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

Oh, Fork!

My heartbreak took on an entirely different face when I discovered that my sweet man, the love of my life, does not share my in passion for our pursuit of parenthood. He is, at current (and maybe forever), uninterested in any non biological solutions to our path to parenthood. 

It appears as though we packed our proverbial bags of hope for this journey with very different contents. This revelation has brought our path to parenthood to a very unexpected dead end. Devistated is far too gentle a term for my reaction to this information. I am finding myself searching for a fork in the road that very likely doesn’t (and may never) exsit. 

Clarity

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. 

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.