Cancer Ever After

Musings on Infertility, Adoption, Cancer and Widowhood.

Speed Bump

The biggest surprise as we completed our home study was a requirement to document how we plan on being home with the baby for 12 weeks. Now we know why adoptions typically take two years and there is a very specific order for each step. In a typical adoption, this wouldn’t be a surprise because your home study would be completed months or possibly a year before you are matched with a birth mother. This would be part of your planning and you would be saving and negotiating with your employer to make this happen.

Honestly, we didn’t plan on being home with him for 12 weeks. My new company doesn’t offer paid parental leave, nor does my husband’s. Because I’m not giving birth to him we don’t qualified for short term disability, either. That means we will be down to one income the entire time we are home with him. My husband’s company is also too small to be subject to FMLA.  Luckily my new company has grown enough over my year with them and now offers FMLA. I also (just barely) meet the year of service requirement.

The surprise nature of this adoption means we get a little blind-sided as we go through the process. I knew my new company only offered short-term disability for maternity leave, but hadn’t really thought through how that applied to adoption when we said yes. I did realize later, but then assumed we’d simply have to take a much shorter leave than we’d like to be with Baby H. Unfortunately, a lot of mothers have to do this. I have so many friends that had to return to work after a mere six weeks.

The requirement to put in writing and sign an agreement on how we will be home with him for 12 weeks throws a wrench into everything. I understand the intention: to make sure we fully bond. And for an older child, I’m in complete agreement. Given that my girls didn’t sleep longer than three hours at a time until they were over 10 months old, I’m pretty sure that Baby H and I (and my husband) will have plenty of time to bond during the wee morning hours.

At the same time, I like the idea of a longer leave. I took 4.5 months of leave with my girls and would love to spend 12 weeks at home with Baby H. 

We’re just not sure we can swing it. I don’t know yet if this is a state requirement, agency requirement or an agency preference. That answer will guide how we handle this one. I’ve got a call in to the attorney to clarify, and then I’ll see what I’m able to negotiate with the home study agency.

The funny part of this is that the more time we take, the harder it will be for us to bond with Baby H in some respects. We were planning on leaving the girls in daycare for the first few weeks so that we have one-on-one time with Baby H. We need a little time to ramp up to being parents of three. And if my sleep deprived memories are correct, it’s hard those first few weeks, or months. To swing three months of parental leave,  the girls will have to quit daycare as soon as he is born and Tim & I will get a crash course on staying at home with three littles full-time.

For the sake of everyone, we hope to very gradually transition the girls from their current daycare to their new one, and give them some time to get used to the new baby. I’m actually dreading the daycare change. They are happy where they are and it’s going to big a big change to go to an in-home provider.  Too much change at once is tough on toddlers. We want them to react as positively to Baby H as possible.

They’re too young to understand most of what is going on, but they will definitely notice the difference once he’s here. We want to do everything we can to make the transition easy on them, so that they are loving and caring with him. We love him, and we want them to as well.

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It’s a Small World After All

How do you take the world and shrink it?

I’m from a small town and I’m used to word getting around in about five minutes when someone gets hurt or needs help.  It’s always a matter of six degrees of separation.  “Mary’s niece is trying to adopt a baby, and she’s having a pancake feed on Saturday. You should go.”   Talk to a few of the right people and word can get around a town of 5,000 in days. And this was before social media.  Now it probably gets around in a matter of minutes!  Don’t believe me? Ask anyone from a small town.

It’s different in the big city.  I don’t think human nature is any different, people are just as nice and caring, but you don’t have that feeling of connection with someone you don’t know, or only know through those six degrees of separation.  It takes more to compel you to act– you have to feel a connection.  Otherwise it’s just a sad story you heard about.

There are a few exceptions to this.  Events or things that make the world shrink can bring a city together. Unfortunately, tradegy is one of those things that can shrink the world.  I’ve traveled to New York pre 9/11 as well as in the months shortly after.  What truly amazed me post 9/11 is how New York felt like a small town.  The sense of community was overwhelming. Neighbors were helping neighbors and everyone went out of their way to help each other out.  New York City became every small town in America.  They were the very heart of America.

This also happens in times of joy or celebration.  The Royals playing in the World Series in Kansas City, helped shrink our city.  Weather you were a die-hard fan or indifferent, for a short time you were from Kansas City and you had a common cause.

This brings me back to the question, “How do you shrink the world?”.  What can we do so  people will realize that we are their neighbors, their friends?  That our story is the story of everyone who has tried to have a baby and wasn’t able to.

This is the true challenge of fundraising in a Big City. Tim and I don’t have a large circle of friends and for me, at least, meeting new people is hard. I’m an introvert who has trained herself to appear to be an extrovert.   No matter how often I speak or how many people I meet, my first instinct is to draw back. There’s always a spurt of terror at meeting someone new. To be honest, I’m perfectly content to live in my own mind most of the time; which makes shrinking the world a lot harder.

Tim and I have focused on sharing our story online because we are more comfortable with that, at least I am.  It’s hard to strike up conversations with strangers and I don’t tend to speak of the adoption as much in person. Right now, we’re focusing on shrinking one corner of our world — our neighborhood. We’ve put flyers for our pancake feed on every community mail box in all of our surrounding neighborhoods. (don’t worry, my picture is on them, the post office already knows who to arrest contact)

We’ve also gone full-on public with our journey. I’ve created a facebook page, and I blog to share our story and our journey. When I started this blog, we wanted to share our story so that people would want to be part of the journey, to invite people to become part of our world, or as Mr. Rodgers would put ask them, “Won’t you be my neighbor?”. What I didn’t expect was the therapeutic nature of the blog.  I never expected to blog as often as I have or feel like I have so many thoughts clawing their way out of me. But we have years of infertility, miscarriages, and treatments under our belt.  Our entire view of the world has shifted, and it’s nice to be able to express how that’s changed my life.

I also blog, because bloggers saved my sanity.  When you are infertile, at first you don’t share. It’s a shameful diagnosis and you feel as if you are lacking as a person. Everyone else can have babies and raise a family– why can’t you?  And later, the hurt from infertility is a raw aching wound. It simply hurts to share.  There were times when I thought if I started speaking about it, I would just start screaming and crying and raging. I was afraid if the floodgates opened, I would never be able to close them again.

I desperately searched for stories like mine after our first miscarriage (I found ONE in all of the internet), and as I went went through medicated cycles, IUI’s, and IVF cycles I poured over dosages, levels, and response rates from every available source. Reading those blogs made me feel like I had a friend on our very lonely journey through infertility.  Some blogs were old, they’d already found their success and I would pour through every entry on what they had done.  All of those blogs made the world smaller. I felt like I knew someone in San Diego or Boston — we were kindred spirits. I had a partner or friend in my journey. Someone who was showing me the ropes.

I hope by sharing our story, that someone else will find it helpful.  That a neighbor will feel like they know us, that the world will become a little smaller. And most of all, I hope that a lonely googler who is considering adoption, or who has recently had a miscarriage feels less alone. Maybe someday, someone will find hope in our journey when they think all hope is lost. Maybe someone else will read this as they try to fundraise to make the astronomical costs of adoption manageable, and they will see that it’s possible.

I hope. And I blog.

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The Line

As I go through this process, I’ve noticed an adoption narrative that I am just not comfortable with. I’m not rescuing this child from a terrible and awful situation. Because I have a better job, am more established and have more resources at my disposal, does not automatically make me a better parent. The choices I make as a parent and my willingness to learn, improve and adapt are what give me the ability to become a great parent. But I have to constantly work and strive to be a better parent. Resources do not automatically equal greatness.

I’ve been told that I could raise more money for the adoption if I focused on how I am saving this child. But I won’t go there. I simply don’t believe it to be true. I feel so strongly about this because of my background. My mom got pregnant and married at 17 and then had four more kids in rapid order. She had five kids by the age of 25 with little education or job skills. And then my parents divorced. A home that had just enough to scrape by was torn into two homes that couldn’t quite make it.

I got my first job at 10 busing tables, and by 12 was helping to cover electric bills–but that was temporary as we got on our feet. My mom was determined to provide for us and to make our lives better. She entered into a management training program at work and got her bachelors degree while I played volleyball, hung out with friends and finished high school. Long before I managed to graduate college, she had her master’s degree and had opened her own business.

Through it all, she was there for all of us. Sometimes she was tough, and lord knows you don’t want to get on her bad side, but she was a great mother. Amazing children are produced by single-parent households, and amazing people grow up in families that don’t have a lot. It’s all about the characteristics you instill in your children and how you encourage them. My mom taught me the value of hard work and that it’s not really work if you love what you do. She always encouraged me to strive to be my best and told me that limits exist only in my mind; when I see a ceiling I should break on through.

I don’t know what is in store for our birth mother. I don’t know the choices that she will make. But I do know she is making a pivotal one now, one that will reverberate through the rest of her life. My hope is that by digging so deep and asking us to raise her son in a house with more opportunities and resources, she will be able to focus on her life. She wants to complete her GED and get her nursing certification. I hope that happens.

I also know there is a chance that she will change her mind.  That is why it is so  important for me to cling to the knowledge that if she decides to parent this child, he’ll be loved. Time will tell which one of us will kiss his boo boos and kiss him goodnight.

I hope it’s me, but I have to think that she will aspire to greatness if she keeps him.  I know she loves him too, to go through this and then hand him over to someone else to raise. In some ways, I think he is doubly blessed. He’s not even here yet and so many people love him.

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Best Day Ever!

Okay, maybe not the best day ever, I’ve had some good ones.  But it was an amazing day.  If you recall, a few months ago, I girded my loins and approached the c-suite at my new employer to ask for adoption benefits. I had contacted the Dave Thomas Foundation and received a slew of helpful information and the beginning of a proposal for benefits that I could take to my employer. This was actually Tim’s and my first step before entering the world of fundraising for adoption.

I had worked the past 10 years at a company with phenomenal adoption benefits, and knew my new company didn’t have them when I took my current job. We thought this path was a route we wouldn’t take. This new employer offered more flexibility and time with our girls, and we thought that the girls would be our first and last children. We both misjudged how we would feel about wanting another child. We didn’t realize that adoption would be our path.

It was tough to go to each executive and ask for this benefit, especially as a new employee. I put together a proposal for an adoption benefit in November, and was told it would probably take them two weeks to consider. I followed up in two weeks, and they didn’t have an answer. I followed up again, and they still didn’t know. At that point, I assumed the silence was my answer. They weren’t going to be able to swing it. We’re a small company, so I could understand that.

So imagine my surprise when the CEO asked me to stop by his office after a meeting to touch base on a project. He told me, “We think what you are doing is a great thing, and we support you. I can’t say yet exactly what the benefit will look like, but we are going to add one in time for your adoption.” I started crying right then and there. Nothing like crying in front of the head of your company, right? What could be worse?

Later that week, we had our employee Christmas party (in January) and I was called to the front to receive a peer-nominated award. I was thrilled. To have my coworkers think I’m award-worthy in my first year is amazing. The CEO was presenting the award, so while I was up there, he announced that we were adding an adoption benefit. Everyone knows that Tim and I are trying to adopt and are fundraising. I couldn’t help it. I cried again, this time in front of the entire company.

Heck, if someone were to mention the benefit tomorrow, I’d probably still burst into tears. It just means so much to me, to us, to our family. It brings us worlds closer to holding our son in our arms, and it’s truly amazing that my company is willing to add this benefit. I don’t know if the benefit will reimburse us for some of the expenses or if it will included a paid leave for adoption. I just know that anything is better than nothing. It’s amazing and wonderful. Now, excuse me, I need to go cry some more…

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Penny Wise, Pound Foolish

Our birth mother doesn’t like her counselor. This is a big problem.

“A good counselor can be the difference in an adoption going through or failing,” said my very staid and serious attorney. The birth mother not liking her counselor worries me. And it’s not just about the adoption going through (although I want it, too). The counselor is there for her after the adoption, as well.

This is the person who helps her on the path of healing. Even though the adoption was her idea and she requested it, this will be a loss, and she will need to mourn and heal. It’s important to us that she have a good counselor.

When we began looking at home study agencies and counselors, we went with our second choice for both because the second choice agency offered an economical package for both options. This was the only place that could coordinate both the home study and counseling. The price tag also swayed us. And at that time, I spoke to their counselor and loved her, so it seemed like the perfect solution.

Then our birth mother moved and received a new counselor–a counselor neither one of us is very impressed with. She missed an appointment, and then she was late for the next one. She seems scattered and, quite frankly, doesn’t focus on what our birth mother wants or needs. Now I feel like we made a poor choice because we were worried about the cost. And this was all BEFORE the appointment in which the counselor spent a total of 10 minutes with her in the presence of the driver I had arranged. And none of that time was spent talking about the adoption. NOT IMPRESSED.

After talking to our attorney and going over everything we learned in this process, we decided it was time to find a new counselor. I contacted my original first choice. She costs a lot more, but I LIKE her so much more, and I think our birth mother will as well. At least, I hope so. She needs have support as she continues down this path. Our birth
mother is going to meet with both counselors next week and let us know who she would prefer to work with. I just hope they click.

The counseling sessions will add up. It’s probably $2,000 to $3,000 we weren’t planning on spending. But the counselor also plays a pivotal role in the process.

I won’t lie–I want a counselor that helps our birth mother be sure that this is what she wants. If she’s going to back out, I’d like to know before we get to the birth and before we’ve spent too much on the legal fees and process. I think a more experienced counselor will help us determine that.

But I also want to make sure the birth mother has the support she needs. I’ve never given up a child for adoption, but I’ve lost children and I know that it hurts. I need to know that she has someone to turn to and will be able to start the process of healing. The hardest part of adoption is knowing that no matter what, one of us walks away with empty arms.

If it’s going to be her, I need to know, for my own peace of mind that she has support in place. For now, I’ll hold my breath and hope that she likes the new counselor. That they click. If they do, it will be money well spent.

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