Cancer Ever After

Musings on Infertility, Adoption, Parenthood and Cancer

The hardest thing I’ll ever do.

As a child, the hardest thing I ever had to do was:

… get on the school bus with a complete stranger
… speak in public for the first time
… hear the word divorce
… say goodbye to my best friends

As an adult, hardest thing I ever had to do was:

… hear there was no heartbeat
…allow myself to be stuck with needle after needle
…go to the hospital and leave without our baby girls
…bleed for months on end, laying it that bed, praying our babies would make it
…rock two colicky newborns all night long
…walk into that hospital not knowing if I’d leave with a son
…say I had Cancer out loud
…hold out my arm for that first IV.

No.

Now I see those weren’t really that hard at all because you were by my side, doing whatever was needed, being my shoulder to cry on. It turns out the hardest thing I will ever have to do is:

…get out of bed and face the day without you by my side
…walk into the kitchen to cook breakfast, when you should be standing there
…go to bed alone, never again to cuddle up against your side

No.

The hardest thing I’ll ever have to do is:

…to explain to our children why you aren’t here
…to make sense of what you’ve done
…to understand why you didn’t fight to be at our side.

No.

By far, the hardest thing I’ll ever have to do

….is to forgive you.

I love you.

woman in black long sleeved cardigan

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3 a.m. Wake Up Call

The alarm went off at 3:30 in the morning, and all I could do was groan. Two or three hours of sleep wasn’t nearly enough. Yet, I forced myself to get out of bed and stumble to the shower in the hopes of waking up fully. I groggily suggested Tim go sleep on the couch so that one of us could get a little extra rest. This early morning wake-up call didn’t need to kill us both, but it was a necessary evil.

The original plan had been for me to drive to visit our birth mother on Thursday night and then take her to her doctor visit, go grocery shopping and then have a nice, relaxing lunch with her. It would be a short visit compared to the 8 hours of driving to go there and back, but it would help us continue to build on our relationship. For Baby H, we need to solidify that relationship so that we are truly comfortable and prepared when he is born.

That’s when all hell broke loose. When I picked up the girls they were acting a little clingy and fussy, but no alarms were raised. Tim and I juggled spending quality time with them and packing for my visit with our birth mother and for our upcoming rare weekend alone. We frantically packed, we juggled fussy girls, and we got them ready for bed. Tim was going to handle bedtime solo, so I headed out the door.

#&$*! I couldn’t find the gift card I had bought for our birth mother. I turned the car around and called Tim. That’s when the other shoe dropped: “Both girls started puking as soon as you left. They are crying and haven’t eaten a bite of dinner.”

I was so glad that I had already turned around. I drove home immediately and helped Tim manage the girls, rocking and comforting them. Poor Phoebe couldn’t understand why she kept throwing up and was scared of the bowl I placed in front of her. Finally, she was too exhausted to fight it any longer and fell asleep. Tim and I strategized in hushed whispers outside their door. I could go find the card and then try to drive down and arrive after midnight, or I could wake up and leave at 3:30 a.m. to make it there on time. The weekend alone was definitely canceled.

Neither one of us knew how serious this illness could be for the girls, so we opted for the early morning wake-up. The girls woke up four more times before I left, and we juggled toddlers and changed sheets, jammies, and diapers. I rocked and I comforted, trying to make sure my babies got a little sleep. As for Tim and me, I’m not sure we got much of any.

3:30 a.m. The alarm went off. It was time to get ready and head out the door.

As you can probably tell, the adoption and fundraising process are beginning to take their toll. And I have a responsibility to all of my children. If I’ve learned nothing else from infertility, I have learned that parenting is a privilege, not a right. I am privileged to have two beautiful girls and I will be honored if someday soon I have a son to join them.

Lately, I have been focused on one child’s needs over the needs of the others. I have no doubt that this will continue to be a challenge over the years as we have three children with different needs clamoring for our attention. It’s a battle that we are signing up to fight every day. I have to ask myself the hard questions as I weigh the needs of each. When I arranged to go back to visit our birth mom, I had no idea what life would throw at us that day. I’m glad I stayed, and it was worth the grueling 14-hour trip to make sure that I was there as they woke up sick in the middle of the night. It was worth the brutal trip back as I cracked the windows and talked with friends to stay awake and be a safe driver on the road, so that I could be back before dinner and bedtime.

We’ve reached a crossroads. That 3 a.m. wake-up call was a wake-up in more ways than one. We have to decide what our limit is. We only have one more big fundraiser in us. We need to be fully committed to building the relationship with our birth mom and with her family so that Baby H has the best upbringing possible. That takes time and travel. We need to be able to continue to focus on our girls and weigh their needs as we go through this process.

It’s time to ask for more help. We can’t make this last fundraiser the success it needs to be on our own. We need to see if we can get friends and family to help us sell just one or two, or perhaps five, tickets to friends of theirs. And we need to admit that we just might not reach our goal. Reaching our fundraising goal will mean nothing if we haven’t given this adoption the time and attention it needs.

We are a large part of the success of this adoption. We need time to get the nursery ready and get ourselves ready to have a third child. We need to start preparing our girls. They don’t fully understand yet, but there are things we can do to make the addition of another child easier on them. Which in turn will make bringing Baby H into the fold much easier on him and us.

We need to continue to focus on strengthening the relationship with our birth mother. It’s getting tougher for her as the time draws nearer. It’s becoming real and she needs more support. We’re beginning to have some tough conversations about how the adoption will continue to work throughout the years and how the hand-off will go.

In other words, we’re awake.

 

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