Haunted by Dates and Numbers

Moving on to adoption does not mean I’m over the pregnancies or over the fact that I may never “grow a baby in my tummy”.   I’m constantly haunted by numbers, days, dates and months.

This week, for example, is the anniversary of my first loss.  Connected to that pregnancy, I also have my due date (March 14th), the number of weeks pregnant I was (9), the age I was when I got pregnant (35) and the age of the babies of my friends who shared my due date (3 months and counting – this is a whole other heartbreaking story).

Multiply that by three pregnancies and my head is swimming with dates and numbers.

October, 6 weeks, December 14, June 29, 36 years old, 2 months, April 18th, January 19, 7 weeks, 37 years old, June 9th, June 14th, 38 years old, 9 weeks, 14 weeks (and counting), 3 months before I can try again, who know how long until I get the clinic referral, a minimum of 18 months if the adoption goes through, 39 years old. This list does not include the days of tracking cycles and ovulations!

It’s no small wonder that I had to second-guess my own age at my last doctor’s appointment!  I’ve been so used to calculating how old I was and how old I will be when/if the baby comes that the present seems completely irrelevant!

I will never “get over” the losses.  They are a part of me whether I like it or not.

The prospect of adoption is allowing me to at least move forward.  Maybe all of this pain will be worth it.  I know have a hope-filled focus, a tangible way to have a family, forms to fill out, projects to work on and bananas to bake.  It’s not a replacement, but it’s positive and it helps.

I recommend the book “Adopting After Infertility” by Patricia Irwin Johnston to anyone moving from (or even straddling) one step to the next.

This book was recommended to me by a friend in a similar situation and also by a pregnancy loss/infertility counsellor.  It definitely provides some food for thought; in particular,  “the list” of what is being lost.

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Home Study, Second Visit (alternate title: Going Bananas)

I should probably know by now that I shouldn’t get nervous about the home study.  I know from being a teacher that impressions and assessments aren’t based on small details but rather a whole person.  Saturday was our second visit.  I, of course, decided that I needed to bake banana bread.  For the record – I never bake banana bread (or anything else for that matter).  I have probably baked banana bread five times in my whole life.

I thought it would be nice to have a snack – the visits go all morning long, we drink a lot of coffee and I’m not my best on an empty stomach.  Last time, I bought croissants (this is how I usually bake).  I figured that baking something would make me seem more motherly.

Baking was a bit of a failure.  The element burnt out half way through and after an hour and a half in the oven, my banana bread was 50% liquid.  I “broiled” it for some more time and the result was a chewy banana brick.

Did I have a plan B? Were there cinnamon buns in the fridge just in case? No.

I had a taste of my banana jerky and figured there was enough sugar in there that it would have tasted good even in liquid form.

To my surprise, the banana “bread” was a success.  It did the job of putting something solid in our coffee tummies and even though I didn’t come across as a Stepford Mother (which would be false advertising) I came across as a human being, willing to give things a shot.  These, as it turns out, are good qualities in a parent.

The visit was very relaxed.  A few more questions and answers about our interests, our strengths and weaknesses and our experiences.  Even the “home run-through” was not stressful.  I had imagined being quizzed on child safety and all of the hazards in my home, opening of drawers and cupboards while taking notes on a clipboard.  The “run-through” was actually a RUN through.  It took all of five minutes, a quick tour of the home and a “looks great”.

We’re half way through the home study.  What will I bake next time?

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This is a photo of my adorable yet underused apron.  I insist on wearing this apron when doing “domestic” things…because I’m a dork.

My Misery, Your Small Talk

I was getting a form signed today and the clerk at the desk noticed my profession and asked, “Ah, a teacher, do you have any kids of your own?”.

I blinked back my tears, took a deep breath and owned it.

“Actually, we’ve just begun the adoption process”.

The clerk (male), went on to say how HARD it must be for those couples who can’t have children, how much he loves his own two children and couldn’t imagine life without them and how people who choose not have children are so selfish.

I didn’t even know how to respond.  Here were some of the hugest, heaviest issues in my life (plus a whole bonus issue of his opinions on people who are childless by choice) all presented as informal banter as my paperwork was processed.  I didn’t know how to respond!

I decided to save my long speeches for another day and simply responded.

“It’s been difficult.  We’re really looking forward to moving ahead with the adoption”.

I had to remind myself that this gentleman office clerk had the best of intentions. Adoption and family are exciting topics, and it’s a perfectly normal question to ask a woman in her 30s if they have kids. (I just wish it didn’t hurt so much!)

On The Case

Today I bought a file folder case.  It is currently empty, but it is soon to be the home of the many forms to be completed and submitted and filed in order to make this adoption happen.

One consistent theme in any infertility literature that I have come across is “lack of control”. The same applies to adoption.  My fate is in the hands of social workers, agencies and international government policies.  Keeping the paperwork together in a box, adding cute labels and hoping to fill it up is all I’ve got right now!

If this all goes through, this picture will be on the first page of my child’s Life Book. (That’s ‘adopteese’ for Baby Book).

The Home Study Begins

In the back of my mind, I wasn’t that worried about the home study.  My husband and I are both easy to talk to, we’re a happy couple, we have a nice house and we’d both make great parents.  That didn’t stop me from scrubbing the house floor to ceiling, putting careful consideration into what I was going to wear and making sure we had fruit and croissants on hand in case the Home Study Practitioner needed a snack (and so it looks like we would actually be able to feed a child).

There big sigh of relief the moment she came into our home.  We were very comfortable with her, she made us feel as ease, she didn’t snoop around our house, and she didn’t write down EVERYTHING we said (just some things).

We drank coffee (and ate croissants), she asked about the fond memories we had as children, we touched on our losses and how we have dealt with them and explained to us how this whole process works.

When she left we felt really positive.  That glimmer of hope is there.  I say glimmer because after the losses I don’t take anything to be a sure thing.  This part of the process on an emotional level feels like early pregnancy.  We want to be excited, but we need to go one step at a time.  I’m not sure when I’ll switch from using “if” to “when”.  Will it be if (or when) we’re approved to adopt? Will it be if (or when) we get a photo in the mail telling us a match has been made? Will it be if (or when) we hold that child in our arms?  Will it be if (or when) the process is finalized and we are officially a family?

One thing that is very different is that during an adoption process we are encouraged to share.  The home study practitioner told us to tell our friends and family so that they can be prepared and be a positive part of this journey.

The firing line

The adoption that we are pursuing is an international special needs adoption from Vietnam.  I have learned that “Special Needs” or “Waiting Child” adoptions are very broad terms in the international adoption world.   Ours would be a “minor correctible special need”.

On the application form I had to complete a series of checklists about the child we hope to adopt.   There was the obvious age and gender checklists, but then came the tough one.

“Select what special needs you would be ready to consider”

This one took a lot of thought.  I had to walk away from it several times.  I couldn’t get out of my head that there was just a row of children sitting there, each one associated with a “special need” from the list.  I had to remind myself that this was only a list, a hypothetical list, not a firing line.  If this all goes through, our child likely isn’t even born yet!

With careful thought and consideration, we were able to complete the checklist based on what we knew we could realistically manage.  We felt that taking on more than we can handle would in the end be selfish and irresponsible.

Maybe they should ask everyone these things.

My life flashed before my eyes…in the form of a questionnaire.   In addition to three separate application forms, financial and medical statements, my husband and I were required to fill out the dreaded personal questionnaires as a part of our home study.

They really dig deep!  Questions touched on our relationship as a couple, our relationships with our friends, our relationships with our families, our parents’ relationships with each other, our first dating and sexual experiences, our sex life, our parents sex life (barf), our hobbies, our parents hobbies, our high-school extra curricular activities and so on!

It was exhausting!  Any memory that I may have repressed is right back front and centre now.  It made for a couple of days of serious reminiscing and interesting conversations.

We completely understand why the Home Study Practitioner would have to dig so deep.  The goal is to assure that we’ll be great parents.  To do this, it’s necessary to find out who we really are, where we have come from and who we surround ourselves with. That in mind, it still makes us laugh to imagine that everyone who was about to embark on a session of unprotected sex would have to fill out a form like this.  If that were the case, there would be a lot fewer children in this world.