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July 25, 2014



Stella & Dot Sample Sale

July 21, 2014

Stella & Dot’s fall collection is getting ready to launch, so I need to make room! I’m selling some of my prized pieces for 50-75% off. :( Darn, why do they have to retire some of these!

My sale album is on Facebook and the first to comment, gets it.  Shipping is $4 and I can invoice you using Paypal — you don’t even need a Paypal account.

See what I’m selling >> 

Also, we just launched a line of engravable jewelry.  Silver or gold. Disc necklace is $69, Bar necklace is $59 and tag charm is $36. Great for initials, dates, favorite words, verses, etc. Email me for more information or to order.



Hip Dysplasia


July 8, 2014

After a long and harrowing recovery, I got my hardware removed from my left hip last week.  I’m metal-free! The surgery was easier than I expected.  I was nauseous after surgery, but in no pain due to the local anesthesia.  However, the day after surgery, I felt like I got hit by a Mack truck! It hurt to move even the slightest bit.  I was pleasantly surprised that on day two post-op, I felt a lot better.  It’s very sore to the touch and sore a little when walking just because it gets jostled around, but otherwise I’m doing really well to have just have two giant screws pulled out of my hip.

And, I’m walking again. Semi-normal.

This is big news for me!

It has taken me SEVEN months to be able to walk without a limp or without much of one at least. Unfortunately, I’m still not totally normal yet. This recovery has been much slower than I expected.  Much, much slower.

I am pain-free, which is the most important and something I remind myself of daily.  However, this recovery has not been without challenges.

I am part of an online support group with members all over the world and most of them are walking normal in half the time.  I know I shouldn’t compare, but it’s hard not to.  My surgeon is very pleased and said it takes some people 9 months, so I’m really doing well.

But, really, overall, I’m thankful. I’m getting my life back.  I am pain-free…did I mention that?  And, I can do normal things like go to the grocery store, walk to meetings on campus, etc.  I am wheelchair-free, walker-free, crutch-free and now cane-free pretty much.  Now, I hope to be 100% limp-free soon.

I still long to be as active as I used to be.  I want to be able to go on a walk or hike.  I’m just not there yet.

I am remembering back to last summer this time and I just shudder to even think about it. I was in bad, bad shape.  I couldn’t do anything and I was in terrible pain constantly.  Both hips and my back.  I hope and pray to never be like that again.  Also, I developed a horrible case of anxiety and it was crushing just to exist.  I felt like I couldn’t calm down or breathe sometimes.  That, plus the pain.  There were times when I thought to myself that I didn’t want to live any more. I can’t imagine thinking that now. I didn’t want to hurt myself or anything like that, but I couldn’t see straight through chronic pain and anxiety.

I remember going to various doctors and just feeling desperate for help and literally crying in the waiting room I was in so much pain.  I remember showing up to work looking like a mess. I remember going home at lunch every day to ice my hips.  I remember going to my parents house every single night for months to soak in their jacuzzi for some relief.  I remember being terrified of Cole and Ellis’ impending arrival because of the shape I was in. I remember my harried east coast tour to find a surgeon.

It was so hard for me to imagine getting out of that mess and now a year later, things are incredibly, unbelievably better.  It was a tough year, but recovery from surgery while tough, long, and challenging, was still better than the pain beforehand.

I still can’t wrap my head around the fact that breaking my pelvis in three places and moving things around made the pain go away.  That’s ok, because I don’t understand lots of things, like airplanes.

God pulled me through yet another life challenge.  I’m not exactly sure what the lesson is, but I know that I thought things were impossible and I was proven wrong.  I didn’t see a way out, but there was.  God always has a way. I didn’t think Cole and Ellis were possible either. God – 2.  Whitney -0.  I think maybe this is the lesson. Trust. Blind faith when things seem impossible.  God has shown me twice now.  I hate that I need such massively challenging events to continue to teach me. I hope I learn what I’m supposed to.

I know I’m very sensitive to those that are handicapped now.

It’s been almost two years now that I’ve dealt with this and it’s ongoing.  It’s also been an interesting social experiment being out in public in a wheelchair, in the grocery cart things, with a cane, etc.  And, people definitely don’t expect to see someone my age with a walker.  But, I’m lucky that I have a chance and every hope of one day being better again. But, I also know that is something I could struggle with for the rest of my life.

I don’t know what the future holds.  I have hip dysplasia on both sides and in theory I need the same surgery on the other side.  But, for now, I’m ok and we are not going to schedule surgery on that side. I’m hoping and praying for a miracle that I continue to do well and won’t need surgery on the other hip.

And, those two huge screws…well, they’re hanging on my bulletin board and when I look at them I will remember that God can get me through the darkest days.


June 24, 2014


My husband and I used surrogacy to build our family after 8 years of infertility and loss.  Our twins were born in October of 2013.  We want to share all of the information we have learned with you in the hopes that you might be able to pursue surrogacy to fulfill your dreams as well.

Surrogacy Support


Read all of my surrogacy related posts >>


June 24, 2014

Shop my Stella & Dot website.

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Infertility, Surrogacy

How to find a surrogate on your own

June 22, 2014

Several people have asked me recently how to find a surrogate on your own without using an agency, so I thought I’d share my ideas since we did surrogacy independent of an agency.  An agency was not an option for us because it was way too expensive.  While I do think you have to put some effort into finding a surrogate on your own, I will be the first to admit that what you really need is a healthy dose of good luck.

For more information about the whole surrogacy process, see my post Guide to gestational surrogacy in Virginia.

Ideas for finding a surrogate

  1. Tell everyone you know!  Share this with friends and family on a one-on-one basis as you see people. Share your story and your interest in pursuing surrogacy and ask if they know of anyone.  This will also serve to ask them indirectly as well. If people don’t know you are infertile, if they don’t know your story, if they don’t know you are specifically looking for a surrogate; how on earth would they offer to help or connect you with the right person?  The more information, the better. People really do want to help.  They will emotionally connect with your story and will want to help you if only to share your story.  IF YOU DO NOTHING ELSE, THIS WOULD BE THE MOST IMPORTANT!  If you can’t do this, which is fine, you really might have to consider using an agency instead.  Most intended parents I know end up using a family member, a friend or a friend of a friend.  They got the word out and someone volunteered.  This is where the luck parts comes in.  We aren’t all that lucky.  If not, keep reading.
  2. Make sure your clinic knows of your interest in this as well.  Hopefully, you’ve already talked to them about it.  Ask them if they know of anyone interested.
  3. Call around to area churches and speak to the pastors and tell them you are interested in pursuing this and see if they know of anyone.
  4. Post about it on social media. This requires you to be open about it, but if you want to find a surrogate on your own, you will have to break out of your comfort zone.
  5. Set up a Google alert for surrogacy and check out articles in major newspapers, magazines or websites published online regarding surrogacy. If it allows comments, say that you are looking for a surrogate and share your URL or email. A friend did this for me and I was contacted by seven women right after she did that.  They were all over the country and who knows how serious they were, but it opened a lot of doors. We didn’t pursue any of these people, because we were already pursuing things with Nicole.
  6. Consider creating a website — use, which is free and easy. Use this to market yourselves to potential surrogates. We created a website to market ourselves for potential surrogates and adoption matches.
  7. Create a Facebook page and asked friends/family to share — we had 300 likes in 3 days. (A bunch of strangers liked our page, which was perfect because it expanded our reach.)
  8. Make a pitch to your local media — TV, magazines and newspapers.  Share your infertility story and tell them you need their help to find the perfect person.
  9. Join my Surrogacy Meet-up group on Facebook that I created to help intended parents and gestational carriers find one another.  No promises, just trying to help.  Also, search for other Facebook groups on surrogacy.
  10. Surrogacy Forums – there are several and I checked them out, but never felt right about using them.  Seemed so spammy or just people looking to make money.  Not only could we not afford a high rate, but we didn’t want someone who was only doing it for the money.  I just never could get into these websites.

It’s a hard process, because you can’t do anything to move the process forward at times.  It took us a year and a half to find a surrogate and get started.  In the end, we got really lucky with our surrogate. But, that first year and a half was fraught with many hits and misses.  We thought it would never happen!

A few of our misses:

  • We had a family member who volunteered, but since she hadn’t had a live birth (which is a legal requirement in Virginia), she was not eligible.
  • We had a very close friend who was interested and we talked about it, but ultimately it never went anywhere because her husband wasn’t on board.
  • We had an acquaintance volunteer, but her health insurance was so bad that it was literally worse than having no insurance.  She had a $10,000 deductible, which would have required us to pay all of the pre-natal and birth costs.
  • We had someone volunteer that we didn’t trust because they admitted some marijuana use.
  • We had people contact us online, but they weren’t really serious.  They were just beginning to consider it.  Or, they wanted $20,000, which was way more than we could pay.
  • We had a woman call our clinic to express interest and they put us in touch.  It seemed to be a match made in heaven, but after going through many of the steps with her (counseling, medical), she backed out right before we were to start the cycle because her husband changed his mind.  Yes, even after he went through counseling and they were cleared.  (View my post on the aftermath of that.)

But, we finally hit the jackpot!  One random day, I received a Facebook message from a girl that had read my “Guide to Gestational Surrogacy in Virginia” on my website.  She was interested in being a carrier and really connected with our story.  She offered to carry for us.  When she first saw the post, it mentioned that we were already matched at that time.  Later, she came back to my website, clicked around and discovered that our match fell through and then she contacted me. Whoa! What if I had never written that article?!?!?! What if she hadn’t come back to it?  Here’s the post I wrote about how my surrogate and I found one another.

Screening Surrogates

Just because you find someone willing, doesn’t mean it will work or that it’s a good match.  I recommend asking all of the tough questions right off the bat.  For me, there was that flutter every time someone new showed some interest, but I also knew many of the pitfalls from the past, so I wanted to get right to the point.  I didn’t want to get my hopes up until I got through these things.

  1. Read up on your state’s laws.  In Virginia, a woman must have had a live birth to be able to be a gestational carrier.  I think this law stinks.  Sure, it would be great if your potential GC was proven, but what about my cousin who was young, healthy, unmarried and willing?  Not fair.  But, better to know the laws up front, before getting your hopes up.  I would suggest going ahead and finding a good experienced surrogacy attorney as soon as possible.  They can help you understand your state’s laws so you’ll be better prepared.
  2. Ask about the things that would be deal-breakers for you. For me that was…
    1. Money –  We couldn’t pay the average rate of $20,000.  More like half that.
    2. Drugs & Alcohol  – We needed to know that the surrogate didn’t use drugs at all and that both would be strictly avoided during pregnancy.
    3. Willing to try more than once.  We needed to know that if she didn’t get pregnant on the first try, that she would be willing to try at least one more time.  Once you have paid the lawyer and done the counseling, a lot of money has already been spent on this one person and situation.  It isn’t that much more costly to do a second cycle once that stuff is out of the way.
    4. Does her family support this? Is she married?  Make sure her husband it on board.  NOW. Don’t wait to find out later.  Talk to him yourself, too. This proved to be the roadblock in two cases for us.
    5. Lifestyle – What’s her family like? What’s her daily routine? What are her eating habits?
  3. Insurance – You want to see what her insurance situation is.  This could have been a deal-breaker for us, too, depending on the finances.  You want to make sure that her policy doesn’t exclude surrogacy.  You want to make sure her insurance will pay for a pregnancy.  (See my Guide to Gestational Surrogacy post for more info.)  In both of the cases with serious surrogates, my attorney reviewed the GC’s insurance, but I wanted to do my own research first or least have an idea of what to expect.
  4. Search for them on social media and see what you can find out.
  5. Consider a background check.
  6. Later, you will likely be required to have them screened by a psychologist and go through counseling.

I would love to hear your stories.  Please comment below.

Resources + Connect

Ellis & Cole

Tutus and seersucker

June 11, 2014

Cole and Ellis are almost 8 months old now.  It’s shocking how fast these months go and how much they change.  I still look at them and can’t believe they are here.  They were just a dream for so long that it doesn’t feel real.

We had gorgeous photos taken by Owens-Lugar again for their 6 month birthday.  I wanted them to be classic and timeless, so we went with bright and light with a pink tutu for Ellis and a seersucker bowtie for Cole.  I found it all on etsy, of course.

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Infertility, Infertility Advocacy

154 Advocates. 27 States.

May 11, 2014

Another Advocacy Day has come and gone. And, it was the biggest one yet!  It was a lot of work these last several months to co-chair the event, but it was so worth it. I couldn’t have asked for a better team than RESOLVE, a better co-chair than Jen and a better mentor than Risa.  And, thanks to all of them for giving me the opportunity.

154 Advocates from 27 states attending 160 meetings on the hill.  2300 + letters from all 50 states.

I’m so proud of our team and of every single person who came. I met some really great people.  I regret not being able to spend more time with some and not able to meet others at all. It really was a whirlwind.

My remarks 


“Today, infertility comes out of the closet. Today, you get to actually do something about your infertility. You will put a face to this disease and educate congress about this healthcare crisis we are all facing. Today we stop being victims of our disease, and start being advocates for our community.

Our work today can’t be an isolated moment in time. It’s going to require some endurance on our part. My step-mother-in-law told me that she didn’t think we’d be having to fight for something like this today, like she was doing back in the 60s/70s. Well, here we are today and it does fall to us to fight for this — let’s make sure it doesn’t fall to the children that we all want so badly.

I want to share a favorite quote by Margaret Mead:
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed people can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”

A silent disease will yield silent results, so it’s going to take ALL of us to speak up! I invite you to find your voice today. You will turn your personal struggle into something more. I’m proud that you are not only here today, but that you guys are also leaders in a grassroots movement of mobilizing your peers to speak up and take action as well. WE ARE BUILDING A MOVEMENT!

For those of you that are feeling overwhelmed with all of the information and think you can’t do this or are nervous…are you kidding? No, what’s hard is what you’re going through, what we’ve all been through…all of those tests, injections, trying to burrow out of your homestudy paperwork, trying to get through beta day, waiting on a adoption match, suffering miscarriages, AND, paying for it all out of pocket…that’s hard. We’ve already done the hard work.

You have real grievances and you have a right to be heard by those representing you in Congress. You are making an impact and bringing this disease to life with your presence here today and your story.

You have an important story to tell, a mostly untold one. So, go do it with your heads held high.”

Showing up is half the battle

RESOLVE decided to make us an appointment with Puerto Rico’s Representative in Congress.  Hey, cool…why not? We were supposed to meet with his aide. We arrived and introduced ourselves with a flurry of Spanish being spoken around us.  This isn’t your typical Congressional office.


I went in thinking we will ask him to help on the island somehow, we’ll ask him to use his influence with other voting members of Congress, especially the latinos, for our bills.  However, he can do more than we thought.  He can vote in committee, sponsor and co-sponsor; he just can’t vote on the House floor.

The receptionist took us winding through the halls of Rayburn and into Longworth where they had a Judiciary hearing happening.  She set us up in the Judiciary Library to wait for the staffer we were meeting with.


We’re hanging out admiring the room we are in and then the door opens and it’s Rep. Pedro Pierluisi himself.  He says,

Am I the one you’re looking for?  Is it ok if you meet with me instead?

Uh, yea!

We told him what we were there to talk about and he stopped us and told us he had a heart for this issue. We went over the three bills and he said he supported all of it and would co-sponsor all three.  I hope I had my poker face on, but Erick and I looked at each other and with our eyes said, “Holy crap! Did he just say what I thought he said?”

He wrote on the RESOLVE flyer — “Please add me as a co-sponsor on these three bills.” and signed it.   Then, he interrupted his staffer in the hearing to come out and take a picture of us all three together.  And, he gave him the RESOLVE flyer and instructed him to sign him up to co-sponsor.



Un-freaking believable.  We left there shocked.  I would love to take credit and say that I gave him an impassioned speech or convinced him with data, but the reality is that WE SHOWED UP and got lucky.  He already cared about the issue.  This is important, but not always enough for some elected officials.

Here’s the key take-away — if we had not come to DC to meet with him, he wouldn’t have co-sponsored these bills. Showing up.  That’s what we did.  I’ll take it.  That’s why we need MORE people to show up!

Sometimes you get lucky, like we did, or sometimes you have to keep coming back and keep talking about it.  Ahem…all of my reps in Virginia.

Our Virginia meetings



So, my Virginia meetings couldn’t be any more different from our Puerto Rico meeting.  I’ve been meeting with these offices for three or four years.  This time, Senator Warner’s chief of staff sat in on our meeting  because he saw it on the agenda and he cares about these issues.  So, that was a nice surprise and we had a frank conversation about everything.  Senator Warner is vehemently opposed to tax credits right now and wants to see what will happen with the broader tax reform.  Does he care about infertility? I don’t know, but even if he did, he’s not going to support a tax credit right now.  Ok, fair enough.  Disappointing, but not unexpected.

It’s my job to stay on task and not get disappointed and give up.  It’s my job to keep following up and keep the conversation open and determine if there is there anything else he can do to help.  It’s my job to be a resource to him on these issues.

Moving forward

I’m so proud of EVERYONE — those still fighting infertility, those that have resolved, the lobbyists, the doctors, the fertility professionals — that we all came together as a community.  We did good work this week.  We don’t have final numbers or official results quite yet, but we heard of lots of verbal promises to co-sponsor these bills.  We have four Senators and Reps that are supporting all three now.  We made an impact and we’ll keep at it for as long as it takes.


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View all of my Advocacy Day photos.



Ellis & Cole


April 24, 2014

We had a really good Easter this year as we have much to be thankful for: Ellis and Cole of course and my hip surgery recovery.  Easter is a time that I always think of life and death because of the resurrection and I’m still so amazed by the gift of life with our children.

We had a great day at church and with family.  I’m going to share a few photos.

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Infertility, Miscarriage

Resolve to know more about recurrent pregnancy loss

April 21, 2014

Recurrent pregnancy loss (RPL) isn’t really a popular topic and not something I thought I would experience after having trouble getting pregnant.  Who knew that getting pregnant was only a small step in the right direction?

Recurrent pregnancy loss is a distinct disease from infertility and is defined by two or more failed pregnancies. Some people experience both infertility and loss, like me, and others experience one or the other.

For me, recurrent pregnancy loss and infertility are one and the same.  They are what kept me from bringing a baby home from the hospital for seven long years.   I am infertile and while IVF helped me conceive, I miscarried every time. Recurrent loss is the ultimate problem for me.

Most miscarriages are due to an abnormal embryo — an unlucky accident, with no underlying medical issue, unless your specific issue is age-related or egg quality related.  But, if you have miscarried three times, it is quite unlikely that this is due to three abnormal pregnancies, but rather one specific abnormality or underlying condition.

According to ASRM, although approximately 25% of all recognized pregnancies result in miscarriage, less than 5% of women will experience two consecutive miscarriages, and only 1% experience three or more.

I, of course, am that 1%.

I miscarried five times.  We eventually moved on to gestational surrogacy.

In 50-75% of women with repeated miscarriages, doctors can find no cause for the losses. There may be clues, but no concrete answer.  This was the case with me, as we had treated my clotting disorder and I still miscarried. Because our embryos were thought to be high quality, we could only assume that the problem was with my uterine environment and involved a highly complex reproductive immunological issue.


Sometimes, doctors or insurance companies will recommend testing after three losses, but I couldn’t disagree more.  I highly recommend advocating for yourself to have the necessary testing done after two losses.  Why risk another loss at this point if you could possibly avoid it?

For more information about possible reasons for RPL and available testing, check out the extensive post I wrote on recurrent miscarriage testing .

Dealing with Loss

Dealing with both infertility and recurrent pregnancy loss seemed cruel and unfair to me.  While infertility was emotionally exhausting, dealing with loss after loss, along with infertility, was truly devastating.  My worst triggers always are related to my losses.  Don’t underestimate the emotional toll that recurrent loss will take on you.  Take time to grieve and do it in your own time.  Seek out support from others that have been through the same thing.  A couple of good websites are Still Standing MagazineFaces of Loss and Carly Marie Project Heal.

Learn More

I have written this post for RESOLVE’s “Resolve to know more” theme in honor of National Infertility Awareness Week (April 20 -27, 2014). If you know someone experiencing infertility or loss, consider taking it upon yourself to learn even more about the disease.  You can go to RESOLVE’s Infertility 101 to find out more.

Resources + Connect

Photo by Carly Marie Project Heal