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Keeping The Faith For My Miracle

January 18, 2018

Written by Lilly Sharlow, guest blogger

My story isn’t an easy one to share but it taught me a valuable lesson – faith. Every pregnancy is different and has challenges but hopefully my story inspires others to trust in a bigger power and that no matter what, we as mothers will always fight for our children. 

Since I was a little, my biggest dream was to be a mom. I was 25 when I got married and living in Cabo, Mexico as an English preschool teacher, I felt I had everything I ever wanted. As soon as I got married, the first thing I wanted to do was have children and fulfill my dream. So, one try and BAMM! I’m pregnant. The excitement was indescribable but that soon changed. My husband and I decided to wait until after our first appointment to announce the great news. Here we are, two happy newlyweds ready to see our baby but the doctor saw something a little weird in the ultrasound on my left ovary and thought something was off. She told us to come back in a week and to wait to tell our family since she wanted to confirm the baby was indeed ok. I was a tad concerned but I understood. Six weeks into being pregnant, she sent us to another doctor to get a special ultrasound and at this point I knew something was just not right. In a couple of hours, we went back to our OBGYN who told us I need surgery because it’s possibly an ectopic pregnancy and my health is at risk. At this point I wanted to just cry and question why this is happening to me. How am I going to call my parents and give them two announcements: that I was expecting but I needed emergency surgery in another country. Little did I know this was just the beginning of this journey.

On September 22, 2011 I went into surgery. The chances my growing baby would make it are 10% since I had to be cut open as a C-section surgery to get to the ovary in question. The surgery went well and after my recovery I went back to my OBGYN to discuss my pregnancy. I sat at the doctor’s office and my husband held my hand. Then the doctor said “The surgery was successful for the baby. However…” My heart dropped. She said they found cancer and it was very aggressive. I took a minute to digest the news but then she turned to me and said “You need to start treatment and your baby will not make it. You possibly won’t be able to have children.”  

When I heard the news that I wasn’t going to be a mom I felt that my whole world ended. In my head I could deal with cancer but the fact that I can’t have a baby or keep this little human that saved my life was just something I couldn’t bear. I left that office with so much conflicting emotions. Why me? How can I overcome this? I needed to be with family and go back to the States to get other opinions. Four days post recovery, I was back. When I landed, my family was hugged me and showed so much support but no one wanted to say the word “cancer.”

I met with the best Oncologist-OBGYN in the Bay Area, who said I needed to start treatment right away and possibly get an abortion. At that moment, I felt a sense of peace and I strongly said NO. I remember looking at my mom and husband’s face as if I was crazy. I wanted to continue with my pregnancy and I knew I had to fight for this little human and that I had to have faith. I prayed, went to an eastern medicine doctor and followed his instructions, changed my food intake, and did everything I could in my power. 

A couple weeks passed and it was time for some additional tests. The oncologist looked at me and I looked at her holding my tummy and said “I have faith that my test will be lower and I don’t need treatment.” I took the ovarian cancer test (CA125) and had an ultrasound. To my doctor’s surprise, it was indeed lower. The first battle God decided to put in this crazy journey was done. It was a high-risk pregnancy but my baby was ok and I continued my faith to fight for this little human. Little did I know another curveball was going to be thrown my way.

 

On May 15th, I was ready to meet this baby girl but I felt that something was off. Laying in the hospital bed waiting to meet this miracle baby that I fought against all odds for, I find out that my husband was having an affair. My heart sank and all the emotions caused me to have complications. I was quickly rushed into surgery to have a C-section. I was broken but luckily the baby and I were fine and when I looked at this baby’s face, I knew I had to be strong. I left everything behind at 26 years old with a newborn baby, still dealing with medical issues and starting from scratch as a single mom.

I felt so hopeless I remember just crying out to God and said “I don’t know what your plan is but, you are testing me! My heart is broken and my journey has been hell but you gave me the greatest gift and no matter how much you put me through I will always be in debt to you for giving me the gift of becoming a mom. So whatever it is, my focus will be on this baby girl and showing her how strong her mommy is.” I started working when my sweet baby was only 2 months old and built a career while focusing on becoming the best Mom to my daughter that I could be.

After all of this I do have a happy ending I PROMISE! I met my now husband that took in my daughter as his own. Now I have my beautiful 5-year-old miracle baby and now a gorgeous 19-week-old baby girl with only 1 ovary left and a somewhat “normal” pregnancy with taking cancer screenings every 6 months.

Looking back at my story, I still can’t even believe my journey but one thing I know is somehow through it all I was able to keep my faith and strength with God’s mercy and grace. No pregnancy is easy and everyone is fighting a battle during or after a baby, but we are all strong women and no matter what we overcome it for our babies and faith. 

 

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My Path To The Ultimate Victory

January 16, 2018

Written by Rebekah Venturella, guest blogger

I never imagined that my life would endure such a challenge as this. Life certainly has its share of challenges, but infertility was not something I would have ever imagined facing.

My husband and I have trying to get pregnant for almost four years now. We spent 2017 navigating our way through countless Clomid assisted cycles and four round of IUI, sadly, to no avail. Needless to say, it has been the most trying time of my life.

I’m writing this, we started my first round of stimulation medication in preparation for IVF. With so much anticipation built up around the process and the “big scary shots,” when it begins, it feels as though you’re having an out-of-body experience. It’s both real and surreal at the same time.

You’ve walked a long road up to this point, had your share of utter heartache and shattered hopes, and now it comes down to this moment, as you stand preparing the needle and syringe, diligently cleaning the vile for the allotted fifteen seconds, and you can’t help but think, “Is this going to hurt?” “Am I missing something?” “What am I even doing?!” “Has this really become my new reality!?” And ultimately, at a time when you’d rather it not, the one question always in the back of your mind pesters it’s way forward – “ Will it work this time?”

Regardless, you know you’ve got to try, and you know you will keep trying no matter what, because nothing is worth more. So you summon the courage and gently press the needle in, calm yourself when it begins to burn and the feeling of blacking out washes over you like a wave.

Then, it’s over. You’ve done it. You’ve officially stepped into the world of IVF and attained another small victory. Because, when you’ve come to that place in life where you’re forced by disappointment to dream cautiously and shoulder more than your share of pain, it’s all about those small victories that will one day lead to the ultimate victory and turning point in your life. Anyone who’s gone through a similar experience can no doubt relate. However, in spite of the heartache and lingering doubts, my husband and I both are looking forward to the New Year with the anticipation of new life. So, let it begin!

Babe In My Arms, Blogs

Staying Humble and Kind

January 11, 2018

Written By: Tonee Cramer, Guest Blogger

When my husband and I married in November 2013, we knew that we wanted a family right away and were hopeful it would happen in the first year. Due to my previous medical issues as a child, my OB wanted to do some further testing. After over a year of tests, charting cycles, surgery to clear out scar tissue, and four rounds of Letrazole, our OB decided it would be best for us to move on to a fertility specialist.

My husband and I both agreed that wasn’t our path and decided to turn to another way of starting a family. We both were doing research on adoptions without the other one knowing! One day we sat down at the dining room table and decided that adoption is our calling from God. We contacted an agency and figured it would take a couple years to adopt a baby but we were willing to wait to our miracle.

In November 2016, we started the process and finally finished with all the paperwork the following January. Our profile was finally ready! Initially, we had two expectant mothers look at our profile but in the end, we weren’t chosen. It was very hard but we kept saying “Our baby is out there. Just be patient.”

On April 25, 2017, we got a call that our profile was shown to an expectant other due in October and we were one of two couples she narrowed down but she would be making her final decision the following day. However, there was a little more to the story! Her support person was her sister who also was expecting and due May 23 – just a short four weeks away! We couldn’t stop smiling and both said “yes, we will adopt that baby who is due in May.”

The next morning our social workers called and said “Well the October mother has chosen you as well. Is that something you want?” My husband and I both knew it would be very challenging but we accepted both babies! We are fortunate enough to have a wonderful support system and knew these babies were meant to be ours. We met both expectant mothers on May 5 and were so excited we couldn’t hold back the smiles.

Our first baby boy was born May 16. We brought him home when he was just 26 hours old! We continued to attend prenatal appointments for the October baby and he was born October 1. If you do the math, that makes our boys just 4 1/2 months apart! It hasn’t been an easy journey but it’s exactly the journey we have wanted. My husband and I work together to care for the babies, and although we aren’t perfect- we try really hard for them! Our saying throughout our entire infertility and adoption process was- always stay humble and kind.

Babe In My Arms, Blogs

Postpartum Depression Doesn’t Discriminate

January 9, 2018

Written by Tiffany Johnston, WTF Contributor

It’s not far fetched to imagine that when living and breathing infertility you become obsessed about the possibilities and failures. There is little time or energy in your day to focus on what happens after you have the baby. My heart fluctuated between believing that there would be a baby and not wanting to jinx a potential future pregnancy. After our first infertility blessing was born our world was turned upside down. Our birth went nothing like we had planned, our hospital experience was a complete nightmare, and when I finally got to go home my life long desire to breastfeed was blown into a million tiny pieces just weeks after our journey had started.

Every two hours our little one woke wailing, screaming, and crying of hunger as I battled to successfully breastfeed our miracle. In return, he spit up on every non-washable surface, became a cuddle monster that would only be soothed by my mother, and cried every time something didn’t happen right when he wanted. There were moments that I felt as though I had the world’s worst case of buyer’s remorse but I couldn’t tell anyone about it because we had done just about everything possible to (literally) buy this bundle of joy. And yet I pushed, fought, and struggled to breastfeed and for weeks it felt as though I was slowly killing myself. It was my own fault really. I had this standard set for myself. My mother was a lactation consultant and so I grew up believing that breastfeeding was the only true way. It turns out that while my mother and husband hoped that we would be successful at breastfeeding, in the end no one else really cared when everything started unraveling beneath me. In truth, they just wanted the baby and I to be happy and healthy, and at the three week mark that was far from the truth.

It wasn’t long before I had a complete meltdown from a severe lack of sleep. It was inevitable when we fed every two hours and I pumped after every feed not to mention the compounding stress from our son’s lack of weight gain. There were moments that I looked at him with no emotion whatsoever. By the end of week three, my Fibromyalgia was flaring, our son hadn’t gained enough weight to satisfy the doctors and breastfeeding had become painfully unbearable, not to mention the overwhelming emotions that were spinning in my head. Every time he would cry to be fed I broke down into a sopping tear stained mess, just dreading the pain of breastfeeding and the oncoming exhaustion that would directly follow.

It never occurred to me at the time that I had postpartum depression (PPD). If I even began to think about having PPD, I quickly concluded that I wasn’t allowed to have it after infertility. Yes, I wasn’t allowed because I had begged to be a mother. This little miracle wasn’t an “oops” or even a timely planned addition to our family. He was way overdue by the time he did arrive, so much so that we were convinced that he may never show up at all. So how on earth could I then have the feelings that I was having?

After having an epic breakdown and my mother finally telling the first person in 20 years that they were not to continue breastfeeding, we stopped cold turkey and switched to formula. Putting a cold stop to the 2 hour cycle of feedings, completely sleepless nights, and the inability to let someone else feed him. It wasn’t long before the fog slowly began to lift, emotions began to settle, and I eventually began to recognize that I wasn’t in fact ungrateful. I was your average first time mom, that simply had postpartum depression. Even at the darkest times of our infertility struggle it was hard to imagine that being pregnant wouldn’t just solve all our problems, wants and desires. But truth be told I am not convinced that our infertility struggles ever really go away. Our hearts become tender and bruised from one failed round after another and it can put a sour and long lasting taste in your mouth for years whether you ever conceive or not.

So, if and when, you reach the other side of infertility, please remember that if things don’t go your way and the world is slowly becoming a dark and dreary place, please don’t try and cover up your emotions and fears. Know that just because you fought and paid the price many times over to expand your family, PDD doesn’t discriminate. It doesn’t pick and choose based on our experiences and it doesn’t care that you fought and suffered time after time. So if you find yourself overwhelmed with PPD after you finally get your miracle, just breathe. It will be okay and just like with infertility, work on one struggle at a time and know that the overwhelming emotions won’t last forever. In fact one of the hardest parts may in fact be simply admitting to yourself that PPD might just be knocking at your door.

Babe In My Heart, Blogs

Modern Fertility: Exploring Your Fertility

January 4, 2018

What if you could take a preliminary fertility test for a fraction of the cost? We got to chat with Modern Fertility founders, Afton Vechery and Carly Leahy about the test and how it is helping to pave the way for women to take charge of their fertility, whether they are actively trying for a babe or preparing for the future!

1.Tell us about yourselves? How and why did you come up with the test?

Afton & Carly: (A&C): We started Modern Fertility because we heard a lot of buzz (and panic) about fertility—but we had no idea how it applied to us. You could say the company was ‘born’ from Afton’s experience with traditional fertility testing. She wasn’t ready to have kids anytime soon, so when she learned about simple blood tests that were better predictors of fertility than just age, she decided to do the testing. She found a fertility clinic (there less than 500 in the US), went in to take the tests, and was amazed by what she learned about her reproductive timeline. Finally, real data! She appreciated how powerful this information could be for her–yet the numbers in her results were confusing. Then, she got a bill in the mail for $1500. There had to be a better way. And here we are!

2.The Modern Fertility testing almost sounds too good to be true. How does it work?

A&C: We take the same tests offered in top fertility clinics and bring them to women earlier in life. We designed Modern Fertility so you could get all of the latest and greatest scientific research about fertility without poring through papers – we do that for you! We’ve spent thousands of hours working with the top Reproductive Endocrinologists (RE), OB/GYNS, endocrinologists, and primary care doctors–they’ve reviewed every report–and helped us distill the latest clinical research, national guidelines, and clinic information into easy-to-understand reports. We’re working to create a world where instead of “waiting and seeing,” you can better understand your fertile years and plan accordingly.

To get an idea of how it all works, you can view a demo of the test here!

3. What exactly are you testing for?

A&C: We test between 1 and 9 hormones, depending on your birth control. These hormones map to ovarian reserve (a fancy way of saying “how many eggs you have”), ovulation (the process of releasing an egg), and general body functions that have implications for fertility. We test these hormones through a blood test. Currently we have the option for women to swing by a local Quest Diagnostics for their blood test. Soon, we’ll also have the option for women to take the test at home, with a simple finger-prick test.

4.Can Modern Fertility help women who are struggling with infertility?

A&C: Modern Fertility tests are exclusively intended to be used for wellness monitoring and are not intended to diagnose and treat disease or substitute for any physician’s consultation. If you’re actively trying to have children, we recommend consulting with your doctor on the best treatment plan. We provide an easy way for you to download your Modern Fertility raw results to share with your doctor.

5. What other kind of women will benefit from Modern Fertility?

A&C: We started Modern Fertility for women who are not yet ready for kids, but who want information about what’s going on in their bodies today. We have a way to track almost everything in our lives–steps, cholesterol, bank statements and family trees. Something as formative as fertility shouldn’t be a mystery. Women deserve to have this powerful information–and should be able to track it over time in an easy, affordable way.

6. Where do we purchase a test and how much does it cost?

A&C: You can purchase your test today at https://modernfertility.com/. The test currently costs $159.

Babe In My Heart, Blogs

A Different Sort of Resolution

January 1, 2018

Written By: Erin Zemba, Guest Blogger

New Year’s Resolutions are not something I usually set, since it can be so hard to stick to them. I don’t want to let myself down, so why set a goal I won’t achieve? Well, this year, 2018, is different! I have set a resolution to be as healthy as I can in preparation for IVF. I want a BMI under 30 before I start my first cycle.

So why is this year any different? This year, resolutions will be a lot easier to stick to because I will have more than myself to let down if I don’t stick to it. This year, there is much more at stake.

By far, 2017 was not my favorite year. Aside from normal challenges, like car repairs and settling into my career, I also had my second, third, and fourth unsuccessful pregnancies. The first had been at the end of 2016 — after nearly a decade of contraception, almost as soon as we stopped preventing pregnancy, we saw those wonderful two lines! We were scared but excited. Unfortunately, that first pregnancy turned out to be an ectopic. I was followed closely, and it resolved on its own. At the same time, we also found out I have a Unicornuate Uterus and only one connecting fallopian tube. Once I felt recovered, we began trying again in 2017. Soon after we were pregnant again, but the risk of another ectopic made us nervous. The second pregnancy mirrored the first, and with that we had our second loss.. The odds were increasingly against us. While pregnancy losses are incredibly common, multiple subsequent losses decrease the chances of a successful birth.

But hey, third time’s a charm, right? Nope. That time brought a biochemical pregnancy that briefly got our hopes up with a positive pregnancy test, but was over as swiftly as it started. Finally, to cap off 2017, I was pregnant for the fourth time in just thirteen short months. This one seemed right. My hCG was doubling. I had no pain, and for the first time, no spotting! But of course, with my history, my RE wanted an early ultrasound. We awaited it anxiously with cautious optimism, and at 6 weeks, there was nothing to see in my uterus.

Instead, a faint heartbeat flickered in my only fallopian tube. We were whisked away straight to surgery where my only tube and the pregnancy were removed. Although it was sudden, we had also, in a way, spent the year preparing ourselves. Each pregnancy loss had made us a little surer of what we were facing. In a way, it was a relief that it was no longer a suspicion. The surgery had made it concrete: as of November 2017, we can no longer get pregnant naturally. Fortunately, though, we still have a shot through IVF with the help of an awesome team of doctors, nurses, and scientists. So in our case, it’s going to take a village to make a baby.

Here is where my 2018 resolution comes in. By staying true to my resolution, I am on track to have a BMI under 30 by February, and the plan is to start my first IVF cycle as soon as I reach that goal. I am currently at a BMI of 31.5, so reaching 30 corresponds to losing eight pounds over the next two months. With hard work and devotion, I will achieve that goal. Why did I chose 30 as the magic number? It has a lot to do with what my physician has recommended. She explained how the chances of a successful IVF cycle increase with each point off of the BMI. Furthermore, there is extensive research on the success outcomes of IVF with a healthy weight. In fact, one 2015 study states that:

Higher BMI is also associated with negative outcomes for patients undergoing in vitro fertilization (IVF). In a study of 233 IVF cycles, a BMI consistent with being overweight (BMI 25–29.9 kg/m2) or obese (BMI???30 kg/m2) was associated with a lower pregnancy rate (23 % and 22 %, respectively) compared with women of a BMI of 20–22.4 kg/m2 (pregnancy rate- 42 %). Similarly, a BMI of???25 kg/m2 has a lower rate of blastocyst formation compared to women with a BMI of <25 kg/m2 (54.9 versus 43.9 %, p?<?0.007).

We are about to invest significantly into this new adventure of IVF — both financially and emotionally — and I want to do what I can to make the odds of success as high as they can be. We hope for the best possible outcomes and I want my resolution  to set us up for success. That’s why this year’s resolution means so much more.

Here’s my plan to make sure I achieve my resolution and with the support of my physician and my family, I am on my way:

  • My physician and I discussed changes to implement at one of my appointments. I am not using any specific diet plan. I plan to achieve this goal by eating healthy, controlling portion size, eliminating consumption of many processed foods, eliminating alcohol, and adding in moderate restorative exercise. I have been using My Fitness Pal to keep track of my calories. I love the feature at the end of the day where it tells me “if everyday were like today, in five weeks, you’d weigh ____.” It is very motivating and inspires my willpower.  
  • I’m getting moderate exercise through walking for 30 to 60 minutes daily, and our dog, Paisley, absolutely loves this! I am also doing yoga. I have found I really enjoy it and feel regenerated afterwards. I have become a fan of “Yoga with Adriene” which is free on YouTube and I recommend her videos. I have decided on walking and yoga since extreme exercise to the point of exhaustion is actually is associated with poorer IVF outcomes.
  • Finally, we have all but eliminated alcohol consumption, since consuming fewer than four units of alcohol a week is also associated with better IVF outcomes.

So, there you have it. It’s one thing to know that these things are healthier for you, but it’s another thing altogether to hear it in the context of IVF. These small lifestyle changes can have an enormous impact on the likelihood of success with IVF, and that can be an incredible motivator. And the benefits are enough for me to schedule my IVF timeline around. All these healthy steps are an important part of reaching my overall fertility goal for 2018. To have a successful pregnancy is a pretty strong motivator!

Cheers (with sparkling water) to a healthy and happy 2018.

Babe In My Arms, Blogs

When The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year…Isn’t

December 29, 2017

Written by Elena Ridley, guest blogger

It’s the most wonderful time of the year, as the song goes. For many reasons those lyrics are true; being with family, enjoying traditions, partaking in all of the fun and festivities that only happen during this joyous holiday season. But what if you don’t feel joyous? What if you feel like it’s the most awful time of year? For many couples who deal with infertility, this is exactly what the holiday season feels like.

As if infertility was not hard enough, mix in the holidays and you’ve got a cocktail of heartache, sadness, and stress that is tough to overcome.  It can be hard as you sit back wondering if you will ever get to be a parent.  You watch others from a distance; moms, dads, and their children. You get the family Christmas cards, see parents taking their children to visit Santa, and buy gifts for your godchildren, your nieces and nephews, and friends’ kids often with resentment and jealousy.  You muster up enough courage and composure to attend gatherings with family and friends while you watch the happiness on the faces of parents as they watch their children open up gifts never knowing if you will ever get to experience this feeling.  Next to first days of school and other holidays, Christmas is probably the hardest time when you’re going through infertility.

When I think back to my first Christmas as a newlywed in 2011, I was almost certain that I would be pregnant and announcing it with a cute ornament handed out to my parents and in-laws.  I had been married a whole 3 months and I knew I’d be pregnant in an instant after getting married.  Then Christmas rolled around and so did my period and for the 3rd month in a row, I was frustrated & wondering why I wasn’t pregnant yet.  Boy was I naïve.  As time went on and we kept trying, Christmas after Christmas was passing, yet I still wasn’t handing out those announcement ornaments to my family members. I was absolutely clueless as to why I wasn’t pregnant yet 2 years and some minor fertility treatments later.  Little did I know that it would take another 3 years before I would be expecting and 4 years before I’d actually have a baby in my arms at Christmas time.  After a very long journey, we finally get to say that this is our very first year as parents to our miracle Georgia June after 5 years of infertility.

For 5 Christmases we sat in waiting.  We watched our nieces and nephews every year and other family members get pregnant and grow their families (some even through their own infertility struggles) yet here we were, 2 IUI’s, 1 miscarriage, and 6 IVF transfers (3 fresh & 3 frozen) under our belts over the course of 2 years and still no baby.  The final straw for us was our very last fresh IVF cycle in 2015.  Although the cycle started out promising with 16 eggs retrieved and 11 fertilized, by day 5 I only had 2 that were ready for transfer, not even considered blastocysts yet, and 5 more that were still growing but didn’t end up making it.  The day after Christmas I had my beta which was an 8.  It never did rise and that was when we decided to close the book on my eggs (the suspected culprit for about 6 months) and move forward with an egg donor.

The real Christmas miracle for us that years was when a complete stranger who I had only knew through social media reached out to us and offered us her eggs to help us build our family right around the time we found out the cycle had failed.  We decided to take her up on her offer and met her and her family in March of 2016, on June 16th I had my very first donor egg embryo transfer and 11 days later my beta was 967 and I was the most pregnant I had ever been over the course of 5 years.  Our donor is from Georgia which is what we decided we would name our miracle.  Now we are finally able to enjoy our very first Christmas as parents.

But is it possible to cope with those feelings of sadness during the holidays?  I think the answer is yes.  Although this can be such a challenging time of year when going through infertility, it is also a time to remember the blessings that we do have. Remembering that life itself is a gift that we are given every day.  Being thankful for the simplest of things like clean running water, food on our tables, and roofs over our heads. Even incorporating some Christmas activities into your time might lift your spirits. Christmas shopping, donating to a family in need, driving around and looking at Christmas lights, decorating cookies, wrapping presents, listening to Christmas music, and watching Christmas movies were all things that always helped to put me into the Christmas spirit despite our struggles.

There is no doubt that the holidays are hard when you’re going through infertility.  My wish is that no one would ever have to experience the pain and heartache that comes along with infertility, not only during Christmas, but year-round. Infertility is a vicious cycle of uncertainty every single month as you wait for those 2 pink lines that only seems to get worse as time goes on and cycle after cycle continues to fail. I know from firsthand experience the pain that comes along with getting a negative test back after putting your body through ultrasounds and injections: it’s a physical, emotional, and financial burden with no guarantee and it only gets worse during the holiday season. I am here to tell you though that the fight is worth it, and no matter what the outcome of your journey is, as long as you are giving it your all, that is the best you can do. Inevitably, some will end up with children of their own, some will adopt, some will use donor sperm, eggs, or embryos, and some will never have a child. This is the nature of infertility. Remembering all of our blessings and all that life does have to offer is by far the best way to get through the tough times, even when it’s not Christmas time, always count your blessings and always remember that you are not alone.

Babe In My Arms, Blogs

Adoption Takes a Village

December 27, 2017

Written by Heidi Brubaker, guest blogger

Married in 2005, my husband, Brandon, and I agreed we both wanted 3 children since we came from families with 3 kids each. We also agreed we wanted to wait awhile before having those children, so we could enjoy married life together! Five years later, we began trying to get pregnant. After about a year without success, we started seeing doctors, trying medication, blood work, etc. On February 14th, 2013, my doctor said I had a low ovarian reserve and should look into IVF and possibly egg donors. That was not the best Valentine’s Day, but Brandon was so loving, supportive and never once cast blame!

We did a consult for IVF, but after learning more about the process, the costs, and the odds, we did not feel that was the route for us. But we didn’t give up! I went on an extremely strict diet, one the dietitian claimed would help me conceive. I also found a new doctor for a second opinion. She diagnosed me with endometriosis and after more meds, blood work, sonograms, and test, she figured if we could clean up the endo I would have a great chance at getting pregnant. Good news! In June of 2014, I had a laparoscopy surgery where it was discovered my endo was stage 4! Well the rollercoaster of emotions were back, because now I was given great hopes of getting pregnant within the next year.

We celebrated our 10th wedding anniversary in the summer of 2010 and still, I was not pregnant. We were going on a great getaway to a tropical island near Tahiti called Mo’orea. Brandon and I decided when we returned home from this trip we would begin looking into adoption!

Neither of us had ever thought we would adopt, although we had been in a community of adoptive families and supported them through local organizations such as God’s Grace Adoption Ministry and Athletes for Adoption. One thing we both felt strongly about was our call to be parents! We just didn’t know how that would happen. We easily decided on private birth adoption since we wanted a newborn and didn’t want to miss a single moment of our child’s life! But we were not sure if we were really suppose to pursue the idea of adoption. One of our pastors, who had fos-adopted 2 kids, told us, “Just go forward and if it sputters and dies, then you know it wasn’t meant to be!” That was great advice to spur us on.

Now that we had our minds and hearts set on the adoption process, we dove in full force! We were referred to a consultant out of Florida, Nicole Witt, with The Adoption Consultancy, who made the process clearer, quicker, easier, and less expensive. We had been quite shocked that private birth adoptions in the US cost as much or more than international adoptions! We did NOT have the funds, but we didn’t let that stop us!

The answers to our questions as to whether or not this was meant to be started to be answered right away. Our first bill due was covered, to the penny, by our yearly tax return and a refund of doctor bills from my surgery!!!
We had friends who had bake sales and gave us all the profit. Our young 10-year-old friend made monster cookies and sold them, raising $1,000 just for our baby! My students (I was teaching 2nd grade, piano lessons and leading a puppet team at the time) participated in a Baby Bottle campaign and raised $1,300. It was so very humbling to accept their donations, but they wanted so badly for us to have a baby and it was more answer to prayers!

Our community is so supportive of adoptions, so our plan to have a dinner/auction was a huge success. Some friends catered the meal and we had silent auction, dessert auction and live auction. My dad was the auctioneer and we sold items like baby quilts, BBQ dinners, airplane rides, a weekend at a beach house, and more, all generously donated and then bought by friends. All in all we raised $19,000 in one night! Talk about being blown away!

We worked on our profile book, home study, agency applications and stacks of paperwork. We had decided not to adopt in our home state of CA because of the 30 days the BirthMom has to change her mind. Instead, Nicole helped us apply in “safe states” where the laws are in favor of the adoptive families. In these states, the BM signs her rights within 12-72 hours after birth. We ended up applying in 3 states at 6 different agencies. We became active in November 2015. The months of December through February seemed to go pretty quickly as we had lots of birth situations emailed to us. We presented to 3 during that time, but were not chosen. Obviously, I was anxious to hold my baby, but I knew if that child was ours, we would have been chosen. There was a real peace in “letting go and letting God!” March and April dragged on because we saw less situations and we started feeling like it was taking forever!

On Mother’s Day, we got an email from Nicole saying there was a BM from Texas who was moving to CA and was connected with a lawyer in southern CA. We talked to her case worker and learned that while the baby would be born in CA, and the BM would have the 30 days to change her mind, there was a law in place where the BM can sign a waiver to those 30 days and her rights would be revoked in 24 hours! That sounded just as good as the safe state laws, so the next day, on my birthday, we presented to her.

On Thursday morning, on my drive to school, I called the caseworker to see if there was any news and she said, “She picked you!!” I was shocked and excited! I called Brandon right away and we decided to keep it under wraps until we could tell our families. That was a hard thing to do! We also learned the BM was having her sonogram the following day to learn the gender. Brandon had the idea of doing a gender reveal for us to learn the sex, so we had the caseworker email my sister, who helped set it up! Brandon ordered pink and blue chalk powder, we went into our friend’s orchard and my sis placed the right color in the box with tannerite (highly explosive). When Brandon shot at the box a huge BLUE cloud of dust exploded! We were having a BOY!

The following Tuesday was an end of the year get together at the school where I taught. I was able to make the announcement that, although I wasn’t coming back next school year, it was because our baby boy would be born the same week school started! Everyone was in tears! Then we posted the pictures and video of our gender reveal to spread the word. Such a long awaited for, happy time!

At the end of July, our birth mother arrived here 3 weeks before the baby was born. It ended up working out perfectly because the doctor wanted her induced Monday morning, August 15th, 2016. When we got her to the hospital and she was all checked in and settled, she began labor on her own! In just 5 hours, our Bentley John was born!

His adoption was finalized on April 19th, 2017 and we have had the most fun being his parents! He has the best personality and now we KNOW this was exactly what God had in store for us all along.

Even as early as a month or two, we could tell he looked a lot like me. People still say “He has your eyes!” or “He’s got your nose.” and they have no idea he was adopted! It’s the coolest thing!

We give God all the glory for letting us be parents to Bentley!

Babe In My Arms, Blogs

What The…? The 24-Year Old Embryo

December 22, 2017
The Scoop:

A 25-year old woman, Tina Gibson, gave birth to her snowbaby that was conceived 24 years earlier. Tina and her husband, Benjamin, struggled with infertility and adopted the frozen embryo through an agency in Tennessee, where they live. The couple went through over 300 profiles of potential embryos to adopt and didn’t learn the “age” of theirs until the day of transfer! How incredible is that?!

Tell Us:

Have you or would you considered embryo adoption? Is the age of an embryo something you would consider when pursuing embryo adoption? Tell us in the comments below!

Babe In My Arms, Blogs

Reaching For Your Baby

December 20, 2017

Written by Lauren Bennett, WTF Content Editor

“Reach for your baby!”

My doctor’s words will forever echo in my mind and heart as I relive the day my long-awaited babe was born.

I opened my eyes and pulled my baby from my body onto my chest. And sobbed. I looked at this beautiful being and told him over and over again how long we had been waiting for him.

He was here. Beautiful, perfect, and exactly as I had dreamed. Awestruck by his head full of dark hair and bright eyes, relief poured from my body. This baby was the product of 62 months of waiting, hoping, crying, and praying.

In 2012, after two years of marriage, my husband, Andy, and I decided it was time. Time to add to our family. This was, after all, the next logical step in our journey as husband and wife. As the second of nine children, I figured within months we would be making our pregnancy announcement to friends and family. But as life would have it, that wasn’t the case and we were thrown into a world of unknowns.

After a year of trying without success, we sought the help of my OB-GYN who concluded that nothing was wrong – we were two perfectly healthy people with no explanation of why we couldn’t conceive. He referred us to Yale University to work with a reproductive endocrinologist and I thought that if anyone could help us, surely someone from Yale would know the answer and we would have our baby in no time. There, we went through countless tests, three rounds of Clomid, and three medicated IUIs, but still, no baby to hold. We were heartbroken and tired. So tired. IVF was the next step and the hurdle of paying for it stood in our way. Our dreams of having a family seemed to float further and further out of reach. After our last failed IUI, we decided that we would take the summer in our new home in North Carolina to enjoy ourselves and save for our first round of IVF best we could, no matter how long it took.

But as anyone who experiences infertility knows, you never truly “take a break” from trying to have a baby. It is always on your mind. Infertility is always there lurking around the corner to remind you of what you don’t have. In the midst of all this, I was actively seeking advice from an RE at the Jones Institute for Reproductive Medicine. So much for a “break”, right? Based on my history, and some additional bloodwork, she thought that I may have endometriosis (which I later would have surgery to remove), but what’s more is my egg reserve numbers were low for my age. At 30 years old, my biological clock suddenly sped up. We were devastated. How would we be able to save enough for IVF in the time needed before my ovaries essentially gave up?

Enter: the world’s best friends. After hearing this, four of my very best girls got together and secretly set up a GoFundMe page to help fund our IVF journey. They reached out to friends, family, and even strangers, and within 24 hours, the exact amount needed for our IVF fee was raised. I will never forget the shock and overwhelming love we felt looking at the page and reading notes of encouragement along with the thousands of dollars of donations. We could pursue our dreams of a family because of these people. These precious friends gave us a renewed hope, something we hadn’t felt for a long, long time. My tired heart suddenly found new energy to push forward and work to hold our baby.

IVF. Wow. To put it lightly, it sucks. You do it because you know what the potential outcome is, but when you boil it down, you pay thousands and thousands of dollars to stick yourself with needles and inject an insane amount of hormones into your already tired body. Then you willingly get up in stirrups and expose yourself to not only your doctor, but probably some fresh interns as well. By the 3rd appointment, the nurse would barely leave the room before I started to get undressed. I knew the drill.

At my last appointment before my retrieval, I had around 20 beautiful follicles, which was amazing considering my low egg reserve numbers. The butterflies in my stomach fluttered as we pulled up to the clinic for the retrieval. In my lovely hospital gown and hair net, I kissed Andy and they rolled me back. It was relatively quick from what I understand, and as I was coming out of it, the first groggy words out of my mouth to Andy were “How many did we get?” His answer – “Five.”

Five? That was it? I was devastated and cried the whole two hour ride home. I anxiously awaited the fertilization report, not expecting much. I had already started the mourning process for the babies we wouldn’t have. When the report came back, I was able to breathe. Out of the 5 eggs, 4 had successfully fertilized! Now, we waited again to see how many would make it to transfer. I went back to holding my breath.

Transfer day came and we still had 4 beautiful embryos! It was decided we would transfer the two best looking ones, although they were all good looking in my opinion. Holding Andy’s hand, we watched as our first real shot at becoming parents happened on the screen next to us. We were officially pregnant. A few days later we got notice that our other 2 embryos didn’t make it to freeze. This transfer of our amazing two was our one shot at our family.

We consider ourselves some of the lucky ones. Our first round of IVF was a success. We were pregnant. For the first time in five years, I saw two lines on my pregnancy test. I didn’t cry. I just stared in disbelief. Was this real? My mind started spinning thinking about my baby (or babies!) and was quickly followed by fear. What if this didn’t last? What if my beta came back too low and all our excitement was for nothing?

A positive beta meant we could schedule our first ultrasound at which we heard the most perfect single heartbeat. Our baby was coming. Finally.

One uneventful pregnancy later, on October 8th, my water broke at 3:00 a.m., almost 3 weeks early. After only 8 hours of active labor, at 6:01 p.m. that evening, I finally held the child we had been waiting for.

All of the heartbreak and uncertainty of those long, hard, and lonely years lead to reaching for our sweet, sweet little one.

But, what I’ve come to realize is that aside from that brief and surreal moment, I’ve been reaching for my baby for years. Each month, I went a little further and stretched myself a little more to grasp what we so desperately wanted. I reached through seeking treatments, by surrounding myself with others in this community, praying, and educating myself. I reached by being vocal about our journey and spreading awareness so others could feel less alone. I reached by envisioning what our precious little one might look like and how life would be once they joined our family, in whatever way that may be. And when I felt like I couldn’t hold out much longer, my tribe reached for me and surrounded me with the support I needed to push forward. For 62 months, I never stopped. And that long reach was so worth it. Every tear, worth it.

My sweet mama in waiting – I know how dark these days are and the pain each one brings. My heart aches for you as I know that same pain all too well. The fear, uncertainty, jealousy, and sadness are far too real and all encompassing. But, I beg you to never stop reaching for your baby until, in whatever beautiful way they come, you bring that child into your embrace and look in those gorgeous eyes and say “We’ve been waiting for you.”

What The Fertility

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