Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Where We Sit

My mind is a swirly mess of deep thoughts these days. Between preparing to close on our first home, researching adoption, researching CCRM, and discussing our remaining four embryos, it all just feels like a mess of BIG stuff. One day I think I'm on top of it, and the next it just feels overwhelming again. Today is one of the latter days.

As far as the house goes, believe it or not, I think this might work out. If I'm still supposed to be terrified of it all falling through, I guess I just don't know any better. Our offer has been accepted by the seller, we've submitted all of the loan paperwork, the house appraised for a sufficient amount... it just feels like the boxes have been checked. But, we don't close for another three weeks, which feels like forever... I'm guessing there is still stuff to be done that I don't know about yet. But you guys, the house is so cute! I can't wait to post photos. It has an adorable little backyard with a great space for entertaining. The yard is currently in need of a little TLC, but worst case scenario, I'll just pay Erika to come lovingly sing to my brown grass. Buying a home is a complicated process with a lot of steps that I'd never heard of, but I'm just hoping that we've dotted enough Is and crossed enough Ts that it's not all going to fall apart now.

As far as adoption goes, we're still researching. We're still talking to adoptive parents. I'm still reading. But truth be told, we're feeling pretty good about adoption. I'm still not sure that I'd say we've been called to adopt, but maybe it's enough that we simply want to adopt. We've got a couple of meetings scheduled in the next several weeks with a few adoption agencies and adoption professionals to ask all of our (8 million) questions. We think we know who we want to go with, but I of course need to do a little due diligence to make sure.  You may remember that I have commitment issues when it comes to stuff like this. We're getting there though, and I know that, because my biggest issues swirl around ethical concerns (knowing we're working with an ethical agency) rather than attachment concerns (worrying about loving an adopted child).

As far as CCRM goes, oh man, I don't know. I'd love to go to CCRM and have all our dreams come true*. I'd love to cycle one more time, and finally get to experience a pregnancy. But I'm just not sure I can do it. Do I want to? Yes. Should I? I don't know. The money is a HUGE deal... CCRM would be $30,000 easy... more likely $35,000ish after all is said and done. That's for one more IVF cycle. That doesn't include the costs accrued if the first transfer fails... assuming that we have embryos to freeze, it would be several thousand more dollars for each attempt at a transfer. Are children worth that price tag? Absolutely. Is the chance of better eggs yielding better embryos ending in a successful pregnancy worth that? I don't know. I guess it would come down to what that chance is... 90% definitely, 70% maybe, 50% ummm, 30% probably not, 10% definitely not. Julia brought up some great points a few weeks ago. She said the success of CCRM is in their lab, and their Comprehensive Chromosome Screening (CCS) increases their success rates. Something like 80% of women using their own eggs do CCS at CCRM. After the testing, CCRM only transfers genetically normal embryos, which means that in at least 80% of the transfers, CCRM transfers genetically normal embryos... no wonder they have such good success rates. I say all of this not to detract in any way from the quality or caliber of CCRM, but rather to suggest that without knowing the success rates of the 20% or so who don't do CCS, we really don't know what our odds might be without the tests… maybe it would be 40% rather than 77%.  If Sam and I are unwilling to do CCS testing (which is still debatable, but seems unlikely) then I'm not sure that CCRM can help us any more than FIRM or RBA or any other clinic.  BUT, I definitely still need to talk with a doctor there and get some questions answered before we decide to close the IVF door forever.

And as to our four remaining embryos in Florida, well, things are just confusing. I had a phone consult with Dr. Duffy to discuss our next steps today. Sam and I discussed it before the consult and decided that we're really only interested in pursuing an FET as a next step if we can transfer all four. Dr. Duffy didn't think it was a terrible idea since it's still debatable whether we even have four embryos (that 3 cell is questionable). However, he highly recommended the Endometrial Function Test that he mentioned last time before moving ahead. He still feels like we have a significant chance with our remaining embryos and his words were, "I wouldn't want you to waste them all on a transfer without knowing the quality of your uterus." Ughhhhhh. Can I just admit that I don't want to drag this out any longer? The EFT requires a mock cycle and a biopsy... after it's all said and done, I'm guessing it would be an additional $1,000. But I feel awful about even considering the transfer without the test if he thinks it's that big of a deal. I certainly don't want to risk our embryos in an environment that they can't survive in. But if I'm being abundantly honest, I just don't have much hope for the embryos we have left... healthy uterus or other wise. The EFT feels like simply prolonging the inevitable to me, but Dr. Duffy seems to disagree. I'm not sure what would happen if I pressed the issue, but I got the feeling today that he'd refuse to transfer all four embryos if we don't do the EFT. And I really can't see transferring two more embryos again... not 3 cell and 6 cell grade 3 embryos.

So that's where we sit... in a jumbled mess of BIG decisions. I have no idea where we should go from here. When people ask how I'm doing, I reply "fine," but that's code for tired. Next month marks three years of trying to conceive and I am exhausted. I feel physically broken and mentally confused, but ultimately I'm just tired. I know that there are a ton of couples who have been at this so much longer than we have... five, six, seven years. The thought of three more years like this is more than my mind can handle. I was not made for the marathon... endurance has never been my thing. But onward we will go because what else can we do? And though I don't feel confident in this moment, I do feel confident that we will resolve this, we will research and wrestle until we feel confident. The big mess will eventually whittle down into a recognizable something and we will move forward from here. I may not know where we're headed exactly, but I'm sure that we are on a journey somewhere.

*By looking into CCRM, I'm not suggesting that an adopted child would be second best or that we wouldn't feel as if our dreams came true through adoption. IVF at CCRM is simply an option, and one that would allow us to experience a pregnancy. We're researching options, but that doesn't mean that we aren't excited about the idea of adoption.

Friday, April 11, 2014

The Call

As you may remember, adoption has popped up on our radar again. I've been seriously thinking about and looking into adoption for several weeks. There are some things that I really love about adoption, and other things that continue to make me a little nervous. I'm just being honest. None of these things seal the deal one way or another; I'm trying to be exceptionally open and think through adoption (and all of our next step opportunities) from the most unbiased view I possibly can. As I've been reading books on adoption, I keep getting hung up on one thing. Really it's one phrase, one idea: "called to adopt".

"Called to adopt" gets tossed around in the midst of all types of books; books on saving for adoption, books on fundraising for adoption, books on adoption processes. I wouldn't say that I particularly feel "called to adopt". I've been interested in adoption for more than a decade. I have pictured a family with both biological and adopted kids for most of my adult like. I've wanted to adopt for a long time, but I'm not so sure that I've been called. I'm pretty sure this is a strictly Christian ideology (feel free to correct me if I'm wrong) as it sounds pretty close to the idea of being "called into ministry." As a teenager and college student I struggled with that phrase as well. I certainly wanted to work in ministry, but I couldn't pinpoint a time in my life when I'd heard or felt God direct me towards ministry. Because of that, I decided not to pursue ministry as a career path, but rather to hope opportunities might arise later in my life in which I could leverage my gifts for something I really valued.

I once heard Andy Stanley speak on the very same subject, on being called into ministry. He says that he never felt called. He doesn't dispute that other people feel called, but simply that he never heard or felt the prompt to follow in his father's footsteps. And yet, I think it's pretty undeniable that Andy Stanley has done great things during his time in ministry. The Lord has surely blessed him, his family, and his church. Andy's story certainly calls into question whether a "call" is required. As he states it, he simply decided to volunteer.

I started reading a book, Adopted for Life. I picked it up downloaded it because it seemed to make the claim that as Christians, we've ALL been called to adoption. Maybe not everyone has to actually adopt a child, but we've all been commanded to "look after orphans and widows in their distress" (James 1:27). This idea really appeals to me. It's not about a call, it's about a command. 

There are some parts of the book that I really like, and then there are some parts of the book that I absolutely hate. I know that there are a few other bloggers out there (and maybe some lurkers) who are looking into adoption for the first time. With that in mind, I decided to do a quick book review so you'll know if this book is worth diving into.

 Adopted for Life: The Priority of Adoption for Christian Families and Churuches
by: Russell D. Moore
In case it wasn't abundantly clear from the title, this book has a specific target audience of Christians. This is not a book about adopting, as in it doesn't tell you how to adopt, but rather why you should adopt (or contribute towards adoptions) if you're a Christian. I'd love to say that the book could be read by anyone, but really, I don't think anyone other than Christians would enjoy the book. (As a Christian, I'm not sure I enjoyed the book. See below.)
The Good: Russell Moore has a story a lot like mine. He and his wife struggled to conceive. Russell admits that he didn't initially want to adopt because he wanted his "own kids". I really appreciate that type of honesty because I think the biological connection is a big sticking point for a lot of people. His transparency regarding his initial fear and his reluctance to follow his wife into adoption are both important to his story and his argument. He claims that adoption is not just for those who have warm and fuzzy feelings when thinking about orphans in another country, it's also for the realist, for the pragmatist, for the doubter.
Even though he has children now (four total), he still mourns the loss of his fist three children. This really resonates with me. He writes, "infertility isn't good. Miscarriages are evil. Death is horrible. I don't shrug my shoulders in resignation at those things. I lost three children, children I'll never know until resurrection morning." I know that pain intimately and appreciate that he still gets it. He does have a bit of that "all will turn out right" attitude that I personally just can't drum up these days, but I think that comes from being out of the trenches. I've witnessed it within my own friends who have resolved. The important thing to me is that he doesn't diminish the pain he and his wife went through. He admits the pain, the grief, the frustration, and the fear. I appreciate that vulnerability.
He doesn't recommend adoption as the "solution" to infertility. Infertile couples often hear that we should adopt because so-and-so decided to adopt and they got pregnant. He writes, "if you're thinking about adoption as a way of bargaining with God, as though He'll repay you for your adoption with 'kids of your own' later, then put adoption aside. Your potential children need parents-- not to be a pawn in someone's attempt to manipulate the Almighty." Amen, and amen. I think I should have that line printed on index cards to hand out when people recommend adoption "because everyone knows when you adopt..."
His ultimate argument is that the Church, as a whole, should be pro-adoption. We should of course be adopting children in need, but he also argues that the Church should be contributing towards foster care, visiting foreign orphanages, raising money when a church member adopts, supporting adoptive parents, giving aid to birth mothers, etc. I love his overall argument.
The Bad: He likes groups and he assigns people boxes and labels. He spends a large part of the book discussing how Roman Catholics feel about "X" or how pagans (his word, not mine) think about "Y". I personally really hate labels, particularly within the Church. The dramatic simplification that all Baptists think this way and all Lutherans think that way is obnoxious to me. I spent my early years as a Roman Catholic, by choice switched to Baptist, and now consider myself non-denominational... and while yes, I would agree that my time within each denomination has certainly affected and infiltrated my beliefs, I'm also my own person, with my own set of beliefs and I've never once agreed completely with one group. He also makes broad generalizations in order to make a point. He also makes assumptions about groups of people. He regularly postulates that all children raised in foreign orphanages will grow to be prostitutes, drug addicts, or commit suicide. Now I'm sure that the odds of that type of life are higher for an 18 year old leaving a Russian orphanage for the first time than a middle class American teen, BUT it's not a guarantee. He also assumes that ALL social workers are not Christian and that they are against placing children in Christian homes... I have no idea where this belief comes from, but he brings up social workers and demonizes them as a group multiple times. The group thing is just not necessary. 
He is an extremely opinionated man, which is fine. I'm an extremely opinionated woman. However, his writing comes across a little self righteous at some points, which I don't think is the best tone when trying to convince someone to think like you. Everyone who already believes as he does will be fist pumping and nodding right along, but the people whom he's trying to convince probably shrink back at his word choice a few times... I know I did. His language has the potential to offend readers right into putting his book back on the shelf if they don't already agree. This is unfortunate because I think his overall argument and his story are worth sharing.
The Ugly: That self righteous attitude really rears its ugly head during one chapter. Interestingly enough, it's the chapter directed to couples struggling with infertility. If this guy hadn't admitted to infertility himself, I'd shake my head and say "fertiles just don't get it," but the fact that he does get it means he has no excuse. Essentially he rips anyone who pursues IVF. He views it as highly unethical and incredibly immoral to do IVF, even if you don't discard embryos, even if you use all your embryos, even if you don't freeze embryos... it's all wrong to him. The kicker for me was that his rationale centers around "designer babies". He argues that IVF opens up all these options and avenues that couples might walk down because they are hurting, because they are desperate. I really had to force myself to keep reading. I wanted to stop reading and start writing him a letter: "Dear Sir, did you even ask any IVF couples if they care about blue eyes, or intelligent genes?" I guarantee you, this is NOT the reason infertile couples pursue IVF. Maybe fertile couples turn to IVF for things like that, but not infertile couples. Sam and I wouldn't care one bit if our kid had two different colored eyes. We are most certainly not trying to isolate our favorite traits... we're trying to have a freaking baby. I have not met a single couple concerned with anything beyond a healthy baby. I've admitted that I have ethical questions that swirl around IVF, but my issues have never been from fear of designer babies populating the earth. He is perpetuating a myth. He writes, "the galloping forward of such technologies means we may one day see a world in which only Christians have Down's syndrome babies in their strollers, only Christians have bald little girls fighting through chemotherapy, only Christians have little boys in "husky"- size pants struggling against childhood obesity." I want to respond, "Dear Sir, you think far too highly of Christians and far too negatively of anyone who doesn't think exactly like you."
Not only is he opposed to IVF, but he's also opposed to donor egg, donor sperm, and surrogacy. He writes, "unlike adoption, wherein the third party already exists, these means intentionally set out to make such a situation." I agree with the statement... It's exactly what I was talking about in my post, Hard Choices. The third party aspect makes things complicated, there's no doubt. Anyone thinking about pursuing any of those options needs to consider a lot of factors. But that's my point; the choices are hard. We should all weigh the good and bad things about any family building option, but they all have negative aspects, including adoption. His argument lacks authority because he refuses to acknowledge any issues surrounding adoption, and refuses to look openly at any other reproductive options.
The ultimate last straw for me was when he wrote, "but think about the very way we speak of these children [IVF babies]. They are 'used.' They are 'produced.' This is not a pattern of life as a gift given to us by our God." Umm, no. I really want to say, "Dear Sir, please check yourself before you wreck yourself... or more appropriately before thousands of mamas of IVF babies maul your face off." IVF is not bigger than the God I serve... he's not allowing a new race of people to populate the earth. We're not two groups; we're all just people. And the fact that a little boy was created in a petri dish and was transferred into his mother's loving womb as a grade 2BC blastocyst doesn't make him any less loved or valuable to his earthly parents or his Heavenly Father. If Mr. Russell actually believes that IVF children are not gifts from God, he gives far to much credit to science and he's placed his God in far too small of a box.

So, should you read the book? Well, I really think there are some valuable parts. His story of adopting his two sons from Russia is a beautiful story of redemption and rescue. It's exactly the kind of story we love to hear about adoption. I also think he raises some really interesting and valid points about adoption: things about transracial adoption, or adopting without the support of parents or inlaws, and even going into debt for adoption. There were certainly some spots where I felt like my toes had been stepped on, but in a good way. He makes you think about the family dynamic, and how we view adopted children vs biological children. It's a really good read in those spots. So if you're interested in an interesting, philosophical, and theological discussion on caring for orphans in the present day and what that looks like, by all means read the book. Maybe just skip Chapter Four, less you believe I did IVF in order to have a 6'6", star athlete, with an IQ of 125, with leaf green eyes and chestnut brown hair.

Like I said, I really like how he explains "the call"...  we've all been called to care for orphans. However, even after explaining that view, he himself still slips in a few "if you've been called to adopt" and "if you feel called". I guess ultimately it's just a phrase, and my hangups with the phrase won't keep me from reading, researching, investigating, or potentially pursuing adoption.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Four for Four

Way back when, before we were married, I made Sam agree to always celebrate our anniversary. Like a legit celebration, not a card or flowers from the grocery store on the way home from work. No, I want an actual break in the regular day-to-day stuff, a pause to reflect and look forward. I totally recognize that this is a hard commitment to make, particularly if there are several little ones running around. As we still do not have said little ones, are excuses typically center around a lack of funds (because said funds were spent in the process of procuring said little ones). Our anniversaries have simplified and simplified year after year... we started off big and slowly made less and less of a celebration out of it. This year, despite not having ample funds I really wanted to do something. I'm thankful to say that, thus far, we are four for four in our commitment.

Year Four: Myrtle Beach

I didn't set out to go to Myrtle Beach, but rather I just wanted some place warm. I think pretty much the entire country would agree that this winter has been looonnngggg and cooolllldd. And for our family, this winter has been about as depressing as I can handle, so I really felt the need to feel warm sun and see bright skies. Not to mention I'm fairly sure if the clinic checked my Vitamin D level these days I'd be back at the "chronically low" stage. It seemed like the beach was just calling my name. I started off researching glamorous things like Mexico... scratch that idea. I downgraded to Key West... mmm, no. Vacation wasn't looking too glamorous after crunching the numbers. Thankfully, just a few weeks ago, I found a Groupon Getaway for a hotel in Myrtle Beach. After a little TripAdvisor research I decided this was a nice spot and a good deal... we booked it. I'm so glad we did!

The hotel, Marina Inn at Grande Dunes, was kind of ridiculous... as in ridiculously nice (so don't go look it up and assume we paid that... umm, no) Definitely a vacation destination for people in a different tax bracket than us, so thank you Groupon. We walked into the lobby and I thought we were lost. Needless to say, we looked slightly out of place in our travel gear after a six plus hour drive at check-in where everyone else was in resort wear or business attire. But whatever, my clearance bathing suit from White House Black Market and Rainbow sandals served me just fine. 

We were super nervous about the weather. All week we'd been checking and it was getting worse and worse. When you're only staying two nights, that one full day becomes REALLY crucial to the success of the trip. Luckily, we woke up Saturday to clear, blue skies and warm sunshine. We had a glorious day on the beach! The beach was practically empty! The hotel has a small "private" section, and randomly none of the other hotel guests decided to utilize it that day. It was so nice and quiet... just a really lovely day to relax with my husband. 

My only complaint is that our trip wasn't long enough... I could have used another day or two. But time off of work and money are hot commodities these days. Regardless, I'm so thankful we got away, had time to rest, and time to remember how blessed we are to have each other.

Top Left, clockwise: Fish N' Chips for Anniversary dinner, Coldstone (eek),
the beach,  view from hotel room, awkward photo on the beach, my monogrammed towel
and not so tan legs, Sam and his Double Pig dinner on our Anniversary,
lovely hotel room for less than half the price

Here's to year number five!

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Another Year Gone

It's a little surreal, but today is our fourth anniversary! I swear it seems like it was just a few months ago that I was writing about our third anniversary! I guess it's really true what they say: the days are long, but the years are short. There have been some really, really long days this past year. Days that I'm content never to repeat. But last night, as I read back through the previous years' anniversary posts (here, here, and here), I was pleased to see how how much we've done, how far we've come, and how much we've learned. Last year I was looking ahead to our fourth year of marriage. On that day, I was excited about:
  • Sam will accept an offer TODAY for his first job as a physical therapist.
  • We will move OUT of my mom's house and IN to a house in Athens
  • I will get a job (the odds are high within a year, right?)
  • We WILL pay for IVF
  • We might get pregnant
  • And if we're really, really blessed, we might buy a house within the next year.
And don't you know, we actually did almost all of the above except buy a home, (and the obvious one) but as we had our home inspection this morning, we came very, very close to sneaking that one in too. And honestly, I'd forgotten it was even a goal until last night! 

There is certainly one GIANT thing missing that we were desperately hoping for out of year four: a bring home baby or a solid pregnancy. Obviously that didn't work out like we were hoping despite saving and paying for IVF. It's really easy to start grading the years based on the one thing we're missing. When it's the one thing you spend all your time and money on for an entire year, it really feels like a failed year when that one thing doesn't work out. But the truth is, we've had a good year. We both got jobs, we moved to Athens, we completed our goal and paid for IVF (and an FET) without debt, and we're hoping to buy a home soon. Sure, this year would have been just about perfect if the IUI, or IVF, or FET had worked, but they didn't… it doesn't change what we did do, what we did accomplish.

There seems to be a general theme the least few years as I've recapped the previous year… sadness and hope. Sadness for what has gone before and hope for what might come tomorrow. That pretty much sums up this year as well. Marriage is about for better or for worse. Our for worse is most certainly infertility… it's a repeat theme year after year. And I'm not sure when or if that will ever change, but I'm still so incredibly thankful that we have each other. The worse is significantly better than it could be when you're with the one you love and you can support each other.

So Happy Anniversary to my best friend! I feel abundantly blessed to call you my husband! I'm looking forward to year five and hoping for better and brighter days with you!

April 3, 2010: Courtesy of the*Reason

Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
1 Corinthians 13:7

Monday, March 31, 2014

Hard Choices

For the sake of simplicity in this post, I'm dividing our next steps into two groups: group 1- we both (Sam and I) have a genetic relationship, and group 2- one and/or both of us do not have a genetic relationship with our child.
I'm currently struggling with our next steps. Unfortunately, I don't even really know what I want, which makes it particularly hard to agree (or disagree) with Sam about any of it. Every time I try to talk about any of the options, I start to cry. I'm feeling particularly vulnerable at the moment and all possible plans make me feel even more so. But I like to have plans, so I continue to think through them even if it's uncomfortable.

There are things that I like and don't like about each of the possible plans. I like that domestic infant adoption feels quick(ish)… it's certainly not a guarantee, but the possibility is there. I like that IVF gives me the potential to overcome infertility. I like that donor embryos is a cheap less expensive option. But with all the plans that fall into group 2 (donor egg, donor embryo, domestic and international adoption) I have a couple of things that I really don't like, a couple of things that I'm afraid of and can't seem to work through.

I've said several times before that adoption has always been a part of my family building plan. In my teens and early twenties, my dream was for 4-5 biological children first and then 1-2 adopted children, specifically via international adoption. To say I had a rose colored glasses view of adoption would be an understatement. I had never heard of adoption scams, or stealing infants from hospitals. I would never have dreamed that there was an underground rehoming network taking place in my own country. Adoption just seemed beautiful: it was all about rescue and redemption. I never thought I might need adoption in order to have a family, so it seemed almost ministerial rather than simply family building. 

My view of adoption has slowly changed. I'm honestly a little afraid of adoption. I'm afraid of getting in over my head, of unknowingly contributing to crime, of separating a child from his/her first family unnecessarily. In no way do I mean to say that adoption is bad. I have many, many friends who have or are currently adopting. I've seen adoption work. I've seen adoption be beautiful just like I imagined. But I've also heard things that make me nervous, things that seem to freeze my feet in place. 

My greatest fear with adoption seems to be spreading into all forms of family building that don't have a genetic connection, essentially all plans in group 2. My greatest fears center around the third party... the biological mother and/or father. Whether you want to admit it or not, adoption, donor embryo, and donor egg/sperm all have a third party involved. The fact that I would not have a genetic reflection in the face of my child isn't what I'm afraid of... looking at my child and not seeing high cheekbones or thick brown hair doesn't frighten me. What scares me is how the third party (or lack there of) might affect my child. How not knowing anything about his biological mom might forever leave a giant hole in his life. It seems to be a nonissue for some kids and a giant deal for others… I'm not sure if the difference is in the children or how they are raised.

In donor egg/sperm situations there is almost always no information available. In some instances, the couple receiving the eggs only knows height, weight, hair and eye color, and education level. Other than that, they simply know the donor passed whatever sort of preliminary tests required of donors. Unlike is most adoptions, even once the child turns 18, there is simply no additional information to provide the child… she will never know more about the woman who helped create her. The lack of information is typically to protect the donor from a child/children hunting for her years later. I don't think this eliminates donor eggs for us, but it's certainly something to think about, something to prepare for, something to process.

If the fear of raising a child who feels like a giant piece is missing from her life due to the lack of information frightens us, it seems that our next steps should be some form of open adoption or open embryo donation. But the moment I hear "open" an entire new set of fears arise.  I'm not sure if it makes me insecure or shallow but the idea of my child knowing and/or seeing his biological parents scares the dickens out of me. My dream of parenting never included a third party... the "adoption triad" as it's called. I understand why it's often the best situation for the child, but oh my heart. I'm not sure if I'm mature enough to handle that dynamic... I imagine I would forever be jealous of any connection my child might have with his/her biological parents. Meeting up at a park or inviting them to birthday parties scares me... and not simply because our parenting styles might be different or they might not be people I'd naturally choose for my child to hang out with. My biggest fear is that my child would prefer them over me. (insecure much?)

I can literally hear it ring in my ears, "you're not my mom." She might scream it as she turns, flouncing her hair, and slamming her bedroom door. The words probably came following a fight about boys or make-up. I'm pretty sure I said equally mean and hurtful things to my parents growing up, but that phrase might just rip my heart out if I ever hear it. It might be my biggest fear about losing the genetic connection with my kid(s). I certainly don't want to raise kids who feel incomplete, but I'm also afraid of allowing the biological parents into our lives. I'm afraid of how the third party would change my relationship with my child. It all just feels scary and foreign in ways I wasn't prepared to feel until group 2 was really right in front of me.

All of these thoughts have been swirling around ever since I wrote "Plans G-K". I had asked Sam several weeks ago to start thinking through our options so that we could discuss it soon. We finally talked about how we each feel about the different plans this past weekend. Essentially, I feel like we have six options (not including another FET or living child-free).
  1. Expensive IVF: Somewhere with GOOD statistics like CCRM or maybe Advanced Fertility Centers of Chicago
  2. Cheap(er) IVF: It would be $1000 less to go back to FIRM (which was already a fraction of the cost) for another round
  3. Domestic Adoption
  4. International Adoption
  5. Donor Eggs
  6. Donor Embryos
It should be shocking to no one that Sam and I didn't list our options in the same order. That would make things way too easy.

Sam's list: 3, 5, 6, 1, 4, 2
Amanda's list: 1, 5, 6, 3, 2, 4

Sam likes adoption for two things: he thinks it will be faster and that it's more of a sure thing.
I like IVF with CCRM (or other really good clinics) because it eliminates all of my above fears and allows me another shot at beating infertility (I'm not normally so competitive). International adoption is at the bottom of my list because, if this happens to be the only child we ever have, I don't want to miss having a baby. And I think repeating IVF at FIRM is at the bottom of both of our lists because of my poor response. It just seems dumb to repeat the same thing and hope for different results.

So how do we move forward from here? Obviously, we arm wrestle for it. I think the best move from here is to research each of our top options first. We might have a phone consult at CCRM and go to a few informational meetings at a couple adoption agencies. I've just finished reading Called to Adoption: A Christian's Guide to Answering the Call. I'm on the hunt for other good reads. I don't think we're in a desperate hurry to make up our minds… I'm in a desperate hurry to have a baby, but as all options cost a good chunk of change, it won't be any time soon. We've got time to research and talk and pray… hopefully our next steps will seem clearer to both of us with time. I do think I'll schedule a consult with Dr. Duffy at FIRM in the coming weeks to at least discuss the possibility of transferring all four remaining embryos. If he likes that idea, that may be our next step as it's certainly the cheapest and we'll have fully exhausted our options before moving forward.

Essentially, all of these are good options… there's no bad option here is it brings us a child of our own. But that doesn't mean choosing is easy… these are hard choices to make. These are decisions that I never in my wildest dreams thought we'd be making, not even when infertility was dumped on us. I'm still trying to wrap my mind around the reality of our life. There are moments when I just want to cry, tell God he's completely unfair, and refuse to give up any more than I already have. In those moments I just want a baby without stress or fear, without worry or heartache… I just want it to be simple. But simple it is not. I certainly don't believe the old saying that the Lord won't give us more than we can handle… I think the story of Job pretty clearly disputes that. But I do think wherever He leads me or allows my life to go, He'll see me through. He's allowed infertility to be a part of my life for one reason or another… I have to believe He'll see me to the other side, hard choices and all.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Stuck on Repeat

Well friends, it's another negative. I'd be lying if I said I wasn't sad... super sad. Two more of my embryos died. Two thousand more dollars were spent for another negative. I really don't know what else to say... we tried, we failed (again).

I have absolutely no idea where we need to go from here. I know I'm not ready to kiss the dream goodbye, but I also know that I am so, so tired. I'm so over this season, this journey. Can I have a different story? Even if the grass isn't as green as I imagine it is on the other side, I'm ready to cross over. But how much more do I want to go through? How much of the dream am I willing to give up? Genetics? The pregnancy? The birth? Infancy? Do we move on to the next logical step and simply try IVF again, maybe at a better clinic like CCRM? But what if that fails too? Then what? We'll have spent $30,000 on CCRM... we'll need another $10,000-35,000 to move on to the next, next step. Or should I simply admit that my eggs aren't up to par and skip a second round of IVF? Should we go straight to adoption or donor embryos? I feel overwhelmed by the possibilities, but even more so by all the zeroes following the dollar signs.

We do technically have four (maybe three) frozen embryos. One 8 cell, one 6 cell, one 4 cell, and one 3 cell.... the 3 cell is the questionable one. I don't really understand  enough about meiosis and mitosis and all that stuff to get what my doctor was saying, but essentially, he's not sure that the 3 cell actually has male DNA in it. I know, weird. Essentially he said on Saturday (day two) the egg looked to be unfertilized, so he reported that we had seven embryos. But when we showed up on Sunday, what had looked like an unfertilized egg the day before suddenly had three cells. He's unsure if it successfully fertilized or not... at least, I think that's what he said. The 8 and 4 cell are frozen together and the 6 and the 3 cell make our fourth straw. At this moment, if we did another FET next, I'd want to transfer all four. I can't believe I'm saying that... three months ago transferring three seemed like a terrifying and dumb choice... but that was transfer one and this would be transfer three, with the four worst embryos. The odds have to be incredibly small of a 3 cell, day 3, grade 3 embryo becoming our take home baby. I don't want to toss it, but I just don't feel good about transferring either group alone.

I really don't know which way is forward... all paths thus far just seem to circle us around and around and around. Our story just seems to be stuck on repeat. But ultimately, we have time to figure it out. As we don't have $30,000 in our bank account, we're not ready to move forward with plan G, H, I, J or K. In the mean time, I'm going to let myself cry, take a long, hot bath, and drink a Diet Coke... and there's probably a pint of Ben and Jerry's Salted Caramel Core in my very near future. Other than that, I'm going to look forward to the good things we have ahead: house hunting continues tomorrow and anniversary next Thursday. Life's not all bad... I've got to remember that.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

The Trifecta

I'm in search of The Trifecta. What is that, you ask? Oh well it's essentially my pursuit of happiness: a good job, a home, and a kid. I'm knocking on the door of 28.5 years and I'm still in search of The Trifecta. I know it's become the sad, sad, sad story of my generation that we're reaching milestones later, and later than we (or our parents) ever imagined. Sam and I appear to be particularly stunted... thanks infertility.

Suddenly it feels as if there is potential, potential to achieve The Trifecta. Unbelievable. Simply unbelievable. I won't get in to the employment thing because that just seems dumb to talk about on a public blog, but I'm EXCEPTIONALLY pleased to announce that the Greavus are house hunting! Eeekkkkk! I know, I know. Probably not that exciting, but to us, we're beyond pumped. The reason we're finally pulling the trigger on a house is probably a little premature and maybe the strangest reason ever to start the search. Essentially, if we decide adoption is our next step, we will have to move. No one, and I really mean that, absolutely no social worker would approve us for a home study in our current setup... we don't even have smoke detectors. When we started thinking about moving, we realized (once again) that rent is not cheap. We started crunching numbers and well, to get into a nice(r) place that will accept our 80 lb Weimeraner, our cat, and would pass a home inspection.... well it's not pretty. I exclaimed, "we could own a house for less than that!" And do you know what? We actually can!

Regardless of the decision to adopt, we would never feel comfortable bringing our child home to our current place, so moving is a must at some time. And now that we've started looking, we're both full three quarters steam ahead. We are trying to be EXTRA cautious with our choices. While we fully realize that the third part of our trifecta could come in the form of the two little embryos we transferred, we also realize that it might not. We could be years and thousands upon THOUSANDS of dollars away from a bring home baby. In order to save thousands, we need enough margin in our monthly budget. Which means the house of our dreams is not in the works, nor is the house we thought we'd buy when we got married... no this is the house of reality. The reality that says any child may cost $30,000+... literally. Dream homes are for later... much, much later. This will be a true "starter home"... and not like the starter homes my generation and those proceeding us thought were starters homes, no this will be a true starter home. But the cool thing is, we're still so excited about it. It probably won't even have five of our top ten wants, but it's still INCREDIBLE that we're even doing this.

As to the whole baby thing... I'd be lying if I said I hadn't thought of the potential we have right now. The potential for a positive pregnancy test on Friday and a bring home baby in 36 weeks. I've certainly thought of how ASTONISHINGLY different out lives would look if we weren't expecting to spend the next few years saving for a chance at a baby. I mean obviously, our lives would look waayyy different just because we have a baby... that in and of itself would be ridiculously different. But in terms of finances, things would radically change if we weren't up against IVF or adoption.

The potential for big things, for life altering change is definitely there... as to how significant the potential is, I have no idea. What are the odds we actually achieve ALL THREE?!?!? Probably slim... our lives simply do not seem to work that way. But two out of three? Still amazing. One out of three? I'd still be thrilled with ANY positive thing right now. Particularly if that one is a BABY... literally, I'll live in a hovel and work for minimum wage for a baby.

Speaking of baby... test day is Friday. I'm giving myself about a 5% chance of a positive beta which is low even for me. My doubts are at an all time high because I had period-ish cramps on and off all day Sunday, all day Monday and most of Tuesday. They are gone now, but I still don't think this bodes well. But one way or another, we'll find out on Friday.

And even if all three fall through, our anniversary is next week... I'm reminded that we are abundantly blessed to have four years of marriage behind us. We have a small trip planned to get away and relax together over a long weekend and I'm ridiculously excited! Other than Florida for IVF (which was too stressful and sad to even consider a vacation) this will be the first getaway since our last anniversary. We're ready.