Saturday, September 6, 2014

Out of the closet

Monday August 25th was a big day for us.  We went back to the doctor to check up on Baby O, saw our first 4-d ultrasound, and since those things went well-  we finally came out on FB!

Over the years of trying to conceive, FB has been a somewhat treacherous place for me.  In fact, there was a period of time after my last miscarriage when I couldn't go on FB at all.  I remember being at the mall on Black Friday with my mother, just after learning that I would never be able to carry a baby since our last grand effort had once again ended in heartbreak.  I was standing in line to make a purchase and checking FB as I often do to pass time.  My sister-in-law had just had her baby and she posted an adorable photo of him with the words "Beyond Grateful this year".  I had such a visceral reaction to that post because I was feeling exactly the opposite at that moment.  I was bitter and sad and feeling sorry for myself.  And mad at myself for having these feelings because I should be feeling happy about my sweet baby nephew.  I burst into tears and had to leave the store, leaving my mom to make the purchase.  I crumbled when I got into the mall area and just fell apart.  So much so that a sweet elderly women came up and asked me if I was okay.  In that moment I wasn't.

At the same time, if it weren't for FB, I never would have met Ellen.  So while I have at times hated FB and all its ultrasound pictures, birth announcements and Mother's Day tributes, I also have a special place in my heart for the social media time-suck.

Several years ago,  I saw an acquaintance had "liked" someone's FB status and it stuck with me.  It was something to the effect of "After years of shots and fertility clinics we are excited to announce that we are finally expecting".  For once, I saw a pregnancy announcement that wasn't painful to read.  I remember thinking "One day I will make make a pregnancy announcement on FB similar to that one. " I vowed that my announcement would not make people want to unfollow me, but instead would inspire hope in those who were also struggling and let them know that they were not alone.  Over the years when we did get pregnant, Jason and I crafted various mock announcements to that end.  When we miscarried a part of me was convinced I had somehow jinxed the pregnancy by drafting an announcement too soon.  So it was pretty scary when we finally hit "post" on the status update that Monday, but at 25 weeks with a positive report from the specialist we felt like we were finally ready to come out of the infertility closet.

After many, many revisions, this is what Jason and I came up with:

Starting a family has not been as easy for Jason and I as we had hoped. Our journey to parenthood has been filled with countless doctors visits, shots, tears and heartbreak. Because of the incredible selflessness of our amazing gestational surrogate Ellen and her husband Chris, Jason and I are so grateful to announce that we are finally expecting a baby boy. After nearly five years and four miscarriages, we are 25 weeks closer than we've ever been to holding our son. Thank you Ellen and Chris for giving us the chance to become a family. We love you guys!

While we feel extremely blessed to have a child on the way, we are also painfully aware of many people who are struggling to have children of their own and others who are still waiting to find the right partner to start their family with. No matter where you are in your personal journey, try not to lose sight of the hope and possibilities to come. Life may not always be what we expected, but sometimes the unexpected can be a wonderful blessing.

For those interested, we have a blog initially intended to help us find our surrogate (it worked!) and later to document our journey. Here's a link to our first post way back in January. 

We received a great deal of love and support.  Several people privately reached out to both Jason and I and thanked us for sharing in the way that we did. Others shared their own personal struggles.  Many commented that they had no idea that we were going through such a hard time.  One friend suggested that it must have been awkward for us to share with the world the unconventional road we took to get our child. Actually,  awkward was not the word I would use.  Instead, it actually felt liberating.   For so many years we had this private pain that no one knew about.  And then we had this amazing exciting news that we didn't feel comfortable sharing yet.  So when we finally go to this place where we could actually exhale and believe that this was really happening- that there was finally a light at the end of the tunnel- I couldn't wait to finally shout it from the rooftops.  

I can't pretend to know what its like to come out of the closet as a gay individual, but I do think we got a glimpse of what it feels like when we finally shared our news on FB.  You have this part of you that only a select few know about, a part you hide from others, a part that at times you feel ashamed about.  And then, one day, you finally get to the courage to be your authentic self. Obviously, there wasn't the fear of being rejected or ostracized that so many gay individuals unfairly face.  But there was this sense of being exposed. Of being vulnerable. Of letting others see something that you have kept hidden.  The truth is, 1 in 6 couples have difficulty conceiving. And most don't talk about it.  One study of infertile couples conducted by a pharmaceutical company found that 61% hide their struggles from family and friends.  Seven in ten women said that infertility makes them feel flawed, while half of the men say it makes them feel inadequate.  It's a shame that something so common is so taboo.

This is especially true in Hollywood, where woman in their forties regularly conceive twins without any mention of using assisted reproductive technology and women in their mid-to-late forties have babies with out any mention of using a donor egg.  Its rare when folks in Hollywood speak publicly about their infertility challenges. I've been a fan of Jimmy Fallon ever since I first saw his "History of Rap" with my favorite Justin Timberlake.  My love for Jimmy grew exponentially when he so bravely "came out' on national television.  For those that don't know, Jimmy shared that he and his wife struggled to have a baby for five years. When they finally went the surrogate route, they didn't tell a soul, but mostly because they had shared many times before and it didn't work out so they decided to keep this pregnancy just between the two of them (a perk to having a surrogate is i'ts much easier to hide that you are expecting!).  Two weeks after the birth of their daughter, Jimmy shared his story on the Today show. Here's a clip in case you missed it:
While it wasn't the Today Show, and we certainly aren't in Hollywood, it still felt kind of big sharing the news on a forum that is usually meant to showcase only the good stuff in our lives. Our journey to parenthood has been the hardest thing Jason and I have ever experienced and though we are not there yet, we are 95 days closer to meeting our little man and it feels really, really good to be out!