Thursday, June 23, 2016

One Chapter Ends, Another Begins

Six and a half years, a fundraiser, an anonymous financial donation, two surrogates, two legal contracts, two rounds of IVF, countless doctor appointments, three transfers, one miscarriage, tons of hope, love, support, questions, and soul searching. This just scratches the surface of what we have been through on our quest for parenthood.
Our final transfer was in May. We had had enough time to prepare ourselves as best we could for whatever the outcome would be. It is impossible, though, to prepare yourself for the reality of something like this. 
The transfer failed. We knew that could happen. We knew it was likely to happen but, of course, we didn’t want that to be our reality. It is our reality. To be honest, I don’t really have much else to say about it. Of course it’s devastating, heartbreaking, and horrible. We have been through this before. I guess the one good thing about going through multiple heartbreaks is that we have learned how we grieve, how each other grieves, and how to support each other through it.
We are okay. We are tough and strong and have been through enough to know that no matter how we feel, no matter what we do, no matter what happens, this day will turn into night, and then the sun will rise tomorrow, and again the next day. Ryan and I refuse to let our lives be defined by heartache. Life will continue. We know we cannot give in to defeat until our last breath. We also refuse to lose any more of our life to this.
Please don’t get me wrong, we are grieving, and are allowing ourselves to grieve. It’s just that this time we were anticipating it. We had a lot of time to soul search while waiting for the news. 
We are hopeful that maybe one day in the future, as long as my health stays as it is, that we may be able to afford another cycle and try one more time for our biological child. Tomorrow is not promised and there are no guarantees in life, but we are hopeful that the stars will align for us to be able to try again one day. 
We don’t have words to describe our gratitude for Heather, who has literally put her own life on hold for an entire year, just to give us a shot at having a biological baby. She was incredible every step of the way, being positive for us, cheering us on, grieving our losses with us, and being there as a friend and sister. There is still nothing we could give her, or say to her that would adequately let her know how much we love and appreciate her and everything she has done for us.
We are also so incredibly thankful for the rest of our family and extended family who have supported us every step of the way. We have been so blessed with love and support from our friends, and from complete strangers. The messages of encouragement and thoughts of love that have come our way have been from people I would never have expected, and from places in the world I could never have imagined. This journey has been more than unbelievable and we are so thankful for it all. 
One thing Ryan and I have been saying, as we try to pick up the pieces and move on with our life, is that we have a very good life. We have one major thing that is awful and heavy and filled with pain, but it is just one thing. The rest of our life is pretty wonderful, so we are trying to focus on that, to remember that, and to let that be our source of strength.
There is more to the story, though… more than the news that our last embryo didn’t make it. Life is ironic and either doesn’t make any sense, or makes complete sense, which one I am not yet sure. When our embryos died in 2014 we thought that was the end of our path to having a biological child. We were beside ourselves with devastation and grief. So when I say we have been at this place before, we truly have, which gives us a frame of reference as we go through this experience now. And though it took a very long time, we got to a point of acceptance back then too, and we became okay again. So now we know we will be okay this time too.
We applied for adoption the last time. Of course we wanted a biological child, but we want more than one child, and we want to be parents most of all. We completed all of the steps in the adoption journey then except for our home-study, for which we have been waiting a year and a half. As irony would have it, the day we got the go-ahead for the final transfer, we also heard we would soon finally get to start our home-study. Then, the day before our blood work, the same day we decided to do a home-pregnancy test to prepare ourselves for the blood work the next day, we got the email saying we could book our first home-study meeting.
I don’t know if things happen for a reason. I don’t like to think that’s the case because I don’t want to believe we lost our babies for a reason, or that I have a heart condition for a reason, or that anything else unfair and shitty happens for some secret reason. But it’s also hard for me to believe that it doesn’t all happen for a reason. The timing of everything that has happened has been unbelievable and I couldn’t have predicted any of it. 
So, while we have been dealing with the reality that we have no embryos left, and that our path to having a biological child is, for now, over, we have also been trying to prepare ourselves to move on as a childless couple, and also trying to prepare ourselves to do a home-study and enter the world of waiting for a child through adoption. We have decided to move on with our life as though we will be childless. This is not what either of us really wants but, for the sake of living life now and making memories, we have to.
At the same time, we are also incredibly hopeful that our home-study will go smoothly, that we will be approved, and one day, sooner than later, we will be getting a call that there is a child, or two, that will be the perfect match for us, and us for them. We are about to get the house ready and will begin the home-study very soon.
The theme of our book of life and our marriage seems to be one of love, gratitude and unpredictability. Another chapter has closed but the story is far from over. I have no idea what will happen next, but I know it will be interesting! 

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Some Form of Acceptance

Infertility was always going to be a part of my life.
I get it now. I am one in 8.
I fought for a very long time to beat the odds and I denied it. I allowed myself to believe that it was my heart condition and nothing else that was leading us down this road. But I get it now. And it`s OK.
My Dad always told me to think about my life like a book in which I am the main character. I've never written anything that I couldn't control or erase. But I should have listened more deeply. I should have read between the lines in what he was saying. I was born with a heart condition; main character or not, I couldn't erase or control that. The story-line was written for me all along, and all I can do is edit it. I am the main character, but I am not the writer, I am the editor.
Heart condition, infertility, surrogacy, loss, hope, love; it was all there from the beginning. But I can't edit the chapters that I haven't lived yet.
I only know what has already happened. I can edit those chapters all I want, but it won't change the story-line. I can reflect and analyze, I can grieve and appreciate. But I cannot change it. And, although we cannot just write/edit the next chapters all the way to the end in any direct way or however we might like, we can see/sense where the storyline is going. If we're really tuned in, we learn to notice and appreciate what a wonderful experience having a human life really is, in all of its highs and lows. Most of all, I think our job is to figure out who that main character is, and then be true to him/her.
There is no way to know what happens next. No matter how much planning, organizing, overthinking, analyzing, researching, or worrying I do, the story will be what it will be. It is already written, I just can't read it yet.
What I can do is edit, control, how I react and how I live day to day. I believe we can only affect the storyline of our book of life if we have a clear sense of who the main character is. The rest flows from that. It's largely a matter of staying "in character" in the moment. Yesterday built that character, though it is an ongoing project, but yesterday is lost to change. We learn from it, or we tend to get lost in it. 
Infertility is a part of my story. It is the chapter I am in right now. But it is not the entire book.
As for the future, there really isn't one! There's only today. I think more than worry, planning, fretting, bargaining with God, or whatever else we might want to try in order to edit out all the unsavoury stuff in the present, or that we fear will befall us in the imaginary future, that just knowing, loving, respecting, and having faith in ourselves, as the main character, we will have a huge effect on how we experience life, no matter what it's circumstances.
There are days when I feel like I will not go on. There are days when I wonder how I have made it this far. But there are also days when I feel like I have already taken on the world and I am unstoppable. This book I am in, this life, is so precious, so wonderful, so amazingly scary.
I am grateful for my story-line. I am grateful for the chapters I have already lived. I have seen suffering and pain, and I have seen unconditional love and compassion. Although I wish the infertility chapter was over already, I am grateful for it. I wouldn't change it because I know that the rest of the story is already written and there will be beauty in it.
This is the best book I could be in, and I am excited to edit and live the rest of it. I think we choose at some point whether we're going to be a tragic figure, a hero, a victim, or whatever. And then we feed that character and, of course, what you feed grows and what you starve will die. So, I think it's crucial to just focus on being the wonderful main character you want to be in every moment and leave the rest to the universe to figure out.
If I was able to write the book myself, I probably would have excluded, changed, and added many many things. But those changes would ultimately write a completely different story. And I would be a different character. And the other people in my life would then be different. And I wouldn't recognize any of it.
There is so much love in my book. There is so much strength, resilience and compassion.
And so, I am thankful for this life, this path, this story. It will turn out OK in the end. And if it doesn't, it will be the most beautiful tragedy I could ever have been a part of.
I get it now, and it's OK.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

I was really hoping that the next time I updated this I would FINALLY be sharing good news. Every single step possible to bring that outcome was taken and my fingers were crossed. The result, however, is more disappointing news.

Not long after our miscarriage in January, we began to look toward the next transfer, the next chance at bringing this incredibly loved and wanted baby into the world. Although Ryan and I had a ton of fear, Heather had a ton of hope and confidence; we appreciated that and followed her lead. Heather and I researched even deeper into the things that we (she) could do to help this pregnancy be the one. She was willing to do whatever I asked, and she found things herself that she wanted to do to help. She was taking extra vitamins, drinking and eating things that are supposed to increase uterine lining thickness and help with implantation, went to acupuncture, and even wore 4-leaf clover socks for extra "luck" on the day of the transfer (and I had matching ones). We/she did everything; we hoped and wished.

We considered every single little symptom and we allowed ourselves to dream, just a little, about this working out. Heather took some at-home pregnancy tests during our "two week wait." A couple at the beginning were negative, but we justified those by saying it could be too early. Over the next few days they came back inconclusive… very faint lines but nothing dark enough to get us really excited. Then, the day before going in for the blood work she took another one: negative.

We knew; we all knew. I took the day off because I knew I would be a wreck waiting for the call to confirm what we already knew. I am glad I did because we were right, the blood work did confirm it. We were not pregnant. This transfer, too, failed.
It is absolutely impossible for me to describe the emotions of this journey. It is too deep, too close to our hearts to truly be understood. Just know that it is devastating.
I have carried an incredible amount of guilt on my shoulders for bringing Ryan into my messy world, for letting him love me when I knew the life I would give him wouldn't be easy. I carry guilt for bringing his family into it. I carry guilt for all the people who have helped us along the way, yet we have nothing to show for it. And now, although Heather would be in my mess anyway because she is family, I feel immensely guilty for allowing her to become so deeply involved. It breaks my heart watching her heart break along with ours.

Heather, I am so grateful for you, thankful for the love, the sisterhood and friendship you so selflessly give me, and so overwhelmingly thankful for the gift you are tying so hard to give to Ryan and me.

There are so many layers and facets to this whole thing. It is not as simple as Heather getting pregnant and carrying our baby. We have now had two losses with her. She has experienced those losses with us, even more so than our extended families and our friends because she is the one taking the hormones every day, taking the pee tests, going for blood work, putting her entire life on hold just for us to have a chance. She carried our baby in her body for weeks. She attempted to do it again, and is fully committed to trying one last time with our final embryo. Loving Heather, appreciating her, and being thankful for her are just not enough to describe how we feel about her.  

We do have one embryo left. Once last chance. It is so hard to know how to feel about it. In a way, I feel that since it's our last it just has to work. Then I feel like it can't possibly work because that would just be too convenient, too crazy, that our last one takes.

Our Dr. wants to do some things differently this time, and we won't get to meet with him about those things for almost a month, so there is some time before the next transfer will happen. I feel oddly calm about that, but it could just be that I am welcoming the break from it all for a few weeks.
Once again we cannot thank our family and friends for the love and support, and for being there for us. We would be lost without each of you. Ryan and I are so lucky to be a part of such an incredible group of people who are filled with love for us. We cannot thank Heather's family, which especially includes my brother (Heather’s husband) Andrew, and her extended family and friends for supporting her through her decision to do this, and then the path it has taken her on. We are so grateful and blessed to have her, and all of her supporters in our corner.
For anyone reading this who might be going through something similar, please know you are not alone. I don't share my story for pity, but to express my most sincere, heart-felt gratitude, and to share it so others who are walking similar paths can know that they have support in me, that I am rooting for them, and that there are people out here who understand.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Life is a Roller-Coaster

This is a long overdue post. I don't really know where to begin. I have been writing over the past year, I have been updating, I just haven't been making any of the posts public. So much has happened, so many emotions have been felt and days have passed and now we are in a totally new and different place than I could have ever possibly predicted.
After the loss of our embryos in November, 2014, Ryan and I were completely devastated. We grieved for a long time, and we grieved hard. We allowed ourselves to be sad, and that was probably the best thing for us. We hid away from the public and really took some time for ourselves to just be. Although it was the saddest, hardest time of my life, I am so grateful for the love and support we had through that time, and the people in our lives who allowed us that time and space. We needed it and without allowing ourselves to do that, I don't know that we would be where we are now. It took about 6 months before we even went out to a social event where more than just our family or closest friends would be. That was a hard night, but it started me on my upswing, and I am thankful that we decided to go out that day. Most people were very kind and compassionate and I appreciated that. It's hard to show your face in public when everyone knows that you have been hiding at home in sadness. But, we got through it.
Shortly after the loss of our embryos we decided to open the door to adoption. It had always been a part of the plan; we just thought we would have a biological child first. It took months just to get our applications processed and for the agency to let us know what the first steps would be. 
By June we were still waiting for the first step in the adoption process, which was a training day to become educated about all the different types of adoption and what it all entails. I had been calling the agency but nothing moves quickly and so we were still waiting. I had my annual cardiology appointment at the beginning of the month. It was bad. We were at a point where we were feeling pretty desperate so we decided to ask about myself getting pregnant one more time.... the Dr. told me that not only should I not be getting pregnant, but that I was going to need to start taking more meds, and that these meds would effectively ruin the quality of my eggs. Another slap in the face.
At that time, it hit me hard that we had spent the past 5 and a half years planning and living our life based around my heart condition. It pissed me off and broke my heart to realize that, and I didn't want to allow my heart to define me or my life anymore. It never defined me as a child and I was angry that I had allowed it to consume so much of my adult life, and SO much of my relationship with Ryan. Once again I gained a new level of respect, love and appreciation for him. He's loved me through all of that, through so many sad years. I am a lucky lucky woman.
So I allowed this new information from the Dr. to push me to accept being done with surrogacy. I felt I had no choice and that the door was being closed on me, since there was likely no way we would be able to afford another egg retrieval. My cardiologist said we could wait one year before I needed to start the new meds, so that we could possibly save for another egg retrieval and get that done before the quality of my eggs became shot from the medication. I finally became OK with not having a biological child, I accepted that this was the path I was on. I started to get really excited about the possibilities in the adoption world. Ryan was not on the same page. As I had been dealing with the loss of being able to carry my own baby for many years, for him it hadn't made much of a difference. I already had felt a disconnect between the child being biological or not with the use of a surrogate, since I wouldn't be carrying it. Yes, it would be my baby, but I wouldn’t realize it until it was in my arms and looked like me. I have been developing attachments to children through my work for years, so I fully understood that I could love an adopted child or a biological child just the same. Ryan understood it intellectually too, but his emotions hadn't caught up. He was having a much harder time accepting that he would not have a child with his genetics.
At that point we decided to tell our friend who had been lined up to be our surrogate that we would not be getting to try again, as we could not see any way we would be able to save enough money in time. Her life had changed a lot over the course of time, since the loss of our embryos. She was making plans for her future and was moving forward. She was sad and disappointed for us, but she understood. We thanked her for everything she had done, and been willing to do. We will forever be grateful for her.
My brother's wife had offered in the heat of the moment to be our surrogate years ago when we first got the news that we should use a surrogate in the first place. She and my brother hadn't started their family yet though, so as kind of an offer as it was, it wasn't realistic at the time. About a week after telling our friend that we were not going to get to try again, I was visiting with my brother and his wife. I was filling them in on the Dr. appointment and everything else. During that conversation, Heather (my brother's wife) said that if the opportunity did come up for us to actually get to do another round of IVF, that she would sincerely be willing to be our surrogate. I bawled. I knew that we would need a miracle to happen in order to get to do it again, but the thought that she was still willing after all of these years, was so heartwarming. 
Ryan and I felt so blessed and lucky to have not only had a friend offering to do this for us, but also a family member. Some people who need to use the science and gift of surrogacy to make their family don't have anyone to do it for them, but we were lucky enough to have had more than one person offer. We just couldn't afford it.
A few days later I told Heather that as gracious as her offer was, we would need a miracle to happen in order to be able to do another round of IVF and, like we had done with Diane, thanked her for what she was willing and offering to do. Our surrogacy door was officially closed.
Or so we thought.
The very next day we got a call that changed the path we were headed down, yet again. We had gone out on a date, had had a very nice evening, and were beginning to feel like our old selves again when the phone rang. It was my Mom and she was frantic! Now, in my family, when someone calls and is frantic it is almost always because something terrible has happened. With my sister's health as precarious as it is (I need to write a whole different blog about that part of my life), I immediately thought something had happened to her. Nope. My Mom was calling to tell us that she had been sharing our latest situation with some people she knew, and privately, one of these people offered to help us pay for another round of IVF. She swore this person was sincere and serious and she explained their situation to us. Ryan and I were both speechless and I don't think we said more than 5 words to my Mom on the phone. I think both of us thought it was a joke or that this was something said in jest and the next morning they would retract it. After all, our experiences previously had always ended up in disappointment, so it was hard to grasp that something so huge and wonderful could actually be happening. We told my Mom we would think about it but we didn't talk about it at all that night. I don't think either of us believed we had actually received that call.
The next day we got another call from my parents saying that yes, in fact that person had come and talked to them about it again and that they were 100% serious. They explained this person's situation to us just a little bit more and told us that they wanted to be kept anonymous. An anonymous donation. For us to have a CHANCE at a baby. Are you kidding me!? It was a miracle.
Ryan and I were totally in awe and disbelief. We had just closed the door on all of this. We were finally at a point where we were accepting we would not have a biological child, and then we get this miracle offer. We were in shock.
It took us another day to respond and agree to accept the offer. It is a difficult and humbling thing to have people offer to help you in ways that you cannot help yourself. Everyone involved knew that this didn't guarantee a baby, that the same thing that happened to our embryos last time could happen again, or a million other things could go wrong. Everyone understood and agreed to help anyways.
Because we had already told our friend that we would not be doing this again, and she was in full swing of making plans for her future, we didn't want to ask her again. We felt so guilty having brought her along on our roller-coaster as far as we had without having a positive outcome. Heather's situation was a little easier to navigate as she had just had a baby and was finishing her maternity leave. We would need to do a new legal agreement either way; with our friend because of the changes in her life, or with Heather because we hadn't done it with her yet. We didn't want to halt Diane's momentum as she had so many positive things happening. We decided to ask Heather if she was still up for it.
I called her and asked her if she believed in miracles. She said she didn't know but it sounded like she I explained what had happened over the past couple days and she was excited. She agreed she wanted to do it.
So, with the help of family and friends of family, we were getting a miracle opportunity to TRY again for a biological baby.
We already had an appointment booked with our fertility Dr. in July to discuss not moving forward, so we just kept that and instead discussed moving forward. We got our protocol and a retrieval was scheduled for the beginning of September. Over the summer we also attended our training day for adoption.
We went from feeling the door closing in on us to having it swing wide open.
I had some much needed holidays booked for right before I was supposed to begin taking my hormone injections at the end of August. I relaxed and it was glorious. The very first night of hormones happened to also be the same day as one of my closest friends’ weddings. We had agreed to keep everything very quiet for fear of it not working out again and having to go through a public loss a second time around. However, because we needed to do the injections at the wedding, and the wedding was at the family home, we let her in on the secret. That was quite the night, a beautiful wedding and some needles!
This time I had extra hormones added into my protocol. It was rough and took a toll very quickly on my body. I ended up needing to be off of work nearly the whole time and felt awful every day. It was worth it though because this time we ended up with 3 beautiful frozen embryos! We were overjoyed that we were successful this time. During my cycle Heather was approved to become our surrogate, and we started on getting everything done to make that happen. We had to do counselling, a new legal agreement, and everything else that we had done the previous year with Diane. I was in shock the whole time that we were actually doing it, again.
In the meantime, there had been no movement in the adoption world. We were waiting to do a cultural training, which ended up being available immediately after the egg retrieval. Unfortunately we had to decline that day because we had so much else going on, but were lucky to get booked in for a training day in November. Things were finally falling into place and happening for us. Everything was much less stressful than the last time.
In the middle of all of this, I had made another appointment with my cardiologist to talk about starting on these new meds. Since we had been able to do another egg retrieval, and so quickly, I didn't want to wait to start the medication since it was obviously something that was going to be beneficial to my health. That appointment was crazy.
My cardiologist told us that somewhere along the road some of my tests were either read wrong, or done wrong because the results from a scan involving radioactive dye that I had had over the summer came back looking way better than my previous echo-cardiogram! He sent me for another echo immediately, and I got the results an hour or two later. According to my Dr., the previous echo had not been done well enough, or whoever read the results read them wrong, because my heart function has actually improved! Yes, improved! It was so shocking because my heart condition is not something that can get better or be resolved. In fact, the Dr. compared it to being diagnosed with cancer, then going in for a follow up and finding it has shrunk. It is near impossible. After talking awhile, he realized that my heart function has improved due to the current medications I had been on, and because of the results of the newest echo, he told me I don't need these new meds and I can in fact get pregnant! Another shock! 
Ryan and I discussed it in great length and detail both alone and with our families. We came to the decision that based on the fact that I still have a heart condition, and we have had yo-yo results for years, the risks are still there and it is not smart to tempt it all now. Ryan said he looked at it as though we are all given a certain number of heart beats, and that I was just given some extra beats, so why do something that could potentially take those beats away again? We have been faced with so many huge, difficult decisions, and this was just another one. Making these decisions has not been easy, but the best part this time was knowing that I am healthier than we had thought, and that is the biggest blessing of all.
Finally, our lives seemed to be on the upswing. We had been getting good news after good news. It was wonderful.
We decided that we would keep our family in the loop as to what was happening with everything baby related right up until we signed our final consents. At that point we would just be waiting for a transfer day and we wanted to be able to do something "normal". So, the day we singed our consents we told our families we were "officially trying to get pregnant" and that we would not be telling them anything more until we were either pregnant or if none of the embryos survived the thawing process, that we had gotten that far.
We had our cultural training day for adoption. It went well and we were excited to check another item of things to do off of our list.
Transfer day came and everything went perfectly. Heather was a champion and our embryo snuggled into her uterus right in front of our eyes. We got it all on video! After the transfer we began the dreaded "two week wait". The two week wait is the time between conceiving (or in the IVF world, transfer day) and when you can get a positive pregnancy blood test. During that time people in the TTC world (trying to conceive) love to take home pregnancy tests and post them online and analyze the lines, they compare pregnancy symptoms and beta numbers. It is so stressful. It is a world I now know much more than I care to know about. Based on the dates of everything, the first day that we could possibly expect to get a positive on a home pregnancy test happened to be on Christmas Eve.
Christmas Eve!! It was Christmas Eve, 2009, when my cardiologist first said that I should not get pregnant or try to carry a baby. 6 years later, to the day we were getting to pee on our first stick. To those of you reading this that have never struggled to get pregnant or have a baby this may seem silly to you. But to get to pee on a stick with the hopes of having a positive was something I had dreamed of doing. After personally avoiding pregnancy like the plague, this was a hugely welcomed experience.
Ryan and I both had to work on the 24th, so once we were done, we went over to Heather's. My brother, Andrew, and their kids were all home too, so it was a fun and highly anticipated moment. She went and peed on the first stick, brought it out and put it upside down on the table. We anxiously were waiting for the 3 minutes to pass, when Ryan's Mom phoned! Since we were keeping quiet until we were pregnant, our families didn't know we had done the transfer. It was such a precious moment. As soon as Ryan got off of the phone we flipped the test over, and we saw a big fat “+YES”!!! There were so many hugs and tears and shrieks. I freaked out. 6 years to the day later, we got our positive. It was perfect.
We planned to announce to our families over Christmas. Of course we were technically only 3 weeks pregnant, and it was so early that we still had to wait to do the blood test on the 30th to confirm. But we couldn't wait to tell them. We had already waited so long to get to this point. Because Heather had to take weeks of hormones before the transfer, we had time to tentatively plan how we would announce to our families. We knew it would likely be at Christmas. Christmas Day we announced to Ryan's family, and on Boxing Day we told mine. Those 3 days, the 24th, 25th and 26th are days that I will hold as 3 of my most favourite in my life. There was so much love, excitement and joy. We got our announcements on video too. They were perfect.
Heather continued to pee on sticks for the next week, getting positive after positive. She went for her blood work on the 30th and although we knew we were pregnant, it was still so nerve wracking waiting for the confirmation call. It came late in the afternoon that same day. Ryan and I both were off work that week, which was our first week off together in 3 years. We celebrated and soaked in every single moment. We were pregnant, on holidays, and it was the holiday season! I couldn't have planned it better. Our two week wait was not painful or dreadful, it was amazing and I was so grateful. We only told a couple friends, because it was still so early, but plans for making an official announcement came into the works. We were given a due date of September 5th! I even began looking up personality traits for Virgos....not that I really believe that stuff, but I was so excited about my baby!
On January 8th I got a phone call at 6:40 am. I was on my way to work. It was my brother. Heather was bleeding. Our next nightmare began. We had a miscarriage which was confirmed a couple days later. Heather was 6 weeks pregnant.
This baby was our first embryo out of the 3 we had frozen. So we still have 2 more.
We are heartbroken and there are definitely times when it is hard not to feel sorry for ourselves. But we are resilient if anything else. Heather is a very strong woman and is willing, able, and hopeful for trying again. We are clouded in love and support.
In the meantime while we wait to be able to do another transfer, we are still waiting for our home study to be booked with the adoption agency. We are hopeful that we will become parents one day, one way or another, and we are determined to be proactive and see every option through.
We are also exhausted though. We have been on an emotional roller-coaster for over 6 years now, and though we have been close to making our dreams come true, we are still on this ride for who knows how much longer. Our energy is spent, our emotions are tired and we have no idea what the end result will be, or if it will all have been worth it. We are tired of having our lives consumed by this, especially because it is such a draining and taxing thing to be consumed by. We are hopeful that it will all be worth it in the end, and that one day we will be able to live our lives in a way where we are no longer waiting for something. It has been 6 years of waiting for appointments, waiting for results, waiting for this and waiting for that. We know that once we have our baby it will have all been well worth it, but it's difficult to be certain that it will work out when things have gone so far up and so far down so many times.
We feel beyond lucky, blessed and grateful for the incredibly generous and selfless help we have received along the way, and vow to do our best to pay it forward in all the ways that we possibly can for the rest of our lives. We can never repay what we've been given, but we can pass it on in other ways and we are determined and happy to do so at every opportunity.
I am sure there are things that I have missed or forgotten, things I have skipped over and some that I have left out completely. But this is the majority of what has happened and been happening with us since my last post. This is where we are now and it is the roller-coaster that we are on. It is scary having everything be public knowledge again, knowing that we may end up just having more and more bad news to share. But, we are hopeful that we will get a positive result at some point, and look forward to being able to share that. We have had so much love and support through everything which we are so grateful for. We want to share our story to help other people know they are not alone in their struggles, as we know we are not alone in ours. We are so thankful for the silent love we have gotten from people who have respected our privacy, and for those who have supported us out loud too. We needed some space and we needed to sort ourselves out, but we are still here, still fighting and still going strong.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

What could go wrong?

   For the most part, when couples get married, they are filled with hope and excitement for their future. There is so much joy and love surrounding them, that even though they know life will not be perfect, it is hard to imagine what could possibly go wrong.  Ryan and I were no different. We already knew we would be facing the challenge of becoming parents through gestational surrogacy, which was going to be a monumental task in and of itself. But, being naive and hopeful for our future, we couldn’t imagine what else we would have to face, especially only 2½ years in.
    I know that everyone reading this update is expecting good news, waiting to hear that we are pregnant,  that all of our hard work has paid off, and our dream is coming true. Unfortunately, there will be no pregnancy announcement today. In fact, it is with the heaviest of hearts that I write this post.
   We were successful enough at our fundraiser that immediately after we were able to begin our egg retrieval protocol. This included hormone injections, early morning visits to the clinic for blood work and ultrasounds, bloating, random outburst of tears, and ice-cream. Ryan became my nurse and ‘stabbed’ me every night for 11 nights with the injections, some nights there were 2. As you may or may not know, I am a huge wimp, which is why Ryan gave me the needles instead of me doing it myself, but he said I handled it like a champ! It was a huge bonding experience for us, as around night 8 or so, Ryan said something about how ‘you don’t truly love someone until you have to stab them with a needle’. We definitely became closer than ever before during this whole process. It was surreal laying on the couch night after night while my husband poked me with needles. There is truly no romance involved in making a baby this way.
    Then came the retrieval. It was quick and relatively painless , thanks to the drugs they gave me.  The Dr.  sent us home and went on to fertilize the eggs with Ryan’s sperm that afternoon. They had gotten 9 eggs from me, which was a great number. I had to call throughout the week to check on our embryos to find out how they were doing. On day one, 7 of the 9 had fertilized and looked great. I called Ryan while he was at work to tell him, and when he answered the phone he quickly said ‘how are my babies!?’ This hit me hard because it was real, we actually had potential babies growing at the clinic. When I got off the phone I cried and cried. I couldn’t believe how far we had come and that by the end of that week, we would have frozen embryos ready for transfer!
    I had to call again on day 3 to see how they were growing, and we were down to 6. I became a little nervous, but everyone reassured me that all we needed was one! The week went on, and Ryan and I decided it was time to celebrate where we were, and all that we had been through. We went on a very fancy date, which isn’t typical for us, and reveled in the magic that is science and technology, at our love, at the gift of surrogacy we were being given, and the generosity of our friends, family and even strangers who helped us get to that point. We had poured our hearts and souls into this, had been working at it for years, and it was all finally happening. It was a date I will never forget.
    Day 5 of fertilization is when any and all healthy embryos are ready to freeze. That day landed on the weekend, so we weren’t going to be calling until Monday to find out how many of the 6 embryos had survived to be frozen. I was anxious and excited. I missed a call in the morning from the clinic while I was at work, which was strange because I was supposed to be calling them. I didn’t think much of it and immediately called them on my lunch break. I was not prepared for what they were about to tell me.
    'Gina are you alone right now? Are you able to talk?’ Of course, I thought! Now tell me how many babies I have got! ‘Gina, we don’t have good news for you today. When we looked at your embryos on day 3, you had 6 that looked great. When we looked at them again on day 5, there had been no change since day 3. We let them grow until day 6, but still none of them had changed. So we don’t have any frozen embryos for you.....’. The nurse kept talking, saying things about how this must not be easy to hear and how I should call back in a few days with any questions once I have digested the information. All I could muster up was an ‘ok’. And that was the end of that. We had nothing, no embryos to transfer, no hope to take a pregnancy test, nothing. And after everything we had done, and been through.
    Calling Ryan to tell him was the hardest phone call I have ever had to make. We both went straight home from work to be together. We cried, we were angry, confused and heartbroken. How could this happen? We weren’t there for infertility issues. Everything had been going so perfectly. What went wrong!?   
    About a week later I worked up the courage to call the clinic, I didn’t know what questions to ask, but needed to know what they had to say. They didn’t have any answers, in fact said they were shocked and devastated too. The nurse recommended we meet with the Dr., because he might be able to shed a little light on to what happened. We made an appointment for a Sunday, a few weeks later.
The Sunday came and we went down to the clinic, feeling as devastated as ever. It had sunk in a little by then, but it hadn’t become any easier to accept. Because it was Sunday, there were only a few appointments, transfers for other couples.  Our appointment was last, so we sat there for what felt like forever. Finally it was our turn. The Dr.  was great. He was soft-spoken and really understood the magnitude of the conversation we were having. He told us that everything up until day 3 was perfect, nothing could have been any better. There is no explanation for what happened.
   He highly recommended that we try this again. He said that the first try could have just been ‘one of those things’, and since everything had been so good up until that point, that a second try could definitely work out. He went on to say that if we do try this again, and the same thing happens, then that will lead him to believe we actually are dealing with an infertility problem, on top of everything else, called ‘unexplained infertility’ which affects between 10%-20% of infertile couples. If this is the case, then at that point he would not recommend us moving further in this direction because it would be too difficult to figure out if it were due to my eggs, Ryan’s sperm, or both. If this were to happen again, he recommends we look towards adoption as our final option.
    We left the clinic not feeling any better, but not feeling worse. We really had no answers, and won’t unless and until we try this again.
    This whole experience has been completely overwhelming. Trying to become parents is an emotional journey for anyone. Even when you don’t have infertility problems, or health problems, it is still very exciting yet terrifying. Adding all of these other problems on top is indescribable. Unless you have been through it, there is no way for me to explain it so that anyone could truly understand.
   Ryan and I are so lucky we have each other. He has been my rock, and I think I have been his. Before, it all seemed like ‘my’ problem, and that as supportive as he was, Ryan was more along for the ride, accepting whatever happened to ME. Now, it is different. He has felt the loss too. We both are experiencing grief, the loss of a dream, the loss of something we worked incredibly hard for, and the loss of life, in our eyes. When Ryan referred to our embryos as his babies, in that moment, we felt we were parents to unborn children. Ryan also referred to it as having 6 miscarriages at once. We know it is not exactly the same, but the loss is. It is devastating, and heartbreaking.
   Ryan has been able to accept that this is our new reality much quicker than I, and for that I am grateful. Not only is going through this yourself unbearable, but watching someone you love go through it too is just awful. He has done a great job at making me laugh, and reminding me that we will be OK. We know this isn’t the end of the road and we will continue to try to become parents.  But, the door is definitely closing on us. 
    Ryan and I chose not to tell very many people about what happened right away in order to be able to deal with it. It hasn’t been very long, but we are now ready to let everyone know. This definitely isn’t an easy post to write, nor will it be easy to have everyone know what happened. But Ryan and I both agree that we have been open and honest up until this point. Just because we don't have happy, or good news, doesn’t mean it didn’t happen, and doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be open and honest about this part too. It is, in fact, now a part of our story.
    We don’t know exactly where we are going to go from here. Like I said earlier, we will continue to try to become parents, but when, or how is still unanswered. We will have to pay for another egg retrieval, with gestational carrier care as well as another round of hormones which is going to end up totaling more than another $10,000. We might begin to look into adoption, which is a whole new, emotional road to go down. Whatever we end up doing, we will not be having any more fundraisers.   
   We cannot thank everyone enough for the love and support throughout this entire journey. We are sorry that we don’t have better news to give everyone, but are grateful that we had the opportunity to try.
    I am also uncertain of the future of this blog. It has been such an incredible experience sharing this journey with everyone. At this point in time though, Ryan and I are just trying to make sense of our life, where we are and where we are going. We both need a little space from the social media world. We are going to focus on our future, our family and closest friends. We need to regroup.
    Again, we are incredibly sorry  that we are not able to share exciting news with everyone. We are grateful for the support and love we have received. With Christmas around the corner, we hope that the season brings love and joy to each and every one of you, and that perhaps, your dreams will come true. 
    Thank you again, to everyone.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

The Fundraiser

   Where do I begin? It's been a week since we had the fundraiser and Ryan and I are still blown away!
   The week leading up to it was... busy, to put it mildly. We had a ton of last minute prizes being donated, tickets being sold, and things to do. The prize donations we received were quite unbelievable, both in quality and quantity. Our home is 'cozy' as Ryan puts it, so there wasn't any room to walk around or play with Winny, the dog. Every single day I looked around at everything and shed at least a few tears, some days more than others, both from gratitude as well as from a feeling of disbelief that people could be so generous just for us. We ended up with TWENTY regular prizes!!!! We had a lot of prizes for our wedding social, but not that many! There were FOUR grand prizes, and again, we didn't even have that many at our wedding social. Ryan made a bean bag toss game which was a huge hit. We ended up getting 3 sets of NHL tickets donated, so we had one for the bean bag toss, one set for a grand prize and ended up putting one into a 'mystery' box. I know the winner of that prize was even more excited when they opened it up and saw what it was. Honestly I wish I could write about all of the prizes we had because each one was really fabulous. But, it would take up my entire blog post.
   Our surrogate came into town for the fundraiser. She was here for a week and stayed with us. It was very nice getting to spend so much quality time with her. She was a great help in finalizing the prizes and wrapping them up, along with both my Mom and Ryan's Mom. We wouldn't have been able to get it all done without their help. We are so lucky, and so thankful.
   We set up a 'guest book' for anyone who came to the fundraiser to sign. Not everyone ended up signing it, but that's ok. Now we have something tangible that we can keep, and if we are successful in creating a baby, when they are big enough, we can give it to them to show them how many people helped 'create' them, how loved and wanted they were. Ahh, it makes me cry just thinking about it.
   The fertility clinic also lent us some information flip charts for people to peruse through. They detailed the steps involved in IVF, ICSI, and other processes people go through to make a baby when the natural way doesn't work out. I don't think people looked through them as much as we had hoped they would, but it felt great just knowing we had them there for people to learn from if they chose.
   The day before the fundraiser was one of the craziest, most exciting days ever. First thing in the morning our story came out in the local Free Press. It was well written and explained the situation clearly. It created such a buzz that we ended up getting a ton of online donations, people talking about, and sharing out story. By 5:15 we were in CBC News Radio giving an on-air interview about surrogacy and the fundraiser itself. We were so excited and shocked by the media attention that our nerves didn't have much time to kick in to full-blast. It was an incredible day.
   The fundraiser was a blast. We had a great turn-out with some people surprising us and others that we knew were coming. It was a total whirlwind since Ryan and I decided to 'work' the door and the bean bag toss. Ryan's Mom ended up helping me with the door because I was often caught chatting and hugging, and Ryan worked the bean bag toss the entire time. His legs are still sore from bending and picking up bean bags a billion times that night! My Mom was so busy catching up with friends and family that came, that she didn't even get to say hi to everyone that was there! I am still telling her about some people that were there that she didn't even see! The hugs, kind words and love that were shared that night will never be forgotten. I am still totally amazed by everyone that came and helped us with this dream, it will forever be one of my favourite nights in my whole life.
   I had expected myself to cry the night away, and not to be able to keep my emotions together, but I did! It wasn't until we were calling the prize winners that it began to hit me. I kept it together though while speaking and thanking everyone, but once the majority of people left, I bawled. It all seemed to hit me at once and I felt like I had been hit by a truck....I was exhausted mentally, emotionally and physically. I was overwhelmed, and finally it felt like I could let it out. It took about 3 days and a ton of tears for me to 'release' all of my pent up emotions. I think I just kept it all in until it was over, then I felt like I could let it all out. It felt great being able to cry, and to sleep. I hadn't had a good sleep in weeks, but that night I slept solid and it was amazing.
   It turns out that people are still wanting to help us, which is beyond amazing, so we extended the online fundraising page until the end of October. We aren't posting the link anymore because we don't want to be asking for more than we have already gotten, but since people have still been asking us how to donate, even days after the fundraiser, we decided to extend it just a little.
   We are simply blown away by the love, support, kindness and generosity from our friends, our family, our community and even complete strangers. We feel very loved and know that what we are doing, and how we have done it all, has been the right thing. 
   A lot of people have been asking how it went, and though I know they wanted all of these details, I know most people are really wondering if we reached our goal. The answer is that we did not reach the full monetary goal, but we did reach the main goal, which was to help offset the total costs. Of course we didn't expect to make the full amount anyway, so it wasn't upsetting or surprising. We did great and were both so very happy and grateful with the end result. We are so excited to say that we did make enough to be able to move forward!!!!!
    We promise to keep everyone as posted as possible on our progress..... on that note though, we are going to keep quiet for the next little while as to where exactly we are in this journey. The next steps are for me to take hormone injections at home to create follicles, which hopefully have eggs in them to be retrieved. Then for Ryan's sperm and my eggs to be fertilized, frozen, then transferred into our surrogate and hope for a positive, viable pregnancy! Due to the fragile emotional nature of these steps we have decided not to let everyone in during each step, but to announce a pregnancy at the 12-week mark, like all other couples!
   Again, thank you, everyone, to the stars and back for all of the love and support, for the donations and encouragement throughout all of this. Please know that every single hug, word of love, donation, kind gesture has all gone into making this dream possible, and we fully understand that without each and every one of you, it would not be happening. Our hearts are SO full of love and gratitude. Hopefully the next time you hear from me it is because we will be expecting a little peanut of our own!!!

Saturday, October 4, 2014

One week left...

   In a week from today Ryan and I will be preparing for one of the biggest nights of our life. We will be finalizing any last minute changes or wrapping up last minute prizes. We will get ourselves all dressed up, and we will go down to see all of our hard work, our tears and dreams come together. We will come face to face with the friends, family and community members who are all out there rooting for us, praying for us, and supporting us in our dream to have a child. Our surrogate will be there, people we don't even know will be there. I know for a fact I am going to cry because I can barely keep it together as I write this, and I am only thinking about it. Wait until it's really happening!!
    It is so, so important to us to be successful with this fundraiser next weekend. The YouCaring online fundraising page will shut down and we hope we won't need to plan another social. If you are wanting to support us but have not already, you can buy a ticket from Ryan or I, or send a donation through the fundraising page. What we make next weekend will determine if we can proceed with this dream. All donations no matter how large or small help us and are appreciated to the utmost lengths.
   It's been such a wonderful and overwhelming experience getting to this point. But, I have to be completely honest, I don't think I have felt the gravity of it all until these past couple weeks. I have tried to write blog posts but have deleted them. I don't have the right words for what is going through my mind and my heart. I have spoken so much about gratitude, appreciation and love. But those words don't even cut it. There truly aren't words big enough or deep enough to fully capture this experience, or the moments when Ryan and I stop, look around our house at all of the donations we have received, or tell each other of something kind someone has said to us, and we just hug. There are so many moments that go without mention, not because they aren't worth mentioning, but because they are too big to describe, too raw to put into words, too wonderful to know how to share.
   5 years ago when I heard 'the news', I thought my life was basically over. I didn't know how I was going to go on, or how I would be able to live a happy, fulfilled life. I lost who I was and became so angry, so cynical, so sad. I never imagined I'd be here. I am now married to the man of my dreams, have the sweetest little home, and the most incredible support system. Everyone can get down on themselves and feel not good enough. Those thoughts crept into my mind more often than not for awhile, but now, after so much has happened, so much love has been created and shared, and so much support has been shown, those thoughts don't happen anymore. Because I decided to share our story with the support of Ryan and our surrogate, and your willingness to read it and share your thoughts of love and support, I realize so many things about myself, my life, and life in general that I had forgotten. I am so thankful to each and every one of you that has read this blog, that has sent supportive, kind messages, and to everyone who has decided to donate to us or share our story with others. And I am so thankful to Ryan and D. for being on board with my sharing this in such an open way. Although it has all been from my perspective, this is their life too. At any point, had either of them wished for me to not say something, I wouldn't have. But that never happened, they both allowed me to express myself the way I wanted and needed, and have loved and supported me through it all. I am so grateful.   
   My heart is full and I am so excited for next weekend. It really is very fitting that it ended up being on Thanksgiving weekend, because gratitude definitely seems to be the theme we've got going on here. We are so unbelievably thankful.