dr W made his rounds he went to check me and my bag of waters broke. He calmly said well you are staying, and will have the baby sometime tonight. That was 6 hours and 7 minutes before my first child was born. SO not only do I get pregnant easy and have a great uterus I have babies quickly... (Although my sister holds the record in our family for fastest 1st baby with 3 hours.) When Froggy came out he was very yellow, the nurses evaluating him never slipped him into my arms, they wrapped him quickly and said "say hi to mommy and daddy" as they whisked him out of the delivery room in into the nursery where he could be better evaluated. Froggy had a very severe case of jaundice caused by my Rh sensitivity. I wasn't allowed to see Froggy for about 7 hours.

So here is where it gets interesting I guess... What do all those antibodies do when passed from the Rh negative mother to the positive blood typed child?  Well my body became aware that a foreign blood type that was potentially harmful to my health was inside me. In normal response my bloodstream sent antibodies built against the "intruder" across the placenta to attach to the red blood cell to "buffer" it and make it safe for me. The baby's white blood cells then acted on that when they recognized something is wrong with that red blood cell. White blood cells fight against infections in our body. SO in this case the white blood cells killed the red blood cells with antibodies attached to them. This is a vicious cycle. In my latter pregnancies when we knew that this was happening they would do amniocentesis to check the level and color of the fluid and then when it was time the doctors would bring me in for Percutaneous Umbilical Blood Sampling (PUBS) with a follow up transfusion. In effect they would transfuse the baby through me. They waited as late as possible to start this process because once you do this process it pollutes the amnionic fluic and you can't go back to the less invasive testing. Each pregnancy gets worse because the anitbodies do not go away they build from where they left off last time. the higher the antibody count the more high risk and potentially fatal to the unborn child. Froggy received 2 exchange transfusions at the hospital before coming home, then another at 11 days old. Babies do not break down iron to make red blood cells while in-utero so as the white blood cells killed the red blood cells there were no new red blood cells being made. We had to wait for Froggy to make them on his own. It was very scary and quite touch and go. With Bug's pregnancy I was moved immediately to Loyola University and the MFM group there watched over our progress. I was text book, followed all directions, residents learned to do amnios on me. Calm as a cucumber. The pregnancy was documented and used during one of the doctors talks at a continuing ed seminar he gave. Bug was born 6 weeks early and the MFM Group said they thought with how well this pregnancy went I could go through one more. Bug had 4 PUBS with followup transfusions, and 2 transfusions after birth. This ended  my successful pregnancies. I became pregnant with my son Little Bean, who was born at just 26 weeks gestation, he lived just 55 minutes. He was in distress shortly after the first PUBS and transfusion. I had to have an emergency c-section. That's not the end of my story but it definitely shows how each pregnancy gets worse until the babies are not safe and there is nothing the specialists can do to help once antibodies grow to huge proportions.

I went on to have many more losses but these first three pregnancies show clearly what happens in Rh sensitization cases. Each one gets worse, until the baby can not possibly reach a viable stage in the pregnancy.

I walk the road of an infertile, knowing that I don't truly fit into either category "Fertile" or "Infertile". What I know is the intense desire to have children, and not be able to. What I've learned is that when infertiles go month after month experiencing periods hating that their bodies are telling them they can't have the one thing they desire most. A baby.  They mourn not for the lost child as I have with Little Bean, but the hopes and dreams for that little boy or girl that seems so out of reach. She was going to be the first woman president, he was going to be a wonderful business man or the researcher that found the cure to cancer. We all mourn the hopes, and dreams we had for that child or children and that is our common bond. I don't share the struggle to conceive but I do share the struggle to mother and bring life into existence.

When my son Little Bean died, I became angry at God. I felt cold and dead inside. I remember driving to the cemetery and weeping as I lay across his grave. I thought my arms would forever feel empty.Years later I started going back to church, and reclaimed my relationship with Heavenly Father. Now I am remarried, to a wonderful man. He is here everyday, telling, showing and guiding me toward fulfilling our dream of a family together. Hand in hand, with our eyes fixed on Him we walk in faith. Do I feel sad still about past choices, and mistakes? Yes. Do I beat myself up about them? Not anymore. I know that I could have made different choices, better ones perhaps, but maybe making those choices, going through that growth has made me who I am today. I love the me I am today, and I can not wait to tell my little one the story of how we brought them to be, against the odds with faith in Heavenly Father's greater plan.

2 sweet comments:

Viva La Marla said...

So the inquisitive person that I am has a question, if they had given you the RhoGAM on time with Froggy, would any of this still be happening? Would you still not be able to carry a 3rd child to term?

Birdie said...

Good question! Since we aren't sure how or when I was sensitized and began to build antibodies it really is a guessing game. Its also important to remember I just can't carry a positive blood typed baby. It is also very rare now that women end up having the severity of this issue that I have. For instance. At Loyola in Chicago where I had Bug and Little Bean they saw about 9 cases a year and only 3 were new cases of those 9.


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