Cancer Ever After

Musings on Infertility, Adoption, Parenthood and Cancer

Why Don’t You Just Adopt?

Five little words that hit you like a bullet. They hurt you on so many different levels when you are infertile.

“Why don’t you just adopt?”

Condescending, well-meaning, full of ignorance, so incredibly naive…These words are loaded, and, while I truly believe that everyone who ever uttered them to me was well-meaning, these words hurt when you are infertile. I also believe that they ignore the most central part of any adoption: the child.

“Why don’t you just adopt?”

I hope you’ve learned as we’ve gone through this process that there is no such thing as “just” adopting. Adoption is not easy, it is not simple, and it’s certainly not cheap. We have one of the most streamlined adoptions that I’ve ever heard of, and ours is still complicated, exhausting and difficult. There is no such thing as “just adopting.”

And, as an infertile, you have to be screened more in order to prove that you have healed from the grievous wounds that infertility has inevitably made on your psyche. It still gets me that when we looked into adoption before we had any children, roadblock after roadblock were thrown in front of us: “A one-year wait is required after ending fertility treatments.” “We would require that you undergo physiological evaluation and counseling prior to adopting because you are infertile.”

The real wound behind these five little words is they imply that you haven’t even considered adoption as an option. It’s an option that I think every infertile considers at different points along their path. We considered and reviewed it several times, and our views on adoption changed throughout our journey.

The one view that never changed was that we had to KNOW beyond a shadow of a doubt that being adoptive parents would be in the best interest of the child. Infertility gave us oodles of time to contemplate and quantify exactly why we wanted to be parents. We knew exactly how far we were willing to go in pursuit of a child, something that most people never consider. Adoption is not the magical solution to a problem and adoptive children are not a consolation prize. They are THE PRIZE.

For us, we had to reach a point when we knew, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that adoption was THE answer. And it had to be the right answer. When we received that text offering us a child to adopt, we each only had one word in reply: “YES!”  That’s what made us know that this was our answer – the only one we needed.

We never doubted at any point that we could love a child who wasn’t born of our bodies. We doubted that we could withstand the journey to get him or her. Adoption is a long and arduous path. It’s emotional and it can be draining. And if you are infertile, you may be starting this trek when you are already low on reserves. You’ve been dealt emotional blows; physically you may have gone through exhaustive treatments. An oft-quoted study in the infertility world shows that infertility patients undergo the same level of emotional stress as HIV or cancer patients. Imagine the gravity of the stress you would be in, and then apply that to making a decision that will forever alter the life of a child. It’s not to be taken lightly.

Adoption is also expensive. That was another one of our hesitations.  With adoption, the majority of the money is paid before you ever know for sure that you are going to have the child. Relinquishment is one of the final steps, well after all legal and adoption fees are incurred. It’s a bet. It’s a gamble. It requires a leap of faith. Once again, you have to know that you are willing to pour all of your money and resources into something that may not pan out. You can spend every last dime you have and still not have a baby. One of my friends described the difference between international and domestic adoption very well:

“In international adoption, you pretty much never get an infant. If you’re lucky, you bring home a 6-month-old. But in an international adoption, you pick a number and stand in line. You know that you will have a baby in the end, you just have to be patient and wait your turn. It could take one year or it could take three.

“Domestic adoption is different. You can get a newborn, but you also take the risk that you will make it to the end and go home empty-handed–or that you won’t be selected for a baby in the first place.”

I’ll be honest. I don’t know that we could have stayed the course in this adoption–that we would have remained as calm–if we didn’t already have other children. I know the little pregnancy scares we’ve encountered these last few weeks would have given me a heart attack if I hadn’t had a very complicated, but successful, pregnancy of my own. Hearing that our birth mother’s mucus plug fell out at 30 weeks or that she is in the hospital and they are monitoring the contractions at 34 weeks is not for the uninitiated–trust me.

And then there is the most central part of any adoption: the child. We have taken every step and evaluated every option with the child in mind. Often, when we’ve mentioned the complicated and expensive process of adoption, people say, “But you can adopt from foster care.”

That isn’t a simple answer, either. Every child deserves a parent who loves them fully, who is prepared to learn and grow and be the parent he or she needs. Not everyone is prepared to parent someone who may have special emotional needs or medical needs. This is often the case with foster care. Tim and I considered this very carefully and we were never able to say that we knew we could be the right parents for a child or children from foster care. We don’t know that we are cut out to be foster parents and adopt through that system.

Maybe this will change someday, but until we know this, until that day, those children deserve better. Personally, I feel like a child with additional emotional needs would benefit from a parent who is staying at home with them. Me being a stay-at-home mom was our original plan when we started trying for a family years ago, but we have loans now that we took out to get our girls. Staying home is no longer an option.

And, finally, we get to my other pet peeve about adoption. Think about Angelina Jolie for a moment and her children. How often do you hear people refer to her “real” children and her “adoptive” children? Our son and every child of adoption deserves to be accepted fully. There is no line drawn between “real” and “adoptive.” This child is not a second-class citizen, and there will be no qualifier when we introduce him to others.

If you don’t know that you will simply see this child as your child, then you are not ready to adopt. If you don’t believe you can withstand the process of adoption–the emotional rollercoaster–and emerge as an emotionally healthy parent, then now is not the time to adopt.

That is why “just adopting” is not an answer to an infertile couple. It has to be about what is right for the child, not what’s cheap, perceived to be easy, or socially acceptable. It’s a big committment of time and emotional and financial resources. You have to be ready to commit fully to enter the process. And there will be times when you question if you are doing the right thing. You have to have the reserves to make it through the doubt.

Every infertile couple is different in their journey. I know couples that have gone immediately to adoption, and I know others who knew it would never be the right fit. Unfortunately, I also know others who have tried, and failed, to bring home a child and have no additional resources–emotional or financial–to try again.

I would compare considering adoption versus infertility treatments to determining the course of treatment for cancer. You know whatever decision you make will impact the rest of your life. You have to carefully weigh the options, risks, and benefits and determine what gives you the best chance of a successful outcome.

And it’s not a static answer.

Sometimes, one little thing happens that tips the scale. My crappy liver, even crappier immune system and overall health issues made a pregnancy in my body a path we weren’t willing to go down. The scale tipped. Risks from another pregnancy were greater than the chance of an adoption falling through. The cost of the adoption didn’t seem so bad when weighed against possibily losing five months of income again and paying for more treatments. In other words, our perspective changed. Adoption became THE answer.

And this child will be our son, but make no mistake: we are not “just adopting.” We are blessed to have this opportunity to adopt. We are so lucky to be able to have a son and third child. He will never be an afterthought or a consolation prize.

So please, don’t say we “just adopted.”

Want to support our adoption? Help share our story, or consider making a donation to our youcaring page.

 Baby H will be home soon!

Advertisements
1 Comment »

Snake Oil Salesman

What do you envision when I say the phrase “snake oil salesman?” Someone seedy? A quack? How about those who actually bought the snake oil or whatever was being sold? Until infertility, I always envisioned those who tried these “miracle” cures as fools. How could they be so naive as to believe that a certain tonic or elixir would fix them or their loved ones? I’ve come to learn that I was looking at this from the wrong perspective.

Two or three years ago, I could easily have been that eager audience member clamoring to buy the magical cure-all elixir. Imagine for a moment that you lived in the days before chemotherapy. In a time where there was no diagnosis or treatment for Crohn’s or Graves’ disease. All you know is that a loved one is wasting away before your eyes, or they are in unbearable pain. If there was even a sliver of a hope that what’s in the bottle could ease their symptoms or make them go away, would you take what that bottle offers? I bet you would.

That’s what infertility is like. What you want the most in the world is just out of your reach. You have no real explanation as to why things aren’t working; you just know they aren’t and you are willing to grasp at any straw. I used to live in online fertility forums. I’ve read stories of women who tried eating pineaple cores for a week or did head stands after sex in the hopes of getting pregnant.

I’ve tried many things myself: acupuncture, supplements, pills, shots, exercising, not exercising, yoga, meditation, eating clean, eating diary-free, and even electro-acupuncture. I was willing to try almost anything to get our miracles. I swear I even read of not one, but two, ladies who drank cow urine. The fertility industry, at times, reminded me of the stories of the snake oil salesman. People know they have a built-in audience that will do anything for the cure. Tim and I spend hundreds of dollars on all sorts of fertility cures in the hopes that it would bring us our dream baby. There’s not much that I wasn’t willing to try. (Although you’ll be proud to know I never did a handstand or drink cow urine.)

As you pursue the dream of family, it’s hard to focus on facts. It’s hard to weigh your options and it’s hard not to be swayed by a sexy speech that promises more. It’s surprisingly hard to trust your doctor.

There is a fine line between advocating for yourself and trusting in your doctor. I don’t believe that you can trust anyone completely with your health or your future because no one has as much at stake as you. You have the strongest motivation. But it is critical that you trust the doctors who you work with and believe in their judgement.

As a patient, I had to advocate for testing. I knew, based on past medical factors, that I had one weird thing in my blood. I didn’t completely know what it meant, but I knew that for some people it could be related to infertility and miscarriage. But it’s rare to be asymptomic with it (outside of miscarriages). My first doctor brushed my questions aside. I didn’t push. After we lost our identical girls, I demanded answers. He had none.

We researched more, and we decided to trek to Colorado to find a specialist who might know more. He immediately asked for more testing. In the end, it was determined it was a factor in the infertility, but not definitively the cause. It was a suspected cause for the miscarriages, and it did change our course of treatment. As we made that journey, I struggled to make sure that our decisions were based on fact, not some pitch. I read medical journal after medical journal to see the research firsthand. After he reviewed how he would treat us, I asked for articles related to the course of treatment. I needed to be sure that we weren’t pinning our hopes on snake oil. I also had to trust in him and his team and know that they had a wealth of experience to give us our chance at take-home babies.

That’s our one and only successful pregnancy.

That’s what brought me to seeking out medical professionals before trying to get pregnant again. Honestly, we received mixed answers. Some of the doctors felt like the risk of repeat complications would be much less with a singleton pregnancy and others felt like it wasn’t worth the risk. All counseled us to weigh another pregnancy very carefully. In my husband’s mind, it was never worth the risk. That’s why this adoption is such a blessing. We don’t have to roll those dice or take that chance. I don’t have to risk not being there for the two miracles that I already have in order to have a chance at having a third.

I’m not sad about missing out on another round of bedrest, or being sick, or being worried each and every day that I will lose another baby. That my body will kill another baby. A constant, overwhelming fear that something could go wrong at any moment is the strongest memory I associate with my pregnancy. The stories of a biohazard team being called in to clean the blood from my office floor and the entire floor being shut down after I hemorrhaged is funny in a not-so-funny way now, but it’s not a path I want to go down again.

And I don’t have to worry about falling for some miracle cure being sold by a snake oil salesman.

Leave a comment »

What if?

I took the plunge and ordered something off Etsy for the nursery. I wanted Baby H to have something that was handmade just for him. I realize that it’s not returnable, but we’ve turned a corner in this adoption. Tim and I have been letting our fears of another loss hold part of us back, but in the last few weeks, our hearts have become even more open.

I’ve realized that I needed to turn a corner in my mind so that my heart is truly and fully ready when Baby H is born. I have to change from saying “if,” to “when.”

When I get to hold him in my arms, when we get to take him home, when he gets to meet the girls. He deserves more than me waiting for the other shoe to drop. It’s my fear that’s holding me back, and I need to get past that for his sake.

So I did something small. I ordered a handmade blanket just for him. We looked at cribs and debated which one we are going to buy. We are finally tackling the nursery. This is no small project.

When we bought our house, we were able to get it for a song because, well, it was ugly. Southwest wallpaper, dead animal decor, eighties-splendor-ugly. The outside was zombie flesh with chocolate trim. We bought the house pre-infertility, and it has been cathartic to tackle renovations throughout the house as we started and stopped treatments. We had, in fact, tackled every room but Baby H’s. His room had a lovely wallpaper with fishing lures and a border of fish that our girls loved to touch and point at.

And the wallpaper was stuck directly to the drywall. They also used some strange paint that peels off in jagged sheets. Needless to say, his room would look much better if we just put new drywall in, but we’re going to tackle it the old fashioned way: with a whole lotta spackle. Hopefully over the next two weeks, we will patch our little hearts out and get the walls in a place to be primed and painted. Our baby mama (aka birth mother) asked for pictures of the nursery and I told her it was “a work in progress.” That’s the understatement of the year!

But it’s time. We have less than 60 days before Baby H makes his debut into the world, and we want him to be welcomed fully. I know a baby doesn’t care about his nursery, but preparing the nursery helps us prepare for him. We don’t have a growing belly or day-to-day aches and pains to remind us how far we are in this pregnancy. I think prepping this room will help us finish turning the corner so that we are ready for Baby H.

The question continues to hover: what if this adoption falls through? But I am banishing that thought from my mind.

When.

When we bring him home, his room will be ready. When we bring him home, he will sleep next to our beds at first. When we bring him home, our counter will overflow with bottles and sippy cups. When we bring him home, our hearts will be full to overflowing.

When.

Not if.

1 Comment »

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.

1 Comment »

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.

Leave a comment »