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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Hand-me-down Baby

I feel like I’m back in college and it’s finals week. And I’ve just realized that I didn’t study enough and I might not pass the test. Our home study agency has a few last items that they need. “A few” being roughly 25 short-answer questions with a few bonus essay rounds thrown in, six pages of background questions, additional medical forms and more financial background needed.

We are spending so much time getting approved to adopt–and we haven’t even had the home inspection yet! We’re focused on making sure we can pass this. All of the energy that most couples would pour into getting ready for a baby has been poured into getting approved to adopt and getting the finances lined up. I feel like this child is going to think he was the hand-me-down baby.

Some of this is because we are now veteran parents. We know what we actually need and use, and it’s a much smaller list than any first-time parent would have. Some of it is because we don’t want to end up with a room full of memories and preparation with no baby. It’s a double-edged sword. I want this baby to have a room that has been lovingly prepared just for him, but if this adoption falls through, this same room will be a source of pain and I’m not sure I’ll be able to even open the door.

We’re trying to find a half-way point. Select a crib and bedding, but hold off on ordering them so we can return them if needed. Then set up the crib and add the finishing touches to the nursery after the baby is home with us. Most of the rest of the stuff will be hand-me-downs, and, honestly, that’s just fine. A baby can spit up on hand-me-down clothes just as easily as on new. They don’t know the difference. It all comes back to my fanatic picture-taking. I don’t want this child to compare his nursery to his sisters’ some day and feel like he came up short. Since I was on bedrest and my husband had to prep the girls’ nursery on my orders, we have a million pictures of each step. I had nothing better to do than to dream of exactly what their room should look like, and then direct the poor man to do it!

It’s different this time, a big part of us is afraid to commit.  If I buy bedding will I be a wreck if I have to return it? Most places have a 90-day return policy and we’re getting close to the baby being born within the next 90 days. Will I become that psycho woman at the return counter screaming and in tears? And, well, the money.  Our money is better spent making sure this adoption goes through each and every legal step that it should.  I don’t want any hiccups once he’s in our arms.

We’re only buying three new items for this child-  a crib, bedding and paint for the nursery.  Those are must-haves simply because our girls are still in their cribs and we tore all of the wallpaper down in the spare room before we found out about the adoption.  We won’t pass the Home Inspection without paint.  The bedding is my must have.  It’s only fair that he gets something just for him.  Something that’s not pink and girly.  It’s terrifying to take that step, although I’ve been pouring over ideas online and dreaming of his nursery for a while now.  So I will buy that bedding, I will pick out a paint, and I will hope and pray every single day that we are part of the 70% of adoptions that go through.

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My Sister’s Cousin’s Niece’s Sister-in Law . . .

If someone says, “Just wait until you get pregnant on your own! You could have four kids!” again I’m going to scream. Word to the wise–every infertile has a few pet peeves. Here are mine:

“My doctor said I would never have kids.” Really? I’ve visited FIVE reproductive endocrinologists, TWO rheumatologists, FOUR perinatalists, and TWO ob/gyns. NONE of them said I would NEVER have kids. Best estimate is that I have less than a 2% chance of getting pregnant on my own. I’m not sterile. I’m infertile. That means there is a small chance a natural pregnancy could occur, it’s just very unlikely to occur during my fertile years. If your doctor told you that you will never have kids and you’re not sterile, you need a better doctor.

“Once you have a child of your own and/or adopt, you will get pregnant.” This is where I then hear the obligatory story of the sister’s cousin’s niece’s sister-in-law who got pregnant after a doctor told her she never would. Yet that same person usually has an aunt, a cousin or someone they know much better, and who they are closer to, who NEVER got pregnant after years of trying and without help. Or they did adopt and that miracle baby never came along.

The reality is that some causes of infertility can resolve on their own. Someone who ovulates only once or twice a year can get lucky. Someone whose thyroid is causing the infertility can experience a shift in their thyroid function and get pregnant. Yes, some people get lucky. But for every story you have of that random person who’s more than six degrees away, I’ll see that and raise you four.

I have friends with failed adoptions and no children. I have friends who have tried on their own for ten years with no miracle, or who have had five rounds of IVF without a single pregnancy. I know people who have had four, five or six miscarriages and no babies in their arms.

Unfortunately, those stories are a dime a dozen when you actually speak to infertile people. Don’t get me wrong–I would welcome that 2% chance becoming a reality down the road. But I’m a realist. That 2% chance will shortly turn into 1% at my age and then .05%. It’s just not likely.

And last, but not least: “Just relax.” Please don’t treat me like the only issue is how much I want a child. There is something wrong with my body. It’s a medical problem. I hope you don’t tell someone with cancer that your sister’s cousin’s niece’s sister-in-law cured herself of leukemia by drinking warm lemonade through a paper towel on Tuesday mornings. Sure, that will solve things!

I realize this post may sound ranty to some, but I want this to cause at least one person to pause before they say these things. Think about the person you are saying them to. I’ve found a measure of peace with my infertility. I’ve found my path. But these words shred the soul when you are still finding your way. None of us wants that.

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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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