Cancer Ever After

Musings on Infertility, Adoption, Parenthood and Cancer

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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“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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It’s a Small World After All

How do you take the world and shrink it?

I’m from a small town and I’m used to word getting around in about five minutes when someone gets hurt or needs help.  It’s always a matter of six degrees of separation.  “Mary’s niece is trying to adopt a baby, and she’s having a pancake feed on Saturday. You should go.”   Talk to a few of the right people and word can get around a town of 5,000 in days. And this was before social media.  Now it probably gets around in a matter of minutes!  Don’t believe me? Ask anyone from a small town.

It’s different in the big city.  I don’t think human nature is any different, people are just as nice and caring, but you don’t have that feeling of connection with someone you don’t know, or only know through those six degrees of separation.  It takes more to compel you to act– you have to feel a connection.  Otherwise it’s just a sad story you heard about.

There are a few exceptions to this.  Events or things that make the world shrink can bring a city together. Unfortunately, tradegy is one of those things that can shrink the world.  I’ve traveled to New York pre 9/11 as well as in the months shortly after.  What truly amazed me post 9/11 is how New York felt like a small town.  The sense of community was overwhelming. Neighbors were helping neighbors and everyone went out of their way to help each other out.  New York City became every small town in America.  They were the very heart of America.

This also happens in times of joy or celebration.  The Royals playing in the World Series in Kansas City, helped shrink our city.  Weather you were a die-hard fan or indifferent, for a short time you were from Kansas City and you had a common cause.

This brings me back to the question, “How do you shrink the world?”.  What can we do so  people will realize that we are their neighbors, their friends?  That our story is the story of everyone who has tried to have a baby and wasn’t able to.

This is the true challenge of fundraising in a Big City. Tim and I don’t have a large circle of friends and for me, at least, meeting new people is hard. I’m an introvert who has trained herself to appear to be an extrovert.   No matter how often I speak or how many people I meet, my first instinct is to draw back. There’s always a spurt of terror at meeting someone new. To be honest, I’m perfectly content to live in my own mind most of the time; which makes shrinking the world a lot harder.

Tim and I have focused on sharing our story online because we are more comfortable with that, at least I am.  It’s hard to strike up conversations with strangers and I don’t tend to speak of the adoption as much in person. Right now, we’re focusing on shrinking one corner of our world — our neighborhood. We’ve put flyers for our pancake feed on every community mail box in all of our surrounding neighborhoods. (don’t worry, my picture is on them, the post office already knows who to arrest contact)

We’ve also gone full-on public with our journey. I’ve created a facebook page, and I blog to share our story and our journey. When I started this blog, we wanted to share our story so that people would want to be part of the journey, to invite people to become part of our world, or as Mr. Rodgers would put ask them, “Won’t you be my neighbor?”. What I didn’t expect was the therapeutic nature of the blog.  I never expected to blog as often as I have or feel like I have so many thoughts clawing their way out of me. But we have years of infertility, miscarriages, and treatments under our belt.  Our entire view of the world has shifted, and it’s nice to be able to express how that’s changed my life.

I also blog, because bloggers saved my sanity.  When you are infertile, at first you don’t share. It’s a shameful diagnosis and you feel as if you are lacking as a person. Everyone else can have babies and raise a family– why can’t you?  And later, the hurt from infertility is a raw aching wound. It simply hurts to share.  There were times when I thought if I started speaking about it, I would just start screaming and crying and raging. I was afraid if the floodgates opened, I would never be able to close them again.

I desperately searched for stories like mine after our first miscarriage (I found ONE in all of the internet), and as I went went through medicated cycles, IUI’s, and IVF cycles I poured over dosages, levels, and response rates from every available source. Reading those blogs made me feel like I had a friend on our very lonely journey through infertility.  Some blogs were old, they’d already found their success and I would pour through every entry on what they had done.  All of those blogs made the world smaller. I felt like I knew someone in San Diego or Boston — we were kindred spirits. I had a partner or friend in my journey. Someone who was showing me the ropes.

I hope by sharing our story, that someone else will find it helpful.  That a neighbor will feel like they know us, that the world will become a little smaller. And most of all, I hope that a lonely googler who is considering adoption, or who has recently had a miscarriage feels less alone. Maybe someday, someone will find hope in our journey when they think all hope is lost. Maybe someone else will read this as they try to fundraise to make the astronomical costs of adoption manageable, and they will see that it’s possible.

I hope. And I blog.

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Hand-me-down Baby

I feel like I’m back in college and it’s finals week. And I’ve just realized that I didn’t study enough and I might not pass the test. Our home study agency has a few last items that they need. “A few” being roughly 25 short-answer questions with a few bonus essay rounds thrown in, six pages of background questions, additional medical forms and more financial background needed.

We are spending so much time getting approved to adopt–and we haven’t even had the home inspection yet! We’re focused on making sure we can pass this. All of the energy that most couples would pour into getting ready for a baby has been poured into getting approved to adopt and getting the finances lined up. I feel like this child is going to think he was the hand-me-down baby.

Some of this is because we are now veteran parents. We know what we actually need and use, and it’s a much smaller list than any first-time parent would have. Some of it is because we don’t want to end up with a room full of memories and preparation with no baby. It’s a double-edged sword. I want this baby to have a room that has been lovingly prepared just for him, but if this adoption falls through, this same room will be a source of pain and I’m not sure I’ll be able to even open the door.

We’re trying to find a half-way point. Select a crib and bedding, but hold off on ordering them so we can return them if needed. Then set up the crib and add the finishing touches to the nursery after the baby is home with us. Most of the rest of the stuff will be hand-me-downs, and, honestly, that’s just fine. A baby can spit up on hand-me-down clothes just as easily as on new. They don’t know the difference. It all comes back to my fanatic picture-taking. I don’t want this child to compare his nursery to his sisters’ some day and feel like he came up short. Since I was on bedrest and my husband had to prep the girls’ nursery on my orders, we have a million pictures of each step. I had nothing better to do than to dream of exactly what their room should look like, and then direct the poor man to do it!

It’s different this time, a big part of us is afraid to commit.  If I buy bedding will I be a wreck if I have to return it? Most places have a 90-day return policy and we’re getting close to the baby being born within the next 90 days. Will I become that psycho woman at the return counter screaming and in tears? And, well, the money.  Our money is better spent making sure this adoption goes through each and every legal step that it should.  I don’t want any hiccups once he’s in our arms.

We’re only buying three new items for this child-  a crib, bedding and paint for the nursery.  Those are must-haves simply because our girls are still in their cribs and we tore all of the wallpaper down in the spare room before we found out about the adoption.  We won’t pass the Home Inspection without paint.  The bedding is my must have.  It’s only fair that he gets something just for him.  Something that’s not pink and girly.  It’s terrifying to take that step, although I’ve been pouring over ideas online and dreaming of his nursery for a while now.  So I will buy that bedding, I will pick out a paint, and I will hope and pray every single day that we are part of the 70% of adoptions that go through.

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Roll with the Punches

Sometimes you walk straight into a left hook. Life just punches you right in the face. I belong to a twin moms’ group on Facebook. There are lots of great tips on dealing with newborn and toddler twins–little clever tips and tricks that I love to learn about. But there are also two kinds of twin moms in the world: those who are superfertile, who seem to get pregnant by walking past a man (e.g., my sister), and, well, those who are like me. Years-in-the-making, on-your-knees-praying, twin moms. This day my Facebook newsfeed was full of not one, but TWO of the first kind of twin moms who were freaking out because they had very young twins and just found out they were pregnant again.

Their reactions and my reaction to this news was probably not that dissimilar. I felt like someone had punched me in the gut. Their posts went on to express dismay and concern over this news. Now, I don’t know them. I don’t know if their husbands just lost their jobs, if their babies are colicky. There are worlds that I don’t know, and they are entitled to feel how they feel. It’s their life. I do know that I’m thrilled with this adoption and it feels 100% right. But it didn’t stop my knee-jerk reaction: “Why couldn’t it have been me?”

We haven’t used birth control in six years. There are no miracle pregnancies on the horizon for us. My body simply doesn’t work that way. But it’s always impossible to quash that last little bit of hope that someday, it would work as it should. That I would be able to do something that “comes naturally.”

My husband and I have agreed that if this adoption is successful, we are done. Our family is complete. But I can see that I will still have some healing to do over the fact that I wasn’t able to get pregnant on my own, that my body seemed to betray me and tried to kill my children. Sometimes I’m angry at the weird little things they found in my blood that seem to cause it all: the infertility, the miscarriages, the liver damage. I get jealous when I hear news like those mothers’, but that doesn’t change how I feel about this adoption. We’re in 100%. The only questions that mattered when we got that text was, “Can we love this baby? Are we willing to make it our own?” My answer remains unchanged, as does my husband’s. I may get jealous or feel wistful when I see news like this, but I’ve found my own miracle. And he’ll be here soon.


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