Cancer Ever After

Musings on Infertility, Adoption, Cancer and Widowhood.

12,182,400 seconds

It may mean I’m absolutely neurotic, but I calculated the number of seconds from when we found out about the adoption to the due date for our son. I was driven to do this because it was exactly the same amount of time I spent on bedrest with my girls: five months. Twenty weeks. 141 days. 3,384 hours. 203,040 minutes. 12,182,400 seconds. When I was on bedrest, I drove myself crazy with worry and I would swear that every second felt like an hour. I’m not sure I took a deep breath until we made it to 28 weeks and I knew the girls had a fighting chance to survive. Every moment after that was a second I held dear as I knew it was a stronger chance that they would be healthy and it meant less time in the NICU.

I can’t help but compare that to the five months that is flying by with this adoption. The first two weeks were a blur. Days felt like seconds as I consulted attorneys, chose a home study agency, and found a counselor. There were a couple of days where time flowed normally, but as we realized we would need to fundraise to help meet all of the costs, time entered warp speed.

Sell baby gear and odds and ends around the house, fill out paperwork for the home study, line up counselors, meet with the birth mother, fundraise, apply for grants, and research loans. Find a place to have a pancake feed–check. Find a place for a community garage sale (still working on that), make flyers, send emails, write PSAs, get the word out, network, connect with friends to see if they can help, and line up every dollar we can. There is still at least $10k that we know we need to bring to the table, plus we need a plan in place to fill any gap if our fundraising falls short.

And today, I received the final paperwork that I have to complete to prove how we will fund this adoption in order to get approved as a prospective parent. Please don’t let this be a roadblock. Our medical hardship from our 401(k)s fell through. My new employer doesn’t allow it, nor does my husband’s, much to our surprise.  We were counting on that. No time to mourn or think. It’s time to explore other avenues. More phone calls, more emails. Luckily, I have friends in the right places to get answers. We think we have a plan in place to replace the money we were counting on from our 401(k)s. I will juggle, I will dance, I will sing–anything to bring my son home.

In some ways, this is no different than someone with a surprise baby. Can anyone really afford a first child, a second or a third? Maybe not, but we can love him. More importantly, we are willing to take on the challenge of affording him for the rest of our lives. Three kids in daycare doesn’t make me bat an eye. Three in college at the same time? I’m game.

I’ll stay up late and crunch the numbers. I’ll call banks and line up possible loans all week. We’ll have a plan in place to gather our 10k (or more) and be able to answer all of those questions to get approved as adoptive parents. I will squeeze the life out of every one of those seconds we have until our son arrives.

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Roll with the Punches

Sometimes you walk straight into a left hook. Life just punches you right in the face. I belong to a twin moms’ group on Facebook. There are lots of great tips on dealing with newborn and toddler twins–little clever tips and tricks that I love to learn about. But there are also two kinds of twin moms in the world: those who are superfertile, who seem to get pregnant by walking past a man (e.g., my sister), and, well, those who are like me. Years-in-the-making, on-your-knees-praying, twin moms. This day my Facebook newsfeed was full of not one, but TWO of the first kind of twin moms who were freaking out because they had very young twins and just found out they were pregnant again.

Their reactions and my reaction to this news was probably not that dissimilar. I felt like someone had punched me in the gut. Their posts went on to express dismay and concern over this news. Now, I don’t know them. I don’t know if their husbands just lost their jobs, if their babies are colicky. There are worlds that I don’t know, and they are entitled to feel how they feel. It’s their life. I do know that I’m thrilled with this adoption and it feels 100% right. But it didn’t stop my knee-jerk reaction: “Why couldn’t it have been me?”

We haven’t used birth control in six years. There are no miracle pregnancies on the horizon for us. My body simply doesn’t work that way. But it’s always impossible to quash that last little bit of hope that someday, it would work as it should. That I would be able to do something that “comes naturally.”

My husband and I have agreed that if this adoption is successful, we are done. Our family is complete. But I can see that I will still have some healing to do over the fact that I wasn’t able to get pregnant on my own, that my body seemed to betray me and tried to kill my children. Sometimes I’m angry at the weird little things they found in my blood that seem to cause it all: the infertility, the miscarriages, the liver damage. I get jealous when I hear news like those mothers’, but that doesn’t change how I feel about this adoption. We’re in 100%. The only questions that mattered when we got that text was, “Can we love this baby? Are we willing to make it our own?” My answer remains unchanged, as does my husband’s. I may get jealous or feel wistful when I see news like this, but I’ve found my own miracle. And he’ll be here soon.


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Not all Rainbows and Unicorns

Some days are just hard. Five a.m. Wake up, cranky kiddos, try to figure out how to sell tickets to our pancake feed, learn a new job…Right now it feels a little bit like life on steroids.

Our birth mom was out of town for the holidays, but Tim had an extra day off. Since it’s such a long drive to see her and Tim has so little vacation time, we really wanted to visit over the weekend if possible. A few calls later, some texts, arranging a ride for her back to town and voila, a last-minute trip to see her this month.

This is our third visit and we know her a lot better, but I still feel like I’m preparing for a job interview every time we visit. Each visit brings those niggling worries bubbling to the surface–will she change her mind, will the father decide to protest the adoption, will we have to go to court over this, will the expenses balloon through legal fees? Combine those worries with not being packed, a stressful day at work and two kiddos that woke up WAY too early and you have where I found myself: in a kitchen, surrounded by two crying toddlers and ready to be in tears myself. I was rushing to do everything at once and I wasn’t getting anywhere. One thing I promised myself when we began this adoption is that it wouldn’t cut into the time I have with my girls. All of my children are a priority. I wasn’t living up to that promise in this moment. I had to stop myself and take stock. All of this rushing wasn’t helping anyone.

So, I turned the radio on, picked up my girls and we danced. We danced around the kitchen with the huge glass windows not caring that the entire neighborhood could see. And the giggles began. Hazel and Phoebe both threw their heads back as we twirled in circles, dipped, and danced. This is what we all needed. Then daddy came home and there were snuggles and story-time in daddy’s lap. Packing could wait a little bit.  This time mattered.

The packing eventually got done, but  with much less stress. It was a later night than we wanted, but it was worth the pause.  Dancing and giggles –  I needed it, they needed it, we all needed it. The big family group hug was just a bonus.


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Memories for Sale

One of the best ways that we’ve found to raise money for this adoption is to go through our house and find items we can part with. Craig and his infamous list have become my new best friend. In many ways, it’s a bittersweet process. We’re not one to hold onto items unnecessarily. Usually twice a year, we go through items and take a load of stuff to Goodwill. That means the items we have left are items that we might not use, but we’ve held onto for sentimental reasons.

Since we started this process shortly before Christmas, we prioritized the items we could sell to raise money. Items that would sell best before Christmas, or that would be quicker to post and bring in larger amounts would be sold first. I can only manage so many clandestine nooners in the grocery store parking lot. I’m beginning to look like a creepy lady selling items from her trench coat on the street.

The ghosts of Christmas past are the treasures funding this adoption. The guitar I received for Christmas from my mom 15 years ago, for example. I never did learn to play, and she knew me well enough to know that was a possibility when she bought it, but at the time I wanted it so badly. It was one of the best Christmas gifts I ever received. A sewing machine, another Christmas treasure. It’s in mint condition, because I could never concentrate enough to get good at sewing. Our first saw that we used to renovate two houses from top to bottom. A treadmill we no longer have time for and don’t expect to use for a few more years. A car seat, a stroller, the girls’ Easter and Christmas dresses. We’re selling away our memories one at a time to fund a lifetime of new memories filled with one more little snuggly body.

I can live with that.

Next up, my collection of 3,000 romance books. Know anyone who wants an entire library of books at once?

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The Name Game

For those who know the drama that occurred with naming our twins, you’ll be surprised to hear that naming our son came easily. Tim and I started a name jar with our first pregnancy. As soon as we found out, we began putting names into a jar on folded slips of paper. And while that pregnancy didn’t end well, the hope was still there and we continued to sporadically add names to the jar. As months of trying turned into a year, we tucked the jar away until we got pregnant again. Then we immediately dug it back out and began filling it with names again. All the names we added were folded so we couldn’t see them and we didn’t share the names with each other.

After we lost the second pregnancy, the name jar was banished to a closet and began to collect dust. We waited a while before bringing out the jar with our successful pregnancy, but bring it out we did. This time, we actually looked at the names and made comparisons. Tim and I did not have a single girl’s name in common in the jar. In fact, we were worlds apart in our name suggestions. Tim leaned towards more common names (a.k.a., boring) and I kept my family’s tradition going by having some off-the-wall suggestions (like Paisley)!

Needless to say, finding common ground on not one, but TWO names proved to be a challenge. We debated and disagreed and ultimately came up with THE LIST. A list of names that we thought we wanted. One day we were going to visit my family and had about nine hours of uninterrupted driving time, so we brought the list and my phone so we could consult with, a baby naming website. It was the longest negotiation of my life.

I was anticipating a similar level of drama when we tried to choose a name for this baby. We had thrown away those slips when we had our girls because we figured we’d never be able to afford treatments again and/or let me get pregnant again. But we had looked at both girls’ and boys’ names and we both put the same boys’ name in twice. A name made it in the jar FOUR times, so you’d think this would be the name we’d pick, right?

Wrong. This name hadn’t undergone the verbal test, nickname test, or bully test. Once we began testing the name, it was crossed off the list. This meant that it was nameberry to the rescue–I searched for similar names to the one we liked, and, low and behold, after rattling off about five names, I said, “I really like this one.” Tim said, “Me, too.”

It really was that easy. We went from nine hours of heated negotiation to finding a name in five minutes. Damn, we’re good!