Cancer Ever After

Musings on Infertility, Adoption, Parenthood and Cancer

Devil’s in the Details

birth plan is a way for you to communicate your wishes to the midwives and doctors who care for you in labour. It tells them about the type of labour and birth you’d like to have, what you want to happen, and what you want to avoid.

All of this sounds great, but in an adoption, a birth plan is so much more. It outlines every minute detail of who should be allowed to do what and really helps both the adoptive parents and birth parents understand how the process is going to go. Our attorney contacted us about a month ago, because for an adoption we are required to have a birth plan on file with the hospital. But we don’t dictate what’s on the birth plan. We discuss this with our birth mother and this is a time where she can really make her preferences known as to how things should go at the hospital.

It does contain some of the typical items you associate with a birth plan: “How do you want your birth to go?”

  • Naturally: You bring a drug near me and I’ll gouge your eyes out! My baby will be born drug-free!
  • Epidural: I don’t want to feel any more pain than necessary. In fact, why don’t you just drug me to the gills?
  • C-section: You think I’m pushing this baby out? Are you out of your freaking mind?

After clarifying some of the normal details that any expectant mother might put into a birth plan, it really gets into logistics. Who do you want in the room during the delivery? Who do you want to hold the baby? Feed the baby? Who is allowed to see the baby? Who should we keep out of the delivery room?

As we answered the questions together, it began to feel like we were choreographing a dance. The questions went into excruciating detail for every nuance of the situation that may occur. What did the birth mother want? What would the adoptive parents be allowed to do? What about extended family?

I’m told to expect the unexpected on the actual day of the delivery, but the birth plan gives us all our cues. What I found the most helpful was the insight it gave me into what our birth mother envisioned during this process. We’d talked about it several times, but never to this level of detail. I felt like we are all on the same page now. It’s reassuring that the attorneys, counselor and hospital get copies of the birth plan. It makes me feel as if we are all dancing to the same beat now. And Tim will be allowed in the delivery room!!! 

And of course, I’m beyond thrilled that our birth mother confirmed that she wants us to hold Baby H first. This is her call, and we are fine either way, but my heart leapt when I heard her confirm this is how it would be handled! She’s done a lot of research into attachment and feels that it would be better for our ongoing relationship if we are the first to hold and snuggle him. I agree, but was afraid to hope that this would be how it would all play out.

We will get to hold him right away! We will be able to feed him and possibly room in with him! The hospital confirmed that if they have the space, they will let us room in with him as if we were the birth family, and we can change all the diapers and do the nighttime feedings.

Tim and I cannot wait. The delivery is getting closer and it’s becoming more and more real every day that soon we will have a son!!!! We can’t wait to hug and snuggle and love on him.

We. Can’t. Wait. It seems like the time just can’t move fast enough now that we are so close. Baby H, the world is ready to welcome you.

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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A Much Needed Break

The Sunday after our Pancake Feed, Tim and I declared it an official family day.  Every single evening has been filled with lists of to do’s for the last month.  First it was the home study and filling out pages of questions, we spend lunch hours tracking down legal documents, and then try to promote our event. In the evening we’d creep out to visit places to hang flyers or try to find another way to get the word out.

We have been running in circles trying to accomplish so much in so little time.  Our regular items like laundry, cooking, and cleaning that we do in the evenings has crept into our time with the girls.  I don’t like this.  I don’t want to have to worry about getting laundry done during the evening hours that I have with them. I want to be able to enjoy story time, watch them play on the slide, and play patty cake. I want to chase them up and down the hallway playing monster.  Heck, we even play fetch with our girls. The dog won’t play fetch, so why not play it with them? For some reason, they think it’s the best game ever.  The dog– not so much.

Sunday was a rare day. All of the prepping for the home study allowed us to get completely caught up for once. Meals cooked for the week- done. Diapers washed and stuffed – done. (Yes, we use cloth) House clean- completely!  Sunday became our funday. We hung out in jammies until noon. We chased each other up and down the hall, we pretended to talk on the phone to one another, we “cooked” but this time it was in the play kitchen and we made asparagus and wooden block soup.  Anything the girls could stack on or in something, we played with it.

Even better, we sang.  My girls love to sing. We sang Itsy Bitsy Spider, I’m a Little Teapot, Row Row Row Your Boat and more. If I could think of the song, we sang it together making up motions for the song as we went.  Then we all danced in the kitchen together and exchanged sloppy kisses and group hugs.

My girls now think it’s hilarious to kiss one another. They pucker up their lips so big and will lay the sloppiest, wettest kiss on you.  It’s incredibly gross and incredibly wonderful all at the same time. Each kiss, each hug, each giggle reminded us why we are working late into the night. It reminded us why we are pursuing this adoption. We love our girls so much, and we have room in our hearts for one more.  We can’t wait until our fundays include juggling a baby while watching the girls be silly or try to climb on chairs. We have no doubt that they will teach him the word “No!” or how to play in the dogs water dish.

We can’t wait.

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It’s Open, Baby

“What does the ideal open adoption look like to you?” – One of a million questions on our Home Study packet.

We knew when we first began researching domestic adoption that our adoption would most likely need to be open. I don’t know the exact percentage, but every agency we researched focused largely on open adoption. This seems to be the overwhelming majority of the types of adoptions in the United States. And if you want an infant, this seems to be the way you have to go.

Our research also led us to believe that an open adoption is better for the child. Open adoption isn’t just about telling the child they are adopted. That can occur in both a closed or open adoption. An open adoption means that the child and birth mother and/or father may have contact with each other through pictures, letter or meetings throughout the child’s life. It also means that the adoptive parents have the birth family’s information and the child will be able to know the birth parents full name and date of birth. This is so the child can reach out to their birth parents without going through a registry or exhaustive searches if the contact has faded during their lifetime.
For us, it’s the benefit to the child that really sold us on an open adoption. I know that I grew up hearing, “You look just like your daddy,” or “My, you are the spitting image of your Aunt SoAndSo.” As I grew up, I used to love/despair in equal measure the inherited traits I received. As an adult, I began to question what was truly inherited versus what was environmental. I do have my Daddy’s dimples–that’s true. But I also have his facial expressions- is that because I look like him or because I grew up using the same expressions as him?

I don’t know now, but I imagine that some day our son will wonder about what is inherited versus what about him is just like us. Will he have his daddy’s sense of humor, his mama’s laugh? We don’t know yet. I imagine that we will look at him and see a whole lot of us as he grows up. There will also be a lot that is uniquely him. Will there be times when he feels that he is different and is desperate to have a connection? Probably. This is why we’ve chosen an open adoption. It’s about allowing him to have the chance to find the answers that he needs when he needs them.

We’re not sure what the answers will be. His view of his birth parents will undoubtedly change throughout his life, as will his view of us. We can love and guide him to acceptance, but most of that journey will be his. We can just do what we feel is best for him as his parents and make sure that the opportunity for answers is there when the questions arise.

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Curveball

“I want you to be in the room with me during the birth.”

This may surprise you, but my first reaction was total panic. I have no idea what happens during labor! Hell, I barely understand what happens in a normal pregnancy. My pregnancy consisted almost entirely of morning-till-night puking and then months of left-side leaning.

Despite all of the complications, it was actually my water breaking that determined when my girls made their entrance into this world. And then, after being reassured that it was very unlikely I would go into labor and having my c-section scheduled for four hours later, my contractions started. I (who hadn’t had a single Braxton Hicks contraction during my entire pregnancy) went into full-blown labor immediately with contractions less than two minutes apart. My scheduled c-section quickly turned into an emergency one. From there, I only remember a few things: Hazel’s first cry, Phoebe’s first cry and seeing my girls for the first time before they were whisked to the NICU. I vaguely remember urging my husband to go with them to make sure they were okay. The last thing I remember is the two surgeons calling for a third because there were complications.

When I woke up, they wheeled me into the NICU to see my babies. And then nothing else mattered.

As you can see, this experience has in no way prepared me for a normal labor and delivery. I don’t know what someone goes through or what I should do as I’m by her side. At the same time, being there with her and seeing my son born will be one of the most amazing experiences of my life.

Once I let the idea sink it, I became overwhelmed at the possibility and realized I couldn’t be more honored. That is such a personal moment and it’s amazing that I will get to be there when our son takes his first breath. The only shadow is that my husband can’t be there, too. He would love to, and, since he works in the medical field, is probably the wiser choice. But, well, he IS a guy. I get it. If I had my choice, the 26 doctors and nurses in the room with me would have all have been women.

I once compared this pregnancy to my pregnancy and said that this felt more like a “real” pregnancy to me in a lot of ways. This is still true. I just never expected labor and delivery to be one of the things that made this a more “normal” pregnancy. When we began considering adoption (prior to having our girls), I wondered if I would be missing out on the experience of a pregnancy. I now see that there are so many versions of what a pregnancy is like. I think infertiles rarely get the storybook version. If I’m able to be there through the delivery, this pregnancy will be far more like the one I always thought I would have.

So if you are considering adoption or surrogacy and are afraid you will miss out on the pregnancy experience, take heart. A surrogate can include you in her pregnancy and you will have your very own pregnancy experience. A birth mom can do the same. And also keep in mind that the vision you’ve built up in your mind may not happen in any of the scenarios. No matter the path, there is always one thing that will surpass your expectations: your child.

The path we’ve traveled opened us to the possibility of adoption. That’s what made our hearts scream yes, when every practical fiber in our bodies cautioned no. It’s also taught us to listen to our hearts. In the end, this journey will bring us to our son. It may be unexpected, it may not happen exactly as we envision, but I have no doubt that he will surpass every one of our expectations.

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