Cancer Ever After

Musings on Infertility, Adoption, Parenthood and Cancer

Trust Me

“I want the baby to be baptized before we do the hand-off.”

I’ll admit this request surprised me a little bit, mainly because our birth mother has never asked about our religious beliefs. But the timing was rather serendipitous. We had just spoken to a acquaintance who had given us the entire story of how both of her domestic infant adoptions worked, from the open adoption and what they agreed on with the birth family, to how it was working for her and her children 10 years later. Her open adoptions involved not just birth mothers, but also grandparents.

One of the items she had emphasized was how helpful the “handing-off, or entrustment” ceremony was for her and her husband, and how the birth parents had later said it was helpful for them as they embarked on the journey of healing from the adoption. Tim and I both really liked the sound of that. Both of her adoptions were done through the same agency, and the agency had put together the ceremony and then had each of them write a statement expressing their commitment to the baby and to the open adoption.

This request was the perfect chance to bring this up as an idea. We really want our birth mother to determine what she wants for the hand-off and the counselor has been working on this with her, but she’s been having a tough time deciding. The hand-off is going to be unbelievably tough for her, and it would be nice if it gives her the ability to embark upon the healing she will need to do after this adoption.

Infant adoption is not universally liked, and I can see why. If a child is removed from their parents for abuse or neglect we feel justified–they are “going to a better place.” Emotions are much cloudier when a parent knows that they are not prepared, they are too young, or that one more child is more than they can support or handle. In infant adoption, the birth parent is motivated not by apathy or hate, but by love. And, in the case of infant adoption, that love causes pain. We don’t like to think about the pain involved.

I don’t know her exact pain, but it will be a profound loss that she will have to grieve and heal from. Just like I had to grieve and heal from my losses. My healing is still not complete, and I imagine that it will be years before hers is, either. What I do know from my own experiences is that having a ceremony for the babies I lost helped me heal more completely. Having something concrete to hold onto, proof of their existence, helped me.

She’s open to creating a ceremony where we baptize him and say words as the hand-off occurs–an “Entrustment Ceremony.” Now I need to do a little research. Neither one of us has an agency to guide us in this. This ceremony needs to be shaped by what she wants or thinks she needs, and we need to be flexible. Emotions will run high that day and our plans may just fly out the window. But the process of preparing for the ceremony can be healing in and of itself. We’ve asked her to write letters to him and we’ve started a baby book. We’re collecting pictures of her and her family. We want him to have the same type of album that anyone else would have–a book where they can compare where they got their eyes, nose or height from.

There is a second book in the works, a book for her. We bought her a book to start her collection of pictures and letters throughout the years. She wants the photographer to take a picture of her with Baby H so that she has a picture of her with him. I think that is a wonderful idea.

By and large, we’re flying blind and making things up as we go. We’re googling and researching, and she is, as well. Her counselor will hopefully help us define the process. In the end, an entrustment ceremony makes sense to me, because she is doing exactly that. She is entrusting the greatest treasure in the world into our care. She is placing her trust in us.

Want to help support our adoption? 
Visit our youcaring page and make a donation. Until March 1, each $20 donation will get you entered to win a 3 night stay at the Lake of the Ozarks in Osage Beach Missouri. View here for more information.

 

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What’s in a Name?

“I want to name the baby after my father.”

This text was a complete surprise. About a month and a half into the adoption, the birth mother had asked us what names we were considering for the baby and we had shared our chosen name with her. We’ve been referring to him by name in conversations between us. I thought we were in agreement on this.

“The counselor says that I can name the baby and then you can change the name.” This is true, and I was trying to figure out why this felt so strange to me. I think it’s because it makes me feel like getting a puppy at the pound. The dog has a pound name, like Lucky or Lassie, and then you name it as part of the process of taking it home and making it yours. Not everyone renames, and certainly not an older pet that you adopt, but it still feels strange to me.

And yet.

This is her child. If this is something that she needs to do to show how much she loved him, than I support it. We support it. Tim and I started to talk this through and I asked her what her father’s name is. I laughed when I received the text. Oddly enough, it’s a name that I jokingly use as my husband’s middle name when he’s in trouble. (It’s not his actual middle name.) It’s a standing joke between us.

I didn’t answer her right away. We need to consider how we wanted to handle this. We just weren’t sure what the right answer or response was. We tested the name as a middle name with the first name we selected. Then inspiration struck: how about giving Baby H two middle names? Part of me likes this. This gives him something tangible from his birth mother, proof that she wanted to give him something as she gave him to us. The other part of me wonders what it will be like having so darn many names.

We proposed using it as a second middle name: our first name, her middle name, then our middle name. I don’t know. We don’t know if this is the right answer. To be honest, we’re still not entirely sure how we feel, but we proposed this to her as an option to see what she thinks.

“That has a nice ring to it, actually.”

If I’ve learned nothing else throughout this adoption, it is how little we are in control of the way things are going to play out. I’ve learned how to relax and be flexible. There is so much that we don’t know about this process that we need adapt to. It will be no different as we raise him. This will be new to all of us and we will all have to learn our way as we go.

Want to help us bring home baby h? 

Visit our youcaring page and make a donation. All proceeds will help cover the legal and adoption expenses. From now until February 28, you will receive an entry into a drawing for a 3 night stay at the Lake of the Ozarks for every $20 you donate.

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Unprepared

There has been one aspect of this adoption that I haven’t delved deeply into during my posts, not because it’s unimportant, but because it is so very important. Race. This is a transracial adoption. We are adopting this baby knowing that someday he will face reactions and discrimination that we have never experienced personally. He will have a view of the world that we will never fully understand or share.

That’s the tough part. I’m not naive. I know discrimination is real. We live two miles from Missouri and Ferguson could easily be in our backyard. I’ve seen the youtube video of the father whose adopted daughter was bullied because of her race, and I bawled my eyes out on her behalf. I saw myself in his shoes some day, and I can only hope I handle it with the grace and aplomb that he did.

I have biracial nieces and nephews. I have friends who have been called “the token Asian,” or something else jokingly, yet in a not-so-funny way, most of their lives. We live in a world that notices race. Our son will not look like us and this will be a reality of his life, for his entire life. People will undoubtedly make rude comments in public before he can even understand them, and that won’t change. It will be obvious he is adopted.

To learn how to handle this, we’re taking classes and we’re talking through scenarios to think of how we will handle things when they happen. Because we know that something will. The middle school years will likely be the hardest. Or will it be high school? Growing up as a young, black male in a predominantly white neighborhood and school will have its own challenges. And there are nights that this keeps me up. How will the world treat him? How can we protect him? What do we need to teach him? How do we equip him for the world?

Just like being adopted, his race is part of who he is: an important part. But neither one of those factors are the sum total of who he is or will be. It will be our job to guide him as he assimilates these pieces into the whole of who he will become. I think both factors will shape him and his view of the world, but events do that, too. As parents, we will be a strong influence. How we raise him, how we love him, the example that we provide–that will shape him as well.

Tim and I have had to realize that we will have to learn as we go on this. We can study and talk to others to get general ideas of issues that we may run into, but we will never be fully prepared. I don’t know what I would do if my son were bullied the way that girl was in the video. But as I watched it, I, sadly, wasn’t surprised by the way the teenagers acted. I know that this type of treatment exists in the world. And I also know that I won’t be able to wrap my son or daughters in cotton. They may be bullied, they may be teased. It could be because they wear glasses, have out-of-fashion clothes, are too tall, are too short, are adopted, or because of their race. I can’t control what others do. What we can focus on is how we will support our children when these things happen.

We shape how they internalize what others say to them. This is what I need to focus on. I need to help him handle the negativity that may come his way. Tim and I need to be prepared to talk through these things if and when they happen. We need a plan of action to handle rude comments in public. We need to be able to maintain our cool like the guy in the video when faced with assholes who discriminate.

This is our son. Period. We will learn and grow as we need to in order to be the parents he needs. That is our vow. That is our promise.

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Crystal Ball

“What are your goals in life for the next five years? Ten years?”

All we need to do is answer this and 20 other questions, complete nine more documents and get copies of government documents and court proceedings from obscure government agencies. In other words, the home study is going well. I spend at least 30 minutes of every day tracking documents down, and then I come home to questions like this. It’s so difficult to answer a question like this when you know your answer is being weighed and measured.

Do we answer this question with money and career in mind? Do we focus on family balance, or do we answer from the heart? We opted for a mixture, but here is what I would really love to say:

In five years I hope we are juggling three kids in activities and are complaining about carting them from one place to another. I hope we are scrambling to have dinner before 8 p.m. because our lives are so very full. I hope we spend weekends making lists of all the errands that we need to run and planning to do a deep clean and then scratching that plan because it’s gorgeous outside and we want to have a family soccer game in the back yard, or we just randomly decided to have a family fun-day at the zoo.

I hope in five years that we still remember what we went through to have our children and cherish them, even when they are having tantrums and developing personalities and strong opinions of their own. I hope that there are daily fights with constant claims that “Kid 1 and Kid 2 are picking on me!” In a house with an odd number of kids it’s bound to happen. We’re making a choice to forever be mediators in that unwinable war.

In ten years, I hope we are scratching our heads in confusion as the middle school years loom. I hope one of our toughest problems is a son with poor hygiene who doesn’t want to shower and has to be bribed with Axe, or some new in-fashion and boys and maybe a little drama. In ten years, I invasion drama and crying and rages being a part of our daily life because at that age YOU FEEL.

In five years or in ten years we may be in the same house or the same jobs; maybe not. But that won’t be the center of our universe. A job is what pays the bills, and it’s a nice bonus if you really like what you are doing. When I envision the future, I don’t imagine the time I’ll spend at a computer for work or entering information into a spreadsheet, and I know Tim doesn’t think about the thousands of ultrasounds he will undoubtedly perform. We have visions of the future and we have hopes and dreams about the things we want to do with our kids. We want to take them fishing, and canoeing, and camping. We hope in the next ten years those will be part of our springs, summers and falls. We want to have evenings by a fire in our backyard roasting marshmallows. We want to teach our children to ride their bikes and maybe ski. When I envision the future, I see two girls who have finally outgrown their pigtails and a small boy with dusky skin and short brown curls standing right next to them, quite possibly towering over them.

I hope these word prove prophetic. Time will tell.

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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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