Cancer Ever After

Musings on Infertility, Adoption, Parenthood and Cancer

Unprepared

There has been one aspect of this adoption that I haven’t delved deeply into during my posts, not because it’s unimportant, but because it is so very important. Race. This is a transracial adoption. We are adopting this baby knowing that someday he will face reactions and discrimination that we have never experienced personally. He will have a view of the world that we will never fully understand or share.

That’s the tough part. I’m not naive. I know discrimination is real. We live two miles from Missouri and Ferguson could easily be in our backyard. I’ve seen the youtube video of the father whose adopted daughter was bullied because of her race, and I bawled my eyes out on her behalf. I saw myself in his shoes some day, and I can only hope I handle it with the grace and aplomb that he did.

I have biracial nieces and nephews. I have friends who have been called “the token Asian,” or something else jokingly, yet in a not-so-funny way, most of their lives. We live in a world that notices race. Our son will not look like us and this will be a reality of his life, for his entire life. People will undoubtedly make rude comments in public before he can even understand them, and that won’t change. It will be obvious he is adopted.

To learn how to handle this, we’re taking classes and we’re talking through scenarios to think of how we will handle things when they happen. Because we know that something will. The middle school years will likely be the hardest. Or will it be high school? Growing up as a young, black male in a predominantly white neighborhood and school will have its own challenges. And there are nights that this keeps me up. How will the world treat him? How can we protect him? What do we need to teach him? How do we equip him for the world?

Just like being adopted, his race is part of who he is: an important part. But neither one of those factors are the sum total of who he is or will be. It will be our job to guide him as he assimilates these pieces into the whole of who he will become. I think both factors will shape him and his view of the world, but events do that, too. As parents, we will be a strong influence. How we raise him, how we love him, the example that we provide–that will shape him as well.

Tim and I have had to realize that we will have to learn as we go on this. We can study and talk to others to get general ideas of issues that we may run into, but we will never be fully prepared. I don’t know what I would do if my son were bullied the way that girl was in the video. But as I watched it, I, sadly, wasn’t surprised by the way the teenagers acted. I know that this type of treatment exists in the world. And I also know that I won’t be able to wrap my son or daughters in cotton. They may be bullied, they may be teased. It could be because they wear glasses, have out-of-fashion clothes, are too tall, are too short, are adopted, or because of their race. I can’t control what others do. What we can focus on is how we will support our children when these things happen.

We shape how they internalize what others say to them. This is what I need to focus on. I need to help him handle the negativity that may come his way. Tim and I need to be prepared to talk through these things if and when they happen. We need a plan of action to handle rude comments in public. We need to be able to maintain our cool like the guy in the video when faced with assholes who discriminate.

This is our son. Period. We will learn and grow as we need to in order to be the parents he needs. That is our vow. That is our promise.

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Crystal Ball

“What are your goals in life for the next five years? Ten years?”

All we need to do is answer this and 20 other questions, complete nine more documents and get copies of government documents and court proceedings from obscure government agencies. In other words, the home study is going well. I spend at least 30 minutes of every day tracking documents down, and then I come home to questions like this. It’s so difficult to answer a question like this when you know your answer is being weighed and measured.

Do we answer this question with money and career in mind? Do we focus on family balance, or do we answer from the heart? We opted for a mixture, but here is what I would really love to say:

In five years I hope we are juggling three kids in activities and are complaining about carting them from one place to another. I hope we are scrambling to have dinner before 8 p.m. because our lives are so very full. I hope we spend weekends making lists of all the errands that we need to run and planning to do a deep clean and then scratching that plan because it’s gorgeous outside and we want to have a family soccer game in the back yard, or we just randomly decided to have a family fun-day at the zoo.

I hope in five years that we still remember what we went through to have our children and cherish them, even when they are having tantrums and developing personalities and strong opinions of their own. I hope that there are daily fights with constant claims that “Kid 1 and Kid 2 are picking on me!” In a house with an odd number of kids it’s bound to happen. We’re making a choice to forever be mediators in that unwinable war.

In ten years, I hope we are scratching our heads in confusion as the middle school years loom. I hope one of our toughest problems is a son with poor hygiene who doesn’t want to shower and has to be bribed with Axe, or some new in-fashion and boys and maybe a little drama. In ten years, I invasion drama and crying and rages being a part of our daily life because at that age YOU FEEL.

In five years or in ten years we may be in the same house or the same jobs; maybe not. But that won’t be the center of our universe. A job is what pays the bills, and it’s a nice bonus if you really like what you are doing. When I envision the future, I don’t imagine the time I’ll spend at a computer for work or entering information into a spreadsheet, and I know Tim doesn’t think about the thousands of ultrasounds he will undoubtedly perform. We have visions of the future and we have hopes and dreams about the things we want to do with our kids. We want to take them fishing, and canoeing, and camping. We hope in the next ten years those will be part of our springs, summers and falls. We want to have evenings by a fire in our backyard roasting marshmallows. We want to teach our children to ride their bikes and maybe ski. When I envision the future, I see two girls who have finally outgrown their pigtails and a small boy with dusky skin and short brown curls standing right next to them, quite possibly towering over them.

I hope these word prove prophetic. Time will tell.

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School’s in Session

In the normal scheme of things, you meet someone, fall in love and have babies with them. There is no qualification or license to be a parent. In a lot of ways, infertility makes you feel like you have to prove yourself worthy to be a parent. Somedays, you feel like you have to get an approval stamp to magically become a parent.  Adoption takes that approval process up about ten notches.

The 30+ pages of questions and essays Tim and I just filled out, are apparently not enough. We have to take classes. The fact that our adoption is transracial makes us subject to more scrutiny with the adoption agency. Somehow that hadn’t occurred to me when we started the process.  I guess it’s because adoptive children will always have to come to terms with being adopted and also because I will never have the same experience or perspective that my son will. These classes are intended to open to our eyes to some of the challenges we may face raising a child of a different race.

I have not been in his shoes. I don’t know what he will face or deal with.

But in some ways this is also true of my daughters. I was an odd child: a tomboy and proud of it. I was so rough and tumble, and any teasing that went on because of it pretty much rolled off my back. I didn’t grow up in today’s world of selfies, Snapchat, and a slew of fashionable children’s clothing stores. My girls’ hair is already longer than mine has been for most of my life. They cry when I take dresses off them.  I used to cry when I had to put one on.

I guess Tim and I will just learn as we go. Hopefully these classes give us food for thought and give us the ability to talk through how we would handle potential situations. Since we have to take 16 hours of classes, I sincerely hope we learn something from them!

So much of parenthood can’t be taught in a class. It’s trial and error, it’s a willingness to grow and change. There will be times when I do not know what to do, or I do the wrong thing. I just need to make sure that my children are secure in our love and know that whatever comes up, they can come to us, and we’ll figure something out together.

 

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On Miscarriage: Part Three

I was 15 weeks and one day pregnant when I thought my water broke.

I knew something was wrong immediately. Fluid was rushing down my legs. I was hysterical, but the more I cried, the more fluid I felt, so I forced myself to stop crying, sure that if I didn’t move–if I barely breathed–that would give the babies a better chance of making it.

I laid on the floor waiting for the EMTs as my coworkers stood around me and tried to help. I had to give my miscarriage and medical history in front of my entire department, a new department I had joined about four months prior. Someone called my husband and my mom. I was barely coherent enough to tell my mom I wanted her to drive down immediately.

We were losing the babies. I still remember the doctor telling me I was being admitted “to observe the miscarriage.” They were going to do some testing, but I should prepare myself that the babies would probably not make it, given the volume of blood and fluid I had lost. It was just too early and at their gestational age, there was no chance that they would be viable.

I was admitted to the labor and delivery floor–an event that is usually greeted with joy. A sonogram was dutifully ordered, and to everyone’s surprise, the babies appeared to be fine. There was still enough fluid around them and their hearts were beating strong.

Nurses woke me throughout the night to check if my body had begun the miscarriage. I continued to bleed and lose fluid, but no cramping. Another sonogram was ordered first thing in the morning and the babies were still fine.

It was a miracle. It was early enough in the pregnancy that there really wasn’t any medical intervention they could do to help me keep the babies, so the doctors sent me home with a laundry list of signs and symptoms of miscarriage to watch for. I was to contact them immediately–I would have to be in the hospital if I miscarried because I was so far along and it was twins.

We were told, “At this point, the only thing you can do is pray.”

At that time, they determined I had a large subchorionic hemorrhage and one of the placentas was partially torn. I was put on strict bed rest and told that we would revisit that once I stopped bleeding.

That was the beginning of 141 days of bed rest. My girls were fighters. They held on through more hemorrhaging, a placenta previa, gestational diabetes, preterm labor, and preeclampsia. My body struggled daily to maintain the pregnancy and eventually my liver stopped working properly.

My husband took over all of the day-to-day tasks, cooking, cleaning, shopping, and yardwork in addition to working full time and preparing the nursery for our girls. He brought me freshly cooked dinners and spent the evenings with me anxiously awaiting the results of the daily blood draws. They would determine if my liver was still functioning properly.

It’s funny–during this time my only worry was the babies. Even as the doctors poured over the results of my daily blood draws and scratched their heads that I could appear to be as healthy as I was when my liver function was in the the tank, I only worried about my girls being able to stay in me long enough to be healthy.

Tim, on the other hand, prayed that he would not be asked if he wanted the doctors to save me or save the babies. Every doctor I saw (I believe it was 12 doctors in total) told me the goal would be to get to me 32 weeks.

My girls and I defied every expectation and held on until 35 weeks.

They were both born healthy. They are the miscarriage that wasn’t. And I’m so thankful for them each and every day.

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Why Fundraise?

“Why are you adopting if you can’t afford to?”
“Why do you want a third child if you can’t afford to adopt?”
“It’s pretty selfish to ask others to help pay for you to have a child. A child is a want, not a need.”

These statements, or some variation thereof, have been heard many times by my ears since starting this process. Adoption fundraising is this strange new land for us, and it’s a really uncomfortable place to be. It is so incredibly awkward to have to admit that you need help in order to have a child–trust me, we’ve been there before. What’s new is having to ask someone to help us afford the costs to acquire that child, and the strangeness that it entails. Asking for help is one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done in my life, and I know my husband would say the same. We were raised to be self-reliant and asking for help is equal parts humbling and humiliating.

A part that has been surprising and challenging for me is getting people to understand the costs of adoption. I’ve lived in the infertility world so long. I know so many people that have traveled this path and we researched the hell out of it before we decided to have IVF. The costs have been obvious to me for a so long, I assumed others were already aware. A coworker said to me the other day, “You’ve raised $2,000, so the adoption is paid for now, right?” I wish! You would think that something like this, where both parties are in agreement of what they want would be straight-forward and less expensive, but it simply isn’t.  When I was explaining to a coworker that we are fortunate that the “reasonable and customary” living expenses are as low as they are, they were astonished that we were paying any. “WHY should you have to pay? You are doing her the favor.”

The world of adoption has changed a lot in the last 50 years. The Hauge Convention, knowledge about child predators, fears of forced adoptions, commercialization, changing legislation. All of these things have combined to create adoption as I know it today. There are a million parties involved in a modern-day adoption: attorneys (and there must be more than one to prevent coercion and provide fair representation), a home study agency, birth mother counselor, FBI, KBI, physicians, hospital social worker, you name it. It can be overwhelming with the sheer number of people and moving parts. And for each of those people there are fees. I don’t think that those people greatly inflate their fees, but most of them are involved as a business so their fees are high enough to make money. The costs just add up. Modern day adoptions can cost between $35k to $45k. We think we’ll luck out and squeak by with around $20K in expenses, $30k on the high end. The costs are high enough that I’m using a letter instead of zeros to write the numbers. It’s less scary that way.

So back to the question: why fundraise? Adoption wasn’t a path we were planning on taking, and it’s not something you typically undertake without a great deal of planning and saving. The chance to have this child fell into our laps and we knew how rare and wonderful that chance was. There were a million reasons we could have clung to as a barrier and said “no.” We had depleted our savings over the last four years, took out loans to get our girls, had twin toddlers in daycare. We hadn’t been saving for adoption or anything else and our medical bills have been high for the last several years. We didn’t have $10k let along $20k or $30k lying around. Most of the reasons to say “no” revolved around the finances. All of our reasons to say “yes” revolved around being able to love this baby. This child needed a home with parents who would love, support and raise him.  His mother was looking for a married couple who could provide a stable home and make sure he has opportunities as he grows. We were willing to do that. We’re fortunate to have two stable jobs and own our home. We have room in our home and hearts to spare.

When we looked at it that way, our only barrier to completing our family was financial. We could attempt to fundraise and see where that got us. It’s our time and effort and we are willing to expend the energy. Fundraising for adoption is pretty common these days. When adopting a child can easily cost $50k, most people have to fundraise for at least part of it. To understand more, I read blogs, I read adoption articles, I read books, I knew people who had fundraised. It seemed like a viable option.

I wasn’t prepared for how difficult it would actually be. The uncomfortable feeling, the judgement, the questions. In retrospect, it makes sense. People need to know that they are giving money to a good cause. And while I think that us having another child is the best cause in the world, it’s my cause, not theirs. Theirs may be raising money for cancer, ALS or the Boys and Girls Club. Everyone has their passion.

The other item I didn’t consider is that most people who do fundraise do so primarily through their church. Their church organizes the events and assists with promotions. It’s harder than I thought to get the word out when everyone has a policy against letting you post anything about a fundraiser. Some days are downright discouraging.

Once again, why fundraise? Because at the end of the day, the only barrier between me holding my son in my arms is money, and money is a temporary thing. Pride is temporary. I can get past humiliation. Love is forever. Every mother would tell you they would do anything for their kids. I’m no different.

Why fundraise? Because at the end of that path is Baby H, and he’s worth it.

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