Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Remainders of Relics and Rituals

A little while ago, Christy wrote a blog that spoke to me, Signs and Symbols. It was about the many fertility talismans she had collected along the way, and how madeleines played into a moment of hope for embryos developing in the clinic outside the window and then fast forward to now, with her twins reaching for the very same freshly baked cookies, which resulted in tears. A hope manifested.

I don't think the madeleines were what brought the twins into creation, but it was more this idea of these things we cling to in our dark moments, rituals and relics that help us to see light at the end of this very long tunnel, no matter where that light ends.

I thought about all of my years of traditions and relics and representative trinkets, and how they are still sprinkled all around our house. I can't seem to get rid of them, and some I just don't WANT to get rid of. They don't hold magic, necessarily, as none of those traditions have brought us to our desire for a child, but they represent a different time and the superstitious person in me is afraid to let some go. It made me think on the purpose of these things, and how it changed over time...and whether or not they were truly helpful.

Some of our rituals were based in services -- acupuncture, yoga, Maya massage, wheat grass juicings. I am not saying that these things are not helpful to aid in fertility, but I know that they ultimately did not fix what was broken in me, and eventually became almost toxic. I couldn't sit in acupuncture anymore, trying to focus on growing my robust lining, because nothing was actually creating that lining by the end and all I ended up feeling was failure. You can only coax an organ so much and have it disregard your pleas for so long before it feels futile and like you are throwing money out the window. The Maya massage was interesting, but again way too focused on my uterus and my uterus just didn't get with the program. I did find that just plain massage was helpful and continues to be helpful today, as it has very little to do with encouraging reproductive functioning and everything to do with stress relief and tension liquidation. Yoga, too -- I love non-fertility yoga and have been delving back into my non-fertility-centered yoga and pilates blends in an effort to regain my body for me. Not for a fetus, not for a pregnancy, but just for my own health and strength. I loved the yoga part of fertility yoga, but watching what seemed like everyone else graduating to prenatal while I kept futilely making mudras inviting my baby to come hang out in my uterus for a while, opening my hips to receive what just didn't want to got to be too much. The wheatgrass was just plain nasty, although fresh squeezed with a slice of orange as a chaser was somewhat palatable. That one I stand by. My egg quality was always amazing with wheat grass, and while I am not a medical professional and can't back that up with anything but my own anecdotal results, if my issue was my eggs (it wasn't) then wheat grass all the way. But now it just tastes a little like defeat. It may be good for you in general, but it will always be associated with a time when I strived and strived to achieve something that just wasn't to be, not with my body.

Other rituals were things done about the house -- a hilarious turn with vaginal steaming that resulted in minor inner-thigh burns and a somewhat witchy smell to the house, an experiment with smudging that just made our neighbors think we were doobie-smokers (or possibly insane, or both), and the lighting of the red candles that could either be burnt out completely in one sitting or snuffed, NEVER BLOWN OUT. I have no idea why they can't be blown out, maybe cutting the life short in a violent way instead of a gentle oxygen deprivation? I have no clue. But, I bought a snuffer in Maine for this very purpose, that actually had a turtle on it, and turtles are fertility animals. Really, I think you can find support that any animal is a fertility animal, but turtles, along with frogs, are pretty well-known for their fertility associations. This strange ritual is a hard one to break. Not gonna lie, I lit some red tea lights while we were waiting to hear from our second expectant mother opportunity, telling myself it was just the color I happened to pick from the candle drawer but knowing deep down I was hoping for some kind of mojo.

Behold, the Fertility Snuffer. (I probably should come up with a better name than that.)
I went as far as to wear orange underwear to every transfer, because orange is the color of the Creation Chakra. If I didn't have any clean orange underwear it actually caused me a fair amount of anxiety. Originally I also followed advice to eat pineapple on IUI or transfer day, something about implantation and bromine (that never worked for me) and then a sticky bun on transfer or IUI day (for symbolic reasons only, no special compound there). I felt eventually like I was setting up too many must-dos for a day when I was supposed to rest and receive and instead I was finding myself the night before going, "Do we have pineapple? Are my orange undies clean? WHERE ARE THE GLUTEN FREE STICKY BUNS?!?"

And then there are the things that congregate around our house, that all represent a part of our journey:

A variety of things that were supposed to bring good luck. A mini Ganesh, a hope seashell, a blue star coin that also says "hope" on the back, an old carved wood elephant that was in the house I grew up in, a good luck elephant with a ladybug on it (two lucks for the price of one!) and a crucifix given to me by a coworker whose mother had it blessed by either a pope or a bishop for potency. A wonderful consortium of good luck items that sit on the windowsill above my mantel.
A cute little owl keychain that hangs from the lamp on Bryce's side of the bed, sent by a friend from college as a good luck charm, because I love me my owls (as evidenced by our nursery theme).
The angel that hangs from the lamp on my side of the bed, given to me by a coworker years ago. This one I like because it doesn't necessarily limit itself to pregnancy. The miracle to match my dream could come through adoption.
There's also this, a wonky little clay angel that may be from Guatemala (I don't remember, I lost the card) and was given to me by a friend who'd been through the infertility wringer and is now mom to two beautiful children through international adoption. 

Ah. This is an elephant teapot, I think from Thailand, that was the ultimate in good luck. It has the trunk up (good), a baby elephant on the lid (better) and is a teapot...a VESSEL (best). At least that's how I saw it. I actually brought this with me to multiple transfers, once with my host surrounding it and another time with a plate of pomegranate seeds in front of it. It is so easy to go down the road to crazytown when you think these things could make a difference. 

Now, this looks like a perfectly appropriate drawer of 0-3 month onesies, living in a nursery just waiting for Mystery Baby to arrive through adoption. But, the pink and blue elephant ones at the top (notice a theme?) and the jellyfish one were bought way before adoption, as yet another way to "manifest" a baby into our lives. If we bought onesies, and set them out on display during our two week wait, it would let the Universe know we were SERIOUS about inviting this soul into our keeping. Eventually, after showing our seriousness time after time and still being left with deflated empty onesies littering our bedroom and "guest room," I had Bryce hide them all until we could take them back out for a baby that will actually one day materialize, through a concrete process and not hoodoo. 

Then, there are the things that represent something more concrete, and by concrete I mean something that happened and yet was ephemeral. 

Clay star in front of handmade Tree of Life next to a completely unrelated sake set my dad brought back from Japan. 

The clay star came first. 

It was handmade for us by a good friend who is also an OB nurse, and who has made one of these stars for many women who have lost children at varying stages of development. This one represents our ectopic. It came with a letter that was amazingly touching and is in a safe place with many other letters of condolences, support, encouragement, but mostly condolences. It was to represent our little lost star (she thought it was a boy because they don't ask for directions), who maybe would be a guiding light for our future baby. That could still be, the guiding part, just through a different process. When we had our kitchen done and they were moving things around, Bryce was like, "YOU BE CAREFUL WITH THAT STAR! THAT STAR CANNOT BREAK!" It is a very, very important little formed piece of clay. 

The Tree of Life came from the same woman, for Christmas not this past year but the year before, as we were at a decision-making point trying to decide if we were going to keep banging our heads against our canceled cycles, or end our journey without using our frozens and move on to a more hopeful process of adoption. It could have been construed as life, like creating life, but it's also a healing symbol. The jade and the tree figure into it somehow. I like to think of it now as supporting new life, not necessarily life that I create, but life that we nurture. 

The most important representation is our little Buddha, my best Christmas present ever from Bryce. He was meant to go outside in the garden, but we are both strangely protective of him. He is like the little star, but for our miscarriage, our one uterine pregnancy that seemed so promising and then ended so abruptly. He is such a serene presence, a reminder of what almost was but also a promise of the parenthood we will have, some day. He, like the star and the tree of life, is not meant to bring luck but it meant to reflect on our past experiences that have brought us to this point. On our strength in the face of devastation. On our resolve to make this parenting thing work. On our continued fight despite admittedly very bad luck, one setback after another after another (and so on into infinity) to bring a very much desired child into our home. And no one has to know what he represents (although now all of you do). He's a beautiful piece of statuary, complete with an open book that you can interpret any way you'd like to. 

I love this guy so much.
In his natural habitat, our bedroom nook under a sculptural oak tree lamp and a reading chair.
On display, yet in a more private room than downstairs where he used to live. 
With the exception of the ones that represent an actual event, all of these items and rituals were things that I did to exert control over a process that I found I had ZERO actual control over. If I had been successful, maybe I would feel differently. Maybe I would think I had the answers. But I don't, and no one really does. Going back through old posts to link to about certain rituals actually made me a little sad, because I read through and was like, "oh man, you had so much HOPE, you worked so HARD, and it didn't end up meaning ANYTHING." You can read between the lines and see the desperation to find something to cling to that would help me achieve my goal. 

To be fair, these things didn't mean NOTHING. They gave me hope. They gave me something to focus on during trying times. But, just as a good-luck bowl of oranges placed on the kitchen table for New Year's will fester and sour if left there for months, they became almost toxic to me. These rituals and relics became reminders of how little control I had, and in darker moments, how much I had failed. 

The truth is, maybe some of these things are helpful. But some of these things encouraged me to cling tightly to a process that just wasn't working for us, to believe that if I just TRIED HARDER or DID MORE or BELIEVED MORE STRONGLY it would all work out. All of the things that were passed on to me from other fertility warriors were meant to be helpful, but when each thing failed after another it grew harder. There is so much loss in having the dream of motherhood for so many years and being met with empty arms every single time. It gets magnified when you think (erroneously) that somehow it's your fault, that you didn't do enough to manifest that into being. 

Making the decision to let go and move on to a process that has nothing to do with my body was difficult, in part because so many of these relics and rituals focused on the mantra DON'T GIVE UP. When people talk about their miracle babies and how that reminds them to never give up, it smarts a little. Because I didn't give up, I gave in to the realization that pregnancy just wasn't going to be my experience, it wasn't going to be our pathway to parenthood. I started a new pathway, one that doesn't give me the illusion of control. That doesn't have me analyzing everything I put in my mouth or on my bedside table. 

Realizing that I had no control, not really, that reproduction is truly a great mystery for as much as we know about how to overcome some things with science...that was the best and hardest thing to learn. 

I still cling a little. I mean, I did burn those red candles when we were waiting to see if we were chosen. But I blew them out. And that is NOT the reason we weren't ultimately chosen.

Whether we are chosen or not chosen will be dependent on nothing more than our book, our life together, and an interdependence between us and our future child's birth mother. No candles will change that. No smudging or steaming. And all the onesies we have are meant for a real, live baby -- along with our crib. When I spend time in there as we wait for updates on profile opportunities, it is not to "manifest a baby." It is to go in there, to meditate on where we are and how far we've come, and to close my eyes and picture the life that one day will be ours. 

These are actually recent additions to my collection, that live in my wallet. The owl charm was given to me by yet another coworker as just a worry stone kind of thing. No juju meant. The Buddha coin I bought at Christmastime to be a constant reminder that I need to let go of all illusion of control and live in the present lest I lose my mind.  

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Why Spring Break in Vermont?

My facebook feed is full of my teacher friends off in some beachy, warm location -- frolicking in waves, drinking tropical drinks, wearing Mickey Mouse ears. (My feed is also full of stay-cations involving day trips to Toronto, Niagara Falls, and the wine trails.) I get the pull of the sunshine and heat -- even though it hasn't been a super harsh winter like last year's, it does seem like winter isn't loosening its frosty grip on things quite yet. I've had a lot of flowers stop and start, and my daffodils are finally starting to bloom (but we're supposed to get snow Sunday). This is our last break before the 12 week stretch before summer, and many people were just itching to get away, to have ultimate relaxation, to feel the sun on their faces (and legs and tummies).

We don't do the beach for relaxation. We do Vermont.

Vermont? Cold, New England-y Vermont for Spring Break?


We have been going to the Inn at Grafton for years now -- we counted that this was our 6th trip this past weekend. It is the ULTIMATE in relaxation, and no bathing suit is required.

This is where we go when we need to be just the two of us, on our own schedule, which is to say no schedule. We eat. We drink. We hike. We play board games. We read. It used to be there was no cell service there, but now it does hold that distraction (but we try our best to refrain). There aren't any TVs in the rooms. There's breakfast in the Garden Room (which is like a glass conservatory), and dinner in either the Phelps Barn Pub (for live music and casual atmosphere) or the Tavern (for something more fancy). Lunch you're on your own, but there's a little cafe across the parking lot and they MAKE CHEESE here, mostly fairly famous cheddar. So that's in everything. There's also a little town nearby, Chester, that houses a very hippie shop that's a grocery/gift shop/cafe/art gallery in one, where we argue you can get the best tuna melt EVER (and they have gluten free bread). There's the Misty Valley Book Shop, an independently owned bookstore with a great selection for adults and kids, and often books I haven't seen elsewhere. If you stay longer than a weekend, there's Manchester 45 minutes away, home of my favorite bookstore ever, the Northshire, and a whole lot of outlet shopping. Plus some yummy Mexican food.

This time around we were just there for a weekend, as apparently they close for all of April (Mud Season, they call it) and were closed for all but two nights this week for a radio station convention/retreat thing. So Easter Weekend it was. No time for runs into Manchester, and we probably could have made it to Chester, but time was limited and Sunday most things were closed for Easter, so we made it entirely low-key.

Traditionally, we bring a small bottle of champagne and toast in our new room upon arrival, before dinner. This time though, we got in at seven because Bryce had just gotten in from a business trip in L.A. midnight the night before and so was discombobulated. So no time for that, but we did get a half bottle with dinner in the Barn, so the tradition wasn't completely put to the wayside.

You can't see the champagne, but it's there. I love the lights they put up in the barn. Below us was a two-man acoustic band that played a lot of Dylan, and Ray LaMontagne, and some old fashionedy country.
The pub used to be no go for me (not a lot of gluten free options, a lot of burgers and pizza), but they expanded their menu. I had the Lamb Shank, which was really good but also wracked me with guilt for eating a baby sheep. It came with beet risotto, which was very pink, and I made that my last bite because it wasn't lamb murder.

Afterwards, we had a bottle of Pinot Noir up in our room while we played Memory (the Eboo Nature version, which is very pretty). Memory is actually an excellent sobriety test. We followed Memory up with Scrabble Pod, which is a lovely fast-paced version with letter dice and only two words on the board at any given time, which really opens things up and you don't end up stuffed in a corner of the board with nowhere left to go. I don't think they sell it anymore, but it is a fun game.

Memory, all set up with our glasses in the living area of our suite. Yup, that's Bryce in my pastel pajamas, he forgot his in unpacking/repacking from his business trip, and so I wore yoga pants so he could be cozy. The sacrifices we make...
We slept in a bit, because Bryce was feeling a bit under the weather/supertired from flying and then driving for hours. We made it to breakfast at 9:40, which apparently irritated everyone since they serve from 8-10, and they don't mean that they SEAT you from 8-10. Which is probably something to clarify, "Last seating at 9:30" or something like that, because to me 8-10 means I can come in at 9:50 and still get breakfast's between 8 and 10. They were fine though, just grumbly at first until Bryce worked his charm and mentioned flying in the wee hours the night before and still being on California time.

After breakfast, we went for a hike. This is where the reflection photo came in. We went through the pond area, through the barn, across the babbling brook bridge, and up into the Alpine Meadow and then the trails around the mountain, which dumped us out onto an unpaved road that we enjoy hiking up (and it is UP) to the top and then back down again. This time we found a side trail that takes you by the stream and back up into the meadow. It was beautiful, and I'll let the pictures do the talking now...

The other end of the pond, and that picturesque-church-looking building behind the trees is not a church--it's the elementary school. Those two birch trees looked like werewolf teeth to me, or wild boar maybe. 

Could there be a more stereotypical babbling brook? The answer is no. This sound is on meditation tapes everywhere.
Bryce on the bridge, looking ruggedly handsome in his lumberjack coat.

Me on the bridge, facing the other way, reveling in my pastiness and fashionable yoga pants/fleece-with-droopy-sports-bra ensemble. It's probably an excellent thing that we don't go anywhere near the Equator, now that I think about it.
Halfway up the mountain, this pretty little rivulet crossed under the sand road. I have no clue what happened that the left side is all grayed out, I was bummed because it was a really pretty spot. WHY, phone, WHY?

Almost to the top when we see these alongside the road, what I called "very large dog with big claws" tracks but knew what they REALLY were. There was a lot of suspect "large dog poop" in the road at this section, too. The top of the mountain has a house with a great view, but one that's very deserted and you can't help wondering if you will get shot or end up on the business end of a meat hook in the stable or something. (The guy who lives there is actually very nice and a ski instructor, we met him in his pickup truck once.) But there's also a really creepy well up there, so his aesthetic needs some work. I was happy to hightail it down, but Bryce kept stopping to look for black bears in the woods and the trees, because he was EXCITED to see one. Me, I like my face intact.  
Lacy ice on the secret streamside trail reminded us that while it's technically spring, winter still has us in its grasp.
Emerging from the woods to a clearing, and apparently I've LOST MY HANDS! AAAAAA! Still rocking the purple-fleece-and-yoga-pants, which means the pajamas were mine again that night. More proof that the sun is not for me.
The boardwalk trail to the Alpine Meadow. It really was refreshing and the air was brisk but pleasant, so it felt like maybe Heidi's mountain air refuge (although those don't look like Alps at all), or at the very least like we should run out of the woods, twirling our dirndls and singing "The Hills are Alive." 

After our hike, we relaxed and read (and showered), and Bryce took a nap. While Bryce napped I read out on the second-floor porch, on the porch swing that made protesting noises at first and actually sent me to the front desk to make sure it wasn't just decorative. It wasn't, just neglected. 

Doesn't that just look like the epitome of relaxation? In the sun, next to the barn, in the cool mountainy air? Coffee in hand and kindle on lap? (He's reading Ready Player One on my kindle, which he borrowed for the airplane.)

Then we gussied up for dinner at the Tavern. We had a three course meal each included in our package, minus wine. We had so much deliciousness and pretty much consumed whatever was expended on the hike. Appetizers of amazing pork belly with mache and pomegranate bourbon glaze, smoked salmon with cucumber flats and some kind of cream sauce... Bryce's pork chop and my filet mignon, and then I shared the cheese board (all Grafton cheeses with apricot chutney, strawberries, and figs) and Bryce got a slice of carrot birthday cake from a sweet couple near us, so we sent them some port. It was a lovely evening, capped off by cheating and watching The Twilight Zone Season 2 Episode 28 on Bryce's laptop that he brought in case he had to work. It was black-and-white, so maybe it's not cheating? It's a great episode where a flying saucer crashes in the snowy woods and footprints lead to a diner where a bus has just stopped due to an unsafe bridge -- except the bus had 6 total people and now there are 7. WHO IS THE ALIEN??? If you haven't seen it, do it. It is fantastic. 

We clean up pretty well, I think. 
The next day we had a delicious Easter Brunch that was WAY more food than any human should eat. They also had mimosas and bloody marys, which we couldn't enjoy because we were about to drive for 5 hours and Bryce wasn't feeling super well at this point. (Spoiler...he has the flu now, and I'm pretty sure I'm coming down with it, too, just a few days behind.)

What do you do after monster brunch? PING PONG. It's not Grafton if we don't ping pong. Then, we went for a walk around the pond again, and saw at least 5 yellow-bellied salamanders, a boatload of minnows, and several squirrelly and obscenely giant-sperm-like bullfrog tadpoles. 

View from the pond of the ridge and the sleigh ride horse barn, not quite as blue-skied on Easter

If you look really, really carefully and closely in the lower right hand quadrant below the plant, you'll see a little salamander swimming about towards the midline. Bright yellow belly, but you can't really see that here.
And then it was time to drive home. 

Grafton is really a place that begs three nights, but it wasn't possible this year. We really did eke out as much as we could from those two nights and one and a half days, though. This is our place to recharge, to enjoy each other and our present two-ness. Occasionally we get a little sad that we've been coming for 5 years (our 5th visit was in June for just one night on the way home from Maine, strange to be there in summer) and we still don't have a baby with us. But then we think of all the wonderful things we do just us two, and see other families with little babies at the inn, and know that we can still do this (although modified) when Mystery Baby comes. The sadness is passing. Because in Vermont, you can drown your troubles and leave them behind with the salamanders...and just soak up the crisp mountain air and cozy reading time and be present in the beautiful NOW. 

Monday, March 28, 2016

#Microblog Mondays: Repurposing Baby Gear for the Sake of Relaxation

When you have no baby (yet) but you have a really snazzy diaper bag...use it for travel. Seriously. There are so many amazing inside pockets, so you just remove the extra changing pad and put it in your closet, and stuff the thing full of toiletries, travel Nature Memory and Scrabble Pod, magazines, your flat iron, and a couple of books. Worked like a charm and made me feel better because it was being USED, if not for the purpose intended.  That thing is comfy, too, which is helpful for the future when it will be carrying diapers and wipes and bottles o'formula and be balanced out with a baby on my other shoulder/hip. But why stuff it in my closet to gather dust bunnies in the meantime? Excellent travel bag. 

We had a glorious weekend getaway in Vermont, and more on that a little later, but it was just the relaxing, delicious-food-and-drink after hiking-and-reading that we look forward to every time we go. 

Here is a picture that sums up relaxation and nature therapy in Grafton: 

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

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Sometimes, My Gallows Humor Gets Me in Trouble

We had a Superintendent's Conference Day in February. These days are full of meetings and work sessions and things that are generally good for the order but not especially exciting.

The exciting thing is that we get to go out to lunch, which is a huge novelty for teachers. I rarely have time to eat my entire lunch in one sitting, much less go somewhere outside the school. So, when we have these kinds of days, we savor them.

We went to Wegman's, our fancypants grocery store, because there's a whole prepared foods section and everyone can get something they like in one place.

I got sushi, because this past year they committed to making all their sushi with no gluten ingredients. Their soy sauce is GF, and even their tempura rolls are made with a corn-based flour. It's lovely.

I wasn't eating my ginger at first, though, and this prompted a bizarre diversion of our conversation by a part-time teacher who apparently doesn't know my story, or suffered temporary amnesia. This teacher, who hasn't been pregnant in well over 10 years, started talking about how much she loved ginger when she was pregnant, and how great ginger is for nausea during pregnancy, and how it was life-saving, and then she said,

"Because I was pretty bad at being pregnant."

And without thinking, I said,

"Yeah, I'm REALLY BAD at being pregnant." And snickered.

My friends who know my story at a TMI level groaned a bit and one said, "Oh, JESSICA," but this is where I realized that this wasn't common knowledge because the teacher who was going on about the ginger as miracle cure for pregnancy woes then went on thusly, after my brief explanation that I'd suffered years of infertility treatments with no true success:

"I was told at a young age that I couldn't have children, that that wouldn't happen for me. But I refused to let it bother or define me, and so when the time came to start trying, I just ignored what they said and believed that it could happen. And it did! Now I have my two daughters."


This is lovely for her, but that kind of story, the "I thought it true and it happened," drives me batty. I could have positively thought up a storm and it wouldn't have changed my outcomes. Sometimes, shit happens, and you don't get a concrete reason for it...and you have to end your journey to literally save your sanity (and your body).

Now, I did feel bad being so irritated because later a friend let me know that she had had multiple miscarriages between her girls and had been through quite a hard time herself, but then she said, "But she has two children. Not that that changes things, but she does have her family." And I didn't know how I felt about that...does it make it better to have come out the other side with children? Does that eventual success lessen the pain of those losses? I don't think so, but having the "happy ending" does at times seem to give people sensitivity amnesia. I bristled big time at the philosophy that somehow she overcame her infertility through the power of thought, even if in a misguided way she was trying to make me feel better, or worse, give me hope for my own miracle. I do feel more than a little bitter that I tried, and tried HARD, for years and years and IVF brought nothing but loss, pain, and emotional turmoil. I am hopeful through the adoption process, but here I am, over six years later, and there's no miracle baby in my home, in my arms...only this ghost of a child in my heart. And it's not because I wasn't positive enough, or I didn't believe enough.

It was an interesting thing to think on: the differences in perspectives, the crucial knowledge we both were lacking regarding each other's stories. In the end, I just shut my mouth and started raving about some GF crystallized ginger cookies that Wegman's sells, since one of her daughters is also celiac. Then, blissfully, all pregnancy talk abated, and I was left with the feeling that maybe my gallows humor when it comes to our situation isn't always helpful, although it makes me chuckle. Maybe it would have been better to just bring up the cookies at that moment instead.

Monday, March 21, 2016

#Microblog Mondays: Saying No

Up until this past week, we have said yes to every profile opportunity that we have been presented with. We have yet to be "yes'd" in return, but every call gets us a little closer.

Friday, we received another profile call -- we've had three in three months, which I'm pretty darn excited about.

However, this call was...COMPLICATED. It was not a call-Bryce-and-formalize-that-we'll-say-yes. It was the first time that we didn't call back with a decision on the first day, the first time that we needed more time to deliberate and think and get back to them first thing Monday morning.

The thing is, with adoption, as much as you have to be prepared to say need to be prepared to say no, too. You need to know what you are prepared for and what situations just don't seem right for you.

I have a friend who once seemed indignant that we would get to choose, that there could be situations that we'd say no to. I'm not sure why that would be -- we are not in adoption to be saviors, and quite frankly, if we'd been able to conceive and carry, we would have had choices as well. For instance, I was on an asthma medication that was Pregnancy Category C, and my doctor decided it was worth slightly less effectiveness to switch to a Pregnancy Category B medication. I didn't smoke or drink when briefly pregnant. I knew a lot of information about all the players in my pregnancies.

I am not in any way judging the women who decide to place -- but as our agency put it, it is rare to place a baby for adoption when you are in the best of circumstances. Many expectant mothers smoke. Many are in need of medication that isn't exactly ideal for pregnancy. Many do not reveal information about the biological father and/or have an expectant father who wants nothing to do with the situation, now or ever. These are all things that we accept.

However, when a situation has a level of severity and multiple factors that we are okay with on their own or in conjunction with maybe one or two others, but compounded? You have to pause. You can't say yes to a profile opportunity to be nice -- this is your life. And in your life, the decisions of others impact your lifelong reality.

It does feel incredibly icky. I did not relish calling this morning to say that there were just too many factors to make us feel comfortable with the situation. I was incredibly grateful that they did not make me feel bad or question our decision, and the way that I presented it was well-received. I felt badly and a little selfish, like we have this amazing home environment and maybe we should have said yes because we could provide excellent future outcomes for a baby exposed to all the things involved in this opportunity...but those outcomes could still be poor and there were just so many risk factors involved that again, we can't say yes because we feel bad. We have a lifetime for us, for the baby, and for the birth parents to consider.

How does it feel to say no? Crappy. But also good in a way, because we have a great decision-making process to go through these tough decisions and make the best possible for us, for our future family...and hope that another opportunity comes our way that works all the way around. It's scary to say no and then wonder when the next call might come...but you can't say yes just to get something in motion. It is complicated, and difficult, but so important to be able to say no. And to keep the hope that yes is right around the corner.

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

Saturday, March 19, 2016

A Long, Hard Week

For some reason, this past week kicked me in the pants.

The weekend before was wonderful in many ways -- we celebrated Bryce's birthday, and really gave ourselves space to enjoy each other and time out to dinner and out for walks.

Friday before last weekend was an annual fundraiser that our first clinic has run for seven years now. It supports fertility preservation for young women (and men) who face a cancer diagnosis that could threaten or downright steal their ability to have biological children. It's a great organization -- they provide low-cost egg retrieval and freezing at a rushed timeframe before treatments like chemo and radiation begin. The event is a silent auction and munchy foods/drinks shindig, and most of the doctors and nurses go. We went three years in a row before we left the clinic, and then our invite went missing. When we ran into our former RE at Wegman's and mentioned that we'd still love to go, he thought perhaps we had moved on and this was a natural progression. Not so, although the last time we went was right after we'd transferred our patienthood over to the Buffalo clinic, which was slightly awkward. When we were requesting our embryo information for the embryo adoption process, I also mentioned that we'd like an invite. So, this year, we got one.

It was significantly fancier than in the past -- now taking place on the 9th floor ballroom of a fancypants hotel near downtown Rochester, with an open bar of wine/beer and a buffet of food plus passed appetizers. It was great to see people, but also difficult to STILL be sans baby so many years later. We shared our adoption process, and everyone was excited, but it's not easy to have to constantly report, "yup, still no baby after all these years." One nurse actually cried as she hugged me, saying, "Your loyalty is just incredible, it's amazing that you are here supporting this event." Hard not to tear up with that statement. Bryce didn't really know what to say other than, "we're still fighting the fight," but I felt like I had to say, "Oh no, we lost that fight hard, but we're on a new path." I feel like still fighting the fight implies we're still trying through medicine, and that's behind us by well over a year (although it feels like a lot longer than that). It was fun, Bryce got to donate a large sum of money courtesy of his company and CEO, who, after having a record month of sales, told each employee that they could celebrate by donating $1000 to the charity of their choice. Pretty sweet, and what a great cause to choose.
On the terrace of the hotel, all fancied up
Because we were so busy seeing all the people we haven't seen in a long time and looking through the silent auction, we missed all the food. The tickets to the event were my birthday present to Bryce, and then I "won" a Culture And Romance package through the silent auction, but we realized at 9:30 when we left that we were STARVING. So we capped off an extravagant evening with a dinner out at a really nice restaurant. I got proofed, which I still don't believe was sincere, but was a nice ego boost just a month and a half away from my big four-oh.

The rest of the weekend was birthday celebratory and fun out at our favorite Mexican restaurant, where we spent over three hours visiting with everyone.

In our favorite booth, all cozied up with the birthday boy
The week was full of arduousness though. Tuesday was my day of special education annual reviews -- the giant meetings with students and parents and teachers and administrators and guidance/school psychologists/social workers and the 9th grade building representatives, to go over this year's progress and next year's plan. I taught in the morning and then had 6 meetings all afternoon, 30 minutes each. Everything went really well, but Monday was a late night making sure I was prepared and setting up the room, and I might have lost it a tad when my bag got stuck in my locked door at 5...
Sums up annual review season pretty well. This was taken by my friend who was also there late, and thought my bag and jacket stuck by the door was just hilarious, and demanded (in the nicest possible way) that I lie down on the floor, which wasn't much of a stretch from where my mental space was. I still had an hour of copying and organizing left to go... long day.
So, naturally, Wednesday was spent in a fog of being completely exhausted from all that. If we didn't have a massive sub shortage, I think I would take a day after annual reviews to recover, especially since I didn't take advantage of my IEP writing day this year...there just was never a good time to be out with what I was doing with my kids and I used a lot of February break to write them anyway. Maybe there should be a choice -- IEP Writing Day or IEP Recovery Day. Ha.

Wednesday was also a baby shower for a teacher who is due not too far from now, and I have to say it was a lovely shower. Hard not to think, "Hmmm, mine was in September and still not feeling all that much closer to a real-life baby here mid-March even with all the recent, think of all the dust gathering on our baby gear..." but it was quickly tamped away by the joy and fun of the shower. I had fun picking out four of my favorite board books for her new family to come. It also helped that I bought a book for myself, ahem, I mean for Mystery Baby. If you haven't seen this yet, go check it out. It is a beautifully designed book with a great story of quiet transformation. The artwork is gorgeous and clever:

An inside spread, one of my favorites for obvious reasons.
Then, Thursday was Lucky's big day. He went in for surgery at 8:00, and I was a wreck all day until we knew he'd made it out. Bryce worked from home that day, and he called in because as of 1:30 we still hadn't heard anything. He was in surgery for nearly 5 hours total, it was a really, REALLY bad case and they weren't sure at first that they were going to be able to get all his teeth at one pass. Poor guy had an abscess on top of everything else and the teeth were just so diseased it was incredible and the whole room smelled like death. BUT, they got them, and he did great, and we picked him up at 6:00. He was super high on opiates, and ran around the house like a drunken weasel, but ultimately ended up being incredibly lovey and purry and happy. He must have been in SO MUCH PAIN to be so happy after a five hour surgery and complete tooth extraction. He's a little messier without teeth, but he immediately got the hang of eating toothless and has had an AMAZING appetite. I can only imagine how much his teeth affected every aspect of his life, that he is so happy and such a great eater now.

Nothing too terribly awful, just a lot of high-energy and/or high-stress events this week. It sucked all my energy away. I cannot WAIT for break to come on Friday, because I feel like I have been going nonstop since December, and I am exhausted. I need that R&R.  We are going to Vermont for part of it -- we managed to get two nights at our favorite place because of a spring special that they emailed after all the drama of trying and failing to get open dates with food options. It's cutting it a little close with some travel Bryce has to do for work, but I have faith it will work and we will have our little rejuvenating hiking/wining/eating/bookshopping/reading getaway that will restore my spirit after the craziness of everything recently. It will be a nice capper to these next four days of school that include another day of annual reviews for the program where I am the ELA teacher (those aren't as exhausting though, as I am not the case manager, just a contributor). Then I will be free of the school-related, vet-related stressors.

I'm so glad there's some great things to look forward to while we trudge through the days leading up to Spring Break.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

My Poor Lucky Isn't so Lucky

I feel like our poor cats are cursed. 

It doesn't make me feel any better about my (crazy) theory that our house is built on some sort of bad place, that there's some kind of evil force haunting us that brings misfortune to those we try to care for. (Cats, dogs, embryos...)

First there was Rocky, my beloved cat that met an inexplicable, awful end over four years ago. I felt like his slow demise was maybe due to some kind of radon or poison gas contamination, but that's not the case. Just a horrible series of unfortunate events. 

Then we got Lucky, who is an amazingly loving cat. He was a rescue, five when we got him from the local ASPCA shelter. I'll save you the turmoil of suspense -- he's not dying or anything like that, but he's also got some poor fortune lately. 

In the past few months he's been drooling a lot. And his breath is terrible. Our previous vet had suggested that we do a sedated dental cleaning in late 2015. That would cost about $800, so we decided to hold off momentarily and then get a second opinion (we hadn't been super happy with that vet for a while). Note: they said he needed a cleaning, he had some gum disease to take care of. THAT'S IT. 

This past Saturday, we had our new vet, who does house calls, come over and check Lucky out. 

He needs ALL of his teeth extracted. ALL OF THEM. 

He has stomatitis, which is this horrible bacterial infection in his mouth where his body sees his teeth as invaders that need to come out, like splinters. And so his gums have receded to the point that most of his roots are exposed, his mouth is totally inflamed, and his poor little system is just riddled with bacteria. His front canines are peeking out of his mouth a bit lately, making him look sort of like a kitty vampire. It was a little odd since I wasn't sure if he'd always looked like that and I was just now noticing it, but I didn't realize it was not cute, but nefarious. Lucky's teeth are actually moving and his body is actively trying to push them out. HIS TEETH ARE TRYING TO ESCAPE HIS FACE. 

We felt just awful. But also, kind of mad, because the originally suggested routine cleaning wouldn't have done anything. This was likely there when we saw our previous vet and it wasn't recognized. It doesn't happen with this severity overnight. 

Our house call vet referred us to an animal hospital in a neighboring suburb, or a veterinary dentist in...Buffalo. Oh, Buffalo. The nexus of everything that sucks our money away. However, the veterinary dentist does this all the time, and so we thought we'd get an estimate. 

Ouch. $2500. 

I love my cat, but our homestudy is coming up for renewal in a couple of months and that will likely cost the same amount. I was willing to do it, but Bryce decided to poke about and see if there was anyone else locally. 

And he found a vet that routinely does full-mouth extractions and is very familiar with stomatitis, and they are located not 5 minutes from our house! 

We had the consult today. Oh, poor, poor Lucky. 

His teeth are so bad and his mouth is in such bad shape that she is worried about the presence of healthy bone...the bacteria is attacking his BONE. He needs to be on antibiotics before the surgery because of all the bacteria, they don't want to suture up bacteria against his jawbone, and his poor system is just teeming with the little buggers. They have to get the whole tooth--deep cat roots and all -- because if any tiny fragment does the bacteria. And that can make him really sick. 

To add insult to injury, he had two raging ear infections, too. 

(Just so you don't think I'm the WORST pet parent ever, apparently cats are really good at hiding pain. I just feel awful that my poor guy is in so very much of it.)

A week from today our little Lucky will be getting all his teeth extracted, in a surgery that could last up to 4 hours. It will be less than $2500 and not an hour and 20 minutes away, but still quite pricey. It's worth it to relieve him of all that pain. My heart hurts just thinking about it. 

After, he'll be on tons of pain meds for a week, but he won't need special food. Apparently cats only need their teeth if they are hunting outdoors, for grabbing and shredding. They don't chew much otherwise and can even eat dry food with no teeth. And he won't look like a dried apple doll, because cat jaws are strong and there's no sunken-mouth when the teeth come out. Not that what Lucky looks like is what's important, but I don't want him to feel weird. I would feel weird if all my teeth came out at once.

But, cats are insanely adaptable -- just as they can hide their pain, they adapt to things like having no teeth. (Or, in Rocky's case, no front leg.) They can face pain and adversity and bounce back, adapting to their new realities, even if sometimes that adaptation is hiding hurt. Cats aren't so different from infertility warriors and survivors in that way.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Embryo Adoption Profiling Is Different

Tonight we had our Matching Consult with the Snowflakes program... and we are officially open to matching. Which means that now we are both able to receive profiles from prospective adoptive embryo parents and have our profile be seen by prospective birth parents.

The process is not exactly a mirror image of traditional adoption profiling. In traditional adoption with our agency, they have copies of our physical book as well as a digital copy, and a copy of our child interest grid. From that they match us up with expectant mothers who are looking for similar attributes to what we have, and we get a call ahead of time to tell us info about the expectant mother, her health history, birth father information, family history, and prenatal care. Then our book goes to the expectant mother and she either chooses us...or doesn't. If she chooses us, that's it--we're officially matched and begin the wait until the birth and surrender-signing when things become more official. Or, if it's a blind profile, she sees our book first and then we get a call and if we like the situation that's it, we're matched.

But in embryo adoption, it's different.

Snowflakes has our match preferences, so they will look for incoming adoptive parents who are open to donor-created embryos (without a successful cohort) and then see if they match our specifications. Our specifications were fairly simple -- we want a family that will provide these embryos with a good life, good opportunities, and who will raise them to be tolerant of other beliefs. That family might be a married couple who's been married for 10 years, or a married couple who's been married for 3 years (the agency minimum), or a same-sex couple, or a single mother seeking to have a baby.

After they find someone who meets at least most of our criteria and is open to our bizarre situation, we will get a call where they tell us a little about the family before sending us a digital version of the family's book, either in PDF or Powerpoint form.

Then we get to go through that slice of life, and I am looking forward to this piece with probably a little too much morbid curiosity. What will it be like to look through someone else's profile book? To determine if a family has what we want for our tiny progeny -- to decide if they are the right family for us, if they are open to the level of openness that we want?

That level is a minimum of letters and pictures annually, with opportunities when age-appropriate for the child to contact us or the family to contact us as a whole, later on. Contact in both traditional and embryo adoption is interesting, because it's something that can evolve over time. We want what's best for the child and what will ultimately answer his or her questions, fill those gaps. Of course it's weird, because we each only fill half that gap. Each set of embryos is only half of our genetic materials, and they aren't the same. However, we chose those genetic donor materials based on our own characteristics, which has to count for something, and we are the creators of these embryos...but not the entire genetic link. That poor future child, what a crazy family tree.

In adoption, there's talk of the family tree projects at school being limiting, because children who were adopted have branches, but they also have roots. I think both of our children, the one we raise and the ones who are very loosely once ours at a cellular level, will have family trees with roots and branches and grafted pieces from other trees... like a little orchard all in one. Maybe it will look a little like those espaliered trees that touch each other and intertwine, although they're not exactly the same tree.

Back to the matching process...

Once we pick a profile that we love, that seems great, but it's not over.

Next the adoptive family gets a copy of our Powerpoint profile and letter that we put together for Snowflakes, and a copy of our health history/donor history, and then...


It seems slightly unfair that we face so much rejection in every process. That a prospective birth mother has the final say in our match or going back into the pool, but with embryo adoption the adoptive parents have the final say in whether we are matched. I hope the approval comes more often than not, but it's going to be very interesting to see what happens once we have the opportunity to choose someone and then we have to wait to see if we get chosen back.

You need freaking thick rhinoceros skin for adoption, of any kind. This is going to be quite the journey.

Monday, March 7, 2016

#Microblog Mondays: Embryos Poised for Takeoff

In all the things that have happened with adoption lately, it has felt like the whole embryo adoption piece of our story has been languishing.

Mostly because the paperwork has been languishing -- specifically paperwork that has to be signed by physicians. It's weird to me, because it's the whole lengthy FDA questionnaire about travel, and not selling your body or doing drugs or selling your body for drugs (no worries, we're all clear of risk) -- but we're filling it out NOW, while these embryos were created in 2013 and 2014, respectively. So does it really matter what we're doing now? 

Anyway, the last of the paperwork went into the mail on Friday. Which means, once Snowflakes receives it, our embryos can be transferred from our last clinic to the Snowflakes cryobank, where they will hang out until a match is made. 

I have hated that everything has been drawn out, because I felt like once we made this decision, I wanted everything to move quickly and resolve these loose ends waving in the breeze, these potential lives sitting on ice. 

But I haven't thought about it much. 

Now, knowing that our paperwork should be received by mid-week at the latest, I am feeling a sense of excitement, or maybe more of apprehension. Things are in motion. The embryos will get transferred to a new facility and then we will officially have nothing left in a fertility will all be related to adoption. 

Soon we will be looking at profiles and deciding on who will be potential parents to our potential lives that we created but could not make materialize into something other than theoretical. It is a surreal, but exciting time. What a bizarre and yet amazing experience to be in these two places at once -- waiting to be matched with an expectant mother at the same time we wait to match our embryos with adoptive parents. It's not quite opposite sides of the same coin, but how interesting to get feedback and traction on our own profile book while we get the chance to review other people's profiles, to choose and be chosen at the same(ish) time. 

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

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Still On Hold

We were kind of hoping that transitioning from infertility treatment to adoption would put us in less of a hold, free us up a bit to live our life as is until that amazing call comes. And it's true, to some extent, but in many ways we are still stuck on Pause, needing to weigh every decision with the "what if" of adoption timing.

With IVF, it was impossible to plan anything. Vacations had to be planned around cycles, and in our last year I actually brought Lu.pron with me on a Maine vacation. It was depressing to have to find hotels or inns that had refrigerators in the room not for delicious leftovers or cooking sprees or even a bottle of Sancerre, but for injectible medication that makes you feel crappy while you're trying to enjoy yourself. Everything was "well, with this cycle we might be pregnant for that event, so we can't plan on it," and then it became, "Well, that event falls right after we find out the results of a cycle, and since it will probably be bad news, we don't want to sign up for anything when we'll probably be deep in a pit of despair at that time." We planned vacations for summers, but we never flew anywhere fun or exotic because we needed that money for IVF. And IVF is not cheap.

Then we moved to adoption, which doesn't have the same kind of timeline, and no injections (such a plus). Adoption has no protocol, no calendar with an end date. It's a big amorphous (and expensive) mystery. Once we were homestudy approved, we did not want to travel anywhere too far, just in case we got a call and had to fly back, or fly to another state, or have to go to the agency to meet with a prospective birth mother. The agency wants you to live your life, and you can call and say "I'm going to be on vacation these dates" or give the phone number for the place where you're staying so that they can reach you if there's limited cell coverage. So it's possible to live our lives as normal and maybe free ourselves up to take a vacation while waiting.


I can't help but feel like it's taking a chance. Like you could be somewhere else, and get The Call, and not be able to get there in time, or have to cancel a vacation that costs a couple thousand dollars just in time to spend a whole lot more money related to adoption...including more travel.

We had a vacation semi-planned for my break in March. (Insane that Spring Break is in March this year, but that's where Easter falls, so that's where it is.) This is the break where I can truly relax and enjoy myself, because all my paperwork is done.

It just so happened that Bryce was going on a conference that landed him in southern California, and the last day of the conference was my last day of school before break. So our thought was that I'd fly out and meet him in San Francisco (he'd drive up the boring highway to get there), and then we'd spend a couple days in Napa, at least a day or two in Monterey and see the aquarium there, and then drive down the coast to L.A. to see my dad. My dad who I saw in NYC this past April, but that was the first time I'd seen him in 7 years and it's been over 8 since I've been out to L.A. So this was a very appealing option. Also, Bryce's airfare would be at least partially paid for, since he'd already be out there for work. It sounded great -- a little extravagant, but there's cell coverage and hopefully we would be okay to receive profile calls and if needed fly back east.

I am terrified of flying, and so flying out to California all by myself was not super attractive, but if it got me to a fantastic vacation of driving down the Pacific Coast Highway and a visit with my dad, then it was worth it. Gives me the shakes just thinking about it, but I was all set to put my big girl panties on and do it.

But then... we got our second profile call during February Break, right on President's Day. And this expectant mother was due March 15th, which meant that if we were chosen, Bryce couldn't go on his conference and we wouldn't be going to California...because we'd have a little tiny baby to care for. Not a bad trade whatsoever, if it worked out. Fortunately, we hadn't booked anything yet, and we realized we really couldn't book a thing, not when being chosen would mean a high probability of parenthood over Pacific. So we waited, and as the wait stretched over a week we realized that even if we weren't chosen (which we ultimately weren't), it would be hard to go ahead and make those plans with so little time before. Plus we were smacked with the reality stick a bit when it comes to the fee totals not including our own attorney fees and travel costs, and all of a sudden a wondrous traipse down the California coast seemed more extravagant than practical. Especially when we also have that six months when I am on leave to plan for, too.

So we decided not to go.

Instead, we decided to go to our favorite spot in southern Vermont. I checked out their reservation calendar online and there were exactly TWO nights available that week. Sometimes they have more when you call than what's online, so I called.


Apparently those two nights are actually the only ones available, but they weren't sure if they were ACTUALLY available because Vermont Public Radio has booked up the inn for an annual retreat and so one night there was only the Pub available for dinner and the second night nothing was available, we'd have to go elsewhere.

Which doesn't seem like such a big deal until you realize that one of the many reasons why we love this inn is that it's tucked in a valley, and there is NOTHING within miles. There's one town with restaurants about 10-15 minutes away, down winding hilly roads, but otherwise you're going 45 minutes to an hour through ski mountains to get to other options. Which is fine, because there is a Tavern for fancy dining and a Pub in the barn for more casual dining and bar, and you can have your bottles of wine in your room and sit and read by a fireplace and not ever have to drive if you don't want to. There's trails and hiking and snowshoeing and snowtubing within walking distance, too.

But if the dining options aren't there, then there isn't much sense in us going. And it's going to be really busy... so maybe the ping-pong table will be booked as well and then we'll just be sad and hungry in our room, drinking wine and eating the cheese that's made in that town.

What sucks is that they decided that maybe they wouldn't have the Pub available on the first night, either, but they weren't they need to call us back. Which they haven't. And now we need to figure something else out, just a few weeks before we go.

I have a bad feeling.

I know these are decidedly First World Problems, but at the same time, I get so frustrated that we can't even plan a vacation without our family building efforts reminding us how stuck we are. People who insinuate that we "don't have kids yet and should live it up" don't understand just how this all works. I don't feel free to just go fly off somewhere and risk that we won't have the funds available or the ability to get where we need to be fast enough. We haven't received any last minute calls, but have friends who have, and in those cases the baby was either already born or the expectant mother was in labor. Do I really want to be snowshoeing in Vermont, with no cell service, if that happens?

It puts a cramp in my attempts to live in the moment, to shove those "what ifs" away. I know this is temporary, but it's been "temporary" for six and a half years. It's beyond frustrating.

Now we have to check in tomorrow with the Vermont inn and see if they will have any dining options that first night, and if not, we're out. And left to decide if we try to find another new place that has those features we enjoy, or do some sort of Staycation here, spending a luxurious night in a hotel with a restaurant and pretend we're elsewhere, kind of what we did for my birthday a few years ago.

I feel stuck, even though we could get a call tomorrow that makes all this moot. Or we could not go on a vacation and find that we're waiting another year, and we should have just gone and enjoyed ourselves. The uncertainty kills me. One way or another, we will find some way to make March break amazing for a few days; I just wish it wasn't so hard to finagle around a mystery.