Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Zero means Zero - Leander Kellogg

During our sixth year of marriage my wife and I realized something was different. We had done nothing to prevent pregnancy and had spent the last six or more months tracking ovulations, temperatures, and other activities that remind me of scenes from the Raising Arizona movie. My wife completed a cycle of Clomid. Still nothing, not even a near miss. So we decided to begin formal infertility testing. I was scheduled first for a semen analysis. At first I thought nothing of it, just another step in starting our family.

After several days and not hearing anything I contacted the lab to find out if they would be giving me the results or if my doctor would be doing the honors. I was told that my doctor would be receiving the results that day and that he would discuss them with me. And then the lab assistance mentioned nonchalantly, “Your results were zero.” I was confused. Zero? How is that even possible? I asked her what she meant by zero. She explained that there were no semen, dead or alive, in my sample and then she ended the conversation and hung up.

Zero. For the first time in this whole process, I was faced with the reality that I was the “problem”. The “why” we could not have children. Regrettably, I had always figured it was my wife. Society seems to always assume…it’s the woman; but it now appeared that I was the reason.

I spent the rest of that afternoon glued to a computer screen searching for anything that related to male infertility, to zero sperm. I learned that afternoon that the condition of not having sperm is called azoospermia. It can be genetic, it can be caused by illness/disease, or it can be caused by lifestyle such as weight. I learned that “normal” sperm count could be in a range of 20 to 150 million sperm per milliliter. And low sperm counts begin at or below 15 million sperm per milliliter. And I had zero?

The doctors office called later that day and scheduled my wife and I to come in the next day. In full disclosure, I was embarrassed. So I kept my “discovery” to myself. Knowing that everything would come out the next day. At the appointment the next day, our doctor confirmed what the lab assistance and shared with me, that I had zero sperm. Equipped with my new found knowledge, I started in with question after question. I wanted there to be some hope, some chance of fathering a child. “What about certain procedures, or medication, etc.?” He patiently listened and then leaned forward and said, “Leander, zero means zero.” This statement silenced me. There was such permanence to it…zero means zero. He explained that in most cases, low sperm count could be as low as 100,000 to 500,000, and yes that is something to work with. However, my sample had nothing as far as sperm was concerned. He apologized for the news and then suggested other options such as adoption.

This was in April 2003. The following summer was our most challenging yet. We both grieved in our own ways. It would be years before we learned in an adoption training that infertile couples do in fact go through a grieving process after learning that they will not have biological children. For years, I kept my azoospermia a secret from most friends and family. Our united answer to those who inquired was simple, “We just can’t have children.” Period. No explanation. However, I stopped hiding the answer after several situations when people in adoption presentations confronted me with, “How does it make you feel that your wife can not have children?” There it was, my own false belief that I too once held, that infertility is always the woman’s “fault”. And so, in one particular presentation, I paused and admitted publicly for the first time, I AM UNABLE TO HAVE CHILDREN, not my wife.

I now believe—that for me—that acknowledgement was a final step in my grieving process; even though it came several years after adopting our son. Our society sometimes ascribes certain attributes to masculinity and what it means to be a man. For this reason, I suppose, we rarely talk about male infertility. I found few resources in my search for answers and experiences from others, especially from a gospel perspective. And yet, some estimates put male infertility at 40% of being the cause that a couple can not have children. means zero; and I am ok with that.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Keep that fire!

This week's guest post was written by Kenna Shumway, an adoptive mom and infertility survivor. In this post, Kenna expresses her feelings about recent changes in the adoption world for those working with LDS Family Services, as well as the ever important hope we all need to cling to. Thank you for sharing Kenna!

It’s been a rough couple weeks for the adoption community.  Honestly, when I heard there were, “changes” coming to LDS Family Services, I kind of shrugged it off.  How long have we been hearing about changes?  Forever.  So I didn’t take it too seriously.  Probably the rumor mill turning, anyway.

However, as I was crossing campus for a class, my iphone dinged with an email.  As I read through it, my eyes filled up with tears.  “Removing some of our adoptive services,” “Focusing on potential birth parents,” and “Giving our adoptive couples a greater chances.”  The tears piled up and I told Siri in a breaking voice to call my husband.  When his voice came through on the other line I couldn’t keep the tears back.  Through stifled sobs I tried to explain what was happening.  That if we weren’t chosen by a birth mother in four months, we would have to find a different agency.  That the cost of adoption would quadruple, which is money we don’t have. That our chances, no matter how much the letter said would be greater, just diminished.  All the fire hoops we had jumped for so many years all lit up again, and they were laughing.  I don’t know how inanimate fire hoops laugh, but they did.  Fire hoops are jerks.

I had to keep myself together for one more class, after which I walked swiftly to my car and broke down.  It didn’t make any sense.  We felt prompted to pursue adopting another child.  I had been so reluctant, as acquiring our first child via adoption was basically my own personal hell.  Harley came to us after one reversed adoption and one failed placement.  I have been more than happy with my little family of three and while, yeah sure, those feelings of wanting another child are ever present, I’m a pansy.  So when we moved forward with the paper work a second time, I felt hopeful and scared, but more hopeful, because we knew in our bones that this was what we were supposed to do.

I pointed my car westward and drove for two hours listening to sad songs.  I’ve done this since I was a teenager as a way to calm myself down.  Then, I figured I could make it two Utah in 27 hours if I didn’t stop.  I needed my family and friends and Ohio was approximately 1,800 miles too far from those that I love.  Eventually my fully formed frontal lobe kicked in and brought to light some important questions like, “Hey, if this is your plan you should probably stop at home and get some underwear.”  I responded, out loud to myself, “I’ll just buy some when I get there.”   “With what money?” myself answered.  My wallet was left at home that morning.

Touché, self.

I didn’t drive to Utah.  Slowly I made my way home to the arms of my husband and my five year old son.  As I calmed down, my thoughts when to all my friends, all the couples that would be affected by these changes.  The tears came again, harder and hotter than before.  Why were we being abandoned?  All we want is to be parents and the options that LDS Family Services offer are many times the only option families have!  We scrimp and save to pay for these services as it is, and if the cost goes up, our hopes go down.  That’s why I feel so inadequate to address my adoptive warriors.  I’m crushed too.  I’m tired and I’m mad and I’m depressed and I hate all the things one minute, and am in tears the next.  My hope is somewhere between invisible and nowhere.

You know what?  That’s totally okay.  Be mad.  Throw things (preferably not valuable things).  Buy a couple pints of Ben & Jerry’s and get the tears out.  Ask God why.  Lean on those that love you.  Then, you have find the courage and determination, the hope and faith, which you had when you first started this journey.  You need that hope and faith because this is a time to rebuild and find a new adoption path.

I played soccer as a kid, and was lucky enough to make it on my high school team.  I played throughout high school and, even though I was scared out of my wits, walked on to a try out for a college team.  Years of hard work and dedication paid off, because I made the college team.  As cool as that is, it’s not the point.  As we practiced and prepared for our first game, I as full of ambition, hope, and determination.  The feeling I had when I took the field for that first came was unlike anything I can explain.  I took my place, and bounced on the balls of my feet, attempting to channel the fire I had inside.  Our opponents soon walked out onto the pitch, and I peered at them with flames in my eyes that said, “I dare you.  I DARE you to kick that ball at me.  At my face.  I DARE YOU TO KICK THAT BALL AT MY FACE.”  Okay, so it doesn’t seem like sane thoughts, but I meant them.  I WANTED someone to kick the ball at me because I was ready, and I was full of fire, and I was going to plow through whatever they had planned for me.  Some of my team mates yelled at the other team, some jumped in the air, and some were like me.  Fire in their bones and intensity in their eyes.  Quiet, but ready to plow forward.

I will never forget those feelings.  I haven’t thought about them lately, but with the World Cup dominating my tv screen (I have a hoarse throat from yelling at the screen because that was a FOUL and the ref needs to get his head in the game!) soccer is on the brain.

We’ve all felt this way.  Moments where there is fire in our bellies, and steal in our veins.

Find. Those. Feelings.

You need them.  I need them.  We need them.

Let’s be real, this sucks.  It’s a kick to the proverbial infertility sufferers’ crotch (as if we haven’t taken enough hits there already).  I know you see couples that have perfectly spaced children; babies every two years and a life without thoughts of, “What if we get chosen?” “What if we don’t?” “What if we can’t save/raise the money?”  “What if we never get a baby?”  “What if this breaks me?” and lastly, “All I want is to grow my family.  That’s all I want.”  I wish I knew why we have to hurt, suffer, climb out of canyons just to be shoved back in them, and watch what we want practically being handed to everyone else.  I know you check your email daily, if not multiple times daily, praying for that one email that could change it all.  For the one call that could be the open door to a child.  I know you cry when your best friend tells you she is pregnant for the third time, and that even though you know others who suffer with infertility and sterility fight hard for their pregnancies and adoption placements, it stings.  I know some nights the pain digs into your fingertips and I’m so sorry.  I am.  My heart is aching for those of you reading this that find yourselves in the position my husband and I are in.  I want to hug you and buy you some chocolate and have a cuddle part on my kind size bed while watching, ‘Pitch Perfect.’  I want you to find your babies so your hearts can be healed.

We aren’t built to give up.  Our physical and spiritual make up doesn’t know the meanings of the word.  I can’t tell you how many nights I’ve told the universe that I’m done, and that I don’t plan on moving forward anymore.  However, the next day, without fail, I keep going.  Something deep inside me, that place of fire and steal, rises up and pushes me forward.

We need to push forward.

You may not want to, or you may think, “What’s the point?”

Our babies are the point.  They are out there.  They have to be.  This all isn’t for nothing.  These crappy feelings, impossible fire hoops, and years of longing can’t be for nothing.  That’s not the way it works.

If you are having a hard time finding your fire, call me, text me, email me.  I will help you find it.  At three in the morning when you just can’t, I will tell you why you just can.  The adoption community is full of love and support, so use it.  These journeys are our own, but we need others to get us to the finish line.

I know this isn’t the best, most mind blowing advice ever.  These are words from an infertility survivor and a humble adoptive mom who wants nothing more for her family to grow and her son to have a sibling.  These are words from my heart to you, prayerfully thought out and tenderly written.  My deepest hope is that you will find the strength, the faith, and the hope to tell these trials, “I dare you.  I dare you to come at me.”

Show me your fire.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Hope When There is No Hope

We are so excited to hear from Leisa Wimpee in this guest post.  She has been an inspiration to so many through her hopeful attitude despite her difficult struggle with infertility.  You can follow her personal blog at:

Who am I? I am you.

I am the woman who has waited for 8 years to get pregnant. Well, waiting seems a silly word when I have been through four surgeries, two full rounds of in vitro, two miscarriages, an ectopic pregnancy, countless rounds of other medications, herbs, diets, oils, exercise, Chinese medical treatment, 4 specialists, acupuncture, positive thought processes, 9 children talked to us about adopting, thousands of dollars in adoption fees, and more time than I care to admit spent on it all.... Waiting seems such a passive word when I turn back the clock and look at what tools I have added to my belt to fight infertility.

Fight. I like that word. It's not so passive as wait. I have fought my way through infertility.

The problem with fighting is that there are always war wounds. In my case, a depleted bank account, an unhealthy body, wild side effects, and a wounded heart that doesn't know quite what to feel.

I can figure out how to fix my bank account, and wade through side effects and slowly regain my healthy body back. But there is one thing that is most difficult to come back from, and that is, my wounded heart.

My poor heart has been bounced back and forth between hope, excitement and despair more times than I can account. When I think of my heart, I imagine it full of scars. Yet, somehow, even though there are times where I have felt completely through with trying, I still find myself rising up out of the ashes to try again. Why on earth would I do that to myself? After all of my investments and after all of the scars on my heart why would I try again?

It is because something deep within me whispers that I will have children someday.

Someday my home will thrive with life and love, bumps and bruises, tantrums and screams, laughter and light. And I want all of it. It's because every time I hold my sister's little boy and watch him grow my heart is filled with love. It's because every time one of brother's children tell me that they love me, part of my heart heals. It's because every time I reach out to a friends child in need I see hope in their eyes.

And I know. I know that someday all of this pain will be worth it. I know that someday, to the extent that my pain reaches down into the darkest parts of me, someday it will be filled to that same extent and greater, with that same joy, light, and love children bring me now. Someday my pain will be gone, but not forgotten. I know this because these little children in my life already are beginning to do that. But for now I will choose to fill it with something different.


6 months ago, 2 days before Thanksgiving Day, my husband and I received devastating news.

Our final attempt at in vitro had turned up with a negative pregnancy test.

We reacted differently then we had before. This was not our first rodeo.

We truly had felt 100% certain that this one would work. We had no doubt in our minds at all. Tears ran down my husbands face and I blankly stared ahead in absolute shock. I was certain I had heard the answer wrong. There was just no way that it was negative. We stared at each other realizing that everything about our future had to be re-arranged AGAIN. There is no way to explain the kind of exhaustion that comes from throwing everything you have into something, all for it to not work out, and then having to pick up the pieces of your life to arrange them into a new future.
I found myself reviewing my life. The last 7 ½ years of it.

And I found myself staring down a choice.
(It's funny I say choice now, because 4 years ago I would have told you that I was so consumed in my pain that I felt like I had no choice. That I was lead all over the world and my life, by the pain that so achingly was in the forefront of my heart.)

But now older, more experienced, and yes, perhaps a little wiser too, :) I realized how unhappy I was with who I was, when I allowed pain to consume me. And I realized that I had a choice. I could choose something different. If I did it now. Right now, in the moment of realization, I could choose to be proud of what I had become in spite of the pain. In spite of what I did not have and what I could not be.
And in that moment I realized. I wanted my life to mean something. I didn't want to look back at my life and only see that my time was made up of sadness and treatments, medicines and Doctors, meaningless jobs and hours of crying, of wishing and hoping and endlessly trying to have children. I didn't want to look back anymore and see that my time was just spent waiting. I wanted all of that sacrifice and time and experience to mean something.

And so. In that moment. I chose Hope.

In modern English we have changed the definition of hope.  Its definition has become so flimsy. As if it's so weak that it can be washed away. As if it's only a possibility. “Oh I hope that it rains tomorrow.” The very ending of that sentence rings in uncertainty.

I remember that feeling. I remember asking someone, “How can I have hope, when time and time again every month it is dashed away before me? I'm afraid if I hope again for next month that my heart will be injured. And if I continue to do that, before long my heart will be so numb that I won't be able to feel anymore. So how do I hope without getting hurt?”

If we come to understand and know truly what hope means then it gives us a power and strength beyond our own capacity and helps us rise above pain and unending fixation on what we do not have. It allows us to act and have purpose, when life seems to offer none.

The Greek translation of the word Hope is Elpis which translates to “Expectation of that which is sure, or certain.” The Latin Spero – means “Expectation with a promise of good things.”  In Hebrew there are several different translations because of the way the word is used. One of them is Seber meaning “To wait” but it includes the piel Hebrew ending making the verb an intensive verb. For example, instead of “cry” the piel ending turns the word into “Sobbing” this shows us that Seber is not passive but actively waiting. In Psalms 16:9 The ending of the verse “Therefore my heart is glad, and my glory rejoiceth: my flesh also shall rest in hope.”  Translates to “a submission in total confidence and trust.”
This kind of HOPE then, is not the kind of hope that next month I will be pregnant, or that the medicine will work out, or that the Doctor will be right this time. No, this kind of HOPE changes you. It has changed me. It is the total confidence, trust, and expectation in the end result when every thing is said and done. It is the confidence that someday I will hold my children in my arms and that nothing can change that!

This hope has changed the way I see myself.

It has changed what I want my life to be like now, and what kind of legacy I want to create.

It has changed my view from seeing only the day in front of me to having confidence in what my life will be.

It has brought me true happiness with my life that I have now.

It has changed asking God for children in my prayers, to adding “What would you like me to do with my time in the meantime?”

Now when I am faced with difficult news, or sorrow, or reminders. I only feel a hint of that pain. It's as if HOPE has lifted me above what has caused me pain in the past.

Real HOPE takes your mind off the day to day “wondering if” that most people define hope as, and solidly moves your mind and confidence to the grand finale of the future.

Now when I think and ache to have children, I'm not moving forward in an obsessive state of mind trying to find SOMETHING that will get me pregnant or bring children into my home. Now, I feel calmly inspired to act only specific things, which has freed up my time, my heart, and my resources, while giving me peace and confidence that I'm moving forward to the end results of having our family completed.

Most importantly to me--I feel purpose. As soon as I started asking God what He wanted me to do with the time that He has given me while waiting for a child..... purposeful, meaningful, projects, events, and people to help, have entered my life. I am filled with happiness and joy in discovering who I am in God's eyes and my purpose in the meantime. It's brought me so much joy to finally be able to say, “I am happy with who I am becoming in the meantime while I have HOPE in God's plan of us having children.”

HOPE has to change from hope that every month I will be pregnant, hope that the procedure will work, or hope that the medicine will work, to HOPE that is rooted in the confidence in the end game and in the One who is running all the plays.

And it all begins with a choice. To be more. To be happy. To not be overrun by pain. To choose to be more than just your pain, or your diagnosis. To find out who God wants you to be and what He wants you to do in the meantime.

So no, I do not choose to wait. I do not choose to fight. I do not choose to give up on my dreams. I choose HOPE.

And now I have HOPE when there is no hope. Are you with me?

Thursday, September 19, 2013

St. George Successes

Here is a story about of one couple's experience at one of the races this year. We wish all of our couples the very best of luck as they take the next steps in their journey to parenthood. We are grateful we could be a part of your journey.  Click here to read Jacob and Leisa's race day experience and look through the blog to be inspired by their story.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Miss Utah 2013 wants to Pound the Pavement for Parenthood!

She will be at the race on Saturday to help us as we rally around and support couples struggling with infertiliy. Come join us!

Monday, June 10, 2013

The 5 Stages of Infertility Grief

Found this article on the American Society of Reproductive Medicine, written by Genea Golas

When you're having trouble having a baby, there may be a lot to grieve. You grieve your ovaries, which work only some of the time. You grieve your partner's sperm for being too few or poor swimmers. You grieve the entire process; all of the tests, the diagnoses, the waiting. Things many may never need to think about, you've obsessed over. Good grief.
Just as with any other grieving process, like the five stages identified by Kubler-Ross, the progression of infertility emotions has stages as well.

"We must have just gotten the timing wrong. Again."
"Male factor infertility, you say? Hon, we're switching you out of boxer briefs into boxers. That must be the easy fix. Bonus points if you want to go commando."
"Something must be wrong with these pee sticks, I can't ever seem to get the second line to show up."
"Whaddya mean she's pregnant, again?!"

Anger (see also: jealousy, irrational behavior, selfishness)
"Everyone around me is pregnant. It must have been so easy for them. Must be nice."
"They sent me the defective pee sticks again, these are OBVIOUSLY BROKEN!"
"I'd give anything to be pregnant."
"If only we had started sooner, I'd probably have a baby by now."
"Why can't we just skip all this testing and get right to the IVF? We know that's what we'll need anyways."
"Hello, Yes, if you could send me another batch of pee sticks, the ones that work this time, I'll take back that nasty review I wrote last year when I tried to order on Christmas Eve in time for Christmas. I know you have deadlines for a reason. Besides, you have the cheapest pee stick prices..."

"Nothing is going right. I'll never be pregnant at this rate."
"My 18-year-old employee was happy when her pregnancy test was negative. It's all I can do to keep from sobbing each time I get a negative result."
"Those pee stick manufacturers obviously don't want me to have kids."

"It is what it is. We need to just keep going with the tests to give us the best outcome when the time comes."
"We're not the only ones going through this. So many other couples have struggled with infertility, whether we know it or not. There's a lot of support out there from places we never imagined we'd find it."
"Maybe I'll stop peeing on a stick for a while."

One thing I learned from my infertility experience is, it is ok to feel all the emotions that will come with infertility  because there will be LOTS.  Before I opened up about my infertility experience (other than to my husband) I kept a lot of my feelings I was dealing with to myself. It wasn't until I opened up to my friend Jill that I could really start dealing with my infertility. The best advice she gave me was if you are having a hard day and feel like crying, it is OK to cry. You will feel LOTS of emotions going through infertility, and as hard as it is it will make you stronger in the end. 

Open House

This is a great opportunity to meet the incredible staff at Utah Fertility Center. These people are miracle workers.  Dr. Foulk has been a huge support to Pound the Pavement for Parenthood in the past and this year.  Amazing man. Amazing physician.  Go meet him!  And check out their new beautiful office on June 13th!