Wednesday, February 25, 2015

And If Not


I'd approached Him all these years on this one issue like the beggar I thought He'd made me to be, inconsequential and insignificant before Him. Please God, please God. I repeated words like rote religious petitions, stumbling over myself to get close to an answer, when the One giving the answer wasn't even in my picture. The One on the other end of my requests was behind guarded doors, doling out responses like Santa Claus. And I, apparently, had not been "nice." I prayed as one who believes she is cursed might pray.
Every Bitter Thing is Sweet

Oh man you guys, my world is getting rocked right now by a tiny little book... just 8 inches tall, and 208 pages from cover to cover. But oh man, it's good. I mentioned earlier that I was reading Every Bitter Thing is Sweet by Sara Hagerty. Many of you might have read it. I had wanted to read it for a few months, but didn't want to shovel out the ten bucks (because I say no). I put it on my Christmas list and my mother-in-law got it for me. Every few pages had a line or two that caused my world to shift. It was so good that about half way through it I literally just started over. I didn't want to miss a thing.

Her question from the beginning is one that I've been asking myself for years, but I didn't have the words to articulate it. Her question, "Is He [God] good to me?" becomes the central focus of her story as she deals with infertility, adoption, marriage, and financial struggles. It becomes the lens through which she views each circumstance.

The author says that due to infertility, she began to see herself as cursed. It's not the way I would describe myself, probably because it conjures up the idea of witches or karma or something. But if I think about the word simply as the opposite of blessed, I begin to understand her use of the word. The lives of others, hundreds, thousands of others, are blessed. But this one thing, this one prayer, has gone unanswered... I have not been blessed, so I must be cursed. She writes the following in response to her father's diagnosis of brain cancer, "Of course. This is just how my life goes. Why should I expect it to be different? If I want something, it will always elude me." And I have to admit, that some days, that's exactly how I feel. It's as if infertility has become this Thing upon which my life is measured. The presence of it in my life means that I am not yet blessed, I am not yet chosen. 

I could write ten posts just about the mess, the ugly that this book is stirring up and causing me to confront. I want to focus in on one idea though. Tucked away in the midst of chapter eight is this line that absolutely rocked my world.: "I struggled, instead, with knowing that God could heal me, but he didn't." She writes that part after adopting two children. She was a mom, yet she still felt that way. I don't know why, but that line hit me like a ton of bricks. It sums up my whole experience, this whole wrestling match with God. It's what I've been trying to say for almost four years, but haven't had the words. I'm desperate for infertility to end, not simply because I want a baby, not simply because I want to give birth, not simply because making babies in the bed is a lot less expensive than any other method, but because I'm terrified of who I will be if my "fertile years" run out and He never chooses to heal me. Will I still love Him? Will I be able to stare Him in the face, crawl up in His lap, cry out 'Abba Father' knowing He could have created life with just a breath, but He never did?

It brings out this idea that's becoming more and more popular. She Reads Truth readers have made it their banner cry... they even have a t-shirt (I want!). The idea is this: And if not... He is still good.  This idea of "and if not" is not new. The idea is scriptural, going back all the way to the book of Daniel when Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were threatened with death by fire if they would not kneel before the king's idols. Daniel 3:17-18 says, "If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand. But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up." It's a hard place to come to. A place where we say even if You NEVER answer my greatest, hardest, most earnest prayer, You are still good. This is one of those "I want to be like that" moments, but I'm not sure I'm there, or at least not consistently. I'm still struggling to process. I'm still arguing with myself that I'd be more blessed, that He'd be a better God if He gave me this one thing. It's hard to wrestle with the thought that your God is all powerful, that He can make something out of nothing, and yet, what if He doesn't?

The author eventually comes to see that her life was blessed, in ways she wasn't looking for, in ways she didn't expect, in ways she didn't request. And part of that blessing was infertility… it's not even a silver lining kind of thing. Infertility changed her. As myself and many others have experienced, infertility is like a glacier, slowly carving out the terrain of your life. Infertility made her more open, more vulnerable with her husband. It made her more empathetic towards others. It made her desperate enough to take crazy big risks to go after four orphans in Africa. But I believe she'd say most importantly, it made her long to see her Father more clearly. She writes, "I had a lot of ideas about God that weren't actually God's ideas about God… I saw more clearly the disconnection between who I said God is and who I believed Him to be." Eventually she sees that the presence of infertility is what reconciled her, brought her to her knees at the feet of the One who could change it all, and not the lap of Santa. But it was a process. A whole decade in the making. She ultimately decides that "God allowed [infertility]. Maybe even invited it" and that He did so because He could see the finished product that she'd become.

I've wrestled with some of these thoughts before. I wrote a post awhile ago where I struggled to find the reason for the presence of infertility in my life. Later, I wrote a post where I tired to wrestle with the idea of giving thanks for infertility, even if it is the ultimate weed in my life. I feel like I'm on the cusp of coming full circle. The reason for infertility isn't what is important because the answer won't change much of anything. And offering thanks is well and good, but there is more.

I've allowed infertility, my barrenness to become the lens by which I view the world. Or more accurately, to color the lens I use to view the world. When I view my life, and the lives of those around me I see evidence of being overlooked by God. You can see where Sara's question comes in. The question isn't "is God good?" but rather the question is "is God good to me?Is God good? Absolutely. Is God good to me? Maybe. I hope so. Let's wait and see. If asked, I wouldn't have said any of that, but that's what would have rolled through the dusty, darkness of my mind where tumbleweeds blow from one corner to the next. But now, as I continue to wrestle, as I continue to stretch I'm coming to a slightly different idea. Maybe God's goodness isn't measured simply in giving good gifts, which He does, but rather in allowing us to come to a place where we desire Him more than His gifts. Maybe He allows it, even invites it so that I'll eventually come to a place where I can write, "I wanted Him. Whether He came and lifted my circumstances, or He just came."

___________________________________

I'm assuming you were hoping for an update out of all of that. I don't know much. We had our interview last night. It was awkward, and touching, and stressful, and hard. And it made me admire and like this woman 10,000 times more than before. This situation feels so right to me for so many reasons, but I have no inkling if the expectant mom is feeling the same. We know now that we went second; the other couple had their interview yesterday morning. I also know that my consultant really wanted us to go first because, in her words, "the first couple almost always gets chosen." I also know that the two women from the agency that were on both phone calls are split in their opinion as to who she will choose. This could go either way. We don't feel settled, or secure, or confident in anyway. I also know that everything you wanted to say apparently comes to mind and mouth about 4:30am after the phone call. We are hopeful that we will have an answer within the next few days… as always, the waiting is the hardest part.

We are desperately hoping that this little boy is our bring home baby… but if not He is still good. 


Monday, February 23, 2015

And Then There Were Two

I'm alive, though you wouldn't know it from the blog these days. It has been a busy season. I think of the blog every few days and think, "oh it's okay, I posted a few days ago, only to check and see that no, it was a week ago two weeks ago." And now it's been three weeks.

Let's see, in the last three weeks, I accepted a new position, put in my two week notice, left my old job, started a new job, signed up for private insurance, received my rocker for the nursery (eek), bought a crib and dresser (double eek), finalized plans for the nursery (who is this person?), and well, I think that about covers it. Oh wait, no. I applied for two new adoption cases. The first didn't go far because the expectant mother never showed up to review profiles. But the second, be still my heart. The second has brought us as far as we've ever been. Drum roll please…

We're one of TWO!!!

The expectant mom has selected us and one other couple to interview before making her final decision. For now, our interview is set for Tuesday evening, but it very easily could get bumped to Wednesday. There are quite a number of parties involved in the interview, so I'm trying to be as flexible and accommodating as possible. We've submitted questions for the her and we're awaiting the questions that she plans to ask us. That's basically it… just waiting.

I'm teetering on the edge between, "this can't possibly work because things like this never work out for me" and "oh, have mercy, I could be a MOM in less than 6 weeks!" I'm honestly pretty terrified that we won't present ourselves well. Sam is NOT a talker, and on the phone… umm, no. I, by nature lead conversations. In consults with the doctor, Sam typically asked one question, maybe two if he was feeling particularly chatty. And I came across as highly organized, extreme type-A personality who needed answers to all life's questions… which is basically true, but not exactly the side I want to shine through tomorrow. The advice I've gotten is to personable, show emotion, and connect. Three things that I am NOT good at doing, particularly when I'm meeting someone, and even more so when I'm nervous. I just really needed the profile book to carry me through the match process. I did not want the decision to come down to my ability to shine in a phone call.

But I really have to give this expectant mom credit. She is taking this so seriously, and I really commend her for it. Her words to the agency last friday were this: "I can only do this one thing for my son. I want to do it really well." Gah, that just breaks my heart and makes me love her at the same time. She reviewed several profiles, but just couldn't decide between us and one other, so she's interviewing both over the phone before she decides. After that, she wants to meet the couple she selects before the birth. See? She's 110% in this, serious, devoted, committed. I really admire her and everything I've heard about her from the agency is just so impressive.

The few people that we've already told have asked about the other couple. I have zero information on the couple other than that must be within 6-7 hours of the expectant mom as that was her one stipulation on the original profiles. People joke that they are surely hideous, or some other undesirable characteristic that will make us the automatic winner. But the truth is that they are probably a lot like us. I've read through about 50 prospective adoptive parent profiles during this journey. If you remove the singles and homosexual couples, you're left with a very similar group. I'd say about 80% of the heterosexual couples are seeking domestic adoption due to infertility in some form or another. Our stories, when written in a brief paragraph, all read about the same. Judging by this woman's interest in us, the other couple is probably a lot like us: mid to late twenties or early thirties, married three to ten years, no children, struggling to conceive or dealing with reoccurring pregnancy loss. We're probably a lot more alike than we are different. She's probably obsessing over her questions and worrying the nights away about what to say (and not to say) in the phone call. They're probably looking at the calendar in amazement and cautiously hoping that life changes forever in the next few weeks. It's a competition of sorts because there will only be one "winner," but it feels a lot like competing against one of my sisters. I know this woman's pain. I've lived her darkest moments. I know intimately how badly she wants this.

So friends, that's where we are. Ever so cautiously waiting and trying desperately to guard our hearts. One of two is a heck of a lot further than we've been before, but I am not a betting woman, and 50% odds have never sounded good to me. The good news is that as always, there will be an end to this waiting and hoping and guessing. Both couples will interview with the expectant mom early this week, so I'm hopeful that we'll know one way or another by the end of this week.

If you're the sort to pray, we're currently scheduled for our call at 7pm tomorrow. I'd really appreciate prayers for Sam and I. I want to walk away from the phone call saying that we did well. That we presented ourselves earnestly and honestly and that we loved and respected this woman. Pray for my heart, that I can show emotion on this call, yet keep myself grounded and guarded this week as we wait. And pray for this woman and her son. This is one of those "I want to want what You want, Father" kind of situations for me. Ultimately, we want what is best for the baby. If that's us, SUPER, but if not, that's okay too.

Update: The interview is Tuesday at 7:30.


Monday, February 2, 2015

I Said No

The last five years have really taught me the value of a dollar. I mean, ever since my parents' divorce I've been slowly learning this lesson, but getting married and plunging head first into grad school will give you a crash course really quickly. Sam and I lived comfortably, but we regularly said no to fun things that first year of marriage. We would hear about a party with friends or a night out for dinner and a movie with another couple and we would say to one another, "I don't know how they do it!" We were makings ends meet... no ramen noodles on our menu, but we were certainly learning to cut corners and the easiest corners to cut for us have always been entertainment and eating out.

And then, after that first 18 months of marriage, infertility treatments smashed like a freight train right into our lives. It seemed like I couldn't possibly cut the budget anymore. But as time went on, I just simply learned to do without. I never ordered Mary Kay makeup again. When it ran out, I went to Target and bought the cheapest thing I could find. My shampoo was whatever was on sale, plus a coupon. I learned to color my own hair if I wanted a color change. Dinner and a movie changed to Redbox and a five dollar pizza from Little Caesar. Slowly, I began to become a person who says "no" to all "extras." I would say my only real splurge at this time is Starbucks coffee... I'm an espresso drink fan and I literally work 50 feet from Starbucks, but for the most part, I stick to whatever we agree to reload to the card each month. 

My husband is not a fan of the "no" me. There have been so many times that he's wanted to go play golf, or go bowling, or go to dinner. While I'm certainly not the decision maker in this family, I have a way of shining a light on the budget. "Oh, how great babe, I didn't know you found an extra $70 on the ground last week... how perfect for your golf game," It's really an art form. 70% of the time, I successfully guilt lovingly suggest that we should once again skip this activity. The 30% of the time I fail to convince him, I'm really awesome at providing the silent treatment or playing the guilt game over his failure to commit to whatever we're saving for. "I'm so glad you enjoyed your breakfast with friends, love! That's really awesome that you got waffles and hashbrowns, foods you can make for a buck fifty, while our IVF savings account sits about half full"... I wish I could say that those words never came out of my mouth, but they have, more times than I'd like to admit.

Truly, I feel guilty about spending money on things we don't "need." Dinner with my husband just doesn't fall in the necessary column. I've been struggling the last few years to recognize the value in doing things together. Or with friends. The concept of date night is 100% foreign to me at this point. We haven't been to a movie together in over a year, and before that maybe two or more. The last time we went out for a nice dinner was for our anniversary almost two years ago, and that was because we had a gift card which covered 100% of the meal.

While I definitely see the benefits of being thrifty, living below our means, choosing to make sacrifices, etc. I can also say that there are certain losses with that type of life. The loss of friendship opportunities is certainly there. Say no to manicures and karaoke nights enough and eventually your friends will give up on you. I've been fortunate to have FANTASTIC friends who never give up on me, and regularly extend the offer, but I imagine I'm pretty much the lamest friend ever. The answer is always no.

I can also see how the long term presence of "no" within the marriage begins to take effect too. Once upon a time, we thought of little ways to surprise each other... even if it was totally lame like "hey babe, I bought you 64 ounces of diet coke" (swoon). So much of that kind of "I thought of you, so I..." and "I love you, so lets..." has died. Now I'm sure part of that is because hello, we've been married for almost 5 years. The honeymoon is o-ver. But our financial struggles with infertility and now adoption have certainly only added to the problem. so many well-meaning people over the years have suggested that I use this time to "be married." What they mean by that is celebrate our marriage and the good things we have with date nights and vacations and special things. I've literally been told to let Sam "lavish" me multiple times. I've yet to laugh or fire back at that comment but really, things are so far from lavish around here. And that's okay. I'm not looking at my husband thinking why "why haven't you planned a secret getaway?" We live this way because I want to, because I want more for us than date nights and vacations.

I've been thinking lately how much of this attitude has simply become who I am. I don't even think, "well, I'd love to, but..." I don't check the accounts for margin. It takes me less than two seconds to answer because the answer is always no. I sometimes think that once we complete this adoption, I'll loosen up and live a little more. But the honest truth is, I probably won't. At least not willingly. I'll have diapers and formula and daycare to add to the budget. And I'll have those four embryos in Florida to worry about. I can think of 10,000 excuses to stay exactly as I am. But I also think about the child we're hoping to bring home, the one we've waited for for so long. And I wonder if this is the kind of mother I want to be. I'm not talking about blowing the budget, going into debt, that sort of thing... I know that's not the lifestyle I want to live. But do I want to be a mom who feels guilty about spending gas money to drive my kid to the park? I see moms who enroll their kids in swim class and music lessons and gymnastics and all that kind of stuff and I wonder, if we ever get there, to that point in life, will I recognize those expenses for what they are or will I just say no? Has the need to constantly save altered who I am down to my very core so that all if know how to do is say no? Will I ever learn to say yes again?

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Not Chosen

Adoption offers something unique that infertility treatment does not, a special feeling of sorts, that I had not experienced… until now. It's true that there can be certain parallels drawn between adoption and TTC, particularly if your adoption efforts are due to infertility, but there are also certain things that are just different. One of those things is the feeling of not being chosen… that's certainly unique. I guess the closest parallel to not being chosen would be a failed cycle, but it's a weak comparison. When your IUI cycle is a bust, it is devastating, but no one chose for your cycle to fail. Does that make sense? No, not really… I told you it was a weak comparison.

We've submitted out profile four times now. The first time was back in November, and the birth mother ultimately decided to parent. It was a whirlwind of a week as we waited for her decision, but I walked away feeling okay… she never chose any potential adoptive parents, so it wasn't like we were not chosen. Does that make sense? Since then, we've submitted on two situations but we've never heard from the agency at all. Not a "hey, thanks for your profile" or a "the birth mother picked another couple" or even a "your profile wasn't a good fit, so we didn't give her yours"… just nothing. We don't know if we were presented to the birth mother or not, if she made a selection, if she chose not to go through with the adoption. It's been the same agency both times, so needless to say, I'm not very impressed with them, and if we send our profile again, I wouldn't get my hopes up at all. But on Thursday of last week, there was a very real case and my hopes were very high.

I was on my lunch break when I got a phone call from a number I didn't recognize. I typically take all phone calls these days as you just never know… it was the lady who completed our home study and she had a baby she'd like to tell us about. The baby was already born, so my initial instinct was "no"… I really want to be there for those early days. But as she went on, I had a "this could be it" kind of moment. She was excited… I was excited. At first it felt like we just had to say yes, like they needed someone for this baby. We had to make a decision as soon as possible. We'd need to have 100% of the money which we certainly don't have yet… so we'd be maxing out credit cards, taking out loans… that sort of thing. The baby also had some potential life altering health risks and there was no way to know anything before making a decision. We frantically called friends and family and doctors and nurses… everyone we could think of to get as much information as we could, but how much information can you get in half an hour? We both knew we'd ultimately just have to leap… and so we did. We eventually found out that we'd just be submitting our profile… one of an unknown number of other potential adoptive families. But still, adrenaline was coursing through me as I made preparations not to return to work… our social worker felt a decision would be made within 24 hours, so we'd need to be ready to go and soon. She even said to be by the phone all night as this group had been known to call with additional questions in the evening hours. She sent me his photo and I stared at his adorable little lips and prayed. And we waited.

I was a bundle of nerves Thursday night and Friday morning. There was a baby one state away from me, who was being released from the hospital that day and no one was going to be there to get him. He was being transitioned into what they call cradle care until arrangements could be made. My heart was breaking for this little boy and suddenly I stopped wanting a baby… I wanted THIS baby. I kept staring at his picture (probably not the wisest thing, but I couldn't help it). I could feel myself getting frustrated as we waited for the phone to ring. My focus once again began to turn inward, to me, to my needs. I'm telling you, not nice thoughts pop into your head while you wait. I went back and read the devotional from this blog post over and over again throughout the day as I tried to tune my heart towards this little boy and his birth mother. Waiting for LIFE CHANGING news is just so hard.

You can already see where this is going. We waited all day for news, but none came. By the end of the day, I was pretty sure that I knew what that meant. Sam was holding out hope that a decision just hadn't been made yet, but I was pretty sure we simply weren't chosen. I called yesterday to confirm. Apparently they had emailed our social worker with the news on Friday, but she had failed to pass it along to us. We were not chosen. 

I'd be lying if I said it doesn't hurt. It's like being picked last for some game in elementary school, only 10,000 times worse. A million thoughts run through my head… justifications for why she didn't choose us. We're too tall. She's blonde. She may not like dogs. Or cats. And the truth is that those are real things that may sway her one way or another. But under that, lies the true fear. The fear that she looked at us and found us lacking. That we're not good enough. Not beautiful enough. Not wealthy enough. Not worldly enough. Not vibrant enough. That we're simply not enough to be chosen as parents.

You often hear in the adoption world of people waiting for ages and ages, but I actually know quite a number of couples who were chosen the very first time they were presented. It happens. But it's not happening to us. There's certainly the danger for comparison and jealousy to creep in as I analyze why some are chosen so quickly and others "sit on the market," if you will. We've been told time and time again that the birth mothers are looking for a connection with the intended mother, that she is the one on display in the profile books. And so I feel even more disappointed. It's easy to say, "just as in infertility, it's me… I'm the problem. I'm the one preventing us from having a family." It's a terrible feeling. But of course, there's some personal reflection and analyzation needed in all of this. Are we simply not presenting ourselves well? Do we come across poorly in our profile book? Should we make changes? The profile book is just twenty pages… a tiny little glimpse into who we are. It's really just a tiny sliver of us. Is the tiny sliver leaving the wrong impression?

As in the case back in November, once the decision was known, my emotions have calmed down a bit. The frantic need to make a decision so quickly, plus the timeframe of this situation with the baby already born created quite the frenzy of emotions. Now that I've had a day to process, I'm doing better. Not being chosen stinks, but I have to trust that things are being orchestrated for our good beyond what I can see. We weren't chosen this time, but the next time will be a new situation all over again. A new mom. A new baby. A clean slate.

Maybe next time.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Sitting Pretty in the Midst of Adoption

It's been a while since I've updated about the adoption, so I figured now is as good of time as any! I wish I had tons and tons of secret info that I'd been hiding away for a big announcement but, well , really I haven't been updating because there's not much to say. I feel pretty frustrated when I think about it and overwhelmed if I dwell on it, so I choose the really mature option and watch Gilmore Girls reruns rather than think about adoption.

I feel like we missed out on a pretty good window back in October and November. During those two months we were seeing A LOT of cases, like between two and five a week. But we weren't ready to put our names forward yet because we were still finalizing our home study. One of the most frustrating parts is that we did complete our home study in October, but we didn't get the paperwork we needed for three and half weeks. It really seems like we got our paperwork, applied for the one situation, and then everything ground to a complete halt. We've been seeing about one to two (or less) cases a week since then, and for all intents and purposes, it's basically none because those we have seen have been so expensive... $38,000 for a stork drop last week, $55,000 for twins due later in January. In total, we've seen about five cases in the last four months that have been within out budget. I typically skim the cost analysis, see the total number and then delete the email... what in the world am I supposed to do with numbers like that?

We were told that the end of the year, with all of the holidays, is typically very slow in the adoption world. And man, that was the truth. It's now two weeks after the first of the year and we have seen a few cases come though, so maybe things will begin to speed up a bit now. It still feels like a slow time in general. It appears we missed a good time in the fall and now we'll have to wait it out. I'd be lying if I said I wasn't frustrated. Just about everyone we spoke with that used our adoption consultant was matched within five months of working with her... many brought their babies home within that time. We have also chosen to pay a little bit of extra money in order to become clients of two attorneys, one in Florida and one in Oklahoma. They were both referred to us from our adoption consultant, but we've yet to see any cases from either of them... it's just silent out there.

However, despite the lack of movement in getting matched, we're doing pretty well in other areas. Fundraising is going pretty well, for which I'm out of my mind with thankfulness. Towards the end of the year, we got a few really unexpected donations from supporters. You guys, people I haven't seen or spoken to since high school have donated. Cue sobs and uncontrollable ugly cries. We also had a really fantastic fundraiser back in November where one of Sam's patients offered to make wreaths for the front door and sell them. She donated all of her time, which was about the sweetest thing ever. And get this, we ended up getting $3,400 from that fundraiser. Be still my heart. Who would have thought?

So far, we've raised $15,927 and sold 630 puzzle pieces. That's 370 left to go. Eeeek! Speaking of the puzzle, it's done. We actually finished putting it together several weeks ago; I've just been dragging on getting the names on the back. It's a pretty tedious process, but I think it's going to look pretty cool when it's all done (I hope).

The back of the puzzle with a very measly number of names filled in.

If you add in the money that Sam and I have put in, we're at a total of $19,421. Our original goal was for this adoption to cost about $30,000. Truth be told, I'm currently hoping to stay under $35,000 as I'm seeing our expenses continue to add up, but we're not actually any closer to bringing a baby home. We were pretty close to running out of time with You Caring (it was set to expire on January 15th), but I contacted them and got an extension, so now we're set to expire on March 15th.

In other news, I made the most insane purchase of my life... a rocker. More specifically a rocker for the NURSERY. I feel like a woman possessed... who took hold of my body? Honestly, the nursery is 50% done in theory... we've picked out a crib, dresser, rocker, and bedding. I figure that amounts to at least 50%, right? Now that I sit here with an empty email inbox, and no sign of a match in sight, it feels a bit rash (understatement of the year).

When we submitted for the first baby back in November, I was really surprised by the time frame... just five days until the due date. It was a complete shock. And since then, we've seen more and more situations that have had a really quick time frame. Some where the baby is already born and others where the due date is just a day or two away. These scenarios were really not what I was expecting... I figured we'd have at least a month or more. As I began to think about the reality that things can change in the adoption world in the blink or an eye, I decided that I might at least need an idea of what I wanted to do for the nursery... a general plan so that I wasn't needing to make decisions and search for a crib in a frantic moment.

So one weekend in December, mom and I set out to go look at nursery furniture. It was quite an odd experience. At every single store the subject came up of my flat stomach. "Oh my, you're so tiny," she'd exclaim. "Getting an early start, huh?" he'd ask. Even after I said I was adopting and wanted to see pieces that wouldn't take half a year to arrive (did you know that some baby furniture is a 12-16 week order time?!?) I'd still get comments about my flat stomach. I was mostly just overwhelmed by the whole process and the 10,000 options, so the comments were really the least of my worries. I do think a T-shirt might be called for on my next trip out. I'm thinking "My stomach is washboard flat only slightly pudgy because there's no baby in this belly. We're adopting!" would work.

After quite a bit of deliberation and math, I think we've made our choices. We're not getting it yet, because hello, as all the salespeople so often pointed out, my stomach is super flat... no baby in the belly, and no baby on the horizon. But we went ahead and bit the bullet and ordered the rocker because, well, rockers/gliders are next to impossible to find that even semi-fit Sam and his 6'9 frame. But also, we got a great deal! The rocker that we LOVE is on sale for $100 off right now, and we had a 15% off coupon, AND $75 in reward points that expire this month. It seemed financially wise to go ahead and purchase rather than waste the savings opportunity, don't ya' think?

So that's where we sit... and if we don't have a baby by mid February, I'll literally be sitting in that rocker. That or the sight of it will drive me to hysterics and I'll have to cover it with a sheet... you know another really mature way of dealing with the hard stuff. Continue to hope and pray with us that the right opportunity, within our financial abilities, comes through soon!

Monday, January 12, 2015

One Year to Decide

Today marks one year since my IVF transfer in Jacksonville. It's not a particularly special moment, not like a due date or anything, but as this day has approached, I've been thinking a lot about next year. January 12, 2016 will mark two years since our first transfer, and more importantly two years since our remaining embryos were frozen for storage. FIRM, the clinic we used for IVF, requires an upfront payment as part of IVF for storage of any unused embryos or eggs. That payment covers two years, so you can see how this time next year becomes important... we're already halfway there (how can that be?!?). Essentially, we will need to either use our remaining embryos by this time next year, pay another storage fee, donate our embryos to another couple, or agree to discard our embryos.

Many couples face this decision at one time or another. It's often once a child (or more) comes home that the couple is faced with this decision. The decision is really personal, and as many posts have been written on this topic, I take it that it's a pretty hard decision for everyone. For us, the decision is already made (in part). We're using our embryos. We simply cannot discard them for moral and ethical reasons. And I also don't think we could donate our embryos, not because we are against embryos donation (we are strongly FOR), but because our embryos are of poor quality. I know if I was going through an organization like Snowflake Embryo Adoption and read our profile, I would scroll right past us. "Four embryos frozen on day 3, all grade 3, and 8, 6, 4, and 3 cells with no live births from the cycle" does not read like a winning profile. These embryos are our responsibility and we take that very seriously.

However, if I'm being honest, I don't really want to shell out another $800 to keep these embryos in storage, so I'm feeling the burden to transfer all of them before this time next year. For one, the embryos aren't a source of hope for me. For some, the thought of having embryos frozen is a source of hope either for another chance at the first bring home baby or a future sibling. But for me, these embryos feel more like a weight, like a duty, like something I have to get back to. And truthfully, the embryos don't feel like a real possibility of a child. I mean day 3, grade 3, and four cells??? That embryo is a full day behind in growth (embryos should reach four cells by day 2) and the cells are also unequal. If you google day 3 embryo grading, you'll find that, transfers are far more successful, no matter what the grade, if the embryo has between 6-10 cells at 72 hours after fertilization. I've got two that fall in that category (frozen in different groups), the other two are very, very, very unlikely to even make it to the blastocyst stage, let alone implant and become a viable pregnancy. But truthfully, none of them feel like a real shot because we've already transferred better embryos, both in grade and cell division, but all have (obviously) failed.

I say all of that to explain, paying for another year of storage doesn't really feel like a wise investment of money. Truthfully, it feels like delaying the inevitable. I'd really like to just bite the bullet and move forward with the FET(s) within the next 365 days. However, as always, finances play a big, big part in the decision making process. A single FET will cost approximately $1,500 not including medications or travel... so it's really more like $2,300. As I mentioned above, our two best chances (which still aren't great) are frozen in separate straws and there's no way to thaw one embryo within a straw... it's all or nothing.

In light of the odds, the costs, and the way in which our embryos are paired, I want to transfer all four at one time. I know that sounds scary, and maybe I'm crazy, but at this moment, it feels right. Dr. Duffy has agreed to it, mostly, I believe, because he's not really all that confident that the three cell embryo even fertilized correctly. He started yammering about meiosis and mitosis and lost me completely during that phone call (biology was so not my thing), but basically, he really feels like it would be a three embryo transfer, which he wanted to do on the original transfer. However, he also wants to do the Endometrial Function Test, before transferring the last of our embryos to ensure that we're providing the best possible environment for implantation. The test costs about $600 by itself, and then there are the additional costs of performing a mock cycle, the biopsy, and the overnight shipment of the sample. I'm guessing it'll round out at about $1,000. If I'm going to go through the expense and trouble of the EFT and the biopsy, I figure I might as well do the E-tegrity test (the one CCRM requires) at the same time if possible. That test is another $600, but if I could get the biopsy in the same cycle, I'd save some money in the long run.

I'll be honest and say I don't know exactly what the future holds for us in terms of family building (who's shocked?). If I had to make a plan today, I'd say that we'd complete this domestic adoption (please God), then we'd transfer our four embryos. If that fails, which it likely will (just being real), I think I'll be ready to jump back into TTC. I don't know which way we'll go though: IVF with my own eggs, IVF with donor eggs, or donor embryos. My hunch is that due to financial circumstances, we'll go the donor embryo route.

When I think about the expense of the tests in terms of the future, be that another round with my own eggs, donor eggs, or donor embryos, the tests don't seem to be so extreme. While I don't know that the outcome one way or another will change the chances for these four embryos, it will certainly be good information to have going forward... and I'm still confident that there will be a forward. I still believe that we will pursue a pregnancy in one way or another, even after adoption. And I imagine if we went the donor embryo route, the donors would probably be pleased to hear that my uterus is nice and cushy and full of the appropriate proteins. Maybe they'd be more likely to pick us and take a risk on us even though we haven't achieved a pregnancy.

All of that to say that, best case scenario appears to be that we complete one final Hail Mary transfer with our remaining embryos in Jacksonville before officially closing the door on that chapter forever. However, I'm completely stumped where the $4,000 will come from between now and then. I mean, it's not like we're shoveling all available money towards an adoption or anything like that, right? Oh well, I guess we've got a year to decide and figure it out.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Infertility Defines Me

A lot of people are quick to say that infertility doesn't define them. Other people say similar things about cancer or disabilities or any assortment of things. It comes from a place of empowerment... a desire not to be seen as weak due to a weakness or sick due to a sickness. A desire to be seen as an entire person, rather than the sum total of our parts. We often debate within the infertility community if we should call ourselves "infertile" or not. We discuss whether the inability to get pregnant within a year should become a noun we use to describe ourselves.

I get all of that, but I've always viewed infertility a little differently. I try not to offend anyone, but I use the term "infertile" with abandon. For one, it just simplifies life. The infertility community is rampant with acronyms. You don't have to hang out long to see that we have a love affair with the short and sweet. Message boards and blogs are filled with the likes of: BFN, BFP, IVF, FET, PIO, IUI, HSG, hCG, p4, E2, etc. It's like alphabet soup around here. So summarizing us as a group with a one word term rather than a description as "women who are dealing with infertility" or "couples who have been unable to conceive within a year/six months" just seems to make logical sense to me.

I often use the term for brevity, but I also regularly use the word to describe myself. If you ask me to describe myself, I'll probably tell you that I'm a witty, book reading, Jesus loving, infertile introvert or something along those lines. Sure infertility has only been a part of my life for a season, but it has really changed who I am. I view the world differently than I did four years ago. I view myself differently. I view hardship, marriage, loss, sickness, God, faith, finances... I view it all differently than I did before infertility. I would say other than my salvation, infertility has been the single most defining thing within my life. It has literally affected everything. So when I say infertile, I say it not as a component of my life, but as a descriptor of my life. I am infertile and infertility defines me.

Several months ago, I watched a message online that I really liked. It is in no way related to infertility, but rather a broader discussion of allowing your weakness to be seen… even boasting of it. I really enjoyed the viewpoint, so I thought I'd share. I know this can be a really controversial topic, so know that I'm not trying to step on toes or in anyway define anyone else. If you don't feel like infertility defines you, or if you have found a way for infertility not to encroach and creep into all aspects of your life, you may really disagree. That's fine. This is simply how I choose to view this thing that has infiltrated and colored my life.

Okay, so this message… you should really just go listen to the whole thing. I listened to the first five messages again last night… they are that good. The entire talk deals with the concept of "in the meantime" and asks the question "What do you do when there's nothing you can do?" I don't know about you, but that pretty much sums up infertility for me… nothing I can do. I mean, yes, absolutely, we have options to try: fertility treatments, diet, acupuncture, adoption, prayer, etc, but ultimately there's really nothing we can do to "solve" the problem. Doing all of the above may or may not bring the solutions we're hoping for (can I get an amen?). All six parts of the series are fantastic, but the second part focuses on the idea that God is most glorified in our weakness.

If asked to come up with some adjectives to describe my state of being right now, I would use words such as broken, discouraged, confused, inadequate… those are of course, separate from my identity in Christ, but that's kind of the point. I myself, do not portray nor boast a position of power. I feel completely helpless to remedy my circumstances. If you listen to part 2, you'll find that the Apostle Paul found himself in similar circumstances. He was imprisoned and dealing with a medical ailment that was debilitating, humiliating, and painful. He was completely unable to change his circumstances and he prayed over and over for the Lord to heal him, to remove the condition, to change his circumstances (sound familiar?). The Lord never removed the medical condition for Paul… He never healed him. That right there is encouraging to me. Paul was an integral part in the creation of the first century church; he is responsible for a large portion of the new testament text… if God was going to change the circumstances for someone, it should certainly have been Paul, and yet, He didn't.

I don't know about you, but I've found that trials in life often put our faith on trail. Infertility, for me, has proven to be both the greatest trial in my life and the greatest testing of my faith. I'm currently reading a new book, Every Bitter Thing is Sweet. I'm only one chapter in, but I can already tell that this is going to be good. The author Sara Hagerty struggled with infertility for years and within the first few pages, she writes "My question was not, Is God good? But instead, Is He good to me?" Mmm hmm, yes and yes. I've wrestled with that over and over again. But the story of Paul (and so many other new testament characters like John the Baptist and Lazarus) help to remind me that God is good. Period. Paul's story provides encouragement as Paul was surely important and dearly loved by God, yet God did not answer his countless prayers for healing. So we can draw a connection to our own circumstances. If God loved and valued Paul, but chose not to answer his prayers, then the lack of answers to my own prayers does not mean that God is absent, apathetic, or angry. I can still be dearly loved and valued. Paul ultimately came to this conclusion:
But he [the Lord] said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
2 Corinthians 12:9-10
So yes, I fully recognize that I am not solely an infertile woman. I am many, many more things: a wife, a daughter, a friend, a sister, a Daughter of the King. I am a book loving, chronic writing, [almost] crazy cat lady. However, infertility is most certainly my weakness. It is the circumstance that I have pleaded for God to change. And infertility defines me in so many ways. Infertility has changed me so much; I feel like my high school classmates wouldn't even recognize me. It's a wonder to me that I don't have a giant flashing billboard over my head with an arrow and the word infertile. I am infertile and infertility is me. And I don't think that's necessarily a bad thing, for it is when I am weak that His strength has the potential to be seen through me. So I will boast of my weakness, and use the term "infertile" to define myself. Not only because I find it simpler, nor because I find it to be inclusive and a term of endearment and camaraderie, but ultimately the Lord is most glorified when I am weak. Whether He chooses to say yes to my requests, or respond no, or offer no response at all, He is still good. And my weakness, my inability to provide and do for myself is the greatest platform I can offer for His goodness and grace to shine.