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Donor eggs have some of birth mom’s genetics

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Just when I think I’m over something, BAM!, I get hit with an emotional bombshell.

At least this time it’s good!

Scrolling through Twitter I came across an interesting article about microRNA’s and how they can change the genetic information of a donor egg while in utero. Specifically,

Molecules known as MicroRNAs that are secreted in the mother’s womb can change the genetic information of the child, the researchers say….Practically speaking, this means the mother’s DNA influences the way the baby develops. Her genetic material essentially helps to “decide” which of her baby’s genes get turned on and off. Even more, it means the baby will acquire some DNA from the mother, even if the egg comes from another woman.

I know all about epigenetics and I have held tight to the idea that my boys were profoundly changed by the environment in which they grew. But the idea that they might actually have some of my DNA hit me like a ton of bricks. The difference is subtle but profound, at least for me. Suddenly I feel like I can take a little credit when people comment on my son’s hair, which is the same color as mine, or when they stop us and say that he’s my spittin’ image. No matter how comfortable I become with the fact that my boys didn’t come from my eggs some things have always hurt, just a little. Sometimes more than a little.

Whether or not they have my genetics doesn’t truly matter – it doesn’t change my love for them or their love for me or the fact that they are my sons – but the process that I had to go through to conceive them was extraordinarily difficult for me. Sometimes it’s good for me to stop and realize that I’m still healing and recovering from that process.

So, wherever you are in your process take a moment and honor your struggle. Give yourself a moment of grace and rest. It’s a long road but it’s worth the trip. And the trip is full of surprises!

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The Infertility-Anxiety Connection

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Guest blog by Avery Neal, MA, LPC.

Ever noticed that those struggling with infertility also frequently tend to suffer from anxiety? Perhaps you’ve experienced this first hand or have a close family member or friend you’ve watched go through this. Though there is no question that the standard hormone regimen that women face while undergoing treatment for infertility exacerbates mood shifts and can cause anxiety, there are some commonly experienced feelings associated with infertility that can easily lead to the development of anxiety.

tumblr_na7v260vtV1r1gdbuo1_500From a psychological perspective, an ongoing sense of helplessness for a prolonged period of time causes us to experience anxious thoughts and feelings. Chronic helplessness results from the sense that no matter how hard we try; we may in fact be quite powerless in a situation that is beyond our control. This is particularly painful when the outcome is significant to us, as is the case when we desperately want a child.

In the case of infertility, there are many factors that are beyond our control, not the least of which is that our body may or may not be doing what we want it to do. No matter how much we will ourselves to get pregnant, the exact methodology that will result in a successful pregnancy and timing of it remains largely unknown on the front end of it.

So, what can we do to decrease anxious symptoms? Some points to consider:

  1. Have Fun. Enjoy the freedom that comes with having less responsibility. It doesn’t mean that you want a baby any less, but engaging in things that you enjoy will give you a break from the heaviness (and scheduling) that accompanies trying to get pregnant. It will also serve as a temporary distraction, making the time pass by infinitely faster. Make having fun a priority so that you don’t completely lose yourself in a process that can easily become all consuming.Be-Present
  2. Stay Present. Make a conscious effort to live in the present moment, rather than succumbing to the temptation of living in the future. It is so easy to make everything revolve around waiting, but this only makes each minute feel long and excruciating. Try shifting your awareness to what you do have, and focus less on what you don’t. Take some time to visualize what you desire each day in great detail, holding those positive images in your mind. You can go back to those positive images any time worry begins to take over.
  3. b33939c3dab256313c0b791adeb17bd1--missing-people-quotes-not-okay-quotesAcknowledge your Feelings. Some days are going to be easy, some days will not. It’s okay to feel disappointed, angry, sad, and hopeless at times, and everything in between. Often the road to a successful pregnancy is not a straight one, and of course, you are going to have some feelings with each turn that it takes. This is completely understandable, so be gentle with yourself. Give yourself full permission to feel how you feel, unapologetically.
  4. Try Not to Get Too Isolated.
    It’s easy to want to hibernate when we are sad. This is especially the case when we are facing a difficult time getting pregnant and it seems everyone else is posting an ultrasound photo or hosting a baby shower. If you need to protect yourself from this by getting off social media, for instance, listen to that need. It is important to protect yourself from things that make you feel worse. However, make sure that you are continuing to engage with your primary support system. Fight the temptation to become too isolated, which only feeds anxiety and depression.

The key to overcoming distress caused by an ongoing sense of powerlessness is to take charge of what we can. It may require a bit of thought, but thinking of various areas of our life where we can directly influence our experience, leaves us feeling much stronger and less helpless.

14064148_1851516475076460_974622851677695743_nAvery Neal, MA, LPC is a practicing psychotherapist and writer. She specializes in depression and anxiety at all stages in a woman’s life. She has also worked extensively with women suffering from prenatal anxiety and postpartum depression in addition to helping women recovering from divorce and healing from emotional abuse. Avery is passionate about empowering women to discover their own inner strength, leading to higher self-esteem, confidence and overall life satisfaction. In 2012 she opened Women’s Therapy Clinic, which has locations in both The Woodlands, Texas and in Denver, Colorado.  Her upcoming book is entitled “If He’s So Great, Why Do I Feel So Bad?”.  To read more of Avery’s writing visit http://www.womenstherapyclinic.com/blog.

Empathy

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When confronted with raw emotion, unimaginable loss or desperate circumstances people often say nothing because they don’t want to say the wrong thing. As women (and men) who have experienced infertility, miscarriage, infant loss and other difficult or tragic life events we have often been the recipients of well intended but thoughtless comments and we know the pain and hurt they can cause. But we also know that sincere and thoughtful messages can give us incredible hope and comfort.

I just stumbled (again) across this brilliant line of empathy cards. Take a second and read through them. Aren’t they wonderful? I wish someone had said these things to me. And I can think of 5 times off the top of my head where I wish I had these types of responses at the ready. So, let’s just all take a moment and read through these and commit some of these thoughts and sentiments to memory so that when we’re in the position to lend someone support or comfort during a difficult time we can do it with a touch more compassion and grace.

You know you’re pregnant after infertility if…

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d3Hec22YNeUPfKe8bYFlIHXWcA18UzMp_lgA great article came out recently on fitpregnancy.com called “You know your pregnant after infertility if.…”. It’s a cute little piece of light hilarity that really rings true to me. Here are the highlights.

… the thought of conceiving via sex sounds as quaint as making your own soap or lighting the house with a kerosene lamp.

… you’ve been taking prenatal vitamins since 2011.

… “you feel guilty posting any photos of your bump on social media because you don’t want to make other women struggling to become pregnant jealous.” (I would have said sad/hurt rather than jealous but whatevs.)

… your baby announcement is a jumble of acronyms: “After 2 years unexplained IF, 3 failed IUIs (all BFN), 2 IVFs with ICSI, we finally have our BFP!”

… nothing baby-related is bought until you’ve passed the 24-week mark.

… the notion of twins doesn’t even freak you out because at least that way you’ll get more for your money

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And I would add –

…you always feel like a mommy “imposter”.

…you continue to pee on sticks well after the pregnancy is confined just to revel in the double lines.

…you’re hyperaware of how non-pregnant women look at you because you worry they might be having trouble conceiving and you know even seeing you makes them sad.

…you know the sex of the baby before the Dr. tells you because you have so much experience reading ultrasounds.

What would you add?

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Perspective from an egg donor

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I’m sitting in a coffee shop across from a woman I haven’t seen in 25 years and I’m struggling to hold back tears. This woman was my best friend in 5th grade but we lost touch in high school as interests and friend groups changed and life moved on. We reconnected through Facebook several years back and one day while I was pregnant with my boys I was randomly scrolling and noticed a post where she mentioned her egg donation. My jaw hit the floor. I sat, stunned, for several minutes trying to manage my thoughts and feelings and I finally just wrote to her and laid it out. I told her I was pregnant through egg donation. I thanked her on behalf of the women she donated to. I told her she was a hero to me. And I had a million questions but I didn’t want to to pry. But here was a real live person who could give me some insight into the mystery woman who was always in my thoughts, the anonymous woman had donated the eggs that let me have my babies.

Last month I finally had the chance to sit down with my friend and hear her story. It moved me to tears. And this childhood friend, my hero, has agreed to share her story with us. So thank you B, for everything.

Why did you decide to donate?

I never wanted kids.  And, spoiler alert, I still don’t.

But my friend E did.  Desperately.  And it wasn’t happening.

So that’s how my donor adventure started.  Just kinda exploring the options, a little bit on behalf of my friend, but mostly because she made me aware of the need out there with the nights of heartbreak and tears and hugs and feeling utterly helpless to do anything for someone who meant the world to me. And when she got pregnant and clearly didn’t need me and my eggs, I thought, well, everyone has an E in their lives.  So even though SHE didn’t need me anymore, someone’s E did.  So I would do it for them.

And I won’t lie. The money was nice too.  I’m no saint. I’m not sure I would have been altruistic enough to do six rounds of daily shots and blood draws and ultrasound wands up my junk and days off work on behalf of a multitude of strangers if I hadn’t been getting a nice wad of cash for it.

But it started off with wanting to help.

What was your donation experience like?

It’s been a while now.  I’m 41 and the last time I donated was when I was 33.  But I remember in the beginning, lots of tests.  Family histories, and forms, and psych tests, and blood tests, and financial disclosures, and talking to my boyfriend (now husband) to see if he was cool with this, and then more forms, and more tests.  They vet the crap out of donors, or at least the place where I donated did.

Beyond that I remember bruised thighs and tummy from all of the injections. I remember daily blood draws, to the point where I got track marks on my arms and I was afraid people would think I was an addict.  I remember getting really intimate with the transvaginal ultrasound wand –was that daily too?  I feel like near the end of each cycle it was–and how I stopped caring who got all up in my junk cause pretty much the entire world had seen it at that point.  I remember the nurse drawing a target on my butt for the “trigger” shot, so my husband would know where to jab me—the one shot I didn’t do myself.  I remember daily calls with the nurse coordinator, to let me know my hormone levels and how to adjust my shot doses the next day. I’m not sure if the recipients got calls too….I know everyone’s cycles had to be synced up to some degree, but I honestly don’t know much about the recipient side of that, whether they got the info on my progress or not and how that effected whatever process they had.  I remember feeling “puffy” as I got close to the end of each cycle.  My husband swears you couldn’t tell from looking at me, but I felt like I was wearing a weird heavy water balloon in my tummy. Like I ate too much, but it wasn’t my stomach.

I remember sitting in the waiting room of the clinic on retrieval days. I looked around at the other women there and I felt guilty. I assumed they were women who were trying so hard to get pregnant. I remember crying for them as I waited for my retrieval, and blaming it on the hormones.

The retrieval itself was under anesthesia, so all I remember about that is counting backwards. But every time, my husband said the first thing I asked when I woke up was how many eggs there were. And because I was coming out of anesthesia, I would immediately forget and ask again. And again. And asking if it was ok, if it was enough. Was that a good number? Is that enough? How many eggs? Is that good? How many?

Do you think about the families you donated to?

I do sometimes. Not as much now as when I was going through it, but they cross my mind. But honestly it was a bit like donating blood—once those eggs left my body, they weren’t mine anymore. They weren’t connected to me. Who they went to and what happened to them after that wasn’t part of my experience.

I did six cycles, and after my first round, they classified me as what they called a “high yield” donor, so each cycle after that was split among three women. So that’s sixteen possibilities. The clinic that I donated at won’t tell the donors anything about what happens with the eggs, not even if it was successful or not. And honestly, that isn’t a bad thing in my opinion. They said it was because when they did tell donors, they would get upset and depressed if it didn’t work out. So it is nice in a way to still be able to think of it as 16 possibilities, rather than knowing that for some of them it still didn’t happen. That would upset me.

There was one family that I still think of a bit more than the others. A little while after my last round of donation, I got a package from the coordinating nurse/clinic. I had no idea what it was. But when I opened it, it was from one of the women who received my eggs. Inside was a package with a little handmade neckwarmer filled with rice and some stationary and a card. Which I still have. And which still makes me tear up whenever I think about it, even as I type this. It said “Thank you for helping us make our family.”

That makes it more real for me. Before I got that package, it was just something I did and it wasn’t really connected to real people. But that card made it real for me. Made HER real for me. This woman whose cycle was once synced up with mine, and who received this donation from me, whose family I weirdly became a part of in a roundabout sort of way. Yeah, that got me. It still gets me. And holy shit (am I allowed to curse here?) do I hope it worked for her. I hope it worked for everyone, but damn me I really hope it worked for her.

Would you ever want to meet the donor families?

I wouldn’t object to meeting them if they wanted to meet me I suppose. But honestly I am mostly…unconnected to that.

I don’t have a burning desire to meet the children. Because they aren’t MY children.  Not in any way that means anything to me. They have a bit of my biology, but so does that guy who was in a car accident and got some of the blood that I donated.  I know it isn’t really the same, but it is to me a bit. I didn’t carry them. I didn’t get excited over seeing a heartbeat in their ultrasounds. I didn’t go through the pain of childbirth. I didn’t feed them or tuck them into bed or yell at them to do their damn homework.  Their mom did. I am not their mom.

But I would understand if they were curious about me and wanted to meet me.  And I would be ok with that I think. Although I would be afraid they would be disappointed. I am utterly ordinary.

Are you glad you did it?

Yes.  Without hesitation, yes. There has never been a moment of regret, even in the cramping and not so pleasant aftermath of retrieval.  And there never will be.

I gave 16 women a chance to have a family and I only wish it had been more, that I could have done more.

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Who wants to share with the group?

I started this blog because I needed somewhere to put all of the big (HUGE) feelings that I had about infertility and the IVF process. It was the equivalent of an online diary that let me vent and rage and ponder in the safety of anonymity. As I moved through the process of treatment and eventual conception and delivery it became a place for me to share my thoughts and experiences with the hope that it might be helpful for others; I felt so broken and alone during my IVF cycles I wanted to reach out and provide some sort of comfort and hope to people who felt like I did. But my feelings and experiences are a very small subset of what people deal with and feel when they’re in similar circumstances. So, if any of you out there would like to be a guest blogger and share your thoughts and experiences let me know. I’d like to use this space as a platform to give others a voice. Writing about my journey was very therapeutic for me – maybe it would be for you too. And maybe it could be a light in the darkness for someone else.

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Your feelings are valid

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I’ve been thinking quite a bit about the different reactions people have to infertility.

1888677_915522608471510_4245447630407780023_n (1) (1)For me, I had a total existential crisis. It shook the foundation of my world. I had absolutely bought into the idea that if I tried hard enough I could accomplish anything, and for the most part that had been true for me. So the idea that I couldn’t have a baby, a thing that most people did with ease, shook me to the core. And then couple that with the want and the need and the desire to have a family… I was devastated.

Contrast that with my friend K. She was diagnosed with DOR and did IVF 3 times. She was disappointed each time that the cycle failed but she certainly wasn’t devastated. And after the 3rd failure she quickly and cheerfully moved on and she and her husband now have 2 beautiful daughters through adoption.

And then there’s G. She was diagnosed with PCOS and started the injections and the monitoring but firmly insisted throughout the process that what she was doing was not ANYTHING like what I had to do during my IVF cycles. This despite the fact that she was doing EXACTLY what I had to do, only without the retrieval and fertilization part. (Granted, that’s a big difference but still). She got pregnant and now has a lovely little girl. In retrospect, she admits that she didn’t want to admit that what we had to do was the same because IVF sounded so sad and broken and scary that she wanted to distance herself from the very idea of it, the very idea that she might need it.

And then there’s P. She and her husband tried to get pregnant for about 2 years. Then they sat down, had a heart to heart, and decided that if it happened that was ok and that if it didn’t that was ok too. She’s 43 and unlikely to get pregnant now and she’s totally ok with that. No crisis, no medical intervention, just acceptance.

Of course it’s totally natural and expected that everyone will have a different reaction and choose a different path. It’s just hard for me to wrap my head around because it was so difficult for me personally. I’m not really sure what my point is with this musing, except to highlight the fact that if you’re dealing with infertility whatever reaction you’re having is ok. It may feel like the world is ending but it may also not feel like a big deal. And that’s alright. What you’re feeling is valid and don’t you ever let anyone tell you it’s not.

You have to be everything

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My friend was recently quoted in a documentary and what they said really resonated with me. As it turns out they were quoting author/speaker/blogger Courtney Martin – this woman has articulated my life.

We are the girls with anxiety disorders, filled appointment books, five-year plans. We take ourselves very, very seriously. We are the peacemakers, the do-gooders, the givers, the savers. We are on time, overly prepared, well read, and witty, intellectually curious, always moving… We pride ourselves on getting as little sleep as possible and thrive on self-deprivation. We drink coffee, a lot of it. We are on birth control, Prozac, and multivitamins… We are relentless, judgmental with ourselves, and forgiving to others…. We are the daughters of the feminists who said, “You can be anything,” and we heard, “You have to be everything.”

To tell or not to tell?

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I follow a blog by a women who has adult, donor conceived children. I found her when I was researching about donor eggs and her perspective and thoughtful insight helped me to make the difficult choices that lead me to the creation of my family.

She recently put out a post about whether or not you should tell you donor conceived children the truth about their biological origin. As you know from reading my blog I strongly believe that secrets are toxic and that we owe it to our children to tell them where they came from, and not least because it shows them how much they were wanted. BUT, it’s so painful to go back to that place of fear and sadness and loss. It’s so scary to expose that tender underbelly of longing, especially when we don’t know how they’ll react. But it’s so necessary.

The recent post was about a new booklet to help the parents of donor conceived children navigate the difficult conversations and emotional turmoil involved with telling. Here are a few quotes from her post, which I believe are quotes from the booklet.

As with all family stories, in the end it is not so much about what has happened but the way we are able to make sense of it that leads to being able to integrate it into part of who we are. If the story you tell your child is coherent and rings true (probably because of the emotion that accompanies it) it will be much easier for your child to take in and sooner or later see your perspective, alongside managing their own feelings.

Feelings of loss or confusion can come and go over the weeks, months and years for your children as well as for you. Sometimes they may feel fine and at other times they may not. Donor conceived adults may need independent counselling – somewhere they can express themselves completely honestly and confidentially – either in the first weeks after being told or sometime down the line. Your support of their need for this is likely to be welcomed.

Deciding to ‘tell’ is not without risk or anxiety, but many worthwhile things in life involve some risk-taking. After all, we grow as people as a result of making courageous choices. There is much to gain for everyone.”

I would encourage anyone with donor conceived children to get this booklet (I will as soon as it’s available!) and to follow the blog Olivia’s View.

Here is a copy of the recent blog post referenced above.

**EDIT – Shortly after I posted a got a comment from Olivia with additional information and resources. I copied it here for those who avoid the comment section (usually a savvy internet move, although not a problem in this space, thankfully).

Hi. this is Olivia from Olivia’s View. Thank you so much for quoting the section of Telling and Talking 17+ that I posted on my blog recently. I should add for your readers that THIS booklet is really intended for parents of donor conceived adults (over 17 year olds) who have not yet ‘told’ their children. I have also written Telling and Talking booklets for parents of 0 – 7, 8 – 11 and 12 – 16 year olds. They can all be downloaded for a small fee or bought in hard copy from DC Network
https://www.dcnetwork.org/catalog/books-and-pdfs

All the booklets are for parents and are supportive of ‘telling’ giving reasons why this is important plus practical guidance on timing and language to use. They are all illustrated with stories from real donor conception families.

 

Should we try for another baby?

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We have 3 frozen embryos left. I don’t think of them much really but last week I got the bill for their “rent”, which is $400/yr. That’s not a huge expense considering how much it cost to make them but we have 3 children already and every little bit helps, especially when it comes to saving for braces and college and whatnot.

I brought the bill to my husband and asked him what we should do and he flippantly answered “Donate them to someone else. Or to medical research. I don’t know. What did we initially decide we wanted done with them?” Here’s the thing though – I’m not sure I want to let them go. I’m already pretty overwhelmed with 3 kids and a full time job and  building a business on the side, but we worked so HARD for them. And I’m not sure I’m done. I love my twins to the moon and back again but I feel like because they were multiples I missed out on something (I feel stupid admitting that but there you go). I had very few quiet, snuggly moments. I never got to baby wear. I feel like I missed out on little things. When I was done with one baby it was always immediately on to the next baby and round and round and round. There was never really a chance to stop and enjoy the small moments. I don’t know why I seem to think that having a teenager and 2 toddlers would allow me the time or the latitude to stop and smell the roses if I had another one. It sounds ridiculous even to me.

And there are so many cons – the time, the money, the energy.  And I’m almost 41 – what am I doing thinking about another baby? But then again no one ever looks at their watch and goes “Wow. I’ve got so much extra time and energy. I should have a kid.” or looks in their wallet and says “Too much money in here. Time for a baby!”.

I keep thinking “Maybe we should do the work up and just put one in and if it takes it takes and if it does’t then it doesn’t” and move on. But what if it works and then we have another baby?

Thoughts? Am I totally nuts? (Because I feel totally nuts).

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It’s worth it

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Sitting with my boys on my lap this morning I had a revelation – these people, these tiny human beings, only exist because I persisted. There were so many days I wanted to give up. There were so many times that I doubted my choices and questioned my path. There were so many hard choices that I made. If I had done things differently – if my courage had faltered, if my family hadn’t supported me, if my doctor had given up on me – these two amazing people wouldn’t exist.

Friends, it’s worth it. It’s so hard but it’s so worth it.

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We are good enough

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One of the friends that I’ve referenced in this blog ended up having her own battle with infertility. After years of unsuccessful trying she finally went to see an RE. Turns out she had a hormone producing cyst that was interfering with her hormone levels and preventing conception. She and her doctor tried lots of different approaches and finally, after 2 years and on her 3rd and final IVF attempt she got pregnant with twins. She had a lovely and uneventful pregnancy and had her babies, a boy and a girl, last week at 35 weeks. Everyone was healthy, no NICU time despite her little girl being a tiny little thing. I couldn’t be happier for her!!

It’s funny though because it brings me right back to when my boys were tiny.  Man, that was hard. Particularly after infertility, because every moment with tiny, needy humans isn’t magical and wonderful and I felt guilty for having moments of annoyance and exasperation because I knew all too well all of the women that would give anything to trade places with me.

Regardless of whether you got pregnant naturally and easily or through extensive medical intervention, motherhood is hard. It’s exhausting. It’s often thankless. Many of the hardest parts take place under the cover of darkness and are never witnessed or remembered by anyone but you.

There are days where I don’t know how I’m going to get everything done, and there are nights when I lie in bed and wonder how I will find the energy and the strength to get up and do it all again. And there are all of the moments in between where I wonder if I’m doing it right and where I know I could be doing it better. It’s so hard. So to my new mom friend – good luck. It’s going to be difficult but you are strong enough. You can do it. And to all of us who manage to pull it together and find the strength and courage to get out of bed every day and do what needs to be done – I commend us. We’re doing a good job. We’re not perfect. Some days we’re great, some days we’re just ok, but every single day we show up. We love our kids and we try hard. And we are good enough.

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And just like that, I melted.

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When we were considering using donor eggs I had a lot of questions. Would I love a DE child like I would a bio baby? Would that child love me as if I were a “real” mother? Would my parents and extended family view my children differently because they’re from DE?

This weekend my parents came to visit. We had told the boys they were coming and so when they finally showed up the boys were in a frenzy to see them. My parents were mobbed when they walked in – hugs and kisses and “I miss you” and “Nana and Papa home!”. My mom was on her knees with the boys wrapped in her arms and they were covering her with kisses when Ro said “Why Nana cry? Nana sad?” and I realized my mom was crying. She was so happy to she them she was crying. No doubt that those are her grandchildren and she doesn’t give a flip where the original cells came from.

Fast forward to last night – Z woke up wet at 1:30 am so I went in to change him. After I’d changed him and settled him back in bed I bent down to kiss his forehead and he wrapped his chubby little arms around my neck and said “Tank you mama. I love you.” That was the first ever unsolicited “I love you” from either of my boys, and just like that I melted. Every fear that I still secretly held deep in my heart evaporated. Every shot was worth it, every tear.

Yes, I love them for exactly who they are and I wouldn’t change a thing.

Yes, they love me.

No, my parents love them and their origins are irrelevant to the depth and intensity of that love.

Yes, I am their mother. I am a mother. I am a “real” mother.

Finally.

Guest post from another mom of donor conceived twins

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Recently, another mother of donor conceived twins commented on one of my posts, and her story was so moving to me that I wanted to share it with you (with her permission). In particular, it was a relief for me to hear from a mother who has both a bio child and donor conceived children, as that’s a perspective I’ll never have. I thought you all might like to hear another perspective from a mom who’s been there.

Thank you Kelly, for sharing your incredible story with us.

I have a biological son who is now 19; I had him when I was 22 with my first husband. I developed secondary infertility, possibly due to endometriosis or due to the severe thyroid problems I developed with my first son, or some combination thereof. The end result is that I was never able to get pregnant again.

My first husband and I eventually split, and my current husband and I eventually got married. We got engaged knowing that I had infertility issues and we stopped using any protection during the year of our engagement so that we could go into medical treatment right after our wedding (but always hoping for that happy OOPS! – clearly that never materialized). We started off with 3 months of Clomid – nothing. Then 3 rounds of Clomid assisted IUI’s – nothing. Then 4 rounds of OE IVF – nothing.

When we first started, I had initially said that I wouldn’t consider using donor eggs, that if we got through our OE IVF, we would call it good and move on. Except… I couldn’t. I knew I wasn’t ready to give up, and my husband, bless his heart, got right on board with it (the gut wrenching grief-from-the bottom-of my soul crying when we got the last negative call from the clinic may have made it an easy decision for him). We looked at both donor embryos (our clinic has an amazing embryo program with a money back guarantee if you don’t get pregnant in 3 attempts and has an 80% success rate) and donor eggs. However, my hubby really wanted that genetic connection, especially since I would still be carrying them. So, we moved forward with the DE.

I chose a donor purely on her physical attributes. I wanted someone with dark hair and eyes like me, and I wanted her to be tall, because I am really tall. I didn’t care about anything else, I just wanted to babies to at least be able to pass as mine. My husband’s sole request was that she be a proven donor.

Our fresh round failed, and at that point, I became convinced the issue was my uterus and not the eggs. I fell into a pretty heavy despair. My RE did a endometrial scratch, we did our transfer, and then I went back to work and promptly let it all go because I knew, without a doubt, that it would not work. Imagine my surprise when I got pregnant on that frozen round with our twin boys. I knew the very next day that something was different, but I refused to get my hopes up. I took a digital pregnancy test 8 days after the transfer and it immediately came up positive. It was so fast I didn’t even have time to pull my pants up. I literally set the test on the counter, stood up, and there it was – “PREGNANT”. At 11dp5dt my beta was 997, and my 2nd beta was over 2000. We knew we were having twins from that first test.

Having had a bio child and now 2 donor children, I am in a position to say that I don’t love my bio-son any more than I do my Twinks. They all came from me, and were all desperately wanted and loved.

As for looks…we got one who is my husband’s mini-me, from his looks to his temperament. And my husband and the donor both have dark hair, hubby has hazel-brown eyes, donor had brown eyes… and we got one baby who is blond and blue-eyed! We weren’t expecting that at all, lol. Everyone assumes he is a throwback to my dad’s side of the family as they are Danish and German and all fair and blue-eyed – people comment on it ALL THE TIME. To the point that I have given up reminding people that it can’t be possible, I just smile and nod my head and say thank you. However, I do like to think that my DNA turned those genes on and had some determination in their strong expression in him.

We registered on the donor sibling registry, and are in contact with the parent of one of our boy’s genetic half-sibling. It is only a couple of times a year, but it has been interesting. We are hoping to meet one day.

I don’t know how I feel about meeting the donor someday… conflicted, I suppose. I am so thankful for what she did… but I also have this fear of my boys wanting to get to know their donor. But, we decided before I even got pregnant that we would be honest with them from the get-go, and have books that we read to them (they are 17 months old) even now, and talk about it pretty openly in our house, with our family and friends. We have been very blessed that everyone in our lives was immediately open to and receptive of this idea, even people I thought were going to struggle with the idea. My family treats the boys just like they treated my older son.

It was a heart wrenching and long 3 year journey, but so worth it.

I love sharing my story with over DE moms so thank you for letting me do that.

Step-parenting: it gets better

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We got full custody of my step-daughter 3 years ago this month. She went from spending 4-6 days a months with us to full-time 24/7/365. She came to visit for Thanksgiving and just never left. The timing was hard – we found out we got custody of her the same week I found out that I was pregnant with the twins and 5 months before I defended my PhD.

I was overwhelmed and hormonal. I was miserable. I felt like a terrible person. I knew taking custody of her was the right thing to do, of course. She was in terrible danger with her mom. But I was finally, FINALLY pregnant and I wanted my little family – the family I had imagined in my head. That family picture didn’t include an emotionally damaged, spoiled, full-time step-kid. I know, it makes me sound awful. It was awful – I was awful. (I obviously never let her know that I felt like that.) I spent days locked in my closet crying. It’s a big deal to go from not having a kid to always having a kid. And I love my husband but he’s not a hands on father – all of the parenting and child care fell to me. I was overwhelmed. And the guilt was overwhelming. Here was this 8-year-old kid who had just been through hell and then been taken away from her mom and she was fine. I was 37 and was losing my shit. What kind of parent was I? Did this mean I was a crappy mother and that’s why I was infertile?

Fast forward to today. I just got a text from her  – “Hey mama W, can we watch a scary movie tonight after daddy and the boys go to bed? I’ll make popcorn! I love you”. Last night we spent an hour on the couch together and she learned to french braid using my hair and YouTube. She’s my go to now for good road trip music. We make dinner together almost every night, and when she had an assignment at school about what makes her happy one of the things she said was “cooking dinner with W”. I help her with her math homework and we have long involved discussions about which house we would be sorted into if we went to Hogwarts. I miss her when she goes to see her mom. I can’t imagine life with out her. And I don’t want to.

I bring this up because after getting her text I googled “good relationship with step-mom”. All I got was how-to articles and articles about why step-mothers and daughters have such terrible relationships. Every google search I could think of turned up only negative results. “Why step-daughters and step-monsters can never get along”; “How to make the best of your step relationship.” – all bad news. But you know what? It’s not bad. We have a great relationship now. I love her. She’s my kid. She’s an integral part of my family. It was hard work to get here – there was a lot of intentional parenting, lots of fits and starts and good and bad choices, and we both worked really hard at it. And it was worth it.

I took her to her middle school orientation a few months ago. She introduced me to her science teach and said “This is my parent, W,” and he said “Don’t you mean your mom?” and she said “No. A mom loves you and gives birth to you but a parent is the person who takes care of you.” And there you have it.

**I need to amend this post based on a thoughtful comment from a fellow infertile step-mom. Not every step-family is harmonious, even after a lot of work and effort and love, and there can be lots of different reasons for that. Some things can be fixed and some things can’t. Do the best you can, love as hard as you can and realize that you can only do so much. As step-parents the deck is stacked against us and sometimes there’s no recovering from that. All you can do is your best. Much love to you, fellow step-parents.

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Babies don’t keep

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When I’m down on myself about the long grass in the yard or the laundry that needs folding or the easy but non-nutritious dinner I fed the kids my mom sends me a poem. I was reminded of it today when theunexpectedtrip put up this post about a random day in her life. She was unwashed and rumpled, racing around with her son trying to get errands done. She was struggling to meet her goals of feeding him (and herself) healthy and nutritious food and was down on herself about making “easy” choices. She was fielding judgement from strangers about her choices and battling to have some adult time with a toddler in tow. And then she unexpectedly found herself in a blissful moment, sitting at a sidewalk cafe eating pizza with her baby boy on a blustery afternoon. The world stopped, the inner dialogue stopped, and she was content and grateful in that moment. I identify with that.

We’re so hard on ourselves. We try so hard and give so much but it never seems like enough. I’m going to try to remember her story and work for moments like that. I want to collect those moments and hold them up as a measure of my success as a mother. I want to measure myself by that standard rather than by how clean my house is, or how fancy my cookies are or how put together I look. Because truly, in the end, my kids won’t remember if the dishes were done or if the grass was mowed or if my hair was brushed. They’ll remember the day at the sidewalk cafe. They’ll remember the quiet moments in the rocking chair. They’ll remember the time spent. And after all, babies don’t keep.

Babies Don’t Keep

Mother, O Mother, come shake out your cloth,
Empty the dustpan, poison the moth,
Hang out the washing, make up the bed,
Sew on a button and butter the bread.

Where is the mother whose house is so shocking?
She’s up in the nursery, blissfully rocking.

Oh, I’ve grown as shiftless as Little Boy Blue,
Lullabye, rockabye, lullabye loo.
Dishes are waiting and bills are past due
Pat-a-cake, darling, and peek, peekaboo

The shopping’s not done and there’s nothing for stew
And out in the yard there’s a hullabaloo
But I’m playing Kanga and this is my Roo
Look! Aren’t his eyes the most wonderful hue?
Lullabye, rockaby lullabye loo.

The cleaning and scrubbing can wait till tomorrow
But children grow up as I’ve learned to my sorrow.
So quiet down cobwebs; Dust go to sleep!
I’m rocking my baby and babies don’t keep.

 Author: Ruth Hulburt Hamilton

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NORA KASTEN Artist Oil Painting “Mother & Child”

Talking to my kids about donor conception

My twins are 2 now – 27 months old to be exact. Since they were conceived I’ve been thinking/debating/rehearsing what to tell them about their genetic origins. I’ve read some literature and talked to some people and done a whole lot of thinking. I know that it’s better to tell them sooner rather than later so that they grow up with this knowledge rather than springing it on them when they’re older because that can erode their sense of self and stability. But how young is too young? And what do you say? In this, as with most things it seems, I’ve gone with my gut and just taken the plunge.

It happened accidentally a few months back. They had just switched from cribs to toddler beds and that wasn’t working out AT ALL. So we moved them to mattresses on the floor which they really loved. At bed time I would come and lay down between their mattresses and hold their hands and sing them songs. One night I was singing “Sunshine” and holding their tiny, plump little hands in mine and I had an overwhelming feeling of gratitude for the donor (this happens pretty regularly). But this particular night I was feeling particularly loved and secure and so I just started talking to them about it. I started telling them the story. I told them how mommy and daddy wanted a baby so badly but the doctor told mommy all her eggs were broken so she couldn’t have a baby. And mommy was so sad she cried and cried. And how a nice lady let mommy use some of her eggs to make a baby, because the nice lady had extra eggs and it’s nice to share. And mommy was able to have not just one baby but TWO babies! And mommy and daddy were so, so happy to finally have their little babies. And those little babies are you!

I’ve told them some version of this story once or twice or week now since then. Sometimes they’ll ask for the story – “Mommy lady story, k?” and they’ll break in at different parts. Whenever I talk about how sad I was R pats my face and says “OH NO! No sad mama! Lady share.” and they both clap when I tell them that we were so happy to have TWO babies. At the end Z always says “Yay! More story.” To them it’s just another story. But to me, it’s acceptance. It’s gone a long way towards allowing me to accept my decision to use donor eggs and to feel secure in my role as their mother. And I feel like they will grow up with this being a part of who they are. To them their conception story is a soft, warm, safe part of bedtime, and I hope that those feelings of love and security will endure. I hope that the part that sticks with them is that we desperately wanted them, that people in the world are good and are willing to help and to share, and that having them made us happy and complete.

I know that the story is going to have to change as they get older. I know that they’re going to have questions and that it will all get exponentially more complicated. But I feel confident that we have laid a good foundation of openness and trust. And that makes me “so, so happy”.

Is it me?

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I have a question for you, dear friends. Is infertility more common than it used to be, are we more open to discussing it, am I just at the age where this is something many of my “tribe” are dealing with, or all of the above?

When I had problems getting pregnant I was the first person I had ever met who had been to a reproductive endocrinologist. A friend put me in touch with someone she knew who had recently done IVF and so I used her doctor. And when I was going through procedure after procedure and failure after failure I was the only one. I was alone. (Except for the vast internet – thank you again, internet). I was scared and ashamed. I felt isolated and alone.

Now every time I turn around I find someone who is struggling to get pregnant. And they’re not always just talking to me about it because they know of my situation. And especially now that I have the twins, no one outside of my circle has reason to suspect I had issues with fertility. Seriously, I’m going to list out some of the people in my life that are dealing with infertility, because the number of people I know IRL that are dealing with these issues is shocking to me. And this isn’t an exhaustive list!

  • My best friend from grad school was diagnosed with PCOS 2 years ago. Successfully got pregnant after a regulated medicated cycle. (Age 33)
  • My sister was diagnosed with DOR but just had her second “miracle” baby. (Age 34)
  • My office mate from grad school’s wife had a recurrent hormone producing cyst on her ovary. Did 2 rounds of IVF and is currently pregnant with twins. (Age 36)
  • Another friend from grad school was diagnosed with PCOS. Had 2 losses, and now has a 1 year old son as the result of Clomid. (Age 38)
  • Found out yesterday that my college roommate has unexplained infertility. She successfully got pregnant after 2 rounds of Clomid. She wants another but her husband doesn’t want to go through the process again. (Age 39)
  • My cross fit trainers wife has DOR. They did 3 rounds of IVF and were unsuccessful. They are now the parents of 2 little girls that they adopted. (Age 26)
  • The lady that sat next to me on the plane last week had 5 rounds of IVF, 3 miscarriages,  1 living child.
  • My boss and his wife were never able to conceive despite fertility treatments (see my post about that)
  • Coworkers sister has been through multiple unspecified unsuccessful infertility treatments (more here)
  • Two different acquaintances are currently undergoing infertility screening as they have each been trying for more than a year to get pregnant without success. (Age 32 and 33)
  • My mom’s best friends middle daughter called me a few weeks ago because she’s starting her 3rd round of IVF and is (of course) terrified that it won’t work and they are considering donor eggs as a possible next step. (Age 28)
  • A friend from high school has 2 kids, both conceived using IVF. She has unexplained infertility. (Age 34 at time of first IVF treatment)

It seems like every time I turn around there is someone else who is dealing with infertility. Is it just me? Am I more in tuned with it now? Or is it my age? We all know fertility decreases when you get older but age 35 isn’t a cliff you fall off of into infertility. Or maybe, just maybe, is the stigma associated with infertility lifting a little?

What do you think?

A hierarchy to suffering?

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My best friend got divorced this past Monday and I was her witness. I spent the night at her house so that I could distract and support her and so that we could arrive at court together. Another friend of hers joined us on Sunday night – a woman from her neighborhood who was set to undergo a double mastectomy on Tues. We were a jolly bunch!

During the course of the night this friend expressed something interesting. She told us that when she was with other woman who were breast cancer survivors or with women in the process of treating breast cancer she felt dismissed – her cancer wasn’t “bad” enough, she hasn’t had chemo or radiation, she hasn’t had a recurrence. She spoke of feeling terribly alone in her process because people without cancer didn’t understand, but people with cancer – presumably the folks who would know what she was feeling and experiencing and help her along the way – were not very supportive.

I can’t speak to the experience of having breast cancer or being a cancer survivor, but the description resonated with me because of its similarity to the infertility “hierarchy of suffering”. Here is a breakdown of many of the possible iterations of fertility issues –

  • You had trouble getting pregnant but got pregnant eventually.
  • You had a child (or children) but then experienced secondary infertility.
  • You had trouble getting pregnant but got pregnant with limited medical intervention (IUI, Clomid, etc.).
  • You got pregnant using IVF and it worked the first time.
  • You got pregnant using IVF after 2-3 tries.
  • You got pregnant and lost the baby but got pregnant again and had a successful pregnancy.
  • You got pregnant using IVF but it required many rounds of treatment.
  • You experienced recurrent pregnancy loss followed by a successful pregnancy.
  • You got pregnant using donor eggs.
  • You have never successfully gotten or stayed pregnant.

If you’ve been around the infertility world for any length of time you could put these into an order, a hierarchy of suffering. And that order would be based on many things, including your own experience. I can shamefacedly admit that I’m guilty of being (inwardly) dismissive of some of these experiences, as if they have less importance or value than my personal experience. I think it’s natural to feel that people who have endured “less” than you can’t possibly understand the pain and anguish you’ve felt. How can a women who has never experienced the loss of pregnancy understand recurrent pregnancy loss? If IVF worked for you the first time how can you possibly understand what it’s like to endure round after round of unsuccessful treatment? While I think that these are natural reactions I also believe that we need to fight against this instinct. All of these scenarios are difficult. Women in all of these situations need and deserve our support. There should be no hierarchy to suffering – everyone has their own process, and everyone handles these challenges differently. My friend with DOR did 3 rounds of  IVF without a successful pregnancy and happily moved on to adoption without regret and without giving it another thought. I did 3 rounds of IVF with 1 loss, successfully got pregnant using donor eggs and I am still suffering from grief, loss and shame.

As someone who has run the gamut of infertility and had to resort to something outside of the common experience even in this community (donor eggs) I fall high on the “suffering scale”. I am guilty of feeling that people who have had early success can’t possibly understand my process. I want to change that. I don’t want anyone facing infertility (or pregnancy loss) to feel like they don’t have allies in the community or to feel like they’re outsiders simply because they haven’t suffered enough. That’s ridiculous. So please, if you’re feeling isolated, if you’re feeling alone, if you’re scared and uncertain – get in touch with me. Leave a comment. I will stand by you and hold your hand. We should all be in this together.

I’ve got your back.

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A bounty of riches…

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A post by another blogger that I follow inspired me to share my thoughts on this. Do any of you watch the Real Housewives of Orange County? I do. It started one day when I lost the remote and was too lazy to get up and change the channel manually (what is this, 1997?) and now I’m hooked.

In the show one of the housewives is married to man who has 4 (3?) children from previous marriages and had a vasectomy – she has no children of her own. He had his sperm frozen and so they are pursuing IVF to have a child together. I’ve been giving this whole story line the side eye from the beginning. She’s so chipper and so open about the IVF process, but of course it’s happening because he had a vasectomy, not because she’s infertile. No blame on her. No fault of hers. These folks have more money than sense so unlike most of us they’re just moving forward without any financial considerations, which rankled a little. She spends the entirety of several shows complaining about her stim meds and her ovaries and how swollen she feels and is generally very dramatic about the whole thing (yes, it sucks. Really a lot. But come on lady). This woman (Meghan) announces happily to all of her friends right after the transfer “I’m pregnant with my twins!” without even entertaining the idea that something might go wrong in her perfect little world.

BUT. This is a woman who desperately wants a baby. This is a woman who is chronicling on TV the trials and tribulations and the pain and process of IVF – we see her fear when she does her injections. We see her in the stirrups at appointment after appointment. Her husband, a baseball player, is uninvolved and pretty unsupportive, and we see her struggle to curb her enthusiasm and her expectations in the face of his dispassion. After all, he already has kids. As a woman married to man who already had children this really hit home. I have spoken to so so so many of you struggling with being a stepmother but wanting your own children. So often, our partners want to support us in our attempts to have our own babies but are less committed and less enthusiastic – they already have kids, after all. This leaves us feeling alone and (sometimes) selfish. Should we be satisfied with what we already have? But I digress…

A few episodes back Megan and her husband decided to put in 2 embryos and because they’ve had genetic testing (unlimited funds strike again) they know that one embryo is a boy and the other is a girl. They’re going to have twins, she tells the world! (inwardly I cringe). Megan capers around talking about her nonexistent baby bump and her twins.

In the last episode they go in for the ultrasound. There is a lovely gestation sac and a healthy baby with a perfect heartbeat. But only one. And she loses it, right there on the table. She’s devastated that there’s only one baby and not two. I watched this utterly torn, angel on one shoulder and devil on the other.

  • Devil – Are you serious? She has a healthy baby! What the hell is she crying about? I know so many people who would give almost anything to hear those words! How dare she? What an entitled bitch!
  • Angel – *sob* I get it Meghan. I’m so sorry. You had 2 healthy, genetically perfect embryos transferred and you had expectations and dreams that you would birth 2 healthy, perfect babies. Half of your babies are gone. Your dreams are different. The life you’ve been imagining is no longer a possibility and that is so so hard.

And as you all know I’ve been there. The one time that I was pregnant with my own eggs I will admit to being a little sad that it wasn’t twins – couldn’t be twins (we only transferred one egg). After infertility the idea of the bounty of 2 babies is impossible to ignore. When I lost that baby I felt deeply guilty that I had wished for twins because all I wanted was my one little baby back. So when we were doing our donor egg transfer and the doctor asked if we wanted 1 or 2 embryos transferred I immediately said 2. What I actually said was “2 improves our chances for a baby, and it’s the path of least regret for us.” In truth, I wanted twins. And I got them. I felt them both implant. I knew that at one point at least, I was pregnant with 2 babies. There were some issues with the hCG tests (see previous posts) but when I walked in for my ultrasound I was utterly convinced that I was carrying twins. So I understand the impulse. And I imagine it must be even harder to accept when you know the sexes of the embryos – that makes it even more real and allows your fantasies to be that much more complete and complex. Your future life is so real you can taste it.

We all have ideas about how our lives will turn out and infertility throws a wrench into those plans. It doesn’t matter if you’re a rich reality TV star or a hard-working school teacher, we all have dreams and hopes and wishes. This stupid reality TV show has made me confront the fact that I need to be less judgmental about how people get to where they are and be more supportive of their process. Megan’s pain isn’t any less than mine. Her process isn’t any less important. There’s no hierarchy to suffering. We’re all women working towards a common goal and we need to be loving, understanding and supportive. So if you feel the need for some love and support – hit me up. I want to be a positive part of your process.

Until next time, friends.

 

 

Aside

Hitting the nail on the head

“Oh my god!” I said. “What if this procreation thing works?”  We never thought to ask: What if it doesn’t?

from “I Used an Egg Donor”

If you’re considering using donor eggs, please read this essay. It’s an excellent look into the process and helped me to have some perspective when I was struggling with the idea of donor assisted conception. Also, please feel free to send me private comments or emails if you’re not comfortable sharing in the Comments. I’m happy to share my journey and I hope that I can be some help to others.

 

 

 

It never gets easier

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So, in case you were wondering, it never gets easier. Or at least it hasn’t for me yet.

My sister (who also has DOR) is scheduled to have her second, naturally conceived baby next month. And I couldn’t be more thrilled for her, and I couldn’t be more jealous.

And just now (literally 12 minutes ago) I just got a text from my BFF. She’s pregnant. Unexpectedly.

And I am ECSTATIC for her. She has PCOS and went through fertility treatment to conceive her son, and we had recently been talking about when they were going to try for another one – we had a long laugh about how “trying” meant something very different to us now then it used to. Trying means doctors, and needles and suppositories and dates with the dildo cam instead of wine and movies and sex and dates with our SO . And now she’s pregnant, which is a miracle and I am totally legitimately thrilled. But I’m also bummed. She was the one other person who sorta kinda got it. Of course, her babies are bio babies and so I have an entirely different level of emotional infertility shit to deal with, but still. I just can’t shake that sense of playground injustice that makes me want to stomp my feet and yell “It’s not fair!!!!”

Do I want another baby? Maybe? Probably not? But do I want to have that weird feeling in my stomach and pee on a test and be shocked to see two lines? YES. Do I want to plan a special surprise for my husband to tell him that we’re pregnant? YES. Do I still want a bio baby? YES. Do I love my boys any less because they’re not bio babies? NO.

At least now I’ve come to realize and embrace that I am big enough and complex enough and mature enough to have contradictory feelings at the same time. I can feel thrilled and bummed at the same time, and both of the feelings are real and legitimate. I can desperately want a bio baby and still know that I would never trade my babies for anything, even bio babies. I can be glad that my sister and my friend don’t have to go through IVF to conceive and still be pissed that I had to and they didn’t. Those feelings are ok. Now I just have accept that it’s going take more time, maybe a lot more time, for the infertility wound, in all of its many facets and manifestations, to fully heal. And as you know, I really really hate waiting.

A man’s perspective on infertility

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Have you guys seen this?

It’s a post about infertility from the man’s perspective. I just cried my way through it. We spend so much time focusing on whats happening to us, the women. After all we’re usually the ones getting the shots, the blood draws, the dildocam – we’re the ones with our legs spread on the table so that a bunch of strangers can examine us and give us bad news. Sometimes our partners get left behind. And they are suffering too, just maybe more quietly or in different ways.

Anyway, this is worth a read.

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The 13th worst day of the year

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Mother’s Day. Gah.

The 13th worst day of the year. The other 12 days that were worse? The day my period started each month. The day that marked another failure. Another cycle gone. Another month of trying and wishing and hoping. In vain. Every single month.

Now that I have my boys Mother’s Day is bittersweet. My heart aches with joy at my blessings. My heart aches with pain at the knowledge that there are so many others out there that are still trying and wishing and hoping. So many others dreading this day. Dreading the 12 other worst days.

So for all of you out there still trying – I’m thinking of you. For all of you out there that have lost your babies – I’m thinking of you. For all of you out there that have lost your mamas – I’m thinking of you too. This can be a trying and painful day for so many reasons. Be strong. Be good to each other. I’m thinking of you.

You’re breaking my heart

I’m in Austin on a work trip with my boss and a coworker. Both men, both older than me. We’re having dinner at a casual outdoor place and they’re as laid back as these characters ever get. They’re both lovely people – very nice. Both consummate professionals, these two. There’s very little personal talk. It’s all business or politics or history – very safe.

So we decide to have a second round of drinks (the workshop we’re running is going very smoothly) and the conversation turns to productivity. My coworker mentions how his productivity has declined due to the never-ending piles of laundry that the kids generate. I agree. We talk about how we spend our time and somehow (for the life of me I can’t remember how) I mention that I sometimes blog. They politely ask what I blog about. There’s the uncomfortable pregnant pause and, two drinks in, I say “Fuck it” in my head and blurt out – “I blog about infertility”.

There’s a long pause. My coworker says something like “From your own personal experience or in general?” and I take a long sip of my drink and tell him that it’s from personal experience. That my babies are the result of extensive fertility treatments, and that it was very difficult for me and that I found a lot of comfort from my online community.

There’s another long pause. Then he looks at me and says “My sister can’t have children. She suffered quietly for years and I never knew. It’s one of the greatest regrets of my life that I didn’t know she was hurting. I wish I could have done something to help her, I wish she could have confided in me.” And then my boss clears his throat and we both look over at him and he has tears in his eyes and he says “That’s why I don’t have children. We tried for years and years. We did infertility treatments and nothing worked. Eventually you accept it and move on, as much as you can, but it was really hard for us.”

It’s hard for me to put in to words what I’m feeling right now. There we were, three random people sitting a table, all of us deeply touched by infertility. I’m struck by how willing people are to talk about their personal stories when given the opportunity. I’m struck by how open and vulnerable people are willing to be when presented with an authentic opportunity for honest discussion. I’m struck by the sheer number of people who have been touched by infertility. I’m especially struck by the fact that I underestimated these two particular people. I had arrogantly assumed that infertility was my own personal pain and they would have no understanding or concept of what that was like. Shame on me! It just goes to show that everyone is fighting their own personal battles and dealing with their own inner demons. We can see people every day and never know what’s under the surface.

Infertility is so pervasive and yet still so hidden. It’s so intensely personal and that makes it hard to talk about. But we NEED to talk about it. We need to take the shame and failure and the secrecy out of infertility. We need to open up about the struggles and heartache, because there are so many of us out there suffering silently and alone. So I am going to start talking about it. I’m going to put it out there. I may not be able to do much, but I can do something.

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A blog of a different name…

Hi friends!

This blog, my infertility blog (Hope) is like my personal online diary that you guys all happen to read. I think of it kind of like when Harry Potter finds Tom Riddle’s journal and they talk and give each other advice and whatnot, except you guys are awesome and not at all evil! I never would have made it through this process without you. Truly.

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But I just can’t let people I know in real life read this blog. For lots of reasons. It’s too raw. Too close. Maybe one day, but that day isn’t today. Do you know what I mean?

So, in order to have a blog that I feel more comfortable sharing “publicly” (yes I’m aware that the internet is public, but you know what I mean) I’ve started a new blog. This one is documenting the joys and trials of having twins. If you want the link send me a message and I’ll send it to you.

When I was debating using donor eggs I went out looking for the “after” blogs. Were people successful? What was it like to have donor egg babies 2, 3, 7 years after the donation? Did it feel weird? Did they love the children the same? (I ask a lot of these questions in posts of years past). So I hope that this new blog can serve that function as well. I know how hard it is to read posts from the people who have been successful when you’re still struggling. You can be ecstatic for them and still not want to hear about it. I know. Trust me.

So, I’m still going to be posting here, and hopefully with more regularity now that things have settled down some. But I’ll also be over there, so please come and visit!

No, he doesn’t actually look like me.

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I rarely think about the boys being the result of gamete donation. I mean, it’s always in the back of my mind, kind of like the never-ending piles of laundry are always on my mind, but not in any real way. And I’ve even started talking with people outside of my immediate friend group about their unique conception history. Progress! After all, they say when you can tell your story without tears you have healed.

And then out of left field – BAM!!!

My sister is pregnant again, naturally and unexpected. I’m thrilled for her, in the way you can only be thrilled for your sister. And I am unbelievably jealous of her, in the way you can only be jealous of your sister. She has the same diagnosis as me and she’s the same age I was when I started infertility treatments. And she’s pregnant. AGAIN.

I would never wish what I went through on anyone, especially my baby sister. But COME ON LIFE! Really? *sigh*

And then, she randomly sends me a picture of her at 16 months next to a picture of her 16 month old (naturally conceived) bio baby so that I can compare how much they look alike. I burst in to tears right there waiting for the bus at the park and ride. Couldn’t even try to hide it. Just sudden, huge, overwhelming sobs. (And I couldn’t go hide in my car and take a later bus. I had to stand there, sobbing, waiting for the last bus of the morning. I’m sure everyone at the bus stop thinks I’m completely nuts). Because I can’t do that. I can’t compare myself with my boys. There’s no point.

It’s such a natural human instinct to look for ourselves in our children. To search for the continuity of our genes through time. Maybe it’s hubris or vanity. But to me, the one who can’t ever see myself reflected in my child’s eyes, it seems like looking for yourself in the face of god. To see yourself in this tiny perfect being – to be privy to the melding of you and your mate – it seems like a miracle. And it’s those little things that are hard.

The big things are easy. I love my little guys. All day long, every day, strong and true. Unconditionally. I wouldn’t trade them for the world. I am proud of my boys and happy and grateful to be their mama. But every time a stranger in the grocery store says “Oh how sweet, this one looks just like you! And this one must look like his daddy”, I think, “The joke’s on you lady! He doesn’t actually look like me at all” and then I have to smile and walk away quickly before the sense of loss brings tears to my eyes.

I think these feelings will start to fade too, eventually. And maybe one day that spot in my heart won’t be so sore. Time doesn’t heal all wounds. Some things can only be carried, but as my strength grows the burden feels less heavy. And in the meantime I will bask in the miracles that are my children, and thank the powers that be that I was strong enough and brave enough to do what was needed to bring them into this world.