Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Anchors Away

It's here. The holiday season is upon us. For many, it is a time of joy and happiness. A time to enjoy your loved ones and the moments spent with them. For others, such as myself, it is often a time of bittersweetness. A time that reminds me of my losses and emptiness. A time that hurts in a way many may never understand.  Every holiday I am surrounded by a group of happy loving people, but the only thing I can feel is the pain.  The pain of remembering and longing for the Christmases spent with my family. The pain of wishing my Mom was here to be part of these new memories. I need to remind myself that she is. She is, in a way bigger and better than I can ever imagine. She is a part of me that can never be forgotten or replaced. I can see a part of her anytime I want, by smiling in the mirror, and when my child is born in their eyes. It's time to stop longing for the past and live in the present, creating new joys. Each tear and moment spent missing something you can not get back is a moment that could have been happiness.
As a child, Christmas is associated with gifts, but this year is the first year I am discovering the absolute truest meaning of Christmas. This year I am asking Santa for one gift and one gift only. You see, this Christmas I am going to ask for the simplest of things. My list this year is for a pair of scissors. Yes, a pair of scissors. I can once and for all cut the anchor that is holding me down.  I have so very very much to be grateful for and I am honestly filled with an abundance of love and excitement for my present and future but there is still a part of my past that is pulling me back, like an anchor dragging me down. Grief is a burden, and an anchor, holding me down. It is time to let go, to move forward, realize that the present is exactly what it's called; a gift. I will remember the good times, but let go of the bad. "Maybe you have to let go of who you were to become who you will be."
This holiday season I am giving. Giving gifts to myself. The gift of forgiveness, not only to those who have hurt or wronged me, but to myself. It is time to forgive myself for things that are out of my control, for the things that can not be changed no matter how hard I have tried. This year I have created a grown up Christmas list. I am asking for the one thing that no one can give to me. It is gift that I need to give myself. I need to let go of the past and the pain and hurt that comes with it. To allow myself the chance to be utterly and truly happy. I have all I need to be happy, a wonderful fiancee and his incredible family. I am so incredibly blessed and lucky to be marrying into such a great family. A job that I love, an upcoming wedding, and soon enough a bundle of joy will be here. The ultimate gift will be you, my sweet baby. It may take a million people to fill the world, but only one is needed to fill mine. I long for you in a manner that no one will ever know. I need you in a way that no one will ever truly understand. You are so loved and you aren't even on your way to being here yet. So until that little package gets here, my only wish is for the scissors. We all carry things inside of us, things that no one else can know or see that hold us down like anchors. Time to cut; I refuse to sink.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Every New Beginning Comes From Some Other Beginning's End

"Every new beginning comes from some other beginning's end."
         Such a powerful phrase that is eerily true for every situation. Everything must have an end, a finish. Everything has an end, but it also provides an opportunity for something different, perhaps something better. Every day ends, but is followed by a brand new one. Every end has a chance to change, a chance to get it right.  Every season comes to an end, but brings a new season of change. Just like the seasons, people change. People who were once the closest people in your world, can become strangers over time. People change, and sometimes we are not part of the process. Sometimes we need to just accept it and move on. Letting go and moving on does not mean you are giving up, it means you are accepting that things that cannot be the way you want or need them to be. I may not be the person I once was, but I am who I am today because of my reactions to changes. 
         This past week presented several opportunities of change for me. My grandparents house, which has been on the market for nearly two years since my grandfather passed, sold. Walking through the empty house that was once filled with such happy memories was bittersweet. Memories that included my mother and my grandparents, who are all no longer with us. Remembering times of being young and carefree, playing wiffle ball with all of my cousins in the yard, playing board games where winning or losing was the biggest problem in our young lives. Not knowing that in time, we would all grow up and these memories may be all we have left, that not all of us would be here to continue making these memories. Everyone has changed, we have all grown up and our lives have all been impacted by various situations through the years, like the loss of my mother and grandparents. But we all have the memories, memories that were created in this house, but are not stored here. We are able to all walk away with a piece of this house, the stories, the laughter, and the tears that were started here. A house is merely a piece of construction, the real foundation is the times, both good and bad that were made here and will live in all of our hearts forever. 
     Change is inevitable, it will happen whether or not we are ready for it. But if things never changed, there would be no butterflies. So embrace the changes in your life and hold onto what you have and welcome what will come from it. Looking and moving forward to all of the new and exciting changes that are right around the corner. 

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Make a Wish

"Make a wish!" This week I blew out 31 candles on a cake. 31 years of memories, both happy and sad and the only thing I could think of on this birthday was that I am now only 8 years away from the age when my Mom's life ended. How on her last birthday there were only 8 more candles then on mine this year. I couldn't help but do the math quickly in my head, knowing that I have now almost out lived my mother. And that on my next birthday I will have lived the same amount of years without my mother as I did with her in my life. Why, on such a "happy" day was this all I could concentrate on? Why was I continuously glancing at my phone and secretly wishing my father or brother would call, even though I knew that phone would never ring? Why was I making a mental list of who wasn't calling ?? I instead attempted to concentrate on the people who are here and what the next year of my life will bring. That this will be my last birthday as Colleen Drenth, because by my next birthday I will be Colleen Parise. I instead thought that in two more years I will have a baby(or two) on my lap helping me blow out the candles. I reminded myself to be content and at peace with all the greatness and happiness I do have. This is my year. It is the year that not only my last name will change but I will too. This is the year I lose weight not only on a scale, but off my shoulders, shedding negativity.  
I am going to break every cardinal rule of birthdays and tell you what I wished for this year. I wished for a year full of happiness and good memories, a year where I attempt to let go fully of all the extra stress and regrets I still hold on to tightly. Like a small child holding tightly to a balloon and releasing it into the air, I am releasing these negative aspects of life. So my wish for this year is one I can make come true all on my own. First and foremost, surround myself with people who offer me as much as I offer them. Worry more and concentrate more on what I have already then what I do not have. Life is too short to be anything less than happy. 
After this birthday, a vivid memory from childhood kept playing in my mind. When I was younger my mother had a cookie jar that had been given to her by my grandmother. It was ugly and outdated and my mother had said on numerous occasions that she didn't even like it. It had been dropped and cracked in several spots. Each and every time it broke, she would quietly take out the glue and piece it all together slowly and surely, although it never got put back to perfect as hard as she tried. I watched her as she stuck each piece on, meticulously and as carefully as she could, getting frustrated that each piece was not returning to its original spot with the perfection she so desired. I wondered why someone would waste so much time attempting to fix something that they weren't even fond of. When I questioned her as to why she was fixing it, she responded with a smile that some things are just worth fixing, and putting back together. After a while I realized that this advice is more true and could be applied to much bigger scenarios in life. I am always the one to grab the "glue" and attempt to put it back together. I am always the one to attempt to fix things and situations, to avoid conflict and upset in my life as I have already endured enough. This year I have decided that I am done gluing and piecing things back together. It reminds me that you can spend time attempting to piece things back to being close to what they were or you can leave the pieces and move on. This year I am realizing not everything will have a happy ending, but that is life. My story has started and I am just simply moving on to the next chapter :)

Monday, September 16, 2013

The Crystal Ball


 When I picture a psychic, I picture someone dripped in jewels and scarves with a head wrap on, their hands cupping a large magic crystal ball in the center of the table, the smell of incense filling the room. Walking into my appointment with a psychic medium this past week, I was full of doubts and disbeliefs but left full of hope and a sense of calm I haven't felt in years. I want to believe so very desperately that all of it is true, that there is another place where our loved ones who are no longer with us are able to still be with us. That when I see or hear something in my weakest moments that it is then that is my Mom comforting me with the reminder she is not truly gone.  The psychic asked me to bring photographs (I knew taking all those pictures would serve a purpose! J) so I carefully selected pictures of my Mom and I, as well as my father and I, my siblings, Lou and I, and my close friends. I walked in reminding myself to be brave and keep my reactions shielded, to not “give away” too much. As I walked up to the door, my heart was beating rapidly and booming within my chest. Thoughts rushed quickly through my mind as I reached up for the doorbell.  What if my Mom didn’t come through to me? What if I wasn’t living my life the way it was planned? Will I get my wish of becoming a mother through surrogacy? As my finger pushed down on the doorbell I realized I was more scared of what I would hear that what I may not. Walking in I almost laughed to myself as it was nothing close to what I had envisioned.  There was a smell of apple pie, children in a room down the hall laughing and playing, and the woman sitting across the reading table looked like someone I would sit across the table and have coffee with. I was no longer intimidated or scared; I was intrigued and ready to hear what was in store for me. The reading took an hour and for an hour I sat quietly, jotting down notes as tears streamed down my face. She told me things that confirmed to me that my Mom is still here, things that even my closest friends wouldn’t know. She reassured me that Lou is the one I am supposed to be with, and that we are going to make excellent parents together one day soon. I didn’t need a psychic to tell me that life is exactly as it should be, that every decision has lead me to where I am today, and that I am fully capable of handling whatever else may come my way. I just needed someone to remind me that I am doing okay. That I am making strides to fulfilling my destinies. I didn’t need someone to tell me that there are good events in store for me, but I needed reassurance. I needed hope, something to hold on to.
      So, believe or don’t believe that is your choice. For numerous years of my childhood I was able to believe a flying fairy came at night to remove a tooth placed under my pillow, a giant rabbit hopped through my home while I was sleeping and left candy and hid eggs, and a large, jolly man slid down my chimney again while I am sleeping and placed gifts under a tree. Belief is a gift in itself. The possibilities are endless, and the results of your beliefs are hope. Hope and faith are good things, maybe the best of things, and once you choose hope and have faith, anything becomes possible. 

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Say "Cheese"

"Say cheeeeeseeee." 

Those words were heard often throughout my childhood. My mom would chase us around like paparazzi, snapping photographs of my siblings and I like it was her job. Always on the other side of the lens, when she died I was left wishing I had chased her around a bit more, taken more photographs of her so that I could remember her. Now, fourteen years later I am left flipping through the album only present in my mind. Wishing I had something to look at daily to keep her vibrantly alive. I am instead feeling my Mom and the memories I have of her fading away. Today, I have become the camera fanatic. Clicking away at every event, at every holiday, hoping to hold onto to these memories for more than the brief seconds, minutes, and hours they last for. The annoying one on the other end of the lens, soaking in each moment and finding comfort in the shots that will last a lifetime. Even guilty of the occasional "selfie," portraits of myself, so that these too can serve a purpose. To remind me of a time where I was happy and carefree and loving every moment given to me. To show my children in the future that there is always something to smile about. That no matter what life threw at me, I responded with a smile. This week I even manages to muster up the courage to face my fear and release some of the bitterness I have against Babies R Us. :) Nothing wrong with the store full of adorable baby clothing and supplies except the wave of emotions that rush over me every time I walk in. "One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind" was my quote as I happily explored my store of doom with my friends and didn't feel the urge to cry or need to leave. "One small step for Colleen, one giant leap for infertility" ;) Another memory for the book <3

 Often I am the brunt of jokes and comments about my abundance of photographs and to that my sole response is that I am capturing life. Pictures capture moments that may be gone forever, but can now be remembered for that much longer. Pictures are moments frozen in time forever, so long after the event one can reflect on that particular time. Through photographs, I am able to share my memories, my happiest moments with my unborn children and ensure that they never have to experience the emptiness and pain of feeling me, their mother, slip away from their memory long after I have left this Earth. These memories can never fade, say cheese my friends :)

Sunday, September 1, 2013

The WAIT begins...

I was drawing a blank as to what to continue posting because as my last blog stated; the WEIGHT is over but now the WAIT begins. My baby building plans are on hiatus as step one is complete. I thought the hard part was over for us but it turns out waiting is just as hard. "The longer you wait for something, the more you will appreciate it when you get it. Because anything worth having is definitely worth waiting for." I appreciate having the time to focus on Lou and I now, to continue to strengthen our relationship and to enjoy each other's company without the overlying stress of IVF and baby building discussions. I appreciate being able to concentrate and enjoy wedding planning and being a bride. Through all of this, I have almost forgotten to enjoy the now. We have been so busy and excited with our plans to be parents that we almost forgot to enjoy what we are now, two people in love who will soon be husband and wife. (223 more days to be exact!) I appreciate being able to bask in the moments that surround me now and know that until I am a Mom, I  can enjoy what I am. I am a soon to be wife, a sister, a friend, and I am more than okay with all of those titles :)
 After speaking with a friend, she told me to write what's going on in my life now, although it is not "baby building" it is all part of the experience. To my future child, everything I do, I do for you. This blog is for you too, to be able to get a baby book like no other. To read and see exactly how you got here and badly you were wanted and how much you are loved. So until the wait is over and you are here, I'll write. I'll write for you <3

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Dearest You

Dearest You,
    I never imagined I would be writing this letter. I used to picture myself rubbing my swollen baby belly and signing up for prenatal massages and yoga, instead now I try to picture you. I try to think of what you will look like, your personality, and how I will know you are; "the one". While I may not know those things, I do know a lot about you already. You are caring, loving, and have a heart bigger than one can imagine. You are giving and always think of others; you are going to give me the one thing in this world that I long for more than life itself. You are the person that will help me become a mother.  You have a gift, a super power. You are a hero, you are an incredibly strong, outstanding woman. You may not wear a cape but you are my hero. You are courageous and brave. You are an astounding woman who is able to carry a miracle, my miracle, for nine months in her stomach, but in her heart for the rest of her life. And you, you will be a vastly important part of our lives forever. There is a special place in my heart for you for always.  You will get the fancy title of "gestational carrier", but to me you will always be known as amazing. Because you truly are. You are giving me something I have longed for and hoped for, and what you are giving to my family is just that, amazing. I promise to include you every step of the way, you are much more than just a place for my baby to grow, you are now a part of our lives forever. You will be the first person to keep my baby safe and sound in your body until they are safe in my arms. 
You are going to change my life. In fact, you already have.  You have given me hope, and strength to carry on and continue on to fulfill my dream of becoming a mother. You hold the power to make my dreams come true. I can not wait to meet you and make all of  my dreams a reality. <3


Tuesday, August 6, 2013

The Weight is Over

 The weight is over, my stomach has deflated and I am physically back to where I was before I started this journey. Back to work, back to the gym, back to the basics. Never in all of my life, battling with my weight for years did I think I would ever miss the gym. This past week has been nice, a relief. No more doctor visits, no more blood draws, no more physical and emotional torture. A mental vacation from the struggle to have a baby. No talk of the three letters that have haunted me for the past few months; IVF. Instead,  my focus is on different letters, two more important letters; ME. My focus can return to myself and my quest of working towards another goal of losing weight before my wedding in April. Down 34 pounds as of this morning :) If my previous blogs haven't given you enough insight, I am one determined individual. My eye is on the prize, well the scale, and I can and will reach my goal.

This week was a learning experience. This week I have learned that I am still angry and bitter. That the pain and hurt associated with my strong desire to carry my own child is still as raw and exposed as ever. The band-aid that had been previously placed on my wound for the years since my hysterectomy is now as open and painful as ever. I am drowning in a sea of bitterness and jealousy. Each and every time I hear of someone's joyous pregnancy news, it is as though a black cloud instantly rushes over me. I am ashamed and embarrassed by the intense feelings of sadness that instantly take over me. While I am able to force a smile and mutter my congratulations, on the inside I am weeping. I do not want to be this angry and bitter, but I know that until I am holding my baby in my arms, these natural feelings are going to haunt me. Please do not misinterpret my feelings, I am genuinely happy for everyone else, but it hard to muster up feelings of joy instantaneously and I am not proud of my reaction. I have always prided myself on my insane amount of empathy and kindness for others, so these feelings are ones I do not enjoy experiencing. This "lesson" is teaching me that I need to let go of this weight on my shoulders. The weight that will not come off no matter how long or hard I run on the treadmill. This weight is the pain, the bitterness, and the upset I have surrounding the loss of my fertility. I need to continue to remind myself that I am blessed. That I am going to be a mother to a beautiful child in the near future, that I am so close and lucky to have had a successful round of IVF. Remind myself that there are 8 embryos in a freezer and that I am fortunate enough to have at least one biological child of my own. Remind myself that this may not have been how I pictured becoming a Mom, but I can not picture not being a mother.  Remind myself that this might not be the way I envisioned it but this is the way it is going to happen. I may not be able to physically carry my child in my body, but the overwhelming amount of love I already hold in my heart will pour out the minute my baby is placed into my arms. That baby will be more loved and will be able to read and hear about how wanted they are. So for me, the weight is over in more ways than one. Although the weight on the scale may be easier to get off than the weight in my heart, in time it will happen. It is a work in progress, everyday gets a little easier. Focusing on the positive and moving forward. Keep calm and carry on, right? Florence and the Machine said it best; "And its hard to dance with a devil on your back so shake him off." I'm putting on my dancing shoes.....

Thursday, July 25, 2013

A life filled with" firsts"

"I went pee on the potty!!!" Instantly one pictures a toddler proudly boasting this news to their beaming parents standing above them on their training toilet. This quote instead came from me this Tuesday screaming out of the bathroom to Lou. This week my progress and recovery after the retrieval has been measured in a similar manner to the glorious milestones of a young child. I am proud to say I earned all of my gold star stickers since Tuesday, now able to go to the bathroom without any ailments, and almost sleep through the entire night. The frequent urge to use the bathroom throughout the evening has subsided and I am able to sleep for more than 30 minutes at a time all night, which is greatly appreciated. 
This week started off extremely rough, but as it always does, it got much easier. On Wednesday I returned to work and was humbled at the warm welcome of all of my coworkers. The genuine concern and questioning all day was unbelievably kind and appreciated. One co worker even baked me cookies upon my return. My entire life, I have been the one who always worries about others, sends the check in messages, cards for everything (my friends often joke I keep Hallmark in business), it was nice to be on the receiving end of such thoughtfulness. Each day that passes I am feeling more like myself again. If I could just get this swollen midsection to disappear I would be overjoyed. I look and feel like a beach ball. I am beyond ready to be deflated. I gained 13 pounds throughout this IVF cycle, which is so very frustrating for several reasons. I realize it is for something that cannot be measured in pounds, but for me especially I am having a difficult time with this. Firstly, I look as uncomfortable as I feel. Second, I have been struggling with my weight for years, always have, but since January I have been focused and determined to lose weight and lost 32 pounds right before beginning IVF. I know once this weight from the fluid dissipates I will be able to get back on track and the weight will go down, but it is frustrating nonetheless. The part that hurts the most, more than a number on a scale, is the appearance. I honestly, all joking aside, look like I am rocking a baby bump. Now, more than ever what to expect when you're not expecting fits. The pain of knowing that there is no baby in there and never will be stings. The reminder that the end of IVF is the end of my physical contribution to creating my child. Most would think that especially after all the woes and troubles that went along with my retrieval, and all of the pain and inconveniences of injections would be even more reason for me to be glad to be done with IVF, it is a bittersweet ending for me. For now, the rest of this pregnancy, the creation of our child  is out of my hands. I need to be reminded that I do not need to carry my child in my stomach to be a Mom, I can carry them in my heart. "I carry your heart with me, I carry it in my heart."

This week has been a bit emotional, and on the eve of my Mom's fourteen year anniversary, I miss my Mom everyday, but this day, these anniversaries hurt more than other days. As one typically does after a loss, everything is measured by "lasts". July 26, 1999 was a last. The last time I saw my Mom. My last conversation with her, the last hug, that last kiss. Today instead I am remembering all of  the firsts,  she was my first friend, my first fan, and the first person I ever loved. In our day to day lives, we all forget to treasure the "firsts", these firsts are the moments that may one day be the "lasts" remembered.  Until we meet again Mom, I still have a lot of "firsts" to live <3

Monday, July 22, 2013

Serenity Now!!!

Saturday we got the phone call that all 8 embryos looked great and fertilized well, so all 8 were frozen. Such wonderful and great news, especially after my initial scare with producing so many follicles, and only having 9 eggs removed, with 1 not mature enough to save. This is fabulous news and both Lou and I could not be more thrilled with the outcome. Luckily this news came at the exact right time, as I am dealing with physical side effects of the egg retrieval, and in a vast amount of pain. Just goes to show you that as a mother you are willing and able to do anything for your children, putting them first and doing whatever it takes. While I am not a mother yet, as horrendous and physically and emotionally painful as this process is, I would do it all over again if it meant I would get the same outcome. I will be a mother thanks to all of this, and this pain is just a reminder that I would and will do whatever I have to to make this happen. With that being said....

 Warning: The following material may not be suitable for all viewers.

Well, it's not that serious or graphic but I thought I should still give some disclaimer to those who may not be interested in reading of the glorious side effects in my following rant.
I totally underestimated the pain that would follow this procedure. I honestly thought I would be up and back it the next day, relaxing and resting by the pool, posting those infamous pics everyone posts on Facebook and Instagram of their feet overlooking the pool. Instead, I been in bed since the retrieval  last Wednesday, missing out on work (unpaid) and while not feeling well, freaking out over the amount of work missed and bills piling up. I am bloated. I am more miserable and uncomfortable than I can even attempt to put into words. I literally look as though as I could pass as being pregnant at the moment because I am so swollen and full of fluid. I was told my ovaries are four times the size they should be, and filled with fluid, so that would explain it. The only thing bringing me any comfort is a heating pad on my abdomen. Every movement I make is agonizing, I can feel the pressure literally moving within me. I am unable to urinate, only small amounts at a time, and when I wipe it is a horrifying shade of neon yellow. I am constipated and have never wished so hard to have a bowel movement in my life. (For someone with Crohn's disease this is something you never, ever, wish upon yourself) Last night I found myself sitting on the toilet crying at 3 a.m. and just when I was about to literally lose my mind, the episode of Seinfeld with George Constanza's dad screaming "Serenity Now!!!" and throwing his hands up in the air came to mind. Still crying, I began laughing so hard that I was now sobbing. (yes, while on the toilet) and took a note from Miley Cyrus' Party in the USA song," I threw my hands up" and in true Constanza style chanted "Serenity Now..." First of all, the walls of my condo are pretty thin and at this point I am certain my neighbor is going to think I am certifiably insane and/or a raging alcoholic who yells weird things in the bathroom at ungodly hours. But let me tell you, it helped. While I am still waiting for my serenity to be reached, I am just sipping on my Gatorade with my heating pad in place. Sometimes in the middle of pure frustration and agony we just  need to be reminded to find serenity now. 

#justagirlandherheatingpad #nopoolforme

Thursday, July 18, 2013

One step closer

Yesterday, Wednesday, July 17th was the day. The big day. The most "egg"cellent day :) After all my injections, blood work, ultrasounds, and testing, this was the grand finale. One step closer to becoming a mom! I arrived at 8:30a.m., and after a quick costume change into a lovely patterned gown and a  fabulous hair net, I  had the IV started by the anesthesiologist and spoke to my doctor before going into the procedure room. After walking into the procedure room, my legs were strapped into two padded holders, similar to stir ups but much more comfortable and with Velcro straps to keep my legs from moving. So very 50 shades of grey, I know. Only more pain than pleasure occurs in this room. Once the anesthesiologist administered the medication, I do not recall a thing. The next thing I know, I was waking up in a hospital bed down the hall. My doctor had told me I would be awake but sedated during the procedure, more like blackout drunk status right there. Similar to those college days, the doctor and nurse told me stories about me talking and saying things I do not remember saying during the procedure. My doctor also informed me that he was able to get 9 eggs. Only 9? After all that hard work and prep, only 9? With the large number of follicles I produced with the IVF medications, I was expecting more. I was a little nervous yesterday that that number wasn't enough, that I once again would have my body to blame for Lou and I not having a child. Why I was so upset over 9 is beyond me, I guess the internet is both a tool and a weapon of mass destruction. Reading other women's blogs and forums about how they got 13, 25, and all these large numbers made me feel my 9 were inadequate somehow. I left the office nervous and upset, but hopeful that my 9 eggs would be sufficient.  The rest of the day yesterday was spent in bed with a heating pad on my abdomen and a nice mix of Percosets and Gatorade to relieve the pain and avoid OHSS. Just when I thought the shots were done....3 more injections given over 3 nights, medications to assist me in feeling better more quickly, so I will inject away with a smile.
Today I awoke with a major headache and so extremely sore in my stomach. I have spent the day in bed again today with my heating pad and enjoying the Criminal Minds marathon and catching up on some downloaded books on my Kindle I haven't had time to get to. I got the call today that made all the pain worth it, of the 9 eggs, 8 were mature, and 8 fertilized!! So it looks as though on Saturday we will have 8 embryos to freeze until May!!!!! One step closer...

Saturday, July 13, 2013

It's the Final Countdownnnn

31 days of  injections, 8 days of IVF medications, 7 consecutive days of blood work and ultrasounds. and today the final countdown clock begins! 

This week has been rough.   But no pain, no gain, right?  A few more days until this step is complete. Hard to believe it's almost done. Here is a few quick things this week I have come to "expect" when NOT expecting...

1. Expect to cry, a lot. Sometimes for no reason at all. Sometimes because you are physically and mentally drained, or sometimes because you are driving in the car alone and that Ed Sheeran song just moves you to tears and you find yourself singing along with tears streaming down your face until you realize the person next to you is looking at you as though you have escaped from a mental institute. Sorry fellow passengers that ginger's lyrics are just THAT emotionally moving.

2. Expect to become best friends with the staff at your doctor's office. You will spend a lot of time here and with these people. And have a great deal of appointments early in the morning. It is vital that you have not only a great doctor, but staff who are helpful, kind, and easy to talk to. Every person at my doctor's office is amazing and I am grateful for this. They have made this part of my journey much easier and more bearable and I can not speak highly enough of them. 

3. Expect to be a frequent flyer at Starbucks. I have never been so tired in my life, going to bed each night at 8 or 9 p.m. and still awaking feeling as though I have not slept at all. The walking dead zombies have nothing on me this week, as I look as though I have crawled out from under a rock. I might as well throw on a red leather jacket and waddle to the sounds of "Thriller" with an IV of coffee hanging from my arm.

4. Expect to be miserable. I have never felt so bloated, swollen, and physically uncomfortable in quite some time. I have gained 5 pounds in 5 days, which for a member of Weight Watchers is pure torture... It feels as though my insides are stretched to the max, like a balloon that is blown up a little too much and can be deflated at any time. I may in fact may be able to pop with one more injection. I have accepted my role as a human pincushion, with my 50 shades of blue stomach, and a matching spot on my arm from the daily blood work administered.

5. Expect to appreciate the small things. While I am feeling so uncomfortable this week, Lou has gone above and beyond to help out. Cleaning, cooking, helping out more than I could imagine. These simple, little gestures are so greatly appreciated.  And him coming home with an Alex & Ani anchor bracelet for me; " for being so strong during all this" brought me back to number 1, more crying :)

5. Expect to be amazed. Even though I have read millions of articles and searched every aspect of IVF, it is still unbelievable what the human body is capable of and what my body is currently undergoing. With the help of medications, I have become a producer of follicles this week! 24 to be exact :) Pending the results of this morning's blood work, the retrieval will most likely be Tuesday morning. 

Today, we wait. When the call comes from my doctor today he will be able to tell me the exact time and date of the final injection, the HCG "trigger" shot and then the retrieval. So, this is it. The end of the IVF portion is almost done! Before you know it, it will be time to begin the search for the surrogate, the person that will literally make my dreams come true <3

Friday, July 5, 2013

On your mark, get set, go!

Everyone always focuses on the finish line, the ending, the finale. To me, the starting line is just as important if not more. Today I stepped over the starting line. Today was Day 1 of the IVF. After several appointments this week, my levels were ready and a cyst that had appeared while on the Lupron disappeared! The egg retrieval will be somewhere between July 15-19th, depending on when I am ready. In the meantime I will go almost daily for ultrasounds and bloodwork before work to monitor my progress.

Today was the first day, the first step in getting my body ready for this amazing procedure that will take place. After getting sent home with a large box of all the medicine Wednesday, I was feeling a bit uneasy. I felt like a racer who hadn't trained hard enough. All the confidence I had built up prior to today slipped away as I peered into this large box of medicine. Luckily my sister, who is a nurse, was able to come over and help me prep the syringes and literally stood beside me as I injected all 3 medications. Having her stand next to me reminded that I have "trained" enough for this race, and I am laced up and ready to cross that finish line. So here we go, racers take your marks.......

Monday, July 1, 2013

Bugging Out

Sometimes the smallest sign can make it all seem better....
"When you reach the end of your rope, tie a knot and hold on." Holding on tight over here. After a few recent setbacks recently with the insurance companies, I am once again so humbly reminded to be grateful for the good things and people in my life. Blue Cross so kindly informed me this week, a few days before starting the actual IVF injections that I am not covered for the cryopreservation of the embryos. Therefore, we are responsible to pay out of pocket for this cost as well as the anesthesia for the egg retrieval. Overall, BCBS has been great in the coverage, covering the Lupron with only a $15 co-pay and the IVF meds with a $95 co-pay, but it is again painful to be reminded that since I am not carrying the pregnancy myself these fees are accumulated. It seems unfair and unjust that I should have to pay for a freezer to hold my embryos until May because my body can't.  I am angry that I can't carry my child and even angrier that I now have to pay a lab to deep freeze my embryos. On top of paying for a wedding in April, my fiancee and I can now add these fees to the list. While crying and debating if this whole procedure is in the cards for us, I started crying harder thinking that I wish I could talk to my Mom about all this, ask her opinion, tell her about all these overwhelming feelings I am experiencing. At this moment, I just needed my Mom to give me a huge hug and remind me it will all be okay. Through my tears I glanced at the screen door and saw a large bug grasping onto the screen. As I walked closer I noticed it was a praying mantis glaring back at me. " The praying mantis shows the way. A symbol of good fortune, peace, and happiness headed your way." In that moment, with tears streaming down my face, I knew it was and is going to be okay. Thanks for the reminder Mom <3

Monday, June 24, 2013

All Aboard!

Day 11. All aboard the roller coaster ride of emotions. Please remain seated for the entire ride....I am now thinking my last post was premature. The lovely  previous heartwarming thoughts filled with rainbows and butterflies are now covered in bruises and sweat from the hot flashes.  I am currently rocking some lovely shades of blue on my stomach, and gone are the thoughts of balance and calmness. I have snapped more than a snapping turtle in the past few days and I am already an extremely sensitive person but I find myself crying for literally no reason one so ever. If this is even a small glimpse of what pregnancy would be like, I am considering myself and those around me slightly blessed ;)

I received a call today that my insurance company will NOT be covering the sperm cryopreservation and most likely not covering the embryo cryopreservation in July, so we are now financially responsible for $350 this Wednesday to freeze the sperm and $1,750 to freeze the embryos. I may or may not have told the woman today that I would bring my Pack It lunch cooler and throw those little ice age babies in my freezer for free until May. Clearly this is a mean cruel joke? Almost $2,000 to freeze our little Parisicles for less than a year? I knew this was going to be hard, but I am already feeling emotional over this whole situation and I was hoping that for once something would go easily. I am overwhelmed and just want to scream or cry, or maybe both. Probably both at the same time the way this roller coaster is going, keep your seat belts on ;)

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

You're invited! To a pity party?

June 19, 2013

Night 6 of injections complete!! Almost a whole week done, a week closer! Aside from the occasional hot flash, things are going well. Dripping in sweat from time to time throughout the day has it's benefits; one, I can never be called pale because my skin is a nice tone of red to burgundy at all times. Two, sweating in any form, to me equates to exercise, so in my mind each drip of sweat is one less minute needed on the treadmill. I have begun tracking "hot flashes" under activity points on my Weight Watchers app. And lastly, its a nice excuse to keep my home set to igloo like standards at all times. My condo is a comfortable 60 degrees, which for many would equal teeth chattering but for this Lupron injected polar bear it equals heaven. After not having a period for nearly seven years these cramps I have been experiencing for the past day are a real blast from the past that I truly did not miss. Although I am happy to report no bruising as of yet on my stomach at the injection sites, no redness or swelling. No mood swings, or attitude changes that I have noticed as of yet, but I guess that is a biased opinion...Lou (my loving fiancee) is still alive and kicking so that should be a good indicator that I am not experiencing any sudden behavioral changes. :) I must give  him credit; Lou has been absolutely amazing through all of this, not that I ever doubted him for a second (I AMMMMM marrying him for a reason;)) but I know this whole situation is a lot to take on. For me, I have been dealing with this and working towards acceptance for years, this wild and crazy world of infertility is a whole new ball game for Lou. Luckily for me, he's already my MVP <3
What hurts more than the injections, more than the cramps,is that some people I thought would be here for me through this, cheering me on and sharing every exciting detail and every step getting closer to being a mom, have not been. Knowing how badly I have wanted this. Instead telling me that this blog is attention seeking and that I am looking for a "pity party". That I am "playing the victim". Let me quickly and simply clarify once again; this blog is in no way meant to be for such reasons. First and foremost; "pity, party of 0, your table is now available" ; "You're Invited! To a Pity Party  for Colleen!" I have never asked for or expected pity from anyone. Please do not check your mailboxes repeatedly because there will not be an invitation to a pity party thrown in my honor anytime soon. This blog was and still is intended to be a way to share my journey with others. To remind people, myself included, that no matter what you have been through, what you have experienced, there is always something to strive for. That with a little courage and determination you can achieve more than you can ever imagine. That everything I have been through has lead me to this moment, and if I was able to survive all I have previously endured, this crazy, emotional, heart wrenching procedure of "building a baby" will be a walk in the park in comparison.
It makes me want to cry because I  would love more than anything to be able to pick up the phone and tell my Mom all about this, to ask her for advice, but I know that heaven is a long distance call...what makes the tears really fall is knowing that someone who I thought would be my number one cheerleader through this has retired their pom poms and bullhorn.
So, while it hurts my heart tremendously to go forward without certain people, I am reminded of the quote; "It's not where you are in life, it's who you have by your side that matters." Feeling thankful for Lou, his family, my amazingly wonderful friends, and of course all of you. Unless of course you R.S.V.P 'd for that pity party..... ;)

Saturday, June 15, 2013

The Search Begins

June 15, 2013

Where does one even begin to look for someone to carry their child? Perhaps Craigslist may be interested in adding "uterus" to the list under the "Searching For" section? I mean all I really need is to rent a uterus for 9 months, maybe a leasing program should be created? If you can lease a car for 3 years, why not a uterus for a mere 9 months?
At the suggestion of my fertility doctor I joined and searched a surrogate mom website.I couldn't help but hold in giggles as I pictured a support group similar to AA. I imagined a circle of chairs of woman with myself standing up at a podium. "Hi, I am Colleen and I have been without a uterus for 6 years." My circle of new friends would quickly drone back; "Hi, Colleen." Being new to this whole world of surrogacy I was left wondering;  do I create a personal ad similar to one on a dating website? It asks for a name, clearly UTERUS LESS in CT was my first thought. I brainstormed quickly and made a quick draft:

CT Female seeks healthy woman with fantastic uterus:
Hi, I am a 30 year old woman from CT searching for my match. Must love children and carrying them literally for 9 months. Must enjoy backaches, swollen ankles, and gaining weight. If this sounds like you and you think you may be the one please contact me!

Instantly my inbox was flooded with women who were able and willing to do this remarkable favor for me. All one woman asked for in return was a signature for her daughter's college loan, while another asked for room and board while carrying the child. While both options seemed oh so enticing, I mean what's one more college loan to add to the pile I currently am the proud owner of? And surely my fiancee and I can squeeze one more person into our one bedroom condo, right??? Decisons, decisions....

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Ready, set, go...

June 13, 2013


Ok so here we go, ready or not. Yesterday I went in for another ultrasound and got the call today that I was post ovulatory and could begin Lupron injections. I am a pretty tough cookie, but the thought of sticking myself everyday is something less than desired. I was sent home yesterday with a goodie bag of needles, the medication,my very own sharp container and alcohol wipes. The shot is administered once daily into the stomach. I always knew that extra padding in my middle would serve a purpose one day!!! After several warm-up back and forth practice shot motions I was able to inject my stomach and administer the medication. One down, many more to go....

Here Goes Nothing

Ok so now that we got the sappy emotional introduction out of the way, let's get to the main reason for this blog. If you have a quick second, please google "surrogate" or "gestational surrogate" and watch in horror as the results come up. The first few images were of aliens and surrogate bodies for extraterrestrial life forms. Determined to find some reading material to assist me on this journey, I searched Barnes & Nobles to also come up with books about surrogate life forms and other science fiction novels. While I am and always have been a fan of E.T., I am feeling as though that little alien has nothing more to offer me than some leftover Reese's pieces.
With that being said, I wanted and needed a support system, a group to listen to me and to hear how I am feeling through all this. While I under go one of the biggest and most exciting journeys of my life, I promise to share every detail in complete honesty with hopes that other women out there who may be experiencing this can know that someone out there understands. I call this blog ;What to Expect When You're NOT Expecting, because my story is just that. There are numerous books and websites about the wonderful world of pregnancy and childbirth, but how about some information for those of us who are doing things a little different? So let's grab some tissues and share some tears of laughter and sadness together as you accompany me on my quest to build a baby :)

You need to know where I have been before you can know where I am going :)

“Life's challenges are not supposed to paralyze you; they're supposed to help you discover who you are.” (Reagon)
As a child, you picture your life as happy and easy. You do not picture the down times or the hard moments. I had a vision of a life filled with happiness and ease. My life has instead been one filled with many hurdles and difficulty. It is not how many times you get knocked down, what is more important is the getting back up. The dusting yourself off and finding fight in yourself, a drive to keep going. As I have been told many times, “I was dealt a rough hand.” But through my life I have learned that if you just hold onto that hand, you can turn it into a winning one.
From the moment my mother was diagnosed with cancer, I confronted emotions and issues that many adults have never faced. I was sixteen years old and forced to develop a sudden level of maturity as the innocence of my childhood slipped away from me. My mother was diagnosed in March of 1999, at the age of 39. I can still remember the day she told us the news, sitting on the floral couch and wondering why this was happening. Why a woman who had such a big heart and would do anything for anyone was now forced to fight a battle that she would ultimately lose. Why a women with three small children would be taken before her time. I can still remember driving with her to chemotherapy and sitting in the brown leather couches and the oncologist boasting about the large screen televisions in the treatment room as if watching Maury on a 60 inch television would make this experience any better for anyone in the room. The treatments literally took the life out of my mother. She would always ask me to stop at the hotdog stand near the office to get a foot long and a Pepsi, although within hours she would be emptying her stomach. This became our tradition, and to this day I have not been able to return to that hotdog stand. She became so weak and withered away. She lost her fight way before she lost her battle because she was too physically weak to fight. She could no longer sleep alone; afraid to close her eyes, so I would join her in her bed each night. I assumed the role of the parent, attempting to comfort my scared mother, but unlike the parents trying to get rid of the monsters under the bed, my mother’s monster was inside her and killing her. There was nothing for me to do but simply be there. After a great deal of discussions my mother decided to sign a DNR order, preventing any life saving measures to be used on her. At the time I was angry and could not understand how she could give up or quit on my siblings and me; however it wasn’t her giving up, it was her body giving up. She caught a cold in the summer and was then hospitalized as she was becoming septic and her body was beginning to shut down. 
On July 26, 1999 I got the one phone call that no one ever wants to be on the other end of. It was the nurse from the hospital, asking if we could get there as soon as possible to say our goodbyes. The car ride was only fifteen minutes, but the trip felt as though it was several hours long. I remember my father driving and my ten year old brother and twelve year old sister sitting in the backseat, none of us speaking, none of us wanting to discuss what was about to happen. That at this very moment, all of our lives would be forever changed. That nothing after this car ride would ever be the same. We rushed to be by her side and we all got a chance to say our own goodbyes, and then within a few hours, with her parents, siblings, and children gathered around her bed, she took her last breath and left us. My life instantly became different, a childhood now tainted with a memory of loss and sadness. Every moment in my life now became and continues to be measured by my mother’s death. Every situation is remembered as “before” or “ after”. Every memory is categorized into the happy, carefree times prior to our significant loss or the dark and less desirable times that came to be following July 26th. The death of a parent and at such a young age specifically, forced my view of the world and my sense of responsibility to take a dramatic turn. I had barely accepted and processed my mother's diagnosis and had watched over the months as the strong, loving woman I admired withered away and weakened.  In the last year of her life, I was given the greatest gift I will ever receive: the gift of deep experience. I am now able to recognize the adversity that accompanies any good in life. My mother taught me about loyalty, love and strength. But most importantly, she gave me the opportunity to see through her eyes, triggering compassion in me and a sense of responsibility to those I love and the world around me that I might not have otherwise discovered. Our mother’s death reminded all of us to truly cherish one another, and to find positive in any situation. To live our lives to the fullest as our mother tried to do. Even on her worst day she was always attempting to smile. Smiling to hide the pain, smiling to remind us that even in your hardest moments in life there is something to smile about. My mother lived her life the way I can only attempt to live mine. She showed me and everyone around her that life may not always be “fair” and that everyone experiences tough situations, but your mentality and the way you chose to deal with these experiences is what is important. I never once heard her complain or feel bad for herself, she was and always will be the most positive influence in my life.
In 2004, after an altercation with my father and his new wife,  I was asked to leave our childhood home. My father, the man who had helped bring me into this world and had always been there for me,had suddenly changed. He became withdrawn after my mother’s death and lost himself quickly in a new and unhappy marriage. He chose to remarry a woman without any children, and quite obviously did not want children. She made my siblings and I  feel unwelcome in our own home and treated my siblings and I as though we were burdens. We were simply children who were still mourning the loss of their mother, children who needed extra love and guidance I was 22 years old and still a full time student. I was suddenly living on my own without the financial support of anyone. Once again I was placed in a role filled with responsibility. Over the next few years, I worked three jobs and attended school to continue working on my Bachelor's. I took care of myself to the best of my abilities, although there were times I ate peanut butter and jelly for the entire month, times I would have to steal toilet paper from work because I could not even afford to buy simple necessities. Every hurdle thrown my way seemed impossible and unbeatable. There were many times I considered giving up, just dropping out of school and working to better my financial situation. But as I had done so many times before, I continued to move forward. I learned to rely on myself before others, and to work hard for everything I needed. This experience taught me lessons that have contributed to the strong, independent woman I have become. To this day, our father will not speak to me, when faced with the choice placed upon him, he chose his new wife over his own children. I used to feel so upset and lost by this, now an orphan. I had lost my mother through death and now my father through his own decision.  I have tried several times to mend the situation with him, knowing that life is too short to live with such regret and bitterness in my heart, however, he is not interested in doing so. It is now him I feel badly for, as he is missing out on being part of his  daughter’s life. He is the one who will be replaced walking me down the aisle in April. It is no longer myself that I feel badly for, it is him as he has chosen a life of solitude.
It was during this time I was diagnosed with cervical cancer. After numerous failed surgeries, I underwent a hysterectomy at the age of 24. I had gone into my doctor’s office thinking I was there for biopsies to be done. He had called me on a Friday and told me the results were back, first PAP since my CO2 laser ablation in July, and the results were not good, so it was biopsy time. I sat on the table, undressed, and vulnerable, waiting for them to wheel in the colposcopy machine I recognized a little too well, but instead in came my doctor's assistant who asked me to get dressed and meet him in the conference room. I started crying at that point, knowing what the conference room meant. It was Wednesday, October 18, 2006 and my life was forever changed. He scheduled my surgery for Monday, October 23, 2006. He wanted to get me into the operating room as soon as possible, as I am only twenty four years old and have been fighting him on this decision since he first offered it five years previous. I am glad now that I only had four days, four days to be nervous, four days to be scared, and four days to convince myself that I was not alone and that this decision, although one of the hardest in my life was the correct one. I grew sick of hearing the words brave, and “you’ll get through this”. THIS is something I don’t know if I will ever truly get through. I lost a part of myself on that operating table that day, something much more than my physical parts. But talking about it, listening to other women's struggles and courage has been great therapy for me. It reminds me that I am getting through this and slowly but surely I will be better. And that by sharing my stories, I may be able to not only help myself in the healing process, but someone else.  Most twenty four year olds are recent college graduates, starting their lives in positive manners; I instead was preparing to undergo a major life altering surgery. I was scared and with the support of my sister and close friends began a physically and mentally grueling recovery.
The surgery took so much from me; it took something from me I can never get back. The scar I know have on my abdomen is easier to deal with than the emotional one that is still healing. This situation has caused me to change my entire outlook and affected my life in so many ways. I am now 30 years old and feeling the pains of this situation daily, struggling with the fact that I can not be a mother the natural way, that I can not experience the joy of childbirth, that I can not feel my child’s heartbeat inside me, have a growing baby bump, ultrasound pictures, or just have that instant connection that a mother and child have. Instead, I will be using a surrogate, and “building a baby” as my friends and I like to joke. I am a firm believer that laughter is the best medicine, and my ongoing joke is that I will be the lucky woman who is able to drink at her own baby shower. Cocktails served in pink and blue test tube shots of course ;) I joke that it will be similar to a pizza delivery, and I can be called to pick up the baby when it’s done cooking and just leave a tip. I joke because it is easier to make others and myself laugh than cry. I have dealt with the loss of my mother, and in another sense my father. And now I am finally grieving the loss of my fertility. Because that is truly what it is, a loss of something I so desperately wanted. I know that I am fortunate enough to even have the option of using a gestational carrier; however, I can not lie and say that I don’t tear up seeing the daily ultrasound or baby announcements from friends on Facebook. I just want other girls or women in my similar situation to know its okay. It is okay to cry, it is okay to be upset and it is okay to be angry. But at the same time, I am hopeful, and excited to go through my own experience. It will be different, and at times strange, but what part of my life so far has been normal? I am living a new version of normal.
I have often been told by many who know me that my life is like a movie. To that I always respond with a smile. I must agree, my life is like a movie. It is a story of survival, a story of perseverance and courage. A story of triumph. My blockbuster has had tears as well as much laughter and joy. Right now, my life, my "movie" is paused. I am currently thirty years old, and happier than I have ever been. I am an ABA therapist for children on the autism spectrum. I am engaged to marry my prince charming, and so proud of where my life is currently. I feel every moment; both positive and negative in my life has led to me to this. My obstacles in my life have helped show me who I am supposed to become. I am able to use my experiences to channel them into daily empathy and compassion for others. Be the outlet for others to understand and process their feelings. Every challenge I have faced has further convinced me that this life is too short and to cherish every single moment with every person in your life. Luckily, this movie is being directed by me and I have an excellent cast and look forward to every minute of this unraveling blockbuster until the credits roll.