Sunday, April 20, 2014

Resolve to Know More About Surviving Infertility

Does anyone know what this week is? April 20th is the start of National Infertility Awareness Week (NIAW).  

Every NIAW we participate in the Blogger’s Unite initiative without question. This is our time to reach a new set of eyes through our words, and our story, to make a change and be the voice. Those who know our story, follow our blog, or have supported us through the years, know that Chris and I are a united front.  Ben and Jerry, Peanut Butter and Jelly, Ham and Burger… you get the point. Our posts are born from both perspectives, this one is no different. Our infertility has changed so many aspects of our lives that it would take a thick, way too thick, autobiography to tell our tale.  We've had dreams shattered, plans ruined, financial turmoil, and psychological breakdowns all for a common goal of starting our family.  This is why we hope you-infertility advocates, congressmen, lobbyists, and other interested readers will resolve to know more about…surviving infertility.

Breathe. (Candace)

“Just breathe Candace,” as I tried to calm myself. The wind was removed from my lungs which made the fall of my heart into my stomach much harder. My husband, Chris, made a space on the bathroom floor and just sat with me. I couldn't talk because at that moment in time I was mute. I couldn't think, because at the time it was too much acute pain for my mind to process. We just sat there amongst our sobs and laid on the cold floor in silence. It was not until an hour later that I would walk out of that bathroom greeting two cameramen who were also obviously emotionally affected by our journey. How could they not?  It was only two months ago, they started watching the infertility struggle first hand through their lens, something most do not share. At this point, I had already had my 5th surgery, and this was my 6th and final IVF transfer. My doctors were closing the door on our assisted reproduction journey because my body simply couldn't handle it anymore. I was on national TV, participating in a documentary of a couple’s struggle with infertility when we heard those words, “Candace I am so sorry…” I just tuned out after that. It was a curse, like Groundhogs Day the movie. The same result every time. My uterus had given up and Mother Nature had stripped me of my right as a woman.  With detected precancerous cells and a looming hysterectomy if this last IVF round was not successful, it was a struggle just to breathe, just to want to breathe, after hearing those words, “You are not pregnant.”

Learn. (Chris)

We had enough.  Put your hand in the infertility fire, burn it, put it back in hoping for a different outcome, burn it again.  We were motivated and would have put our hand back in that fire if we could afford it, if our bodies and psyches could cope with the rigors of it, and if there was a chance of a different outcome.  With Candace’s precancerous cells and unreceptive uterus, we had to know when it was time to change directions.  With all of our research going into IUI, IVF, and natural conception, we were totally ignorant about alternative family starting/building options.  We decided it was time to LEARN!  Guess what, there is more education out there about how to change a flat tire than there is about how to initiate an adoption! And forget about learning the ins and outs of surrogacy and how to start that process! As we dug deeper into adoption (with the premature assumption that surrogacy was far too expensive … only movie stars can afford that right?) we learned about the costs associated with adopting a child, domestic or foreign.  “Don’t they pay you to adopt a child?” was a common question we got.  Uhm, no!  The costs are incredible, as in some four year degrees are less expensive than adopting a child.  “Can’t you just go to places like China and pick up a baby?”  Wrong again, the wait for an infant from China can last several years.  But, all was not lost.  We learned about how the adoption process works, teamed up with an adoption agency, and started looking into how on Earth we would raise the funds to afford adoption.  Just as we were nearly completing our adoption approval process, we faced yet another learning opportunity, someone offered to be our surrogate.  Guess where you go to learn all things surrogacy?  We had no clue at the time, but quickly learned that nearly everything we thought we knew about surrogacy was wrong … like it is only for the rich and famous. 

Hope. (Candace)

We did not give up hope. I would be a mother, I just did not know how. Financially we were ruined. Surgeries and fertility procedures had long drained our nest egg. This had been my last chance at IVF because my oncologist detected precancerous cells that had necessitated a hysterectomy.  I would no longer have the ability to bear a child in my own womb.  So the grim situation was that we had no money, no changes in legislation like The Family Act, S 881/HR 1851 to make this possible, and no uterus. No matter how bleak the state was for us, it was the heart’s intentions of a mother and father. That beat, no matter how faint, still hung on and despite all of the obstacles we had built up around us; hope was the spark that would fuel our drive to keep pursuing our family. Those closed doors would soon become invisible.  There was a lot of praying, fundraising and most importantly continuously learning of what options we could seek out.  We reached out to a local Resolve support group and learned about all of the resources that Resolve provides to help educate us. We spoke out about our infertility and shared our story boldly. That small amount of  hope continued to grow and our life changed. We found a gestational carrier that would carry our child for us. This was a gift! The most amazing one you can give a couple.  
Now What. (Chris)

Breathe, Learn, Hope.  Although we are focused on infertility, that seems to be great advice for nearly any life-altering event-cancer, house fire, family loss, or any other catastrophic life event.  The unusual thing about infertility though, the support for those going through infertility from government agencies and insurance companies is simply not there … absent.  Why is this?  Cancer is an awful, life shattering illness. Candace and I have both felt the fringes of cancer’s icy fingers with her precancerous cells and my brain tumor.  But there are TONS of resources out there for cancer patients, as there should be.  If your house catches on fire, what do you do?  You tell people.  You tell your insurance company, you tell your family, you tell your church.  What do they do?  They initiate a process to reimburse you for your loss, they let you stay with them until this terrible storm blows over, and they hold a clothing and food collection to make sure that you are not left without during this seemingly insurmountable transition period that you face.  Why is the same not true for those with infertility?  Candace and I hope that our efforts will remove the misconception that infertility is a taboo problem that should be dealt with only by the two people facing it.  We hope that insurance companies will start broader coverage of infertility treatments as the facts and faces of people suffering with infertility are brought to light.  1 in 8, yep that isn’t a miscalculation, 1 in 8 couples face infertility in one fashion or another.  It will only be after monumental changes in policy, public perception, and outreach that we can hope to change this staggering statistic.  In honor of NIAW, we hope you resolve to know more about how those with infertility survive (by continuously remembering to Breathe, by ceaselessly trying to Learn, and with unwavering Hope) and resolve to actively participate in changing this statistic.

Learn more about the disease of infertility and how you can make a difference through uniting with Resolve below: 
(Basic understanding of the disease of infertility.)

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Thursday, April 17, 2014

Grass and Asphalt


According to our friends at Wikipedia it is defined as:
Passion (from the Latin verb patī meaning to suffer) is a term applied to a very strong feeling about a person or thing. Passion is an intense emotion, enthusiasm, or desire for anything.
The term is also often applied to a lively or eager interest in or admiration for a proposal, cause, or activity or love – to a feeling of unusual excitement, enthusiasm or compelling emotion, a positive affinity or love, towards a subject.

We all have passion about someone or something in our life, but how many of us channel that passion and grow it into something bigger? More so, how on earth can someone else have that same passion for a greater purpose for something they have not personally or directly experienced? It is called goodwill folks. It is still out there in this world and very much alive. We witnessed this firsthand last weekend in full effect with two back to back fertility-awareness-tastic events.

Allow me to begin with the first event. Putting for Parenthood. Chris and I may not have a ton of money but we are filthy-stinkin’ rich. We are wealthy in the amazing friends we have made over the years. P4P was born from two friends of ours that simply wanted to help us. They have watched our struggle and are the ones who have been in the front of the volunteer line for many of our fundraisers. P4P (Putting for Parenthood) was born from two remarkably talented and driven friends. They took the reins with passion and gusto and said "we will put together a golf tournament for you and you can do whatever you want with what we raise."  That’s when we decided to make this an annual event and the funds would go back to a local infertility group in our area. It would be the seed money to pay for OPKS, books, pregnancy’s tests and resources to aid in their journey. It would help start care packages for couples who deliver losses in the hospital and send cards to those whose placements or procedures have failed. More so we hope it will be the beginning of something much bigger.

With only 6 weeks of preparation they pounded the pavement for sponsors and rallied a team of fierce volunteers. Those volunteers gathered more sponsors and built teams to play in the tournament. We spent long nights and days putting together raffle prizes and grab bags. You know what though? There were many volunteers that were part of the IF community there to help but, those two friends and their many friends were not. That is what amazes me. Here we have so many people who were there to help, took the day off from work all for a cause that did not directly affect them. They became part of the voice of infertility without even one stick of a needle.  Although the numbers are still being tallied as to how much we raised, one thing is very clear this once was just an idea that now will have a lasting affect on many many couples.

We had many local business become grab bag sponsors to help stuff our bags!

Which led to having a ton of bags to fill.

All the golfers got had a chance to hit this.

What? Never see a sperm shaped cornhole bag? Well, neither have we until the tournament. 
Thank you Waffles for your sweet sewing skills!

 Registration time! OK seriously, these girls were like a girl scout and pushed 
some serious raffle sales!

Setting up our prizes! Just a little (Gale Force) wind issue nothing we couldn't handle.

As T would put it, they were "Volun-told" and we love them for listening! 

Round up time!

Time to hit the links for a good cause folks! 

The prize list was pretty much awesome. Donations from local businesses, volunteers and sponsors!

Remember when I said there were two events? After being on a high from the golf tournament we woke up stupid early the following morning and with one eye open and very little sleep we drove an hour and half to be guest announcers for The Race to Parenthood. Jenn Nixon is also a bit of a firecracker. We have a lot in common in the fact that we both cannot carry our own pregnancy, we both are bloggers (check out her blog HERE) and we both will be or are currently pursuing surrogacy.  This tenaciously talented young lady decided to make a difference, be that change, show PASSION. She came up with the idea of The Race to Parenthood 5k. Here is how it works, a featured couple who needs help with funding for IVF, IUI, gestational surrogacy, or adoption, will form a team to run/walk/cheer with them during The Race to Parenthood 5k.  The featured race sponsors made it possible for 100% of the registration fee to go to the featured couple the participant wishes to support. Brilliant I say. It was so incredibly successful that this one race rallied 504 registrations and raised $28,600 towards the featured couples. I cannot wait to see what the Race of 2015 will bring. Jenn and team, you deserve a standing ovation. 

Jenn and the Birthday Boy! The shirts and signs folks came up with were fantastic. 

See video Here.

In this one weekend we met so many people and saw so many instances of PASSION that it is hard to believe that the monster that is infertility would have a chance of beating anyone, of taking the dream of having a family or building a family away from any couple.  That doesn't mean that it won’t be hard; everyone put in tons of sweat, personal time, and effort to pull both these two very different events off.  All these people proved though, that they are willing to do anything – putt, run, organize, announce, whatever – to realize our family building dreams.  And with friends and family like this, with communities of people filled with PASSION, the path to parenthood has never looked more promising.  

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Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Surrogacy Appointments- When Three is a Crowd

I have a complex. We see our wonder surro frequently and Chris and I are very lucky that she does not live too far away from us. It is also is a little bittersweet too. The reality of it all, is our baby is 20 minutes away from us in another home and in another body. Because our gestational carrier is so close to us we are able to go to every appointment. We have not missed a single one. How could I? It is the small period of time that I can for a moment experience this pregnancy. Even if it is just sitting next to her in the waiting room.  I am close, I can touch her belly and be a part of the process.  

When you go into a surrogacy agreement there are some hard line items that each party will request. Our wonder surro had delivered multiple births at a specific hospital in the area previously and her OB had delivered all of her pregnancies. So when she told us her preference was to keep the same hospital and OB, we completely understood. I also pouted a little, ok maybe a lot inside, because I really do love my OB. I trust her. She is invested in our journey and even now she still answers all of my questions concerning my ‘unpregnant’ pregnancy. Naturally, it would be a hard sell for me to warm up to our wonder surro’s OB. When Chris and I met with the new OB we drilled her with questions. We explained to her OB that we wanted full involvement. I just wanted the warm and fuzzies. This was going to be the care provider that would oversee our baby’s development and growth in utero and I wanted her to understand that surrogacy is a party of three.

This all went south when the 3 of us sausaged ourselves into a small exam room at one of our appointments and that same provider we had sat down with and poured out our infertile hearts too weeks prior, looked at my wonder surro as asked her directly if she would be doing a AFP test. For those who are unsure what that is, it is a simple blood draw that can tell you whether a baby is at an increased risk for certain genetic problems. Some of the conditions the test screens for are chromosomal abnormalities like Down syndrome and Trisomy 18, as well as neural tube defects like spina bifida.  Yes, my wonder surro would be the one getting the test, but damn shouldn’t the OB have afforded that question to us? Now our wonder surro did not skip a beat. She looked at her OB and said should you ask the parents? Hello OB {waiving flares and flags}!! We are right here in this small room, kinda hard to miss us.  But she did. Our presence is secondary.  My ‘unpregnant’pregnancy is just that secondary.  We have found many situations where IF still is ever present. For someone who has just had a failed IVF round or adoption placement, baby showers feel like you are a lone outcast that does not quite fit in.  It is the same feeling for me here in the OB office. We are that puzzle piece that looks like it might fit but no matter how hard you press it back into the empty spot, it simply will not fit.

I should learn really though.  After multiple appointments the same thing happens every time. Here is what will typically happen; when the nurse calls our wonder surro back to the clinic area I jump up like I have won the lottery or a spin at the wheel on the Price is Right show. Only to have the nurse who is nowhere as cool as Bob Barker or Drew Carey tell me she will call me back separately.  Dejectedly, I shuffle back to my chair avoiding stares of other pregnant couples and waiting patients.  I’m pretty sure those waiting room spectators are wondering what the hell is up with that situation?  Is that the baby's mama, mama? Or is that the sister of the daddy to be? Or is this some weird love triangle from the show Big Love? With a rush of insecurity pulsing through my mind, I uncomfortably wait patiently to be called in to meet back up with my little jellybean and wonder surrogate in the exam room.  

You know what? Yeah, I may just be a spectator. I am riding pine here in this pregnancy game, but I am an integral part of a team. There are 3 people invested in my child's life. WOW. That is 3 people who are caring for her and hoping she has a safe and healthy entrance into this world. She is, I am and Chris is lucky we have surrogacy and our wonder surro to be that pitch hitter for us.  I will have 9 months without her, but I will have a life time with her, which makes any challenge we face obsolete.

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Wednesday, April 2, 2014

How to Heal a Burn

Candace and I both worked in restaurants for several years during college.  She was mainly front of the house (hostess, server, bartender, manager) while I was mainly in the kitchen.  Being in the kitchen, if there was one way we injured ourselves too numerously to count, it was getting burned. Somewhat similar to getting pregnant, there are a whole host of myths and wives tales for how best to heal from a burn. You should put it under cold water, you should put it under warm water, you should put butter on it (never understood that one), put a bandaid on it, put burn spray on it. I adopted a somewhat different strategy though… I touched it… a lot. My thought is that if I continue to touch it, ultimately it will be desensitized and I can move on with using my hand like normal. Now, I’m not talking about burns that go to the bone and look like a combination of the surface of the Moon and Swamp Thing. I am talking about simple burns, hot butter that gets on your hand, a drop of rebellious grease that decided to part ways with its brethren that were in the fryer, checking to see if the water is hot enough to put the pasta in; that kind of thing. What’s the alternative? Treat the burn like it is a life-jeopardizing injury. If you burned your finger, don’t use your whole hand.  If you have a burn on your right forearm, try to be ambidextrous and do everything with your left arm. At the end of the day though, no matter how much you shield yourself from having your burn come into contact with anything, even air, eventually you will brush against something or someone will bump into you. And that burn, that little puff of red or blistered skin, will hurt like you were thrown into a blender. So, now you have incapacitated yourself to prevent the pain from happening and guess what, it came anyway. Doesn't sound like a great strategy to me.

Just like a simple burn on your hand, the injury or hurt of infertility is an unwanted invasion into your very being.  Just like a burn, there are so many ways to overcome that hurt and, just like a burn, so many of these are difficult to discern their likelihood of success. My advice to you … touch it. Don’t hide away your infertility because, just like a well concealed burn, eventually you will see that very pregnant woman complaining about the 6 kids she already has and the hurt will start all over and may even be intensified.  Now, I am not saying to display it, it’s not a badge to pin to your shirt every morning. What I am saying is be open about it to yourself. Accept that this is a part of you, hopefully temporarily like a minor burn. Until it goes away though, it is with you whether you want it or not. So touch it, own it, accept it, then, work like hell to make sure that you overcome it. 

 So…when you get burned by infertility…touch the burn, remove the sensitivity… then grab those resources you have to overcome it! Want some ideas on how you can overcome the burn? April 20-26th kicks off NIAW, (National Infertility Awareness Week). Advocate. Here are some ways:

1. Are you also a Blogger? Then participate in the Resolve’s Bloggers Unite Challenge. Every year during NIAW, RESOLVE rally’s all of the IF bloggers to write based on a given theme. This year’s theme is “I Resolve to Know More about…”  Click  HERE for more info on how to use your words to make a difference. 

2. TWEET and Twibbon- Try saying that 5 times fast! That’s right  add a Twibbon to your twitter and FB profile.  “Twibbon” not to be confused with “twerking” Twibbon-ing is way more classy. Get your Twibbon HERE.

TWEET Example:  Support #NIAW 4/20-26. Add a #Twibbon & and help spread #infertility awareness. Get your own from @rmisconception

3. Take an “IF-ie” and join the Virtual Art Project.  The author of The Truth Behind  The Secret “Infertility”   is rallying for those to raise awareness through this art summit. Here’s what you do, take a Selfie. Maybe at your clinic, maybe on a good hair day, or when your lazy eye is actually being productive (my personal habitual photo issue) be creative,  either way you can send up to 4 shots to this email with a quick blurb about your journey no later than 4/18. You can reference your name or can opt to stay anonymous.  Just indicate that in your email.  

4. Facebook Covers! Go ahead, be out with it already or better yet support someone you know that is part of the 1 in 8 that suffer with infertility. Seriously, no pressure though, I know it is difficult to cross over that line. Incase you do though,  My Hopeful Journey (also the talented creator of the Infertility Survival Kit App) has made it very simple to click, save, and post a new cover to promote awareness of NIAW). Click HERE to get one.

5. And more… Resolve has compiled a comprehensive list of 25 additional ways you can support the infertility movement.  You can aid in the cause silently or loudly. Point is if you are wanting change, be the change and inspire. Click HERE for 25 more ideas on how to spread the NIAW love.

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Tuesday, March 25, 2014

No Womb for TMI in Surrogacy

One thing is for sure, I know very little about pregnancy.  For the most part it kind of makes sense, Chris and I spent many years and all of our spare Google and reading hours researching on all things fertility.  When you spend all of your time trying to get pregnant the actual process of pregnancy seems so far out of reach.  It is similar to enrolling in college courses; there are pre-requisite classes you must take first. You cannot take the core classes till you have taken the preparatory classes. Here is our course load:

Our wonder surro is very open with us, a bit of a free spirit if you will.  Since this is her 4th pregnancy she is well tuned into what to expect while being pregnant. Not much can make her blush or I guess is a surprise to her. Since my uterus is missing like Jimmy Hoffa, being pregnant is not something I can fully understand.  So Chris and I will read and do our research on what to expect but it is hardly relate-able. It can also be emotionally painful at times as I have unfortunately discovered. I find myself reading the pregnancy app on my phone, but I have to scroll through all of the actual changes for a pregnant mother and go direct to the growth and progress information for our baby, stalking what fruit or veggie we are at this week. (Cucumber BTW).

Although I cannot and will never experience a pregnancy biologically, our surro has been great at giving us a glimpse into that world by sending us weekly bump pictures, letting me know along the way if there are any new milestones gestationally speaking.  She also tells us the other side of what she is experiencing.  I call it the “tri-fecta.” Our wonder surro at one time has had the triple combo of heartburn, hemorrhoids and fire crotch, AKA a yeast infection.  Apparently, these are normal unwanted events that occur in pregnancy.  I mean let’s be real here. It is not her baby, so the drive to go through these very uncomfortable body and lifestyle changes has to be not only difficult physically, but mentally challenging as well. It takes someone with a very altruistic nature to carry a baby for another couple, to endure these changes for 9 months. If it was her child then it would make those hemorrhoids seem like lumps of love.  On top of all of this she has new, worrisome, unpregnant-pregnant intended parents like us. I worry if the herbal tea she is drinking has low levels of caffeine. I worry if the medication she was given will be ok for our little Jellybean. I worry, worry and worry some more. Thankfully, our wonder surro does not get too annoyed, at least I don’t think she does, when we ask her basic questions to help ease our concerns. It is all about communication. Since this is a team effort TMI is off the table. 

The tri-fecta was in full effect when our wonder surro had our latest ultrasound. Chris left early and I stayed at the clinic to make sure all was taken care of and to tie up any loose ends.  Feeling remnants of her fire crotch (yeast infection) she went on a hunt to look for her OB. So here is when everything got weird (as if there were not enough slightly awkward possible scenarios already in surrogacy).  I stood in the hallway of the reception desk, certainly out of place, holding jackets and purses waiting for her to come back. About 15 minutes later, our wonder surro came bounding back with a new pep in her step.  Now, I have said before that the surro-isms she says are book worthy, well the first thing she tells me with a large smile on her face is “My cuca is purple!”  My jaw dropped and all I could say was “What?” Our wonder-surro went on to describe that her OB stated that for the next few days it would look like her and Barney, yes the big loveable yet creepy dinosaur, had a romp in the hay.  My surrogate had a purple vag.  First thought. Will our baby come out of the womb resembling Violet Beauregarde from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory? This time the color is from a medication called Gingin Violet or Gentian Violet.  

 I will say that I learned something that day, apparently lady bits come in all colors. Our wonder-surro said it was like a free vajazzle. Since I live under a rock I had no clue what that meant, so what did I do? Googled. Don’t. I will save you from that image being burned into the back of your eyelids. Basically, it is like the beadazzle for your lady bits. Personally, I do not intend on beadazzling or vajazzling anything of mine. In the words of a dear friend, it is much like “putting lipstick on a pig.” You can rhinestone and glitter your bits all you want but there is not much that can be done to make it look any less like a lady bit. Just had a thought, can you imagine what your OB or RE’s reaction would be if you went to an appointment with a vajazzle?

 Fire crotch problem evaded and I am fairly certain I will never look at Barney the big purple dinosaur the same. Just another day at the corporate headquarters of Our Misconception.


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Wednesday, March 19, 2014

The Mask of Infertility

I resented God. Chris had been through two full craniotomies and we were very aware of the delicate balance that the fulcrum of life can teeter from one direction to the next. After spending weeks of being in and out of hospitals and watching my husband in the ICU it was then that it was clear to me that I wanted to start a family.  What if the tumor came back? What if he couldn't fight this battle next time? I wanted my husband's legacy to pass on. Selfish maybe, more so I think it is that primal sense of procreation.  So we started trying to conceive. Two years later I was not pregnant and I could not bear my husband a child.  I was grateful that God (or for those of different religious beliefs insert your higher power) saved Chris. We both had a new start on life, together again and tumor free.  Funny, how quickly you can lose sight of those gifts. I had started to laser focus on what we didn't have which was a baby for our empty nursery.

I shut out my faith. I couldn't understand how so many who in my opinion were undeserving could have a family.  It seemed that every news channel had been reporting cases of parents for lack of a better word drowning their babies, abandoning them in bathrooms and selling them into pornography.  Yet, Chris and I have a house busting at the foundation with love to give a child and it was not happening.  Perhaps I was being punished for the many bad decisions I made in my past, those skeletons in my closet I dare not release.  I even thought that I had used up all of my prayers, wishes, and genie lamp rubs on Chris when he fighting his fight.  It took a few years for me to find my way back into a church. It took some shopping of the church variety. We are not a hell-fire and brimstone kind of couple. We needed to find the right fit, a place where we can walk in as damaged goods and leave with hope, not judgment.  Through suggestion by a friend we stumbled across our church.  Now, this is not a post to convince those reading it to be all churchy and for me to tell you will burn if you drop the f-bomb or wear a skirt that is 1 inch above finger tip length. If that was the case I would be a walking ball of fire. 
This past month our pastor hit on some heavy topics that really resonated to what we all experience with infertility. The series was called Masquerade with the premise that everyone wore some kind of mask to cover an issue that they battle with.  Over the many years of our struggle and even now our infertility presents a melting pot of raw emotions. Allow Chris and I to touch on the masks we wear, the shrouds of our struggle. 

I could rival the Incredible Hulk (for green-ness) with the envy I had for those who never had to spend their life savings on infertility procedures, surgeries, adoption costs and surrogacy fees.  I envy those moments that Chris and I were robbed of. We will never lay in bed with his hand on my 25-week along belly anticipating  feeling our baby kick. Instead we wonder from a distance, envious of the moments we do not have.

Chris- Anger
Anger is certainly something that I have had my fair share of as it relates to our infertility.  I have been angry that Candace is crying uncontrollably on the couch and there is nothing that I can do about it.  Angry that for some masochistic reason I let myself lower my security walls and believe again that “this time it would be different.”  Angry that those around us were popping out babies with no apparent difficulty at all.  I was angry that I was angry; that infertility had caused me to lose my even-keeled temperament. 

Candace-Control Freak
I am a self-admitted control freak.  Ironically, I do not have control here. It is my own personal hell.  I would be eating every damn super food that existed.  I would have done pregnancy yoga, I actually still have the book and videos.  I would have been tempted to adorn bubble wrap on all of my clothes to help protect the little miracle I would have carried. The key word here is “I WOULD”. I cannot though, I have absolutely no control. 

Us guys are known for several things, bragging is damn near the top.  Unlike what women believe, us men-folk are complex as is our pride.  If we are proud of our ability to get women pregnant, we would say things like “My sperm are like finely sharpened arrows,” or “My boys are like embryo snipers.” Certainly, as many other men can testify to, I didn't want any negative results for my sperm evaluation-testicular pride.  Although we would never brag about knocking up a one-night-stand, being responsible for unprecedented speed of family growth, a.k.a. Mr. Super Fertile Groin, would certainly be worth mentioning to the boys at the gym.  That cannot happen for me and thus, I feel the need to feign my infertility to protect my very fragile pride-fertility pride.  It could also be conceived that there is something to be said for showing off how incredibly pregnant your wife is … man that must have been some seed you planted in her-preggo trophy wife pride.  My pride regarding fertility has taken a huge beating and in all honesty, I think it left me entirely.  Maybe that is a good thing though.

So we all have masks, we all want to hide, we all want to put things in a mental closet with the intent of never showing them, our vulnerabilities, hidden agendas, and dark thoughts to anyone.  If there is one thing that fighting infertility is, it is pervasive.  Infertility will impact every aspect of your life.  It will change you and force you to admit to the masks you have been wearing.  And you know what, we all wear them.  In one way or another, whether intentional or subliminally, we all acquire these masks as we seek to process new events in our lives or situations too raw to relate to what we have experienced before.

Once the mask is off, or at least you are aware of the mask itself, that is when you get to make a very important decision, now what.  Do you take that mask, reinforce it with high tension steel wiring and tighten back over your face, heart, mind?  Do you convince yourself that you don’t really have the mask?  Or, do you take that opportunity to learn something about yourself, about your partner, and about your relationship?  Once you can realize how infertility is affecting you and your partner, you can change it.  You can redirect your envy at that future where you will have a family-it’s spelled a little different though-hope.  You can acknowledge your anger, find constructive ways to get it out so you can re-center yourself.  You can recognize that not everything is in your control in any facet of your life and identify the meaningful things that you do have control of.  You can expose your flaws and embrace them as proud features that define who you are.  In short, once you see the mask come down, it’s time to decide what you will do.

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Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Sex Party!

Now before I elaborate this post comes with a warning.

***GENDER REVEAL*** For those deep in the fertility trenches, please know that not all of our posts will be smothered in goo-goo-gaga baby-ness. This is an infertility blog. All too well, I understand those emotional darts that sting when you see those posts on Facebook.  I have opened many shower invites only to have that one letter set the stage for an empty bottle of wine accompanied with an empty box of tissues. These are reminders of a mountain peak that seems insurmountable. I also feel (still do) guilty when I have trouble feeling the full joy for others whose path to parenthood is so easy. {shaking fist} Effing Duggar family. If you choose to stop reading this post from here it is ok not to walk through that door today. I call it self-preservation. You can pick up our story and other bits of the IF stroller-coaster next week.

I laid in bed the night before stir crazy. After a few moments in the dark in silence I pulled the classic “Chris are you awake?”  He responded with a snarky, “I am now.” I just couldn't sleep. I wanted to talk about the excitement in store for us the next day. I also wanted to try to sleep as soon as possible because I knew that morning would come and we would find out if we would be buying baseball gloves or ballerina shoes. These are the moments we waited and prayed for what seemed to be an eternity and I was hours from finding out. If you bottled the built up anticipation of every Christmas Eve of your existence together that is what it felt like.

Now, there are 3 people and the technician in the ultrasound room. At first, we wanted to have the ultrasound tech write down what our jellybean was and we would be surprised with everyone. After speaking with our surrogate we realized it would be logistically challenging to pull that off. So we made all parties swear to secrecy. I mean it was only 2 days that we would have to wait before we broke the news. Surrogacy is different and challenging in the fact that you still want to do everything that you would have done if you could carry your baby. The reality of it is you have other factors. There are multiple parties involved. A gender reveal was no-exception. We would still celebrate and surprise our family and inner circle the same way as if well, we had had a normal pregnancy for lack of a better term.

 Create a suggestive yet, awkwardly enticing invite. CHECK

 Make cupcakes. Sorry folks you have to read on to see what color we covertly put in the middle.

 Decorate.  We are on a budget (gotta save those “surro-bucks”) so I made the majority of the decorations. Chris even made the chalkboard for under 8.00! He had extra molding, all we needed was chalkboard paint and wood.

I used inexpensive card stock to make girl/boy signs, confetti and food labels and then cheap streamers to add some flare to the table!

This is where I felt conflicted. I was decorating in baby motif. I felt seemingly out of place and guilty. Weird right? I guess it was so incredibly foreign to me that it seems like at any point  I will wake up from this dream. The emotional scar I bear is deep but I also don’t want to remove it. It is a reminder of where we have been and how to appreciate the future.

We chose to do a brunch. Pink Mimosas, Blue Moon beer, Chicken and mini waffles, and a few other tasty bites! Check out my Pinterest "NOM NOM" board for these recipes. 
Gather our village and make them guess. Then make them wait a bit, just to raise the suspense a little.  Sneaky C & C style.  You will notice there was a fair amount of  boy guess's. 

Surprise them with this…

That's right He as we all thought, is going to be a SHE!!  From now it, it will be little Ms. Jelly Bean!

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Tuesday, March 4, 2014

A Different Kind of Cup

We are starting a new thing here. Over the years we have tried just about anything to conceive. Trust me if you want something bad enough you will do just about anything to make your dreams into reality.  Ever done a hand stand right after having sex hoping that gravity will be your friend giving the fertilization process a bit of a leg up?  Literally. We have, and about a zillion other really comical, unwieldy, totally superstitious activities hoping to increase our changes by the slimmest amount. Even if it is .002% increase. Been there, done it, will write a book about it someday soon. Periodically, you will begin to see a random C & C review of either a fertility boosting product or a fertility boosting activity.  No, don’t worry, we won’t include any graphic tutorials on how to perform position #138 in the Kama Sutra, “The Twisted Canyon,”  we still have family and friends that read this and don’t want any awkward holiday moments. AH, let me rephrase, we don’t want to increase the awkward holiday moments.  (Uhmm, that isn’t a real Kama Sutra position, sounds like it though huh.)

So, for our debut review, let’s talk about Soft Cups.  We have tried this … it is different … as in it is a freakin’ bedroom circus trying to make this happen. For those that don’t know, the Soft Cup is a female menstrual cup (Chris: GROSS!) (Candace: Chris thought it was designed to be a female prophylactic, silly boy BAHHH HAHAHAHAH).  Anyway, you jam this thing up your hoo-ha when you are menstruating and it collects all the remnants your dirty Aunt Flo leaves behind. Then, 12 HOURS LATER, you remove the Soft Cup and grace the bathroom with everything your period has had to offer for half a day. 

As with most things though, we used it for our covert infertility fighting missions as a swimmer plug.  There are actual studies out there that have shown this to work.  And there are some success stories to support this as well.  Without batting an eye, we jumped on the IF Fad.  The idea is fairly straightforward, you do your business, slap in the soft cup, prevent the advancing army of sperm from getting cold feet. Think of salmon swimming upstream, this is the Hoover Dam to help the salmon stay on course. We came up with a few lessons and observations based on our own experiences with these gems of modern technology:

1   1.  Nothing says romantic like doing your deed and shoving a foreign object in your lady bits right afterwards.

2   2.  Don’t forget this is a fight against gravity and contracting muscles.  So, plan to move fast, position yourself right, and laugh at how crazy you are being to try this.

3   3.   It gets stuck.  Think about that.

4   4. After thinking about this, imagine how hard it is to convince yourself to plunge back in trying to get this thing out … that is now covered with man-essence. Gross. Seriously, I just did the ibby-jibbie dance.

          5. "Hey babe, that was great.  Want a cigarette?”  “Naw hunny, I think I could go for a Soft Cup though.”

6   6. Want to scar your husband for life, have him watch the instructional videos.  (Candace: I did and now Chris doesn’t complain about doing chores, fart, or leave his stuff all over the house.  The threat of showing him that video again has straightened him out for life.) 

1   7. People really use these for periods?  I mean, to each their own, but what happens if you accidentally drop it upon removal?  Over the intercom-Clean up in stall 3!

      8.  Put a cork in it, it’s done!

Seriously though folks, this has been shown to work in some cases.  For us, maybe we didn’t do it right.  Maybe we didn't give it a fair shake.  Maybe our plumbing was too busted for a Soft Cup to be the miracle baby maker.  We can say that it made us laugh a lot and ultimately, made our misadventures with fertility boosting aids that much more of a positive experience on our way to our family.  Happy Soft Cup adventures to all!

Last thing I promise. Let's talk about how ridiculous this picture is. Apart from the fact a stuffed plush cartoon-like uterus is hugging a box of Soft Cups all while twirling it on its right ovary. What is the marketing message here? "Uterus's LOVE Soft Cups" or how about "Has your Uterus Hugged a Soft Cup Today?"  I have no clue but it made me laugh so for the time being, this will now be me my computer wallpaper/background until I find something equally comical. 

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Tuesday, February 25, 2014

The Power of Might

Spoiler alert: this is not intended to be an uplifting, motivational post, i.e., the ‘might’ I am referring to is not the powerful, awe-inspiring might, it is the might as in ‘could happen.’

Candace and I have a surrogate.  She is pregnant with our child.  We are over the moon excited about it.  However, when we talk about plans post-gestational period, we say we ‘might’ be parents.  What?!  Didn’t I just say we have a preggo surro?  Yep.  Is there something to make you think the pregnancy is at risk? Nope.  Actually, our surro is doing great, all the blood work has checked out, our little jelly bean is developing just like it should.  So, what is the issue?  Experience.  Candace and I are no spring chickens when it comes to the world of IF and after being steeped in the cycle of hope, desperation, failure, and rebuilding, we have developed an incredible resilience.  The unfortunate double-sided sword impact of this though is that we have developed a resilience to prevent us from being hurt too deep but also from being able to fully embrace the good, the blessings bestowed upon us.  We are waiting for the crumbling away of our in-the-moment joy to begin.  And it sucks!

We have been waiting to celebrate all of these moments for 7 years.  We have a surro that has allowed us to be very engaged with the pregnancy.  We are at every appointment, as close as we are comfortable getting.  Even if I am staring at my shoelaces, I get the opportunity to be right there as we learn more and more about how the pregnancy is going.  We have all of these events, each a truly cherished memory, and yet, we carry around this 20 ton elephant of previous disappointment that is constantly telling us, “Don’t get too attached, you know it is only temporary like all the other times.”  Who knew elephants could talk, right?  Anyway, this damn elephant drags along with us for all sorts of things; ultrasound appointments, text messages back and forth with our surro, talking about the baby’s room, and talking about (finally) being parents.  Honestly, I think we ‘might’ be carrying this elephant of doubt until we are holding our little jelly bean, and maybe even a little bit after that too. 

There is no training to get the elephant to leave us alone.  We can’t throw peanuts over a cliff and hope the elephant goes for them.  We can’t undergo therapeutic hypnotism to trick our brains into thinking the elephant is a swimsuit model … at least I don’t think we can, I  need to do some Internet searching on that.  But, there are very rare instances where we push the elephant out of our psyches and truly experience that intangible, irresistible joy that we have sought after for so long.  I want to share with you the lucky experience I had to watch Candace boot the elephant out at our latest ultrasound.

This was our first ultrasound at our surro’s OB.  Man it was exciting!  We were going to get to see our jelly bean again, maybe hear a heartbeat, maybe be reassured that everything is going okay.  That last one was Mr. Doubt elephant that insisted on coming along with us.  We went into the ultrasound room and, for the first time, they did an ultrasound on our surro’s belly.  No clue what that is called but it was not another uninvited visit from Mr. Ultrasound wand.  Well, when the ultrasound tech found our jelly bean and focused on it, we all saw the baby move!  Jerk really but I guess that is what they are supposed to do at 8 weeks.  It was incredible!  I have no idea why I was so excited to see that, but I would have rather sat there and watched that than anything else I had watched on a TV screen before.  My reaction was nothing compared to Candace’s though.  She crumbled.  I mean Walls of Jericho falling kind of crumbling.  Seeing our jelly bean actually move brought life to the idea of our surro being pregnant and Candace, for that brief moment, sent that Mr. Doubt elephant to Antarctica!  It has been one of my favorite memories thus far in our journey to becoming parents.  I saw all of those walls, all those years of disappointment fall to the ground and Candace was smiling, crying, and having trouble standing and talking.  Mr. Doubt elephant is a greedy mammal though.  And he was quick to return to being front and center in Candace’s conscious.  She glowed with this joy for about 10 minutes after the appointment but quickly began to dull.  As those walls were rebuilt and the doubt returned, I knew that the temporary ‘will be parents’ returned to ‘might be parents.’  Unfortunate for Mr. Doubt elephant though, I witnessed the whole thing.  I have that memory, that brief moment when I saw my wife overflowing with joy and excitement about her future, and sorry Mr. Doubt elephant, I am keeping that memory. 

We won’t be able to say with any certainty that we will be parents until our baby is successfully and safely born.  But, after seeing Candace’s reaction that day, I think Mr. Doubt elephant lost some grip on me, he lost some weight.  Now, he is only a 19.5 ton elephant and I hope he continues to shrink every day until there is no longer any ‘might’ left in us.

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