EMBRYO ADOPTION RESEARCHER SEEKS VOLUNTEER INTERVIEW SUBJECTS

PhotobucketFor the sake of our many new readers, I’m re-posting this introduction to Hannah Dowling, student at Elon University, in North Carolina.

 

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Hello,

My name is Hannah Dowling. I am a Women/Gender Studies major at Elon University in NC and am pursuing research on women’s experiences with embryo adoption, particularly within their larger experiences with infertility. My research is interview based, and I would really like for my work to speak to the issues and experiences that actual women who have been or are currently involved with embryo adoption–both as donors and as adoptive mothers– find to be most important and significant. I am looking for women who would be interested in speaking with me about their embryo-adoption experiences (either as donors or adoptive mothers). I have already spoken with many women in various stages of involvement with the embryo-adoption process (i.e. those who are still waiting to be matched with an adopting or placing family, those who are currently pregnant with embryo-adopted children, those who were involved with embryo adoption many years ago, etc.), but I would like to include every woman who has the desire to participate in this research effort.

Participation in this research is entirely voluntary, and you will always have the option to not answer any questions with which you feel uncomfortable or would otherwise prefer to leave unanswered. You will have the option to complete interviews by phone or through email and can spend as little or as much time as you would like on the completion of interviews.

If you think that you might be interested in speaking with me about your experience or if you have any questions before you decide to participate, please do not hesitate to contact me at hdowling@elon.edu. Additionally, I would be more than happy to speak with you over the phone.

I look forward to speaking with you,
Hannah Dowling

VIABILITY SCAN

PhotobucketSO, we had the all-important viability scan yesterday … and it went great! Baby’s heartbeat is 175 (wow!), and the dr. said he/she is VERY active. We saw it moving its arm all around, trying to put its foot in its mouth, and even kicking me (although I couldn’t feel it). Two arms, two legs, and the Downs scan looked excellent. (Yes, we ended up getting it — even though I still didn’t want to, Tygh insisted it was for his peace of mind, so I honored that). I guess they want to see something less than 3 mm in the neck fold, and the measurement the dr. chose was something like 1.9, so very good.

They also ran some blood tests, and those will come back in the next week or so.

SO, all in all, looks like we have an acrobat on our hands, and I must say, with that heartbeat, I think it may be a girl…

And, today, I turn 31 — the same age our female donor was when this baby was created — 9 years ago!

WHAT WE’RE THANKFUL FOR

PhotobucketScott traveled to a business meeting with his team last week. Word has pretty much gotten around to our colleagues across the country that we’re expecting twins and that they are “adopted.” Pretty much everyone finds this so interesting, and asks us lots of questions. We love to be candid and answer them all.

At our last business meeting together in September, before I went on travel restrictions, Scott and I had a wonderful conversation with a friend in our division who shared with us her and her husband’s fertility journey… she mentioned that her doctor had indicated that at their next appointment, a few weeks later, he was going to outline their options and had already mentioned embryo adoption. We praised God that there are fertility specialists out their spreading the word. We shared our feelings of complete joy and blessing, and answered all her questions. We eagerly await our further conversations with her.

Then, last week, Scott had a conversation from a very different perspective, the first of its kind for us. Another colleague and close friend shared with Scott that he and his wife have nine remaining embryos since completing their family several years ago. It’s been a big weight on them and they continue to pray for what they should do. What was amazing is he shared with Scott that he and his wife have never heard of embryo adoption or, in their case, embryo donation.

Scott walked him through the concept and process. Understandably, his initial reaction was one of fear… not knowing who would raise the biological sister and/or brother to their children, and that these children would not be a part of their own family. Scott shared that we could only imagine how difficult that decision would be, and how blessed we feel being on the receiving end… God gave us the easy decision. They talked about—that as with all things in life—we just need to pray and trust that God has it in His hands and will lead us.

Finally, Scott shared with our friend the immense gratitude we have for donating couples. Not only for the twin babies that we have personally received, but for all couples who have wrestled with and ultimately resolved their own fears in favor of preserving life. We can’t imagine what their journey must be like, but we pray every day for all couples who have made or are considering making this decision. In our eyes they are some of the most amazing people one could ever encounter, and we thank God with all of our hearts for the donating couple He has placed in our lives. Phil 2:3-4

SHOTS AND DOWNS

PhotobucketI got the much-anticipated news this morning that I am done done done (!) with the shots! (Well, at least until next week when my levels get checked again). I’ve been off estrogen for about a week, and this morning, my bum thanked me for not poking it today.

This means (I’m told), that my placenta is now producing the hormones on its own in sufficient quantities that I don’t need supplementation. Can I get an Amen! to that?

We are 12 weeks, 1 day today. By some calculators, that is the end of the first trimester. However, I also keep getting told that 13 weeks is now the “magic marker.”

I’m still very nauseous and vomiting at various times of the day. Even with the meds. I try really hard not to take the meds unless I feel absolutely brutal, which means I’m taking one about every other day. I think I may be able to handle the nausea if I didn’t have a 2-year-old to run after. But that, on top of work, just makes it very difficult to get through the day feeling like this. Again, the burden that comes with the blessing, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Friday we go in for our “first trimester screening”. This is where they can do a bunch of measurements, blood work, etc. to gauge the “viability” of the fetus. They can also look for Downs Syndrome.

If you recall from my last post, I didn’t want to do this screening. I still don’t want to do this screening. Three reasons primarily: 1) the results won’t change our plans — we intend to continue with the pregnancy; 2) it can result in false positives; and 3) how much of a leg up will I really have knowing if the child has Downs? This child will still need to be loved, fed, changed, bathed, etc. The physical needs (as I understand it) of a Downs infant are the same for a non-Downs infant. I just want the ultrasound to say hi to the gummy bear again.

But my husband disagrees. He thinks it would be important to know and prepare, if necessary.

We’ve agreed to disagree and separately pray about it. For me, I still feel convicted we should not do the test. However, I also want to submit to my husband’s decision. (You ever heard the great quote — if wives knew what it REALLY meant to “submit to their husbands” — they would never not do it? Because, submitting to their husbands means that wives get to duck while God knocks the husbands to their rear).

So, it will probably be a game-time decision.

GOD’S PERFECT PLAN

PhotobucketI’ve come to realize (although I definitely still struggle sometimes at putting it into practice) that the only prayer one can pray, for any and all circumstances, is simply for God’s Will to be revealed in their life and at the time of His choosing. Anything more specific than that, and we step into a realm where we think we know better than God does. But if we don’t try to control (or barter for, or set our hearts on) what we believe the outcome should be and when, we and all those around us will be better off. Even if the eventual outcome is sad or difficult or anything else less than optimal in our own minds, because God’s perspective is eternal, using everything for our good and toward the realization of His Perfect Plan for our lives… and that is what ultimately brings confidence and comfort.

Thirteen years ago when my sister Julie was first diagnosed with cancer, was one of the most vivid times I remember trying to negotiate with God. I had been with her for a couple straight weeks beginning the morning after she became ill, including in her hospital room a couple of days later when the oncologist brought in the initial test results (while my niece Kayla was sleeping peacefully on the other bed). Those first couple of weeks were consumed with learning about cancer, talking to doctors, and deciding on a game plan. It wasn’t until I had to leave Julie, for a business trip, that everything hit me like a ton of bricks… I was driving to the airport, crying my eyes out on my cell phone to a dear friend of mine (who talked me into scrapping the trip and going back to be with my sister). On my way back to Julie’s house I prayed with all my heart to God, “please put me instead in Julie’s spot, she has a husband and a daughter who need her.” It took me a while to figure out, if that’s what God had intended He would have made it so.

I matured in my faith during my sister’s 21-month illness, both through witnessing her and my brother-in-law Bryan, but also because that is exactly what God intends our struggles to do for us… if we trust and turn to Him. Julie’s life was perfect, for exactly the number of days she was with us, and her testimony continues to live on.

As I look back today, over the last six years of my life, I’m continuing to see how the pieces are coming together perfectly… not in a way I had ever endeavored or thought they would, but in my heart I know without a doubt the pieces are definitely in alignment with God’s Plan.

When Scott asked me to marry him five and a half years ago, I had just settled into my dream city and my dream job that had taken me years to reach. Getting married was nowhere in my game plan, let alone to a man with three children who needed to move 2,500 miles back home as quickly as possible. But instead of worrying about what I would be losing and how difficult it might be (which is exactly what Satan wants us to do!!), I trusted that God had given me the right answer. I said yes to Scott even though I had no idea the challenges we would face, or how the rest of our lives would play out. I just knew God had beautifully woven my life this far, and believed He would continue doing so for Scott and me.

There have indeed been challenges, but Scott and I have faced each one with an ever-growing sense of faith. Instead of being anxious about our circumstances, like “will we be able to have children??!” we waited patiently (most of the time) on God to show us His Perfect Timing and Plan… which He has done immeasurably beyond any specific prayer we could have prayed. I feel like the advent of embryo adoption was happened-upon just for us. I had it on my heart to wait for Scott’s children to find a sense of balance in our new family, rather than rushing that process. At times, we didn’t know when our next step would come, and likely because of our waiting we passed the opportunity to conceive naturally. But what ended up happening as a result, when we waited on God, is the five of us now feel as if we’re all adopting our twins together, and that’s a beautiful thing for a blended family. As I sit here today with our twins in my womb, if God gave me the choice to give them back for two that were conceived with my own eggs, I would say no without hesitation. And then I would thank Him, as I do everyday, for answering my prayer from thirteen years ago, just not in the way I had intended it… but rather by giving me the blessings of a wonderful husband and two precious daughters. Phil 4:6

Our wedding toast, December 2005

REVELATIONS

PhotobucketToday, I walked into the familiar as a very unfamiliar person. I stepped foot into my ob/gyn’s office for the first time as a pregnant person. My husband, sitting next to me, remarked what I’d always cringed at, “Wow. There are a lot of pregnant women here.” No wonder I was depressed every time I had to get a pap smear, or worse, a blood test to confirm that I was, in fact, not pregnant.

Strangely, I didn’t feel that different. I still looked at the big bellies and thought, hmmm… maybe one day. I didn’t think, oh, I’m one of them now.

The doctor visit itself was great. I love our ob. First things first, he did an ultrasound. Much less fancy than the fertility clinic I’d been going to. The baby popped up and did a big kick. The doctor remarked, “Wow, that was a big kick. I bet you it’s a boy.” (I was just so thankful to see a baby still in there). And then we saw the heartbeat. We didn’t get to hear it or measure it, but the dr. thought it was around 150-160. I’m still measuring a day behind — so 10 weeks, 6 days. I’m 11 weeks, 0 days today.

We told the doctor all about NEDC and our embryo adoption. He was just so cool about it all. After working with him for just about 3 years now, he was just so happy to see us pregnant. He even remarked, “We’ve done just about everything with you, haven’t we?” as he scanned through my chart. Tygh and I just groaned and nodded. What a long and weary road it has been to get to this harvest ground.

Funny tidbit: I can no longer button my pants. I’m relegated completely to stretchy pants. People have noticed. I no longer count being fashionable as one of my traits. So, as you can imagine, I turned around when they weighed me. I didn’t want to see that dreaded number. And then, the nurse said, “Well, I won’t tell you what your number is, but I’ll tell you it’s the exact same number as it was when you were here last (like 6 months ago).”

Hmm… not really sure how to take that one…
We have another ultrasound after Thanksgiving, and then a 15 week ultrasound, followed by the big 20 week ultrasound. The next ultrasound is where they can measure a bunch of things on the baby to see if it may have downs syndrome. Tygh and I have talked briefly about it, and we don’t think we’re going to ask for that measurement. First, it won’t matter what they say — it doesn’t change our plans about having this baby. And second, our donors had the same test performed on their twins. For their daughter, the doctors thought she had downs syndrome because of the measurement. So, the entire pregnancy, they were preparing for a downs baby. She came out perfectly healthy. I don’t want to go through that agony if the only way to really know is when the baby comes out. (Please don’t read this to think that I think having a downs baby would be agony — it’s preparing and planning for something when it turns out you didn’t have to — that’s the agony).

I’m a grateful mess. Grateful because of the obvious. A mess for other reasons. I just escaped a bladder infection (took a bunch of meds before it got bad); have been on anti-nausea meds, which makes me “infrequently void;” eating a ton of fiber to counteract that issue; had a minor freak out because I learned I’m not supposed to eat lunchmeat (3 turkey sandwiches too late); I walk funny because of all the bruising on my bum; and I frequently have to go to my car at work just to get some rest. All this while being so grateful for this God-given gift, and yet trying to function in life.

I have been able to wean off the estrogen pills, but am still two shots a day with the progesterone. I have another blood test tomorrow to see if my body is starting to produce it on its own (oh, please, Lord!). I catalogue the awful thoughts that we’ll be on PIO shots until Christmas, or, gulp, for the whole 9 months. (You see how scary my mind is?)

But the biggest thing is that I’ve learned this pregnancy doesn’t satisfy. It’s not fulfilling. For as long and as much as I’ve wanted this — it is NOTHING compared to what Christ has done to fill voids in my life. It was actually surprising and caught me a little off guard to realize this, and then when I did, I can’t believe I ever thought otherwise. I can’t believe how many times I tried to trump God by putting pregnancy on a pedestal.

Please don’t misunderstand — I want this pregnancy, and I already love this baby inside of me. But nothing, no baby, no pregnancy, nothing, can ever complete me the way my relationship and salvation with God does. It has taken this blessing for me to realize that the true gift is in just Christ Himself. That’s it.

PAPERWORK OR LOVE LETTER? IT’S ALL A MATTER OF PERSPECTIVE

PhotobucketLast night, Scott and I were chatting (again!) about all the preparation we need to find time and energy for before the twins arrive. (Admittedly, I am a planner to the hilt, probably to a fault… I’m sure most couples can roll with the flow and be just fine!). We’re in the middle of rearranging the entire house, updating our Trust, selecting a pediatrician, determining if two car seats plus another child will fit in the second row of our SUV, evaluating ways to completely fence off the pool, finding part-time help for the weeks Scott is traveling a couple of nights (a momma of newborn twins is not a pretty site after 48 hours without sleep!). When we’re both working full-time and have three other children we want and need to give attention to, even completing a baby registry has been draining (thank goodness my mother-in-law stayed on me for this one!). There’s also all the books we’re trying to get through… nutrition for twin pregnancy, natural birth or cesarean, how to get your twins to sleep through the night… . And did someone say Christmas is only six weeks away… oy!!

We weren’t complaining though, and fortunately we’ve always been a great team together (we probably wouldn’t have found the courage to embark on this if we weren’t!). We knew it was going to be a lot of work adding to our family… but the blessings would all be worth it.

Last night we flashed back to our first steps toward embryo adoption… receiving and completing the adoption home-study packet before we could be evaluated by Bethany and accepted by The NEDC. We began tackling that around the holidays last year. If you haven’t seen a home-study packet yet, I’ll tell you, it can be intimidating at first sight… it’s about a half-inch thick, with all kinds of forms that need interpretation. In addition to the pages of questions that needed answers from each of us regarding our views of our marriage, upbringings, plans for rearing our eventual child or children… there was also the proof of income, affidavit of health insurance, physicals, blood and drug tests for our doctors to complete, criminal background checks including a need for finger printing, even a rabies shot for our cat (whose paws had never stepped outside the house or come in contact with another animal). We didn’t hesitate to dig in, but it did feel like a chore at first.

But, on top of all we needed to do, we had to ask family and friends to write on our behalf personal letters of recommendation… could we really ask others to take the time from their busy schedules to do this for us?? This was the piece that added the greatest anxiety… neither Scott nor I have ever been good at asking help from others, we prefer to give it.

What happened was amazing though… my sister Jennifer, Scott’s cousin Mary Joan, old friends Wendy, Lance, Kristie and Nick, who were still such a big part of our current lives, all jumped enthusiastically at the request. Unanimously, they all thought it such a special opportunity to help us bring a life or lives, frozen in time, into this world. Not only were we touched by their loving support, we were amazed at how quickly Bethany received their letters… not a one procrastinated.

It was when we brought our dear family and friends into our “process” for making a baby and sensed their reactions that our own perspectives changed. No longer was it paperwork we needed to chug through, but our answers to the Bethany questions became our love letters to our future child or children. Typically, there is not much tangible evidence, so to speak, when your toddler asks mommy or daddy, “tell me how I was made”… but we will always have for our children the thoughtful words that we put so much love into to tell the story of why we believe God wanted us to bring them into this world and how we plan on raising them to be happy, healthy people who walk in His Word.

We never asked for copies of the letters of recommendation written on our behalf, but rather asked that our family and friends save them… to give to the twins when they graduate, or get married, or have children of their own.

It may often times be a simpler process to conceive naturally but it could never be a more special one. Not only the love letters that we started for our twins but also the opportunity to share the beginnings of their precious lives with so many people that we love so much. Proverbs 17:17

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