My Donor Egg Baby Is Five

by Robin Silbergleid

Before I took the plunge into becoming a single mother via donor gametes, well-intentioned friends (and strangers on the internet) told me that once my son was born being his mother on a day-to-day level would eclipse DNA.  My doctor, on the other hand, cautiously warned me she had a patient who never managed to bond with her baby born of donor eggs.  Both these scenarios seemed unfathomable to me.  And, indeed, even as I loved him ferociously from the moment the second line came into focus on the home pregnancy test, for the first years of my son’s life, there wasn’t a day that passed that I didn’t think about the years of fertility treatment and anxiety-ridden high risk pregnancy that followed, that I didn’t wonder about the egg donor who provided her DNA.

At some point that mental-spinning stopped.  It’s hard to know when.  But I suspect now, looking back, it was around the time my son turned four, after the fog of hormones and sleeplessness faded, when I published a book about IVF, started participating regularly with the ART of Infertility, and offered to donate my remaining embryos.

candles_lit5My son is now five, and daily I run the gamut of emotions that go along with being a mother to a preschooler.  Impatient that it’s taken a good fifteen minutes to get him into the bathtub. Anger that he’s thrown his shoes (for reasons only understood by small children) up to the ceiling to crash down on the lamp in our entryway.  Delight at helping him climb into a crabapple tree.  Pride that he gives his only dollar to the homeless woman at the entrance to the highway.  Nostalgia for those days I rocked him for hours in glider, at once grateful he existed and desperate for him to sleep.  Our relationship, as all mother-child relationships, is both extremely complicated and pure.

I have not yet told him about his origins, as he’s barely begun to ask about ‘how babies are made’ in the usual sense; using his best preschool fantasy, he’ll talk about how he was alive when I was a baby in grandma’s tummy.  In a more immediate way, we’ve needed to address the fact that he doesn’t have a father, although because we’re not at the sperm-meets-egg part of the story, even the term ‘donor’ hasn’t made it into our lexicon.

It’s not a big deal.  And, indeed, I rarely have the moment that I think about the fact that my relation to him is different than my relation to his sister, conceived the ‘easy’ way via unmedicated IUI.  But I am still caught off guard when someone who knows something, but not everything, of my story observes that this fair-haired boy looks a bit like me (huh?).  It’s in that moment I remember the kind-eyed woman smiling at me in the clinic waiting room for one of those too-early morning ultrasounds in the week leading up to IVF retrieval, the woman I’d never seen before in all the months I’d been there, the woman, as I remember, who, in fact, looks a great deal like my son.

I will never know who she is, as I deliberately worked with an anonymous donor and declined all but baby pictures.  She is not part of my family, although her generosity made it possible.  As my son grows, as that sperm-meets-egg moment recedes in its significance, I continue to rewrite our family narrative.  On my son’s birthday this year, the friend who accompanied me to embryo transfer and–exactly 37 weeks later– his birth, presented me with a black and white photo taken in the recovery room, where I held my swaddled newborn and my then seven-year-old daughter looked on with a soft smile.

This is not an argument for why you should do a donor egg cycle if you’re thinking about it, or even acknowledgment that those well-intentioned strangers were mostly right.  My thoughts on having a child via egg donation have changed many times, and I have no doubt that they will change again, as my son grows and asks questions and as working on ART of Infertility continues to reframe my own infertility story.  Now more than five years out, I can say the gift of infertility is in the relationships it made possible, and for that I am eternally grateful.

 

Medical Tourism – IVF Abroad

Darla, traveled to the Czech Republic for donor egg IVF and is today’s guest blogger. This post does contain an image of a pregnancy announcement as well as talks about loss. Thanks, Darla, for sharing your story!

An Unexpected Journey

“Journey” has always been the word I’ve used to describe our battle with infertility. (I’m also very deliberate in the use of the term “our battle” because, while it’s most likely that my eggs were the culprit, I can never forget that my husband was by my side through it all, and he is just as battle-worn as I am.)

Our journey to growing our family was an emotional one that tried to takes its toll on our relationship; a physical one that definitely took a toll on my body; a spiritual one that found me begging on my knees for a reason that a loving God would put us through this.

And for us, it was a literal journey. Practically to the other side of the world. But more on that shortly.

When we were told our best chance for success was using donor eggs, we considered it for a brief moment, but realized to do that here at our home clinic would require years of saving, and of waiting. We thought about living childless, but my heart could only take that for about, oh, a day. We looked into embryo adoption, and even had a wonderful and selfless woman reach out to us and offer us her embryos, but it quickly became apparent that it was very important for my husband to feel connected to our children in some way.

Our research into donor egg IVF led us to something we first brushed off as crazy: traveling abroad for an IVF cycle. The number one place to go for donor egg IVF cycles abroad is the Czech Republic. So we laughed and said, “Thanks but no thanks” to that idea, and kept researching. And our research kept bringing us back to a trip to the Czech Republic.

A dear friend of mine, who I met through an online infertility community, was dealing with a similar situation to ours at the time. She texted me one day and asked if I’d heard about this Czech Republic thing. I said I had, but before I could say we just weren’t on board, she said, “I think we’re gonna do that!” Her excitement about it was infectious, so I asked her to share her research.

Before I knew it, I was emailing clinics in Prague and other Czech cities to ask for more information about their program. My husband was intrigued, too, and he started making spreadsheets to compare stats. And one night, I sat in a bubble bath and he sat on the floor next to me. We ranked all the stats of the clinics abroad, and our own clinic in Texas. We averaged the rankings. And we found our clinic. I’m pretty sure I cried the next day as I emailed the coordinator at Zlin IVF and asked for an available transfer date in February. I KNOW I cried when she responded with the date that our babies would be put into my womb: February 9, 2016.

The time leading up to the trip was a crazy mess of coordinating with clinics here for meds and monitoring, planning a two-and-a-half-week jaunt through Europe, and talking friends and family down as they mildly freaked out about what we were doing.

Czech-trip

The trip itself was a whirlwind. We went to places we’d only ever dreamed of going: Florence, Vienna, Prague. We were standing outside one of the most famous classical music venues in Europe, the Musikverein in Vienna, when we got the call that our donor had 12 mature eggs retrieved and 9 had fertilized. I’ll never forget standing in the rain with my husband outside this gorgeous building and crying over these embryos. We’d never gotten this far before. And though that number was down to only two by the day of transfer, we were so grateful for this chance, and we had faith in our two “little embryos that could.”

Family-photoTwo days after returning from the trip of a lifetime, I told my husband over dinner at one of our favorite restaurants that I’d caved, had tested, and he was going to be a daddy. A week and a half later, we found out that both our little ones had decided to snuggle in!

And now, we take each day as it comes and remind ourselves that we’re farther each day than we’ve been before. Being pregnant after an infertility battle is a battle in and of itself, but like I tell myself daily, “Today I am pregnant, and I love my babies.”

Update:

I wrote this blog originally back at the end of March when I was 10 weeks pregnant. We found out not long after I wrote this that we were expecting two little girls who we named Olivia Adele (baby A) and Catherine Sophia (baby B). We spent 14 glorious weeks as the parents of twins, 11 weeks as the parents of our twin girls. We had dreams for them, we had a picture of our life as a family of four.Announcement

And then, sadly, the unthinkable happened. At our 20-week scan, we found out our precious Catie-bug was very, very sick. She hadn’t developed normally – she had an encephalocele on the back of her skull (which turned out to be an open neural tube defect), a very large cleft lip/palate, small brain structures, and one doctor classified her head size as being in line with microcephaly. We were devastated to say goodbye to little Cate on June 22, 2016, a day shy of 22 weeks’ gestation. I am now carrying my sweet little angel and our survivor, Liv, and hoping and praying we make it to October with no further issues. While our hearts are broken for our loss, the excitement we felt at finally finding a way to become parents and our joy in our daughters is not dampened. This is all just a part of our very unexpected journey.

Infertility has become my life’s work. – Heidi’s Story

Like many we meet through the project, Heidi Hayes’ career has been shaped by her journey with infertility. She shares that journey with us through this guest blog today. Thank you, Heidi, for sharing your story!
– Elizabeth

Infertility.

I never thought this little word could describe me.  For such a small word, it had the power to define my life and lead me to people I would never have otherwise met. It’s not a word that embraces you. It’s a word full of desperation, tears and unrealized dreams.

I was 32 when I first went to a fertility clinic and was diagnosed with unexplained infertility. Even the word diagnosed feels ironic next to unexplained! My husband of 4 years and I were not able to have a baby. We had been trying and each month I was full of hope, only to have it dashed.

We began our journey, like most couples, with IUIs and ultimately we moved on to IVF cycles. I produced lots of eggs and they made lots of embryos— which was great! But I really wish I had been wise enough to do some research on laboratory quality. On our first cycle, they froze our embryos on day 3, even though typically embryos frozen at the blastocyst stage perform better. With each frozen embryo transfer cycle, followed by more IVF cycles, my courage, resolve and spirit were depleted. All of my friends were announcing their pregnancies and month after month, I attended baby showers and new baby debuts.

I remember one day, sitting in my car in front of my best friend’s house. That day signified my loss and utter despair in the infertility process. I was her best friend; how could I miss her baby shower? But my red eyes when I arrived were all she needed to see to understand how painful the day was for me. I stayed for a short time and left before the baby gifts were opened. But I knew she understood that the real gift I brought was my willingness to be at the event in the first place.

How do you get through the pain of infertility? It’s hard not to shut down and crawl into a shell. My instinct was to insulate myself from all things baby. I had to continually fight against the bitterness and envy I felt. I found it difficult to surrender control.

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I survived infertility by using 3 coping mechanisms. First, I had to give up the notion that I could control the process. We cannot control our bodies, and by thinking we can, we only place unnecessary guilt and expectations on ourselves. Second, I persevered. I wanted to quit more often than not, but I pushed forward as if in a stupor, unwilling to consider the costs of stopping or even continuing. Third, I stopped telling. I confided in a few good friends, but otherwise I kept my monthly cycle to myself. I found it hard to have multiple people ask me about the outcome of a cycle. It was like reopening the wound over and over again.

After our unsuccessful IVF and IUI cycles, we moved on to adoption. Thankfully, we were successful in this process and brought home a 7 month old baby from Guatemala. Naively we went back for baby number two, 1 year before Guatemala closed its doors to adoption. We fought for our baby girl and traveled to visit her on several occasions. Nearly 6 years later, we were told by Homeland Security that our adoption would not be completed. The loss of a baby I had held and dreamed about was devastating.

Unwilling to be the victim of infertility, we pondered the thought of using an egg donor. Ultimately, we switched our fertility practice and started again. Our first cycle produced 2 very mediocre embryos. Our doctor prepared us for the failure we would inevitably experience. But God had other plans for us. Elated, we gave birth to twins!

As I look back on our infertility, I can still feel the devastation associated with the word. But what was once nothing but grey and black now has undertones of magenta, yellow and orange. My infertility is paying me back for all of the tears I have shed. I have fought the fight and come out victorious with three beautiful children. I wanted them desperately and have pushed aside a myriad of distractions to give them my undivided attention. Infertility has become my life’s work with Donor Egg Bank USA. heidi hayes donor egg bank usa postHelping others to experience the success of having a baby to hold and love is my mission. Would I have felt this way had I not walked as a close companion with infertility? Embracing my infertility has molded me for the best and has given me the serenity to help others achieve their peace as well.

heidi hayes photoBio: Heidi Hayes is the CEO of Donor Egg Bank USA, a nationwide registry of egg donors. She has more than 20 years of healthcare experience and has worked extensively in the field of reproductive endocrinology. Through her work, Heidi has helped thousands of couples realize their dream of having family.

#startasking About Parenting After Pregnancy Loss and Infertility – Lauren’s Perspective

Lauren of Rainbows & Unicorns, a site about parenting after pregnancy loss and infertility, reflects on mothering her daughter who was born after donor egg IVF. This story does include an image of parenting. Thanks for sharing your story with us, Lauren!

I scoop up my toddler and carry her upstairs to begin our bedtime routine. Diaper, pajamas, teeth, goodnight Daddy, books, and then — my favorite part — songs and cuddling.

She lies on my belly, her head against my chest. “Saaah!” When one song ends, she looks up and asks for another. And another. And another. Eventually my little ball of energy goes limp in my arms. I hold her for a few minutes, treasuring her chubby cheeks and the smell of her sweet, malty little head before kissing her goodnight until she wakes up to nurse at four in the morning.

Lauren with her daughter at bedtime.

Lauren with her daughter at bedtime.

Although singing the same limited repertoire until my throat hurts and not having more than a five-hour stretch of sleep for almost two years grate in different ways, I remember how it wasn’t always like this. In the tough moments — like trying to console a teething child having an hour-long exhaustion tantrum at 3 am — I somehow find inner strength. I get to do this.

I am a mother thanks to many people, including a younger mom who donated her eggs so that I could experience the same joy she felt when she held her son for the first time.

It wasn’t joy that I felt when I met my daughter. By then, I’d been through too much to let myself feel anything so big. After miscarriage, infertility, being told I would never have a healthy genetic child, and a high-risk pregnancy requiring me to deliver via planned cesarean, I couldn’t allow myself to believe that I was finally a mom. Not until I heard my daughter’s first cries. Not until I held her. Not until she was furiously suckling did it dawn on me that I was out of the trenches.

But am I really a regular parent now? Parenting after infertility is a strange place to be. As I like to describe it, “I’m no longer in the trenches, but I’m covered in mud.”

The grief of infertility is hard to remember. Like the face of someone you loved a long time ago, it’s hard to recollect its features in detail. That is, until a whiff of their perfume, or a pregnancy announcement, or an innocent remark from someone who has no idea why the question “When are you having another baby?” causes your heart to quietly crack a little.

“I’m no longer in the trenches, but I’m covered in mud.”

For many parents like me, we’ve left Infertility Island but we’re moored offshore somewhere else. Play dates with other parents — so many blissfully unaware of everything that can go wrong before, during, and after conception — can have moments that are hard to navigate. How do you relate to another parent who casually announces she plans to get pregnant in March so the baby is born before Christmas? What do you say when someone asks when you’re having another baby? How do you casually explain egg donation when asked where your daughter’s red hair comes from? In time, the answers come.

Don’t misunderstand; none of this is as hard as trying to have a baby. But when you’re a graduating member of a club you never wanted to join, you’re caught between two worlds: the one you had to leave once your child arrived; and the other everyone else assumes you’re in.

I have my “rainbow unicorn” (if a “rainbow” is a baby born after loss, I surmised one born after infertility would be a “unicorn”) and she fills my days with more joy than I thought possible. But joy and pain aren’t mutually exclusive. What a lot of people don’t realize is that having a baby resolves childlessness — not infertility.

You’re caught between two worlds: the one you had to leave once your child arrived; and the other everyone else assumes you’re in.

Even though we’re parents, we’re still infertile. Unless we fall into a small lucky statistic of spontaneously conceiving after infertility, if we want a second or third child we will have to submit to the invasive, sometimes painful, and always expensive tests and protocols we endured a few years before — this is equally true whether you do infertility treatment or adopt.

If we want a second child, we’re lucky to have eight chromosomally normal frozen embryos to choose from. All we have to do is pick a date for transfer. Most of my infertile comrades don’t have leftover embryos, either because they didn’t do IVF or, if they did, they didn’t have any embryos left over. It struck me the other week that some of my friends are going to have to go through the whole TTC thing all over again. They have my full support and admiration.

For me, parenting after infertility has given me some unexpected blessings. First and foremost, I have this amazing little girl in my life. She’s affectionate, smart, talkative, mischievous, and healthy. We might not share DNA, but we share a sense of humor, a love of Marmite, a dislike of tomatoes, and we’re both pretty tall with big feet. Most importantly, she’s here, and she couldn’t have been created any other way. My journey to motherhood was filled with more pain than I thought I could bear, but I’d do it all over again to have this sweet child that I get to call my daughter.

Eighteen months into this parenting gig, I am more or less at peace with a whole lot of stuff that I never thought I’d be able to accept.

I have a chromosome disorder which means genetic children aren’t possible, so I chose egg donation to build my family. I can say that openly and joyfully now that I’m a parent. I can be open about the way my daughter was conceived because the irrational shame of not being able to reproduce has dissipated.

Breastfeeding has been tremendously healing in this respect. I wasn’t expecting much, so I was surprised that it came to me so easily. Being able to feed my daughter they way I hoped has restored faith in my otherwise broken body. My body can’t make a baby that will live, but it’s pretty damn good at growing and feeding them!

Over the last year and a half, I’ve spent days looking into my nursing daughter’s beautiful eyes fixed on my face — the same eyes I admired in our donor. Not recognizing any of my family of origin’s features in my daughter was, at first, strange. Sometimes she looks like her dad, sometimes she looks like our donor. To my surprise, I like seeing our donor’s influence. It’s reassuring to see something of the special woman I chose to replace my DNA reflected in my daughter.

Eighteen months into this parenting gig, I am more or less at peace with a whole lot of stuff that I never thought I’d be able to accept.

You might say I had a crash course in comfort levels, though. My daughter’s hair is a deep red, and every time we’re out three people, on average, stop us to admiringly ask if red hair runs in my family. At first the question made me wince. I didn’t know how to answer the question without also sharing the circumstances of my kid’s conception. I’ve got good at saying, “Nope! But isn’t it beautiful?” When pressed, I explain, “Red hair is a recessive gene, which means both genetic parties have to carry it.” In this way, I’m able to acknowledge my daughter’s genetic origins while not divulging too much to a stranger if I don’t feel like it.

I guess that’s what parenthood is about: constantly being surprised and having to readjust expectations, all the while practicing patience, kindness, and even finding the funny side when something’s gone wrong.

And in that sense, my infertility journey prepared me well.

Lauren is a mother via egg donation, after miscarriage, infertility, and a massive postpartum hemorrhage. She is a writer, editor, and designer at Rainbows-Unicorns.com, a community blog for parenting after pregnancy loss and infertility. Originally from London, Lauren lives in San Diego with her husband and their toddler. Follow her on Twitter at @DEIVFmama.

 

From Infertility to Fatherhood – My Journey So Far

This week’s blog is a guest post by Fred Harlan. We want to disclose a trigger warning, which is something we will do from here on out when we feel it’s needed, that this post does include images of a baby and of parenting. Fred and his wife Andrea are ART of Infertility project participants who we met in Southern California. They shared their story with us via an interview and also attended our pop-up art exhibit and workshops in Calabasas during National Infertility Awareness Week this year. Thanks, Fred, for sharing your family’s story!

From Infertility to Fatherhood – My Journey So Far

I am going to tell you something that I always hated to hear. At least, I used to at a point in time in my life. My wife and I were far along down that lonely path we were traveling in the midst of our infertility journey. The meandering road had become increasingly dark and dank. It was becoming more apparent that the chances of a successful IVF cycle using my wife’s eggs and my sperm was unlikely. Some people in our lives would say the obvious thought to them, and insensitive comment to us, that we could “always adopt.” Even the medical and therapeutic people that we sought out had begun to talk to us about “other options” to parenthood. I simply wasn’t ready to hear it, let alone think about it.

As time passed reality crept in. After many failed procedures, buckets of tears and a ton of soul searching, my wife and I eventually came to the realization that some how, some way, we really wanted to have a child. In order to make that happen we slowly began to look into other possible options. Now, after eight plus years of infertility and 10 months of fatherhood what I want to tell you is this: regardless of how long you have been battling or the reasons for your infertility, that if you are resolved in your desire to have a child no matter what, my message of hope is that there is a way. It may not be the way to parenthood that you envisioned but there are paths that can take you there. Not all roads are available to everyone for various reasons – emotional, cultural, religious or financial. But I know there is a potential path(s) available to everyone. You just have to be in a place along your own journey to be open to consider other possibilities.

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Fred and Andrea during their ART of IF photo session.

Ten months ago my son, Gehrig, came into our lives. He was born of my wife’s womb, my sperm and a donor’s egg. Being his father is a joy that is incomparable to any other, a reality that I still almost cannot believe and an opportunity, considering the circumstances, which I long thought I never would consider. Like I was saying, my wife and I decided that parenthood was what we definitely wanted. However, with each failed IVF cycle the medical opinion increasing appeared evident that the quality of my wife’s eggs was our challenge. Knowing my wife’s heartache and my wanting to always tackle infertility as a team, I suggested to my wife that our future child should be either “both of ours or neither of ours” genetically.  Honestly, I couldn’t imagine how I would feel had the circumstances been that of our future child being biologically hers and not mine, so I didn’t want her to have to imagine it either.

Egg donation seemed so unnatural, so complicated and so not us. We didn’t want to be “one of those couples.” Besides, there were so many questions that came along with egg donation. Would my wife be able to completely accept and love a child that was not biologically her own? Would the donor want to be a part of his and our life? What if he doesn’t look like us, and then what would we say when asked, “whom does he look like?” What would we tell family and friends? And what if years down the road our son had a health issue and would benefit from knowing detailed medical history? And the really big question: what would we tell our son? Although we knew several people who had chosen the egg donor route and were very happy with their choice, it just didn’t feel like the right option for us. So we closed the door on this alternative and proceeded in educating ourselves on the different avenues of adoption, including that of embryo adoption. During this time my wife realized that the concept of being pregnant and carrying a child was extremely important to her, especially considering her doctors believed she would be able to carry a child. So it appeared that embryo adoption was the answer that life was steering us toward. At least that is what we thought until a comedy of errors (a story for another day) resulted in my wife’s sister volunteering to be a surrogate or give us her eggs or whatever we needed, led us to think about egg donation one more time. It was during this period that I realized that having a child who was biologically mine was more important than I had allowed myself to think. Another series of events led us to our eventual donor (another story for another day) and the rest as they say is history.

Looking back on everything we went through I have one more thing to say that someone struggling with infertility may not want to hear either, and I understand why – I was in your shoes. But now I need to say it, I have to say it, because it is my truth. I would not change a thing. At least not if it meant I wouldn’t have Gehrig today. If you told me ten years ago, “Fred, I have good news for you and I have bad news. The bad news is that you are going to go to hell and back again and again and again in your attempt to become a father. You are going to doubt yourself as a man, a person and as a husband. You and your wife are going to go through heartbreak after heartache, and you are going to have to be the rock that supports your wife all while you can barely stand on your own. You will doubt your dreams, your wife, your faith and life itself. You will sit in the depths of despair that appear to have no escape, no hope and no resolve. However, at the end you will be given an amazing little boy to love!” Knowing everything that I know today, I would sign up for that in a New York minute.

We have all heard some variation of the motivational phrase, “Life is not a destination, it’s a journey.” I always wanted to believe that was true but some how never found a way to make it work in my life. Stress and frustration seemed to win out more than I would have liked. Then one afternoon, after my wife and I participated in a vision board workshop – an activity hosted and encouraged by our infertility counselor – in order to assist us in visualizing the life for which we hoped, I realized my board was not complete. I had one picture with a saying to represent my life’s journey that simply was not ringing true for me. In fact, it was pretty lame. So decided to scour the Internet for an image that would adequately represent my life’s road. Beaches speak to me and as I scanned many coastal images I came across one. As soon as I saw it I know my vision board was complete. It was the picture of foam-crested waves gently meeting the sand in which were inscribed the following words: “The journey is the reward.” That rephrasing of all those old Successories/Sky Mall posters spoke to me differently somehow. I didn’t know it exactly at the time, but now I do. And as I look at that photo posted on my desk as I type, I can say that my journey is indeed my reward.

Fred shares a vision board that his wife, Andrea, made during their journey at the ART of IF pop up exhibit and workshops in Calabasas, CA during National Infertility Awareness Week in 2015. Photo by Chrystal Starr Photography.

Fred shares a vision board that his wife, Andrea, made during their journey at the ART of IF pop up exhibit and workshops in Calabasas, CA during National Infertility Awareness Week in 2015. Photo by Chrystal Starr Photography.

I often speak about infertility as a journey. Each couple, each person who is faced with the disease goes through similar experiences and yet at the same time a journey all her or his own. I did not realize it as I was going through it – how could I, it was just too emotional, too raw – but in retrospect, I realize that I was being prepared for what life had in store for me – not just to be a father, but to be a father to this little boy, here and now. I have always wanted to be a dad, and had I become one earlier in life I’m sure that I would have relished it and been a good one. However, becoming a parent at this point in my life I know that I am so much better prepared for fatherhood than I would have as a younger man. I am more grounded, more secure emotionally and less anxious. I am not missing as much time with Gehrig as I am sure that I would have years ago while building a previous business. I am home more and with Gehrig frequently despite building a new practice. I’m often the lone dad in the “Mommy and Me” new parent classes.

The dad I am today is not solely because of the length of time it took to become one, but also as a direct result from my infertility journey. For example, I am more patient and flexible than I used to be. This is a benefit to Gehrig but also to Andrea as we parent him together. Also, the perfectionist that I am has been able to let go of having to do things in a specific “right” way and being tied to specific outcomes. When Gehrig didn’t nurse right away I didn’t panic (don’t ask me about my wife), rather we sought help. He turned into a nursing machine. When Gehrig didn’t crawl when he should have we enjoyed what he was doing (rolling everywhere) and asked for advice. Now Gehrig is on the move. Had I been a parent years ago I would have been looking at the situation thinking: “what is wrong with my kid!”

Once we found out that Andrea’s pregnancy was viable I made up my mind that I would “take it all” – I would change every dirty diaper, listen to every cry, dry every tear and wipe up every spit up with a smile on my face. I laugh when I fly Gehrig over my head like Superman and he drools on my shirt, my glasses or even my mouth. I do not care. No, that is not true – actually I care a lot, in fact I love it. He is my son and I waited too long and tried too hard to have him to not enjoy every moment. And I have learned that some of the best moments are the simplest, such as at the end of the day when I am rocking him to sleep. His head lays on my shoulder and has he surrenders to sleep his neck gives way to the weight of his head which nestles into the nape of my neck. I continue to rock him for another ten minutes or so to ensure he is asleep, but mostly because that time is priceless to me. Each and every night I think to myself how life prepared me those moments, and I’m so grateful that I’m not missing a second of it by simply hurrying to get my son to bed.

Fred, Gehrig, and Andrea during their ART of IF photo session.

Fred, Gehrig, and Andrea during their ART of IF photo session.

 

You may be saying, “well, that is great for you Fred, you are one of the lucky ones, you were able to have a biological child. What about your wife? What about all the people who are not able to have a biological child?” My response is this: those are fair questions and it is reasonable to ask them. It is important to note that during the process of choosing egg donation, I grieved significantly for the child that I always thought Andrea and I would have together. In the end perhaps I am lucky – I am definitely fortunate – or perhaps we made our own luck to opening ourselves up to other possibilities to parenthood. This is not a commercial for egg donation or parenthood, rather it is intended to inspire hope in infertile couples who have definitely decided or are at least thinking they still want to be parents some how, some way. And as for my wife, she feels pretty fortunate herself. She will tell you, what I will tell you, that Gehrig is 100% hers. She carried him in her womb, feeds him from her breast and is a completely devoted mother in raising him and that is what is important to her. Likewise, I know many people who have adopted newborns, babies, children and even embryos, and all without fail will tell you that their child is indeed their child and was from the moment that child entered their lives. At the end of the day it is the emotional bond that matters, not the means by which the child arrived in your life.

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I wholeheartedly believe that Andrea and I were meant to be parents, and once we figured out that part, life opened new opportunities for us to become so. I also believe that my son was meant to be and meant to be in our lives at this moment in time. He didn’t come to us the way we thought he would, but that no longer is a concern. Years ago it was difficult to think about, let alone see, that life’s journey was preparing me, actually all three of us, not for the live we envisioned, but the life we were meant to live.1 That’s my journey – so far.

1A variation of a quote by Joseph Campbell.

Fred Harlan, MA2 is a resourceful Marriage and Family Therapist Intern who works with couples and individuals on relationship issues, and men and couples coping with infertility (theirs or their partner’s). Fred holds Master’s Degrees in Clinical Psychology and Speech Communication. Fred@FredHarlan.net.

Tri-State, NJ Walk of Hope

Maria and I met when we both attended RESOLVE: The National Infertility Association’s Advocacy Day in Washington, D.C. in May of 2014 and quickly bonded over the fact that we were both peer-led support group hosts for the organization. RESOLVE’s signature fundraising event is their Walk of Hope, which takes place around the country.

The ART of IF will be at the Tri-State walk in New Jersey on September 12. We’ll be a community sponsor, to help further RESOLVE’s wonderful work in advocating legislation that helps those with infertility build their families. Our table will have examples from the exhibit on display and we will be doing mini interviews for that project. We’re also putting together a fundraising team. Let us know if you’d like to join us!

Jenna Marinelli is the chair of the walk this year and we’ve asked her to tell us some more about the walk and her personal reasons for walking through our blog this week. Thanks, Jenna, for sharing your story!

Elizabeth

RESOLVE: The National Infertility Association is hosting the 1st Annual Tri-State Walk of Hope and we are looking for you to join us!!

The Walk of Hope is RESOLVE’s signature fundraising event. This is a community event that recognizes the many ways in which families are built, supports local support services and programs for the 7.4 million men and women living with infertility. A Walk of Hope event represents the infertility journey—a series of small steps, each one filled with hope and a reminder that no one with infertility should walk alone. One Morning, One Mile, One Community.

Local facts:

  • More than 992,000 women in the Tri-State area (New York, Connecticut, New Jersey and Pennsylvania) are impacted by infertility.
  • There are only 30 peer-led support groups in the Tri-State area.
  • New York, New Jersey and Connecticut have insurance mandates for fertility coverage.

After participating in the Washington, D.C. Walk of Hope for past 3 years, I am honored to be the Chair of the inaugural Tri-State Walk of Hope on September 12th, 2015 at Overpeck County Park – Ridgefield Park Area in New Jersey. This event gives me the incredible opportunity to connect with others struggling with their own infertility, often silently and alone.

Jenna has raised the most for the Washington, D.C. Walk for multiple years. She's now taking her energy to NJ as the Tri-State walk's chair.

Jenna has raised the most for the Washington, D.C. Walk for multiple years. She’s now taking her energy to NJ as the Tri-State walk’s chair.

My story dates back to June 2010, exactly one year after marrying my high school sweetheart, when I was diagnosed with Premature Ovarian Failure at the age of 26. POF is defined as the loss of ovarian function before the age of 40. It occurs in 1 in 1,000, or 1%, of women between the ages of 15 and 29, with the average onset being 27 years old. Currently, there is no cure and no proven treatment that can restore the normal functioning of the ovaries or fertility. Women with POF are recommended IVF with donor eggs or to pursue adoption. POF also has lifelong health implications beyond fertility, particularly with regard to cardiovascular and bone health with greater risks for developing osteoporosis, estrogen deficiency and heart disease.

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As of today, my infertility “resume” includes 3 failed IUI’s, 4 cancelled IVF’s using my eggs, and 1 Donor Egg IVF that ended in a Chemical Pregnancy. We do not live in a state that mandates infertility coverage (PA), so we pay out of pocket for everything. This is why we need everyone’s help raising awareness to infertility, so hopefully one day there will be more options & treatments available for couples faced with this disease. We are currently gearing up for our next cycle using Frozen Donor Eggs! I hope that sharing my journey can bring awareness and help even one person. I am a survivor! I will beat infertility!

Please join me for this walk so that no one struggles alone. Registration is free and all are welcome to attend. Both teams and individuals may register. The Walk of Hope also offers fun and activities for all ages. All funds donated will go directly to RESOLVE to further its work. Visit our website today at resolve.org/tristatewalk.

The walk will be held at the beautiful Overpeck County Park.

The walk will be held at the beautiful Overpeck Country Park.

Other ways to help

Follow the Tri-State Walk of Hope on Facebook and Twitter.

We need talented, dedicated, and hard-working volunteers to plan, promote and implement the Walk of Hope. For more information, please contact Jenna Marinelli at njnywalkofhope@gmail.com for details. Volunteering for the Tri-State Walk of Hope is a great way to support the hundreds of thousands of people diagnosed with infertility and have some fun! Each year we rely on the generosity of dozens of volunteers to create a very successful event for the infertility community.

To sponsor the Tri-State Walk of Hope please contact Jenna Marinelli at njnywalkofhope@gmail.com or Jenlene Nowak at 703.556.7172. Our sponsoring partners are very important to RESOLVE’s Walk of Hope. Your support of this event will allow RESOLVE to create a great day for all those choosing to walk with us. Plus you’ll show your clients and customers that people with infertility matter.

Jenna

The Stories We Tell: Reflections from Northern California

This week has been another busy moment for The ART of Infertility. We are in Northern California, reaching out to local infertility support groups and meeting local infertility professionals to help us host an art exhibit in 2016. These meetings have been going well and we are excited about how the project has been received so far.

Maria got this great shot of the Golden Gate Bridge from the plane.

Maria got this great shot of the Golden Gate Bridge from the plane.

In preparing for this trip, we finally made a “FAQ” sheet. This sheet provides a bit more detail about the project, our history and future goals. We encourage you to download it and share it with those who may be interested. And if you are interested in having us come to your city to either interview you, host an art/writing workshop, or an exhibit, please reach out to us!

Some of the participants at our cigar box collage workshop busy at work.

Some of the participants at our cigar box collage workshop in Citrus Heights busy at work.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, we have been (yet again) reminded of how powerful all of our meetings can be during our travels. For example, this past week, we met @Brave_IVF_Mama. She shared with us a bit of her story. Talking to her, we were reminded of the continued need for infertile wo/men to be advocates and resources for each other. @Brave_IVF_Mama embraces her infertility identity and serves serving as a resource for those in the infertile community. We were particularly struck when she told us about a comprehensive book review she did on children’s books about egg donation. This blog post posted a complete list of relevant books on the topic but also — pretty honestly — examines their positives and negatives. We encourage you all to check out this blog and @brave_IVF_mama as a useful and relevant resource.

Most of all, in talking to @brave_IVF_mama, we were reminded of the importance of stories. Of how having your infertility story is important. But in finding your own individual “resolve”, there are multiple stories. Stories about how you frame your decision to your friends/family. And, perhaps most significantly, stories about how you talk to your future children about their own conception story.

We left leaving this meeting feeling empowered about the ways that The ART of Infertility continues to teach us – Elizabeth and Maria – the multiple ways our own infertility network can teach us and serve as resources for honoring our own stories. We leave this blog post asking all of you, how has your infertility story evolved and changed over the days/months/years and who now is a part of this story? For Elizabeth and I, our infertility story includes all of you – our loyal and supportive followers. Hearing and sharing your stories have helped us heal and cope with our own infertility stories. We are thankful and grateful for all of your sharing. We hope that we continue to learn and grow from these experiences throughout our years.

In gratitude,

Elizabeth & Maria

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Our first night in the area, in Nob Hill.





Angela’s Advocacy Day Interview

Maria and I had the pleasure of documenting a bit of Angela’s story when we were in Washington, D.C. last month. Angela did multiple rounds of IVF with both her own eggs and donor eggs before adopting her son domestically. Thanks, Angela, for sharing your story with us so others will know they are not alone!

Elizabeth

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Angela talks about her experience with open adoption and the frequency with which she has contact with her son’s birth mother.

For more information on adoption, the Creating a Family website is a great resource. They even have a radio show that can how information on the different types of adoption and how to decide which one is right for you and this quick comparison chart on the different types of adoption.

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Angela is a RESOLVE: The National Infertility Association Ambassador and a peer-led support group host. You can play the audio clip to hear about how Angela got involved with the organization. (She references Redbook’s Truth About Trying campaign in this clip. You can check out some of the videos from the campaign at this link but will have to scroll to the bottom to find them.)

Click on this link to find a RESOLVE support group near you. If there isn’t one in your area, you can email info@resolve.org to talk to someone about starting one. There’s no substitute for in person, “real life” groups and the support they provide. It was through a RESOLVE support group that I became comfortable with my diagnosis, sharing my story, and ultimately wanting to do infertility advocacy, resulting in ART of Infertility!