"June's Story" - Elisabeth Noffsinger
Okay, you guys. It's Katie - I have to say a few things before I post Libby's piece. First of all, J & I want to thank her, of course, for the tremendous courage she's showing in sharing this deeply intimate part of her life with all of us. Please respect that, as we know you will. Secondly, GRAB YOUR BOX OF TISSUES - this one had me sobbing, even after I had read it several times. Lastly, I left some of it in bullet form - a lot of the original piece that she sent to me was in bullet form because they were actual, personal notes that she took along the way and stored in her phone, in an attempt to never forget this journey. There were parts that needed to stay in bullet format because I felt it would help the reader be in the moment, and this is just one where you're gonna WANNA be in the moment - trust me on that.
Libby, thank you a million times. I know your story is going to touch so many hearts. Jessica & I firmly believe sharing our stories is a way for us to heal AND help others heal - that is absolutely what you're doing here. You're giving others a little healing gift. Even parts of my heart healed from reading this one, and my story varies quite a bit from yours. You, my love, are an absolute WARRIOR GODDESS, and we're proud to have you in our tribe! You're a member for life, now! We love you!! I'll turn it over to you, from here...
I want to preface this by saying, I know that everyone has some sort of vision of how they want their life to go, and everyone realizes that life really doesn’t work that way. I also know that God’s plan, or whoever or whatever you believe in, or maybe no one or nothing at all, but it is perfect, even when you can’t “see” it. I also know that there are women and men that do not have the same opportunities that we have had. I also don’t want to sound like some sort of victim, or for anyone to feel ashamed that they don’t want children, or can’t have children… I just hope that maybe, just maybe, I can give someone hope, or maybe just some peace, in their own life.
Justin and I have been dating since we were in high school, with some of your typical high school break ups and mishaps in between. We have been together since we were 15 and 16, now 30 and 30 (I’m proudly 7 months older), you get the picture: We have been through a lot together... death of loved ones- family and friends, moving from a tiny apartment into a tiny house, switching jobs, the death of beloved pets, my parents divorcing, bad news, good news, laughter, tears... the whole “sha-bang.” We always thought of ourselves as doing things “the right way”... getting married after 10 years of dating, you know.. just to be sure! 🤪
I graduated college in 2013; we got married in 2015. Justin chose his career in the postal service (so proud of everything he is and will be), and I decided to go back to school to obtain my Master’s degree to teach elementary school. All the while, having children seemed so far away, yet so close, and we HAD to have our lives somewhat “in order” before. Fast forward to 2018... okay, we aren’t ready, but hey, let’s just go for it! I started taking prenatal vitamins, ya know, the usual things to do when you’re “planning” to become pregnant. I got pregnant in February, and then our sweet dog of 11 years, Katy, suddenly passed away from kidney failure. It was one of the hardest things we’ve ever had to do - bury our fur child. A couple of weeks later, we had the blood test to confirm the pregnancy on my 29th birthday! How exciting! “That was easy!” We were overwhelmed, as many would be...
Fast forward to the next week – I was at work and started lightly bleeding. I didn’t know what to do, so of course, in good ol’ Libby-fashion, I freak out and go to the ER, where Justin, my dad, and my sister met me. It was only to confirm what I already knew deep down inside. I was having a miscarriage. The doctors didn’t say much because it’s “so common,” but this was my first…of everything. This was OUR first of everything. This WAS everything.
“It was so early.” “It was just God’s plan.” “At least it wasn’t too far along.” “This happens to lots of women.” “Maybe it wasn’t the right time.” “It could have been born with something wrong with it – That’s just nature’s way...” All of these things were said to us, and although they came from an extremely loving place, it didn’t make the pain any easier.
A few months go by, and hello, we are pregnant again! Okay, now it’s serious! This is the one! It’s even due on my 30th birthday! This is the end of June – my sister’s gender reveal is that weekend. This is her time, so we wait to tell anyone. We start picking out names. I go to the first class, before an initial appointment, to get blood drawn and learn about pregnancy. Then we go to our first appointment and see our tiny 8-week-old baby’s heartbeat! What an unexplainable feeling. But every time I go to the bathroom, I check, just to be sure. Just to be sure I don’t see red. We went to the beach one weekend in August, with my family, and even took those pictures that people take with the ultrasound to tell the news on social media.
But I knew it all along. It was always in the back of my mind... too good to be true. 11 weeks pass and, on a Thursday afternoon, I see blood. August 17, 2018, I call the doctor’s office, they tell me to “keep an eye on it”. Surely this is normal – this is apparently “really common in the first trimester,” according to Dr. Google. Can’t sleep. Wake up. Go to the ER with my sister, because Justin had to work. The ultrasound tech doesn’t say much. Go back to the holding room. Bad cramps, 10 minutes apart. Then, clear fluid. “Did I pee on myself?” This can’t be happening again. Doctor comes in... no heartbeat. “Before 12 weeks, you should be able to pass it on your own- here are some papers to take home...bye.” Silence.
My sister drove me home, since Justin was at work, and we didn’t say much on the way. We just stopped and grabbed some pizza to take with us. I get home and go to the bathroom, because the cramps were so bad. “Rachel!” There it was. It wasn’t anything like you see on terrible stories on Dr. Google or a website claiming “this is what a tiny fetus looks like” – no, it looked more like a big glob, or a brain. What is happening? Why me? Why us? What did we do, or not do, to “deserve” this?
Lots of love from family and friends over the next several weeks...
3 days go by. I call ART Fertility in Birmingham – a very special person referred us to them. We go for our first appointment a week later, and then everything is sort of a blur. Mainly because we went to so many appointments in only a month’s time – back and forth to Birmingham. I’m diagnosed with Diminished Ovarian Reserve, PAI-1, and MTHFR. Wait...I’m only 29, how do I have Diminished Ovarian Reserve… my “level” is a .8 – doctor says not to worry yet because that level isn’t “scary low,” but it is lower than average. PAI-1 is a blood clotting disorder where my blood clots too easily, so our two babies weren’t getting any nutrients or blood from me to keep growing. So, if I was ever pregnant again, I would have to take Heparin injections twice a day, along with baby Aspirin, along with prenatal vitamins, along with an extra folate supplement to ensure my blood stays thin and it gets the nutrients it need to keep growing. All of these things sound fine... but if you know me, you know I don’t like taking any sort of medicine AT ALL. My, my – how that would change sooner than later.
I have anxiety. A lot of times I prove myself right, like, “See, I knew something bad would happen.” I always get these “feelings,” like something terribly bad is lurking around the corner, and this journey almost made that worse. I want to say it taught me amazing things, but I can’t say that just yet. Maybe one day, but not now. I’m still not patient. I’m not stronger. I’m more insecure. I have constant feelings of being stuck in between a life phase, but never growing out of it. I worry about our future. Everyone does this, but I REALLY worry. What if this is it? What if it’s just us two for the rest of our lives? Am I okay with this? Is Justin okay with this? Am I less of a woman? Less of a wife? I have never been one to say that a woman’s purpose is bearing children, but now that this is something that we both want, to start our family, I wonder if I have lost part of my purpose. I wonder if I’ll be enough for Justin. He tells me I am – he’s amazing. I wonder if I have lost a part of me that I never even got a chance to meet. Who am I now?
· Friday, January 4, pregnant!
· Monday, January 7, ART
· Tuesday, January 8, start Heparin injections
· Tuesday, January 15, 1st ultrasound
· Progesterone vaginal pills, progesterone shots, Heparin shots, vitamins, more vitamins, aspirin.
· The Progesterone vaginal pills were awful... so I ended up opting for the Progesterone shots... I mean I was taking shots twice a day anyway, what’s one more? Even if it was in oil form and a much bigger needle that was intramuscular, not subcutaneous.
On days when I could sleep in, Justin would roll me over and give me my shot, while I was still half asleep, before he went to work. This was just as hard on him as it was on me. If I fell asleep at night on the couch, he’d wake me up and say, “Shot time!” We dreamed of the day that June was here, and we wouldn’t have to worry with these anymore. We always said we would celebrate the end of them. I had a lot of nights where I’d ask Justin just to hold me, when I would just break down into a feeling of impending doom, but like they say, “just breathe.” Life would keep going and I would hide the worry in the back of my mind.
· 36 1/2 weeks and I am still in disbelief – we will be welcoming our baby girl any day now. We’ve always had faith, but it’s still hard to believe. I can see how many people get discouraged and give up, and our journey wasn’t even half as bad as others... but if there’s anything someone can gain from our story, it’s to not give up. Do. not. ever. give. up. No matter what your circumstances are, even if it doesn’t have anything to do with having a child.
· Sunday, September 8, 2019:
· 39 weeks & 5 days. I had to be induced, so that if I needed an epidural, I could get one, and they could keep an eye on my Heparin injections in a controlled environment.
· Check into hospital at 5:00 PM to get settled in & eat dinner (Blue Plate, with Rachel, Tres, & Bailey. Nana & Pappy, Dad & Mom also came to visit).
· 7:30 PM, Cervidil is placed inside me, by Dr. Cooper, to help my cervix thin all the way in preparation for dilation.
· Small contractions throughout the night, couldn’t sleep much because I was anxious, even with the pain medicine shots they gave me through my hand IV. Justin got in the hospital bed with me at times because I was getting scared.
· Nurses came and checked in on us all throughout the night. No more food after 12:00 AM.
· Monday, September 9, 2019:
· Wake up around 5:30-6, we both take showers, & get ready for the long day ahead.
· They take my blood.
· Then my nurse & Dr. Chwe come in to start the induction process around 7:00 AM – they start me on an IV & put Pitocin in. My contractions were pretty strong – between 1.5 minutes & 3 minutes apart all morning.
· Dr. Chwe checks my cervix periodically to see if I’ve dilated or thinned anymore. I dilated to about a 2 1/2 by about 1:30, but he couldn’t break my water because I couldn’t be still long enough. He asks if I’m ready for an epidural so that he can break my water easier. I agree to it.
· I am very nervous. I am sitting on the side of the bed, hugging a pillow, while the nurse holds my shoulders steady to keep me calm. The anesthesiologist comes in & puts large plastic/tape over my back to insert a numbing shot, & all I feel is a cold sensation of a straw down my back. My left leg starts to “fall asleep” & my right leg doesn’t quite get it, so he adjusts it. I feel okay!
· About 30 minutes later, Dr. Chwe breaks my water, & I have a catheter put in. I can no longer feel anything from the middle of my stomach down, & I felt like I weighed a million pounds.
· I end up being in labor until about 11:00 PM - Dr. Emig was the doctor on call that night.
· My body temperature had started to rise a bit, 99.3, & my water had been broken for about 8-9 hours, which could have potentially put myself & June at risk for infection.
· At about 11:30 PM, we decided to go ahead & do a c-section for both of our safety. I was so nervous & crying. I had never had any sort of surgery or been in the hospital, but I was so ready to meet her beautiful face, safely. All I wanted was for her to be out of my body because, even though it wasn’t realistic, I felt that one more moment inside my body could kill her – my body was a scary place to be, and I truly hated it for what it did to my other two babies.
· I remember being rolled back to the OR – I waved to my family while I cried because I didn’t know what the future might be.
· Justin & my mom got ready to come into the OR, as they waited on them to prep me. They changed out my epidural for a spinal block, & the nurses were the absolute best at being very careful with me because they knew I was so scared.
· I got an IV of antibiotics as well. I remember being SO THIRSTY. I could have drunk 3 gallons of water.
· Justin & my mom come in & I saw an old friend as a nurse from Broadway, Lucy!
· I was shaking uncontrollably on the table, probably adrenaline & nerves. Justin held me the entire time. I had gotten my toenails painted a pale pink a couple of weeks before, & I remember the nurses, trying to calm me, kept telling me how pretty my nails were, haha.
· The anesthesiologist talked me through everything. I didn’t feel anything but pressure.
· Tuesday, September 10, 2019 @ 12:29 AM @ 6 lbs 10 ounces 18 1/2 inches long. Her due date.
· There she was. The most beautiful thing I had ever laid my eyes on, peaking above a plastic blue curtain. Her eyes slowly open, she looks left, then right. So calmly. In that moment, I hope she felt the love she was about to receive for the rest of her life.
· The nurses immediately took her to clean her off & all of that good stuff. She was PERFECT.
· We cried tears of joy as they brought her over to us. We couldn’t believe she was here.
· That night, we let her meet her family, & we held her skin to skin. I let her nurse some. Then Justin & I sent her to the nursery for a bit so that we could rest some.
The next few days were a blur, between feedings, diaper changes (Justin changed 14 dirty diapers that first day, since I couldn’t get out of bed yet), visitors, nurses, doctors, housekeeping, sleep & no sleep... we were finally able to leave on Friday, September 13.
Everything was great at home, at first. I was breastfeeding, I was getting around really well, people were coming to visit...and then, I stopped sleeping. Justin would assure me that he wasn’t tired and could stay up while I slept, but I just couldn’t turn my brain off. I was crying uncontrollably at least once a day. I was fine, then not fine. Hormones... I know, I know, but this was something more than I could handle. I was setting alarms to pump, to feed her, for my Heparin shots, to function. It was all too much, for some reason.
I ended up becoming overwhelmed, extremely panicked, & depressed – which led me to having postpartum depression and anxiety. The first time, I went to the ER, because, where else do you go?! They gave me a shot of Ativan to calm me down, and I felt “normal” again. All the while, still taking Heparin injections twice a day, because I had to for 6 weeks after. I got in to see a psychiatrist a day later, where he prescribed me an antidepressant and a benzodiazepine for insomnia.
I tried the antidepressant for about 4 weeks, but I just didn’t feel any better really, so then I tried another one, and the side effects were pretty terrible. In the meantime, I was trying to breast feed and pump, trying to enjoy my newborn, trying to be a good wife and study for my final Praxis exam (in order to start my teaching internship in January - I somehow PASSED, by the way).
I would beat myself up every day, mentally. I wasn’t good enough, I wasn’t doing enough, I hated myself, I hated my body, I hated my face, my personality, the fact that I was so sensitive. I hated myself, and if I hated myself, how could anyone else love me or think I’m important enough to be alive? These intrusive thoughts would come and go. Most people would say, “You look like you’re doing really great! You look great!” But that’s the thing about depression and anxiety, some of us hide it so well, and I’m not talking about just on social media. I mean, I can laugh when you do, talk when you do, make plans, all of that… but then those awful thoughts and feelings come, and all of that is blown away, like a balloon floating away into the sky on a really windy day.
Four months postpartum, and I’m finally stabilized on an antidepressant, and I’m tapering off of the benzodiazepine (that’s a whole other beast). June is formula fed and healthy as ever. I know it’ll get better, and I know so many women deal with this. Some may even deal with it all alone, and I honestly don’t know how they make it through. I always thought, once June was here, I’d have a sigh of relief, and that just wasn’t true. I love her so much it literally hurts. I’m thankful I have friends and family that can support me, and a husband that loves me unconditionally.
I’m still going through this, and I don’t have all of the answers, but I do know that I count my good days as good ones, and the bad ones as an experience. June is happy and healthy, and I’m doing my best to be that way, too. After all, she’s everything we could have dreamed of, and I hope she always knows how hard I tried to keep her safe during all of this, and how much her daddy loves us and takes care of us.
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