Our miracle RAINBOW BABY BOY arrived 8/2018

1st IVF = BFN
2nd IVF = Baby A, born May 2015
3rd IVF = Miscarriage at 14 weeks
4th IVF = BFN
After we paid for 5th IVF, positive pregnancy without IVF!

Because the important moments in life just don’t fit in a status update! I started this blog when I was training for my first ½ Ironman, (70.3 miles) to record what I hoped would be growth and progress but ended up being a huge learning experience. Although fitness is one of the key ingredients to a happy life, it certainly isn't the only ingredient. My blog has evolved to document growth, progress and setbacks in other areas too. From my surprise proposal in Rome and wedding in the fall of 2013, to Mom's devastating stage IV cancer diagnosis and death 2 weeks after I found out I was pregnant. Who knows what shape it will take, but thanks for being along for the ride.

Monday, May 20, 2019

The Day She Helped Me Find Happiness

“There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.” Albert Einstein 
There are only three times in my life when I've cried tears of joy: Driving home from college on a beautiful sunny day; when my husband proposed; and today, sitting on the beach with C strapped to me in his baby carrier, and A trying to catch a seagull (or two) after I told her if she actually caught one, she could take it home. Are you kidding? she inquired, smiling. No, I'm not kidding, I replied. You are kidding she countered, and then was off in a flash, running as fast as she could as they flew up in the air, just out of her reach.

Nothing was particularly special about today when I woke up. Getting over a cold and up a pound on the scale, I decided I should squeeze in a 3 mile run before my doctor's appointment. I managed to get both kids in the stroller without any crying and we were out the door. Usually we listen to The Trolls soundtrack, something we can always agree on. But today, we found ourselves half a mile in without any music.

I've been noticing recently that A gives up a little too easily, without much perseverance. As my father used to do to me (and thankfully still does) I started throwing out some canned motivational phrases such as "If at first you don't succeed, try and try again." Sometimes on a walk, she will complain that her legs are tired and I counter that with an explanation of how being tired or sore makes us stronger.

The targeted advertising in my instagram feed has been particularly on pointe lately, with some company selling illustrations and journal entries for children that build a resilient mindset by detailing things they can control and things they can't. I'll buy that for her when she's older, I thought, but decided to start working some of that into our conversations. Today seemed like as good a day as any.

As I was talking to her about how our outlook on life impacts our mood, I found myself repeating many of the things my Dad has said to me over the years: If you're having a bad day and smile, you will feel better. Some things you can't control, but you can control how you react to them. Whether you think you can or you think you can't, you're right. She was eating it up, so I decided to play a gratitude game with her. I said something I was thankful for, and then she did.

Now, I've read a few articles here and there on the Positive Psychology movement by Martin Seligman and loved them. I even enrolled in a Coursera course by him through the U Penn, and didn't finish. It all makes a lot of sense, but it seems too easy; too simple. Sure, it's backed by science, but come on. Write down three things you're grateful each night before you go to sleep and viola! You will feel more grateful in 5-7 business days.

But I've been telling myself I need to do that; I need to feel that. I need to focus on what I am grateful for instead of what I don't have. As simple as it may be, I haven't put it into action. Just two days prior, I was trying to have a moment of gratitude as I prepped for her party and was in our yard enjoying the view. But as soon as the thought "Wow, I can't believe I live in this house, with this view and have two healthy children who love sleep and a husband I adore." came in to my mind, the thought "But I don't have Mom" took away any any joy that it brought.  I've actually thought on more than one occasion I would be truly happy, if only mom were here knowing full well that she wouldn't want me to feel that way, but powerless to change it. I have this beautiful life and yet truly enjoying and appreciating it has seemed just beyond my reach ever since she died.

As I was playing the gratitude ping pong match with Baby A, the gratitude actually started sinking in. As I was explaining to her how easy it is to choose happiness, I thought cynically to myself too bad that's not true. But knowing that it's best to lead by example, in the weeks prior, I had been trying to shift my thinking by countering and standing up to my negative self talk. For example I thought My time off with the kids is coming to an end. It went by too fast, and I knew it would. And replaced it with But how fortunate I am to have had this time, and a job to go back to that I love. Or when I thought of dreading the commute, I was able to shift my thinking to it being quality time with the kids, where I literally have a captive audience.

I don't know what clicked, but finally all of the ways I rob myself of joy were exposed; powerless. 

Negative: I can't loose these last 15 pounds and will never be back to my ideal weight.
Positive: You can do it if you want. You already lost 80. And so what if you don't? Be happy now, where you are with what you've got. Be content.

It became a game, and I was winning instead of that voice. In trying to explain how to help my daughter find happiness, she was helping me find it.

I suddenly started to make the connection that if my Mom were alive, I would likely have a different monologue on repeat, working to keep my happiness at bay. If only she had more money and could travel, lived closer, oh but I'm afraid of her dying. You name it - the possibilities of finding ways to sabotage our current moment by using despair or fear (when everything is actually pretty great) are endless.

As my daughter and I continued exchanging grateful stories, in my head I started to question why I was not happier with everything I have, right now; today. I had told myself a thousand times prior not to be sad that Mom was gone, but instead to be thankful that I had her as my mom. That she was so kind and accepting and loving. For five years I've said this but for some reason today I felt it. As thoughts were swirling in my head and I was reaping the rewards of those endorphins that running brings, a hummingbird flitted about, pausing to look at me. Hummingbirds have always reminded me of mom and although I felt quite silly, I pretended it was her and smiled, whispering "Hi Mom" under my breath. Instead of feeling sadness and loss, I felt happy entertaining the idea that it could be her. I thought of how sad I was on the day of A's amazing party when I thought of how Mom wasn't coming, and how my friend Andrea had texted me that if it was at all possible for my Mom to find a way to me and be there in spirit, she would be there.

It was like a fog had lifted, and I started applying the counter voice to everything. Suddenly, the positive story carried more weight. "Hey A, do you want to go to the beach today?" "Yaaaaaasss!" she excitedly replied. Poof, in an instant, my chore of a routine doctors appointment "All the way in Newport Beach" that was going to suck up the majority of the day was transformed into anopportunity. It went from being a task to be checked off a list into something to look forward to; the highlight of our day. As soon as we got home, I threw some things in the backpack and we were off, with something fun to look forward to. I may not have control over everything, but I have control over this day, I thought.

Which brings us to me sitting there on the beach, my heart filled with so much gratitude that I actually found myself with tears streaming down my face. And they kept coming, as I smiled and blinked, watching her chase those gulls, almost in slow motion. This is a day I will never forget I thought, and looked down at a unique rock with holes in it to slip in my backpack as a token to always remember today by. Something to write in our blessings jar that Ann-Marie gave me for my birthday. I had been feeling sad on my birthday, and then mother's day, missing mom. When I opened it, I thought this is what I need to be doing, cultivating gratitude. I have so much to be thankful for. Why don't I feel that way instead of feeling robbed? I didn't have an answer, until today. It's a choice. My choice.

I felt a calmness and a peace wash over me that I haven't felt before and it remains with me now. It's hard to put into words, but I'm doing my best, before it escapes me. It feels almost spiritual, like everything I know to be true actually aligned. It is increasing my faith, because I'm not sure how else to explain the peace that it brings. 

Shifting the perspective has even allowed me to somewhat tackle my greatest fear: dying. My Mom died at 63. Her mom was in her 60's and her Mom's Mom was in her 60's. I've never been really afraid of the process of dying, just the whole not existing thing. And the mis-diagnosis of melanoma when A was 8 months old certainly didn't help. But today, I found myself looking at those in my family with longevity instead of focusing on those who were taken too soon. That will be me, I said. And what if I'm wrong? What if I am destined to die at an early age? Well, all the more reason to tell myself I'm going to live a long time and enjoy the heck out of it, instead of worrying that I won't. Because when we worry, it ensures that we don't enjoy right now.

Which brings me to today. Part of what was so special about being at the beach with the kids was the unexpectedness of it. The spontaneity. The sound of the waves and the warm ocean air were nice and all but the really important thing was the lack of wi-fi. See, we were down a steep slope where apparently the internet can't reach. I put my phone down and was truly in the moment with them. I'd be lying if I said I didn't take any video and promptly upload it when I got back to the car, but for that hour or so, I was there and my focus was on them.

When I came home and tried to put some of my thoughts down, I noticed I missed a call from my Dad. He never calls. I called him back and shared a lot of this with him. He said its easy to be so focused with what we want that we forget where were at, and how mom always focused on the good. 

Dad: You know, after her funeral, we had that thing back at your house? 
Me: Yea...
Dad: The tall guy, I forgot his name...
Me: D'Arcy.
Dad: Yea, D'Arcy. Well his daughter - your flower girl- came over to me that day, after Mom's funeral and she didn't say anything but she kissed me on my forehead. It was all I had not to break down and cry. It meant the world to me, in that moment. I saw her at your party the other day- she's a lot different now, much taller. Anyway, I told her how much it meant. I wanted to tell you that day but you were busy; distracted.

In that moment I felt that people really are put into our lives for a reason. It's not all random, as I have feared for so long.

He confessed that he prays a lot, and in a joking, light-hearted way said "If you prayed as much as you're on facebook, you would be ready to be canonized as a saint." Smiling, I knew he was only slightly exaggerating. It's like my soul is searching for answers and I just use the scrolling feed or headlines in the news as a distraction. Instead of being with my thoughts - these types of thoughts - I fill my mind with stories of pregnant women being lured so that their baby can be taken from them, or the latest political fodder. I get worked up over abortion laws and things I can't control instead of working on what I can control: Today.

It's no coincidence that I fly to Oregon tomorrow for 10 days, and internet is pretty spotty on the property. I'm going to take this as an opportunity for it to be like a retreat of sorts and flesh out these thoughts, which are right now really just stream of consciousness writing. We all need down time, and I'm not saying that my goal is to be 100% tuned in to my kids at all times, that could drive any of us mad! But it's okay to just be with our thoughts and wonder, or fully dive into a murder-mystery book.

I'm taking a few books with me and will actually read them this time, instead of using "I don't have time" as an excuse. One of them is The Hope Circuit by Martin Seligman. We have time when we make time, and I spend my idle time scrolling through my news feed instead of turning the pages. I'm not going to completely unplug, as I will be blogging and checking email but I am going to use it as an opportunity to connect more with my in-laws, be fully present with my kids (most of the time) and continue to increase my faith in God and cultivate this super-simple yet profound positive outlook. Doing that would make Mom way more proud of me than any fancy house, party or weight-loss. She never was one to feel sorry for herself, and I've been doing it in some way for almost five years now. I'm grateful that I realize it now and grateful that I finally feel that it is within my control to change.

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

An Open Letter to Hopeful Moms on Mother's Day

This blog posting was supposed to be finished by Mother's Day but as you can tell, I'm running a bit behind. Life is busy with two little ones and computer time is a luxury. But I wouldn't have it any other way. My life holds so much more meaning now that I have two children, in an almost indescribable way.

Are you childless by choice? Several of my very good friends and family members are also. They have never wanted children and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. Their lives will not be any more or less fulfilling than those who have children, because they do not desire them. Being a parent is not a dream everyone has, and this blog posting is not directed at you.

But, if you have always wanted to be a Mom, this posting is for you. Do you try and tell yourself that you don't need children to fulfill you, and focus instead on what you do have such as freedom to travel or your career?

No one in particular in society came up and told me "You don't need children to be happy. Just focus on your college and then your career and it will all be great." Yet somehow, I very much received the message that if I didn't have children, it was fine; I would still be happy. As long as I was an independent woman, paid my own bills, had a nice car, went on vacation and maybe even owned a home. 

But for me personally, that absolutely is not true: My life would not be nearly as fulfilling or complete unless I became a Mom, no matter how much money I earned or how fulfilling my career was. Inside I always knew that I truly did hope to have kids someday. The lie that society was telling me (and I was telling myself) was absolutely not true. The argument could be made that I was being conditioned from birth to be more nurturing because I was a girl, but for me, I know it was innate. I have always been nurturing, and at a young age that manifested itself in my care for animals (even pet snails) and dolls, just as I see in Baby A.

Being a mom is much more rewarding than I ever could have imagined. Until I became a Mom, I could not have known just how much I would love it. I wish that I could have just one day with my Mom now that I am a Mom. Not just because she was my very best friend and someone I called every day since I got a cell phone back in...1998? But because I now understand just how much she loved me. When my Mom was dying, I thought of how people had said "You never know how much your Mom loves you until you become one." That can't be true, I thought: I know my Mom loves me, and I really, really love her. But they were right. Until I became a Mom, I did not could not know this all-consuming I-would-die-for-you-in-a-heartbeat love. I couldn't.

When I hadn't met my husband yet and worried I wouldn't meet someone "in time" I told myself that it would be okay, and as a defense mechanism tried to amplify the sound of all the Moms lamenting their lack of sleep and money and ability to leave for a long weekend on a whim without any extra preparations beyond leaving an extra serving of cat food in the bowl. I told myself that if I never became a Mom, that would be alright. But do we tell ourselves the same thing for our other dreams and goals? Oh, I really want a graduate degree, but it's too hard. It just didn't happen. Or, I would really like to travel or move, but change is scary so it's okay if I don't. No. We would tell ourselves or our friend to go for it if it was a dream of ours. Especially if it were our main dream in life.

Being a Mom is unlike anything I have ever experienced and infinitely more rewarding than I ever expected. I now know that my life would not be complete if this dream of mine was not fulfilled in some way, either by adoption, fostering, or embryo adoption. Yes, even if I were single. I want to tell you a little more about one of these options because when I've mentioned it to friends considering parenthood, they haven't heard of it.

Embryo adoption is the path I would choose if I did not have children right now. It is basically adoption in its earliest form. At only $8,500 in California, it is relatively inexpensive compared to other options. Private adoption in the united states, for example, is over $50,000 and each round of IVF is $20,000. We did four.

Unlike IVF which uses your own eggs, embryo adoption has a success rate much, much higher. The success is actually that of the age of the woman whom the eggs belong to. You can read more about it here. In no way am I trying to dissuade anyone from fostering or adopting because both of those are noble, worthwhile causes. But if I were single, I would be worried about fostering a child who could possibly not remain with me, since reunification with birth parents is the goal. And I would want both the experience of being pregnant and the certain knowledge that there were no drugs used during the child's pregnancy.

But, it's not genetically mine, you may be thinking. Not exactly true, according to epigenetics. The embryo that may have otherwise been destroyed is the blue print for the baby, but your body is the builder. An adopted embryo may manifest itself differently depending on the mother and womb it grows in.

Ready to learn more? Book a consultation with Jane Frederick in Newport Beach. Just tell her that I sent you, and the consultation is free. Or, call any local IVF clinic if you're not in the area. 

If being a mother is a dream of yours and a calling, don't ignore it.

Thursday, May 2, 2019

Two Puppies Are Better Than One - March Update

A face only a mother could love?
Since we lost my husband's husky about 4 years ago, we have talked about getting another dog.  We haven't been able to agree on a breed. Until adopting Trevi, I didn't realize that some dogs have hair, not fur, and don't shed. Because we moved into a home with wood floors that show everything, I kept holding out hope that he would agree to a breed with hair and not fur. Every time I suggested one, he said it was ugly, and that I like ugly dogs. I have no idea what he's talking about, as I picked out Trevi and she is pretty much the cutest dog ever, as evidenced by the photo above.

Finally, he was open to getting a Bouvier, even though it really looks like a giant Trevi. I was so excited that I had won the great dog-breed selection debate, and could have a dog and a home free of any evidence of said dog. "You have a dog? A giant, black dog? But your wood floors are so clean! How do you do it?" people would marvel.

I posted on Nextdoor and found a local woman who owned one, and she walked him over so we could meet him. He was a sweetheart. "Gentle giant" she said. All was going according to plan, until we met with our vet. His take? No way did we want a dog like that with young children. He explained that we wanted a sporting dog and not a working dog. I didn't even know there was a difference. You really want to get a lab or a golden with small children. That's what I have. I agreed and smiled and nodded, but my husband was shocked when we walked out of the office and I said "Well, golden retriever it is!" He thought I was just being nice and agreeable, and in no way thought my mind could be changed that swiftly. But it just made sense. Our children's safety means way more than not having to keep a lint roller in the car

He was so excited that I changed my mind that he started contacting breeders that day. Who knew breeders could be so...particular? One even went so far to say that she picks out the $2,500 puppy for us, based on what she knows about us and we do not get to select. Are you kidding? Most would make us sign a no breeding clause. But we want to breed a few times, in a few years, so that the kids can have the experience of puppies. We also want to keep a puppy from a future litter so that we can always have a descendant of our original dog. And the children can one day own the great-great-great granddaughter of their original dog! Hopefully, this sounds more sentimental than it does crazy.

And did I mention the cost? Most dogs that were AKC registered were $2,000-$3,000. But my husband loves a good deal, and we found a breeder in Yucaipa that had puppies for "only" $900 each. What a bargain, let's get two!  But all of her puppies were spoken for, and we thought we would keep them in mind for a future litter. But while A and I were at a friend's party in Riverside, he received a text that TWO of the potential owners had backed out, and two sisters were left. He called me to ask if I wanted to go "look" at them that night. I knew right away that there was no way that I could only look at them, and that we would most likely be bringing the girls home. I asked everyone I could at the party, thinking that someone would tell me that it was a horrible idea. Instead, I talked to an emergency room doctor and her husband, who proudly showed me video of their English cream golden retriever frolicking in the snow with the children in Mammoth. It was pretty much the cutest thing I had ever seen, and in my mind I flashed forward to our children playing with the girls out in the open space behind our home, and up in Oregon for 15 summers to come.

It was dark and we had trouble finding the home off the main drag in Yucaipa, on a winding uphill road with no street lights, curbs or sidewalks. Finally we noticed the white picket fence and long driveway. As we excitedly jumped out of the car and walked toward their garage kennel, my heart melted. I was handed one of the girls and she was the softest thing I had every felt. There was a third pup who was to be picked up the next morning and she chewed on my purse, my Disney shoes, my hair and my pants. I kept double checking that she was spoken for, and was relieved each time they said yes. 

Sitting in the kennel with the three pups surrounding me, my husband asked if I wanted to go talk to him at the car. Smiling, I just shook my head no. There was no point to discussing in private; I wanted to take both these girls home that night. The two children that belonged to the breeder went to say good bye to the pups with tears in their eyes, and we knew we made the right decision.

A lot of people can't conceal their shock when I tell them that we got two puppies. But having two is actually less work, in a way, because they play so much together. At first, we had them in our master bath at night and they didn't cry or wimper at all. Now, they are in the garage at night even though our vet said they are likely too big for coyotes, and outside during the day. They don't paw at the door or even seem to want in at all. They are perfectly happy and content outside, because they have each other and are not abandoned by their "pack." He also said that they will proved protection for Trevi if left outside with her, although Trevi would say that 1) She should never be left outside and 2) It's her protecting them, not the other way around.
Trevi keeps asking when they are going back home.
It's been amazing watching A bond with the sisters, whom she appropriately named Anna and Elsa. They are growing bigger by the day and amazingly don't jump or nip at all. Even when provoked (not by Autumn) they are mellow and sweet. They do like to go in the trampoline when kids are in there, and Elsa is in the spa any chance she gets, while Anna watches from the side lines.

When not playing with our pups, we went to Disneyland with our favorite people, saw Aladdin at Segerstrom, rode a unicorn out back, went for hikes and fishing in the behind our house, met GrandpaGlennie at a "superbloom" and took Sara the giraffe for a ride to get ice cream. 

Baby C continues to be the most content, happy baby on the planet. He now belly laughs when I give him a kiss attack, or hit him softly on the head with a clean diaper or magazine. He loves watching sister jump off steps and run around. He is very intrigued by her, and will often move his arms and legs as if he wants to join in. He isn't crawling just yet, but manages to get all around by rolling. When he wakes up after about 12 hours of sleep, he babbles to himself and shakes his rattle. He continues to be a miracle child in more ways than one.

"Baby" A now loves Splash Mountain and Big Thunder Mountain, and I am discovering that seeing her joy brings me way more joy than I ever found on my own. Seeing my children happy is my life's greatest joy, and I would go the lengths of the earth for them.

And finally, speaking of happiness, I'm back to running with no surgery required! Here I was, imagining hip replacement surgery in my future and a second MRI with contrast showed I did not have a labral band tear! After about three weeks off, I'm back to my normal 3 mile runs with no pain.