Please note on your readers that I have a new blog: http://nowaystosayit.com.

If you have any questions, you can email me at katieschaber (at) gmail.com.

Thank you for all of your support over the years! xo

Saturday, December 31, 2011

slap me on the wrist

Because I'm a bad blogger.

I have so much to update all of you on: Christmas, being denied another mammogram (yes, really), getting interviewed by the local news for being denied another mammogram, and everything in between. But considering this is the last day of 2011, I feel a little obligated to write about the year that's about to end.

2011 wasn't terrible, but it wasn't great either. I could characterize it as "breaking even." There were good months and bad months; in the end, it was all a wash.

I started the year with cysts and a surprise surgery - my third in 13 months. But we also began preparing our hearts and our home for adoption.

The middle of the year brought our third anniversary of marriage (and trying to become parents), which we celebrated with a trip to the Keys. But it also brought tragedy with the passing of my dear boss, friend, and mentor - Ani. I miss him, and there isn't a day when I pull into the parking at work when I don't think of him.

2011 ended in a whirlwind. I won the 2011 RESOLVE Hope Award for best blog, and took a break from my busy semester at school to accept it. I started a new job with my company. Then, finally, on November 8, our adoption profile went active. And after two calls in that first week, we ended 2011 as a waiting family still - anxious for THE call that will make us parents.

I will stop short of saying that 2012 is the year, because I know how much disappointment reaching December 31st empty handed brings. I've been doing this since 2008. But what I do know is that I can finally say, "we've done our part." Now we need 2012 to put everything into place.

I hope everyone has a safe and happy New Years celebration. And to those of us who could use the luck of a new year? We'll cross our fingers for the best.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

who are we to judge?

Mel had a great post recently about judgement in the IF community. It's a post that makes you think about all aspects of your life - not just infertility.

I felt bad after reading it. Not bad about the post, of course, but bad about myself. Why? Because it made me think about all of the times in my life when I've been judgmental . . . and there are plenty of them.

We all judge. I get that. When we first meet somewhat, we have an initial impression of that person within the first few seconds just based on things like their look, the way they talk, the way they shake your hand, etc. How firm is their handshake? Do they make eye contact? Do they sound interested? Are they attractive? Are they well groomed? It sounds like a checklist of what to think about before a job interview, but in reality it's a checklist for all of life's interactions. These are all thoughts that cross our mind when meeting a person for the first time.

On the Internet, this "meeting" is a little different. We judge other bloggers by standards like the look of their site, the way they write their posts, their comments and interactions with other, their content, and the depth in which they tell their stories. Even though many of us have never met face-to-face, we still judge one another. It's the reason why we read or don't read certain people's blogs. It's the reason why many of us have our "cliques" and we don't venture outside of them.

I don't want to think that it goes far beyond the empathy Mel writes about in her post, but it does. I know that I'm guilty of it. I'm guilty of negative judgment: wanting to ask people WHY they are trying to have a baby when they write constantly about their failing marriage or how they don't believe they are ready to be parents. I'm also guilty of positive judgment: wondering why someone doesn't give it "one last college try." I know others have judged me, too, good and bad.

Maybe part of this is in our control. I often feel like I'm setting myself up for judgment based on the way I write about certain things. I'm not one to shy away from controversy or to write exactly how I feel. The fact that I even have this blog and write about some of my innermost thoughts is what opens the door for people to scrutinize me. Yet, is this fair? Is it okay to judge others - even when they put everything out in the open for people to see it?

I'm not sure that it is. For instance, let's look at Kim Kardashian. We all sat around and bad mouthed her when her marriage failed after 70-something days. We said "I knew it" or "I told you so." I did it. I'll admit that first hand. And I'm no fan of the Kardashians. But now that I've had time to reflect on it, I regret saying such horrible things about her. Who am I to judge if someone leaves his or her marriage after such a short period of time? It's not my life, and I have no idea what their relationship was/is like. They could have had a terrible marriage. He could have been a complete asshole. And you know what? Good for her for standing up and saying what was best for her. Not a lot of people would do that, especially with the entire world watching and ready to throw every bad name in the book at you. No. Most people would stay married, for fear of the backlash and hurting their partner.

It's the same way I felt after judging Michelle Duggar for having another baby. Do I think it's unfair that some people can get pregnant easily while others can't? Yes. As much as I can't relate to her, I have to remind myself that it's not my place to determine how many children for her is too many. This made me especially guilty after her miscarriage. Here I was for weeks, carrying on about how I can't believe she's having another child and then she loses this baby. Does this loss become any more or less valid because she has 19 other kids? I don't think so. It's still a loss.

I've gotten better about this as I've aged. I've become less judgmental with the more life experience I have. Over time, I've learned that it's okay for friendships to end. It doesn't mean that the other person is a bitch (or that I'm a bitch), but that people grow apart and have separate interests. I've learned to not judge other people's relationships, reminding myself that I have no idea what goes on behind closed doors. I've learned not to judge people for living together or being together for years and not marrying, or for being married for years and not having children. It reminds me of this saying: Be kind; for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle. Who am I to determine what that battle is and whether I believe their actions because of it are appropriate?

Ultimately, there's no rule book for life. That's why we have free will: the ability to do and say whatever we please. And, in the end, the only people we need to answer to are ourselves. My opinion on the way someone else is living his or her life doesn't matter, and neither does yours. I think it's easier to get wrapped up in what another person is doing. It's harder to let it go - let people live their lives and speak their minds without passing judgment.

I'm going to try my best from now forward to take this harder, higher road. It won't be simple. I just know that I would want others to do the same for me.

Monday, December 19, 2011

your adoption questions answered

In recent months, I've had a lot of questions about the adoption process. It didn't dawn on me until this past week that people don't know about the process and how it works. Like infertility treatments, I forget about this sometimes because it's part of my life now. I've done the research and the reading. Others haven't, and I feel like now that I've realized this, it's a good opportunity to sit down and write down some of the most commons questions I've received and to give everyone else an opportunity to ask more.

NOTE: Keep in mind while reading this that we chose to do private, domestic, infant adoption, that all states have different adoption laws, and that our experience may differ from others. This is a great document that lists the basics of each state's adoption laws.

What is a home study?
A home study is basically a piece of paper stating that you are able to adopt. If you've ever read the phrase "paper pregnant," that is often referring to an individual or a couple becoming home study approved.

How much does an average adoption cost?
Our agency estimates the cost at anywhere from $18k to $30k for domestic infant adoption. The national average is somewhere between $25k and $30k. (Update: Our adoption cost just over $21k. That figure does not include our home study, our daughter's time in the NICU, travel, or the cost to print our profiles.)

How much of that money is due up front?
With our agency, we had to pay a $2,250 fee with the submission of our application: $750 for the application fee and $1,500 for the advertising fee. $15,000 is due upon "match," which I'll explain later. The rest of the cost is legal fees, birth mother expenses, etc.

Are you doing closed, open, or semi-open adoption?
Most adoptions today are semi-open. In most cases, this means that you have contact with the birth mother via the agency. For instance, you would send letters and photos to the agency, and they would pass those along to the birth mother. However, we also put down that we would be open to an open adoption if the situation felt right.

Once you are on the waiting list, how long does it take to get a baby?
It depends. The average wait time with our agency is about one year, but it's largely based on individual circumstances. For instance, it could take longer to adopt if you have a gender preference.

Does the birth mother pick you or do you pick the birth mother (or child)?
In most cases, the birth mother chooses the adoptive parents based off of their profiles, and in some cases, a meeting. In rare cases, an agency might choose the adoptive parents if the birth mother does not want to choose or if a child has already been born and parental rights are relinquished.

Are you told every time someone looks at your profile?
No. The reason we were called during the first week is because those situations were special circumstances. This meant the agency had questions about whether we would be okay having our profile shown to these particular birth mothers.

What is a "match"?
A match is exactly what it sounds like - it's when an adoptive parent or couple is matched with a birth mother or a child.

When does a match occur?
With our agency, matches can occur anytime after the 3rd or 4th month of pregnancy.

What happens if a birth mother changes her mind?
This is different with each agency. With ours, the $12,500 we pay when to the agency when we are "matched" with the birth mother is held by the agency until we receive another match. Many agencies will also place you on a priority list of some sort - meaning they will work to get you another match as quickly as possible.

Do you get to name the baby?
In many cases, yes, though some adoptive parents work with birth parents to choose a name together.

How soon can you take the baby home?
In Florida, birth mothers have 48 hours to relinquish their parental rights. After that time, we would most likely be able to take the baby home, should he/she be medically ready to leave the hospital.

So, what questions have you been dying to ask?

Submitted by Jen: After the match fee and the paperwork fee, where do the rest of the fees come from?
Other fees at our agency include a $1,000 pregnancy program fee, birthmother living expenses (varies; average is $2,000 to $5,000), other out-of-pocket costs (travel, etc.; average is $1,000), a finalization fee ($1,500), and a child connect fee ($350).

Submitted by Jess: Are you able to tell your agency in advance your match budget or do you have to be okay with $30,000?
Yes. We were able to put down our budget ($25,000) and we were also able to mark down that the agency could contact us should they have a potential match that's up to $3,000 above our budget. Many agencies would not allow us to put down a budget.

Submitted by Angie: I have heard something about a tax deduction/refund for adopting, but that was a few years ago, is there still a tax break for all of the adoption expenses?
Yes, there is a still an Adoption Credit. You can read more about it here. The current credit is $13,360 and is fully refundable. I believe the amount reduces in 2012, and it becomes non-refundable.

Submitted by Dawn: The company I work for was purchased by another larger company and they offer adoption assistance which wouldn't come close to covering it, but I guess I'm curious if many companies offer this or if it is like IF coverage (i.e. you're lucky to have it).
There are a number of companies that offer adoption assistance. Conceive Magazine provides a great list of some of the best employers out there and their benefits. (I believe the Dave Thomas Foundation has a similar list, but does not disclose the amounts.) We are very fortunate that Joey's company offers $3,000 in adoption reimbursement benefits.

Submitted by Anonymous: Will you post who you are using for your adoption services? And your opinion of their service?
I'd be happy to share who I used for my home study and which adoption agency we chose privately. You can email me at fromiftowhen at gmail.com.

Submitted by gailcanoe: When should you tell your employer about your plans to adopt? I know that all the people who get pregnant don't go telling their boss that they are having baby-making sex and wait to say something until they are a few months along, usually. So, when is a good time to broach the topic when adopting?
I told my employer immediately, partly because I needed an employer verification form signed for the home study and partly because I wanted to. I also met with my human resources representative a week or two after going on the waiting list to make sure that they were prepared to do any sort of LOA paperwork at a moment's notice if need be. My theory is this: you wouldn't wait until month 9 to tell your boss/company that you are pregnant. And, with domestic adoption, every day could be month 9. You never know when you might get a call from your agency.

Submitted by gailcanoe: When adopting domestically, do you have the opportunity to choose the race of the baby? What happens if the mother of the baby doesn't know the father's race because she isn't sure who the father is?
Yes, you do have the option to choose race. The races we are open to are not only listed on our home study, but they are also checked off on our adoption application. In situations where the mother is unsure of the father's race, the agency or birth mother will notify you of the potential race(s) of the child and you can decide from there whether you want to proceed.

Submitted by gailcanoe: Can you recommend some good adoption resources (books, websites, etc.) to help answer more questions?
All of my favorite resources for infertility and adoption are located at the top of my blog under the "resources" tab/link.

Have questions about international adoption? Check out my friend Missohkay's blog!

Saturday, December 10, 2011

holiday blues

I get them every year, but this year my holiday blues seem particularly bad. It's December 10, and we haven't put up a single Christmas decoration aside from the wreath Joey hung on the door one day while I was at work. To be honest, I'm not sure I even want to put up a tree. I'm certainly not weeping my way through store aisles. I'm just . . . blah. This is going to make me sound like a broken record, but I thought it would be over by now. Not the adoption journey (I'm not THAT impatient) - just our journey to become parents as a whole.

Thursday marked one month on the waiting list. Yesterday, we got a call from one of the profile site's representatives, who offered to provide us with any profile help should we need it. Cue freaking out: What's wrong with our profile? Our agency said it looked good - were they lying? Should I add more photos? Delete some photos? Add more information? Delete some information? What if no one picks us because we're Gator fans?

The reality is, our profile is probably fine. I haven't changed much about it since we created it at the beginning of November and that's a good thing. They say not to change it to often. But I have to force myself not to look at it so that I don't nitpick everything. I also try not to look at it because it has a counter. As in it counts how many people view it. Cue anxiety: What MORON thought that was a good idea? I'm enough of a mess my own. Imagine how this behavior amplifies when I see that our profile has been viewed 232 times. 232 TIMES!

Then, cue the anger: I'd like to bitch slap every person who ever told me to "just adopt," as if it's as easy as going to Target to pick up a kid. They have no clue what it feels like to obsess about everything from how good or not good I look in a photo to how I'll respond if my kid gets angry at me one day and screams, "YOU'RE NOT MY REAL MOM!" (I could honestly write an entire post of just "things I try not to freak out about.")

So while everyone else gets in the sing-song-y holiday spirit, there's me - on a roller coaster of emotions, contemplating all of these things over which the control freak in me has zero control. We're finally putting up the tree tonight. And the only thing I'll be wondering is when I get to hang a "Baby's First Christmas" ornament from mine.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

new (old) patient

Earlier this week, I filled out new patient paperwork for my gynecology appointment on Friday. (It's an annual visit, since my RE doesn't do pap smears.) Looking over my medical history brought up a ton of emotions for me. This will be my fifth gynecologist in two years, not to mention the three different REs and the breast surgeon. I already have a one-inch binder full of medical records, and I'm still missing information from three different doctors.

Sometimes it's hard to believe that before all of this, I was a normal, healthy girl in her 20s who was simply trying to build her family. Now there are so many mental and physical scars, I don't even know where to begin on these stupid medical history forms. Instead, I fill out what I can fit on the lines they provide and attach a separate sheet of paper with my reproductive timeline. I bring the binder, too, like I'm presenting them with a show-and-tell project.

The questions they ask stir the pot even further. Like when they want to know if I prefer a male or female doctor. Does it matter? It used to. But when every RE, gynecologist, and medical assistant in the Central Florida area has seen your vagina, what's the point? Who cares if the person is male or female? It's all the same.

Have you ever been pregnant? No, but I am grateful for you reminding me of that failure. If I feel this way, I can't imagine how people who've had miscarriages and stillbirths write every little detail of those experiences.

And when they ask about prior surgeries, I remember the pain. Not just the pain from the being cut open, but the daily pain. The horrible, stabbing, throbbing of my ovary. The way I hoped daily that someone would just rip it out of me. The way I could barely stand at times. How I felt like I was breaking.

Sometimes I honestly wish I didn't remember it. One of my good friends and I spoke the other day about forgetting. We decided that maybe ignorance really is bliss. To not know what this feels like is to not know that ache. Wouldn't it be wonderful? To rewind time. To be a normal woman, one who has that special moment with her husband, who creates the miracle of life, and who doesn't know or feel anything different than that joy. To never understand that emptiness we all feel at this very moment. Wouldn't that be bliss?

Yet, I'm not sure I can imagine my life without this pain anymore. I can't turn back time, of course, but I don't know how to even begin picturing my life any differently. What's the point of wondering what it's like to be normal? To not have experienced all of this? To claim ignorance doesn't change the outcome. Like people who run away from home to start a new life: you will always carry your past with you. And I may as well own it.

So, for better or for worse, this is who I am. I am a painful, broken image of the woman I once barely was. Diagnosed with infertility just two months shy of my 24th birthday and nine months after my marriage, my womanhood was given to me and then quickly taken away. Just like that. I'll be a mother someday, the way I now believe I was meant to be a mother - through adoption.

But I will be always be scarred.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

no boob squishing for me

Well, I didn’t have a mammogram today.

I went to the imaging center this morning, put on a gown, and instead was escorted into a room with an ultrasound tech. This didn’t surprise me too much, because when my doctor discovered my last lump, I had an ultrasound prior to having my mammogram.

Only this time, instead of having a mammogram after the ultrasound, I was sent home. A doctor reviewed my ultrasound and said that, since I was so young and since he didn’t think the scan showed anything too serious, he wouldn’t do a mammogram.

Now most women would be ecstatic to not have their boobs squished, but not me. I told the tech that I had a history of breast lumps, that my last one was not recognizable on an ultrasound or even a mammogram, and that I have a family history of breast cancer.

Apparently, none of that mattered to them. So I got dressed, left, and called my mom. I told her I didn’t feel right about it, and she agreed. She was angry that they blatantly ignored my doctor’s order, and told me to call him. I did, and I explained to the office what happened. They are supposed to call me back and let me know the next step. I made it clear, though. I WANT the mammogram. That's what the doctor ordered; that's what I should get.

I know I don’t have breast cancer, but that doesn’t matter. They don’t have a right to ignore my doctor’s order. It's not their decision to make.

Why do we encourage young women to do self-exams if medical professionals aren’t going to follow up with any concerns? Young women CAN get breast cancer, and god help the 20-something-year-old woman who DOES have cancer and who gets turned away because she’s young. I can only hope that she’s as proactive as I am in her own healthcare.

Update: My doctor is giving me another order form for a mammogram. I also called the imaging center and gave them an earful, also making sure that they didn't bill my insurance for a mammogram. The last thing I need is an insurance fight in all of this. I think I am also going to write a letter to the facility. They need to know that what they did was wrong, and I don't want it to happen to other women.