Sunday, August 25, 2019

BLUF

In national emergency management we often get communications which start with...


BLUF:  [enter key message]


A BLUF ("bottom line up front") is a statement, sentence or paragraph where the conclusions and recommendations are placed at the beginning of the text, rather than the end, in order to facilitate rapid decision making. It's really helpful when you receive long communications with key information because the important stuff is usually buried.  BLUF ensures you don't miss the important message.


So here you go...


BLUF:  We're pregnant.


To say that we're over the moon... is the biggest understatement of the century. Y'all know what a struggle it's been over the last 13 years to keep my faith and focus as I've journeyed this infertility and infant loss path, so while we let this happy news settle in for a minute... I'll pause to collect my thoughts with a promise to return very soon with all of the glorious details.  (I promise.)  Until then, here's an awesome shot of our tiny miracle which is due April 7, 2020.


Monday, April 1, 2019

The Plea. And His Answer.

I’ve been pretty quiet the last 2 1/2 weeks. 

Confession: I’ve been on the run.

You know... like in the movie Forest Gump when Forest was sitting on the porch the morning after his devastation. One minute he was quietly sitting there lost in thought and staring into the distance .... and in the next, he stood up - paused at the top of the stairs - and just started running. At first he was only running to the end of the road.  And when he got there, he thought maybe he'd run to the edge of town.  And when he got there, he thought maybe he'd run across Greenbow County. Then he kept running across the state of Alabama.  And then across the country. And when he hit water's edge, he turned around and started running back the other direction. He ran, and he ran, and he ran.  

Until one day, he suddenly stopped and realized he didn’t have to run anymore.

And that's been me.  

Just after getting the call from the nurse on March 14th, Mr. Thompson pleaded with me to lay down on the bed with him.  I told him that I couldn't because I knew that I was going to shatter into a million tiny little pieces. If anything, I don't like to shatter... so I made a few quick notifications, turned off my phone, and went to work (on a day off). And when I was done working, I packed my bags. Then I went to Sam’s house to watch her kids for four days while she spent some much needed time with her husband.  It was pre-planned trip that we were all really excited about after all that they had done for us.  Sam wanted to send the kids somewhere else after the disappointing call, but I was insistent that we stay on course. Truthfully, it was a really good diversion for Mr. Thompson and me.  We had a really great time, but yeah... I was totally running. 

A few days in, on a quiet Sunday morning, I put the kids in the car to go to my house to be with Mr. Thompson for the afternoon.  The kids were still drowsy from a very tiring day before, so all was quiet.  When I started the car, a song immediately came on the radio from the beginning chord, which hit the deepest part of me.  It was a song that my older sister shared with Mr. Thompson about a month earlier, bringing him to tears.  As she played it for him, she told him that it reminded her about the glorious day that he'd see Colton again - our little boy who sometimes feels so far away in our fragile faith. 

This Sunday morning however, the words changed and the song became mine.  It became my very personal plea to God in a moment of desperate confusion. I had struggled to find words for many days, and I finally found them. So with drowsy kids in the back seat, tears fell the whole way home as I listened to Fall On Me (click to hear), by Andrea Bocelli and his son Matteo.  

The first part is sung by Matteo as a plea to his father.  And I felt that.  Deeply.

But when Andrea started singing a reply back to his son in Italian... it struck me more profoundly as the voice of God.  He's speaking to me and it sums up our relationship perfectly.  I know God is there.  I know He hears me and I know that I hear him. I know He is responding back to me on every question and plea that I have ever had.  I know because I know His voice - His beautiful tone - and the feelings that I feel when I hear Him. 

But for the life of me, as beautiful as His voice and the music around him is... I still can't understand it.  

I understand that He replies to me with complete love and affection because I feel it and I hear it.  But I don't know what He is trying to say because I'm not yet fluent in His language. Here and there, I'll pick up a few words that I think are familiar.  Words like "Ascoitami" (listen to me) and "Abbracciami" (embrace me).... but I don't understand everything that He's trying to tell to me. I try, and I try, and I try.  But I'm lacking in my experience and just can't seem to overcome the language barrier between us no matter how hard I try.  Simply put, I don't speak Italian. 

And that sums up this experience for me perfectly. 

Surrogacy wasn't just about "a pea" and "a pod".  Matter of fact, it wasn't about that at all.  It was about Mrs. Thompson and the true mission that God has for her in this life. The pea and the pod were just a means to get there. So in the last 2.5 weeks, I've listened to this song a million times as I've been running from one place to another. Down the road - from my house to Sam's.  Across town - from Sam's house to the airport.  Across the state - to Phoenix. From Phoenix to Flagstaff. From Flagstaff to Albuquerque. From Albuquerque to Santa Fe. From Santa Fe to El Paso. From El Paso to Tucson. From Tucson back to Phoenix.  From Phoenix to Dallas. From Dallas to Mexico City. Running. Running. Running. 

But today in Mexico, like Forest Gump ... I just stopped.  

It happened in the strangest place - Benito Juárez International Airport in Mexico City.  I was quietly sitting at my gate two hours early, watching people in their hustle and bustle.  Everyone hurrying somewhere on their own run. I was admiring the airport's fascinating architecture with all the small round holes - floor to ceiling - which let in a really beautiful natural light.  It created small light beams all around me, especially on a really sunny day like today.  It was glorious.  So as I enjoyed sitting in the moment, I decided to put in my headphones.  I clicked the first thing that came up on Pandora which happened to be the Andrea Bocelli station.

And that's when something marvelous happened. Fall on Me started playing again from the very first chord...  

[Verse 1: Matteo Bocelli]


I thought sooner or later
The lights up above
Will come down in circles and guide me to love
But I don’t know what’s right for me
I cannot see straight
I’ve been here too long and I don’t want to wait for it


Fly like a cannonball
Straight to my soul
Tear me to pieces and make me feel whole
I’m willing to fight for it and carry this weight
But with every step
I keep questioning what is true


Fall on me
With open arms
Fall on me
From where you are
Fall on me
With all your light
With all your light
With all your light

And in that moment, with the literal "lights up above, coming down in circles and guiding me to love"... I was staring up at the beams of light when the most joyous feeling of love and peace washed over me. And as I was looking up... I expected a beautiful response to a child's plea to come to me again in Italian...



Only this time, God's response came in perfect English. Fall on Me (English version, click to listen)

[Verse 2: Andrea Bocelli]


Soon you will find what your heart wants to know
Don’t give up hope for I know you are close
And all you have ever dreamed, wished you could ever be
Is waiting to find you wherever you go
Believe in yourself, every step that you take
Know I am smiling with pride everyday
My love will forever be, stronger than stone
Don’t be afraid you are never alone...

When the song ended, I turned off my headphones and sat staring in silence, looking at those circles of light for a really long time. I wanted to memorize this moment for the rest of my life as the moment when I most fully felt God's goodness and grace.  I kept the earphones in and enjoyed the sounds of silence and feeling of light for almost two hours. When the time was right, I calmly walked to my gate, got on my plane, flew home, drove from the airport, walked through the front door...

And finally laid down with my husband. 

.
.
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When that nurse called me on March 14th and blurted the news, the thought that immediately raced through my mind was "Lessons".  Even before the call ended... over and over and over... I just kept repeating that word.  "Lessons. Lessons. Lessons." as if I was reaching for something.  I was looking for an answer but I couldn't immediately find it. The entire experience utterly confused me because for as long as I live, I will never deny the thoughts, impressions, feelings and personal miracles that I've felt all along the way. I know the source from which all that goodness came, but the result wasn't what I expected.

In confusion, I asked "why?".

And then I got up off my porch and took off.  Aside from being away from my Mister, it wasn't totally unhealthy because in detaching and "powering through", I was able to forget myself and go to work.  As I did that, I had some really good quiet moments in hotels along the way.  But unfortunately, my initial confusion became a persistent doubt in myself and in my ability to feel like I really heard God's true reply in all of those thoughts, impressions, feelings and miracles along the way.  

Siting in that airport, I finally realized that I did.  I did hear Him.

And it's all going to all be okay. 

Thursday, March 14, 2019

No Rain... No Rainbow

Okay... I’m just going to rip the bandaid off quick.

Results came back negative.  (100% definitive)

I know... no easy words. There never have been. But as we told “S” and her husband this morning... NOTHING changes. I wouldn’t do anything different, even in becoming vulnerable with my friends and putting our story out there. I have nothing in my heart but gratitude and love for the experience that I’ve been blessed to journey on with my friends.

If you’re a mom - go hug your kids really tight and power on in the most important work you’ll ever do. As for me, I’ll lick my wounds and stay resolved in the peace that I feel in being able hold my head up high, with shoulders squared, when I face God.  We have literally tried everything and isn’t that what we’re supposed to do in this great journey called life?

So soldier on my dear friends and I will too.

No rain... no rainbow. 🌈

(and I am still confident that there are rainbows for us all, but for now ... I think I’ll go and have a really good cry...)

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

The Two Week Wait

Don’t mind me.

Just quietly dying over here because two more days (5 hrs, 44 min, and 47 seconds) feels like two more years (500 hrs, 4400 min and 47,000 seconds)...


Friday, March 8, 2019

Good To Great

Let's have a little science lesson while we wait, shall we? (This two week wait is killing me!)

I found a picture of our two embryos that were transferred to me seven years ago on 12/22/2012 (our last "fresh" in-vitro cycle, from which all our current embryos were collected and frozen).


At the time, Dr. H and the Embryologist took what they felt were the two best embryos and transferred them to me, but you know the results. We didn't get pregnant.

So last week, when we were really excited about the Grade 5AA embryo that was transferred to S, I took out the old picture from 2012 for a comparison.


Wow! If you look at the two Grade A's from 2012 and compare them against the one "perfect" 5 Grade AA from last week....

You can see a HUGE difference.


In 2012, our embryos hadn't hatched yet so they Embryologist drilled a hole in each (assisted hatching technology) to help them along.

In 2019, you can see that last week's embryo already "hatched" in the lab which was a really, really good. It gave us a more developed embryo. After this video was filmed - right before our transfer - it was determine that the embryo actually expanded even more from a 4 to a Grade 5 expansion, which I understand is the highest it can go in the lab. It was awesome and really exciting to watch. 

The comparison from 2012 was really interesting. You can see what it looks like from good... to GREAT!

Only 6 days, 2 hours, 21 minutes and 17 seconds until we hear our results...

Saturday, March 2, 2019

Transfer Day

Oh, what a glorious day!

Still trying to put it all into words. It may take me a while.

So, I’ll just share the scripture that jumped out to me this morning. It’s in Luke 1:45, when Elisabeth in her old age, finds out she is going to have a baby (John the Baptist) and is visited by a pregnant Mary who utters a Psalm of praise...

“And blessed is she that believed: for there shall be performance of those things which were told her from the Lord.”

Might I mention that my word for 2019 is... yup, Believe. (because I don’t do New Years Resolutions - I just select a word for the year.)

Someday, I’ll tell you about a perfect little embryo that grew into a Day 5 Blastocyst and got the “holy grail” embryo rating of a 5AA, which made everyone beyond excited.  In short - it’s perfection and we totally got to watch a miracle happen today through a microscope and a catheter.

Then, I’ll tell you about my friend S who is a rock star and how we were able to Skype her husband in for the duration of the embryo transfer from his military base in Texas.

It was beyond incredible.

Transfer Day!

Day 5 Blastocyst, Expansion Grade 5, AA

An excited S

An excited Mr. Thompson and Me


Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Guest Post: Her Story


The following is a Guest Post written by "S" - our surrogate.


********************


I am so excited to introduce myself to you. 

“You” being whomever is reading this. I’m so excited to share my story and how it ties in beautifully with the story you’ve been reading. 

To start, please know that I share no expense when it comes to storytelling. I feel that you need to know every detail, I bounce around chronologically, and I often go off on tangents. When you ask for the time... I build you a watch. So, if you are one that enjoys to the point Readers’ Digest stories, this isn’t for you.

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.
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To start this story, we need to rewind three years to 2016. 

To set the stage: In that year, I had been married for over seven years. I had a beautiful daughter (who was conceived while I was on birth control and no, antibiotics weren’t a factor).  She was five years old at the time, and I had just had a son who was a few months old.  I wish I could remember where I was, but that is irrelevant to the story. All that matters is that I remember the thought coming into my head remembering that both of my OB/GYN’s made comments on how my body was made to birth children. At this point in my life, I had known [Mrs. Thompson] for about 6 years. I didn’t know her story in detail, but I did know that her and Mr. Thompson struggled with infertility. So when this thought came to me about how two different doctors made the same comment to me, my mind instantly thought, “YOU SHOULD CARRY THEIR BABY!” As quickly as this thought came to me, it quickly followed by the other little voice saying, “DUUUUUUDE! You hate being pregnant. You just HAD a baby, it’s these hormones talking. That’s such and absurd thought.” And that was that.

But that wasn’t that.  It was actually just the beginning. 

Things kept happening throughout that next year. Mrs. Thompson and I would go to sushi dinners with three other friends and we would all express joy, sadness, heartache and triumph. But EVERY time Mrs. Thompson was able to make it to sushi, we talked about the cancer and we would get updated. I know that she wanted to be a mom and I would always search in my brain for some way I could help her. 

Keep in mind, we aren’t childhood friends, I didn’t know Mr. Thompson extremely well at the time and there was nothing extra about my relationship with them on the surface level. Mrs. Thompson and I served in our church's youth group together.  We were leaders to young women ages 12 - 18, along with some other special leaders/friends who eventually became part of a sushi group.  But something about this group of leaders who continued a friendship over sushi, is something that I hope that everyone can experience once in their life. When the five of us are together (which involves sushi 99% of the time...) there is zero judgment. Legit - ZERO judgment. It’s something that truly is tangible that I don’t think I realized fully until the promptings to help Mrs. Thompson became more clear.

Little things would happen that at first I would chalk up to coincidences. Things like, I would glance down at a gossip magazine and it would say "Surrogate" on the front cover. Or... I would be wondering how things were going with Mrs. Thompson's cancer and at that moment someone would text the group saying we were due for another sushi night. The events were small and seemingly insignificant, but every time without fail, I would get the same feeling. The feeling was almost like butterflies in my chest and they went on.

In 2017, as I was doing one of our sushi friend's hair (We'll call this friend "Taylor" in order to protect the innocent ), we had a conversation that stood out.  I SERIOUSLY wish I could remember what sparked me to say what I said, but I can’t. Anyway, at that time I mentioned to "Taylor" all of the things that had happened in the last year giving me the feeling that I could be Mrs. Thompson's surrogate. Her response was an excited shock. As I recall, the conversation led to no where and she ended it by saying, “You’ll have to keep me posted if that turns into anything.”

The events didn’t stop there. I had one salon guest sit in my chair and say, “You talk to people a lot in your profession, so I feel like you would know something about surrogacy. Tell me what you know.” Ha ha ha ha ha. Obviously my reply was that I knew nothing and didn’t even know who to direct her to so she could get her questions answered.

Another night, I vividly remember waking up from a deep sleep and instantly thinking how I could carry their baby.

If you’re reading this, you know what a private person Mrs. Thompson has actually been about her and her husband's infertility struggles over the past 12 years. She would randomly post her blog updates and I would only sometimes read them. I remember a very distinct time that I couldn’t fall asleep because all I could think about was coming up with another way to help them because my uterus wasn’t for rent. That idea was just too absurd to me. The next day, she posted about her "embryo hotel" (reproductive center) wanting more money so the embryos don’t get evicted. Not a coincidence, folks. It was at this moment that I realized HOLY CRAP! That little butterfly feeling in my chest was the thing that connected all these other things. 

No wait, there’s more!

I was at work doing "Taylor’s" hair again last spring and she asks me, “Hey, what ever happened to that surrogacy thing you mentioned to me?” What seemed totally out of the blue to me, was all in God’s plan. Her asking this was 18 months after we originally had the conversation that fizzled out. The butterflies in my chest were there.

I wasn’t totally convinced at this point because... well... I don’t know why. But we all went to sushi and Mrs. Thompson told us that she paid the money for the embryo hotel without Mr. Thompson knowing.

This got me slightly more convinced.

I then logged on to the Facebook and see that I have been added to a group that one of her friends had made. This group was to try and find foster, adoption or a surrogate option for them. Yup. Okay. Call me convinced.

I then remember speaking with her about how people in this Facebook group were willing to do fundraisers or even donate part of their commissions to help raise funds for a surrogate. She was totally against that idea. I shot that down real quick when I replied, “No way, man!  I am the owner of small business. I don’t have $90,000 to donate for a surrogate, but I am really good at hair. You can’t tell me "no" if I say that everyone that comes into the salon saying they know you would mean 100% of the money goes towards your surrogate fees. It’s my business and I can run it how I please.” I was abrupt {again} for my friend, but even in saying those words to her... I knew that was not how I was going to be able to help.

At this point a lot of time has passed without me mentioning anything to ANYONE other then "Taylor" (which is very unlike me)!  But up until that moment the idea felt absurd. So one night in June of 2018, after the kids were in bed, I was washing dishes and just blurted out to my husband, “I THINK I WANT TO BE [Mrs Thompson's] SURROGATE!” Man, his face was priceless. Before he could say anything, I went on to tell him that it was something that had been on my mind for some time and I explained the ways that God had ever so gently planted the seed into my brain. At this point I knew that it was God’s doing. After I unloaded on him, he responded with, “Wow. I really don’t know what to say right now. I need some time to process this.”

A short period of time went by and my husband suggested a trip to the temple (our religious house of worship) to receive inspiration and guidance. We got a sitter, grabbed our bags and drove our fasting butts to the temple (fasting is when we sacrifice food to try and draw closer to God's inspiration). It was in the parking lot that we realized my husband's temple recommend was expired. In the car we sat and talked and prayed. There was SO much unknown but it was at that point my husband suggested we open up this conversation with Mr and Mrs. Thompson This is when I started to freak out. How the heck do you start THAT conversation?!?! After much deliberation, I came to the conclusion that I would text her. Yes you read that right - I sent her a super informal text that I wish I still had. I decided to text because I wanted her to be able to read everything and process it in HER time. I didn’t want her to have to feel rushed or that she needed to respond in a certain way. I remember saying something like, “I’m not saying I want to or that I don’t want to. I am saying that I think we need to have a conversation about me being your surrogate.” Yes, the text was much longer, shocking, but that’s the summary.

So there you have our half of the story. I get it - I’m not the best story teller and should have had her ghost write this for me... but now you know. 

The one thing I want everyone to get out of this was that God has a plan that often we don’t see and it is set in motion long before we realize. We have had a few hiccups along this entire journey from a few legality issues (a great topic for another day - as two smart women, we bypassed the lawyer and did it ourselves through the court system!), to me traveling to Bali which was Zika territory, to some surprise fluid in the uterus last week... yet everything at the core is peaceful.  It's peaceful because every step of the way has been led by God's Spirit and inspiration. I am so grateful for the opportunity to help these two people and my heart wants for nothing more then for them to have a baby. 

Thanks for reading my side of the story. She's been calling me “S” for Surrogate to keep me protected. But really the “S” stands for Samantha.Shepherd.

Sunday, February 24, 2019

Our Pea. Their Pod. - The Path To Surrogacy

During this crazy week of peaks and valleys, our Surrogate (hereby referred to as "S") reminded me how important it is to journal through this experience.  I agreed, because I want more than anything for a little child to one day know how incredibly loved s/he is.

And oh, this child will be loved!  By so many people.


The Path To Surrogacy:

     Part 1, Hope Rekindled

     Part 2, Stepping Stones and Sushi Dates

     Part 3, Faith and Friendships 


When the time is right, I've offered this space to "S" because her side of the story is so incredibly beautiful and powerful.  I hope she'll share it.

*****

As a matter of update, we were originally scheduled for an embryo transfer tomorrow, 2/25/2019.  Unfortunately, we have a six day delay due to some fluid that was found in S's uterus last Tuesday due to high estrogen levels.  It took some time but with tweaks to her medication and daily ultrasounds/blood draws... we're back on track. 

As a result, our six Day 3 embryos will come out of the freezer this Thursday for the embryologist to work his magic. The best of the best will be transferred next Saturday. 

Thank you for your continued thoughts and prayers - we need them!

I've felt a lot of gratitude during this entire process but am especially grateful to a good friend who is sitting in the front seat of the roller coaster next to me, reminding me to put my arms in the air.

It's a gift. 

Sunday, February 17, 2019

Into the Wilderness

For the last week, I've been in the wilderness.  No.... correction.  For the last twelve years, I've been wandering in the wilderness.

You know, those times that we feel like we stand alone in that place that is uncultivated, uninhabited, inhospitable, and sometimes... unforgiving? It's the lonely place where we venture to find something... yet often times end up stumbling around feeling lost, alone and afraid.  Always searching for a way out - or a way through -  the barren wild, always hoping to find the promised oasis on the other side.

That's where I've been.

Searching.

Praying.

Hoping.

But stumbling through the wilderness.

Most recently, it happened as I wandered through Nevada on a work trip last week.  In a literal wilderness - I drove over 1,500 miles east to west... north to south... across a state so stark that I had nothing but tumbleweeds, snowdrifts, my thoughts and an occasional car to pass the time. What resulted was seven days in which I had the opportunity to sink really deep and get very comfortable with... myself.  Moi. Mí.

It was incredible! 

I took a hard pause.  I learned to meditate.  I read scripture.  I prayed.  I started a gratitude notebook. I fasted.  I became a friend of Brene Brown and studied topics like vulnerability, shame, joy and gratitude.  I journaled.  I rested and relaxed behind a hotel door and dug deep into some guidance my yoga-master best friend supported me with. In her words, I needed to more fully "feel the feels".

Ugggggg!  I stink at that... but made an intentional effort with the help of my bestie, taking advantage of my time on the road. In seven days I only skimmed the surface of self reflection but think I finally flipped the switch on joy.  As in, 100%.  All in.  And in choosing joy, this is what I came away with:

I am so over the moon about this surrogacy opportunity.  I've had a constant smile upon my face for months, but I've been very cautiously optimistic.  I've secretly been having a little war with myself about getting my hopes up and it’s been a challenge. If you know anything about Brene Brown you'll be familiar with the term "foreboding joy".  And I've definitely mastered that one!  You know, the kind of joy where you are too scared to be totally joyful because you think something will go wrong.  So you prepare yourself for the worst and patiently wait for other shoe to drop.  The kind of joy which worries that happiness won't last and fills the space you hold back with anxiety, fear and even a little trepidation.

It's the weirdest sensation.  I am soooo excited and positive with what is going to come (and it will come!) but I'd be lying if I denied that there wasn't a little seed in the back of my head that constantly wonders "what if"....

So yeah, I win at that "foreboding" thing. But I've really been working on it.

There was an awesome conversation with "S" (Surrogate) this week that helped me out tons and tons.  It was a pivotal moment of gratitude for me.

It started with a belly dance on the Marco Polo app with our friend group as she was giving herself a nightly Lupron shot.  It made me laugh really hard and in that moment I was kind of hit over the head with how blissfully joyful she is.  In an instant I stopped laughing and thought, “how can she be so happy about something that is so HARD?!”  By nature she is the most positive person that I know and her laughter and unbridled happiness has always been 100% infectious.  But I had to ask her about it.

So I did.

And the revelation that followed was staggering for me.  In the kindest way she told me that although I only know disappointment... I have to understand that she only knows success.  Pregnancy comes very easily to her.  And it was a beyond-awesome conversation with a lot of "ah ha" moments.  My take away was that I must... I MUST... get my hopes up! 

It's easy to complicate our challenges.  But it's also very easy to simplify them.  Have hope.  Practice gratitude.  Choose joy.  Expect miracles. Trust God.

Sometimes, it's just as easy as that.

And so I tried it.  For seven days, I tested that simple path theory.  AND IT WORKED!

I'm still a novice at feeling the feels, but I'm really working on it. As a result, something is changing from the inside out and I love how it tastes.

And all the sudden, it feels like after wandering 12 years in the wilderness, I've finally stumbled through it into the promised land.

And I never want to go back.  

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

In Humility

Today, I wrote a letter to my 19 year old niece (Yes, I'm old school and still write letters).  I'm very close to this particular niece who lovingly calls me her "Motherly Aunt".   She saved all her own money to serve a religious mission in Canada sharing messages of happiness, hope and peace for the next 16 months.  I'm proud of her and a portion of my letter went something like this....


This morning I woke up at 6:00am and picked up the Bible for a quick read.  30 minutes later, I was still reading which felt really nice.  This New Year I'm trying to create healthy habits and this is one that should definitely stick. Ironically, I opened the scriptures to the New Testament and started reading in Luke, Chapter 1.  I love this story for obvious reasons as it's a precursor for Luke 2, which we read every Christmas Eve.  But before we get to a pregnant Mary riding a donkey into Bethlehem and the beautiful nativity that unfolds ... we learn about an angel telling Mary she will be the mother of the Son of God - and the experience of Elisabeth, her cousin.   

This was the unexpectedly part of today's reading as I've never really delved too far into Elisabeth's story. (Let's be honest - Luke 2 gets read a lot.  The rest... not so much!). In speaking about Elisabeth and her husband Zacharias, in Luke 1:6-7 it says, 

And they were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless
But they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren, and they were both well advanced in years.

Sound familiar?! Well... Elisabeth was actually 88 years old. I'm only 44. And she was also a little lot more righteous than me. But in reading this story today, it is one that I can deeply relate to. 

So the story unfolds, an angel appeared to Zacharias, who told him that Elizabeth would have a son who "will be great in the sight of the Lord" (1:15).  But Zacharias expressed doubts that such a thing could be possible, because "I am an old man, and my wife well stricken in years" (1:18). I get it because a miracle was happening very late in their lives, even though that miracle was a son named John the Baptist.  Some really beautiful scriptures are in this story though, and here's a few that really stood out and spoke to me...   

24 Now after those days his wife Elizabeth conceived; and she hid herself five months, saying, 
25 “Thus the Lord has dealt with me, in the days when He looked on me, to take away my reproach among people.”

Reproach.  I get it.  It wasn't easy being a barren women at any point in the scriptures.  This is also true for 2018.  Then there is the fact that Elisabeth wanted to keep it quite for awhile.  I totally understand that too.  Mary did a very similar thing all throughout the birth story of Jesus, as the scriptures say multiple times that she "kept these things and pondered them in her heart".

But then there is the really good verse that packed the punch...

37 For with God nothing will be impossible.

Wow. "For with God, nothing will be impossible".  This is what the angel told May when he told her that she was going to conceive the Son of God and that her barren cousin, Elisabeth, was also going to conceive a child who would be instrumental in the salvation of mankind.  

From a mortal perspective, it was impossible.  A virgin could not conceive. Nor could a barren woman who was well past child-bearing years.  But God had a plan.  So against all earthly odds, both Mary and Elisabeth became mothers.

Do you think that this also means that a 44 year old women who is semi-righteous most some of the time, can also experience a miracle? Even to the lesser degree?

I do.    

In reading the scriptures today I am reminded that I should never, never, never give up on my hopes and dreams.  For whatever reason God's timing meant that the blessing Elisabeth and Zacharias desired - to have a child -came much later than they expected.  I too find myself having to wait for a blessing.  Often it has seemed that God hasn't heard my prayers and I've been very discouraged.  But this story serves as a reminder that He hasn't forgotten me.  And he hasn't forgotten you either.

As Jeffrey R Holland reminds us, "Some blessings come soon, some come late, and some don't come until heaven; but or those who embrace the gospel of Jesus Christ, they come." 

No matter what life throws at you, my darling niece - never, never, never forget this really important truth. For with God, nothing will be impossible. 


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I love writing letters and this was a good one for me to reflect and ponder upon.  March 8th is going to be a really glorious day for Mr. Thompson and Me. I'm not worthy of an angel by a long shot, but I can feel a miracle in the depths of my spirit. 

And I'll never take that feeling for granted.  

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Reality Check

It's happening.  It's really happening...

Eeek!

Thursday, January 3, 2019

The Path To Surrogacy, Part 3 (Faith and Friendships)

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So, my friend and I began a conversation that went something like this (I'm taking liberties, which is a risk because I have a truly horrible memory!)...

She thanked me for sharing the intimate story about Colton several months earlier at our group dinner.  She reminded me that although I think that I'm really open about the details of my life... I'm not. I'm a very private person, even to my friends who have watched my story unfold over the last several years.

We talked about that story and all of the twists and turns of infant loss, infertility and cancer along the way.  She told me that she's been devastated for me during the last few years, especially in watching some of my dreams die with the cancer diagnosis.

And then she told me what those few years have looked like for her. It started with a crazy impression/thought several years ago. Which didn't go away.  At various moments the thought/impression came back. Year after year.

Last January 2018, the thought/impression came again as she read my FB post about my embryo storage bill and the personal struggle that ensued.  She didn't say anything then because she didn't know what I ultimately chose (I asked for advice on what to do with our embryos and then never posted a follow-up regarding my choice).  When we had dinner as a friend group a few months later, she was the one to ask about Colton's story... and when I shared... she said that thought/impression came back again.

A few months later, a different friend created a private FB group to rally my network in an effort to help me find motherhood through adoption/foster care/surrogacy.  At that time, it became clear that I kept those embryos and at that point, she couldn't deny her 2+ years worth of thoughts and impressions. 

After some time digesting the thought/impression, she told me about the bomb she dropped on her husband a few days prior that happened while she was standing at the kitchen sink doing dishes. 

"I think I'm supposed to be [my] surrogate", she told him.

It took him by surprise.  But he listened.  And he didn't think she was crazy.

Did I?

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Did I?!

My mouth dropped open and I have no idea what I said because to say that I was absolutely floored is the greatest understatement of my life.

First of all, to have a friend love me enough to even entertain this conversation and broach the subject... is a feeling and a friendship that I can't even describe.  Seriously.  It's indescribable.

Second of all, it's been six months and I still can't explain it...  I don't have words. (thus, you haven't gotten posts.)

For twelve years I've waited for my miracle.  I'm a spiritual person and through it all, I've constantly raised my hand and said, "Here I am God.  Please don't forget about me."  I've patiently waited for my time and I've experienced every emotion along the way - hope, shock, denial, madness, depression, fear, sadness, anger, bewilderment, acceptance, disengagement, moving on.  I've watched Every. Single. Person. I. Know. - many of you - and all the others that I've met through the last twelve years of blogging and support groups, move on to find their rainbow.  But I haven't. Yes, I've channeled the energy into other things - an outstanding career, a wonderful marriage, mothering other people's children in other ways through family, volunteerism, and even foster care. None of it has been easy.

So when my friend spoke those words it was a flood of emotions that I didn't expect - and still don't understand.

We talked.  I explained to her that I had lied to my husband - he didn't even know that I didn't donate those embryos. I also confessed that I knew nothing about surrogacy beyond that it cost a lot of money - money we didn't have... and when my friend asked, "but why does it have to cost so much?"... we went to work investigating, planning and most especially - praying.

And what has resulted has been an amazing journey with two amazing friends.

About a week after that initial conversation with my friend, I invited her and her husband to our home to have dinner.  I hadn't said anything to Mr. Thompson because I still didn't know what to say.  So I let her do the talking.  She initiated the conversation and told Mr. Thompson about her feelings and how she knows that she is supposed to help us - how she can help us - and he listened.

After she had repeated the same story she told me, she asked how he felt after she said spoke her peace.  Mr. Thompson was quiet and then he explained that his concern was actually for the two of them and their family (she has two kids).  He spoke from his heart and that's when I felt something indescribable. We all did.  Their concern is for us, and our concern is for them.

That night laying in bed my husband was very quiet. I asked if he was mad at me because I had paid the embryo storage fee for another year despite no hope and no way. He smiled and said that he knew I was going to pay it the minute I got out of the car at the end of the conversation. And then two tears leaked out of his eyes as he stared at the ceiling as he squeezed my hand.

So in the last six months we've been busy with the medical and legal necessities (so much to tell there!).  I haven't wanted to speak about it because overall, it feels incredibly special and different.  I'm still speechless, so I'm going to use the only two words I know to describe how I feel (and they feel really cheap so bear with me..).  This feels incredibly sacred and right. 

Suffice it to say that for twelve years I've been raising my hand to God...

And it finally feels like He actually saw me.

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

The Path To Surrogacy, Part 2 (Stepping Stones and Sushi Dates)

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Yes, I paid the 2018 frozen embryo storage fee.  Against my husband's wishes.  And then I put it aside.

In early February I came home from my three-month deployment to Houston and went about life.  The first thing we did was meet with the foster care folks for our final home inspection. We sailed through it and although they said we have room for 10 kids... we told them we'd place up to three, unless there was a sibling group that we felt right about. Our licensing caseworker apologized that it had taken a year and a half of bureaucratic stalls between state agencies to get to this point (again, a frustrating story for another day) and reminded us that there were a lot of kids in need.  She said she'd have all the licensing paperwork wrapped up by February 15th, which would push us through to placement.  Satisfied that we were finally getting somewhere, we marched forward.

In early March, I had dinner with some friends.  I have a few friend groups but one is special.  I hadn't seen these friends since before my surgery so when I came home from Houston it promised to be a long night.

These women are amazing. They’ve been my lifeline through the years so when we met in March, I filled them in about my breakdown in the hospital parking lot, right before my surgery (which sounded oh-so funny in the playback).  After the story, one friend stopped me and said something along the lines of, "J - you have danced around the story of Colton for years.  If you feel comfortable sharing it with us... what exactly happened?"

Oh. Wow. I didn’t realize that I kept that so private. So I told them.

All of it.

Even the shameful parts, like not knowing I was in labor and having a baby in the middle of the night, at home, in the bathroom.... which has literally taken me 10+ years to say out loud. I've honestly had to work up a lot of bravery for that detail and I don't think I've ever been so vulnerable in a conversation in my life.  But I'm glad someone finally asked, and I'm especially glad it was my friends. By the end of it, we were all crying in our food and these women loved me even more through it.

I also told them all about foster care, which I still hadn't heard back from despite the February 15th licensing commitment.  They shared in my frustration and kept me focused and moving forward with their support. Once again, it was a much-needed dinner.

By May, we still didn't have any movement with foster care so another old friend from college decided that she was going to become my "Baby Manger".  Licensing still hadn't come through and despite multiple attempts to reach out via email and phone... this friend (unbeknownst to me) decided to start a private Facebook group on my behalf.  Her idea was that adoption and foster care sometimes require a network of friends keeping their eyes and ears out. I'm a private person by nature so this was really hard for me (funny, I know since I have this blog!) but I said okay to the FB group.  What the heck - it couldn't hurt, right?!

In June, I still hadn't heard anything from foster care despite upwards to 15 attempts to get in contact and find out where we were.  February 15th came and went. As did March, April, May and the first part of June.  Through the five months, I left voicemails and emails with no result.  Nothing.  Not even a return phone call or email saying, "thanks - got it" or "be patient.".  Nothing.  So on Friday, June 8th I left a message that went something like this...

"Amanda - this is [Mrs] Thompson. Again. I've left you many voicemails and emails since February, which have gone unanswered. It's now June 6th and although we've been really understanding of high caseloads and busy schedules... at this point it's been a two year process for us and we haven't even received any reply communication from your office since our final home inspection in February. That leaves us with two impressions:  1)  We didn't qualify.  If that's the case, we understand and thank you for your time.  ... or.... 2) there really isn't the urgency or need for foster care parents, despite what we heard in training and from DCFS.  Regardless, if we don't hear back from you by next Friday, June 15th, we'd like to withdraw our volunteer application to become foster care parents and we'll go in a different direction.  Thank you."  

I'd like to feel bad for that stern message because if anyone understands bureaucracy and red tape - it's me.  I live with it every day in my line of work with the federal and state governments.  But at this point, not even a return phone call or email was inexcusable and I was incredibly frustrated.  But wouldn't you know - in my inbox the next Monday morning, I had a copy of our foster care license (backdated to May) with a message saying that we were now being referred to the third state agency that oversees foster care placement in my state. (Oy vey! If this is hard on foster care parents - imagine what the poor kids have to go through!).  

About that same time I receive a text from one of my friends from dinner, asking to talk. 

She had something she really wanted to talk to me about...

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Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Our Path To Surrogacy, Part 1 (Hope Rekindled)

hope
hōp/
noun
  1. 1.
    a feeling of expectation and desire for a certain thing to happen.


  2. 2.
    a feeling of trust.
verb
  1. 1.
    want something to happen or be the case.




Wow.  I've left this space alone for the last year because I really didn't have anything to say.  There was one post a little over a year ago when I went through my radical hysterectomy (compliments of uterine cancer). I shared that pivotal experience just to get it out and in written form.  Then there was a follow-up post 6 months later - last February 2018 - to basically say, "no worries - I'm spinning a little... but I'm okay".  

And that was supposed to be it.   

I recovered.  I was - I am - okay!  But when I dig deeper into this space, I marvel in the story that has unraveled over the last 12 years. It reminds me of an experience I had as a child...

As a big family, we didn't take many family vacations but when we did, we usually went camping. I'm a morning person like my dad, so I vividly remember cold mountain mornings by his side.  We'd get up at dawn and the air would always be frigid.  He's wrap me in a blanket, tuck me into chair that sat around the ring of the fire pit, and then he'd to go work on the dead, lifeless campfire.  

What was raging the night before with dry timber and dripping marshmallow...was now a cold, darkened pit of blackened sticks and white ash. By all appearance, it was dead.

Only it wasn't.

My dad would stoop down and start blowing. He'd gently blow. And blow. And blow. For what felt like was forever to a little girl - he'd just blow. With his face down by the fire he'd persistently blow... and eventually those dark coals in the middle of that white ash... would have tiny specks that would strangely turn pink.  And with more gentle blowing, those little specks of pink... would turn red.  Then finally, a tiny column of smoke would emerge.  Then... he'd lift up his hand and he'd feed it with a small piece of dry grass... and a tiny flame would eventually spark.  

Which was... Just. Enough.  

By the time everyone else wandered out of bed, my dad and I would be enjoying another warm burning fire. My brothers and sisters probably never gave it a thought, but I never took for granted how much time, energy and incredible patience that it took to get that tiny spark, from something that was virtually cold and dead.

Right now, I can relate to that. 

I started a fire.  The hope burned big and bright for a really long time.... but eventually, nighttime came and hope dwindled.  It got cold and quiet.  Pretty soon... only lifeless ash and darkened dreams remained.  And when I thought there was nothing left, along came an unexpected gentle breeze that started stirring up the coals. 

Today, I just want to pause in the possibility of that hope rekindled.  

(Bear with me.  This could get long, so you're getting it in installments.)


Hope Rekindled (Part 1)

In November 2017 I left for Houston, Texas as soon as I could get doctor's release post-surgery.  As some of you may know, I'm in the field of disaster management, so it was a deployment long overdue. I stayed in Texas for almost three months to help transition from response to recovery.  In December, I came home for the holidays and saw something in the mail that I honestly thought I was prepared for.

Only I wasn't. Not by a long shot. 


From our IVF clinic, I received the annul embryo storage bill. Gah!  This year, it felt different .  Payment information was in one sentence at the top but the rest of the document outlined the other three options we had if we didn't want to pay for a seventh year of storage...  


1. Discard
2. Release to Research/Lab Training/Quality Control
3. Donate Embryos for Use by Another Couple

It was a no-brainier.  Or was it?  I discussed the options with Mr. Thompson as he drove me to the airport for my return flight to Houston.  He patiently listened, and then he laid it all on the line. "Honey" he said, "there is only one option, and you know it.  We have to donate those embryos to another couple. We have put SO much money into this through the years and we can't do it any more.  There is nothing left.  Nothing. Surrogacy is NOT an option. It's at least $75,000... and we don't have that. So you have to let it go. Do not pay that bill.  I repeat... Do. Not. Pay. That. Bill." 

And with that, he dropped me off at the airport and I got on a plane back to Houston where I could go back to the thing I am really good at - my profession. Only.... I bawled the entire way there.  Playing on my headphones was Never Enough by Loren Allred (The Greatest Showman) and is struck a very tender cord.  So, I did what every sane woman would do and replayed it a million times, crying the entire way. 



I felt that song, like I've never felt a song before in my life.  I felt it in my bones.  In Houston - I was at the top, directing a major operation which was finally starting to go well. At home... it wasn't enough. 

So I did what every bad wife does... I didn't listen to my husband.  I paid the bill with my own money and punted the ball downrange.  I couldn't handle the decision in the middle of what I was desperately trying to hold together.  So I didn't.  Then after that decision, I did what every horrible wife does... and I made a post on Facebook (blocking my husband of course), asking my friend's advice on my new moral dilemma.



The moral dilemma of what to do with unused embryos was something I NEVER imagined as part of our IVF journey - never even considered it.  So this post was part Public Service Announcement for those considering infertility treatment.... and part appeal for advice from my very sympathetic, smart and supportive network. 

I bamboozled my husband... listened to all the good advice from my friends... and then closed the door thinking I would worry about the details when the new bill came in December 2018. And that was the plan. 

Or so I thought. 

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