For the shared love of a girl

Back when I first started talking about the Buddy Walk, Laurie – you may remember being introduced to her family last August – contacted me to say they were thinking about making the trip to Tennessee to join us for the event this year. I was thrilled, and the planning commenced.

Unfortunately, their family has terrible luck with air travel. They got stranded in the airport for hours last year trying to get home, and this year, storms and horrible flooding swept through their area just as they prepared to leave and threw flight schedules into chaos. They finally arrived in Nashville 16 hours later than planned, meaning they were able to catch only the tail end of the Buddy Walk. The delay was very disappointing, but we honored their determination to get here by soaking everything we could from the too-short visit. That meant a couple fun outings, but mostly a lot of hanging out together.

This visit felt different than last time. We were more immediately comfortable with each other, and the kids are a year older and able to really play together. Watching them interact was the highlight for all of us, I think. I have wondered how they will relate to each other as they grow older. Andrew and Corin hit it off fantastically, and Claire and Lina adored each other.

There is no definition for the relationship our families have. This is the uncharted water we entered when we chose embryo donation as the path to our second child. In a sea of the unexpected, this relationship with Lina’s biological family is a gift. It probably sounds crazy to a lot of you, and it probably would have to an earlier version of myself. But now, Dan and Laurie and the kids are family, and we are so grateful to have them in our lives.


Best we could do for a costume photo

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Corin directing the ball after his roll




Playing in the matching jammies requested and chosen ahead of time by Claire


“Ring around the rosie…”





“We all fall down!”


And time for a break, with the requisite hair rubbing and finger sucking

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In closing, I’d like to share what Laurie posted last night about our weekend together. Some of you have seen it already, but it seems important to have the other side of this experience represented here, as part of this family story.

Every time I tell this story of how Dan and I donated a frozen embryo to a couple in Tennessee, I hear “oh what a gift! That was so generous of you!” And I never understand why people would say that. It never felt like giving a gift. It felt like a terribly painful decision to do the responsible and ethical thing while pulling all my heartstrings out of my body across three states. It felt like tons of tears and therapy. It was sleepwalking for months, looking for a baby in my sleep that I was afraid I had forgotten to take care of. My proudest accomplishment is being a mommy and it went against everything inside me to think of a blonde munchkin being raised in another family. Jon and Jolene are the ones who gave us a gift. Peace of mind that we did the right thing. Their willingness to share their lives with us has made this a million times easier. And they gave Claire and Andrew a sister. Even if she’s a sister that lives with her own family, they still get it. Andrew has a new friend in Lina’s big brother. He was too busy playing with Corin to let me take many photos of him, so this weekend felt like a bonding of the sisters. When the girls were playing ring-around-the-rosies and Claire told Lina “you’re my baby sister,” it’s when I knew this was also a gift that would keep on giving. Forever.

Invisible strings

My heart is full.

We spent this past weekend with family of a new kind. Four people already very dear to us flew all the way from San Antonio so we could meet in person for the first time. Dan and Laurie and their two children, Andrew (who is five) and Claire (who is almost four), are Lina’s donor family.


Yes, that’s my son resisting photos with all his might.

The weekend surpassed our hopes. The time we spent together was amazing. It’s staggering to realize that a profile containing a few pages of personal data was the basis for a connection like this. We had fun together, taking the kids on adventures, hanging out at home and staying up until 1 a.m. talking every night. Lina took beautifully to Laurie and the family, and the kids had a blast together at the splash pad, playing in mud, roasting hot dogs over a Saturday night bonfire, and catching fireflies with plastic bottles in the back yard. It was a lot of quality time with some truly lovely people.

That’s not to say it was all exactly easy. It was emotional for all of us, but particularly for Laurie, I think. I put myself in her shoes and imagine what it would be like to hold Lina, to see my older children in her, to love her deeply, and then to head home without her, knowing she belongs to another family. I certainly had fleeting moments of wondering, “What if Lina decides she prefers her biological mom?” Perhaps in some ways, it would be easier to keep a greater distance. But we have collectively decided that for us, the benefits far outweigh the risks. Our time together proved that we are all richer for the relationships that have grown out of this crazy-weird situation.

Laurie and Dan made the decision several years ago to donate their two remaining embryos because they knew they didn’t want to go through fertility treatments again but recognized the value of those tiny clusters of cells. They gave Lina the opportunity for life, and now our families are connected in a way that defies explanation or definition. We are grateful to them, and I know they are grateful to us for being the right family for Lina.

After our guests departed yesterday morning, we found they had left us a book. It’s called The Invisible String. It’s the story of a mother who explains to her frightened children that they are never really separated from her because they are connected by an invisible string made of love. The children realize how many invisible strings connect them to all the people they love. There was a note for us in the front, and I barely avoided tears as I read it to the kids.

I am truly grateful for this particular set of invisible strings.











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Our guests shared a fun Mexican tradition with us: cascarones.












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Pictures continued here

For anyone reading this blog who might be exploring the option of embryo donation, I want to be clear that our arrangement with Lina’s donor family is neither required nor typical. This relationship has grown over the course of long correspondence. This kind of arrangement will not be right for everyone, and donors and recipients are able to determine how much – if any – contact they wish to have with each other. We can personally recommend the National Embryo Donation Center for anyone interested in learning more.

Downpours of blessings

It’s a truth I have known but am experiencing in a whole new way that as big as any challenge is, God is bigger. It has dawned on me that perhaps it is through the enormous, threaten-to-swallow-you-whole challenges that we experience how BIG God truly is. What I know for sure is He has poured out blessings on us over the last few weeks that have left us in awe, even as we have struggled to find our footing in a changed landscape. As I count out those blessings, I can’t help but feel grateful.

1. The unwavering love of family – I am certain the news of Lina’s diagnosis was as great a shock to our family as it has been to us. But there has never been a moment of hesitation in the acceptance and love they have shown to our daughter. Grandparents, great-grandparents, uncles and aunts have cuddled, cooed and swooned over our newborn, exactly as we imagined they would. From the moment of her birth, Lina’s familial fan club has proclaimed her beautiful and remarkable with a genuineness that has helped heal our hearts. Our little girl will not lack for doting relatives. She is unquestionably loved.

My dad and Lina nap together on her second day at home

Jon’s dad and Lina, second day at home

Great-grandma Ginnie meets Lina, 1 month old

Great-grandpa Bill

Jon’s mom, a proud Mimi

2. An amazing network of friends – I mentioned earlier that friends have organized an entire month of meals for us. Many of them drive quite a ways to get to us, many of them have their own little ones demanding their time and attention, and all of them lead busy lives we know make the meals they bring a true act of love. It has been such a gift to us. And as these friends come bearing food or meet us at church, they, too, cuddle and admire Lina with a genuine acceptance that bolsters our hopes for her future. This past Saturday night, I attended my rescheduled baby shower (which had been planned for the weekend after Lina was born), and I again was overwhelmed by the love and support of some amazing people. Friends from all over the country have reached out to us with support and encouragement that has touched and strengthened us when we have needed it most. Neighbors have offered support and love. People we barely know have contacted us to offer encouragement through their own personal stories and experiences. God is using so many people to meet our needs.

3. The circumstances of Lina’s birth – I have had many occasions over the last several weeks to be so thankful that even with all the unexpected that came our way on September 13, I was able to have the home VBAC I hoped for. At 5 weeks post-partum, I feel pretty much normal. Even with the D&C, recovery has been easier than post-cesarean with Corin. The peaceful, spiritual atmosphere here at home as we welcomed Eline is a memory I treasure, and I am so grateful I was not facing a more extended hospitalization myself as we dealt with those first few days of Lina’s NICU stay.

4. Our remarkable donor family – Some of my first thoughts as I began to process Lina’s diagnosis were for our donor family. I put myself in their place and thought about all the ways this new development would be hard for them. I knew they were waiting on pins and needles for news of our baby’s arrival. It took me several days to work up to writing that email. I wanted to make sure they knew that a diagnosis of Down syndrome did not change the gratitude we felt to them. I wanted them to know we still believed we had been led to them and to our Lina, and that she was our miraculous gift. I wanted them to know that she would be loved and accepted, and that they would not have to worry for her. I sent the email to our donor mom a few days into our NICU stay and waited anxiously for her response. It came quickly, and when I read it, I felt again how much I loved this amazing family. Lauren* wrote first about how beautiful Lina was and about how she looked like their daughter. She offered congratulations and such genuine sympathy for what we were facing. She said their hearts were with us. She expressed an interest in learning about Down syndrome along with us. I just now went back and re-read her message, and it made me tear up again. I know it has been a lot for their family to process, and I imagine they have wrestled with their own difficult emotions. We’ve talked since about how it was certainly not what any of us imagined and how it has already changed all of us. But I also know Lauren* and her family love our little Lina, and I am so grateful that with the long list of things we will have to worry about in the coming months and years, how her biological family responds to her will not be a concern.

5. An awesome big brother – Corin has certainly had his adjustments to life with Baby Sister, but he has been so very sweet with Lina. His parents have no shortage of meltdowns and battles of the will to navigate, but none of his angst has thus far been directed baby-ward. He clearly loves her and is proud of her, and it reminds me of what Jon said in the NICU, when I was thinking about Corin and how he would relate to Lina. Jon said, “At this point, Corin is the one person who won’t look at her as being different. To him, she will just be Baby Sister.” He was right. This is what unconditional love looks like. I pray this is the beginning of a very special relationship.

He announced to strangers at the greenway, “I am pushing Baby Sister’s stroller all by myself.”

There are more blessings to count, but given it has already taken me two weeks to write this post, I figure it’s time to wrap this up. There is always more to say, but I have a date with my old friend, the breast pump. (That really is a post for another day.)

*Name has been changed for privacy reasons. 

A metric ton of the unexpected: Eline Katherine’s birth story, Part II

Continued from Part I

Not long after Eline’s birth, Kathy began to have some concern over getting the placenta delivered. In fact, she asked Jon to pray as she worked. I did eventually deliver the placenta, but she and Gaylea both said they had never seen one in such poor shape.

Probably as a result of a badly degraded placenta, I ended up developing bleeding issues and severe cramping. Kathy administered several medications but felt that a hospital transfer was needed. The next couple hours were incredibly chaotic, and I was in excruciating pain. Jon called the ambulance, which arrived within minutes, and I was taken to the hospital where Corin had been born. Jon put Lina in her car seat and followed in the Jeep. Once I arrived at the hospital, they asked a lot of questions and got me admitted and prepped for a D&C. At that point, I just wanted them to knock me out and get things taken care of. I could concentrate on very little besides the immediate pain.

I got to see Jon and Lina for just a moment before they wheeled me into the OR for the D&C. Then… blessed relief, and waking in recovery feeling much, much better. After a half-hour or so, I was wheeled back to my hospital room. At some point, a nurse must have told me Jon had taken Lina to our pediatrician for evaluation. The information sank slowly into my still-foggy brain. As I lay quietly in the bed in the hospital room, exhausted and alone, things that had been lying dormant slowly began to register. Why had Jon taken our baby, who passed her post-natal evaluation with flying colors, to the pediatrician? I pictured her tiny face, and suddenly I was terrified. There in that hospital room, I was facing the realization that Lina had features that looked very much like Down syndrome.

I hadn’t been alone very long before our midwife Kathy arrived. She asked how I was feeling, and then I asked about the baby. Was she okay? Kathy said yes, she was fine, that Jon had taken her to our pediatrician for evaluation rather than having her admitted there at the hospital. I asked again: “But she’s okay?” Unspoken fears hung in the air. Kathy came around close to the side of my bed and gently asked, “You and Jon did not have time to talk about a potential chromosome issue, did you?” I said, “No…but I wondered.” Those fears no longer hung suspended in the air; now their full weight settled on me. I think I choked out, “Oh, Kathy,” and broke into sobs. Kathy hugged me close and said, “I know. I know.”

Things are a bit hazy after that. I remember telling Kathy that it didn’t seem fair, after all we’d been through just to get pregnant. I wondered if Jon had said anything to either set of parents. What was the doctor saying? In the chaos of the transfer to the hospital, I had not thought to bring my cell phone (or shoes, or anything except the gown they cut off me when I arrived). Thankfully, Jon had Kathy’s phone number, so he was able to call her and talk to me. He was still at the pediatrician’s office, and he was clearly overwhelmed. The pediatrician was fairly certain of a Down syndrome diagnosis and wanted Eline admitted to the hospital for better evaluation and observation. Jon was worried about her being separated from me for so long. I knew the hospital where I would be staying overnight was probably not the right place for the expertise we needed, though, so we ended up agreeing that we wanted her to go to Vanderbilt Children’s.

To make an incredibly long story a tad bit shorter, Jon spent six hours at the pediatrician’s office while they tried to sort out how to get our baby transferred from there to Vanderbilt. Usually, a transfer of this sort would happen from one hospital to another, and it apparently required quite a bit of extra processing for the Vandy NICU –on-wheels to make the trip to a pediatrician’s office. Frankly, Jon threw that doctor’s office into chaos when he showed up with our hours-old infant. No one really knew what to make of us and our confluence of unusual circumstances. We owe a huge debt of gratitude to our doula, Gaylea, who went to be with Jon at the doctor’s office and stayed with him through that entire ordeal, all after having attended back-to-back births and with groceries spoiling in her car.

Vanderbilt’s Angel One NICU transport finally arrived late that evening, and Jon took the ride with Lina and arrived at the hospital around 10:30 p.m. Lina was admitted to the NICU, and Jon spent the night there with her.

Sweet friends came to my hospital room to offer support and to bring dinner and a few necessities from home. Jon had avoided telling our parents about Lina’s likely diagnosis until he had been able to talk to me, but by evening, he had made the calls and my parents headed to the hospital to offer their support. Jon’s parents live about three hours away and made plans to leave as soon as possible the following day.

I spent a lonely night in the hospital with IVs running antibiotics and two units of blood. I was released in the morning around 10:30, and my mom was there to pick me up and drive me straight to the Vanderbilt NICU.

Vanderbilt’s NICU team was able to begin answering some of our big questions very quickly. The diagnosis of Down syndrome was certain. A chromosome karyotype run a few days later would confirm that Lina had the most common form of trisomy 21 – three copies of the 21st chromosome in every cell of her body. The medical team ran diagnostic tests and immediately ruled out several very serious health conditions that are common with Down syndrome. We are incredibly grateful that Lina’s heart and all other major organs are perfectly healthy.

The one remaining issue, which would keep us in the NICU for eight days, was making sure Lina was able to feed well enough to get the nutrition she needed. Because of smaller mouths and lower muscle tone, feeding challenges are common for newborns with Down syndrome. Lina ended up with a feeding tube for a few days to help her get the volume she needed to build her strength. I stayed with her to nurse and pump on a three-hour schedule around the clock. Jon was able to make periodic trips home to be with Corin, who was enjoying time with Jon’s parents – Mimi and Grandpa – but was also clearly struggling with the very uncertain state of affairs.

My mother-in-law – Mimi – cuddles Lina in the NICU.

I will say this: I have a new respect for any parents who have endured a NICU stay. It is not an easy experience, and I honestly have no idea how parents of preemies survive those months-long stays before they are able to bring their little ones home. I struggled with feeling terribly isolated in that NICU room, even with frequent visits from family and friends. The steady cafeteria and restaurant fare did a number on my digestive system, sleep was almost non-existent, and worst of all, I desperately missed my sweet boy. Jon’s parents brought Corin out to the hospital several times so I could see him, and saying good-bye left me in tears every time. Children under four were not allowed in the NICU, so Corin wasn’t able to meet Baby Sister until we brought her home.

Oddly enough, the feeding issues we have faced with Lina are ridiculously familiar. In fact, Lina has been a better eater than Corin was in his first few weeks of life. We were grateful the NICU staff worked with us to make sure she was getting enough to eat, but by the end of our stay, we were beginning to feel like getting her home was going to require a jail break. I started joking about having checked into Hotel California.

Eline was released from the NICU late in the day on Friday, September 21. The discharge process was painstaking, but we finally walked up our own stairs just in time for dinner, and Corin finally laid eyes on the phantom Baby Sister we’d been talking about for so long. (He promptly attempted to poke her in the face. Things have improved from there, although there was also the “accidentally beaning in the head with a toy truck” incident. Overall, he has been curious and very gentle.)

Look ma, no wires! Headed home…

Finally meeting Baby Sister

I cannot tell you what a relief it has been to be home. Jon’s parents were able to stay with us through the weekend, and then we were on our own: our family of four. We are terribly sleep-deprived, but so thankful to be settling into a more normal routine. It is so sweet to change diapers and snuggle our newborn without tangling wires and setting off sensor alarms. Corin is definitely still adjusting to the major changes in our lives, but he has settled down a lot over the past few days. Our fantastic circle of friends and family has organized a meal rotation to provide us with dinners for a MONTH. How amazing is that?! I am finding satisfaction in resuming the mundane tasks of laundry and housekeeping, although I admittedly cannot even begin to keep up with all the things I’d like to get done.

Of course, I know the bigger question on everyone’s mind is: How are we feeling about all this? How are we coping? The answer deserves its own post. Bear with me as I try to snatch a few more free moments in the coming days to share our continuing journey. {Follow-up post here.} For now, I will say that God is good. Even when I cannot find the words, or perhaps even the faith, to ask for what I need, He is here. I am certain today, as I was 16 days ago, that our family is safe in His care.

Two weeks old

A metric ton of the unexpected: Eline Katherine’s birth story, Part I

I thought, when I began this blog a few months ago, I knew where it was headed. I was chronicling our experience with infertility and embryo adoption and would document our continuing navigation of that path, along with our everyday experiences of parenting and transition to life as a family of four.

I titled my blog “A Dash of the Unexpected.” It did occur to me as I typed in the title that I hoped I wasn’t setting myself up for…something.

And now, here I am, sitting in front of my computer, attempting on a very few hours of sleep to document for you the last two weeks that have rocked our world and reshaped much more than the direction of this blog.

Our precious Eline Katherine was born last Thursday, September 13, at 11:27 a.m. She weighed 6 lb. 12 oz. and was 19 in. long. She was born at home, just as we planned.

Eline Katherine Sharp

My labor began around 10 p.m. Wednesday night. Jon and I were watching an old episode of Law & Order. Jon was working from his laptop, as he usually is in the evenings. I’d had plenty of Braxton Hicks contractions for months, but something about these made me take notice. I didn’t say anything at first but just kept an eye on the clock. The contractions were coming about 10 minutes apart. Around 10:30, I casually asked Jon, “So… How’s your work load?” He looked at me for a moment and said, “It would be very inconvenient if she came now.” I said, “Well, that was probably inevitable.” I told him I wasn’t sure what I was feeling was labor, but it was a strong possibility.

Just before heading to bed, I sat at the computer for a minute to catch up on emails. The last one I read was from our donor mom, telling me she had been thinking of me and that it felt like it was TIME. She talked about how certain their family was they had made the right decision in donating and about all the people who had gone into making our baby’s arrival a reality.

Before I drifted off to sleep, I told Jon the contractions seemed to have eased a bit, and it was probably a false alarm. He stayed up for quite a while longer, working from bed. He finally put the laptop away and settled in for the night at around 1:30. I woke up as he draped his arm over my belly. I lay still as his snores began, riding out contractions I realized were much stronger and closer together. I still had an internal debate as to whether this was really labor, but the questions faded further with every contraction. I hoped to be able to get a little more sleep, but the nervous excitement and the increasing strength of the contractions made it impossible. I tried to rest and decided to let Jon sleep as long as possible.

Around 4 a.m., the contractions began requiring active management and were consistently four to five minutes apart. I decided it was probably time to wake my husband. He went to work bleaching out the tub in case I wanted to labor there. I called our midwife, Kathy, to let her know where things stood. I told her we had things well in hand for now, and she could get some more sleep before heading our way. Jon ate a small breakfast, and I had a cereal bar (that I later threw up). Jon got a shower. Our bedroom was lit with candles, and I danced to a Jason Mraz song playing from our birth playlist. I plucked, because who knew when I would have time for that kind of maintenance again? At some point in those wee hours, Jon climbed in bed with me and we prayed together, for a safe labor and for our precious baby.

Laboring, sometime around 5 a.m.

I called my mom shortly after 5:30, when I knew she would be up, to tell her she would be watching her grandson rather than going to work. We arranged for her to come by at 7:00, about the time Corin would be waking up. When she arrived, my contractions were strong and about three to four minutes apart, and I had the shakes, which happened several times during labor. Corin was still sleeping, so she rubbed my back as I lay in bed.

Once Corin was awake, Jon and mom got him dressed and ready to go, and I came out between contractions to tell him good-bye and that Baby Sister would be here soon. He seemed a little confused, but as usual, he was more than happy to go with Grandma. I, on the other hand, fought back tears. In the days ahead, I would think back on that moment and wish I’d had more time with him. As it was, I had to run back to the bathroom to ride out another contraction before sending him out the door.

We called Kathy to let her know it was probably time to head our way. Gaylea, our doula at Corin’s birth, was apprenticing with Kathy, and we texted her, as well. Kathy arrived at around 8:00, and Gaylea pulled up maybe a half-hour later. By then, I was laboring in the bathtub. Kathy checked the baby’s heart rate, and all was well. I remember saying something to Kathy like, “It really seems like there should be an easier way for babies to arrive.”

Nearly complete, with full support from Kathy and Gaylea

I labored in the tub, on the toilet, and eventually in the bed, where I could rest more completely between contractions. Jon, Gaylea and Kathy took turns providing support, allowing me to squeeze the blood out of their hands with each contraction. Gaylea applied heavenly-smelling cool rags.  I’m not sure how long I labored lying on my side, nestled in the pillows, but maybe an hour later labor began to change, and the pushing urge arrived with full intensity. Kathy confirmed I was fully dilated and effaced. Now the real work began.

At first, my pushing was not terribly effective. I was wearing myself out and beginning to hyperventilate. It felt a lot like the point at which my labor stalled with Corin, and I was scared and exhausted. Kathy and Gaylea both proved their worth so MANY times over that day, but it was at that point in my labor that my midwife knew just what to say to change my approach. She told me not to work so hard, but to allow my body to bear down and simply work with it. With that instruction, my approach changed, and immediately the pushing began to bear results. The work was HARD, and it was a bit frightening for me, since I’d never successfully pushed a baby out before. I badly needed the encouragement and soothing confidence of my midwife and doula. They gently reminded me that God had designed my body to do just what it was doing, and that I was fully able to deliver my baby.

My labor with Corin began with my water breaking, but this time, as the baby began to move down with each push, the amniotic sac was still intact. The midwife showed Jon the baby’s hair swirling inside the protective barrier, and I was able to reach down and feel the protruding sac. A few more pushes, and the baby’s head emerged, carefully guided by Kathy’s skilled hand and still protected inside the intact amniotic sac. Kathy pulled the membrane away as the rest of Eline’s body emerged. Our baby girl was born “in the caul,” a rare occurrence that historically was fraught with superstitious meaning. In our case, we believed it was a direct answer to prayer. I had tested positive for Group B strep, a bacteria that in rare cases can cause a dangerous infection in infants exposed during delivery. Kathy would have been able to administer antibiotics during labor if it was necessary, but because Eline was fully protected in the amniotic sac throughout the entire labor, she was never exposed to the bacteria.

Moments after birth

I was able to hold Eline immediately after birth. She did not immediately cry, but Kathy and Gaylea rubbed her down and her wails filled the room. I was incredibly relieved and overwhelmed as I held her to the breast and marveled that our precious baby girl was here. Jon kissed me, and together we counted fingers and toes and looked at baby Eline’s thick, dark hair and chubby cheeks.

We drank in those quiet moments together after Eline’s birth, thanking God for her safe arrival as we held her close. Kathy weighed her and did her newborn assessment, which Lina passed successfully. As it happened, that precious hour or so was the calm before the storm.

The story continues: Part II

Head and shoulders, knees and toes

It is inevitable that anyone meeting Corin for the first time will be struck by how much he resembles his daddy. There is no question: His looks come from Jon’s side of the family tree. There may be a little of me in there somewhere, but you’d have to search pretty hard to find it. I’m okay with that; I happen to think Corin’s daddy is pretty handsome.

Hearing comments about Jon’s “mini me” has gotten me thinking again recently about what Baby Girl will look like. We’ve gotten to see lots of pictures of our donor families’ kids, so I mostly imagine someone who looks a lot like their daughter. But of course, not all siblings look alike, and I do wonder if the prenatal environment has any impact at all. There are similarities between our two families, and I wonder if we might hear that familiar comment from unsuspecting parties: “Oh, she looks so much like you/your husband!” I also wonder: Will it ever be difficult to look at her and see a striking resemblance to a biological parent or sibling?

Ultimately, I don’t think it matters much to me who she looks like. She is a member of our family as surely as Corin is, and I so look forward to getting to know her. I may have said before that it is such an awesome part of parenting to watch your child’s unique personality and physical traits take shape before your eyes. I’m pretty certain that will be true regardless of where those traits originated. It may not be daddy’s chin, but it will be HER chin. Those feet won’t be my feet, but they will be the feet I have felt kicking all these months. Her eyes, her nose, her hair… They will all be traits of the daughter I love with all my being.

A part of me

Have you seen this post on the long-term presence of fetal cells in the mother’s body? This, my friends, is wild and woolly stuff.

I read through some of the research linked from the article, and the more I read, the more incredible it seemed. There is real poetry here, as the author of the blog post points out. As an embryo adoption mom, it nearly brought me to tears.

This precious baby I carry is biologically unrelated to me, but as I write, her cells are crossing the placenta into my body, becoming a permanent part of my physiology, and perhaps even preparing to someday help me fight illness or injury. Already, we are linked in a bond utterly unique to mother and child.

I know the quiet joy I feel as her little fists pound and her feet jab, that connection that has nothing to do with genetics and everything to do with the role of nurturing a tiny life into existence. But I always suspected perhaps there was more happening in the neonatal processes. I wondered: How much do these nine months of intimate connection influence my baby? Beyond the emotional connection, does the physical bond of pregnancy make us a tangible part of each other? I love that at least in this one way, I can know the answer is a solid “Yes.”

Attitude adjustments

I’ve been (very!) slowly reading through the Bible over the last couple years, and right now I’m in the book of Acts. This morning’s chapter was the story of Peter’s vision of unclean animals and God’s call for him to take the Gospel to someone he never would have associated with on his own. It got me thinking about God’s power to change our attitudes.

It happens often for me, in different ways. I might be sitting in church when words from a sermon suddenly strike home. Sometimes a casual comment or well-timed advice from a friend will provide a shift in perspective. Maybe it’s just that still voice in a quiet moment, helping me see myself and the world more clearly.

My process in our embryo adoption experience has been a big lesson in God’s ability to change my perspective. I started out flatly rejecting the idea, mostly because it didn’t fit the plans I was busy making. It’s pretty amazing to look back on how God moved me from rejection to embracing embryo adoption. He was clearly at work.

But it’s been a longer process than that. It would be misleading to say we made our decision and never looked back. Our counselor told us several times that you can be excited about new opportunities while at the same time grieving a loss, and she warned us that grief is not a linear process. Sometimes little things can trigger feelings you thought were over. She was right, as she always seems to be. The thing about infertility is that every option involves a loss of some kind. We did grieve even as we moved forward with embryo adoption. More than once, I felt a stab as I saw myself or Jon (mostly Jon!) or maybe even a grandparent or uncle in my son and mourned the loss of that experience with our next child. We wondered how well other people would relate to what we were doing and whether our child would face extra challenges finding her place in the world. We grieved the loss of “normal,” whatever that is. In fact, there was a time somewhere in the middle of the process – I think around the time we were reviewing donors – when we both were questioning enough to need to walk through the entire decision again. We started at the beginning and talked about all our doubts and questions. What if finances weren’t a factor? Would things be different if we waited another year or two? After going over the whole process again, we came out in exactly the same place. This was the right choice. It was where God was leading. After that, things were easier.

I suppose, keeping in mind the counselor’s warning, there will probably still be some difficult moments ahead. But God has brought me to a place of peace and joy. Knowing He has led us here gives me such confidence in the future. In the way only He can, He changed my attitude to match His plan. Throughout this pregnancy, I have felt such a bond growing with Baby Girl, and the fears have faded away. I love the incredible way she came to us, and I love that someday, I will be able to tell her how she was chosen for us, before those tiny cells even began dividing.

File this under “temporarily stumped”

I started looking at baby books the other day, and it didn’t take long to realize there isn’t anything on the market that fits our situation.

There are several very nice baby books out there for adoption situations, but that language –  with sections on birth moms and adoption finalizations – doesn’t work for us. Traditional baby books provide for information about mom and dad and the family tree but obviously don’t include a section on donor families. I am so not up for assembling a book from scratch. I may be tackling an awful lot of DIY for Baby Girl’s nursery, but I know my limits.

Jon and I talked about it and decided to buy a traditional baby book similar to Corin’s – which is post-bound and allows some flexibility to remove or change pages – and customize it ourselves.

I’ve started filling it out, but after copying down the same information I’d put in Corin’s book about mommy and daddy, how we met, and our family tree, I’m a bit stumped. Where exactly do I put information about Baby Girl’s biological family? What does that section even look like? Will it make her feel weird that her story didn’t fit any of the “normal” family templates and had to be cobbled together?

I’m going to be thinking about this for a little while. I’ll let you know how it comes out.