Friday, June 24, 2011

All the Cool Girls From High School Got Fat So Why am I Still Jealous

...the title of my future book, should I ever decide to recapture the highlights of this crappy chapter of my life.

Yesterday, as I was avoiding yet another set of practice bar exam questions, I decided to peruse Facebook. Much to my later regret, I discovered a slide show album posted by someone from my high school years. An album filled with pictures of the "IT" girl who had naturally ended up marrying the "IT" guy, surrounded by all of her former "IT" sidekicks--- who she is of course still friends with, because, hey, it's tough to find others later on life who will worship you quite like the Homecoming Queen that you used to be. (Too mean? Sorry, just having a bad week).

So I see the cover photo and in my head I'm shouting "Nooooooo, don't do it. Don't click the play button." But I can't resist. I just. can't. help. myself. And of course, as soon as I do it, I'm regretting it. It's horrible. Vomit-inducing. Worse than I could have ever imagined. But I can't stop. It's like throwing money into a slot machine. You know you're losing, and you're sick to your stomach that you keep tossing in coin after coin, but in the back of your mind you're hoping, that maybe, just maybe, this time you'll win. No such luck. Every. single. photo. IT girl after IT girl. Pregnant. One more coin. Baby on hip. Just one more coin. Gleefully chasing after a toddler. Damn it, damn it, damn it. Furiously dumping every last coin into the machine. Happy family of three--of four--of five!?!

I'm done. I lose. End of album. All 200-stinking-7 photos. Not a single IT girl sans baby. Not a SINGLE one. Sure they got "fat", but ironically, the joke is on me. Why didn't anyone ever tell me that it's COOL to get "fat" after 25?

WHY THEM AND WHY NOT ME?!?!? Why, when there was a 1 in 8 chance that I'd get stuck with this lousy, no good disease, couldn't I be a #2-7? Why, how, for what reason, did I get stuck being the stinkin' #1? And for that matter, why does it seem that ALL the other #1s I've ever met happen to be really awesomely amazing people who deserve to have children more than anyone else on this planet?

It's a question I believe everyone who suffers from infertility struggles to wrap their head around. Why not the deadbeat dad who fails to pay his child support? Why not the careless teenager who "accidentally" gets pregnant-- more than once? Why not the abusive parents? Why not the IT couples who already had their shining moments in high school? WHY ME???

And unfortunately, it's a question I can't answer. The bottom line is, it just sucks. I loathe the word "infertile." It's composed of so many disgusting emotions-- anger, jealousy, sadness, spite. And don't get me wrong, I wouldn't wish this disease on anyone-- even my worst high school nemesis. It's just that this particular week, I happen to be feeling particularly "infertile." Not sure if it was a combination of Father's Day and our anniversary being this week-- which to the average couple would be a five star week but to the couple struggling with infertility is a double whammy reminder of another year gone by with no family-- but it just seemed to suck with a capital S.

So cheers to a happy Friday, a better weekend, and a far less "infertile" week next week-- because if there is one thing us infertiles do better than anyone, it's change our moods in the blink of an eye;)

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Almost-Dad Shoes

I have come to realize that as a couple living with infertility, above all, we are most fearful of never getting to experience the "little" joys of parenthood. We have never once uttered that we are scared we will never get to attend high school graduations, that Duane will never get to walk a daughter down the aisle, that we will miss out on trips to Disney World (ok, maybe Duane has mentioned the Disney World thing once or twice-- but primarily because kids or no kids, he just really wants to go). Rather, our conversations have always centered around what Saturday morning cartoons we'll watch, what snacks I'll pack in my "mom" cooler for the pool, whether our Christmas day wake-up rule will be a strict 7:00 a.m. or whether it'll be a free for all anytime after 5. Yes, what we long for most are the "little" joys of parenthood.

One of the very first "little" joys Duane ever shared with me, was how he couldn't wait to wear "Dad Docksiders," accompanied, of course, by hiked up white sneaker socks. Naturally I knew exactly what he was talking about-- much to "teenage Bernadette's" dismay, her own father had always thought the same ensemble quite fashionable.

Since then, I've continued to have a recurring visual. Us, at the hospital, holding our new baby, and me, handing him a gift wrapped box containing a brand new pair of Sperry Docksiders with matching calf-length white sneaker socks. It's a lovely image that I can't help but hope will someday become a reality.

This Father's Day I wanted to do something special for Duane. For him, fatherhood has started long before the birth of our children. The sleepless anxiety-ridden nights, the exorbitant health bills, the seven day work week to ensure financial security. Darn if he doesn't deserve those Docksiders now--yesterday--three years ago, when we first started this journey, and he showed me that regardless of the outcome, he would always be by my side, and that no matter how we built our family, he would be the best damn father in the world.

I considered giving him those Docksiders today, but ultimately decided that no, I would wait, because there will come a day when we are holding our child, and we will have that special moment. (Plus, I knew that Carlos (our dog) would never fully be able to appreciate the embarrassing-Dad-effect those hiked up white socks have.)

Rather, I decided to give Duane Almost-Dad shoes; shoes appropriate for the point at which we find ourselves in our journey. Shoes, appropriate, for India. While we used to continually wish to skip right to the "end" of our story-- you know, the part where we finally have a child-- choosing to go to India, has given us a newfound appreciation for everything we would have missed out on had we gone the standard one too many glasses of wine-positive pregnancy test-nine months later baby route. It is fair to say that we never would have made plans to travel to India, that we never would have come into contact with our incredible online surro-family and the lovely Team SCI, and that the bond between Duane and I might never have become so strong, so unbreakable, so unyielding to the challenges that we have been and will continue to be thrown as a couple. As the richness of this experience begins to unfold, we are already finding it impossible to imagine that had we been given a choice of how we wanted to build our family, we would have chosen any other way.

So without further ado, I present to you, a picture of Duane's newest pair of Almost-Dad shoes-- Keen's water shoes, highly recommended by all of our online surro-family as the "It" shoe for travel during India's monsoon season. Rest assured they are equally (if not more) unfashionable than the Docksiders and as an added bonus can be worn with or without hiked up white sneaker socks.

To all the Dads, the Dad-To-Bes, and the Almost-Dads so patiently waiting their turn, HAPPY FATHER'S DAY TO YOU!!!

Friday, June 17, 2011

Warding Off the Bad Apples

In preparation for Project India, Duane and I took a  trip to our physician's office today. While our original intent was to simply stock up on prescription refills, upon revealing that we would be traveling to India, my doctor suggested a slew of shots.

Now you have to understand, I am not a fan of shots. Nothing to do with the pain-- I mean really, after 4 IVF cycles? I laugh in the face of syringes. And nothing to do with the whole vaccines-are-dangerous-so-I'm- taking-my-kid-to-a-chicken-pox-party-to-expose-them-the-natural-way campaign. No, rest assured that any future children of mine will be receiving all their vaccines, and that they will receive them the good old fashioned way-- with a stick in the arm and a Sesame Street band-aid. 

Rather, I just always tend to be that <1% that has the adverse, allergic reaction, or that ends up feeling deathly ill for an entire month afterward, when, likely, I would never have gotten sick in the first place. So as a result, I steer clear of the needle-- so long as it can be avoided.

Anyways, after a bit of cajoling, my doctor persuaded me to at least get a Hepatitis A shot. He explained that it is not a live vaccine-- less chance of an adverse reaction-- and that it will protect me from bad fruit. "All bad fruit?" I asked. "Well, yes, for the most part," he said. I finally agreed, and after getting the shot, decided that I would test it out. "Would you like to know why we're going to India?" I asked. "Well sure," he said. So I launched into a brief synopsis of how we had gotten to the point we were at and what exactly we would be doing on our "business/leisure" trip. I waited for his reply. "Well that's fantastic!" he said. Hmmm, a much different response than the one from our fertility clinic. I decided to give it another go. When the nurse came in to give me my prescriptions, I told her about our plans as well. "Oh wow, that's wonderful. Best of luck to you guys," she replied.

Who hoo! It was working! It was warding off all the bad apples! Nice. Now if only I'd had the foresight to get it one month earlier...

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Finding Faith

I had my first pre-bar exam panic attack this weekend. Surprisingly, not over of my complete inability to grasp the elusive Rule of Perpetuities, my lack of sleep, nor the girl sitting next to me in bar prep class with a mile high stack of flashcards on subjects that I haven't even considered studying. Rather, it was induced by the class lecturer's first tip of the day: Pray for hard questions.

Oblivious to the nonsensical nature of the advice, I was stuck on that very first word-- pray. While I knew that studying for the bar would entail a lot of hardwork, a lot of sacrifice, and a lot of the same misery that accompanied my first year of law school, I did not, under any circumstances, expect that it would require me to address my recent struggle with faith-- a task that I have increasingly avoided since being diagnosed with infertility.

When I first announced my infertility to the world, I was inundated with well-meaning comments that while at first provided comfort, over time began to haunt me. Again and again I heard: "If it's meant to happen it will happen,"  "I'm sure you two will be blessed with children when the time is right," "It's all in God's time," "Have faith in His plan." Eventually, after several losses and failed fertility treatments, my Catholic guilt began to set in. Had I done something to deserve this? Could it be that I wasn't really meant to be a mom? Was this REALLY His plan???

Desperate for answers, I began to do a little research. Not surprisingly, I discovered that the leaders of MY religion-- the one I had faithfully adhered to for twenty-something years, complete with church attendance not just once but twice a week (atleast when I was enrolled in Catholic school)-- had publicly denounced IVF. Well, sheesh, no wonder nobody up THERE seemed to be listening to my daily pleas of desparation. Here I was, sinning it up in the worst of ways (I mean, not only was I undergoing IVF but I was using "borrowed" genetic materials from third parties) and meanwhile, hoping that my prayers would result in the success of this condemned procedure.

Following the above revelation I was understandably angry. I wouldn't go so far as to say that me and the ole' religion went through a complete break-up. It's more like we've been on a "temporary break." But the truth is, that like it or not, both this pesky impending exam, and more importantly, Project India, are going to require a heck of a lot of faith. So I guess what better time than now to start with the fence mending?

And while I don't know that I'll be marching through the Catholic church doors any time soon-- as you know from prior posts I take it quite personally when others denounce my family building choices-- I am going to make an effort to find a church that not only embraces me, but also my future family, and its incredibly unique origins.

Oops, one more thing: Clearly the above line was meant to be the last in a slightly-longish post. However, just as I was about to publish it, I discovered Edward of Faith to Vishwas' most recent post, describing the amazing church where his girls will be baptized.  In case I wasn't clear, that's exactly what I am looking for! Hmmm, I wonder if Duane would be up for a four hour one-way commute every Sunday morning? Ok, maybe not. But thanks for the confidence that these churches do exist and for giving me faith that I will find one too!

Thursday, June 9, 2011

We're Feelin' the Heat start making plans for our first trip to India! A quick glance at my dashboard today served as a reminder  that we will be traveling to Delhi in less than two months! Off to a land where 100 degree heat is for amateurs. Or rather, it's for Americans, since we seem to be the only country still measuring our temperature in Fahrenheit.

Ah well, guess I'll begin my Indian immersion starting with my complaints about the weather. (Unfortunately, "it was a sweltering 38 degrees out today" just doesn't sound quite right.)  And speaking of the weather, what exactly is meant by "monsoon season" in Delhi? To all the veterans-- are we talking tsunami like waves and canoeing down the streets, a light afternoon drizzle, or something in between? Also, if your Friday at work is dragging along at a particularly painful pace, we'd love any comments finishing the following sentence: "One thing I wish I knew before making my first trip to India was..." Thanks to all in advance-- looking forward to repaying the favor someday!

Monday, June 6, 2011

Weekend at (Aunt) Bernie's

During our wait for our own family, we have been fortunate that our trusting sisters and brother-in-laws have had enough faith in our parenting skills that they have allowed us to "practice" on their own offspring. This weekend we had the pleasure of trying out those skills on our youngest niece and goddaughter, Natalee.
Conclusion: While our dog Carlos still has a lot of work to do (particularly in the sharing arena) we are SO ready for this parent-thing! Bring on the kids (and all the pizza, bubbles, and hugs that come with them)!

And while it was truly, all fun and games, we did do a bit of learning. The following are a few take-away lessons from our weekend as "practice" parents:

"Battery-operated" is code for "impossible to put together and batteries NOT included."

Screen doors and long hallways are the best kind of "toys" and trump the battery-operated variety any day.

Even the pickiest eaters LOVE pizza.

Blue popsicles require baths-- and possible upholstery cleaning if their eaters INSIST on eating them in the big blue living room chair. Purple popsicles, by the way, induce fits. (Absolutely certain that she has inherited my OCD.)

Two year olds know the difference between swimming in a pool and  taking a bath. The first is a fun activity. The second is not. They will not be fooled by your calling the giant bathtub a pool.

There aren't enough toys in the world to be shared between one two-year-old and one only-(child)-dog.

Carlos is going to need sibling classes.

Finally, a big thanks to my big sister for sharing. Sadly, having children has not come easy to either of us. I am SO hopeful that our plans in India work out, and that we are able to bring home a best friend for Natalee. I know, that, just like her mother, she will be the best big (quasi) sister in the world!

Thursday, June 2, 2011

If You Don't Have Anything Nice to Say...

So with law school finished, I am now focusing my energies on the following two projects: 1) passing the bar, and 2) having a baby. The first is tortuously painful as I attend bar prep class in the morning, squeeze in some hours at the office in the afternoon, and then return home to study up until a half hour before my new bedtime-- a strict 10:30 which is about the latest I can muster with expectations of being awake and sharp enough to tackle the legalities of stock transfers at 5:00 a.m. the next morning. The second, however, is far more exciting (if not equally nerve-wracking), and having planned it concurrently with project #1, will hopefully diminish its stress factor-- because really, what could be MORE stressful than trying to have a baby 7,466  miles away.

With respect to project #2, our first task is to submit our testing to SCI. Anyone who’s been there knows about it and anyone who is about to go there should be forewarned-- if you are seeking treatment via an alternative reproduction method, particularly involving third party donation, you will be required to undergo more blood tests than a Bunny Ranch resident. Every six months. Regardless of the fact that, likely, the only extra-marital baby making activities you’ve been involved in since your last test include a paper gown and an ultrasound wand. Additionally, if you are male, you will be required to have your swimmers undergo what I like to refer to as the “Deep Water” test-- as in, can they swim on their own, and if not, how much assistance will be needed. If you are self-cycling as a female, you will also be required to undergo a host of tests regarding the adequacy of your eggs and your carton (since we are using an egg donor and gestational carrier I am exempt from testing this time around (who-hoo), however, if anyone has any questions, please feel free to email me as I have been there, done that, multiple times).

Testing was our first experience revealing our India plans to others outside of our ridiculously awesome and supportive circle of family and friends. Sadly, it did not go well. The Deep Water test requires testing at a fertility clinic. Due to the extent of my infertility problems, we are “former” patients of more than one local clinic. Accordingly, we really didn’t have much choice but to return to a former clinic-- so we simply chose the one in closest proximity to our house. Let’s just say I wish I had selected door #1 rather than door #2. After our clinic requested additional documentation (which the SCI team provided uber-promptly as usual- they really are awesome) the clinic here agreed to perform the testing. However, when I called for the results, I received an extremely hurtful tirade regarding our decision to seek treatment in India. 

Lab Technician: “Well, I should warn you that I read this article, and apparently, there was a couple from Germany who had a baby that way and they weren't  allowed to take their baby home! I mentioned to XXX (another lab technician) what you were doing and she couldn't believe it; she told me how horrific the conditions are for your surrogate-- how they all live cramped in a dorm. I really felt I should tell you-”

Me: After checking my phone to be sure that I was speaking with a technician AT A FERTILITY CLINIC-- as in, a place designed to SUPPORT couples in their quest to have a family, I cut her off by asking her to forward the results and hung up. After a brief bout of tears, I proceeded to rehash all of the responses I would have loved to fire back at this incredibly insensitive lab technician. Among them: 
I live in America-- I don’t normally concern myself with the applicability of German law to my activities. Do you?

 If I told you I was pursuing surrogacy in the United States, would you have mentioned reading In re Baby M, 537 A.2d 1227, 109 N.J. 396 (1988) (a case where a surrogate fought a lengthy battle for parental rights to a child born via surrogacy and was ultimately granted visitation rights)? Moreover, would you have mentioned all of the heartbreaking tales of couples scammed by loathsome women-- in-the-U-n-i-t-e-d-S-t-a-t-e-s (gasp)-- who pretend to be pregnant and then disappear, leaving the intended parents with no baby AND no money?

Have you been to India and met the surrogates at my clinic, or are you making assumptions based on a popular media article regarding a completely different clinic? Of course I know that in your narrow mind, all Indian clinics are identical, just because they happen to be in the same country.

In retrospect, I am glad I exercised restraint and failed to engage in petty conversation with such an ignorant individual. While this certainly will be the last blogpost I waste on small-minded persons, it surely will not be my last encounter with them. I realize that surrogacy in India is not for everyone. It is not for those who are able to carry a child on their own. It is not for those who are fortunate enough to have an altruistic surrogate in their lives. And it is not for those who can foot the $130+ price tag in the United States. But it is for us, just as it is for many others who don't fit into any of the above categories. As a result, we welcome support, we appreciate concern, and we will heed the advice of any knowledgeable individuals who know what the heck they are talking about.  But what we will not tolerate is an ignorant individual-- who professes to be in the business of assisting couples have families-- diminishing the way we have chosen to build ours. As the old adage goes, if you don't have anything nice to say....don't say anything at all!!!