DREAM BIG

If there was ever a time to dare,
To make a difference.
To embark on something worth doing,
It is now.

Not for any grand cause, necessarily-
But for something that tugs at your heart,
Something thatʼs your aspiration,
Something thatʼs your dream.

You owe it to yourself
To make your days here count.
Have fun. Dig deep. Stretch.

Dream big.

Know though, that things worth doing
Seldom come easy.
There will be good days.
There will be times when you want to turn
Around, pack it up, and call it quits.
Those times tell you
That you are pushing yourself,
That you are not afraid to learn by trying.

Persist.

Because with an idea, determination,
And the right tools,
You can do great things.
Let your instincts, your intellect,
And your heart aid you.

The start of something new
Brings the hope of something great.
Anything is possible.

(Author Unknown)

This poem has been on my refrigerator for about two years. I like the sentiment it offers like to dream big, to persist. And that things worth doing, seldom come easy. I hope you find it encouraging too.

Dream big. Dreams really do come true..

OPEN VS. CLOSED ADOPTION

This to me is a very personal decision. I understand and know all the benefits to an
open adoption, but closed adoption was what felt right for us. After starting the embryo adoption process, we considered both options and weighed the pros and cons. There are many benefits to an an open adoption. The child will know their biological birthparents, and possibly sibling(s). The child will have better access to their medical history.

But as you can see from my previous blogs, I believe God speaks to our heart and
directs us which way to go. It is up to us to follow. Josh and I felt led to adopt using
closed embryos from the start of this process.

Proverbs 3:6 says, “In all thy ways acknowledge Him, and He will direct thy paths.”

Isaiah 30:21 states, “Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a
voice behind you, saying, “This is the way”.

Even though I had a peace about closed adoption, I still struggled with the decision on
several occasions. The struggle was because I was fighting against what my heart was telling me. I was trying to talk myself into what seemed to be the most “politically correct” thing to do. I would say, we are denying our child the right to know his or her biological parents. But still, closed adoption had felt right. I would say, we are denying
our child access to more information about their medical history. But still, closed adoption just felt right.

Josh didnʼt struggle with the decision like I did. Josh would remind me “we didnʼt decide
for the child not to know his or her biological parents, the donating parents already
made that decision.” He would remark “closed” embryos have as much right to be born
as “open” embryos. The biological parents lovingly gave these embryos up so that they
wouldnʼt be frozen indefinitely. He would state closed embryos were children too,
waiting to be born. Waiting to ride bicycles, and eat ice cream cones, and play t-ball.
Whatʼs most important is that these children were desperately wanted. Desperately
wanted by biological parents who had to undergo medical intervention that created
more embryos than they could care for. Children they loved too much to destroy or see
donated to medical science.

These children are also desperately wanted by the adopting parents. Parents who want children so badly, as to have to undergo medical intervention for this process to be possible. I use the term child or children when speaking of embryos. Although, not all embryos become children, all children were once embryos.

I came to realize that, even though, I know my biological family, there is so much about
my medical history that I do not know. And though, I have biological parents and a
brother, whom I love, we couldnʼt be more different at times.

All embryos, or should I say children, deserve a chance to be loved. The choice
between open or closed adoption truly is a personal decision. I know from my first
ultrasound picture at 6 weeks with my baby, I was in love. It felt like it was the child God had planned for us all along.

I trust in His provision that after this child is born, He will guide us should a medical
need arise, just as He has done through out this whole process. I pray this child will be
so deeply in love with us, as we are him, that when the time comes for him to wonder
about his biological parents, it will not overshadow the life we provided for him. His
identity will be defined by who he becomes, not by his genes.

LIFE’S JOURNEYS

As my journey with infertility is ending, my friends journey with breast cancer has just begun. I know it is not the same and you cannot compare the two, but it reminds me that you never know what path life will take you.

I endearingly call this friend whom I am referring to as “baby momma”. She is our friend who was gracious enough to be our donor 2 years ago. Even though a pregnancy did not result, I will always lovingly refer to her as baby momma. She was willing to sacrifice time off work for doctors appointments, endure months of shots, and drive to another state to sign legal documents; in the hopes that Josh and I would know the joys of parenthood. She has earned that title. The fact is she would do it for anyone she cared enough about, so they too could know this joy. That is who she is.

My friend is now on her own life’s journey. Following a routine mammogram, she was diagnosed just two weeks ago with breast cancer. She is only 38. Finding a mass in her left breast, she leaves this week to go to Vanderbilt for a mastectomy, followed by chemo in two-three weeks. She has given her blessing on sharing this information so that other women may be aware that it can happen to you at any age. Had she not requested a routine exam, and waited until the recommended age of 40, it could have been a much different outcome. As of now, the cancer is contained in one breast, and has not spread to her lymph nodes.

I am reminded that women going through infertility often delay some of these routine exams. We are so focused on getting pregnant, that we may neglect to request some of these diagnostic test. Many infertility clinics require routine exams as part of their protocol. Some do not. I have been to both. Infertility can be grueling, it requires a lot out of you. It is up to us to make sure we don’t neglect other aspects of our health, becoming entirely focused on getting pregnant.

Tomorrow, I will meet with my friend at the hair salon to support her as she gets her hair cut. Trying to make things as normal as possible for her 4 year old, she wants to cut her hair in stages so that when it starts falling out, her daughter will think it is just another cut or style.

My friend is amazing, and her journey has just begun. She is strong like many of you. Infertility is not for the faint of heart. I encourage you, as we approach Breast Cancer Awareness Month in October to schedule your routine mammogram, if you have not already had one. My friend requested her mammogram, and luckily, the cancer was found early. After I deliver my baby, and the doctor gives me the go ahead, I will schedule mine too.

DID HE JUST SAY THAT?

The phone rings at 6:30 one early morning in March. My first thought was Josh is calling on his way to work to tell me we forgot to put the garbage out. I haven’t even had my coffee yet when I hear the garbage truck coming down the street. In my pajamas, I race to get my shoes on. I head down to get the garbage, and get it to the end of the driveway before the truck arrives in front of my house.

This is the scenario playing in my head, when I answer the phone and Josh whispers, “Dr. Jewett just called, you’re pregnant”. What? Did he just say what I thought he said? I distinctly remember it sounded as if he was whispering those words, almost as if he could hardly believe it himself.

As it slowly sunk in, I could hardly believe it either; but deep down, I knew it was true. There were many times on this journey when it would have been easy to give up, but there was something that just kept nudging us to keep going. That something was God. When we had doubts, He would speak to our hearts either through people or circumstances to let us know we were on the right path.

As I heard those words, it was as the cliche goes, surreal. I wanted to pinch myself to see if it was all really happening, but I knew in my heart that it was for real.

We had an appointment at the NEDC the next day for our pregnancy beta test, but I had awoken the day before with vertigo. As I was laying in bed, the room was spinning. It felt as if I was on ‘The Himalayan’ ride at the county fair. When I arose to get out of bed and walk down the hall, my body and head would tilt to the left. Being prone to sinus infections, I called our family practitioner to make an appointment thinking I might have an inner ear infection.

When I arrived at his office, Dr. Jewett asked how things were going. He had done our physicals for our home-study months prior, so he was aware of our situation and knew we had recently done IVF. I told him the trouble I was having walking upright, and that my head felt like it was filled with fluid. Dr. Jewett explained that if it was an inner ear infection, he couldn’t give me antibiotics if I thought I might be pregnant. I told him we were going to Knoxville the next day for our blood test. He said, I can go ahead and do a blood test if you would like. I replied, “I can wait until tomorrow, it’s just one more day.” Then Dr. Jewett explains, the insurance will cover it and he could go ahead and put me on antibiotics a day early depending on the results.

Well, alrighty then, if you insist! I jokingly told the girl as she was drawing my blood “to give me a good one”. In my heart, I knew it was going to be good. When God tells your heart to keep going, it has to be for a reason. I felt it was just a matter of time before we would get a positive result.

Knowing we would be anxious, Dr. Jewett said he would call as soon as the results came in, but that it probably wouldn’t be until after 2 pm the next day. I told him to please call Josh’s cell. Good or bad news, I thought sounded better when it came from Josh. He has such a calming demeanor, his confidence reassures you everything will be all right.

Since Jewett’s office doesn’t even open until 7:00 am, I thought when the phone rang at 6:30 that morning, it was the start to a typical day. After 6 years waiting, finally hearing those words “Your’e pregnant”, it was no ordinary day. I was never one to do a POAS after IVF, because the not knowing was better than the negative. However, seeing is believing, so Josh and I headed to the pharmacy and bought a digital test. Watching those two pink lines and the digital screen light up- Pregnant; was a moment we had only dreamed about. Yes, it was no ordinary day.

We left the next day for Knoxville to go to the NEDC for our “official” pregnancy test. My first hcg level at Dr. Jewett’s office was 24. The second hcg level at the NEDC was 98. We had to go back to the NEDC on Monday to make sure my levels were continuing to double as they should. Kelley Buckley, IVF coordinator with the NEDC called back that afternoon saying, “Tamara your hcg is 407, you’re definitely pregnant”.

Josh and I are getting used to a “new” normal and life is good.

ACCEPTANCE TO ELATION, GOD’S TIMING IS PERFECT

Josh and I met and started dating our senior year of college. After
graduation, we took jobs in different cities to pursue our careers; me in
marketing and Josh in communications as a District Executive for the Boy
Scouts. We became engaged and commuted for 3 hours on weekends to see each
other. After working a few years, Josh decided to go back to school for a
degree in nursing before we married. Josh received his Bachelors in
Nursing, and we married the following November. Thank goodness for the
demand in nursing jobs, we were finally able to relocate to the same
city!

We both worked for several more years, wanting to “get established” before
starting a family. We decided it would be best for him to get his master’s
degree so that we could afford for me to quit working and be a
stay-at-home mom. Josh was accepted into the master’s program which took
a little over two years to complete.

After receiving his masters, we relocated to Tennessee. We had found our
dream town, our dream house, and our dream church. Finally! We were
ready to start trying to have children. A family was everything we needed
to complete what we had worked so hard for all these years. It would be
so easy right? We didn’t realize while focusing on our careers, we were
using the few “good years” we had left to get pregnant on our own. We were
still so young.

After trying for a year on our own and with clomid, our ob/gyn referred us
to an infertility specialist. After numerous IUI attempts, and two failed
IVF attempts, our beloved doctor passed away from cancer. We had to start
over using his partner in the practice. This doctor informed us there
wasn’t anything more he could do and suggested third party reproduction.

Since moving to Tennessee, we had developed a close circle of friends.
Three of these dear friends offered to be a donor for us. Still believing
we could conceive on our own, we had never discussed third party reproduction
as a serious possibility. However, after much prayer and consideration, we
asked our friend who was most like a sister to me if she was still willing to
go through with her generous offer. She said yes, and excitedly we called the
doctor to make an appointment. He informed us he would not do “known donor”
transfers but only used donors provided by their clinic. We found a doctor
an hour away that would do the procedure.

We had 6 embryos with our donor. We transferred 3, which did not result
in pregnancy. Our 3 remaining embryos did not survive the thawing process.
Disappointed but determined to press on, we researched different options
online. We had previously come across the NEDC website while researching
IVF with our donor. We had also considered traditional adoption, but felt
embryo adoption gave us the possibility to become pregnant and bond with
the child from birth. We contacted the NEDC in March of 2011 and another
door opened for us.

Starting the process of embryo adoption seemed daunting at first. How do
we get started, how do we apply and go through the process of adoption,
how long will it take? After our 3rd failed IVF attempt with my friend’s
oocytes, Josh and I decided it was time to move on to embryo adoption. We
felt God led us here and it was the next logical step.

You see, going through the IVF with our friend was not an easy decision.
It was prayed about by all three of us, and many in our church were
standing in prayer with us. There were many things to consider. Would she
think we would be good parents? Would she feel like the child was really
hers and eventually want to be more involved? After all, we live in a
small community and are very close friends. But… God gave us a peace,
“Trust Me” is what would come over me when I prayed. The negative
pregnancy result was devastating because everyone who had been praying for
us felt this was God leading us. So how could it be negative? We were so
sure we had heard Him right. But, it was part of a “Greater” plan.

Many couples need a break after a failed cycle. For me, when I was not in
the middle of an IVF cycle it was torture. It felt like time was ticking
and there was nothing I could do to stop it. Being in the midst of an IUI or
IVF cycle was like therapy. It meant we were getting somewhere.. we were
making progress. Downtime was unbearable. So immediately after the
negative result I had to have a plan. I remembered coming across the NEDC
website when Josh and I were researching information on donor IVF.
We didn’t think much about it at the time, because we were so sure
this time it was going to work.

That is where looking back, I can see God’s hand in it all! Just coming
to the place where we were willing to use a donor meant acceptance. It
meant closure to a dream. A dream of a biological child of my own. It meant
never seeing my own eyes in my son or daughter. It meant knowing they
would never have my little quirks (which BTW can be a good thing). It
meant admitting that my body had failed me. Also, it meant all those
years preparing the nest to be more educated, more mature, and more
financially stable; didn’t exactly fall in line with our plan. But it was
not our plan, God was using those years for His vision and His timing. We
never questioned waiting. We never thought we’d have a problem conceiving.
We always had a peace that when the time came to start a family, we’d be
ready and everything would work out. And it did, just not the way we had
envisioned.

Had God never allowed us to go through this with our donor, we may not
have come across the NEDC. He used that time to prepare me. Not only would
I never see my eyes in my child, or my quirks, but my husband’s either.
But that we would come to the place where being a parent is more than
what you envision your child to be. It is embracing the child God had planned for
you all along, in His time. He used every clomid cycle (12 in all), 13
failed IUI’s and 3 IVF attempts (one more to come later) to bring us
to a place of acceptance of His plan. But it is more than acceptance. It
is elation, exuberance, and complete joy!! We are now 6 months pregnant
with our first child due in December.

I want to give you a “very basic” timeline of our first contact with the
NEDC to pregnancy, because if you are reading this you probably have a
similar story of heartbreak and disappointment. This timeline
will be different for everyone as there are many factors involved.

March 2011- We first contacted the NEDC
April 2011- NEDC initial application submitted
May 2011- Went to Bethany Christian Services
Discover Adoption Informational Meeting
June 2011- Started Homestudy Packet for Adoption
Aug 2011- Went to NEDC for mock transfer
Nov 2011- Homestudy walk through and individual interviews with
social worker
Dec 2011- Homestudy approved!
Dec 2011- Received donor selections and medical protocol
Jan 2012- Transferred 4 embryos
Jan 2012- Two weeks later, BFN
Feb 2012- Received new donor profiles for March transfer. No embryos
remained from January transfer
Feb 2012- Received medical protocol
March 2012- Transferred 3 embryos
March 2012- Two weeks later- We’re Pregnant!

If embryo adoption is the path God leads you, I hope you see just getting
started is often the hardest step. You can see the forest for the trees,
and there is beauty even while you are in the midst. I wish you success
on your journey to becoming parents.

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