Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Photos and Thank Yous

As you can see directly to the right, at last we have our pictures of Joel. They are spectacular photos of our beautiful son. It is a time that stands alone in my memory as one where I remember every second as if it had just happened. I remember and relive in fear that my memory might begin to fade; these pictures give me the comfort of knowing I can let my mind and heart rest a bit.

A special thanks to Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep and to Kathy Morgan. Don't know if I've 'plugged' them before, but NILMDTS is an awesome organization of professional photographers who provide quality and compassionate service to grieving parents and their families. Kathy Morgan is a professional photographer in the WV/OH/KY tri-state area and a member of NILMDTS; she has a warm smile, a great eye, and a compassion that means you're getting a lot more than just a person with a camera.

I said recently that Joel's story is far from over, and indeed we are already seeing that. To read a story about our son's impact on this world, and to see what is perhaps our favorite photo of him, follow this link to (you guessed it) my wife's blog. What can I say? She rocks.

On a different note, I have one final thank you, and it goes out to Mountain State Oral Surgery for putting me on "some Michael Jackson shit" before they cut out my wisdom teeth this morning. Now I know what to request when we journey to NC for my vasectomy reversal next week.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Being an X-man ain't all its cracked up to be (or The Quest: part four)

Looking for a recap? Look to your right and find The Quest archive somewhere beneath my bio-type-info. In fact, go ahead and read part 3 if you haven't; this one picks up right where it left off...

So a day or two after my birthday, and after having received my miserable GRE scores (including a 3.4 out of 6 on the 2 essays. Why the deduction? I ramble. no shit, really?) I called and made my appointment with Dr. Daniel, which required a $500 deposit. But hey, its worth it. Just a few days later, we received my wife's test results.

Now somewhere along the way, and I honestly can't remember the chronological point because it was one of those moments for me, we received Joel's autopsy report. Or at least we received a phone call from the midwife to give us a basic run down of the results. We recently received a printed copy of the report, along with my wife's blood work, but that comes a little later on. The piece of information I want you to get here is that the autopsy did not yield any conclusive evidence of a cause of death. There were some additional tests that might have been performed, but certain tissues needed for those tests were too far along in their natural processes to be used for the tests.

So with that information, we turned to my wife's lab results (31 tubes at the hospital, mind you) to maybe give us a clue as to what happened and how it might affect the next child. At this point I am going to refer you to my wife's blog because, well, she's already written about this part and I think she did a pretty good job of covering it. She gives a lot more insight into things and covers other parts of the spectrum of craziness in our lives right now. So read hers then come back, or finish mine then go to hers, either way; it is suggested reading, just not necessarily required to get the story but it will probably make it more enjoyable AND you won't just read it in my voice (variety is the spice of life).

Basically, we were looking for genetic mutations that might have caused a defect of some sort. Several mutations were found. The midwife had the OB giver her a rundown on what it all meant, but still it was over her head as it was also a bit over his head, but we all did the best we could in looking at it. Jess (my wife) did some Googling about the different things she was told about, and well, it was still over our heads, but we got enough to get a bit scared and discouraged. However we knew that nothing was definite until we went to a geneticist with her test results along with mine.

Yes, I had to go get tubes upon tubes drawn as well. Only then might we get some numbers on what might happen with our third child.

So we've been playing a bit of a waiting game. Actually, we've been playing a LOT of a waiting game. And I've hated it, but even more so at this point where we are waiting to get real results on the blood work and have it fully explained. I don't hate it for me; I hate it for my wife. That whole idea of "I killed my baby" started gnawing at her, and sure, I don't see it that way or feel that way, but I knew the feeling was there and I just wanted to make it go away. I don't want that for her and my heart goes out to any parents that are in that situation.

So we make arrangements to see our midwife. My wife needs her 6 weeks check-up (now 7.5 weeks) and I'm going to get my blood drawn for the testing along with getting all of our printed reports. Well, my wife got her check-up, and we got our print-outs, but I needed 21 tubes of blood drawn with some needing to be frozen and well, she doesn't have that kind of equipment in her living room. No biggie; I go to a lab in a couple of days and take care of it.

Now for the true purpose of the appointment: laying out the battle plan. Angy, our awesome midwife, is very much a part of this Quest. She was a source of support when we lost Joel, and now she has the means and the connections to help us to carry on (not to mention her ability to write zoloft prescriptions). The plan worked out as such: Angy would work on getting an appointment for us to see a high-risk OB /perinatal whom she works with, who also works with a geneticist (whom just happens to be his wife). We, in the meanwhile, would go get my bloodwork taken care of along with the vasectomy reversal. Then we get back together, see what the geneticist has to say and go from there.

Flash forward a couple days past our drawn out trip to the lab (some miscommunication between Angy and the lab on what needed to be done, so we had to wait). Angy calls us at home to update us on a conversation between herself and the high-risk OB. Their topic? My wife's bloodwork. It turns out that the particular mutations that she has are not particularly bad: for one she may only need a folic acid supplement, another is inversely abnormal (dangerous if levels are too low, but Jess is really high), and the others are at a level that is of no concern. In fewer words: a relief. Chances are there was nothing about my wife's genetics that caused Joel's death or that would cause concern for our next child. Note that we will still be extremely cautious (and there are just a few more tests they would like to run) , but it is good news nonetheless.

Now we wait to see if maybe it was something from my side. Perhaps I can be the worst X-man ever: "So, what's your mutant power?"
"Me? Oh, well I make bad babies"
"You mean like mean babies?"
"Huh? Oh, no no; I mean like malfunctioning babies. "
"Hmm, I guess actually they just don't function at all"
"... * "
"Yeah, its a really shitty mutation. Wish I'd just get the Legacy virus..." (fanboy comicbook reference)

So, I believe this actually has us caught up to real time. Just waiting to make that journey for the vasectomy reversal. However, that doesn't mean that things are quite calm yet. Earlier in this post I mentioned that Angy also gave us Joel's printed autopsy report and we all looked over it together. Let me tell you, those things are just as fun to read as you imagine. There were, however, a few interesting pieces of text. Items that Angy put in a call about a week ago, to which we have received no response. That kind of goes into play with some other little things floating around us; other experiences and tidbits of information.

I've known all along that he would always have an impact on my life, but it would appear that Joel's story is far from finished.

Coming Soon:
snip-snip, the sequel


The Book of Joel

Is there a doctor in the house? (The Quest, part three)

After two not-so-brief interludes, we return to The Quest.

With any good sequential/loooong story, this is where you would find the recap page, but I'm not doing that here. Instead you can read on with optional link-clicking to archived material.

We are at part three of, as the first post said, an unknown-part series. With the end of part deux I teased that a doctor would be found, and indeed a doctor has been found!

Well, in reality, several doctors were found. It has come to light in this process that there are two key factors beyond skill and price when selecting a doctor for elective surgery: convenience and hospitality. It's kind of like choosing a Bed & Breakfast, except with scalpels and sutures.

As we've previously discussed (and I say "discussed" because in my head you all talk back to me as I type) Vasectomy Completion Reversalists (or VCRs [man, I really like parentheses]) are relatively sparse. This means that many of their patients have to travel long distances to see them. Let's not forget the matter of paying for the reversal, which causes some patients to travel even farther away just to save a few hundred, or thousand, dollars.
But really, most of the VCRs in a general area fall into the same general price range so it becomes a matter of looking at your additional costs, and like I said, convenience and hospitality.

Most of the VCRs we looked at offered special rates at local hotels for their patients (usually 10%, sometimes more). Of course as a semi well-traveled young man, I realize that a hotel room can cost a different rate each night just depending on how busy the hotel is, so small discounts are usually b.s. and can be beat. For example, when my wife booked the hotel room near the doctor we chose, she wanted to use the 10% discount my union membership offers. Just to check, she went to the hotel website seperately and was offered a cheaper rate than with my union discount. Internet Age lesson #1: shop around!!

Geography lesson: This blog originates from the green dot. This puts us in a nice central location in regard to some larger cities with VCRs, giving us some nice options. We found several doctors in Ohio and Kentucky and narrowed down our choices to three: 1 in Louisville, Ky and 2 in the Cincinatti, Oh area. One of the Ohio guys got cut just because we couldn't find enough information online. This kind of thing is all about RESEARCH! Get with it! Internet Age lesson #2: put your business information online!

The Louisville doctor, Dr. Chris Schrepferman, is impressive. He met all of our requirements, obviously, since he made it this far. I spoke with his office on the phone a couple of times; very nice people. They offer a hotel discount and they have a special set up for their out-of-town patients. Depending on your life and schedule, this can be pretty convenient, but it might also be a little restricting, as it was for us: You make one trip in to see him on a Thursday. Consultation is in the evening, then you go for pre-op bloodwork, stay the night at the hotel. Surgery is Friday morning and generally you will be the only patient he sees, maybe one other. He then asks that you stay in town that night and come back to his office Saturday morning for a post-op check before you leave town. Total cost was around 7500 (that is all medical expenses, sans prescriptions, not including hotel cost) Honestly, not a horrible price or deal considering the amount of attention you receive and the general level of care.

Over in Ohio, we have Dr. Shane T. Russell who certainly seems to be pretty awesome. I was actually able to correspond with Dr. Russell directly which was convenient and reassuring. He actually helped answer a LOT of our questions and his website is a great resource for anyone looking at issues with male infertility, even if you aren't anywhere near Ohio.
He is very thorough and very detailed oriented. Dr. Russell has a bit more flexibility in his schedule, again with a limit of two patients per day if he is doing a reversal. Obviously he prefers to schedule surgeries for the morning, and generally, he okays you to travel later that day or the next morning. The consultation can be at any time since it will be a little while prior to the actual surgery. Yes, the one drawback is that Dr. Russell asks for an in-office consultation before agreeing to, and scheduling, the surgery. It is a matter of caution on his part, and completely reasonable in my opinion, but not necesarilly that convenient (Many VCRs offer an over-the-phone consultation). His total cost is around the 6800 mark (not counting the cost of two trips to Cincinatti)

All travel costs accounted for, we figured these two were pretty even. While I would certainly recommend them to anyone, they just weren't the answer for us because we are in a bit of a time crunch. With my teaching schedule, we need flexible scheduling and a single trip. So we looked a little bit more, widening our search until we found this guy:

Dr. Michael Daniel
of Burlington, North Carolina. Our travel time just about doubles, but that is the only snag that we have. While I haven't spoken directly to Dr. Daniel, I have spoken with several of his office staff and the head nurse, all of whom were very helpful and extremely nice. It was a huge relief to be able to talk to one person who could answer various questions (the nurse gave me info on payment options, etc.! ). Again, he meets all our general criteria, and already the hospitality is looking good! Consultation and surgery are on the same day, just a few hours apart so they can do whatever tests and prep while I go fill my prescription for pain meds (whoo hoo!). They recommend staying the night somewhere close by, but at the end of the day it is up to me. They were very honest and helpful in regards to recovery time. Generally all we'd been hearing was that it is usually a little more uncomfortable than recovering from the initial vasectomy, but nothing bad. Dr. Daniel's office suggest a good two week period before I work since I'd be on my feet a lot. They were also honest with me that it will be sensitive longer than before. (I almost left out the word "sensitive" on purpose...) Total cost: 5800

So the 1,000 dollar difference more than makes up for the extra gas money while hotel costs (2 nights - drive down, stay, surgery, stay, go home) really stay about the same, if not cheaper since it is a smaller town.

Oh, and they can get me in the first week of August. Yes, that's right, I'm about a week and a half away from being reactivated (and having a scrotum that looks like Leatherface).

Don't worry loyal reader, there are a lot more twists and turns to this story before we even get to the surgery! Stay tuned for Being an X-man ain't all its cracked up to be (or The Quest: part four)

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Productivity Report

When I started this blog, I said I had decided to be more productive in my life. I hadn't really thought out what that meant, but I knew I couldn't stand the idea of just "being". I suppose somewhere in the back of my head it is that cliche notion that every day is a gift and I want to get something out of each and every day. It goes without saying that every day of my life I get joy from seeing my wife and my child, but like I said before, I needed things to keep me from falling into the hole that is now in the middle of my life.

I'm pretty open about the fact that, to a certain degree, it is all distraction, but any achievement, big or small, is a little reminder that our lives do keep going. The slope towards that hole isn't quite as steep anymore, which is nice. Now I can walk up and take a look without feeling like I'm going to fall in (or just wanting to jump in). I can...examine it, appreciate it, memorialize it. I can overextend a metaphor to talk about my son. The bottom line is that, distractions or not, I think things with both myself and my wife are a lot healthier as of late thanks to all of our 'productivity'.

So what exactly have we been doing? Well, if you follow her blog you already know a good majority of it: home improvements! Home organization and beautification via a few new furnishings (entertainment credenza, office cabinet, pretty basket-box-thing, hanging pot rack for the kitchen), some purely aesthetic improvements (finished painting kitchen, wall decor for dining room, large pot w/ artificial plants, chair cover that I constantly mess up with my huge ass). Plus my wife, basically all on her own, sanded and re-finished our stairs AND is working on our downstairs bathroom! She enjoys putting me to shame.

I poured some concrete outside (two slabs/steps to connect side and back "patio", simple drainage ditch beside driveway) and worked on cleaning up our formerly-an-excavation-site backyard. I've also been trying to be more active online, which is lame in a way, but it keeps my brain working since I'm always trying to be witty, and of course there is this blog thing which has been good for my brain too (not to mention me heart).

I've also gone a little 'fanboy crazy' since my birthday. I already posted Jules' first visit to a comic shop: that was to spend some of my birthday money. The rest had been spent on a new video game: Fallout 3 -- It isn't an entirely brainless occupation of time and at the very least it lets me get out those feelings I have that otherwise expressed would involve property damage or personal injury. (Its a real bummer to be so angry with no one to be angry at.) Beyond that, I've been comic shopping online, finally updating the Culver Amazing Spider-Man collection (we are now completely up-to-date). I say 'we' because my personal goal is to have every issue that has been released since I was born and I am doing the same for my children. They don't need to grow up to be as big of nerds as me, but I hope they enjoy them as kids and get something out of it. It is perhaps a little meaningless, and perhaps not the most productive thing I've done, but it means something to me.

Work : I haven't done much of anything in regard to preparing for the upcoming school year. I've given some thought to a couple of things and as it gets closer and closer my mind is getting better adjusted to the idea of going back, but honestly? The idea of it is a little hard for me still. I guess it is where so much of my time at the end of last school year revolved around Joel: all my free time was dedicated to getting plans ready for my sub while I was off for paternity leave, students asked about him and my wife almost every class period, co-workers asking, you know, all the excitement and attention when a baby is coming. I've been back to the school once since then, to drop off my keys and pick up some things from my room and while it was nice to see some kind and familiar faces, I also felt really anxious being in my classroom. Maybe it was just the time (just a day or two after the memorial) and not being ready to think about all the pressures of getting that room ready again. I don't know, but I am glad to work with such a great group of people and to have the summer off. I think I would have had a total meltdown if we'd lost Joel been mid-school year and I had to go back.

thanks to my commitment to being productive, I'm getting myself mentally prepared to go back AND I'm getting set up to start grad school. I took the GRE, scored kinda low (scored a 1080: 560 verbal, 520 quantitative/math) my excuse is that I took the test completely cold: no studying, no prep at all. Oddly, looking at average scores, my math was pretty low, but my verbal was pretty high. Looking at different programs and occupations, my score suggests that I am already doing the only thing I'm cut out for (except for counseling). So it looks like I'm going to get a Reading certification, maybe take an extra class here or there. Either way, I have to take two courses this fall in order to keep my teaching certification, so I figure I'll make them productive ones and do the Reading thing.

Oh, and I'm getting my wisdom teeth cut out next week...and a cavity lasered.

Of course, there is also The Quest (part 2 ). There is a LOT to update there because the ball, she is a rolllin'. But I will save that for its own update, which won't be long from now.

If someone told me, when Joel had first died, that we should plan on working on our house, I'd have punched them. But I think that sense of accomplishment, and the cooperation between my wife and I, has been a real boost to our healing. We still have a rough road ahead, and it still hurts a lot, but at least now I feel like I have the heart to get through it all.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

The Quest, an interlude

Following my son around in the yard today, I found myself, as usual, contemplating various aspects of the universe. Today I settled on something that came up during our recent meeting with my wife's midwife: time. Specifically it was the discussion of when is the time to try and conceive again.

She noted that a year is what is generally recommended; to allow time for healing and such. I myself have wondered when I'd be ready for our third child. It is without question that I want a third child, but how soon?

I kick these ideas around a bit, never really coming to any conclusions, still muddling through the yard, watching, and occasionally rescuing, Jules as he adventures about. I started moving some old boards that had once been a make-shift covering for our pool when we first moved in (I tore it up last year and hadn't cleaned up the wreckage since). As I did this I discovered a rather impressive ant nest; those tiny ants that get in everywhere (like our kitchen -- a problem that has been remedied). There was probably a foot long, half-inch deep strip of what I will call ant food (that white stuff they carry) and a circle 2 feet in diameter that was crawling and pulsating with little soldiers at work.

Now the appropriate home owner response would be to kill the fuckers, but honestly I haven't had the stomach for as repercussion-less a task as killing ants since that fateful day. Once a proud proponent of "the food chain", now it just feels wrong.
(not going Vegan though)
So I opted to let nature work, and I took a moment to admire all the movement, then followed my son to some other corner of the yard.
A few moments later I walked back by the ant nest and I was caught a little off-guard. Now if I had been actually thinking about the condition of these ants, this probably wouldn't have surprised me, but it did. That huge supply of food was already gone; transported to some other secure location.

I imagined a scene from a disaster movie: a normal day amongst the ants, all of them casually going about their daily business of... doing ant stuff in their damp, dark world. ~~
KARRAACKK!!~~ Light starts to break through from above; the ants stop and look up. Giant fingers lift the dark sky away and their world is flooded with light. Run! The ants are confused and devastated at the loss of their home. Oh the humanity, the humanity!!
(you may now take the time to admire my sound effect)

But no, instead, because I'd forgotten
everything we are taught about the character of ants, these guys were doing what they had to do. They were grabbing the food and heading for someplace safer. They were carrying on. And what choice did they have? Just plop their little thorax down on the dirt and say "well shit...now what?" No sir, the only choice they have is to keep going; pick themselves up and let that asshole in the sandals and the spider-man t-shirt know that he wasn't going to keep them down.

Naturally, my attention was quickly diverted back to Jules whom had discovered an old bouncy ball and was chasing that around. Returning to my outdoor routine of watching my son play and run, stumble, fall, get up, run, laugh, stumble, fall, get up again, laugh again, and so forth and so on, I knew I had found my answers.

I could sit and cry forever. No, really, I could. But that isn't a choice I have. Oh, we've done plenty of it, and I'm sure there will be more, but we will carry on. We have to move towards that safer place. Luckily, our reason for carrying on also lights our path, like some perfectly adorable little prophet, running and stumbling, falling, getting up, running, laughing, stumbling, falling, getting up again, laughing and so forth and so on.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

The Quest, part 2

Welcome adventurers, as The Quest continues!

If you are joining us for the first time, allow me to reca...hmm? whats that? OH! This is a blog, isn't it? So if this is your first time here, SCROLL DOWN and get caught up. There is some whining and self-loathing (don't worry, it's all justified...in my opinion) but you'll get through. I did.

As we rejoin the quest for a third child, we find ourselves in search of a doctor who performs microsurgery vasectomy reversals, can do the complicated technique if my "straws" require it, is travel-able (my own word), and is financially do-able. Having performed the basic Googling so we have some idea about what we are looking for, my wife went to one of, if not the, largest communities of baby-concerned people on the Internet: babycenter.

Now if you are unfamiliar with babycenter, they are like any large influential organization : they put out all kinds of info as unarguable fact and they have a message board where certain viewpoints are more encouraged than others, kind of like the Vatican. So, much like the Vatican, babycenter can be looked at as a force for good or evil. The good thing about babycenter is that they have a forum for just about every sub-group of parents and it is a large community, so you have a lot of resources to pull from.

Looking at their Vasectomy Reversal forum, my wife found out a lot of info, but the most interesting thing she found was about a little doc in Oklahoma. The first bit about Dr. Wilson to catch our eye was his price: $1700, all inclusive (except drinks). Wow! That's a HUGE difference from the 6 and 7 thousand dollar price tags we'd been seeing. He even does microsurgery! And the threads at babycenter just rave about him. He's even backed by the Vatican!

Of course, it's in OKLAHOMA, so that is a good bit of travel. Plus, considering the costs of VR, you can imagine that Dr. Wilson is pretty booked up. How booked up? Try months in advance. He has an online calendar for people that have gone through booking an appointment. People stalk it waiting for a dropped appointment so they can grab it and get in early. If you need flexibility in your appointment date, then you're going to have to wait. Hmm, yeah that is an issue with my teacher schedule. Also, it is in Muskogee, OK, bringing new meaning to "you can't get there from here". Depending on when the appointment could be, air travel to Tulsa would be anywhere from 450 - 850/seat, plus a rental car and hotel (priceline). And take a second to look at that Wikipedia page. Shouldn't the Dr. Wilson, Sperm Restoration Specialist and possibly their greatest source of tourism traffic, be listed as a notable resident? And look at the mayor; I think he was in my 4th period last year!

Oh, and he isn't actually a urologist (not the mayor, Dr. Wilson); he's a cardiologist. Now he's done all the training for VR and is a skilled microsurgeon, but he doesn't do any follow-up because, well, he doesn't really work in that area. Now my nephew goes to a "pediatrician" that is actually an urologist and I know she's been off the mark a few times, and that didn't even involve surgery. But that is the kind of info that we had to dig to find on Dr. Wilson. Honestly, other than the travel, it really seemed too good to be true.

And then, like something out of a movie, we received a mysterious message. We went to a quiet bar and sat in the darkened back corner, just as our contact had asked. A man in a trenchcoat sat a newspaper down on our table, we turned to the comics and laughed at Marmaduke; it was the agreed upon password. The man came back and sat... *sigh* okay, that didn't happen (no one laughs at Marmaduke) But my wife did receive an email from a fellow babycenter poster. Said "she" knew my wife had questions about Dr. Wilson, but "she" didn't feel comfortable responding in public for fear of retribution (not making up that part). "She" sent my wife a link to another board with some ugly truths about Dr. Wilson, or at least a little less biased views.

At such a low cost, I had wondered what kind of facilities or staff he must have. The answer is little to none. He has no staff; no nurses, no-one except his wife, and apparently that is only sometimes. The office is fairly dated, along with reports of an old wooden exam table(??). A reiteration of the fact that he doesn't do any follow-up (including one guy who says he got an infection and Wilson just blew him off [again, poor word choice]) . But the deal breaker? He doesn't do the more-advanced technique that can sometimes be necessary. Sorry, but if I'm going through all of this trouble, I want as high of odds as possible that it works the first time. And really, Muskogee?

So with the dream of bargain surgery dashed, we decided to focus on convenient travel. Luckily we live in a tri-state area, so we have quick access to Cincinatti, Columbus (OH), Louisville and Lexington (KY)

I know this is RANDOM, but does anyone else have cats that constantly NIBBLE ON YOU?!?!?! Five times in the last paragraph have I been lightly nommed by my cat. ARGH!!


So, next Quest update: a Doctor is found!

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Some bits of randomness

First and foremost: Thank God for Netflix streaming movies, Xbox Live letting me stream those onto my TV, and Elmo in Grouchland being available for such viewing: it has allowed me (and my wife, of course) to finally take time to be the bad American parents we've always wanted to be and plop our child in front of the television while we rest, relax, clean or, God forbid, do some things for ourselves.

You'll be happy to know, however, that I have a clear line of sight from the computer to him on his firetruck-chair in the living room (Like I'd really leave such a hellion unsupervised).

Anyway, the bits I promised:

When online, I generally reserve references to my job for stories of depravity: pregnant 7th graders, who got arrested at school, middle school 'gangs'... you know ,the fun stuff. Sure I teach in a 'rough' school, but for the most part I actually have some decent kids. I say this because I recently added a co-worker to my facebook and he, because he's a little too connected to the kids (in my humble opinion) has like 198 of them on his friends list. Anyway, some of the kids tried adding me and I felt a little bad turning them down because they are the same students who wrote cards, emails and letters when Joel died. Honestly, one of them was probably the sweetest, most-thoughtful and well-said/written piece of support I received. So test scores be damned, I'm doing something right!

I enjoy watching bats fly around in the evening as the sun sets. (told you it was random)

Yesterday, while I was getting a tan on my shoulders pouring concrete, my wife took a break from sanding our stairs (we're busying ourselves for the sake of sanity) to run out and pick up some items from the Mortuary: Thumbies and Joel's death certificate. I suppose the "death certificate" is a legal document of sorts and is supposed to be imporant, but it really doesn't hold much weight for me. Not that I'm denying its validity or anything, but to me I guess I just consider it a technicality. I have a 'certificate' with his footprints and handprints AND his name. Yes, the death certificate fails to list our son's name since, in whomever's opinion, he was not 'alive' or 'born'... Now sure, WV is one of the few states that does issue a "fetal death certificate" which I suppose does acknowledge his life in some form (although it SHOULD have a place for his name), but somehow I just get the feeling that they originated these certificates in regard to the pro-life/pro-choice debate and thought nothing of how it affects this tragic community we've been inducted in to. Letter writing campaign anyone?

*big sigh* Aside from that, the Thumbies are nice. We got two: one is of Joel's handprint, one of his footprint. Normally they are of finger (or thumb) prints, but since babie's are so small, they go with the whole foot/hand. They are nice; we also got his birthstone on the charm. Of course, they aren't just for remembering someone (it's just that the mortuary is where we heard about them), so eventually we'll be sending some of Jules' prints and having Thumbies made for him too since they are so sweet. Now my cynical side did think, for a second, that this could be a sham, but it seems legit enough, and in this case, even if it isn't, I don't want to know cause I'm already fond of them. :)

Did you know the Ahmish make (and sell) donuts? and did you know that they're AWESOME?!

Speaking of Jules (no, he isn't Ahmish...or a donut) he had a big "first" today. Well, maybe it was a bigger first for ME than it was for him, but I still got a picture to document the occassion.

( I think taking the picture was also a first for the lady working the counter...)

His first trip to a COMIC SHOP!!

No, I didn't buy everything laid out on the counter there. For whatever reason that is where she puts all the new books. Keep in mind that this isn't my 'usual' store, although my regular trips ended about the same time Jules was born because, well, you can't take a baby into a comic book store that is set up like a giant fire hazard, which is how they are meant to be, not all neat and organized like the joint pictured here. You should feel like you are in some guy's basement...in a good way.

Anyway, he looks happy, doesn't he? (say yes)

Thursday, July 9, 2009

The Quest, part 1 of an unknown part series

"Hello, I'd like to speak to you about my testicles. "

I was thinking that might be a better way to start the conversation than just jumping right into, "HI, my baby died so my wife and I decided that I need more scar tissue on my scrotum!"

I suppose that may just be a bit unsettling to people, but when you call about a vasectomy reversal just a few weeks after having the vasectomy, the people on the other end of the phone tend to wonder why.

After losing Joel, my wife and I came to the fairly quick assertion that we didn't just want to have two kids, we wanted to raise two kids. Our quest had begun.

Now we didn't know much about vasectomy reversals other than hearing Dr. Phil brag about having done it twice (good lord...his scrotum must look like Mickey Rourke), and I'm willing to bet that you don't know much about it either, so in hope of some mild amusement, and of course to spread a bit of our hard earned education, I thought I would chronicle our search for a vasovasostomatician.

To begin, we considered going back to the same urologist that performed my vasectomy, but somehow that seemed a little weird for us. We didn't realize it at the time, but he actually doesn't do reversals. In fact, according to our research, there isn't a doctor in West Virginia that does! (not sure why I used an exclamation point, as if it is really that surprising of a statement...) A reversal is a pretty involved micro-surgery procedure that requires some pricey equipment and training. Well, that is if you want it done in the least invasive and quickest way. There apparently are still docs out there that do it the 'old-fashioned' way. It's cheaper, but you get what you pay for. So as you might imagine, there is a relatively small group of doctors that perform the procedure with all the latest gadgets and the high-success rate that comes with them.

Since my guys are getting enough awkward attention as it is, I'm not going to go into the details of the procedure. If you want to know more about all that, you can go here. For our purposes, let's just use this imagery: take a drinking straw. Cut it into two pieces. Use a lighter to melt the ends of the two pieces, sealing them (vasectomy). Now, cut the melted/sealed portion off the two pieces and try to reconnect the straw like it was new, so you can blow spit wads through it without it breaking open(vasectomy reversal). See what kind of trouble you run into.

It just dawned on me that "spit wads" may have been a poor choice...

So when reconnecting your straw pieces, apparently there can be quite a bit of trouble, calling for an advance
d procedure called a vasoepididymostomy. Advanced procedure = even fewer docs can do this.

Blog reader, COME ON DOWN!!!! it's time to play our pricing game! We've told you all about our lovely vasectomy reversal, and if you can guess the correct price range you'll get a chance to have awkward conversation with Drew Carey and his creepy new haircut!!

$2,000? 4,000? 6,000? 10,000? 15,000??

Well, they're ALL correct. Depending on where you go and who you see, a reversal can cost anywhere in that range. Of course, for the microsurgery option, you're looking at 5-15,000. Very rarely will insurance help pay for a reversal, and even then it is usually just a small portion. In our case, it is total out-of-pocket expense.

So: a doctor who performs the reversal via microsurgery and can do the advanced procedure if necessary, within an acceptable traveling distance, and within our teacher's salary budget...

Hmm, this should be EASY!

to be continued...

Thursday, July 2, 2009

my son's shadow

started 6-24-09 completed 7-2-09

In Everything Jules does, I see the little boy that should be following in his footsteps.

I don't really have a lot else to add to that comment, but it's been on the tip of my brain for a while and I just had to get it out there. That idea that there is just a little something more to Jules' shadow now; a constant reminder of who should be there at his heels.

But there is also Joel's shadow; the one I already live in and the one that I hope our next child will not live in. It's a hard thing to get around though, because we weren't planning on a litter of children. We intended to stop at two. Matter o' fact, we actually took measures to insure that we stopped at two.

Oh, how the story of my vasectomy was intended to be a light-hearted romp; codine induced hallucinations, odd moments of awareness during surgery, ice packs and days of accidental direct hits from Jules to, well, my jewels (ah, puns).

Instead it's a big fat lesson in irony (not REAL irony, more like the Alanis Morisette kind of irony...). See, the day after my vasectomy we went in for an ultrasound. Honestly, we were just there to try and get some good ultrasound pictures because the 20-week visit was crap and we only got a few good pictues. Instead we were told that our son only had one kidney. We later found out that there was in fact a kidney present; a pelvic kidney, much smaller and kidden in the pelvic cavity. That, at 37 weeks by the way, was when we were told Joel was A-okay and we didn't have anything to worry about- no need for weekly ultrasounds. 41 weeks we joined the club. (no proven connection though... )

I did, however, cement that I will listen to my wife NO MATTER WHAT at this point though. We hadn't expected the urologist to schedule my vasectomy before Joel's due date, but when he did, we rationally said, "well, we're in the safe zone now." Now my wife kept half-joking that something would happen after the vasectomy, but we thought that was irrational and stuck to the plan. We should have trusted her gut. I insist that she pick the lotto numbers from now on.

So now having a third child isn't just a matter of "okay, lets do it", it's a matter of traveling, surgery, and finances. More directly, for our third child, it's a matter of "If Joel hadn't died..."
I don't want our third child to feel like a replacement child, but in the end how do you ever really avoid that?

I mean, who's to say? Maybe we would have decided, a few years down the road, "Hey, let's pull a Dr. Phil and get this thing reversed so we can have a third child AND extra debt." And while we joke, we honestly might have decided that and, just like now, feel that it is worth every penny. So far, we make pretty good looking kids if I do say so myself, so why not just keep going? As my wife suggested, we can be the New Dungers! It'll be awesome! (...did is spell that right?)

*sigh* ...of course, there's the fact that this gets harder for me every day. I've been told it is supposed to get a little easier, but it seems like it is getting harder. I've had the comfort of living in a 'pocket world': my own little world where the only real human interactions I have are with my wife and son (well, and my keyboard). We can go out, and I see people I don't know, and it's okay because they have no expectations of me. They won't think anything of the shadow. But everyone else; my family, my co-workers, my friends; they will notice that I'm not the same. I know them all and unfortunately, the majority of them will try to 'help' because they'll want me to be the same as I was before. They'll want me to quit walking in the shadow and act like I did before (however that was). I don't want to deal with that. I don't want to deal with that look in their eyes as they start thinking "shouldn't he be better by now?"

My friends, my good ones, I know will be fine. I actually want to be with my friends; generally their expectation has always just been love, good conversation, and maybe some booze. Well, there's really no maybe to it: there's usually booze.

My family though... I suppose I've always worried about their expectations. At one point I assumed that "they're my family, things will always be good between us". Well, if you've kept up enough, you've probably picked up on the fact that my family hasn't been good to my wife. I've been guilt-ridden over the whole thing for a long time, to a debilitating point. Obviously a part of me wants my family -- well, every part of me wants my family, but my family-by-blood can't seem to get with the idea that it is all one unit, so we stay apart. To simplify everything: my status-quo didn't meet certain expectations as it was. Their unhappiness with this was to the point that they weren't even happy about our having a second child, so I can't imagine how they'd feel about his shadow. I guess they'll just have to deal with it; nevertheless, it gives me grief.

I'd like to say something hopeful now, about how I will move forward etc. etc. , but right now I feel pretty grim. Thankfully, I have my wife to pull me along for now, until I get my feet under me again. She is truly something special and I hope she never doubts my devotion to her.

I will forever live in my son's shadow and I do not mind that at all. Like anything, it is at times a burden for it weighs heavily on me, but it is also a comfort because you cannot have a shadow without light, and I know that the shadow is only there because of the light I hold for him and the light his life left in me.

She's stronger than I am

Stolen, without permission, from my wife's blog... she'll probably fuss at me. :)

That's the new question I have to answer for myself. Of course, I much rather answer that or try to instead of hearing "so how are you...physically I mean?"

Seriously, that's a dumb question. It's someones way of trying to make the question they tried to ask, which is "how are you?", less stupid because they realize they are talking to the dead baby mom & it's stupid to ask her how she's doing. So then they move onto the "physically" thing because it dawns on them that they may be able to get away with asking that. Personally, I liked the people who asked, "how are you?" more than those who added the "physically" part on there. I rather tell people "I feel like shit, thanks for asking!" instead of trying to have some odd convo about how I've recovered so well from childbirth when I have no baby. People really don't think that out though. Of course my aunt was really confused as to why I didn't have any incisions, so I finally introduced her to my midwife & told her to ask any questions about childbirth to Angy, as she's much better suited to explain things. Plus, I didn't want to talk about the graphic details of childbirth in front of my dad since my aunt kept trying to drag him into that convo as well. My dad doesn't want to think about how I got pregnant & anything that went along with it, nor do I want my dad to think about it. It's a father/daughter thing I guess.

So...where the hell do I go from here?

The answer is that I have no fucking clue.

I've basically come to the conclusion that now I have a new way I'll go through life. We went out last weekend to dinner (read: drinking) & a movie. First movie we'd been to in a very long time. I had a good time. But I'm very aware that I didn't have a good time. Don't get me wrong, I really did, but there is just a different scale of happiness now. Something is always going to be wrong & missing & while I'm sure I'll have happiness & I'll make it through all of this, I'm sure I'll never be as carefree & happy as I've been in the past. I'm hoping with time that will change, but I don't think it will. There will always be something there...or not there I guess I should say.

You walk around through life knowing that bad things can happen to you, but you never really think it will. Now I'm on the flip side of that. I know what can happen & I've had it happen. So everything is different & I look at the things that I thought as just "really unlikely" as pretty damn possible. I guess that's called paranoia, but whatever. I'll be paranoid the rest of my life & feel totally fine about it because the baby everyone assured me was fine & healthy...well, turns out I had to go to a funeral home and pick out an urn for him. I felt paranoid off & on my entire pregnancy & everyone told me I was fine & in turn I told myself I was fine. And for the rest of my life I have to wonder if I should have pushed my paranoias further. So from now on, I won't be convinced things are fine easily as I once was.

So Joel is gone. Some people care. Some people may not. Some people might, but have a shitty way of showing it. People took family pictures at my sons funeral. I've not seen them, but I'm guessing you can see the small bronze cube that holds my son in the background. People brought Jules the Christmas gifts they were too cheap to mail to us following the service. So Jules got gifts after his brothers funeral. Nice. And me? I'm reminded of the Christmas gifts my other son will never get and cried all the way home about it. You know, things that just add to my overall bitterness with my husbands family. Nothing new there though I guess. But I'll be honest & say my stomach now actually turns when I think about getting together with these people. And all that rings through my head is what started the whole drama anyway...the fact that I was pregnant with Joel & they weren't happy & didn't seem to care because they didn't consider him or us family. As if that isn't bad enough, just for them to think they should & can jump back into our lives because our son died while they still never had to say sorry for even not being a part of the pregnancy makes me sick on whole other levels. The more I think about it, the more I think I would just be a huge bitch around any of them, because I really don't care to put myself out there at all. Even the zoloft I'm now taking can make that any better. But who knows what'll go on with that, but I'm sure it'll be great & fun. That was sarcasm, btw.

I have no idea what happened to Joel. The autopsy was inconclusive because, according to the doctor, "the remains" were too decomposed to find anything like infections or something along those lines. My test have all come back fine so yay, I didn't kill my baby. That's the only good news with that I guess. There is no reason to believe I couldn't go on to have another totally healthy pregnancy & baby.

Well, you know, other than that little problem of my husband getting a vasectomy back in April. In fact, he had it done the day before we found out about the possible kidney issue. Everyone was just so certian everything would be fine that everyone said we should go ahead & get that out of the way before the new baby was born. The doctor who did it actually got him in over his spring break so he wouldn't have to miss work. It all seemed fine with everyone. I, of course, was paranoid, but put it out of my head. Silly me.

Of course that doesn't stop me, friends. I've never wanted a household full of kids, kids kinda freak me out even though I have them. I would agree that I have plenty of kids now, not to mention cats. But now it's not so simple & not about numbers. It's about the fact that I cannot leave this as the last baby expierence I have. I'm selfish & maybe I'm putting too much weight on how another baby would "fix" things, but I cannot go the rest of my life knowing the last newborn I was handed was "stillborn." I cannot have the last memory of me leaving the OB department of the hospital as us going out the back with just a blanket & a plastic bowl of hospital baby items like a name card & a tape measure. I know it won't fix anything or change anything, but it's something I need to have the chance to do over again, to expierence again.

So now, not even 3 months after the surgery, we're contacting people to have my poor husband subjected to some other surgery expierence so we can be breeders again in the future. Of course, that isn't something you can just get done everywhere, which I didn't know until now, so on top of actually getting it done (not to mention paying out of pocket) we get to go on a road trip. I tell Adam all the time he never takes me anywhere, so I guess we'll be taking care of that later this year. Not too far though, the top options are North Carolina or a few hours into Ohio. Part of me is pulling for Ohio so I can go to the zoo...figured one of us should try to have fun on the trip, right?

Trust me, I know I'll be alright. I know we all will. But I don't like the fact that I have to be alright. I, of course, wish things could just be easy & could have worked out like we planned. But, as usual, nothing I plan works out very well. Even for me though this is a whole new low of things sucking. I guess that's another good thing, I think I've hit rock bottom of things that could suck. At least I hope I have.

And for now I'm going to continue to keep myself busy. I've suddenly found a desire to organize & decorate my house so it doesn't just look like a toddler & no one else lives here. That, of course, means we've put things together & I've done some odd things (glass door knob wall hangings, anyone?) so I'll be sharing that work & progess soon enough I supppose. We're even going to be ripping up carpet. Expect pictures & hopefully some entertainment for the blog, that alone is a big reason I even attempt these things, for the humor that could ensue so I can share it & make witty, smartass comments.

My marriage may not survive home improvments. Lets hope though, because I really like that guy I tricked into marrying me. He lifts heavy things, peals oranges because I find it physically impossible, lets me buy $80 baskets for our living room, & doesn't mind having his genitals operated on not only once, but TWICE. Oh, & he does the cat litter for EIGHT FUCKING CATS. Of course it'd be nice if he'd pick up his dirty laundry, but oh well...

So I guess to answer to my question about where the hell I go to from here is pretty simple...

I go forward. I go on & I do what I can until we go through this again...well, not THIS, but you know what I mean. Then we go from there. Just new chapters in the book of life, I suppose.

It's either that or I jump off a bridge, but I hate heights so that's not a good option unless I find a really low bridge, which kinda defeats the purpose of jumping off a bridge in the first place.

I'm sure some people will think if we have another baby that we're trying to "replace" Joel or something stupid along those lines. When I posted pictures of me being a tree & things a couple weeks ago I thought to myself "are people going to think I don't care because I'm smiling & taking goofy pictures?" because I know I've been one of those people who have decided how someone should or shouldn't be acting after something bad has happened, so I'm sure someone looked & thought something about how they can't believe I'm having a good time with things that have happened over the past month & how they wouldn't do something like that if they were in my shoes. Kinda like I'm sure people will wonder why I'm able to go on & try to make funny blogs, since I should throw myself into some deep depression or something along those lines. And really, that's alright. I once concerned myself with those worries & didn't want to come off as this or that, but I've come to the conclusion that it's alright for anyone to think that. As a dear friend named Dawn once told me, I shouldn't waste my time caring about those who don't care about me. So if people think that, so be it, they obviously don't know me or care enough to know me better than that.

But, of course, if anyone actually says something to me I totally reserve my right to tell them to go fuck themselves. :)

OK, some things haven't changed I suppose. I guess that's reassuring in some way.

And to end this blog, I'm not sure if you've heard but some guy named Michael Jackson died. Personally, I'm more sad about a man named Billy Mays, who made me want to buy things like oxyclean (even though I thought it sucked), mightly mend-it & various other "as seen on TV" products. We enjoyed him greatly.