Tuesday, August 25, 2015

"They're Not Perfect"

Out of the five cats we've had, Bilbo is the closest to "perfect," and he doesn't cover in the litter box. (This wouldn't be a big deal, but he can be one stinky kitty! We've had him on supplements to help his digestive system.) Quickstep had a heart murmur, which eventually led to his death at age 8 (heart attack/build up of fluid around the heart). Mara was a spoiled brat about the litter box; if it didn't meet her standards, not just for being scooped but for having the litter replaced, she would find a spot she preferred, usually somewhere on the carpet. We tried all kinds of things, but in the end we mostly ended up trying to change the litter frequently enough to keep her happy. Right as we were about to fill out the paperwork to adopt Robin, he started suckling on my shirt, and the volunteer who had been helping us got this look on her face. She was clearly thinking, "Oh kitten, you've just gone and scotched this deal." Except he didn't - we adopted him anyhow. (Though I'm much more likely to tolerate Robin slurping on me than Husbandido is.) Then Robin came down very sick, needing to be syringe fed, and there was some question of how good his lung function would be when he recovered. My mother asked if we would keep him; I was appalled - of course we were keeping him! He was already ours. I've written about Biscuit's past before; even after 2 years with us, she is wary if we are standing up. She will come over for attention if we are seated, but standing humans are scary. Not a one of them has been "perfect."

"These aren't perfect kids," Rick, our main contact at the adoption agency, told us in an early conversation. As we have been researching the conditions listed on the Considerations page, that has been brought home. The conditions listed range from rickets to missing limbs, cleft palate to tuberculosis to Fetal Alcohol Syndrome. Trying to decide what we would and wouldn't consider has been a real struggle for us. It's not that we wouldn't love any child, but we are trying very hard to be realistic about what we can handle. Part of the struggle ties into the stereotypical experience of a couple that is expecting: "Are you hoping for a boy or a girl?" The commonly accepted response is "It doesn't matter, as long as he or she is healthy." (I have no clue what the response would be if the person said "A boy" or "A girl.") But healthy isn't an option; these kids are either coming from an abuse or neglect situation or they have real health problems or both. On some level, choosing what we will and won't consider almost feels like it has a eugenic edge to, as if is related to those who would abort a baby that wasn't "perfect." But on a practical note, there are limits to what insurance will cover and what we can afford to cover treatments for. 

Not that it's not possible, but a wheelchair-bound child would require moving; all the bedrooms in our house are upstairs, and the staircase is probably too narrow for a chair lift. There's the question of whether a special school would be required (such as The DePaul School or The Pittsburgh School for the Blind). If we adopted a severely disabled child, who would care for him or her after we die (or became unable to do so)? At this point, we are currently leaning towards hoping for a child or children whose conditions can be treated here, where there are more resources available, and that the child or children would eventually be capable of living independently. Unfortunately, time, money, and caregivers are limited for children in an orphanage. We have time, money, (insurance coverage,) and love to give. That doesn't make researching all the listed conditions on the Considerations page and deciding whether to check "Most Preferred," "Would Consider," or "Would Not Consider" any less heartbreaking.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Start Spreading the News

This past Saturday we started telling close family members about starting the adoption process. This was largely a pragmatic move, as we had asked our sister-in-law's sister (Husbandido's oldest brother's wife's sister, who I'll call Gigi) to be one of our references and didn't want everyone to find out secondhand. W and Gigi don't have much family, so Gigi and her daughter have been treated as part of Husbandido's family; we celebrate their birthdays and invite them to family gatherings. Though treated like family, they aren't technically related to us, so Gigi is eligible to be a reference for us, which is great because she has spent significant amounts of time around us in settings with a lot of children.

I underestimated how difficult it would be telling people that we were starting the adoption process. Explaining how it works wasn't the hard part; answering the same millions of questions repeatedly wasn't the hard part. For me, the worst part was hearing "I'm so excited for you!" It's probably counter-intuitive, but those words were the hardest to hear. So often I couldn't help but think "Good for you. I'm not." I keep feeling like the character from the Talking Heads song, "Once in a Lifetime," "And you may tell yourself/This is not my beautiful house/And you may tell yourself/This is not my beautiful wife..." As we were telling family and some friends about our plans for adoption, what's involved, and how long it will take, part of me was screaming "Wait!!! Stop!!! This isn't my life! How did this get to be my life?" I am grateful that the process will take a while; I need that time to accept that it is my life. These aren't the children I have dreamed of or prayed for, but they will be our children.

(We did have a couple of people break out the "You'll get pregnant as soon as you adopt" canard. Mostly we bit our tongues on that one, as we are quickly learning that most of the people who say that are not the sort to be swayed by facts and figures.)

Saturday, August 15, 2015

No Longer Either/Or

Near the end of 2012 Husbandido and I decided that if we hadn't succeeded in getting pregnant by that summer, we would start the process of adopting from Russia. We had an agency here in Pittsburgh picked out that was friendly and helpful; we had researched the process and knew it would be acceptable for us to be going through the process while continuing TTC. Then the rumbles about Russia closing started; we asked the agency, and they assured us that Russia grumbled periodically but would not close. And then Russia closed to US adopters. The agency we loved tried to get programs going in other countries but ended up closing their doors; their web page no longer was there; the phone was disconnected.

We took the classes to potentially adopt through Catholic Charities here in Pittsburgh in January 2013. Those classes just confirmed our belief that domestic adoption was not for us. Knowing that you could be chosen in weeks, months, years, or never was not something we were comfortable with. They already had more couples on their books than they would do adoptions for in 4 or 5 years. I was not comfortable with the idea of marketing ourselves as the best family for someone's child, so we decided to focus exclusively on medical treatments and TTC. 

As I may have mentioned once or twice, I turned 38 this year; Husbandido will be 40 this fall. Given our lack of success to date, the probability of us having three (biological) children, as we agreed before we got married, is incredibly low. As we've been getting older, I'm noticing that we don't have quite as much energy. I don't want to be 50 and trying to chase after a 5 year old. We've come to a point where we have decided that it's no longer either/or; it's time to switch to and. 

We received a letter from PPVI in early July and spent most of the last month trying to get answers to some key questions before we started working with them. Honestly, the call from the receptionist the morning after I left my first message, asking "Who are you?" was depressing and disheartening. As we struggled to connect and get answers, we questioned if it was worth it to work with them: they're out of network; it's far away; they're fussy. We aren't completely committed to doing everything they suggest, but we are still giving them a chance. I'm unhappy with the idea of having surgery again, especially since their rationale is that Dr. P. hadn't done the surgical fellowship and therefore did things differently and might have missed something. I don't know how likely it is, but we have up until we schedule surgery to change our minds. (Technically, we can still change our minds after that, though it would cost us $275.)

But given that adoption will take 1.5 to 2 years to complete the process, we can't continue to keep waiting. It's time to start the process. Last week we requested an application and had a Skype call with the agency. We have a couple of things we need to do to get our ducks in a row before we submit the application, but we plan to send it in next month. We have started work on the 22 (eep!) pages that are exclusively for agency use and know what we need to do; we've figured out how we will be able to afford it. Our top preference would be a sibling group, up to 4 children, both boy(s) and girl(s), with the oldest no older than 8. Researching everything on the considerations list was scary and intimidating, but we are comfortable with the decision to move forward. 

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

The Green-Eyed Monster

Lately my Facebook feed has been more like Baby Book, full of baby pictures. Then there are the first back to school pictures popping up; I can't quite believe that friends have children quite that old already. (My high school lab partner has a daughter in 6th grade!!!) And so I sit here, typing through the tears. Husbandido and I were trying to play a game of Thunderstone, but I couldn't really focus. I couldn't help but keep asking him why we want to want to raise someone else's children. Therein lies one of the fundamental differences in how we see adoption; to Husbandido, once you adopt them, the children are yours. To me, they are your children, but they will always also be someone else's children. Somewhere out there they have other parents, other relatives, that have nothing to do with you. 

I'm exhausted, which isn't helping my mood. I'm tired of thinking about life insurance, and where our birth certificates are, and making sure all our ducks are in a row. I'm tired of constantly questioning whether we're doing the right things. I'm tired of questioning whether it's worth it, any of it. I'm tired of trying to figure out how to deal with out of network claims and what lab will be willing to do the blood draws and let me send off the blood; I'm tired of none of it being easy. I'm tired of not being able to escape from everyone else's babies. (They even followed me into my e-mail when I scooted off FB to escape! Thank you Pregnancy Resource Center of the South Hills.) I even thought about going to bed at 8:30 pm, but I resisted because I'm not 5 (or sick). I knew if I tried to go bed, I would just end up sobbing up there. (Which, let's face it, wouldn't accomplish anything.) 

Nights like these, it's hard to fight the green-eyed monster, the one who asks "Why do they get what they wanted and I don't? Why does a 28 year old who has a 5 year old and toddler twins get pregnant with twins in an unplanned pregnancy that nearly ends in abortion, and I spend years taking medications and doing everything I can and still can't get pregnant?" Nights like these, jealousy gets the better of me, and I forget the many ways I am fortunate. Nights like these, I just want to give up. I could really stand to have a lot fewer of nights like these. 

Monday, August 10, 2015

St. Stanislaus

This past weekend Husbandido and I went on a road trip with our friends (and road-trippers extraordinaire) Amy and Matt. We spent Saturday at Waldemeer Park in Erie, Pa; Sunday we were off to Cleveland to see Matt Maher at The Fest. I had never heard of Waldemeer or The Fest until Amy asked if we wanted to join them; I had even been looking forward to a quiet weekend at home after a particularly busy time (job interviews, new job, going to Michigan for Posey's third birthday, my parents visiting, lots of phone tag with PPVI, and having an initial Skype interview/meeting with our adoption agency after requesting an application - more on all that later). Amy and Matt had won free tickets to Waldemeer as a door prize at a race; Amy messaged me to ask if we were free, so I turned to Husbandido and asked if he was interested. I don't remember exactly what he said, but it amounted to "YES!!!" 

Neither of us could figure out the last time we had been to an amusement park; we went to Hershey Park with my family the summer we were dating, 8 years ago. We went to Kennywood once before we started TTC, then we had bought discounted tickets through Husbandido's mother once during the last four years, but the day everyone was going was during the 2ww. It was early enough in trying that I was paranoid about whether it would be safe for me to go on any of the rides, so we ended up not using the tickets. (What a waste.) Husbandido was far more excited about Waldemeer; I was more excited about the concert. 

Amy had initially thought we would go to 8:30 am Mass at the cathedral in Erie, but we stayed at Waldemeer until closing, which made 8:30 not that appealing. (Sleep really is our friend.) On the drive to our hotel Amy was scrolling through the list of parishes, looking for one with a good Mass time, ideally around 9:15 or 9:30. Our best option? St. Stanislaus Parish. In case you couldn't guess, St. Stanislaus is another major Polish saint. (This weekend I learned that traditionally the first parish in a Polish community is named for St. Stanislaus.)

St. Stanislaus is a beautiful church, built in 1896. I'm wary of reading too much into it, but it seemed appropriate as we begin our journey to adopt from Poland. 

 "And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us"