A Little Drop of Hope 

I’m wide eyed tonight when I should be settling for sleep. Instead, I’m laying here. I’m praying about tomorrow and feeling excited. I might even be a little giddy with ideas of things that might be in store this year for our TDB journey. I’m also so terrified of it all at the exact same time. 

It’s a been a really long road so far – and the end feel so very far away still. Discouragement has crept in more than I care to admit lately. It’s just so hard to hope for something that seems so far away. Sometimes it seems like all the things we’re doing, planning, and working so hard to achieve are so small – like tiny drops in a huge not-so-full bucket.

Then I remember something. This bucket must fill slowly, for its story is so tenderly and purposefully being filled with each and every little drop. We are in this waiting, filling place now on such a big labor of love. This big, once empty bucket, is filling steadily with an inspiring stream of drops. I remember: the bigger the bucket the longer it takes to fill. 

Tomorrow I want to meet the day with hope and optimism, but I’d lie to you if said that spirit will be a natural one to ease into as the sun rises. My longing is intense tonight. The ache for a child to call my own is deep. Even though my    doubts and fears feel so much bigger today than I wish they would, I will to force myself to continually remember this odd-shaped and ginormous bucket is already so full of hope. 

Tomorrow afternoon, I will sit with my dearest and bravest souls to make plans for the how rest of the 2016 calendar of events will shape up. I can finally rest tonight, in the mist of all I feel, knowing that however they pour out someday, these little drops of hope will tell the story of a great bucket-full kind of love.  

Then They Made T-Shirts You Can Buy: Why We Stopped Saying ‘Fundraising’ (so much)

The holidays were a very busy time for us as normal people. We had lots of time together and with family. They went by in a bit of a blur as we balanced all the to-dos with the why-we-do it all. We ate a lot of good food, we thanked God, and we celebrated all we have. It was a good season. It was also very busy for Team Dream Baby! Our awesome Babycakes event in November raised just over $2,000 in total for our future little Dream Bean. To feel so blessed, supported, and loved on our journey was refreshing and much needed after a very challenging year of planning and re-planning. It was unbelievable, as people we didn’t even know poured out so much love and support for us on that day.GS-hands

Winter Bake-a-Thon was a big success as well. Smaller scale than our Babycakes event, it brought in roughly $150. My kitchen was quite the buzz for weeks and I’ve not fully finished cleaning up from the crazy even yet! It was such a fun experience to do this adventure a little differently than I have in the past. I have been doing this thing I call Bake-a-Thon since 2008, but it formerly existed only as a way to make cheap gifts for family, friends and (mainly) SL’s co-workers. This year felt really different, weird almost at first, doing this on an paid order basis. At my friend’s requests I’ve done a total of three paid orders (for the same 2 people) in the past and while the money from them went to the baby fund, they were smaller projects and only one at a time. I was both surprised and impressed by the response I received; one person actually told me I should be charging more because my cookies are that good.

THAT good , indeed!
THAT good, indeed!

A friend from out of town donated and specified that I could bless someone local with an order, as I didn’t offer shipping this go. (I sent her a box of goodies because I was so touched by her sweet gesture.) I am thinking about making shipping an option in the future as it wasn’t all that hard to do. While my schedule post Christmas was pretty insane and I am still working on getting my kitchen back in order, I love baking so; I’d do it all again in the lick of a buttery spatula covered with chocolate!Bake-a-Thon4Bake-a-Thon6

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A Great Big THANK YOU to all who ordered and helped make the 2015/16Winter Bake-a-Thon a big hit! There will be more Bake-a-Thon opportunities coming up in 2016. Keep an eye out for those announcements, especially if you are a lover of all things buttery-ly amazing!!

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As the years go by and the funds build slowly, it has been pointed out to me several times that Team Dream Baby doesn’t fit everyone’s definition of fundraising. The point that people have made clear to me in a myriad of ways (sometimes politely, other times, not so much) is that we are not benefiting any collective effort/cause so calling it fundraising is misleading. While I could argue that our baby will be/is a collective effort of the greatest proportion and probably win that debate by a landslide, I won’t for now. Because, no – the money we are collecting is not going to benefit anyone else. No global purpose is being served and traditionally, I can agree that fundraising has a benevolent, charitable intent behind it. So, if you need/want to strip what we are doing down to its core, I guess we are merely beggars. We are just standing on a street corner with a giant cardboard sign advertising our inability to conceive a child traditionally. We are not fundraising, they argue, only collecting and saving money for our future use. Yep. I guess that’s true. We are doing so to offset the cost of our phenomenally expensive choice on the path to parenthood. We aren’t trying to end global infertility or address any other need anywhere. The only “need” that TDB really addresses is mine. It is driven by my desire to be a mother. It is fueled by my longing to see my little one’s face someday and to hear her call me Mama. It is sustained by my vision of seeing him riding on his Daddy’s shoulders at Disney World.

Sometimes, when I think about it, I feel really really really selfish. I don’t need a baby. There are starving, misplaced, abused, and orphaned children everywhere. There are homeless refugees and veterans (along with countless other mothers and fathers) who can’t shelter their babies in the winter or the wind. There are babies being killed and sold and stolen all over the world. There are medical crises, war-torn nations, school shootings, clean water shortages, and educational funding nightmares in news broadcasts every day. I hear and see them. My heart breaks for all of the above; for the measureless tragic circumstances that plague our broken world. I could (some would argue should) be giving all this money we’re collecting to aid in some of the overwhelming streams of real, tangible societal needs. But I’m not. Instead, I’m asking you to give it to me – to us – because I want to be a mom.

This struggle over how to term our efforts isn’t new; I’ve been as clear as I’ve known how to be as we’ve developed the vision and plan to pursue our goal. This year as we begin our plans for 2016, I’m hoping to be increasingly clear about what we are and are not doing. The reality is that this issue  – calling it fundraising or not – probably only matters to me (and maybe the handful of people who voiced their opinions kindly or otherwise).

Maybe I’m making a mountain of a mole hill. Maybe it’s a little because I care what other people think. Maybe it’s because I want to be transparent. Maybe it’s because sometimes I feel like we are judged for the choice that is right for us. Maybe it is because I want our campaign to appeal to the masses and be successful. Likely, the answer to all of those maybes is “yes.” Honestly, when they are raw and unrehearsed, my motives for motherhood sometimes feel a little selfish. But the one thing I know is that I don’t ever want to follow selfish motives on this journey. If you know me well, sometimes you know I ‘joke’ about being a baby-whore. Truthfully though, there are days when infertility feels like it has reduced me to that place of desperation. I will do anything to get this baby into my arms someday! Then, when I feel the most selfish, I remember mom is seldom near selfish in definition. (In the case it is, I cry. Pretty.damn.hard.) I know my desire to become a mom is not a NEED. However, as I already identify as a mom to our future child, I know that all of you who are already or long to be moms, know this truth deep inside of you: I will do anything for my child.

So while I technically think what we are doing fits within the dictionary definition of fundraising, I do find valid the point that our efforts are not charitable or global in any way…and so, I’m going to begin using the term “fundraising” less. When I started researching how to do this gestational surrogacy thing without debt, I gleaned a lot of my information from following ideas and topics around the google search “adoption fundraising.” Fundraising is what guided my learning process because we needed to raise funds! It became the term I used.

Team Dream Baby is not a charity. We are simply a couple standing in the face of infertility making a choice that is right for us. We are blessed and privileged to be where we are today, making these decisions that will be best for our future family.  [Read: We aren’t needy. (We buy the latest iPhone (because we want it) and drive an EV (to reduce our ecological footprint and because it is pretty)…well, one of us does both those things anyway.) So give to established charitable organizations before you consider giving to us.] We know our path is expensive, complicated, and controversial. We want to be transparent – ultimately, while we’d love to adopt, we cannot. We enjoy giving charitably from our incomes on a regular basis and as we are blessed on this journey, our heart to bless others through our charitable giving only grows bigger. As we begin our funding campaigns in 2016, I also want to be clear that we are actively saving independantly and making our own contributions to this plan along the way. Also, we plan to apply for grant offerings when we are closer to our goal.

We are really excited about our plans for 2016! We are still a long way from our goal, but it’s ok. It will take some time to reach and as we go we are driven forward by the success of our previous efforts and the growing community of generous Brave Souls that join our journey. We have lots of ideas in the planning stages for this year. There will of course be garage sale season to capitalize on once the snow and cold remove themselves from our midwestern lifestyle. (Groundhog did not see his shadow!! Early Spring! Yay!) As we create new ideas to bolster our funds and make a decent “bang for our buck” it is always important to us to have fund-giving experiences that bless our blessers as much as they bless us. We are constantly getting information about new fun ways to raise money – if you have any ideas or help to offer, feel free to comment with suggestions or opportunities!! You can always email us (at) teamdreambaby@gmail.com. We also have a FaceBook page, and a twitter account so if you’re on those social media platforms add us and follow our journey!

Our newest fund-gathering plan is in the final drum-roll worthy stage. So can I get a drum roll please???  We just launched our t-shirt campaign at bonfirefunds.com. We want everyone to get SUPER excited about our Team Dream Baby t-shirts. We want you all to buy one! Or three. Or one in every style! (No, but seriously, get one and wear it!) Because. We made a t-shirt. It’s quippy and cute and gender neutral. It has a hashtag. #teamdreambaby. We want your to wear it and advertise our dream.TDBShirtFrontTDBShirtBack

Hashtag Power

#teamdreambaby

Can you please all post this hashtag everywhere and then some other places? Understanding the power of hashtags in social media has changed my life a little bit. I’m hoping to leverage that into “a lot a bit” in 2016!

I feel so old – I used to think hashtags were just an odd little thing people did to be funny. But now I understand them better and it makes me feel powerful. Even better, I feel cool again. That’s right, I’m pretty fly for a white-gal…it’s embarrassing how much my cool phrases are beginning to date me. Because no joke! – that’s the last one I remember, and that’s back when saying “no joke!” all.the.time was really really in.

Seriously, we’re going to put this hashtag on business cards and t-shirts (this may or may not be a teaser for a launch of one of those two things next week. Get a clue: you’re not buying business cards.) I want to leave our hashtag in public restrooms and every restaurant from Northern to Southern, IL (at least!) …like a trail of breadcrumb to our tiny little heartbeat. I’m shameless. I’m a baby-wore. But it’s ok. Because YOLO is a thing now. So since I do really OLO (see, that’s so dope for Only Live Once. Seriously on fleek.). Pretty sure this isn’t even English anymore. Peace Out.peace out

The Marilyn Moment

These days leading up to Christmas have a way of eating me whole. Like the cookies I am preparing to make, the days disappear all too quickly. There’s so much to get done, so much to go to, and so on. For me, it’s really tough to find time to slow down and really reflect on anything. Every year in November I have these grand plans of how I will carve out time to sit and and reflect on the Reason for the Season. Then, the belly of December digests the days before I realize I haven’t made good on my plans. While I’ve been too busy wrapping gifts and baking (more accurately at this stage, the buying gifts and planning/purchasing elements of  the baking menu have consumed my month) the Reason caught up to me, quite literally, in a most unexpected event.

I try my best to avoid shopping entirely on the weekends. I’m pretty spoiled in that I usually can manage it. But the belly of December is deep and full right now, and my plans for gifts and cookies ended me smack dab in the middle of a crowed Wal-Mart parking lot today. I had a very specific list of things I could not find at other local stores. I was going to be focused and fast. I immediately lost my cool at the sight of the packed parking lot and started internally cursing the “Wal-Mart people” (you know the ones I mean…I mean…man, I’m so mean.) in my head before I had managed to turn into the actual lot.

No sooner than I got out of my tiny car, did I start feeling the dread of all the things I fight every.single.time I enter any store as an infertile woman. See, I avoid shopping on the weekends not so much becuase of the crowds/lines as becuase of the families. Becuase it really hurts to much to buy my goceriecs in the midst of all the beautiful family choas that occurs in the store. I really can’t handle all the kids running, screaming, and misbehaving becuase all.of.the.time the only thing I wish is that one of those precious screaming children were mine to yell at! (Do believe me when I tell you, mine won’t be better behaved than yours…and I really don’t believe that I will never yell in a store, even though I will try my hardest to communicate with my family without yelling.).

I cannot describe how paralyzingly painful the store can be for me somedays. If you have ever longed for a family like we do, you know, even if you have one there to yell at today. For those Momma’s who are lucky enough to not know that kind of pain, sometimes what you may perceive as “judgment” for yelling at your kids in the store is really just our infertile sadness & bitterness. We are not judging, we’re just jealous. (Not saying that is better.)

This afternoon, after some minutes of internal collapse in my car, I resolved to  get out and tackle my specific list. “Remember to grab the bags for the recycling!” I announced verbally to myself as I gathered my nerve. As I closed my trunk, out of the corner of my eye, I saw an elderly woman with fear of never finding her car painted all over her face.

She was so very lost and confused…and she was going to get hit by a car. I offered to help her locate her vehicle. We went on an APB in that crowded parking lot. Before we found it, she was convinced she forgot to lock it and someone had stolen it. I was pretty sure it was just a matter memory, but I tried to reassure her as best I could. Eventually I asked her if she trusted me with her keys, (of course the panic button and locks were not properly set up on to make noise on her older model key fob) while she waited on a curb/sidewalk thingy to let me search at a slightly faster pace than we could together. As I took her keys, I told her my name, as if that would assure her I wasn’t going to be the one stealing her car. She gave me her name then too. 

I found her car rather quickly. She was so relieved she cried when I handed her back her keys. She thanked me, she hugged me. I told her to have a great Christmas. She said a couple “thank yous” and “you’re so sweets” during our quick hug. She asked if you buy me lunch. I plainly said she could not. She said “You talk to God everyday, don’t you?” I replied with a “Yes.” Then she cried a little more. 

We stood there, Marilyn and I, in that busy parking lot for probably a half an hour. In the misty middle of the afternoon, we put the December hungers aside a moment to connect with each other with our Reason.

She told me how God had worked in her life faithfully over and over again. Here are a few highlights of what I learned: Marilyn was supposed to die when she was 28. Doctors performed risky experimental surgery on her and she woke up days later in the dying room. She did not die. She is a miracle. Her son was diagnosed with brain damage at birth, they advised her to unplug the incubator. She declined the advice, insuring doctors he was a gift from God and she’d care for him as long as he had. She took an ill son home and cared and cared and prayed and prayed. He never moved on his own, but she said she could always tell he was mentally present for everything. One day “8 months later” (not clear if that was the baby’s age or a passage of time after he was home) she was preparing dinner when he pulled himself up on a coffee table in the next room and looked at her like, “what’s next?” She called her husband home from work that day, saying they had another miracle.  (When I asked her if her son is a normal functional adult today, she replied, “Sure, if you’d can consider a lawyer normal and functional.” I might have peed a little, it was so funny!). 

The last thing I learned was about her husband, who went into a serious funk when doctors told him he was going to die by 50. His 51st year was spent waiting for death. He lived into his 70’s. I’d be willing to bet he was a fantastic man. And I’ll bet he was smiling in heaven while watching  us stand there talking in the rain.

Infertility is hard every day. Holidays are so so hard. If you’re on your own IF journey this year, I pray you have a moment like this where  your Reason finds you and whispers to you – so loudly you can’t even  miss it if you try.

Summary of Infertility Appoinment

And so begins my journey of recording every little detail in a way that was previously reserved for my best-selling author dreams. Welcome, oh brave souls, to my – to our – amazing crazy journey. It’s called life, and this is my current account: 

This past Tuesday (9/24/13) we had our first infertility consultation. The recent surgeries (7/26/13 and 9/1/13) threw us here, into the bizarre world of infertility treatment, before we really knew which end was up. And now, whatever we thought about that end before is altogether upside down. The following is my interpretation of the information we gleaned on Tuesday and what we plan to do going forward.

We went into our infertility appointment on recommendation from my GYN, who is also my surgeon. He knows my heart and struggle to get to the point of wanting to try to conceive and was at his end of helpful hints after these two surgeries which drastically change the “plan” he and I had discussed in July and August. We came away from our infertility consultation knowing that I have viable eggs. Dr. Karande (infertility specialist) is ok w/ beginning hormonal protocol for egg harvest. However, in his opinion I’m not a candidate for IUI (Intra-uterine Insemination) or any kind of hormonal protocol to achieve pregnancy, for that matter.  We will (if we decide to pursue this path of egg harvest) need a gestational carrier. 

The financial aspect of this IVF/gestational carrier journey is daunting and life altering. There are a one-hundred-dozen questions that are as yet to be answered in our minds and hearts about the whole process. 
There are also a lot of unknowns and risks associated with the hormonal protocol necessary for the egg harvest. These make my boyfriend (and others who love me) very nervous as he sees what I go through in any given naturally occurring cycle.
There is also is a lot of spiritual consideration happening on both of our parts, as we have been thrust into this journey a bit unprepared. 

Thing is, we decided to try for a baby naturally 5 minutes (actually one week) before these cysts started rearing their citrus-fruit-sized ugly heads back in July. So we didn’t even get to really try at all. 
It feels to me in my heart and soul that we are being lead on this specific infertility path purposely. I can’t really explain that because this isn’t anything I ever seriously considered pursuing in the past.
In July, one week before citrus-fruit-fest began, we agreed that if we were to give our all at naturally trying to conceive and were unsuccessful, that was going to enough for us. Sad yes, but enough. At the point we could not conceive naturally, clarity for our future path, if any, to parenthood would have been reached. We agreed, that at that point (which we expected to be at least 2 years from now) we would actively think about/pursue the adoption option. 

But these two emergency surgeries just recently have hit the invisible fast forward button on our lives. And suddenly this is all very time sensitive stuff due to the fact that the the docs think I am a prime candidate for a third recurrence of this crazy cyst nonsense. Since we don’t know when/if that will occur, there is really no way to prepare for parenthood other than freezing eggs or embryos for use for use with a gestational carrier at some point in the future. 
Egg freezing is a relatively new technology and there is not enough research to report success rates. Embryo freezing has a national average success rate of 40% Medically/success rate wise, Dr. Karande recommends freezing embryos. We have mixed feelings about freezing embryos, but understand the medical and scientific reasoning/research behind his recommendation.  (Thoughts on freezing embryos may be information for a later entry. However, on that note: such thoughts posted on my blog will never be a communal debate. This is a very private issue for us and our pending decision only reflects OUR experience. This is not a format where I wish to entertain religious, political, or any other opinion/thoughts on the issue than our own. If you wish to have private conversations with me regarding these issues and know me personally, I will welcome conversation.)  
Upon the third occurrence of a cyst, every doc so far agrees, they will remove the remaining bit of ovary I have left. As our first infertility specialist said, “We want/need to have your decision on this matter as soon as possible in case your tiny bit of ovary starts to misbehave again.” 

So for now we stand here:
We are going to pursue a second opinion from a different infertility specialist, Dr. Eve Feinberg. This second opinion appointment will take place on 10/10/13. (This is a super amazing story but one for yet another post.) In short, I received a personal recommendation to Dr. Feinberg, and she to me. She may be a better fit for us as she has some experience with patients who have “progesterone issues.” Dr. Feinberg comes with the highest recommendation by a trusted long time friend and was actually consulted yesterday on my behalf by my dear, sweet, amazing friend.

WOW!!!  – I know!!  Yes. It is crazy complicated. 

To answer a question that probably is in everyone’s head: yes, we are considering adoption. However, that will have unique challenges for us with my medical history. I think (based on my bit of research thus far) it would take years and years (and a LOT of red tape) for us to be an approved for adoption. It’s not impossible, but not an average situation. So, at least in the state of Illinois, unless a blood relative of mine or my boyfriend’s has an “unwanted” baby we can adopt, adoption will be just as, if not more, complicated for us than what we are looking at w the current IVF/Gestational Carrier/hormonal- reactions that-could-kill-me nonsense. 

It is all, in a word, mind-boggling. The emotional energy is intense, the mental and spiritual energies, just as intense. We covet every prayer you can pray on our behalf right now.

Ultimately, we both agree on this bottom line: we trust in our amazing GOD (who is the Creator of life and our Savior) above ALL and know that He alone has the power for miracles. We just don’t have a clear answer for what our part in the miracle He is writing for us is yet.