Thoughts on Adoption

Today, an article appeared on the New York Times regarding Russia’s decision to suspend adoptions to the U.S.

More Pics from Kairi's visit

The reason that Russia called for a halt on all adoptions of Russian children by Americans, in my opinion, was justified. I do believe that there needs to be further investigation from both sides of the ocean (or Bering Strait, I suppose).

As one half of an infertile couple, who at one time seriously considered adoption as a method to start our family, what this adoptive mother did was simply outrageous.  And furthermore, her actions have now affected any other potential adoptive parent who have invested much time, money and emotions in adopting a Russian child. This woman effectively shattered many dreams of many people.

Simply put, this breaks my heart.

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Speaking of dreams … During our engagement, Hubby & I had multiple discussions about how our future would be. We dreamed of owning a house big enough for at least 4 kids with a yard big enough for the dog we would own. We dreamed about how great our careers would be and how we would somehow manage to balance work life and home life.

And we dreamed about how incredible it would be to raise our children; how we would help our children find that balance between being American and being Filipino. We would make sure that they could be proud about their heritage and still be able to embrace the environment in which they lived.

Tyler at the Lego Store in Downtown Chicago

After all, Hubby and I were half- and first-generation** Filipino-Americans. We knew, first hand, the struggles of growing up with half our feet steeped in Filipino traditions and the other half finding a way to assimilate into the Western culture. This was especially evident when we were teenagers growing up in the ’80’s.

I mean seriously … Hubby & I have joked around about how we learned about typical American Teenager behavior from watching John Hughes (RIP … ) movies. In reality, that’s  actually not that far from the truth.

But I digress.

Another one of our dreams as an engaged couple looking towards our bright future had always been about adoption. Yes … adoption.

We had always dreamed about opening our hearts and home to other children who might not have been given the same love and opportunities and life that we had. Specifically we looked into adopting internationally, because we wanted to help a child with transitioning into the American culture much like we had while growing up. We wanted these children to embrace their new environment while being proud of where they were born. Much like we were.***  Err … rather are.

However, in that foggy crystal ball version of our future, adoption was something that Hubby & I planned to do after we had children of our own. After we were able to produce offspring that contained both of our DNA.

Kairi loves her Big Brother
Kairi loves her big brother ...

Call us selfish, but we just really wanted to see our genetic traits in a biological child and then be able to raise a child through adoption. This child might not share the same genes as us, but would share the same love and warmth and upbringing as our biological children. And for me personally, it was a chance for me to see Nature vs. Nurture at its best.

Unfortunately we never did get to see that nature part. At all. And if I was a strong enough person, I might have been able to see the nurture part. At least with raising a child.

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I applaud anyone who has sought to adopt as a means to start or add to their family.

It takes an incredibly strong and capable person to be able to put themselves through all the rules and regulations and investigations into your private lives just to raise a child that is not biologically your own. I know this from reading other IFer’s blogs about adoption and from talking to adoptive parents about their own experiences. From going to adoption agencies to gather information on our own.

... And Tyler loves his baby sister

Reading about Russia today also reminds me about other countries such as China and Guatemala that have also placed restrictions on potential adoptive parents from the U.S. And it’s because I know how long most of these individuals have been waiting for their chance to raise an internationally adopted  child. For those who have faced infertility, it’s the chance to raise any child.

And if I had enough strength, adopting internationally would have been my chance in passing a little bit of myself … that bit about being proud of my heritage while embracing the uncharted territories of being a first-generation immigrant … to my adoptive child.

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** Hubby was born in the Philippines and migrated to the U.S. at the age of five; effectively making him a “half-generation” immigrant. Of course, depending on what version of immigrant generations you go with, Hubby & I can be seen as 1.5- and second-generation immigrants. At least that’s what Wiki says … )

*** Well … okay, so I was born in the U.S. … but hopefully you understand what I mean.

Cutting The Strings

Click on the jug for other 2009 submissions

This post has been a long time in coming. Truthfully, this should have been written a few months ago. However, between preparations for the audit at work and having just recently had the conversation with Hubby a week ago, the timing just didn’t seem right.

A year ago earlier this month, I was in Chicago interviewing for the position that I now hold. The very same one that has given me much stress and headaches over the past 11 months. The same one that has made me realize exactly how strong I really can be … without the hormonal emotions getting in the way.

I specifically mention the “hormonal emotions” for a reason. That’s because when I look back during those active “baby-trying” years , I can now see how much strength I needed in order to get me through that period.

Except I can honestly say that I never feel that I was strong at all during that time period. I felt as I was living day-to-day, hoping that somehow I would catch a break from all the “hard work” I was putting into starting my family.

Whereas with the “challenges” I faced this past year … well, they didn’t feel like a day-to-day struggle. There was always an end in site for each new challenge I faced. From the very beginning of “Operation: Move to Chicago,” there was a goal in mind that was achievable:

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    • Find an apartment; check.
    • Start new job; check.
    • Survive living alone in new city for three months with seeing Hubby only on the weekends; check.
    • Get through six months at new job without being fired from “My way or the highway” boss; check.
    • Live through high profile work audit with dignity intact; check.

Everything I faced since moving here was (relatively) successful; with that bright light guiding me to the end of a dark tunnel.

Unfortunately that same bright light was never there when facing the darkness that is infertility.  And, in my case, definitely not successful … at least in the way that I defined success.

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There’s this memory I have from back in my high school years. It’s back when Disney began to start re-releasing classic movies on VHS tapes. The idea was so that a person could own these movies before they were put back into the “vault” of classic Disney animation.

My mother totally bought into that smart marketing ploy. In fact, she bought many videos including The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, and … if I can recall, Sleeping Beauty. AND she wouldn’t even open them; storing them away in her dresser, in her own personal “vault.”

“Not fair,” I remember telling her. Especially since I loved Ariel and Belle. “Couldn’t we just open them up and watch them once?”

“No,” she had told me. She was saving them for her future grandchildren. So that she can sit down and watch these movies with them, whenever they came over to visit.

This memory, as inconsequential as it may seem to others, is one that cuts me incredibly deep. It’s a reminder of how I’ve failed to fulfill my parents’ dream of becoming grandparents.

Never mind that I already felt horribly bad that my body was not able to give my husband a child of his own. This specific memory reminds me that I’ve probably disappointed my parents as well. That I haven’t been able to give them the grandchildren that they’ve always wanted.

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I’ll be honest that one of the many reasons Hubby & I moved to Chicago was start fresh. There had been way too much emotional Infertility baggage that I had been carrying around for years. And although I had been working very hard at purging that baggage, I could never fully put it away … at least into a place within me that could make things manageable.

So putting some physical distance between myself and the baggage (which held waaay too many memories of hurt and disappointment), as well as the physical location where most of these memories occurred, was something I felt I needed to do.

And it’s with the blessing of my very supportive husband that we found ourselves moving out-of-state; away from the only “home” I had ever known.  All this is in effort to be exposed to new people and to be open to new challenges. To have a fresh outlook on where Hubby & I stand in our quest to have a family.

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Next October will be my 20th High School Reunion. Part of me is interested in seeing where everyone is at in this stage of life; to see how far they’ve come since we were teenagers. Then there’s the rebel in me that thinks, “Pshaw … HS Reunions are so ‘Peggy Sue Got Married’! We must break this cycle at once!”

And then there’s the Infertile (with a capital “I”) in me. The one with no children. The one with nothing exciting to show for my life over the past 20 years, other than a degree (only undergrad, to boot!) and a good job. I’ve no kids to brag about; I’ve no incredible 3,000 square foot house to talk about. All I have is a decent walk-up apartment in the city and fur children that shed hair all over the place, including my clothes.

At least I have an incredible husband who I can show off and brag about.

As it is, I’m still debating on whether I want to go or not. However, what I do know is that a bunch of the HS friends that I still keep in touch with, will be planning a more low-key get-together some time next year. That should, at the very least, be a “milestone” something to look forward to next year.

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I’ve had the pleasure of (finally) seeing my new family physician, not once but twice in the past few months. One was the quick one-over, “Hi, nice to meet you” -type of visit. The second was my yearly female parts check-up.

Both times my physician asked me if I was interested in pursuing further treatment for my infertility. And both times, I told my physician I still wasn’t ready to make that decision. I was in the midst of still adjusting to my new job in a new city.

And I needed more time to separate want vs. need, hope for the future vs. more disappointment, treatment vs. acceptance.

Let me say it’s extremely strange to go from living in one State where In vitro Fertilization (IVF) is not covered, to currently living in a State where it now is. To now have that option to choose what course of treatment that Hubby & I would like to pursue in creating our family.

For those that don’t know, infertility treatments are sometimes not covered by health insurance in certain States. There may be some aspects of treatments that are covered (such as the work-up and, at times, the medications), but for the most part infertility treatments — and specifically IVF is not.

The Infertile RN in me thinks it’s utterly cruel to allow coverage for the work-up of the infertility diagnosis and then turn around and not cover the treatment for it. Even though IVF is not a “guarantee” that one would be successful in starting a family, there’s still that little bit of chance that it becomes successful in “curing” that person’s infertility.

I relate it to treatment for cancer. Much like chemotherapy and/or radiation therapy is considered standard treatment for a person with such a condition … it’s never a “100% guarantee” that the cancer would be “cured” or go into remission.

It’s that double-standard in treatment of a health condition that bothers me the most about the lack of coverage in IVF treatments. Because, quite frankly … the RN Case Manager in me (the one who works for a health insurance company) strongly believes that people have the right to choose how they would like to pursue treatment and have the Health Insurance that I pay for assist in coverage for that treatment.

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This January, it will be a year since I’ve lived in Chicago. And April will mark the official date that Hubby & I will have lived together in this bright new city (well, new to us anyway).

During this past year, Hubby & I have had a chance to open our hearts and minds to different possibilities. We’ve had the opportunity to accept where we’re at when it came to reassessing our options in creating our family.

We’ve talked about IVF and the impact it may have emotionally for me … Both if it wasn’t successful and if it actually was. But even though we know the option of IVF is available to us in the fine State of Illinois, both of us have decided not to pursue that route.

We’ve also had the opportunity to discuss adoption more in depth. To decide if this was the right path for us to take. And the more we thought about it, the more we decided that this was also something we wouldn’t be a 100% comfortable with. (Okay, I admit it. It’s me. I’m the one who fears that I’ll just end up being disappointed again. And I fear that I’d get stuck down that rabbit hole of darkness once again.)

So what does this all mean? Well, readers. It means that Hubby & I have accepted that having children at this moment is not in our best interest. It means, that we have accepted the fact that we may never have children. (Okay, maybe it’s more like *I* accepted this fact, because Hubby was light years ahead of me in this thought.)

This means that we’ve consciously and deliberately have made the choice to begin living life child-free.

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It’s taken me more than 12 years, but I think I’ve finally reached some closure in my infertility journey.

Yet even as one door has closed in my life, I’m still learning to live with the reality of this decision. My infertility is no longer a daily struggle, but that doesn’t mean I don’t have those “moments.”

And those “moments” are the reason I choose to continue writing on this blog. Except now, instead of this blog being about the longing to have a children, it will be about trying to let go of this longing. About learning to look forward to my new future with Hubby. The new journey we’ll be taking together.

It’s about trying to break free from these Apron Strings.

NIAW 2009, Pt III

(This is Part Three of a six-day series to celebrate NIAW. I’d say it’s because I “planned” it that way … but the truth is, the series started out as one extremely looong post. To start at the beginning, click here.)

273Again, not every couple who are unable to create and sustain a life will remain childless. There are those couples in this category that will end up opening their hearts to adoption. And to me, those infertile couples are simply incredible.

They’re brave enough to pursue the long and tedious adoption process. A process that includes all the legal matters and invasion into the couples’ private lives as to whether their home and their lifestyle is “safe” enough to care for a child. A concept that, quite frankly, can be unnerving as this questions a couple (who has been struggling to have a family) whether or not they are capable of being a parent.

Those pursuing adoption are also strong enough to face every emotion — all the anxiety — involved in the adoption process head on. Placement of a child (whether domestic or international) and the absolute fear of the unknown would be enough to throw any “normal” person into anxiety overdrive:

Will there be issues with the adoption country?

Will the birth parent(s) change his/her mind?

Will the child love me?

Will I be able to love the child as if he/she is my own?

Am I a good enough in the government’s eyes to be considered capable of raising a child?

Will I be deemed unfit as a parent?

Will the child be taken away from me?

Imagine facing those thoughts every day. In my opinion, going through adoption adds a whole new layer of complexity to infertility. And I am in absolute awe in which these couples who choose this path show such grace and compassion …

I only wish I had even a portion of such brevity, strength, grace and compassion that these people do.

(Yep. There will be more of this … tomorrow.)

NIAW 2009, Pt II

(This is the second part of a six-day series to celebrate NIAW. I’d say it’s because I “planned” it that way … but the truth is, the series started out as one extremely looong post. To start at the beginning, click here)

273And then there’s the biggest loss of all. Let me preface this by saying that not everyone experiencing infertility will end up in this category of loss. Because some will be successful with their pursuit in creating a child from within themselves. For some, it may be the creation of a biological child of their own. For others, it could be a successful pregnancy created from either donor egg, donor sperm, donor embryo, and even donor uterus. In any case, these are couples who have spent more than enough months in disappointment … and not to mention more than enough money on various medications and/or procedures.

In any case … for those others, like myself, that were not successful in their pursuit, they must deal with the ultimate loss — the inability to create a life out of one’s own being. For some couples, it could be the loss of a pregnancy; a miscarriage after having been able to create a life but unable to carry their baby to term. For every couple unable to achieve and/or maintain a pregnancy, it’s the loss of the ability to pass on a piece of yourself or your partner’s self onto another living and breathing person. To see your facial features on a child you created. To see your partner’s mannerisms in another living being. To know that you have continued on your lineage; contributed to the “Circle of Life.” Those things … and much much more are tremendously huge losses that will take more than the span of your own lifetime to mourn.

Some women feel the loss of the ability to experience a life grow inside of herself; to carry a child in her womb until that baby is ready to enter the world. For other women, it’s knowing that they will finally be able to nurture this child and bring him/her up in the manner that they’ve always dreamed about. And for others still (like myself), a combination of the two …

(More ramblings … tomorrow.)

Two Dolla' No Holla'

8bt“Two Dollars! I want my two dollars!”

I love that movie. “Better Off Dead” is one of those classic John Cusa.ck films from the ‘80’s that remind me of many-a-slumber parties. (You know, back when the other girls were fixing their hair and putting on make-up while I sat in my sleeping bag clearly just watching rental video after rental video …) I loved the Asian guys that pretended to be that sportscaster from Wide World O’Sports (hey, it’s St. Paddy’s Day … gotta get my O’ on. 🙂 ). And I love how Lane’s mom tried to cook her “Fraunch” dinner for the cute little exchange student that Lane should have noticed much sooner. Oh, and I loved the fact that they used a little Howa.rd Jo.nes on their soundtrack as well.

In any case, my mind sometimes (oh, who am I kidding … always) works in strange “tangential thinking” ways. I started off by thinking, “Two Years, Wow!” and obviously ended up thinking of a newspaper boy on a bike trying to collect his money.

G*d … does anyone else remember the days of neighborhood kids being the newspaper deliverer and collector of payments?! Now it’s always an adult that pulls up in a car … chucks the paper out their car window where one hopes it lands on the doorstep … and then it’s the newspaper that actually hounds you by phone for their twenty dollars or more.

Oh geez … see what I mean? Tangential thinking.

See the whole point of this post was to reflect how it’s been two years today since I started this blog. And what started out as wanting to express something in a journal entry somehow ended up here in the blogiverse.

2yrI remember clearly sitting in a café in A2 while Hubby and his BIL (my SIL’s Hubby of less than a year at the time) went off to do their comic/gaming thing. I was still struggling with the news of my SIL’s pregnancy and found myself slowly losing grip on my sanity. I knew, after a few months of counseling, that I had to find a way to deal with all these repressed emotions. Except besides this counselor and my husband, I didn’t know anyone else I could talk to about these feelings of anger and jealousy … and the subsequent guilt that always seemed to follow those emotions.

I felt that somehow no one else could understand what I was going through. I believed that everyone I had previously talked to about these things thought I was nuts to be “obsessing” about how unfair it was that I couldn’t produce a child. And I remember thinking how it seemed as if everyone was moving forward in their lives; starting their families, achieving new milestones, etc … all while Hubby & I remained left behind, unable to move forward.

It didn’t help that March was an anniversary month for Hubby and me. It would be the month that so many years ago, we received the news of our one and only failed IVF attempt. And for the life of me, today I can’t even recall the number of years it’s been since then. (What does that say about where I’m at today?!) But two years ago, those emotions … that feeling of lost was still as deep and painful as it was when we first received that devastating news.

In a single sentence … two years ago today, I was a wreck. And writing about how I felt seemed to be the only way to articulate such complicated emotions. And so hence, Apron Strings for Emily was born.

So where am I at today? Well … writing about my journey has certainly had some impact on my life. Both good and bad … and sometimes just downright ugly.

gobaugTHE UGLY: My relationship, though better since moving, is still a bit strained with my SIL. The distance has definitely proved to be a good thing though. But this, of course, is at the sacrifice of not being able to see my nephew and my 6 month old niece as often as I’d like. Despite all this, my instincts (which tend to be spot on quite often) tell me that all this heartbreak will eventually pass in time. Perhaps one day our lives will once again be back “in sync” with one another like it was so many eons ago. And perhaps it won’t. But either way, only time will help mend all the broken layers of skin that this deep deep wound (as in “Stage IV Decubitus Ulcer”) has caused.

In any case, we’ll be seeing them next month for sure though … as they make the trip to visit us in our new digs. And I seriously can’t wait!!

THE BAD: Uhm … the obvious one is that Hubby and I are still without kids of our own. This also means that I haven’t been able to provide grandchildren to our parents, nieces or nephews to our siblings, or cousins to our nephew and niece. It still eats at me … at least once a month, during those incredible waves of emotions I get (Thank you, wacky hormones!) …but at least it isn’t every day like it was for years and years (and years and years).

THE GOOD: I’ve found out that, contrary to my psychotic (as opposed to psychic) beliefs, I am not necessarily alone in this infertility journey. I’ve found the incredibly wonderful and much needed support I’ve been looking forthanks to all of you readers and commenters.

Also, I’ve finally decided (just recently within the past 6 months) that my life no longer has to revolve around my inability to have children of my own and have decided to focus on other parts of my life. This means I can finally move onto deciding whether adoption should be our next step. OR if accepting child-free living is the path to take.

goalBut the best part of this point in my life is this: After years and years of holding all my anger and sadness inside, I’ve finally found my voice … and the medium in which to express this voice. For someone who has been used to (and quite frankly brought up to) stifling any bad feelings aside, well that’s … Just. Simply. Incredible.

And just like a yearly “work performance” eval … not only do I have to summarize all that has happened in the past year … I should also be thinking towards the coming year. SO … what exactly are my goals for the next year?

  • Work on above relationship with SIL. I’m still thinking time and distance for now is a good thing. Perhaps my thoughts will change over the course of the year.
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  • Continue to more forward. I need to remember to take steps by putting one foot in front of the other, and make an effort not to take any steps back. I need to build a momentum to keep me moving in a positive direction … whatever direction that might be. (Adoption? Child-free living? Focus on career and ultimate dream of moving out to the west coast?) But I do need to remember to keep moving, otherwise I could find myself stuck in the present (or the past) and in another “rut.”
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  • Leave the past in the past. This specifically means that I need to focus on not looking back at the negative. And if I do look back, it’s only to realize how much stronger I am because of what I’ve been through.
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  • In that same sense, I need to not concentrate on any negative thoughts. Focusing on any negativity is going to get me into those “What if?” situations that will also keep me in that same “rut.”
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  • Continue to blog. This … this is my (free) therapy. It’s one of the few ways I can openly and honestly talk about how I’m feeling. And it’s a way for me to work through these complicated emotions of anger and loss. Otherwise, I’d be back to where I started. And as I look back on my very first post and realize how much I talked almost all in “riddles” and metaphors … and how I couldn’t even write the word “Infertility” in that first post … It’s then that I realize just how far I’ve come.

voiceAnd finally, before I wrap up this extremely long post, I want to thank all of you for allowing me to work (and continue to work) through all of my concerns. And thank you for faithfully reading all about them.

Because, really? What’s the point of finding my voice if I didn’t have you … my readers, my friends and my family … to listen to (or in this case, read about) it?

Oh, and because today is St. Patty’s Day … I also wish all of you the Luck O’ The Irish!!

luckee