Saturday, December 31, 2011

slap me on the wrist

Because I'm a bad blogger.

I have so much to update all of you on: Christmas, being denied another mammogram (yes, really), getting interviewed by the local news for being denied another mammogram, and everything in between. But considering this is the last day of 2011, I feel a little obligated to write about the year that's about to end.

2011 wasn't terrible, but it wasn't great either. I could characterize it as "breaking even." There were good months and bad months; in the end, it was all a wash.

I started the year with cysts and a surprise surgery - my third in 13 months. But we also began preparing our hearts and our home for adoption.

The middle of the year brought our third anniversary of marriage (and trying to become parents), which we celebrated with a trip to the Keys. But it also brought tragedy with the passing of my dear boss, friend, and mentor - Ani. I miss him, and there isn't a day when I pull into the parking at work when I don't think of him.

2011 ended in a whirlwind. I won the 2011 RESOLVE Hope Award for best blog, and took a break from my busy semester at school to accept it. I started a new job with my company. Then, finally, on November 8, our adoption profile went active. And after two calls in that first week, we ended 2011 as a waiting family still - anxious for THE call that will make us parents.

I will stop short of saying that 2012 is the year, because I know how much disappointment reaching December 31st empty handed brings. I've been doing this since 2008. But what I do know is that I can finally say, "we've done our part." Now we need 2012 to put everything into place.

I hope everyone has a safe and happy New Years celebration. And to those of us who could use the luck of a new year? We'll cross our fingers for the best.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

who are we to judge?

Mel had a great post recently about judgement in the IF community. It's a post that makes you think about all aspects of your life - not just infertility.

I felt bad after reading it. Not bad about the post, of course, but bad about myself. Why? Because it made me think about all of the times in my life when I've been judgmental . . . and there are plenty of them.

We all judge. I get that. When we first meet somewhat, we have an initial impression of that person within the first few seconds just based on things like their look, the way they talk, the way they shake your hand, etc. How firm is their handshake? Do they make eye contact? Do they sound interested? Are they attractive? Are they well groomed? It sounds like a checklist of what to think about before a job interview, but in reality it's a checklist for all of life's interactions. These are all thoughts that cross our mind when meeting a person for the first time.

On the Internet, this "meeting" is a little different. We judge other bloggers by standards like the look of their site, the way they write their posts, their comments and interactions with other, their content, and the depth in which they tell their stories. Even though many of us have never met face-to-face, we still judge one another. It's the reason why we read or don't read certain people's blogs. It's the reason why many of us have our "cliques" and we don't venture outside of them.

I don't want to think that it goes far beyond the empathy Mel writes about in her post, but it does. I know that I'm guilty of it. I'm guilty of negative judgment: wanting to ask people WHY they are trying to have a baby when they write constantly about their failing marriage or how they don't believe they are ready to be parents. I'm also guilty of positive judgment: wondering why someone doesn't give it "one last college try." I know others have judged me, too, good and bad.

Maybe part of this is in our control. I often feel like I'm setting myself up for judgment based on the way I write about certain things. I'm not one to shy away from controversy or to write exactly how I feel. The fact that I even have this blog and write about some of my innermost thoughts is what opens the door for people to scrutinize me. Yet, is this fair? Is it okay to judge others - even when they put everything out in the open for people to see it?

I'm not sure that it is. For instance, let's look at Kim Kardashian. We all sat around and bad mouthed her when her marriage failed after 70-something days. We said "I knew it" or "I told you so." I did it. I'll admit that first hand. And I'm no fan of the Kardashians. But now that I've had time to reflect on it, I regret saying such horrible things about her. Who am I to judge if someone leaves his or her marriage after such a short period of time? It's not my life, and I have no idea what their relationship was/is like. They could have had a terrible marriage. He could have been a complete asshole. And you know what? Good for her for standing up and saying what was best for her. Not a lot of people would do that, especially with the entire world watching and ready to throw every bad name in the book at you. No. Most people would stay married, for fear of the backlash and hurting their partner.

It's the same way I felt after judging Michelle Duggar for having another baby. Do I think it's unfair that some people can get pregnant easily while others can't? Yes. As much as I can't relate to her, I have to remind myself that it's not my place to determine how many children for her is too many. This made me especially guilty after her miscarriage. Here I was for weeks, carrying on about how I can't believe she's having another child and then she loses this baby. Does this loss become any more or less valid because she has 19 other kids? I don't think so. It's still a loss.

I've gotten better about this as I've aged. I've become less judgmental with the more life experience I have. Over time, I've learned that it's okay for friendships to end. It doesn't mean that the other person is a bitch (or that I'm a bitch), but that people grow apart and have separate interests. I've learned to not judge other people's relationships, reminding myself that I have no idea what goes on behind closed doors. I've learned not to judge people for living together or being together for years and not marrying, or for being married for years and not having children. It reminds me of this saying: Be kind; for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle. Who am I to determine what that battle is and whether I believe their actions because of it are appropriate?

Ultimately, there's no rule book for life. That's why we have free will: the ability to do and say whatever we please. And, in the end, the only people we need to answer to are ourselves. My opinion on the way someone else is living his or her life doesn't matter, and neither does yours. I think it's easier to get wrapped up in what another person is doing. It's harder to let it go - let people live their lives and speak their minds without passing judgment.

I'm going to try my best from now forward to take this harder, higher road. It won't be simple. I just know that I would want others to do the same for me.

Monday, December 19, 2011

your adoption questions answered

In recent months, I've had a lot of questions about the adoption process. It didn't dawn on me until this past week that people don't know about the process and how it works. Like infertility treatments, I forget about this sometimes because it's part of my life now. I've done the research and the reading. Others haven't, and I feel like now that I've realized this, it's a good opportunity to sit down and write down some of the most commons questions I've received and to give everyone else an opportunity to ask more.

NOTE: Keep in mind while reading this that we chose to do private, domestic, infant adoption, that all states have different adoption laws, and that our experience may differ from others. This is a great document that lists the basics of each state's adoption laws.

What is a home study?
A home study is basically a piece of paper stating that you are able to adopt. If you've ever read the phrase "paper pregnant," that is often referring to an individual or a couple becoming home study approved.

How much does an average adoption cost?
Our agency estimates the cost at anywhere from $18k to $30k for domestic infant adoption. The national average is somewhere between $25k and $30k. (Update: Our adoption cost just over $21k. That figure does not include our home study, our daughter's time in the NICU, travel, or the cost to print our profiles.)

How much of that money is due up front?
With our agency, we had to pay a $2,250 fee with the submission of our application: $750 for the application fee and $1,500 for the advertising fee. $15,000 is due upon "match," which I'll explain later. The rest of the cost is legal fees, birth mother expenses, etc.

Are you doing closed, open, or semi-open adoption?
Most adoptions today are semi-open. In most cases, this means that you have contact with the birth mother via the agency. For instance, you would send letters and photos to the agency, and they would pass those along to the birth mother. However, we also put down that we would be open to an open adoption if the situation felt right.

Once you are on the waiting list, how long does it take to get a baby?
It depends. The average wait time with our agency is about one year, but it's largely based on individual circumstances. For instance, it could take longer to adopt if you have a gender preference.

Does the birth mother pick you or do you pick the birth mother (or child)?
In most cases, the birth mother chooses the adoptive parents based off of their profiles, and in some cases, a meeting. In rare cases, an agency might choose the adoptive parents if the birth mother does not want to choose or if a child has already been born and parental rights are relinquished.

Are you told every time someone looks at your profile?
No. The reason we were called during the first week is because those situations were special circumstances. This meant the agency had questions about whether we would be okay having our profile shown to these particular birth mothers.

What is a "match"?
A match is exactly what it sounds like - it's when an adoptive parent or couple is matched with a birth mother or a child.

When does a match occur?
With our agency, matches can occur anytime after the 3rd or 4th month of pregnancy.

What happens if a birth mother changes her mind?
This is different with each agency. With ours, the $12,500 we pay when to the agency when we are "matched" with the birth mother is held by the agency until we receive another match. Many agencies will also place you on a priority list of some sort - meaning they will work to get you another match as quickly as possible.

Do you get to name the baby?
In many cases, yes, though some adoptive parents work with birth parents to choose a name together.

How soon can you take the baby home?
In Florida, birth mothers have 48 hours to relinquish their parental rights. After that time, we would most likely be able to take the baby home, should he/she be medically ready to leave the hospital.

So, what questions have you been dying to ask?

Submitted by Jen: After the match fee and the paperwork fee, where do the rest of the fees come from?
Other fees at our agency include a $1,000 pregnancy program fee, birthmother living expenses (varies; average is $2,000 to $5,000), other out-of-pocket costs (travel, etc.; average is $1,000), a finalization fee ($1,500), and a child connect fee ($350).

Submitted by Jess: Are you able to tell your agency in advance your match budget or do you have to be okay with $30,000?
Yes. We were able to put down our budget ($25,000) and we were also able to mark down that the agency could contact us should they have a potential match that's up to $3,000 above our budget. Many agencies would not allow us to put down a budget.

Submitted by Angie: I have heard something about a tax deduction/refund for adopting, but that was a few years ago, is there still a tax break for all of the adoption expenses?
Yes, there is a still an Adoption Credit. You can read more about it here. The current credit is $13,360 and is fully refundable. I believe the amount reduces in 2012, and it becomes non-refundable.

Submitted by Dawn: The company I work for was purchased by another larger company and they offer adoption assistance which wouldn't come close to covering it, but I guess I'm curious if many companies offer this or if it is like IF coverage (i.e. you're lucky to have it).
There are a number of companies that offer adoption assistance. Conceive Magazine provides a great list of some of the best employers out there and their benefits. (I believe the Dave Thomas Foundation has a similar list, but does not disclose the amounts.) We are very fortunate that Joey's company offers $3,000 in adoption reimbursement benefits.

Submitted by Anonymous: Will you post who you are using for your adoption services? And your opinion of their service?
I'd be happy to share who I used for my home study and which adoption agency we chose privately. You can email me at fromiftowhen at gmail.com.

Submitted by gailcanoe: When should you tell your employer about your plans to adopt? I know that all the people who get pregnant don't go telling their boss that they are having baby-making sex and wait to say something until they are a few months along, usually. So, when is a good time to broach the topic when adopting?
I told my employer immediately, partly because I needed an employer verification form signed for the home study and partly because I wanted to. I also met with my human resources representative a week or two after going on the waiting list to make sure that they were prepared to do any sort of LOA paperwork at a moment's notice if need be. My theory is this: you wouldn't wait until month 9 to tell your boss/company that you are pregnant. And, with domestic adoption, every day could be month 9. You never know when you might get a call from your agency.

Submitted by gailcanoe: When adopting domestically, do you have the opportunity to choose the race of the baby? What happens if the mother of the baby doesn't know the father's race because she isn't sure who the father is?
Yes, you do have the option to choose race. The races we are open to are not only listed on our home study, but they are also checked off on our adoption application. In situations where the mother is unsure of the father's race, the agency or birth mother will notify you of the potential race(s) of the child and you can decide from there whether you want to proceed.

Submitted by gailcanoe: Can you recommend some good adoption resources (books, websites, etc.) to help answer more questions?
All of my favorite resources for infertility and adoption are located at the top of my blog under the "resources" tab/link.

Have questions about international adoption? Check out my friend Missohkay's blog!

Saturday, December 10, 2011

holiday blues

I get them every year, but this year my holiday blues seem particularly bad. It's December 10, and we haven't put up a single Christmas decoration aside from the wreath Joey hung on the door one day while I was at work. To be honest, I'm not sure I even want to put up a tree. I'm certainly not weeping my way through store aisles. I'm just . . . blah. This is going to make me sound like a broken record, but I thought it would be over by now. Not the adoption journey (I'm not THAT impatient) - just our journey to become parents as a whole.

Thursday marked one month on the waiting list. Yesterday, we got a call from one of the profile site's representatives, who offered to provide us with any profile help should we need it. Cue freaking out: What's wrong with our profile? Our agency said it looked good - were they lying? Should I add more photos? Delete some photos? Add more information? Delete some information? What if no one picks us because we're Gator fans?

The reality is, our profile is probably fine. I haven't changed much about it since we created it at the beginning of November and that's a good thing. They say not to change it to often. But I have to force myself not to look at it so that I don't nitpick everything. I also try not to look at it because it has a counter. As in it counts how many people view it. Cue anxiety: What MORON thought that was a good idea? I'm enough of a mess my own. Imagine how this behavior amplifies when I see that our profile has been viewed 232 times. 232 TIMES!

Then, cue the anger: I'd like to bitch slap every person who ever told me to "just adopt," as if it's as easy as going to Target to pick up a kid. They have no clue what it feels like to obsess about everything from how good or not good I look in a photo to how I'll respond if my kid gets angry at me one day and screams, "YOU'RE NOT MY REAL MOM!" (I could honestly write an entire post of just "things I try not to freak out about.")

So while everyone else gets in the sing-song-y holiday spirit, there's me - on a roller coaster of emotions, contemplating all of these things over which the control freak in me has zero control. We're finally putting up the tree tonight. And the only thing I'll be wondering is when I get to hang a "Baby's First Christmas" ornament from mine.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

new (old) patient

Earlier this week, I filled out new patient paperwork for my gynecology appointment on Friday. (It's an annual visit, since my RE doesn't do pap smears.) Looking over my medical history brought up a ton of emotions for me. This will be my fifth gynecologist in two years, not to mention the three different REs and the breast surgeon. I already have a one-inch binder full of medical records, and I'm still missing information from three different doctors.

Sometimes it's hard to believe that before all of this, I was a normal, healthy girl in her 20s who was simply trying to build her family. Now there are so many mental and physical scars, I don't even know where to begin on these stupid medical history forms. Instead, I fill out what I can fit on the lines they provide and attach a separate sheet of paper with my reproductive timeline. I bring the binder, too, like I'm presenting them with a show-and-tell project.

The questions they ask stir the pot even further. Like when they want to know if I prefer a male or female doctor. Does it matter? It used to. But when every RE, gynecologist, and medical assistant in the Central Florida area has seen your vagina, what's the point? Who cares if the person is male or female? It's all the same.

Have you ever been pregnant? No, but I am grateful for you reminding me of that failure. If I feel this way, I can't imagine how people who've had miscarriages and stillbirths write every little detail of those experiences.

And when they ask about prior surgeries, I remember the pain. Not just the pain from the being cut open, but the daily pain. The horrible, stabbing, throbbing of my ovary. The way I hoped daily that someone would just rip it out of me. The way I could barely stand at times. How I felt like I was breaking.

Sometimes I honestly wish I didn't remember it. One of my good friends and I spoke the other day about forgetting. We decided that maybe ignorance really is bliss. To not know what this feels like is to not know that ache. Wouldn't it be wonderful? To rewind time. To be a normal woman, one who has that special moment with her husband, who creates the miracle of life, and who doesn't know or feel anything different than that joy. To never understand that emptiness we all feel at this very moment. Wouldn't that be bliss?

Yet, I'm not sure I can imagine my life without this pain anymore. I can't turn back time, of course, but I don't know how to even begin picturing my life any differently. What's the point of wondering what it's like to be normal? To not have experienced all of this? To claim ignorance doesn't change the outcome. Like people who run away from home to start a new life: you will always carry your past with you. And I may as well own it.

So, for better or for worse, this is who I am. I am a painful, broken image of the woman I once barely was. Diagnosed with infertility just two months shy of my 24th birthday and nine months after my marriage, my womanhood was given to me and then quickly taken away. Just like that. I'll be a mother someday, the way I now believe I was meant to be a mother - through adoption.

But I will be always be scarred.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

no boob squishing for me

Well, I didn’t have a mammogram today.

I went to the imaging center this morning, put on a gown, and instead was escorted into a room with an ultrasound tech. This didn’t surprise me too much, because when my doctor discovered my last lump, I had an ultrasound prior to having my mammogram.

Only this time, instead of having a mammogram after the ultrasound, I was sent home. A doctor reviewed my ultrasound and said that, since I was so young and since he didn’t think the scan showed anything too serious, he wouldn’t do a mammogram.

Now most women would be ecstatic to not have their boobs squished, but not me. I told the tech that I had a history of breast lumps, that my last one was not recognizable on an ultrasound or even a mammogram, and that I have a family history of breast cancer.

Apparently, none of that mattered to them. So I got dressed, left, and called my mom. I told her I didn’t feel right about it, and she agreed. She was angry that they blatantly ignored my doctor’s order, and told me to call him. I did, and I explained to the office what happened. They are supposed to call me back and let me know the next step. I made it clear, though. I WANT the mammogram. That's what the doctor ordered; that's what I should get.

I know I don’t have breast cancer, but that doesn’t matter. They don’t have a right to ignore my doctor’s order. It's not their decision to make.

Why do we encourage young women to do self-exams if medical professionals aren’t going to follow up with any concerns? Young women CAN get breast cancer, and god help the 20-something-year-old woman who DOES have cancer and who gets turned away because she’s young. I can only hope that she’s as proactive as I am in her own healthcare.

Update: My doctor is giving me another order form for a mammogram. I also called the imaging center and gave them an earful, also making sure that they didn't bill my insurance for a mammogram. The last thing I need is an insurance fight in all of this. I think I am also going to write a letter to the facility. They need to know that what they did was wrong, and I don't want it to happen to other women.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

the theme is "nothing's ever easy"

Those who are longtime followers or who've had the patience to read back through some of my previous posts know that I had a lump removed from my right breast early last year. It was benign, but since then I've been incredibly vigilant with my self exams. My doctors have all urged me to stay on top of them, and I've done a good job of following their orders.

About a week after the home study, I did a routine exam and discovered an area in my left breast that did not feel normal. I scheduled an appointment with my general practitioner for the following week. He agreed that it didn't feel normal - though neither of us would go as far as saying that it was definitely a lump - and gave me a prescription for a mammogram and ultrasound. Both are scheduled for tomorrow. (Let me not even get into how annoyed everyone was that the soonest the imaging center could "squeeze" me in was one month later.)

I'm not too worried, mostly because my doctor didn't seem too worried. There's certainly very, very little chance that it's cancer. But the last thing I want or need is another surgery to remove another lump. So any good thoughts you could offer up would be great. And - for the record - I'd like to come back as a man in my next life. No ovaries, no boobs . . . no problem!

Sunday, November 27, 2011

this and that

Thank you all for the words of encouragement on the last post. I know this person didn't intend to be hurtful with her message, but it came across that way. And because I received it on Thanksgiving, I was extra sensitive and emotional. It's hard sometimes. You all know that. Overall, though, we had a wonderful holiday weekend - spending lots of time with our families. And eating. So much eating! I must have gained 10 pounds this weekend. The YMCA card in my wallet is calling my name.

This is the last week of school for the semester. This is great, because this means I'll have a life again for the next month. I've been chained to the computer for the past few weeks trying to wrap up final projects. If I ever suggest going back to school again for another degree, all of you have permission to throw something at me.

I think the last time I updated all of you, my doctor didn't want me to go off of my norethindrone (which is suppressing my reproductive system) until my prolactin levels were back up to normal. Well, things changed when I started bleeding through the norethindrone AND the estrogen supplements. He had me stop it completely and force a period. Let me just say that last week was not my finest week in regards to being cheerful. Going through my first period in six months was hell. But now that the bleeding has stopped and the raging hormones seem to have settled, I feel pretty good. We're going to see if I can cycle normally for at least one month. Then it's my decision when/whether to go on a regular birth control pill.

Finally, this Tuesday marks three weeks on the waiting list. We didn't get any phone calls again last week, but we didn't expect any either. I will say that being a waiting family has made me become extremely attached to my phone. It's glued to my hand at all times. I even take it to the bathroom with me.

Waiting and hoping . . . for who knows how long.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

closed ears

We've been at this for 3.5 years. We've never hidden our infertility. We've been an open book about every treatment, every decision, and every aspect of every path on this journey. If anything, this blog should be testament of this.

So I thought that maybe, just maybe, people "got" it by now.

No. There are still people who don't get it. There are people who don't get that saying certain things to me, to Joey - and even to our parents - is hurtful.

I don't want to sound negative or resentful, because the majority of our family members and friends do get it or have at least made a concerted effort to understand the pain that some comments and questions can bring. Not everyone has, though, and it's frustrating.

This is what I mean when I write that, sometimes, I get tired of fighting. It's like pounding your head against a brick wall. You can advocate and scream all you want. But you can't force people to listen.

I'm tired of trying.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

thanks, serenity, and . . . wine

Thanksgiving truly is my favorite day of the year, and not just for the good food. It is a reminder for me to sit back and reflect on what I have to be thankful for. To be honest, I don't do that enough on a regular basis - be thankful. I'm getting better at it, but it's a process when you suffer from infertility.

For many Americans, Thursday kicks off the best time of year. Everyone is happy. Families are gathering. Kids are gearing up for visits from Santa Claus. For infertiles, it's a giant reminder of how our bodies have failed us. When will I have a child sitting at the kiddie table? When will I get to make my baby's first stocking? When will I be the one standing in line at Toys R' Us at midnight for whatever the latest toy fad is?

Worse than the silent reminders are the vocal ones: the family members and friends who try to drill into your brain that this is a happy time of year. "Why aren't you happy, too? You have plenty to be thankful for!" Maybe we do, but let them try giving thanks after losing a child. Or after having an IVF cycle fail. Or after just passing another milestone childless - 2, 5, 8 years of trying. It's nearly impossible.

This is my fourth holiday season dealing with these emotions. It gets a tiny bit better every year, but I would in no way call it "easy." It just is. You learn ways to cope. Maybe your way is to avoid. Or to drink. Or take anxiety medication. Or go on vacation. (I've used three of these coping mechanisms. I'll let you guess which three). The point is, you learn how to make it through. Then, you take what worked and carry it over to the next year.

Frankly, it's bullshit. You used to love the holidays, and now you don't. You have to DVR everything because you need to fast forward through the stupid "baby's first Christmas" commercials. You do all of your shopping online so you don't have to deal with the holiday sections in your favorite stores. And Thanksgiving? Well, you can't even lie and say you're thankful for your health. You sure as hell aren't thankful for your reproductive health.

So on Thursday, in addition to giving thanks, I'll also be thinking of you: stuck in some awkward family gathering, with babies screaming all around you and no way to escape. You aren't alone. I'm there with you in spirit. Can you picture me? I'm holding your hand, reminding you to breathe, and passing you a glass of wine every time someone says, "Don't worry - you'll be next!"

Yeah, asshole. I've been next for THREE AND A HALF YEARS.

Happy Thanksgiving. I love you all.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

fight on

We were lucky to find such an amazing person, Amy, to do our home study for us. (Unlike many situations, where couples go directly to an agency and have their home study done through that organization, we decided to go with an independent home study agent. This gave us the option to choose based on her recommendations of who might best meet our needs.) Amy occasionally reads my blog, and she asked me an interesting and unexpected question last week while both of us were working at an adoption/fertility conference. She asked if I planned on keeping this blog after we have a baby.

The short answer is yes. But the long answer is something I haven't thought too much about. I've followed many bloggers since I began writing here three years ago. Most of them have gone on to have babies - some more than one - and many of them have stopped writing all together. Other blogs have evolved into writings about motherhood. Very few remained blogs about infertility.

In no way do I want to stop writing. Nor do I want to turn this into a parenting blog. There's a reason for both: I like writing, and I have no desire to write about parenting. Mostly, I don't care to share my parenting philosophies and likely have them picked apart, and I have no desire to post pictures of my kid 24/7 so that creepy people surfing the web can know what he/she looks like (yes - I am that paranoid). My only other option, and it's not a popular one, is to keep writing about infertility. It's not popular because most people don't do it. Or they can't do it. Part of me understands that. Who wants to keep thinking about infertility after they finally become a parent? Who wants to constantly be reminded of the worst years of their life?

I guess I feel a stronger connection with my disease. Being infertile changed something for me, and I think that change is permanent. A lot of people who adopt after infertility move on to adoption causes, and that's great. For me, though, I feel compelled to continue advocating for my fellow infertiles.

Why? I don't know. Especially since (if I'm being honest) there are times when I am truly tired of advocating. It takes a lot of you, fighting all the time. But for whatever reason, I can't stop. Maybe because I was diagnosed so young, and I don't want young people to feel alone in their suffering. Maybe because I skipped IVF, and I want people to know that it's okay to go against the grain when deciding your path. Maybe because helping people through my volunteer work at RESOLVE helped ME. To gain peace. To gain understanding. To gain friendships and a path.

When I do become a parent, I'm going to try and keep this going. It won't be easy, but I think it's important. If I stop blogging and talking about infertility, it stops just a tiny piece of the progress we've made as a community to break through the barriers set by others about our disease. If I stop blogging and talking about infertility, it perpetuates the myth that infertility ends when you have your child. Cancer survivors don't stop fighting for a cure once they are healthy.

So why should we stop fighting once we become parents?

Friday, November 18, 2011

day 10

We went from two phone calls in the first week to zero in the second week. I joked with Joey the other day that we probably won't get another call for about six months or so. I'm okay, though. I certainly didn't expect two calls in week 1 of the wait, nor did I expect this week to be a repeat of that.

I had a chance to meet some of the people from our agency last weekend when I spoke at a local adoption and fertility conference. They were all incredibly nice and uplifting. All of them recognized me from our profile, and they said nothing but positive things about our profile and us. It certainly helps to hear that - and I'll remind myself of this every day we don't get a call.

Aside from registering, getting the nursery finished (eventually), and admiring adorable and expensive diaper bags, we're working on other projects to pass the time before we're matched. I'll be starting a journal for the baby soon. We are also starting to tour daycare centers. Oh. My. GOD. Are these places a rip-off or what? 4 babies to 1 adult. No we won't use your cloth diapers (even with disposable liners). Yes we will let your baby cry for long periods of time - since we have other babies to look after, too. And you can have all of this for the monthly price of "way more than your mortgage." Insane. I went into the wrong business. It's forced me to consider alternate childcare options, including nannies and in-home daycare facilities. I have tons of research ahead of me.

To those of you who adopted or who are still in the process: what did YOU do to pass the time?

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

baby registry "must haves"

We are lucky to have some pretty amazing family members and friends who've already given us items to prepare for the baby. We already have all the major necessities: a crib, a changing table, clothes, bottles, bedding, a car seat, and a stroller. But when it comes to things beyond this, I'm clueless.

So I decided to use the resources at my disposal to compile a list of "must haves" for any baby registry. It was surprising - but reassuring - to see how many people recommended the same items and brands over and over again.

I wanted to post the list here because 1) it's not useful if I keep it all to myself, and 2) I'm sure those of you non-Tweeters will have some suggestions to add. OF COURSE there are going to be things on here that you don't agree with. To each their own, and I know that some things work for certain babies that don't work for others. This is just a list of all the information I received:

Baby carrier (Brands: Ergo, Moby, Mei Tai, Maya Ring Sling)
Baby monitor (Brands: AngelCare) – many suggested a video monitor
Bath supplies – hooded towels, washcloths, a bath mat to kneel on, tummy tub, bath tub, bath chair for an older baby
Bibs – bibs with snaps, bibs that close on the side, plastic for older babies
Blankets
Books – board books
Boppy pillow
Bottle brush
Bottle drying rack (Brand: Boon Grass)
Bottle sterilizer (Brand: Philips Avent)
Bottle warmer (Brand: First Years)
Bottles (Brands: Dr. Brown, Tommie Tippee, Playtex Drop-Ins, Born Free, Evenflo) – different sized nipples, sample sets
Bouncy chair
Bumbo
Burp cloths (Brand: Aden & Anais)
California Baby products
Car seat (Brand: Chicco; Britax Boulevard for older babies) – and a second base for other car
Car seat cover (JJ Cole)
Cloth diapers as burp cloths
Co-sleeper
Cups (Brand: Munchkin)
Diaper bag
Diaper Champ
Diapers
ExerSaucer or Jumperoo (Brand: Fisher Price Rainforest or Luv U Zoo)
First aid and grooming kit
Formula
Gas drops (Brands: Tiny Tummies, Mylicon)
Gripe water
High chair (Brands: Fisher Price Space Saver; Scandinavian Child Anka Convertible)
Humidifier
Kimono shirts
Mesh laundry bags – use for bibs with velcro
Music CDs
Nasal aspirator (Brands: Nosefrida, Graco NasalClear, Comfy Nose)
Onesies – in every size, especially in white onesies
Pacifiers (Brands: Soothies, Wubbanub)
Pack n' Play – with bassinet
Placemats (Brand: Sesame Street Table Topper Disposable Stick-on)
Play Gym/Table (Luv U Zoo; Fisher- Price Laugh & Learn Fun with Friends Musical Table for older babies)
Portable changing pad
Sheepskin crib pad
Sheets – many, many sheets, including pack n’ play
Sleep positioner (Brand: First Years Airflow)
Sleepers (Brand: Halo Sleep Sacks) – ones that zip, sleeper gowns that open at the bottom, footie pajamas for older babies
Sound machine (Brand: Graco White Noise Machine, Homedics Sound, Sleep Sheep)
Spoons
Stroller (Brand: UPPAbaby Vista Stroller) – stroller adapter for car seat
Swaddle blankets (Brands: Swaddleme, Aden & Anais, Miracle Blanket)
Swing/rocker (Brands: Fisher Price Cradle and Lamb, Fisher Price Snug a Bunny, Fisher-Price Precious Planet Blue Sky Open Top Take-Along Swing, Fisher Price Infant to Toddler Rocker, Fisher Price Rock and Play Sleeper)
Thermometer
Toys (Brand: Fisher Price Soothe & Glow Seahorse)
Tummy time mat
Waterproof pads

Also, my Twitter buddy, Kathleen, wrote a great blog post on her "must haves" for the first three months.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

reflections on choosing an agency

I've been wanting to reflect on the last three or four weeks and what I experienced while trying to gather information in order to make a decision about who we would use to facilitate our adoption. But, as you can tell from my previous post, it's been a little crazy for us in this house. I finally have a moment to sit down and finish writing about some of my experiences. I'm only sharing this because my hope is that it will help other couples prepare themselves for this part of their adoption journey:

Even though Joey would have been the better person to make the phone calls - he's more practical - I made all of them due to our work schedules, took copious notes, and reported back to him each evening.

Last fall, when we made the decision to adopt, it was right after I'd worked the RESOLVE table at a family building conference here in Orlando. I made the comment to several people that the demeanor of the adoption representatives as opposed to those from the RE practices and the pharmaceutical companies impressed me. It seemed like those who were involved in the adoption field truly cared. They were sensitive to my story, and their responses were always appropriate. They never tried too hard to sell adoption, themselves, or their organization.

My phone calls gave me a look at the different side of the adoption "business." Because what I've learned from all of this is that it IS a business. As much as we don't want to refer to it as that, it's difficult not to. We called more than 10 organizations. With some, there were no warm, fuzzy feelings AT ALL. They didn't touch on the emotional side of it. Sometimes, they didn't even ask me for factual information. It was more like, "What do you want to know?" And I get it. There are aspects of it that should be business-like. I didn't expect anyone to cry on the phone with me. But I did expect some kindness, and I didn't get it in some cases.

Don't get me wrong. I spoke to some wonderful people - people who were supportive and caring, and not condescending. But I also spoke to some people who, honestly, need to consider a different field. I emailed agencies, attorneys, and consultants, asking them to give me a call at their earliest convenience. From some, I received repeated phone calls and messages, to the point where I was ready to find out how I could block them from contacting me. From others, I received no personal response at all. We had a consultant who nicely told us our budget was one she would have a difficult time working with. Then, from a national adoption agency, I actually received stifled laughter in response to our budget. That's fine if you think our budget is low, but be professional. We had a lawyer who flat out would not disclose the practice's fees, and another who wouldn't even answer my questions until we went over every single adoption law in the state of Florida (snore fest).

The worst part, though, was listening to some of them describe their programs. I understand that many agencies have programs based on race. It's common, and we even went with an agency that does this. But the ways in which they referred to and described these programs appalled me. I spoke to two different agencies that refer to their minority (African-American) programs as "special needs." Special needs. When I asked the woman at one agency to please describe why they refer to the program as special needs, she said it's because these children are harder to place. Now I don't know about you, but when I think of special needs, other ideas flash through my mind. Downs syndrome. Physical and mental disabilities. HIV/AIDS. Drug addiction. I don't think of kids with different skin colors. This reference didn't sit well with me. Even though I liked the representative I spoke to at one of the agencies, it didn't sit well with me that an organization would actually look at minority children this way.

I don't want to act like this was an awful, painful experience to call each of these places. I do want people to know that it's not easy. I had certain expectations, a certain mentality going into these phone calls that I shouldn't have had. I had expectations of certain agencies that were wrong - both positively and negatively. I think it's important for me to share this because I don't want someone else to make the same mistakes I did, by thinking this was going to be easier than it was, or that people would be there to coddle me and hold my hand. I don't want someone else to think that these places are going to be all rainbows and sunshine and willing to help. Kind of like adoption itself, getting started in the process is not all happy.

Ultimately, it felt like calling different places to get a price quote on finding us a baby. The place with the greatest "deals" - cost, wait time, placement rates - won. In some ways, you DO have to go with "feeling" on this. Both of us had the right feeling about the agency we chose, but we also had to look at the practicalities: Would this be the best fit for us money and time-wise?

I don't hesitate telling people that I'm an emotional person. I always have been and always will be. But this process has quickly taught me that, sometimes, it's better to think with my head and not my heart.

Friday, November 11, 2011

it's been a while

I had a few planned posts for this week, but all of that went out the window.

I can’t go into too many details, but here’s what’s been going on:

Monday: The adoption agency received our application.
Tuesday: Our profile went active.
Wednesday: We received a call from the agency that we were a potential match for a special situation. They needed our permission to show the birth mother our profile, along with a few other couples, and we had until 5 pm to agree. We agreed that this situation would be a great fit for us, so we gave the agency the go-ahead. (I had to leave work at 2 pm to put together our profile quickly.) The baby is due at the end of the month.
Thursday: No news.
Friday: As of now, no news.

Yep, that’s about all I can write at this point. Please send good thoughts and prayers (if you’re the praying type) to the birth mother as she makes her decision.

UPDATE: I just received a phone call from the agency. The birth mother chose another couple. Of course we're a little disappointed, but we respect that she made the right decision for her and this just was not meant to be our baby.

Thank you to everyone who has supported us during this roller coaster of a week. You have no idea how much we appreciate it.

UPDATE #2: We received another call from the agency. Our profile is potentially being shown again this afternoon to a birth mother due early next year.

Someone pass the Valium. I have a feeling our adoption journey is going to be even crazier than our infertility journey.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

what's in my suitcase

Next week is my 3rd blogoversary.

I've thought a lot recently about my blog and how it's changed over these last three years. And how I have changed over the last three years. In the beginning, I didn't speak to many people about what I was going through. I didn't want to talk about it. I was/am not the most outgoing person in the world, so shouting to everyone that my ovaries were jacked up seemed unnecessary. Plus, what was the point? Telling people I was infertile wasn't going to change anything. It wasn't going to make me better. It wasn't going to make me a mom. It wasn't going to take the pain away. So, I closed myself off. I shut down.

Except for here. I blogged my little heart out. And, eventually, I blogged the introvert right out of me. Blogging turned into talking. It turned into advocating, interviews, and speeches. Blogging made it seem easier to share my story.

Lately, though, I feel like I've retreated back into my shell a bit. Blogging in depth about our adoption journey so far has been difficult. I rarely go on Twitter to talk about infertility or the adoption process anymore. And when people IRL ask how things are going, I have a hard time discussing it. When some people ask me questions, I get flat out bitchy.

I've been trying hard to figure out why. Why I feel this way. Why I don't want to talk about it. Why I get offended when people ask me certain questions. Why I'm struggling.

I think part of it is the normalcy of it all. The talk about why having a baby swing is so important or how I plan to decorate the nursery. It doesn't bother me from members of the IF community, but I get turned off by pushy questions and comments from people who don't get it - who aren't sensitive. Don't get me wrong. I have no desire to be pregnant anymore. I have stated that at least a couple of times here and many times off of this blog. I've accepted my infertility, and I don't let it define me. But no matter what, it will always be with me. It will always be my baggage, even though I feel like the suitcase is at least manageable to carry now with one hand. There will always an element that makes my path to motherhood a little more complicated to wade through emotionally.

It's sort of the same sentiment I felt when writing the truth about resolutions. The pain has gotten easier. I don't get upset about baby announcements anymore. I can actually attend baby events without feeling a sudden urge to drink heavily. But the pain is still there. It's subtler, but it exists.

The other part is the happiness. I get it. People are happy. We are happy - believe me. But adoption isn't all happy. Like infertility treatments, it comes with baggage. Another suitcase for me to lug around. While people are busy getting excited about meeting our future child, we're busy talking through tough details like wait times, gender, race, drug use, and mental illness. And while I would love to spend every waking moment of the day educating people about these issues, I don't have the time or the energy to do it. I don't always have it in me to counter every person's rosy picture with the harsh reality. I don't want to always be viewed as a Debbie Downer for tempering the joy.

It reminds me a lot of what I went through with infertility treatments. Every time we had an IUI, our family and friends would get excited. This is it, they would say. You'll be pregnant in a couple of weeks! And every time, I wasn't pregnant. Not only did I then have to deal with the disappointment I felt over the latest failure, but I also had to deal with the disappointment everyone else felt, too. So imagine my fears now when there are much bigger stakes and concerns. Of course, there's the potential for a disrupted adoption. But there is everything beyond just bringing a "cute baby" home. There are bonding issues, integrating a child of potentially a different cultural background into our lives and our community, the feelings of loss our child will go through during his or her life as an adopted person. Because adoption IS a loss. It's not all sunshine and roses, and I'm not sure too many people understand that.

So these are the burdens I carry. In a lot of ways, I feel like Tom Hanks in that shitty movie, The Terminal. (My apologies if you liked that film.) Stuck, carrying around all of my luggage, waiting for someone to tell me what the next move is. And - above all else - unable to communicate with anyone.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

what's going on?

Good news! Today I will finally get my car back FIXED. It's been about three weeks or so since my car saga began, and I'm happy to put it behind us. We are lucky to have a mechanic who stuck with it, found the problem, and charged us next to nothing to fix it. (Well, next to nothing compared to what the dealership would have charged us.) Everyone keep your fingers crossed that my poor baby can hold it together now until we pay off our other car.

We're very close to being done with our "interviews" of agencies and attorneys. Right now, it looks like we have one or two strong candidates. It's taken me a little longer than expected because I'm the only one who has the capability of making phone calls during the day, while at work. It's also taken longer because some places just don't return calls or emails. And when they do, they aren't always nice about it. I have a separate post I'm working on about the surprising attitudes I've experienced from people over the last couple of weeks.

I started my new position last week, and I am loving it so far. As of now, I'm working one weekend day a week, but that will go down to two weekend days a month once we hire another full-time staff member. Surprisingly, though, I LIKE working on the weekends and having a day or two off during the week. It gives me time to go to doctor's appointments and run errands that I can't get done on Saturday and Sunday. It's also quiet. Not too many students in the library on Sunday mornings.

Speaking of doctor's appointments, I recently had a follow-up visit with my RE about my prolactin levels. They are now too low, so he adjusted the dosage. I'm getting retested in about 10 days. If it's normal, I can finally go off of the norethindrone. Hooray for no more "fake" menopause and getting my estrogen levels back! You know you are over the hot flashes when you're looking forward to getting a period. Initially, he wanted me to go on a regular birth control pill (something with estrogen and progesterone) once I start cycling again, but I asked him if we could wait. After six months of nothing but hormones going into my body, I need a break. He agreed. Plus, both of us are curious to see what will happen with my cysts now that my prolactin is regulated and I'm going off of the progesterone. Will they return? Or have we solved the problem?

That's about all I have on the update front. I finally finished one of my big term papers this morning. Hopefully this means I'll have a little bit more time for blogging this week.

Friday, October 28, 2011

a public relations announcment

I haven't written too much lately because I've been drowning in school work. Remind me to never take three classes at once again - all of which have major final projects. But I need to take a break from writing a human resources evaluation of a library (fun!) to bitch for a moment.

It is an incredible honor to win a big blog award. As a result, I've met some great women, and I've had a chance to be a part of some truly meaningful initiatives. The downside to this is emails. I'm getting more emails about promoting people's events, services, and products than ever before.

Let me just say it: the answer is no.

Unless it's for RESOLVE or I am personally involved in the event/product/service, such as the event I posted about last week, no. I will not promote whatever it is you want me to promote on my site.

As the owner and writer of this shit show, I don't exactly feel like I need to explain why I refuse to post someone else's stuff here. But I will anyway - just for kicks:

Reason #1: I don't know you from Joe Schmoe. So how do I know that whatever it is you're trying to get me to post about is legit? I don't, and that is a pretty scary thought. The thing is, when I promote it, I am putting my name on it. I don't want to put my name on or near something that I know nothing about.

Reason #2: This is my personal space, and I write about very personal things here. It's one thing for me to post about a conference I organized or am speaking at. Because those are personal to me. They are a part of my life. Think of it this way: I wouldn't write about things that didn't concern me in my personal journal. Why would I write them here?

Reason #3... perhaps the biggest: I refuse to whore out my blog, or myself, based on this disease. I'm only going to participate in things if I feel as though they are going to benefit the infertility community and getting our concerns. That means you're never going to see me get paid to review a cookbook on this website. If that disappoints you, read another blog.

There you have it. I hope that was clear enough. If it's not, please sit back and read your email to me one more time. Then ask yourself, Does it have something to do with adoption or infertility advocacy? If not, trash it and save yourself the energy of clicking "send." That way, it saves me the energy of having to click "delete."

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

one hurdle down

We are officially official, meaning we are home study approved!

It's hard to believe that, less than a year ago, we were announcing our intention to adopt. Now we are legally able to. We still have a long way to go: picking an agency, creating our profile, waiting, and more waiting. Not to mention the fact that I've started a new blog/website and Facebook page focused solely on our adoption (more on this soon). But the home study approval was a big step to overcome in this process.

It feels good to move forward.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

attention central floridians!

Mark your calendars for A Family of My Own Fertility & Adoption Conference. It's taking place on Saturday, November 12, 2011, from 9 am to 1 pm at The Westin Lake Mary located on 2974 International Parkway in Lake Mary, FL 32746. Admission is FREE! Register online today at www.AFamilyofMyOwn.com.

I will be there, manning the RESOLVE of Central Florida table and speaking to the attendees about our experience with infertility and my journey (so far) to adopt.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

the truth about trying

Want to see something scary and exciting? It's my face on Redbook Magazine's website!

I'm happy to take part in "The Truth About Trying" - video campaign from Redbook Magazine and RESOLVE that seeks to end the silence about infertility. Click on the link above to learn more about the campaign, watch the videos, and upload a message of your own. My video is on the second row, the last video on the right-hand side.

A shout out to my friend Bucky, who filmed and edited my video for me. And a big thanks to Redbook Magazine and RESOLVE for letting me participate in this. It's truly a honor.

Monday, October 17, 2011

what you don't want to hear right after your home visit

"I don't know what's wrong with your car."

My car died last week. These types of things are inevitable when you have a car that's 10 years old and is sporting almost 140,000 miles. In fact, it died about a month ago, and I had to buy a replacement battery. Easy fix. So wait, why was it crapping out on me again in less than a month?

It died at work. Luckily, I carry jumper cables around with me for situations like this. We were able to get it running again. I drove it home, and Joey figured out that my parking lights were staying on (even when I had them on the "off" setting) - therefore killing the battery. He called our mechanic, who couldn't get to the car until Thursday night. We spent last week disconnecting and reconnecting the battery every time we turned the car off and on.

Fun.

I wasn't stressed about it because our mechanic didn't seem too stressed about it. He thought it would be an easy fix. And I mean he's the expert. The guy works at the Toyota dealership during the day (I have a Toyota). It's not like he's confused about what he's doing. So when he told us on Saturday night that he was stumped, I started to worry. That worry turned into full-fledged paranoia on Sunday when he said that he replaced some burnt wiring, but that it didn't fix the "weird electrical problem." You know it's bad when your mechanic has never seen anything like it.

And all I could think was THIS COULD NOT HAPPEN AT A WORSE TIME. Seriously. There's nothing like already being stressed about the affordability of adopting a child and then having to panic about the cost of car repairs - or worse, car REPLACEMENT - on top of that.

He managed to get the car working well enough so that we don't have to disconnect the battery every day, which was good to hear because we can't function with one car during the week, and he is taking it back next weekend to rip apart the wiring under the dashboard even further. He wouldn't even accept money from us for the work he'd done over the weekend.

There's not much I can do about the situation. I've told myself I won't worry about it again until he looks at it a second time. But I can't help but wonder when we will catch a break. It was the A/C that needed major repairs last month. Now it's my car. Bad things happen in 3s, right?

So . . . what's next?

Saturday, October 15, 2011

and... here we go

We will be home study approved in a couple of weeks.

!!!

The home visit was this morning, and it went well. It was a lot easier than I expected it to be. The only major concern she seemed to have was our budget. 25k is low in the grand scheme of things, since most adoptions average between 25k and 30k. It doesn't mean it can't happen. It just means we might be waiting a little longer, and that we need to be resourceful and protect ourselves with where we go and how our money is spent.

We have a lot to do from this point. We have a list of agencies, attorneys, and consultants to call and ask about pricing, procedures, etc. We need to decide who we are going to use. We have to start our profile. I'm a little overwhelmed, but mostly excited. This is what we've been working for, and it's finally here. I feel like I'm a race horse who has just been put into the starting gate and is waiting for the gunshot. There are so many unknowns. The best I can do is that hope everything falls into place.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

growing up is harder

There are days when I would give anything to be a kid again. To have no cares in the world. To never have to worry about responsibilities. To have nap time (!). To be fearless. To feel and see and believe in positive things.

When you're a kid, all you want in the world is to be an adult. You want to sit at the adult table during family gatherings, not at the kid table. You want to be included in the adult conversation. You want to stay up past 8:30, drink wine with dinner, and be able to drive yourself places. And then? You grow up. And you realize that the adult table can get kind of boring. All people talk about there is work, news, and politics. You realize that not much happens after 8:30 . . . if you can manage to stay away that late after a long day at the office. Wine with dinner makes you even more exhausted. And driving means gas, insurance, a car payment, and endless hours of navigating traffic.

You learn that the grass isn't always greener.

I think this will be one of the most fascinating parts about raising a child. Fascinating and difficult. I will understand the desire to want to grow up, but I will also know what lies ahead. How will I balance my desire to protect my child from all the bad things, the disappointments, while wanting him or her to remain innocent for as long as possible? Or will other kids - anxious to grow up too quickly - shatter that innocence before I have a chance to stop it?

A couple of weeks ago, a child in our neighborhood, age 10, called 911 and told police that a man tried to kidnap him from his school parking lot about a mile from where we live. For three hours, police on foot and in the air searched for the kidnapper while the neighborhood stood by and watched - a nervous wreck. Parents were standing outside with their kids, probably wondering the same thing I was: Would our quiet little neighborhood ever be the same? Would kids still be out in the streets riding their bikes and skateboards? Playing with sidewalk chalk? Walking to each other's houses? Running around in the field out back? Splashing in the pool?

But it was all a short-lived nightmare. The boy, confronted with surveillance video, admitted to having made up the story. Time to breathe a big sigh of relief, right?

Not for me. Yes, I was happy that there was no kid-snatcher. But it led to even more questions and worries. Why would a child make up such a story? Such an elaborate story, at that. He gave a full description of the man, even telling police officers about the lettering on the "kidnapper's" shirt. (He's lucky some poor guy wasn't picked up jogging or biking along the main road outside of our neighborhood for wearing a similar shirt.) He scared the living hell out of his parents and the rest of the parents in the neighborhood. And he forced those parents to, in turn, scare their children. A day later, the news stations reported that the boy lied about the kidnapping after a fight with his parents about his after-school plans.

It's hard being a kid. Not being able to do what you want. Having someone tell you how to act, where to go, and what to do. But growing up is harder. Thinking your kid was almost taken from you. Thinking someone else's kid was almost taken from them.

And wondering how you would handle that situation as a parent.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

ch-ch-ch-changes

I started grad school last August with the intention of taking my time and finishing when I could. Then November rolled around, and we decided to adopt. That's when I also made the decision to take as many courses as I could handle each semester in order to graduate as early as possible. This was so that I would be done or mostly done with school by the time we were matched AND so that I could ensure my next, better paying career as a librarian/information specialist would start sooner rather than later. I even chose - on top of taking three classes in the spring, two in the summer, and working full time - to volunteer at a library in my area for six months, just to have the experience to put on my resume.

My hard work paid off. I took a chance and applied for a librarian position at my current company. I knew it might be a long shot without having finished my degree yet, but I figured that being an internal candidate might at least get me an interview. It did. And I got the job. It's a big step for my career, and a nice little bump in my paycheck, too. Which, you know, never hurts when you're about to spend at least $20,000 adopting a child.

It was the good news and the change I needed.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

when cancer takes a legend

I was going to write a post tonight about October and breast cancer awareness month. Seems ironic now considering that, less than two hours ago, I found out Steve Jobs passed away. He died at the age of 56 after battling pancreatic cancer.

We may never know how long he suffered from the disease. He had a Whipple procedure for a pancreatic tumor in 2004. Questions about his health swirled until stepped down as Apple's CEO back in August. Seven years. That's an incredibly long period of time for someone with pancreatic cancer to survive (if he's had it this entire time). The 5-year survival rate for someone with the lowest stage of pancreatic cancer? Just 37%. It is the 4th leading cause of cancer-related deaths. Unfortunately, cancer touches so many of us now. I'm not sure there is anyone in the world who can honestly say their life is unaffected by cancer.

There are not many people who can say their life was unaffected by Steve Jobs.

He was a visionary. I'm not sure there will ever be another person like him - someone with all the qualities of a true leader: passionate, intelligent, strategic, innovative, and now legendary. He was wealthy and likeable (to most). It's not often you see those two traits go hand-in-hand. No one can deny that he was a master of his craft, a craft that went beyond our beloved Macs, iPads, or iPhones. Steve Jobs changed the way we think of design, technology, education, business. He changed . . . everything. He was one of a kind.

And he was taken far too soon by a disease that, in 2011, should not be taking people anymore.

Rest in Peace, Steve Jobs. With everything you've left behind, I can assure you - you'll never be forgotten.

"Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything - all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure - these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart."

- Steve Jobs, Stanford Commencement Address, June 12, 2005

Sunday, October 2, 2011

all things adoption

First thing's first. Surprise! - Our paperwork is in and our home visit is scheduled for the morning of October 15. I'd be lying if I told you I wasn't nervous. Not so much about the house. Those of you who know me well know that the house is always in order. I don't live or work well in chaos, so it's not the order of the house that makes me nervous. It's the going over every aspect of your life part that makes me nervous. I'm good at putting my thoughts on paper, but I sometimes get flustered trying to put my thoughts into words... that's the part that worries me. I'm sure it will be fine, but - naturally - I have to worry about something. That's just who I am.

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In the world of nursery furniture, our crib that we originally ordered from Wal-Mart and had to re-order at Babies R Us never arrived. Again. This forced me to accept that somewhere, someone just does not want me to have this particular crib. So on Saturday morning, I headed out on the Great American Crib Hunt for a white convertible crib that cost less than $200. And I found one! It was actually less expensive than the original crib we picked out, too. We bought it and brought it home today, and Joey is going to put it together this week.

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Aside from getting things together for the home visit, I've also been hard at work with my fellow RESOLVE volunteers to organize a big adoption event here in the Orlando area. Sadly, I just found out late last week that I won't be able to attend the event because I have a big presentation in one of my grad school classes (another part of my life that's been occupying most of my free time). But I hope that you can attend if you're in the Central Florida area. Here are the details:

When: Monday, October 10
Time: 7:00PM - 9:00PM
Where: Dr. P. Phillips Hospital, 9400 Turkey Lake Rd, Orlando, FL 32819
Cost: FREE

Join the Central Florida affiliate of RESOLVE as they host an exciting evening focusing on various aspects of adoption. This seminar offers valuable information for people considering adoption as a future option, those beginning to gather information, or those already on the path to adoption. Presenters include adoption professionals and adoptive parents.

For more information and to RSVP, please email resolveofcentralflorida@gmail.com.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

new york: from a to z

I'm back home, and I have so much to write about. I would have written sooner, but I brought the plague back from NYC with me and spent most of my time back in Orlando in bed or on the couch. No fun. But now that I'm finally recovered, it's time to start filling everyone in on the events of the last week and a half. Let's just start with the part that I know everyone is anxious to read about: the trip.

Day 1

The flight was at the ass crack of dawn on Saturday morning. This was my genius idea, which turned out to be not-so-genius considering I'd spent the night before drinking sangria on an empty stomach and crying heavily (yes - crying) at my boss's memorial. Separate post to come. I ended up getting about two hours of sleep before getting on a plane. Unfortunately, the flight attendants did NOT make it up on time from whatever they were up to the night before. We were 45 minutes late taking off.

We arrived at JFK pretty much on time, though, and we took the shuttle ride from hell to our hotel. I'd spent a lot of time watching hotel/flight package deal prices on Expedia during the months leading up to the trip, and I managed to get us an awesome deal at none other than the Waldorf.

We couldn't check in until 3, so we grabbed lunch and wandered down to 5th Avenue, where the FDNY was holding its 9/11 Memorial Mass at St. Patrick's Cathedral. After lots of pictures, a little bit of window shopping, and some actual shopping, we went back to the hotel, checked in, power napped, showered, and dressed in time to meet my aunt and uncle at the hotel bar for a drink. They took the train down from Connecticut to hang out with us for the evening, and I'm so glad they did. We had a great time catching up, watching football, and eating amazing food at Trattoria Trecolori near Times Square.

Needless to say, we slept VERY well on Saturday night after no sleep the night before and all of our traveling/walking.

Day 2

This was 9/11. We woke up early, grabbed some coffee, and took the train down to Wall Street. We weren't sure how close we could get to the memorial service, but we ended up going down to Battery Park and walking back up toward Ground Zero - getting close enough to hear the names of the victims read by their family members. It was a surreal experience. We passed so many members of the FDNY and other fire departments from around the world who were there to honor the dead. And we passed family members, too, holding up images of their loved ones. Heartbreaking.

We took the train back up to SoHo and walked around the shops before heading over to Brooklyn for lunch and a tour of the Brooklyn Brewery. We had an awesome brunch at The Counting Room, and made it over to the brewery in time to catch the 2 pm tour. The best part of the tour, of course, is the end where you can buy tokens and try some of their beers. If you've never tried Brooklyn beer, I highly recommend it. We had it for the first time last year while we were in New York, and we swore we'd go on the beer tour if we ever went back.

We cabbed it back to the hotel and took a quick nap before going back down to SoHo and meeting my college friend Allison for dinner at Dos Caminos. If you like guac and good margaritas, GO HERE. The meal was delicious, but I'll pretty much eat any kind of Mexican food you put in front of me. It was great catching up with Allison, and she walked down to Ground Zero with us after the meal, since we wanted to catch a glimpse of the new tower lit in red, white, and blue.

We took the train back up to Times Square and briefly contemplated shopping or maybe getting a drink. But it was late and the freaks were out (no joke), so we took a cab back to the hotel and called it a night.

Day 3

*cough cough*

Yes, this is what I woke up to on Monday morning. A sore throat. BUT, I wasn't going to let that stop me from exploring more of my favorite city.

We headed back down to 5th Avenue to do some shopping. And not like the Tiffany's and Cartier kind of shopping. More like the H&M and Gap sale racks kind of shopping. We ended up getting a ton of clothes (which barely fit in our suitcase when it was time to leave), including some stuff for winter. I know. I live in Florida. The odds of these sweaters sitting in the back of my closet for the next three months are high. But they were cute and cheap, so I couldn't resist! For lunch, we went back down to the Times Square area to check out this pizza place a few of my friends told me about. John's Pizzeria lived up to the hype. They make the pizza right in front of you, too, which made the experience that much better.

After lunch, we headed back to the hotel for spa treatments. Joey wanted a massage, and I got a mani and pedi for the awards. We were going to take showers and get freshened up for dinner after the spa, but - SURPRISE - the hotel had no hot water. Soooo, both of us went and had our dinner sweaty. Awesome, huh?

We chose Marc Forgione for dinner. We wanted somewhere that was reasonably priced but still well recognized for their menu. We picked the right spot. We started our meal with barbecue oysters and crab with watermelon and jalapeno (it sounds iffy, but I promise it was delicious). Then we split what was pretty much an entire chicken with roasted potatoes. Delish. Dessert was banana cream pie sundae.

I pretty much had to be rolled back to the hotel.

Day 4

Awards day! And still coughing.

My best friend took the bus down from Lake Placid to visit us in the city. She met us at the hotel, and we headed back down to the NYU area for lunch. I was craving a burger, and I am incredibly picky about the quality of hamburgers I eat. So I found us a place that had organic and all-natural burgers and sandwiches: Bareburger. I WISH we had one of these in Orlando. Or maybe I don't, since I'd be eating at least a hamburger a week. :) We walked off some of the food before heading back down to Ground Zero. Candice had never been down there, and she wanted to see it while she was in the city.

After Ground Zero, we took a cab back up to the hotel. I needed a nap before the Night of Hope after all that food and walking! We were dressed and ready to go by 4:45, and took some photos down in the lobby. Then, we grabbed a cab (hard to do at rush hour on a weekday) and went over to the venue, Guastavino's.

To be honest, the Night of Hope was a blur. I feel like the night was split into two halves. The first was pre-speech, where I was so nervous about getting up on stage that I could hardly focus on anything else that was happening. The second was post-speech, where I was so relieved that my speech was over, all I wanted to do was get into my PJs and crawl in bed.

It truly was a beautiful event. I'd guess there were about 250-300 people there. The food and service were both wonderful. Everyone from RESOLVE came up and congratulated me on the win, and it was nice to match names with familiar faces. The best part of the night was meeting up with Jen at This is More Personal and her husband. Talk about feeling like you've known someone your whole life. It was so great to have someone there who I "knew" and who shared my same sense of humor.

We sat with Sherri Shepherd and Alisyn Camerota at dinner, as well as other members of Alisyn's RESOLVE support group and Tertia Albertyn, winner of the award for Best Book. I didn't have much of a chance to speak with Tertia since we were sitting at opposite ends of the table, but I can tell you this: she has a beautiful accent. I could listen to her speak all day!

The speech went as well as it could, considering I'm probably one of the world's worst public speakers. I got shaky and emotional toward the end, but I managed to hold it together and not fall. Which, really, was what I was most worried about. I had pictures taken backstage with the award presenter, Doug Weiss from Attain Fertility, and went back to my seat. It was over in less than 5 minutes. And I could not have felt more relieved!

We left fairly early. I think I was the second or third awardee to take off. We went back to the hotel, changed into more comfortable clothes (hi, I live in jeans... heels and dresses are not my thing), and met Candice at a bar around the corner for a quick drink to "cheers" the night.

At this point? More like cheers to SLEEP.

Day 5

Here is where the sickness sets in. I arranged the flight so that we wouldn't need to leave for the airport until 2:30, but I woke up so incredibly sick that I had absolutely no desire to walk around the city. I spent most of the morning in bed until we had to check out of the hotel. Then we met Candice for lunch at a deli on 7th before she headed to the Museum of Natural History and we made our way back to the hotel - where I sipped a drink at the bar and tried desperately not to fall asleep before the shuttle arrived.

As much as I love the city, I was happy to be back home on Wednesday night. When you're sick, you want nothing more than to lay in your own bed. And that's what I did for pretty much the rest of the week/weekend.

If you've made it through all of this, congratulations. You're probably bored to tears, right? Don't worry - tomorrow will be Wordless Wednesday: photos of the trip.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

the speech

I am currently at the Night of Hope. And while I know some of you will physically be there, I also know that this entire community will be there in spirit.

I went back and forth about whether I would share my speech with everyone, and I ultimately decided to post it. Because if it weren't for all of you, I wouldn't even be in New York at this moment.

So, here it is. And I hope that, while you're reading this, I'm not stumbling too badly on stage.

I've always loved writing. I was the kid who wrote short stories for "fun." I majored in English. I even worked as a book editor. But never in a million years did I imagine that writing about my OVARIES – of all things – would lead me here.

There are so many people to thank for this opportunity:

  • RESOLVE for selecting me as a finalist.
  • The readers who voted for me.
  • My friends, both real life and virtual, who have stood by my side these last 3.5 years.
  • And, of course, my family; most importantly my husband, who managed not to file for divorce, despite all of the hot flashes and mood swings.

But while I am truly humbled and honored to receive this award, I want to emphasize that I am not unique. I am one of hundreds – maybe thousands – who write about infertility. And for every one of us who blogs about this journey, there are dozens of others who suffer in silence. They don't have the support that led me to stand here in front of you tonight.

So I'd like to dedicate this award to those people. They are the reason why we are here. They are why we support organizations like RESOLVE, to help bring awareness to our cause and our community. And they are the reason I keep writing – to let them know they are not alone, and they never will be.

Thank you.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

10 years later

This morning, while you read this blog, I am standing near Ground Zero. The first time I stood in this part of Manhattan, it was not Ground Zero. It was the twin towers. It was World Trade Center 1 and World Trade Center 2. The summer before 9/11, I stood at the base of both and looked up, searching for the top. I couldn't see it from the sidewalk.

When we went up to the observation deck, I opted not to go up to the roof. Instead, I sat at the window and stared off to the north, admiring the city from above. I'd been to the top of the Sears Tower in Chicago years earlier. But this? To be up so high overlooking my absolute favorite city? It felt like being on the top of the world.

Heaven. It felt a little bit like heaven.

I was 16 years old when the attacks took place a little more than a year later. Young enough for a piece of my innocence to shatter. Old enough to understand the implications of what was occurring - to know that nothing would ever be the same.

A couple of years ago, I blogged about my experience that day. Ten years later, I can still remember it as clear as crystal. Every year around the anniversary, the events of that day play in my head like a movie. Because that's exactly what it felt like: a drama of horrific proportions. If it felt like that for me, I can't imagine what it was like standing beneath or within the twin towers or outside of the Pentagon.

Hell. It must have felt like hell.

In November 2002, I was standing at the wrought-iron fence between St. Paul's and what was already being called Ground Zero. The posts were still covered in memorials. Flowers. American flags. Candles burned quietly on the sidewalk. It was like being in a cemetery. Despite the hundreds of people wandering the streets, you could hear a pin drop. Reverence.

I've been back to the city a couple of times since then - most recently on our anniversary trip last May. It's interesting to see how much the area has changed since the attacks. To watch it evolve.

Many things have evolved since before that day. In the weeks that followed, I remember the unity. The compassion. The pride of watching the rescue workers at Ground Zero raise the American flag. And then? I remember not feeling as proud of that flag. The hatred. The racism. The politics. The polarizing. 10 years later, it continues.

I often wonder how the family members of the victims must feel. It's not like losing a loved one in a car accident where, after the funeral is held, you are left to cope in private. Instead, your child or spouse or sibling or parent loses his or her life in this national tragedy. One that's spawned wars (military and political), museums, monuments, documentaries, and books. One that's changed history books. A tragedy that's claimed by millions - even though its your own. How do you cope? How do you move forward? How do you ensure that your loved one's legacy isn't somehow caught in the rhetoric that surrounds 9/11? How do you "share" that grief with so many others who don't know and don't understand your loss on a personal level? They seem like impossible feats to overcome.

We, as a country, will never go back to what we were before that day. I imagine none of the families whose loved ones died will, either. Collectively, we lost. We lost hope. We lost innocence. But, most of all, we lost people.

That's what I'll be thinking about today: people. The people who were lost and the people who lost. People who were someone's "someone." People who were loved. People who loved. People who didn't get to leave this earth peacefully. And the people who will never get to mourn their loss in private. I will never share your grief. I will never understand your pain. But I will mourn for you.

We all will.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

ready to go

I still haven't cried. I wish I could say that it's due to some medication. But I'm not taking anything that would make me "numb." It's been weeks, and it doesn't feel like the floodgates will be open anytime soon. Therefore, I'm accepting the fact that I may never cry again. That's right. No more tears for Katie.

(Let's see if that tricks my tear ducts into exploding.)

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The long weekend was adoption-centered. We went out and reordered the crib. It should be in late next week when we return from New York and the Night of Hope. We picked up a crib mattress and the changing table/dresser combo, which is currently sitting in pieces on the nursery floor. (Long story.) My mom offered to order the crib bedding for us, so that's on its way, too. I also spent the weekend moving everything non-baby out of the nursery closet and organizing all of the hand-me-down baby items that our friends Brittany and Glenn kindly offered up.

And you know what else we did this weekend? FINISHED THE PAPERWORK. True, I still need to go to out and make copies of everything - including our insurance cards, Danica's shot records, etc. - but the last of the questions is answered, which means the hard part of trying to fit our parenting philosophies in three lines is over. I think I'm going to take pictures of us dropping the packet in the mail.

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We leave for the Big Apple on Saturday. I'm ready, in every sense of the word, minus packing. But I'm nervous. I found out last week that I have to give a speech. And speeches pretty much scare the hell out of me. It's written, and I'm trying not to look at it. The more I look at it, the more I'll want to change it. So, I'm letting it be - or trying to, anyway.

I probably won't live post again until I return from my trip. We have so much to get done before we leave. The A/C still needs to be fixed, for one, and my boss's memorial is this Friday. But I do plan on scheduling a few posts for when I'm gone. My next update will be a recap of the trip and the Night of Hope!

"See" everyone next week. :)

Sunday, September 4, 2011

the pregnancy game

Late last week, there was a short-lived Facebook "game" that stirred the pot in this community. If you haven't read about it by now, people were posting status updates that said something to the effect of, "I'm ___ weeks along, and I'm craving ___." Now I have absolutely no idea how this got started or exactly what the rules were, but none of that matters. The game upset me.

The strange thing is, I was never truly upset about the pregnancy part of it. Yes, as someone who is infertile, it stung to read the fake pregnancy announcements on Facebook. I've made it clear that I don't find fake pregnancy announcements amusing. Not on April Fools Day. Not on any day. Real pregnancy announcements sting enough. Fake ones only add salt to the wound.

Instead, it upset me more that this "game" was supposedly meant to bring awareness to the fight against breast cancer.

As the daughter of a breast cancer survivor, I am not amused.

This year marks the 11th anniversary of my mom's fight against breast cancer. Some of you longtime readers know the story. For those who don't, I'll retell it as best I can.

My mom found the lump in the lymph node under her arm during a routine self-exam in early 2000. When she first went to the doctor, he was worried she might have an infection - causing the lymph node to swell. He placed her on antibiotics and told her to keep an eye on it. When the lump didn't go away, it became clear she needed surgery. On February 14, 2000, my mom underwent a lumpectomy to remove both the lymph node and the tumor. Four days later, she was diagnosed with cancer. It was stage 2.

I was 14 years old, and I remember having to carefully walk my mom to the bathtub when her chemo treatments became so painful that she could barely bend her knees. I remember sleeping on the floor of her room in a sleeping bag when she was too sick to be alone in the middle of the night. I remember her losing all of her hair, picking out scarves and hats for her to wear when we went out in public, and giving the death look to the people who stared at her in stores - as if they'd never seen someone with cancer before.

I also remember when her oncologist told her she was cancer-free. It was one of the happiest days of my life. 11 years later, she's still not "out of the woods." She goes in for regular scans and blood work. The tiniest spot on a CT scan gets her doctor ordering 10 more tests, just to be sure. I'm not sure the fear of the cancer coming back will ever go away for her. Or for me. Or for my brother. At 14, it was my wake-up call that my time with her wasn't forever.

And last year, at 24, I faced the same fear when I went in to have the tumor removed from my right breast. The fear of a life cut way too short. The fear of not having enough time to do everything I wanted to do.

Now maybe you can understand why I felt angry that someone would start such an immature, childish game to bring awareness to such a serious disease. I'm not sure this person considered the feelings of the survivor community. Does this person realize that many breast cancer survivors are also infertile - unable to become pregnant after going through massive amounts of chemotherapy and radiation treatments, or even hysterectomies? Better yet, does this person realize that, by posting a Facebook status, they are doing absolutely nothing to help find a cure for breast cancer?

That was the point behind my own, retaliatory status on Thursday:

Fake pregnancy Facebook statuses don't lead to a cure for breast cancer. You know what does? Self exams. Donating to legitimate organizations like the American Cancer Society. Getting a mammogram. Playing a status game on Facebook didn't save my mom's life. I'm pretty sure it won't save anyone else's, either.

Posting your bra color. Posting that you're pregnant. None of it matters. If you really give a damn about breast cancer, do something about it. Because in the three minutes it takes someone to play that Facebook game, another woman in this country dies from breast cancer. Another woman loses her life to an illness that we could prevent. Breast cancer is not a game. Breast cancer is real, and it hurts. I don't expect people to understand unless they've been through it as a survivor or a caregiver. But I do expect people to be sensitive toward it.

So for once, I'm not the angry infertile. Instead, I'm just the angry daughter who doesn't want to see people make a mockery over the hell her mom went through.

My absolute favorite organization that benefits cancer research is the American Cancer Society. Please visit this link to learn more about what they are doing for cancer research, how they aid cancer patients on a personal level, and what they are doing in your area in October for Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

cry, cry, cry (or not)

I can't cry.

No really, I can't. I cannot cry.

It's not that I'm trying to cry on a regular basis. But I am used to crying on a regular basis - as in at least once per week. I've always been an emotional person, and crying tends to help me with my stress. I'm generally less agitated when I cry regularly.

Lately, though, my tears seem to be missing. I've had some extremely stressful days, and I FEEL like crying. Yet nothing happens. My whole chest hurts, I have the lump in my throat, and my eyes are as dry as can be. The other night it got so bad, I actually tried to find a sad movie that would make me cry. How pathetic is that?

I know this is going to sound weird for some people - especially my husband, who is obviously not a woman - but I need to cry. Crying is my release. Crying is the way that I get all of the bad stuff out. Sure, going to the gym and having an extra tough workout helps. But tears? Tears wash everything away. There's nothing like having a good cry. AND I CAN'T HAVE ONE.

What's wrong with me?

Monday, August 29, 2011

differences

Growing up, I was the freak with red hair. And glasses. I was the "dork" who many people picked on. Sure, I have a small group of close friends. But, in general, I was often picked out and pointed out for my different hair color. Because of this, I spend years hating my hair. When I say hate, I mean hate. I wanted nothing more than to dye my hair blonde or brown and call it a day. My mom would have none of that. There was no way that hair dye was touching my head so long as I was under her roof.

Ironically, when I went to college, the concept of dying my hair faded away. Instead of jumping right into a hairdresser's chair, I jumped into a tattoo chair and got my first ink (that's an entirely different blog post). But I no longer had this burning desire to be like everyone else. In fact, I was beginning to like having red hair. Women would complement me when I went to get my hair cut, saying things like, "I would DIE to have your hair color" or "I wish they could bottle up that shade of red." Guys complemented, too. There was something satisfying about being different.

When doctors first diagnosed me with infertility, I knew that it would change everything. I, like most other women with infertility, spent months - years - wishing that I were just like everyone else. Wouldn't it be nice to be able to snap my fingers and have a child? Wouldn't it be nice to have a "little mistake"?

Somewhere along the way, I began to realize that being different wasn't necessarily a bad thing. I listened as women talked about how much they hated being pregnant, and I felt relief that it wasn't me saying those things. I listened when parents complained about how irritating their children were, and I wondered if they knew how good they had it.

Being different didn't need to mean being an outcast. It meant that I would always have an alternate perspective. In some ways, it might mean being more appreciative of what it means to be a mom. But in others, I think it might mean understanding that motherhood should not be the only thing that defines you - much like infertility. I view motherhood much differently than I used to because I AM different. It's times like now that I'm grateful for those experiences as a child, for being teased about my hair color. It's helps me to accept the fact that, in many aspects of my life, I simply won't be "just like" everyone else. It helps me to appreciate the uniqueness of me, of my situation.

I now embrace being "a ginger." Being a ginger prepared me for a lifetime of being different.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

it would be our luck

On Monday night, I came home to a house that was 84 degrees.

Now I keep the air high compared to most people to save energy. I usually set the thermostat between 78-79, keep the blinds shut, and keep the ceiling fans running. If you don't in Florida, your energy bill will be astronomical. But I knew even 84 was high for us. Especially when the temp was still set for 79.

Turns out we had a leak in one of the coils in the air handler. $1,000 of our money at the most inconvenient time: when we are about to go on vacation and have homestudy fees to pay. It could be worse. The part could not have been covered under warranty - which, laugh with me here, expires in exactly one week. The leak could have been in the unit itself, which would mean we need an entire new unit.

I have to laugh. Because this IS the sort of thing that happens to us. It still sucks. Royally.

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In better news:
  • My prolactin levels are down. I have another blood draw tomorrow morning to check them again. Hoping they continue to drop! All of the blood work they ran on my thyroid also came back normal, so we've ruled out any issues there.
  • My MIL and FIL have graciously offered to buy our nursery furniture. I never got around to reordering the crib, so this is excellent news. They'll be buying us a crib and a changing table. The first official "gifts" for the baby.
  • It looks like my courses for the fall semester will be easier than previous semesters, and I only have classes one night a week (on Mondays). I can't believe I'm one more semester away from graduating. I feel like I just started yesterday.
  • The paperwork is almost complete. I realize I keep writing this, but I mean it this time. We only have four pages left of the self study and the employer verifications to complete, which means it could be in the mail in the next week. AH!
What's going on in every else's world?

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

my thoughts about the RESOLVE Hope Award

I've tried to formulate my thoughts on winning this year's Hope Award for Best Blog for weeks, but they haven't come together for me as well as I wanted them to. Bear with me while I try to work my way through this.

Winning this award feels surreal to me. If you told me when I started this blog that I would be where I am today, I would have told you that you're a big. fat. liar. This is not how I saw things turning out when I began writing. In fact, here's a small glimpse of what I thought my life would look like today, back then:

I thought we would still be living in Nashville, or maybe in New York. I would still be working in publishing. And we would have a child who today would be somewhere in the two-year-old range.

Well, none of that happened. That's not necessarily a bad thing. Infertility has taught me a lot about myself, about others, and about life in general. One of these lessons is that things tend to happen on a different timeline and in a different way than you expect them. For someone who has never been very good at practicing patience, this concept is difficult. For someone who tends to lean on the "Type A"/control freak side of her brain, it's nearly impossible.

But here I am. It's 3.5 years after we started trying to have a baby, and I am still not a mom. Most of the people who started this journey with me are. There are even a few who are on baby #2. And while I realize there are those who have tried far longer or who have been through more procedures, being childless after 3.5 years has been incredibly challenging for me. I've had to find ways to cope with this. Volunteering with RESOLVE was one of them, and the other was this blog.

With both, I feel like I'm doing what I love. Yet, it's the helping people through this that motivates me the most. Even in the moments when I feel like I am the last person standing, which there are many of those moments, I feel GOOD about even offering one line of sane advice to someone who is losing their mind in all of this. I could write about anything. I've written for as long as I can remember. I can't draw. I'm not a painter or a photographer. I'm not a crafty person who can sew and knit and quilt. Writing is what I do. Writing is why I've always done. It just was a coincidence that this was the way I ended up coping and helping others.

It's easy for me to sit here and tell you that I would trade this award for motherhood any day. And don't think I haven't thought it - more than once. The truth is, I don't know that I would. I want to be a mom, yes. But part of me is starting to understand that maybe there is a bigger plan in all of this. Maybe this is always how things were supposed to go. Me writing about uteruses and vaginas and people actually reading it and relating. (If you had told me this back then, I probably would have called you a liar. Again.)

One of my favorite books is Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close. I have a line from that book tattooed on my back. It says, "The mistakes I've made are dead to me. But I can't take back the things I never did." I can't look back on this journey and wonder if things had worked out differently if we had done this instead of that. Or look back and say, "I wish..." Thinking about what could have been doesn't help me. I'm starting to come to terms with this idea of embracing the experience.

For someone who planned on things turning out a certain way for so long, this is not a simple process for me to sort through. For years, I heard, "Everything happens for a reason." It's still a shitty thing to say to someone who is going through infertility, and I'd probably give someone the death stare if they said it to my face even now. But maybe things do happen for a reason. Maybe this is all part of some weird plan that I don't understand. It's still a bit of a mystery to me, and it may always be.

Right now, though, I will just be thankful. And I will accept this award graciously on behalf of anyone who has ever been in our shoes. May we all be winners in the end, regardless of where our journeys take us.