Panic & Biological Clocks

I was reading a few posts this weekend, by waiting adoptive parents in the foster care system, and reading account after account of delays in being matched with a social worker (too few and spread too thinly), years without either a match and/or even proposals…

This makes me queasy and panicky.

I don’t want to be desperate. Desperation doesn’t help in making good, sound decisions – nor does it do anything to help maintain my mental sanity.

I don’t want to be panicked. This fear that (although we’re early in the process) it won’t even happen for us. Fear that we’ve been too picky in our tickboxes on the application. Fear that after all this time and effort in trying to have children the regular way, then the ART way, and then now through this, that it’ll all be a bust.

I never thought I’d be a person who would have a biological clock that ticked so loudly. I told Rob yesterday, while driving to the movie theatre; “My biological clock is gonging loudly… not just ticking!” He smiled, rolled his eyes, and said “I hadn’t noticed.”

The little kidlets at our church sang a couple of Christmas songs during the service yesterday morning. I went from happy and laughing (and noting to myself at least 3 adopted children out of 20… which, as an aside, is pretty cool!) to having this wave of sadness, jealousy, and panic.

Then I checked up on my WB penpal (yes, I have an actual penpal!) since I got a letter from her that she’s expecting and due this month! I hadn’t heard from her in a while, and was excited for her, so wanted to check online to see whether her baby had come yet.

Big mistake.

For a long time I avoided the BabyBells section (except my TTC-Alt peeps, who get it)… but here I was – feeling all cocky and “Yeah – I’m fine with it!” but then reading these threads of women with their newborns; precious moments and happy stories – broke my heart.

That.will.never.be.me.

I’ll never get to cradle a little person in my womb. I’ll never get to welcome them into the world and laugh and cry over the beauty of it. I’ll never nurse. I’ll never have a baby shower. I’ll never push a stroller and have people marvel at the beauty that is a baby.

Never.

And that sucks. Period.

Add to that the general “suck” factor of the fact that we’re just starting a whole ‘nother journey (which could take years, if it ever happens) and I’m busy having a pity fest. I don’t get it sometimes.

I understand that adoption is family born from loss. It just sucks that there has to be so much of it… and while our future children are likely somewhere dealing with grief and loss of their own, here I am wallowing in my own self-pity. And panic.

<sigh>

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Scars of Infertility

OK – so the point of this post is not simply for me to feel sorry for myself. Rather it’s the best expression I can muster about something that’s hard to encapsulate… and since I’m a verbal processor (and most people in my everyday life just simply don’t get it), this is me trying to get it into words.

What is Infertility to Me?

  • Infertility is a wound. It’s a gaping, bleeding, pulsing burn wound that I never expected. A few years ago I badly burned the soft inside of my arm, just near my elbow, with a high-temp curling iron. And I burned it badly. For weeks and weeks afterwards, it consumed a large part of my consciousness. The pain was persistent and distracting. The wound took a long time to heal and was VERY sore and quite tender for weeks after that… and that’s what infertility feels like to me. Even now,  somebody will make an innocent comment (not realizing its effects) and it’s like someone jabbed me in the slowly-healing-super-sensitive scar of my tentatively healing wound. At times it still hurts. It comes like waves – unexpected, surprising waves of grief – that overwhelm and shock me with their ferocity. And I’m pretty certain that even once the wound has healed, the scar will stay. It’s a part of me now – part of my journey. It’s changed me, and that can’t be reversed.
  • Infertility is helplessness. It’s loss of control. It can rob you of your sense of life purpose, when part of your sense of contribution to life and the world is investing in your children as a parent. Many women/couples I know who’ve experienced IF say that one of the greatest frustrations about this is how in every other arena of your life you can make responsible choices, work hard, and achieve your goals. Infertility is one thing we can’t control. It doesn’t matter how hard we work at it, how well-prepared we are, etc. We’re helpless to change something that seems so independent of everything else in our lives. Your sex life becomes timed and monotonous (no matter how hard you work to avoid that, it eventually becomes a reality). You either become isolated and suffer in silence (by not talking about it with people in your life) or feel the discomfort of those around you (because THEY don’t know how to deal with it) when you do share.
  • Infertility is the death of a dream. At least for me it was… which was a shocker. I’d always said that if a doctor ever told me that I couldn’t have kids, I’d be OK with it. Then life happened and we couldn’t have kids. And it ripped my heart out, stomped on my dreams and hopes, and beat me into submission. Surprise! Didn’t see that coming. Didn’t think it would matter so much.
  • Infertility is a sorority. Or sometimes a fraternity (guys walk this path too.) Maybe it’s not the sorority you’d hoped for… not the sorority of women chattering away and sharing their labour and delivery stories – laughing over the common frustrations of pregnancy and the crazy-maker of sleepless nights. But it’s a sorority. I would NOT have survived this season with any sanity if I hadn’t had the privilege of being a part of an online group of women (in the “TTC Alt” section of weddingbells.ca… holla!) who were also walking the same path. There’s something about sharing your story with others, and knowing that they ACTUALLY GET IT, that just makes the burden a little lighter. It normalizes the experience. It helps you to feel a little less like a nut-job when somebody out there ‘gets it’ and feels the same way. I am SO grateful to each of these women for the gift of their support, and the blessing of sorority… none of us ever wanted to end up in this sorority, but it sure is nice to not feel so alone when you get there.
  • Infertility is can be character building. I kept saying to myself (over and over again, like a mantra); “Better – not bitter. Better – not bitter. God – please let this process make me better, and not bitter.” But the reality is that bitterness seeps in… in crawls in through the cracks like all sorts of vermin and creepy-crawly insects. Bitterness, and her sister Jealousy. They eat away at the joy in your life until everything feels like it’s painted with the brushstrokes and colours of pain and bitterness. It hardens your heart… not intentionally, mind you… but after months and months (years and years?) of disappointment, your hearts learns to protect itself from the incessant pain. The hardening is survival. BUT, infertility will come to an end. Someday, and somehow you will stop TTC. You’ll either get that (seemingly forever) elusive BFP and welcome a child into your heart and life. OR you’ll choose to be happily child-free, and bring some ‘fur-babies” into your life – and be the coolest aunt/uncle or Big Brother/Big Sister out there. OR, you’ll adopt, and welcome a child into your heart and life that way. In the end, it will end. And in the end, you get to choose how and when it will end, and what you’ll take out of this roller coaster ride. Will it be bitterness, or a tempered, gracious, humble, appreciative spirit and heart? I’m choosing the latter… even if that choice is made day by day… “Better – not bitter,” I repeat again and again. One day it will honestly be true.

What about you? What have you learned? How have you grown through this journey? What is infertility to you?

First Meeting… Update!

So we had our first meeting with the “Adoption Recruitment Coordinator” (from now forward to be known as Recruiter Lady) on Monday night, and it went really well! I was (as I mentioned) a little nervous in advance… plus Rob ended up leaving work later than expected, but thankfully we were both able to make it on time! Yay!

Anyhow, the meeting was about 1 3/4 hours, and was pretty casual. She gave us a massive information package, with some great articles I (shockingly) had NOT already read yet, as well as a booklet that explains all of their definitions for the Adoption Questionnaire (http://goo.gl/Xy1bF)… and that was handy. I’d not before seen anything from the ministry on how THEY define some of the risk factors/behaviours, so that’s very good to heave.

Note to Self: This is a bureaucratic process. It’s the government. They have their own definitions for things. Learn and go by THEIR definitions for things, and not your own.

She asked us about infertility and the whole grief & loss process, and where we were at with that. We answered (Rob mostly shrugging and saying that he was fine with it. Me sharing more… no shocker there) and she seemed pretty happy with our responses. She smiled and nodded and said “You’re at the right place to proceed with adoption.” Woot! Hurdle #1 – Passed! 😀

Recruiter Lady also explained to us that (for our health region) the Adoption Education Program (“AEP” – the BC version of PRIDE/other types of required training for prospective parents) is over a series of 6 weeks of Thursday nights (7-10pm) and 2 (likely soon to be 3) full day Saturdays. That’s actually a lot better than I thought it was going to be… I was certain it was going to be 6 full Saturdays PLUS the one evening a week. We were both pretty relieved that it wouldn’t be as rugged as that! Also, we may get into the class that starts at the end of January, 2012, as long as we get our application in soon.

So herein lies my dilemma. We’d committed to each other that we would wait until January 2012 (4 months after we stopped TTC and fertility treatments) before formally putting in our application. This was supposed to be time to process, grieve, research, think, talk, pray, etc. BUT, I really wouldn’t want to miss this class and have to wait for the next one in May – Ugh. This entire process (again, being very government-style) is all about “hurry up and wait” for everything.

I’m kind of thinking that we should submit our application a couple of weeks early, just to make sure we get in… but I’m reticent to go back on that initial timeline at the same time because we set that to make sure that we’re taking a healthy amount of time for all of this. I know that grieving has no timeline, but Recruiter Lady seemed to think we’re OK to proceed as we are. Thoughts? Ideas?

Anyhow – that’s it for now!

First Meeting…

We have our first meeting, with the “Adoption Recruitment Worker” at the BC Ministry of Child and Family Development (“MCFD”) tonight. Five o’clock PM.

I’m kind of freaking out.

I know that we’re pretty boring, normal people, and that we don’t have anything to hide or to truly be nervous about, but still my stomach is all butterflies. And I’m a little emotional.

I’ve been reading a lot about creating a “lifebook” for our future kids, and how parents can help to add to the lifebook by sharing little tidbits of where they were at and what they were doing at the same time as their child was in foster care / the orphanage, etc., and this morning on my (painfully long) drive into work I was thinking about telling our future kids about today… about these first official steps towards us finding them. “On November 21st, we had our first meeting with the social workers who would help us to find you,” I would write, “and we were really excited and a little nervous, because we wanted to do everything the right way so that we wouldn’t have to have any delays before we got to find you.”

Then I got all teary-eyed… and said out loud; “We’re coming. Don’t lose hope. We’ll find you as soon as we possibly can, and then we’ll be together – a forever family.”

And then I just plain-old started crying. (I’m such a dolt… don’t know why I get myself so worked up about all of this.) I just hope that whoever our kids are, and wherever they are right now, that they’re safe. I keep praying that God would protect them (physically, mentally, emotionally) and that they wouldn’t give up hope.

I haven’t, and I won’t.

Wish us luck!

Finding the Up-Side…

So there have been lots of moments over the past couple of years when I’ve been panicked about infertility. I’ve been angry, excited, fearful, hopeful, anxious, despondent… you name it! That’s a big part of why we decided that we needed ‘a break’ after ending our TTC journey early this September, after our final failed medicated IUI. I just needed a break from the endless disappointment and axiety. He just needed a break from me being crazy. We both just needed a chance to catch our breath from the past couple of years.

I’ve still been seeing my counsellor, just because I think it’s a good idea for someone like me who’s walking through a lot of stuff… and just in general a good idea in general! One of the things I asked my counsellor last time I was there was if there were any areas in how I was working through all of this that she thought were things I needed to be working through more before starting the adoption process. I was surprised, but encouraged when she said to me that she feels like I’ve dealt with it in a very healthy way, with a lot of grace, and that she feels quite confident that there are no ‘red flags’ there.

Can’t tell you how much that encouraged me!! I keep thinking that I must be over-reacting or that I’m a little nuts – it’s nice to hear that this is normal and that I’m OK, even if it doesn’t feel like it some days!

Anyhow, that led me to thinking about what some of the up-sides are of adopting, through foster care, after infertility. Now keep in mind that some of these are a tongue-in-cheek, but that’s part of the dark humour that comes from walking this road!

  • Not having morning sickness! My SIL, Dawn, is about 8 weeks pregnant now… and she feels like garbage. She’s got morning sickness ALL DAY long. I hate nausea, so this is something I’m pretty excited about not experiencing. 😉
  • Our kids will likely already be potty-trained… nice! I mean seriously – who likes diapers? (Well honestly, I was really excited about getting those cool cloth diapers and being all hard-core earth mom and all, but that’s something I’m OK with not having to do!)
  • Our kids will be able to use words to tell us what’s wrong! True – lots of kids who come from hard places often face challenges in understanding what’s upsetting them, and knowing how to express that, but hey – we get to actually ask them, and they can tell us. Bonus!
  • We get to do fun stuff right away! When Rob and I think about the idea of kids, the things that are most exciting to us aren’t googling at babies – they’re about DOING stuff, like camping, playing, picnics, and ball games… you know – fun stuff.
  • No stretch marks… well, no new stretch marks! Pregnancy does a number on a woman’s body, but me – I’ll never have to deal with that. Go team, right?
  • Our kids may not be doomed to have complete pancake butts! Rob and I both have super flat white-people bums, and we used to joke that our poor future kids wouldn’t stand a chance… so now, who knows! We could end up with kids from any racial/cultural background, and they could have actual proper padding on their behinds.

OK, maybe that last one was stretching it, but I’m still new at this. I’m hoping that hoping will be a good thing – that looking forward to the future with optimism and hopeful anticipation will be a lot more enjoyable than the misery and constant disappointment that TTC/IF turned out to be, so hey – one step at a time, eh?

Mixed Emotions

So… just found out that my brother (Will) and sister-in-law (Dawn) are pregnant again. They’re 6 1/2 weeks along and due in June 2012. I find myself feeling this weird combination of emotions.

Firstly, I’m super happy for them. I wish them nothing but the very best in life and in their family, and I’m really excited about a new little neice or nephew to join the clan. I’m not bitter at them at all.

Secondly, however, I’m insanely jealous, sad, and generally having a big ol’ pity party. It’s not so much about what they have and are getting, but rather what we don’t have, what we have gone through, and what it will take for us to have two children. Namely a lot of hard work (interviews, education programs, references, waiting, etc.) and uncertainty (when? what? how? who? if?), and then even after all that, there will likely be lots more challenges in raising children who’ve gone through such difficult passages. I’m jealous that it seems so easy for everyone else, and that more than two years after we began this journey in earnest, we’re nowhere near our goal. In fact I feel like I’ve gone from being on one speeding train to jumping onto a different speeding train… so much hard work, heartache, and frustration – with nothing to show for it. Grrr…

But finally, I’m a little relieved. Four months ago this would have killed me. I would have been bawling all weekend and in a huge slump for days – bent over with grief. In some ways it’s encouraging to know that althugh I feel a little sorry for myself, it’s not hit me as hard as it would have back then.

Hopefully that’s progress and healing, and hopefully that means that one day these wounds will heal enough to not be so painful. These scars of infertility will always be a part of me, us, and our life but hopefully they will fade a little with time and one day when I get one of these calls, there won’t be mixed feelings – there’ll just be happiness for the joy in the loves of those I love.

Getting the Low-Down #1: Mr. N & Mrs. N

Wow… I am so excited to share this!

I know very few parents IRL ( in real life) who have actually adopted children through the public domestic process in their home province/state. Yesterday I got the amazing opportunity to speak with one of the few whom I know, Mr. N, of “Mr. N & Mrs. N.” This is a great couple who work for the same charity I do, but who live in Ontario, whereas Rob & I are in British Columbia. I was out in Toronto for a conference this week, and got the chance to have a brief conversation with Mr. N. Man, do I wish we’d had more time (only 45 mins due to schedules), and that his wife, Mrs. N, had been able to be there, but hey – I’ll take what I can get.

M. & Mrs. N shared on Facebook back earlier this year about their plans to adopt, and their reasons why. I hope to share some of that with you in the future, but the summary of it is that they have a huge heart to provide homes for the children in need in their community. Their story was a bit unique in that they had seen a profile of a young boy (their son) at one of the education course sessions they were at. He had been labelled as “hard to place” and they felt an immediate desire to express an interest in him. The process of getting approval happened very quickly for them and he was placed with them shortly afterwards… that was just this spring (2011.)

Since I didn’t have a lot of time, I asked Mr. N a few specific questions about their process with adoption:

1) How did you decide which medical, behavioural, etc., categories you would be open to with your original application? Mr. N explained that they tried to say which specific factors they were 100% not open to at this time, and then to be open to assessing the specific child and the specific situation for the others. For example, their son had been diagnosed with FAS at the time he entered foster care (at 10 mo’s)… but by the time they met him (at 3 1/2), his development was meeting and exceeding expectations for a child of the same age. He gives a lot of credit for their son’s development to the fact that he was in an amazing home with foster parents who themselves had adopted children through the system, and who were continuing to foster other children. In short, if there are certain things where we feel like it’s “no – for sure and without exception” then note those, but for other things where maybe we’d be open to varying degrees, risk levels, and/or just getting to know the specific situation and child, then leave them open.

2) How has transition been going? Mr. N mentioned (after I shared with him a number of the stages I’d read about in the transition process; i.e. the honeymoon phase, rejecting one parent, etc.) that all of those things are totally true and they’ve experienced them. He also shared that one benefit of starting this process without having parented before is that you don’t know any better… basically that while there are challenges in the process, many biological parents have challenges with becoming parents and with the different steps and stages they experience; sleepless nights, colic, medical problems, etc., and that adoptive parents just have a different set of challenges to face, which arent’ necessarily better or worse. I found this really encouraging!

3) What advice would you give to Rob and I as we start out on this journey? Firstly, he encouraged me that honouring the grieving process of infertility is a wise choice. He said that learning to grieve in a healthy way is actually a valuable skill to have and will help in the future as we encourage our children to grieve their own losses as well. Secondly, he encouraged us to really ‘know’ and ‘own’ our motivations and reasons for wanting to go this route for adoption, because there will be challenges, struggles, and disappointments along the way – so it’s really important to remember why we’re doing this! Finally, he encouraged us to be looking to God for what He has for us in this process, and to honour that. All awesome stuff.

So while we only had a short time to chat, I’ve got to say that I’m so grateful for the opportunity. I told Mr. N that there’s just something about being able to talk about this with others, and/or read other people’s stories that normalizes the experience for me… and that the more information I have, and the more normalized this all feels, the less overwhelming it is. YAY! 🙂