TW: The following post talks about fertility and adoption. I write these words from my perspective rooted in my own feelings, based on my own experiences. I have simplified the medical words to communicate from my heart and in my own voice. I recognize that infertility and loss is painful and agonizing. I also know that adoption is not necessarily a choice or option for some. It is not my intention to convey one path over the other or any path for that matter. I also do not mean to simplify the journey. My purest intention with the following words is for my own cathartic release and in some hopeful way provide (and find) comfort, connection and empathy with others who have endured a similar experience. I see you and my heart aches for you. To the mothers in my life and to the ones reading this – I celebrate you, I admire you and I praise you. I’m blessed to have so many different forms of love in my life. This one – the one of love from a child of my own – is just taking a little bit longer to blossom.
“Life is always right.”
These are the words of one of my favourite poets, Rainer Maria Rilke. He shared this wisdom in a letter he wrote to a young poet. Of all the letter writing Rilke did, this line stood out to me most.
It may be the timing in which I read these words. It was a grey afternoon early in November, and I was on a solo road trip through the Ottawa Valley, where my first resting place was an off-grid cabin in Calabogie. And I was exhausted.
Exhausted from the demands and adrenaline of the pandemic. Tired following a nine-week election campaign (of which I won and was elected Deputy Mayor of my hometown). Fatigued from balancing too many responsibilities all while disappointing people who rely on and depend on me.
Heartbroken from two and a half years of failed fertility procedures. In particular, the most recent attempt of using a donor egg to conceive. I’ve written previously and shared occasionally about Dames and my pursuit to become parents. We started in June 2020; however, after four IUIs and two rounds of IVF, our doctor shared with us in December 2021 that my eggs were on the “older side” (my words for summarizing the medical diagnosis). I was 39.
Dames’ post-cancer frozen sperm was still viable so our doctor suggested that a donor egg could be a possibility. She outlined the steps, and I quickly obliged. It did not matter how we became parents in my head and heart. Dames and I discussed it, and we decided to proceed. It took us a few months to get financing in place. We had to undergo genetic testing and sessions with a fertility counsellor to determine if we were mentally and emotionally suited for this option.
Between medical appointments, fertility drugs, countless therapy appointments, and onerous paperwork, my mind grew blurry and my heart weary. Through all of this, Dames remained the steady hand as I unraveled on inside. We both work full-time, and I was still serving my first term in municipal politics as a Councillor. I ran my own business, so I had to pick up extra contracts to pay our fertility bills. The debt started to pile up, and my anxiety began to rise with it.
On the outside, I was keeping it together. I sought refuge in the forest, found strength in my morning fitness routine, and busied myself in work and other commitments in hopes that the noise would drown out my thoughts and numb the pain. I leaned on my mama and sisters but drifted from friends as I did not know how to communicate. I became jealous of those with children, pregnancy announcements tore through my heart, and Dames and I began to fall apart.
I was experiencing feelings that I had not necessarily emoted before, and I was ashamed by how angry, envious and resentful I had become. These emotions tormented me, I was not proud of them, and I defaulted to them. It was an internal daily battle just to keep from imploding. It was like I was in a dark hole and admittedly, I did not know how to pull myself out.
I did all the things to seek patience and grace: I prayed, meditated, manifested, slept with crystals under my pillow, took more vitamins than food (or so it seemed), sat in fertility-predicted positions, read all the books, did reiki and acupuncture, changed my diet, got a water filter, increased time with my therapist, burned the baby making candles and recited fertility affirmations every morning when I rose and repeated them quietly when I went to bed each night.
It felt ironic that everything that was supposed to bring patience and grace only intensified the frustration, disappointment, and resentment. I was giving myself permission and space to feel it all, but I did not like what I felt.
I did not recognize the person I was becoming.
Then finally, the moment arrived. After about four months, we were approved and found an egg donor. She was part Irish (my family roots), had brown eyes and curly hair (like me), did missionary work overseas, loved chasing waves, and had a radiant smile. When I read elements of her profile aloud, Dames thought I was reading from my journal.
We had found our girl.
We do not have fertility banks in Canada. So, Dames and I had to “order” our donor eggs through an egg bank in the United States. We could look at two options: a single egg lot or an assured plan, which guarantees a live birth (it provides up to about six attempts, and if you do not become pregnant, you get your money back). A single egg lot provides you with about six to seven frozen eggs, of which two are expected to be viable. The single egg lot comes with a blastocyst guarantee, which means one healthy embryo for transfer into the woman’s body. This does not necessarily mean a guaranteed pregnancy or live birth. A single egg lot would cost us approximately $25,000 compared to $50,000 for an assured plan.
(It is important to share how uncomfortable it was for me to select a donor. The website language was hokey, the account page is set up like a Tinder profile, and my inbox was inundated with marketing emails from the company. No word of a lie. I received an email promoting a contest to enter to win “family support” on Valentine’s Day. I cried every time I had to go onto the website, but I persevered because it was a step closer to motherhood.)
We considered refinancing my house to access the equity or apply for a second mortgage. But this is the only access to capital that Dames and I have. Remember that while Dames and I are going through fertility, we are planning for adoption, which would also require significant financial resources. I was afraid of losing it all on something that was not guaranteed. I was ashamed that I was evening measuring fertility options based on our financial means. But my spirit was already broken, and I could not fathom breaking my bank account. I did not feel confident about the odds, but my intuition was telling me that this is how our pregnancy story would unfold. I felt sure that I was healthy enough to receive a stranger’s eggs.
So, we decided to proceed with a single egg lot. When I called the egg bank to say that we had found a donor, only one of her eggs lots was left in storage. I took it as a sign.
And yes, in the past two and half years, I have become a believer and interpreter of signs from the universe. Whether it is genuine or a guiding light through an otherwise dark and depressing tunnel, I do not know, and I do not overanalyze it as it brings me peace.
So, I made the call, and just like that we were matched with the Irish humanitarian surfer who through her kind donation was going to give us the hopeful gift of an offspring.
It took another eight weeks until we received notice that the donor egg lot had arrived safely at the fertility clinic in Toronto. This is now May of this year. Unfortunately, I had never had a regular period (I received a PCOS diagnosis in my early twenties), so by the time the eggs arrived, my menstrual cycle was not in alignment. I then went on a two-week leadership conference and when I returned, I filed my nomination papers to run for Deputy Mayor in the municipal election.
In reading this, it is apparent that I take on a lot. And I do. I’m an ambitious woman. I find purpose in my calling. I love my community and caring for others. I felt it important not to pause life or pass on opportunities for something that may never happen. Did it add stress? Perhaps. But not living my life would have been stressful too.
Shortly after launching my election campaign in mid-August, I got my period. When this happens in fertility, I must call in my day one, so the nurses and my doctors can prepare me for the cycle. There are fewer drugs I must take when using a donor egg (compared to getting my own eggs ready), but they will still turn a person into an emotional savage. I tucked in my heart, dried up the tears, took deep breathes, pulled out my affirmation journal, rubbed my meditation crystals, spoke to the sky, popped some blue pills and timed my medication as I readied myself for yet another ride on the emotional rollercoaster that is a fertility cycle.
In preparing to receive a blastocyst using a donor egg, the focus is the thickness of my uterus lining. By this point in my fertility journey, my insides should be glowing. Again, I had been taking all the vitamins and pills. I spent good money on seeing a private nurse practitioner who was happy with my bloodwork and vitals improvements. I felt empowered when she and my endocrinologist and naturopath said I had done everything possible to get my body ready and influence a positive outcome.
And on that humid August day when we went to the clinic, I felt ready. It was going to work. It just had to work. We would finally have that positive outcome. My body would not fail me. This was going to be our moment of good news. Dames could feel it too.
Sadly, we left the clinic that day with an aborted mission. After over five weeks of taking double estrogen medication, my uterine lining did not thicken to levels the doctor was comfortable with. Dames and I played hooky that day and drove to Niagara-On-The-Lake. Through tears grander than the Falls themselves, we had the most honest conversation and moved closer to the reality of acceptance and peace.
Accepting that our fertility window was closing and at peace knowing that we would pursue another path to parenthood – adoption.
After our day of commiserating, we returned home with a mutual decision to try again after the campaign.
Time and space are miraculous wonders for the clarity of the head and heart. Despite going full tilt with doorknocking and work, I spent the early part of the mornings – those precious moments just before the sun rises and the rest of the world awakens – thinking about where Dames and I were at. How far we had come and how far we had yet to go.
I reflected on the signs and read the data from previous bloodwork and fertility attempts. I was mindful that around the same time we made the decision to conceive using a donor egg we had paid out of pocket to become AdoptReady, which includes thirty hours of parenting training and a home study that takes about nine months. Dames and I started this process in January 2022, as we knew waiting through our local CAS would take some time. As we neared our 40th birthdays, we felt it crucial to balance both plans. Afterall, it felt like we had already been waiting forever and a day for a stork who may never come. We had also thought that we would be pregnant before becoming adopt ready, but we were committed to adopting a child regardless. In fact, our dream was to get pregnant with a donor egg, birth our wildling and adopt our second child.
It was now October 2022, the seasons started to change, and Election Day was upon us. Proudly and with deep appreciation to my community for the honour, I was elected Deputy Mayor. After a few days to decompress, we refocused on preparing for our next fertility cycle. I had not menstruated since going off medication in the summer, and the consult with the doctor talked about increasing the dosage of fertility drugs for optimal results. However, a review of my chart did not leave me feeling confident. In ten months since deciding to use a donor egg, I had gone from doubtful to elated, pessimistic to optimistic, and uncertain to absolutely sure.
I went from feeling everything to feeling nothing at all.
I wept unconditionally during and after our doctor’s appointment. I could feel the duct tape I had wrapped around my heart and the glue I had used to maintain a smile start to come undone. Dames strength provided comfort; his endurance once again ensuring the world around us didn’t collapse or crumble. I released everything I had been holding onto for the past two years. The thought of using drugs to push my body to a place that it might not get to, the idea of emptying out my bank account once again and having to take on more work pushed me over the edge for the final time.
But what really got me was knowing that we had these precious eggs in storage somewhere in a freezer in Toronto that someone else could use. For several days following our doctor’s appointment, I kept searching my soul for an answer to the question: when does a person know they have reached their limit? What lengths is someone willing to push their mind, body, heart and soul?
I knew the answer to the questions: I was done – I had expensed all my emotional and financial resources. My body was done too. I no longer had the esteem or the energy. But what I was not ready for was to tell Dames that I was done. Fertility affects men too. Dames weathered my wrath and reactions to the disappointment and unfortunate news. He wants to be a father. Birthing a little member is so especially important to him. You should see him with children: kind, gentle, playful, and adoring. While I struggled and lost sight of optimism and logic, he never gave up hope, remaining vital to us. But we were both cracking, our relationship was hardening, and it felt like no light was shining in for a few passings of the moon.
True love is being honest with myself, but it is also about being honest with Dames. And so, we talked about where we have been, where we are, and where we are going. We decided it was time to close our fertility window. It was cold inside our relationship, and we wanted to get warm again.
The day we decided to stop the fertility process, we received news that our home study had been completed, and we were officially Adopt Ready. Say what you will, but I hugged the universe tight that night as I fell asleep. It was a sign that both opened and closed my heart in one serendipitous swift.
So, this brings me to my solo road trip through the Ottawa Valley. I needed space to reflect. I needed to figure out how to heal. To understand that I was grieving – to give me permission to accept that I can grieve something I never had.
To realize that life was not turning out the way I had imagined.
Life is always right.
And this is when I read Rilke’s words. His book “Letters to a Young Poet” is one of the titles I brought on my trip (along with “Lighter” by Yung Pueblo and “Read This When You’re Ready to Heal” by Brianna Wiest).
Life may not always make sense and may only sometimes be fair. But perhaps life is always right. Maybe we are exactly where we need to be, and everything we endure is part of the experience in the person we are becoming, part of the initiation in our life. That indeed we need to let go of an expectation to make space for an eventuality to emerge.
Perhaps Dames and I had to explore fertility options to understand what becoming parents meant. That we had to grow closer by going through something that nearly divided us. Maybe the universe does, in fact, have little members somewhere out there who are waiting for us.
We know they are, and we cannot wait to meet them one day.
Part way through my soloscape and as symbolic transition between two life chapters, I spent a morning at a desolate beach in Burnstown Beach with this newfound faith and hope. All the leaves had fallen, but the sun shone warmly over the water. It was high tide for autumn, and I stood in that rare spot where the sand meets the river, where the forest breaks at the shore. I stood reveling in the beauty of nature, the depth of my resiliency and my eternal gratitude for Dames.
A few moments earlier, I closed my eyes, whispered a few words, and released the unfortunate reality that we would not conceive a child. When I opened my eyes, so too did my heart. I got in the car and drove to Almonte. I walked through the heritage village and called Dames. I told him about the little ceremony I conducted for myself. I could hear the peace in his voice too. When I climbed back into my car, I called our local Children’s Aid Society. Three weeks later, we got assigned an adoption worker.
And so, begins our next chapter – a new adventure along the yellow brick road. Another page turned in our life story.
Another step towards becoming a mother and patiently I wait.
Although we decided in early November to cease another fertility cycle, it was only after Christmas that I called the egg bank and wrote to my doctor, informing them that we would like to return the donor eggs. Unfortunately, we will only receive fifty percent of our funds back, but another loving couple or single person will have the joy and luck of bringing a life into this world using these precious eggs.
While I was ready to close the fertility window, I was not prepared to return the golden egg. But now I am. Ending this year with confidence and closure. Letting go so that we can let something – and someone else – in. We begin a new year by releasing grief and starting to heal; by replacing hurt with hope and reigniting our dream and determination to be parents.
I read once that “the direction is more important than the speed.” I am an impatient person by nature. It takes a lot of mental energy and heart work to be present, to live in the moment. But as I grow, I am closer to being in the now. Life is not a race, and I cannot rush the adoption process. What is important is the direction Dames, and I are going in. It’s a direction that will lead us to everlasting love and parenthood. It is a direction we are devoted to, traveling along it together. With our hearts as our compass, we will traverse through with the comfort and excitement of knowing that we will soon meet our little wildlings somewhere between the water and the forest.
So, until that beautiful moment when we become adoptive parents and the wonder of saying hello to our child(ren) for the first time, Dames and I will spend 2023 creating space for and celebrating us. We’re going to adventure, paddle, hike, grow our businesses and serve our community. We are going to reconnect, dance, play and sleep. We are going to be more present with family and friends – the people who unknowingly caught us several times when we were falling.
And we are going to plan our wedding because our family has already begun. It started when our stars collided. And it grew unexpectedly when we adopted Chevy, our rescue dog … and it will continue to grow the day when a little member hugs us and calls us Mom and Dad.
Mad love, Nicxo