By: Tosha Woronov
Once upon a time about five years ago two friends met for dinner. They sat over plates of vegan tacos and lentil pate, the air between thick with the worries consuming one of them. Her name is Brandy, and she had been trying for over a year to get pregnant with her wife, Susan.
The other friend, Tosha, was at a loss for words. She knew not to mention adoption; others had, apparently, and although they meant well, it stung too much. Brandy wanted to carry a baby inside of her, and was in anguish that it hadn’t happened, wasn’t happening, might not happen. Tosha had a two-year-old son of her own, and understood Brandy’s need for this.
Brandy cried, and then so did Tosha, over the latest in her and her wife’s quest to be parents: Susan’s tentative suggestion that perhaps she try to get pregnant. Now the word was failure. “She thinks I’ve failed,” Brandy cried. “My body has failed and now she wants to use hers.” (Tosha wanted to say that maybe she could see some beauty in this, that for all their hurdles –two lesbians unable (unfairly) to make a baby without medical assistance of some sort- perhaps the silver lining was that there were two women who could try. Heterosexual couples didn’t have that option. But the friend didn’t want to hear about silver linings. She wanted to cry.)
That was five years ago.
Susan and Brandy gave it one more shot. I think that’s what they said. “We’ll try one more time. If it doesn’t work, then Susan will try.” But Brandy’s body didn’t fail them; in fact it succeeded beautifully. (No new mother, Tosha was convinced, had ever come out of pregnancy, labor, breast feeding, sleeplessness, and new-parent-chaos as seamlessly as Brandy did: with grace and passion and love love love. And back into her skinny jeans within moments.)
Yes it was beautful. She was beautiful. Sophia. She of the feathery hair and helium-balloon voice. Their love incarnate.
But wait there’s more.
Brandy and Susan went for it again. Even with fears –of college educations and more square footage and a mini-van –thick around them, they went for it again. They didn’t hold back. They knew success in this area was no guarantee.
What the heck, they said.
And as Tosha writes this, baby Penn AND baby Bella are in the hospital with their mommies and big sister. They are healthy and beautiful. Brandy is exhausted, and beautiful.
Once they were two, and then they were three, and now they are five. Five! Five hearts joined as a family, embraced by dozens of people to love and support them.
A modern family.
But see, there’s nothing modern about their love. Not at all. It’s as old as time.
By: Heather Somaini
I have to say that our overall experience at Cedars Sinai was excellent. But it wasn’t without its odd situations. Remember the anesthesiologist who thought every gay man in our room was the father?
Well in the NICU, they were generally confused by me. They would ask who I was since I was clearly not the mother who had just given birth to twins. I would say “Oh, I’m the other mother,” which always threw them off. But I was never sure what else to say. How do you succinctly and clearly explain that your newborn babies have two moms when that’s the last thing on your mind? That was the problem. I was always thinking about what needed to be done or what was happening with the twins or Tere and never really thinking about how confusing our family structure was to people who usually only deal with moms and dads. So I would say the easiest, shortest thing that came to mind, which didn’t always clear up the situation.
The woman at the front desk got used to me very quickly so that was no big deal. But the nurses in the NICU rotate every twelve hours, so depending on what time I was in there, a new nurse could be waiting for me. All I wanted was to sit with Free and hold him; I didn’t want to have to explain who I was every time I met someone new. But that’s what I did.
I really think how we handle these situations is so telling about who we are and where we want to be. Our family structure just wasn’t something I was thinking about that much right then. I felt as normal as normal could be. Maybe if our pregnancy had been routine and the birth very average and the babies were totally healthy, I could have been worried about how people perceived us. But I just couldn’t with everything else going on. I’m happy that my brain was otherwise occupied for more pressing matters.
One day in the NICU, I was sitting and holding Free in the rocking chair next to his station. I couldn’t move him far because all the monitors kept him attached to that area. The attending doctor that day was an older gentleman who clearly knew his stuff. He went from baby to baby knocking out all the things that needed to be done and was clearly insightful about how to handle each situation. When he got to Free, he read through the chart and asked the nurse why they were running some blood test on Free when his mother’s blood type was not O+ (Tere is A+). Since I overheard the conversation and wanted to be helpful, I simply said “Because I’m O+”. He looked at me and said “And who are you?” in a short, curt voice. The nurse stepped in between me and the doctor and turned her back to me. I smirked, realizing what she was about to do. There was a good bit of discussion in hushed voices with the doctor moving his head sideways to take a look at me once or twice. When it was all over and the nurse had clearly explained that Free had two moms and that we had used my eggs with an anonymous sperm donor but Tere had carried, the doctor sort of shook his head just a tiny bit almost like he was trying to get all the marbles to settle in but then went about his work, business as usual. Just the way it should be.
By this time, Free was also struggling to eat. He would take a bottle on one feeding but worked so hard to get it all in that he was exhausted and refused to wake and eat for his next feeding. They inserted a feeding tube through his nose and down into his stomach. They were trying to get as many calories in that little boy as possible. Holding him was challenging but once I sat down in the rocking chair with him, I never wanted to leave. I think I took a number of naps with him there in my arms.
March 11th, 9:00am
We were rolling with the punches, realizing that Free was going to be fine with a little help from the NICU doctors even though no one knew when he would be ready to go home. I arrived to the hospital again with coffee in hand, ready to take on the day’s challenges. When I walked into the room Tere said “They’ve got Izzy for an x-ray. She’s stopped eating. You have to go be with her.”
My head nearly exploded…not Izzy too.
By: Heather Somaini
March 9th – 10:00a
“They took Free to the NICU at midnight.”
I stood there staring at Tere. My “second day parent” high crashed to the ground. I must have misunderstood her, right? Why would they take Free to the NICU? That was for super small and sick babies. Free was just under 6 lbs. and had been fine when I left the night before.
“What? Why?” I asked. My heart was racing. My head was spinning. I was running through every scenario, every possibility in my head desperately trying to figure out what needed to happen next. Tere told me that Free’s breathing had gotten steadily worse in the night and they admitted him into the NICU so they could give him oxygen.
It made sense but I was in shock. How could I have slept so soundly while all this was going on? Why wasn’t I there when my family needed me? Why didn’t Tere call me??? In the five seconds all of that ran through my mind, Tere said I should go to the NICU and check in on Free. Of course!
“Where is it?” I was sort of overwhelmed and completely freaked out that they had taken our son some place and neither of us even knew where it was! I took the elevator upstairs and saw the woman at the desk. I signed in, got a badge, and she escorted me into the NICU. “Escorted me into the NICU” – it sounds so orderly and normal but to be truthful, it was the longest, hardest, most heart-wrenching walk I’ve ever taken. The walls are lined with photos and stories of babies that came to the NICU in devastatingly bad condition – some as small as one pound. They are ultimately success stories which are incredibly powerful and uplifting.
But the other side of it is what fills your head during that long walk. No parent wants to think that their brand new baby is now in this category of sick. No parent wants to think that their brand new baby needs this much help just to survive. No parent wants to think that their brand new baby isn’t like everyone else and able to go home.
I had to wash my hands for what felt like an extraordinary amount of time, an eternity. The whole place felt foreign to me. Scary in fact. I knew when we went through the doors I would see things that I wasn’t sure I wanted to see. We entered Bay 1 – almost every baby admitted to the NICU is placed in Bay 1. It’s where the babies most in need go. As they get progressively stronger and healthier, they advance to Bay 2, then Bay 3, all the way to Bay 6 and then they’re out – sent home to be like everyone else.
But Bay 1 is sort of intense. It’s deathly quiet with monitors beeping and nurses and doctors going about their work with an efficiency that is hard to explain. I was a stranger in this new world, not sure of my surroundings and wobbly on my feet. I walked past baby after baby on my way to Free. Some of them were very ill but all sick and fighting for their lives. I tried not to look but I couldn’t help myself. It all seemed so sad.
I finally got to Free, sleeping soundly with a few tubes sticking out of him. He was on oxygen alright. He was bundled up tight. My precious little boy asleep in this new place. Everything was taking a little getting used to in my new world and I had only been a parent for a day and a half. I was terrified of what tomorrow would bring.
The weeks started to go by. I could say they flew but in actuality they crawled, dragging themselves across the floor inch by inch. My days were long, my nights longer and my weekends packed with trying to get the house ready for my family to come home…one day.
Tere became a prolific internet shopper –she still is to this day – I think it’s becoming an addiction. Every night after my couple hours at the hospital, I would come home to a stack of boxes near the front door. I would open them all up and call Tere to tell her what the day’s shipments were. She outfitted the babies in pretty much everything they needed from her bed, without seeing any of it in person.
I emailed updates to our friends and family often. Many came to visit. We had our birthdays in that hotel – I mean hospital. It felt like a hotel after awhile. I came and went whenever I wanted. I had a special parking card. The nurses all knew me and I could pretty much do anything I wanted. On some nights I would wander down to the nursery and see if there were any new babies to admire. I would think about how big they looked, so sweet and innocent. I wondered if mine would ever make it to the nursery.
I remember one dark night driving home late, making my way up the twisting canyon. It all became incredibly real. I could no longer keep my mind busy with work or baby preparations or my schedule. I couldn’t focus on what Tere needed or what my family needed from me anymore. There was no way to keep the thoughts away. And they came, in a rush.
Anger at first and then frustration. There was no denying the fact that I had no control over what was happening, no ability to influence the outcome of our situation. Lives hung in the balance of everything we did and I had no power over it. Every day I would askTere to ask questions of Dr. C and rarely did I get back answers that satisfied me. Every day, Dr. C was in control of our lives, making decisions for us. I started to imagine that those decisions came without a cost, that the outcome was only important to us and if she decided incorrectly, I could be left with a challenging and difficult situation for the rest of my life. But Dr. C would move on and not have a worry in the world.
Knowing that your life hangs in the balance of someone else’s decisions is impossible to understand for someone like me. It’s almost inconceivable. It required this very specific circumstance to make it clear to me that I had to let go. I had to let go of believing that I could convince everyone around me that I knew best. I had to let go of thinking I was controlling the outcome.
I needed to trust. I needed to trust Dr. C, Tere, the nurses, Dr. P, Dr. S…everyone. I needed to trust that the universe was fundamentally good and wouldn’t give me anything I couldn’t handle. I don’t know when it happened. I can’t pinpoint the date. But by the time March 7th rolled around, my entire life, everything I knew to be sacred and true, was not in my hands.
It was in Dr. C’s and I was at peace, open to the outcome coming our way. In no way was it what I expected. But then again, I never expected any of this. And maybe it’s better that way.
By: Heather Somaini
“Heather, I’m ok but there’s been a car accident. I’m at a hospital in Bakersfield…”
Did I hear that right? What in the world just happened? I remained calm and tried to listen. She explained that she was at the San Joaquin Community Hospital in Bakersfield – ok stop right there. I know I’m a little bit of a snob but it can’t be ok that she’s in some very small hospital in Bakersfield! Who knows what they would do to her there? Would they even know we were having twins? Would they know what twins looked like? And what in the world was wrong with her anyway?
My head started spinning. Tere explained that although she felt fine, they were monitoring the babies to be on the safe side. I told her I was getting in the car to come up there but she reassured me that she was fine, that this was just a precaution and she was sure she would be back on the road in no time.
Wait, what in the world even happened? How big of a car accident? Where was she hit? How was my car? She explained that the paramedics – wait what? – PARAMEDICS!!!!!! An ambulance and paramedics were involved? It just kept getting worse.
Tere finally told me that soon after getting on the 5 South in Bakersfield, she was rear-ended and the force pushed her into the car ahead of her. Classic accordion move. Both drivers got out and asked her if she was ok. When she explained that she was pregnant, both men immediately called 911. Although a little shaken up, Tere felt fine. The paramedics recommended that she be checked thoroughly at the hospital and advised that leaving my car on the freeway would be problematic. So they suggested she follow the ambulance in her car to the nearby hospital. And that’s what she did.
After being on the monitors for an hour or so, it was clear that Tere was having what they call “uterine irritability”, which can be a pre-cursor to pre-term labor. It’s basically mini-contractions that you almost can’t feel. They wanted to give her a drug called Terbutaline . I was officially freaked out. They wanted to give her what??? In Bakersfield???
I told Tere to NOT allow them to do anything before we spoke with our doctors. I paged Dr. C and she called me back within a few minutes. She started asking me questions to which I didn’t have the answers. I immediately connected us on a conference call with Tere. Dr. C asked if the accident had caused her to hit her stomach or torso on the steering wheel. Tere replied that she hadn’t. Phew – that was good news!!
Tere explained to Dr. C that the doctors in Bakersfield wanted to give her this Terbutaline drug for the uterine irritability. I was highly suspect of anything they wanted to do up there and I felt completely useless down here in LA. Luckily, Dr. C was fine with them giving Tere the Terbutaline and said it wouldn’t hurt and could easily help. She felt like the shock of the car accident probably upset her system and this drug, along with some fluids and a little time in bed, would do her a world of good.
And sure enough, that’s exactly what happened. A couple of hours later, they released Tere and she drove my very smashed car home. She was fine. She was home and fine. I held her tight that night realizing how fragile life can be and how fast things can happen to change our lives. I really had no idea how quickly things would change and looking back now, I’m glad I didn’t. It would have been too much to take in all at once. But that night she was mine, in my arms, safe. Nothing could be better.
My car on the other hand…
By: Heather Somaini
Sleep. It’s good to sleep when you don’t want to think or feel. It was the day after Tere’s D&C procedure, Saturday. I had to be down south for a class I was taking so I let Tere sleep in.
The funny thing about a loss like a miscarriage is that you think you have it all under control and you’re completely logical about it. I understood what happened and even knew it was common – my brother and sister-in-law had the exact same thing happen earlier that year. But this kind of loss eats away at you slowly, turning your soul black, a tiny bit at a time. You don’t notice it at first and then six months down the road you realize you’re miserable and angry and the last person anyone wants to spend time with. And I’ll be honest, I don’t think that loss and that blackness goes away until you have a baby in your arms. It’s the only thing that makes you forget about the baby you pinned your hopes and dreams on. It’s the oddest experience and no one warns you; there’s no real advice from anyone coming your way. Everyone just wants you to move on as if it never happened.
I came back from my class in the early afternoon and our new fabulous coffee table had been delivered. Tere was sad, staring at our new piece of furniture. I took this Jonathon Adler ceramic bull and put it on the table. Tere and I looked at each other and shook our heads no – it was way too small. Tere said that she had seen a ceramic horse at the store that would look great. It was the right size and proportion for the table. We agreed it would be perfect but silly expensive. I said we could go “look”. What would be the worst? We might find something else we like that wasn’t so pricey.
We drove down from our sanctuary on the hill to the Jonathon Adler store on Melrose. We found the horse. It was awesome and perfect. We found a second slightly smaller horse that was pretty awesome too. Tere was trying to decide between the two. I said “yes”. Tere smiled. Every time I give Tere a choice between two things, she says “yes” – meaning that she refused to make a decision and wanted both. She knew she didn’t have to decide between the horses. It was a great moment. Nothing had changed but for that fraction of that day she was happy. I smiled.
I took Tere and our two new horses home. We spent a tremendous amount of time determining exactly how they should be arranged on the coffee table. We may have even had a glass of wine and sat staring at them for a long while enjoying the silence.
I wouldn’t necessarily recommend retail therapy; it’s a quick way to go broke. But in this circumstance, I think it was a perfect way to get that smile. It was totally worth it. I think we stayed in the rest of the weekend and hid from the world. We ordered in our favorite food and I went out to get whatever Tere wanted. It was time that we needed just to be us and to know that we were ok – with or without a baby.
By: Stacey Ellis
Sunday at 8:00 AM. Today, I meet with Dr. T at the Huntington Reproductive Center in Pasadena. Yes, infertility doctors all work weekends because everything is timed. I had two follicles the last time I saw him and potentially some more. When this whole new “round” started, my husband Steve and I decided that if we only get two follicles, then we will do an artificial insemination (IUI) and not the full-blown IVF. The reason I took all those vitamins and supplements was to alter the egg quality and hopefully produce more eggs. The last IVF I had two eggs retrieved, and only one fertilized. Hardly optimal when most women produce twenty plus eggs when taking the stimulation drugs. Today, I will know if “potentially some more” really means more.
It doesn’t take long to find out if my dreams are going to come true.
Two follicles, only 9 and 11 mm big, after 15 days of shots. They need to be 18 mm to be ready for retrieval. It’s already been fifteen days. Dr. T. looks at me, “We can continue on the drugs, but you won’t get any more follicles. We should abort the cycle.” He says I’ll ovulate in three or so days, so I should pee on an ovulation stick and have sex when it says to have sex. Dr. T. didn’t want to waste any more of our money or time. It is over.
Over. It takes a while for that to sink in. Over. Really over. I shed one tear, but that’s it, just one tear. I wonder, is it bad to say that I was relieved we aborted the cycle? Does that mean I really don’t want my own biological child? For a year, that’s all I did was try to have a natural child and now it is definitive. I will never have a biological baby. Why am I not more upset? I ponder this for days. Finally I realize, this final answer has nothing to do with wanting or not wanting a baby. I desperately want to be a mom. I am ready to be a mom. I just don’t want it under these circumstances. I’m ready to adopt. If we did an egg retrieval from the two follicles and got one egg to fertilize again, or did an IUI, I would have had to wait again, wait two more weeks to see if it sticks, three more months to see if the baby is healthy. I am done waiting, done mourning the loss of not having a biological child, done with the entire manipulation of my body and my soul. Over isn’t painful. Over feels good. I didn’t realize just how much I wanted my life back. I knew I wanted to work out to feel better. I knew I wanted to lose the 30 lbs of pregnancy weight that I gained without being pregnant. I knew I wanted to not be on mood-altering drugs. Now I know just how much I want to be me. Just me.
Still, since I just blew another $6000 in 15 days, I was going to pee on a stick. I did. We had sex. Now, I am going about my daily life. I did the best I could. I have no regrets taking all those vitamins and supplements for three months. I will never say, “What if?” But, I also know this entire process has come full circle and I’m ready to adopt. That is, if we can finish off the home study and our Birth Mother letter. They’re both nearly done. We’re not even in the pool of prospective parents until we finish that letter. We’ve had five rounds of edits, but it looks beautiful. And we have just one more three-hour training in Dana Point next week and we have to finish baby proofing our entire house before the final home visit at the end of the month.
I think baby proofing must lead to divorce. The swivel cabinet and drawer lock is really a secret challenge to see if our marriage is really as strong as the plastic lock. Sure, we called Safer Baby to come and give us an assessment so we even knew what to do. But if we want the company to come and actually install everything that we need, we’re looking at another $1000! Did I mention it cost $35,000 to adopt and we just lost another $6,000 on an IVF try? We’re not spending another $1000 when my husband is very handy with an electric screwdriver. Or so I thought.
First we tried installing the lip part, then the hook. That didn’t work. Then we tried attaching the hook first, then the lip. Still not lined up. Keep in mind, every try means more holes drilled in our beautiful custom-made cabinets! I don’t care that the holes are on the inside, we just want to get one installed right the first time! After about three mishaps on each of three drawers, finally we hit a rhythm. Four hours later, we installed eight. You read that right, eight. We have an entire house to go and ten days to finish every cabinet lock, toilet lock, fireplace bumper, light outlet replacement, move all the dangerous items from low level to high level, and install blind cord rope cleats.
And with that, I better grab my electric screwdriver…
This will be my final blog for TNF. It has been wonderful and I am still happily and healthily pregnant, but the time has come to focus on the baby and say good-bye to writing under IVF parents. This process was incredibly cathartic for me and the support was so thoughtful and abundant. Thank you all for thinking of me in your prayers and thoughts. I will keep in touch and you may even find me writing again someday soon under another category. I’m off to pick out baby blankets, cribs, strollers, car seats and all things sweet and happy.
By: Rosy Barren
We won the raffle from the adoption fair- we got a steak dinner at Morton’s, haven’t had it yet. We also went to a friend’s house for dinner and after, watched her favorite movie “Knocked Up”, she doesn’t know we’re in the process of trying to get pregnant. I laughed at the irony of it all, laughed at the movie and promptly lost it on the car ride home. It felt like some sort of joke that is being played on me, all of these things that I may construe as signs, I’ve been down this road before on other tries, sitting in my car listening to the words to a song by Bright Eyes “this is the first day of my life, glad I didn’t die before I met you…” that was my sign, they can all be signs. I was blubbering and broken in fear that I may face another rejection. The next day I brushed myself off and went on with my long wait.
I got a call from my doctor today, he wants me to come in tomorrow to take a look, not to determine anything, it’ll be a day or two early, just wants me to come in. I’m not sure what that means, he’s often cryptic and without explanation, I love that about him and I hate it. Tonight, I broke down and decided to buy a pregnancy test, this is stupid because the HCG shot can give a false positive that you are pregnant so they tell you not to take one but I wanted to just to see if it was a negative. I knew if it was negative, I’m not pregnant and if it’s positive well then we wait.
I took the test. We sat in our guestroom on the cold wood floor, cross-legged waiting. It was positive meaning not negative. “Happy not negative” my wife said.
Happy Not Negative!
By: Rosy Barren
Today I lay recovering from my retrieval. I’m happy to report that I didn’t feel or remember a thing. I woke up with my partner and my doctor by my side only to find out that they retrieved 4 eggs. This was a bit of shock coming from having 11 follicles. Well 4 eggs, that’s good enough for me. Now we have to see if they “take” and become embryos. I wait and rest and am scheduled for a transfer in a couple days. I’m praying for my little guys that sit in a cold room in a tiny Petri dish and hope that they all survive. I can’t believe how patient one must be to go through this process. I’ve taken up biting my nails but I’m full of hope, finally.