Sharing Another’s Joy

It’s been an interesting week. I got to prove my mettle to myself the past few days and I’m pretty proud of that. 

A lovely friend of mine, also on a long adoption journey, learned she and her husband had been chosen by a birthmother and the baby was coming soon!  She hesitated to tell me, afraid that it might be painful to hear that she had just be given the very thing I’ve been waiting for. 

When I heard the news, I took a quick inventory of my feelings. I didn’t want to offer a phony congratulations or say something nice, but with a deeply envious dead-giveaway-tone to my voice. And after a couple of minutes of reflection, I realized something:  I was truly, genuinely happy for her. I didn’t have that sickly jealous feeling at all. I was, and am, so excited that her dreams are coming true. She too has experienced infertility. She has experienced disappointment in adoption. She’s been discouraged and frustrated. And now, she and her husband are finally going to be blessed with the baby they’ve been waiting for, for a very long time. That’s a miracle, and they deserve to be blessed by this gift. They will be wonderful parents to this sweet little baby. 

It says a lot that I could cry tears of joy for someone else’s adoption success, and not throw even a little pity party. Those of us who have battled infertility or the purgatory of indeterminate adoption waiting, know it is hard to see other people finally get their baby while you’re still struggling. I didn’t feel that way when my friend shared her news. I was able to truly join in her joy. 

It’s a big deal people!  Maybe I’ve been at this too long.  Or maybe I’ve been at it long enough to realize that every time a woman that is longing for a child becomes a mother, that is always a cause for celebration. 

What Dreams May Come: Part II 

If you’ve already read my post about how I dreamed of my son, the relevance of this next story will make a lot more sense.

Again, I’m not a big analyzer of dreams and their deeper Freudian meaning or what they say about the bigger picture of life as it exists at that time. I’m not against that school of thought in any way, I just have always been rather matter of fact about the dreams I remember; hopefully they are pleasant, and I wake up happy.  Simple pleasures. I remember very few dreams. This is likely because since I rarely reach restful levels of sleep, there probably isn’t a whole lot of dreaming going on up in my noggin.

IMG_0886

Just about one year ago this month, after my very last IVF but a couple of months before I began to feel the tug of adoption, I had another dream.  It was much like the one I had about E fifteen years before, in terms of feeling sweet contented bliss in the simplest, most fulfilling context possible. I had lay down for a quick nap right after I put E down, exhausted after a busy morning playing outside on a hot day. I slept for around an hour or so, but I didn’t want to wake up because I was living the sweetest dream and it felt blessedly real. This one featured me with a child just like in my dream about E, but the details were a bit fuzzier for some reason.  Here is what I remember; I was cradling the sweetest little baby girl. She was an infant, and I remember knowing that she was mine. I was just walking around my home, holding this peaceful little baby girl. She was too young to smile, but she was blowing spit bubbles like brand new babies will do, and I was charmed and delighted.

Here is what made this dream such a unique experience…she was a beautiful little brown baby girl!  Since the details aren’t crystal clear, I cannot remember if she was African-American, Hispanic, Indian, Native American, etc. She had large black eyes with long lashes and short, wispy black baby hair.

Rewind: This was before we had started to think about adoption, much less discuss it. We were in the stage at the time where the doctors were saying I might be able to become pregnant again using donor eggs.  Generally in that process, you choose a donor who matches as many of your own characteristics as possible. So this dream came out of nowhere, no subliminal longing, no subconscious-beneath-the-surface-realizing-of-what-might-be, nothing but a completely random dream dropped into my peaceful slumber like ice into a glass.

I told the hubs about it, and he laughed, thinking it would be quite the trick to pull off giving birth to a dark-skinned baby with our genes.  He’s right about that. But I can’t help but wonder, much like my dream with E, if I was given the gift of a tiny glimpse of what the future holds. We may not have been thinking about adoption yet at that point, but it’s safe to say God was, and He was way ahead of us!

I am too cynical to say that since I had this dream, I am firmly committed to the belief that we will one day adopt a baby girl of color. I have no clue what will happen.  The hubs and I do believe that God already knows our children, and we don’t want to put boundaries around that. We communicated to our agency (such as it is) way back in the beginning that we had no gender or racial preference.  We didn’t say, “Girl only. Must be non-Caucasian.”  We left it all open.

We actually have been presented for two different adoption situations very recently, both baby girls, one Hispanic, one African-American. We weren’t chosen as the family for either of the babies, so maybe my dream was just that: a dream that was nothing more than a dream. It’s impossible to say.  We were a “second choice” for one of the girls, so that’s good, I guess. Right?  Okay, so I know that it most definitely is not, but I’m trying to keep things positive these days. Work with me here!

If we do end up adopting a dark-skinned baby girl someday, you can bet I will start paying a lot more attention to the significance of my dreams!  Maybe there is something to it. After all, I do have a friend with a proven track record of predicting future events through her dreams, or even just strong feelings that overtake her and don’t let go until she communicates the message to her friend or loved one. I was on the receiving end of this once, much to my delight.  And she was right! Absolutely true story…perhaps a future blog post?


 

If you are following from a smart phone, first of all, thank you!  Secondly, if you haven’t already done so, keep scrolling down until you come to a box where you can enter your email to subscribe to my blog, so you get email notifications when I have published a new post.  Scroll down some more and click to join my supporters and friends over at Facebook!  If you are following on a laptop or a tablet, those same boxes should be available to you on the top right hand of your screen.  Formally following my blog benefits me in one way only:  the more people who see the Borrowed Genes posts, the more people who get the word out that we are trying to adopt.  Everyone knows it take s a village; I have learned that it takes a village to adopt, as well!

Thinking About Adoption? Here Are Two Women You Really Should Talk To

One act of kindness (or two acts, in this case) deserves another, so I wanted to elaborate on my conversation with Laura from Faithful Adoption Consultants and Shannon from Christian Adoption Consultants.

The reason I enjoyed my conversation with Laura is because she really wanted to hear about what wasn’t working in our adoption journey so far, for the purpose of making sure that if we worked with them they would go out of their way to make sure we never had those problems again. In reference to money and situations, she gave it to me straight: Continue reading

Hindsight, You’re a Real Jerk

If I had stuck with the original plan, we would probably be having a baby at the end of June. 

Back in September, we had finally found a suitable egg donor and made a down payment to “reserve” her. Good egg donors are hard to find, and they go fast. We had found a new fertility clinic we liked well enough, better than the other four we interviewed. The plan was for her to begin taking ovary stimulating drugs, like I did when I did IVF, and she would produce a bunch of eggs, then have them retrieved about ten days later. At that point they would have been fertilized with the hubs’ “genetic contribution,” and the ones that developed into suitable embryos would be transferred into my uterus around six days later. 

I halted the plan two days before our donor was to begin injections. It just didn’t feel right, for a variety of reasons. One of those reasons was that I had spent the past 11 months undergoing nearly nonstop treatments, which resulted in 2 miscarriages: one of those was my beloved miracle twins, lost at 9 weeks because they were conjoined. The other miscarriage was at 4 weeks, with what doctors said was almost certainly another set of twins. A third cycle resulted in nothing at all. Right after the third cycle, we learned that we would have to use an egg donor to proceed if we wanted more children. That news came exactly one year ago today, on June 3, 2014. 

So, we charged ahead with finding an egg donor. We so badly wanted more kids that I didn’t bother to stop and evaluate what we had been through in a short time. Three cycles and two miscarriages in 11 months. It became very real to me, right before the donor was to begin her stimulation meds, that I was opening another Pandora’s Box of physical and emotional pain. I was tired of all the fertility drugs, all the time. The drugs you take to do the treatments are very hard on your body, and it doesn’t get easier with experience. I was tired of medical professionals constantly hanging around my lady parts, and I so badly wanted to reclaim both my body and my sanity.  I prayed about it, and that was when I began to feel a strong call to adoption. I had never considered it before, and now here it was, feeling like the most obvious answer in the world. 

Another reason I walked away is because an egg donor cycle costs almost exactly $30,000. And there are no guarantees. If the donor doesn’t respond well, or if the eggs don’t fertilize properly, you are out all that money and it’s over. If you do end up with healthy embryos, transfer them, and they do not take or you miscarry, it’s over. We worked hard to acquire the money we needed for an egg donor cycle, and if it didn’t work, that would be the end. We weren’t going to come by another 30k and have a second chance at this. 

On the other hand, for a similar amount of money, we could adopt an infant domestically and if we never gave up, eventually we would adopt. (Well, that was before what happened to us. Now my expectations are pretty low, if I’m being honest).  Besides my personal feelings about another cycle, the idea that our money would be “safer” going this route was very appealing. I discussed my feelings with the hubs, who was at first quite surprised but then very supportive. 

Today, I’m feeling guilty. If I hadn’t changed my mind and the cycle had worked, my husband and I would soon have the second child we have dreamed of for so long.  My son would have a sibling on the way, and he probably wouldn’t be asking me all the time when God is bringing him “his baby.”  I would be nesting and preparing for a new son or daughter, and revelling in the sheer joy and excitement that a new baby brings. I would not have experienced the past 8 months, which is a huge hypothetical bonus. 

But, I followed my heart, and I listened to the answer that was given when I prayed about what to do. I’m questioning now if it was really God steering me towards adoption, or if that’s what I wanted to hear because I needed a break. Only time will tell. Until then, I have to carry the “what if” burden, which is probably my least favorite kind of burden.

Discover the rest of the story at www.borrowedgenes.com

Mo’ Money, Mo’ Problems (sort of)

  
Today I talked to two different adoption consultant companies, Laura at Faithful Adoption Consultants and Shannon at Christian Adoption Consultants. I wasn’t looking exclusively for Christian organizations but these two had the best reputations by far for adoption consultants, (please note, consultants are not the same as facilitators, which are illegal in many states) and it was easy to see why. After speaking with both these ladies my heart sort of sank into my stomach because I realized that this is what our adoption journey could have looked like if I had chosen better. I didn’t know there were different ways you could expect to be treated by an agency. Now I do. 

I enjoyed speaking with them both because they both validated what I knew to be true, that this journey the hubs and I have been in is abnormal, and not a good representation of what adoption looks like. I pulled my punches big time in describing what had happened, both in speaking with them and on my last blog post. I chose to do that because I feel like it’s important to take the high road when I can, and also because if I can ever hope to sincerely forgive our agency for what they did to us, I can’t relive the whole awful thing over and over again. 

In this section I will be discussing finances. It is not the most comfortable thing to be open about, but I feel it is essential to be transparent about all areas of adoption. Education is key. I was impressed by both women because both of them advised me not to pay anything to retain them as consultants at this time. The reason?  Because our current adoption budget (minus the $8000.00 we would forfeit at our agency) wouldn’t be sufficient to afford any of the adoption situations they have available to match with their clients. They were actually looking out for us and advising us how to proceed wisely.  Of course that was very disappointing to hear, but it bolstered my faith in humanity that there really are adoption workers out there, even in this cutthroat industry, that possess and demonstrate integrity. I needed a reminder of that. 

I told them I would see what I could do about rounding up another 10K, and then would touch base with them in the future. At this stage really all we can do is save more up, slowly. We personally aren’t into fundraising or crowd raising or whatever the kids are calling it these days.  There are many folks that do, and I’ve got no problem with that. It just isn’t for us. It doesn’t feel right when we know there are others who need it more. 

Many adoptive couples finance part of their adoptions by receiving the available grant opportunities one can apply for. I’ve looked in to every single one I could find, and they all have income requirements, and our income is too high. It reminded me of filling out FAFSA forms right before college started, and I was soundly disqualified because my parents made “too much money.”  I’m sure I’m not the only one who ran into that questionable problem. And here I am running into it again, oy vey. Yes, the hubs makes a nice living for our family. But I imagine if you take almost any yearly income and try to slide 40k out, after taxes, you’re going to run into a problem, right?

I wonder how many families, like us, have had to fund their adoption expenses after years of funding infertility treatment expenses?  There should be a special grant for that! In that situation, many resources have already been tapped out to pay for the fertility treatments long before the couple even gets to the adoption part of the journey. Resources like personal savings, refinancing your home, taking out your home equity, borrowing from your retirement plan, getting a 0% loan from a merciful credit union, obtaining a 0% for-12-months-credit card, etc. Couples who have experienced an infertility journey, or an adoption journey, or both (shudder) are the most financially creative people in the world! I’m absolutely convinced of this. 

Our standing as of now with our current adoption agency is that we will be presented for immediate placements. I have no way of knowing if that is actually going to happen or not. Nothing more has been said about the meeting, in fact there hasn’t been any communication at all, with one exception: we did get a text last week about an immediate placement and if we wanted to be shown. We said yes. After two days of silence we texted for an update and learned the mother had chosen someone else. And that’s been it. We have friends who are also in the program who received two adoption opportunities for babies due at the end of June. We didn’t get those sent to us. We dare not reach out to ask why, for fear of being perceived as pushy! 😋

We are keeping on, and trying to keep adoption frustrations pushed to the side so they don’t interfere with our daily life. It is easy to let the process blind you to the blessings in front of you, as you chase the ones you hope are ahead of you. 

A Fun Lesson About Choosing Your Adoption Agency Wisely

Many of you heard we had a not-so-fun meeting with our adoption agency last week. I waited to write about it until the emotions had cooled off and I could approach the whole thing from a somewhat grownup perspective. 

It lasted two hours.  The meeting objective was for the hubs and I to sit there while the agency director and adoption coordinator told us every reason they couldn’t stand working with us. The agency is very loosy-goosy and not worried about customer service.  They admittedly focus their energy and attentions exclusively on the birth parents, and any communication, or request for communication, from the adoptive parents is perceived by the agency as taking away time from the birth parents. The hubs and I, for our part, feel that since we and other adoptive parents are the ones funding their company, that we are entitled to a reasonable amount of communication, which we aren’t receiving. 

Another reason I held off writing this post is I didn’t want it to be all about demonizing the adoption agency. The truth is, the owner isn’t a horrible person. She’s just not a business-minded person, and she runs the agency like a family, if the family values are that it’s okay to be flaky sometimes and everyone should just chill out, man. She’s the type of person who gets her feelings hurt extremely easily, and holds on to it for all it is worth. We learned at the meeting that a couple emails I wrote back in January and February “hurt her feelings.”  (Not because I said anything mean, but because she thinks we don’t trust them. Spoiler alert: We don’t.) Not to be super calloused here, but the adoption agency owner’s feelings are not high at the top of my priority list. Of course I’m not trying to upset people, but I would say that was going to be unavoidable in this case. She’s what I call a “peach person.” We all know them–the person you have to speak ever so carefully around, even more so regarding sarcasm, for fear they will become easily bruised and offended.  It’s exhausting to be in the company of peach people, and it is just my luck I chose an agency owned by one.

The adoption coordinator. Another delicate flower with thin skin. We learned after signing on (paying lots of money) with this agency that our coordinator, the only domestic coordinator, was in her mid-20s. This is her first job out of college. She also placed her baby for adoption about two years ago. I will begin by saying, this is not a job for someone with little work/life experience. It requires someone that understands and respects the complex and emotionally draining road that infertile couples have traveled just to reach the adoption office, to say nothing of the trials after getting there. I think that’s well out of the reach of most 24 year olds. It certainly would have been for me at that age. The fact she herself is a birthmother only serves to drive home the point: that is the group she can relate to. It’s who she wants to talk to. It’s who she wants to help. And heaven knows birth mothers need a kind, compassionate resource they can rely on during an adoption. I suspect she does an excellent job of that. Unfortunately for the hubs and I, she’s an abysmal resource for adoptive parents and she doesn’t hide her resentment very well.  And, she’s it!  There is NO ONE ELSE. What do you do when there is no one to advocate for you?

You advocate for yourself. And this is something both the hubs and I do well. In order to do this, our adoption agency needs to communicate with us. It was our reasonable requests for that communication that got us called up to the world’s most inconvenient meeting to be scolded like small children for two hours, for the heinous crime of being proactive. 

Their goal: to continue to work with us if we would stop bothering them. Trust them to do their job. Stop contacting them. The trouble is, we don’t trust them to do their job. I, Nancy Drew, was the one who discovered the first adoption match was a fraud. ME. By doing a five second Google search. During the meeting, we learned that they consider Googling an expectant mother’s name an invasion of privacy and they don’t do it. I asked them if they regretted having that particular policy in place after spending untold amounts of money on the adoption fraud couple. The adoption coordinator looked thoughtful. The agency owner looked proud. “No, I don’t,” she said. “I won’t ask our birth mothers to sign a release for the Google. It just scares people away if they think you don’t trust them. We still work with couples we suspect of fraud, anyway. In fact, we are still working with the couple you found out about. Because you never know, they may change their mind after all and place after the baby is born. And our focus is on that baby, all the way through the birth.”  I think this was supposed to sound altruistic, but the truth is there is no shortage of agencies that would gladly find a placement for an infant, and collect the hefty finder’s fee in the process. Might I add, if someone admits to scamming you, good business sense would dictate you run far, and you run fast. Or, if you’re this agency, keep working with the couple that admitted they want all their expenses paid, please and thank you, even though they never had any intention of considering adoption

As you might expect, it was not reassuring to hear that our agency is still working with the couple that have actually admitted to the fraudulent behavior. The hubs and I were badly betrayed by the couple, but the agency is still working with them?  Is it okay that we find that a bit strange? We also learned that adoption fraud is quite common in our agency due to the adamant refusal of “the Google” and that it is something to be expected during an adoption journey with the Adoption Agency. 

  
Did I mention I almost vaulted out of my seat when she mentioned “the Google?”  A business owner, in the year 2015, believes she needs a signed consent form to Google a person’s name. I don’t even know where to begin describing how disturbed I am that this is someone’s reality, and now I’m an unwilling part of it. 

Near the end of the meeting, when it became clear that the hubs and I did not find our communication requests unreasonable, and when they could hide their utter disdain for us no longer, we reached an impasse. The owner badly wanted us to quit. She wanted it bad. She kept leading us to it and then trailing off…it reminded me of two high school kids trying to break up, but the instigator won’t pull the trigger. It was strange, and fit right nicely in with the overall theme of the meeting. 

According to their contract, they can fire us as clients at their leisure.  She didn’t do that, either. I suspect it’s because that would look pretty bad for the agency. After all, who wants to sign on with an agency that has a reputation for firing their clients after they have paid a good chunk of money up front? Probably no one. And that’s when I realized they are basically stuck with us, regardless of their desire to fire us. 

As of this moment, I assume we are still represented by this agency. We haven’t heard anything to the contrary since our meeting that accomplished nothing. 

My hope is that other people may learn from this and have a better adoption experience than we have had. The process is hard enough by itself, and deeply emotional under the best of circumstances. Hire an agency that has a support person for the expectant mother, but also has a separate support system for the adoptive parents. You want your agency to work for you, not actively against you. Not all agencies are created equal, so make sure to do your research with a list of what is important to you within reach. Consider this a cautionary tale. 

Déjà Vu All Over Again

Last week, within an hour of learning that our first adoption situation was faux, I was independently contacted by an acquaintance from my adoption support group. Her daughter had decided to place her baby in an open adoption, and could I send her our portfolio to review? They were having lunch so it would be best to have in the next hour or so.

I would have moved freaking boulders with my bare hands  to make that happen. I bustled around my office at the speed of light, scrambling to scan each page of our adoption book into pdf files that could be emailed. The scanning app stalled, the printer kept malfunctioning. As I scanned, I practiced deep breathing techniques to stop freaking out, since I was convinced my printer’s ineptitude had doomed us to failure. I was near tears thinking I was going to miss our window of opportunity. When I got it done and realized the file was too large to email, I completely blanked on how to use Dropbox, the world’s easiest app,  in my frenzy; I sent an SOS to the hubs, and he came through from work, compressing the files and getting them sent. Go hubs! Cue the huge sigh of relief, crisis averted.

It absolutely MUST be noted that from being notified that the first adoption situation was a fraud, to the second adoption being initiated,  a mere 47 minutes had passed. The only way this neon sign from God could have been made clearer is if He had used sky-writing to spell it out over our house.

Within an hour of emailing the pdf adoption book, I received the message that her daughter loved our profile, and saying it reminded her of her own family. Could we meet in the next couple days to talk adoption specifics?

I couldn’t believe that something this amazing had happened to us!  We went from the very bottom of the adoption roller coaster, after being emotionally derailed by Carrie and her husband, to being offered the opportunity to adopt out of the clear blue sky. In my mind, the whole convulted puzzle finally fit together, and it was good. It was good, people. It seemed like this was what we had been preparing for, like all the heartache and pain had led us to THIS moment.

As confident as we were, we told no one but our parents while it was all unfolding, just to be on the safe side. Because, duh. Our track record was abysmal and it was all starting to feel a little bit too much like The Boy Who Cried Wolf: Family Addition Edition.  We kept the news to ourselves and felt like we were hiding the greatest surprise ever, which also felt kind of sneaky and fun, if I’m being honest.

The expectant mother went into labor a couple days ago and we hired a lawyer for her. The family asked nothing of us other than for prayers. There were/are factors in play that made/make it largely impossible for the birth mother to raise the baby. She knew this, and chose adoption.  It was a very brave, very self-aware thing to do and the hubs and I were impressed.  Her situation is the type where, if she chose to keep the baby, her parents would be the ones doing the raising.* Her parents are folks who have dedicated their lives to raising children, both biological and adopted. They are people who have relished the role of grandparents over the past few years and recently began enjoying a well-deserved retirement.  As you can imagine, raising a newborn is probably not at the top of their retirement bucket list.

*Note: I’m not being judgemental. The above statement was shared with me, I did not come to that conclusion “just because.”

The hubs and I, demonstrating our shared inability to sense a pattern, really believed we were going up to meet the baby today and begin the process of adoption. As you may have gleaned from my sarcasm, that did not happen.  I received a call this about mid-morning that the daughter had decided to parent her baby.

I sincerely wished her well, gracefully congratulated her on the new addition, and took it like a champ. That is not a humble brag folks; that is a straight-up, unabashed, honest to goodness BRAG, and I stand behind it.

We set a new record, folks!  Two failed adoptions in one week! I guess we all get to be famous for something at some point!  Hooray.

This time was easier because of the shorter time span, and also because my adoption group acquaintance is a really great person who kept us in the loop and up to date the whole time.  She is a neat lady and she is trying to handle this as best she can, too. I think she was as surprised as I was at the sudden change of heart, because, if you remember from a couple paragraphs up, she and her husband are going to be the people raising that baby, something they had not planned on.  That is easily as unfair as what keeps happening to the hubs and I.  I really do wish her and her husband the very best as they navigate this unexpected new challenge, and pray for health and joy for them, and baby girl, and their daughter.

As for the hubs and I, maybe it’s time to take a hint. We don’t know.  We’re evaluating our next steps. When you consider the years of infertility, the pregnancy losses, the failed adoption situations…I mean, if you called someone several times and left voicemails that weren’t returned, followed it up with a few text messages and emails that were ignored, and finally, showed up at that someone’s house and rang the doorbell to no answer, even though the lights were on and both cars were in the driveway, what would you surmise from the situation?  That’s where we are right now. We’re infertile adoption stalkers.

It sounds pitiful, but truly, each day brings us so much joy with our little silver lining, Mr. E.  Things sure aren’t going our way, but that one time, they did. We must never forget that, and treasure the gift we were given.