Synchroblog for Night Driving/The Intersection of Faith & Family Building: Part One

Forgive this beginning. It’s a little rough. I planned on using part of this in a different format and couldn’t bare to change it. So I added and reworked it for this. I will eventually put it in its intended place on a support group at Inspire through Resolve. Only because I had already started writing it down was it even feasible to consider finishing it…which of course turned into (ahem!) the beginning of a whole series. I couldn’t get it all out in time for this amazing syncroblog book launch. This started as a plea from my soul for my current dark place: infertility. It is hardly the only dark place in my life, but it is the one where I spend the most time these days. When I learned about the Night Driving syncroblog for Addie’s new book launch; I instantly knew this writing needed to morph into the beginning of something very different.

Now, bear with me for a few moments as I do a quick unsolicited plug for Addie and her amazing new book Night Driving. Read it. It will be amazing. I’m sure! It’s impossible for me to explain in any other way: I’m madly in love awe with this woman!! I have a huge writer crush on her and maybe a little bit want to be her. (Addie, do forgive me for making it public like this! It’s just that everyone should know really – it’s been almost two months!) All jokes aside, as a writer I have so much love and respect for Addie. I identify intensely with her words. As I’ve read them I often find myself exclaiming that I could have penned them! I think this is partly because I am a writer. I think it is partly because I am on a very similar path of trying to untangle my own upbringing through the Evangelical webs she writes about so candidly in her first book. I think it is partly because I also struggle with Depression. Currently, I am inhaling her words like deep breaths. Every. Single. One. I’ve read many of her recent blogs and am slowly making my way through When We Were On Fire. With ever chapter, I am finding myself simultaneously angry (that I didn’t know about it two years ago) and overjoyed (because it has come in the “now” to encourage and prompt me forward at just.the.right.time). I didn’t even know Addie was alive until the end of January. Her bravery and candor have helped me – in so many ways – over the last (almost) two months. I feel more free in my own skin than I may have at any point in my life. It feels like her words have given my not-so-Brave-Soul enough courage to stop running around in the circles of the darkness of my own heart and finally just speak out. Into the darkness. Without expectation of finding light. That hasn’t been an option for me previously. I’m ridiculously excited to have this outlet for my story. I am without doubt that the timing of this has all been written by the Divine. While I know full well that Addie didn’t intend it so, it feels very much like this synrochoblg was designed specifically for me. It is the very push I needed to finally tell the story people have spent most of my life trying to convince me to write.

So grab a flashlight (if you need one) and join me, Brave Souls. The lights are about to go out.

The Intersection of Faith and Family Building: Part One


On Why I Need a Support Group

There’s a game we used to play in college called “I Have Never.” Until now I could have answered “I have never…joined a support group.” I’ve come to the point where I can no longer journey on this crazy road of infertility (IF) “alone.” I’m not alone, I know. Not really. My life is full of supportive people. I am blessed beyond measure with amazing family, friends, and framily (new word, you do the math!). I have so many people. I love all my people. It’s a pretty incredible thing to be able to say that even two and a half years into our IF journey, people I currently know and trust have filled my need for a supportive community. I am thankful for the myriad of blessings that last statement represents. Another key person in my support network is an amazing therapist. She entered stage left when my shit really hit the fan when I was a young teenager; dealing with the heartbreak of losing my first love. I was kind of forced there by my loving parents after threatening to end my life at the end of my 10-month-long first relationship. I tend toward dramatic, not gonna lie. But really, it crushed me then. It was a brilliant move on the part of my parents to drag 15-year-old me there that night to her office in my brown suede jacket. Since then, I have been able to see my therapist on a regular basis throughout every pitch black corner my life has been bent around. These days I drive 1.5 hours to get to her office at least every 3 months (often more). She truly is invaluable.

I know – I have always known – that support groups are available. I have recommended support groups to other people. I even have some training in how to run support groups from the brief time I spent in an MSW program. I just didn’t think I ever belonged in one. Or, maybe worse, I didn’t think I needed one.

I’ve had a very messed up view of support groups. (I have a very messed up view of a lot of things…). It’s safe to summarize though that I’ve never liked them much. While not always true, I’ve found support groups to be darker places than I can handle. Then again, I’ve never invested very much time trying to really belong to one. My past very minimal experience with them however, convinced me I needed to stay very far from what ever was happening in these groups. Now, I see it as a self-protective reaction to my narrow access of experiences. There was just too much darkness there for my naive and sheltered heart. My heart which only knew how to search one very narrow path to the Light; get out of the darkness as fast as possible. Go Into the Light. Finally, through many years of defining, losing, and then re-defining my faith, I think have found a doorway to enter into the darkness where I find my faithful and constantly broken heart. Support groups, at least one of them, will be very different for me now.

When considering a Third Party Reproduction option as the path to parenthood it doesn’t feel lonely but the opposite; I think it feels over-crowded. So many nights I wish it could just be him & me and a bottle of wine, like it is for normal regular fertile people. It can’t be like that for us though. So while we travel this path where it is leading us, even though we have a wonderful village surrounding us, I think I need to find a different village. I need a village on a journey that looks more like mine. Because when it comes down to it, I can talk to my my partner, my fertile friends, my family, my very amazing therapist, and every Target cashier from IL to Texas, all.day.long; at the end of the day I still wind up feeling alone and isolated. WITHOUT. Without a baby. Without the ability to conceive. Without anyone who really gets this place of failure and isolation I feel so deeply today.

Truth is though, I’m not sure I really even belong here. These IF support group boards are so full of people talking about cycles and embryos and transfers – successful or otherwise. Reading them makes me feel like a misfit toy. I have spots on my face, my buttons are sewn on sideways with the holes to fasten them together just out of my reach of my stubby little fingers.

One of the reasons I’ve stayed away from this space – support groups – is that I fear I will still feel alone after I reach out and make myself vulnerable. I’m praying I’m wrong. I’m hoping that my desire to enter into a village of people whose heartbeats resound in empty spaces instead of in screams of the children is met with similarly spotted faces. Writing this I know that even if I don’t find that here, even if I am the misfit of the all the misfits, part of me needs this step to move forward – to level up and begin the next phase of this amazing story that I’m in charge of writing.

Of course, if you know me you, you understand that to the best of my ability, I have sought to write my story only with the guidance and grace of the Great God of the universe. When He created this whole insane universe, vast and complex as we know it to be today, I have faith in this: surely He didn’t create my life outside His grasp of the very complicated things.
~~~
My blog is singularly focused on this relatively new Team Dream Baby journey. I don’t talk too much about my faith here. That’s been very much on purpose. Truth is, our TDB journey has been a HUGE part of the restoration of my faith. I have been processing in other places because of the controversial nature of how we are choosing to build our family. The use of the word ‘surrogacy’ causes a lot of waves in the faith-based communities of my youth. Really, surrogacy is just pretty controversial anywhere. [Challenge: Bring up ‘gestational surrogacy’ (use our story if you can’t find another reason) next time you’re anywhere just for kicks and comment on the questions that follow! That would be a really fun exercise!]

For those of you who don’t know me pre-TDB, there is a lot about my life that isn’t on the pages of this blog. It couldn’t live here at first. The rest of my life and this new crazy amazing adventure needed to be separate. They aren’t separate though and I’m kind of tired of forcing my faith apart from my future family. It’s exhausting. So I’m getting ready to run the giant flashing red light at the intersection of Faith & Family Building. I’m gonna cause a huge crash, and we’re gonna need a lot of Brave Souls to join the rescue crew.
If you do know me, you know that my faith has always – even when I lost it completely – driven my life. My faith is my compass, albeit the magnet a little loose. No matter which direction it points me, I always find my way Home. To the God who created me just as I am. Our future child is not where I place my faith, but the dream of him (or her) in my arms forces me to refine my faith even when it’s scary as hell and I’d rather just flush it all down a drain.
I focus on happy and hopeful things on the blog a lot. When you’re asking people to fund your dream, as we are, I don’t think it’s ‘smart marketing’ to be a negative nelly. I’ve learned so many new things on this path. For example how to self-host a blog, what a “synchroblog” even is! (I am ever evolving and learning this blogging stuff as I go. Thanks for the patience as I put it all together so slowly. Really, so BRAVE!) I’ve learned so much about Family Building options I never knew. I have woken a passion for the infertility community that I hope to expand upon in days and years to come. It’s been one of the best times of my life. It’s also been one of the most difficult and darkest places I’ve ever traveled. In a lot of ways though, I’m thriving in ways I never thought possible. I cannot genuinely tribute the hope and light I’ve found on this journey without describing more of the darkness of my life.

Please stay tuned for

The Intersection of Faith and Family Building: Part Two


 

My Life of Chronic Pain

Preview:

“… 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 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 real 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 (Now Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital Chicago), two days before my 14th birthday, I was spun into a tornado of testing that plopped me quite roughly in a very big (and equally vague) autoimmune disease bucket. …”

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.  

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.

How FOF was Born

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.