There are two ways I can tell this tale. One way would be to recount the many curve balls and disappointments 2017 has thrown at my husband and me, on our journey for a family, with emphasis on the “WTF” thoughts that have entered my head as life knocked us down.
The other narrative recounts those curve balls with emphasis on the silver linings that have presented themselves to us through deep reflection during these struggles. You can probably tell from the title, I’m going with the latter.
In the business of silver linings, two things are required: the cloud and the practice of gratitude. The clouds appear on their own, but the practice of gratitude takes some work. It’s like going to the gym or sticking to a healthy diet. You have to get up every day and make a choice to continue working at it. For me, sharing this story and outlining my silver linings is part of that process.
On January 11, my husband and I sat by the phone waiting to find out if we had been selected to adopt a 10-year old boy from foster care. The Oregon Adoption Committee was considering us and one other family as parents for this boy.
We had been preparing for this committee since October 2016. The preparation wasn’t easy. We spoke with the boy’s adoption worker, his foster mom, and his counselor. We met with the school psychologist and counselor, where he would be enrolled in our town. We lined up a pediatrician and therapist. We even located an equine therapy facility in case this would be something of interest to him. We bought bunk beds and set up the “kid’s” room. We created a video about us for the committee and a photo book for him, that included pictures of Daniel and me, our pets, our home, the town, activities we would do as a family, and his school. Everything was in order.
When the phone call came in, we were informed that the Adoption Decision Specialist (who has the ultimate say for who is chosen, regardless of the votes) had opted to take 24 hours to consider which family was best. The extra time felt like a formality, because we had three of the five adoption committee votes.
A cloud rolls in.
The next day came, and we waited nearly all day for the call. When the phone finally rang, we found out we were not chosen.
It felt like the air was sucked from my lungs. The rest of that day was filled with anger, numbness, confusion, and sadness. All I could think about was the fact that we never get the “good news” phone call; it has always been the disappointing call. The pity party was in full swing and I was the life of the party. To make matters worse, one of the reasons we were not chosen was because we didn’t already have children. That cut me to the core. We have done everything imaginable to have a family. I could write an entire book on just that, but despite our extraordinary efforts, not having a family was part of the reason we couldn’t have a family, at least in this case. Try wrapping your head around that.
We were exhausted, physically and emotionally. Despite becoming professionals at receiving bad news, it was this phone call that broke us. We had gotten back on the horse so many times, over so many years, following so many disappointments, but for some reason this time was different. We just couldn’t get motivated to keep going. Our adoption worker continued sending us files on children that could be a match, but something had changed. I lost my will.
A silver lining comes into view: taking stock and learning to let go.
There was something about this particular disappointment that caused Daniel and me to do a lot of talking about our life. We reflected long and hard about what had happened and how we feel every day when we wake up. Here’s what we discovered: we are really happy. We don’t wake up feeling like something is missing. In fact, it is quite the opposite. We both wake up feeling grateful, fulfilled, and excited about all that we have going in our lives, building our respective businesses, and for the flexibility that our lifestyle affords. We love to travel and do so often, and we absolutely love where we live. Taking stock helped us realize we would love children, but we don’t need children to be happy.
This realization prompted us to take a break from the pursuit. We gave ourselves permission to coast for a bit and enjoy all that is right in our lives.
A second silver lining appears: letting go = reconnecting with my intentions.
It turns out, there really is something to be said for letting go when things begin to feel forced.
After taking a short break from pursuing adoption, April rolled around. For some reason the thought of doing another embryo transfer came rolling back into my head. It was out of left field, and a surprise for both of us, because we were very close to moving on completely, embracing life as quintessential DINKs. When I shared my thoughts with Daniel, he looked skeptical. The decision to pursue this avenue for children is like buying two tickets for a rollercoaster that only adrenaline junkies will ride. The look on his face told me he was seriously questioning if we should sign up for the motion sickness that will ensue if we get back on that ride.
I asked him, “if I told you I were pregnant, would you feel happy?” He said yes, and we both agreed that was telling. A few days passed, and we didn’t talk about it again, until April 6. That morning I woke up, and felt a strong impulse to email my reproductive endocrinologist in Los Angeles. I suddenly felt the urge to schedule an appointment to discuss the possibility of doing another embryo transfer. Because this was two days before we were heading to LA to see family for vacation, I initially wrote the email and then deleted it, thinking it was too impulsive after everything we had endured. The impulse came over me a second time, so I sent the email. My doctor made the time, and just like that I had an appointment for the following Tuesday.
When I went in to see her, we discovered, surprisingly and miraculously, that my body was ready for a transfer the following week. When she first said, “you’re ready for a transfer next week,” I thought she was joking. As it turns out, she was not. This was so far from a possibility in our minds, Daniel didn’t even come with me to the appointment. He was off having lunch with a friend. At no time in the past, for our prior four embryo transfers, had my body prepared itself properly on its own. I had always needed assistance through medication, so this was beyond unexpected. The fact that I waltzed in to her office, during this perfect window, still amazes me.
Listening to our instincts about needing a break, letting go, and dialing back in to my gratitude allowed me to reconnect with my intentions. This process of letting go also allowed my body to rejuvenate and reset. The impulse I had to contact my doctor likely wasn’t an impulse at all. It seems my body knew it was time.
(You can read more about our decision to move forward with the transfer in my April 14 blog: Gratitude & Gut Feelings.)
The third silver lining begins to glow: a miracle pregnancy.
On April 19, I had the embryo transfer. Because none of this was planned, Daniel flew home the week prior to the transfer. Thanks to technology, he watched on Skype as two beautiful embryos (as my doctor likes to call them) were transferred. After two days of bed rest, I drove home to Oregon, and life resumed as normal. The very next day, we were off to Bend for the Cascade Women’s Expo, where we set up a CGO booth.
Eight days later, at the age of 40, exactly 20 days after I had emailed my doctor based on a whim, I found out I was pregnant for the very first time in my life. There really aren’t words to describe that moment. I screamed. Daniel smiled in disbelief. I think the words “I can’t believe it” came out of our mouths 1,000 times. I sat on the couch watching TV that night with the pregnancy test next to me, because I absolutely could not believe that any of this was happening. We had done it. After all the crap, pain, grief, waiting, patience, impatience, and tears, we had actually done it. I was pregnant, and the silver lining on what happened in January could not have been clearer. I was pregnant for the first time in my life, and that never would have happened if we had been chosen in that adoption committee. Everything seemed so clear and everything, for the first time, as it relates to having children, made sense. It was an amazing feeling that I will never forget, and no matter how the story continues, this silver lining is still one of my favorite parts of this story.
Another cloud rolls in.
Relatively early on, my blood tests and ultrasounds began to indicate there might be an issue. My doctor reassured us that there was still a chance this could go on to be a normal pregnancy, so we remained cautiously optimistic. Unfortunately, when I reached 7 weeks, it became clear that the pregnancy wasn’t viable, and last week, at 8 weeks pregnant, I miscarried.
The fourth silver lining shines brightly: a victorious first in my life.
There is no denying that there have been many devastating moments over the last few weeks. There is also no denying that twinges of sadness continue to creep in from time to time, but there is a silver lining that shines so brightly, those moments of sadness are quickly overshadowed by positivity and gratitude. The reason for this gratitude: I can now say, with absolute certainty, “I can get pregnant!” I can actually get pregnant. I’m 40 years old, and until now, I did not know if that was the case. Isn’t that amazing? This is a huge first and victory in our journey. Aside from marrying Daniel, this is the most significant thing that has ever happened to me.
Finally having the opportunity to experience what it feels like to be pregnant was thrilling. I loved every minute of it, and I can’t wait to have that feeling again, hopefully for 40 weeks next time, instead of eight. It is such a gift to know it’s possible after spending years wondering if it may not be. Every time I think about this, it makes me smile. Even a miscarriage can’t take that feeling away.
The fifth silver lining lights the way: the gift of information.
My mom said it best, “you gained an incredible amount of information with this transfer.” It’s true, and that is something for which we are incredibly grateful. With IVF there are so many unknowns. Each test, egg retrieval, embryo transfer, and step in the process provides another piece to the puzzle. With this round I finally feel like we completed the puzzle; a puzzle that has been nearly four years in the making.
Although the pregnancy didn’t continue (which was due to an issue with the embryo, not an issue with my body – another big win), we finally learned which medication protocol works. It’s like playing darts and we finally hit the bullseye. In this game, hitting the bullseye once means you can hit it again. This golden nugget of information is, without a doubt, the biggest gift of all and has given us a new-found energy and excitement in our journey for children.
Gratitude: The Magic Glasses
There have been days when I’ve needed to sit with the sadness and pain of this situation. Some of those days even involved a pint of coconut milk salted caramel ice cream and Netflix, but hey, sometimes that’s what the doctor ordered. Healing takes time. That’s just the way it goes.
As sure as I can recognize the sadness of this, I can also see that the gifts we have gained in this process. They are undeniable. The events in January allowed us to take stock of our beautiful life. I expanded my ability to let go. I reconnected with my intentions and the positive energy around me, which allowed my body to reset. As a result, I experienced the miracle of pregnancy. I am still celebrating a victorious first in my life, and we gained information that will serve us well into the future as we prepare for another embryo transfer in the coming months.
I’ve had several people tell me since this happened, “I’m so sorry for your loss.” While I am deeply grateful for these compassionate words, the love, and unwavering support, it is through gratitude that I can respond to that statement with, “and look at all that we have gained.”
The practice of gratitude is like a magic pair of glasses. When you have them on, the silver linings appear.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: CAROLINE CLAVIN
Caroline is the Founder of Chief Gratitude Officer. To read more about Caroline and why she started CGO, CLICK HERE.
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