Follow me on the crazy, hopeful, discouraging, funny, and ultimately successful (one way or another) path to parenthood while facing infertility.

Thursday, December 31, 2015

Looking Back, Looking Forward

I work with a woman who told me of a beautiful tradition she has for herself each birthday. She makes a list of all the things she has accomplished in that year, and then makes a list of things she wants to do in the following year. She celebrates what was and what she wants to be. This year, she turns 30, and so she is thinking of reflecting on the decade of her twenties as a whole.

I love this idea so much, and since the New Year is sort of like a birthday, the start of a whole new year, I thought I'd do it myself. (I also might do it for my birthday this year, since it's the big 4-0, and I think looking back on my thirties is going to be so, so much better than looking at my twenties, even with all the pain of our family-building journey.)

What I've Done in 2015: 
- We made the decision to start the adoption process. Which was a huge accomplishment.
- We approached the adoption process with a sense of balance and groundedness that was missing in our IVF efforts. We are significantly less stressed and feel far less personal responsibility for things that always were out of our control.
- I celebrated my sixth wedding anniversary with Bryce, both a personal best for each of us (not to compare or anything), and a beautiful celebration of six years of joy and working through the worst emotional pain either of us had ever experienced, only to feel closer and more in tune with each other than ever.
- We redid our kitchen, and now have a fully functional and beautiful kitchen that any person who loves to cook and bake could want. And we use it, all the time. (Which is why my pants are snug, methinks...)
- We celebrated a Christmas that was (mostly) devoid of a sense of loss, and embraced our hope for future Christmases that will look very, very different.
- We set up a nursery. A real nursery, that is almost-not-quite finished, for a baby that we truly believe is coming to us. Sooner than later.
- Bryce started a new job with a new company where he has more responsibility but he also has more freedom and far less stress, even though he's the Chief Technology Officer and so has executive stuff going on. However, the office is really low-key and un-stuffy, so that's not as hoity-toity as it sounds. It's been a really positive change for our household and especially for Bryce, who now has more stress-free free time to pursue other technical challenges.
- I began the National Board process for teachers. Unsure if this is a really great move or an unholy disaster given all the uncertainties we face in our life, but I have Bryce's full support (in fact, he pushed me) and a friend at school who is going through the process with me. So professional growth, which is good.

What I want to do in 2016: 
- I want to more fully commit to being happy with my body. To go for strength and health over a body shape that just isn't going to be mine anymore. I am feeling the dreaded metabolism-halt of 40 a bit early, and while I'm not too happy with my fluffy midsection I am trying to accept that as long as I am in good shape, I can dress my body as-is and be happy with it.
- Do more letting go -- of guilt, of hang-ups, of grudges, of alternate realities that will never be.
- Do more holding tight -- showing appreciation for all those wonderful people who support us, make us laugh, and hold us up in various and sundry ways.
- Be more organized, file more regularly, don't get hampered by the Paper Devil that tortures me. Pile Management was actually in my wedding vows, and I do take it seriously, but I need a better system for papers. And more bookshelves. (Hint, hint Bryce.)
- Write more.
- Get sucked into my phone and Facebook less. That's a colossal waste of time (although hard to resist the siren song). Maybe get a Phone Box for when I'm writing or reading. Phone goes in! Boom! Distraction gone! (In theory at least.)
- Become a parent. I realize I have very little control over this one, and I can resolve it all I want but that's been a goal for over 6 years and we are still just us two...but a girl can dream. Please, let 2016 be the year we become parents.

I hope that 2016 is a wonderful year, a year of hope and healing and good things all the way around. I hope it is a better year for those who have had stinkers in 2015, and just as good for those who had a banner year this past one. I have to say, normally my New Year post labels the last year as a stinker, and that can't be said for this past one. January was rough, but the rest was filled with hope and new adventures and acceptance and peace.

I wish all those things for you and more in the new year.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Our Adoption Photo Shoot

Remember how I was mourning my clever maternity shoot? Well, it turns out I don't totally have to let that go.

What's the purpose of a maternity shoot?

1) Show off the baby bump

2) Show off your love and excitement as a couple

3) Show your baby later how filled with anticipation you were as you waited for him/her/them to be born

Number 1)? Not so much.

But Number 2) and 3)? HELL YEAH. We have those in spades. And I really, really wanted an opportunity to have a shoot to capture our period of waiting, without a belly (one containing a baby at least).

There's a whole market for this type of shoot. You can look it up on Pinterest, and find a whole slew of ideas for a "Waiting For You" shoot. Be warned, though, even if you explicitly type in "ADOPTION PHOTO SHOOT," you will be sneak-attacked with people's pregnancy photos. Pinterest needs a better search filter, methinks.

I have always been keen on this idea. Bryce, not so much.

Mostly because most of the photo shoots that I showed him from Pinterest he deemed "too schmaltzy" or "too sad:"

- No empty chairs (Too funereal and ghostly.)
- No obvious replacements for pregnancy (Blackboards over the tummy area with "growing in my heart," or even a really cute idea I saw from a couple adopting from an African country where her hands formed a heart over the country on a globe that stood in for a hugely pregnant belly. These were deemed too much like pretending that you were still in a process that you absolutely were not a part of anymore, and so a little on the sad side.)
- No obvious replacements for a baby or an ultrasound, for the same reasons.

This presented a bit of a challenge.

But then again, not really. Because what we really, really wanted to showcase was how much we love each other as a family of two, how excited we are for the future possibilities, what we have to offer our baby, and mostly just plain anticipation for a future that's not just us two.

So I booked a shoot with the wife of the English teacher I teach with two periods a day. She is just starting out, had amazingly open availability, was very excited at the idea of the added challenge of a non-schmaltzy, non-"those poor sad people who don't have a baby" Waiting Adoption Shoot. She could come one week after I called her, and started emailing me questions.

Questions like, "What do you like to do together?" "What's your sense of humor like?" "Could you come up with some ideas for props/setups that you like, or some quotes?" "What are your favorite books for kids?" And so on and so forth. We were already impressed.

But then, then she showed up at our house a week ago Saturday and her Honda Pilot was a veritable Mary Poppins' carpet bag of stuff. She had so many props -- old suitcases, a rustic pine bench, an old school clock, a 30" square framed chalkboard and colorful chalk pens, a rustic rucksack thing, and a number of handmade banners. We didn't use everything, and we added a few of our own props. It was so much fun.

It was, however, the very first freezing cold and windy day we'd had in months. The weekend before it was 60, and this day it was 38 with a nasty wind chill, which made wardrobe a little interesting. However, it made our choices a little more...real. Which made the shoot more genuine, I think. I just felt bad for her poor freezing fingers. We did about half the shoot inside the house, so we didn't get hypothermia or numb fingers and toes.

One of the reasons why I wanted the shoot was for our holiday card. We didn't send one last year (although we have about 60 in the closet), and if you look through the last few years of cards you can see a combination of anticipation and hope and crushed dreams. Last year was so crushed we couldn't even find the heart to send them. The year before was a New Year's card as well, that showed a year's worth of fun things and silly things that we enjoy, because we totally thought egg donor was going to work for us. Ha. The year before was the infamous cats-in-bowties combined with our 1950s cheeky throwback photos in front of the fireplace. We sent that one to our fertility clinic with the message, "I'm not responsible for what goes on next year's card if we don't have a baby..." The one before that was an indulgent glamour shot series we orchestrated ourselves in front of a rusty barn by the Erie canal, because we felt indulgent and inundated by everyone else's babies and young children. (Incidentally, the picture of the two of us on that card was taken by a man walking by who just happened to be a photographer, and that is the cover of our profile book.) The one before that was pictures from a Maine vacation, and the one before that was our wedding photos. We've had a picture card to commemorate every year of our marriage. And this year, I wanted to card to convey our sense of excitement, and hope, and anticipation, and joy to be adopting. We do not look sad at all.

If you know me in "real life," please pretend you didn't see these, as we want our New Year's card to be a bit of a surprise and they aren't arriving to be addressed until 1/7/16...So enjoy here and then please turn on your Men in Black memory wiping stick. 

Here they are, the photos I deem as the best from our shoot. I was super impressed with our photographer. She did a great job, kept the mood light, and came up with some fantastic ideas. The shoot more than exceeded my expectations, and these photos will be such a treasure to keep for our FutureBaby to look at, and to chronicle this interesting time of excitement and uncertainty that we embraced with joy and anticipation.

We received this tongue-in-cheek "Owner's Manual" for a baby from a friend, and Bryce had the inspired idea to lay out a ton of math and physics books on the table, but the instruction manual is what's really causing agita and puzzlement. Abner has a cameo on the couch.
And there's both of us, terrified by a poop chart.
I can't remember who I have to thank for this book recommendation, but we just love it. It's also perfect because it's elephants, which are a good luck charm and make race ambiguous. 
Another "Wish" shot. I wish that you could see where it says, "Every family starts with a...Wish"
I loved this idea, although I couldn't seem to look anything but happy. Here Bryce is a little smirky and I'm trying to look like, "Argh, the waiting!" but it's hard not to smile.
I think we both managed to look a little more in character here. I love that the backdrop is my desk. 
It was so cold that my strings immediately loosened and so I had to pretend to play (because when I played for real it was just WRONG). Bryce wishes I wasn't looking at the camera in this one, but I think it's okay.
This was Bryce's favorite instrument shot. Bryce looks very intensely concentrated on his strings, and I just love what a violin does to your chin/jawline. Oh, the struggles. 
I really like this shot for the outdoor Christmas tree behind us, Bryce's more carefree look, and the angle.
Out in the trail behind our house...which necessitated heavier clothing. Someone who saw these "in the woods" shots said they looked like engagement photos, which I took as a tremendous compliment.
I love, love, love this photo. 
I loved that our photographer prefaced this shot with, "it looks like I'm in your personal space but I'm not really," even though she was five feet away. I have a slightly different idea of personal space (like in my lap).
This is my absolute favorite of the "in the woods" shots. I can even forgive my belly for making a bit of a cameo, because it is so sweet and really shows how much we love each other and how happy we are.
This series is my favorite of the whole day. I love the quote that I found, that Bryce didn't find schmaltzy at all, and hello...Carl Sagan! I changed "something" to "someone" because Mystery Baby is a "one" not a "thing," but everything else was perfect. 
The board is big enough not to be mistaken for covering my oh-so-not-pregnant belly, and all I see here is joy for an entirely different process to become parents. Excitement for the unknown and the waiting.
And, just a little silliness. 
Lastly, I lifted an idea straight from Pinterest, and I was not disappointed in how it turned out: 

Love this idea, for so many reasons, but I also love that it takes away any ambiguity of our process. Which is vital for our New Year's card, so we don't have very confused people who we don't see/talk to often wondering what the hell is going on.

A big fat thank you to our photographer, Kelly Zimmerman, who can add "Adoption Photo Shoot" to her repertoire and another incredibly satisfied client to her list. It felt so good to do this shoot, and even better to see the amazing results. It doesn't feel like a stand-in for what once was and was lost. It feels like a joyful celebration of our adoption process and our distinct BEFORE our baby comes. I will be so proud to show our child these photos one day, to share just how eagerly we awaited his/her arrival. 

Monday, December 28, 2015

#Microblog Mondays: Self-Acceptance



I was thinking on how Mel at Stirrup Queens said that resolutions are part of our self-help national culture. That everything needs to be focused on being better, somehow, not just feeling okay with how things are, as they are right now.

I am learning how to accept things for right now. Don't get me wrong, goals are great and I intend to set a few for 2016. However...it's arguably equally valuable to learn how to accept what is at this moment, who you are, what you look like, what your life looks like at this present moment.

It's not always an easy thing to do.

I have finally let go of any hope that I will one day be pregnant, that I will wear cute maternity clothes, that I will have a clever maternity shoot, that I will birth my child and have a story of labor and delivery (although that part always sounded a little scary).

I won't.

When we decided to donate/place our embryos, a process that has a ton of paperwork that we are still wading through, it made me realize that the dream of pregnancy was over. I had to accept it. And it was hard.

But I did it, and I am feeling quite peaceful about the whole thing. I can be a mother without rearranging my internal organs. I can be a mother and have it have absolutely nothing to do with my body. Given all our experiences, that's probably the best thing ever.

I am letting go of the guilt I feel for not pursuing induced lactation. I really wanted to do it, to have some level of the experience I felt robbed of. Except I am accepting that I can't be pregnant, and so I am accepting that my body has limitations, and one of those limitations is that it would likely be a horrorshow for me to attempt lactation. My diagnosis of PCOS can create breastfeeding issues for women who actually sustained a pregnancy and gave birth, and so faking that and tricking my body into lactating probably wouldn't result in nearly the meager supply I might have had before, and it likely would result in a whole lot more guilt and frustration.

Plus, I'd be doing more of what I've already forsworn: trying to coax my body into doing things it just does not want to do. I already have quite a bit of data that says that my body has no clue how to do anything remotely normal in the reproductive area, and I know exactly how that makes me feel. So I am letting go of that as even a possibility. I am going to formula feed, and I am okay with that. I will have a well-fed baby who gets skin-to-skin contact and fed whenever it's needed, it just won't come from my body. I won't hate my body for it because I didn't force it into doing something it in all likelihood wouldn't have anyway. I won't waste precious bonding time with my baby frustrated with pumping and low supply and all the emotional stuff that goes with that. And Bryce can feed the baby just as easily as I can, so we can both have equal bonding footing.

I accept that I am not going to pregnant, and I am not going to breastfeed, either.

I am trying really hard to accept my body. It's hard not to feel massively betrayed by its inability to conceive or sustain a pregnancy, and then again by its inability to be in any way regular after I stopped all the meds. It's also hard to realize that the wonderful, magical pound-shedding I was expecting after stopping all the injectibles and hormones that I was pumping my body full of...just didn't happen. It's been almost a year since I had any of that in me, and I did not lose hardly anything. My body just...is. Bryce wisely (or unwisely?) said once, "Well, you were in your early thirties when we started this, and now you're nearly 40. I mean, that's got to have something to do with it, too, right?" Ugh. But yes.

Now I am working on accepting my body for what it is, not what I want to wrangle it to be. I can hike and walk and do yoga and pilates, but I will never be skinny and I will always have my thick flubby midsection. I have to make peace with my jawline and my "at-risk chin" to quote Amy Sch.umer, and with the fact that I will never look at my stomach in the mirror and think, "that's amazing." What I can do is get clothes that fit me now, and do things like S.titch F.ix where I can try clothes on at home, with what I already have, and get some really nice-quality things that fit my body as is, quite nicely actually. I can aim to be strong and fit but not slender, unless my body wants to do that (it doesn't). I accept that our hobby of cooking delicious food is not going to help me lose weight. I accept that I don't want our future child to hear me saying, "God I look fat in this" or any other such ilk, because that poisons the body image of children. Bodies should be strong, and healthy, and it's okay for them to be in different shapes and sizes. (Now that I've set that up, I need to honestly apply it and believe it, for myself. I can apply it to a zillion other people but struggle mightily with my own body.)

Self-acceptance is healthy. Self-acceptance meets you where you are right now, and helps you to not always be striving forward towards a day that might never come, but here in the now. That's all we've got, right? The beautiful now.

Want to read some #Microblog Mondays that are, in actuality, micro? Go here and enjoy!

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Purging (and rejuvenating) the Baby Binder

In this beautiful lull between Christmas and New Year's, we are spending the day in our pajamas. Quietly working on little projects, reading, and getting started on some organization.

I am proud to say I wrote all my thank-you notes this morning, a new record of speediness for me.

After that, I had a thought.

Before the New Year is upon us, I should do a little purging. I have my baby binder, which I've been keeping for years and years and years. The problem is, it has a fair amount of pregnancy and childbirth stuff that is just not applicable anymore. The balance is definitely more towards parenting than pregnancy as I've added to it from the stacks of Parents magazines I've been receiving since our first uterine pregnancy (that swiftly became a loss). I finally didn't renew it this year. I have so many older issues to go through that to add more each month and NOT have a baby in the house seems downright silly. I do enjoy taking pages from my stacks, especially ones that apply since we decided we would no longer pursue pregnancy.

Baby Binder, pre-purge

The binder still contains a fair number of pages that are related to pregnancy and childbirth, though. There are pregnancy nutrition articles, prenatal exercise routines, safe medications for pregos, lots of info on labor and childbirth...and a veritable library of breastfeeding tips and tricks. There are also pictures of maternity shoot ideas (gone) and nursery ideas (ours is done, so why keep those?). I've been dreading taking those pages out of the binder and so I haven't, mostly because that binder has held our hopes and dreams for years,  which have shifted into new territory where something wonderful has been gained (or will be gained) but something else is irrevocably lost.

Lots and lots of things that we'd thought would be part of our reality, and just...aren't anymore.

In the interest of letting go of the past and starting the new year with absolutely no infertility stuff whatsoever, of having the year start with our unfettered adoption joy in full swing, I thought today would be a great day to get rid of all those pages that don't apply to us anymore.

It actually wasn't as many as I thought:

The left side is what was removed, the right side is what stays
In fact, after going through a stack of older Parents to add, I had put all the empty page-protectors back in, with new gems of wisdom. The binder is now full to bursting, making me think that maybe I need TWO binders -- a baby binder and a parenting binder.

Here are some of the pages I added today:

All really great stuff. This binder is like my analog Pinterest board.
I could have felt sad, recycling all the pages that pertain to an experience we know now we'll never have. I could have felt that loss all over again, like a ripped and weeping scab.

But I can't stop thinking about the massive amounts of pages that I still have and that I've added, all having to do with the amazing job of parenting that lies before us. All the milestones, and activities, and values that we can instill in our precious Mystery Baby. It way outweighs any sadness I might have felt.

The truth is, I felt less than a smidge of sadness. There was a slight twist of my lip as I threw all the unusable pages into the recycling bin, but moreover, I felt a lightness. A freedom in letting go of what will never be, and embracing the far larger scope of all that is ours to enjoy in the future. All the milestones, the scary moments, the frustrations, the crafts, the road trips, the beautiful kaleidoscope of the parenting experience that lies before us, neatly encapsulated in acid-free page protectors in my updated and rejuvenated purple baby binder.

Love the article I chose for the first thing you see when you open the binder. Incidentally, I've had it since the beginning.

Friday, December 25, 2015

A Christmas More Sweet Than Bitter

Christmas has been interesting this year -- we decorated and stayed home and cooked great meals and spent quality time together, and while we are filled with more hope than ever that we will actually meet FutureBaby sooner than later, there is still a bit of the bittersweet in celebrating yet another Christmas without a child in the house. Our 6th since it was physically possible that we could have had a baby by the holidays. At a time when everyone seems to be showcasing their miracles and waxing poetic on how special and uber-amazing Christmas is when you see through the eyes of your precious baby/child, it can open up that hollow space we try to fill up with hope and anticipation for the joys to come.

We have been making the most of our time just the two of us, though.

Yesterday we went for a hike in a nearby nature preserve, since it was in the mid-sixties (!) and sunny:

Out on the trail, I don't even need a jacket.
All throughout the woods, someone has placed ornaments. I wanted so badly to put a little light blue blanket wrapped around the base of this tree, which got a fair number of sparkles on its spindly branches.
Handsome, handsome man on the trail by the creek.
The picturesque waterfall. I can't get over how much this looks like March, not Christmas Eve.
Lone snowflake on a pine past the creek
Christmas morning, we woke up late. Because we can. Because, feasibly, next Christmas we will probably be up at 3 am and then intervals thereafter, and that probably won't change for a few years. We woke up at 9:45, which seems ridiculously late, but we had stayed up the night before watching When Harry Met Sally, which I somewhat erroneously categorize as a holiday movie because Christmas and New Year's come up more than once. Plus the hickory smoked Texas-style chili Bryce made had us up for a while because it really stuck to our ribs. (So yummy, but we still felt full this morning from it!)

We had our Christmas morning breakfast:

Strawberry-rhubarb GF pancakes, hickory-smoked bacon, and my traditional citrus salad that I thankfully made the night before because it involves peeling and sectioning clementines, Cara Cara navel oranges, navel oranges, and then cheating with pre-sectioned red grapefruit. If Vitamin C is great for anti-aging, my hands must look 20. 
We settled on the couch for leisurely present-opening, taking turns picking out a present for each of us to open one at a time. (Present-opening can take hours, not because of an obnoxious amount of gifts, but because we savor each package.)

All festive and coffee'd and ready to go! 

A few of our favorite things:

Hogwarts for Christmas! 
Every year, Bryce picks out books I've never heard of but he thinks I'll like. He carefully researches them and pays attention to what I've been reading. It just happened that every book in this year's stack featured red on the cover, which was hilarious. I am so excited for the reading time ahead of me! (And for Bryce's cheeky cameo)
A perfect picture book from Bryce. It's not about THAT kind of waiting, but rather a celebration of anticipations big and small, with beautiful minimalist art. It made me cry, just a tiny bit. In a good way.
Bryce with a signed picture book from his mom for Mystery Baby. It really captures all the things to love about Maine, and the art is spectacular. Mystery Baby figured pretty heavily into a number of presents, actually. This one will have a special place in our collection of Maine picture books that's been growing for years, before we were even married. 

 I got a little creative with gift tags this year, and as we opened presents I saved all the ones I rubber-stamped because I was a little ridiculously proud of them:

Fun fun fun, ignore the incredibly abused table

After all the present-opening, the many phone calls since all of our family was out of town (some because they live there, some because they went to visit out-of-town family), and another unseasonably warm walk around our neighborhood to walk off all some of the yummy food and wine we've been consuming, we made our Christmas dinner.

Bryce makes a duck breast that is ah-mazing, with a brown sugar orange zest cinnamon crust on the seared skin and a blueberry-port reduction sauce. It is so fun to see him at work in our lovely new kitchen. Having a gas stove really helps sear up that duck so it's a perfectly crisp and juicy crust. I made some beautiful red Swiss Chard, some of which was downright aubergine. It was so fresh and earthy and tasted great sauteed with butter, olive oil, and garlic. We had roasted potatoes with rosemary and thyme that we can still harvest from our garden at the end of December (unheard of in Western NY!). And a lovely dusty bottle of St. Joseph that we bought at Christmastime in Vermont in 2012. That was a little bittersweet, too, because that was the Christmas vacation where Bryce gave me our beautiful little bookworm Buddha statue that honored our miscarriage. It's all part of the story though, and the wine tasted gorgeous despite the grief we felt at the time we bought it.

We feel like this year is so different from the grief-filled, desolate holidays of the past, where we had just suffered a loss of one kind or another and weren't quite sure where we were headed, family-wise. Last December was particularly rough because we'd really lost hope in the process and were at that crossroads where we were trying to figure out next steps while still keeping our toes dipped in the seemingly-tainted IVF waters. But this December? There's a nursery upstairs, a feeling of hope that maybe this could be our last Christmas just the two of us (with a dose of reality that there are no guarantees and next year may be a bit more bitter than sweet if we're still waiting), and a sense of appreciation that we can have this time together in the meantime. We are sucking the marrow out of our wait, enjoying all that we can before our life changes dramatically, possibly at the drop of a hat (or a ring of the phone). We are feeling 90% celebratory and hopeful and 10% empty-baby-shaped-hole sadness. This time--our amorphous status, and the mercurial feelings of hope and fear that we cycle through--is a limited one.

So, join Bryce in a toast to the holidays and all the hope and joy and anticipation that goes with them. Merry Christmas to you if you celebrate, and joy to you regardless. May each year be ever more sweet than bitter.

Cheers to you, friends. Happy Holidays!

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Profile Call Information Sheet

I knew it would be a good idea to have a fill-in sheet available for when we received profile opportunity calls. I spoke with a friend who adopted her son last year, and she had great advice for putting together a list of categories so that you could just fill in the information for each call.

Somehow, despite having this information since the summer, I just haven't gotten around to it.

It makes no sense. I should be prepared and ready for these calls! I should have my little notebooks/hand-folded-and-stapled cheat sheets already in my car and my purse and Bryce's car!

But I don't.

I don't know if I was just so consumed with all the other adoption action items, or getting ready for another school year...but I just didn't get it together. And then we didn't receive any calls whatsoever, so I didn't feel a sense of urgency.

But then, I had my mock profile opportunity call, and the seriousness of needing a clear system for writing down the information was apparent:

scribble scribble scribble in my favorite purple pen
It was all out of order. There's things scribbled in margins next to categories I forgot to ask more detailed questions about. I didn't leave nearly enough space for family medical history and background info on both the expectant mother and father (although in the fake case, the baby was born yesterday, so they were actually birth parents). I went to find the list of questions my friend sent me...and they have mysteriously disappeared from all my electronic forms of communication.

So, here is my own list of fill-in categories that would be helpful for a profile call, in case it is helpful to any of you. It is fairly exhaustive, but I think better that than to be writing feverishly in the margins only to struggle to put it all together cohesively later. Here it is, based on all the information I received on our fake call. I realize we may not get this much information on any given call, or there might actually be more info out there, so it's a fluid document and by no means meant to be exhaustive or the end-all-be-all. Also, obviously some info is more important than others, but I was amazed at the breadth of information I was given in such a relatively short period of time.

Profile Opportunity Cheat Sheet

Date: 
Name Expectant/Birth Mother: 
Age: 
Race: 
Height & Weight: 
Physical Appearance (hair color, eye color, etc.):
Education:
Employment: 
Reason for Placement: 
Confidence Level: 
Family Support: 
Location: 
Baby due date or birth date: 
Medical Insurance: 
Prenatal Care: 
Exposures: (cigarettes, caffeine, alcohol, drugs)
Expectant/Birth Mother Health History: 
Expectant/Birth Mother Family Health History: 
Expectant/Birth Father Info: 
Health of Baby at Birth: 
Openness Preference: 
Fees: (total, placement, birth parent expenses, birth parent legal, agency legal, professional support, professional expenses, post-placement support, post-placement visits & how many)
Miscellaneous Info/Notes: 

WHEW. It's a lot of info. In my Word document, some areas have longer notes lines than others. In our fake call, there was very little info on the birth father. I suspect that may be more frequent than not, but I don't really know. So there's a lot of lines there, but that info came up surprisingly late in the call.

If you have any suggestions on things that I may have overlooked that came up in your calls, please feel free to comment! I want to be writing as little categorically as possible, just the facts about the individual situation. So much to sift through on these calls. I hope we get a real one sooner than later, even one that's not right, so that we can put my little form to the test and feel a little bit more prepared...even though the "fake call" was quite the educational experience.

FutureBaby, every day we're a little more ready for you and the unveiling of your mystery.

Monday, December 21, 2015

#Microblog Mondays: Faking a Profile Opportunity



One of the benefits of having an adoption mentor is that they give you really great advice you might not have thought of before. As in, calling the agency not just for random questions and updates, but with a targeted purpose. I had no idea that, as my mentor stated, "It is your right to call and ask about the profile opportunities that you were NOT called on, to see what kinds of cases are coming through the agency and why you are not being considered."

Mind, blown.

I didn't realize I could ask about the calls we weren't getting. So last week, I called even though it was incredibly awkward in my mind to ask of such things ("So, hi, um, what are you calling all those OTHER people about? Why are we getting left out in the cold? Is it something we can reconsider, or is it something that's just who we are?"). And I got the information -- it has been pretty slow over the past few months, although it's ramping up as of the last two weeks. There were a couple of things on our grid that were keeping us from getting calls...some that we can reconsider and weigh immediately, and some that require more conversation. I did find out that a significant factor is also what the expectant parent is looking for -- maybe a family with a ready-made sibling, or a family that's under 35, or a family that lives in a particular area (that was an actual case that came through recently). And families with certain religious beliefs, which is problematic for us. We are worried that the fact that we are not a religious family is going to make our wait longer, because if someone is looking to have their child raised with a strong Christian faith...that's just not us. And that is fairly common. That one's not negotiable. It's who we are. We did make it fairly clear that we are open minded and would always provide our child with opportunities should he/she want to explore different faiths, but we are just not a religious household. So that was kind of a bummer that that could have such a big impact on our chances of being picked or profiled.

As I was listening to all of the options, I thought...it's been a long time since we practiced profile calls in May, in our classes, in a semi-public setting in front of others. So I asked the social worker I spoke with, "Do you think you could call me with a fake profile opportunity? A sort of Mock Call?"

She didn't quite know what to say at first, because it's an oddball request. Maybe a little torturous, to receive a fake call that's like the call you will someday get that means your baby is forthcoming. But I wanted the practice. I wanted to know what I needed to put on my form, how much I needed to sort through, and if my notes would make sense when I reiterated to Bryce later all the sundry details about everything relating to a possible baby that could be our placement.

She thought it was a good idea, and agreed to call me Thursday at 10:20. In retrospect I should have allotted more than 20 minutes for the call, because it was eye-opening to find that the profile call could take up to 30-40 minutes just to get all the information.

I won't share the info she gave because it would link to our grid, which is private, but it was incredibly fascinating to hear the sheer glut of information we could be presented with, and sift through my initial feelings on things that could be problematic before discussing with Bryce. It made me feel more prepared. It made me feel a little terrified. It was a mixed bag.

The one thing I definitely came away with was how important it is to communicate with the agency, with the staff, and to ask questions, especially difficult ones. To continuously reevaluate the grid and what opportunities we would accept, what risk factors are okay versus too much to handle. It was intense, but it was an incredibly helpful conversation. It left me feeling so utterly supported by my agency, and so lucky to have so many helpful staff members to feel out these types of situations with so that we can be more prepared when THE CALL comes in (or The Call that's not quite THE CALL).

Every little bit helps as we wait in this amorphous space of hope, anticipation, and anxiety.


Want to read more #Microblog Mondays? Perhaps ones that are actually Micro? ;-) Go here and enjoy!

Friday, December 18, 2015

The Ups and Downs of Waiting Through the Holidays

We are staying home this Christmas. And so, we have a Christmas tree, and Christmas lights, and in general are feeling the holiday spirit.

Which is incredibly different from years past.

While we love, love, loved our Christmases in Vermont, they were our way of escaping a Christmas at home, just the two of us, no little one anywhere in sight. It was a way of creating a different tradition that didn't make us feel so sad and lonely during a holiday that is very, very, VERY centered on children. (And miracle conception to boot.)

Last year we didn't go to our Vermont vacation, but we did meet up with Bryce's mom and stepdad in Vermont since it is halfway, and that was quite lovely. We were getting ready to do what would be our final cycle, so the specter of infertility haunted us heavily, but it wasn't home doing the same old thing. And it wasn't at our Vermont haunt, where we started noticing the same families returning and realized that time marches on for everyone...except us. Despite that, we had a good time and it was nice to be somewhere familiar, yet different.

But this year -- this year we don't want to travel at all. There's limited cell reception in Vermont where we go, and I really don't want to put us in the position of not being reachable should our Mystery Baby decide to appear at this time. I don't actually believe that Mystery Baby is going to be a Christmas or New Year's baby, but if that were to be the case, I'd hate to miss the opportunity because we were tucked between mountains that blocked the signal for that most important call.

So, we are embracing the holiday. We are listening to my Christmas music that I love (and Bryce barely tolerates, but I get about 5-6 weeks of it per year, so listen we will!). Kenny and Dolly's Once Upon A Christmas, Elvis's If Every Day Was Like Christmas, the Carpenters' Christmas Portrait, the fabulous Annie Lennox Christmas Cornucopia, Frank Sinatra and Willie Nelson and Bing Crosby... these are all a few of my favorite things.

We are not shying away from the facebook onslaught of babies and children with Santa, of family photo shoots and cutting down Christmas trees and the cards that are coming in the mail.

Actually, far fewer cards are coming in the mail, partially I think because we did not send last year's. My people who are not on facebook don't know that we just had a shitty December, not that we decided to forgo cards (or their address on the card). I also see a lot more people posting things on facebook or sending an "email" card, instead of a paper one. I really like the paper ones.

I feel much less sad with the onslaught this year, because we are expecting, although in a highly ambiguous and amorphous way.

With one very big exception that hit me like a sucker punch about two weeks ago.

I have a cousin who is a nurse at a children's hospital. His wife is a costume designer/theater person, and she knew how to do a multi-step dying process to get his considerable beard to be snowy white, so he could be Santa for a church function. It worked fabulously. He made an AMAZING Santa, despite being only 30 years old. There were many photos of him in total costume, including some tongue-in-cheek replicas of the classic Coca-Cola commercials.

But this one picture.

It was him with his finger next to his nose, all twinkly-eyed, and the cutest little blonde girl on his lap. His daughter, who had NO IDEA that Santa was really Daddy.

That photo absolutely destroyed me. I just sat on the couch and cried, and cried, and cried.

Because:

- It's Christmas and that was a stark reminder that we have no child to place on Santa's lap (which is actually a really creepy custom when you stop and think about it, those kids who cry have the right idea and have very good survival instincts).
- We will not have a child who looks very much like either of us, most likely, unless the greatest of coincidences come to pass. It kind of opened that wound, as those family genes are strong and my child won't have any of it.
- He is 30. He is ten years younger than we are (an average of our ages). We are going to be so much older when we start, let alone when we have preschool aged children. It kind of sent that home.
- I just felt so sorry for us that we have yet to have a baby, yet to add to our family of two, yet to reach a milestone we so desperately wanted to reach in our thirties and are now either in our forties or about to enter them, and we still are not parents.

It was a comparison. By itself, the picture was sweet and brought a smile to my face. Within our context, it made me dissolve into a blubbery wreck on the couch, with Bryce perplexed as to why Santa made me cry.

It was the biggest down I've had this holiday season. It probably won't be the last. But the ups are higher than they've been in a long time. The ups have us ready to actually celebrate the holiday completely, to decorate a tree and imagine a wee person beneath it. Of course right now we just have the cats, one of which hadn't seen a Christmas tree in our house before, but they don't get as excited as toddlers do. We did have to put all our soft, unbreakable ornaments on the bottom, though...which I guess is practice for when we have someone else who wants to chew and climb and explore.

It feels so good to be in a place of unadulterated hope, in a place where we feel comfortable bringing back traditions that eventually made us feel sad, a little lonely, and a lot of emptiness. It's lovely to feel like celebrating, even if I don't believe that a Christmas miracle is coming our way this year. So much anticipation. Some sadness and loss, too, but much more happiness at this time that used to be just so, so, hard. I feel for those who are in the trenches, who are in the so, so hard holidays. I also totally recognize that it's possible for us to have a situation arise that would put us back into a more hopeless feeling, but so far we have been spared. Spared any kind of calls, actually, but so far spared heartbreak through adoption. We aren't naive, but we can't prepare for heartbreak at the expense of hope and joy. I refuse to do that with this process. So we embrace joy and accept the sadness that creeps in. We're just thrilled the balance has shifted so much more towards joy.

Please enjoy our holiday spirit in our Christmas tree, lit up house, and the lights on the shed that I've always wanted, and that in this year of hope and looking forward, have become a reality.

Such a pretty tree, nice and short so it looks like we have tall ceilings. Ha. 
Lighted real evergreen garland on my butterfly garden picket fence, the tree through the window, a pretty wreath you really can't see, and a hanging candle from the post hook. Love this season, all it needs is some SNOW.
I have always, ALWAYS wanted lights on the shed and on the Douglas Fir we planted to the side years and years ago. It's finally a reality, and it is every bit the way I imagined it to be. Makes me so very happy!

Monday, December 14, 2015

#Microblog Mondays: The Joy in the Wait



Everyone told us the wait would be hard. That it's full of uncertainty, that you second guess yourself all the time.

Now it's been five months and change and we haven't received a single call...we are just waiting, waiting, waiting.

Here's the thing, though -- we're not all that upset.

I was looking at adoption-related photo shoots on Pinterest, and there was one that had a quote beneath it:

"Find the joy in the waiting, not the burden."

We are doing our best to live in the joy camp (although a little nervousness about the possibility of waiting for a really long time with no calls is probably normal, right?). We are enjoying this time. We are using it to really nurture our relationship -- to go out to dinners, to do things spur-of-the-moment, to be romantic and live in this gloriously needle-free present. We want a clearly defined BEFORE and AFTER, where BEFORE isn't full of sad sapness and longing for what we don't have over enjoying this freedom in the time that we have to enjoy each other before AFTER brings us joy and sleepnessness and poop and snuggles and a welcome tectonic shift in the life we've shared for almost 10 years.

We do have strategies while we wait -- things to keep us connected to the process and give us a sense of we're expecting:

- We requested an adoption mentor to help us navigate this time and speak freely about sensitive concerns, which has been extraordinarily helpful
- We go to the agency events, such as the holiday party a week ago, so we can meet both couples who have already adopted and those who are also waiting...and envision ourselves there, in a future year, with our own little bundle
- We continue reading about and discussing different aspects of adoption
- We continue readying our nursery and "nesting," getting our home cleared of as much clutter as possible so we can make space for all the mats and pillows and toys that will fill our home with stuff (and joy)
- We call into the agency every once in a while to ask questions and get information and basically keep our names current, hoping that when that situation comes up that fits us, that we get remembered and put "in the mix," although quite honestly they are so lovely to talk to I'd be tempted to call just to chat (maybe, I turn into a blathering, blubbering idiot every time I call...)

We haven't waited that long so far, and while we are hoping we get at least an initial call soon, the call will come when it's time. When FutureBaby is ready to come to us. And man, will we be ready for that amazing moment.

Want to read more #Microblog Mondays? Go here and enjoy!

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Embryo Adoption: All The Possible Outcomes

Now that the application is in for placing our remaining (homeless) embryos, we are in a place of gathering records release information so that the ball can really and truly get rolling on this process. Which is somewhat of a chore, actually...

We had to the release form that required notarization from our latest clinic in Buffalo. Then we did Snowflakes' release forms, one for the Female Parent (Regardless of Genetics) and one for the Male Parent (Regardless of Genetics). I found that wording very interesting, because even though we are each missing the genetic link in one of the two sets of our embryos, we are actually the parents of said embryos. Because we are the ones who created them, who carefully selected the genetic heritage to somewhat match our own. While the various donors are part of the heritage of whatever child/ren result from these embryos, a baby wouldn't come into being without our own contributions and our labor of love to create these little frozen babylings. Even though it is confuzzling, it also makes total sense.

The problem is, the information that needs to be gathered is not all from Buffalo. Snowflakes needs information on the donor contracts, embryo culture reports, communicable disease reports, and cryopreservation. And Buffalo doesn't have all of that. They have the embryo and cryopreservation reports for the blasts, and communicable disease reports for me, but not for the sperm donor. Because the 2PNs weren't created at that clinic. They were created at our first clinic. And the egg donor information is all housed at the first clinic, although I have a copy of the profile. Lastly, everything pertaining to the sperm donor is housed at the cryogenics facility where we "purchased" the sperm pop. (I guess I don't need the quotation marks, because we did indeed Add To Cart, but it just seems a bit tawdry to say that we bought some sperm.)

So, apparently, we need to fill out forms for our first clinic and the cryogenic sperm bank as well. Fun times.

While that's all getting sorted out, it's interesting to think on the whole What If aspect of embryo adoption. Assuming that all the paperwork goes through okay and we can be cleared to actually donate/place these embryos that are the result of four different people's genetics, there are so many outcomes that I have had to sort through and think on, in terms of how I would feel...if.

How would I feel if no one wanted our embryos? 
I have the utmost confidence in Snowflakes that they will eventually find the right family for our little embryonic potential children. But what if it's harder than we thought for them to find a match? What if people get hung up on the whole THESE PEOPLE WERE NEVER EVER EVER SUCCESSFUL, WHY WOULD WE BE thing? Because it's not like we were concerned with proven material when we were looking for an egg and then a sperm donor. Oh yeah, that's right, WE WERE OBSESSED WITH PROVEN DONORS. We have the interesting experience of having donor material that definitely resulted in multiple pregnancies for different people for both sets of embryos, but neither material could make up for the maelstrom of misfortune that was my uterus. I really think that I can claim that the uterus is the common link between both embryo transfers, including our own, and that it's very likely that the culprit was my womb. Which is very bad for me, but excellent for whoever wants to take a chance on our frozen babylets.

Basically, someone taking on our embryos would need to be okay with risk, but also have uber confidence in their own amazing uterus. There's got to be someone out there like that, right?

How would I feel if no pregnancy resulted from either set of embryos? 
I think I would be sad. Sad because the poor buggers just didn't have a shot regardless of whose womb they were deposited in. But it would also make me sad because we would never know why they didn't work. Maybe it's just crap luck. But I would feel sad for us, sad for the little embryos, and sad for the couple or single mom-to-be who tried this amazing option and were unsuccessful. Maybe, completely illogically, I would feel a little guilty. I need to not, though, because people who are seeking embryo adoption know the risks involved like anyone who is going through IVF. There are no guarantees and everyone knows that.

It would still be sad. But I could be happy in that we did our best to give those embryos a chance.

How would I feel if a pregnancy and birth occurred?
Oh boy. I would be very excited that the embryos got a shot, and that it worked out for the embryos and for the couple or single mama who received them. I would be glad that we got an answer. And then I would be SO SO SO INCREDIBLY SAD for probably a fair amount of time, because it would mean that it truly was my uterus, and that I will never be pregnant but this other person was able to be, with our embryos. It would probably be fairly painful up front and I would probably need to call in sick so that I could wallow and cry and be puffy and watch sappy movies in pajamas all day (could I feasibly call that Bereavement Leave? hmmm...). And then I would be okay. Because somewhere out there, nope scratch that, out there with a parent/parents that WE HELPED CONNECT WITH OUR EMBRYOS, would be this child or children who exists because we created the beginnings. A child with half of us, or maybe children with parts of each of us, separately. It's kind of amazing and sad all at the same time. Like realizing that we could have done gestational carrier too late, but being okay with the fact that the person pregnant with the embryos is also going to raise and parent them as children while we parent our own child through adoption. This family tree is going to be ridiculous, more like a stand of intertwined mangroves with roots and branches alike all twisted together.

I can't tell you how many people have said, "Doesn't this make you think you should do/should have done gestational carrier?" and the answer is NO. We were never comfortable with that option. New York State is not friendly for that option. And we could do gestational carrier and not end up with a baby just as easily as any of the other infertility treatment options. We are so happy with our choice to adopt. We are enjoying this process, even though we are in the same place we were five months ago (but hey, it's only five months). We do not want to go down the infertility road again. I am more than happy to place these embryos and give another person a shot while giving these embryos a shot, while we go down our own path that is very different in many respects. I am okay with skipping over the pregnancy piece, even as a vicarious bystander. I am just fine with receiving a last-minute call where we go from a household of two to parents in 24 hours or whatever. It is okay.I have let go of participating in a pregnancy.

What if one set works and the other set doesn't?
This one is hard. How would I feel if mine didn't work but Bryce's did? I think I'd be sad. I'd be glad that the embryos that we created together worked, but it would be the final death of my genetic material. I'd be happy for Bryce, though. And it would sure be neat to see pictures of a child that was part Bryce. (And to be honest, the egg donor that was chosen for us had a LOT of similarities to me in terms of hair/skin/eye color, so there's that.) If mine worked and Bryce's didn't? I'd mourn his genetic contribution the same way we did when we chose sperm donor, but it would have a finality this time. I'd be happy to see a little half me in pictures and whatnot, but again we picked the sperm donor with so many similarities physically and in character traits that it would be a loss but also a close approximation. Either way we both mourn again, and either way we both would have a reason to celebrate.

No matter what the outcome, it's a mixed bag. Some happiness, some sadness. Some celebrating, some mourning.

We are placing our embryos to give them a chance, but it also has the side effect of giving us data, some answers on why we might have been so unsuccessful. If they don't work at all then we're left with just as many questions. But if one or both sets work? I feel like we could draw some conclusions from that. And, of course, there would be these children running around in someone else's family that exist because we made decisions years ago, and tried so, so, SO hard to make babies out of a variety of genetic material and so, so, SO much love.

That's pretty darn amazing. I so hope that this process works out for everyone involved, and that the best of all possibilities can become reality.



Monday, November 30, 2015

#Microblog Mondays: The Christmas Cards...

Last December sucked.

Royally, royally sucked.

We had several bad things at once: my cycle went wonky, my grandmother died, my cycle got cancelled, my hopes got trashed, I felt like everything was just going wrong.

And so, our Christmas cards just never got out. As in, we have a whole box of New Year's cards that CLEARLY say out with 2014 and in with 2015...and now it's time to send new ones.

The lovely front

I can't turn it, but as you can clearly see we were feeling irreverent, with a large dose of "fuck it'" on the back of the card. That's a glorious picture I took of Bryce, wearing my wedding tiara and his bathrobe, holding Lucky like he's doing a royal portrait with his Corgi or something. I don't know what we were thinking, but it is kind of funny. Also unclear why he gets to be His Majesty and I'm just Lady Jess, but whatever. I was feeling somewhat inconsequential at the time. 
We have done a picture card every year since we got married. It's like an encapsulation of our life together, and so I would really like to do one again this year...but time is running short.

I had an idea... pictures of us from around the year, doing things we enjoy, and then in the middle, a picture of us with a sign or a map or something that says "On the road to our baby through adoption!" or something similarly schmaltzy. Because, believe it or not, there actually are people who don't know we're on the path to adopting. BUT, we don't want to look like it is imminent or has already happened in some way. I like it, but how to execute?

Bryce's worry is that we do this one, and then next year's Christmas card looks just the same. Which would be kind of depressing, but do we protect our heart for an outcome that could be instead of being freely exuberant about our hope and joy? I WANT THE JOY. IT'S THE FREAKING SEASON FOR JOY. Maybe next year, if we're in the same boat, we could post a picture of me dusting the nursery. Ha. ha. ha.

I say we do it. We figure out the center picture and send them out as New Year's cards, a joyful way to show that hopefully this is the year we become a family of more than two.

Want to read more #Microblog Mondays? Go here and enjoy!

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Embryo Adoption... Beginning the Process

It's official. We made the decision. Our infertility journey is officially over.

Yesterday we filled out the first part of the application for the Snowflakes program through Nightlight Christian Adoptions.

It was an interesting decision-making process, because while Snowflakes is the largest and oldest embryo adoption agency in the US, there were initially some things about it that bothered us, mainly things that we noticed in their Placing Parents guide that they have available on their website:

- They are a Christian organization, and we do not participate in organized religion. Much of the political belief system inherent in religious organizations tends not to mesh with our beliefs.
- Their verbiage is heavy on the personhood concept...such as calling the embryos "preborn children"
- While in their own words, the Christian in their name says more about who they are than who their clients are, they do ask their adoptive parents to "be committed to providing their child with a constructive, wholesome and spiritual home environment." Which is pretty open ended, because spiritual does not necessarily mean religious, but does this mean that most people who come to Snowflakes are in fact considerably religious?
- There was a nefarious-sounding clause somewhere in the information (which I could not find again for some reason) that stated that adoptive parents sign a statement in their contract that says that they agree not to terminate the pregnancy for any reason. Which raised my hackles, because someone who is going through the trouble to adopt an embryo and complete an IVF transfer and go through all the medications and everything obviously WANTS this baby, so the only reasons why termination would come up would be if something went dreadfully wrong with the fetus or the life of the mother was at stake. I did not at all feel comfortable with that.

Things we did like about Snowflakes from their website materials:

- They are the oldest and largest embryo adoption agency in the U.S., so they probably have this process DOWN.
- They offer closed donation, but really embrace openness between adoptive and placing families (this already began to make me giggle a bit, because it is incredibly weird to be considered half a placing  parent in this scenario and also to be a waiting adoptive parent for an infant... it's beyond bizarre).
- All expenses are paid by the adoptive parents, so the only cost we would incur for this process would be the $150 fee for transporting our embryos from our clinic to their cryogenic facility.
- They even offer one year of free storage at their facility (which is nationally known) to placing parents while matching is going on
- We would get to be a part of the matching process
- We would get to know where our embryos landed
- We would get to know if a pregnancy and subsequently (hopefully) a birth took place
- We would have the option to get letters and pictures and see what half a Jess or half a Bryce would look like
- They accept embryos created with donor material
- They do everything possible to find a home for all embryos, due in part to their belief system, which is great and makes us feel better for sure.

The positives initially way outweighed the negatives, at least enough to place a call and get more information.

The whole thing is kind of a mindfuck, to be honest, on many counts. First of all, it's very interesting to deeply explore my thoughts regarding these embryos. I am totally against personhood legislation, because of its impacts on IVF and some contraception and early terminations. I am staunchly pro-choice. But this isn't a blanket choice, this is OUR choice. And we would not enforce OUR choice on anyone else, so we feel okay with our shifting between dichotomies on this one. Bryce and I had a whole long conversation about life beginning vs personhood beginning. When does a fetus deserve rights? It is a STICKY STICKY WICKET. I do not believe that our embryos are people with the same rights as fully formed humans. However, I do not believe that they are merely a "clump of cells," either. I believe that they are POTENTIAL people. I believe that these embryos were expressly created by us (and donor helpers and a zillion medical professionals) for the purpose of becoming future people. If I believed that embryos were just a cellular cluster, then why on earth would I be so gutted and devastated when those clusters failed? They were potential children. For us, they were the only children we had, these photos of clusters of cellular materials.

And so, for us, embryo adoption was the best choice...because it eliminates mystery. Just to clarify, for my purposes I am considering embryo donation an anonymous thing not requiring a home study or matching process, done through clinics. Embryo adoption has a level of openness, looks remarkably like traditional adoption since adopting parents must complete a homestudy and provide a profile, and we as placing parents choose who the embryos will go to. It's really strange, the parallels in the process for a potential baby vs an external living baby. It does consider personhood in it, which makes me feel squeegy, but for us personally the KNOWING is the piece to adoption that is missing in donation. You may feel differently about these processes, and feel free to add your thoughts in the comments (respectfully of course), but this is how I'm wrapping my head around this situation.

I couldn't donate my embryos and not know where they went. I couldn't always wonder if they were successful or not, if they resulted in a baby. I need to know. There's a funny connection there through biology (well, in half of the embryos anyway), and it would drive me crazy not knowing.

With the decision to look into Snowflakes further made, I called with a list of questions:

- Your materials really speak to people who have "completed their family" through IVF. Do you accept embryos from couples who did not find success? No success in the cohort at all?
- Will you accept 2PN embryos?
- We saw that you take single women as clients, does your religious bearing prevent you from placing to same-sex couples if we wished to have that as an option?
- What is with this contract clause about termination? How on earth is that even remotely enforceable?
- Are you okay with not just donor material-created embryos, but two sets of genetically unrelated embryos, one with my eggs and donor sperm and the other with donor eggs and my husband's sperm?

Heavy stuff, no?

I had a lengthy conversation with an Education Coordinator and Fertility Clinic Liaison, who intelligently answered all my questions and did a little further digging to get more specific answers. It was a hard conversation to have without crying, because my god, to relay our story for the umpteenth time never gets any easier.

Answers:

-They do take embryos from people who have not been successful, but rarely.
-They don't have much experience at all with placing embryos for a couple who used two types of donor materials for two sets of embryos and are themselves in the adoption process. She wasn't sure if they'd EVER had this particular complexity. (And then she took our case so that we won't have to tell our story over and over, for which I am incredibly grateful.)
-Yup, they take 2PNs.
-They do consider same-sex couples, but they don't advertise it, and there are not a whole lot of adoptive families in this camp, but we could certainly specify our openness in this area.
-No, the termination clause is not truly legally enforceable, and it is mostly in place to heavily discourage selective reduction. They heavily recommend only 1-2 embryos per transfer for this reason. If a medical situation came up (which they stated that it hasn't to their knowledge), of course there would be options and the people most enforcing things would be us as the placing parents. Which of course we wouldn't enforce, not for a second. They do counsel adoptive families on this clause, and if they are uncomfortable with it they have altered it to exempt situations where the mother's life was at risk, and if clients STILL were uncomfortable they directed them towards other agency choices. (I was okay with this.)
-The non-genetically related sets of embryos coming from one placing parent was interesting. They will absolutely be fine with that, and it helps that they are both housed in the same clinic currently and we have all the information possible on both donors (but admittedly far less on the egg donor's side than the sperm donor's side).

And so, we felt comfortable enough to start the process.

We filled out YET ANOTHER online application that included our sordid history with IVF treatments. It never gets less sobering to see 10 transfers, 3 cancellations, 27 embryos transferred, 2 pregnancies, no births. ZERO children. There wasn't a place to put that we are in the adoption process and so we are actually expecting in our own right.

And now, we wait for the next step. I am so relieved to have the decision done, to put the waffling part of this to bed. I am not a person to delay a decision, to take a break, because my mind perseverates and perseverates and it is SO much easier for me to just rip the damn bandaid off. And it's so ripped. Wheels are in motion.

It's kind of exciting, actually, to think that we are giving these embryos a shot that they really never had in my uterus. I am sad, of course, but the closure on our end of the process is incredibly liberating. WE ARE DONE WITH IVF. I CAN MAKE PEACE WITH NEVER BEING PREGNANT. And, there's hope that in some weird way our genetics will live on elsewhere, and we get to know about it. Maybe. If it works. All those possibilities are a topic for a different post.

I can't say enough how much relief I feel in having this lengthy decision-making process done. It is fascinating to me that in choosing this option, we may have more of an extended family than we ever imagined. We'll have a child with a birth family, and then we'll have these other children out there that exist because we created their embryos once upon a time. Yeah, the whole thing is surreal. Yet at the same time, oddly beautiful in its complexity. How interesting it will be to watch it all unfold.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Thanksgiving Thoughts

Thanksgiving can be a tough holiday. It is fairly easy to celebrate if everything is going relatively well in your life -- if you have the family you desire, you haven't recently lost a loved one, you have a home and a job and a life that you're feeling pretty darn good about.

But if you're in the middle of turmoil, if you're experiencing loss of any kind -- loss of a spouse, loss of a father or mother, loss of a job, loss of a relationship, loss of a pregnancy, loss of a child, loss of a dream you've worked so hard to achieve -- it can be extraordinarily difficult to face the onslaught of thankfulness, the onslaught of "at leasts" that come to your door.

At least you have your health.
At least you have your children.
At least you have your husband/wife/partner.
At least you have your job.
At least you have a warm place to live and a belly full of food every day.

These "at leasts" are important, for sure, because not everyone has those, but it can feel like a slap in the face to be dealing with your own personal tragedy and have thankfulness foisted upon you. I feel that there's room at the Thanksgiving table for the traditional acknowledging what you have, but also for acknowledging your losses. They seem magnified at times of gratitude. It is so important to be given space to reflect not only on what you are so fortunate to have, whatever that may be, but to recognize that these things exist IN TANDEM with the empty holes, the things that on a good day can make you feel sad and on a bad day can push you down into a pit of despair.

It's a balance. You cannot have happiness without sadness, which is one of my favorite parts of the movie Insi.de Out. It would be disingenuous to gloss over all the losses that make you the person you are. At the same time, having something positive to hang on to can keep you from mouldering down in that pit of despair forever.

But in order to heal, you pretty much need to acknowledge that pit. You need to spend at least a little time reflecting on the deep hole of sadness, the feelings of emptiness, in order to get back up into the light. You can't have the light without the dark.

I have been in that pit, more than once. I have felt hopelessness, and emptiness, and a feeling that nothing would ever be right or good again. And when you are dropped in that pit, there's nothing that can really convince you that you shouldn't just stay a little longer, lie on the rotted-leaf-strewn floor, and just watch all the light and happiness pass you by through the pinprick of light at the top of your pit.

There is light at the top of the pit, though, and one day it will seem possible to crawl out. Crawling out requires two things.

The first is acknowledging the things that put you in that pit. For me:

It was harder than I ever imagined to try to get pregnant.
I only got pregnant twice and once was in the wrong spot and the other was a devastating miscarriage.
Even an egg donor whose every cycle before me worked, DID NOT work for me.
Even switching to a new clinic and trying donor sperm, from a donor who also had many pregnancies result from his contribution, DID NOT work for me.
My uterus kept me from transferring my frozen embryos.
My uterus is probably the culprit after all...which means I am probably the ultimate reason for our IVF failure.
I don't want to go through all that any more, and it's really not good for my health (physically or mentally) to put myself back into that cycle of failure and pain, so....
...I will never, ever be pregnant again.
Ever.
And now I have homeless embryos to contend with.

On the other side of the pit are all the reasons to crawl out, all the positives to be thankful for:

I have an amazing husband who loves me so completely that I'm not quite sure I deserve it.
We have gone through this journey together, and come out of it knowing we can tackle anything life decides to throw at us (but would appreciate less throwing, please).
We are going to be parents -- it may take longer than we hope, but adoption will bring us our Mystery Baby and we will have the joy we've been striving for for so long.
I have an amazing counselor who helps me muddle through all the various feels that come with all these experiences and decisions.
I have a wonderful family who supports us and is there for us in good times and in sad.
I have incredible friends who are there when I need to cry, but also there when it's time to celebrate our impending joy.
I have the unbelievable support of an online community that completely gets the cycle of happiness and loss, emptiness and hope.
I have a job I love and amazing support in my administration (both building and district) and my coworkers as we work through our shifting family dynamics.
We have options for our embryos that we feel comfortable and at peace with.
We have options ahead of us to help us put broken pieces together and make sense of all we've been through, so that we can move forward and be the best family we can for Mystery Baby.
We will be parents sooner than later.
We WILL be parents.
The countdown has begun.

Looking at the two sides, I sure do have  a lot to be thankful for. But I also have a lot of loss to reflect on. They both have a place today. I am breathless and sweaty, sitting on the lip of my pit. I could fall back in again, but I have all these handholds that can help me get back out.

And I am so, so thankful for that.

I wish you a very happy Thanksgiving, wherever you are. I hope that whether you're deep in your pit, climbing out, or reflecting on what a crazy journey that whole adventure was from the surface, that you have the space to feel both your joys and your losses today. That no one forces you to feel thankful if you're not in the right place for it.

May every day bring you more to be thankful for.