|Craig and me on Egg Transfer Day, August 21st, 2011|
|Craig and me at the Gladney Center for Adoption with our social worker, Vicki, on August 19th, 2011.|
Well, it’s been 6 months since I last wrote, and I first want to apologize for not updating sooner. I last left off with our plans to travel to Houston to visit Craig’s family over the summer and to attend our Gladney adoption orientation in Fort Worth. That was the last hoop to jump through before we could be officially approved for domestic adoption. We had also learned of a very successful fertility clinic in Houston that had high in vitro fertilization rates, and my mother-in-law offered to pay for our treatment. This was HUGE for us because the costs of IVF are right up there with the costs for adoption (none of which are covered by insurance), and we could never have afforded to do both. Words will never express our thankfulness.
At the same time, I was nervous about doing IVF because I wasn’t confident it would work, despite the doctor’s confidence that it would. Plus, if it didn’t work I would have felt so guilty for accepting such a huge gift that would have been for naught. Another part of me struggled with separating my excitement for adoption and my hopefulness that IVF would work. Was I somehow selling out my adopted baby? It was like I was pregnant in my heart for our Gladney baby, but if I got physically pregnant, I would have to put off the adoption until our bio baby was 9 months old. How would that feel? And what if IVF didn’t work? How would I compartmentalize the grief of those lost babies and the excitement about our adoption? There were so many uncertainties and fears and hopes. I was so afraid it wouldn’t work, or worse that it would and I’d miscarry.
Shortly after arriving in Houston, I started the dreaded fertility medicine which those who’ve gone before warned would turn me into a raging b*tch. On the contrary, it was quite pleasant and gave me a little buzz. I was afraid it must not be working, but the doctor assured me elevated estrogen levels affect women differently. I did shots every day for two weeks leading up to our egg retrieval, which was on August 16th.
According to my ultrasounds beforehand, I had about 14 mature eggs, for which they predicted a 75% retrieval rate. Craig and I both had to gear up in hospital scrubs, and I was put under anesthesia for the minor surgery to retrieve the eggs. The procedure is much like a vaginal ultrasound, but a tiny needle pokes through the ovaries to suck the eggs down into a little tube, where they are stored until fertilization. They were able to retrieve 9 eggs. Three hours after the retrieval (enough time for the eggs to “chill out” from the trauma- yes, this is how they described it to me), the eggs are put in a petri dish, in a very controlled (light/temperature) setting. Then Craig’s goods are properly prepared as well. The sperm is spun and “washed”, a process which separates the men from the boys, so to speak. Then the 9 best of the best are carefully sucked into a tiny, tiny, tiny little needle and one by one injected into the 9 eggs. Conception.
We were sent home to wait 24 hours to find out how many had properly fertilized. Again, we were hoping for at least a 75% fertilization rate. After the longest 24 hours of my life, we found out 5 had fertilized. They needed then to be left alone for 5 days to continue cell division until they were blastocysts (big enough and strong enough to implant). Our embryo transfer date was scheduled for August 21st.
Luckily for us, our Gladney orientation was on August 19th, which was a great distraction from the wait, plus we were so excited to meet all the lovely people who were helping us become parents through adoption. The orientation was wonderful. We met several young birth mothers living in the Gladney dorms, a birth mother who gave a baby up for adoption 15 years ago and now works at Gladney, several adoptive families, and our social worker. It was an all-day event, and we left feeling confident in the respect, support, and counsel given to birth mothers, the ethical and legal approach to adoption, and Gladney’s overall philosophy of what it means to be a family.
Going to the orientation put me at ease about IVF because I was reassured that whatever the outcome, we were going to have a family very soon.
On August 21, transfer day, we found out only 3 of the 5 embryos developed to the blastocyst stage. This was disappointing because at every stage, our number of viable embryos was decreasing. I just had to keep telling myself, it only takes one! We then had to decide how many to transfer on this first round, one embryo or two. You would think putting two in would increase your chances, but the doctor said the pregnancy rate for one vs. two embryos is the same, so it was really up to us. Being type 1 diabetic, carrying multiples isn’t ideal, but I kept thinking “How can putting two in NOT increase your chances?” We would trust him either way.
When we arrived, Craig and I both went into the room where the transfer would take place.We were told this would take 15 minutes tops, and there was no anesthesia needed. They basically take a turkey baster with your precious, microscopic future babies and insert them vaginally near the uterine wall, which of course has been preparing for weeks to accept them (hopefully) and start growing into future Craiglettes.
Dr. Williams, our polished African American doctor, decked out in scrubs and cowboy boots, recommended we put in 2 embryos, so that is what we did. As we watched on the ultrasound, we couldn’t actually see the embryos (too small), but we could see the little puff of air that forced them in, and got a general idea of where they might implant. Dr. Williams leaned over me, put his hand on my shoulder and said, “Congratulations on your pregnancy.”
I was taken aback by his confidence in the procedure, given the 70% success rate and that we very well could get a big fat negative on the test we’d be taking 2 weeks down the road. I asked the nurse, “Isn’t there embryo glue you can use to make sure they implant?” “Oh, honey,” she said in her Southern accent and big, blonde hair, “We can intervene and get all the conditions just right . . . but only God can make ‘em stick.”
So began the wait. I went on bed rest for 3 days, and then my mom and I drove from Houston back to Vancouver, which again was a great distraction from the wait. My dear friend (Craig’s cousin, Kristie) had also done IVF at this clinic (and had twin girls!), and gave me a bag full of gifts to open and scriptures to read every day until the day of the pregnancy test. The most encouraging scripture was Jeremiah 29:11 “I know the plans I have for you," says the LORD. "They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.” Well, I went in for the pregnancy test on August 29, a few days earlier than they advised because, of course, I just couldn’t wait. I was cautiously excited. We’ve been pregnant before and miscarried, so I felt if we could just make it to 12 weeks, we’d be in the clear. They monitored my hormone levels over the next couple of weeks, until the numbers were high enough that we could go for an ultrasound. When we went, they identified one sac and one heartbeat. And, oh, I was so emotional. We’ve actually seen a heartbeat in a previous pregnancy, so I was trying to not get too attached or excited, just in case. But my hormone levels looked better than any other pregnancy, and I didn’t have any cramping or bleeding like I’ve had in the past. As the weeks and eventually months went by, our little baby kept growing and getting bigger, and it took until our anatomy ultrasound on December 16th to actually believe that we were in fact going to have a baby. We found out that day we’re having . . . a girl! Craig’s mom and sister, my mom, dad, sister, and nephews were in the room when we found out, and we all started bawling. I am now 27 weeks pregnant (6 months and 3 weeks). It has been an uneventful pregnancy in the fact that I never had morning sickness, have had no oddities because of my diabetes, and haven’t had any mood swings. I’m FINALLY starting to show a little, even though I’ve been wearing maternity clothes since the very beginning. Ha. Ha. We’re due May 8th. We are definitely still adopting, but we can’t accept an adoption referral until our bio baby is 9 months old. I think often about our little adopted angel, where she’ll come from, who she’ll be. I’m happier than I’ve ever been, as I’m pregnant in my belly with our first baby, and pregnant in my heart with our second baby. And we still have one frozen embryo left. So, if you think about it, we’ve got one in the oven, one on order, and one in the freezer. It feels as though our struggle with infertility is a distant memory, and the pain and desperation I felt pales in comparison with the joy and peace that I feel now. Thank you, EVERYONE, for loving us along the way and supporting us in our journey to start a family. Heather, Craig, and Hattie May
Well, it's August 15th, and I am long overdue for a blog entry. So much has changed since our last blog, and my emotions have been all over the place. I will try to recap in chronological order the events of the past month.
July 10 - Homestudy
We were so nervous for the homestudy that we bought new outfits, majorly spruced up the house, completed outdoor projects, etc. When our social worker, JoAnn, arrived we were pleased to find her very down to Earth and supportive of our adoption efforts. I think we approached it more like a job interview, but she made us feel like future parents and kept saying "when you get your baby" not "if you get your baby". That Sunday night she stayed for 4 hours teaching us the ins and outs of international adoption. We also had individual interviews with her. I went first and I'm sure I sounded so gushy and emotional. I could feel myself talking with my hands and if I could have taken my heart out and laid it on the table, I would have. Then Craig had his interview, and I went back to the office. Of course, I kept the door cracked and listened to every word. He, of course, was cool and collected, saying all the smart things I didn't think of. Listening to him reinforced my belief that he will be an amazing father. Everyday, I fall more in love and if there were a husband lottery, I'd say I surely won.
JoAnn left at about 9:30 that evening and left us homework. We had to write a letter of intent to adopt from Ethiopia as well as take two (out of ten) online classes about adoption, particularly international. The first one was called The Conspicuous Family. It was about dealing with issues visibly adoptive families face and how to respond to remarks made by people both insensitively/cruelly or simply motivated by curiousity. The second class was called "Attachment" and explained the importance and process of attachment. For adopted children, there is a break in attachment first from biological parents, then from the foster home or orphanage. Ignorantly, I thought we'd start bonding from day one, but in reality, we'd just be strangers to our little one who has seen face after face care for her and then leave. It takes time and great committment/patience to form those bonds.
The next morning, JoAnn came back for a few hours to finish up and help us reflect on the videos. She asked us why we wanted to adopt from Ethiopia and asked if we'd ever considered adopting domestically. I told her again about living in Africa and how we feel connected to African culture and because based on our research, that was the easiest place to get a healthy young "infant" (1 year old or less), plus it was the least expensive option, even less than domestic. She said, "I'm really going out on a limb here because I usually don't try to sway people one way or the other, but I really feel like Gladney's ABC program would be a better fit for you. When I hear you talk, it's clear you want a baby. And that's ok, you've never had one, but you won't get that from Ethiopia." She went on to tell us about the recent delays in Ethiopia and how our wait would be significantly longer than 12 months. This is something I had learned about soon after we committed to the Ethiopia program, but I was so hopeful the delays would only be temporary. With international adoption, there is always political stuff that can lengthen wait times, and over the last 4 months, Ethiopia went from processing 40 adoptions per day to just 5. That's not 5 per agency; that's 5 period. So, our approx. 1 year wait could turn into 8 years. Gladney didn't feel that would be the case, but they had no way to determine our new expected wait time. Plus, our social worker told me that many agencies aren't even taking families for Ethiopia because it wasn't looking good. We also learned from Gladney that several orphanages had recently closed in Ethiopia due to funding.
I was heartbroken when she first brought this up because not only would our wait most likely be years instead of months, but the children would also have to wait in Ethiopia a lot longer after referrel than just a few months like we expected. So, we could get a referrel for a 10 month old baby and possibly not be able to bring her home until she was 18 months old. That would kill me! Then that got me thinking about all the attachment issues we would face, and the whole scenario seemed less than ideal.
I had a lot of reservations about domestic adoption which I will discuss in a future blog, but I asked about a million questions to JoAnn. She was especially great because she has 2 internationally adopted children herself, plus one domestically adopted child. She was an expert in both field and life. She put at ease many of my concerns about domestic adoptions, and then actually got me excited about bonding from day one of my child's life. She said about half of birthmothers choose for the adoptive mother to be in the room when the baby is born. When she asked the mothers why they choose this, they unanimously say so they can see the look on the adoptive mother's face to make sure they made the right choice. Gulp.
So, Craig and I talked all night and all the next day. JoAnn said we could take as much time as we needed. Craig called his parents and I talked to my family. We had to ask ourselves, what is most important to us? What has been most important from day one as we started this adoption process? The answer - to get the youngest, healthiest baby we can as soon as possible. When we considered that and after talking with JoAnn, we decided to apply for the ABC program with Gladney. You have to apply because African American birth mothers tend to choose black families first, followed by bi-racial couples. Caucasian parents are chosen, just not as often, so they can't take on too many at a time. We chose the ABC program because it is less expensive than regular agency assisted adoptions and because we really feel we have a lot to offer a child of African American heritage. Plus, JoAnn said she would be surprised if we didn't have a referrel in 6 months!
We found out on July 22nd (our 5 year anniversary) that we were accepted into the program, and we could not be happier. We have all the paperwork completed, so all we had to do was register for the mandatory orientation on August 19th in Fort Worth. We were planning to spend all of August in Houston anyway, so it worked out just perfectly.
And that's where we are now. It's Monday now and our orientation is Friday. It's from 8:30 to 4 and we are thrilled to be able to meet all the Gladney people who have helped us along the way. We will learn how to put together a profile that will be shown to birthmothers. After the oriention, we will have completed everything required to be officially approved. We did see a draft of the homestudy, which was wonderful, so we're just waiting to cross the last T's and dot the final I's.
As far as the referrel process, we will be matched with a birthmother in her third trimester and we cannot specify gender. I am praying for a healthy pregnancy and lots of family support for our birthmother. I am hoping she will allow us to be a part of the journey but will respect her comfort level along the way.
I did grieve again for my little African daughter, and this hiccup in our journey first felt like an adoption miscarriage. Another child to have loved and been so excited about and then lost. Desperate and down, I asked Craig, "Do you think this is a sign? Is the universe trying to tell me something?"
He replied, "It might be. It might be trying to tell us that our African child is actually African American. And that she's Texan, like her daddy."
"She said she cried at least once each day not because she was sad, but because life was so beautiful and life was so short."
- Brian Andreas
School ended on June 16th, and Craig and I have been busy, busy, busy preparing for our homestudy and finalizing paperwork. I want to thank the ladies at school for organizing an amazing raffle fundraiser for us, which brought in $320. People at school bought raffle tickets for $5 and there were over 15 different winners. I meant to take pictures, but I couldn’t find my camera! Friends from work were so generous in their raffle item donations, as well as purchasing the raffle tickets. I’m so lucky to work with such generous, fun, and positive people. Special thanks to Heather, Pinar, Gina, Sally, Sherry, Cindy, Stella, Sandy, Cynthia, and Rayme.
The day after school let out, I held a garage sale with donated items from friends and family. I want to especially thank Diane, from Columbia Credit Union for your half your storage unit and all those penguins!! Shopper after shopper kept buying up those penguins, and I couldn’t figure out why. Then I learned Mr. Popper's Penguins came out that weekend. What great timing! Also, thank you to Kelly Blankenship, Renee and Brooke Bernazzani, Mary Eterno, Debbie Wu, Michelle Bealle, JoAnn Engelbart, Pinar Aksoy, Sally Denkhe, Linda Martin, and Traci Johnson for your donations to our sale. Friday was a beautiful day, and we had lots of shoppers. Tate and Preston (my nephews – 6 yrs. and 4yrs.) were my helpers. They were so well behaved and great company. Our total for the day was $480. Wow! On Saturday, I spent about 2 hours setting up before sunrise, and just when everything was perfect, and I was ready for business, it started pouring. Heidi, Randy, and the boys came to help with the sale, but we decided to close for the day, as everything was getting soaked.
We repacked and organized the garage and decided to have another sale on Friday, July 15th. If you’re reading this and you have anything you’d like to donate to our second sale, we’d love to take it off your hands! Please e-mail me if you’d like to arrange for a pick up or drop off.
Our homestudy is scheduled for this Sunday and Monday, July 10th and 11th. Our social worker’s name is Joann, and so far we've only talked to her via e-mail and phone. She's very helpful, has a great sense of humor, and is making me feel less nervous about the visit. Don’t get me wrong: My brother came over yesterday to frame out our fireplace, install shelving in our closets and pantry, and sand, stain, and seal other woodwork in our house. My sister came over today for several hours to help me clean out all cupboards, drawers, and storage in our kitchen. My mom and JoAnn are coming over tomorrow to help paint the Adirondack chairs my parents gave me for Christmas last year, as well as hang new window coverings and various other projects. Plus, Craig and I have organized and cleaned out every closet, nook, and cranny in our house. But at least I don't feel AS nervous. :)
Once the homestudy is complete, we just have to wait for approval from Gladney and send in another $2750. That will conclude all our agency fees, and we’ll (hopefully) get put on the wait list. We recently paid $750 for Gladney to review the homestudy. We still have about $750 in our adoption account, and we still need about $2000. The next chunk of money after that won't be due for another year and will go straight to Ethiopia, to help support the orphanage and make the adoption legal. I can't believe how far we've come. Thank you to everyone who has supported and encouraged us in this journey!
Our newest puzzle piece sponsors are Grandma and Grandpa Gutridge, Ashley McNutt, Molly Gutridge, Diego Gutridge, and Grandma Lorraine Iseli. We still have 158 (out of 500) puzzle pieces left. Please check out our puzzle piece fundraiser blog for more info.
And now, for this month's HUG earrings! They're 4th of July themed, which I realize is a little late, since it's now July 6th. But since I couldn't find my camera for so long, I had to have my sister take these on the 4th! I did, however, find my camera yesterday as I was organizing a hall closet. Whew!
Red Facetted Glass with surgical steel (non-allergenic) $5
Ivory Mother of Pearl with surgical steel (non-allergenic) $5
Gray/Blue Swarovski Glass Pearl with surgical steel (non-allergenic) $5
For ordering info, please e-mail me at email@example.com
Liberty, taking the word in it's concrete sense, consists in the ability to choose.
When my mom and I first thought of "HUG of the month" as a fundraiser, I had no idea at the time it would actually feel like a big huge hug. After my last blog, I wrote that we needed $1550 in a few weeks to round out what we needed for the first half of our agency fee. The very next day, there was $490 in my paypal account from people all over the world. Mostly from friends and family, for which I thank you, thank you, thank you. And we also had people donate who we don't even know (from as far away as Saudi Arabia!) The remaining $1000 came from various jewelry sales and $5 earring sales. I am completely humbled and inspired by your love and involvement in this journey. We met our $2750 goal. I wish I could HUG every one of you!
For June, I am featuring 3 more pairs of $5 earrings.
E-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org and tell me how many and of which style(s) you'd like.
Credit/Debit- (Visa/MC/AmEx/Discover) - just send me your e-mail address, and I'll send you an invoice through paypal to pay securely online. a 4% charge is added for CC transactions, plus $1 for shipping.
Check - send a check to Heather Curry at
PO Box 871448
Vancouver, WA 98687
Here are the 3 styles:
Facetted Silver Glass bead suspended from surgical steel kidney wires (non-allergenic) $5
Mosaic Bead hanging from silver-plated french hooks $5
Fuchsia Freshwater Pearl suspended from silver-plated leverbacks
For $15, you can get all three!! A fellow teacher purchased 6 pairs of last month's earrings to give as graduation gifts. Do you have a graduate you need to purchase for? How about summer birthdays? End-of-the-year gifts for your child's teachers?
I want to give a big shout out to our latest puzzle piece sponsors. For more info. on this fundraiser, click on "Puzzle Piece Fundraiser" from February's blogs. Thank you to Omer Shami, Theresa O'Neill, Mom and Dad Gutridge, Paul Morrow, Mary and Bob Horton, Mary Ratzki, Aunt Sue and Uncle Jim Gravette, Martha Peterson, Liz (Loll) Nelson, Grandma Lorraine Iseli, and Grandma and Grandpa Bob Gutridge. Your support will be forever remembered. We love you.
UPCOMING EVENTS: We're having a garage sale on June 17-18. We have received TONS of donations from friends, family, and friends of friends and family. If you have anything you'd like to donate, we'd LOVE to sell your stuff. There is nothing too big or too small. We'll take anything! Just 1.5 weeks left. Please e-mail me if you'd like to coordinate for pick-ups. Also, e-mail me if you'd like to come shop. I'll give you all the info.
In addition to our garage sale, my good friends from work are doing a giveaway at school for me. People have donated hand-made purses, soaps, wallets, earrings, baklava, carmel popcorn, scentsy, and other cool stuff. We're doing a $5 raffle at school this week and next. Winners will be drawn at random next Wednesday. I'll be sure to take lots of pix and post how much it brings in. Thank you Heather, Pinar, Sandy, Cindy, Gina, Sherry, Kathy and Rayme! You guys ROCK.
Where we're at in the process:
Paperwork batch number one is DONE. Plus, we have the first half of our agency fee ready to mail out. We are currently working on the homestudy paperwork. Homestudy is paid for. We thought the homestudy would be finished by now, but that was before we knew about all the additional paperwork that needs to be filled out. So, without complaint or discouragement, we will jump through every hoop, cross every T and dot every I. Because as far as we're concerned, this baby is conceived and growing in our hearts (and most likely naturally somewhere, too), and there's nothing we won't do for her.
Our next goal:
$2750 - the second half of our Gladney agency fee
We hope to meet this goal by the end of summer (August 31)
I'd like to end with this quote:
We witness a miracle every time a child enters into life.
But those who make their journey home across time & miles,
growing within the hearts of those who wait to love them,
are carried on the wings of destiny and placed among us
by God's very own hands.
--- Kristi Larson
Hugs to all,
My nephew, Tate, our newest puzzle piece sponsor.
Yay! We sent off our application to Agape Adoption Agency in Bellingham to do our homestudy. We had planned to do this in late April but we didn't realize we had to formally apply and send a big fat check ($1700), so we held off until we could pay that in addition to 1/2 of Gladney's fee ($2750). We also have to send $700 for Gladney to review the homestudy. That is a total of $5150. Right now we have $3600. So we need to raise $1550 in the next month. With our garage sale on June 17-18 and our $5 earring sale, plus what we'll be able to save in June, I think we'll come real close. (Click on our May blog "Hug of May" for information about our Hug of May earring sale.) We have sold 172 of our 500 puzzle pieces. Thanks so much to all who have donated!! If it is on your heart to sponsor a puzzle piece, they are $5 each and we'll write your name on the back of each piece you sponsor. We still have 328 pieces left. (Click on our February blog on "Puzzle Fundraiser" for more information.)
Our newest puzzle piece sponsor is my nephew Tate, Heidi's oldest sweetheart. He's 5 years old, going on 15. He loves Justin Beiber and rocks the purple high tops. Heidi and Randy have him and Preston doing chores to earn "commissions", an allowance system that teaches the kids to give, save, and spend. A few weeks ago, he called me and in his raspy voice said, "Auntie, you know how I've been doing my chores to get money, well . . . I'm going to give my "give money" to you for your baby." He sort of stutters on the phone, so I had him repeat what he'd said. Yes, he wanted to give his "give money" to us for our baby. Instant lump in my throat. The next time I saw him he gave me $4 in quarters with the biggest ear to ear grin on his face. I swooped him up and buried my face in his warm neck as I fought to hold back my tears. Heidi said he thought of that all on his own and had overheard us talking about fundraising ideas. Those $4 feel like $400.
I will tell you this . . . adoption is not for the faint of heart. There are 3 groups of paperwork that need to be sent to Gladney, and we're just now ready to send in group #1. When I heard there was a lot of paperwork, I thought, mmm . . . filling out forms, so what? I can do that. I had no idea that it meant making doctors appointments with lab results that have to be notarized, getting 5 reference letters, 3 of which have to be notarized, bank statements, proof of insurance of every kind (notarized), employment verification letters (notarized), a 9 page application (notarized), financial statements, all kinds of adoption risk waivers and domestic violence statements and arrest histories and questionnaires and service plan agreements. The list goes on. But we are ready to send in Paperwork Batch #1. The only thing left I need to do before we send that in is to arrange to meet my doctor with a notary present to sign off on our medical records. This will happen on Tuesday.
At times, this process feels so overwhelming. But it's for my baby. There's nothing a mother won't do for her baby.
I've had a few people ask me if we were to get pregnant, would we still go through with the adoption. The answer is yes. Yes, absolutely. Without a doubt, yes. I feel like my baby is over there, and if I were to not go through with this process, I would be abandoning my baby. This is not a Plan B for me. This is what God intended and had in the plans all along. I still believe we will have a little Craiglette someday, but our family will not be complete without our Ethiopian princess. I feel it down to my core, and it makes all the paperwork and fundraising bearable, as humbling as it is.
I'd like to end with this quote:
I have discovered in life there are ways of getting almost anywhere you want to go, if you really want to go. - Langston Hughes
I really want to go. To Ethiopia. Back to the land of Eden. To bring home our baby. Our beautiful baby girl. Who is loved by family, both God-given and biological. Who will change the world and break our hearts. We'll go to the end of the earth for you, Baby Girl. We love you. Sleep tight and know that we are coming.