Friday, April 25, 2014

It Takes a Village

On the day of my baby shower, approximately 20 minutes into opening gifts, I had a brief moment of shock and awe.

Babies take a lot of stuff.

I mean...a LOT.

Yes, you could throw tradition and convenience straight out the window, vow to raise your child in the ways of the African tribes and start collecting rocks and sticks for him or her to play with...OR you can embrace the American madness of car seat toys, swings, bouncy seats, play yards, crib mirrors, and, above all, V-TECH.

And this is all after you have actually conceived the child. What if you can't after the first try...second try...17th try...4 years? What if you've taken the fertility drugs, scientifically timed the sex, made all of your doctors appointments, gotten the ultrasounds, taken more drugs, had more people working down there than you ever dreamed medically necessary and still...nothing? It happens. It takes both hands for me to count the number of couples that I know personally who have been down or are currently on this path. They didn't know this about themselves when they walked across the stage to collect their college diplomas...or when they took the first job...or nervously dressed for that first date with their eventual spouse. They didn't know it as they signed the marriage license and the mortgage. They didn't usually even know it during the first 4 or 5 months of trying for a aunts and nosy neighbors poked them in the ribs and whispered, "when are you going to have a baby?"

Although I've never been through it, I know enough friends who have that I imagine it's like being tied to the train tracks. That ticking clock of a train is nothing but a faint whistle. There is plenty of time. Closer it comes and you get to work. You methodically follow the steps to break free. Nothing. You get frustrated, you regroup, and try again. Nothing. You struggle. Nothing. You fight like hell. Nothing. You feel utterly and completely helpless as it barrels toward you and you are no closer to getting what you want.

Maybe it's not like that at all.

But it sure is disappointing, frustrating, and heartbreaking to watch so I can only imagine what it's like to live it.

I have friends who are coming to peace with their child-free life. I have friends who are just realizing that may be their life. I have friends who have successfully grown their family through the help of fertility treatments. And I have friends pursuing treatment right now. (Sometimes I text love letters to my friend's ovaries because she said they feel abused and unloved. I tell them they are simply ravishing and youthful. It makes her laugh and reminds her that the whole of her is beautiful and that, although she knows better, she is not a failure as a woman.) I also have friends pursuing or completing adoption, with its own rollercoaster ride of emotions and outcomes.

Today concludes National Infertility Awareness Week. I give a lot of credit to the 30-something women who are gathering the courage to publicly share their stories. It IS difficult to not feel like you've failed yourself, your spouse, your family. It's challenging to feel successful when your body won't do the one thing it's supposed to do as a woman (or man). (To this day, I feel like I failed me, Neal, our family, but most of all Shepherd. I was his home for 9 months and I couldn't pull that off. It's not a debilitating thought, but it's always just kind of there.) I know that women for decades have struggled with infertility and that many have tried to support others by sharing their own stories. And perhaps it's because I now fall into the prime-babymaking-age-bracket, but it seems as though more and more women and couples are saying "This is us. We are the face of Infertility and this is our experience. What you are saying to us, about us, is insensitive and hurtful. We've chosen to pursue medical options/live child-free/adopt and we expect you to respect our family, regardless of what it looks like." Our families are our most intimate support group and I applaud anyone who can bring theirs to the spotlight with the intention of bringing hope to others.

To that end, is creating a support structure for couples and families experiencing infertility all over the world. Their homepage lists links for infertility overview, diagnosis and management, family building options, support and services, and well as a way to give back. This year, they are celebrating their 25th anniversary. I am so proud to recognize my brave and beautiful friend, Brooke, as a spokesperson for RESOLVE and for infertility, in general. She is a tireless representative of the strength we can garner from tackling life with others in the same situation. Her bond of 75, 75Strong, represents women in all phases of life, with and without children. And today through Sunday, 75Strong Supporting RESOLVE is hosting a Facebook silent auction to benefit her fundraising efforts for RESOLVE and infertility research. Here are just a few of the items up for auction:

The winner of the professional photo will choose between the first photo, of Grand Central Station in NYC and the second, of Radio City Music Hall in NYC. I'm particularly fond of the photos because the photographer, Michael of MRB Photography (aka "matchdrum" on Etsy) has decided to donate 100% of his Etsy sales to his friends who are in the process of adopting. takes a village. Often just as expensive as rounds of infertility medications, adoption can get costly before it even begins. I'm so supportive of Michael, his mission, and the couple he is helping that I purchased this one for our personal collection:
As there is almost nothing to do at Ft. Knox (aside from Mayberry Days, which just happens to be this weekend and on our agenda for Saturday), we find ourselves in Louisville a lot. We spent one entire day celebrating Christmas at The Galt House (the twin spires) and we spent Easter afternoon last weekend aboard The Belle of Louisville (the triple-decker boat docked on the river). We also giggled at an enchanted Blue as he watched truckers whiz by the mammoth windows of the Muhammad Ali museum (far left). Louisville is becoming our home away from home and it's never more beautiful than at Christmas - as evidenced by the red and green lights glowing from the dome of the Humana Building. I will probably own several more prints before it's all said and done. This one, an impeccable capture of the Eastern Kentucky University library (Neal's alma mater),
and this one, a sliver of a mosaic depicting a prince and princess and the fairy godmother (in a park in Nashville),
have been tugging at me for almost 3 days now. And knowing that the money is helping to bring a baby home to the most perfect and loving home...I wish I could buy 100 copies of them all.

It takes a have a baby, bring home a baby, raise a baby. Whether it's our own children or our best friend's, we are now raising the next generation and it's on us to make it successful. We can donate, adopt, pray, support, shower, love, cry, laugh, pay and a thousand other verbs, but it takes all of us. We must do what we can.

Please stop by 75Strong Supporting RESOLVE to bid on the auction this weekend. But if you outbid me on the cookies or the custom silhouette, I will go to the mattresses. I have a semi-deep ziploc baggy of dollars and I'm not afraid to use it.

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