Cancer Ever After

Musings on Infertility, Adoption, Parenthood and Cancer

Baby’s on his way – a Dad’s perspective

“Are you excited?”  My mom asked.  “Yes, but this time it feels different.” For us this pregnancy has only been five months.  We have been so busy working to make the adoption happen that the time has just flown by.  Between work, our girls, normal housework and upkeep, fund raising, trips to see our birth mother, getting our son’s room ready, and everyday life something feels lost, missing.  The awestruck wonder of becoming a parent, again?  Maybe it’s different because we know we can handle another baby?  Maybe its due to how rapidly this process of adoption has been moving along?  Maybe it’s that we have a game plan and are following it?  Could it be shear exhaustion? I paused and looked back at our journey to become parents and the year and a half since our girls were born.

Discovering that we were infertile and coming to terms with it was a painful and lonely process.  Most of our friends and family have children and did not have any issues doing so.  Understanding and true compassion seemed to be in short supply.   The ordeal seemed to alienate us from many of our friends and co-workers.  Until we opened up completely to our families and gave them day-by-day updates on our last pregnancy, they did not seem to be able to understand or relate.  Many of our friendships did not survive the process of getting our girls and the first year of their lives.  However, the fun we have as a family has replaced the nights of hanging out with friends and going to parties.  And we’re meeting new friends through the various mommy and parent groups that Nichole has joined.

When our girls were born numerous people commented to me that we could try again and have a son.  Several people seemed to pity me or be saddened that I have two girls and no boys.  This did not bother me as I love my girls more than I though possible.  It did, however, make me sad for the people making the comments. However, when I heard that baby H was going to be a boy, I was thrilled.  While I look forward to introducing my son to my interests and hobbies with the hope that at least some of them will resonate with him, I know he will be his own person.  Just as my girls are developing their own personalities, my son will be unique.  Someone that I will get to know and love as he grows.  I hope that he is able to introduce me to new interests and hobbies, that I will be able to discover a whole new world with him.  I do not want a “mini me”; rather a new piece of the puzzle to fit into our family creating a clearer and ever-developing picture of our future.

My friend John once told me, “Being a dad is the best thing in the world.  You come home and your kids stop what they’re doing, run over to you, and jump up and down singing, “Daddy’s home!, Daddy’s home!” at the top of their lungs while grinning ear to ear.  No one else has EVER reacted like that when I showed up at work, or anywhere else.”  I’ve seen his daughter Maddie and son Ryan do this on numerous occasions.  Until I became a dad, I thought John was just being funny. Now when I enter a room after being gone for a while, and my girls reach for me and shout “Da-da!” I know exactly what John meant.  It may be selfish, but I look forward to one more voice being added to the chorus.

They most common thing that I hear when people see my twins is, “Boy, you have your hands full!”  While this may be true, I have learned to adapt.  I have become quasi-ambidextrous,  plan several steps ahead for everything that I do, and encourage the girls to be independent and do as much on their own as possible.  It also helps that they are in the “it’s fun to help phase.”  Dealing with twins is not the exhausting ordeal that it used to be, it’s just the way it is, and we do quite well.  Adding another to the mix will be challenging, but not impossible.  While my hands may be full as I care for my girls my heart swells with love and pride every time they learn something new – a word, a task, figure out how to use something, or understand a question or request and respond in a positive way.  There is still more than enough room in my heart for another child.

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Is Nanny body out there?

I totally and completely lost my shit at work today.  When I heard what our daycare had to say, I thanked them, hung up the phone, and then just burst into tears.  I think I’ve mentioned it before, but I’m not a pretty crier.  Nor am I a quiet one.  I tried to stay quiet as I cried uncontrollably.

Don’t worry, they were happy tears.  The last few weeks have been hell.  Evening meetings, 6 weeks of work to complete in one, getting a million little things ready for baby, and nanny interviews.  A TON of Nanny interviews.  I’ve gone through at least 30 applications, set-up interviews with 11, and even made two offers.  At yet, somehow, we still have no nanny.  Despite our best efforts, we just haven’t found that magic combo.  We even broke down and enlisted the aid of a nanny placement agency. Still no luck.

The constant interview rotation, all the phone calls to schedule, juggling nanny-finding in between work, attorney calls, paperwork, and trying to finish our adoption classes has been tough.  And I’m angry because I’m not finding enough time to just enjoy my girls before the baby gets here.  We don’t have that many days left that we can just go to the park with the four of us.  I want to make sure we all get to enjoy a few things while they are still the center of our world.  They’ll still be at the center later, but an infant will be sharing that space.

Queue the phone call.  Out of sheer desperation and frustration I asked our daycare if there was any chance they’d have an infant opening in May.  We know we can’t afford it, but when it comes to our children, can we afford to not have them in proper care? We’ve been tossing around plan B’s and plan C’s all week.  In fact, I think we might be onto plan T at this point. We could let a few of our loans default, one of us could quit our job, I could extend my leave and take some unpaid time off, we could try an in-home for the baby and keep the girls in the center or we could go into debt paying to keep them in the center.

This phone call changed everything. I was calling to confirm how much it would be to have all three in the center. I needed to know if this option even stayed on the list of possibilities.  “We have a scholarship program that you may want to apply for. I think you would have a good chance at getting one.” I thanked the director and hung up.  The answer isn’t definite, we don’t even know how much the scholarship would be for, but it may mean that it’s possible to keep the girls in the center and the baby could join them.  This would be amazing.  One of my hesitations through this process has been pulling the girls out of a place where they have blossomed.  The teaching evaluator that comes to our home is extremely impressed by their development and verbal skills as well as physical milestones. I’d like to think part of this is us, but I also know part of this is the daycare that they spend 40 hours a week at.

For me, this option is ideal.  We get the reliability we need and they stay in a place that helps them learn and grow.  We know we’re comfortable leaving an infant in their care, because we’ve already had two there. So tonight, I’ll write an essay. I’ll hope it’s a good one and I’ll wish for the best.

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Why Don’t You Just Adopt?

Five little words that hit you like a bullet. They hurt you on so many different levels when you are infertile.

“Why don’t you just adopt?”

Condescending, well-meaning, full of ignorance, so incredibly naive…These words are loaded, and, while I truly believe that everyone who ever uttered them to me was well-meaning, these words hurt when you are infertile. I also believe that they ignore the most central part of any adoption: the child.

“Why don’t you just adopt?”

I hope you’ve learned as we’ve gone through this process that there is no such thing as “just” adopting. Adoption is not easy, it is not simple, and it’s certainly not cheap. We have one of the most streamlined adoptions that I’ve ever heard of, and ours is still complicated, exhausting and difficult. There is no such thing as “just adopting.”

And, as an infertile, you have to be screened more in order to prove that you have healed from the grievous wounds that infertility has inevitably made on your psyche. It still gets me that when we looked into adoption before we had any children, roadblock after roadblock were thrown in front of us: “A one-year wait is required after ending fertility treatments.” “We would require that you undergo physiological evaluation and counseling prior to adopting because you are infertile.”

The real wound behind these five little words is they imply that you haven’t even considered adoption as an option. It’s an option that I think every infertile considers at different points along their path. We considered and reviewed it several times, and our views on adoption changed throughout our journey.

The one view that never changed was that we had to KNOW beyond a shadow of a doubt that being adoptive parents would be in the best interest of the child. Infertility gave us oodles of time to contemplate and quantify exactly why we wanted to be parents. We knew exactly how far we were willing to go in pursuit of a child, something that most people never consider. Adoption is not the magical solution to a problem and adoptive children are not a consolation prize. They are THE PRIZE.

For us, we had to reach a point when we knew, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that adoption was THE answer. And it had to be the right answer. When we received that text offering us a child to adopt, we each only had one word in reply: “YES!”  That’s what made us know that this was our answer – the only one we needed.

We never doubted at any point that we could love a child who wasn’t born of our bodies. We doubted that we could withstand the journey to get him or her. Adoption is a long and arduous path. It’s emotional and it can be draining. And if you are infertile, you may be starting this trek when you are already low on reserves. You’ve been dealt emotional blows; physically you may have gone through exhaustive treatments. An oft-quoted study in the infertility world shows that infertility patients undergo the same level of emotional stress as HIV or cancer patients. Imagine the gravity of the stress you would be in, and then apply that to making a decision that will forever alter the life of a child. It’s not to be taken lightly.

Adoption is also expensive. That was another one of our hesitations.  With adoption, the majority of the money is paid before you ever know for sure that you are going to have the child. Relinquishment is one of the final steps, well after all legal and adoption fees are incurred. It’s a bet. It’s a gamble. It requires a leap of faith. Once again, you have to know that you are willing to pour all of your money and resources into something that may not pan out. You can spend every last dime you have and still not have a baby. One of my friends described the difference between international and domestic adoption very well:

“In international adoption, you pretty much never get an infant. If you’re lucky, you bring home a 6-month-old. But in an international adoption, you pick a number and stand in line. You know that you will have a baby in the end, you just have to be patient and wait your turn. It could take one year or it could take three.

“Domestic adoption is different. You can get a newborn, but you also take the risk that you will make it to the end and go home empty-handed–or that you won’t be selected for a baby in the first place.”

I’ll be honest. I don’t know that we could have stayed the course in this adoption–that we would have remained as calm–if we didn’t already have other children. I know the little pregnancy scares we’ve encountered these last few weeks would have given me a heart attack if I hadn’t had a very complicated, but successful, pregnancy of my own. Hearing that our birth mother’s mucus plug fell out at 30 weeks or that she is in the hospital and they are monitoring the contractions at 34 weeks is not for the uninitiated–trust me.

And then there is the most central part of any adoption: the child. We have taken every step and evaluated every option with the child in mind. Often, when we’ve mentioned the complicated and expensive process of adoption, people say, “But you can adopt from foster care.”

That isn’t a simple answer, either. Every child deserves a parent who loves them fully, who is prepared to learn and grow and be the parent he or she needs. Not everyone is prepared to parent someone who may have special emotional needs or medical needs. This is often the case with foster care. Tim and I considered this very carefully and we were never able to say that we knew we could be the right parents for a child or children from foster care. We don’t know that we are cut out to be foster parents and adopt through that system.

Maybe this will change someday, but until we know this, until that day, those children deserve better. Personally, I feel like a child with additional emotional needs would benefit from a parent who is staying at home with them. Me being a stay-at-home mom was our original plan when we started trying for a family years ago, but we have loans now that we took out to get our girls. Staying home is no longer an option.

And, finally, we get to my other pet peeve about adoption. Think about Angelina Jolie for a moment and her children. How often do you hear people refer to her “real” children and her “adoptive” children? Our son and every child of adoption deserves to be accepted fully. There is no line drawn between “real” and “adoptive.” This child is not a second-class citizen, and there will be no qualifier when we introduce him to others.

If you don’t know that you will simply see this child as your child, then you are not ready to adopt. If you don’t believe you can withstand the process of adoption–the emotional rollercoaster–and emerge as an emotionally healthy parent, then now is not the time to adopt.

That is why “just adopting” is not an answer to an infertile couple. It has to be about what is right for the child, not what’s cheap, perceived to be easy, or socially acceptable. It’s a big committment of time and emotional and financial resources. You have to be ready to commit fully to enter the process. And there will be times when you question if you are doing the right thing. You have to have the reserves to make it through the doubt.

Every infertile couple is different in their journey. I know couples that have gone immediately to adoption, and I know others who knew it would never be the right fit. Unfortunately, I also know others who have tried, and failed, to bring home a child and have no additional resources–emotional or financial–to try again.

I would compare considering adoption versus infertility treatments to determining the course of treatment for cancer. You know whatever decision you make will impact the rest of your life. You have to carefully weigh the options, risks, and benefits and determine what gives you the best chance of a successful outcome.

And it’s not a static answer.

Sometimes, one little thing happens that tips the scale. My crappy liver, even crappier immune system and overall health issues made a pregnancy in my body a path we weren’t willing to go down. The scale tipped. Risks from another pregnancy were greater than the chance of an adoption falling through. The cost of the adoption didn’t seem so bad when weighed against possibily losing five months of income again and paying for more treatments. In other words, our perspective changed. Adoption became THE answer.

And this child will be our son, but make no mistake: we are not “just adopting.” We are blessed to have this opportunity to adopt. We are so lucky to be able to have a son and third child. He will never be an afterthought or a consolation prize.

So please, don’t say we “just adopted.”

Want to support our adoption? Help share our story, or consider making a donation to our youcaring page.

 Baby H will be home soon!

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Eye of the Storm

The adoption is really the center of this blog, but sometimes the rest of my life spills over.  My husband and my children, including the one we are adopting are undoubtedly the center of my world.  Still there are other parts and pieces of my life that makes me balanced and enriches me.   Balancing all of the parts and pieces of my life continues to be a challenge, and no more so, than during the final weeks of this adoption.

I want to be the best mother possible to my twins that’s my #1 priority.  But I also balance this with having a career.  I started a new job after they were born, and I have a responsibility to live up to the job I was hired to do.  It’s become more difficult to balance this as we’ve moved forward with the adoption.  This week, I’ve begun to feel as if I’m in the middle of a hurricane.

I got promoted at work, er, well, sort of.  I’m being promoted to the position I was originally hired to do (long story)– I’ve spent the last-year building an on-boarding and training program for my company and I’m now going to transition into the role I thought I signed up for from the start.  I asked for the change and am excited about it, but it also means that I have to hire and train two replacements so that I can transition to the new role -during the final weeks of the adoption.   The baby is coming early. Life could not be more complicated or out of control right now.  I have evening meetings every week to help plan and prepare work for my leave;  I’ll have to travel shortly after I return from maternity leave due to the new job responsibilities.  It’s going to be a challenge.

The baby coming early means  our well-laid transition plans are out the door. I don’t even have time to interview anyone, let alone get someone hired and trained!  My company is also experiencing a rapid period of growth right now, so the workload is growing exponentially.  And then there are those other pesky little details: hire a nanny, get the baby’s room ready, travel to see birth mom, plan for the birth, pack up everything the girls will need and arrange for childcare when the baby is born, legal issues, pay adoption bills, apply for a loan, take not one but two cars in due to recalls. The list has grown out of control and there are days when I feel like the storm is just swirling around me getting worse every second.

I had a bit of a meltdown over the enormity of all we need to accomplish in the next two weeks. But after my meltdown, I found my moment of zen.  We can do this, we’ll tackle each item one at a time, and it will all work out.  Yes, I’m obviously crazy to have taken on a job change in the middle of all of this, but we will figure things out.  I embrace crazy; I’m over-the-moon at having three children under two.  Crazy is obviously my middle name.

We will adapt.  And if we can find the eye of the storm, we can remain calm as the world is crazy around us. In the end, the job change is the right thing for my family.  The pain of the change will be temporary.  And I need to keep my priorities clear. It’s not easy to be a working mother, but it’s not easy to be a stay-at-home mom either.  Everyone has to prioritize and find balance.  I need to keep an eye on my priorities as I navigate this change.

My challenge is to find this balance as we welcome a son into the world.  I may not have a replacement trained before my maternity leave starts, but it won’t be the end of the world. My coworkers are wonderful, compentent people, they’ll pick up the work and do their bests. Clients will understand.  We’re having a baby!  Life rarely goes as planned when there is a baby involved.

The challenge for myself is to not get so caught up in the shuffle, the craziness at work that I’m not able to fully enjoy the birth, our son,  and my maternity leave.  This is precious bonding time that I’m able to have with my son.  My husband doesn’t get the same thing.  He’s going to have a single week to bond with him.  That hardly seems fair.  So, I’m going to find a little piece of calm in the middle of this crazy and make sure that I enjoy the time I get to bond with Baby H.  I’m going to revel in having more time with all of my kiddos. It’s going to be crazy, but you know, sometimes crazy is just another name for fun.

 

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Ultrasound

The news of a last-minute ultrasound had us rushing west to visit our birth mother. I was so excited! Excitement about an ultrasound may seem normal to you, but in my world, the infertile world, ultrasounds were usually the source of despair and bad news, not good news.

I’ve had at least 100 ultrasounds, and I’m not exaggerating that number. You have ultrasounds with intrauterine insemination procedures to see how follicles are developing, you have ultrasounds to see if cysts are developing and if your cycle has to be canceled. You have ultrasounds three or four times per IVF cycle to see how you are responding to medicines. Those ultrasounds are tense as you wait with bated breath for “good” news. But it’s hard to quantify. Everyone responds so very differently and it’s hard to know if something is “good” news.

And then there are the ultrasounds that are branded in my mind. The ultrasounds when they tell you something is wrong, or you just know it is. When the doctor told us we were carrying mono/di twins and it would be a high-risk pregnancy, worry overcame the joy of finding out we were finally pregnant again. That ultrasound sent us scurrying to research TTTS (Twin-to-Twin Transfusion Syndrome). When they couldn’t find a heartbeat–any heartbeats–those two ultrasounds were branded in my mind. They do an ultrasound right before they do a D&C. It’s final confirmation that the pregnancy is over. That’s the ultrasound that quashes the unreasonable hope you’ve held dear.

When they thought we were losing our miracle babies, that was one of the worst ultrasounds of my life. The ultrasound tech was unskilled and it took over an hour to find out just a few key pieces of information. I thought Tim was going to whip the wand out of her hand and do it himself. He did end up telling her how to measure the fluid and find the key items to confirm if the pregnancy was possibly still viable. Him being there kept me sane as I endured a very uncomfortable ultrasound on one of the worst days.

I realize if I looked at my ultrasounds objectively, calculated and added them all up, I’ve actually had far more good or benign ultrasounds than bad. But infertility has made me an obsessive worrier. With all of the complications we had in our successful pregnancy, ultrasounds were a constant source of anxiety. I couldn’t breath until they checked everything off this list. They were worried about the fluid level around the babies, they were concerned about the constant bleeding and they continued to make sure a placenta had not torn further. And a lot of it was simply my anxiety. Each ultrasound felt like a judgement on whether or not my girls would make it. For so long, the doctors would say “We’re just going to take this day by day. It’s too early to say how this pregnancy will turn out.”

This ultrasound was different.

Maybe it’s me. Maybe I’m simply less afraid. I know he’s in a body that is more equipped to carry him. And the pregnancy is going well. It’s so far along. Whatever it is, I could not have been more excited about this ultrasound.

Getting us all in the room? Well, that was a bit like watching the Three Stooges. No one was available to watch the girls, so we had twin toddlers, the two of us, the birth mother and the ultrasound tech crammed into a space really meant for three people. We were juggling blankies, sippies, squiggly toddlers and a very pregnant birth mom. It was a ridiculous amount of work just to get us all situated in the room.

1-Hand 1-Foot

And then we got to see him. Wiggling and moving. So gloriously wonderful! He was waving his hands and his lips were puckered up. It looked to us as if he was blowing us a kiss. I got to see him kick and move. He kicked so hard the birth mother’s stomach jumped! It was wonderful. There was a little sadness too, that I’m not the one who gets to feel him grow, but those feelings faded as I got to see him on the ultrasound. Perfect little fingers, perfect little toes, the spine, the face, the head. Everything was perfect. He will be perfect. He will be ours. I’m so glad that we were able to get this glimpse before he arrives. It helps make it even more real, it helps how close we are TO HAVING A BABY sink in.

We’re having a baby in mere weeks! There is so much we have to do!!!!! Cue the panic.

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