The Intersection of Faith and Family Building: Part Two

Writing this part was much harder than I imagined it would be. It still feels very unfinished to me. There is no way I can describe the most intimate corners of my struggle in one part of a blog series. I’d never arrive the series to its intended end point. I suppose it remains that endings are merely finished beginnings. I’ve decided some of the work I’ve been doing here will be the beginning of the fantastic new adventure of working on writing a book. I’ve always known I’d do it someday. I’ve been hearing I should write a book since the third grade. I wrote my first poem before I even knew how to form letters. I am undoubtedly gifted with words. It’s been confirmed and affirmed again and again. I know words as they know me. It’s simply that, as I’ve said before, I’m famously unpublished. I never believed that I wasn’t a writer however, I still question if I’m ‘worth’ publishing. But I will write anyway. I will finally take the risk – because in the words is where I am known.

Two and a half years ago, sitting in a doctors office listening to very disappointing news, something clicked in my soul when it shattered onto silence in the form of tears coming from the face of the doctor in front of me. The doctor who had to tell me the hard-to-say words. A summary of words that word spoken over the course of three appointments: It goes against my hippocratic oath to recommend you carry your own child. It goes against all the evidence I have in front of me to suggest you try to harvest your genetic material, and in fact some of that evidence would contradict that oath as well. We will have to explore other options. Then she said three words that changed my life. Third Party Reproduction. I knew the instant those three words were uttered exactly where my story started. I finally had the story worth writing! [Internal ‘gut check’ conversation: “It’s such bull crap that I believe this is the first thing I have worth writing about. Just because this is the first thing I have that could potentially be a best seller….c’mon, Kate, seriously? You’re better than that! Really? Why did it take this long? Why did it need to be this big?…It didn’t. Don’t believe this. I mean, do it, write it, sell it. Achieve the Dream. But don’t you dare believe it this is where your story ends. Or even where it started. You have so much good stuff worth telling inside of you…you are a writer.]

This Third Party Reproduction stuff was straight out of a Lifetime movie and it was happening to…me. As a famously unpublished writer, thirty-five years in the making, I’m stammering as get this next part out. I’ve come upon this crash of these separate areas of my life – faith and family building – unprepared. I’ve spent incredible effort keeping them on separate plains; I never saw the crash coming. On the night Addie announced her synchroblog for the Night Driving release, I was sitting in the rubble before I knew how it happened. The crash that happened then is under a heap of history that needs to be told; if for no other reason than – “I have never“…”told the whole thing.

Please stick with me, especially if my list of ailments isn’t your thing. History informs the present because of what we have learned. The bits of history I will touch on in the next two parts of this series are not especially crucial to our Team Dream Baby journey. However, the piece that matters is that I’ve lived through “what came before” to continue writing this unusual legacy of love. My health history, twisted and complex, put down a lot of the roots for our path to parenthood even before we learned the finality of the issue that prohibited me from becoming a mom by traditional/biological methods. Since “normal” is not the type of game I like to play, when we learned what our options to achieve parenthood looked like, I pretty much faced it with a “Challenge Accepted!” response. While my heart was heavy with the weight of disappointment that it would’t be more “normal”  – it felt so much like it fit for me. I do the unusual things usually, so why not this too? The winding road of medical mystery that began when I was a tender teenage girl has turned and turned and turned. From the winding emerged a woman who knows no more about where the road will end than she did when she was fourteen. But let me tell you some of how we got here:
Grab your flashlights, Brave Souls. The lights are about to go out again.

The Intersection of Faith and Family Building     Part Two: Chronic Pain Chronicles

Sixteen years into our relationship, my neurologist continues to shake his head at me and call me an enigma in our regular appointments. He’s basically been doing that since the day we met. I baffle really well trained intelligent medical professionals on a regular basis. Sometimes I joke that part of my purpose in life is so they don’t get big heads and think they have all the answers. Though it’s a joke mostly, there is a space in my heart where – having baffled teams of doctors at The Mayo Clinic and several University Hospitals and all the specialists I see – it also feels like a genuine part of why I’m here. I’ve made peace with it over the years but it wasn’t always so easy to joke about it.

In 1994 at what was then, Children’s Memorial Hospital in Chicago, two days before my fourteenth birthday, I was spun into a tornado of testing that plopped me quite roughly into a very big and equally vague autoimmune disease bucket. All because of a little blood test that revealed a high Antinuclear Antibodies (ANA) level. At that time I started following regularly with a rheumatologist and allergist due to my unique and most concerning onset of symptoms, which were hives and massive swelling. Over the years, that big “autoimmune bucket” has developed into a list of diagnoses rivaled only by the list of medications I’ve taken to treat the diseases and pain caused by them. These vague autoimmune bucket diseases and the regimens of drugs (mostly steroids, which often are worse than the symptom they are used to treat) ruined my young body. I have, for over half of my life, dealt with daily chronic pain. Fatigue so bad I could sleep for four days at a time without noticing or being able to care. Several hospitalizations. Long periods of time where I couldn’t even get out of bed. For months.

As a sophomore in high school, age sixteen, I landed in an Emergency Room for blinding pain that turned out to be ovarian cysts and endometriosis. This required the addition of a gynecologist/surgeon to my growing cumulation of doctors. I had three surgeries for cysts and endometriosis before I was twenty. At thirty-five, the surgery count on my female region is up to nine. I have pelvic ultrasounds more frequently than most people go to the dentist. I am looking head-on at the devastating potential of an “any day now” partial or full hysterectomy the next time my lady bits misbehave. (I must insert here that for the last several years, my goal was to make it to thirty-five before I needed a hysterectomy. Now having passed that finish line, I feel relieved. I’m still young for a hysterectomy, but not as young as I could have been.)

Meet 1998/99. It was supposed to be the beginning of my life. I was a seventeen year old college freshman. My career as a journalist was at my fingertips – only four years of college and then I’d write things that mattered for real. No longer would my writing be confined by youth; stuck in district writing competitions, small local papers, school newspapers, or my own journals. It would be trained and honed. Polished. Professional. In four short years I’d be a degreed writer whom people would take seriously. Rather than leaping into a brilliant career as an award winning journalist, I got slammed with a new symptom. Headaches that never went away. At the onset, I was so debilitated by the pain I was forced to quit a college I loved only having been there for five weeks. Instead of experiencing classes, all-nighters, and the “freshman 15” I moved back in with my parents just before my eighteenth birthday (le huge sigh). I took time off from college and got 15-20 injections of steroids into massive trigger points and nerves in my head every other week in attempt to manage the pain. At that time, I added a neurologist, various headache specialists, and a pain management doctor to the line-up of medical professionals I was rotating into the field of me.
In 1998, age eighteen, I was officially diagnosed with Systemic Lupus Erythematous (SLE). Shortly thereafter came a strong suspicion of Multiple Sclerosis (MS) for which I am continually monitored. But here’s a kicker to the MS pseudo-diagnosis…since I only have one lesion on my brain I don’t get the official diagnosis (not that I need anymore of those) or any of the treatment protocols involved with MS, just some of the bizarre and life-altering symptoms. This diagnosis and pseudo-diagnosis confirmed I had been correctly plopped in that vague bucket of autoimmune disease years prior. Eventually, I returned to school part-time at a community college while learning how to navigate the headache that never ended.

I determined pretty quickly (in that short five weeks I spent in the first ‘real journalism class’ I took) that I likely did not have the competitive nature that journalism would require. So I took my time at community college just gathering the pre-requisite classes I’d need for whatever I got a degree instead of the journalism degree I frankly couldn’t hack. It wasn’t really the time for figuring out what career I wanted to pursue anymore. Life was reduced to trying to get to the bottom of whatever was causing this headache and make it go away. I tried so many different medications during that time that I cannot even list them all. Nothing worked. I was diagnosed with Migraine, Occipital Neuralgia, Chronic Daily Headache, Tension Headache and probably some other types of headache like-things I have since forgotten.

The headache monster became so intense and disruptive, that one year into my second-fiddle Elementary Education degree at Northern Illinois University, I underwent surgery to have a Medtronic Neruostimulator on the nerves in my cervical spine. My nerves were seriously messed up and responding to the pain by creating more pain. It was a vicious cycle my body couldn’t stop on its own. At the time, these devices were mainly used in spinal injury and chronic back pain patients. There was little evidence to support the use of this type of system in the cervical spine. It wasn’t experimental, per se, but I recall significant conversations about the risk/benefit factors involved. In addition to hours in conversation and consideration, I had to go through a six-day trial period of using an externally controlled device before they would do the full implantation. I walked around for those six days with wires visibly hanging out of my head. I couldn’t shower. I covered my greasy hair with bandanas and only went places that were absolutely necessary.

The pain management doctor I was seeing at the time was as hopeful about the outcome as he was aggressive about treating my pain. He explained that the Neruostimulator would work by interrupting the nerves with an electrical signal. Instead of the pain sensation that had become their habit, the hope was to distract my nerves enough so that my brain would perceive these electrical signals and feel that sensation instead of the pain. If it worked, my laymans understanding gathered that it would be trickery at its finest. In late May of 2002, they put me in a gown, shaved part of my hair and cut my head open in three places. They placed four sets of leads onto the nerves they had identified as malfunctioning. They also cut open my right side (just above my ribs) where they put the titanium battery that powered the leads which sent the stimulation to my very confused cervical and occipital nerves. Two more cuts were made on my shoulder/upper back where they were needed to feed the wires to connect the battery to the leads through my body. This device came with a clunky remote which allowed me to turn the system on or off and to adjust the level of the stimulation within preset parameters define by the physician and Medtronic technical support folks. Basically, I felt like a robot! One of my friends in college nicknamed me Vicky.

It wasn’t brain surgery. But it sure wasn’t easy either. There was a part of the surgery where they had to wake me up to make sure that the leads were placed correctly. For me the experience of surgery is usually a giant blur, but I remember that moment as though it was yesterday. Recovery was a bitch. I had to wear a neck brace for a couple weeks while the incisions healed and at first there was so much pain from the surgical sites I was deeply discouraged and doubtful about the outcome. But you know what? It worked! The pain from the headaches reduced by a little over 50% and I could function (somewhat) normally again. For the first time in five years I felt a little bit like myself again. Trickery at its finest, indeed!! I started my 2002/03 school year with hope for a year of less pain.

One morning in early September of 2002, I was putting my hair in a pony tail before class and there was a sharp tearing feeling in my head. Suddenly the electrical stimulation I’d grown accustom to feeling on the base of my head was not where it was meant to be. The lead shifted and pulled the stimulation down; the sensation moved to the right side of my neck and down into my shoulder. I ran to my bedroom to get my remote. I shut the system off. I called the doctor. I went for in depth fluoroscopic x-rays. I didn’t need them to tell me that/where the thing had moved. I knew exactly where it was. Sometimes I can still feel it there in the side of my neck where it didn’t belong.

The first revision surgery was in October sometime. They weren’t able to get the electrodes back to the exact place as they had been the first time. As a result a percentage of the pain came back. It was still manageable in comparison to the pre-implant pain, but I was so mad about it. While it was still better than before the implant, it wasn’t as good as the first time. The first implant had reduced the pain roughly by half. It was still a lot of pain. It just wasn’t life-halting pain anymore. Before the revision, I had been given four months of very necessary relief. Simply putting my hair in a ponytail robbed me of the half as good that I felt from the first surgery’s 50% pain reduction. To say that dipping again below that 50% improvement mark felt unfair doesn’t do justice to the emotional hell it was reconciling with this new less-than-half-better pain reality. I can’t tell you how long it was before I attempted a ponytail again after that first revision surgery.
When the leads slipped again in late November we scheduled the second revision surgery for December after fall semester finals concluded. The following February the lead slipped a third time and my very frustrated pain management doctor admitted he’d reached his limit. He called in reinforcements in the form of a skilled neurosurgeon familiar with Medtronic systems. We consulted his training and wisdom for a better solution. The neurosurgeon decided it was best to redo the whole damn thing. This fourth surgery consisted of re-entering the thrice entered surgical sites on my head and shoulder and re-opening the side incision. For the fourth surgery, the neurosurgeon would insert a small clip in the place they assumed to be causing the trouble with the slipping leads.

In my second semester of student teaching clinical, while I waited for that fourth surgery to take place, providence would have it, I got into a pretty terrible car wreck. I never saw it coming. The driver of the other car had pulled out of a street parking spot and T-boned my tiny favorite green Honda Civic on the driver side. It was a snowy February morning before 7am on a college campus and we were both issued tickets for the crash – me for failing to yield on a left turn; him for having not cleared off his windshield. To this day, when I replay that moment over in my head, I’m positive he was not there when I started my turn. There was frost and snow on his windshield when the police arrived on the scene. We were both at fault according to the report, each responsible for our own damages. One of the officers told me that he was pretty sure my account was correct and that the other driver pulled too quickly out of a parking spot without clearing his windshield.

My already pained body hit its physical limit that day and synchronously an emotional one. It is a day that is burned on the memory of my soul. There was the glass in my eye from my head hitting and breaking the driver side window, the blue suede shoes (cue: Elvis singing in my head in the middle of all of this) the driver of the other vehicle had on his feet, and my most favorite car getting crushed beyond repair. There were the jaws of life and that loud sound they made tearing my tiny car open. There was the backboard. The neck brace. All the paramedics with their careful jolting movements of me. There was the burning pain in my shoulder that made my constant headache seem dull. The rest of me went entirely numb. I was absolutely terrified I was paralyzed until the CAT Scan result showed no issues. It was mostly shock, a little blood, and a really banged up shoulder that needed a sling for a few weeks.

Knowing I needed her to without me even telling her so, a treasured friend agreed to forget the accident happened (though she saw the whole thing unfold in front of her apartment building that morning) and shuttled me, as we had planned to go, to a weekend away at an InterVaristy retreat. She pushed my deflated still-in-shock-self around in a wheel chair all weekend. While I don’t really remember the retreat – there were undoubtedly large amounts of pain killers involved – I do remember the pain. The physical pain was secondary to the emotional pain. The end of my rope had become shreds, impossible to grasp any longer. I remember, after realizing I was alive and not paralyzed, this overwhelming sense of being relieved that the leads had already shifted. If they hadn’t, the accident would have likely cause them to shift. It was nice that the surgery to fix them was already scheduled for spring break; one less thing to worry about. I recall thinking that a variety of pain was a nice way to change things up from the monotony of only always the headache pain. The pain meds were also nice. They dulled the edge of the pain regardless the source.

While I didn’t recognize it as such initially, now I mark that weekend’s events as the beginning of the breakdown of my faith. It took years to completely break but it was then that I’d finally had enough. I had my limit of feeling the pure punishment of this unrelenting pain. I truly, madly, deeply believed in and loved a God who could heal pain. Yet that same God was not healing my pain. It felt like He was only giving me more. I concluded something must be wrong with me. I probably wasn’t worth healing. Conversely…maybe God had called me to this life of pain…for a greater purpose. Maybe I was meant to handle harder things than my peers. Maybe this pain was His Will for me. Over the course of the next several years, I wrestled with the dichotomy of those two lines of questioning in some pretty bizarre ways.

In hindsight I am glad that His protection was paramount to my emotional ending point. I’m pretty sure no one really knew how miserable I was inside during the next few years. I played them like I had everything together and I pursued God with everything I had. I was pretty sure no one had any idea that I had, in truth, challenged God to a duel over my soul. I declared an all-out war on the mistake God made when He created me and I dared Him to prove me wrong.

 

The Intersection of Faith & Family Building continues soon…
Part Three: Continuing Chronic Pain Chronicles

Preview:

The choices I made from 2003 to 2007 were really an internal litmus tests for God’s love for me. Did He really love me enough…to take away my pain? They were also a litmus test for my worthiness to be loved by Him. What was I doing wrong in my pursuit of Him that He didn’t heal me and restore my broken body?

After a failed attempt at graduate school in 2004 I was convinced I needed to change my focus. Maybe God was calling me to full-time ministry!! If I worked for Him full-time in a ministry role, surely that would make me worthy of His healing power!!…

… a decade of wisdom under my belt since I audaciously challenged God to a battle of wills over my very life – I now understand Him in ways I only pretended to comprehend in the days I lived a more ‘on fire’ kind of faith than I do now. My faith is woven through this rare medical mystery that lives inside this woman called Kate. I realize now that the events that transpired in the next phase of my life were not a war. God simply didn’t allow them to become the war [over His “mistake” (in me) that] I intended them to be. Instead, the next years of my life were filled with His amazing and powerful grace realized in new and profoundly simple ways.

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

Babycakes Brunch & Baskets

We are settling now after a beautiful  a holiday week where THANKS is ALL we have to GIVE. We are certainly thankful for the  many people – family, friends and strangers – who came together to support and cheer us on along our journey at Babycakes Brunch & Baskets. I almost made it through the day without crying. Almost.

Last Sunday is a day I will be long in forgetting. The love and support we had poured on us was warm and gooey – like the syrup on the delicious pancakes we served our guests! Such amazing food, gorgeous baskets, raffle prizes, face-painting and photos w/Santa made the day oh-so-so perfect. One dear friend described it back to me as “…such a peaceful and relaxing time.” – which was honestly – quite a shock. From my perspective it seemed anything but peaceful and relaxing – it was great – so great – but just go.go.go. For me, crazed and hectic were more accurate descriptors. My heart was warmed even more to hear that we met our goal of giving people a nice space and a REALLY fun morning.

I want to take a  moment and public ally thank our AWEsome team of helpers/volunteers. I wish I could name each of you, but I’d miss someone. I just know I would. There will never be enough I can do to thank all of you! I have seldom (if ever) been in a room with people that can bring such crazy visions to life as well as these fabulous people did for us on Sunday. My sweet Brave Soul, Brooke, has a special thank you place in my heart – for without her involvement, this event would have never taken flight.

We’re still tallying totals, but I am very confident in reporting that this was the largest and MOST FUN funding event we’ve held on our Team Dream Baby journey to date!! I’ll report a total # of what this even brought in as soon as we have it tallied. For now, enjoy these photos and make plans to come to our next event! I have a feeling they will only be getting better and better as we go along!

So many generous donations!!
on our way to Babycakes Brunch
💜 Her face! Just like a kid on Christmas morning!!

The Forever Kind

In honor of her 34th birthday today, I want to celebrate my friend – the one I’ve been alluding to in many of my post but have not identified to all you Brave Souls who have joined our journey.  


I have a great story to tell today. I have a great story to tell about a great woman. I have a great story to tell about a great woman who was just a girl when I met her.

I was just a girl too. It was the beginning of the school year, 1994. I was finally a freshman!! I was nervous and excited at the same time. I felt fairly ridiculous in my plaid skirt and shirt embroidered with my school’s name on the front. I had not been in a school building since the 3rd grade. So going to school was a big deal for me. Never mind that I was beginning my journey at a Catholic school, in a plaid wool skirt at the end of August. Also, I was not Catholic. I was raised as a combination of Evangelical, Assembly’s of God, and Non-denominational Christian. (And no, I wasn’t truant for 5 years, I was homeschooled in the late ’80’s and early 90’s.) 

Freshman at our school had half-lockers. Mine was on the bottom. They were bright yellow, and in the basement of our school. As if freshman don’t stand out enough, our lockers were simply sore thumbs that drove that point home. They were the color of big bird and stacked one on top of the other like the building blocks we played with in pre-school. To just add fuel to the newbie-fire, the rest of the school had green full-sized lockers. Seriously – with the wool uniform skirts, the mini-big-bird-lockers, the theology classes, the weekly mandatory mass, and the hallway that always smelled like marijuana – it’s really incredible any of us ever made any friends. What’s more amazing to me is that one of the friends I made during my time in the above mentioned chaos disguised as education has become such an amazing and irreplaceable gift to my soul.

The first time I saw her was at our lockers the first morning of high school. She had the yellow half locker next to mine. One of the first things I noticed about her was her equally sweet and shy smile. I don’t think we said much, if anything to each other that first time we saw each other. We were both too nervous at that first encounter. Our newbie minds were overwhelmed with remembering the combination to our locks, and having to carry the right books to classrooms we had no idea how to navigate our way toward. (We weren’t allowed to carry backpacks through the halls. And yes, freshman do gets books knocked out of their hands for just for kicks.)

We ended up walking to our first class pretty much together in a silent understanding of figuring it out one step at a time. By 2nd period, the sweet smiling girl had a name. Buy 4th period we’d been in every class together and we’d chosen seats near one another in every subsequent class in solidarity, if nothing else. When we were exchanging info on the rest of our first day’s schedule we learned we had band together. That naturally lead to the question “what do you play?” We both played flute. That was the connection we needed then. The flute remains a big part of our story even though both of us have long since neglected the instruments which were our instant forever connection. 

We had no idea that first day that our friendship would be the forever kind. But we both now we realize we know the One who did. 

That first day we had no idea that we’d eventually be college roommates for a year. We had no idea that it would be through our friendship that her younger sister would become aquatinted with her now husband. We had no idea that I would attend her wedding months after her older sister was diagnosed with stage  4 bile-duct/liver cancer. We had no idea that she’d meet her husband and I’d meet my helpmate. We dreamed and thought of so many things together -some of which have become reality and so of which were just dreams that fizzled out for whatever reason. One time, we talked about starting a business together, but it wasn’t the right time – perhaps we will pick that dream up again someday. 

I cried that day she brought me to her first owned home and on the tour announced “This will be the nursery, we’re pregnant!!” I had no idea the closeness I’d develop to her children who now call me Auntie Katy. We had no idea that in October of 2013, after learning the devastating news that I couldn’t/shouldn’t carry a pregnancy, that she would sit on the couch in my living room and genuinely offer to carry a baby for us. 

As high school freshmen, we couldn’t have imagined the amazing joys and horrible sorrows that life would throw our direction. For so many, many of our journeys through this life, doing it with the other would have been impossible. I am blessed beyond measure by this wonderful friend God designed for me. I could try to explain how much so, but fear my mere words would fail the task. I’m forever thankful for a faithful God who knew we’d need each other in this life. Who knew just how to knit together the ties of our lives “for such a time as this” – over and over and over again through our  20 years of friendship. (Yes we really are that old now..ugh.)

We don’t know what is in store for the next part of our story. For this phase of our friendship. But we know the One who does. And we’re all trusting that He knows and has all of us and the future of our new adventures together secured in His strong and mighty hands. The one thing I am sure of is that she and I will remain forever friends. 

So here’s to you, sweet friend. Happy Birthday!! Thank you for allowing God to develop you into who you are. You amaze me. I love you. Forever!

Bumps in the Road

This journey has bumps. We are ultimately hoping for and longing for that to take shape in a baby-sized bump at some point, today the baby-bump experience seems dauntingly far away. 

The second opinion confirmed the first; that natural pregnancy is inadvisable for me. If we are able to harvest eggs (still unknown at this point) we will need to pursue using a gestational carrier. I won’t lie, I was hoping the second opinion would be laced with magic and that I would be “allowed” to experience the miracle of growing life inside myself. However, I am oddly comforted today that two opinions match – even if to a disappointing reality. I’m not built to carry a baby on the inside. This saddens me deeply. I will need to grieve this point thoroughly in the coming weeks and months ahead, and maybe partially for the rest of my natural life. But it’s clear, confirmed and true.  

If we pursue pregnancy, it will be in the form of what is referred to legally as Third Party Reproduction. It will be expensive. It will be risky. It will be stressful. It will be crazy. We still have to investigate a lot to be determine how expensive, how risky, and how crazy-stressful it will be. There is a VERY long road ahead even to get to the place where we make that decision. 

I am much more comfortable with the demeanor & communication style of our new doctor. While their opinions mirror each other, their approaches are different enough to confirm my suspicions that Dr. Feinberg is a better fit for us. I’m thrilled to be inviting her and her staff on this journey with us. I’m thrilled that she is willing to work with my existing physicians to figure out what will be best for me. I’m also comforted that one of her first warnings to me is that she has self-imposed, hippocratic oath based limits as to how far she will recommend we carry this journey. 

So begins the real journey. The legwork is scary. There is a legal component that (I think) would drive most lawyers crazy. There are physical, biological, psychological, and hormonal tests for at least three people (four if our carrier is married) that all have to be in line for us to proceed. There is an financial component that needs to be ironed out and figured out and funded. Then there is the risk/benefit assessment of the success rate and …. So on and so on until I turn shares of blue I’ve never seen. 

Oh – and, for those of you who don’t know yet, which is probably most of you – there is this small 3.5cm problem we found today on the ultrasound. It seems I am forming another cyst. Just another little bump in the road. Or possibly a really massive bump. We can’t know just yet.

I go for more evaluations with my regular GYN tomorrow. He’s not yet concerned because size wise, it would have to double to be surgical. But I will be reminding him kindly that for that last cyst’s occurrence, he advised me to ” take 4 ibuprofen and call me in a couple days.” That approach landed him in an OR for 2.5 hours on Labor Day Weekend removing a 9cm hemorrhagic cyst and most of my remaining ovary.  I don’t want another surgery – to be sure!! But he was rather blasé about it on the phone today and I was honestly off-put by his tone. Maybe he was expecting a bigger cyst from me. I mean 3cm hardly competes with the 9cm & 11cm ones I presented with the last two times. Maybe 3cm deserves the blasé response that undoubtedly pulled him away from another patient. Our chat in the afternoon shall be a lively one…if I can keep myself out of the ER tonight. 

Sweet dreams, oh, brave souls. Have some for me please? Of bumps baby-sized and cysts that disappear. Tomorrow the journey continues and tonight I am feeling weary.


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.