Monday, May 30, 2016

#Microblog Mondays: Mail Mismatch

I got this in the mail the other day:

I love the bolded text in the middle: We value your experience as a parent. Ha, my EXPERIENCE, as a PARENT.

Earlier in our experience, I started receiving all kinds of interesting flyers and things because I had signed up for American Baby, a free magazine for pregnant women/early motherhood, when we were in the early stages of infertility treatment. I thought it would be a fun sneak peek, until they used my fake due date (an actual due date for our mid-IVF "what the hey" IUI) to create a "Just for you!" section that chronicled "my" pregnancy and baby's developmental milestones. Unintended consequences, and I wasn't sad when the subscription ended.

This survey opportunity is coming to me because we registered for baby gear through the BBB superstore, as well as a zillion coupons for formula.

Coupons which are rapidly expiring and we still don't have a baby.

A survey about how I am feeding my fictitious baby, a survey I am unable to complete at this time.

I also received the Father's Day issue of Parent magazine, which I've received for 5 years now, because they are the parent publication of American Baby and I kept getting offers for a year for $1. How do you say no to that?

I am going to be REALLY PREPARED when Mystery Baby finally comes. I have been studying for YEARS.

And, I can laugh about it. I didn't cry when I got the survey, I took a picture. Because it's funny in a way, and I wonder what all these marketers are going to do when we finally do have a baby. I hope they have a lot of coupons lined up for us... I guess my mail's demographic doesn't quite match with my reality. Not yet, anyway.

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

Sunday, May 29, 2016

I Want To See My Story

Social media (okay, Facebo.ok, I am not on any other social media other than Pint.erest) seems to be exploding with beautiful, thoughtful posts about infertility. I have seen a man's perspective on his fertility journey with his wife, I have seen a fertility doctor write about what it was like to also be a fertility patient and move through her journey, I have seen so many women write about the pain and effort to conceive a baby.

It is so important that these stories are out there, "normalizing" the experience that so many of us have, putting it all out there -- the collection cups, the nightly injections, the cycles of hopes and dashed dreams, the conflicted feelings when others get pregnant around you and you're still sticking your butt with an inch and a half needle filled with progesterone in oil.

The only thing is, the stories I am seeing (and maybe this is just my feed, which is filled with fellow fertility warriors who "won") are those where at the end, everything comes together. The journey is hard, the losses and setbacks and side effects from various infertility treatments are hard. But in the end of EVERY SINGLE ONE OF THESE STORIES, they get the prize. The positive test. The sac with something in it. The rapid fluttery heartbeat. The story ends with a pregnancy, a baby, an "and then it all worked out and was totally worth it and we were so happy we could burst."

I know this is a fairly common story. I am not denigrating it. It's a beautiful story.

It's just not mine.

I want a story where the journey is hard, and the losses and setbacks and side effects and people passing you by on the pregnancy train all happen, and YOU DON'T GET PREGNANT. I want a story where in the end, you decide to end treatment and never get to see a grainy picture of stubby arms and legs waving, never get to hear the underwater heartbeat that you so hoped to have in your memory files.

I know that my story is not yet over, but I want a story where it didn't work out the way you originally thought it would. I mean, of course by going through infertility treatment and all the indignities and pain and unknowns wrapped up in that experience, you aren't experiencing having a baby the way you do when you are 8 and playing with a babydoll. Most little girls stuff a pillow or a basketball under their shirt. They don't pretend to be inseminated or have their ovaries monitored. There's no "Okay, mommy, let's give you your shot so you can have a baby!" play when you're little. Also, having one pregnancy doesn't mean you'll achieve another, and the pain of having your family size decided for you by reproductive roulette is no picnic, either. No one tells you when you're small and saying you're going to have two kids and a dog and a cat that the number of kids simply isn't up to you, in the end.

I don't want a depressing sob story -- I want a story where it's OKAY that things didn't work out as planned (or rather as plans changed because the original plan wasn't going to bring a baby, ever). I want a story where you end treatment and you are still waiting to adopt and you are ACCEPTING this, although perhaps a little grudgingly, because all around you everyone is getting pregnant, even people who previously had to go through gads of shots and monitoring to do so. You seem to be alone, with a very, very small number of other people in your situation at this point.

It is a very lonely experience to read these stories and see just how many people WERE successful, for whom those stories on the internet are massively important. Because it's their story, reflecting their struggles to get where they are.

But I want a story that mirrors my experience. The closest I've gotten is an amazing graphic novel/memoir hybrid by Phoebe Potts, Good Eggs. (You need to read this book--it is funny, and true, and I am going to say how it ends so if you don't want to know scroll two paragraphs down NOW...although to be honest I don't think knowing the end changes the beauty of the book but enhances it.)  She doesn't have a baby at the end. They end treatment after exhausting the number of IVF cycles that Massachusetts insurance will cover (because Massachusetts HAS INSURANCE COVERAGE FOR IVF, by the way), and decide to pursue adoption. I just looked her up, and she is writing a second graphic novel memoir, Too Fat for China, about her adoption process experience. I didn't see anything about her being successful yet, and Good Eggs was published in 2010. Maybe she does have a baby and is just blissfully private about it, but it really illustrates that IT TAKES A LONG TIME. And IS NOT EASY. And that there are setbacks in any process.

I love Phoebe Potts for her honesty and humor in her book, but I cried as much as I laughed when I read it. And at the time that I read it, I still had hope that I was going to get pregnant. But I held on to what she said about letting go of infertility treatment, and it came to mind when we made our same decision. That was a story I could relate to, even though I didn't think her story was quite so close to my story at the time. It turned out to be closer than I ever could have imagined all those years ago.

I was complaining to Bryce last night after reading another infertility story on Fac.ebook that ended in a pregnancy. "Where is OUR story? Where is a story that DOESN'T end this way? Why doesn't someone put THAT up there?" Bryce's response was, "Why don't YOU?" I argued that we don't have an ending. He argued that was sort of the point. And so, here is our infertility story, from beginning to the point we're at now, in all its glory and devastation and unfinishedness:

One beautiful day in October 2009 Bryce and I were married in our backyard (after getting married legally at our favorite Mexican restaurant a week earlier), as fierce winds blew and bright sassafras leaves swirled around us. Our ceremony included the Blessing of Hands, which made me cry as I said it because of the lines, "These are the hands that will tenderly hold your children. These are the hands that will help you to hold your family as one. These are the hands that will give you strength when you need it." I had no idea at the time that these words would be so intimately intertwined, that we would need strength to make that family happen, and that it would take a long time and be filled with uncertainty. A month before our wedding we had had our initial consult with a fertility clinic, already knowing that Bryce had male factor infertility and suspecting that all was not right with my reproductive system either, which was confirmed with an initial diagnosis of "dysfunctional ovulation." We knew going in that it wouldn't be easy. I was 33 and Bryce was 35.

The day of our wedding I was in my dress, with my hair done and makeup half done, when the FedEx truck came and dropped off my first Ovi.drel shot to be used for our November IUI. We never got to try on our own. We were told we could if we wanted to waste time and be incredibly frustrated, to feel free, but with our set of issues it would pretty much just ruin sex for us. So we went straight to IUI, even though our doctors told us IVF (in vitro fertilization) was our best bet. IUI could be a diagnostic tool of sorts, show us how my ovaries stimulate with the injectible meds, before we went to the big (expensive) guns.

We did six IUIs before turning to IVF. Each time I felt I could have gotten pregnant, even though our sperm numbers weren't within the range that had a good prognosis, and my ovaries seemed to be all or nothing performers -- great for IVF, not so much for IUI where if you get too many follicles they either cancel you or convert you to IVF. I was a hormonal mess, shooting myself up in the belly with Folli.stim and going in for monitoring all the time to make sure my (now diagnosed) PCOS ovaries didn't become overzealous. I gave a lot of blood. Bryce was a saint, especially through the Cl.omid cycles, which I felt were worse emotionally than the injectible ones (until we started IVF and had much higher doses). There was a lot of crying. There were a lot of Exorcist moments.

When we started IVF in 2010, I was excited. It was supposedly our silver bullet. I had great ovaries for IVF. ICSI, Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection, would overcome our male factor. Everything would be AWESOME.

Except it wasn't.

I had thought that when you do an IVF cycle, frozen embryos were a given. You'd have lots of eggs surgically retrieved, and then they would fertilize all the mature ones, and then you'd have more than two or three embryos and so would have to freeze the rest to be ethically responsible.

We didn't have any frozens. We didn't even have any embryos make it to blast (five days of development) because we had so few they were worried we'd lose more if we extended. We transferred two Day Three embryos, one 8-celled and one 6-celled, and had "leftovers" that weren't good enough to freeze. I had 10 eggs retrieved, only 7 of which were mature. We were devastated that we hadn't had a great turnout on our first IVF, especially knowing that with no frozens we'd have to do another fresh for best-case a sibling or worst-case another try. But, we held on to the hope that we'd get pregnant. Which we didn't. And I received that call at school, in the first week of school, thankfully when I didn't have students around, but still. It was awful.

But we got back on the train and did another IVF cycle, hoping we'd have better luck. This time we had 11 retrieved, 8 were mature, but only 4 fertilized. We transferred three Day Three embryos, NONE of them 8-celled like they are supposed to be, but they had no fragmentation so they were supposed to be okay. No frozens, again. While waiting to see if I was pregnant, I hyperstimulated. I had half a liter of fluid removed from my abdomen. I was told getting OHSS (Ovarian HyperStimulation Syndrome) during the wait wasn't great, but that there was a slightly higher chance I'd get pregnant because of some correlation. I defied the correlation. I wasn't pregnant. Again.

We went to a different plan after that one, one that addressed egg quality. The PCOS had been the focus before, but it was apparent our embryos weren't great and our haul wasn't great and it was fairly upsetting to have what I called "The Great Whittling" from number of follicles to number of mature eggs retrieved to eggs fertilized to embryos transferred.

We did a "what the hey" IUI in between, to take a break from IVF without really taking a break. We had our best sperm sample EVER, which made me believe that we could have a "miracle" IUI pregnancy after two crappy IVFs. No miracle for us, and so back on the IVF train we went, but this time with the egg quality protocol. I drank gads of wheatgrass juice, took CoQ10 supplements, ate tons of "fertility friendly" foods, all organic, I gave up coffee and alcohol before and during cycles. I did acupuncture and yoga and guided meditation, along with a whole lot of other crazy hoodoo. Bryce begged me to not do so much, because I was taking on too much responsibility for success or failure when really, none of it was within my control. I wouldn't listen. I was determined to do everything to Make. It. Work.

This was summer 2011, and for the first time we had frozens! I had 12 retrieved, 10 mature, and 7 fertilized...but ALL of them kept dividing. We transferred three gorgeous 8-celled embryos and had two blastocysts frozen for another try or for a sibling. We were ELATED!

Then we got the call that we were pregnant, but the call started with "I'm sorry." This was because our HCG number was a whopping 12, which is very low since they like to see over 50 in general for a healthy pregnancy. A 12 typically means a chemical pregnancy, where you have a positive HCG but development has halted. Except my numbers kept going up, though not at the rate or number that indicated a healthy pregnancy. I relished in this weird pregnancy, feeling a little victory over fate when we had a rise instead of a drop. I got to go have an ultrasound after two weeks of wonky tests, with the caveat that this wasn't to see a heartbeat necessarily. It was to see if anything "real" was truly in my uterus.

There wasn't. But my numbers were 1161, which meant SOMETHING was SOMEWHERE. And it was -- I had managed to get pregnant, but way up in my fallopian tube, my right one, and I needed surgery scheduled that night to remove it. I have pictures of that thing. My tube was swollen and starting to rupture. It was bleeding before they removed it. I didn't have any signs of pain until the day before the fancy ultrasound that revealed my wayward baby. I was devastated. Bryce was devastated. We were inundated by support and visits and flowers and cards. It was a horrible tragedy, but we had hope -- I could get pregnant. In the wrong spot, but I could do it. So maybe this wasn't an impossibility. Still, it was tough to start my tenure year teaching in a split position between two new buildings while recovering physically and emotionally from the trauma of the ectopic fiasco. Luckily, thanks to amazingly compassionate administration, I was able to take two weeks at the beginning to heal in every possible way. It was hard, but we had frozens. We could pick up the pieces and try again.

We did the frozen transfer in December. I didn't get pregnant.

Then it was 2012, and we went into our fifth IVF cycle, the fourth fresh one, We had frozens again, and we transferred three at the 3-day stage again, because while we had a boatload of eggs retrieved (over 20!), we still didn't have an overwhelming amount of embryos at day three and so they felt better to get them in my uterus sooner than later. I didn't get pregnant.

We did the frozens in late July, and received a call directly from our doctor... we were pregnant! And
This is what the joy of a truly positive test looks like. 
not just pregnant, OVER 50 PREGNANT! Not an overwhelmingly robust number at 61, but still, we were pregnant and there was no "I'm sorry." It was amazing. I had never felt so happy since my wedding day, and our joy was palpable. Our numbers kept rising, and I had nine beautiful days of milking every moment of our first uterine pregnancy. On the last day of July, I had cramping when I went to visit my grandmother at her assisted living apartment, and I ignored it until I felt what I hoped wasn't bleeding. It was. I had to leave, in tears, for my clinic (which thankfully was less than 5 minutes away), both telling my grandmother that I was finally pregnant and that I was probably miscarrying...all at once.

They saw a sac although I was bleeding heavily, and sent me home for three days of bed rest and bloodwork and hoping against hope that everything would be okay, that I would be like so many stories where there's a scary bleed but it all turns out fine in the end. All the bedrest in the world wasn't going to stop what had started from finishing. My numbers dropped by 1800 points, and I lost the pregnancy. I had a few weeks before school started this time to come to grips with this loss. This was harder for people to grapple with and there were fewer flowers/cards/visits. Surgery is easier to identify with than loss involving blood and vaginas. We started really feeling like a bad luck charm, like we were reminders that bad shit happens to good people and maybe it was contagious. To be fair, we also withdrew quite a bit. It's hard to be social when your hopes of family are crumbling around you and you have the potential to become a messy puddle at any time. There was not a small amount of bitterness. We felt as though we were stuck standing still in time, while everyone else became parents around us. Friends had preschool aged children now. Friends had three children. Acquaintances met boyfriends, got engaged, got married, and got pregnant in this time, and we still were unsuccessful.

We started looking into adoption, and the agency orientation (not our current one) that we went to left us feeling that we absolutely had to get pregnant, because as two over-35, both divorced, therapy-utilizing individuals, no one was going to want us as parents. This is when we decided egg donor was our best bet. Obviously something was wrong with how we were doing things. We needed a change. So we entered the crazy world of approving a match made for us by our clinic, of picking someone who was a reasonable facsimile for me, but younger and with feasibly better egg quality, who had proven pregnancies for other couples under her belt. We felt so hopeful -- egg donor cycles had way higher success rates, and while we had to mourn my genetics, we could still be pregnant. In theory.

It didn't work. We did a fresh and a frozen, all blasts, and had six 2PNs frozen. This was a blow, a terrible blow. Why didn't we have answers? Why was nothing working when we kept changing things up? What was wrong? Was this even possible?  We decided to go the second opinions route. We also decided to look into a different adoption agency, one which left us feeling hopeful that pregnancy didn't have to be our route to parenthood.

Scary Lov.enox shot, although the springloaded design
was neat as it hid the sharp automatically.
We weren't I wasn't ready to move on from the pregnancy path, though. We chose to go to a clinic in Buffalo, which had excellent success rates, a great lab, and was willing to do more experimental things since they weren't part of a hospital. One of our previous doctors from our previous clinics had moved there, so while it was wasn't ALL new. Another option was a famous clinic in Colorado, but the cost was just astronomical and no one can offer you a high enough success rate to guarantee that you won't have to save money for alternatives. If we'd gone with them maybe we might have gotten pregnant, but if we hadn't (and I suspect we wouldn't have), we'd have exhausted all our funds for adoption. So we did a whole bunch of tests, including a horrific Beta-3 Integrin test that seemed like someone vegetable peeling my uterus while I WAS NOT SEDATED, but everything came out fine. I did find out I am heterozygous for a blood clotting disorder, so Loven.ox was added into the protocol, just in case. That is a nasty shot. But, if it could help get me pregnant, sign me up for purple bruising and painful injections! I still have discolorations from those bruises on my tummy.

We decided to do sperm donor. We went back to my eggs -- it appeared my eggs were fine and not the culprit due to some testing and the data from the egg donor cycles which failed, but we decided an unknown we hadn't explored was sperm. So we went through the bizarre process of picking a sperm donor (very, very different from the egg donor process -- all electronic and a LOT more information available), and found one creepily similar to Bryce. In 2014 we did another fresh cycle, with the intent to split between Bryce and donor sperm, just to give our own material one more shot with a different clinic, different lab, different protocol.

My cycle got canceled. My estrogen levels were getting close to hyperstimulation, so they dropped my dose back on the injectible meds...and my estrogen crashed. No transfer for me. I had NEVER had a canceled cycle, ever. It was a blow and didn't make us feel great, especially since I had mentioned that I lean towards hyperstimulation and the levels made me nervous. I'm not a doctor, though. Just someone who had done 8 IVF cycles at this point, 6 fresh and 2 frozen. I felt like I knew all the ways my body could thwart me, but whatever.

We were successful in the summer with completing a cycle, and even got past three-day with our own material, transferring our 23rd, 24th, and 26th embryos. Unfortunately, at this point when sitting in the transfer position, legs in stirrups, flash of light on the screen, my first thoughts were "Bye guys, you had a good run, but you're probably going to die." This thought did not cause my negative test. If thoughts had that kind of power I would have been pregnant a zillion times over, because I went whole hog with the whole positive thinking thing in our earlier cycles, to the point where Bryce was seriously worried about my well-being. I was just being a realist. I had sent a lot of embryos to their doom. These followed the others to oblivion.

We did one more cycle, with the A-team set of frozen donor sperm embryos -- #26 and 27. It was our chance to see, was it the sperm? We were super hopeful. This sperm donor also had proven pregnancies notched on his belt, and we allowed ourselves to believe that we could be another glorious hatch mark.

I peed on a stick with this cycle before the beta blood test, even though I know better. It was a faint line. A faint line can mean a pregnancy, so I was cautiously excited... maybe we were finally there! Maybe all would be fine after all! It was the sperm! But then the call came, and it was negative. So maybe it was a little embryo that started to attach, then changed its mind. I'll never know.

We had two blasts left that were Bryce's sperm and my eggs, and the six 2PNs from the egg donor/Bryce's sperm. We tried two more times to transfer them. I got canceled each time. A hysteroscopy revealed uterine scarring before our last transfer attempt. My lining just wouldn't grow. We finally decided that we just couldn't do this anymore. I was a disaster at school -- I had always mostly been able to contain my grief at work, but now it seeped out of my eyes at the most inconvenient times and couldn't be contained any longer. I was breaking. It was no longer worth it to keep beating this clearly dead and rotting horse. It appeared the horse corpse was my uterus, which was also hard to accept...especially since no one would out and out tell us 100% that that was the case (hindsight is amazing -- it seems so clear that my uterus was a problem when looking at all the data, but alas, that's not how it works when you're in the middle). Gestational carrier was brought up, but it's legally tricky in New York and we just didn't have the energy left for that sort of thing.

We officially ended our treatment journey, in January 2015 and completed the application for adoption in February. Our homestudy was completed in late June 2015 and our profile book was in our agency's hands in late July.

Embracing the unknown, and the waiting, even though it's hard. 

It has been an insane journey. We have stretched ourselves to the outer reaches of what we even considered possible when we promised that our hands would give each other strength on our wedding day, nearly seven years ago. We have experienced elated joy, and devastated sorrow. We have been hopeful and angry, sometimes all in the course of the same day.

We don't have an end yet. We have each other; we have our hope that through adoption, our dream of parenthood will be realized. It is a dream we have held on to through setback after setback. We have been knocked down so, so many times but we always get up -- despite being bruised and tired -- and we are determined to keep fighting this fight through different iterations. We didn't get to be pregnant, an experience I've always dreamed I'd have. It is a loss I have mourned, and grieved, and accepted. It makes me sad from time to time, especially as we had those 8 embryos without a home and when our year of storage was expired at Buffalo, we had to make a decision. Our decision was to donate them to/place them with Snowflakes, a program through Nightlight Christian Adoptions that finds homes for "excess" embryos created during IVF. We don't mesh ideologically 100%, but we have a common goal -- give our embryos, who we created with love and intention, the chance to Be. Give them a shot at what we couldn't give them. And so now we are attempting to find a couple who will take 8 embryos of mixed genetic origin that don't have a successful pregnancy in either cohort. It's bizarre. Someone else will (hopefully) be pregnant with the embryos that we created, and there will be tiny children out there who exist because we wanted a family so, so badly. It just won't be our family.

I don't know how our story will end. I was hoping not to be in the home study update process, but here we are staring down the barrel of one year of waiting. We've had three profile opportunities and had our book in front of two expectant mothers. One situation was a close call, but we weren't chosen. It's been a rollercoaster...but so hasn't the entirety of our journey.

Our story is a love story, a story of determination and perseverance through many iterations of our dream of building a family. It didn't take the turns we expected. It took some wild twists and turns, and we feel like we are going into a blind curve, with absolutely no idea what to expect. We could get matched with our baby and have the embryos formerly known as ours result in a pregnancy at the same time. We could be sending letters and pictures to our child's birth parents while we eagerly await our own letters and pictures. Our family tree is going to be a gnarled, grafted thing with roots and branches and perhaps some sort of symbiotic orchid growing on it. But it will be ours. Or, to be morbid, we could end up with a tiny family tree that's two beautiful trees twisted together, because "our" embryos ceased to be even with someone else and adoption didn't quite work out.

We don't know.

And that's okay. It's okay for your story to be ambiguous, even though it's frustrating. Sometimes things don't work out the "way they're supposed to." Sometimes you don't get the double line on the pee stick and and the family portrait that doesn't involve cats in onesies. And sometimes you do.

But for all of you who have an infertility story that didn't end in pregnancy, who went down a yellow brick road that turned into the dark and haunted forest full of evil flying monkeys and hasn't quite brought you to the Emerald City yet, it's okay. It sucks to experience pain and loss and uncertainty and then be faced with EVEN MORE uncertainty. We don't show up on inspirational mommy posts or blog compendium sites quite as often, but we exist. And it can be nice, even comforting, to see another story that's still unfinished even so many years later. It's real. It makes you feel like less of an anomaly. Sometimes you don't get the pregnancy. Sometimes adoption takes more time than originally expected, and stretching time between profile opportunities leave you feeling a little less hopeful than you'd like to be. Sometimes you spend your entire married life trying to build your family and living in a stagnated space, but you get to share that space with the best person possible. The one who pledged to hold you with his hands and hold your family as one. The one whose hands will hold yours when you're old and wrinkly and have the whole devastatingly beautiful journey to look back on. It won't last forever, this part of the journey. It just seems that way.

Someday, there will be a conclusion to this part of our life, and we will be able to live like normal people do. Maybe. It's possible, although we will probably be forever marked by the road we traveled. And that's okay.

Going into that gloriously blind curve...hand in hand.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

And The Other Matching Process Begins In Earnest

My phone rang last night as I was waiting for Bryce to come out of the pharmacy with Prozac for our cat. (Sounds weird, but the gross cat being on Prozac has saved him...without it he pees on everything and bites your head and does all kinds of weird, aggressive, territorial behavior.)

It was a 714 area code, and I don't know anyone in 714, so I didn't pick up. I get a lot of telemarketer calls, which is torture when your phone ringing can mean a possible baby. My students are great -- if my phone starts ringing in my purse and I'm not at that end of the classroom, they yell, "MRS. _____! Your phone is ringing!" I don't know who's more excited, me or them. (Me. It's definitely me.) I told them I'm going to start answering the telemarketer calls that don't leave a message ever and scream "HI! ARE YOU A BABY?" and maybe they will stop calling me, thinking I'm totally mentally unbalanced. But that could backfire, I'm sure, if it was someone related to adoption on the other end.

Anyway, the 714 number left a voicemail. So I checked it was our contact at Snowflakes! We have a potential match for our embryos.

I was a little surprised at the emotions that rose up in me and then undulated up and down throughout the evening as we discussed it.

I thought I would be super excited to get a matching call, to have some closure to these embryos. Well, the beginning of possible closure, since the process looks like this:

1) Snowflakes calls us to say they have identified a possible match for us. They tell us a little about the couple's situation to see if we are comfortable with it.

2) If we are comfortable with it and get all our questions answered, they send us their profile book electronically.

3) We have two weeks to review their profile books. WE GET TO READ OTHER PEOPLE'S PROFILE BOOKS. It's so surreal.

4) Then we decide if we like them and can see them raising the embryos we created, since you know, we don't get to say that we are genetic parents all the way because we're each only half genetic parents, because our story is FUCKED UP... so we call ourselves "genetic contributors" or "embryo creators" while the letters are addressed to "Dear Genetic Parents." Argh. Anyway, if we say, "Yes! We'd love to have these people get pregnant with the embryos we created!," then they send the couple OUR profile and letter, which is less involved than theirs, and they get our health history, and then...

5) THEY DECIDE. I guess it makes sense, since they are the ones risking pregnancy or not, the embryos are going into her body, so the final choice should rest there...but it just seems so massively unfair that we never get final veto power in any of these situations. Harrumph.

6) If they do decide to accept our embryos, then there's one more layer -- will their clinic accept them? And then it's contract time and all that fun stuff. If they DON'T decide to say yes to us, then we go back into the matching pool.

So. Here we are, at step #3, and this whole process just got super real.

I am not sad because we are "losing" these embryos, as I might be if we'd had children from other embryos and could envision them as "ours." I don't really have that capacity. I don't know what they might have become had we been able to make them into actual babies.

I'm sad for a couple reasons:
     - Bryce had made a prediction (he really needs to stop making predictions) that our embryos would find homes before we were matched or placed with a baby. Now, we don't know if they will accept our wonky situation, so just one profile opportunity does not a match make, as we know all too well from our adoption experience thus far, but this seems a bit more promising since it's 1:1. We're not reviewing a bunch of books at once. We're reviewing one couple, and then they review us. I think this would be easier to swallow if we were more settled into the adoption process instead of in this amorphous fuzzy place.
     - Someone else is (hopefully) going to pregnant with embryos that we created. I could not. I did nothing with our 27 embryos than send 26 of them off on their merry way to Lake Ontario, one of them at a slightly later stage, and sent one more to a pathology lab after surgery.  I am thrilled for our embryos that they are getting a chance with someone who might be able to carry them. And I am thrilled for the woman who will get a chance to be pregnant and give birth because of these embryos. But I am really quite sad and jealous in a way, for me, even though pregnancy isn't on my radar anymore. I don't want it anymore because I've never had good experiences in that arena. I am happy to be going the adoption route. But I am struggling a bit with how it's going to feel to have someone else get pregnant with our embryos, which at that point won't be "ours" anymore at all.

It makes envisioning what it will feel like to get either of those calls a little less out of focus, a little more sharp around the edges. If it doesn't work I will be sad on two counts -- sad the embryos were just little lost things, and sad that we gave someone hope only to dash it. I know it's a risk you take when you adopt/accept donated embryos, and there are so many moving pieces that you just don't know what the reason is. But it would be nice to have a reason, to know that another uterus could carry them and so it was definitely my uterus (we are pretty sure that's the case, but to know would definitely bring closure). To get the call that they did get pregnant? That will be bittersweet. Because we'll know. It was my uterus, and the embryos could succeed elsewhere, and while I'll be thrilled that they get a chance and bring someone else happiness, how could I not feel like a colossal failure at the same time? How could I not feel that tiny poison seed of envy that someone else is getting the experience I never will, and with my embryos? Nope, not mine. With the embryos we placed/donated. See how sticky it gets?

I will say it is interesting to evaluate another couple and see if we feel "connected" to them.

Here's the funny thing.

They have a bizarre circumstance too.

The call was like, "So, it's kind of an unconventional situation, so you need to decide if you are comfortable with it before we send the profile book." And I was like, OF COURSE it's an unusual situation. OF COURSE it's outside the norm. Why would we be involved in ANYTHING typical???

They already have a single embryo that they've adopted through Snowflakes. They are looking for more embryos so that they can have a better chance and have possibilities for siblings. SO, there is a chance that they could transfer the single embryo from someone else AND one of ours... resulting in what sounds like a fairly amorphous situation.

I asked...what happens if they get pregnant with one, and there were two different embryos in there? How do you handle that? How do you know which one it was?

And the answer is this: they update both families of origin for each embryo throughout the pregnancy. When the baby is born, they do a cheek-swab DNA test with a genetic parent and the baby, and then they call you and you either get the "Congrats, it was your embryo!" or "I'm sorry, it wasn't yours" call. Which sounds very Jerry Springer to me, and also kind of difficult. Because you could be excited at the possibility that this pregnancy is because of your embryo, and then find out that yours was the dud. Hmmm.

Then, the weird part -- we could say we're only comfortable with transferring ours after the single embryo has been transferred. WHAT? We can direct that? I mean, they could say "No thank you" and choose someone else's embryos, but it was odd to me that we could dictate our thoughts on transfer protocol. Interesting process, this.

Additionally, if they were to do the single embryo, and it split, and they had two babies and then were like, "Hmmm, we're kinda done here, we don't want more than two kids, so we don't need your embryos," then the embryos HAVE to go back to Snowflakes (they can't destroy them or donate them elsewhere) and then they are responsible for the storage fees and we still get to select a new family for them to go to. The embryos just get to go on multiple trips. Our embryos will travel more than we have in the past few years, ha. Ha. HA.

What makes me nervous is that this couple knows nothing about us yet. They don't know that the embryos are half donor sperm and me, and half donor egg and Bryce. They don't know that two are blasts and six are 2PNs. They don't know that we never got sustainably pregnant and there's no success in either cohort. I feel like that's a mistake. I feel like they should get a little warning so they know what risk they are taking on and the weirdness, but that's not protocol. Maybe Snowflakes likes to drop that bomb when they also are looking at our endearing faces, when they are associating the crazy genetic mishmash and unknown aspect of our embryos with actual people who do have similar interests in many ways, they might overlook those things. Me, I'm not so sure. I think we are going to face a lot of rejection. I think that people won't want to take the risk. I think if we get rejected twice that I might ask them to share at least some of the weirdness with the couple first, so that we're not reviewing and reviewing and then getting rejected and rejected.

They do say that they always find homes for all their embryos. I just feel like ours are...special. It's going to take a special person to see the potential in them given their history. I mean, they have lovely quality. At least the blasts do, hard to tell with 2PNs. But we were always told embryo quality wasn't our issue. It's going to require an ability to take on risk, above and beyond the risk they're already taking in doing IVF and donated embryos.

How fascinating, the twists and turns our journey has taken. Who knows where it will lead? It's getting kind of hard to keep it all straight. I just hope, that at some point, SOMETHING in our life is straightforward. I hope that's not too much to ask. It is exciting though, with a giant dose of surreality, to be in a place where we are truly in the process with embryo adoption. From the donor side.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

And NOW How Is The Wait?

Waiting through adoption is a funny thing.

It feels like things could speed up and become "real" tomorrow, while at the same time feeling like somehow we've been forgotten and we'll be still waiting years from now.

Most of the time we are super optimistic about the wait.

And some of the time...not.

It's been a little bit of a hard stretch.

First, we were told that the average for homestudy-to-placement was 7 months. Then a couple months later the figure was adjusted back to 9 months, but regardless...we're well past either of those marks. I know an average is kind of a tricky number to play with -- it could mean that MOST people are placed within that timeframe, or it could mean that a lot of people are placed far less and others far more. It's interesting, because I was kind of hoping that we wouldn't be renewing our homestudy, and here we are.

So that is kind of disappointing, although we weren't stupid and didn't expect February to be the Month of the Baby, we were just hoping that it would be sometime in the spring. And we did get a call in January, a call in February, and a call in March...just none of them were The Call.

Which brings me to the second reason this has been a hard stretch. We didn't get a call in April, and May is coming to a close and we've not yet received a call. It could still happen, but it seems that we had a bit of a bubble of calls and now we are in a famine stretch. Who knows when the next call will come?

The third reason is a catch-22. I love, love, love when people ask us about adoption. But when people ask us if there's any news and I keep having to say no, qualifying that we DID actually receive several calls but none of them stuck, it reminds me an awful lot of our other journey. Of hopeful faces that become less so over time, of wanting to provide good news and just not being in a position to do so. I am grateful that my body is out of this equation, but it's still hard. A teacher I work with asked me recently, and we had a whole conversation about the progress/nonprogress of our adoption journey, and she shared, "I just thought 7 months sounded so short compared to everyone I know who's adopted. A year or so seems so much more common." And that's true...and I wish that they would give more of a range for homestudy-to-placement instead of an average, which is a little deceiving. Not intentionally, but it does makes it seem like you will be waiting less.

The homestudy update has been frustrating, as well. We finally got our packet after several weeks of having had the check in, and found that it was EXTENSIVE. Almost all of our original paperwork, minus fingerprinting and the clearances we'd already re-upped in January. Including copies of our drivers licenses' and my insurance card, which they have from last year and HAVEN'T CHANGED. I know this is NY state law, and not our agency making life harder than it has to be, but for Pete's sake -- how much changes in one year? I was very, very glad to have my binder with copies of everything from last year. It made filling out paperwork a lot easier, although things did change on the financial form (like no credit card debt and a nearly-gone student loan amount, yay... but also two newer vehicles and car payment, which we didn't have before).

It makes us a little cranky. We know why it's necessary, we know the purpose, but still. You don't have to do all this stuff to have a baby if you're lucky enough to be fertile or respond to infertility treatment. It is like I had an extra consulting job over the past month, compiling everything.

Then there's the question, do we update our profile book? We had pictures of the room that was going to be a nursery in there...and now we have our pretty little nursery. Should we update that? Should we include some of the lovely pictures from our adoption shoot? Should we update the number of years on things? Or is that unnecessary? When we submitted our book, we were told it was absolutely lovely and that we would never have to wonder if it was our book that was an issue. Which is very nice, but now it's been in two expectant mothers' hands and they didn't pick us. I don't think it's the book, but you can't help but scrutinize every single thing to see...was it this?

It's kind of a hard space to live in right now. I don't really know what to expect from the social worker visit this time, which is just one and not three as it was for our original homestudy. Will she ask about our profile opportunities? How we're dealing with the wait? How we made our decisions on profile opportunities and how we handled not being chosen? It has me a little stressed out.

And then there's summer... we'd love to go on a vacation, but how do we plan for this when we have an unknown homestudy visit date that has to be around the end of June or else we lapse (and NOT by our paperwork handling...we've taken care of everything in a very timely manner). Do we plan for August? Do we do something at the end of July? We were going to go camping in Bryce's mom's fifth-wheel, but then we haven't reserved a spot and I'm thinking it will now be tough to find a campsite with hookup. (Because I don't do camping without fact the closest I've come to camping is the camp up near Bar Harbor and that has walls and a shower and a full kitchen and is basically a little house.)

It feels like stasis. It feels like we should feel free to go and do what we'd like and live our lives as is, which is what we've told everyone we're doing...but it's not exactly true. Do we go out to dinner a lot and enjoy spur of the moment outings? Yes. Do we fly off to Paris (or drive to Maine)? No. It's too hard to plan something ahead of time when the last time we planned to take a vacation we got a profile call and had to abandon the plans because the baby was due right before our week we were to travel. But then we weren't chosen, and it wouldn't have made sense to go anyway. Plus we were hit in the head with the reality stick of how much we'd have to have on hand to pay the fees upon placement, and a fancy Napa vacation just didn't seem like the best priority anymore.

We are being responsible. We are having local, spontaneous fun, but we don't feel free to truly live as if it was just us two. We have this exciting possibility of a child at any moment, but then the more stark reality of how long we've been waiting so far and how it could be a heck of a lot longer. You just don't know when things will come together on all fronts. And so it is a life of uncertainty, of a little bitterness, of neverending paperwork and losing the excitement when my phone rings in the middle of the day because lately, it's just telemarketers. No baby yet. We'll perk up, but right now, we're struggling to keep the faith that this is really going to work out, when so many other things have not worked out in the past. I know adoption is different, but it's definitely a rollercoaster. And we are strapped in, waiting to take off up the hill that will send us on our glorious ride, but something has us waiting, waiting, waiting to get started.

Monday, May 23, 2016

#Microblog Mondays: People Say the Dumbest Things

I am very, very blunt about our journey to have children, or rather what lately feels like our long, twisty, expensive, life-in-stasis journey to NOT have children. 

As frank as I am, it doesn't stop people from saying stupid shit. 

At my birthday party, a friend brought an out-of-town relative as her guest, and towards the end of the night she started what was initially a lovely conversation: 

"I hear you're expecting a baby through adoption, isn't that wonderful!" 

Yes, yes it's wonderful! And then...

"You know what's going to're going to bring that baby home and six months later you're going to get pregnant!" 

Um, no. And I said as much. 

"Oh, no, I'm a therapist, and I've seen it happen!" 

Well, it won't happen that way for us. You may have seen it happen, but you haven't seen my medical records. 

It is surprisingly not a rare occurrence to have someone tell me that they know someone or know someone who knows someone (or whatever convoluted six degrees of separation they have from the person) who planned to adopt, or did adopt, and then got pregnant. I mean, I know this does actually happen, even though it is way rarer than everyone who subjects you to this legend tells you. But I don't think adoption got them pregnant, any more than the zillion people who I know of who had a spontaneous pregnancy after years of IVF got pregnant because they "stopped thinking about it." It is not a causal relationship. Adoption is not a fertility treatment. It also irritates me because I am very excited about adoption and have moved on and grieved through never being pregnant, and that kind of statement totally disregards the process it takes to mourn the possibility of pregnancy and build up the anticipation of a different kind of family-building.

Another woman that I do know, sort of, told me that my wait is so long because "of all the women having abortions." Wow, I had no idea that was a causal relationship, that the length of my wait is directly proportional to the number of abortions performed. I truly had no clue what to say other than, "I don't think that's actually the reason, and it is quite hard to decide to carry your baby all the way to full term and then place him or her with another family to raise, so it's not like it's an easy decision." I realize this is a touchy topic, but seriously? Someone else's abortion was not my baby. 

Lastly, more people than I can count keep asking why, WHY didn't we just try surrogate? And this is without mentioning our frosty snowflakes sitting in the cryobank waiting to be matched with a family who might be able to carry them successfully. It is so much fun explaining all the legal intricacies of gestational carrier in NY, as is getting sort of posthumous offers to carry from people who've had hysterectomies (as in, "it's too bad, I totally would have carried for you if I didn't have a hysterectomy xx years ago"). Nevermind that usually I don't even really know these people all that well.

I have to remember that these people are trying to connect with me, no matter how bizarre or misguided the attempt, and that my best course of action is to take a deep breath, educate, and smile rather than to shout "WHAT THE EFF IS WRONG WITH YOU???" Some of this comes from ignorance, some of it from urban legends, some of it from a well-meaning place that just gets twisted up somehow. So breathe, educate, smile, repeat. 

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

Monday, May 16, 2016

#Microblog Mondays: So This Is Forty

I went to town celebrating my 40th birthday.

The day of, I decided to get my hair colored. Normally I do a roots-cover-the-gray thing and then a chestnut-y rinse, but this time I said,

"Today I am forty. And I want something fun. Maybe highlights. In a color. It doesn't have to be subtle."

So I got bright red highlights that were hard to accurately capture (and harder to hang on to, they have faded quite aggressively in two short weeks, I think she could go brighter next time):

Hard to see, but they were quite bright at first.
Then I went home, and walked in the door to this:

Bryce had set up two Italian cheeses, a fancy Parmesan and some kind of Brie-like washed rind thing, some Sicilian blood orange compote, and my favorite champagne. We had some of that while he cooked up dinner.

Which looked like this:

Roast Duck with Blueberry Port Sauce, cheesy potato gratin, and sauteed Swiss chard. 
Oh, yum. Who needs a restaurant outing when you have Bryce? That duck is my favorite, and it's marinated in fresh blood orange juice, rubbed in a cinnamon spice mixture, seared so the skin is super crispy, baked to get all tender, then doused in a yummy blueberry port reduction. Which doesn't appear so reduced because Bryce forgot to half the recipe, but whatever. It was delicious on everything, which is saying something because I hate for my food to touch.

Also, we had this red-dot wine from the cellar, which was AMAZING:

It was so very delicious. This was a regular bottle, but the champagne was a split, in case you are keeping track and wondering how I crawled into school the next morning.  The red-dot means one that was to lay down in the cellar for a while, a special occasion wine as opposed to green dots or purple dots which can be taken out anytime.
Bryce had started the day by leaving a present on the dining room table for me with a morning card (we have this tradition of silly/funny morning cards and then sappy/emotional evening cards for birthdays). It was, of course, books -- bought at a small independent bookshop in the town where he works. Which was lovely on two counts.

In the evening there were more prizes, although not a ton because my big prize was my Mexican-themed party (because my birthday is Cinco de Mayo, of course!). But these were my favorites:

These socks are AWESOME
I also got a pair of socks with a fox on them that say "CHA CHA CHA" by the toes.

Then, this past Saturday was the party. It was a blast. Bryce had our friends from our Friday-night-Mexican restaurant come cater and bartend, and there were margaritas and sangria and Bryce had a stock of beer and wine too. The food was amazing -- Street Tacos (smoked pork in a citrus sauce with black bean puree and guacamole), chips and dips (salsa! gaucamole! chinitos!), fried plantains (my favorite!) and then we had cupcakes. AND IT WAS ALL GLUTEN FREE. Love it when I can eat everything and not worry.

We also had a four-piece Latin guitar band with four guitars and a percussionist. That was amazing. It was a really, really good time:

Here I am with my margarita, my Fiesta necklace, my hot pepper dealy-boppers, and my beautiful orchid corsage that managed to cover up the horrible gauze bandage I was sporting thanks to a rather severe burn inflicted by a Cuisinart Griddler (I was flipping chicken with my left hand and hit both grill plates...effectively branding my arm with an equals sign). 
There were PINATAS! This was the first and I managed to decapitate it, blindfolded. It was filled with not only candy, but tissue-wrapped little bottles of booze. Classy adult pinata! The other one was a chili pepper and it had Sharpies and colorful pens, probably meant for the whole bunch of us who are teachers.  
I ended the night happy, sweaty from a lot of dancing even though I was the only one at times, and feeling good. 
I had wanted more dancing, but it just wasn't to be. Although I did end up dancing with everyone who was cleaning up and going down low, having someone say "wow, I can't do that anymore," which made me cocky so I ended up going lower, falling flat on my ass, and yelling "THIS IS FORTY!" while possibly exposing granny panties. I am a classy lady when out on the town.

It was a beautiful way to ring in the new decade. I felt loved, and celebrated, and like life is awesome, right now. Not once did I feel melancholy about the big 4-0. Bryce did an amazing job putting together a party that made me feel nothing but happiness and joy. He really outdid himself. I am a lucky, lucky, forty-year-old lady.

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

Monday, May 9, 2016

#Microblog Mondays: What Does the Dream Look Like?

Many, many years ago, when we were first trying to have a baby, I would imagine a baby.

It didn't really have a face, but I could see a warm little bundle that I would hold and rock and nurse.

And then, as we did IVF and had some limited success and knew we COULD get pregnant (not knowing that would be a fleeting experience that we'd have two summers in a row and then never again), the baby became more real to me.

What I saw, weirdly enough, was not a tiny baby but a toddler, maybe two years old.

I saw him or her from the back (so he or she could remain ambiguous I'm guessing) and he or she had curly towheaded hair. Curly for me, towheaded for Bryce. He or she was always giggling and running away from me, playfully.

The other night we were talking about different aspects of our child interest grid, and Bryce asked me if I still see the child we thought we would have, if that is a loss that I feel.

The answer is no. Without trying to sound overly dramatic, that dream died. The dream of having a child that looked like a combination of Bryce and me, of having a somewhat predictable vision to hang on to through all the injections and procedures... that is gone for me.

I find this not so much sad as sort of exciting. Who knows what our future child will look like? What color their eyes, texture their hair, shade their skin? It makes the mystery even more mysterious. I could look at it like a horrible loss, and maybe if we hadn't whittled away the genetic link to our children one donor at a time I would have seen it more that way...but I don't.

I see more possibility in our future, even if I can't visualize the actual child anymore. He or she will be revealed, eventually, and he or she will look exactly like what our child should look like, even if it's absolutely nothing like either of us.

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

Sunday, May 8, 2016

I Am A Mother

Okay, not in the traditional sense. But today, Mother's Day, made me think on this.

I am a mother of cats. 
Again, not as cool as Mother of Dragons, and clearly not the same as mothering a small human, but I do care for my kitties and rush them to the vet when they are sick and maybe spoil them a little bit and scold them when they're naughty. So it counts as nurturing.

I am a mother of plants. 
I spent a good part of this weekend buying and planting new flowers and herbs around my garden, and tending to some rather neglected spots that need weeds removed and dividing of plants that have grown a little too robustly. They reproduced better than I ever will. Is tending to my garden a kind of motherhood? I nurture small things and help them to grow and be successful and live a wonderful life that brings me and others joy. So of course, not like mothering a baby per se, but still I create and grow and help my little flowerbabies thrive.

I am a mother of teensy tiny angels. 
Every once in a while, I remind myself that 27 embryos have passed (sadly, literally) through my uterus. 27 tiny, dividing, potential little lives. The sad part is none of them made it. Two of them made it a little further than the rest, but they all went the way of Lake Ontario. They are mine, mine and Bryce's, and their blobby portraits live in a drawer in the living room. I was their mother, and I remember them as their mother now, even though they never got the chance to have defined organs or a heartbeat.

I am a mother of 8 embryos that still have a shot.
Different kind of mother, because I am letting these go. They aren't both Bryce and me, as one set of two blasts are my eggs and donor sperm and the set of 6 2PNs are donor egg and Bryce's sperm, but we created them. We hoped to have had the chance to make those little (in one case REALLY little) embryos babies, but we couldn't be the ones to do it. So we are hoping that someone else will be successful with them. (Which really blows people's minds who don't know all the intricacies of gestational carrier, that we would have someone else carry them and then have them be THEIRS, but with our origins known and available to any resulting children.) They still exist, they are still potential people who have a chance to become something actual. So this is a weird kind of mothering, but mothering nonetheless.

I am the mother of a child I haven't met yet. 
Even though we are feeling mildly discouraged with having had a call each month January, February, and March and then no call at all in April and the notification that our homestudy is expiring and needs re-upping, we are very, very much looking forward to the day we meet our baby. Our most mysterious of Mystery Babies, who will make us parents. Because my cats don't call me Mommy. My plants don't call me Mommy. Obviously, embryos don't have vocal cords. One day, assuming adoption does its magic (helped along by a hefty dose of perseverance and hope), we will have an actual tiny human to love and to raise and to help grow to his or her best potential. We love this child, this baby that has no discernible face yet. This baby that could be baking and nearly done or just starting to show itself on the outside. I have nested and prepared a space for this mysterious child in our home and laundered tiny things and flipped through the books that we will read to him or her at night. I have read books in the glider with a cat in my lap and imagined that that weight was a tiny human. I am ready to mother this child who is, again, potential and not actual.

These thoughts made me feel okay today, on a day that has historically, 7 not-me holidays in a row, been difficult. I had a little more sunshine, a little less rain, thinking on all the ways I mother now, and all the ways I am so ready to meet and mother our Future Baby.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Oh, Mother's Day

My thoughts on how I can deal with Mother's Day have evolved over the years.

I have gone from needing to celebrate Mother's Day with my own mother on a different weekend so that I can cocoon myself on the actual day (including not going in the front yard, not going in public, retreating to the back yard with a martini and a book and a box of tissues), to celebrating on Saturday but not Sunday of that weekend for the same reason, to this year where I am hosting brunch at my house, ON ACTUAL MOTHER'S DAY.

Yes, I will take your applause.

I am not quite ready to go out and have brunch somewhere public, but I can host a yummy brunch that is definitely gluten free.

I can be busy in the kitchen and drink as many mimosas or bellinis or whatever as I'd like, because it's MY HOUSE.

So that's a benefit.

Several years ago I hosted brunch and I got my mom and my sister each a potted plant and wished them a Happy Mother's Day and then felt the distinct absence of a potted plant or a holiday greeting at my own plate. It didn't feel good. I stopped doing the potted plant thing because nobody gets me a potted plant, I have an empty space next to my full plate that just screams, YOU'RE NOT A MOTHER! YOU'RE NOT WORTHY OF A POTTED PLANT!

Last year, my sister suggested we all go out to a brunch, because we were going into our homestudy and so were close to being paper pregnant and we could all be moms -- my mom to us, my sister to her stepsons, and me to my soon-to-be-adopted baby.

I said no.

I said no because I didn't want to celebrate another year of POSSIBLE motherhood, or AMORPHOUS shots at being a mom. I told her, "You know, I'm not quite ready yet, because I'm NOT a mother, and it's entirely possible that next year I won't be a mother on Mother's Day, either. So no thank you."

And hey, lookee here, it's next Mother's Day. Unless we get a call to drive to a last-minute match, I will definitely NOT be a mother on Mother's Day. Called it.

There are no cards for me. Unless you count the ones from the cat, and although I fancy myself a little like Daenerys Targaryen, only instead of Mother of Dragons, I'm Mother of Cats...NO. I do NOT want a card from the cats. I love them, I hold them like babies (in the brief moments where they let me before shredding my forearms), I kiss their little furry heads (okay, maybe this all applies to Lucky, since he is not gross like Abner who is currently spewing snot everywhere), but they are not actually my babies. Even though Lucky is thoroughly enjoying all the nursery things to the point where I wonder if it really is for him.

But I kind of do want some kind of recognition, some inclusion for my expectant mother, paper-pregnant status. And at the same time I don't. Because I'm not a mother and who knows when that will actually happen. I kind of want my first REAL Mother's Day to be special and not diluted by premature huzzahs.

It's a funny dichotomy.

I mean, does it dilute things to acknowledge that I'm an expectant mother, although in the most fuzzy of ways? Is it okay to include me a little, maybe no potted plant but a seedling? A packet of seeds, because my motherhood is potential and not actual?

This potential-not-actual status is tiring. For instance, I am about to submit my first components of my National Board Certification process, and I received an email saying the window to register for next year's components had opened. And I thought, CRAP... I don't know when this call is coming or how much of next year I will be there for... and this is a video of class, and so how do I register when I don't know if I'll be there during the window to get the material I need to write about??? I was talking about this conundrum with one of the advisors, and another teacher overheard me and was like, "I had a baby during the process, and it can be done!" Which was lovely, but then I was like, "Yes, but I bet you had a due date... I am dependent on the due date of someone who hasn't even been identified yet. I am screwed."

It's this sense of not-knowing that makes it hard to celebrate Mother's Day for myself without feeling like a poseur, like breaking into a house you haven't closed on yet to have a housewarming party. It doesn't quite work.

But at the same time, I've bought the's just not closing time yet. Can I count myself as a homeowner? Not until I have the key in my hands, right?

So here's my thing. I would like to be recognized in some way on this day. Not in a sad way, but also not a "Woo hoo, celebrate your impending motherhood!" kind of way, because in my head that means maybe my mortgage won't go through.

One of my friends sends me a text message every Mother's Day to say she's thinking of me and my angels. That is always lovely.

It would be nice if more people were like, "I know you're not a mother yet, but I want to celebrate your EFFORTS to be a mother, your mother's heart, your almost-not-quite-there-yet status." If there was a way to recognize me and all those who aren't there yet but are trying so, so hard as part of this holiday. That wouldn't take anything away from the holiday or the true First Mother's Day thing later, right?

Just to be hugged, to be told it's okay, this day is hard, and it sucks having it not be yours for so long, but you're getting there. You deserve a plant, too.

I hope you find your ways to cope with this day, whether you're on the outside looking in, celebrating for the first time and feeling conflicted, reminded of how hard it was to get there, or finding it painful for other reasons, such as the loss of a mother, a birthmother, a child you placed, whatever it might be that makes this day less than awesome. I'll be thinking of you as I try to find my place on Sunday, bellini and gluten free lemon poke cake in hand.