Cancer Ever After

Musings on Infertility, Adoption, Parenthood and Cancer

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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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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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.

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