Cancer Ever After

Musings on Infertility, Adoption, Cancer and Widowhood.

Fire Drill!

“We’ve finally got your background check back in. Does this Thursday work for you for the first home visit?”

$*#&@*. While I am utterly relieved and feel vindicated that my background check did not show me to be a spy during the extra month of unending waiting for it to come back, I wasn’t expecting the home study to be scheduled with so little notice.

Tim and I had asked lots of questions about what would be reviewed during the home study and I, in my usual fashion, had made lists of the things we needed to accomplish: install fire extinguishers, test all of the smoke alarms, get an extra smoke alarm/carbon monoxide detector for Baby H’s room, clean the house from top to bottom, finish baby-proofing doors and the tall cabinets now that the girls can climb, tackle the organization problem in the master bath…the list was exhaustive and seemingly endless.

And we’d accomplished exactly ZERO of them.

Between the fundraising, making cupcakes, the biggest alliance partnership in the history of my company being launched and completing essay after essay after essay for the home study, we have been tapped out the last few weeks. Both girls developed a bad diaper rash out of nowhere, our cloth diapers needed to be stripped ( a two-day process), I needed to get a million things done for the fundraiser on Saturday…

And Phoebe was sick. Again.

This time we had to take her to an allergist and immunologist. I broke down after that appointment. I hate taking her to a place that makes her cry, and she has been to so many doctors that she cries as soon as she recognizes the type of place that we are in. Sometimes Hazel chimes in out of sympathy. Luckily, this time there weren’t any blood draws or anything painful for her. We have a new regimen for her breathing treatments and inhalers and hopefully we’ll get through the rest of the winter without incident.

This was just one of those days where everything seemed to be piling on to break me. Tim and I want this baby so badly and we are so afraid of doing something wrong and screwing it up. When I got the news about the last-minute home study, I knew it was time to call in reinforcements.

One mass text and several responses later, we had help lined up for the next couple of days. A couple of late evenings and a little flexibility occurred in the form of working from home, so I could shuffle everything successfully and swap loads of laundry over during conference calls and between meetings.

I could breathe again. Sometimes you have to break down in order to get clearheaded. We began breaking everything into manageable pieces that we could tackle, and getting everything ready for the home study actually went much better than we expected. Apparently, we are much more efficient at cleaning and organizing since we’ve had kids. We expected to pull an all-nighter before the home study, but we managed to be in bed by 10:30, which in parent time is the equivalent of 2:00 a.m. Not too bad.

AND OUR HOME STUDY WENT REALLY WELL! She had zero concerns, and walked around our house asking questions about the safety and how we did things. It went so well that a follow-up visit doesn’t look necessary at this point. (Makes me proud of my prep list.) We are at the finish line! We should have the final home study within two weeks and then we are ready for Baby H to come at any time.


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Feeling Criminal

As we began our home study process, I had to fill out about ten pages of detailed questions on myself, my husband, and our family. Our home study counselor had apologized in advance for the invasiveness of the process that we were about to begin. I reassured her that since I’ve undergone fertility treatments and delivered my girls with a team of 26 people in the room, I already knew the meaning of invasive. This couldn’t possibly be as bad!

And while the process does not involve me strapped naked to a table, surrounded by a ridiculous number of people in scrubs, it is still every bit as invasive as she said. We’ve been fingerprinted, we’ve had blood drawn, we’ve had to have doctors certify our fitness to be a parents and our likelihood to “enjoy a normal lifespan.” I’ve had to answer pages of questions about myself, my family, my finances.

While I was at the doctor’s office, my doctor (whose close friend had adopted) mentioned that she wished the process wasn’t so involved or so invasive because she feels like more people would adopt. She’s undoubtedly correct.

I’m beginning to see that this home study weeds out the faint of heart.

Yet I can see the side of the regulators and adoptive agencies, too. There is no real way to know someone’s ability to be a parent, but everyone owes it to the child to make sure that you know the parents really want this and are willing to work for it. I’m sure parenting a child we’ve adopted will bring its own unique set of challenges, and if we can’t get through this home study process, are we ready to face those challenges?

It was funny, though, when my boss received her survey from the home study agency. She brought the six pages of questions over to me and said, “What the hell am I supposed to do with this? How would I know the answers?” I was astonished by the questions they were asking my employer. She was being asked about my parenting skills when she’s seen me with my children a whopping one time. Luckily, she filled it out and gave me great reviews! Tim’s employer pretty much reacted the same way.

In addition to grilling our employers, the agency is grilling our friends and family and contacting the FBI and KBI. That’s right, folks, we’re getting a full FBI background check done (as if going to a police station and getting fingerprinted weren’t enough)! I can’t decide if this process makes me feel a little like a criminal or more like a secret agent getting cleared for duty.

Let’s go with secret agent. I’m the new 007.


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Attorneys and Counselors and Home Studies, Oh My!

Once we said we wanted to adopt the baby , the reality of the gargantuan task in front of us began to sink in. Adoption isn’t cheap. That’s one of the reasons we didn’t take that path and pursued medical treatments the first time around.  When we researched adoption, we found that adoptions typically cost between $35,000 and $45,000 and may take about two years to finalize.  Costs were really the same for domestic or international adoptions. The costs for adoptions also have a wide range, because a lot is dependent on the needs of the birth mother, the complexity of the legal case and unknown medical expenses. If complications arose, the cost could be more than $50,000. The cost and the time were both detriments in our eyes.

Hind site is 20/20.  What I didn’t know at the time is that with medical treatment for infertility it typically takes 3-5 years to have a successful pregnancy and even with insurance  covering some of our treatments, it would ultimately cost us just as much.

The path that I thought was the expedient and cost-effective one- wasn’t.  It did, however,  give me the two most wonderful daughters in the world and we don’t regret our choice.

When we compared options  before, all of my research was on agency adoptions and international adoptions.  We had never researched a private adoption.  These type of adoptions are more rare.  Most birth mothers contact an agency because they handle all of the details and match you with a birth mother.

The birth mother found us, and now it was up to us to handle all of the details. I started calling places frantically to find out who could handle each bit or piece of the process. As I began my research it became clear that the first step was to get a home study.  We have to have every aspect of our lives scrutinized and have our house examined and be approved to be adoptive parents. The funny thing with this is before we had our twins, we weren’t considered attractive candidates during this process because we were infertile.  Now that we had biological children the conversations we had with home study agencies focused on how easy it should be to get approved.  Before, the conversations centered on whether or not we had gone to counseling and grieved the losses of our biological children and most agencies required a year-long waiting period between ending fertility treatments and pursuing adoption; making it three years before we would have a child. This time, we were told it should take about six weeks to complete our background check and get approved. There would be no problem having everything  lined up by the time the baby is born in April.

Next we needed to find a counselor for our birth mother. The counselor provides support as the birth mother goes through the grieving process and helps her determine if she is resolute in her decision.  The counselor will be there for her both before and after the adoption. Geography proved to be a challenge on this one, as usually the birth mother receives counseling through the agency that does the home study.  We ended up finding sister agencies that worked where we live and where the birth mother lives that were willing to provide counseling.

Finally we had to find an attorney.  I met with the first attorney and found out, I don’t just need ONE attorney.  I need one for us, one for the birth mother, and potentially a third attorney for the birth father.  I can honestly say I never expected to have three attorneys on retainer.

This was one of the most nerve-racking parts.  Attorney costs are one of the most expensive parts of the process and there is so much that has to be done correctly in an adoption.  My fears are that the birth mother will change her mind or we won’t follow the law and the adoption will be overturned on a technicality. I watched the Baby Veronica case ferociously while I was undergoing infertility treatments and was appalled at how she was removed from her adoptive parents without any introduction to the birth father and that an obscure statue was used to do it. Based on this case and other stories I’ve heard through my infertility support group, I spent 45 minutes peppering the attorney with questions. As expected, his quote was quite a range.  If everything went perfectly the legal costs for him could be around $4,000.  If the case became more complicated- he wouldn’t give us a high end, but stated $10,000 would not be out of the realm of possibility.  From what we know the birth father is not happy about the adoption, but he also doesn’t have custody of his 4-5 other children and no one in his family does.  He also has not been supporting his other children according to what we’ve been told. Based on this, I was optimistic that we would be more towards the $4,000 end of this range.

I didn’t realize how much this appointment meant to me until I left the attorneys office and burst into tears in the parking lot. I couldn’t even start my car. I just sat there and cried.

I felt overwhelming relief after talking to the attorney and paid him a retainer on the spot. He made this adoption seem possible. As I cried, I just sat there saying to myself, “We’re going to be able to make this adoption happen. We’re going to have a baby.”

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