Cancer Ever After

Musings on Infertility, Adoption, Cancer and Widowhood.

On Miscarriage: Part Three

I was 15 weeks and one day pregnant when I thought my water broke.

I knew something was wrong immediately. Fluid was rushing down my legs. I was hysterical, but the more I cried, the more fluid I felt, so I forced myself to stop crying, sure that if I didn’t move–if I barely breathed–that would give the babies a better chance of making it.

I laid on the floor waiting for the EMTs as my coworkers stood around me and tried to help. I had to give my miscarriage and medical history in front of my entire department, a new department I had joined about four months prior. Someone called my husband and my mom. I was barely coherent enough to tell my mom I wanted her to drive down immediately.

We were losing the babies. I still remember the doctor telling me I was being admitted “to observe the miscarriage.” They were going to do some testing, but I should prepare myself that the babies would probably not make it, given the volume of blood and fluid I had lost. It was just too early and at their gestational age, there was no chance that they would be viable.

I was admitted to the labor and delivery floor–an event that is usually greeted with joy. A sonogram was dutifully ordered, and to everyone’s surprise, the babies appeared to be fine. There was still enough fluid around them and their hearts were beating strong.

Nurses woke me throughout the night to check if my body had begun the miscarriage. I continued to bleed and lose fluid, but no cramping. Another sonogram was ordered first thing in the morning and the babies were still fine.

It was a miracle. It was early enough in the pregnancy that there really wasn’t any medical intervention they could do to help me keep the babies, so the doctors sent me home with a laundry list of signs and symptoms of miscarriage to watch for. I was to contact them immediately–I would have to be in the hospital if I miscarried because I was so far along and it was twins.

We were told, “At this point, the only thing you can do is pray.”

At that time, they determined I had a large subchorionic hemorrhage and one of the placentas was partially torn. I was put on strict bed rest and told that we would revisit that once I stopped bleeding.

That was the beginning of 141 days of bed rest. My girls were fighters. They held on through more hemorrhaging, a placenta previa, gestational diabetes, preterm labor, and preeclampsia. My body struggled daily to maintain the pregnancy and eventually my liver stopped working properly.

My husband took over all of the day-to-day tasks, cooking, cleaning, shopping, and yardwork in addition to working full time and preparing the nursery for our girls. He brought me freshly cooked dinners and spent the evenings with me anxiously awaiting the results of the daily blood draws. They would determine if my liver was still functioning properly.

It’s funny–during this time my only worry was the babies. Even as the doctors poured over the results of my daily blood draws and scratched their heads that I could appear to be as healthy as I was when my liver function was in the the tank, I only worried about my girls being able to stay in me long enough to be healthy.

Tim, on the other hand, prayed that he would not be asked if he wanted the doctors to save me or save the babies. Every doctor I saw (I believe it was 12 doctors in total) told me the goal would be to get to me 32 weeks.

My girls and I defied every expectation and held on until 35 weeks.

They were both born healthy. They are the miscarriage that wasn’t. And I’m so thankful for them each and every day.

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Why Fundraise?

“Why are you adopting if you can’t afford to?”
“Why do you want a third child if you can’t afford to adopt?”
“It’s pretty selfish to ask others to help pay for you to have a child. A child is a want, not a need.”

These statements, or some variation thereof, have been heard many times by my ears since starting this process. Adoption fundraising is this strange new land for us, and it’s a really uncomfortable place to be. It is so incredibly awkward to have to admit that you need help in order to have a child–trust me, we’ve been there before. What’s new is having to ask someone to help us afford the costs to acquire that child, and the strangeness that it entails. Asking for help is one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done in my life, and I know my husband would say the same. We were raised to be self-reliant and asking for help is equal parts humbling and humiliating.

A part that has been surprising and challenging for me is getting people to understand the costs of adoption. I’ve lived in the infertility world so long. I know so many people that have traveled this path and we researched the hell out of it before we decided to have IVF. The costs have been obvious to me for a so long, I assumed others were already aware. A coworker said to me the other day, “You’ve raised $2,000, so the adoption is paid for now, right?” I wish! You would think that something like this, where both parties are in agreement of what they want would be straight-forward and less expensive, but it simply isn’t.  When I was explaining to a coworker that we are fortunate that the “reasonable and customary” living expenses are as low as they are, they were astonished that we were paying any. “WHY should you have to pay? You are doing her the favor.”

The world of adoption has changed a lot in the last 50 years. The Hauge Convention, knowledge about child predators, fears of forced adoptions, commercialization, changing legislation. All of these things have combined to create adoption as I know it today. There are a million parties involved in a modern-day adoption: attorneys (and there must be more than one to prevent coercion and provide fair representation), a home study agency, birth mother counselor, FBI, KBI, physicians, hospital social worker, you name it. It can be overwhelming with the sheer number of people and moving parts. And for each of those people there are fees. I don’t think that those people greatly inflate their fees, but most of them are involved as a business so their fees are high enough to make money. The costs just add up. Modern day adoptions can cost between $35k to $45k. We think we’ll luck out and squeak by with around $20K in expenses, $30k on the high end. The costs are high enough that I’m using a letter instead of zeros to write the numbers. It’s less scary that way.

So back to the question: why fundraise? Adoption wasn’t a path we were planning on taking, and it’s not something you typically undertake without a great deal of planning and saving. The chance to have this child fell into our laps and we knew how rare and wonderful that chance was. There were a million reasons we could have clung to as a barrier and said “no.” We had depleted our savings over the last four years, took out loans to get our girls, had twin toddlers in daycare. We hadn’t been saving for adoption or anything else and our medical bills have been high for the last several years. We didn’t have $10k let along $20k or $30k lying around. Most of the reasons to say “no” revolved around the finances. All of our reasons to say “yes” revolved around being able to love this baby. This child needed a home with parents who would love, support and raise him.  His mother was looking for a married couple who could provide a stable home and make sure he has opportunities as he grows. We were willing to do that. We’re fortunate to have two stable jobs and own our home. We have room in our home and hearts to spare.

When we looked at it that way, our only barrier to completing our family was financial. We could attempt to fundraise and see where that got us. It’s our time and effort and we are willing to expend the energy. Fundraising for adoption is pretty common these days. When adopting a child can easily cost $50k, most people have to fundraise for at least part of it. To understand more, I read blogs, I read adoption articles, I read books, I knew people who had fundraised. It seemed like a viable option.

I wasn’t prepared for how difficult it would actually be. The uncomfortable feeling, the judgement, the questions. In retrospect, it makes sense. People need to know that they are giving money to a good cause. And while I think that us having another child is the best cause in the world, it’s my cause, not theirs. Theirs may be raising money for cancer, ALS or the Boys and Girls Club. Everyone has their passion.

The other item I didn’t consider is that most people who do fundraise do so primarily through their church. Their church organizes the events and assists with promotions. It’s harder than I thought to get the word out when everyone has a policy against letting you post anything about a fundraiser. Some days are downright discouraging.

Once again, why fundraise? Because at the end of the day, the only barrier between me holding my son in my arms is money, and money is a temporary thing. Pride is temporary. I can get past humiliation. Love is forever. Every mother would tell you they would do anything for their kids. I’m no different.

Why fundraise? Because at the end of that path is Baby H, and he’s worth it.

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12,182,400 seconds

It may mean I’m absolutely neurotic, but I calculated the number of seconds from when we found out about the adoption to the due date for our son. I was driven to do this because it was exactly the same amount of time I spent on bedrest with my girls: five months. Twenty weeks. 141 days. 3,384 hours. 203,040 minutes. 12,182,400 seconds. When I was on bedrest, I drove myself crazy with worry and I would swear that every second felt like an hour. I’m not sure I took a deep breath until we made it to 28 weeks and I knew the girls had a fighting chance to survive. Every moment after that was a second I held dear as I knew it was a stronger chance that they would be healthy and it meant less time in the NICU.

I can’t help but compare that to the five months that is flying by with this adoption. The first two weeks were a blur. Days felt like seconds as I consulted attorneys, chose a home study agency, and found a counselor. There were a couple of days where time flowed normally, but as we realized we would need to fundraise to help meet all of the costs, time entered warp speed.

Sell baby gear and odds and ends around the house, fill out paperwork for the home study, line up counselors, meet with the birth mother, fundraise, apply for grants, and research loans. Find a place to have a pancake feed–check. Find a place for a community garage sale (still working on that), make flyers, send emails, write PSAs, get the word out, network, connect with friends to see if they can help, and line up every dollar we can. There is still at least $10k that we know we need to bring to the table, plus we need a plan in place to fill any gap if our fundraising falls short.

And today, I received the final paperwork that I have to complete to prove how we will fund this adoption in order to get approved as a prospective parent. Please don’t let this be a roadblock. Our medical hardship from our 401(k)s fell through. My new employer doesn’t allow it, nor does my husband’s, much to our surprise.  We were counting on that. No time to mourn or think. It’s time to explore other avenues. More phone calls, more emails. Luckily, I have friends in the right places to get answers. We think we have a plan in place to replace the money we were counting on from our 401(k)s. I will juggle, I will dance, I will sing–anything to bring my son home.

In some ways, this is no different than someone with a surprise baby. Can anyone really afford a first child, a second or a third? Maybe not, but we can love him. More importantly, we are willing to take on the challenge of affording him for the rest of our lives. Three kids in daycare doesn’t make me bat an eye. Three in college at the same time? I’m game.

I’ll stay up late and crunch the numbers. I’ll call banks and line up possible loans all week. We’ll have a plan in place to gather our 10k (or more) and be able to answer all of those questions to get approved as adoptive parents. I will squeeze the life out of every one of those seconds we have until our son arrives.

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Not all Rainbows and Unicorns

Some days are just hard. Five a.m. Wake up, cranky kiddos, try to figure out how to sell tickets to our pancake feed, learn a new job…Right now it feels a little bit like life on steroids.

Our birth mom was out of town for the holidays, but Tim had an extra day off. Since it’s such a long drive to see her and Tim has so little vacation time, we really wanted to visit over the weekend if possible. A few calls later, some texts, arranging a ride for her back to town and voila, a last-minute trip to see her this month.

This is our third visit and we know her a lot better, but I still feel like I’m preparing for a job interview every time we visit. Each visit brings those niggling worries bubbling to the surface–will she change her mind, will the father decide to protest the adoption, will we have to go to court over this, will the expenses balloon through legal fees? Combine those worries with not being packed, a stressful day at work and two kiddos that woke up WAY too early and you have where I found myself: in a kitchen, surrounded by two crying toddlers and ready to be in tears myself. I was rushing to do everything at once and I wasn’t getting anywhere. One thing I promised myself when we began this adoption is that it wouldn’t cut into the time I have with my girls. All of my children are a priority. I wasn’t living up to that promise in this moment. I had to stop myself and take stock. All of this rushing wasn’t helping anyone.

So, I turned the radio on, picked up my girls and we danced. We danced around the kitchen with the huge glass windows not caring that the entire neighborhood could see. And the giggles began. Hazel and Phoebe both threw their heads back as we twirled in circles, dipped, and danced. This is what we all needed. Then daddy came home and there were snuggles and story-time in daddy’s lap. Packing could wait a little bit.  This time mattered.

The packing eventually got done, but  with much less stress. It was a later night than we wanted, but it was worth the pause.  Dancing and giggles –  I needed it, they needed it, we all needed it. The big family group hug was just a bonus.

 

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It’s a boy!

“Do you want to know what the baby is?”

Tim and I were getting the girls out of their car seats when my mom lobbed this missile at us. We hadn’t even talked about whether or not we wanted to find out. I was torn. Knowing would make the adoption even more real, and part of me wanted to insulate myself from the hurt if the adoption didn’t work out. We know what losing a child during pregnancy feels like (we’ve lost three) but we don’t know what losing a child through a failed adoption feels like (and I hope we never do).

My mom had asked earlier if I had a preference, and honestly, I was torn. Before infertility, I had the typical girlish visions of what my ideal family would be like and I always envisioned myself with three boys. Yet when the twins came, I was thrilled to find out we were having girls, and to actually have, hold and raise my them has been a blessing. I never wished for a moment they would be anything but what they were–healthy and alive.

With this baby, the concerns around gender are different. The baby is bi-racial and I don’t know the discrimination this child will face. I know that we will love the baby unconditionally, but I also know I cannot control the actions of others. Part of me thought it would be easier if it was a girl–that people would be nicer–but what do I know? Of course, we also hear what is on the news these days and I wonder, “What will life be like when this baby is a teenager?” “Will the world have changed enough?” “Will my child be safe?”

Tim’s and my eyes met over the phone and I asked him “Do you want to know?” He said “Yes”, as I took a deep breath, mom said, “It’s a boy!”

All of my worries and fears went out the window and were replaced by pure joy.

We are having a boy! We just stared at each other with goofy smiles on our faces.

 

 

 

 

 

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