Tag Archives: loss

Chosen Ones … Part 1: We Were Chosen!!!

OMG!!! I got THE phone call on Tuesday … late afternoon … from a number I didn’t recognise. Mom had popped in as she was in the neighbourhood, so we were chatting idly, having the wine or coffee debate, when my phone rang. Glancing at the number, I assumed that it was an adoption enquiry for one of the kittens we have available for adoption, through the rescue organisation I’m part of. I didn’t recognize the number. For a brief moment I contemplated not answering and getting back to them later, but my inner voice said, “Answer the phone!!”. It was 4:45pm, Tues 17th September 2013.

Chantal’s voice was on the other end, our social worker’s assistant and right hand person, who’s mobile number I don’t have stored on my phone. Just a few nights before I had spoken with Wilna (our social worker) about getting our Police Clearance Certificate and Form 30 (a clearance to say you’re not registered as a child offender) from her for another adoption agency we were talking to so that we could broaden our search. I therefore automatically assumed it was about the forms … but it was THE phone call!!! The one telling us that we were put forward to a matched birth mom and SHE CHOSE US!!!! With my mind reeling I asked a bunch of questions about her and the birth father. Could this be true??? Could this be happening??? Chantal’s voice was filled with excitement on the other side of the phone, mirroring the excitement I was feeling. Next step a meeting with the birth mom … to be scheduled on Thursday, as she wanted to meet us.

When our conversation ended, I looked at my mom with disbelief and my heart pounding so loudly in my chest, that I thought I was going to faint. What we had been waiting for. Baby boy due soon … very soon … the details kind of buzzed around in my head senselessly. I had to tell LH!! Do I tell him over the phone? …. No I would tell him in person when I went to fetch him from the office … His car has been in for repair after a minor accident. The look on LH’s face when I told him was happiness, fear, excitement all in one. Everything I was feeling.

Thursday’s meeting with our birth mom was nothing I expected and oddly everything LH expected. Cape Town was being lashed with a real icy winter storm, as we drove through to Somerset West. Dashing out of the cold and the relentless rain into Wilna’s warm offices in anticipation of what was to come, we were terrified! What if the meeting didn’t go well? What if she didn’t like us?? After a chat with our social worker Wilna and Chantal, affirming our wishes, the moment had come to meet our birth mom. With the roads flooded, the meeting almost didn’t take place, but Chantal was determined to find a way. As our birth mom walked into the room and we said our hello’s, then she let out a nervous sigh as she eased herself into the chair and said “I’m terrified”, at which point we laughed nervously telling her we were just as terrified and the ice was broken. Here was a young lady, making the hardest and bravest decision of her life – that of entrusting us with her baby. With her belly protruding out in front of her, she bravely explained to us why she had chosen our profile and why she was making this decision. I sat there with complete admiration for her courage. My heart went out to her for the decision she is making because of her life circumstances. With no family support, an ex-boyfriend who shirks responsibility and want to distance himself from the situation, she is alone with only the support of social workers. It was a magical meeting where fear, laughter, tears, hope and love filled the room.

Our baby boy is due on 24th September 2013 … just 3 days from now … or any time now. We’re waiting for the call to tell us our Birth Mom is in labour.

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Where To … Part 9: Appreciation and Sharp Reminders

I’m married to the most remarkable man I know. You’re probably thinking “Duh … that’s why you married him!” … and yes whilst that’s true, at the time we got married, I can honestly say that I had absolutely no idea just how remarkable he was and would turn out to be. Lets not kid ourselves our relationship has been put to the test many times in the 3.5 years we’ve been married, with our journey to hopefully having a family of our own. On this note, I’d like to congratulate LH for making it to the summit of Kilimanjaro last month! Proud of you Babe!

As part of my voluntary work in animal welfare, a little 7 day old kitten (Johnny Bravo) entered our home last week Thu – rescued as an orphan from Khaylitsha (a poverty stricken township near Cape Town International airport). The last time I bottle fed and cared for an orphan this young was in November 2010 with our ‘twins’ who remained with us as “failed fosters” and are turning 3 in October. It was during those dark and desperate weeks and months following the loss of our beautiful daughter Stella that the ‘twins’ came into my life and literally saved me by giving me purpose – that of saving their lives.

Having Johnny Bravo in the house, is a reminder of how we would dearly love to have a family of our own, of how prepared we have been to take this next step in our lives for some time now and the anguish we feel of not being able to do so. LH generally tends to steer clear of the fosters that come and go, because he gets too emotionally invested and has difficulty letting go when they leave for their adoptive homes at 9 weeks of age or older. As the caretaker of our fosters, I’ve learnt to cope emotionally with saying goodbye, with the knowledge that we are able to help the next lot coming through our door. Recently I’ve been asked a number of times how many we’ve fostered up until now … I’ve yet to count, but I think it’s quite a number. So it was unusual to be able to photograph LH tenderly holding little Johnny Bravo whilst I was sorting out a hot water bottle for the little guy over the weekend. Little did I know the emotions that this photo would evoke within me … If LH, as a 6ft2inch man, can be so tender and loving with a tiny kitten that’s barely bigger than a mouse in his hands, just imagine how amazing he would be with a baby of our own. Knowing that I can never give LH the son or daughter he so desires really tears at my soul and is nothing short of excruciating. Being at the mercy of strangers in the hopes that one day we may have a baby is simply soul destroying, but we continue to live in hope.

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Where To … Part 8: Adventures & Outcomes

We started with 20 eggs, 13 fertilized, 6 embryos developed, of which 1 embryo stopped growing, 1 embryo was of too poor quality to freeze, which has left us with 4 embryos to send off on their ski holiday in the freezer.

One has to wonder how the human race keeps multiplying with these kinds of statistics. Be that as it may, we’re happy that we have 4 embryos who will have to wait patiently until we find a suitable surrogate mother – whenever that may be.

The criteria to be a surrogate in South Africa is:
1. have to have had children before
2. uncomplicated pregnancies and live births to healthy babies
3. preferably have completed own family
4. have altruistic intentions and not be looking for financial gain

In return, they get:
1. the honour of being an incubator for 9 months.
2. a whole new (albeit maternity) wardrobe.
3. pampered by the commissioning parents (and poked a few times by the doctors) for 9 months.
4. the privilege of giving the ultimate gift one could ever give to anyone – the gift of a baby … the gift of a family.
5. the possibility of a gift once the contract term is complete, although this would vary depending upon the commissioning parents

So basically I’m still looking for my special angel who loves having a pregnant belly and looks forward to being able to dress in maternity clothing – which lets be honest, most maternity clothing is frumpy as all hell! Just because a woman is pregnant, full of hormones and therefore sometimes can’t remember her own name (I speak from experience from my brief 5 month pregnancy with Stella), doesn’t mean that her sense of style and fashion has to be forfeited! But that’s a topic for another day …

Not a day goes by that I don’t think about Stella who we lost suddenly 5 months into my pregnancy in 2010. What she would have looked like today … her personality … her giggle … her smile … the twinkle in her eyes. The image of her face and tiny hands and feet are still imprinted on my mind and will be forever. Her photographs, hand prints and foot prints stowed away safely. I sometimes wonder whether we shouldn’t have named our son, who we never got to meet. Perhaps we’re in denial. Perhaps because in some ways I was still dealing with the emotions of watching my son on a screen in someone else’s tummy, when tragedy struck at 13 weeks. Perhaps it was the guilt I felt because our surrogate mother had to go through a traumatic experience on my behalf. I’m really not sure. So much to work through and so much to think about even though it was a year ago … almost to the day.

Be safe on your adventure LH. Wish I was there with you.

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Where To … Part 7: Statistics, Results and Odds

The ‘beauty contest’ (otherwise known as PGD) is almost over. 20 eggs, whittled down to 13 eggs that fertilized, whittled down to 6 that have developed. Our new donor is under the age of 25 years old.

Of those 6, 2 embryos are being frozen today, another 2 will be frozen tomorrow, another 1 is a very slow grower and 1 is possibly normal, but has a ‘spot’ on it. We chose to freeze that one as well. A ‘spot’ could be something or it could be nothing. For now though we have 2 great embryos and hopefully tomorrow another two.

For those who have got this IVF thing right the first time … wow!!! The sun, the stars, the whole universe must have been aligned for you and I salute you!! We’re still waiting for that alignment to happen for us … once we find a surrogate mother … one day.

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Where To … Part 6: Finding Some Fairy Dust & Magic

The last 6 months has been trying. Seriously, crappily, shitty trying. After our fraudster surrogate mother, along came a well intended surrogate mother who unfortunately turned out to be medically unfit with high blood pressure and abnormal kidney function. Again, the process came to an abrupt and grinding halt and my hopes crashing down.

I’ve been avoiding shopping centres during weekends, not just because I loathe crowds, but also because that’s when families are at their most prominent. In July, as part of my voluntary work for a non profit animal welfare organisation, I found myself ‘stuck’ in one of my worst nightmares – a shopping centre for 4 days doing a fundraiser … during the school holidays! Hundreds of families with thousands of babies / children of all ages. Some with twins, others with newborns, women with telltale bumps and with another one in tow, some with up to 4! What’s the deal with that? Were they first in the line when they dished out ripe, healthy ovaries and industrial strength uterus packages? Did I get the leftovers? The scraps?

Talking about scraps, it really feels as if we’ve been scraping the bottom of the barrel, but despite our countless disappointments, we’ve decided to forge on with our new egg donor who had 20 eggs retrieved / harvested on Sunday. To be quite honest I didn’t give myself the chance this time to get anxious, nervous, excited … Or anything – I’ve ridden the roller coaster way too many times. I woke up Sunday morning bright and early to be at the stables by 7:30am, do shopping for braai by 9am, clinic by 10am to hand over LH sperm sample & complete necessary PGD paperwork, make salads, have fundraising meeting at home with up and coming singer, in time for braai with friends at 1pm. By Monday, 13 of the 20 eggs had fertilised and the ‘beauty contest’ as LH puts it, officially starts today. By today the scientific expectation is that they be between 2 and 4 cells. So far we have 4 2-cell embryos, 3 3-cell embryos and 6 4-cell embryos and 2 have seemingly fallen off the radar. As odds & stats go however, its looking promising … if one can call it promising considering we don’t have a surrogate mother in sight. So once PGD testing is complete over the next few days, those that make the grade will go on their ski holiday in the freezer, until an angel in the form of surrogate mother comes along – whenever that might be.

Perhaps surrogate mother number 4 (if she ever materialises) will make our dreams come true. Who knows? Nothing is certain in this world, let alone in the world of egg donors, IVF and surrogate mothers. Perhaps one day it will be an exact science, but for now it’s hit and miss with a bit of fairy dust and magic thrown in. Something we needs truck loads of right now.

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Where To … Part 5: Drawn Out Cloudy Days

What started out as a status update on Facebook has now turned into a blog post …

I’m feeling rather bleak today. I went from feeling rather green yesterday after a Sunday afternoon of overindulging in lovely pastries and cakes during an afternoon tea session with some girl friends, to being somewhat blue / bleak today. Maybe our deal in life is not to have a family of our own. I’m tired (yes tired and somewhat grumpy) of well meaning people saying “Don’t worry it’ll just happen when you least expect it. You just need to relax.” or “You’re trying too hard. Just let it happen.”. Maybe I need a loud-hailer to yell “WITHOUT A UTERUS, WITHOUT LOADS OF GOOD EGGS, NOTHING WILL ‘JUST FUCKING HAPPEN’!”. Shagging like bunnies was taken off the table the day my patchwork uterus popped like a balloon, suitable egg donors don’t just fall out of trees, surrogate mothers aren’t exactly popping out of the woodwork saying ‘pick me!’ and NO our family (if ever we have one at this rate) won’t just miraculously appear out of thin air. We have to make it happen with whatever means and legal ways are available to us.

So here we are. Our potential surrogate mother turned out to be shady and a fraudulent crook = no surrogate mother. Our new egg donor can’t hang around forever and she’s available in March / April – we either use her or lose her to someone else. It’s a cut and dry business deal – no frills, no freebies, no ‘specials’. Eggs for cash in March – take it or leave it. Our intention was to do fresh embryo transfer, but without a surrogate mother and a good but hasty egg donor wanting to cash out her egg pension over the Easter holidays, we have to do the next best thing. We are going to have to freeze any viable embryos. Frozen embryo transfer has a much lower success rate, as we know from experience, but we don’t exactly have a huge number of options right now.

So therein lies my bleakness today.

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Where To … Part 4: In The Blink Of An Eye

In the blink of an eye life often has unexpected turns around every corner. Just when you think you’re headed in the right direction, an event happens that makes your lose your way again.

We met with our prospective surrogate mother, who seemed like a lovely person, week before last at the fertility clinic. LH and I left our initial meeting with her feeling elated and hopeful and started the ball rolling on meeting with her husband who wasn’t at the meeting, psychometric testing, draft surrogacy agreements, attorney appointments etc …. During the last two weeks however I had tried to, on a numerous occasions, to contact our prospective surrogate only to find that she never answered her phone. I guess from time to time we are all guilty of that, but something was starting to niggle at me.

Last week the bombshell started dropping. Our psychologist KB emailed me with an urgent request to discuss concerns about our potential surrogate. What emerged from KB, our attorney who’d had previous dealings with her under a different name, and subsequently from our own investigation, was alarming and disturbing to say the least. The dirty trail of deceit, outright lies, to fraud … the trail was long … the trail was scary … What her ultimate objective was with us remains unclear, but from what little interaction we’ve had with her to date, her intentions were clearly not good. I severed all ties today … and resolved to continue our search for a surrogate mother.

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IVF VII Part 1 – The art of my war & finding peace in 2012

Firstly happy new year! I hope that 2012 brings you much joy, good health and prosperity. My wish for myself is that I stay reasonably sane through the continuation of our journey to parenthood … Although they do say that sometimes you have to lose your mind before coming to your senses! I’m clearly still in the part where I’m losing my mind.

It been almost 5 years since I underwent a massive myomechtomy to remove 13 fibroids. This was the very first step in our quest for a family. Post op, somewhere in my very battered and bruised abdomen were nervously excited butterflies flitting about. Then before I knew it 2 years had passed with about 50 ovulation kits and umpteen negative pregnancy tests. So once the dust had settled after our wedding, honeymoon and the subsequent festive season we made a tactical decision that would monumentally change my life. I was 38 years old without a twinkle of any tiny toes in sight. Drastic measures were called for. In May 2010 I consciously hung up my title as Sales & Marketing Director for a global IT company, bid a nervous-as-all-hell farewell to my 18 year career that I had worked so hard for and bowed out of the IT industry to focus solely on starting a family. My hectic work travel schedule to dodgy locations like Mozambique and India, plus pressures associated with the IT industry were all working against us, whilst my biological alarm clock was screeching loudly. One month later I fell pregnant. Our plan was working! Devastatingly just short of 5 months my weakened uterus burst, instantly killing our daughter Stella who I loved and got to know so well through my biweekly scans. Suddenly I was sans baby, sans uterus … sans career … sans any sense of identity … just the internalised grief of a mother for her dead child.

Since then I’ve had an ongoing internal struggle with myself regarding my self worth. Its been a lot harder than I thought, in that there isn’t a day that goes by when I don’t feel crappy for at least part of the day. I think of my life back then and my life now – they are completely different and I’m seriously STILL battling to adjust. Had my uterus not popped like a cheap balloon that fateful day my life would still be different, but I would be a mother taking care of her beloved and much wanted child which is what I so desperately wanted. I would be fulfilled. Whilst at a family wedding in December someone asked me my most dreaded question of all time “What work do you do?”. A simple question that used to be so easy to answer in the past, is one I now stumble or mumble through, feeling ashamed, insignificant and somewhat stupid. I feel like I’m a shadow of the person I used to be. My response and subsequent conversation went something like this:
“Umm … [pause , whilst thinking what do I do?]. I used to be a Director for a multi national company, but I quit so my husband and I could start a family.” Could I sound any more lame?
“Oh, so how many children do you have?” [F*&%! ... second most hated question]. “Umm … none.” [awkward silence].

When I relayed the conversation to LH later that evening, his response was so unexpected and heartfelt. He said that through all our challenges and loss, what I’m doing now is more significant and admirable than what I did during my career in IT. Whilst I may not be negotiating and closing multi million Dollar deals anymore in the corporate world, I’m saving lives through the foster work that I do for a local animal rescue organisation and the welfare campaigns I have planned through my fledgling company that will be opening shortly. This, he said, has far more meaning than what I was doing because I’m making a real difference in the lives of those little neglected waifs who come into our home and are subsequently adopted as happy, healthy little bundles by delighted families.

Everything and everyone has a purpose and, from the time I lost our beloved baby Stella up until now, I’ve been struggling to find mine. The irony of it all is that without really knowing it I already had found it as LH pointed out, but I was just too blind to see it. As I am finding out there is no greater purpose than service to others. A quote from a movie we recently watched said “Emotions are natural, like the passing weather.” Whilst I’m feeling like I’ve been caught up in hurricane season, I need to start seeing through the clouds and the storm to realise that I am significant and have absolutely nothing to be ashamed of. I guess its a process and one that I’m sure will take time, but as with all things I’ll eventually get there.

As we start our 7th round of IVF, I need to work on my inner self. What I am rapidly coming to realise is that life is a mystery that nobody can solve, so I should stop trying to analyse the past or see into the future and simply learn to be present in the here and now. Appreciate what I have, stand firm on my decisions and be proud of who I am and what I do. Thank you LH for showing me this wisdom, you truly inspire me. You are my partner in life and my soulmate.

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IVF VI Part 5 – Taking a breather … without the break …

OMW how times flies!! Seems like time speeds up towards the end of the year.

On Friday 25th November LH whisked me off bright and early on our belated anniversary weekend to a mystery location which turned out to be Lion Sands Private Game Reserve – much to my delight! We left really early to the airport to catch our flight to OR Thambo and then on to Skukuza. It was a belated trip, as on our actual anniversary (21st November) my eggs were being harvested. Nothing quite like spending the first half of your wedding anniversary in a clinic and the second half in a drugged up haze, feeling a tad sore at home.

Being in the middle of nowhere at Lion Sands with limited … well realistically zero … cell phone reception, it was a challenge getting our embryo updates and PGD results, but between intermittent sms messages and phone calls from our bungalow we managed. We were desperately hoping that we would be able to have a big fat game lodge bush party to celebrate the success of my right ovary being able to produce some fine little embryos … but it was not to be. I guess that’s also part of the reason I’ve left this update for so long … I just keep feeling like I have no good news to share … that its all doom and gloom. Needless to say, the results were bad … no viable embryos … in fact non of them even made it to blastocyst phase. The news was devastating. Strangely however the fresh air, wildlife, open skies and bushveld seemed to act as a tonic and ease my pain, even though in a twisted and cruel way, we saw loads of babies of all shapes and sizes on the game drives. LH, I noticed, seemed to take the news harder than usual, I guess because he’d been so hopeful that the ‘awakening’ of my right ovary had been the missing link all along … yet it was not to be.

Last weekend, we flitted off to a family wedding in Pretoria – one of LH’s cousins was getting married – so another long weekend away from home was spent in the ‘Honeymoon Suite’ of the guest house / boutique hotel we stayed at, as it was the only room they had available – not that we were complaining! The honeymoon suite was very different to anything we’d seen before or what we were expecting, in that whilst comfortable, it was similar to a secluded castle dungeon set well away from the rest of the guest house … down a set of steep stairs into a basement … of sorts! I can only guess they figure that newlyweds would have little use for natural light and require absolute secluded privacy to swing off the chandelliers!?! I’m not sure … but it made for an interesting setup with heavy furnishings and ornate murals. The wedding was sweet and youthful. It reminded me somewhat of my innocence from many … many … many (oh my word … too many to count) moons ago.

Whilst we’re battling along and seemingly stuck in one place … it feels like everyone elses life is flying past at break kneck speed with momentous and happy … happy news, whilst I am left to celebrate the little things … the crumbs. Well that’s my perception from where I am right here … right now … even if it may sound like I’ve got sour grapes and am ungrateful. I’ve just received news that a cousin of mine in Chile, who got married earlier this year, is now pregnant. Second person I know to fall preggers in the second half of this year alone … which kind of stings … and dampens any holiday / Christmassy celebratory mood I might begin to feel. No matter which way I look at it … it’s crappy. Don’t get me wrong, I’m incredibly happy for her … it’s just seriously crappy for me.

In the meantime, after our planning meeting with the Doc on Tuesday this week, we’ve agreed to sit out December (mostly for my sanity) and go another round in January with both our donor and me. At least this way I’ll be able to partake in the festivities over Christmas and will only start with low doses of stimulation just before New Year.

… and now for the count down to Christmas … and to try to enjoy each moment with LH and family.

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IVF VI Part 4 – Nerve shattering updates …

The update this morning is not as good as I’d hoped. The embryos are developing very slowly with three of the embryos being 4 cells and one is 5 cells. At this stage they should be between 6 and 8 cells. What the implications are or what the chances are that these embryos will test normal no one can tell us. This means no PGD testing today (they have to be between 6 and 8 cell) and we wait and see what happens over the next 24 hours.

Whilst we wait, LH is taking me away for a long weekend to a ‘surprise’ location to celebrate our anniversary that was on Monday. We leave early tomorrow morning on a flight to somewhere … I guess I’ll find that out tomorrow! Whilst I was initially hesitant in going anywhere for our anniversary, it will be a good distraction for me to get away for four days … I just hope that there is cell phone signal where we’re headed for my ever precious updates!

Now for all the frantic organising that has to be done before we leave … Next update will only be on my return, by which time we will definitely have the full picture.

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