Monday, June 30, 2014

Modern Family

         One of my favorite definitions of family is, "1. a social unit consisting of one or more adults together with the children they care for and look after; 2. a group of people who share common attitudes, interests, or goals and frequently, live together; 3. a group of people united and guided by certain convictions, beliefs, and morals; 4. relatives who love and care for one another deeply and oftentimes, put each others' needs and preferences before their own; 5. a group whose love is not hindered by time, space or circumstances." I can't think of a more complete way to look at what family is and to explain to others what family means to me.
         Growing up, everyone was either an Aunt or an Uncle to my siblings and I. My parents had very strong friendships with people they had known for years, and so it was never weird or strange for us to call a friend Aunt or Uncle. Okay, I take that back, there are some people that I won't call Aunt or Uncle no matter how close they are to my parents, but that is few and far between. The closest "Uncle" I had growing up was the man I refer to as my godfather, my Uncle Richard. He was my parents next door neighbor and I was his little buddy from day one. That man had my heart from the first day I saw him and I know I had his too. Uncle Richard was also my dad's best friend, so we saw him and my godmother, his wife, very often. Uncle Richard was the brother my dad never had, and he and his wife were there for us through everything. One of the hardest and saddest days of my life was when Richard passed away right after I graduated from high school. There is still a void in my heart that I don't think will ever completely fill up. He was one of the most amazing men I have ever met, and the hardest thing for me to think about now is how my children will never get to meet him. The one thing that does bring me solace, however, is that I know in the future they will have their own Uncle Richard.
         I know they will have their own Uncle Richard, because our best friend, "R", has already made it a point to be a part of their lives. "R" and his son "L" have been living with us since the beginning of this year. Due to unforeseen circumstances, the four of us became an instant family and have been working on our own "modern family" every day. Currently we fulfill all aspects of the family definition above, and for some reason unbeknownst to all of us, our modern family runs very smoothly. As in any family there are definitely bumps that come up along the way, but we are learning how to smooth those out and work as a unit to make life easier and better for all of us involved. When "R" and "L" (or as we refer to them as "the boys") came to live with us, lots of people told us that we were doing such a great thing "taking them in" and helping them in their time of need. I just don't think they thought this would be a long term endeavor. Luckily my family is very accepting and adopted the boys right away and now think it's weird if they don't come to family functions.
          Needless to say, the boys came to live with us right around the time I started the Provera and Clomid cycles. They, like Skyler, have been amazing through my emotional instabilities, and have supported us, like any good family does. When we talk about our future children "R" and "L" talk about how excited they are for our family to grow and for all of us to be able to take care of them. Seeing how they live the fourth part of the family definition ( 4. relatives who love and care for one another deeply and oftentimes, put each others' needs and preferences before their own) I know that God is already working on our family. I have never once questioned that Skyler will put our children's needs above his own because he does that for me. But watching "R" do that for Skyler and I, truly reminds me of my Uncle Richard. But most of all it reminds me that God has given us the ability to choose who we call family. And He has given us the ability to love unconditionally, to love without bounds. To love beyond bloodlines. To love those most in need. Knowing this, it is no wonder that we believe and feel that God will provide us with the child/ children that we are meant to have. The children we are meant to teach how to love in our modern and ever changing world.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

You saw a naturo- what?!

         As you can tell from our past posts, the conventional medicines used for women with PCOS to promote menstruation and ovulation really took a toll on my emotional well-being. Throughout the last six months I would talk with my older sister about how the medicines were effecting me, but that I was trying to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Being the sister and friend she is, she supported our efforts, but also encouraged us to look at more natural avenues too. About a month ago we were talking on the phone and she told me how she had recently seen a local naturopath and that she thought their advice was very helpful and useful. She encouraged me to go the the website: www.naturopathic.org to research what exactly naturopathy is and if there was a Doctor of Naturopathy (DN) near us.
         It took a couple of days for us to go to the naturopathy website; one because I was tired of trying at that point. I was exhausted to the core of my being and didn't want to spend more time looking for a cure I didn't believe was possible. This was about the time when we decided to stop the medicines and as they started to work their way out of my system, I began to feel like it wouldn't hurt to look into what a naturopathic doctor could offer us. Basically naturopathy is the use of natural therapies and supplements in conjunction with modern medicine to treat the whole person.  Naturopathic doctors focus on the healing power of nature, identifying and treat the causes, do no harm, using the doctor as a teacher, and focusing on prevention. Through this website I was able to find a DN close by who was also a RN and a Doctor of Oriental Medicine (DOM). On the website it talked about the initial forms to fill out and the what visits would cost since insurance wouldn't cover our visits with her. (A side note on insurance: in a nut shell it doesn't cover most things related to infertility. Any non-western specialists, any alternative therapies, or any intense fertility treatments are not covered at all or only minimally covered. Well at least by our plan. Our only saving grace to see different specialists is the employer sponsored health savings account through Skyler's job. Thankfully we are able to put money into this account each month which covers out of network costs. It would just be so much easier, though, if our health system promoted healthcare as a right for the people and not a way to make money, but that's a whole other post!)
          So after talking about it, Skyler and I decided to schedule a visit with the DN to see what she thought would help with the PCOS and our goal of having a baby. To schedule a visit with her, though, we had to fill out 35 pages for her intake form! It took us a couple of days to do, but it actually felt good telling her EVERYTHING that I was feeling and going through. After completing the forms I sent them to her and we scheduled my first visit for this past Friday. It was about a two week wait from when I sent the forms to her to when I finally saw her and as the date got closer to seeing her, we became more and more excited to see what she would say.
         Upon arriving at her office we immediately realized this would not be a regular doctors visit. Her office was in the middle of a spiritual healing center, with no receptionist, and signs that said, "Please whisper, treatments in session." Skyler and I just sat down in the chairs and waited and right before my scheduled time our DN came out and introduced herself and brought us back to her office. We then had an hour long conversation about my symptoms and what exactly I was experiencing. She taught us about different ways to live healthier and then "prescribed" me lots of vitamins and minerals to take. When we walked out Skyler and I didn't say much to each other. We both agreed we liked her, but didn't know what else to say. We had a lot to think about and in all honesty we also had to learn and re-teach our brains that western medicine was not the only way to fix problems.
         When talking about our visit later that night, I asked Skyler if he thought the suggestions from the naturopath would help. He answered honestly, as he always does, and said that he trusted her suggestions more than western medicine as naturopathy and oriental medicine has been around for centuries longer than modern day medicine.  He told me he was glad that she talked about natural remedies, but was also very honest about the fact that I would most likely have to go back on Provera and Clomid when we see our fertility specialists later this summer. She explained that it was good that we took a break and that hopefully over the next month or so we can get my body regulated with vitamins and minerals so that when I have to do the next round of hormone treatments I'll be able to handle them better.
         As our visit with her came to an end she asked if we had any questions. Mine, like usual, was to know if she had experience with other women with PCOS and how or if their infertility was resolved. She was very honest and explained that yes she does have other patients with PCOS, and that now some of them do have babies, but that the most important thing is that they all talk about feeling healthier. She explained that since all of our body systems are connected, it would take a while for everything to become balanced and begin to work optimally.
         So we bought all the vitamins, minerals, and supplements she recommended and as of now I'm on day two of the regimen that she put me on. Of course our main goal is to become pregnant and have a baby, but as of right now I'm just excited to feel better. I'm excited to have more energy so that I can enjoy the amazing life God has given us so far. I'm ready to be the best version of me that I can be :)
       

Friday, June 27, 2014

Praying to be healed

         Our church has a prayer time every couple of weeks where people are invited down to the front of the congregation to receive prayer from our prayer team. Since we just started going to this church, Skyler and I didn't go down to the front of the auditorium the first time. I think both of us were thinking and feeling that we weren't sure if we wanted everyone to see that we were in need of prayer. That something was wrong in our lives. I mean everyone tries to portray that life is just perfect, right? But over the weeks the verse from James 4:10 kept playing over and over in my head, "Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord and he shall lift you up." I knew that if we were going to receive healing we needed to admit to ourselves, our family, our friends, and those at our church that we needed God to heal us. We needed God to intervene and give us a miracle.
         So this past Sunday was another invitation to come to the front to be prayed over. Before the invitation, though, one of our pastors had a couple come forward to talk about how with prayer and God's provisions, their newborn son was healed from a terminal kidney disease. The couple discussed how all the ultrasounds kept saying that their son had weak kidneys and that he might not live upon delivery. Once born, however, his kidneys were fine. Countless tests were done on the new baby, but everything was normal. Our pastor talked about how the couple would come forward to receive prayer and say, "We just need a miracle." The part that hit home for Skyler and I, though, was we know this couple. We've gone to church with them for a while, and have met their family. So when the prayer invitation was given on Sunday, Skyler and I both walked down to the front without even having to ask if the other wanted to go.
         When we got to the front we were ushered to one of the prayer team members who asked us what we would be praying for today. I simply told her, "Infertility" and she said, "I understand" and then began to pray. I don't really remember her prayer, but I do know that I felt this heaviness begin to lift off of my shoulders, something I haven't felt in a very long time. I cried through the whole prayer, but in a sense I didn't even know I was crying. I felt so moved that I just let any emotion come through that needed to. Even though the prayer had lasted for just a few minutes, it felt like years of stress, anger, hopelessness, shame, sadness, and despair had lifted.
          What is interesting, however, was a couple of weeks before this we had a guest pastor come talk to our congregation about not letting yourself get stuck in a rut and asking God to help you in your time of need. The aspect of his sermon that stuck with me the most was how he said when we pray for healing we need to be specific. We can't just say, "God please heal me." That isn't what God wants. The pastor explained that God knows what it going on in our lives. He knows what our troubles and sorrows are. But healing can only occur when you humble yourself in front of Him, acknowledge that you are finally aware of what is going on, and specifically ask for healing.
          As the events of the last couple of weeks have unfolded, I have begun to pray for healing. I wasn't doing it as often as I felt I should, but that all changed this week. This week I had two baby dreams. ( Let's take a moment here to let all those know how important baby dreams are to those of us who are dealing with infertility. I know that for Skyler and I, baby dreams are a sign that things are alright. Things are going to happen in God's time and we will get our babies when we are supposed to. But having two in one week is EPIC in my book and I was really excited about it!) One dream was silly and funny and I remember it well. The other one I don't remember I just know that I had an uneasy feeling about it when I woke up. But after both dreams I immediately started to pray my specific prayer for healing and that we would become pregnant soon. And now that seems to be a habit. Every night before I go to bed I pray our prayer for healing and every time I wake up in the middle of the night I pray the same prayer while I fall back to sleep.
         As I've been writing this post, I've been texting Skyler about my prayers and he told me, "I've been praying for the same thing. It's like a constant prayer for me. I pray for healing for you all the time. That's pretty much all I've prayed for the last 3-4 years." And when talking to others in our life I know they pray for us every day too. Praying seems to remind me that we are not in control. Not in the slightest. Just as Jeremiah 29:11 states, "For I know the plans I have your you", declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." And thankfully our hope is starting to be restored :)

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

The Wisdom of Yoda

Hi everyone, it's Skyler.  I felt like it was time for me to write a post of my own and go into a little more depth about a few things that were covered in my interview last night :) There were a few questions that stuck with me so I felt I would elaborate more on my perspective(s). I’m going to do this over a few posts since I don’t want to get to long winded…and I have the whole “squirrel” thing going on so my attention span might be kind of fleeting.  I'm sure that you'll all realize pretty quickly that Kate is much better at this journaling thing than I am but here goes. 

I’m sure that the people who know me have noticed that I’ve never really been one to show too much of my emotional makeup.  Showing who I really am leaves me exposed, vulnerable, and open to getting hurt.  None of which seem like good options to me.  It has always been easier for me to harden myself, push the feelings down, ignore them as best as I can, and move on.  This scenario worked for me for a long time but dealing with this infertility stuff has been harder than I ever imagined and has become a catalyst for me to face some of my own personal issues and demons on top of the infertility fight.  Why am I saying this?  Because I want to be able to convey my true raw emotions and not put a mask on.   After a while ignoring and hiding from what you feel is just as hard as, if not harder than, acknowledging and dealing with your emotions.
     
The first question that stuck with me from Kate’s interview is "Over the years, how have your feelings developed further or changed about our situation?".  This is a question that has a couple of different aspects for me, there is of course the personal side of our own situation but then there is a side that covers infertility as a whole.  I stated in my response that I have gone through the entire gambit of emotions but that is incorrect.  There are still plenty of emotions that I’m experiencing that I didn’t even know existed, both good and bad. 

            A wise little green guy with big ears (Yoda, in case you didn’t guess) once said “Fear leads to anger.  Anger leads to hate.  Hate leads to suffering.”  This is a pretty good way to describe the overall feelings I’ve had through this infertility journey.  My fear started when we realized that something was really wrong and Kate started to look for people who genuinely cared and wanted to help figure out what was going on.  Over time Kate has found an amazing team of medical professionals that have done their best to help figure out what is going on with her, I am eternally grateful for these people.  Even with an awesome team like Kate has, there are no guarantees about anything.  As time went on we noticed that the treatments that Kate was being prescribed were having no effect (minimal enough to not really notice if there was anything) and we started to pursue making sure that we even had the right diagnosis.  This is the time when we started getting answers like “oh…hmm… you’re a hard case” but it seemed like they wouldn’t take the time to investigate deeper, nor did they really care.  Here is the point where the anger really started setting in.  “Why wouldn’t anyone do anything to help?”  “Why don’t any of these doctors care about Kate?”  “How dare your diagnosis be “chunky” (this guy almost went flying through a wall).”  “Is PCOS even the right diagnosis? How can you be sure?”   Even after all these questions we were no further in our quest for answers and I started getting really angry.  I was angry at the doctors, at their lack of caring, at the fact that there weren’t any answers, but more than anything I was mad at God.  I was furious that he was letting all this happen to her, in no way did she deserve this.  I will admit that I’ve done some messed up and bad stuff in my life and I’ll accept the consequences of my actions but why would God put this kind of punishment on Kate when she has done nothing to deserve it?  I didn’t and still don’t understand why it has to be her that has to deal with this but at least I’m more understanding that I won’t always know why.

            After being angry for so long it is very true that this anger turns into hate.  I hated everything about the infertility, the meds and their effects on Kate, and I hated God more than anything for Kate having to go through all of this.  This continued and stayed pretty much status quo for a while but when a few issues came up in other aspects of life it pushed all my hate into the suffering stage and I hit some of the lowest points I’ve ever felt.  It was only at this point that I finally started letting my anger and rage about everything go.  It wasn’t and still isn’t an easy process but I am finally once again starting to feel hope that everything will end up ok and that there is some reason unbeknownst to us that all of this is happening.  I’m actually finally starting to feel better about everything than I’ve felt in a long time.  I am a firm believer that when there are times that shake the core of who you are you have two options: 1) let the situation drive you to hate, anger, and away from God or 2) let the situation humble you and drive you toward God.  Luckily I’ve decided to let it drive me towards God and getting back on the track that I feel Kate and I should be on.

            In regards to the overall fertility issue a lot of people don’t think about the other partner when they hear that a couple is facing this challenge.  I can’t blame them, when someone says they are going through something like PCOS a person’s natural reaction isn’t to look at their partner and ask if they’re ok.  More than anything I just want people who read this to do their best to think that even though the person dealing with the health issue directly is in vital need of support please don’t forget that the other person in the relationship is dealing with just as much mentally and emotionally.  As a partner in this journey I don’t have to worry about cysts on my ovaries (I’m sure you’re all glad to know that huh?!) but I do have to worry about Kate getting them and the possibility that they can potentially raise her chances of ovarian cancer in the future. I have to worry about the meds that she is having to take and the side effects that come with those.  I’m worried about her mental and emotional well-being and how to best protect her from her own brain at times.  I’m concerned that when the times come that I need to be the rock and strength to pull her out of the dark places that I will be able to pull myself out of the same darkness enough to help her out of hers.  I am using a lot of personal examples but all partners in this situation I’m sure are going through many of the same things.  When you love someone with all your being you hurt when they hurt, you laugh when they laugh, they are your reason for being and it can be insanely hard to watch something beat them down and tear them apart knowing that you are powerless to do anything to help.  It might not take much but the offer a hug and a “how are you doing?” to all of those involved in this struggle can go much farther than you’d think.


I think that’s good for this first post.  I feel like this was a pretty dark post but this is the starting place of where I have been. It gets better and brighter, I promise. I do want to say thank you and let you all know that Kate and I are eternally grateful for the support that we’ve gotten from everyone.  It’s a hard process but it would be immensely harder without all of you.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

A Man's Perspective

          When I started this blog, I did so to help with my own frustrations and emotions that I was feeling about infertility. I kept a journal in high school and all through out the early years of my relationship with Skyler and it really helped. Starting this blog has really helped too. It's our blog, though, and when I started it Skyler said he might add posts every once in a while. Even though this world makes women feel like infertility is mostly our issue, Skyler has always been right there beside me. He's in the trenches with me and has made that apparent from day one. Tonight I wanted to show you Skyler's perspective on all of this, so I interviewed him :)

Me: When we first started talking about having a family (like cute little love sick teenagers do) and I told you that it might be hard for me to get pregnant, what did you think?

Skyler: Back then I thought it wouldn't be as hard as you thought it might be. And we didn't need to focus on it then. We were teenagers and we were invincible.

Me: When did you begin to realize that we might have to deal with infertility issues?

Skyler: About the same time we began to figure out that something wasn't right. When you started to see different OB/ GYN's about not having a period.

Me: What did you think when I was diagnosed with PCOS?

Skyler: First I wanted to know how this would impact your health overall. And then what does that mean for you and our future family. Where do we go from here?

Me: Over the years, how have your feelings developed further or changed about our situation?

Skyler: I feel like I've gone through the whole gambit of emotions. Everything from "It won't be a big deal," to questioning the diagnosis, to feeling frustrated and angry, to feeling hopeless. Sometimes it feels like I feel all of the emotions available to a person in just a full day.  I'm still questioning if the diagnosis that you have is the correct diagnosis. It's really disheartening because the conventional treatments for PCOS haven't helped you at all. Everything that is supposed to help has only made things worse. And that's hard for me to see. It's hard to see the effects that all the meds have taken on you. It is hard to see the mental and emotional anguish you have to go through.

Me: When you feel hopeless about our situation, what helps you feel hopeful?

Skyler: Leaning on each other. Days that you are down I try to be the strength and rock you need and when I'm down you do the same for me. Faith- sometimes that is about all there is to get through it.

Me: Over the last six months I've had a really hard time with all the hormones I've put into my body, what's that been like for you? (At this point I looked at him and made him promise to be honest with me!)

Skyler: (snickering) hell. But not in the sense that you've treated me bad. In the sense that I've hated watching what they've done to you and the toll they've taken on you. It's like watching your best friend get beat up from their own body and brain- it's not an easy thing to do.

Me: When you think about the future, what is the "family" image that comes to mind?

Skyler: Kids. I see us having the children we've wanted, whether they are biological or adopted.

Me: Were you surprised when I said we should start looking into adoption?

Skyler: A little bit. I was surprised that you were ready to go there. But at the same time I wasn't that surprised.

Me: How do you feel about adoption now that we've done more research on it?

Skyler: S*&% is expensive!  I'm still very much a proponent for it, but I feel that there are some places out there that are just using adoption as a sales ploy to sell a child.

Me: If you could go back in time and talk to a younger version of you, when we first started this journey with infertility, what would you tell yourself?

Skyler: Hang on it's going to be a ride. I wouldn't tell my younger me to do anything different. Maybe I would say not to expect any quick answers.

Me: What do you want to tell our future children?

Skyler: Oh so much :) I would tell them how we've already fought for them and we'll never stop fighting for them.  That I hope our love for them is apparent to them from day one of their existence.

Me: Is there anything else you want people to know about your side of this journey?

Skyler: Just because the guy isn't the one dealing with the direct physical issue, doesn't mean that it doesn't take as much of an emotional toll. A lot of people don't think about the guy when talking about infertility and don't take in to account it's just as hard for them. The same questions and comments that can hurt the woman can hurt the man just as bad. Assumptions hurt too.

         Infertility does not discriminate. Infertility is not prejudice. Infertility know no emotional bounds.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

So do you have kids?

           In our society there are programmed questions we all seem to ask a person based on our first impressions of them and the little bit of knowledge we have about them. When people first meet Skyler and I the usual questions asked are, "Where do you work?" "Are you from here?" "How did you meet?" and of course "Do you have kids?" As expected, the first 3 questions are all easy to answer, but the last one has always been hard. Hard not only because we don't have children, but hard because of the societal expectation for us to already be training and raising up the next generation. When asked this question, my response has always been, "Not yet, but hopefully one day." Skyler's response is usually the same and we have both gotten very good at changing the subject so that we don't have to linger too long on such an emotional topic for us.
          Sometimes I don't change the subject, though. Sometimes when people ask, "So do you have kids?" my answer is something like this: "No we don't have children yet. I have Poly Cystic Ovarian Syndrome and as of now we don't think we'll be able to have children naturally." The usual response to that is, "Oh." Then the polite statements such as, "Well it'll happen for you," or "All in God's time." And yes both of those statements are true, but they don't help me. It's like telling someone who's loved one has just passed away, "Well just know they are in a better place." Yes, that may be true, but that doesn't make the pain of losing them go away. When those we love pass, we want them with us. We want to be able to hold them. We want to be able to talk to them. We want them. The same is true for those of us experiencing infertility. Yes, one day it may happen, but that doesn't mean that right now... right this instant... my body is not yearning to feel the movement of my child inside of me. It doesn't mean that I'm not always wishing for the day when I will be able to hold my baby in my arms and watch them sleep and know I have created something beautiful.
         I know that when people ask that question they are just making pleasantries and are asking the programmed questions that we all ask. I guess what I'm trying to say is when you meet someone, just because they are of child bearing age, please don't assume that they have children or are even ready for a family. Before you ask, "So do you have kids?" please take a moment to realize how hard it can be to hear that question and know that, no in fact I don't have kids, but that is all I want.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

A Father's Love

          My parents are amazing people. They have been together since they were 15 years old, have raised 4 kids, have gone through really rough times, and have stuck together and still make each other laugh every day. My mom has always been the social butterfly of the two and is always trying something new or different (i.e. she went to Clown College when I was a teenager!). My dad has always been more of a home body and really enjoys get together's with close friends and family. I like to think I'm a good mix of both of them, depending on the day and the situation.
         When my parents were beginning their own journey of starting a family, my dad felt really compelled to adopt. He's very much a humanitarian at heart and even though he definitely did want biological children, he knew that there were a lot of kids out there who could use loving homes. Well one thing led to another and my sister was born and a few years later my brother was born. My mom has explained that after my brother she knew that she still wanted another baby and she and my dad began to try again, but nothing happened for a while. Then my mom became pregnant, but sadly had a miscarriage and thought it wasn't in the cards for her to bear another child, so my parents began to look into adoption. I believe they had filled out an application and were starting their home study portion of the process when my mom found out she was pregnant with me. They then had to stop their adoption journey because at that time potential adoptive parents were not allowed by the state to adopt if they had a child under 2 years old in the home.
         I know that they were both very excited to conceive me, but they both have so much love to give that I also know it was hard for them to not be able to help other children who didn't have the best homes.  Fast forward 15 years and they did finally get the chance to adopt my younger sister. Since my younger sister wasn't adopted as an infant, the family dynamics changed rapidly in our home in a matter of days. The week my sister came to live with us, not only had her adoptive mother passed away, but my brother also got married. As a family, we were all on an emotional roller coaster that didn't really level out for some time. Life changed drastically and for a while I felt so lost and confused. I was used to being the baby of the family and getting to do whatever I wanted, for the most part that is. Then all of a sudden I became a big sister- nothing like trial by fire! As you can imagine there was a lot of flux in my relationship with my parents, not only because of the way things happened, but because of the age I was when they occurred.
         For a while I felt like my feelings were on the back burner, like I just needed to accept everything that had happened and not question it. Looking back on all of it now, I know that's not what happened. I know my parents tried to still give me a normal teenage experience along with dealing with a disorder they had never heard about or dealt with before. I know they didn't forget about my needs, and every day I see them now it becomes more evident that our relationship is even stronger because of what the 3 of us had to go through.
          Like I've said before, in dealing with all the attachment issues with my younger sister, I swore to myself... okay... and to everyone who would listen, that I would never adopt. I could not put myself through that kind of heart ache like I saw my parents go through. My mom and I have talked a lot about this and she hasn't tried to persuade me one way or another. She's always listened to my feelings and validated my experiences. I've never out-right had this conversation with my dad, but he's a smart man and could see the emotional havoc this caused. At times I felt like he blamed himself for my aversion to adoption.  I knew he was still a big supporter of it and that he didn't want me to give up on other children because of the bad taste I had in my mouth from one experience. And like most dads, he didn't even have to say any of this- his presence and demeanor said it all.
         So all of this infertility junk happened. And I was pissed! I became so mad that all of this happened to me. What did I do to deserve this? Why can everyone around me have a baby but I can't? My mom knew about my frustrations, but I didn't tell my dad. Even though it's hard for him to say, I know he hurts for his kids when they hurt, and I didn't want to put that on him. That all changed, though, when Skyler and I took our most recent pregnancy test at the beginning of this month and it was negative.
         When doing fertility treatments, I've tried to prepare myself that the possibility of a negative pregnancy test is probable and I try to handle those negative results as best as I can. This last negative test, though, just pushed me over the edge. Once the results were in, I was so upset (remember how I've said my instant reaction to everything was anger?) I didn't know what to do. It was 6:30am on a Saturday and I woke Skyler up and told him I was going to my parents. He didn't question me, he just said, "You're not going alone" and got dressed and went with me. I cried on the whole way up there. When we walked into their house, after they got over the initial shock of me standing in their bedroom at 7 in the morning, I just looked at them and said, "It's negative" and burst into tears. My dad immediately got up and said, "Go to your mother" and then walked into the kitchen with Skyler. My mom held me in her arms, like she used to every morning when I was little, and just said it would be okay. As this was happening it wasn't until later that Skyler told me that my dad was doing the same thing for him while they were in the kitchen.  Skyler explained to me on the way home, that my dad gave him a great big hug and said he was so sorry and that it would be okay. He talked to Skyler about how he and my mom had been on this same emotional roller coaster and that they gave up. Without saying much else, I knew he was telling Skyler not to give up. My dad wants us to be parents just as badly as we want to be, he just may not say it all the time.
         That day was the beginning of our decision to stop taking the hormones to try and get pregnant. That day I knew I couldn't keep putting myself through the heartbreak of a negative test every month, especially when it would always be a guessing game. That day helped to build the foundation for our decision to look into adoption.  I knew God was working on my heart and was telling me that just because my experience with adoption didn't go as planned, doesn't mean that His plan for my future family won't be drastically different. And the first person I thought of who would support us through this was my dad.
         When we decided to look into adoption we only told a few people. We told my mom because I tell her everything, but didn't tell my dad until Father's Day. When we had lunch with him that day I said, "Did mom tell you we're looking into adoption?" And in his stoic demeanor, he briefly looked at me and said, "Yes she did and I'm proud of you for doing that."  Now this statement may not be as life changing for some, but it was for me. I know my dad has always been proud of the things I've done in life, but he tends to keep his emotions inside, so when he said that he was proud of me in front of everyone that day, I knew we had made the right decision.
          So when I had lunch with my mom yesterday we talked about my dads reaction to us adopting. Nonchalantly over our wonton and egg drop soup, she explained that my dad was also looking into private adoptions for us as well. And that's when reality slapped me upside the face! How had we not thought of private adoption? My younger sister was a private adoption and that process went very smoothly. And since my dad is friends with their adoption attorney he knew exactly who to contact for us to get more information. As soon as I got home from lunch I sent him an email saying thank you for his comment on Father's Day and for also seeking information about private adoptions for us. His response was, "I did not want to appear too pushy. It's your life. Thanks for the thanks, but you thank me every day by just being you. I love you back!!" Again a few simple sentences to most, but so much more to me.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Can I do anything to help you?

          This week has been exhausting, in more ways than one, but to top it off yesterday I had my annual doctor visit to check and see how things were going. I see a certified nurse midwife who is the sweetest thing ever and who genuinely cares about my emotional well-being. She asked how the Clomid cycles had gone and I was completely honest with her and said that they wreaked havoc on my body, but more so on my psyche.  I then discussed with her how the combination of Provera and Clomid made me depressed and started to bring upon suicidal thoughts. As a mental health professional I know that is a red flag for clinicians, so I knew she would want to know the answers to the basic questions, "Do you feel like hurting yourself now?" "Do you have a plan on how to hurt yourself" "What is keeping you from hurting yourself?" The crazy thing is I ask clients these questions all the time, but when they were asked to me it was like I had never heard them before.
         Anyone who knows me knows I'm an eternal optimist. I tend to always see the glass half full, I mean I took the quiz: "What should your theme song be?" and the answer was "Walking on Sunshine"!  Depression does run in my family, but luckily I've been able to recognize the signs and symptoms in myself and can utilize my protective factors when I do feel a little down. But when I started taking the combination of Provera and Clomid, I started to change. Kind of like a Doctor Jeckyl and Mr. Hyde thing. Some moments I would be fine... my normal self, laughing and joking. Then it would hit. I would start crying uncontrollably, I would become angry for no reason, everything seemed to be darkened by a cloud I couldn't escape. Skyler, like always, was amazing and said I wasn't ever that bad, but I knew I was. Even now as the meds start to leave my system I still have uncontrollable moments. For example, while cleaning this last weekend I attempted to move a large house plant and it almost fell over on to the carpet. The key word being almost. But as soon as I saw it start to fall, my anxiety sky rocketed and I could see the dirt all over the place, all over the clean floor, and one of Skyler's favorite plants "ruined". Like the old saying goes, "Don't cry over spilled milk" and knew I didn't need to cry over spilled plant, but I couldn't help it. Skyler came over to help me and I just broke in to tears. Who cries over potting soil???!!!
          Anyway... my midwife just listened and said it was okay and that it would probably take a few months for all of the meds to work their way out of my system. And we have noticed a difference. My instant reaction to most things isn't immediately anger any more, and I don't think I'm biting Skyler's head off near as much. It's just scary how much a chemical or substance can change you and in such a short amount of time. So after talking about how things were going, my midwife said, "So can I do anything to help?" Usually when asked this question my instant and programmed response is, "No, it'll be okay, but thanks for asking." Luckily my midwife knows me a little better than I'd like to admit and said, "I'll just pray for you honey," which is a statement I've begun to hear a lot.
         Ever since my family found out that we wanted to start trying to have a baby, all of those who believe in the power of prayer have been praying for us. My mom and my grandma say novena's, my siblings keep us in their prayers, and my aunt (who is most definitely the prayer warrior of our family) continues to tell me if you believe you will conceive! Along the same lines, at church a couple of weeks ago the preacher talked about that healing can occur if we just specifically ask God to heal us. Don't be general. Ask for what you need and if you believe you will receive it (Matthew 21:22). So why haven't we put this into practice? That's a great question, and one I don't have an answer to at this time. We believe in God's healing powers, but at the same time that would mean admitting that I need to be healed. That something is broken. That I'm not normal.
          Today I told my brother about everything that we are going through and he simply said, "God has put the desire on your heart to have children, and He will deliver when He knows the time is right." So tonight I'd like to say that I am broken. I do need healing. I am not a super hero. I can't solve my own problems. And I do need help. And when people ask from now on if they can help, I'll simply say, "Yes, pray for us." God will answer and we must be patient... it's virtue after all.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

And then we hit a wall...

          One of the reason's our blog is titled, "The Wondering Whitney's" is because Skyler and I are always wondering what is around the next corner. We never really have a plan, and if we do, it never really works out. The same holds true for our adoption experience. After being told that we would meet with our adoption coordinator, we were sent a couple webinars to listen to about the adoption process through the agency we had chosen and what other families had experienced. In the webinar we heard about the history of the agency, what their fees are, what to expect when you are matched with a birth mother, and how to properly proceed with an adoption. After listening to these webinars last night, Skyler and I felt good about our decision to adopt through this company... until we received information about our phone conference today.
          While I was at work today I received an e-mail outlining what our interview/ phone conference would be like tonight and different topics that would be discussed. In the webinars last night different fees were discussed, but when I got the e-mail we received notice of another fee that was due as well. At this point the cost went from "Wow that's a lot of money" to "I think we need to get two jobs each to pay for this!" The adoption coordinator talked about "payment" plans, ways to fundraise, and different grants that could help with the cost. But as the cost kept going up and up, it just began to feel like we were buying a baby, not adopting a child. I know that isn't exactly the case, but when you feel like you have to take a second mortgage out on your house to afford everything it takes to adopt, it has a slight undertone of purchasing a human being.
          During our conference tonight we were also asked about how we felt about the baby being exposed to substances in utero and how we felt about open adoption. In working in the new born nursery's at hospitals I know exactly what it looks like to see a baby who is born addicted to a substance have to ween off it without anything to help with that pain. Skyler and I talked about how we would prefer to have a birth mother who stopped using substances once she found out, not only because of what I've seen, but because of what Skyler was exposed to in utero by his birth mother. Our adoption coordinator seemed to understand our point of view and validated, for the most part, how we felt about that.
          Then we got to the topic of open adoption. Apparently, from what we learned tonight, the agency that we chose is a big proponent of open adoption and having continued contact with the birth mother as the child grows up. They encourage letters, and pictures, and yearly visits so that the birth mother can feel that they made the right decision and can see how happy the family is who are now raising the child they gave birth to. And we totally get how this would be important for some families and would work for some families, but we didn't feel like all of that would work for us. Before our call today, Skyler and I talked about how we would feel very comfortable getting to know the birth mother while she is pregnant and how it would be weird if we stopped talking to her once the baby was born. We talked about how we felt it would be okay to send yearly updates and pictures to her to let her know how things were going, but that we didn't feel comfortable with yearly visits. We didn't feel comfortable with visits, not because we wanted to shut the birth mother out or felt she would try to co-parent, but because when Skyler was younger and he visited with his birth mother it left him confused and at times angry about the situation. Then when we found his biological father about 4 years ago and visited with him, the visits felt awkward and fake. We know the situation is different with this agency, but when asked how we felt Skyler honestly stated that he wouldn't feel comfortable with visits from his perspective. Our coordinator told us they understood, but then spent 15 minutes trying to convince us that open adoption was the way to go and that those yearly visits helped the birth mother.
          And don't get me wrong, I totally understand how these visits would help the birth mother, but it was also disheartening to feel as if our beliefs had not been heard. How Skyler's adoption was something out of the norm and meant that what he experienced wasn't really justified. The call continued at this point, and we were told we were accepted into their "program" and that we had to pay so much by a certain date and then keep paying... and paying... and paying... and paying. By the end of the call we decided that we needed a lot more time to think about raising the money for an adoption and needed to take a while to think about it. The adoption coordinator appeared to understand, but by the end of it Skyler explained that he felt like if we ever went back to this agency we would be put on the bottom of the list and given last priority because we didn't sign up then and there.

          So we hit the wall... which didn't surprise me at all, but it was really hard for Skyler to take (and if you all are wondering, yes he does know I'm sharing all of this with you, he's right here next to me giving me the nodding approval to do so). I began to think about why I wasn't an emotional mess because usually I cry at a drop of a hat. And then I got to thinking... hitting this wall is nothing new. Every time I go to the doctor I hit this same kind of wall. Hopes are built up, spirits are lifted, dreams are given, and then BAM! Nothing goes according to plan and you feel like you have been lied to and that your spirit is yet again broken. I've told Skyler all of this before, but today was the first time he got to hit the wall. He talked about how he had all these different emotions pulsing through him and how he was angry and frustrated and hurt and so much more, all at the same time.  It was hard for me to see him like that, but I think it helped him understand, a little more, about how defeated I feel on a regular basis.
          Now the question everyone has been asking since our phone call tonight, "So what happens now?" Well these Wondering Whitney's are thinking the same thing! We are still interested in adoption, but know that it will take a lot of money, so we're going to look into local agencies and continue to save for it. (Just a heads us for anyone thinking to adopt domestically, a safe amount to save up is about $30k-$40k). We're also scheduled to see a local naturopathic doctor next week and see if they recommend anything that might help. And today I made our first appointment with our local fertility specialists for mid August to see what they have to say as well. Through all these years I've learned that it never hurts to get second, third, fourth, and even fifth opinions about things. We feel that the more knowledge the better. The best thing to do though, is listen to your body. You are the expert in your own life- so listen to your own advice every once in a while.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Ready... set... go!

          As soon as Skyler and I decided that we wanted to really pursue adopting a baby, Skyler's first words were, "This is going to be a whirlwind!" And boy was he right! On the evening of June 14th we put our application in to adopt. The "confirmation" e-mail we received said that we should hear back about our application in about 5-7 working days. We were anxious to hear back about our application, but tried to control our anticipation knowing that it could take some time. Then my phone dinged at 11:17am today while I was at work- the ding that would change our lives forever!
          This life changing ding revealed to me an e-mail from our application coordinator stating that our application was going to be reviewed TODAY and that we would hear back about our approval within 2-5 days! I instantly forwarded the e-mail to Skyler and we both couldn't believe that the process was moving so fast. We then talked about how hopefully by Friday we would hear something about our approval to adopt. As I attempted to work for the rest of the day I couldn't help but think about everything that was happening. Who was looking over our application? Would they like our answers? Would they be able to tell the kind of people we were just by a few sentences?
         Then 2:45pm rolled around and another ding! Another ding???!!! This time we were informed by our application coordinator that we had a phone conference/interview scheduled for this Wednesday at 5pm with our adoption coordinator! We were given all the information on how to prepare for the interview, what to expect, and what the next steps would be. I know I'll have to go back and re-read all the information given to us today because right now I still feel like we are in a fantasy land. Is it possible that only 48 hours ago we put in our application to adopt and 48 hours from now we will be interviewing to talk about adopting the baby of our dreams?!
         In letting those closest to us know about the developments as they happened, my mom reminded me that when things go this smoothly, it's usually the right thing that is happening. And I kind of said the same thing to Skyler today. It took so long to be diagnosed with PCOS, and then in took so long to find a doctor who actually believed in PCOS, and then it took so long to find any kind of medicine that even slightly helped, and then it took so long playing the "let's see if you can get pregnant naturally game," and now it is taking so long to recover from all the things the medicine has done to my body. Nothing ever seemed to go smoothly with my disease. Nothing positive was ever discovered or utilized to help me. And after a while, when you deal with all that nothing-ness, that's what you begin to feel. Nothing. I felt hopeless, broken, and inadequate. I was a shell of a person who became lost in what all the doctors said I needed to do. I forgot who I was and that I decided what was best for my body. I decided what was best for my mental health. I decided what was best for my family.
          After going through all that nothing-ness for so long, having this whirlwind of excitement, anxiousness, anticipation, and joy is a very welcome change. Nothing seemed to work when everyone was trying to fix me. But why did I need fixing, I wasn't broken. I just needed to be reminded that just because one option doesn't work, doesn't mean there aren't alternatives. Why would I continuously keep putting myself and Skyler through this emotional hell, when it could be so easy to adopt?

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Happy Father's Day

               Yesterday we made our decision. Yesterday we took the leap of faith God called us to make. Yesterday we applied to adopt a baby. The process to get here was long and hard, but we know that this is the path we were put on for a reason. Our hope is that while walking our path others can feel supported and encouraged to keep the faith, no matter what happens.
                So let’s start from the beginning… My name is Kate and my husband Skyler and I have been married for 3 ½ years and are also high school sweet hearts J (Awww I know right?!). Skyler and I first started dating right before my 16th birthday. He was one of the lead karate teachers at my little sister’s karate school and it was love at first sight! Like any young romance, we spent every day together and got to know everything about each other. It was within the first few months into our relationship that Skyler explained that he was adopted by his grandparents at the age of three. This revelation is most likely where our adoption journey begins.
                Skyler was adopted by his grandparents because his biological parents were abusive and neglectful. Although his parents (from this point on when referring to his parents I will mean his grandparents) had to make a lot of sacrifices to adopt and raise Skyler, they were able to give him the love and nurturing he needed to help make him the successful man he is today.
                My adoption experience was very different, however.  When I was about 11 years old my mother was the Director of Religious Education at our local Unitarian Universalist church. During her time there my mom became friends with a lady we'll call "K" and her adopted daughter "M". "K" adopted "M" from a Russian orphanage when "M" was three years old. Sadly, though, "K" was diagnosed with ovarian cancer shortly before adopting "M". "K" went through with the adoption, but "M" had to learn at a very early age how to be a caregiver and take care of her mom. When "K" and "M" met my mom at the UU church "K" explained that she felt an immediate connection with my mom and felt that when she passed away she wanted my parents to adopt "M".
                At this point, my world got flipped- turned upside down (insert the rest of the Fresh Prince of Bel Air lyrics here). Up until now I was the baby of the family with two older siblings just about to enter my crazy pre-teen years. Upon revealing to me that my parents were going to adopt "M" if "K" passed, I went numb. I was upset, sad, hurt, angry, confused, and distraught. I knew in a matter of years my life would change and I didn’t get to have much of a say in it. 
                So from age 11-15 my parents and I spent holidays and other important events with "K" and "M" so that "M" could get to know us. "K" went in and out of different treatments and "M" would stay with us from time to time and basically associated our family with the decline of her mother, which I can’t fault her for. Sadly, "K" passed in June of 2003 and "M" came to live with us.
                Being a 15 year old, I was hormonal and moody, and angry that I had to now become a big sister for this person I felt didn’t even like our family very much. Within the first year or so of living with "M", she was diagnosed with Reactive Attachment Disorder and my parents and I had to do as much research as possible for self-preservation. Long story short… "M" didn’t want to continue in counseling and because of the RAD she and I don’t have a very close relationship because of her fear of intimacy.
                In going through this with "M", I convinced myself that I would never adopt. I would never put my own family through the heart ache and pain that RAD can cause. I would either have my own biological children or no children at all, or so I thought.
Or so I thought… meaning that at 15 years old, most teenage girls don’t think anything about having an irregular period when that’s the norm in your family. My mother went through puberty very early on; my sister was born with 2 uteri and cervixes and was put on birth control at an early age to regulate her periods. So when I didn’t get a period by age 15 I wasn’t too worried, I just figured it would come when my body was ready. But then it didn’t come at age 16 or 17 I began to worry. When I was 17 I went to the doctor and their solution was to just put me on birth control to induce a period without further looking into the reason why I had never menstruated on my own.
                So from age 17-22 I was on birth control and pumping in hormones into my body that I’ve later learned only made my condition worse. At age 22 I went to a gynecologist expressing my concern about not having a period on my own. At that point I was told not to worry about it and to come back only when I wanted to get pregnant.  Luckily I had a friend refer me to another gynecologist who actually took the time to look into all my symptoms and diagnosed me with Poly Cystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS). Once give the diagnosis, I was taken off the birth control and closely followed by my doctors and a diabetic educator to address my symptoms and my syndrome. The hang up, however, was that the normal treatment for PCOS didn’t work for me. The Metformin didn’t help regulate a period. I was not insulin resistant. Nothing worked on my androgen hair growth. And I was now labeled as the “hard case”.
                From age 22 to right before my 26th birthday I was put on all different kinds of medicines and saw countless professionals to try and help me understand if I truly had PCOS or if something else was going on. I was given many explanations, from having the wrong diagnosis to being “just too chunky, “ but what it all boiled down to was that no one could ever find the exact reason for my symptoms, and that the end result was always that I would have a hard time getting pregnant, if I could get pregnant at all.
                In hearing at such a young age that you cannot get pregnant, many women have the feeling of being broken, unable to fulfill the role God has set before us- to bear and raise children. So not wanting to believe the infertility predictions, Skyler and I decided to try Clomid to induce ovulation at the beginning of this year. The hardest part about my Clomid cycles, however, was that I had to also induce a period with Provera before starting Clomid- basically I had to pump my body full of hormones before I was able to pump my body full of more hormones.
From January-May of this year, we did 3 rounds of Provera and Clomid, and it changed me forever. In putting high levels of hormones in my body that I normally didn’t have I went through huge hormonal mood swings and even became majorly depressed during my last cycle. I began to tell Skyler and my family that I didn’t know who I was anymore, that I was beginning to have suicidal thoughts, and that I couldn’t keep doing this to my body. Luckily, my older sister convinced me to look into healthier more holistic options, and right after my 26th birthday, I stopped all of the medication I was on. This is now the first time in 9 years that I have not been on any infertility medications.
I’ve been off all medications for about a month now, I see our local naturopath in 2 weeks, and slowly I can feel myself getting back to normal. At this point some of you might be asking, “So how did you decide that yesterday was the day you were going to start the application process?” To which I answer, the decision actually began a month ago when Skyler and I decided I won’t do any more cycles of Clomid. After going through such emotional turmoil and ending up crying in the parking lot of Wal-Mart after church with Skyler and our best friend, we decided God was telling us to realize that we can have a baby, it just might happen in a different way than planned.
After my Wal-Mart breakdown (can it get any worse than bawling your eyes out in the parking lot of Wal-Mart?!), I began to do research about adopting an infant (after seeing how quickly infants develop RAD if not nurtured from a consistent care giver, Skyler and I decided that we wanted to only adopt an infant) and getting over the initial shock of the cost of adoption, Skyler and I decided to look into agencies around the country that could help us find our forever child. Through much searching and praying, Skyler and I kept coming back to one certain agency. We looked through some of the short biographies of the birth mothers available and felt very drawn to their stories and the unborn children who all deserved the best love and care available.
So yesterday we took the leap of faith and put in our application to adopt a baby. In the application process potential adoptive parents are asked what their religious preferences are and how they will raise their adoptive children to know Christ. Almost as if God was answering that question for us, I automatically wrote that as a family we live by Christ’s two greatest commandments: to love God and to love others. In raising our future children, whether adopted or biological, we plan to raise a family that honors God, but that also shows love and compassion to everyone, no matter who they are. We know that we can love a baby because God first loved us.

In looking through all the different stories of adoption, I wanted to see what other people’s stories of adopting for the first time were, but I couldn’t really find any. So in writing this, my aim is to be as real as possible about our whole process, so that others can know they aren’t alone. If you’re reading this and you feel like you can’t keep going through the heart ache of infertility, please know that myself and so many other women have been through the exact same thing. You are not alone!