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Journey To the Finish Line

PR's, 4 children, hopes and dreams; I'm always running after something

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coping with infertility

Another Marathon, Metaphorically (NIAW 2015)

It’s National Infertility Awareness Week, and I’ve been slacking on posts this year.

I’d be lying if I said a successful cycle didn’t lessen the sting of infertility, but even though I hardly write about it anymore (mostly because I am just not sure how at this point in my life) doesn’t mean that it isn’t still part of me. Yes, I write probably too many posts now about parenting, twins and toddlers because that is where I am right now and that was what this blog was meant to be about. Still, I can’t let the week go by without addressing it somehow.

I’m essentially re-blogging a post I wrote 3 years ago – an analogy that, as a runner, helped me explain infertility to those who might not understand. Running has been and is such a big part in my life that I find the analogy still fits.

I’ve finished two marathons.

It still feels weird to say that out loud. That, twice, I’ve trained, run 26.2 miles, and crossed the finish line. A feat I once related only to “crazy people” (well, that’s still appropriate) and people who run way too much (oddly now also appropriate).

When I started this blog, it began as a week by week training log for my second marathon, as I was preparing to do it mostly alone. A journey to the finish line. It also began as a place to log my fertility journey, as I was starting to feel more and more alone. Another journey to the finish line.

Infertility is a marathon.

At the start of the race, the excitement is palpable. We have all trained for this. We got up at the chirp of the alarm (and in my case, after several smacks of the snooze button) and regardless of the weather, regardless of mood, regardless of (most) illness, we ran. We ran 12, 16, 20 miles on a Saturday for no reason other than this day, this opportunity to run this race, cross this finish line, accept this medal, and feel this incredible accomplishment.  We skipped movies and drinks and went to bed early. Months of runs, hundreds of miles. We are ready.

Adrenaline begins pumping right from the beginning, the first few miles a breeze. A thousand or more people in your exact situation are running with you, some a bit faster, some a bit slower, but it doesn’t matter. You’re all in this together. Even if you lose the people you started with, there are still plenty around to match pace with, plenty of energy left to get yourself there.

Discomfort begins to set in as the miles add up. The number of people begin to thin. You begin to realize just how far 26 miles is. You start to wonder what you got yourself into, and start the ipod search for your most motivating songs on your playlist. If you didn’t know you could run 20+ miles already, you might consider dropping out. But ultimately the vision of the finish line, the medal, the feeling of victory keep you going. Somehow, something pops up at just the right time that keeps you from declaring defeat – a random cheer from a stranger, a particular song, knowing who is waiting for you at the finish line.

Pain sets in around mile 20. The end feels so close yet so far away. Your body starts to scream at you. The group of a thousand you started with has dwindled down to 3 or 4. The slight envy you once felt for the faster runners has turned into full out jealousy. You know you’ve trained harder than most of them. Seriously? How are you all finishing before me? You begin to feel every step, every pound of the pavement. Any change in terrain is physically difficult to recover from. Curse words are becoming more regular.  None of the three hundred Ipod songs are gonna do it, and even taking in half a Gu (an energy gel for distance runners) every mile doesn’t seem to be doing a darn thing. You hurt, you’re tired. You’ve gotta be the only one hurting this much. The finish line, though only a few miles away, feels like it’s never going to appear. The warnings that the true test is after mile 20 suddenly make sense.

Somehow, though, through combination of a force of will, stubbornness, training, and the few out of the group that stuck with you, you cross mile 26. And suddenly, though there are only a few runners left in the immediate vicinity, the crowd gets larger. You suddenly forget how sore you are because you can SEE the finish line. Somehow, you muster the energy to finish strong,  because suddenly you hear your cheering section, the crowd clapping, the announcer calling your name.  Somehow, you finished, and you feel incredible.

Also, you still hurt.  But despite it, you kept running.

When I first stepped foot onto the pavement my first run, (which was like, halfway around the block before I couldn’t breathe anymore) – I never imagined myself running a marathon. In fact, even after my first half marathon several years later I thought to myself “who wants to essentially do this twice? No thank you!”

When I first imagined myself with a family, in my house with my white picket fence (though I’d really prefer a privacy fence at this point in my life), I never imagined it would be a problem. I didn’t even know what infertility was.

I’m still waiting to cross the finish line.

In retrospect, I survived marathon training one run at a time, one week at a time, one long run at a time. I survived the race, particularly at the end, one mile at a time. It still hurt, in fact, it hurt quite a bit. At the end my calves were so sore I literally hobbled to the car.

But I’d do it all over again. I’ll remember that day and who was with me for the rest of my life. All of the pain and exhaustion was absolutely, positively 100% worth it.

One day at a time, one mile at a time, I await the day I can say that again.

This post was created as part of The Analogy Project, started in order to help others better understand the infertility experience.

Thinking Back

About a year after the move to South Carolina, my ex husband and I bought a house in a city about 45 minutes from Charleston. It was in that neighborhood that I met my first friends that weren’t automatically associated with the military. These women eventually formed a Bunco group who met once a month with a built in excuse to drink wine, chit chat and scream like kids on a roller coaster after a good roll.

Naturally, I was no longer in the group once we moved, but not too long after I moved back, this time by myself, I was welcomed back in. Many of the members have changed since then, but the atmosphere has never really shifted.

Friday night, after I left my wet flip flops in the foyer and grabbed a plate of food, I joined 3 others sitting at one of the tables. One of the women is a fellow mother of twin toddlers (hers are nearly 2). Unless you count the handful of outings I’ve taken with only one baby, I have zero experience as a mother to a singleton. Still, I know that motherhood to twins is a different experience entirely and enjoy having someone to share stories with from time to time. The most common (and unknowingly loaded) question I find that I get (from singleton and twin moms alike) is “do twins run in your family?”

I was very open about our road to parenthood as we traveled it and now is certainly no exception. The majority of the time, and in this case, I say “no, we went through fertility treatments.” Typically, I get a few questions or a short side story about a friend of a friend who had an IUI. On more rare occasions, the person has experienced infertility herself. There is always an instant bond with these people, because you know that they too have walked a lonely road that is very difficult for someone who has not walked it to understand.

In this case, the fellow twin mom not only had zero experience with infertility, she conceived with an ease that makes every fellow past and present infertile drool. What made her different, though, was her interest. Many are interested in the science behind the procedures. Fewer ask about the emotional impact. Even fewer REALLY ask.

Part of our groups conversation involved the experiences of pregnancy: morning sickness, bed rest, stretch marks, discomfort. When I first joined this Bunco group I was not yet ready to have children, so I didn’t have much to contribute. While trying initially, these conversations interested me. As we sunk further and further without any luck, they became painful. Even now, with 2000 pictures of my beautiful twins in my phone, when someone asks if twins runs in my family, it stings a little. It stings because I’ll never forget how painful those conversations sometimes were and how alone I felt. I’ll never forget feeling like I saw pregnant.women.everywhere. I’ll never forget how bitter the experience made me feel for a long time. How annoyed I felt when someone would complain about a pregnancy I would give my left arm to have and sometimes forced me into another room to shed a few tears before I could compose myself.

Fellow twin mom, taking interest, began asking questions not only about the IVF procedure itself but about how it felt to go through it. She said she had a friend who has had difficulty conceiving and, incidentally, been acting differently lately. She asked me if I thought being around her might be difficult for her friend, if she maybe felt bitter about the fact that her ability to conceive had been so easy. I was honest when I told her that was possible.

She was shocked. She told me she had no idea. That she meant absolutely no harm. This time, I understood.

I think I speak for many when I say that one of my biggest complaints was what felt like the lack of understanding from others. In hindsight I suspect it was more a lack of information than understanding. Through no fault of their own, people just have no idea. Truth be told, before I was ready to have a family, I didn’t either. In fact, I recall responding to the news of an acquaintances miscarriage with “at least she knows she can get pregnant” (not to her, thankfully). To this day, knowing what I know now, I am ashamed by that comment. I didn’t even want to type it out.

This post has sat unfinished in my drafts for two days because I am not sure how to finish it. I guess the experience brought some new understanding into the minds of others. When you’re in the throes, it’s so difficult to see the good natured side of some of the things people say. It seems, though, that many are really good intentioned. I was. Little did I know (at the time), though, the impact those words could have had. I, like fellow twin mom, meant no harm.

From inexperienced, well intentioned but likely insensitive, to the person on the receiving end of well intentioned but possibly insensitive comments, to someone who has now been on both sides being asked about someone else’s experience, it seems like, in a way, I’ve come full circle.

And I feel just as confused as ever.

*If this offends anyone still struggling, please accept my apologies. This was really just may way of trying to sort out my own thoughts and feelings about this particular issue.

 

Leaving a Mark (Part 2)

Shortly before we underwent our IVF, I decided to get a second tattoo. I got my first in 2007 and started to entertain the idea of a second after I ran my first marathon. After infertility became such a huge part of my life, and particularly after the post where I compared it to a marathon, I really wanted to symbolize them somehow.

So in July 2012, I nervously stepped into a local tattoo parlor and got this

finished tattoo

You can read the full story about that here 

Part of the reason I decided on this particular design was that it could work two ways. First, infertility will always be with me, because it and the experience really changed a great deal about the way I look at life. Second, if/when our treatment was successful, I could use it to symbolize things that are most important to me, things that are closest to my heart.

When our cycle was a success, I knew I’d somehow want to add the twins. This past Monday, I finally walked back into the tattoo parlor (though not as nervously this time) and got back into the chair.

A pink and blue foot for each of my little ones :)
A pink and blue foot for each of my little ones 🙂

A pair of footprints on my foot 🙂

Why There Probably Won’t Be a Number Three

I got an interesting, out of the blue request the other day.

The marketing department from the fertility clinic both called and wrote me an email, saying Channel 2 was interested in doing a news story on a patient who had taken Letrozole as part of their fertility treatment. Would I be interested in participating in this interview?

Honestly, at first I didn’t recall taking Letrozole, but once I googled it realized it was just the technical name for Femara, one of the meds I was given to take for our IUI cycle. The crappy hooray we have enough sperm to try an IUI canceled IUI cycle. The point of the interview, though (if I understood correctly) was to talk about how there is a smaller chance of multiple eggs and side effects (vs. using Clomid which I have not ever taken) and not whether it was part of a successful pregnancy, so I agreed.

I met with a photographer today who admittedly didn’t have much background on the subject of either infertility or the medication. I had no knowledge of what kind of questions they would ask, so we were both kind of winging it. He seemed confused as to why they would interview someone who had used it during a cancelled cycle and what exactly a cancelled cycle meant while I awkwardly stood in front of a camera trying to explain that the med had done what it was supposed to do and that the fact that my cycle was canceled had nothing to do with it. (This was all while trying to describe it to someone who had no idea what I was talking about.)*

As part of the interview, he asked me how it felt to have a successful cycle and how it felt to have a twins as a result (I am paraphrasing) and I meant every word when I said that it was an emotionally and financially taxing time, but that it was absolutely worth it and I would do it all over again.

I was kind of lying.

Right up there with my divorce, infertility was one of the most difficult things I’ve endured. I’ve written several posts before about how hard it is on ALL of your relationships, your emotions and even your sense of self. Even now as a mom it creeps in through feelings of guilt when I find myself annoyed over the 2nd middle of the night wake up.

Bryan sometimes expresses interest in having more, and while I watch some friends’ bellies grow, attend baby showers and coo over their newborn pictures I sometimes, briefly, think that it would be cool to experience again. For Abby and Miles, I would absolutely 100% relive every bad day and cry every tear. I would do it all over again, for THEM. But not for any more.

I have absolutely no interest in meds, injections, monitoring appointments and blood tests. No more appointments. No more transfers. No more anxiety.

I am just fine with two.

*I’m sure they will piece something together thanks to the magic of editing, unless they just decide to cut it altogether. Should I get word it is airing I will try to record and post it 🙂

 

 

National Infertility Awareness Week – Another Marathon, Metaphorically

As part of this years theme “resolve to know more”, I dug up an old post I did awhile back as part of an analogy project in order to attempt to explain what infertility feels like.

I’ve finished two marathons.

It still feels weird to say that out loud. That, twice, I’ve trained, run 26.2 miles, and crossed the finish line. A feat I once related only to “crazy people” (well, that’s still appropriate) and people who run way too much (oddly now also appropriate).

When I started this blog, it began as a week by week training log for my second marathon, as I was preparing to do it mostly alone. A journey to the finish line. It also began as a place to log my fertility journey, as I was starting to feel more and more alone. Another journey to the finish line.

Infertility is a marathon.

At the start of the race, the excitement is palpable. We have all trained for this. We got up at the chirp of the alarm (and in my case, after several smacks of the snooze button) and regardless of the weather, regardless of mood, regardless of (most) illness, we ran. We ran 12, 16, 20 miles on a Saturday for no reason other than this day, this opportunity to run this race, cross this finish line, accept this medal, and feel this incredible accomplishment.  We skipped movies and drinks and went to bed early. Months of runs, hundreds of miles. We are ready.

Adrenaline begins pumping right from the beginning, the first few miles a breeze. A thousand or more people in your exact situation are running with you, some a bit faster, some a bit slower, but it doesn’t matter. You’re all in this together. Even if you lose the people you started with, there are still plenty around to match pace with, plenty of energy left to get yourself there.

Discomfort begins to set in as the miles add up. The number of people begin to thin. You begin to realize just how far 26 miles is. You start to wonder what you got yourself into, and start the ipod search for your most motivating songs on your playlist. If you didn’t know you could run 20+ miles already, you might consider dropping out. But ultimately the vision of the finish line, the medal, the feeling of victory keep you going. Somehow, something pops up at just the right time that keeps you from declaring defeat – a random cheer from a stranger, a particular song, knowing who is waiting for you at the finish line.

Pain sets in around mile 20. The end feels so close yet so far away. Your body starts to scream at you. The group of a thousand you started with has dwindled down to 3 or 4. The slight envy you once felt for the faster runners has turned into full out jealousy. You know you’ve trained harder than most of them. Seriously? How are you all finishing before me? You begin to feel every step, every pound of the pavement. Any change in terrain is physically difficult to recover from. Curse words are becoming more regular.  None of the three hundred Ipod songs are gonna do it, and even taking in half a Gu (an energy gel for distance runners) every mile doesn’t seem to be doing a darn thing. You hurt, you’re tired. You’ve gotta be the only one hurting this much. The finish line, though only a few miles away, feels like it’s never going to appear. The warnings that the true test is after mile 20 suddenly make sense.

Somehow, though, through combination of a force of will, stubbornness, training, and the few out of the group that stuck with you, you cross mile 26. And suddenly, though there are only a few runners left in the immediate vicinity, the crowd gets larger. You suddenly forget how sore you are because you can SEE the finish line. Somehow, you muster the energy to finish strong,  because suddenly you hear your cheering section, the crowd clapping, the announcer calling your name.  Somehow, you finished, and you feel incredible.

Also, you still hurt.  But despite it, you kept running.

When I first stepped foot onto the pavement my first run, (which was like, halfway around the block before I couldn’t breathe anymore) – I never imagined myself running a marathon. In fact, even after my first half marathon several years later I thought to myself “who wants to essentially do this twice? No thank you!”

When I first imagined myself with a family, in my house with my white picket fence (though I’d really prefer a privacy fence at this point in my life), I never imagined it would be a problem. I didn’t even know what infertility was.

I’m still waiting to cross the finish line.

In retrospect, I survived marathon training one run at a time, one week at a time, one long run at a time. I survived the race, particularly at the end, one mile at a time. It still hurt, in fact, it hurt quite a bit. At the end my calves were so sore I literally hobbled to the car.

But I’d do it all over again. I’ll remember that day and who was with me for the rest of my life. All of the pain and exhaustion was absolutely, positively 100% worth it.

One day at a time, one mile at a time, I await the day I can say that again.

I do want to add now, though, that even though we now have our two kids, I’m not sure there is ever really a “finish line” in infertility, because no matter what the outcome, it is always with you.

Let’s Be Honest: Running Through Infertility

So my guest posting idea kinda went by the wayside for awhile and so I’m hoping I can use this post to start again. Today’s post comes from a good blogger friend who blogs about her struggles with infertility at Dog Mom Chasing the Stork. I was particularly excited about her post because running was a way I dealt with infertility myself.

Running Through Infertility

We all know how stressful and all-consuming infertility tends to be, so I’m not going to explain the toll it takes on your emotional health. I will tell you what infertility did to me and how I chose to regain my sanity. My story is slightly unique in the IF World. I have known for years that having a biological child would be difficult for me. I was diagnosed with endometriosis in my early 20’s and told that I had a maximum of 5 years left before my chances to conceive naturally would diminish.  Then at age 26, I no longer had a period and after testing, I learned I was not ovulating. Even with that information, the month that I married Hubster I didn’t refill my birth control pills and we “tossed caution to the wind,” thinking there might be a slight chance that I would get pregnant right away, like so many couples do. Eve though I knew better, I still hoped. Months passed, yet I still hoped and hoped and hoped…and continue to still hope that we’ll make a beautiful baby each and every month we have been trying. However, along with that hope I carry an intense amount of guilt, frustration and anger. I feel guilty for making this process so hard for Hubster, because he is such an amazing man who yearns to be a parent as much (or more) as me. I don’t need to explain the frustrations, but I think mine mostly stem from my lack of ability to control the situation. And, finally, I have felt so much anger. I have been angry at myself, Hubster, God and people who become pregnant easily or on accident. Sometimes I have even become angry at those who dealt with infertility and got their miracles. I was also very angry with my body. My body let me down every month over and over. Not only was it losing the battle against IF, but the fight made it start getting fatter and my fight against adult acne became a losing battle. Finally, I was at the end of my rope.

So I ran. Literally.

I used to run when I was younger, because while I loved all sports, I was too uncoordinated to be very good at them. But you don’t have to be coordinated to run. You just do it.  I excelled at running, and at times, I found it to be the only thing that made me feel good about myself. I thought it was the only thing I could even remotely brag about. It was the only thing that I could do better than most. In retrospect, I am not really sure why I stopped when I got older.

After struggling with weight gain while in the pits of Infertility Hell for several months, I decided to start running again, and a funny thing happened — I could breathe. Running released endorphins that reminded me that life can go on and I can be happy.

So I continued to run.

Well, as long as my ovaries weren’t being stimulated to actually produce mature eggs, since apparently, the weight of a stimulated ovary can cause it to flip over on itself, which is all bad As long as it was physically possible, I tried to run. I realized that running was saving me from my obsessive, demeaning, frantic, and catastrophic thoughts. When I ran, I could think through my worries and start finding the silver lining. The negative and greatly oppressive thoughts that overtook my mind constantly were released and my mind would return to the optimistic place it usually was. I would focus on my form instead of the week’s drug protocol. I would feel the strength in my legs and forget about the Clomid Chub I had inherited. I looked for my next landmark goal to keep me running when I wanted to quit and remind myself that I can also continue our babymaking journey.

After a while, I began to feel the need for a bigger challenge. Yes, I was proud of my body for losing weight while still taking Clomid and trigger shots, but I could always run enough to lose a few pounds. Anyone could. No, I needed a real challenge. Something that would make me fall in love with my body again. Something that, while in the deepest depths of Infertility Hell, would remind me of all my body is truly capable of. Since I had already run several 5k’s, 10k’s and even a half marathon with little training, I decided to go for the gusto and sign up for my first marathon. I know it’s a seemingly overwhelming feat most people don’t even attempt, but my opinion is that people just don’t realize what they’re capable of. And if my mom, at age 52, could run her very first marathon, so could I!

And that’s when I realized training provided me the perfect distraction during my TWW and a healthier outlet for my obsessive nature. I was no longer obsessing about cycle days or syringes. I was fervently researching marathons and planning my training schedule. Instead of constantly checking my calendar for possible conflicts with Baby Dancing days, I was looking for conflicts with my scheduled Long Runs. And then Hubster and I went through a 2nd and possibly 3rd chemical pregnancies so we decided to take a break from TTC. At this point we had been actively trying (with treatments) for almost 2 years and we needed some time off – as a couple and as individuals.

Training for my first marathon required commitment, dedication, strength and sacrifice. All of these were the same components necessary to battle through Infertility, so I did well. I missed training runs here and there, but for the most part I did a great job preparing and the day before my period was due, I ran and completed my first marathon. It was hard not meeting my target time and felt very discouraged with my lack of mental toughness.

Once I got over the disappointment of missing my goal time, I gradually realized why so many people don’t run marathons — It is hard. It’s the hardest on your mind. Especially those last miles that you don’t run in training and at the race I competed in. I would literally go a mile or two without seeing anyone. No runners and no spectators. It was me alone with my tired mind and body. But I finished. I didn’t give up and that reminded me that I didn’t really want to give up on TTC. I needed that short break and the race to remind me how tough I truly am mentally and how well my body was truly made.

That was almost one year ago.

We still have no baby, but we are still trying and I am still running. In fact, Hubster was inspired to train for and compete in his first triathlon. This allowed him a release that he needed and gave our relationship more balance. We didn’t realize our relationship needed this, but it did. I felt guilty for always being too tired, crabby and sore to do a lot of chores around the house while on Clomid and after triggering. And then I felt guilty from being too tired and sore from training to do those chores. But once the focus was on Hubster’s triathlon, the tables turned and I was able to take better care of him. He felt more cherished and I felt more useful. We also began to run and ride more often together, which became a nice way to bond without the pressures and worries of TTC.

I also noticed I was feeling better emotionally and my PMS Rage was gone. And then I noticed my cramping, headaches and breast tenderness that came with the onset of my period were absent. After a couple of months I began to worry that the supplements I began taking in lieu of Clomid were no longer working and I would have amenorrhea again. But all of a sudden a light bulb lit up in my head and I researched whether running was soothing my crazy Endometriosis PMS symptoms, and sure enough, it was!

Researchers have found that running releases dopamine, which is the “feel good” chemical in your brain. This combats mood swings since your dopamine levels drop before your period starts. Also, it increases progesterone, which low progesterone levels is the culprit for breast tenderness and headaches. Running also helps to kick your PMS-depression, ease cramps and prevent excess weight gain. This meant that I found something healthy and productive to distract me from my obsessive symptom-spotting and stick-peeing for the last several days of my cycle. I focused on running.

Now that I’ve told you some of the reasons I run through Infertility, I do feel I should mention some more obvious reasons. Running is good for maintaining healthy bodies. Even those IFers who are blessed with naturally thin bodies find themselves taking on a fuller shape after beginning treatments. Running can help combat those hormonal weight gains. Some of us come to the Infertility Jungle overweight. Less sensitive doctors may come right out and encourage IFers to lose weight at the get-go, but others don’t. They test and encourage IFers to TTC for several months before gently sliding down that rabbit hole. Running can help get your body into optimal Babymaking shape. Whatever your body type, I guarantee after going through at least a few months of fertility meds, your body is probably not where you’d like it to be and running can help with that.

So how do you start? If you’re already in good shape and have been following a regular cardiovascular routine, I would start with the Couch 2 5k program. There’s a smart phone app with audio coaching that is really helpful. The program has you walk/jog a few times a week and slowly increases your running duration throughout the training cycle. Within 9 weeks, anyone will be able to run 3.1 miles.

If you haven’t followed any exercise program recently, start with walking. Slowly work up to walking one hour a day at least 5 days a week. And then you can gradually increase your pace. When you feel comfortable and your doctor has cleared you to walk/jog, start the C25k program and start noticing the positive changes happening in your body and your mind. Encourage your partner to join you for some of your workouts and notice the intimacy that follows.

Thanks for reading and let me know how running has affected your journey. I’d love to hear from you!

I’d still love more guest posts! For more info, visit the Guest Posts tab!

Good Morning Christmas

I don’t set an alarm anymore. It isn’t exactly necessary.

I think the babies are going through a developmental spurt and some separation anxiety so sleep has been a bit fitful for them recently. My boy alarm woke me up at 530 this morning. Bryan had gone downstairs so I got him, brought him into bed with me, fed him (the baby, not Bryan) and left him there to snuggle. It’s hard for me to go back to sleep after being awakened if its closer to morning so while I waited and hoped Miles would drift back off to sleep for a couple more hours I laid there in the dark thinking about Christmas.

I thought about Christmas last year, 18 weeks pregnant, both excited at the prospect of motherhood and nervous about the health of the babies, hoping they would stay put and be born healthy and hopefully full term. I thought about our “special gift” to my parents where we revealed the genders.

IMG_1608Miles stirred. I turned around and pulled him a little closer to me. I placed my finger in his small hand. He, in response, giggled in his sleep. I smiled.

I thought of two Christmases ago, waking up to the start of yet another new cycle and how all I wanted to do was get the day over with, avoiding all the Facebook updates with pictures of families. I wrote a post a few weeks ago about I think Christmas will always be laced with both sad and happy memories and as I finally drifted back to sleep, my hand in my sons’, I felt as I expected – both sad and at peace.

Merry Christmas from the Powers'
Merry Christmas from the Powers’

Merry Christmas to all, and to all still trying – to all remembering their angels, I will always be here hoping and remembering with you.

O Christmas Tree

Sunday during a brief “break” in the weekend, I brought the twins into the living room with me and started hanging ornaments on the Christmas Tree. I picked a Christmas station on iTunes radio and filled the green branches with bulbs, snowflakes and crazy characters while Miles sat in the bouncy seat and Abby bounced in the bouncer (aka “command center”). I had hoped to get all the ornaments up but instead I stopped about 75% of the way through, no longer feeling the same excitement and motivation. I walked away, leaving it unfinished.

Through all the months of infertility, one of the things I dreaded most was the holidays. Christmas was of particular significance when Bryan and I had a talk about how it was affecting me and what our future plans would be. On the other hand,  one of the things I most looked forward to when our cycle was a success was celebrating these holidays I once dreaded. As the days tick over from November to December, the excitement mixes with some sadness attached to memories of the previous holidays.

It honestly seemed silly at first and I was surprised and even irritated at myself because I finally have the family I dreamed about and yet I still carry the sadness with me. As someone who has much more patience with others than I do myself, I tend to view my own reactions with a “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” mentality. I have to remember, though, that these feelings and memories can’t just be turned off like a light switch. The journey that brought us where we are now will always be a part of me.I’m not going to simply forget how hard it was for me or how hard it is for the others I know still trying.  When I look at the Christmas Tree this year, and maybe for many years to come, I will likely feel both joyful and sorrowful. At each Christmas as I watch the twins open gifts I will both celebrate our wonderful family and remember the mountains we climbed to get there. I will embrace the mixture of joy and pain.

Now, it’s time to go finish the tree.

Let’s Be Honest – “Just” Adopting is Easier Said Than Done

I’m really excited about today’s guest post from my friend Trisha. She and her husband have been through a great deal in their journey to become a family. Recently, they adopted their little girl. I know that I have often heard the phrase “just adopt”, and while it is often well intentioned, is simply not that easy. It was a topic that was difficult for me to explain because I had not been through it, but Trisha explains the ups and downs quite well. You can visit her blog at The Elusive Second Line.

It’s a phrase that every infertile has heard, “Why don’t you just adopt?”. Those words are the go-to answer when someone finds out you are having trouble getting pregnant. Adoption, it seems, should be the magical answer to all our problems! Hey just go fill out some papers, pick out your kid, and BAM! Instant family.

But it is not a fairy tale ending. And it is far from easy. There are many different factors that one has to deal with when approaching the adoption path.

Factor One. Something I hear often frustrates me beyond anything else. I hear people say that those who can’t get pregnant should adopt rather than seek fertility treatments because there are so many children that need good homes. They are not wrong about there being many children out there without families, but what I fail to understand is why, as infertile, it is my responsibility to save those children.

Maybe that sounds wrong, but let me explain. There are a lot of children in the foster care system, that is a fact. But what so many people fail to understand is that the goal of foster care is to eventually reunite those children with their biological families. When you become a foster parent you take those children into your home and care for them for an unknown period of time. These children may become available for adoption, or they may not. Then they are moved out of your home and you are back at square one. We briefly looked into the foster care system and were told that if we wanted to adopt a child under the age of two that there was a good chance that would eventually happen, however it was also very likely that we would foster 5 or more children before one came available for adoption. So we would take these children, care for them, love them, and then lose them. Of course it is a wonderful thing that these kids will be reunited with their biological families, but where does that leave the foster families? Still waiting for their baby and hurting as each child is taken away.

Older children are a little easier. They are usually fast tracked to adoption. But first they are bounced around from foster family to foster family. That is emotionally damaging to a child. Not to mention whatever damage they may have received from their original home environment. I greatly admire people who adopt older children from the foster system. It is a truly wonderful thing to do. But it is HARD. I worked with a few kids who were adopted out of the system at one point. They were lovely, smart, fun children. But they were damaged. Their parents have their hands full trying to repair these children through love and understanding. It’s not an easy path to follow.

So my point is, why, as an infertile, are these children my responsiblity? Because my body can’t produce a child without medical intervention I am obligated to save these children and forfeit a biological child of my own? I don’t think so. Fertile people have just as much obligation to these kids. Just because they have working plumbing does not excuse them from responsibility of taking care of the next generation.

Factor Two. “There are so many children that need good homes”. I’ve already agreed with this statement when it comes to the foster care system, however most children within the foster care system are older. So what if I don’t feel prepared to take on a 7-year-old? What if I need a baby? Those are hard to come by in the foster care system, and most of them are reunited with a family member. So your only other option for an infant is private adoption.

Regardless to what people may think, there is not a stock pile of babies somewhere and when you decide to adopt you just fill out the forms and they hand one over. It is a long process and it is competitive. The average wait for a newborn in the United States is 2 years. You can go international but in my research I found that the wait is just as long, the process is harder, and usually you do not get the child till they are at least 6 months old.

I for one needed a baby. I had suffered through 4 pregnancy losses when we decided to adopt. I was terrified that because of how emotionally detached I was after the miscarriages that I would have a hard time bonding with an adopted child. I knew that I need to get that baby as early into their lives as possible. I needed to feel like they were mine from the beginning. I was damaged and needed to have things done a certain way.

We got lucky. We found an agency that had many African-American birth moms in a predominately White state. Not as many families were willing to take a full Black child, which narrowed down our competition considerably. Is that wrong? It is certainly sad to me. But really I can’t fault someone for making such a personal choice about their family. I grew up with adopted cousins of all different races, so it was never an issue for us. Because we were willing to take a child of any race were selected extremely fast. We only waited 2 weeks after being approved (which took around 8 months) before we were selected to become the parents of a little girl. On August 30th, 2013 our little Muppet was born. She has become my universe and I couldn’t love her more even if she had been born from my body. But our story is the rarity. I know many couples who were in the process much longer than us and are still waiting to be picked. For every 1 baby that is given up for adoption, there are 36 couples waiting. Not as easy as it seems, huh?

Factor Three. Private adoption is expensive. Like REALLY expensive. Home studies, background checks, agency fees, birth mom expenses, lawyer fees, court costs, and post placement visits all come out of your pocket. There are a few ways around some of the costs but they are rare. Say you are able to find a birth mom without agency involvement. This can significantly reduce your costs. You would just have to all the prerequisite costs (home study, background checks, ect), lawyer and court costs, and any medical costs that you agree upon with your birth mom. If she has insurance, score for you!

But in my opinion this is a riskier route. Yes the agency fees were the majority of our costs, but because we went through them I felt that our placement was very low risk. Through the agency our birth mom received a lot of counseling, she also had a case worker that was with her pretty much every day so if any problems or concerns did come up, there was someone there to help her through it. We always knew what was going on with her and that brought a lot of piece of mind.

I had a good experience with our agency and would recommend them. But that doesn’t change how much money an agency adoption costs. We had a fundraiser done in our name to help us come up with the money for our adoption. The generosity of people was overwhelming and made me so grateful for the people in our lives. Not everyone has this option though. To come up with the money out-of-pocket is very difficult, I’ve heard of many people having to take out 2nd mortgages on their homes or take out loans just to pay the fees. I was talking about this to someone once and they said “Why do you have to pay so much? You are taking a child and giving it a home why should you have to pay?”. I’m not saying I agree with this statement but the fact is not everyone has the option to pursue adoption because of the cost. In some ways fertility treatment can be cheaper which is horribly depressing.

Factor Four. There is a sense of loss when you give up the idea of biological children and decide to adopt. This is one thing that I think people who have never had problems with fertility just do not understand. It is a loss. For so long you picture this perfect pregnancy and a perfect baby that looks just like you. All around you everyone else gets to have this, so why don’t you? Adoption is an incredible gift to those of us whose bodies refuse to grant us offspring, but that is not always the easiest thing to accept. Before I was married I told my husband that I wanted to adopt one day. It has always been part of my family and something that I truly believed in, yet it took me 2+ years, 4 losses, and 2 emergency surgeries before I finally gave into the idea of adopting. I never would have thought that back in my innocent years.

I had to mourn the loss of the possibility that I may never have biological children. Yes, mourn. There was so much sadness and anger about this inside of me. Why me? I asked that more times than I could possible say. But I did grief and accept my situation. And then I fell in love with adoption.

This post may seem like I have a lot of negative feelings towards adoption, but I don’t. It has been the most amazing, magical, humbling thing to ever happen to me. I wouldn’t change a thing about my journey to a family. All though it was filled with so much hurt it led me to the most beautiful little girl that I have the privilege of calling my daughter. What I want people to take from this is how big of a life changing thing adoption is. Next time someone says to you “Why don’t you just adopt?” Instead of ignoring them, tell them. Tell them what it really means to adopt. Because the biggest thing I’ve found through this whole thing is how uneducated our society is about adoption.

Whether your path leads you down this road our not, I hope that it can at least open a few eyes and hearts to what adoption can be like. I sincerely hope it doesn’t scare anyone away from this process because honestly…it saved my life. For how many difficult factors are involved in adoption, there are 3x more positive ones. If I were to write a post about the joys of adoption, you would be reading for a very long time. Instead though, I wanted to write about the harsher realities of the process. I would encourage anyone considering starting the process to dig deep and get all the information you can. Nothing will benefit you more than knowing exactly what you are getting into.

And if you do decide to go this route to your family, I wish you all the luck in the world. It will be a frustrating, emotional, and difficult journey. But if you can survive it, you will receive the most wonderful gift anyone could ever give.

I’d love to hear from more of you – if you’d like to write a guest post info can be found here

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