Who We Are: Mandy’s Family

All of Mandy’s family lives in the nearby area, making get-togethers easy and doable.  We have frequent cookouts and pot-lucks for holidays, birthdays and sometimes just for fun.  image

A cookout at our house for Easter 2014

Having family close by also means having a solid safety net.  There is always someone willing to watch the kids or bring over food when emergencies pop up.  

It means having Dad over to help out with yard projects and Lowe’s runs.  Or trading haircuts with Mandy’s brother for simple indoor stuff (like moving heavy furniture or hanging blinds—and yes, Mandy ordinarily can hang her own blinds, but the wood in this house is like concrete and requires a more powerful drill than she possesses.)  It means having her Granny and Mom over for haircuts, color and dinner.  image

Mandy highlighting her Granny’s hair in our kitchen.

We also get to spend plenty of time with our nieces and nephews around here.  The older girls play softball, so we try to make it out to games when we can.  And now that the oldest is sixteen and driving, she has started working at the salon with Mandy (her  ”Aunt Mimi”) as her assistant.  image

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Out at one of the girls’ softball games 2014

Mandy also has loads of cousins, aunts and uncles, both near and far.  We don’t get to see them as often as we’d like to, but when we do it’s always a good time.image

At Mandy’s aunt’s house, celebrating her cousin Emma’s sixth birthday.

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Mandy leading her niece around on one of her aunt’s horses.

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The nieces and nephews.  (With all of them growing up so fast, Mandy’s family is very excited at the prospect of having more babies in the family.)

Who We Are: Our Wedding

Robyn and I have been together for four years now and have been married just over a year.  When we met, Robyn was living in D.C. so we spent a good portion of that first year travelling back and forth between Richmond and D.C.  Eventually Robyn moved to Richmond and after another year we bought our first house together.  image

We were married on May 13, 2013 in Washington, D.C.  It was just the two of us and Robyn’s father (there to witness and take pictures), and then later on that week we had a celebration for family and friends back home in Richmond.

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The reception was held at Old City Bar in Shockoe Bottom.  The food was excellent (catered by White House Catering), the weather perfect and we had a wonderful turnout as friends and family flew in from all across the country.  We felt so incredibly blessed to have so much love and support from the people we care about.

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Anonymous asked: Would you consider surrogacy?

We’ve talked about it and just don’t think it’s the right path for us.  Honestly, we probably wouldn’t have tried IVF to begin with if we had known that adoption was an option for us.  We’ll do the frozen embryo transfer, but after that we really want to focus all of our attention on adoption.  

I have clients that have had success with surrogacy but they also had husbands.  When you tack on the added cost of the donor (that is not cheap!) along with the costs associated with the surrogate and the fertility treatments, it’s just too much.  Not that adoption is cheap by any means but at least you get some of it back with the adoption credit at the end of the year.  I hate to bring it down to money but realistically we just won’t be doing a child any favors if we begin their life in debt.  

Plus, we neither of us have a burning need that the child be genetically tied to us.  We only went the fertility route in the beginning because we thought it would be the easier path.  We were clearly mistaken!  

Thank you for your question :-)

—Mandy

Who We Are: Mandy Through Robyn’s Eyes

7-15-2014

Mandy Through Robyn’s Eyes:

Mandy is an all-around amazing person who will make a wonderful parent.  She is a natural-born nurturer who is at her happiest spending time with our family, friends and pets.  She is also very intelligent, principled, kind, patient, loving, affectionate and reliable. 

One of the things I love most about Mandy is her creative spirit. In fact, she is the most creative person I know. She is a complete whiz in the kitchen – so much so that friends and family shamelessly invite themselves over on a regular basis to taste her latest creations! From breakfast to lunch to dinner to dessert – she does it all, from scratch, and always uses fresh, seasonal organic ingredients. 

Mandy’s creativity extends beyond the kitchen as well. She loves to make crafts and homemade decorations for the holidays. She is also an avid gardener and amateur landscaper who can often be found digging in the dirt in our backyard. And, of course, as a master colorist and stylist, she does an outstanding job with hair too! 

Mandy also has a great sense of humor and is really fun-loving.  She is quick with a laugh and is always up for an adventure, whether it’s a trip out of town or just exploring locally. I feel incredibly lucky to have found Mandy and am so thankful we have built such a beautiful, vibrant life together.

Who We Are: Robyn Through Mandy’s Eyes

7-15-2014

Robyn Through Mandy’s Eyes:

Robyn is an extremely fun-loving and kind person with a very big heart.  She is generous, empathetic, intelligent and kind with a quirky and often silly sense of humor.  Children and animals naturally flock to her and she lights up over some of the simplest things in life.  

She has a stellar education, with a masters in English and a law degree from Penn Law.  After six years practicing law at big firms in D.C. she has transitioned into becoming a very successful legal recruiter.  This has given her the freedom to work from home and granted us the flexibility to do the traveling that we love so much.

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Robyn is also very active and athletic.  In school she was captain of both her basketball and softball teams, and as an adult she is always up for catching a game.  She either makes it to the gym or gets out for a run almost every day and rarely seems to need downtime.  Her energy is infectious and keeps me motivated to keep up.

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She has a pragmatic and practical side as well, is great at problem solving and is a whiz with finances.  She keeps the household on track and is a great counterbalance for me.  She is our “Ms. Fix-it” around the house and never ceases to amaze me with the things she is willing to tackle.  

One of the loveliest things about Robyn is her ability to always speak and act directly from the heart.  There are no false airs about her.  She is genuine in all of her actions.  She has a strong set of values and principles that I admire and respect.  I know she is going to be a wonderful mother who will be able to give our children the right balance of love and guidance, adventure and security and will always be able to provide a stable, warm and happy home.

Our Journey, Part I: Fertility Treatments

7-13-2014

Like so many other folks out there, our journey did not begin with the adoption process.  In truth, Robyn and I only discussed the possibility once, briefly, and decided that here in Virginia it would be too complicated.  Virginia has a law on the books allowing private adoption agencies to reject prospective LGBT adoptive parents based on the agency’s religious beliefs (most agencies are founded through a religious organization).  We convinced ourselves that trying to adopt would be a  futile and disappointing endeavor, so we began the research on fertility treatments. 

 At this time, a friend of ours had just given birth recently to a healthy baby boy after just one round of IUI.  Also, Robyn’s identical twin (she is actually a triplet and has a fraternal twin also!) conceived our little niece after just one try as well.  So, you know, we thought “Hey, no problem!  This will be a cinch.”  (Ha!)  We set up a consultation with the doctor our friend used and began the process.

 The doctor informed us that Robyn was healthy and good to go and that the only thing he saw missing from the equation was sperm (keep in mind that at that time Robyn was already 38, an age that most fertility doctors would automatically treat a bit more aggressively).  And so we began the search for our sperm donor.  At first we wanted to find a donor that best represented me.  We searched and searched for someone of average height with dark wavy hair (mine was before the very premature grey!) blue/grey eyes and a slim to average athletic build.  Oh yes, and he needed to be intelligent, creative, musically inclined and a have a well written essay (they all submit essays about themselves) and if possible, a love for cooking and for animals.  And, on top of that, cmv negative (For those not familiar with this, cmv is a virus about 75% of the population has.  You wouldn’t even know that you had it as it is asymptomatic for most folks.  However, if you test negative for it then you have to use a negative donor or you run the risk of your infant having birth defects). 

 Needless to say, we weren’t having any luck finding “Mr. Right”.  And then I had an epiphany.  Why does he need to look like me?  This is ridiculous!  I mean, it’s not as if we are going to fool anyone into believing I’m the birth dad.  So we unchecked all of the boxes that had anything to do with ethnicity or physical appearance and just focused on healthy family background, interesting and well written essay, a good track record in school and a well rounded set of interests.  And then we found him!  Most of our friends and family were a little perplexed as to our choosing an East Indian donor but after listening to our explanation, they got it.

 So onto Round I of IUI!  Our first try was very simple.  Our doctor just wanted us to check Robyn’s cycle with an ovulation kit and then come in for insemination when she was positive.  Yeah, that didn’t work.  We were a little confounded that our doctor wanted to do the same thing for the second try as well.  At this point we were losing confidence in his approach.  We had finally done a bit more research and both of us were expecting hormone treatments at the very least.  But he was still convinced that we should just keep taking a whack at it until we succeed.  (Keep in mind that these vials of sperm cost $700 a pop!). 

 Round II of IUI was a horrible experience and the catalyst for our finding a new practice.  Our doctor’s practice alternated weekends with several other practices, so if you needed to be inseminated on the weekend you basically got tossed to whomever was working that weekend.  And, of course, Robyn ovulated over the weekend.  We had to go to a strange practice where we knew none of the staff to be inseminated by a doctor we had never met and who seemed very put out at having to work on a Saturday.  The nurse took us to a room and informed us she was going to go get the sperm and thaw it out.  This was not cool!  We hadn’t seen the doctor yet and he needed to do an ultrasound to insure that her follicles were good to go.  The kits only estimate ovulation based on your surge.  But the nurse actually cut Robyn off mid sentence and left the room.  There we sat for twenty minutes fuming and stressed out.  I tried several times to go find the nurse or doctor but she was MIA and he was in his office on the phone.  When they finally came in he was all like let’s get this done and the nurse had the thawed out sperm in hand.  When Robyn spoke up and voiced her outrage at not being examined first, he was not very happy with us.  He, in a very aggravated tone, informed her that she was on his book for insemination.  To which we responded “yes, provided we are ready.”  He did the examination but really at this point what is the point?  The sperm is already thawed.  And her follicles really weren’t quite ready, but we didn’t know that until we met with our new doctor and gave her the numbers.  Robyn’s stress levels were through the ceiling and I felt very helpless sitting there while she had to go through this process with a doctor who, by this time, was being overtly aggressive and somewhat hostile.  No, Round II didn’t take.

 Rounds III and IV were also a bust but at least we were with a practice we felt confident in, and dealing with a doctor that seemed to have more experience with same sex couples.  Based on Robyn’s age and our previous failed attempts, she took a more aggressive approach and so began the hormone treatments.  After the last failed attempt, we moved onto IVF.

 IVF is way more invasive and honestly if we had a true understanding of what we would be putting her body through we never would have gone this route.  But once you are in the middle of it there just isn’t any going back.  Mostly, there were a ton of shots.  I received a crash course via online video on how to administer these, and I am embarrassed to say that Robyn had to give herself the first few because apparently I have an aversion to stabbing people with sharp metal objects.  But eventually I was able to step up.  The egg retrieval was the worst for her.  She had a very large number of eggs released and afterwards she was in so much pain she couldn’t stand up straight.  I could barely get her up the stairs and into bed.  Also, because of the number of eggs, we had to use a trigger shot that unfortunately lowered her progesterone levels.  This meant even more shots.  One a night, in fact.    We ended up with five viable embryos and decided to implant two and freeze the other three.  And then, success!!  One of the embryos took and we were pregnant!  (and, oh yeah, we get to continue the shots, we are told, through the first trimester!).

 Now, we both know that you shouldn’t go around telling folks you are pregnant until you get yourself safely out of that first trimester.  But we were so excited and thought, well, we’ll just tell close family.  And then I thought I should tell work because they know what we’ve been going through and they’ll know something is up when all of a sudden there is radio silence.  And then we felt more comfortable after the first ultrasound where we could see the heartbeat! (and told even more folks)  And then two weeks later….no heartbeat.  This happened in the middle of our ninth week.  It was also just a couple of days before we were to fly out to Seattle to celebrate Robyn’s sister’s wedding.  We decided we’d go anyway.  Our sister-in-law is an ob/gyn and we would have Robyn’s sisters with us.  We just didn’t see the point in sitting here in Richmond by ourselves hyper-focused on our bad luck and inevitably feeling sorry for ourselves. 

 We were able to make it through all of the celebrations before the miscarriage came.  Unfortunately, that meant a long flight home with Robyn very uncomfortable.  But we knew before going that this was a risk.  We sucked it up and made it home without any major mishaps.  I will say though, for future reference, I don’t think “My partner is having a miscarriage” is something any flight attendant wants to hear! 

 Robyn was very adamant that she did not want to have a D&C.  She wanted to have the miscarriage naturally.  But after two weeks with no let up, the doctor finally put her foot down that a D&C had to happen.  ASAP!  At this point there was a serious risk of infection and we needed to have this done.  But something else had come to our attention through this time as well.  We had learned through the Gay Community Center of Richmond that the JFS (Jewish Family Services) was holding an adoption workshop geared towards the LGBT community, to be addressing all of the legal issues that apply to us and adoption.  However, it was to be held on the day that she was supposed to get her D&C.  So, we told the doctor we couldn’t make it then and scheduled for the next day and went to the adoption workshop…in the middle of a miscarriage.

 To our surprise, we found we do, in fact, have options here in Virginia.  Yes, agencies do have the right to discriminate but both the JFS and Coordinators 2 are LGBT friendly.  Since Virginia doesn’t recognize our marriage (hopefully to be changing soon!!) we can only do single parent adoption.  But I will be able to file for joint custody (affording me about 75% parental rights) after the adoption goes through.  And if we move to a state that recognizes our marriage (we someday think we might move to Philadelphia, where Robyn is from and still has family and friends) or if Virginia gets on board with marriage equality, then I will be able to do second parent adoption.  We felt so much more confident after this meeting, realizing that adoption was going to be a viable route for us.  We were also slightly kicking ourselves for putting Robyn through the IVF process before doing our research on adoption.  We assumed the worst about Virginia and never looked into it.  For those in the Richmond area interested in more info on the adoption process, The Gay Community Center of Richmond and JFS are excellent resources.  My understanding is that they plan on doing more of these adoption workshops in the future. 

 Robyn and I are not completely done with the fertility route.  Honestly, if it were up to me, we would go ahead and close that door.  But I understand and fully respect Robyn’s point of view.  We have three frozen embryos that, to quote Robyn, she “put [her] body through hell for.”  So we are going to do a frozen embryo transfer this fall.  I’m not trying to be negative but I don’t have a ton of confidence in this.  I also am not thrilled about going through the emotional upheaval of another miscarriage.  But Robyn and I have a very solid and loving relationship.  I know we can weather anything that comes our way.  And even if we are successful we will still proceed with adoption, as we have always wanted to have at least two if not three children.