And you may ask yourself - well, how did I get here?
Earlier this week an online acquaintance sent me an email to ask if she could pass my email address to a friend of hers. It seems this friend just suffered her third miscarriage and is lost. Does she continue down the path of infertility treatments? Does she consider adoption? I don't know that I have any particular insight to offer this grieving woman but if my "been there done that" status is of any help, I'm happy to give it.
When it comes to the heartache of miscarriage, I surely wish I didn't know. But I do. Each passing day with my beautiful daughter softens the sharp corners of my pain, but it is still there. The tears still flow.
For a time it looked like I would pass through this life as a non-mother, but then I took the chance, grabbed the ring, and here I am.
So, how did I get here? I suffered my fourth miscarriage in 2003. I tearfully told my husband, "I'm done." No more stirrups, no more tests, no more poking and prodding. Everyone has their breaking point and this was mine. He nodded in agreement. There were theories about what was wrong with me, of course, but I have to say that I never found a doctor who was particularly helpful - or who even seemed to give a rip at all, for that matter. I believe my failure to carry a pregnancy to term is directly linked to several auto-immune disorders with which I have been suffering since early childhood. Since my body attacks itself, I see no reason why my immune system would not also attack an embryo.
I did speak to a reproductive endocrinologist who said he could help me - to the tune of $10,000 or so. There were no guarantees, of course. Adoption was looking more and more attractive to us. We'd still spend a fortune to do it, but in theory we'd become parents and wouldn't mind going broke quite so much. But still, it was hard to turn that corner. I continued to drag my feet for a bit.
My mother said something like this to me: "You have to find a way to become a mom. You just have to find a way." At around the same time, a close friend of mine became pregnant. She and I had talked about children, but always in some vague, future-y kind of way. I think her pregnancy helped to push me off the fence. Her son and my daughter were born exactly six weeks apart (both on a Tuesday) and even though she and I are no longer in contact, I still think about her every day. She helped me more than she knew.
After making the BIG DECISION, it wasn't long before P and I were sitting in front of a social worker, answering personal questions and filling out mountains of paperwork. And thanks to the selflessness of a beautiful young woman who at that time did not have the means to care for a child, P and I became parents just a few months later. (You can read A's birth story here if you have time to kill.)
It's challenging to attempt to articulate the "how I knew" part of the story. How I knew I was done trying to carry a pregnancy to term. How I was done being tested for diseases I knew I didn't have (I was tested for lupus and hypothyroidism more times than I can count). How I was just done, period. For some couples, reproductive technology can absolutely help them to become parents. I believe that technology is a gift from God, just like everything else. For some, I think you just reach the point where you know you want to be a mom and that it doesn't matter if the baby has your husband's nose or if the child inherits your penchant for cashews.
For anyone considering adoption, here are some thoughts for your mulling:
- In order to adopt, you have to get to a place in your head and heart where you don't feel like you are settling for second best. There are many ways to create a family and adoption is one of them. Not worse, not better. I once heard someone say that adoption may be your second choice (because, let's face it, everyone tries the baby-making path first - and why wouldn't they?), but it is never second best. This doesn't mean that you may not feel wistful at times about the experiences you missed (pregnancy, delivery, etc.) but I don't think anyone should go into the adoption process with "if only we'd tried in-vitro one more time" in the back of their mind.
- In the same vein, you can't be too hung up on biology. My mother divorced my father and married my stad when I was a kid. There are a lot of people in my family who don't share my DNA. My daughter is just one more.
- Adoption is expensive and there is no use griping about it (sorry for the "tough love" approach there). You just have to find a way. We took out a loan and will probably be paying on it until our daughter has children herself.
If you are thinking about adopting, start researching like crazy. You may find that a lot of the things you think you know about adoption are . . . wrong. Most people think that birthmothers are teenagers. They're not. Statistically speaking, the average birthmother who places a child for adoption is in her 20s. Most people think that birthmothers are drug addicts. Again, the statistics just don't support it. (I don't know much about international adoption, so my comments are mainly related to domestic adoption.) There is a lot to know.
I am, of course, simplifying what is a very emotional, often complex process - for both the adoptive family and the birth family. We wouldn't trade the experience for anything, and we still feel blessed every single day, but I also wouldn't want to sweep the less shiny parts under the rug either.
And to that grieving woman who has just lost her third baby, please accept my condolences on your losses. I know how broken you must feel right now. Give yourself time to heal and to grieve, but don't give up. I want you, too, to know the joys of having your toilet clogged by a flushed Dora toy and to know what it's like to sleep with a toddler's foot in the small of your back. And to know what it's like to hear, "I love you, Mama." (Last night the "I love you" was followed closely by: "Guess what? Chicken butt!")
That was beautiful! Thank you for sharing that story! I'm still hoping & praying that my latest procedure works and fixes what our issue is causing our IF, but I know that if it doesn't and we find ourselves on the adoption road that you have just given us a wonderful & inspiring message.
God bless you! And yes, I do see the resemblance! =)
Have a great weekend