Cancer Ever After

Musings on Infertility, Adoption, Parenthood and Cancer

There’s Fire?

6 days prior to the scheduled induction

I woke up in a strange bed with the sound of familiar barking ringing in my ears. It took a moment to orient myself, but the events of the prior evening came rushing back to me. The labor that stopped. Was the baby coming today? Tomorrow? We were about two weeks from the official due date, so the false labor may or may not have been a sign of things to come.

First things first: Tim and I needed to decide our plan of action. Since today was a Friday, we decided to leave our girls with the in-laws and stay near the birth mom. My mother was still out of town and we didn’t want to chance heading home just to turn back around.

That decided, we texted our birth mother and arranged to visit. The poor girl was miserable. She was at that point of pregnancy when sleeping, walking, eating, breathing, everything was difficult and/or painful. She was ready for the baby to be out TODAY.

We were on board with that. Early isn’t ideal, but she was 38 weeks at that point, so it wouldn’t be the worst thing. Over the next three days we walked with her, bought her spicy food, and helped her swing at the park, all in the hopes that she would go into labor on her own. No dice.

5 days prior to induction

By Sunday, we’d determined that Baby H wasn’t going to come out until the induction. While we all wanted him to come on his own, it just didn’t look likely. Tim had used his meager vacation time with the girls’ illnesses and I needed to save mine for parental leave. We had to go back, even if it meant that we just turned right back around if and when labor began.

Mainly this was because we really missed our girls. We had never been away from them for this long. I physically ached being away from them and FaceTime just wasn’t cutting it. Phoebe looked miserable and confused when we FaceTimed with her and it was breaking my heart. I needed to hold my babies.

And yet, I couldn’t wait to hold all of my babies.

4 days prior to induction

The other reason I was grateful that we came back was that I had only hired my replacement at work the week before. The poor girl had mere days of somewhat distracted training on key items. I hadn’t met with the teammates that would be taking over my other responsibilities while I was on leave.

I went in to the office in the wee hours of the morning, prepped file after file, and then conducted a brutal day of client handoff meetings. I was frantic to make sure everyone know what needed to be done while I was out on leave. These extra few days would make this possible.

3 days prior to induction

I received a text: “Doctor has decided to induce a day early.” I laughed when I received the text. That was the day we had been lobbying for all along. A Wednesday induction worked a lot better with regard to getting the necessary court order to release Baby H into our custody.

I called Tim and we quickly modified our plans to get there early. We were so ready.

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Unraveling

We are nearing the due date, and Tim and I have had to narrow our focus to the essentials in these last few weeks: working on the baby’s nursery (it’s a de-wallpapered disaster), building our relationship with the birth mom and really working to define how our open adoption will work, and spending quality time with our girls.

Those are the essentials. The nice-to-haves are a clean house, healthy meals for the girls, and some sleep. Everything else has been stripped as non-essential. There is only so much of us to go around and we need to focus on what matters most.

I thought we were doing much better at this. After some additional conversations with our birth mom, we decided a trip with all of us was in order. It was last-minute, so Tim and I spent a frantic Thursday night and Friday morning packing. The difference is we now have several trips under our belt. We have begun to feel that we are getting good at it. Diaper bag: check. Pack-n-play: check. Clothes, food, medicine, coats, shoes…The list is endless, but we finally felt as if we had it down, right to the big blow-up ducky tub (since my girls are terrified of my mom’s whirlpool tub).

We should have known better than to get cocky. Three hours into the drive, we realized we forgot the diaper bag. So there was an emergency stop for wipes and no diaper cream to be found at 10:30 at night in the middle of nowhere. It wasn’t until we got to my mom’s house that we realized that we had forgotten the most critical item–the pack-n-plays. Since most people have babies one at a time, my mom only has one pack-n-play from the years of my nieces and nephews staying. We always bring one from home.

Always Make that usually. We forgot the pack-n-play. It made for a miserable night. Luckily, my mom had a toddler mattress we could use, but poor Hazel fell out in the middle of the night. Our forgetfulness was even more apparent in the harsh light of day. One of Phoebe’s inhalers was missing and the nearest pharmacy that could fill it was 30 miles away. And then there were the coats. Somehow, we managed to forget one of the most critical things for a Kansas winter.

I felt like a terrible mom. If I ever needed a sign that Tim and I had spread ourselves too thin and weren’t functioning at our best, this was it. Luckily, after a very short night (Hazel didn’t sleep much at all), we were able to solve most of them. The DG was having a clearance sale on clothes and our girls now have two very Valentiney tracksuits to help keep them warm. Blankets solved the rest. Vaseline is a great emergency diaper cream. We were getting our mojo back.

And, after a little sleep, I think we also started to regain parts of our minds.

Despite the chaos and forgetfulness, the visit was worth it. We had some great conversations and talked through the birth plan for when we are at the hospital. It was a really great chance to make sure we are all on the same page. It was exactly what we needed.

 Want to help support our adoption? 
Visit our youcaring page and make a donation. Until March 1, each $20 donation will get you entered to win a 3 night stay at the Lake of the Ozarks in Osage Beach Missouri. View here for more information.

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Trust Me

“I want the baby to be baptized before we do the hand-off.”

I’ll admit this request surprised me a little bit, mainly because our birth mother has never asked about our religious beliefs. But the timing was rather serendipitous. We had just spoken to a acquaintance who had given us the entire story of how both of her domestic infant adoptions worked, from the open adoption and what they agreed on with the birth family, to how it was working for her and her children 10 years later. Her open adoptions involved not just birth mothers, but also grandparents.

One of the items she had emphasized was how helpful the “handing-off, or entrustment” ceremony was for her and her husband, and how the birth parents had later said it was helpful for them as they embarked on the journey of healing from the adoption. Tim and I both really liked the sound of that. Both of her adoptions were done through the same agency, and the agency had put together the ceremony and then had each of them write a statement expressing their commitment to the baby and to the open adoption.

This request was the perfect chance to bring this up as an idea. We really want our birth mother to determine what she wants for the hand-off and the counselor has been working on this with her, but she’s been having a tough time deciding. The hand-off is going to be unbelievably tough for her, and it would be nice if it gives her the ability to embark upon the healing she will need to do after this adoption.

Infant adoption is not universally liked, and I can see why. If a child is removed from their parents for abuse or neglect we feel justified–they are “going to a better place.” Emotions are much cloudier when a parent knows that they are not prepared, they are too young, or that one more child is more than they can support or handle. In infant adoption, the birth parent is motivated not by apathy or hate, but by love. And, in the case of infant adoption, that love causes pain. We don’t like to think about the pain involved.

I don’t know her exact pain, but it will be a profound loss that she will have to grieve and heal from. Just like I had to grieve and heal from my losses. My healing is still not complete, and I imagine that it will be years before hers is, either. What I do know from my own experiences is that having a ceremony for the babies I lost helped me heal more completely. Having something concrete to hold onto, proof of their existence, helped me.

She’s open to creating a ceremony where we baptize him and say words as the hand-off occurs–an “Entrustment Ceremony.” Now I need to do a little research. Neither one of us has an agency to guide us in this. This ceremony needs to be shaped by what she wants or thinks she needs, and we need to be flexible. Emotions will run high that day and our plans may just fly out the window. But the process of preparing for the ceremony can be healing in and of itself. We’ve asked her to write letters to him and we’ve started a baby book. We’re collecting pictures of her and her family. We want him to have the same type of album that anyone else would have–a book where they can compare where they got their eyes, nose or height from.

There is a second book in the works, a book for her. We bought her a book to start her collection of pictures and letters throughout the years. She wants the photographer to take a picture of her with Baby H so that she has a picture of her with him. I think that is a wonderful idea.

By and large, we’re flying blind and making things up as we go. We’re googling and researching, and she is, as well. Her counselor will hopefully help us define the process. In the end, an entrustment ceremony makes sense to me, because she is doing exactly that. She is entrusting the greatest treasure in the world into our care. She is placing her trust in us.

Want to help support our adoption? 
Visit our youcaring page and make a donation. Until March 1, each $20 donation will get you entered to win a 3 night stay at the Lake of the Ozarks in Osage Beach Missouri. View here for more information.

 

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3 a.m. Wake Up Call

The alarm went off at 3:30 in the morning, and all I could do was groan. Two or three hours of sleep wasn’t nearly enough. Yet, I forced myself to get out of bed and stumble to the shower in the hopes of waking up fully. I groggily suggested Tim go sleep on the couch so that one of us could get a little extra rest. This early morning wake-up call didn’t need to kill us both, but it was a necessary evil.

The original plan had been for me to drive to visit our birth mother on Thursday night and then take her to her doctor visit, go grocery shopping and then have a nice, relaxing lunch with her. It would be a short visit compared to the 8 hours of driving to go there and back, but it would help us continue to build on our relationship. For Baby H, we need to solidify that relationship so that we are truly comfortable and prepared when he is born.

That’s when all hell broke loose. When I picked up the girls they were acting a little clingy and fussy, but no alarms were raised. Tim and I juggled spending quality time with them and packing for my visit with our birth mother and for our upcoming rare weekend alone. We frantically packed, we juggled fussy girls, and we got them ready for bed. Tim was going to handle bedtime solo, so I headed out the door.

#&$*! I couldn’t find the gift card I had bought for our birth mother. I turned the car around and called Tim. That’s when the other shoe dropped: “Both girls started puking as soon as you left. They are crying and haven’t eaten a bite of dinner.”

I was so glad that I had already turned around. I drove home immediately and helped Tim manage the girls, rocking and comforting them. Poor Phoebe couldn’t understand why she kept throwing up and was scared of the bowl I placed in front of her. Finally, she was too exhausted to fight it any longer and fell asleep. Tim and I strategized in hushed whispers outside their door. I could go find the card and then try to drive down and arrive after midnight, or I could wake up and leave at 3:30 a.m. to make it there on time. The weekend alone was definitely canceled.

Neither one of us knew how serious this illness could be for the girls, so we opted for the early morning wake-up. The girls woke up four more times before I left, and we juggled toddlers and changed sheets, jammies, and diapers. I rocked and I comforted, trying to make sure my babies got a little sleep. As for Tim and me, I’m not sure we got much of any.

3:30 a.m. The alarm went off. It was time to get ready and head out the door.

As you can probably tell, the adoption and fundraising process are beginning to take their toll. And I have a responsibility to all of my children. If I’ve learned nothing else from infertility, I have learned that parenting is a privilege, not a right. I am privileged to have two beautiful girls and I will be honored if someday soon I have a son to join them.

Lately, I have been focused on one child’s needs over the needs of the others. I have no doubt that this will continue to be a challenge over the years as we have three children with different needs clamoring for our attention. It’s a battle that we are signing up to fight every day. I have to ask myself the hard questions as I weigh the needs of each. When I arranged to go back to visit our birth mom, I had no idea what life would throw at us that day. I’m glad I stayed, and it was worth the grueling 14-hour trip to make sure that I was there as they woke up sick in the middle of the night. It was worth the brutal trip back as I cracked the windows and talked with friends to stay awake and be a safe driver on the road, so that I could be back before dinner and bedtime.

We’ve reached a crossroads. That 3 a.m. wake-up call was a wake-up in more ways than one. We have to decide what our limit is. We only have one more big fundraiser in us. We need to be fully committed to building the relationship with our birth mom and with her family so that Baby H has the best upbringing possible. That takes time and travel. We need to be able to continue to focus on our girls and weigh their needs as we go through this process.

It’s time to ask for more help. We can’t make this last fundraiser the success it needs to be on our own. We need to see if we can get friends and family to help us sell just one or two, or perhaps five, tickets to friends of theirs. And we need to admit that we just might not reach our goal. Reaching our fundraising goal will mean nothing if we haven’t given this adoption the time and attention it needs.

We are a large part of the success of this adoption. We need time to get the nursery ready and get ourselves ready to have a third child. We need to start preparing our girls. They don’t fully understand yet, but there are things we can do to make the addition of another child easier on them. Which in turn will make bringing Baby H into the fold much easier on him and us.

We need to continue to focus on strengthening the relationship with our birth mother. It’s getting tougher for her as the time draws nearer. It’s becoming real and she needs more support. We’re beginning to have some tough conversations about how the adoption will continue to work throughout the years and how the hand-off will go.

In other words, we’re awake.

 

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What’s in a Name?

“I want to name the baby after my father.”

This text was a complete surprise. About a month and a half into the adoption, the birth mother had asked us what names we were considering for the baby and we had shared our chosen name with her. We’ve been referring to him by name in conversations between us. I thought we were in agreement on this.

“The counselor says that I can name the baby and then you can change the name.” This is true, and I was trying to figure out why this felt so strange to me. I think it’s because it makes me feel like getting a puppy at the pound. The dog has a pound name, like Lucky or Lassie, and then you name it as part of the process of taking it home and making it yours. Not everyone renames, and certainly not an older pet that you adopt, but it still feels strange to me.

And yet.

This is her child. If this is something that she needs to do to show how much she loved him, than I support it. We support it. Tim and I started to talk this through and I asked her what her father’s name is. I laughed when I received the text. Oddly enough, it’s a name that I jokingly use as my husband’s middle name when he’s in trouble. (It’s not his actual middle name.) It’s a standing joke between us.

I didn’t answer her right away. We need to consider how we wanted to handle this. We just weren’t sure what the right answer or response was. We tested the name as a middle name with the first name we selected. Then inspiration struck: how about giving Baby H two middle names? Part of me likes this. This gives him something tangible from his birth mother, proof that she wanted to give him something as she gave him to us. The other part of me wonders what it will be like having so darn many names.

We proposed using it as a second middle name: our first name, her middle name, then our middle name. I don’t know. We don’t know if this is the right answer. To be honest, we’re still not entirely sure how we feel, but we proposed this to her as an option to see what she thinks.

“That has a nice ring to it, actually.”

If I’ve learned nothing else throughout this adoption, it is how little we are in control of the way things are going to play out. I’ve learned how to relax and be flexible. There is so much that we don’t know about this process that we need adapt to. It will be no different as we raise him. This will be new to all of us and we will all have to learn our way as we go.

Want to help us bring home baby h? 

Visit our youcaring page and make a donation. All proceeds will help cover the legal and adoption expenses. From now until February 28, you will receive an entry into a drawing for a 3 night stay at the Lake of the Ozarks for every $20 you donate.

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