Cancer Ever After

Musings on Infertility, Adoption, Parenthood and Cancer

School’s in Session

In the normal scheme of things, you meet someone, fall in love and have babies with them. There is no qualification or license to be a parent. In a lot of ways, infertility makes you feel like you have to prove yourself worthy to be a parent. Somedays, you feel like you have to get an approval stamp to magically become a parent.  Adoption takes that approval process up about ten notches.

The 30+ pages of questions and essays Tim and I just filled out, are apparently not enough. We have to take classes. The fact that our adoption is transracial makes us subject to more scrutiny with the adoption agency. Somehow that hadn’t occurred to me when we started the process.  I guess it’s because adoptive children will always have to come to terms with being adopted and also because I will never have the same experience or perspective that my son will. These classes are intended to open to our eyes to some of the challenges we may face raising a child of a different race.

I have not been in his shoes. I don’t know what he will face or deal with.

But in some ways this is also true of my daughters. I was an odd child: a tomboy and proud of it. I was so rough and tumble, and any teasing that went on because of it pretty much rolled off my back. I didn’t grow up in today’s world of selfies, Snapchat, and a slew of fashionable children’s clothing stores. My girls’ hair is already longer than mine has been for most of my life. They cry when I take dresses off them.  I used to cry when I had to put one on.

I guess Tim and I will just learn as we go. Hopefully these classes give us food for thought and give us the ability to talk through how we would handle potential situations. Since we have to take 16 hours of classes, I sincerely hope we learn something from them!

So much of parenthood can’t be taught in a class. It’s trial and error, it’s a willingness to grow and change. There will be times when I do not know what to do, or I do the wrong thing. I just need to make sure that my children are secure in our love and know that whatever comes up, they can come to us, and we’ll figure something out together.

 

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It’s a Small World After All

How do you take the world and shrink it?

I’m from a small town and I’m used to word getting around in about five minutes when someone gets hurt or needs help.  It’s always a matter of six degrees of separation.  “Mary’s niece is trying to adopt a baby, and she’s having a pancake feed on Saturday. You should go.”   Talk to a few of the right people and word can get around a town of 5,000 in days. And this was before social media.  Now it probably gets around in a matter of minutes!  Don’t believe me? Ask anyone from a small town.

It’s different in the big city.  I don’t think human nature is any different, people are just as nice and caring, but you don’t have that feeling of connection with someone you don’t know, or only know through those six degrees of separation.  It takes more to compel you to act– you have to feel a connection.  Otherwise it’s just a sad story you heard about.

There are a few exceptions to this.  Events or things that make the world shrink can bring a city together. Unfortunately, tradegy is one of those things that can shrink the world.  I’ve traveled to New York pre 9/11 as well as in the months shortly after.  What truly amazed me post 9/11 is how New York felt like a small town.  The sense of community was overwhelming. Neighbors were helping neighbors and everyone went out of their way to help each other out.  New York City became every small town in America.  They were the very heart of America.

This also happens in times of joy or celebration.  The Royals playing in the World Series in Kansas City, helped shrink our city.  Weather you were a die-hard fan or indifferent, for a short time you were from Kansas City and you had a common cause.

This brings me back to the question, “How do you shrink the world?”.  What can we do so  people will realize that we are their neighbors, their friends?  That our story is the story of everyone who has tried to have a baby and wasn’t able to.

This is the true challenge of fundraising in a Big City. Tim and I don’t have a large circle of friends and for me, at least, meeting new people is hard. I’m an introvert who has trained herself to appear to be an extrovert.   No matter how often I speak or how many people I meet, my first instinct is to draw back. There’s always a spurt of terror at meeting someone new. To be honest, I’m perfectly content to live in my own mind most of the time; which makes shrinking the world a lot harder.

Tim and I have focused on sharing our story online because we are more comfortable with that, at least I am.  It’s hard to strike up conversations with strangers and I don’t tend to speak of the adoption as much in person. Right now, we’re focusing on shrinking one corner of our world — our neighborhood. We’ve put flyers for our pancake feed on every community mail box in all of our surrounding neighborhoods. (don’t worry, my picture is on them, the post office already knows who to arrest contact)

We’ve also gone full-on public with our journey. I’ve created a facebook page, and I blog to share our story and our journey. When I started this blog, we wanted to share our story so that people would want to be part of the journey, to invite people to become part of our world, or as Mr. Rodgers would put ask them, “Won’t you be my neighbor?”. What I didn’t expect was the therapeutic nature of the blog.  I never expected to blog as often as I have or feel like I have so many thoughts clawing their way out of me. But we have years of infertility, miscarriages, and treatments under our belt.  Our entire view of the world has shifted, and it’s nice to be able to express how that’s changed my life.

I also blog, because bloggers saved my sanity.  When you are infertile, at first you don’t share. It’s a shameful diagnosis and you feel as if you are lacking as a person. Everyone else can have babies and raise a family– why can’t you?  And later, the hurt from infertility is a raw aching wound. It simply hurts to share.  There were times when I thought if I started speaking about it, I would just start screaming and crying and raging. I was afraid if the floodgates opened, I would never be able to close them again.

I desperately searched for stories like mine after our first miscarriage (I found ONE in all of the internet), and as I went went through medicated cycles, IUI’s, and IVF cycles I poured over dosages, levels, and response rates from every available source. Reading those blogs made me feel like I had a friend on our very lonely journey through infertility.  Some blogs were old, they’d already found their success and I would pour through every entry on what they had done.  All of those blogs made the world smaller. I felt like I knew someone in San Diego or Boston — we were kindred spirits. I had a partner or friend in my journey. Someone who was showing me the ropes.

I hope by sharing our story, that someone else will find it helpful.  That a neighbor will feel like they know us, that the world will become a little smaller. And most of all, I hope that a lonely googler who is considering adoption, or who has recently had a miscarriage feels less alone. Maybe someday, someone will find hope in our journey when they think all hope is lost. Maybe someone else will read this as they try to fundraise to make the astronomical costs of adoption manageable, and they will see that it’s possible.

I hope. And I blog.

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The Line

As I go through this process, I’ve noticed an adoption narrative that I am just not comfortable with. I’m not rescuing this child from a terrible and awful situation. Because I have a better job, am more established and have more resources at my disposal, does not automatically make me a better parent. The choices I make as a parent and my willingness to learn, improve and adapt are what give me the ability to become a great parent. But I have to constantly work and strive to be a better parent. Resources do not automatically equal greatness.

I’ve been told that I could raise more money for the adoption if I focused on how I am saving this child. But I won’t go there. I simply don’t believe it to be true. I feel so strongly about this because of my background. My mom got pregnant and married at 17 and then had four more kids in rapid order. She had five kids by the age of 25 with little education or job skills. And then my parents divorced. A home that had just enough to scrape by was torn into two homes that couldn’t quite make it.

I got my first job at 10 busing tables, and by 12 was helping to cover electric bills–but that was temporary as we got on our feet. My mom was determined to provide for us and to make our lives better. She entered into a management training program at work and got her bachelors degree while I played volleyball, hung out with friends and finished high school. Long before I managed to graduate college, she had her master’s degree and had opened her own business.

Through it all, she was there for all of us. Sometimes she was tough, and lord knows you don’t want to get on her bad side, but she was a great mother. Amazing children are produced by single-parent households, and amazing people grow up in families that don’t have a lot. It’s all about the characteristics you instill in your children and how you encourage them. My mom taught me the value of hard work and that it’s not really work if you love what you do. She always encouraged me to strive to be my best and told me that limits exist only in my mind; when I see a ceiling I should break on through.

I don’t know what is in store for our birth mother. I don’t know the choices that she will make. But I do know she is making a pivotal one now, one that will reverberate through the rest of her life. My hope is that by digging so deep and asking us to raise her son in a house with more opportunities and resources, she will be able to focus on her life. She wants to complete her GED and get her nursing certification. I hope that happens.

I also know there is a chance that she will change her mind.  That is why it is so  important for me to cling to the knowledge that if she decides to parent this child, he’ll be loved. Time will tell which one of us will kiss his boo boos and kiss him goodnight.

I hope it’s me, but I have to think that she will aspire to greatness if she keeps him.  I know she loves him too, to go through this and then hand him over to someone else to raise. In some ways, I think he is doubly blessed. He’s not even here yet and so many people love him.

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Penny Wise, Pound Foolish

Our birth mother doesn’t like her counselor. This is a big problem.

“A good counselor can be the difference in an adoption going through or failing,” said my very staid and serious attorney. The birth mother not liking her counselor worries me. And it’s not just about the adoption going through (although I want it, too). The counselor is there for her after the adoption, as well.

This is the person who helps her on the path of healing. Even though the adoption was her idea and she requested it, this will be a loss, and she will need to mourn and heal. It’s important to us that she have a good counselor.

When we began looking at home study agencies and counselors, we went with our second choice for both because the second choice agency offered an economical package for both options. This was the only place that could coordinate both the home study and counseling. The price tag also swayed us. And at that time, I spoke to their counselor and loved her, so it seemed like the perfect solution.

Then our birth mother moved and received a new counselor–a counselor neither one of us is very impressed with. She missed an appointment, and then she was late for the next one. She seems scattered and, quite frankly, doesn’t focus on what our birth mother wants or needs. Now I feel like we made a poor choice because we were worried about the cost. And this was all BEFORE the appointment in which the counselor spent a total of 10 minutes with her in the presence of the driver I had arranged. And none of that time was spent talking about the adoption. NOT IMPRESSED.

After talking to our attorney and going over everything we learned in this process, we decided it was time to find a new counselor. I contacted my original first choice. She costs a lot more, but I LIKE her so much more, and I think our birth mother will as well. At least, I hope so. She needs have support as she continues down this path. Our birth
mother is going to meet with both counselors next week and let us know who she would prefer to work with. I just hope they click.

The counseling sessions will add up. It’s probably $2,000 to $3,000 we weren’t planning on spending. But the counselor also plays a pivotal role in the process.

I won’t lie–I want a counselor that helps our birth mother be sure that this is what she wants. If she’s going to back out, I’d like to know before we get to the birth and before we’ve spent too much on the legal fees and process. I think a more experienced counselor will help us determine that.

But I also want to make sure the birth mother has the support she needs. I’ve never given up a child for adoption, but I’ve lost children and I know that it hurts. I need to know that she has someone to turn to and will be able to start the process of healing. The hardest part of adoption is knowing that no matter what, one of us walks away with empty arms.

If it’s going to be her, I need to know, for my own peace of mind that she has support in place. For now, I’ll hold my breath and hope that she likes the new counselor. That they click. If they do, it will be money well spent.

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On Miscarriage: Conclusion

I shared the details of our miscarriages and our pregnancy so that you can understand what it was like to be in our shoes. I don’t pretend to know what it is like for others as they have miscarriages. I just know it hurts no matter how or why it occurs.
I also don’t know what brings other people to adopt. I just know that for us, given our history, when this chance to adopt was offered to us, both of us had the same answer. It was simply, “YES!”We were at a cocktail party and someone asked us how we determined we wanted to adopt. As we explained how we fell into this adoption, I realized it may seem like we jumped into it without thought. We had actually weighed and measured adoption ad nauseum prior to having the chance to adopt Baby H. We had looked into home studies and domestic and international adoption. We had spoken with several agencies. You see, if we miscarried again, this was our most likely path. We’d already had discussions about adopting transracially and talked through our thoughts and feelings on that.

Our only hesitations were the cost, potential wait to be selected and the failure rate. I imagine that a failed adoption feels a lot like a miscarriage — it rends your heart in two. This was our biggest fear with adoption. We weren’t sure at that time if we could handle another loss. The wounds were so fresh. We closed that door, and committed to medical treatment thinking we had a better chance of success.

That door remained closed until a text message sent it bursting back open. We both knew immediately this was our path to our third child. In fact, our only thought (other than “yes”), was “Why didn’t we think of this sooner?” It just felt right. This was our path, this was our son. This was our answer.

The second reason I shared details about our miscarriages is because I’ve been on the other side. The side on which you have a friend who is hurting from a miscarriage and you don’t know what to do. You can’t fix it or make it better, but you can make a difference. Because of this, I want to share the following suggestions:

If someone you know has a miscarriage:

1.) Acknowledge their loss. It matters. And it’s a loss for both parents, not just the one who bore the child.
2.) Simply be there. They may not be willing or able to talk, but your support does matter.
3.) Make a gesture that shows you realize this loss hurts. Send a card, send flowers. Drop food by. Anything that you would do for someone who lost a loved one, consider doing it for a miscarriage. One of my friends simply popped by with a casserole after our second miscarriage. I wasn’t answering my phone, I barely answered texts, I hadn’t showered in days. She rang the doorbell, burst in with the food, a hug and a card, and then quickly left. But it mattered. That was the only food we ate for a week. I couldn’t bring myself to cook. That gesture remains close to my heart to this day.
5.) Offer support, not platitudes. It’s hard not to say, “It was God’s plan,” because there are no words that can make it right, but the wound is too fresh. It takes time to gain perspective. Consider saying, “I’m here for you, I’m happy to do whatever you need.”
6.) Ask what they need, or simply hug them. Keep in mind, they may not be in a place to tell you what they need yet.
6.) Help them find a way to memorialize their child or children. In most miscarriages, you don’t have a body to bury. There is no funeral. This makes it difficult to get closure. For us, attending a ceremony after our second miscarriage made us feel like all of our babies were remembered, and we continue to remember them this way each year.
7.) Remember, it’s okay if you are not sure what to do or say. Your being there makes all the difference.

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