Saturday, November 29, 2008

Informative Meeting

Today, we were able to meet with a couple who has gone through the entire adoption process with the very agency that we have chosen...they were actually the couple that turned us towards this agency's direction.

The meeting went very well. They shared their own ups and downs of the process, what the birth mother was like and the agreements that they made in regards to the openness of the adoption. They shared with us what the home study was like in addition to a general time line for everything.

They were so nice and completely transparent with us, not glossing over the struggles that they encountered. It was nice to be able to actually talk to someone who has gone through this.

Monday...is the big day. We begin our "PRIDE" training!!! I can't wait...I'm sure that I am excited about nothing, but it just feels good to be able and finally DO something...work towards meeting our adoption requirements. I'll keep you posted.

Listen To Parts Of Our Pastor's Message: When Does Life Begin

Click on the title of this blog and it will link to the Pastor's Message titled: "When Does Life Begin"

A few weeks after our IVF procedure, our Pastor announced that he was going to begin a new series answering questions that the congregation had. All we had to do was to go to the church website, and submit a question. From there, he would choose a few to give a message on.

At the time, I was completely lost as to what I understood in regards to our procedure...more specifically the embryos that we lost. I had received a few different explanations from friends and families around us: "You have every right to mourn, you lost five children." "You need to move on, there was no life in those embryos." My husband and I have always believed that life begins at conception, therefore, we considered our five embryos to be life; whether they were in my uterus or in a petri dish. I think that it hit home for us, when the embryologist showed us the video of him fertilizing each egg and then watching them grow each day from two cells, to four, and finally to eight. It was truly amazing to watch.

Once we received the tragic news that we were not pregnant, my mind got the best of me. Considering that they were "life", a part of me wondered if they were in Heaven. Are they in an incubator in Heaven or are they already full grown? If they aren't full grown, then who is watching over them and taking care of them as a baby? What do they look like? I wondered if they were looking down on Craig and I. If they are in Heaven, I can't believe that they are in the presence of God right now. How amazing. I mean, if you think about it...our kids had to be pretty special for God to want them in Heaven as quickly as he did.

With so many questions...I decided to submit them to our Pastor, not thinking in a million years that he would choose my question to make a message out of. Well...he did...and I cried through the entire thing. Needless to say, I had to get a copy of the message so that I could actually hear it. I feel that our Pastor touched on an extremely difficult topic with much grace.

Having just received the CD, I couldn't wait to share it with you all. The original message is about 38 minutes long. I have edited it down to just under 20 minutes to share with you. If you would like to listen to entire message...my husband (the computer genius) is working on creating a link so that you can download it.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

I'm Thankful...

It was about two years ago when I began meeting with our previous Pastor's wife for counsel. One of the things that she wanted me to do was read a Psalm each day and then...in a sense, write my own Psalm that paralleled the one that I had just read. Today, I remember a Psalm that really stuck out to me. It was Psalm 42.

As the deer pants for streams of water,
so my soul pants for you, my God.
My soul thirts for God, for the living God.
When can I go and meet with God?
My tears have been my food day and night,
while people say to me all day long,
"Where is your God?"
These things I remember
as I pour out my soul:

The Psalm continues as David lists out what he is thankful for. I realized that I have A LOT to be thankful for and that it is all easily forgotten when I place all of my focus, all of my heart, on the one thing that I can't have. It was then that I decided to list out what I was thankful to God for. Here is what I listed:

1. My wonderful, supportive, and loving Parents
2. Meeting and falling in love with the man of my dreams
3. A God who loves me and has a GRAND plan for my life
4. Going back to school and receiving a degree within my calling
5. My brother who would do just about anything for me
6. My beautiful dream house in the middle of my dream neighborhood
7. Two nice and dependable cars
8. My dream job and wonderful coworkers
9. A talented husband of many trades
10. Friends who deeply care about me
11. FInances that have always just "somehow" been enough
12. A support system through Maria and Joel

I know that I could continue my list to no end, but these are the things in my life that really stick out, that have made my journey a little bit more bearable...especially when you are surrounded with friends and family who won't let you give up. Who won't let you lose yourself in a struggle. Who won't let you be alone for too long. I don't know where I would be without everyone in my life, without their prayers. THANK YOU TO EACH ONE OF YOU!!!

At the end of Psalm 42, David says this in verse 11:

Why, my soul, are you downcast?
Why so disturbed within me?
Put your hope in God,
for I will yet praise him,
my Savior and my God.

I love the...."I will YET praise him". I know that God has a plan for my life. He knows the desires of my heart. One thing that has kept me going...is knowing that very thing. Jeremiah 29:4, "For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." I know there is something better than this out there, and I don't want to set up camp in the "crappy" part of my life. In order to find out what God has in store for me, I have no choice but to keep on moving forward. OH...there have been MANY days, where I have "set up camp" because it was comfortable and easy. Some days, it was nice to sit down and have a pity party for awhile. Thank God for giving me the courage and the strength to get up and out of those traps.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

I Would Die For That...

I still can't make it through this video with dry eyes. Go ahead...give it a try.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Friday, November 21, 2008

Open Sesame

It didn't take long before the doors started to open.

Well, the following Monday, I went to work and told a select few about our new direction. I shared with them that even though I was ecstatic about the new decision, I was already feeling overwhelmed with trying to find information on agencies, attorneys, etc...I just didn't know where to begin. The internet almost had too much information, in a sense, I wasn't able to find anything local.

A few of my friends mentioned that they had known someone who has adopted and offered to ask them and see if they would like to meet with me and share their experiences. I loved the idea. It didn't take long before we got a response. A friend of a friend, emailed me with a quick blurb of their process and the agency that they went through. I found the agency online and it looked perfect!! It is a Christian Agency that was founded to help couples adopt without the huge financial burden. The Agency, Adoption Ministry, specializes in "foster to adopt" and "birth mother/infant adoption"

The next day, I met a friend for coffee and it turns out that her mother-in-law (whom my husband and I both know well) works for Youth For Christ, which is an organization that works directly with the agency we picked up. Her mother-in-law helps to license couples for "foster to adopt". So I immediately called her to talk to her and ask her a million questions.

Lastly, I had called an old girlfriend of mine who I knew had adopted previously. I thought it would be good to talk to her and ask her a few questions. When she was able to return my call, it didn't take long before she said that her and her husband were in the middle of adopting their 2nd child...and they were going through the same agency that we were considering. What are the chances?!? She had so much to share with us: experience, examples, stories, testimonies, etc. She was a wealth of information.

I finally ended up calling the agency and I signed us up for their next available "introductory" class on January 13th. It is such a different feeling to have an actual date to depend on. I feel like...I have been trying to start a family for about 4 years now, but these next 2 months are going to be the longest two months ever!!!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Waiting For Our Family To Grow

This "blogging" thing is so new to me, so bear with me until I get the hang of things.

My husband and I have been married for nine years, this past March. I was 19 years old and he was 22. After our first year of marriage, I decided to go back to school to finish my four year degree and work my way towards becoming a teacher. We had just bought our first house, so we were both a bit fearful of the finance aspect of things, but it ended up working out just fine. I was in school for a total of four years (three years to finish my BA and one more year to earn my teaching certificate). Towards the end of my final year, I had an interview with a school. They called me the next day, in the middle of my class, to offer me a position. I couldn't believe it!! I was so excited, I told the kids, "I can't focus right now. We have got to call my family and tell them the good news." I called my husband and both of my parents. As soon as they answered, I held the phone up to the class and they all shouted, "SHE GOT THE JOB!" Later that day, my parents had sent a bouquet of flowers to my room to congratulate me. My husband surprised me at the end of the day with flowers and a bouquet of balloons...as I looked at the balloons, I noticed that one of them said, "It's A Boy!" I was pretty puzzled by that...what was that supposed to mean? He shared with me that it was finally time for us. We have reached that part of life where we were both in a place to begin our family.I was speechless!!

About four years later...and here I am. My husband and I tried to conceive on our own for one year, the recommended amount of time before you are considered to be infertile. During that year, my OB/GYN put me on clomid for about five cycles...with no results. After that year, we were referred to a specialist. They took a few tests and we found out a lot about ourselves. I found out that I don't always ovulate, that my hormone levels are not at a place to sustain a birth even if I were to get pregnant...and, oh yeah, somehow my body has created antibodies to attack and kill any sperm that comes into contact with my body. As for my husband, he was great...at least for now.

When the doctor went over our results, he said that these are issues that can be overcome with certain procedures, namely putting me back on clomid and adding IUI. He had no doubt that we would be pregnant within the next three months. After two failed IUI attempts, I had to take a break during my third cycle because I had developed a large cyst in one of my ovaries. Finally, the third IUI attempt failed and the doctors response was to schedule me for a laparoscopy to make sure that my ovaries were in working condition. The laparoscopy showed that everything was in great working order. He saw that apparently I had endometriosis at one point due to some scarring on my ovaries, but it was no longer an issue. As a result, the doctor wanted to try a bit more aggressive procedure with me. He decided to put me on injections followed by two IUI's (two days in a row). After going through all of the shots for the first attempt, we decided to cancel the IUI because my ultrasounds showed that I had only produced one follicle. For the second cycle, the Dr. increased my dosage times 4. My ovaries responded very well to that. I had a number of follicles produced, I even remember the nurse getting a huge smile on her face. Everything was finally in my favor. We knew that my body was doing exactly what it was supposed to do, we had a large number of follicles, Craig's soldiers where high in number and stronger than ever...unfortunately...after the two week wait, I got the dreaded call from the nurse to tell me that my blood work was negative.

It was right around here that I found myself surrounded by depression. Well, let's be honest, it was long before this moment!!! However, it was at this point that I needed to get help from an outside source because I knew that I could no longer carry this burden on my own. I ended up calling on my Pastor's wife and asked to meet with her. She became my saving grace. Through a long process, and many meetings, she was able to help me find the part of "ME" that got lost and buried from the "INFERTILE" me. You see...I was the first of all of my friends to marry, however, the last remaining one to have a child. During this long journey of infertility, I would just sit by and watch each one of my friends announce their news of pregnancy...even to the point where a few of them began announcing their second pregnancies. I became extremely jealous and even bitter as I watched them tend to their new bundles of joy. It got to the point where I started to avoid all baby showers. Honestly, I think that I avoided babies, all together, for at least three years of this process. It didn't matter how close the friend was, if they had a baby, I began to isolate myself from them. It was too hard to watch them with their child. It was too hard to be in the same room with a baby and not wonder if I would ever have one to call my own. It helped to distance me from something that I wanted so badly, but couldn't have. Though...I know now that that was the opposite of what I should have done.

After our fifth negative procedure with the infertility clinic, the doctor decided to do one more test on my husband. It turned out that the results showed us that his sperm cannot penetrate an egg. Imagine that?!?! After all that we had gone through...after all of the hormones and injections that I shot up...it would have been nice to have had that test taken in the beginning rather than putting my body through all of that and finding out it was a wasted effort.

From my husbands results, the Dr. told us that our only chance of conceiving was through IVF with ICSI. We were blown away. We would have never imagined that our lives would have ever ventured in this direction. It took us months to be able to actually make a commitment towards this. Craig was all for it, he was all ready to move forward...EASY FOR HIM, he was the one administering the shots and standing next to my bedside during the retrieval and transfer. Me, on the other hand...I wasn't ready for it. I just thought of the pain that we went through with all of the other procedures, I imagined that IVF with be a million times harder to accept if it didn't work out. My prayers during that time were for God to change Craig's heart. I was ready to begin looking into adoption. However, you've heard it a million times, you ask God to change someone else's heart, and it is your own heart that eventually comes around. And so it was, my heart began to change and I felt that, in finding "ME" again, that I had become strong enough to move forward with IVF. I knew that we would regret it if we didn't try everything in our power. So, through much discussion, and hard work trying to save up all $14,000...we decided to go for it. Finally, in the summer of 2008, we did it.

Being a person that HATES shots with a passion, I can't believe that I made it through alive. My husband did so well in giving me my shots. They started out at just two shots a day for about a week, and then to four shots a day for the last week. I took my pills religiously and ate all of the recommended foods while trying to conceive. At the retrieval, they knocked me out with some good old anesthesia and the doctor went in with a HUGE needle to retrieve all of my eggs. We ended up having a total ten eggs retrieved, eight of which were mature enough. Of the eight, five of them were fertilized. The day finally arrived for the transfer (day #3). With the Dr.'s advice we transferred all five embryo's (that was a scary decision, but not all of them were of high grade. The Dr. said that they would just help to tell my body to do what it needs to do in order to sustain a pregnancy). It was absolutely amazing when the embryologist came in to show us the video of him fertilizing each egg and then watching the cells divide each day until the eventually reached a total of 8 cells. AMAZING, truly amazing. It was the first picture of our five little babies.

The "two week" wait was the worst...the longest two weeks of my life. The day came for my blood draw...and the results...NEGATIVE. As soon as I got off the phone, I dropped to my knees and cried on the floor for the rest of the day...and then some. I didn't know what to do. I didn't know why this was happening. I didn't understand why we had to go through all of this. I was broken, and I didn't want to be fixed.

After time had passed, and we were able to gain some sort of healing, we both came to an understanding that God must have a different plan for us in starting our family. It wasn't until November 1st (The first day of "National Adoption Month"...though we didn't know it at the time) that we made the decision official. Through it all, we knew that God had other things in mind for us and we felt ready to find out what they were. We felt that the doors were being closed through the fertility treatments and we were both curious to see if doors would start opening up for us with adoption.

Thus, our journey begins.