ANNOUNCEMENT!!!

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My wife is pregnant, 12 weeks along. We are excited, cautiously hopeful and scared of another loss. How’d we get here and why are we putting ourselves through this again? I can try to explain. But let’s take it way back, first.

The First Miscarriage

“Smile,” the doctor enthusiastically coached. My pants rested around my ankles as my forearms supported me on the examining table. I’m 28-fucking-years-old and I’m already having a lubed-up index finger patrol my rectum for my prostate. I walked into the urologist’s office anticipating an infertility exam and exited wishing he at least bought me dinner first.

My wife and I tried for a year to conceive. Her OB/GYN directed her to a fertility doctor for testing, first. Everything came back normal, which meant it was time for me to be tested. Along with the prostate exam and junk test the urologist conducted, a semenalysis provided raw data for our fertility clinic.

It turns out I was generally healthy. My testosterone, however, tested severely low and my sperm liked to swim about in circles or something. So we began fertility treatments. After several months of me supplying goo – as one of the nurses called it – and the wife’s use of Clomid – the “goodoo” magic worked.

The next 16 weeks were filled with joy, bliss and walking on cotton candy clouds. While it took us over a year and mad science for my wife to get pregnant, she was treating crack babies in Long Beach as a registered nurse for parents living on welfare with four other kids. But for us, it finally happened. We announced the news with friends and family and eagerly awaited the January 1 due date.

Cue the record scratch.

The wife called me at work after a check-up with the OB/GYN. The doctor couldn’t find a heartbeat. He sent her to the hospital for an ultrasound which confirmed there wasn’t a heartbeat. Our baby was dead. A couple of days later the wife underwent a D&E procedure at a Los Angeles clinic. We elected to run tests to determine the sex and cause of death. It was a girl, but no dice on the cause of death. The clinic was kind enough to send us home with footprints of the fetus the doctor extracted while performing the procedure.

We named her Presley Kaelyn. We eventually both had her foot prints tattooed on our arms, and I added “Loved Forever”.

We cried a lot over the next few weeks. I mean, a whole lot. Why did this happen? How? We cleared the 12-week danger zone. This isn’t supposed to happen.

It was the summer, and I eventually ramped up my social calendar to get my mind off of things. My wife, however, dealt differently. There were nights I’d find her crying on the floor of the bathroom. Our souls ached. Caring for babies of 14-year-old moms and meth addicts reminded her every night that life isn’t fair.

She told me months later how much it bothered her that I was going out and trying to distract myself while she just wanted to withdraw and hang out with the pain. She didn’t understand that I was just as distraught as she was. I cried. I was mad. But I had to get out of that house so that it didn’t become anything worse than that.

Eventually the fertility doc allowed us to start trying again. It was like ripping open a healing wound, peeing inside of it and then punching it for good measure. Month after month an early period, too many produced eggs at once or cysts cock-blocking our chance for conception dashed our hopes of another pregnancy.

The Next Three Miscarriages

A fertility clinic helped create Jax and the twins – artificial insemination and in vitro fertilization, respectively. Since Jax died in June of 2012, my wife’s been pregnant three times, all naturally. Something we couldn’t imagine being possible. And something we didn’t knowingly try for.

On July 31 of 2013, just after lunch, my wife text me a photo of a positive pregnancy test and wrote “So this happened :/”. You’d think we’d be ecstatic, right? We were done having kids. We sold off everything but a breast pump and a pack-and play. I suppose the magic of Chicago on our tenth wedding anniversary didn’t care much about our plans.

We’ve heard and read that the second year after losing a child is often harder than the first. That sounds impossible. But most of the support received in the months after the death has now moved on. They have lives to live. We are still stuck. The loneliness is harder. All of the firsts – first Halloween, Christmas, birthday, memorial – have passed. All that’s left is our broken hearts.

After Jax’s memorial service we felt the beginning of that rough second year.

But this pregnancy changed that. We felt hope for the first time. This baby was going to keep that second year from being worse. The baby embodied life after all we had known for a year was death.

It’s a gift from God. We thought it. The few people we told thought it. Everything’s going to be okay, because this is from God.

Neither of us could bury our fear completely. Fear of something bad happening. We lost Presley. Then Jax tragically left us. There’s no way this will end badly. Right?

Well it did, at seven weeks gestation. Our hope evaporated. It all felt like a giant tease. A cruel trick. I kept asking myself why God would have us get pregnant naturally after years of not being able to only to go through yet another loss. F Him.

After a second miscarriage in April of 2014 we discovered my wife carried gene mutation methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase (MTHFR). One side effect of this gene is elevated homocysteine levels, which increases the risk for blood clots. Our best guess to this miscarriage was a blood clot, based on ultrasounds viewed at emergency room and in the OB’s office. Remember this, as it’s a key piece of our staying pregnant puzzle.

On January 21 of 2015 I wrote about a stupid pigeon that decided to crap all over, and then die on, our front porch.

A new beginning, a fresh start. We could use those. And from this website:

Dead bird in the yard or on the highway – if you’ve seen a dead bird in the road or perhaps you accidentally hit a bird on the road, this usually feels like a bad sign. Actually death is typically a good sign showing us that an end to turmoil or pain is ending. This doesn’t necessarily mean physical death, just a metaphorical death. Perhaps you’re going through heartache of a break-up, perhaps you are struggling to find a job…this dead bird marks the end to your search and struggle. A new beginning is just around the corner.

An end to turmoil or pain is ending. The end of our search and struggle. I think we can use that. And here I was, thinking the only gift that pigeon left us was white polka dots of crap on our porch.

When I wrote that, we knew my wife was pregnant again. I legit thought this was a sign. A month later was her third miscarriage. I’ve stopped believing in signs. It was supposed to be our last try. I told her three strikes and we’re out, because I’m such a baseball dork. Let’s stop the anguish. No more losses, if we can control it. No more pain.

My wife’s obstetrician recommended we genetically test the frozen embryos left over from the IVF that produced the twins. The thought being that we can pull the genetically normal embryos, do an embryo transfer and, along with treating the blood clotting issue, limit the risk of future miscarriages. Always the suckers thirsting for hope, we had the embryos tested. Except that after the defrost, only three of the seven embryos survived, and of those three, none of the embryos were genetically normal.

What’s wrong with us? How lucky did we get that Jax, Gray and Ellie even happened for us? It seems odds are stacked against us when it comes to creating normally genetic life.

But we weren’t done. Call it perseverance, but you’d be wrong. We’re just tormented souls with a burning want to extend our family. Our fertility doctor said the next option would be a fresh round of IVF. F that, I thought – too much money.

Yet after testing, semen deposits, more genetic testing, three shots for egg retrieval, multiple ultrasounds and the egg retrieval itself, we were left with two genetically normal embryos. So far the transfer of one embryo has held up (the other is frozen).

My wife was giving herself three shots a day – two in the stomach (Lovenox for blood thinning to decrease risks of a blood clot) and one in the upper tush (Progesterone). Her belly looks like photos of galaxies far, far away – a mesmerizing mixture of purples, blue and pink in disjointed shapes. And because of that pesky MTHFR gene mutation, she’ll be shooting up the belly another month after the baby comes.

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Kristina’s belly

The Fear is Real

Early in the pregnancy, my wife noticed some blood. It was more than spotting, but less than a period. I panicked. Again, really? This early? I tried not to let her see my fear. It was 10:30 at night. I couldn’t fall back asleep. I searched her weeks of gestation online, read a bunch of pregnancy forums where women post about their own experiences (I sadly know what DH means now – dear husband) and concluded that this is a pretty common thing for women. While it was more than just spotting, absent pain  in the abdomen, everything could still seem normal. Now, I’m not a super optimistic guy. Especially after the past three years. But I tried to be that rock for my wife. Mr. “Everything is going to be okay” guy. Positive thoughts. The next day she went to fertility clinic, a heart beat was found and everything appeared normal.

But fuuuuuuucccccc…that fear. It just doesn’t go away.

Every doctor appointment messes with my nerves. Once, my wife was late to an appointment with the fertility clinic due to brutal traffic. Then the office was slow seeing her. From my desk at work I checked my phone every five minutes. If there wasn’t a text, I’d open up iMessages to see if she was at least typing something. She wasn’t. It was hard to breathe. The anxiety manifested itself physically. I was freaking out. She finally texted that everything was looking good, but that thirty minutes of anticipation took six months off my life span.

Every time she goes to the bathroom I push down expectations of her walking out of the bathroom crying.

Slowly, after each positive ultrasound and blood test and doctor’s appointment, we grow more hopeful that she’ll see this pregnancy through to the end. Our excitement continues to build. My wife found a stroller on sale at Babies ‘R Us last weekend. She thinks buying anything baby related is a curse. But either the clearance item was too good to pass up (it was over $100 regular price), or she’s genuinely feeling good about this pregnancy. I think it’s a bit of column a, a bit of column b.

Ellie & Gray

On a random week night a few weeks ago, before Christmas, we were going to tell Ellie and Gray about the pregnancy. When I got home from work, my wife said she was bleeding a bit, and that we should wait. I agreed. Fifteen minutes later, things changed.

Ellie was sitting on the couch next to me and wanted to show me a photo on my wife’s phone from earlier in the day. I unlocked it for her, she swiped through and showed me the photos. My wife sat down on the couch next to us a few minutes later, and we talked a bit.

“Is this a baby?” Ellie asked. She held up the phone with an ultrasound my wife texted to her mom earlier in the week.

I looked at my wife with an oh-shit look.

“What do you think it is?” I replied to Ellie.

Gray, who was playing with toys on the floor ten feet away, ran over to look. He couldn’t make out the ultrasound.

“A baby,” Ellie answered.

“We’re having a BABY?!?!” Gray shrilled. I teared up. His reaction was beautiful. He was genuinely so excited.

I told them that we were. After they soaked it up for a few minutes, my warning message followed. I explained how it will take a long time for the baby to grow and be born, and that we’ll have to pray every day to God that the baby and mommy can be healthy, and that it could die, like the others. I encouraged them to help mommy while she’s pregnant to keep her and the baby safe.

Later that night Ellie sat on the couch next to my wife.

“I don’t want this baby to die,” she said.

Neither do I, hun. Neither do I.

As of yesterday, our baby is the size of a plum. Ellie constantly asks how big the baby is, so we use a website that compares the size to a fruit to help the kids get a better grasp of the growth.

Our family would appreciate all prayers, positive thoughts and good ju-ju you can send our way over the next six months. Hopefully we’ll be introducing y’all to the little alien at the end of July.

CHOC Walk 2015 – Team Iron Jax – Let’s Do This

The CHOC Walk is coming. I feel like a slacker not posting anything earlier. But then I see compared to last year’s post, I’m 19 days early! Which just means we REALLY slacked last year.

As always, the CHOC Walk at Disneyland/California Adventure is on the second Sunday in October, which this year is 10/11/15. And, as always, it starts butt-early in the morning. But you should still totally come!

Why do we do the CHOC Walk? Jax passed away at CHOC’s pediatric intensive care unit. The entire staff was so compassionate to us and treated us with so much respect that this is our little way to give back to the hospital and the community in memory of our little hero. I wrote this pretty detailed, gut-wrenching post that explains it more, but we decided not to post it. It’s very personal. But maybe if you beg and plead and raise enough money for us, we (Kristina) can be convinced to post it. Just sayin’.

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What is the CHOC Walk?

The Children’s Hospital of Orange County annually raises funds to support the care, services, research and education that CHOC provides children.  Since its start in 1990, the CHOC Walk in the Park has raised over $24 million, with funds supporting education, research, and adoption and utilization of the latest technologies to advance the health and well-being of children. It’s a 5k walk (crawl) through Disneyland and California Adventure. You do not receive entrance into the parks after the Walk, however, in the past, walkers have the chance to buy discounted tickets on the day of the event.

How to Register

Go here and click on Team Name and  enter Iron Jax as the team name. This pulls up Iron Jax in the search results. Click on the name. At the right of the team page you’ll see the active roster and a “Join Team” button. Click it.

You can sign up as an individual walker (no fee required but you’ll need to raise $65 minimum) or as a sleeping bear, which allows you to raise funds in your name, for Iron Jax, and take part in prizes. But you aren’t able to walk.

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Sponsor a Walker 

If you’d like to simply make a donation as a non-team member, click here. Full disclosure, that takes you to my personal page. Click the “Donate Now” button to proceed. If you want to donate to a specific person on Iron Jax, go to the Iron Jax main page, click on the Walker you want to donate in the name of and go from there. Please keep in mind to walk, a Walker needs to have raised a minimum of $65. Children ages 3 and up are required to be Walkers. Two and under are free.

Iron Jax T-Shirts

We will order t-shirts again depending on the demand. So if you want one, let us know.

Must Read

CHOC created two pages worth reading before the event. Please refer to these pages for any questions that you may have:

Event Information

Frequently Asked Questions

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Prizes

As an incentive, CHOC has laid out a prize structure which is found here.

Thank you for helping us keep Jax’s memory alive. It means so much to our family to give back to the community, and we couldn’t do it without your help.

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UPDATE – Jax Remembrance 2015

The Jax Remembrance is one week away. Here are the details for those attending:

We will meet in the parking lot at 10:30 am. (see image below – same place as last year, ignore those times as this image was from last year). Come hang out, bring some dinner or drinks and whatever else you’d like. The key is, bring your own stuff. I picked this spot as it’s far enough away from most everyone else and easy to spot. It worked out very well last year.  We used cars to block off a safe area for kids to run around, play, hit some balls and others to stroll around and talk without the fear of other cars getting in our way.

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So yeah…that arrow in bottom right, that’s where we’re meeting at 10:30.

We will meet between the two large Angel helmets at the front gate at noon with the goal to walk in together at 12:15 pm. GAME TIME IS 12:35. 

Tickets! Let’s talk about getting your tickets. We will bring them to the stadium with us. If you want to pick them up before hand, let Kristina or I know so that can be arranged. Tickets are $16 each.

Payments! Let’s talk about the Benjamins. If you haven’t paid, you can bring money to the game (check is preferred, otherwise I’ll blow it on beers and Rally Monkeys). If you have PayPal, you can send it to me at austin5377@aol.com. If you want to mail a check and need our address, let me know.

Questions? Let me know.

Thank you so much for this fantastic showing of support. It means more than you’ll ever know.

Jax Remembrance 2015 Details

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I posted this on Facebook but failed to do so here. I just want to make sure everyone is included.

Who: Anyone and everyone
What: 3rd Jax Remembrance
Where: Angel Stadium
When: 6/24/15, 12:35 pm
Why: We’re doing the Angel game thing again, since it worked out so well last year.
How: Let Kristina or I know that you want to go, let us know how many tickets to get.
Cost: $16 per ticket. Click here for payment methods. 

We realize that most people are working. Unfortunately, we don’t get to choose the times of Angel games, or else it’d be a 7:05 pm game. We are aiming to reserve seats in the shade, so we’ll need to get the Angels a head count within the next 7 days.

Thank you for continuing to keep Jax’s memory and spirit alive.

Happy 7th Birthday, Jax

Jax turns 7 today. I just got home from dropping the kids off at preschool, along with dinosaur cupcakes my wife made last night for their classroom. It’s a tradition she’s developed, bringing Jax’s preschool teacher cupcakes on his birthday for her class. Ellie and Gray have the same, awesome teacher.

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On the way home, Warrant’s “Heaven Isn’t Too Far Away” came on the radio. I LOVED it was a kid. I was 12 when it released and I MIGHT of danced to hit at a junior high dance. That part is foggy (too much aspartame). I thought about the lyrics, because anything with heaven in it makes me think of Jax. It’s cheesy as hell. But then “closer to it every day” hits. A moment later, I get this overwhelming feeling on repeat:

“I’ll see you soon, Dad,” Jax tells me. Three times. My eyes swell and the tears run down my poofy cheeks. He’s trying to make me feel better. Assure me that all will be okay. But I just feel more sad because I can’t squeeze him today. It’s his fucking birthday and I can’t hold him or kiss his round cheek. My stomach aches in despair thinking about it. A feeling of hopelessness sweeps over me. I’d really prefer to get drunk and fall asleep until today’s over. But then I think about that dead pigeon.

Actually death is typically a good sign showing us that an end to turmoil or pain is ending. This doesn’t necessarily mean physical death, just a metaphorical death. Perhaps you’re going through heartache of a break-up, perhaps you are struggling to find a job…this dead bird marks the end to your search and struggle. A new beginning is just around the corner.

I think about Jax trying to lift me up. Trying to make me feel better. I need to make today a good day. For my wife, for my kids. For me. I’ll wipe off these tears, jump in the shower and get ready to pick the kids up from preschool. As we did last year, we’ll visit the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles, which is where we took Jax on his fourth and final birthday. And then we’re going to meet family at Ruby’s at the train station in Orange, just as we did on his final birthday. And we’ll bring some dinosaur cupcakes and sing to him.

It’s a day to celebrate him, right? Not to lay/lie (I can never get those right) in bed with a belly full of scotch.

I reread my birthday post from last year. Really, most of what I wrote is what I still feel today. So you should go read it. Because it’s really good. And, obviously, there’s no new pictures for me to post of him. And there are good pictures there, so you should go look at them.

And think of him today for us. Talk to him. Send him some positive vibes. Because it’s still his birthday.

And as a guy that sometimes writes once wrote:

My love for you knows no limits. My heart aches beyond comprehension. And my soul longs to be with you again.

Love you,

Dad

Happy Birthday, Jaxson William.

Was That Dead Pigeon a Sign?

Last Thursday a pigeon decided to get super comfy on our porch mat. My wife was leaving to meet a friend for dinner when I heard a shriek. She never shrieks. I ran to the front and she showed me the bird. Our porch light is out and it was dark. She almost stepped on it, which would’ve been messy. We both had an eery feeling, mainly because it was dark. So she left through the garage and I hoped it’d fly away. It never did.

As she left, my wife told me there were two packages left on the porch, as UPS and Fedex often leave. I circled around the house and crept up the front lawn towards the packages that lay/lied/laid three feet from the pigeon. I cursed at myself for not bringing a flash light. I slowly reached for the packages, scooped them up and back peddled the hell out of there. Those Hurley sandals CHOC sent us for reaching a fundraising goal were safe!

Later in the night I showed the kids and snapped a pic and shared it on Facebook and Instagram, as some of you might recall. Before my wife came home I checked the porch and text her to let her know the bird was still there. She came home through the garage and I went to bed with a plan to call animal control in the morning if it was still there.

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It wasn’t still there. The kids and I looked in the morning. I started to turn around and close the door when Gray suggested we look outside further to see if it moved. Makes sense. So I rubbernecked out my front door, looked left, and damnit there’s the bird, face down on my porch. Directly in front of the window to Jax’s room. What the shit. Later in the day I shoveled the carcass in to a trash bag and dropped it in the trash can.

The whole thing is very curious. Now I’m not the most observant when it comes to birds in our neighborhood, but we don’t really see pigeons on our street. And how the hell does a bird find our porch and plant itself inches from our front door step? And then it decides to die right in front of Jax’s room? C’monnnnnnn universe.

My wife Googled it and came across a common theme about the signs/omen of coming across a dead bird.

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A new beginning, a fresh start. We could use those. And from this website:

Dead bird in the yard or on the highway – if you’ve seen a dead bird in the road or perhaps you accidentally hit a bird on the road, this usually feels like a bad sign. Actually death is typically a good sign showing us that an end to turmoil or pain is ending. This doesn’t necessarily mean physical death, just a metaphorical death. Perhaps you’re going through heartache of a break-up, perhaps you are struggling to find a job…this dead bird marks the end to your search and struggle. A new beginning is just around the corner.

An end to turmoil or pain is ending. The end of our search and struggle. I think we can use that. And here I was, thinking the only gift that pigeon left us was white polka dots of crap on our porch.

 

Just Love the Hell Out of Him

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Yesterday, towards the end of work, I came across a post at FanGraphs, the mecca of baseball statistics web site that ultimately led to the birth of TechGraphs, my part-time employer. Written by Managing Editor Dave Cameron, the post asks invites guidance for a first-time father on how to introduce his son to the beautiful game of baseball.

I read it, and just about moved on, when I got an itch. An itch to share my story with my first son. It ended with my face puffy (more so than usual, jerks) and trails of dried tears. Here’s what I wrote.

I raised a naturally left-handed tow-head with bright blue eyes and an even brighter smile. And by naturally left-handed, I mean I didn’t force him to be a lefty, like a lot of other parents in Southern California seem to do. He hit, threw, kicked and wrote with his left hand.

At about 18-months-old we got him a plastic tee, ball and bat – one of those Fisher Price things. Just before turning 2 he moved up to a smaller ball and thinner bat. He’d swing from the living room and run and slide in the kitchen. My wife works nights as a NICU nurse. When she worked, our nights were spent playing baseball inside.

He had a sweet, natural swing. Hitting always came easy for him. Before he turned 3 I pitched to him over hand, so he’d get used to the motion. I was going to make him in to a big leaguer, whether he liked it or not. Fortunately, he liked it. Up until he died. He drowned at 4 1/2-years-old at a neighbor’s pool party. Just a couple of weeks after finishing his first tee-ball season on the Brewers.

I grew up an Angels fan. I lived in Orange County and the friends I wanted to be friends with at my new school liked the Angels. It helped that it was Wally Joyner’s rookie season and the Angels were good. Really good. My boy was growing up an Angels fan. Torii Hunter was his favorite player. He got to see him one last time, four days before he died, when we celebrated his great grandfather’s Father’s Day at Angel Stadium. After the game he peed in the parking lot. As a true baseball fan should experience.

It wasn’t the same watching baseball after he died. I didn’t have my padawan next to me to explain bunt defense to.

He was really good. His favorite position was third base, despite playing with the wrong hand. I’m staring at a note his coach wrote him following the season:

Very solid baseball player with a great looking swing. Always very focused when in the batter’s box and ready to go.

At 4, he was one of the younger boys on the team. But he didn’t play like it. One game, playing the “pitcher” position in tee-ball, a kid lined one back up the middle in to his gut. It looked like it hurt. A lot. He picked the ball up, threw it to first, and then held his abdomen. Coaches went out to check but I stood on the side trying not to make a big deal out of it. He didn’t cry. Though I knew he wanted to. I had seen that face many times. It always ended with tears. But not out on that field. Not in front of all those people.

About the last 5-7 games of the season the league went to coach pitch, where a coach pitches softly to the boys. They get three swings, and if they don’t hit, they move back to the tee. Jax never swung and missed once. He always at least fouled a ball off. After my Dad encouraged him to find his inner Incredible Hulk (he was a huge Marvel fan), the balls started jumping off the bat.

It was a great, great season. That one season of his.

Dave, I just wanted to share my own experience with Jax, my son. Baseball was so special to us as a father and a son. Don’t push it on him, but educate he is willing to be open to. Get him swinging, throwing and catching as early as you can. Make it fun for him. And whatever happens, just know that your time with him is precious. Even when he’s driving you nuts.

Just love the hell out of him.

That’s all we can really do, right?