Wednesday, November 30, 2011

the theme is "nothing's ever easy"

Those who are longtime followers or who've had the patience to read back through some of my previous posts know that I had a lump removed from my right breast early last year. It was benign, but since then I've been incredibly vigilant with my self exams. My doctors have all urged me to stay on top of them, and I've done a good job of following their orders.

About a week after the home study, I did a routine exam and discovered an area in my left breast that did not feel normal. I scheduled an appointment with my general practitioner for the following week. He agreed that it didn't feel normal - though neither of us would go as far as saying that it was definitely a lump - and gave me a prescription for a mammogram and ultrasound. Both are scheduled for tomorrow. (Let me not even get into how annoyed everyone was that the soonest the imaging center could "squeeze" me in was one month later.)

I'm not too worried, mostly because my doctor didn't seem too worried. There's certainly very, very little chance that it's cancer. But the last thing I want or need is another surgery to remove another lump. So any good thoughts you could offer up would be great. And - for the record - I'd like to come back as a man in my next life. No ovaries, no boobs . . . no problem!

Sunday, November 27, 2011

this and that

Thank you all for the words of encouragement on the last post. I know this person didn't intend to be hurtful with her message, but it came across that way. And because I received it on Thanksgiving, I was extra sensitive and emotional. It's hard sometimes. You all know that. Overall, though, we had a wonderful holiday weekend - spending lots of time with our families. And eating. So much eating! I must have gained 10 pounds this weekend. The YMCA card in my wallet is calling my name.

This is the last week of school for the semester. This is great, because this means I'll have a life again for the next month. I've been chained to the computer for the past few weeks trying to wrap up final projects. If I ever suggest going back to school again for another degree, all of you have permission to throw something at me.

I think the last time I updated all of you, my doctor didn't want me to go off of my norethindrone (which is suppressing my reproductive system) until my prolactin levels were back up to normal. Well, things changed when I started bleeding through the norethindrone AND the estrogen supplements. He had me stop it completely and force a period. Let me just say that last week was not my finest week in regards to being cheerful. Going through my first period in six months was hell. But now that the bleeding has stopped and the raging hormones seem to have settled, I feel pretty good. We're going to see if I can cycle normally for at least one month. Then it's my decision when/whether to go on a regular birth control pill.

Finally, this Tuesday marks three weeks on the waiting list. We didn't get any phone calls again last week, but we didn't expect any either. I will say that being a waiting family has made me become extremely attached to my phone. It's glued to my hand at all times. I even take it to the bathroom with me.

Waiting and hoping . . . for who knows how long.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

closed ears

We've been at this for 3.5 years. We've never hidden our infertility. We've been an open book about every treatment, every decision, and every aspect of every path on this journey. If anything, this blog should be testament of this.

So I thought that maybe, just maybe, people "got" it by now.

No. There are still people who don't get it. There are people who don't get that saying certain things to me, to Joey - and even to our parents - is hurtful.

I don't want to sound negative or resentful, because the majority of our family members and friends do get it or have at least made a concerted effort to understand the pain that some comments and questions can bring. Not everyone has, though, and it's frustrating.

This is what I mean when I write that, sometimes, I get tired of fighting. It's like pounding your head against a brick wall. You can advocate and scream all you want. But you can't force people to listen.

I'm tired of trying.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

thanks, serenity, and . . . wine

Thanksgiving truly is my favorite day of the year, and not just for the good food. It is a reminder for me to sit back and reflect on what I have to be thankful for. To be honest, I don't do that enough on a regular basis - be thankful. I'm getting better at it, but it's a process when you suffer from infertility.

For many Americans, Thursday kicks off the best time of year. Everyone is happy. Families are gathering. Kids are gearing up for visits from Santa Claus. For infertiles, it's a giant reminder of how our bodies have failed us. When will I have a child sitting at the kiddie table? When will I get to make my baby's first stocking? When will I be the one standing in line at Toys R' Us at midnight for whatever the latest toy fad is?

Worse than the silent reminders are the vocal ones: the family members and friends who try to drill into your brain that this is a happy time of year. "Why aren't you happy, too? You have plenty to be thankful for!" Maybe we do, but let them try giving thanks after losing a child. Or after having an IVF cycle fail. Or after just passing another milestone childless - 2, 5, 8 years of trying. It's nearly impossible.

This is my fourth holiday season dealing with these emotions. It gets a tiny bit better every year, but I would in no way call it "easy." It just is. You learn ways to cope. Maybe your way is to avoid. Or to drink. Or take anxiety medication. Or go on vacation. (I've used three of these coping mechanisms. I'll let you guess which three). The point is, you learn how to make it through. Then, you take what worked and carry it over to the next year.

Frankly, it's bullshit. You used to love the holidays, and now you don't. You have to DVR everything because you need to fast forward through the stupid "baby's first Christmas" commercials. You do all of your shopping online so you don't have to deal with the holiday sections in your favorite stores. And Thanksgiving? Well, you can't even lie and say you're thankful for your health. You sure as hell aren't thankful for your reproductive health.

So on Thursday, in addition to giving thanks, I'll also be thinking of you: stuck in some awkward family gathering, with babies screaming all around you and no way to escape. You aren't alone. I'm there with you in spirit. Can you picture me? I'm holding your hand, reminding you to breathe, and passing you a glass of wine every time someone says, "Don't worry - you'll be next!"

Yeah, asshole. I've been next for THREE AND A HALF YEARS.

Happy Thanksgiving. I love you all.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

fight on

We were lucky to find such an amazing person, Amy, to do our home study for us. (Unlike many situations, where couples go directly to an agency and have their home study done through that organization, we decided to go with an independent home study agent. This gave us the option to choose based on her recommendations of who might best meet our needs.) Amy occasionally reads my blog, and she asked me an interesting and unexpected question last week while both of us were working at an adoption/fertility conference. She asked if I planned on keeping this blog after we have a baby.

The short answer is yes. But the long answer is something I haven't thought too much about. I've followed many bloggers since I began writing here three years ago. Most of them have gone on to have babies - some more than one - and many of them have stopped writing all together. Other blogs have evolved into writings about motherhood. Very few remained blogs about infertility.

In no way do I want to stop writing. Nor do I want to turn this into a parenting blog. There's a reason for both: I like writing, and I have no desire to write about parenting. Mostly, I don't care to share my parenting philosophies and likely have them picked apart, and I have no desire to post pictures of my kid 24/7 so that creepy people surfing the web can know what he/she looks like (yes - I am that paranoid). My only other option, and it's not a popular one, is to keep writing about infertility. It's not popular because most people don't do it. Or they can't do it. Part of me understands that. Who wants to keep thinking about infertility after they finally become a parent? Who wants to constantly be reminded of the worst years of their life?

I guess I feel a stronger connection with my disease. Being infertile changed something for me, and I think that change is permanent. A lot of people who adopt after infertility move on to adoption causes, and that's great. For me, though, I feel compelled to continue advocating for my fellow infertiles.

Why? I don't know. Especially since (if I'm being honest) there are times when I am truly tired of advocating. It takes a lot of you, fighting all the time. But for whatever reason, I can't stop. Maybe because I was diagnosed so young, and I don't want young people to feel alone in their suffering. Maybe because I skipped IVF, and I want people to know that it's okay to go against the grain when deciding your path. Maybe because helping people through my volunteer work at RESOLVE helped ME. To gain peace. To gain understanding. To gain friendships and a path.

When I do become a parent, I'm going to try and keep this going. It won't be easy, but I think it's important. If I stop blogging and talking about infertility, it stops just a tiny piece of the progress we've made as a community to break through the barriers set by others about our disease. If I stop blogging and talking about infertility, it perpetuates the myth that infertility ends when you have your child. Cancer survivors don't stop fighting for a cure once they are healthy.

So why should we stop fighting once we become parents?

Friday, November 18, 2011

day 10

We went from two phone calls in the first week to zero in the second week. I joked with Joey the other day that we probably won't get another call for about six months or so. I'm okay, though. I certainly didn't expect two calls in week 1 of the wait, nor did I expect this week to be a repeat of that.

I had a chance to meet some of the people from our agency last weekend when I spoke at a local adoption and fertility conference. They were all incredibly nice and uplifting. All of them recognized me from our profile, and they said nothing but positive things about our profile and us. It certainly helps to hear that - and I'll remind myself of this every day we don't get a call.

Aside from registering, getting the nursery finished (eventually), and admiring adorable and expensive diaper bags, we're working on other projects to pass the time before we're matched. I'll be starting a journal for the baby soon. We are also starting to tour daycare centers. Oh. My. GOD. Are these places a rip-off or what? 4 babies to 1 adult. No we won't use your cloth diapers (even with disposable liners). Yes we will let your baby cry for long periods of time - since we have other babies to look after, too. And you can have all of this for the monthly price of "way more than your mortgage." Insane. I went into the wrong business. It's forced me to consider alternate childcare options, including nannies and in-home daycare facilities. I have tons of research ahead of me.

To those of you who adopted or who are still in the process: what did YOU do to pass the time?

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

baby registry "must haves"

We are lucky to have some pretty amazing family members and friends who've already given us items to prepare for the baby. We already have all the major necessities: a crib, a changing table, clothes, bottles, bedding, a car seat, and a stroller. But when it comes to things beyond this, I'm clueless.

So I decided to use the resources at my disposal to compile a list of "must haves" for any baby registry. It was surprising - but reassuring - to see how many people recommended the same items and brands over and over again.

I wanted to post the list here because 1) it's not useful if I keep it all to myself, and 2) I'm sure those of you non-Tweeters will have some suggestions to add. OF COURSE there are going to be things on here that you don't agree with. To each their own, and I know that some things work for certain babies that don't work for others. This is just a list of all the information I received:

Baby carrier (Brands: Ergo, Moby, Mei Tai, Maya Ring Sling)
Baby monitor (Brands: AngelCare) – many suggested a video monitor
Bath supplies – hooded towels, washcloths, a bath mat to kneel on, tummy tub, bath tub, bath chair for an older baby
Bibs – bibs with snaps, bibs that close on the side, plastic for older babies
Books – board books
Boppy pillow
Bottle brush
Bottle drying rack (Brand: Boon Grass)
Bottle sterilizer (Brand: Philips Avent)
Bottle warmer (Brand: First Years)
Bottles (Brands: Dr. Brown, Tommie Tippee, Playtex Drop-Ins, Born Free, Evenflo) – different sized nipples, sample sets
Bouncy chair
Burp cloths (Brand: Aden & Anais)
California Baby products
Car seat (Brand: Chicco; Britax Boulevard for older babies) – and a second base for other car
Car seat cover (JJ Cole)
Cloth diapers as burp cloths
Cups (Brand: Munchkin)
Diaper bag
Diaper Champ
ExerSaucer or Jumperoo (Brand: Fisher Price Rainforest or Luv U Zoo)
First aid and grooming kit
Gas drops (Brands: Tiny Tummies, Mylicon)
Gripe water
High chair (Brands: Fisher Price Space Saver; Scandinavian Child Anka Convertible)
Kimono shirts
Mesh laundry bags – use for bibs with velcro
Music CDs
Nasal aspirator (Brands: Nosefrida, Graco NasalClear, Comfy Nose)
Onesies – in every size, especially in white onesies
Pacifiers (Brands: Soothies, Wubbanub)
Pack n' Play – with bassinet
Placemats (Brand: Sesame Street Table Topper Disposable Stick-on)
Play Gym/Table (Luv U Zoo; Fisher- Price Laugh & Learn Fun with Friends Musical Table for older babies)
Portable changing pad
Sheepskin crib pad
Sheets – many, many sheets, including pack n’ play
Sleep positioner (Brand: First Years Airflow)
Sleepers (Brand: Halo Sleep Sacks) – ones that zip, sleeper gowns that open at the bottom, footie pajamas for older babies
Sound machine (Brand: Graco White Noise Machine, Homedics Sound, Sleep Sheep)
Stroller (Brand: UPPAbaby Vista Stroller) – stroller adapter for car seat
Swaddle blankets (Brands: Swaddleme, Aden & Anais, Miracle Blanket)
Swing/rocker (Brands: Fisher Price Cradle and Lamb, Fisher Price Snug a Bunny, Fisher-Price Precious Planet Blue Sky Open Top Take-Along Swing, Fisher Price Infant to Toddler Rocker, Fisher Price Rock and Play Sleeper)
Toys (Brand: Fisher Price Soothe & Glow Seahorse)
Tummy time mat
Waterproof pads

Also, my Twitter buddy, Kathleen, wrote a great blog post on her "must haves" for the first three months.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

reflections on choosing an agency

I've been wanting to reflect on the last three or four weeks and what I experienced while trying to gather information in order to make a decision about who we would use to facilitate our adoption. But, as you can tell from my previous post, it's been a little crazy for us in this house. I finally have a moment to sit down and finish writing about some of my experiences. I'm only sharing this because my hope is that it will help other couples prepare themselves for this part of their adoption journey:

Even though Joey would have been the better person to make the phone calls - he's more practical - I made all of them due to our work schedules, took copious notes, and reported back to him each evening.

Last fall, when we made the decision to adopt, it was right after I'd worked the RESOLVE table at a family building conference here in Orlando. I made the comment to several people that the demeanor of the adoption representatives as opposed to those from the RE practices and the pharmaceutical companies impressed me. It seemed like those who were involved in the adoption field truly cared. They were sensitive to my story, and their responses were always appropriate. They never tried too hard to sell adoption, themselves, or their organization.

My phone calls gave me a look at the different side of the adoption "business." Because what I've learned from all of this is that it IS a business. As much as we don't want to refer to it as that, it's difficult not to. We called more than 10 organizations. With some, there were no warm, fuzzy feelings AT ALL. They didn't touch on the emotional side of it. Sometimes, they didn't even ask me for factual information. It was more like, "What do you want to know?" And I get it. There are aspects of it that should be business-like. I didn't expect anyone to cry on the phone with me. But I did expect some kindness, and I didn't get it in some cases.

Don't get me wrong. I spoke to some wonderful people - people who were supportive and caring, and not condescending. But I also spoke to some people who, honestly, need to consider a different field. I emailed agencies, attorneys, and consultants, asking them to give me a call at their earliest convenience. From some, I received repeated phone calls and messages, to the point where I was ready to find out how I could block them from contacting me. From others, I received no personal response at all. We had a consultant who nicely told us our budget was one she would have a difficult time working with. Then, from a national adoption agency, I actually received stifled laughter in response to our budget. That's fine if you think our budget is low, but be professional. We had a lawyer who flat out would not disclose the practice's fees, and another who wouldn't even answer my questions until we went over every single adoption law in the state of Florida (snore fest).

The worst part, though, was listening to some of them describe their programs. I understand that many agencies have programs based on race. It's common, and we even went with an agency that does this. But the ways in which they referred to and described these programs appalled me. I spoke to two different agencies that refer to their minority (African-American) programs as "special needs." Special needs. When I asked the woman at one agency to please describe why they refer to the program as special needs, she said it's because these children are harder to place. Now I don't know about you, but when I think of special needs, other ideas flash through my mind. Downs syndrome. Physical and mental disabilities. HIV/AIDS. Drug addiction. I don't think of kids with different skin colors. This reference didn't sit well with me. Even though I liked the representative I spoke to at one of the agencies, it didn't sit well with me that an organization would actually look at minority children this way.

I don't want to act like this was an awful, painful experience to call each of these places. I do want people to know that it's not easy. I had certain expectations, a certain mentality going into these phone calls that I shouldn't have had. I had expectations of certain agencies that were wrong - both positively and negatively. I think it's important for me to share this because I don't want someone else to make the same mistakes I did, by thinking this was going to be easier than it was, or that people would be there to coddle me and hold my hand. I don't want someone else to think that these places are going to be all rainbows and sunshine and willing to help. Kind of like adoption itself, getting started in the process is not all happy.

Ultimately, it felt like calling different places to get a price quote on finding us a baby. The place with the greatest "deals" - cost, wait time, placement rates - won. In some ways, you DO have to go with "feeling" on this. Both of us had the right feeling about the agency we chose, but we also had to look at the practicalities: Would this be the best fit for us money and time-wise?

I don't hesitate telling people that I'm an emotional person. I always have been and always will be. But this process has quickly taught me that, sometimes, it's better to think with my head and not my heart.

Friday, November 11, 2011

it's been a while

I had a few planned posts for this week, but all of that went out the window.

I can’t go into too many details, but here’s what’s been going on:

Monday: The adoption agency received our application.
Tuesday: Our profile went active.
Wednesday: We received a call from the agency that we were a potential match for a special situation. They needed our permission to show the birth mother our profile, along with a few other couples, and we had until 5 pm to agree. We agreed that this situation would be a great fit for us, so we gave the agency the go-ahead. (I had to leave work at 2 pm to put together our profile quickly.) The baby is due at the end of the month.
Thursday: No news.
Friday: As of now, no news.

Yep, that’s about all I can write at this point. Please send good thoughts and prayers (if you’re the praying type) to the birth mother as she makes her decision.

UPDATE: I just received a phone call from the agency. The birth mother chose another couple. Of course we're a little disappointed, but we respect that she made the right decision for her and this just was not meant to be our baby.

Thank you to everyone who has supported us during this roller coaster of a week. You have no idea how much we appreciate it.

UPDATE #2: We received another call from the agency. Our profile is potentially being shown again this afternoon to a birth mother due early next year.

Someone pass the Valium. I have a feeling our adoption journey is going to be even crazier than our infertility journey.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

what's in my suitcase

Next week is my 3rd blogoversary.

I've thought a lot recently about my blog and how it's changed over these last three years. And how I have changed over the last three years. In the beginning, I didn't speak to many people about what I was going through. I didn't want to talk about it. I was/am not the most outgoing person in the world, so shouting to everyone that my ovaries were jacked up seemed unnecessary. Plus, what was the point? Telling people I was infertile wasn't going to change anything. It wasn't going to make me better. It wasn't going to make me a mom. It wasn't going to take the pain away. So, I closed myself off. I shut down.

Except for here. I blogged my little heart out. And, eventually, I blogged the introvert right out of me. Blogging turned into talking. It turned into advocating, interviews, and speeches. Blogging made it seem easier to share my story.

Lately, though, I feel like I've retreated back into my shell a bit. Blogging in depth about our adoption journey so far has been difficult. I rarely go on Twitter to talk about infertility or the adoption process anymore. And when people IRL ask how things are going, I have a hard time discussing it. When some people ask me questions, I get flat out bitchy.

I've been trying hard to figure out why. Why I feel this way. Why I don't want to talk about it. Why I get offended when people ask me certain questions. Why I'm struggling.

I think part of it is the normalcy of it all. The talk about why having a baby swing is so important or how I plan to decorate the nursery. It doesn't bother me from members of the IF community, but I get turned off by pushy questions and comments from people who don't get it - who aren't sensitive. Don't get me wrong. I have no desire to be pregnant anymore. I have stated that at least a couple of times here and many times off of this blog. I've accepted my infertility, and I don't let it define me. But no matter what, it will always be with me. It will always be my baggage, even though I feel like the suitcase is at least manageable to carry now with one hand. There will always an element that makes my path to motherhood a little more complicated to wade through emotionally.

It's sort of the same sentiment I felt when writing the truth about resolutions. The pain has gotten easier. I don't get upset about baby announcements anymore. I can actually attend baby events without feeling a sudden urge to drink heavily. But the pain is still there. It's subtler, but it exists.

The other part is the happiness. I get it. People are happy. We are happy - believe me. But adoption isn't all happy. Like infertility treatments, it comes with baggage. Another suitcase for me to lug around. While people are busy getting excited about meeting our future child, we're busy talking through tough details like wait times, gender, race, drug use, and mental illness. And while I would love to spend every waking moment of the day educating people about these issues, I don't have the time or the energy to do it. I don't always have it in me to counter every person's rosy picture with the harsh reality. I don't want to always be viewed as a Debbie Downer for tempering the joy.

It reminds me a lot of what I went through with infertility treatments. Every time we had an IUI, our family and friends would get excited. This is it, they would say. You'll be pregnant in a couple of weeks! And every time, I wasn't pregnant. Not only did I then have to deal with the disappointment I felt over the latest failure, but I also had to deal with the disappointment everyone else felt, too. So imagine my fears now when there are much bigger stakes and concerns. Of course, there's the potential for a disrupted adoption. But there is everything beyond just bringing a "cute baby" home. There are bonding issues, integrating a child of potentially a different cultural background into our lives and our community, the feelings of loss our child will go through during his or her life as an adopted person. Because adoption IS a loss. It's not all sunshine and roses, and I'm not sure too many people understand that.

So these are the burdens I carry. In a lot of ways, I feel like Tom Hanks in that shitty movie, The Terminal. (My apologies if you liked that film.) Stuck, carrying around all of my luggage, waiting for someone to tell me what the next move is. And - above all else - unable to communicate with anyone.