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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A Much Needed Break

The Sunday after our Pancake Feed, Tim and I declared it an official family day.  Every single evening has been filled with lists of to do’s for the last month.  First it was the home study and filling out pages of questions, we spend lunch hours tracking down legal documents, and then try to promote our event. In the evening we’d creep out to visit places to hang flyers or try to find another way to get the word out.

We have been running in circles trying to accomplish so much in so little time.  Our regular items like laundry, cooking, and cleaning that we do in the evenings has crept into our time with the girls.  I don’t like this.  I don’t want to have to worry about getting laundry done during the evening hours that I have with them. I want to be able to enjoy story time, watch them play on the slide, and play patty cake. I want to chase them up and down the hallway playing monster.  Heck, we even play fetch with our girls. The dog won’t play fetch, so why not play it with them? For some reason, they think it’s the best game ever.  The dog– not so much.

Sunday was a rare day. All of the prepping for the home study allowed us to get completely caught up for once. Meals cooked for the week- done. Diapers washed and stuffed – done. (Yes, we use cloth) House clean- completely!  Sunday became our funday. We hung out in jammies until noon. We chased each other up and down the hall, we pretended to talk on the phone to one another, we “cooked” but this time it was in the play kitchen and we made asparagus and wooden block soup.  Anything the girls could stack on or in something, we played with it.

Even better, we sang.  My girls love to sing. We sang Itsy Bitsy Spider, I’m a Little Teapot, Row Row Row Your Boat and more. If I could think of the song, we sang it together making up motions for the song as we went.  Then we all danced in the kitchen together and exchanged sloppy kisses and group hugs.

My girls now think it’s hilarious to kiss one another. They pucker up their lips so big and will lay the sloppiest, wettest kiss on you.  It’s incredibly gross and incredibly wonderful all at the same time. Each kiss, each hug, each giggle reminded us why we are working late into the night. It reminded us why we are pursuing this adoption. We love our girls so much, and we have room in our hearts for one more.  We can’t wait until our fundays include juggling a baby while watching the girls be silly or try to climb on chairs. We have no doubt that they will teach him the word “No!” or how to play in the dogs water dish.

We can’t wait.

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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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Fire Drill!

“We’ve finally got your background check back in. Does this Thursday work for you for the first home visit?”

$*#&@*. While I am utterly relieved and feel vindicated that my background check did not show me to be a spy during the extra month of unending waiting for it to come back, I wasn’t expecting the home study to be scheduled with so little notice.

Tim and I had asked lots of questions about what would be reviewed during the home study and I, in my usual fashion, had made lists of the things we needed to accomplish: install fire extinguishers, test all of the smoke alarms, get an extra smoke alarm/carbon monoxide detector for Baby H’s room, clean the house from top to bottom, finish baby-proofing doors and the tall cabinets now that the girls can climb, tackle the organization problem in the master bath…the list was exhaustive and seemingly endless.

And we’d accomplished exactly ZERO of them.

Between the fundraising, making cupcakes, the biggest alliance partnership in the history of my company being launched and completing essay after essay after essay for the home study, we have been tapped out the last few weeks. Both girls developed a bad diaper rash out of nowhere, our cloth diapers needed to be stripped ( a two-day process), I needed to get a million things done for the fundraiser on Saturday…

And Phoebe was sick. Again.

This time we had to take her to an allergist and immunologist. I broke down after that appointment. I hate taking her to a place that makes her cry, and she has been to so many doctors that she cries as soon as she recognizes the type of place that we are in. Sometimes Hazel chimes in out of sympathy. Luckily, this time there weren’t any blood draws or anything painful for her. We have a new regimen for her breathing treatments and inhalers and hopefully we’ll get through the rest of the winter without incident.

This was just one of those days where everything seemed to be piling on to break me. Tim and I want this baby so badly and we are so afraid of doing something wrong and screwing it up. When I got the news about the last-minute home study, I knew it was time to call in reinforcements.

One mass text and several responses later, we had help lined up for the next couple of days. A couple of late evenings and a little flexibility occurred in the form of working from home, so I could shuffle everything successfully and swap loads of laundry over during conference calls and between meetings.

I could breathe again. Sometimes you have to break down in order to get clearheaded. We began breaking everything into manageable pieces that we could tackle, and getting everything ready for the home study actually went much better than we expected. Apparently, we are much more efficient at cleaning and organizing since we’ve had kids. We expected to pull an all-nighter before the home study, but we managed to be in bed by 10:30, which in parent time is the equivalent of 2:00 a.m. Not too bad.

AND OUR HOME STUDY WENT REALLY WELL! She had zero concerns, and walked around our house asking questions about the safety and how we did things. It went so well that a follow-up visit doesn’t look necessary at this point. (Makes me proud of my prep list.) We are at the finish line! We should have the final home study within two weeks and then we are ready for Baby H to come at any time.

 

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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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