Saturday, July 9, 2011

A Time to Grieve

The last few weeks have been rough. I'm pretty good at putting on a smile and just doing life, but I'm not afraid to say that I'm hurting.

I know that it must be hard for people to know how to react. What to say? What to do? Should they say something to me? Should they not bring it up because they don't want to upset me? There really is no right answer because everyone is so different in how they process grief. But I thought I'd take a moment to let you know what I need right now.

1. I'm grieving a tremendous loss and need time to process and grieve and heal, so please let me - In the last two months, we lost four embryos. And for us, that's four babies. Four lives that were made up of Bob and I. While two were transferred and lost and the other two died before transfer, they were lives lost. I have been through both a miscarriage and a stillbirth, and this experience is still equally devastating.

In addition to the physical loss, I am grieving the loss of my fertility. The loss of our families dreams of more biological children. The loss of a biological function that I'm supposed to be able to perform as a woman. I feel broken.

Grieving is a process, so don't be frustrated or irritated if I don't do it on a certain timeline.

2. Don't be afraid to talk to me about what I've gone through - I've obviously been very open and transparent about our loss and infertility. If you've read it, you know what's going on. Please don't feel like you have to tip-toe around me or avoid certain conversations. I am a little fragile right now, but I promise I won't break. In fact, just saying "I'm so sorry" and recognizing my hurt and pain goes a long way and let's me know you care.

3. I love to hear about your sweet babies, so please don't feel bad if you say something to me - I'm a momma and I love being one! Why do you think I want more? Because I know the absolute joy and blessing of having kids! I love to hold babies, to hear about what fun, new thing that they're doing. Please don't stop sharing with me. I promise that I'll let you know if it's too much.

4. Pregnant mommas can be tough to see and talk about, but let me be the judge - Once again, pregnancy is an amazing gift! I'm so excited for my pregnant friends. I pray for them and rejoice in their pregnancies. Any of my sadness comes from my inability to become and stay pregnant, not in someone elses pregnancy. Please understand the difference. And when it comes to baby showers or other events, I repeat my same sentiments of letting me be the judge of what I can or cannot do.

But I will add this - please tell me that you're pregnant in private and not in front of other people. Email works great. This gives me a chance to process the news. Also, please tell me yourself. It's no ones place to announce a pregnancy but the pregnant woman or her family. In fact, it's pretty poor manners to do so. Also, don't treat me like a child and tell me how I should feel i.e. excited, happy, etc. (Can you tell that I've had to deal with this before ;-/) And for goodness sake, please don't let me find out on facebook.

5. Don't automatically assume that we're immediately moving on to adoption - I'm a very strong proponent of adoption. I've had the priviledge of watching and supporting friends going through the adoption process right now. But adoption is not a consolation prize for the infertile. It is a very thoughtful, prayerful consideration and must be treated as such. To flippantly remark, "Well why don't you just adopt?" minimizes what our family is experiencing, as well as cheapens the gift of adoption. When and if we're ready to adopt, we'll let you know.

So what now? I'm not exactly sure. I'm enjoying my family. I'm helping Mason get ready to start 1st grade and planning a trip to Mexico for our 10th Wedding Anniversary coming up this fall. I'm continuing to believe that God is good and sovereign, even though there is so much that I don't understand. I still have hope in the future of our family, no matter what it may look like. I'm completely surrendering my hopes and dreams for His. I'm living.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Be Satisfied

For I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.
I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. 
I have learned the secret to being content in any and every situation.

Philippians 4:11-12 (NIV - emphasis added)

On Wednesday morning, my world stopped for a moment. As I busily got started with my morning, drinking that first cup of coffee and making Masons lunch, the phone rang much earlier than it normally does on a weekday morning; unless there's bad news, this is. 

And then the name splashed across our caller id and that little digital voice called out the name of my doctor and my heart sank. As the blood rushed from my face, Bob handed me the phone and the embryologist on the other end gave me the dreaded news - our embryos did not survive the thaw.

You see, Wednesday morning was supposed to be my embryo transfer. Our last two, precious little babies began the thaw the night before for our 10 am transfer that would never come to be. Our two little babies, frozen together in the hopes of being placed in their home for the next nine months never made it there. On Wednesday morning, our last hopes of conceiving another child died, right along with our sweet babies. 

Our journey with fertility treatments is over. 

Our pastor just finished a series on money. I know, that's always a hard message to hear. Besides, it's no one's business what we do with our money, right? But of course if you're a believer, we already know that it's not our money to begin with, but it's God's money and he's entrusted us with it to further His kingdom. 

Over the last few weeks, Bob and I have examined our finances to see if we're in check financially. Tithing? Check! Sacrificial giving? Check! Debt and savings? Much better than it was and working on it. But then we began to examine our finances in regards to fertility treatments. Now I could make all sorts of arguments here.  I mean, wanting another child is not a bad thing AT ALL. In fact, I believe that it's a desire that God has placed on our hearts. I believe that it's His desire first, so I trust that He will make a way for it. But if my desire and pursuit to have another child supersedes my desire and pursuit of God, then we have a problem.

Most of us are familiar with Matthew 6:21 - "For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." I can honestly say that over the last few years, my desire to have another baby has sometimes been more important than knowing God. Not more money. Not more stuff. Not wanting vacations or cars or things; wanting a baby. My heart has been centered on that desire, and our finances have followed. And while I've so actively pursued the treatments and manipulated finances to pay for medication and monitoring and everything else that it takes to *maybe* have another baby, He's been there all along. Whispering. 
"Pursue me. Want me. Trust me." But instead, I pursued more treatments. I wanted a baby more. I trusted the Doctors and my money.

Sometimes we have to learn things the hard way.

I still strongly believe that for some families, fertility treatments ARE His plan. I have several friends who have had their beautiful children through the miracle of IUI and IVF. I have the utmost respect for the skilled doctors and nurses who make it a reality for so many families. It just wasn't His plan for our family.

Contentment (or lack thereof) is an age old struggle for believers and non-believers alike. It's easy to be content when we're in a good, "happy" place. When the stars align and it seems like everything is falling into place. But how long does it really last? Why is it that we always want more? More money. More stuff. More kids. If we're always focusing on what we don't have, we can't be content with what we do have and we miss out on the gifts right in front of us. 

When Paul wrote his letter to the Church of Philippi, he was sitting in a prison cell. He wasn't hanging out in the lap of luxury, being fed grapes and lounging with kings. Nope. He was chained in prison. Hungry. Tired. But even still, he wrote of contentment. Not in what he had (or didn't have). Not in his stuff or his circumstance, but content in his source. 

If I never have anymore children, will I be content? Everyone has their "thing". What's yours?

I'm not sure what God has in store for us next. The prayer of my heart is to be content with the blessings that I do have instead of focusing on what I don't. To focus on God, my ultimate  source.

Monday, May 23, 2011

The In-Law Prayer

The In-Law Prayer*

God grant me the patience
to deal with my in-laws;
to accept their passive aggressive behavior
as a reflection of their own unhappiness
and to not take the things that they 
say or do personally.
To smile and politely nod
when my MIL tells me repeatedly (in her own special way)
that her daughter is a better:
than I am. 
The courage to speak when necessary,
especially when it comes to Mason
and the way Bob and I choose to parent.
To encourage them to get to know
their grandson 
so that they realize that he's a six year old boy
and not a two year old little girl.
Please remind me constantly that I may be
the only way they see Jesus
or ever.


*While this is loosely based upon The Serenity Prayer, I mean no disrespect to those in recovery and it is in no way intended to mock the original prayer. 

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

I never thought I'd...

If there's one thing I've learned over the years, it's that you never know just how you'll react to something or what you'll do until you're there, living in that moment. It's so easy to speculate what you would do or say in any given situation before you're there, but living it is a whole different story.

Mason has a Christmas tree in his room. Right now. As I type. Yes, it's the middle of May and my son has a Christmas tree in the corner of his room. It's about 3 feet tall and is strung with tacky, multi-colored lights and brightly colored ornaments. And every night, we plug in that tacky little, Charlie Brown Christmas tree and it's Mason's night light. I never thought I'd have a Christmas tree up in May, but I've learned that it's okay. That it's not a big deal. Mason loves it. It's in his room. I don't have to look at all the time. So what's the big deal? And that's the point: it's not a big deal.

So that got me thinking about all things I never thought I'd do. All the expectations (realistic or not) that I set for myself and when I finally got there I realized, "this isn't such a big deal, after all." And what about the judging. Yes, I have judged, especially before becoming a parent, about what I would do if my child did such and such a thing. Oh, how wrong I was.

So here's my list of some of the things I never thought I'd do. You may just be surprised:

1. I never thought I'd get married. But if I did, I wouldn't change my maiden name - Yep. I was Miss Independent in college. Ask anyone who knew me well. I was motivated, driven, and didn't have time for a serious boyfriend. And then one day, at my first job out of college, I met this cute guy in the break room at work, and everything changed. It didn't take long for me to fall head over heels for Bob and that was it. I even gave up being known as 'Katy Karr' for Katy Moyer.

2. I wasn't sure about having kids. At all - I always loved children, but I wasn't one of those girls who played house and was always the mom. But I guess that goes along with meeting the love of your life and wanting to have lots and lots of babies with them ;-)

3. I never thought I'd have to pay for a baby - So going from not sure if I wanted kids to wanting lots of kids, imagine my surprise when I realized that the only way that may ever happen is to pay for a baby. Now I'm not trying to be crass or insensitive; after all, I'm living this reality. But that reality is that whether we have more kids through fertility treatments or ultimately do adopt, it's been anything but orthodox. Talk about shaping a new perspective on what it means to grow your family.

4. I never thought I'd deliver a baby that I've never bring home - My whole reality shifted on August 21, 2008. That was the day that Robert died and I realized he would never make it home with us.  How does that happen? How do you go from having an ultrasound to being admitted that evening to be induced at 20 weeks and delivering a stillborn baby boy early the next morning? It's not even something that you'd ever think about. Why would you? Sometimes there are no answers.

5. I never thought I'd cherish the writing (or drawing) on the wall - Mason's almost six years old and not once has he drawn on the wall, ever. I know, pretty good streak, eh? That is until one night last week when Bob was relaxing and watching old episodes of The Office and I was taking a relaxing bubble bath. I came down the hall and was excitedly met by Mason, telling me that he wanted to show me what he had drawn for me for Mother's Day... on my hall wall... in pen. So it was much to my surprise when I grabbed my camera and got a picture of it BEFORE I went for a Magic Eraser or other method to scrub it off my precious wall. Don't get me wrong, we talked to Mason about how we don't draw on the walls, but I didn't freak out. Yay me!

6. I never thought I'd bribe my child with electronics while out to dinner - Bob and I had been married for about a year when we were out to dinner one evening. Across the restaurants I could see a family when young kids and, "oh the horror!", when I saw the parents take out a portable DVD player and plop it down in front of their kids. Bob and I talked about how we would NEVER do that as parents and how horrible it was, and on and on. Fast forward years later and we too were toting along the portable DVD player to dinner, very pleased with ourselves that we could actually enjoy a few bites of food without running after our child in a busy restaurant. Lesson learned: stop judging and mind your own business. And now that we have Angry Birds and Netflix on our cell phones, we continue to have peaceful dinners without any guilt, whatsoever.

If I really thought about it, I'm sure the list of "I never thought I'd..." would go on and on. But I've learned to give myself a break and to just live. And while it may not be what we thought our lives would look like or what we had anticipated, it's still worth savoring and celebrating, all of it. The good and the bad. The happy and the heartbreaking.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Taking it slowly

Yes, I know I disappeared for the last three months. Life has a way of getting away from us and here it is, already half-way through May.

We've been busy over the last few months and so much has happened. So much life has happened. Not exactly what we had hoped for or what we had planned, but isn't it always that way?

Part of me really missed writing about what was going on and another part of me just needed a break. A break from the the constant updates, reports and disappointing news. Not all bad of course, just a lot of time spent in the valley.

So here's a recap of the last few months:

- I turned 34 in March. Yikes! 34 years old. I don't feel 34. I don't think I look 34. In fact, I'm really enjoying this decade. My 30's have been good. Bob surprised me with a night away to Chapel Hill, where we stayed at The Franklin Hotel, had dinner at this sweet little Italian Cafe walking distance from our hotel and the most delicious dessert at Sugarland. We slept in, had a relaxing breakfast; it was heaven. My husband is awesome.

The view from our balcony at The Franklin Hotel

Dinner at 411 West Italian Cafe

The Presidential Suite - Our room for the night

- I'm working and loving it. I've been working part-time for six months now and I'm seriously loving it. Sure, the people I work with are great, but I love that I have something for me. Not that I didn't love being home with Mason, but now that he's been in Kindergarten, it's been nice to have something outside the home. For so long, I kept waiting, putting my life on hold thinking that I'd be pregnant again. We can't put our lives on hold hoping for something that is completely out of our control. Life keeps moving, and so should we. Or else, we risk missing out on the very best that God has in store for us.

- I went through a failed IVF cycle. Yeah, not the highlight of the last few months. We moved forward with a new fresh, IVF cycle at the end of March and all in all, the cycle was seamless. So different from last year's cycle. No cysts. Perfect ultrasounds and blood draws. Flawless. We knew going into it that I wasn't going to come out of egg retrieval (ER) with 20 eggs, so we were more than thrilled with 9 we got. With 6 mature and 5 of those fertilizing with ICSI, we really felt like we were on a roll. We transfered back two, three-day embryos on Good Friday and on May 3rd, got the dreaded news of BFN. It was hard and exhausting and I'm so glad we did it. I would not have changed a thing (other than getting pregnant, of course). The great news is that we have two remaining, absolutely beautiful, Grade A Blasts that are frozen for an option of moving forward with a Frozen Embryo Transfer (FET). It's a heck of a lot less invasive, less medications, and costs less (even though still not cheap.) I'll keep you all updated (when I'm ready, that is).

- Celebrating Mother's Day. It's always bitter-sweet for me. I'm absolutely blown away at just how blessed I am to have Mason, and yet I can't help but to miss Robert. It also fell this year just a few days after we found out that the cycle had failed, so a little bit of a bummer. But believe me, I know what I have. I know that I'm blessed. But it's still allowed to hurt. It's okay. On another note, Mother's Day fell on May 8th this year, the 15 year anniversary of when I gave my mom a kidney. Seems fitting to fall on that day. My mom and I have definitely had our share of struggles over the years, but our relationship is truly a testimony to the power of God and the beauty of reconciliation. Forgiveness is a powerful thing.

So slowly but surely, I'll be writing and blogging again. I can't promise that I'll give all the in's and out's of every personal detail of my life while it's happening, but I'm definitely back.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Infertility: The Disease We Need to Start Talking About

I came across this article when I was on the RESOLVE website. I absolutely detest the online "news source" (if you can even call it that) where it is posted, but it was a pretty decent article, so I thought it was worth re-posting. (At least I credited the author.)

Infertility: The Disease We Need to Start Talking About
Silence might be golden in some circumstances, but in the case of infertility it has been downright destructive.
Recently RESOLVE, one of the only organizations dedicated to infertility, made a bold announcement on its website: "People with infertility are being ignored." I always knew that insurance coverage for treatments such as in vitro fertilization (IVF) is scant at best, and that many doctors still don't treat infertility as a major health issue. I've learned that blatant misconceptions persist when it comes to our reproductive health. And it's no secret that the media doesn't cover this subject as often as it should.
However, what I didn't realize is that infertility patients' reluctance to discuss their struggles and advocate for change is directly preventing those affected from getting the support and funding they deserve. As Barbara Collura, executive director of RESOLVE, explains, "Infertility is not being discussed in the general public health realm -- it's not taught in health classes, it's barely touched upon in medical schools, and it's not a priority of any government entity. Yet how can we expect health care providers, educators, our government, and insurance companies to pay attention to infertility when the patients themselves aren't even talking about it?"

Why the silence? People battling infertility are certainly not alone -- a staggering 
one in eight couples face it -- yet many feel like it is an extremely personal matter not to be shared with anyone but anonymous women and men on message boards. Some say they feel shame for not being able to procreate or for having faulty plumbing, so to speak. Also, in our somewhat still Puritanical society, we've been brought up to believe that sex is a private matter. Discussing it in some circles, even when it pertains to a medical condition, is taboo.
Of course, not everyone feels that way. For instance, while plenty of celebrities would never admit having gone through IVF (even when so many give birth to twins in their 40s), Giuliana Rancic has helped break the mold by publicly sharing her fertility battle via her reality show Giuliana & Bill. "We had signed on to do this show and when we started having trouble getting pregnant, we decided we were going to be honest and reveal what was really going on," says Rancic, who suffered a miscarriage last year after undergoing IVF treatments.
The result of her candidness was both surprising and inspiring. "I started getting up to 100 emails a day from people telling me that I helped them because hearing my story made them feel less alone and ashamed," Rancic explains. "I was shocked by the fact that so many people go through infertility because so few talk about it. And while experiencing it myself has been more difficult than I could have ever imagined, I've found there really is a comfort in numbers."
However, Rancic is still in the minority: It seems that for most men and women facing infertility, it's easier to deal with something so emotionally, physically, and financially draining without having to field questions and opinions from every well-meaning friend, co-worker, or family member. Such comments like "Just go on a vacation, relax, and you'll get pregnant," or "You can always adopt," are far too painful to even acknowledge, so people figure that by remaining silent they'll avoid opening themselves up to such commentary in the first place.
It doesn't help matters that there's no general consensus on how to label infertility. In 2009, the World Health Organization officially defined infertility as a disease. Yet many individuals, organizations, and insurance companies still say that having children is a lifestyle choice and that infertility is not a serious medical issue. Some even liken fertility treatments to cosmetic surgery. But ask the millions of couples desperately trying to get pregnant whether or not having children is a necessity. Why would they subject themselves to months or years of such turmoil if, to them, it weren't essential that they try?
Certainly, there are plenty of valid reasons while this secret exists, but it needs to end. Thirty years ago, breast cancer was where infertility is today -- women just didn't talk about it (a topic I touched upon in a recent blog post). There weren't countless support groups, fundraising walks, and an entire month enveloped in pink. Women battling breast cancer did so in silence and, in turn, many felt isolated and ignored. However, now because there is such an international dialogue about the disease, breast cancer receives multi-million-dollar grants each year in research funding and patients are inundated with an outpouring of support and understanding.
Other cancers, AIDS, and many other illnesses follow the same path from shame to global support and advocacy: Once people start talking about it, the awareness, funding, and answers follow. "The silence is one of the key reasons why the infertility movement is not where it should be," says Collura. "By people speaking out and letting the world know that these are real issues affecting real people, that would impact advocacy, public education, and public policy."
What will it take to bring infertility out of the closet, so to speak? Possibly it would help if more celebrities like Giuliana Rancic came forward and if the media started covering the topic more extensively (as SELFmagazine did with a groundbreaking piece on the subject). Maybe we need thousands of infertility patients and advocates to come to Washington D.C. for their Advocacy Day on May 5th rather than a few hundred like in years past. Or perhaps we just need the domino effect -- once a few people experiencing infertility open up, more will follow suit.
I don't know what the magic ingredients are that will take infertility from an issue no one talks about to a banner "pink ribbon" type of cause. The bottom line is that far too many people are suffering. But by suffering in silence, the stigma persists and the advances we need to overcome infertility will never become a reality. As Collura points out, it starts with those struggling with infertility saying, "We matter."
And when they do, the rest of the world must start listening.
Dina Roth Port, a freelance writer for publications such as GlamourParenting, and Prevention, is author of Previvors: Facing the Breast Cancer Gene and Making Life-Changing Decisions. Visit her website at