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By Brandy Black

It’s hard to believe that we have been vlogging on YouTube for 3 years!  We have met so many of you through comments, tweets, pictures and going live.  I never would have thought it possible to feel so close to thousands of people around the world but it has happened.  We have created a strong, powerful, fun, silly, loving extended family and one day we hope to meet all of you in person!  Here is our 3 year Channaversary video for youtube.  Thank you for all of your support and if you haven’t said hello on FB, Twitter, YouTube, or Instagram, please do!

Happy 3 Year Channaversary! | The Next Family - YouTube

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By Brandy Black

All my days have become the same, at 5:00, my routine begins, I walk to the stereo and slip in a prepared disk that I listen to every night at this time.  I open the refrigerator with a glimmer of hope for what I might get out of the pain I am about to ensue.  I grab the needle and the vial and draw out 1.75 CC’s, I slowly pull back the cold clear liquid and push until it is at the very edge of the needle.  I search for a spot that isn’t too bruised for another entry. I carefully and methodically rub alcohol on my skin waking it up for the enthralling prick it is about to receive.  I take a deep breath and thrust the needle into my skin pushing hard to be sure that every ounce of the fluid seeps into my body.  I pull the needle out of me and place a tiny band-aid over the prick.  I repeat this three times, each with different medication.  My eyes don’t flutter, I don’t get a rush through my body, I feel sad and beaten down and tired.  When I finish my daily routine, I turn off the music and walk with my dog to get a shot of wheatgrass.   They know me there and sometimes even pour me a little extra green grass always with an orange slice on the side.  I tip the shot back and shake my head in disgust every night.  The teenagers behind the counter must wonder why I put myself through this so often.  I want to tell them my story and what is behind these sad eyes but they wouldn’t understand, they wouldn’t know what it’s like.

Now I lay here in the recovery room with sheets drawn on either side of me, groggy, hearing moaning and whispers from the other beds.  I look down at my wrist and and see the clear plastic tube feeding me.  This is the last time I will be here with these familiar nurses and doctors.  I am done, I am quitting no matter what the results may be.  I am scared and not ready to let go but I have no choice.  This habit has become expensive and exhausting.  It has consumed my life, my partners life and is the topic of all conversations. I wonder if I will be able to say good-bye to this chapter of my life.  I have never desired something so passionately and struggled to let go so much.  I don’t give up easily, I never have, I am stubborn and strong willed.  (pause) I will have to wait two weeks for the results and than I will know if I truly have the will power to stop this charade. 

I get out of the hospital and 2 weeks become 14 days and 14 days become 336 hours and 336 hours become thousands and thousands of minutes, time is slower than it’s ever been.  Every morning I am relieved that another day has passed.  The 14th day arrives and I am sitting in the doctors office, the couch is comfortable and I am not, I rock myself back and forth waiting for the test results.  I will know in less than 5 minutes if the 2 and half years, thousands of dollars spent and hundreds of shots taken were going to pay off in the end.  Was IVF really all that everyone said it would be?  None of the nurses can look at me as they pass by the small window looking out to the waiting room.  They know me well, they know my partner, they have drawn my blood every other week for as long as I can remember.  We all know this is the last time. 

I hear my doctor’s voice calling me into his office, it is shaking and I try to read into every syllable I hear.  I slowly push myself off the couch with tears in my eyes and open the door.  I see a nurse at the end of the hall and her eyes immediately shift down to the floor.  The walk to his office seems endless, I round the corner to see him, arms open, and a smile on his face. 

“Congratulations, you’re pregnant”!

I wrote that over 10 years ago and now have 3 kids, one for every year of infertility.  Looking back, it’s hard to believe that we went through that much struggle and there was once a time when we truly believed it wasn’t possible for us to have kids of our own.  It wasn’t until CCRM approached us to partner with them and share our journey for National Infertility Awareness Week that we drudged up the emotions that came with trying to get pregnant.  Without hesitation we both knew we wanted to be a part of sharing our pain and struggle in the process.  It was such an emotional taxing time and the only thing that gave us hope was knowing that other people were going through the same thing and came out the other side with success stories. 

I’m not going to lie, creating our family felt like it was also pulling Susan and I apart and there were moments that we wondered if we were able to endure the constant disappointment.  There was nothing more exciting then dreaming about our family, what our kids would look like,  how we would celebrate the holidays, what our traditions would be—playing cards at night, reading by the fire, taking trips to Disneyland, our lists went on.  With every month that we didn’t get pregnant that list grew and grew and grew until one day it seemed those things were never going to happen for us.  Our dreams begin to dwindle and the doubt crept in. We couldn’t figure out why we weren’t getting pregnant and we were in denial that it could be infertility but after spending thousands of dollars on sperm donors and failed IUI’s it became obvious that we had to take next steps to do testing and eventually IVF.  Although the process at times felt sterile and far from what we imagined our baby making journey to be, we were so grateful that modern technology and companies like CCRM existed.  CCRM is one of the nation’s leading fertility centers and has 10 locations in US and Canada. They offer a myriad of infertility resources ranging from award winning physicians around the country to egg donor testing to a deep expertise in in vitro fertilization (IVF) with fertility assessment, fertility preservation, genetic testing and third party reproduction.  All of those things being foreign words to me until I began to realize that we were a couple that was facing infertility.    

I fought it every step of the way but with coaching from experts we fast tracked the process by taking the plunge into IVF.  At the end of the day, there are a number of reasons why any couple may not be able to have a baby “naturally” and in our case it was “unexplained infertility” but now that we have 3 beautiful children, it doesn’t matter how we got there.  It is their story, and ours and we are here to say that you don’t have to give up. It can and will be possible for you too.

We went through 3 rounds of IVF and I actually blogged through the whole process.  I was so emotional about it at the time that I wrote under a pseudonym— Rosy Barren.  You can find them here if you are going through the same thing and want to learn about our journey. I was very honest about all that we were going through and this is actually the first time that I have publicly announced that it was me that wrote that blog.  It helped me getting it on paper and working through my feelings.  I urge you to share your story with us and CCRM #LetsTalkFertility.  We help each other by being open and honest about how common this really is.  Despite what people think 1 in 8 people are affected by infertility yet when CCRM polled 1000 people, 40% of them believed that it is considered a socially taboo subject.  Maybe it’s pride, or the pain that it causes but we help one another when we share our story. Hearing other people’s struggles certainly helped me. 

Here is a video of Susan and I talking fertility.  Use the hashtag #LetsTalkFertility and tell us your stories.

Lesbian Moms: Getting Honest About Infertility | The Next Family - YouTube

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By Brandy Black

My wife is Jewish and more than any religion I identify with Santa and Christmas.  I was raised with more of an Eastern sense of spirituality. I started meditating when I was eight years old (although I’m admittedly not so consistent with it now). My parents never introduced me to Church or Temple; that came later, when my friends invited me to get to know their worlds better. So while we celebrated Christmas, it was a pretty mellow event.

When Susan and I had kids, we discussed the importance of sharing our spiritual and/or religious and cultural upbringings with them so that they could better understand their family history and range of beliefs. The High Holy Days and traditions of Passover and Hanukkah hold fond memories for my wife, and though she doesn’t necessarily subscribe wholesale to Judaism, she wants our kids to experience those same sweet traditions that she had growing up.

In an effort to celebrate the best of both worlds, we celebrate both Christmas and Hanukkah in our family: Chrismukkah! We sing Christmas carols as well as Hanukkah songs, and have even changed the lyrics to the song “The 12 Days of Christmas” to “The Eight Days of Hanukkah,” with silly lyrics that we wrote together as a family. We go to a Christmas Mass on occasion and strangely, I cry every time. I get such a huge emotional surge when I’m surrounded by so many strangers, all from different walks of life, gathered together in the spirit of kindness, unity and love. We want our children to understand there is a greater purpose to life; that love and kindness should lead you through your days, and that whatever name people may give it—there is a great force, a spirit bigger than us, guiding us along the way.  

Without belonging formally to church or a temple, we make an effort to create our own traditions and find ways to celebrate our beliefs. We love Skirball Cultural Center so much year round, but come the holiday season, it becomes even more of an important family destination for us. It is a place where we can gather to celebrate Jewish traditions in a unique way, surrounded by a community of like-minded people. We love watching the kids let loose—dancing and singing, expressing themselves through art and exploring the history of the Jewish people. Skirball openly embraces LGBTQ families like ours and their programming is inclusive to all backgrounds. 

This year, Skirball’s Hanukkah Festival: LA/LA is inspired by The Getty’s  Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA initiative, exploring the themes of Hanukkah through the traditions of  LA’s diverse Latin American communities. Activities include musical performances by Latin Jewish bands, and the opportunity to learn about Mexican chocolate by decorating chocolate gelt. We would love to see your family there! Come celebrate the season with us by honoring the cultural diversity of our neighbors, learn about traditions you might not be familiar with, and maybe go a bit deeper into the ones you hold dear. The festival is on Sunday, December 10th 11:00AM-4:00PM.  

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By Brandy Black

Susan and I often say that we don’t feel like grown ups on most days. It still seems crazy that we pay a mortgage and have to fix our AC and have 3 kids!  How did it all happen so fast?  When we were in our early twenties, I wanted to grow up quickly and buy a house and have children.  Now that we are here I wonder how good we really are at being adults.  I remember my mother used to tell me that it’s ok to never grow up, to be a kid inside and I now understand what she meant.  The weight of the world can hang heavy on us with so many responsibilities that on some days we choose to be silly and goof off.  This is one of my favorite things about having kids, they allow you the freedom to relive childhood all over again.

So yes, Susan and I played NEVER HAVE I EVER….

Playing Never Have I Ever! | The Next Family (25/30) - YouTube

Photo Credit: Jennifer Roper Photography (top photo)

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By Brandy Black

Being two moms we often get a lot of questions about the role my wife and I each play in our relationship.  “Who is the mom and who is the dad?” is a question we used to hear a lot, less so now but nevertheless people want to understand the dynamics between two women.  The best way I can explain our roles as co-parents and spouses is a tag team approach of getting all the crazy day-to-day things done in order to keep our family of five in order.  Susan probably falls under the butch category and I the femme but the more I think about these labels the more I don’t want to be defined by them.  Over the last decade I have watched relationship roles evolve in straight relationships while the moms take a full time job and dads stay home and take care of the kids.  People are defining themselves based on their skillset, their present needs for their family and by who they want to be, not by gender. Times are changing so the nature of the question, in my opinion is dated.  We are who we are.  But we did attempt to answer this question in a typical Susan and Brandy round about way in this video below from our YouTube channel.

Butch Vs. Femme | The Next Family (20/30) - YouTube

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By Brandy Black

Growing up my mother encouraged open conversations in our house.  We talked about anything from periods, to sex, to drugs to suicide.  She felt that as long as she knew what I was thinking about and what concerned me that she could help me make better decisions along the way.  I think she did!  Although awkward at times, I wasn’t afraid to ask my mom questions and although sometimes delayed I have always ultimately shared what is happening in my life with my parents.  Coming out took the longest but that’s another story.

My wife and I have a similar goal in our house, we want our children to be able to tell and ask us anything.  Well Susan maybe a little less so than me but she will just route the tough questions my way I’m sure.  With that in mind, I try to stay ahead of the tough questions, I began talking about our two mom family openly when our kids were in preschool.  I tried to keep conversations at their level of curiosity but when they asked I never sheltered them from all the facts.  When Sophia (our now 9 year old) asked questions about “how she could have a family without a dad”, I told her about the donor and about how a baby is created with a sperm and an egg and at 7 years old she was able to succinctly explain where she came from.

"How my moms had a baby"- The facts of life from a 7-year-old - YouTube

Now a couple years later we are having open conversations about the beginnings of puberty (very basic stuff like training bras) and we talk about how one day (not anytime soon hopefully) she will be dating.  When we have these very casual talks I leave all options open.  “You might date a boy or a girl, you might not even know at this point.” and I also try to openly ask her thoughts on the topic.  I know some would say it’s too early to be having these conversations but to me if you start them young and you are  open about things, it takes all the mystery out of them and allows her to just feel what she wants to feel with no judgement. The other day when we were shooting a vlog, the conversation of her dating boys or girls came up.

Will She Date Boys Or Girls ❤ | The Next Family (17/30) - YouTube

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