Tuesday, December 31, 2013

2013

We've reached the end of 2013. I feel like the older I get, the faster the time goes. I have a hard time wrapping my mind around the fact that it's going to be 2014!

Much has happened to us in the last twelve months. Here's a little recap of what this year looked like for our family:

January: K turned six months old and Danica celebrated her honorary 4th birthday:

February: We had our first big trip to the emergency room after some issues with K's lungs. I also shared parts of our adoption story on BlogHer.

March: Someone had far too much to drink on St. Patty's Day . . .

April: I celebrated my first birthday as a parent, and K said her first word -- dada!

May: Joey graduated from UCF, and then our whirlwind travel month began. We took our first trip with K (to Atlanta to watch my brother graduate). I flew up to D.C. to participate in Advocacy Day. Then, Joey and I took our first trip sans baby to celebrate our five-year wedding anniversary.

June: I bought my very first new car as an adult!

July: Our baby was no longer a baby -- turning 1 on July 2 to cap off an amazing year of growth, love, and oh so much laughter.

August: Joey and I began, unbeknownst to some, seriously applying for jobs in the Seattle area. We also placed our house for sale.

September: We took our first family trip on an airplane to see my SIL, BIL, and our new nephew. But that wasn't the only first for this month. K also took her first steps and said "mama" for the first time! I came out to Seattle for a job interview that didn't pan out. Little did we know what was around the corner . . .

October: Joey was offered a job in Seattle and accepted. We were heading to the west coast!

November: A month for the books. We sold our very first house. I was offered a job in Seattle. We celebrated Thanksgiving with our families. And then, we packed up our lives and moved over 3,000 miles from home.

December: It's been a long month of getting settled in our new city. We both started new jobs, we had to get K adjusted at her school, and we of course had a new climate and culture to get used to, as well (in addition to the time change). But we managed to get ourselves into a routine -- just in time to celebrate the holidays with my family.

Which brings us to now. Never in a million years did I think that I would be writing my final post of 2013 in Seattle. What an adventure it's been. I'm looking forward to seeing what 2014 brings for us in this wonderful new city. And that the new year brings positive events to each and every one of you, regardless of where you are in your journey with infertility.

Cheers to you and yours, and have a very safe and happy New Year.

Friday, December 27, 2013

christmas in seattle

Our first Christmas in Seattle was a success. I opted not to cook, choosing instead to order Christmas dinner from Whole Foods and spending the day with K rather than in the kitchen. I missed a home-cooked meal, but I didn't miss the trade off of relaxation and family time.

We ate, watched our favorite holiday movies, and put together plenty of toddler toys. Legos were the big hit this year, as were wooden puzzles, a guitar, and several Fisher Price "Little People" sets.

And, as you can see, we also spent some time streaking around the house. It was a balmy 50 degrees, which made it acceptable to (briefly) show off our Christmas spirit in diaper form. :)

I hope you had a wonderful holiday, especially those of you celebrating it as parents for the first time. And to those still waiting: I truly hope it's your turn next Christmas.

Monday, December 23, 2013

rediscovering the christmas spirit

Christmas week is here, and it's a week that's notoriously difficulty for those in the ALI community.

Mother's Day. Father's Day. Halloween. Thanksgiving. They are tough days to face when you are wishing and hoping for a little one. All of these occasions were difficult for me, but none ever compared to Christmas. I'm not sure why. It could be because it was the end of a busy holiday season -- a three-month momentum built up to this day that was all about children. It could be because I typically enjoyed celebrating Christmas and then, suddenly, it became a reminder of everything that I couldn't have or be.

Whatever the case, it served as an emotional day for me for four years. Infertility sucked the "cheer" out of the holidays. I coped in various ways, some of which were healthy and some of which were not. In fact, one year, we didn't even attend any Christmas events. We bought tickets to a basketball game, instead, and spent the day drinking beer and eating nachos while watching the Orlando Magic.

Last year, my first year as a parent, was surreal. I didn't exactly feel like I was fully re-immersed in the Christmas spirit. We were not too far removed from bringing K home from the NICU (just four months), and likewise not far removed from our battle to become parents. I felt like an imposter. Surely, these gifts under the Christmas tree weren't for MY baby, were they? I couldn't possibly need to buy a "Baby's First Christmas" onesie for MY child, could I? But those gifts were for my baby and I did buy (more than one) "Baby's First Christmas" outfit. It wasn't a dream. It was reality -- a reality that I waited four, long years for.

Now, here we are: one year later.

This year, I feel less like an imposter and more in the Christmas spirit than I have in quite a long time. Some of it has to do with having more distance between the hell that was the first half of last year and now. The rest of it I think is related to my child's age and the fact that Christmas can now be an interactive holiday for her. However, this doesn't mean that I've forgotten what this holiday holds for others in this community -- because some of it is what I've lived in years past. It's not a day that is joyous for everyone.

In the ALI community alone, I know that there are those of you who are still waiting on your bundles of joy. I know others who are anxious for their adoption finalizations. My sweet friend who gave birth to twins at 24 weeks will be spending Christmas in the NICU, an experience that no mother should ever endure. And, of course, there are those whose children never lived to see their first Christmas.

I'm not a prayerful person, or at least not as much as I used to be. Yet, during the holiday season, I always prayed for a Christmas miracle. For four years, I asked for the miracle of becoming a parent. Now that I've received that miracle, I haven't stopped praying for more Christmas miracles. Not for more children for me, but for each of you. I pray that maybe, by this time next year, you will have the experience of feeling like an imposter, too. I hope that you will know what it's like to wrap gifts for your little one. I wish for you to buy at least one "Baby's First Christmas" outfit or stand in long lines to meet Santa.

Most of all, I pray you find resolution in whatever path you choose -- and that you once again find joy in the holiday season. It may seem impossible now. I know this, having been there and felt that overwhelming sense of despair. But I can assure you from someone who has now lived to see the other side of it: rediscovering that joy is possible.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

blank page

Forgive me for not being on my blogging game lately. My days are full from start to finish.

I wake up between 5:30-5:45, catch a bus downtown with K by 7, drop her off at school at 7:30, and I'm at my desk by 7:45. Then, it's go go go until 4:45 when I leave, fetch the kiddo, and get back on the bus to come home. By the time we've had dinner and get K bathed and in bed, it's sometimes close to 8 pm. And, frankly, the last thing I want to do at that hour is write.

The last thing I can do then is write. My mind has become a full slate at that point, incapable of clearing the way for new information -- or at least incapable of putting that new information into words.

Even though I miss it. I mean, I'm writing this now. But I miss writing real, thoughtful, meaningful posts. I miss writing about topics I care about and that interest me. Not just about infertility and adoption, but women's health, life, and other stories I enjoy sharing.

Someday, it will come back to me. I hope. Until then, I open a new post in Blogger every few days. I sit and stare at the blank page for a moment. And then, I close the window with not even a draft to save.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

hello, again

Hi. Remember me? I'm the girl who blogged every day last month, got totally burnt out, and then disappeared for a bit. It's nice to see all of you.

Maybe you're wondering (or maybe you don't care, and that's ok too) how we've been adjusting to life in Seattle. We've been here for nearly two weeks now. The first few days were rough. It wasn't just the time change, it was everything -- the stress of moving, starting jobs, etc. all at once. But I'm happy to report that we are starting to get into a routine. Once we had the house unpacked and the furniture together, things seemed a lot less crazy. K started at a new school on Monday, J's now in his second week at work, and I started my new job yesterday. And Danica? Well, she's adjusting to being a cold weather, city pup.

I promise I'll be back to my regularly scheduled blogging soon. Until then, enjoy giggling at my wiener dog wearing her sweater.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

understanding infertiles

I think I've been rather fortunate since my diagnosis with infertility almost five years ago in that most of my family members and friends have been understanding and compassionate re: our situation. Sure, there have been falling outs here and there. As I always say: tough times teach you who truly cares. But, in general, we've received a great deal of support from outsiders who haven't dealt with the physical and emotional ramifications of this disease.

However, I know that some of you haven't been as lucky. Even I know what it's like to lose someone you love because they don't understand what you are going through or how to help. Somewhere along the way, the lines of communication become blurred. It's almost like a game of telephone. You say one thing and by the time it gets to the end, your words have been twisted and turned to the point where you don't even recognize them.

For the most part, I think we (as a community) are making wonderful progress in helping outsiders understand the basics of this disease. We spread awareness on everything from who suffers to how it's treated. I even think that we are making progress in helping to open those lines of communication -- in teaching others how, and why, to be sensitive about certain topics related to pregnancy, child rearing, etc. Yet, I still hear stories of misconception when it comes to us. The people. The "infertiles." I thought I would take a moment to examine a few of these big misconceptions that I've heard recently:

Myth: Infertiles hate fertiles.

Fact: Those who suffer from infertility don't hate people who don't suffer from infertility. Not by a long shot. I think almost all of us would agree that we don't wish this disease on anyone. I'm happy that a large majority of couples can conceive on their own and I hope that this number increases. I DREAM of a world where infertility doesn't exist anymore. Is it difficult for those who suffer from infertility to be around women who get pregnant easily? Occasionally. Do we envy you sometimes? Absolutely. We would love to be able to experience the miracle of pregnancy in an easier fashion (or at all, in some cases). However, it doesn't mean we hate you. I think I can speak for everyone in the ALI community when I say that nothing we say or do is ever intended to be a personal attack against those who can have children without medical intervention.

Myth: Infertiles don't want to be around kids.

Fact: While seeing children can be a reminder of what we don't have (yet), I don't think I've ever heard an IF sufferer say that he or she doesn't want to be around children. We love kids, clearly, or else we wouldn't be trying so damn hard to have them. But, sometimes, we have emotional days -- as every individual is entitled. Maybe it's the anniversary of our miscarriage or that failed IVF cycle. Maybe we've just had an adoption fall through or another couple has been chosen over us by a birth parent. So, we decline an invitation to spend time with your kids or to attend an event where children may be present. It has nothing to do with you or with your children. It has everything to do with self preservation and protecting ourselves from unnecessary stress and/or emotional trauma. We love you, we love your kids, and we want to be the best version of ourselves when we spend time with you. Sometimes that means taking a day for us. (And surely this applies to so many areas of life outside of infertility.)

Myth: Infertiles will never feel happy or fulfilled unless they have kids.

Fact: I promise, we aren't all bitter, angry hags. We don't sit at home all day, blinds shut, angry at the world. We're all productive members of society. We all enjoy various hobbies and activities. We do like spending time with friends. And yes, many of us enjoy talking about infertility. Talking about my disease doesn't mean that I'm not happy or fulfilled -- and it didn't mean that before I had my child, either. I like talking about it because it makes me feel in control. Speaking about my disease makes me feel empowered. Making friends with others who've had similar experiences is also enjoyable. It's a reminder that I'm not alone, and it's a chance for us all to make a difference in the way infertility is both treated and perceived. It doesn't mean I'm not happy. It just means I'm channeling something bad into an activity that DOES make me happy, which is advocating.

Perhaps this is the next wave of advocacy and raising awareness. Maybe we start to move away from the hard facts and begin moving toward the personal stories. Maybe we focus on making those individual connections that have, for so long, been kept apart. And maybe we begin trying to repair those frayed telephone lines in an effort to understand each other more clearly.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

family day

It's hard to believe that one year ago today, we sat in front of a judge and promised that we would care for our daughter forever. That act, those words, seemed so simple. We'd already cared for her for months. To us, she was already ours. But it was different when we made it official. It made it seem that much more real.

I don't "celebrate" this day. Celebrating isn't the right act. Instead, I use this day to reflect. I reflect on our time together. I reflect on K's birth mother and her entire first family. And I wonder what the future will bring for all of us.

If you've adopted, do you do anything special to honor the day you "officially" became a family? Why or why not?

Friday, November 29, 2013

up in the air

I almost forgot to blog today, which would have sucked. Two days before NaBloPoMo ends and I would have blown it. But alas, it's a little after 10 pm and I remembered.

Though this won't be much of a post. Why? Because I'm currently at around 35,000 feet -- somewhere above middle America -- typing this on an iPad (so please excuse any errors). We are on our way to Seattle. Everything has gone (relatively) smoothly so far. The baby is asleep on my lap and the dog is asleep on Joey's, and we have about 3 hours left in the air.

Which means that the next time I post, I will officially be a Seattle-ite. From IF to When: West Coast Edition begins now. I have no idea what this chapter has in store for me or for our family, but I hope you'll stick along for the ride.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

happy thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! I have much to be thankful this year, including all of you. Thank you for reading and supporting me.

To those of you who are struggling today, regardless of the reason, I'm thinking of you and holding you in my heart. I hope that you find peace during this holiday season.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

new adventure

Today is my last day at work.

I started at Full Sail back in the fall of 2010, and I've worked for three different departments -- which (working in higher education) means that I've had the chance to interact with a number of individuals in my organization. As a result, I've met so many amazing people here. I've built friendships that I hope will last a lifetime, and I've learned from some incredibly talented and intelligent people.

Not all of my time here was happy. I've also experienced heartache, and I think that aspect is going to be the most difficult one to leave. These were the people who surrounded me when Ani passed away. These were the people who shared my grief. It will be hard to leave the space that I shared with him each day and the people who I grew close with because of him.

But what I won't leave behind is his spirit. I will carry with me the love and kindness that he showed me and the compassion he showed others, always.

Here's to a new adventure. Thank you, Ani and Full Sail, for paving the way.

Monday, November 25, 2013

16/17 months

Thanks to all of the moving excitement, I haven't had much of a chance to update on Miss K.

Personality: She's turning 17 months a week from today, which blows my mind -- thinking that her second year has almost reached the halfway point. She's always on the go. She never sits still, even when she's sleepy. I can't wait until she gets old enough to enroll in classes like gym and dance because she's going to enjoy all of that activity. She's starting to get into pretend play, too. She enjoys hosting tea parties with her tea set and she likes to play kitchen with tupperware and plastic utensils.

Development: We've made a little progress with talking. Her favorite thing to say is "uh oh." She knows what it means, but she enjoys saying it for just about everything. She especially loves dropping items on purpose and saying "uh oh." Beyond that, she certainly tries to repeat what we are saying but doesn't quite grasp some of the sounds yet. She does, however, recognize items very well when you ask her to point them out. (For example: Where's Elmo? Where's your nose?) She also mimics movements and actions constantly. She's learned how to blow her nose, just by watching other people do it. And even though we rarely let her play with our phones or the iPad, she knows exactly the motions you are supposed to use with the touch screen. She picks up on everything very quickly. Rarely do I have to show her how to do something twice.

Growth: She continues to lag behind in size, and I think this will always be the case. She broke the 20-pound mark, with clothes on, when she had her follow-up with the ENT to check on her ear tubes last week -- which look great. We've moved into 18-month clothes, but most are a little big on her. Luckily, her cloth diapers take up plenty of room, so they don't appear much bigger than her except for in length. I feel like I'm always running around behind her, trying to roll up her pant legs. But she eats like a horse and drinks plenty of milk, so there's no concern about her size.

Sleep: We are on a fairly regular schedule with sleep: 7 pm to 6 am (which should go completely out the window at the end of this week when we move to a different time zone . . . fun!). She usually wakes up a couple of times a night, but in most cases, she puts herself back to sleep within a few moments. We have been dealing with night terrors, though, and they've become more frequent as of late. I know that she doesn't remember them, but it's definitely terrifying for Joey and I to watch. In those cases, we have to pick her up and comfort her in order for her to settle down.

Likes: Macklemore, Sesame Street, bananas, tacos, toy cars, anything that plays music, dancing, balloons, getting into kitchen cabinets, stuffed animals, waving "hi" and "bye" (even at photos on the wall), shaking her head "no"

Dislikes: men (particularly men with beards), riding in the car, sour cream, getting her diaper or clothes changed, wearing anything on her head

I'll end with a photo from our visit with Santa, which took place yesterday. Despite the smile, she wasn't too fond of Santa this year and insisted upon sitting on my lap rather than his. But thanks to the photo crew, we still managed to get some adorable shots. The family one is going on this year's Christmas card!

Sunday, November 24, 2013

good-bye, hello

I still remember the first moment that I walked down this hallway, and I felt hope that this could be our home.

Now, here it is -- the last look down this hallway to the place we did call home for over three years. It feels like just yesterday we were changing the locks on the front door. Someone else will be doing that same task on Wednesday.

I know I've already said "good-bye" to my house in a separate post, but I thought this view deserved one, final farewell as we prepare to say "hello" to our next adventure.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

nearing the end

We are nearing the end of NaBloPoMo, and you can tell I am running out of things to write about. I never realized how hard it would be to blog about life every. single. day. Sure, there are plenty of events happening, but they aren't always exciting enough to write about, so it's been a challenge to think of a topic every single day. The last couple of days were particularly difficult because I was sidelined with the stomach flu, too. But I think I'm finally on the mend.

A couple of moving updates: we signed the lease on our apartment, and we move in a week from today. We also have a closing date on the house (Wednesday). And the best news of all is that I was offered the job I wanted. I'm very excited about this new opportunity. It's a perfect combination of my education and publishing experience, but it focuses on a completely different area of expertise (law), which I'm excited to learn about. The only thing that's left to tackle is child care, but I have more tours scheduled for the first week we're there. My hope is to make a decision in the first couple of days so that I have time to transition her into a place before I start work the following week.

I'm surprisingly less overwhelmed now than I was before, despite everything we have ahead of us. I'm getting excited about settling into our new place and, once we are completely unpacked, exploring our new city. I'm looking forward to living close to my brother, too. Though we are six years apart in age, we've grown especially close as he's gotten older and he and Joey have a great relationship, as well. It will be nice to have family in the city, and I think that he feels the same way -- or maybe he will after he helps us put together furniture!

Our last week in Orlando will be spent with family and friends, wrapping up work (for me, at least), and celebrating the holiday. Seems fitting that everything is taking place on Thanksgiving week: the closing of our house, our move, and the one-year anniversary of our "family" day. Which brings me to my last thought for this post. Today just so happens to be National Adoption Day. This is a day when thousands of families come together in court to finalize their adoptions, and it takes place each year during November during National Adoption Month.

Please take a moment today and think about all of those families and individuals who've been affected by adoption in some way. The adoptees. The waiting children. The adoptive parents. And, in particular, birth families. To learn more about National Adoption Day, visit their website or check out Twitter to see if there are any National Adoption Day events taking place in your area.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

the home stretch

This is it. Tonight will be the last night we sleep in our bed, in our very first house. Tomorrow we move in with my in-laws temporarily and my car is being shipped to Seattle. Our pod leaves on Thursday. We leave a week from Friday. And closing will happen sometime in between.

It's very hard for me to wrap my mind around the fact that this will be the last night in our home. I still remember how I felt the moment I stepped inside the front door. We first went to see it in January 2010. It was a foreclosure, and it was a complete mess. Everything from floor to ceiling needed to be redone. But we saw the potential. We saw our future. In the midst of infertility treatments, this is where we wanted to bring home our child.

We closed in March of that year and spent the next month or so making it our own before we moved in. A couple of months later, our infertility treatments would end without success. We were heartbroken, and our house seemed emptier than ever.

Then, we brought home Danica.

She made our hearts, and our house, feel fuller. But we knew we still wanted to be parents.

So, it was in this home where we sat across from each other at the kitchen table and confirmed that we wanted to adopt. It was this home that we cleaned from top to bottom, preparing for our home visit from the social worker. It was this home where we set up a nursery and unpacked baby clothes. It was in this home where we spent many nights wide awake, wondering when (or if) we would get "the call."

Finally, last summer, this home became everything we ever envisioned. It became what we originally set out for it to be. It became the house we brought our child home to.

It became the place where we rocked her to sleep. The place where we celebrated nearly all of her firsts. It became forever a part of not just our lives, but hers. It was more than just a house or a home.

It was the place where we became a family.

A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of meeting the buyers. They are a young couple, about my age, who recently married over the summer. They held the same expression that I saw on our own faces back when we were purchasing our house -- that look of hope for the future. And as sentimental as it makes me to close our front door and lock it one last time, I also feel a sense of joy.

That perhaps our home's family-building days aren't over just yet.

Monday, November 18, 2013

handling the adoption wait

I only received one question about adoption last week (sad face), but it's a fantastic one and it's on a topic that I haven't covered much in-depth. Jana asked:

How do you handle the waiting? We're working through an agency and are in a family profile book with 59 other families. We've been in the book 8 months. It feels like forever! I'm going crazy and wonder if we will ever become parents. Any advice on how to get through this time?

Truthfully, I think that the waiting part of the adoption process is the most difficult. Yes, the paperwork is daunting. The home study (or the part leading up to it, rather) is nerve wracking. You're worried about whether you'll qualify. You're scared that there is something about your life, or yourself, the social worker won't like. You want to be genuine, but you also want to be the best version of yourself because this is the time when someone decides whether you'll make a good parent.

But nothing can truly prepare you for the waiting.

It's much different than the waiting process during infertility treatments, and I've written about this a bit in the past. There is zero sense of control, and if you're anything like me, this can be an overwhelming feeling.

The first task in "dealing" with the waiting process is to accept that everything is out of your hands. I spent many months thinking that there was something I could do to move the process along. And there is, to a point. You can network. You can keep your profile updated with newer photos. You can keep in contact with your agency or whatever resource you're working with. But that's about the extent of it. I think if I'd realized sooner that everything was out of my control, I would have handled the wait a little better. Instead, I obsessed over the tiniest little details in our profile and wondered what was wrong with us that we weren't being selected. The reality was that nothing was wrong; instead, our child's birth mother just hadn't found us yet.

Letting go is hard, though, especially if you don't have an outlet for your energy. So my next advice is find an outlet. Or ten outlets -- whatever you need to take that worry and reroute it into something that's positive. I did everything I could to stay busy. Some of what I did was adoption related and some not. On the adoption front, I fundraised, worked with my local RESOLVE support group, and did plenty of "spring cleaning" in our house, in case we got a last-minute call. But I did plenty outside of adoption and infertility, too. I was enrolled in grad school at the time and spent a number of hours devoted to research and writing. I volunteered at the library. I made it a point to spend time with friends. I read (a lot) and got addicted to Mad Men. I took up new hobbies like cooking and running. Anything that could take my mind off of the process and my eyes off of the phone.

But the most important thing I did during my wait was build my support system. I made connections with adoptive parents, adoptees, and birth mothers who I could speak with about any aspect of the process, any fears that I had, and any questions that I needed answered. They are what got us through the wait. They are the reason I didn't lose my sanity. They are who educated me about adoption, and I'm incredibly grateful to each one of those individuals.

Wishing you peace, Jana . . . and anyone else out there who is waiting for their little one. In the words of Tom Petty, "The waiting is the hardest part."

Sunday, November 17, 2013

a flying fiasco

Today started off as a normal day. We were supposed to fly home from Seattle, with a connection in Chicago, pick up the kiddos, and be settled back in by dinner time.

As it turns out, Mother Nature had a much different plan.

We arrived in Chicago Midway's "airspace" fairly early. Then, we circled. And circled. And circled some more. It soon became apparent that we might not land. The air was extremely turbulent, and we'd been up there for quite a while. Finally, the captain announced that we were being diverted to Omaha.

I don't think we knew how bad it was until we made it to Omaha. While we were running out of fuel, people were stuck in terrible storms below us.

We were on the tarmac in Omaha for about 90 minutes or so, waiting to see what was next. Props to Southwest Airlines. They made sure everyone stayed calm, happy, and fed while we were stranded in the middle of nowhere. I even saw flight attendants playing with some of the babies on board. In an age of dying customer service, this made me smile.

After holding and then refueling in Omaha, we headed back to Chicago for what was one hell of a landing. The storms had cleared, but the winds were incredible. Put it this way: when we finally did land (to much applause) and we were sitting on the tarmac, waiting for a gate to open, the plane was swaying back and forth.

We got off the plane and ran from one end of Concourse B to the exact opposite end of Concourse A and got there just 20 minutes before the next flight to Orlando was scheduled to depart (we'd missed our original connection). Again, Southwest stepped up -- holding the plane to make sure that every single person who was bumped from that first flight got on to this one. We were the last two people on board, and we landed in Orlando amazingly just three hours past our original arrival time.

I'm definitely feeling grateful tonight as I continue to read stories and see photos of the devastation. Thankful that all we experienced was some inconvenience, and heartbroken that there are many who lost everything. My thoughts go out to everyone who was affected by those horrible tornados today.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

seattle: day 2

We took it much easier today and spent some time wandering around our new city after we turned in our apartment application. Here are some images from our day:





Don't let the photos deceive you... We did see the sun quite a bit today, and there wasn't a drop of rain.

Back to Florida tomorrow to reunite with our babies and to kick our move to the west coast into high gear!

Friday, November 15, 2013

seattle: day 1

Day 1 of our two-day trip went something like this:

Breakfast
Daycare tour
Apartment tour
Daycare tour
Apartment tour
Job interview
Daycare tour

And finally, a beer and a burger.

The good news is, I think we have an apartment. The other two are still yet to be determined. Day 2 will consist of a lot more sightseeing. And photos. Stay tuned!

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

5th blogoversary

Yesterday marked five years that I've blogged in this space.

A lot has changed in the last five years. Everything about my life and my blog has evolved: me, this space, my words, and (of course) my journey. I spent time yesterday reading back through some of my old posts, reminiscing, and trying to gather a sense of where I came from and in what direction I'm headed.

I've reached the conclusion that I'm past my blogging "prime." My readership is down, for sure, and sometimes I'm not certain that I have enough juice left in me to keep going. You might be surprised by the number of times that I've considered abandoning blogging. Leaving this space for dead and just moving on.

What brings me back? I can't say that it's my love for writing, because if that were the case, then I would write in a private space. It's not for the publicity, either. Clearly. Part of me feels an obligation to stay here to and keep putting down my thoughts. I'm not sure if the obligation is to others, or myself, or to both. I'm not even sure if I'm good at this anymore. How do you know when you've gone past the point of no return?

It's almost like throwing in the towel during a stage of infertility treatments. It's a guessing game. When is enough enough? How far can (or will) you take things? This is how I feel about blogging at this very moment. I don't know what, if anything, I have left to give. I don't necessarily want to be done, but I also don't know if I can keep going, either.

That leaves me here: one day past my blogoversary. It leaves me thinking back to everything that my blog was and is and wondering what it will become.

Wondering if it will be here to celebrate a 6th blogoversary.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

tuesday rundown

- Our family's story is featured on Bloggers for Hope today in honor of National Adoption Awareness Month. Go check it out here, and a big thank you to Bloggers for Hope for allowing me to share what November means to me.

- Reminder: I'm answering your questions about domestic adoption. See yesterday's post and leave a comment. What do you want to know about the process or our story, specifically?

- More moving news (are you getting sick of this yet?): the appraisal is complete on the house, which means we are close to the finish line. Joey and I head out to Seattle this weekend to find a place to live. We also need to tour daycares because I have a job interview on Friday! It's a fantastic position, and I'm excited about the potential opportunity.

- I realize that this is completely unrelated to my life or to infertility and adoption, but I've been so upset these last few days over the images that are coming out of the Philippines. It breaks my heart to see the devastation. Please consider making a donation to the Red Cross or another organization that is assisting in the recovery efforts.

- Last, but certainly not least, a sweet friend of mine could use your thoughts. She's an IFer who is now pregnant with twins, and she's gone into labor far too early. She is currently 23 weeks, 4 days along. Please join me in sending positive energy and prayers her way. We love you, "Jelly!"

Monday, November 11, 2013

more of your adoption questions answered

A couple of years ago, I hosted a Q&A on my blog about domestic infant adoption. And since it's National Adoption Awareness Month, I've decided that now is the perfect time to do this again.

Questions asked last time:

  • What is a home study? 
  • How much does an average adoption cost? 
  • How much of that money is due up front? 
  • Are you doing closed, open, or semi-open adoption? 
  • Once you are on the waiting list, how long does it take to get a baby? 
  • Does the birth mother pick you or do you pick the birth mother (or child)? 
  • Are you told every time someone looks at your profile? 
  • What is a "match"? 
  • When does a match occur? 
  • What happens if a birth mother changes her mind? 
  • Do you get to name the baby? 
  • How soon can you take the baby home? 
  • After the match fee and the paperwork fee, where do the rest of the fees come from? 
  • Are you able to tell your agency in advance your match budget or do you have to be okay with $30,000? 
  • 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). 
  • Will you post who you are using for your adoption services? And your opinion of their service?
  • 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? 
  • 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? 
  • Can you recommend some good adoption resources (books, websites, etc.) to help answer more questions?

Are there any questions you have about domestic infant adoption that aren't listed above? If so, leave them in the comments section and I will answer them in a blog post later this week.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

the first of many good-byes

Another day in what I'll now dub "the moving chronicles." Otherwise known as "I have to blog every day this month and moving is the only thing that's happening in my life right now."

Since we have a cross-country trek, we are downsizing, and Seattle is one of those cities where it doesn't make sense to have two cars, we are getting rid of a lot of items -- including Joey's vehicle.

I don't get too attached to "things," but it was a little sad saying good-bye to Pete (our Jeep) today. We've had him for five years. He drove us to our wedding. He moved us back home to Florida. He helped us buy our house and adopt Danica. And, of course, he is the car we brought K home in.

Thanks for all of the wonderful memories, Pete, and I hope that you have more good times ahead of you with your new family.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

moving right along

We started packing up the house today. It is a little surreal seeing the place that we've made our home these last three years with bare walls and boxes in the corners. More on this in the coming weeks, I'm sure, as I begin to process the move away from our first home.

Things are progressing well, for the most part. The pod is scheduled. We arranged for my car to be shipped. We sell Joey's car tomorrow and head out west on Thursday to tour apartments and check out daycares.

We were supposed the have the appraisal report on the house yesterday, but we are still waiting. Once this guy stops dragging his feet, we should be done with all of the waiting re: the house sale until closing. Thank god, because I've decided that selling a house is far more stressful than buying. In fact, this makes me never want to buy again -- for fear of dealing with the selling process.

The kiddos know something is up, I think mostly because our house is in disarray. Especially Danica. But perhaps it was testing her travel arrangements that gave it away... I'll never know!

Thursday, November 7, 2013

this is me

Today is day #7 of NaBloPoMo and instead of writing on a topic of my own, I thought I would dig into yesterday's BlogHer prompt:

"If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?"

I've thought about this particular question a lot in my life, especially after my diagnosis with infertility.

Infertility changes you. It changes the way you perceive everything around you and it changes the way that you view yourself. For someone like me, someone who battles with depression and anxiety, infertility amplified the deep-seeded issues I already carried about myself. It made me further scrutinize everything: from my physical attributes (what was wrong with my body that I couldn't get pregnant?) to the mental ones (am I not deserving of a child because of certain emotional factors?).

It would be easy for me to respond to a question like the one above with "I would change my inability to have children." After all, this is the catalyst for nearly every personal struggle I've experienced over the last five years. However, it's not as simple as it sounds. If I were to say that I wish I could change my inability to have children, I feel like I would be doing a disservice -- both to my child and to myself.

K is my daughter. Even though I didn't carry her and she doesn't share my genetic make-up, there isn't a day that passes where she doesn't feel like "mine." By stating that I wish I could make myself fertile, I feel as if I would be lowering her value or importance to me because I didn't give birth to her. I might as well say, "I still want to be pregnant and give birth," which isn't the case. I don't want any of those things. I spent over a year grieving the loss of our biological child, a child who would never exist, before we began the adoption process. I don't regret making that choice, and wishing for fertility would sound an awful lot like regret.

Then, there is the disrespect I would be doing to myself.

My infertility journey, though difficult, made me a better person. It made me stronger -- not physically, but emotionally. It made my marriage more resilient. It made me understand who I was and fight for what I felt was right, not only for me but for others. Changing that now would be wiping away all of the progress I've made growing as a person over the last five years, and I don't want that. More so, I can't do that. I can't go back to the young, naive girl I once was.

Going back to the original question, my answer would be "nothing." I wouldn't change a thing about myself. My experience with infertility showed me that who you are and the events that occur in your life are what build your character and shape your future. I'm certainly not saying that everything happens for a reason, because there are circumstances I will never understand (particularly infant loss). Instead, I'm saying that I've learned how to compensate for who I'm not.

I once thought that my body was a failure. I thought that I was less of a woman because I couldn't do what I was designed to do: conceive and bear children. Five years later, I know better. I may not be built to have children, but it doesn't mean that I'm less of a woman. It simply means that other parts of me are built better, stronger than that one piece.

It means that I need to find those parts and foster their success. I'm working on it.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

the bigger bullies

We talk about it all. the. time.

We say it until we're blue in the face. We talk to our kids. Schools talk to our kids. Public officials, celebrities, you name it. Everyone encourages young people not to bully. Bullying is not okay. Bullying is mean. Bullying can truly hurt others and can sometimes produce horrific consequences.

But what about adults?

I've seen plenty of adult bullying. I've seen it in person. I've seen it online. I watched as Twitter exploded on the young woman who dressed as a Boston Marathon bombing victim and the young man who wore blackface and dressed as Trayvon Martin for Halloween. Yes, what they did was beyond wrong and it wasn't smart. It didn't, however, give anyone reason to make death threats to them or their families or to encourage them to kill themselves. There's no reason to ever take it that extra step. Yet, that's what many people do, and it's often overlooked.

Now, I sit here and I read about this happening in a NFL team locker room.

Male sports locker rooms have always been notorious for their "macho" environments. A certain amount of hazing or teasing is deemed acceptable within these walls and among teammates. However, what happens when this teasing turns into something that's far worse -- such is the case with Jonathan Martin and Richie Incognito? What happens when teasing turns into harassment and bullying? What happens when threats are made and racial slurs are used? What happens when someone suffers an emotional breakdown over words or gestures they've received from another? What then?

I've seen a wide range of responses from the masses on this topic, with most agreeing this sort of behavior is wrong and punishable. However, I've also seen those who believe that we've become "too soft." They believe that Martin should "stick up for himself" and handle this "like a man."

We spend a great deal of time talking about young people bullying one another, yet we rarely discuss adult bullying. Maybe it's because people think that bullying doesn't happen to adults. (Wrong.) Or maybe people think that adults are strong enough to handle what others say about them or do to them. (Wrong again.) Whatever the case may be, it has nothing to do with age or strength or gender. Bullying should be unacceptable across the board, but this point seems to get lost in the shuffle. We have forgotten that no one is immune to it, not even star athletes. We have forgotten that it's often impossible to stand up to our bullies, even when we're grown, for fear of retribution. Just imagine what the fear of retribution must have felt like in an NFL locker room, where men are perceived as indestructible and "too tough" to let the words of another get through their thick skin.

The lesson here is that it doesn't matter if we are a 12-year-old kid riding the school bus or a 6'4", 320 pound offensive tackle for a professional football team. We are all still human. We are all destructible. And we can all easily be broken, whether it's by sticks and stones or by words.

My heart breaks for Martin. It breaks for the months of hell that he endured from Incognito behind closed doors up to this point. It breaks for now, for the sudden onslaught of those who feel they know how he should (or shouldn't) have handled this situation. None of us are him. None of us know the pressures that may have been on him to stay quiet or deal with it himself. We will never know what this felt like. Whatever he felt, however he felt, is valid.

My heart breaks for Incognito, too. It breaks that no one taught him better. It breaks that he didn't have the guidance and encouragement to treat others with love and respect. It breaks that there are children who may see what he's done and perhaps think it's okay to say and do the same. Because this is where and how they grasp it. This is how kids learn to bully. Maybe this is a wake-up call for where bullying prevention needs to hit next: the voices of those who are louder and respected enough to influence. The voices that children hear and repeat.

The voices of the adults.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

(out of) control

Thank you so much for all of the support and encouragement about our move! So far, so good on the progress with the house sale. We had the inspection done this morning, and the appraisal should be done by Wednesday. Once this week rolls through, the real frenzy begins. We need to book a pod for moving, sell furniture, arrange for my car to be shipped, sell Joey's car, travel to Seattle to find a place to live, and much more. Luckily, Joey's last day at work was today, so he'll be able to take care of the logistics while I'm at work.

To say that I'm overwhelmed is a bit of an understatement. I'm Type A. I'm a worrier. I think this has been the hardest part about this situation: learning how to let go and maintaining the positive vibes.

Sound familiar? Ah, yes. Infertility! This is eerily reminiscent of the waiting we did through treatment and adoption. Slightly less stressful, of course, but the same lack of control we felt through both processes. And it's infertility that trained my brain to think everything will go wrong. I'm fairly certain this disease has broken that part of me forever -- the part that's innocent and naive to all of the things that can go wrong in any given situation.

That said, I'm trying my best to focus on one task at a time and push out the negativity as much as I possibly can. Because let's face it: worrying never helped me become a parent and I'm fairly certain it won't bring me any closer to Seattle.

Friday, November 1, 2013

east coast, west coast

You know when you are holding a secret inside of you that is HUGE, and you have to sit on it for I-don't-know-how-long until you feel like you're going to burst? Well, this has been me for weeks. No, I'm not pregnant. What I am is moving.

Our family is picking up our things and heading to . . .

SEATTLE.

I'll spare all of the details, but Joey got a wonderful job offer, and he starts his position in a few weeks. He'd planned on staying with my brother until we sold the house, but as fate would have it, we got an offer on the house just 10 days later. If everything goes as planned, we will all be headed to the west coast the day after Thanksgiving. (Fingers crossed, please.)

It's a bittersweet feeling, leaving. It's sad leaving our families. It's sad leaving the house where we brought both of our babies, human and fur, home. It's sad leaving our friends, who we love dearly. But we are looking forward to living in such a fantastic city that will provide a great environment in which to raise K. We are extremely excited to embark on this new adventure together.

More to come soon on our cross-country trek!

Thursday, October 24, 2013

the great and powerful oz

As bloggers, we've all experienced it: that dreaded moment when you get a comment from "Anonymous" on your blog. And, as is the case with most nameless replies, it's hurtful and negative.

I'm approaching my 5th year as a blogger, and I've had no shortage of offensive (and downright mean) comments. It shouldn't phase me anymore, but occasionally it does. You build up thick skin to a point, but then someone manages to find a soft spot and tear right through. We're humans putting words onto the web, not machines. It's bound to happen. This is something every blogger should know and be prepared for when they begin writing. I say it to others all the time: when you put yourself out there on the Internet, you're opening yourself up for public scrutiny -- both good and bad. Just as you are practicing your First Amendment right to freedom of speech, so are your commenters.

That said, it's not the negativity that bothers me. I truly do believe that it's your prerogative to disagree with me or my writing. It's the fact that you choose to remain anonymous. It's the fact that, whoever thought those words, didn't have the guts to tag their name to the end of them.

Yes, that's your right to be nameless. But it doesn't mean that I respect your choice to do it. I don't. I can't respect someone who sits behind his or her keyboard and bullies others because they know they can hide behind the privacy of the Internet. I can't respect someone who uses the power of words to belittle bloggers who put their names and their stories out there, all while under the protection of "Anonymous." I would respect someone much more who could admit who he or she is in the process of contradicting of whatever it is I've written.

Anonymous commenters remind me a lot of the Great and Powerful Oz. They get to hide behind their curtain and say whatever they want into the microphone in an attempt to scare people -- until, eventually, someone with enough guts (or a pair of ruby red slippers) pulls back the curtain and discovers that they're not so great and powerful after all. Because it's easy to exert your control when you feel like you're invincible to the world. It's not so easy once you've been exposed to those around you.

And take it from this guy. You are never truly invincible. Or anonymous.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

sperm talk

There was an interesting article in The Atlantic yesterday about male infertility. I always love when publications highlight male infertility, because I think it's such an understated topic among experts in the field. This piece highlights some of the changes that we need to see when it comes to discussing male infertility and its stigmas.

We suffered from both male and female infertility, but I did find that the doctors had a tendency to focus on my "issues" rather than my husband's. None of our doctors made recommendations on how we might be able to change the outcomes of Joey's tests. In fact, any changes we made -- diet, supplements, etc. -- were a result of our own research: Dr. Google. We were willing to try nearly anything, yet the doctors never offered options. Perhaps it was because they thought I had the bigger "issues." Or maybe it was because they didn't know what to recommend.

I thought this part, in particular, rang true:

"Male infertility may need a high profile advocate and a public health campaign, Barnes says. After all, erectile dysfunction had Bob Dole. Testicular cancer had Lance Armstrong. But male fertility lacks a celebrity to raise awareness that infertility is a 'normal' medical condition that 'manly men' deal with too."

To me, it was/is just as frustrating to hear about male celebrities in their 60s and 70s who are getting their partners pregnant as it was/is hearing about women who are in their 40s getting pregnant. And yes, there are several high-profile male celebrities who have spoken out about infertility (Hugh Jackman, Jimmy Fallon, Bill Rancic). Their emotional perspective is starting to shed some light on how our partners cope with this disease. But it's still "taboo" to talk about the biological aspects. You don't hear men talking about their lack of sperm or other potential barriers to conception.

I'm curious to hear from some of you who've battled with male infertility (either you personally or your partner, since I realize I have far more female readers than male) and get your thoughts on this article. Do you think there should be more awareness drawn toward male infertility? Did you feel your doctor or clinic was equipped to handle you or your partner's infertility?

Friday, October 18, 2013

contamination zone

If there's an illness within a ten-mile radius, my daughter will catch it. I realized this was inevitable last year. She's has everything working against her. 1) She's in school. 2) She was born prematurely. 3) She was born with a compromised immune system. 4) Kids are just germ-y.

The good news is that, since she had tubes put in her ears back in June, she's bounced back from her illnesses much faster than she did last year. A few weeks ago, she caught a mysterious virus at daycare, and she was fever-free within 24 hours. Then, earlier this week, we discovered that she caught strep (also from daycare; I know, it's shocking) and she was back at school within a day and a half.

The bad news is that this is only the beginning of the "sick" season, and I still haven't managed to find a baby HazMat suit to protect her yet.

(Kidding. Sort of.)

Aside from the minor bumps when it comes to daycare germs, she's doing incredibly well health-wise. She's still barely on the charts at 29.5 inches tall and 19 lbs. 4 oz., with a head circumference of 44 cm, but she's hitting every single one of her milestones and then some. Her personality is as sassy as ever. I have a feeling "talking" is right around the corner.

Our house is still for sale. We've had some interest, but no offers yet. So, we're lowering the price again today in hopes of generating more traffic, especially as the holidays approach. It's hard to believe that this year is almost over, and that this is our second holiday season with a child. Surreal.

That's what's going on in our neck of the woods. How about you?

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

a day of remembrance

Today is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day.

1 in 4 pregnancies end in loss. That's an astonishing number. It's a statistic that no one wants to be a part of, yet so many -- particularly in this community -- are burdened with. It's a topic that is often swept under the rug because people are unsure of how to address it. But, as I've said so many times before, silence cannot and should not be the response to those in pain.

Take a moment and break that silence today. Learn more about infant loss and how you can help families who are suffering at Faces of Loss, Faces of Hope. (You can find additional links on the "Resources" tab above, under "Pregnancy Loss & Stillbirth.") Then, tonight, from 7 to 8 pm in your time zone, please light a candle for those babies who were taken far too soon and for their families -- who live each day with the pain left behind by their absence.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

why i've grown to hate october

As many of my longtime readers know, October is a special month for me. It's both breast cancer awareness month and it's the month of my mom's birthday. Confused about why I'm grouping these two events together?

Let me explain.

13 years ago, my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer. She went through a lumpectomy and six months of grueling chemotherapy before going into complete remission. She has been cancer free since. October became not just the month that we could raise our voices about her disease and how others could help, but it became an appropriate way to celebrate her new lease on life. I loved October. It served as a symbol of hope and strength for our family.

Except for now, I hate October.

Don't get me wrong. I still love my mom's birthday and I still participate in raising awareness and funds for breast cancer/cancer research. It's what everyone else does that makes me hate this month. The pink washing. The Facebook statuses. All of the ridiculous things that people do in order to "raise awareness" for this disease. You can't go anywhere without the color of Pepto Bismol being shoved in your face in the name of finding a cure.

But here's the truth: none of that stuff raises awareness. None of it helps find a cure.

People know that breast cancer exists. They know that mammograms and self exams can help prevent it. Only that's not what breast cancer is all about. That's just scratching the surface of how we can (and should) be talking about this disease.

We need to change the mentality of "it won't happen to me." "I'm too young." Or, "I'm a man." Or, "no one in my family has it." We need to encourage those who say they don't have time to get checked or help those who need financial assistance in making it to the doctor or paying for that mammogram or getting tested for the BRCA gene mutation. We need to do a better job teaching women (and men) to do self exams. We need to educate the public on rare forms of breast cancer - types of breast cancer that have different signs and symptoms. Companies needs to stop hawking products, shelve their pink packaging, and dedicate that money, time, and energy directly to the non-profit organizations they partner with.

And we especially need to get off of Facebook and start taking meaningful action. As I wrote on my blog page last night, fake pregnancy announcements are disrespectful to the thousands of men and women left infertile each year because of cancer and/or cancer treatments, and Facebook statuses don't raise awareness or help the cause.

But the people behind those Facebook statuses can.

Each of us has the power to do something that can truly help. It could be a monetary donation to your favorite cancer charity (please don't forget your local organizations!). It could be volunteering to drive a patient to and from a chemo or radiation session. It could be learning how to do a self exam. Whatever direct action you choose to take this month, big or small, I can promise you this:

It will make a far bigger impact than sitting behind your computer and updating your Facebook status.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

dear congress

Dear Congress (or, you know, the few of you who don't want to play nicely):

Please, do the American people a favor and kindly remove your heads from your asses. Once you've done so, take a look around you and enjoy the view of what I'd like to call the "real world."

What does the real world consist of?

For starters, it consists of adults who go to work and actually do their jobs in order to earn a paycheck. (Unless they are furloughed government employees, of course. Then, they work for free.) What none of these people do is throw temper tantrums until their bosses or their coworkers cave and submit to their childish behaviors. They realize that there is a process. There are "laws" and "rules" by which they have to abide. Do you know what happens to "real" people when they don't do their jobs? They get voted off the island. I wish we could vote some of YOU off the island. Now.

It consists of men and women without health insurance because they've lost their jobs or they have preexisting conditions that prevent(ed) them from receiving healthcare. So, in order to get medical coverage and to ensure they maintained other rights afforded to them by the United States government, they went to the polls on November 6, 2012, and they voted -- overwhelmingly so -- for leaders who would keep the Affordable Care Act in place. I'm sorry if you don't like it. Next time, earn more votes.

It consists of senior citizens who need government programs like Social Security and Medicare to survive. Veterans who deserve everything they've earned, and more, for fighting for our country. Children who need to be clothed and fed. People who do not have second jobs or large bank accounts to fall back on when they are out of work or without a paycheck. Those who've come across hard times. Those who need a little bit of help brushing the dirt off and getting up again. Those who worked tirelessly to try to better their situations and they can't seem to catch a break.

But, most importantly, it consists of citizens who truly believe that our country cannot be the land of opportunity unless we, as citizens, support one another -- especially those that need help standing. While some of you are busy trying to push your own agenda, there are many Americans who are stepping up to the plate to bat in your absence: from the couple who donated millions to fund Head Start during the shutdown to the ordinary, everyday men and women who are donating food, clothing, and baby items to local shelters.

So, soak it in. Enjoy the fresh, shit-free air. And then do us all a favor: vote on a clean bill to fund our government.

Sincerely,

Me

Friday, October 4, 2013

1236

This week, I witnessed several friends go through some sort of crisis or face unpleasant situations. In a couple of cases, the situations were awkward and delicate, and I had to decide whether speaking out and offering my support was going to help or make things more uncomfortable for that person.

It made me think back to my days in the trenches of infertility. From start to finish, from diagnosis to holding my baby in my arms, I spent 1236 days as a childless infertile. Over three years, not counting the months we tried to conceive on our own, before our diagnosis. 1236 lonely, heart-wrenching days of carrying around this shameful disease. 1236 days of pain, both physical and mental. It was not easy. It still isn't. Regardless, I spoke out from the very beginning about it, which resulted in many friends and family members stepping forward and offering their support. Sometimes, their words weren't helpful. At all. In fact, sometimes their words were downright inconsiderate. But do you know what I remember more than the ignorant remarks?

I remember the silence.

I remember all of the people who never stepped up to the plate. I remember every friend and family member whose lips remained glued shut over those 1236 days, saying nothing. Maybe they were afraid to speak up. Maybe they didn't know what to say. Maybe they thought that they were going to make things more uncomfortable for me. They certainly did with their silence.

There's a common saying, "forgive but don't forget." This is what I've done in the months since I've had my daughter in my arms. I've forgiven those who never spoke up. I've made peace with their choices, but I certainly don't forget who they are or how their silence made me feel. That deafening silence also taught me a valuable lesson, one that I was reminded of this week. Speaking out wasn't going to make the other person, the person going through the motions of whatever hardship they were experiencing, feel uncomfortable. No. It was going to make me feel uncomfortable.

Keep it generic. Offer support, but not unsolicited advice. Don't offer pity; offer empathy. It's okay to say, "This sucks." These are the thoughts that ran through my mind as I typed my words into messages to more than one friend this week. These are the words that I always wanted to hear. These are the words that comforted me during the most difficult of those 1236 days. Most importantly, they were words from someone who just wanted me to know that he or she cared.

They were much easier to hear than the sounds of silence.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

15 months

It's hard to believe that there are only three months left in 2013. It feels like just yesterday we were celebrating Christmas and New Years. Now, both holidays are rapidly approaching again.

K turns 15 months old today. I'm happy to report that she's moving around a lot more on her feet than she is via crawling. I think it just took her a few weeks to gain a bit of confidence in her steps. She has a doctor's appointment next week, but recent trips to the office (for a 24-hour virus and a bad diaper rash) have shown us that she's slowly but surely nearing the 20 lb. mark. I think at last check she was 19 lbs. 8 oz. with clothes on.

She's also becoming more vocal. She's said "dada" for quite a while now, but she's expanded her vocabulary in recent weeks to include "dog," "bye," "yay," and - at long last - "mama." She's also trying to mimic words that I say. The other night, she had a cow in her hand from her farm set, and I said, "Cows go moo." She then tried several times to say "moo." I'm looking forward to the coming months as she learns new words and phrases, mostly because it's become difficult to determine what she wants. She'll sometimes point and babble at things, and I'm not sure what she's saying or asking! I think this is one of the ways we could have benefitted from more baby sign language, but that's okay. She does know "more," which she uses regularly at meal times.

Sleep is hit or miss. For the most part, she does well - averaging around 12 hours at night, sometimes longer, with one two-hour nap during the day. Then, there are some nights where she tosses and turns. I think part of it is teeth (she has 11 now, with several more on the way), but the rest may be growth/development related.

It's no surprise that she has quite a bit of spunk to her. We call her "the diva" or "the drama queen," and she lives up to these standards. She's stubborn, demanding, and independent. She wants things HER way and on HER time. We've already witnessed a few tantrums, and I'm sure there are more in our future. (I swear, this is karma for all of the times that I had an attitude with my mother as a child.) But despite the occasional meltdown, she is loads of fun. Her laughter is infectious, and I love watching her and Danica play together each night. She's also incredibly loving. She gives us so many kisses and cuddles, and it melts my heart each and every time she does it.

Parenthood isn't always easy; however, it's more than worth every single obstacle we endured along the way. It's amazing to watch her grow every day, and we love her to pieces.

Monday, September 30, 2013

"unsticking"

The older we get, the more comfortable we get.

We get set in our ways. We aren't willing to try new things. We don't want to embark on new adventures. We do things, not because we want to do them, but because they are "safe" to do.

We take the same path to work every day because we know the end result. We know exactly how much time it will take us to get from point A to point B, with or without traffic. We eat at the same restaurants because we know the quality of the food we are going to get. We live a life much like Groundhog Day.

We get stuck. And once we get stuck, it's hard to get un-stuck. It's hard to remember what it's like to let go. I'm guilty of it. Terribly so. Hence this blog post. I've been deep in thought lately, worrying about big changes that may be in our future instead of looking forward to the new possibilities. It's time I push my worrying ways aside and begin looking at life with a new filter.

Therefore, I'm challenging myself to step out of my comfort zone at least once a day for the next month - and hopefully beyond. It could be something as small as saying "hi" to a person I don't know in the break room. It could be taking a new route to work. It could even be something as ridiculous as dancing in the rain.

Whatever the case, it's time to step out of my shell and start challenging myself.

You're more than welcome to join me.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

shoulds and should nots

In case you missed it, yet another article on the emotional aspects of infertility hit the web yesterday.

I agree with many of author Jody Madeira's points about the misconceptions cast on the emotions one goes through during infertility. Anger. Desperation. Vulnerability. These are just a few of the many "feelings" we endure that are often misunderstood by the general public. Madeira counters that, "In reality, the lived experience of these emotions is highly complex and nuanced, and many purportedly 'toxic' emotions actually play positive roles and are critical to successful coping processes."

I think this is incredibly true for me and for so many others I know who have worked their way through this disease. Personally, I'm grateful for enduring these emotions. I think they helped me grow as a person and enabled me to become an advocate for myself and my disease. I also think that they allowed me to properly grieve the "loss" of my fertility, particularly when it came time for us to decide between adoption and child-free living. However, I also recognize that this doesn't speak for every person affected by infertility - and I think that we see this in the emotions displayed by the first commenter. Every single one of us has a different experience with this disease. You and I could have the exact same journey. We could go through the same medical procedures at the same time, with the same results, and resolve our journey in the exact same way. But our experiences, our feelings, could be drastically different.

Anger did spur me to action with treatment for a while, but not forever. I hit a wall after my fourth IUI, and I knew that I was emotionally taxed. I couldn't endure any more medical intervention. Even when we revisited the idea of IVF several months later, the thought of being on another RE's table made me sick to my stomach. My rage and depression DIDN'T "coexist with hopefulness, optimism, gratitude, and even apathy" for a good period of time, and I hated when people tried to convince me otherwise. It made me feel as if my emotions were completely invalid.

For all intents and purpose, I was irretrievably broken.

Eventually, I did pull myself up by my bootstraps (with the help of my RESOLVE support group and many of my family members and friends) and I moved forward. It took a long time, therapy, and medication. It's still sometimes a process, trying to reclaim myself. I think I've done a decent job at this, but I know many more who haven't been able to bounce back. They can't. For one reason or another, infertility has destroyed them. I've watched this disease break people, marriages, careers, and dreams. I've seen the beyond-the-limits desperation that this disease can inflict upon its sufferers.

What's the point I'm trying to make?

That we aren't required or predestined to come out of this a certain way. That we are all entitled to feel our own emotions and use them in whatever way that we please. That we don't have to be advocates if we don't want to be. There's no right or wrong way to cope with this. Whatever you feel, whatever emotions overcome you - they are all valid. Sometimes you can pull through them, and sometimes you can't. Sometimes you can use them as stepping stones, and sometimes they are so painful that you can't use them at all. You can only allow yourself to feel them. And that is as important, if not more so, than putting a positive spin on every negative point.

To those who've used the negativity to do something positive, kudos to you. But for those who haven't - for those who cannot embrace the desperation, like "Chewie" - that's okay, too. You don't need to be "more" or "less" anything. Just be you.

Friday, September 20, 2013

one step at a time

Ladies and Gentlemen, we have a walker.

Sort of.

K took her first steps a few weeks ago. We were so excited. We waited around with our phones in our hands for two days, trying to get her to do it again so that we could catch it on film. We finally did, and we were convinced that this was the "beginning of the end." That soon, we would have one energetic little girl running around the house.

Only that hasn't exactly been the case. She'll stand on her own and take a few steps here and there, but most she still enjoys scooting across the floor from point A to point B.

At first, I was a little concerned. Was there something wrong?

But then I remembered my child's personality. She is, for lack of a better word, stubborn. She's always been this way, even as a tiny baby but more so now that she's becoming a toddler. Independent. Full of attitude. I think that she just knows what she wants to do, and she'll do it on her own terms. I confirmed this yesterday with the pediatrician's office (on an unrelated check-up for a short-lived virus). We'll just have to wait for the full-time walking. She can do it, and she'll let us know when she's ready for it.

Until then, she'll continue to wreak havoc around the house on all fours. Which is absolutely fine with me. :)

Thursday, September 12, 2013

fantasy land

There was an excellent op-ed in the New York Times this morning about the "magical thinking" of infertility treatments. If you haven't seen it yet, go check it out. The authors wrote very eloquently about the reality of infertility treatments, and it hit very close to home for me. It also brought my mind back to the post that I wrote several weeks ago regarding the release of the latest infertility statistics - specifically my last point about the evolution of science.

We can't deny the strides we've made with science and technology in every aspect of health. In fact, just yesterday I watched a video about an app that cardiologists are using to monitor patients' heart rates. All you do is place your thumbs at particular points on an special iPhone case that connects to the app, and it instantly registers your heart rate and pulse. Amazing, right?

But science and technology aren't cures - at least not for everything (yet). We haven't yet found a solution to bringing down cancer rates. There is no cure for AIDS. Hell, it's 2013 and we still have to endure sadistic, expensive tests like MRIs and mammograms to help diagnose injuries and diseases. We've come a long way, but we aren't nearly where we need, or want, to be.

This goes for infertility, too. The most recent scientific "breakthrough" in reproductive medicine is using time-lapse photos to help aid REs in choosing the best embryos, a practice that other areas of medicine have been using for years. Less than half of IVF cycles performed worldwide are unsuccessful. Far less than half. We still have individuals and couples who are in the category of "unexplained" infertility - about 30 percent. We're a long way from using the term "implant" instead of "transfer."

We stopped treatment before enduring IVF. There were a number of reasons for this, but the largest deciding factor was the physical one. Did I want to put my body under the amount of stress that an IVF cycle requires, for a less than 40 percent chance of working? The answer was: hell no. The authors of the op-ed say it best: "Ending our treatments was one of the bravest decisions we ever made, and we did it to preserve what little remained of our shattered selves, our strained relationships and our depleted bank accounts."

Ending treatment isn't for everyone. Some people want to exhaust every possible avenue, and I respect that. However, I also value throwing in the towel. It isn't giving up. It's not a sign of weakness. In fact, it's the exact opposite of that. It's the essence of strength. It's making the choice to do what's best for you and your family. It's about recognizing what your limit is and sticking to that.

And it's not about turning your cheek to medical intervention. (I also think it's incredibly important to attend conferences such as the one mentioned in the article to stay abreast of the changes and challenges with treatment.) Instead, it's about understanding that medical intervention can only take you so far. There's only so much that doctors and scientists can do.

For now, at least.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

12 years

It was a busy day today, and I didn't have as much computer time as I wanted to write about 9/11. Instead, I thought I would post photos that I've taken at Ground Zero over the years.

2002

2002

2010

2011 (the 10th anniversary)


Note the similarities between this photo and the one that I took in 2002. Both were outside of St. Paul's Chapel:

2013

Never forget.

Friday, September 6, 2013

i still weep

A close friend of mine texted me earlier this week to thank me for still supporting and understanding those who are still waiting for their miracles. She said that she appreciated the fact that I still felt the emotional pain.

I appreciate it, too.

I won't pretend like it's the same pain it was prior to becoming a mom. It doesn't even come close, but I'm glad it's still there. It's is a reminder that everything that everything we went through is real. It's a reminder that there is no cure for our disease. And it's a reminder of what a miracle it is for us to be parents.

It doesn't hold me back. It allows me to push forward. Even though I still weep, it gives me strength. It prepares me for everything that's still to come for us - and everything that's yet to come for others. It's the catalyst for everything I do, everything I fight for, and everything I hope for.

Infertility isn't something I wish on anyone, but I'm personally thankful for this journey. This pain. I will carry it in my heart forever.

And I'm okay with that.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

on the move

It feels like it's been years since I last blogged.

In reality, it's been a week, which is still a long time for me. We spent the holiday weekend on a much-needed mini vacation to visit Joey's sister in Tennessee. It was K's first time on an airplane, and she did quite well. We only had one minor tantrum at the end of the return flight, and I think it was due to the air pressure. Otherwise, she slept for most of the trip up and back.

Our return home was marked with exhaustion and anticipation: Four days before we left on our trip, we put the house on the market.

This might come as a surprise to some, but it's something that we've been discussing for months now. We purchased our townhouse at the bottom of the market, as a foreclosure, and we've watched as home prices have shot up in our area over the last 3.5 years since we moved in. They reached a new high in the last month or two, and we figured we may as well try to strike while the iron is hot. It's been on the market for a week now, and we've had three inquiries and one showing, so we're getting steady interest. We'll see how the next several weeks play out.

Regardless, I think there are big things coming this way.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

choices

Maybe I was a little harsh to Anonymous Mom. Calling her pathetic. Assuming she should be happy. Calling her worse behind closed doors. After all, I have no idea who this woman is. I don't know her from Jane Doe. She could be as sweet as my next-door neighbor.

Blame my hormones?

I was angry reading the article and yesterday's post was my instant reaction. It was hard not to get angry about it as someone who went through so much to become a parent and who still has many friends still fighting to get there. It was hard not to get angry as a parent whose child had medical issues at birth - who would have given her left arm for her baby to experience something as simple as colic instead of the pain she endured in the NICU.

I'm still a little angry. I don't think that's a wrong emotion for me, or anyone else in the ALI community, to experience. When you put your story out there, you open yourself up to the reactions of others. As bloggers, many of us understand this first hand. There is a reason that I screen all comments on my blog before approving them - because some are too harsh to live forever in my space. You have to accept the bad feedback along with the good. There will always be both.

Regardless of this woman's intentions, whether it be venting or seeking sympathy, it's the tone of her piece that puts me off. She sounds incredibly self-righteous, and her husband sounded the same way. Perhaps they should spend their time focusing on trying to change their attitudes before these babies arrive. Immerse yourselves in therapy instead of writing negatively about your family on the Internet (where it will live forever). Learn how to accept the responsibilities of your actions.

But as much as the content of these posts angers and upsets me, I think they are important for us to read. We need to understand the choices that we have on this journey.

I've watched so many people make what they consider mistakes in their path to family building. They spend too much money cycling that they didn't have enough left when they wanted to pursue another path later to parenthood. They went for that second, third, or fourth baby without thinking about the stress on their family. They adopted a child, even though they hadn't truly grieved the "loss" of having a biological one. The list goes on.

When people ask me about the adoption process and filling out the paperwork regarding what they would accept/not accept in a child, I always say the same thing: be realistic about what you can handle, because this is forever. The same mantra could be said for EVERY aspect of infertility, for every avenue of family building.

I hope that this couple gets the help they need before their babies arrive. I wish the best for them and their children. And I hope that all of us take this as a lesson in control. We may not be able to control the hand we were dealt with infertility, but we can control how we choose to play that hand.

Choose wisely.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

my response to "anonymous mom"

(Some of you may remember this article from a few months back - an opinion piece written by a dad who was expecting twins and who wasn't happy about it. Some of you may also remember my response. Yesterday, the wife of Anonymous Dad wrote a reply of her own to all of those who criticized her husband for what he wrote. Here's my response.)

Congratulations, Anonymous Mom. You finally got what you wanted: someone to feel sorry for you and your husband.

I'm guessing it's not in the way you expected. You see, I don't feel sorry for you in that I feel badly about your situation. I don't sympathize with your blatant lack of respect for your children or family, or your lack of responsibility for your actions. I don't feel sorry for the fact that you are in therapy or that you struggle financially.

Instead, I simply feel sorry for you because you're pathetic.

When I first read your husband's post and responded to it, I thought maybe it was a maturity issue. Part of me said to myself, "Oh, I bet he'll come around and feel differently as her pregnancy progresses or after the babies are born." Now, after reading your version of the events, I realize that this probably won't be the case.

After all, your version of the story isn't much different than your husbands. Every line desperately screams "woe is me."

Believe me, I get it. Wanting kids and not being able to have them is hard. Wanting a sibling for your child is tough, too. Yet, we all make choices. Every day, people in this community choose their next steps in their journey. They mark "twins" as an acceptable choice on their adoption paperwork. They transfer three embryos instead of two to increase their odds. They go for that last IUI, even though they have more than one follicle ready to go. Because they have nothing else to lose.

Some of them do end up with multiples. I'm sure that's terrifying in a sense. It's a huge responsibility. However, there are many others who end up with nothing. An adoption falls through. Embryos don't implant. There is no pregnancy. There is no happy ending for them.

There IS for you. Yet, you don't see it. Instead, all you see is what a burden these children will be, on top of the burden of your existing child.

It's his fault, right? He was a difficult baby, and you don't know how you'll handle that all over again (potentially), times two. Colic is tough. You know what else is tough? Having a child born prematurely. Having a child with special needs or medical issues. Having a child who you WISH would just have colic.

I feel sorry for you because you can't see beyond your own skin to realize that this isn't the end of the world. I feel sorry for you because you are too selfish to understand that what you and your husband are feeling and have written will affect your children for the rest of their lives. And I am sad for your children - that they will grow up and someday learn that you feel "remorse" over their conception. That you blame them for your problems. (Soon, you and your husband won't be the only ones in therapy.)

You ask yourself toward the end why "the universe, God, karma, whatever, whomever think it was a good idea to bring forth twins" into your lives.

Honestly? I think the rest of us are wondering the same thing.