John Luke turned one year old on Tuesday, November 26th. We held his first birthday party, the following Saturday at Wallabies, a popular kids place in town. They have wall-to-wall inflatable slides, obstacle courses, and a toddler area for ages 3 and under. It was perfect: Indoors, something for all ages, and not at my house!
Wallabies has a huge climbing area for toddlers, with cushioned vinyl stairs and tunnels. It was interesting to watch John Luke explore a new environment. I also loved seeing him interact with the other kids. We had about 11 kids and 20 adults come celebrate his birthday with us.
It was a fun filled week with mine and Josh’s parents coming on Wednesday for Thanksgiving, then for the birthday party on Saturday. My parents headed home Sunday morning, and Josh’s parents will be leaving Monday, after following us to Knoxville. Josh and I have our sibling appointment and mock transfer at the NEDC with Dr. Keenan 9 Am Monday morning.
It will be the first time we have taken John Luke to meet the NEDC staff. We live only two hours from Knoxville, but I haven’t wanted to drop in unexpected, knowing how busy they stay with patients. Since we will be there for our appointment, I can’t wait for them to meet my cutie pie!
I was also having concerns about bringing a baby into an infertility clinic where there are patients struggling to have a child. I remember being one of those patients a few years back. It is my hope, John Luke will be an inspiration, as living proof, that embryo adoption does work as an alternative to family building.
It’s that time of year when everyone is supposed to feel thankful. Full of hope. Gratitude.
But if you’re struggling with infertility, or have ever felt the pain of that longing, this can be the worst time of the year.
You’re surrounded by families at the mall. Christmas songs sung by children haunt the radio. Pregnant women proudly display their rotund bellies adorned by colorful scarves.
The last thing you feel is in the Christmas spirit, let alone thankful, hopeful, or grateful.
You feel… thankless.
I have soaked many pillows with my tears on Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Eve, and Christmas Day. The longing for a child runs deep. It penetrates the interior, and like a cancer, eats away until it captures your soul. Your identity.
If you’re not diligent and on guard, it imprisons your joy.
I’ve been there.
Even after having children, and in many ways, having been delivered from that imprisonment, I still bear the scars.
And for that, I’m thankful.
Infertility has made me a more compassionate person, and not just to others sharing in the same struggle. To others who have broken relationships – with their parents, their children, their siblings. To others who have lost parents, children.
Infertility has also given me a platform that, without experience, I would have no credibility with those who seek my counsel. Just like you wouldn’t want to take marriage advice from someone who has never been married, people don’t want to talk about infertility with someone who has no problem getting pregnant.
In many ways, infertility has been a gift.
Infertility gave me my son. Infertility gave me my daughter.
Infertility has woven a beautiful, painful tapestry in my life.
The effects of infertility have made me thankful.
The above quote is one that I have heard from countless families as they were preparing to donate their embryos. As these donor families are in the process of donating their embryos, they reflect that receiving embryos was never presented to them as an option when they considered pursuing in vitro fertilization for their family building plan.
This thought is not spoken with regret, but rather as an observation how the embryo donor process has evolved. Families today that desire to give birth to their adopted child have the wonderful option of receiving embryos that compassionate donors are offering. It is a great option to give life to embryos that remain in frozen storage and are willingly donated by the family that created them.
While the process of embryo donation and adoption occurs in the sanctuary of a medical facility, the decision to donate emanates from the heart of couples who have remaining embryos in storage. The two families involved may never meet or they may choose to have an open relationship. Many donor families report that, even though they do not know nor have an open relationship with the recipients, that they think of the family that received their donated embryos many times.
On several occasions, I have called donors to share with them that the recipient family did not become pregnant with their donated embryos. I was humbled by the way that these generous families grieved for the family for whom embryo donation and adoption was not successful. The donor family had experienced disappointment as they traveled through infertility and they well knew the grief and loss that the recipient family was experiencing.
Embryo donation is a wonderful way to build a family. Through the generosity of one family, a new family is joyously created.
I’m feeling hopeful about the adoption of Grant and Maria’s siblings. Everything is moving along smoothly and the adoptive family has their first NEDC appointment in April, so I’m guessing if all goes well, they could have their transfer by this time next year if not sooner.
I’ve been down memory lane a few times as adoptive mom has asked a lot of questions about the process and medications. I warned her that estrace made me crazy. She wanted to know what kind of crazy…like would she throw things? I said that throwing things was not out of the question and neither was random crying. I do recall crying at commercials that would have otherwise been benign and throwing a computer video game box at Jeremy during a fight when he had the audacity to tell me I was “just being hormonal.” I don’t typically throw things and yes, I was hormonal…but at that time in my mind, I was perfectly rational….there was no need to continue to store games that we never played nor ever would….I just wanted him to get rid of them at that very minute.
I’m excited about the future and what this relationship will look like and how we will explain it to Grant and Maria. We’ve been more intentional about discussing their origins and when we told them they used to be frozen, Grant looked at me wide eyed with his silliest expression as he stated “FROZEN?! That’s silly, Mommy!” I went on to pull up pictures of embryos and babies through all stages of development in the womb. They both kept saying “show another picture,” as I flipped through and showed them all the different ways they looked when they were in my belly.
I know they can’t comprehend, but I think these conversations are important for them so they can know that even though the way they came into our family was not the most conventional way of family building, we are proud of it and thankful for the gift of embryo adoption.
Last weekend, we had our 4th visit with Brae’s birthmom and his half-sister.
I’ve said time and time again that genetics play a nominal role in the similarities between siblings, and yet each time I see Brae’s half-sister, I feel like that role just keeps getting bigger.
They look so much alike. They make the same facial expressions. They make the same hand gestures. Even their pout is the same. They react to things very similarly. It’s astounding.
They are both very independent, strong-willed, and confident kids (all “nice” ways of saying “bossy”).
I know all of these traits can be positives when channelled the right way.
Brae’s birthmom is engaged and getting married next summer. I reiterated that if she wants us there, or Brae even in the wedding, it would be an honor. She beamed and nodded.
As the conversation was winding down, we talked a little about Sienna (who was traipsing around the little gym, minding her own business). And then Brae’s birthmom said something that stung my gut:
“You know, I was a little worried when you told me you were pregnant with Sienna. That you wouldn’t want or love Brae as much because you didn’t carry him.”
Right. in. the. gut.
I don’t blame her at all for saying this. I think it’s a very human and natural concern. I get it.
But for us, it is so wrong.
I explained to her that couldn’t be further from the truth. Brae made me a mom. Sienna made me pregnant. They are both so special and unique in their own ways. I told her it was actually harder for me to bond with Sienna, simply because she was a “fussier” baby. Brae was easy as pie. Sienna was more high maintenance.
My love and attachment to each Brae and Sienna developed in their own natural ways, and neither of them had anything to do with whether I carried them or not. They were both mine.
She grinned. I think she got it.
John Luke’s first birthday is the Tuesday before Thanksgiving. I went in to labor the Sunday before Thanksgiving, this time last year. Since his birthday was just after the holiday, this will be his first Thanksgiving.
I’d like to thank some people who had a critical role in his birthday coming into being.
*Both of our families, who through thick and thin, put up with us, when at times we were not at our best. Infertility can wreak havoc on your emotions, and you often take it out on the ones closest to you.
*Dr. Samuel Thatcher, our Reproductive Endocrinologist, who had the boldness to tell us the painful truth, that we would most likely never have a biological child. He had the grit to inform us, that our only real chance of conceiving was through embryo adoption.
*Our friend who was an oocyte donor for us. Because of her generous act, we came across the NEDC online, while researching third party donation.
*The other bloggers through the NEDC website, who made embryo adoption seem real and possible, and not weird, like some kind of science experiment. It made us realize embryo adoption is just like any other adoption, with the bonus of me being able to carry the child.
*The staff at NEDC who make dreams come true, for so many infertile couples, who never thought having a child of their own could be real.
*People working in the infertility world everywhere, who have to tell people what they don’t want to hear, but need to hear, so they can move forward with what could be the best thing that ever happened to them.
Holidays can be hard for those who are childless, if having a child is the desire of their heart. Embryo adoption changed that for me. This Thanksgiving, my arms and heart are full. For all who played a role, I give my thanks and gratitude.
Josh and I celebrated our 13th wedding Anniversary this week. We dated almost 6 years before getting hitched, so more or less, we have been together almost two decades! Twenty wonder-FULL and imperfect years!
Josh and I couldn’t be more different at times, and more alike at others. I’m type A. He is laid back. I prefer things to be tidy. He prefers everything out and accessible.
I tell him everything from A-Z. He tells me A and Z and I have to guess everything in between. I’m an over communicator. He doesn’t think that much communication is necessary.
I like to go to the movies. He doesn’t like to be indoors that long. I like to walk. He says “I walk everywhere, why do I want to go somewhere to walk?” I like to sleep. He says, “You can sleep when your dead.”
I like to watch football. He says, “Why do I want to watch a bunch of grown men in tights, chase around a ball? He likes to hunt and fish. I say, “ Why would I want to look my dinner in the eye before I eat it?”
We couldn’t be more alike at times. We both prefer the mountains over the beach. Church over social activities. Time at home with John Luke over time spent elsewhere.
We can look at ten pieces of furniture and both pick out the same piece. We can read each others’ minds by our facial expressions and can finish each others’ sentences.
We argue, but can’t stay angry at each other long. We can be spitting mad with one other, but still be glad to see each other walk through the door. Sometimes, I’m glad when he’s gone, but then can’t wait for him to get back.
We recently went to our friends 50th wedding Anniversary. Wow! If walls could talk, what stories would be told. With four grown children and 50 years of marriage, I wonder how many compromises were made. I wonder how many times someone went to bed angry. So often people forget why they fell in love in the first place and quit trying.
Thirteen years ago, I married my best friend. He remains my best friend to this day. Josh and I have always talked about renewing our vows at 25 years. I look forward to many, many more wonder-FULL and imperfect years Josh Foster!