Quit Body Shaming!

A phrase that I have been saying to myself for the past week. Weird, right? Well, not really.

I recently noticed a change in my weight a few months ago. My pants and skirts were tighter and I wasn’t comfortable in most of my clothes. I knew I was gaining weight as my doctor kindly informed me that I “may want to get back down to my normal weight.” Tried it! Anyway, my rebuttal was, “Psh! Lady, this is my happy weight!” You see, for the past 5 years I have struggled with stress, worry and depression. Infertility, loss and other life changes will do that to you. And as a result, my weight no longer fluctuated as before. It consistently stayed low and that was my new norm.

Then, in January of this year, I entered a new industry, started a new job and was feeling happy again. So happy, that I was eating my feelings! That’s right, people, emotional eating goes both ways! I attributed the change in my weight to me being happy and that feeling had become so foreign that I didn’t want to lose it again. So it became the justification for my behavior. I was enjoying bread and sweets again! And chips and cookies and potatoes and pizza! In the morning, afternoon and night. Just eating away! I was filling out and Huzz couldn’t keep his hands off me! I must admit, I was loving my weight, too…until this past Sunday.

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Mother’s Day 2018 and Mother’s Day 2017

We take mom to brunch on Mother’s Day and of course we have to get pictures of the festivities. So I smiled and posed as my dad and brother snapped away. Monday came and I asked them to send to me the shots. Uhhhhh, it was at that moment that I realized that knowing and seeing were two different things! Now, you’re probably looking at this picture thinking what most of my family and friends have expressed: “girl, you are not fat, you look good, I only see it in your face, that’s your grown woman weight, those are yoga hips.” While all of this may be true, in order for me to accept what I see, I have to be honest with myself about how I got here.

All of my life I have be a regimented and structured individual. I often call myself a “recovering control freak” as I have worked really hard at not trying to control things, situations, and people in my life. I felt I had made GREAT progress and then one day God said “ok, let’s see.” In comes infertility, the one thing I have ABSOLUTELY no control over.

Our last round of IVF reminds me of the story of Sarah. Remember when the angel of the Lord came to her and told her she would bare a child? She laughed and scoffed at God, like “yeah right.” She wanted a baby so badly that she went ahead of God and gave her handmaiden to her husband, who bore him a son. (Genesis 16, 18)

*PAUSE* Now, I know the lows of desperation in wanting a baby, I truly do…but what we NOT gone do is… *UN-PAUSE*

It was a couple of months after a miscarriage that I looked to Denard, with my ol’ desperate self, and emphatically said, “I’m not going to be baby-less…!” So he sprung into action, not because of the demand but because just like Abraham saw in Sarah, he saw my desperation and unhappiness.

Well, I hadn’t (and won’t EVER) give another woman to my husband but I was JUST LIKE SARAH! *insert dramatic gasp* Yep, just like her. I went ahead of God instead of waiting on his divine timing and pushed for another round of IVF when it was not time. It ended up being a complete fail. I was devastated, disappointed and broke! But then came the birthing of a miracle out of that experience. Not only did it kick start my grieving process but I also learned what it really meant to let go, trust, and wait on God. This moment planted a new level of patience and trust in God that I did not know before. I began to fully accept that I was not in control and it was for the best. God’s timing is better than our own and truthfully, I was not emotionally well enough to have a baby during that time.

How does this relate to my weight gain? I have been trying to control my emotions by eating (under the guise of happiness) because I can’t control when I’m going to have a baby. What I first have to do is remember that I AM NOT IN CONTROL. God’s plan is God’s plan. My baby will come in His perfect time. What I can do is give myself permission to eat, enjoy food, and change physically without shaming myself for the weight I’ve gained. Sure I look fine, though I still might want to slow up on the biscuits, but I am sharing my truth for the sake of accountability. I’m not asking anyone to slap food out my hand but I do have a responsibility to not use food to try to control my feelings. There are other healthy ways that I can take care of myself emotionally. I will focus on and utilize them which in turn will help me to be more accepting of myself and my process. If I can continuously do this, then I’m sure I will enjoy ALL of the changes that are happening in my body and my life.

Take Care,

XOXOXO

Care to share your truths on body image, control, or trusting God? Comment below (or private message me to stay anonymous).

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You Are Not Forgotten

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If you want to stay in bed, celebrate other mothers, or sleep the day away, it’s perfectly ok. Smile if want, cry if you need, laugh if you can. I’m praying for you.

XOXOXO

Take Care,

Fellow mom-in-waiting

Just Do It!

In honor of National infertility Awareness week, I was invited to be a guest blogger for You Are Full of It blog! Help me wrap up this week as I share my “it”, one powerful lesson that I have learned on this infertility journey.

Sometimes what we are most afraid of is the very thing that will set us free! This week has been a long National Infertility Awareness week. I got the idea in the midnight hour on Sunday…ok, 10pm really…to invite some of my infertility sisters and my husband to share portions of their story to be featured on my blog. Not only to raise awareness, but to give their journey a voice and to encourage our silent sisters (and brothers) in knowing that they are not alone in their journey, thoughts and feelings. I had no idea the level of vulnerability that I would feel from the sharing of their truths. That is what made this week tough. I felt a level of emotional exposure that was familiar yet so different at the same time. Though uncomfortable, I am thankful for that vulnerability, for it taught me more about this sisterhood that we are in. And I would know nothing about this sisterhood had I not decided to just do it already!

For months and months after I was diagnosed in 2013, it became unbearable holding on to this big secret about trying to have a baby and not being able to. The weight caused a dark cloud of depression to hover me for quite a few years. With 3 failed IVFs and 2 miscarriages, countless doctor’s appointments, thousands of dollars, hundreds of needles in the gut and butt, and our next generation of family having their kids, I was extremely overwhelmed and hopeless. I felt so isolated and alone, and the depression was getting out of control. It wasn’t until one day in therapy, my husband said “You’ve cried for months.” I hadn’t even realized that I was drowning in the way that I was.

It seemed that the remedy was to share my pain as an act of release and letting go, so that God could refill me with his love and joy again. But that was terrifying! I can’t tell my business, my secret, my shame! I can’t and I won’t!, I argued with God. But the more I resisted, the more I felt his intuitive nudge to do it! He began sending confirmation through people and messages that had no idea about what we had been going through. I even remembering our therapist saying once “this didn’t happen to you. It happened for you.” WHAT?!?! My husband looked and me and I looked at him, simultaneously. This rocked my socks! Now while I still don’t know the complete end and how God is going to ultimately use this for my good, he did begin to show me that what we have been enduring was not to punish us but was to be of purpose in our lives. (I personally would have chosen something less painful BUT hey I’m not in charge.) Once I got this revelation, I knew it was a matter of time before I had to spill it.

Shortly thereafter, I began feeling like I was ready but I was so scared y’all. So I tried bargaining with God. I already know in my heart that it was no way around it, only through it, and I just had to do it! So, I began to write…and write…and write. I knew this wasn’t going to be another book (at the time) but a blog that could be my journal of sorts and the platform in which I would share this story. So that is how the Chawanis Speaks blog came about. I remember standing in the kitchen telling my husband, “I can’t have a ministry called Chawanis Speaks if I ain’t saying nothing!” We laughed but he agreed.

It is because I decided that I no longer wanted to suffer in silence and carry that burden anymore that I was not only set free but also able to provide a platform for my sisters (and their husbands, partners, brothers and friends) where we can all see that we are not on this journey alone. I’m so thankful to know that there are others who are feeling, thinking and experiencing the same things. I’m even more grateful that we get to share our vulnerabilities and what may feel like the weight of the world sometimes. Making a decision to just do it was one of the best things that has happened to me in this process!

So, my blog is open! For women to share their stories, truth, and vulnerability, anonymous or not, this is OUR platform to silence the shame and bring a new awareness to infertility. As the sisterhood grows, I am looking forward to what God chooses to do next.surrogacy1

Take care,

XOXOXO

It Took 3: A Surrogacy Story

It Took 3 – A Surrogacy Story (By: Anonymous)

After 2 rounds of IVF and genetic testing, we transferred our first embryo in November 2014.  And, we were pregnant (yay!), then we saw a heartbeat (amazing!).  Then, at our next ultrasound, there a slow heartbeat.  Then, no heartbeat – tragically, the pregnancy ended.  I remember sitting in the Reproductive Endocrinologist’s (RE’s) office with my husband for our follow-up visit and usually I ask a lot, really a lot of questions.  But, the only question I can now remember asking her is “Do you think we’d be better off with a surrogate?”  Her response was something like, “Given your medical history and failed transfer with a PGD tested embryo, yes, I would take a surrogate (with a proven history of full term births) over you.”  While this was something I really didn’t want to hear, in my heart of hearts, I knew this was going to be the answer.  Knowing that I have an autoimmune condition (think milder form of Lupus) and knowing the significant role the autoimmune system plays in pregnancy, something had been nagging at me for years, saying that I might not be able to carry a baby.

Now, knowing that you might not be able to carry a baby and accepting that you might not be able to carry a baby are two entirely different things.  So, what did we do as a next step…if you don’t get it right the first time, of course, you try again.  And, we just didn’t try again.  We went back to step 1, and did more rounds of IVF.  By this time, my husband was sick of the shots, the egg retrievals, my bruised arms from all the blood tests (I’m a notoriously difficult stick), him providing sperm samples…the whole thing.  He used to walk into the RE’s office and say, “I hate this place” (being somewhat out of character for his easy-going personality).  But, I was relentless and wasn’t giving up on my dream!

Why more rounds of IVF, you ask?  The first two rounds of IVF gave us 3 genetically tested embryos.  So, if we did another transfer to me and it didn’t work (remember, I really didn’t think it would, but wasn’t ready to face up to it), we’d only have one embryo left.  At my age, 40, I couldn’t count on one embryo as my only hope to have a child that was genetically ours.  As a result, we began the process of “banking” more genetically tested and went through 3 more rounds of IVF.  The last round produced no embryos that made it to Day 5 (blastocysts).  I recall the RE telling me ‘You’re done,” which I think was her way of telling me that my body was getting tired of all of this and I needed to stop [For the record, I always appreciated her direct bedside manner].  It was disappointing to hear, but given my age at the time, 41, not shocking.

At the same time we were going through the latest rounds of IVF, I was researching and learning all I could about surrogacy.  I was fortunate to have a colleague at work who I knew had her daughter via gestational surrogacy.  I didn’t know her well, but reached out and asked if she would talk to me.  Thankfully, she said yes!  And she had so much to share, basically giving me a roadmap for how gestational surrogacy worked – screening questionnaire; how to find surrogates (there are Facebook pages and websites, and you can find great surrogates there, believe it or not, if you are diligent and do your homework); script for posting an ad on the Facebook pages/websites; how to handle insurance; which attorney to use and what the contracts generally look like; psychological testing, etc.).  If there were any gaps in the information she shared, I filled them in by exploring the websites, joining the Facebook pages (and watching the conversations), researching on the internet, learning the terminology (IP – intended parent, IM – intended mother, GS – gestational surrogate (IM or donor egg and husband or donor sperm), TS – traditional surrogate (surrogate egg and husband or donor sperm) and so much more)

surrogacy2On one of the Facebook pages, I reached out to the page administrator, who I learned by watching the conversation, had been a gestational surrogate several times.  I messaged her and asked if she would be willing to meet with me so I could talk to her about surrogacy.  Thankfully, she said yes!  I met her and her husband for lunch on a Saturday.  She was so open and matter of fact at the same time (I’ve found that to be a surrogate super power – a rare combination of positive traits).  I learned a lot from her, but mostly I learned that surrogates were real – I met one!

After that, I met another gestational surrogate from Florida on a website that lists surrogates.  I screened her and she was willing to work with us.  I wasn’t ready, but it was nice to know that we had an option.  And, we talked throughout all of the latest rounds of IVF.  She was so well versed in IVF, as she had been a surrogate previously, that she was a great resource.  It was good to have her to talk to as the embryos were retrieved, grew and ultimately genetically tested.

I then had to work on my husband.  Although he would later tell me that he thought we should go with a surrogate after the first miscarriage, I felt that I had some convincing to do.  My colleague at work told me about a gestational surrogate who actually owned a surrogacy agency.  So, I made an appointment for us to meet with her.  We needed to consider the agency route for matching with a surrogate as well (versus the independent route I was exploring by looking for a surrogate on my own).  Before we met with this agency owner/surrogate, my husband had asked about surrogates “What type of person would do something like that,” as if he could not imagine why someone would do this.  But once you meet a surrogate, you know why.  They truly are special, almost perfectly suited to bless parents with their precious children.  #surrogateshavesuperpowers   After meeting his match in this agency owner/gestational surrogate (he asked tough questions and questions he thought would trip her up, and she gave answers back to him just the way he asked the questions of her – it was a fascinating, and somewhat amusing exchange), my husband realized this too.  I think it was at this point that he realized real, well intended women, gracious, strong women are surrogates, and he hopped on board with surrogacy.

I also started talking to people I knew and with whom I was comfortable (doctors, nurses, dentist, my cleaning lady, etc. asking them if they knew of anyone who would want to be a gestational surrogate). One of my medical professional friends referred me to an experienced, local gestational surrogate she knew, but when I texted her, she never responded.  Additionally, I posted a few generic ads on the Facebook pages/websites, and met a few other gestational surrogates that I tucked away in my phone for future reference.

Before we moved on to gestational surrogacy, our last 3 rounds of IVF ultimately resulted in 2 more genetically tested embryos.  Now we had 4.  Not quite the numbers we wanted to really increase our chances of having a baby, but more than we previously had.  So, we were grateful.

With these new embryos safely tucked away in the freezer under the care of an amazing embryologist (who, based on my experience with him at the last transfer, treated each one of them like they were his own children), we (well, maybe just me – remember I could not quite give up my dream of carrying my own baby) decided to move forward with another transfer to me.

Since this is a surrogacy story, you probably can figure out how this transfer went.  Again, in November 2015, we transferred and got pregnant.  This time, the embryo seemed to want to hang on even longer, but it couldn’t or my body wouldn’t let it.  Either way, it ended up in miscarriage.

Now, I had a tough decision to make (as another RE I know told me she used to ask her patients, “Do you want to carry a baby or do you want a baby?”).  What she was asking was so true, but so hard.  We went back to our RE’s office for our follow-up and asked her about options.  She told us that if we wanted to move forward that we should do so with a gestational surrogate.  Not what I wanted to hear, but that was my/our reality.  So, we decided to move full steam ahead with gestational surrogacy.

Good thing I had done all this research!  Because we were short on time, we decided to interview another agency.  They were fine, but I could not imagine paying someone to do what I could do myself!  So, I started aggressively posting on the Facebook pages and websites.  I watched the pages and websites nightly for new gestational surrogates to pop up who I could contact.  What I realized is that the competition for gestational surrogates is fierce.  And, you have to “kiss a lot of frogs, to find your prince[ss].”  This took a ton of time – I can’t tell you how many surrogates I screened!  There are so many IMs/IPs/Intended Fathers (Ifs) out there and not enough gestational surrogates (at least it seemed that way to me).  So, I had to stop posting generic posts and get very specific about my criteria (local (preferred), insurance, experienced, no more than 3 vaginal births), and tell OUR story.  It seemed the surrogates were more responsive when the IPs had a compelling story – if they were going to help you, they wanted to know WHO they were helping and HOW.  Being a relatively private person, this was a difficult hurdle for me to jump, but it had to be done, if we were going to locate a qualified gestational surrogate.   I met two other experienced gestational surrogates, one from Virginia and one from Georgia.  I asked my RE to screen both of their records.  I wasn’t sure I wanted to work with a surrogate from Virginia (the laws don’t allow for the IPs names to go seamlessly and directly on the birth certificate after birth), but I needed to keep my options open.

Almost immediately after the miscarriage, I also contacted the surrogates who I had previously been in touch with, including the local, experienced gestational surrogate referred by my medical professional friend.  This time, I texted her, with our complete story and asked her if she would at all be willing to help us to please contact me.  I remember feeling a little sad and desperate.  Almost immediately, she responded and my mood changed to happy and optimistic!!

Mother loveWe agreed to talk live later that week.  At some point I texted her and said, “Hope it’s okay with you, we’re African-American.”  She said, “That’s okay with me, if it’s okay with you, that I’m gay and married to a woman.”  I almost fell out of my chair laughing – what a witty response!  When we talked I went through my screening questionnaire and she met all criteria.  She, and her wife (who kept interjecting into our conversation in a funny and caring way).  I was super excited, I found someone who might work with us, and she was local, experienced and had insurance!   And, a plus that she was married to a woman: 1) she was in a happy and healthy relationship and 2) there would be no worries about a male’s DNA getting in the way (so to speak) after our embryo was transferred.

Next, we decided to meet at a local restaurant for dinner.  We had to reschedule a couple of times due to schedules.  But, we finally met sometime in early 2016.  After that dinner, we decided to officially match and work toward a Fall/Winter 2016 transfer date.  That’s when the real work began…

We had to collect our gestational surrogate’s medical records and have them reviewed by my RE so he could clear her to work with us.  Yes, our RE was now a he.  By this time, we’d been at our practice so long, almost 5 years, that my original, and favorite, RE had retired – in fact, our last transfer was one of the last ones she did in her career, that I believe spanned over 35 years.

Once our gestational surrogate was cleared by our RE, we had to schedule an extraordinarily long appointment for her and her spouse to meet with him, and with us.  Due to the RE’s schedule, it took what felt like an eternity to get the appointment.  On the day of the appointment, due to her work schedule, our gestational surrogate’s wife was unable to attend.  I prayed that we didn’t need to reschedule the appointment.  Thankfully, we didn’t have to and all went smoothly.

All of us, gestational surrogate, her spouse and me and my husband, had to go through medical screenings and psychological screenings.  Due to our gestational surrogate’s wife’s work schedule it was challenging to schedule the appointments with the psychologist.  We had to reschedule them a few times, but we finally ended up getting them scheduled.  By the time, we finished all this screening, it was Spring.  Then, at one point, we ended up re-screening with the psychologist just to be sure everyone was in a good place to move forward, so that took more time.

We also had to ensure that we had appropriate insurance coverage (medical, life, disability) in place.  And that took some time as well.

While we were doing all of this, we also were working with our attorney to draft the contract – at least completing the questionnaire the attorney would need to fill out the contract.  We had agreed on all the terms, so this was a relatively easy process.  In July, we had the attorney start drafting the contract and, by September, we had a signed contract.

Finally, everything was in place for us to transfer!  We transferred in late-November – the gestational surrogate, her wife and I were in the transfer room.  Everything went smoothly.  Then…we waited (the story of IVF).  I was in Greece for work when the results came in (the only doctor’s appointment through the entire pregnancy was this blood test appointment).  The nurse called and, I am listening and almost in tears preparing myself for bad news, she said, “Guess what…your girl is RE-A-LLY pregnant.”  I was so excited I could hardly contain myself, but I needed to since I was on the streets of Greece having excused myself from a work dinner to take the call.  I immediately called my husband and told him.  We were both thrilled.  But, having been to this rodeo before, we knew this was just the beginning…

Next, more blood tests.  Every few days our gestational surrogate would go back to the RE to be sure her “beta” was rising.  It was!

Then, one day, early in the pregnancy, I got a call from our gestational surrogate.  I remember exactly where I was.  She said she was experiencing some bleeding (NOT a good sign).  I told her to not worry, to take care of herself and she was our first priority, and to get to a hospital.  When I said that she started crying and saying she was so sorry.  I told her it was not her fault and we would meet her at the hospital.  She told me that she was in Alabama with her wife and daughter visiting family.  I told her we would meet her there.  Once she told me where she was in Alabama, I realized we could not get there quickly (and wondered, in my mind, if that distance was outside of the range allowed in our contract, but I’d figure that out later).  Our gestational surrogate and her wife went to the emergency room and I went home (to worry and pray, and worry and pray….).  Our gestational surrogate’s wife would call from time to time to give us updates.  Finally, she called back and said she had some news “We have a heartbeat” and the baby was measuring exactly where she (YES, SHE, but we knew that already – now you all know it) was supposed to be.  We were even hearing the heartbeat earlier than you would expect to hear it.

We went back to the RE for our regularly scheduled appointment.  We get there and our gestational surrogate tells the RE she’s had more bleeding.  I asked, “Why didn’t you tell me?”  She says, “Well you would have sat up and worried all night and there was nothing to do because I was coming here today.”  She was right and I appreciated her for it.  What a thoughtful decision she made.  Turns out she had a small hematoma which are common in IVF (why doesn’t anyone tell you these things).  We had a few more incidents of bleeding, but then it stopped when the hematoma went away.

Finally, we were released from the RE’s office and to our gestational surrogate’s regular OB (who we jointly chose – my neighbor and great friend who is an OB).  This was bittersweet.  We knew we had to go, but we had been with the RE’s practice for 5 years.  They were almost like family.  My husband asked the RE why we had to go, and why couldn’t we just stay under their care for the entire pregnancy, stating “I like to stick with the girl I brought to the dance.”  Again, very out of character for him, but it made sense to me too.  The RE’s insurance did not cover our staying longer, so we had to go.

Our first visit to the OB.  My husband put his foot up against the door when our OB was coming in.  Then, he let her in and she saw my husband.  Boy, was she surprised and so happy to see us.  She knew about our struggles to stay pregnant, our journeys with IVF and search for a gestational surrogate.  She told our gestational surrogate what a special person she was to help us (and we agreed 110%).

About 6 months in to the pregnancy, our gestational surrogate started feeling contractions one day.  She called our OB and she told her to come in.  I met her at the OB’s office.  We ended up checking into labor and delivery where our gestational surrogate was hooked to a monitor to see if she was having contractions.  It turned out that everything was okay, they might have been Braxton Hicks (preparatory contractions) which she did not have during her last pregnancies, so she didn’t know what they felt like.

We rocked along smoothly in the pregnancy and kept seeing our OB, as well as a perinatologist.  Around 36 weeks, the perinatologist, told us that the amniotic fluid was increasing around the baby.  Nothing to do but he wanted to keep an eye on it.  He told us it could be nothing or it could be that the baby had a blockage in her digestive system (e.g., was not swallowing properly) that was causing the fluid build-up.  So, back we went the next week (at 37 weeks), and it wasn’t getting any better.  He sent us to our OB’s office for a stress test and office visit.

My husband and I and gestational surrogate get to the OB’s office and our gestational surrogate is hooked up to the monitors for the stress test.  At first, our OB wasn’t seeing the fluctuations in the baby’s heart beat she wanted to see.  [This must be why they call it a stress test – because it certainly was stressful for me] So, they gave our gestational surrogate a Diet Coke (yes, a Diet Coke) and then the correct results appeared.  Our OB then measured our gestational surrogate’s stomach.  She was measuring at 40 weeks, when she was only 37 weeks pregnant.  Our OB, then turns to me and says, “We’re having this baby today” (with a classic and calm smile).  I’m sure I looked at her like she had two heads and said “What??!!?”   Our OB said the risk of cord prolapse due to the excess amniotic fluid at this point was too great (meaning, if the gestational surrogate’s water burst while she was not in the hospital, due to the amount, the cord could rush through the birth canal and then the head could come down on the cord – think of bending a water hose so the water does not come through).  [Apparently, I completely forgot the surrogate’s wife called me that morning and said she thought our gestational surrogate had been having real contractions last night that were so close together that she tried to get her to go to the hospital].

So, our gestational surrogate and I went to labor and delivery, and my husband went home to finish packing our bags.  We checked in to labor and delivery around 2:30 pm on a special day in late-June 2017 and called our surrogate’s wife to come to the hospital.  Then, more waiting.  The nurses hooked our gestational surrogate up to a bunch of monitors, started an IV and our OB came in and broke our gestational surrogate’s water (stating there still was a risk of cord prolapse but we could quickly get to the ER for an emergency C-section – thankfully, all was okay), then all the medical personnel left our gestational surrogate in the room to labor (and after her water broke, she was in full on labor) with her wife and I there as support [Note: this was very different than the childbirth class we took together a few months earlier].

At some point, my husband left and went to the waiting room because he said, “He could not take the pain” [Although none of us were sure what pain he was in].

A couple of hours later, our gestational surrogate, who had no epidural or pain meds, was in a lot of pain.  I told our gestational surrogate that I would go get our OB.  I went outside to look for a nurse to find her.  I was worried about her, but also about the baby – I didn’t realize that labor is very stressful on a baby as well – you can see their heart rates on a monitor and they drop and come up and drop and come up – sometimes well outside the range that it should be as indicated on the monitor.  Instead of a nurse, what did I see, our OB coming down the hall – she was almost floating, had a glow around her, and her hair was blowing in the wind (think Beyoncé).  Well, at least that’s the vision I had of her.  She was right on time when we needed her.

Our OB quickly assessed the situation and put our gestational surrogate at ease.  Shortly after that it was time to push (unfortunately, we thought we had more time, so when my husband called to ask if he could go get a SIM card he forgot to buy for the new camera, we told him yes).  Our OB told me that I was going to deliver my own baby months before, but I didn’t believe her.  But, she was SERIOUS!  I already had my new pink scrubs on, but she asked the nurses to get me in a gown and gloves.  Then, the time I had been waiting for my entire life came…our OB said, “When I say pull, you pull.”  I looked at her and said, “I’m going to pull her head off!”  She said “No you won’t.  Pull when I say pull.”  When she said pull, I grabbed the baby by the neck and pulled her towards me – she came right out and I held her tight.  Hysterically crying and thanking our gestational surrogate and asking if she was okay.  She thankfully was just fine.

Then, our OB, said, “I have the baby, take these scissors and cut the cord here.”  I said, “You know she’s slippery right?!”  She said, “I know.  I’ve done this a few times before.”

This has been a journey, full of ups and downs and highs and lows – more downs and lows, than ups and highs. But I wouldn’t trade it for the world.  I’ve met so many amazing people, who have renewed my belief that there are selfless, genuine, kind people in the world.  I also got the #bestgiftever, our daughter.  She was worth it all, and then some!  And God taught me a life lesson – I can’t control everything.

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Adoption: Our Bridge between Infertility and Parenthood

By Chantal S. Author and Creator of “You Are Full of It” blog.

I am an infertile mother.

It’s an interesting dynamic, to be infertile and to be a mother. It’s confusing to some, heart wrenching to others, and misunderstood by most. A bit of an oxymoron in its own way. Adoption was the bridge for our family that brought these two words and worlds together.

Chantal 1

Shortly after getting married to my high school sweetheart, we got the “fever.” We wanted to have a baby. A few months in, we knew something wasn’t right. Following multiple doctor appointments, testing, drawing of blood, and more urine samples than I can count, we heard the words at the age of 23 years old, that most women don’t want to hear. “You have a 1% chance of being pregnant. You can always do IVF or Adopt.” Just like that, the hopes and dreams that we had about creating a family were crushed, or so we thought.

Five years after receiving, processing, and grieving the diagnosis of Premature Ovarian Failure(POF), my husband and I finally came to terms with the possibility of never being parents biologically. We suffered mostly in silence. Infertility felt so private and isolating. We grieved the possibility of never having children that we can say that he or she looks like me or gets this or that from their dad. We grieved each and every time one of our friends or family would announce a pregnancy. We grieved each and every time a family or church member or even random stranger would ask, “so when are you all going to have kids?” We grieved every time we went to a new doctor and the nurses would ask “when was your last cycle and how many children do you have” and then the look they would give when they heard about our diagnosis. The “aww poor you” look. The look many dealing with infertility get because it’s a word everyone knows but no one wants.

Infertility has such a stigma, especially as a woman. In most cultures fertility is what makes you a woman. Pregnancy is celebrated. Giving birth is a rite of passage and talked about amongst women. Yet interestingly enough, fertility is one of the few things that we truly have no control over. Yes, there are contraceptives and medical interventions but ultimately, the miracle of a child being conceived, formed, and birthed, is simply that- a miracle.

There are miracles being born everyday that for one reason or another are placed for adoption. After grieving the loss of our fertility, we began to toss around the idea of adoption. We felt led to adopt instead of going the IVF (in vitro fertilization) route because in our case we would have still had to use another woman’s egg. We knew that somewhere there was a child already born that needed to be a part of our family just as much as we needed him or her. Adoption was not our Plan B, we now realize it was what God intended for our family all along.

Chantal 3Seven years after our diagnosis and being told that I was infertile, we held our 12-day old daughter for the first time. We held our daughter and cried as she just stared at us. Deep gut-wrenching cries because the reality set in that this was our daughter that we were finally holding. We also felt a deep sadness for our birth-mother because we could not even begin to imagine the loss she may have possibly felt, making such an ultimate life changing decision for her and her daughter. Our birth-mother chose to have a closed adoption so we have never seen or met her or been able to thank her in person. Adoption is such an intensely intimate exchange, one we are forever grateful to our birth-mother for.

Our adoption process took about 2.5 years, mainly because my husband and I would have so many different waves of emotions and would take breaks from the process steps.
“How can we afford this? Are we doing the right thing? What if we are never chosen? Does God really want us to be parents or are we just going to be one of those couples that are childless and travel the world?” We would start and stop the process, but we kept being led to take the next steps to grow our family via adoption.

We took the steps to go to mandatory classes. We took the steps to get background checked. We took the steps to let a complete stranger in our home and determine if our home was suitable. We took the steps to complete a million pieces of paperwork that asked questions that made you feel like you were being interrogated by the CIA. We applied for countless grants, worked multiple jobs, had garage sales, sold a car, probably would have sold a kidney too if we could- all just to have the funds to be parents. It was all worth it and we would do it again.

So, do it again is what we did!

 

Chantal 2About a little over a year after we brought our daughter home and began raising her, we received an unexpected phone call that changed our lives again. “Your birth-mother just gave birth to twin boys, do you all want them?” was the jest of the phone call that my husband received from our social worker from our private adoption agency when our daughter was 13 months old.

 

“Of course! “we said and a month later we were holding our double blessings in our arms. Eight years after being told that we were infertile, we almost gave up on the possibility of becoming parents to our now three amazing kids. We could have easily let the diagnosis and the reports be the end of our story when it came to our family but thank goodness we didn’t. Because of adoption, a new chapter has begun. We are now raising our three kiddos that are full of life and vigor who will be our legacy whenever it’s our time to leave this Earth. We may not be leaving our physical genes but adoption is such a beautiful journey that is allowing us to pass on so much more.

We celebrate adoption in our home and each of our children know their age appropriate adoption story. Our babies are now 3 and 4 years old and we truly can’t imagine our lives without any of them. Each of our children have the most amazing eyes and some parts of me can’t help but to think that they have similar eyes like their birth-mother which is so special.

“You are loved, you are wanted, you are chosen.” This is what we tell our children on a regular basis. Our children know that they were born in their birthmother’s belly and in our hearts. Our birthmother chose for each of our children to have life and to be raised by us, their parents. The gift of raising our three miracles given to us by our birthmother can only be thanked by raising our children well in a loving home and to grow up knowing the value and worth that each one of them have.

 


This mother of three toddlers is tired beyond measure, makes mistakes regularly, and sometimes questions everything I do but in the same breath is as happy as can be for being able to parent our three amazing children, glad for not giving up hope, and proud for facing infertility at its core and not letting infertility win. I am a mother that my babies call

“Mommy.” It’s the sweetest sound, even at 3 AM.

Chanta 6Infertility. Adoption. Mother. These three words are the bridge that brought my family of five together, and for that, I am grateful. My heart is full. Infertility is hard but doesn’t define me and didn’t win. Adoption made me a mother.

I am one grateful mother with one full heart.

Chantal 7

A Husband’s Perspective

I am 38 years old and I am childless. It’s not often you hear a man admit to this.
 
It is not by choice. My wife and I struggle with infertility. Most of the men I know have children who have recently graduated or are graduating high school now. Sometimes I feel that I am the only one left. I wonder if I will ever have the opportunity to share “real” rap music, practice my WWE moves (yes, I will practice with a boy or girl), enjoy Saturday family outings or pass along my life lessons.
Godaddy
Spending quality time with goddaughter and nephew
It hurts me as much as it hurts my wife but for different reasons. She longs for the experience of bringing life into this world and I desire the gift of fatherhood. But mostly, I hate to see her suffer.
 
For many in the black community, having children is a sign of manhood and a rite of passage. No one even acknowledges that there are men dealing with the challenge of infertility. Hopefully, that continues to change this week, as well.
 
It is not just women who are suffering. Men are too.

National Infertility Awareness Week

Infertility

Today is the first day of National Infertility Awareness Week (April 22nd – April 28th). In honor of all of the mommies and daddy’s in waiting, I will feature stories of the following: My Husband’s perspective, a mommy with secondary infertility, the IVF mommy, the mommy who adopted, and the mommy who chose surrogacy. Share the blog or stories this week with someone you know. You just might encourage them!

XOXOXO