Cancer Ever After

Musings on Infertility, Adoption, Parenthood and Cancer

Another Leap

We started this process of adopting by taking a leap of faith. Our hearts simply screamed “YES!” when we were offered the chance to adopt Baby H and we had to follow our hearts. As we leapt heart-first, we decided would worry about the practical details later.

We took another leap when we dove into the world of adoption fundraising and realized that money would be a barrier to completing this adoption. We decided that we would share our story and hope that others would want to help us complete our family; that there would be others that felt that us bringing Baby H into our hearts and homes was worth supporting.

To be honest, we thought we’d be lucky if we raised $1,000. Neither of us had ever tried to fundraise before and we lacked knowledge and skill as we blindly entered into the process. Today we are blown away to realize we’ve raised over $6,000.00. That’s enough for a car, a down payment on a house–that’s enough to cover most of the legal expenses for this adoption. An insurmountable hurdle to having a third child has melted away due to the generosity of friends, neighbors, and even strangers. We have been so blessed by those who have rallied to our cause.

There are so many people that we can’t even begin to thank them all. The unpaid editor of my blog, the friend who has done all of the graphics work and helped set up this website, the friend who helped us brainstorm fundraisers and get publicity, everyone who helped serve at the pancake feed, friends who sold our raffle tickets… the list goes on.

This process has made me more aware of the generosity that surrounds us. It’s the little things that make a big difference. During one particularly rough week, when bills were piling up, someone left a stack of coupons for Silk yogurt at Target. They were expiring soon. It was nothing for them to leave a coupon they wouldn’t use.

It made my week. It made it possible for me to treat my diary-free toddler to her favorite food on a week that we were cutting back on everything to afford this adoption. Another person donated $10 to our youcaring site and said “I know it’s not much.” But it is: that $10 means so much. The fact that you are giving me the only $10 you have to give to help support this adoption says worlds about your heart. Thank you.

I’m blown away by the parents and neighbors of coworkers that contributed to our cause after hearing our story. They don’t even know us. We know that the world is full of generous, wonderful people thanks to our fundraising. We’ve been the recipient of that generosity first-hand.

I’ve also learned that everyone has a story behind what you see every day. As we’ve opened up to others throughout this process, people have shared these struggles. I’ve heard stories of miscarriages that were never shared, secret desires to adopt or stories of adoptions that fell through. Others told of their struggles to pay for medical bills and asked how we went through this process and how much time it takes. What I’ve learned is that you never truly know what is on someone else’s plate at any given moment. We judge others by the cars they drive and the houses they live in, but give little thought to what life may have thrown at them after those purchases were made. Hopefully, I’ve learned something through this process about helping others and being more aware of their needs.

And now we leap again. We need to leap heart-first into welcoming our son into our home, hearts and arms. To do this, we will put a pause on any fundraising. Our youcaring page will stay active, but we need to focus on welcoming our son. The time draws near. We must take a leap of faith yet again. We will have faith that the costs will be less than we project, the adoption will go uncontested, that we will be able to line up a loan for any gap in what we have raised and saved. We will pray that everything goes smoothly from here on out.

We will also leap into the unknown world of having three children. That leap brings me to tears. For someone who couldn’t have any children to have a chance to end up with three, it’s a dream come true. I’d take that leap any day.

 

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Canceled

I received an email from the counselor letting me know our birth mother had canceled her next visit with her. And then the counselor will be on vacation. Two weeks with no visits and the adoption is less than two months away. My heart sank and I texted Tim immediately. He quickly called me over his lunch hour so we could discuss it.

This could have been as simple as our birth mom not feeling up to it that day, but as possible parents, we weigh and measure every interaction with our birth mom to see if there is a sign she will change her mind. I promised that Tim and I would start talking about when, not if, we have Baby H home with us. This is harder to do than I thought.

We came into this adoption with scars from our previous losses. In our home, we have a closet that we can’t bear to open because it contains the mementos from our other babies. Babies that we didn’t name because that made the loss even more real. I regret that now. There are certain days that I will be in a funk because the memories just pile on–the dreams of what might have been: our due dates, meeting a child who is the age they would be now, seeing a set of identical toddler twin girls, the anniversaries of our miscarriages.

We both thought that we had healed from our losses, but little events like this bring those losses to the forefront. Should we be worried that she canceled? Have we done something wrong? At the end of the day, we want to make sure that we have done everything we can to reassure her that we want this child more than anything and will love him completely.

I can’t imagine the pressure to choose parents to raise your child. How do you know that you are picking the very best ones? I can’t promise that we will be the very best parents out there. I can only promise that we will try. We will work hard to raise him right. I know that we will love him completely.  We already do and he is not even here.

So I called. I spoke with her. I’m going to drive down after the girls’ bedtime this week so that I can go with her to her next doctor’s appointment. In an ideal world, Tim and I would both be there, but we can’t swing that. She and I are going to go out to lunch together and spend a little time getting to know one another better. We’ll have two visits instead of one this month. She needs to know that she is giving him to parents that will love him. She needs to feel comfortable with us. She deserves to learn more about us and what kind of parents we will be.

Baby H deserves this too. For our open adoption to work, we need to build a relationship that will last through the years. We need to make sure we have a common goal: doing what is right for Baby H. We need to be able to have comfortable and cozy visits throughout the years. We need to expand our hearts and our minds so that we can all become part of one big family for his sake. He deserves this.

For now, we’ll start one step at a time. Tim and I will both visit with her in two weeks to continue to build that bridge. We will take small steps that will help us lay the foundation for the rest of his life. I’m starting two baby books–one for us and one for him. I’m going to put pictures of his birth mom and family in one book for him. As he gets older, we can update and add pictures together throughout the years. I want him to have a place for pictures of us and his sisters, but also pictures of his birth family throughout the years. Hopefully, one baby book will turn into several.

And hopefully, canceled is just that. An inconvenient appointment, not a sign of something more.

 

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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.

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Rumor Has It

The Negative Nelly side of myself has been researching failed adoptions. I just can’t help myself. My research has actually been making me feel better about the chances of our adoption going through. Based on what little I’ve been able to find, my greatest fear actually has the smallest chance of occurring. From what little I can glean from the interwebs, just 1% of adoptions fall through after the baby is born. Instead, most adoptions fall through in last two months of the pregnancy.

As I write this, we have 65 days left until Baby H is expected to make his screaming debut into the world. This is the window we are in.

I mentioned previously that I am from a small town. Our birth mother is currently in a small town, and well…small towns are like any other part of the world. Rumors get out. Rumor reached our ears of the birth mother possibly having a distant family member wanting to adopt the baby. Talk about your punch in the gut! We hope it’s not true, but as we’ve researched adoption, we’ve certainly run across adoptions where something like this has occurred. It’s not out of the realm of possibility.

Tim and I tried to put on a brave front for each other, but after we put the girls down for the night, we started talking it through. Our hearts were shredded at the possibility that there could be some truth to this rumor. But we still have hope that this will all go through. The one shining beacon we hold on to is that our birth mom has continued to reach out to us several times since this rumor reached our ears, and has talked through the adoption more with us. We’ve even talked a little bit more about the delivery and she reaffirmed she likes the counselor. She continues to call us, and we have to have faith that we are the parents she has chosen for this child.

We know it’s not as simple as someone just adopting the baby. They would have to jump through just as many hoops as we have even though it’s a relative adopting the baby. They could keep the baby, but without going through all this legal mumbo jumbo, it wouldn’t be an official adoption.

We’ve debated them, we’ve weighed them, and at the end of the day, we’ve decided to give little credence to the rumors. We can only focus on what we can control in this journey. The rest relies on the beauty, strength and resiliency of the human spirit. Again, we have to have faith that we are the parents she has chosen for this child. That she sees in us two loving parents with built in older sisters for this child. We have to pray that she has the strength to follow through on her conviction that this child needs a new home with us. We have to assume she is being open and honest with us.

Because sometimes, rumors are just rumors.

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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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