Saturday, February 14, 2015

Rules for Arguing (That Don't Work for IF/Adoption)

We started Valentine's Day with an argument - how romantic. Granted, it's never great to start the day with an argument, but it seems particularly ironic on a day devoted to love. Over the years of our marriage, we've experimented with some of the common "rules" for arguing, such as "don't go to bed angry," "use I feel statements," etc. Well, not going to bed angry only meant staying up later arguing, which was never constructive. Granted, you sleep better if you can resolve things before bed time, but that's just not possible sometimes. And let's face it: while there are times that "I feel" statements communicate your point, there are plenty of times that they leave a lot out. The one rule we've found works pretty consistently for us is "whoever cares more wins." 

Whoever cares more wins works most of the time. What do you want for dinner? He wants fish, but right now the smell makes me queasy? Okay, we'll have something else. What do you want to do today? These sorts of decisions are easy to solve with whoever cares more wins. It's even worked pretty well in determining financial priorities. 

However, it fails utterly when it comes to decisions relating to IF and adoption. When the decisions involved lead to a life-long commitment and can cost close to a year's salary, there is too much at stake for either of us to simply let the other have his or her way. We are mostly on the same page regarding continuing TTC; unless our doctor can give us a compelling reason why a new treatment protocol would work, this is our last month of TTC. 
Our doctor's office has reaffirmed that there are no changes to the treatment plan, despite last month's blood work being a little disappointing. It's starting to feel like they are out of ideas, though an optimist could claim that perhaps they are just convinced that the current protocol should work. (Husbandido gives them more of the benefit of the doubt than I do.)

The last two weeks have been busy and stressful; last Saturday was another of the giant birthday parties for Husbandido's family (4 birthdays, 16 or 17 people). Plus there was the nagging e-mail from my aunt about needing pictures in preparation for my grandmother's 90th birthday bash and the overwhelming preparations for running Fr. Robert Barron's Catholicism series at our parish. Though I was trying so hard not to volunteer, guilt got me to agree to speak to someone about it, which somehow turned into running it. (Funny how that works, isn't it?) And today is, of course, CD2.

As we approach the end of TTC, we are more seriously reconsidering adoption. Husbandido is pretty strongly in favor of moving ahead with it, quickly. I have more doubts and concerns; adoption was never something I considered before IF. With my background, I cannot deny that genetics and prenatal environment are important in determining who a person is. I don't claim that parents and environment don't matter, though recent research suggests that they matter less than we might like or imagine. I am terrified of spending a fortune to adopt and a raise a child (or children) who will then turn around and reject us as not their "real family" once he or she is grown. If we are going to end up old and alone, isn't it better that we at least have the money to cover a decent care facility rather than being stuck in the facility for the indigent? (Yes, I am quite aware that is a worst case scenario, thank you very much.) In trying to research adoption, I have found a plethora of opinions, from whole-hearted support to adoptees who wish they were aborted to those who think adoption is evil and we should all just give the money we would spend adopting to birth mothers so that they can keep their babies. What I haven't found is good, solid research on the long-term results of adoption. How common is it that they maintain good relationships with their families? How common is rejection or estrangement? We can speak to those we know who have raised adopted children or who were adopted, but as the saying goes, the plural of anecdote is not data. In the end, it will probably not be research that convinces me but a leap of faith. (I hate making leaps of faith.)


  1. I totally echo your thoughts, fears, and feelings surrounding adoption in pretty much every way!!!! My DH is probably more where your hubby is. Its been a long road of surrender and abandoment, and continues to be. Whatever the longterm outcome for our adopted child Ive realized God is calling me to say yes to love in this was, even in the midst of a potentially bad outcome, or more hurt. Its been a tough road getting to this point.

  2. Prayers for peace as you and your husband discern adoption. I agree with you, it's way too big a decision for one person to feel fine and the other have hesitations. Regarding the research/long-term effects question, there is a conference March 21 (maybe 20th? the sat) in Rockville hosted by the adoption agency we're going to use, and one of the speakers is presenting about the results of a longitudinal study of adoptees that has been going on for years (maybe decades).I'll take good notes and report back!

    Also, regarding the prenatal/experience question (and I'm sorry, I don't remember what you background is but I'm confident you know more than me, ha!) I recently read "Parenting from the Inside Out" which was so-so but one point that really got my attention was when the author said that adoptive parents should also be called biological parents (in a sense) because of the profound effects that experience and specifically parental nurturing have on a child's brain structure, actually changing the brain in certain key ways. Obviously there are limits there, otherwise there wouldn't be a nature vs.nurture debate. But I found that to be really hopeful, and a reminder that a child isn't a done deal - actually none of us are, but a child even moreso.

    Finally (sorry this is so long!) regarding the "don't go to bed angry" rule, for what it's worth, my dh and I utilize "time outs" a LOT, meaning if one person is overwhelmed or too angry to talk, he/she calls a time out, and that could include until morning - as long as a time is set to reconvene, and we still say "I love you" however grudgingly. So that's our spin on a classic rule because we agree, it's not helpful to duke it out until the wee hours.

    Continued prayers!

  3. I think we have been doing the whoever cares more w/out knowing that's what it was. We do use the "I feel" statements a lot because we are huge on emotional validation, I was not allowed to express emotions as a child so it's important that I do now.

  4. For what it's worth, I've found that a slightly different approach to conflict resolution has been ridiculously successful for me, ever since a friend told me about it 1 1/2 years ago:

    I was struggling greatly to tell my spiritual director that I was very put off and bothered by his style of communication. I knew that in certain situations, I felt this way, but I also knew that it wasn't his fault. I was frustratingly unable to find a way to say something about this that did not sound like a criticism. My friend suggested that instead of saying "I feel_____", I say "Because of my background and life experiences, what I heard you say just now was [state my perception/the message I *heard*]. Is that what you meant? Or did I miss something?"

    I cannot tell you how excited I was to use this new phrase. When I found myself in the miscommunication situation again, I said my new phrase to my sp director. Marvelous results! I knew I wasn't blaming him, but simply stating what I'd perceived his message was....and had asked for clarification of what his message truly was. This knowledge gave me confidence to speak, at all. And his response was so helpful: "Really?? I'm so sorry!! No, that's now what I meant at all. I meant ____....Gosh, I'm glad you said something; I'm sorry you were hearing the other message and feeling so badly. Here's what I assume when I say X to people:___; and my hope in saying it is to open the door for you to respond; not in any way to shut you down!"

    Boy did we kick Satan's butt that day!! It clarified what had been confusing to me, shed good light on the situation, and strengthened our relationship so that we could focus on hearing the Lord together for my life.

    I've used this phrase in arguments with my sister, and it gives both of us a chance to 'claim our issues;' -- in other words, I get to not only share my perception, but also take responsibility for whatever issues in my life made me hear what I heard....and it allows me to communicate a problem and open a healthy discussion without making any sort of accusation or criticism. Now, I love being able to own 'my issues' and lay out my (mis)perceptions in a way that is safe for the other person to hear and requests their help in finding out what they meant me to hear.


  5. I get traumatized when I read angry adoption stories from angry adoptees. I become overwhelmed by fear that my children will one day hate me. Here's how I've handled it:
    1) Realize that there are an awful lot of non-adoptees who feel like they never fit in with their families. I feel like this with my extended family to a certain extent. If I were an adoptee, I would blame this on my adoption. The challenge of loving the child that you have is the task of all parents, biological or adoptive, and I know plenty of bio children who feel like their parents never accepted them for who they were. I can learn to accept whoever my children grow up to be.
    2) There are an awful lot of adoptive parents who never came to terms with their infertility. I wonder if the adoptees who feel unloved feel unloved because they were raised with their parents' disappointment over infertility. This is something that's in my hands.
    3) In an open adoption, the risk that an adoptee will romanticize his/her birthmother is minimized. My children will never wonder who their birthmother is; they'll know her and will be able to contact her whenever they want.

    I'm not sure that I am so confident that nature wins over nurture. I have a first cousin who looks exactly like my sister. They could be twins. They even stand the same way. Unfortunately, this cousin is NOTHING like my sister. The cousin has wasted ten years of her life in a long term relationship with a married man with three children. My sister would NEVER undermine another family in that way. The cousin is a sh!t-stirrer who creates drama and contention at every opportunity. My point is that even though she looks, stands, and talks like my sister, they are NOTHING alike because their characters are nothing a like. It doesn't even matter that I share DNA with this person, because her values and priorities are so different than mine and my sister's.