Dawn’s Journey to Motherhood

Dawn an Ava

Dawn and Ava

Growing up in California, I had a really strong love and connections with my mother and grandmothers. My mother was also a stay at home mom and was able to guide me through the milestones in my life. Our family dynamic always resonated with me and was confirmed when I worked as a nanny while attending UC-Berkeley. I observed the routine and requirements of proper care for children while providing respite to a professional couple who had three kids.  This daily hands-on interaction provided clarity for me as I realized that I didn’t want that model, but preferred the traditional arrangement of a stay home parent, as I was raised. When I met my future husband at 26, he agreed with this idea. Even though Dave and I had a short courtship, this was one of the serious topics we explored and confirmed before we got engaged.  We eventually moved to Dallas from California so that we could live on one income and purchase a home.

I believed that we were headed for parenting in our early thirties, based on getting married at age 26 and compromising with him that we would give ourselves 3 to 5 years to strengthen our relationship, travel and indulge in many activities that are more difficult to manage once children are in the picture.

When contemplating how many children we wanted when that time arrived we were aiming for one biological child and likely adopting as well.  I had always considered adoption as a possibility since my best friend is adopted and I felt that I had a heart for this way of family building so long as I could experience pregnancy, and share that with my grandmothers and my mother as I had been dreaming of since I was a small child. When our 5-year anniversary approached my husband started having ambivalence. It stemmed from his fears of being an inferior father after he had a poor upbringing. I eventually pacified his fears and we tried conceiving for about 2 years without success.Audio File

At age 35 we relocated to Austin and I visited a doctor who found out immediately that I had a blockage in my fallopian tubes and my husband found out previously, as well, that he had infertility issues. The only route we could take to conceive at this point was through IVF. When our first IVF did not result in pregnancy nor yield any viable frozen embryos I was pretty devastated, but remained optimistic that the second time would be the charm.  Literally, I believed that failure was NOT an option.  Like so many other couples, we had a difficult time with the clinical and dehumanizing aspects of in-vitro fertilization (IVF), but I trusted the experts and we tried again.  When our second round was not successful, we knew that, for financial reasons, we needed a guaranteed positive outcome, so we ended treatment and began to explore the path to parenting through adoption.

At every turn, I was the driving force and motivation behind the effort to overcome our hurdles and create a family.

I grieved the loss of having my own genetic child and began to focus exclusively on the path to parenting that adoption provides. This was at times rather overwhelming after having educated myself on the intricacies of assisted reproductive technology, but now I was the family expert on these alternatives and was researching and learning and became actively involved in the adoption community to better understand our options.

Adoption wasn’t our first choice but it turned out to be our best choice, though it was not without its own opportunities for resilience, which is how I have come to view the tougher moments.  

Expressing to an unknown birth mother what you hope to give her child if you are chosen to parent is a dream and a nightmare all at once.  Everything seems to rest upon each word one utters, or writes, each photo selected, every nuance being the potentially defining moment when one is either chosen or rejected.  After the seemingly relentless pressure of IVF, this was yet another gauntlet of emotion, but with the support I found at Adoption Knowledge Affiliates, as well as the education around the lifelong issues of this journey, I felt that I had found my calling as a mother.  I was and still am so moved by the gifts of adoption, and the unique ways in which all members of the triad are connected by both loss and love.  When we were matched with a young expectant mother in Corpus Christi. I thought we had found our miracle.  As it turned out, months of relationship building and my assistance as her birth coach during her C-section was a gift to her, as it strengthened her for the decision to parent her baby rather than placing him with us.

With that devastating surprise came a huge blow, as I doubted myself and my husband became somewhat embittered toward the prospect and I now had to manage his disillusionment along with my own depression. This helped after a few potential matches went awry. Thankfully, I learned that I could dig deeper than I ever had imagined I could, and I eventually accepted reality with a peaceful heart convinced that we were, with each twist and turn, one step closer to our baby.

That turned out to be true once we found the next birth parents who were considering placing their unborn daughter for adoption in the same year as they had a daughter graduating high school with a son expected to follow her to college in the following year. They were preparing to become grandparents, not preparing for the joys of diapering and sleeplessness of parenting an infant, as they also were providing care to a disabled parent and dealing with physical and financial limitations of their own.Audio File

We met two months prior to the baby’s due date and built a wonderful relationship centered on trust, but also with the awareness that due to their ages being parallel to ours, we had to resolve some of the typical concerns with “geriatric pregnancy” that would have been likely for us had we conceived a biological child.  We were all rewarded with the birth of a beautiful, healthy and perfect baby girl on June 13, 2006, who arrived ten days early so that her adoptive father could experience his first Father’s Day with a newborn.  I was invited to be in the delivery room when my daughter was born and was a witness to this transcendent moment as I held hands with her maternal aunt and her sister, each of us expressing our elation through tears, though for all there was also the heightened calibration of anxiety over the impending moment of transfer from one family to another.

 This is the explicit loss and transformation that cannot be erased for an adopted person.  They are beloved by two families, connecting hearts which adoption unites while all experience a separateness that remains, a yearning for wholeness, which is at a primal level.

My awareness of this fact and acknowledgement of it has shaped my sensitivity to my daughter’s most basic vulnerability as well as requiring of me to reach beyond my own expectations and my childhood dreams of motherhood to embrace the love I have been blessed with in the form of my adopted daughter.  I never doubted I could love her, but I never realized that I would also love her birth mother and her biological family so deeply and wish for their healing with every bone in my body.  Honoring them through our open adoption has been another path to growth for me, not only personally, but professionally, as have devoted more and more time to Adoption Knowledge Affiliates (AKA).Audio File

Ava and her family of origin continue to inspire my desire to give back to other adoptive parents, to birth families, and to adopted people whose journeys toward wholeness and authenticity are fraught with myth and misinformation and secrets.  Beyond the typical victories and moments of jubilation that I am so honored to participate in with my beautiful Ava Marie Margot Scott, whom we named on the third day of her life when she came home with us from the hospital, my all-time favorite moment, closely followed by the day the court recognized our family as legally permanent, though I still wish that her birth record reflected her truth, which is that it include her birth parents name rather than being amended.  The lies imposed upon adopted individuals bother me, and I hope that through my work with AKA and that of others we will have more openness in records, more freedom to heal and to cherish and value authenticity.

I began telling Ava our story and acknowledged her experience that very night as I rocked her, trying to soothe her soul as she missed her other mother’s smell, heartbeat and voice.  I shared welcoming her with simultaneously grieving with her our complex past.  As I put words and tears to the beauty of our finding one another just as we were meant to do, not a moment too soon nor too late, I began real steps toward practical parenting.  Ava now, at age 7, retells her own birth tale and relishes as well as embellishes events in the timeline as she has been empowered to do with honesty and whimsy as we talk about what we wished for and what we received, comparing and appreciating how special and lucky we feel to be a part of each other’s lives.  She is my guide and I am hers.  My little bird has powerful wings…one from each of her mothers.

Mother and Daughter

Mother and Daughter

 

National Cost for an IVF Cycle

Write Us with Your Question! Here’s a recent one we received.

Q: My husband and I are considering adding to our family. I am 42 and we have twins. I prefer not to have another set of twins. What are the costs for IVF using my own egg (roughly)?

Natalie Burger, M.D.

Natalie Burger, M.D.

Response from Natalie Burger, M.D., Texas Fertility Center:

A:  The national average for the cost of a fresh IVF cycle is $10,000 plus the cost of medication, which itself can range from $3,000 to $6,000.  As each situation is unique, some patients/couples may require additional IVF treatment steps that may add cost.

For instance, technology now allows us to genetically test embryos so that only chromosomally normal embryos are transferred into the uterus.  This increases the chance of successful pregnancy and significantly lowers the chance of miscarriage. This additional testing may add an additional $4,000 to $5,000 to the overall cost.

We’d love to see your question! Write Us with Your Question!

Dual Paths to Motherhood

Two Paths After experiencing secondary infertility, a diagnosis of not being able to get pregnant and stay pregnant for over six months at age 41, I felt I needed to take charge and gain back some control. Is this common? Likely and a topic for future research I believe.

In my experiences I’ve found that if I want something badly enough I will find a way to make it happen. Sometimes I find multiple ways to achieve results. It takes a bit of tenacity and confidence, I call it the dual (or multiple) path approach. 

Advanced maternal age women are likely to take this dual path.

 

It feels a bit crazy when one is in the midst of pursuing both paths, but it allows one to have a greater chance of success faster.

Reading Sharon Simons’ new book Mom at Last, I considered my own past and paths to adding to my family. Sharon S’s is also a story of advanced maternal age and included three rounds of IVF and adoption of two young boys from Siberia, Russia. It’s important writing and caused me to reflect on the choices I’ve made. Sensing that her third round of IVF might not be successful, she Googled “adoption” and quickly discovered the path she wanted, which was international adoption. This head start on her second plan, confidence and resources likely propelled her forward quickly. Her writing indicates she is glad with her choice.

In November 2009 after enduring a second miscarriage, my husband and I attended an information session for prospective foster and adoptive parents. While waiting to hear if we were to be accepted into the training program, we began our donor egg IVF paperwork and testing. We selected our donor. While waiting for her tests to be completed, we were selected to start our foster/adopt training in March. Daily hormone shots, paperwork and Saturday training classes filled my non-working hours in the Spring of 2010. Sometimes they were all consuming. I handled most of the work. I did not want end the year and turn 43 without some progress towards my goal, a sibling for my son.

While our procedure was not successful, we did receive our certification as foster and adoptive parents. Our first placement came seven weeks later and is now our adoptive daughter. Goal achieved.

Have you taken dual paths to motherhood? We’d love to hear your story.

Visible Life: IVF, personhood, and the Two-Week Wait. (from Slate.com)

Belle Bogs has written a beautiful, almost poetic, article that gives us a glimpse into both her and others’ experience with infertility and the debate and science behind IVF.

 

“I looked up from the notebook where I’d been writing and sketching zygotes—did she say she creates life?—but then Ramos went on to talk about the life of the family: mothers and fathers and children, or mothers and mothers, or fathers and fathers, birthdays and holidays, traditions passed on, one generation to another. That is the life she helps create, the life she or another embryologist offers me and my husband.”


Read the full article on Slate.com.

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Carrie’s* Story

 

My journey began in my mid 30’s when I was single and had some painful female health challenges. I had to go through emergency surgery to remove a twisted ovary. The surgeon found that I had a number of uterine fibroids and referred me to a fertility specialist to try and repair my uterus, as I had hoped to ensure my future fertility. She did my surgery, and I really connected with her and knew that she would be my fertility doctor when the time was right. I eventually married and we went through clomid cycles and multiple IUI’s yet were unsuccessful, so we took a break. Infertility can be very hard on a marriage and ours was categorized as undiagnosed infertility, so we had no explanation which was frustrating. Eventually we decided to go the adoption route and also resumed fertility treatments, hoping to cover both bases and raise our odds.

We received the most incredible news of a positive pregnancy test and learned of a mother who wanted us to adopt her child all within a few days! We were so excited! Two babies at once was an unexpected yet welcome blessing! Hurricane Katrina hit the coast of Louisiana, and within that same week I miscarried our baby due to a tubal pregnancy.  Then the birth mother of the child changed her mind, deciding to keep her baby. I had several surgeries due to the miscarriage, and shortly afterwards my husband walked away from our marriage.  I learned much later that he had been seeing another woman while we were undergoing fertility treatments and going through our adoption process.  I was devastated, yet I still held on to the dream of Motherhood.

After the divorce was finalized, I resumed the adoption route only to find that single mothers have quite a challenge adopting American babies through our agencies. I was told that most American birth mothers don’t really want to give their children to another single mother to raise on their own, so I started exploring international adoption. All the while, I still had this deep ache in my heart to carry a child in my womb. I visited with international agencies and found a few countries that would allow single mothers to adopt. I narrowed it down to the country, chose a wonderful agency and invested a lot of time, money and emotions to the process. Over a year into waiting for my baby, I learned that the country I had chosen closed relations with the United States and we didn’t know when they would resume. At that point I began to wonder if perhaps I was supposed to take these doors closing as a sign that I should try to carry a child on my own.

I visited again with my Dr. and she gave me all of my options, offered her valuable insight, and I left her office with such hope in my heart. I will always treasure her wisdom. I went through tests and found that I was no longer fertile, which was such difficult news to hear. Yet she did assure me that I had a very high probability of getting pregnant through the donor program. I wanted to be a Mom more than anything on this earth and knew that if I was willing to adopt a baby then why not adopt an egg? If I am carrying then I can provide all the best health care and nutrition to my child during the pregnancy. While there was no 100% guarantee of a successful pregnancy, it did seem to be best option to increase my chances of parenting within a reasonable amount of time. All of the funds invested in international adoption were nonrefundable and yet in the end it was still less expensive to go through the donor IVF program than to adopt internationally. As a single mom, all of this information was important to consider.

I ended up choosing to go through the donor program and finalized on the donor after my first choice didn’t pass all of her lab tests.  I felt completely confident in my decision with this donor and have never looked back. I felt like I had a dream team of cheerleaders rooting for me. I had to administer all of my own shots going through the IVF procedure, and while that was not the most pleasant part of the process, I was able to do it. It is amazing what one can do when you keep your eyes focused on the goal. I went through one IVF cycle with my donor and was pregnant with twins. Twin pregnancy as a single woman was challenging for sure yet my OB/GYN said it was a textbook pregnancy.  There is no question that living alone carrying twins was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done and yet also the most rewarding.  I have a wonderful family who supported me along the way.  My children were born at 38 weeks with healthy weights and no NICU was necessary. I am now 44 years old and my son and daughter will be 3 this summer.

While it was a lengthy, emotion-filled and difficult road, with many twists and turns, I reached my goal and am living my dream. I have two incredibly beautiful, smart, healthy, active children who are the joys of my life. Yes, I would do it again in a heartbeat and encourage those of you going through infertility to remain hopeful. I am living proof that it is possible!  Your original plans may have to be altered in one way or another, so staying flexible and open to what options present themselves will help you get through this process.

In retrospect, I know that I am a better Mom in my 40’s than I would have been in my 20’s and 30’s. Through these years I have been taught the value of patience, hope, faith and to never give up on my dreams, no matter what life puts in my path. Honestly, my heart still hurts for the child that I miscarried and the loss of my fertility, yet in hindsight I do see incredible wisdom in the timing of my children and they way the arrived. They are the most precious gift I have ever received and well worth the wait. Everything has come together so beautifully and has all worked out for the very best so it is with eyes of gratitude that I view this journey.

*Pseudonym given at the request of the author.

Kim’s Story

Like most girls, I wanted to have children.  In my twenties, I thought that someday I would have four.   Something got in the way-no husband.  I knew that I didn’t want to parent alone, so I held out for Mr. Right.  Well, it took me a while to find him.  At one point in my early 30’s, my mother had actually mentioned that I just go get pregnant (MOM!!!) without getting married because I was getting up there in age. I started dating my husband (Jason) when I was 34 and we married when I was 36.  Because of “my age” we started officially trying soon after we returned from our honeymoon.  I’m pretty sure my mother expected me to come home from our honeymoon pregnant.  She had actually expressed this thought out loud to some of my co-workers shortly after the wedding!

And so it began. In Novemeber 2006 I went off the pill, saw my OB/GYN for a checkup, and started on prenatal vitamins.  I really didn’t expect to have any problems conceiving.  In fact, a few friends had told me that they had conceived within months of going off the pill.  Needless to say, I was disappointed when this didn’t happen to me.  After six months of trying, I went back to my doctor.  She suggested we do some tests because of my age.  My age? I thought I was young! I felt young, I was healthy, no major health issues.

So the tests began.  Not just for me but for Jason, too.  Lucky for me he didn’t object to it and he was supportive of all I would need to go through.  His sperm counts were “perfect”………..whew!  Then I went into surgery for a D&C just to check things out. All good there, too!  My doctor thought for sure I’d get pregnant, but I didn’t.  Next, I had a Fallopian tube study– again all good.

We were now almost to September 2007. Why wasn’t I pregnant??? We had been trying for almost a year.

Did I mention that during this time period we had sold a house, built and moved into a new one, and I had lost my mother to cancer?  Stressed? YES! YES! YES!

In early October, I found out I was pregnant!!!  We were beyond ecstatic.  But it was early, and my levels were not very high.  Back to the doctor for more lab work the following week. My levels still low, but they put me on progesterone.  Another recheck in a few days.  By then I had started to bleed a little.  I miscarried.  I was upset of course, but it was early, and we hadn’t told anyone-so luckily I didn’t have to do go back and tell everyone that I wasn’t pregnant anymore.  We decided that in a couple of weeks we would take a little weekend trip to celebrate our first anniversary and get our minds off of it.  The next  month I went on Clomid to stimulate my ovaries.  It worked!!!  I became pregnant after one month!   But again the disappointment.  I miscarried at about six weeks.

So now I was worried.  The self doubt really came out.  It was all my fault, something was wrong with me.  Maybe God didn’t think I’d be a good mother.  I missed my mother.  Next, it was suggested that I see a fertility specialist.  It had been over a year of trying.

So I made an appointment.  I tried to relax but it was really consuming me.  Lucky for me I have a husband that was very supportive of me during all of this (and some really good girlfriends too!).  We went to our first appointment with a new Dr. in January 2008.  It was very overwhelming to say the least, even for people in the medical profession (my husband and I are both registered nurses).  We met with a nurse, nurse practitioner, someone from billing, and finally the doctor.  After talking with the billing/insurance lady we realized how money driven this practice was.  She suggested that we change our insurance because our current would cover IUI,  but if we needed IVF-the other insurance we could get through our employer would cover it.  We went through our health and pregnancy histories and treatment options were given to us.  More blood work for me to start off with.  They started off talking about ovulation stimulating drugs and quickly moved on to intrauterine insemination.  Within a few minutes they were talking about invitro and egg donors!  After all, are you ready for this ?……… I was over 35!  WAIT A MINUTE……..this was too fast for us.  We had been able to conceive, didn’t want someone else’s egg  (at least not yet) and we were nervous about the possibility of multiples.  Yes, I had wanted four children, but not at once–and that was years ago.  I had smartened up.

It was decided at that appointment that we would start off by trying some stimulating drugs.  Honestly, now it all seems like a blur.  We spent the next few months back and forth to the dr’s, giving me injections and having sex.  UGGHHH………it all became so tedious.  My husband and I had always had a great sex life, but now we were being told WHEN to have it.  Definitely a downer.  We would do a series of injections to stimulate my ovaries, have ultrasounds to confirm that an egg was there, then have sex on such and such a day–whether or not either of us were in the “mood”.  I’m pretty sure that there were a few times in that period when sex was the furthest thing from our minds.  I guess this went on for 3-4 months–nothing.  The next step was IUI.  But there was a chance of multiples with IUI, probably JUST twins though.  JUST TWINS!!!  I think Jason fell off his chair.   It was one thing to have twins naturally but …..
I have a few friends with twins, some via IUI or IVF and a couple naturally.  It’s hard.  I wasn’t so sure I could handle it.

It was now that we decided to take a break.  Not a break from our marriage but a break from all this craziness.  We felt like we weren’t us anymore.  My 38th birthday was coming up, and I just wanted to relax and celebrate it with Jason and a few friends.  There was an annual festival in our city that we always went to. Not that I consider myself a big drinker, but I did like to have a glass or two with dinner or on a night out.  I rarely drank during my treatments because I didn’t want to mess anything up.  So we celebrated with a few, three or four wine slushies.  I was feeling pretty good.

A few weeks later I was due for my period.  We had some decisions to make.  Would we continue our break?  Was it time to try IUI?  I was late but just a couple days.  But I was always on time, like clockwork.  The morning of day five or six, I decided to take a pregnancy test.  I’m not even sure I told Jason that I was going to.  It was a Thursday morning, June 26th to be exact.  I peed on the stick, got into the shower, and forgot about it.  As I was drying off, I glanced over at the stick.  THE LINE WAS REALLY BLUE!!!!!!!!!  I’m pretty sure I was jumping up and down at this point.  I wanted to scream out to Jason, but he had gotten up early that day to go to the gym before work.  The excitement was overwhelming.  Pretty soon I heard the garage door open.  The minute he saw me, he knew.  I was pregnant!

Later that day I went to the dr’s for an “official” test.  I was indeed pregnant.  At this point they scheduled me to come back in on Monday for repeat blood work. Yup, still pregnant.  Now for weekly blood work and ultrasounds.  I won’t say it was smooth sailing from then on.  I was leery.  I had miscarried twice before and knew it could happen again.  I had tested positive for an anti-platelet antibody, so they put me on Lovenox, a blood thinner.  That meant daily injections.  By week nine (I think) we saw the baby’s heart moving on the ultrasound.  I think it was then that I really started to believe it.

For the most part, I had a pretty routine pregnancy.  I did end up delivering via C-section, something I had really wanted to avoid. But I had a beautiful baby girl at 11:41 pm 2/24/2009, with my husband right there by my side. She amazes me everyday, and I feel so blessed to have her.

If there is one thing I can say it is to just try to relax.  Obviously physical reasons for infertility do need to be ruled out, but being yourself and enjoying your partner goes a long way too.  (and I’m pretty sure those wine slushies helped a little to relax me that night. I’m not exactly sure that’s the night we conceived but it’s pretty close.

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Julie’s Story

I am pleased to be writing a true story with a very happy ending! My husband and I met when we were 23 years old. We dated for 7 years before we got engaged. We were in no big hurry! He finally proposed just before my 30th birthday- whew! I was already feeling the steady tick, tick, tick of my biological clock, but could tell that he was not quite “there” yet. We decided that we would start trying to get pregnant once we were married.

We were married in July of 2005. My husband was 31 years old and I was 30 years old at that time. We began trying pretty much right away. That same fall, my grandmother was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. I spent a lot of time with her, my aunt and my mom. During this time I found out that all three of them had gone through early menopause for various reasons. It left me very unsettled. I sought out my gynecologist and explained the situation- we had been trying to get pregnant for about 6 months AND had a family history of early menopause. I was hoping that she would say, “No worries, everything will be fine!”.  But instead, she ordered a bunch of blood tests and wanted to do laparoscopy.  Now I was really concerned.

The first round of blood tests came back with an alarmingly high FSH level. Now I was REALLY panicking! We began Clomid and then quickly progressed to injectables and IUI’s. Month after month there was always a negative pregnancy test. I became more and more frustrated and worried. I sought out every possible alternative treatment as well- acupuncture, yoga for fertility, Chinese herbs, dairy-free, wheat-free, sugar-free, caffeine-free, and an alcohol-free diet! We met with several reproductive endocrinologists. The first one we met with told us that I was not a good candidate and our only option was egg donor IVF (he told me this within about 10 minutes of meeting us- my husband pretty much had to scrape me up off the floor). The second one was willing to do IVF with us, but warned that our chances were not good. The third (and final) doctor was a breath of fresh air and gave us a glimmer of hope (and was also more affordable!).

All in all, we did 12 IUI’s and 3 IVF cycles without success. Each cycle took more of toll on me. My husband stayed positive throughout. He was a rock and always had an amazing outlook. I, on the other hand, was an absolute wreck! I knew after the third IVF cycle that I just couldn’t do it again. I had to get off the rollercoaster at last. It had been 5 years since we began trying to get pregnant and we had been doing some form of treatment the entire time. We searched our hearts and realized all we really wanted was a baby- it didn’t really matter how he/she came to us.

We began the adoption process in December 2009. We were excited to begin a new chapter. We attended classes and completed our home study. In April 2010, just weeks after completing our home study, I found out that I was pregnant- NATURALLY!!! It was absolutely unbelievable! We were incredibly surprised and terrified! For the first several weeks of my pregnancy I was waiting for the other shoe to drop- it just seemed too good to be true. I wanted so badly to be excited, but was so scared to actually believe it was true. Fortunately because of my history we were able to continue with the fertility clinic for the first several weeks of my pregnancy and had an ultrasound every week. I will never forget the day we first saw the heartbeat. It finally seemed real! My beautiful baby boy arrived exactly 3 weeks early on December 14, 2010 (just a little over a month after my 36th birthday)! He is by far the best thing that has ever happened to me. I truly believe that everything happens for a reason and he was well worth the wait.

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Julie is Mama to the absolute sweetest 16-month old boy and a Kindergarten teacher to 44 fabulous students.  She has a fabulous, loving husband and lives in Rochester, NY.!