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 sofull 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.
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.
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.
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!
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!!
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) firstname.lastname@example.org. 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.
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.
Two weeks ago Monday, we got good news from the lawyer. The insurance piece looks doable, not prohibitive. So amazing!!! It’s a HUGE yet really small step forward. At least we can keep traveling this path and I’m so thrilled.
I’ve had such an incredible two weeks. I feel so immensely blessed and ready to dive head first into the next steps. So here goes:
It’s time to get down to serious business. I’ve said it before, the ART world isn’t cheap. All of these medical tests and procedures and “hoops we have to jump through” – if you will – to create our little person come with a really high price tag. We aren’t sharing actual numbers just yet (don’t know if we actually will on the blog) but we will be looking at dead in the face of a number with an awful lot of zeroes attached. I’ve gotten a lot of research done so far, and we have a good handle on what’s ahead, but each phone call I make seems to add about $10K for yet another thing I didn’t realize we needed to do. Initially I was thinking the cost of this gestational surrogacy arrangement would be about $30,000 since I have a friend offering to carry for us – but we are above that mark considerably and I’m not done with research just yet. This $00,000 price tag is daunting. No. It’s downright frightening!
We do ok in this life financially speaking – SL and I live pretty comfortably. He has always been a provider and a saver, two things I admire about his character every day. We have all of our physical needs met and we are able to enjoy a lot of our wants as well, with some planning and saving. It could even be said of us that we have more than we need. (If you know anything about my SL, this is mostly true in the computer/electronics department. Of me, it is mostly true in the kitchen.) Part of me feels weird about writing this post. Because we are comfortable middle-class people. We do have more possessions than we need in this world, and we could just slap this outrageous price tag on credit and be done. We could take out a second mortgage or line of equity on our house (if the market wasn’t so terrible there might actually be something to do with that, but right now, that isn’t even much of an option), or pull from his retirement fund or investments. We talked about all these things and don’t feel good about any of them. He says he wants to prepare and provide well for his family, to give them everything he can and wants to – not to go into debt to try and make one. Again, even though my opinion initially was “Apply for credit! Take a loan out. We have great credit… Someone will certainly give us that loan!!” I had to come down from my emotional place of desire for a child and realize his logic. (That happens a lot for us. Sometimes, as an emotional person, it really sucks being with an analytical/logical man. We are the epitome of “opposites attract.” Really. I promise.)
If we had a lot of time to plan for this expense, the way one prepares for a home purchase, or a really really nice car, perhaps the number wouldn’t be so scary. But, like so many infertile couples, we had no idea this would be our path to parenthood. No one painted that picture for us. (I knew I’d have challenges, but I never imagined how many or what they’d be like for real in terms of financial numbers.) SL has goals in life that require a good financial state (more education, retire early, start his own company) and we both want him to be able to pursue those things in the future – for our family. My main future goal has always been to be a mother. If we have learned one thing about ART world – well, really about LIFE (no acronym there) – it is that nothing is guaranteed. We could do all of this and still not end up with a child. As much as I don’t want to think about that, it is a serious reality. So ultimately we think that, with the potential risks involved, it is unwise for us to “put it on plastic” as my grandma used to say. We just don’t think that taking away from the things we have already established and planned for to protect our future is wise. So when we put all of those things together, I knew what we needed to do to get this baby-ball rolling.
So Brave Souls, that is the story of how Fund Our Family (FOF) was born. We are going to raise funds for our future family. We will of course be contributing to the fund at least in the amount it would cost us to have a child in a more traditional way. But there is a very big gap between that number and the “lots of zeroes” number that is our new reality. And that’s where FOF is really going to be born, because right now it is more of a concept than anything.
Tomorrow I have scheduled an appointment with a tax advisor to discuss all the ins/out/do/don’ts of this fundraising adventure. People do it for adoption all the time, however there are very established tax rules for adoption. Not so much with infertility. And no tax credit either (huge injustice in today’s society, don’t even get me started…I know there a people working on that front and I may soon join the cause.) In the ART world and with surrogacy especially, it seems to be that the main trend is to finance it. Or be a movie star or millionaire. Financing is not the wrong choice for everyone. It is a very valid option. It’s just not the one we are choosing. So, even though I’ve done a lot of research into this myself, I feel like consulting a professional is the best option here – I don’t want to do anything wrong in this department! I have a wonderful and trusted friend on board who is going to help me navigate all the fundraising and be the official host of our fundraisers. She is amazing and her name for all of you in the blogs-sphere will be f3c. (Like C3PO, kind of…but more importantly, continuing my fascination with the letter “F” on this whole idea of Family building.)
These past two weeks I’ve been working side by side with my Fabulous Fund Finding Coordinator (f3c) organizing our first FOF event. We are putting together a garage sale for our kickoff event. It’s this coming Thursday – Saturday. I am amazed at how generous the small group of people I asked to donate have been! As I’ve gone through our house gathering things, I’m just overall feeling good about purging and getting rid of stuff that has been sitting in storage for years. We have a lot of junk sitting around that I’m hoping can become someone else’s treasure while helping us reach our little treasure. My living room and garage this week have resembled an episode of hoarders. It’s coming together slowly into organized categories of stuff. It’s been a ton of work, with a ton more to do before Thursday. I’m hoping and praying it will all be super worth it!! Prayers for great weather this weekend and lots of customers would be appreciated!
This is the first of what will likely be many fund raising efforts. So there will be plenty of opportunity for you if you’d like to help us FOF. Keep up with the blog for updates and future opportunities. We are excited to allow you to join our journey, wherever the road leads.
Yesterday was my repeat follicular ultrasound, and we were able to see about my ovarian reserve. But unfortunately, we did not get a “good news” day. We got a very bad news day; a worst case scenario, end of the road kind of day. I am, medically speaking, completely infertile. It was heartbreaking to hear. It is more heartbreaking to process. I’ve been praying for clarity since this journey began. So many brave souls have joined me in that prayer. I am thankful that our diagnostic testing was very clear. I’m glad for the clarity but I fear that I am breaking apart. I really needed a good news day.
There were two tests for me that were all the evidence that Dr. Feinberg needed to make this fertility potential determination. I failed both miserably. There is nothing about this that is borderline or questionable. It’s one of the first things I have ever experienced in a medical setting that seems very black and white. One of the tests was an AMH level. The other test was the antral follicle count. (The links provide more detail on these terms if you are interested.) For the AMH level, I was informed that anything around 1 would be a “good score.” My AMH result was 0.03. For the antral follicle count the doc didn’t actually say what number would be a passing score, or a number she could work with and expect successful outcomes in the lab. She just said my number wasn’t it. I have done my own research that suggests an average number would have been between 15-24. A number less than 5 means a woman is not likely to reproduce, even with assisted technology. My number was 2. I’m not used to failing so miserably, not even in the medical realm. Dr. Feinberg’s facial expression yesterday when giving me news is one I will not soon forget. She was pained. She is in the business of and has dedicated her work to changing challenging fertility situations. She had to tell me she recommend that I pursue other avenues to parenthood. She also reminded me not to give up hope and said that, “sometimes babies fall out of the sky.” It is, and will always remain true that we have other options to establish parenthood in the future, if we decide down that path. But I left the doctor’s office yesterday with the knowledge that, barring a miracle of biblical proportions (see Abraham, Sarah, & Isaac), there will be no children in this world who share my DNA. I am proud of myself for walking all the way out of the medical building before (actually twice because I forgot my jacket the first time) I broke down in tears. Today has been a sea of tears – salty, angry, and sad.
A friend sent me this bible verse today. Psalm 34:18 reads “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.“ As I reflect on the last week, these words honestly seem a little empty. I know they are not. I know and I trust that these words are a true promise of the true God. But my grief is overshadowing everything that is knowledge right now. I am in a place of emotional brokenness that previously could never have imagined.