Tuesday, September 13, 2011


This is something that Jay and I have been thinking hard about for the last few weeks.  I've asked my family what they think.  I've asked other parents of HIV+ children what they think.

And still I'm thinking.

The problem is that I'm not a particularly secretive person. I tend to be an open book, if not quite a blabbermouth, and Jay is the same way.  In general I find that a rather refreshing way to live.  But I don't know how to make that choice on behalf of my son.

But here's a case in point.  I was out at lunch with several friends and acquaintances from my church a few weeks ago.  These are people that I know and love, several of whom could be real resources when it comes to having a child with a special needs.  But I found myself telling them about our adoption plans for the first time, and I was perfectly upfront about finding Yale on Reece's Rainbow.  But then the question came up: did Yale have special needs?

I should have expected the question, of course.  But I found myself underprepared

I hedged.  I am uncomfortable doing that with people who are my friends, honestly.  But I also know how things work.  If suddenly all of them know, it won't be long before everyone else knows too. (Not a judgment on my friends, but let's be honest here!)  And I'm not so sure that everyone else has any business knowing his medical issues!  And yet it is strange for me not to confide in this particular group of people.

I still don't know how I feel about it all.  And I realize that the issue of disclosure is something that my family and I will likely revisit again and again over the years.

So I'm thinking about it still.

I'll keep thinking about it for awhile, I think.

Friday, August 26, 2011

A Good Story Made Better

*This one is for all you Infertile Myrtles out there*

So you all know the story, right?  The one that goes, "Oh, my aunt/cousin/roommate/co-worker/cellmate/partner-in-crime/whatever got pregnant just as soon as she started to adopt!"  It's the story that can be the bane of an infertile woman's world.  (And just so you know, the statistics of this happening for you are so completely not in your favor!).  I am little ashamed to admit that when my mother made some comment along these lines I reacted...poorly.

But the truth is I almost was that story.  Almost.

Jay and I finished up our third IVF cycle in April.  I had really high hopes for it (as always) since I had 3 whole embryos that decided to become blastocysts (for the uninitiated, those are embryos of a couple hundred cells that have a much higher survival rate than the smaller embryos).  They transferred 2 and froze 1 (this was the first time anything had survived to freeze -- happy day!).

The day of my pregnancy test I was SO convinced it had worked.  I kept a running conversation in my head of how I was going to tell Jay.  (My favorite one was this: "So honey, how would you like to take a pregnant woman out to dinner tonight?")




I didn't get a chance to say those words.

Not surprisingly, things were bad for awhile after that.  I'm not sure how to explain it to those who haven't been there, but the thing with infertility is that you try SO hard, for SO long, and you get nowhere.  This isn't one of those problems that has a "partial" solution.  The glass isn't half-full or half-empty -- it's either running over or it's dry as a desert.  I wish I could explain it better, I've tried to tell people about it before, and the infertile women all nod in understanding and the fertile ones sort-of look puzzled.  To them it's obvious -- if you want children badly enough, you'll get them somehow, so why the despair?  All I can say is that it's not obvious when you're in the middle of it.

So one morning in the middle of May, I get this phone call from my sister-in-law.  She's calling me early in the morning because she had sent me an email that needed a little prefacing.  The email went something like this, "I was on this website last night called Reece's Rainbow, and I saw a little boy, and he is so cute and he needs a home and...maybe you want him?  I haven't been able to get him out of my mind."  So I followed the link and there he was -- an adorable little guy named Tanner.

I wasn't ready yet.  Not even close.

I saw Tanner and he was so cute -- and most definitely not mine.  (Which is only obvious because he was quite definitely hers).  I briefly looked at some of the profiles on Reece's Rainbow, and I can only describe my reaction as panic.  So many children, in such need, with more problems than I could handle.  It was terrifying.  So I put it out of much out of my mind as I could.  But within days it was clear that Tanner was going to become my nephew, and so there was really no escaping it.

A few weeks passed, and Jay and I decided to transfer the last frozen embryo.  We didn't hold out much hope for it -- none really.  After all, the frozen embryos tend to have lower success rates than fresh ones, and it's hard to have a lower rate than zero...  But I wanted to be done with it.  We both did.  We had already decided that this would be the last cycle -- even I was unwilling to get on the emotional roller coaster again.

Which meant it was time to look at adoption again.

We had signed with a domestic agency years ago, and did a bit of work to get our files with them updated -- medical forms, etc.  But now that I was pursuing the adoption route, I couldn't get the kids on Reece's Rainbow out of my head.  The problem was that I have zero experience with Down Syndrome, and some of the other kids in Tanner's group had medical issues that I had no idea how to deal with.  Then I came across the page of kids who were HIV+.  I didn't know much about the current HIV treatment, but I knew it wasn't necessarily a ticking time bomb anymore either.

And these children were so beautiful, and so sweet, and my heart pretty much broke.

And almost overnight everything changed.  (It wasn't literally overnight, but it was definitely within a week.)  I was researching pediatric HIV and the pros and cons of international adoptions.  I read every blog I could find, and every day I looked at the picture of this sweet little boy that I could bring home.  I contacted Reece's Rainbow, I got an adoption agency within my state.

For the first time in literally years, everything was coming together.  It was seamless. Serendipity.  The Force. God. Call it what you want, but it was in charge and I could see my future again.

Recall that I was still incubating an embryo at this point.  But I was SO sure that my pregnancy test was going to be negative, and I barely paid it any mind.  I clearly remember sitting in Panera with my mother on the day of my pregnancy test and talking about the adoption I wanted to do.  The test wasn't even on the radar.

I went to Target to buy 3-ring binders to hold all of my adoption paperwork together.

As I was leaving Target, I got a call from my mail-order pharmacy about my progesterone supplement.  I told them that there must be some mistake, that I wasn't going to need that anymore. She was confused.  I asked her when the prescription had come in.  She said, "Uh, about 10 minutes ago."  I said, "Really?  I better check  with my nurse."

I got on my email, and there is was -- a positive test.  Not a wishy-washy positive (I'd had two of those before) but a real, honest-to-goodness, within-the-normal-range positive pregnancy test.

I went home to pee on a stick and there were 2 pink lines.

People dancing!  Balloons!  Cotton Candy! Angels singing!

I tried not to get excited, I really did.  After all, this is where it  always went wrong before.  But when I went in again 2 days later, my levels had risen normally.  They had almost tripled!  Two days later it was the same.  This was monumental.  It was stupendous.

It was crazy.

I was that story.

I was the very woman whose story just made me sweat buckets of bitterness. It was almost a little embarrassing.

We gave it another week before I called the adoption agency to put a hold on things.  I felt horribly guilty about that, by the way -- I felt like I was abandoning these children who had already seen a lifetime's worth of abandonment.  We cancelled a trip to Mexico that we had booked months ago to "relax and move on."  It was still normal the next week.  The week after that was the first ultrasound -- the first opportunity to see my baby!

But it wasn't there.

And my blood levels had dropped.

Crash.  I don't think I can even write about this.  I barely even remember half of it.  I spent the next couple days in a daze.  Two days later the levels had risen again, but there was still no embryo.  It seemed like my body just couldn't make up its mind.  Eventually the doctors had to rule it as ectopic, and there's only one thing you can do with one of those.

Knife. Heart. Blood.  You get it.

I hardly know how or when it changed again.  It's kinda blurry.  But the Reece's Rainbow angels saved me.  I was lost.  They were too.  We went back to square one and started the adoption process over.  It was not smooth sailing, not yet.  Slowly, the serendipity of the previous weeks returned.  I don't look back now.

As a teenager, I remember a little allegory that I once heard in church.  It was about a man in a boat who needed to go home to his family and prayed endlessly for a northerly wind to take him there.  But all he got were southerly winds.  And later (apparently much later) when he asked the Lord why his prayers had gone unanswered, the Lord replied the on the other side of the river was another man praying for a southerly wind to take him home to his own family, who were sick.

 In a few months, if all goes well, we will be bringing Yale out of an orphanage and into our home.  We prayed for northerly winds but he needed southerly ones.

I don't know why things happen the way they do.  I don't know if there is some all-encompassing "plan" for our lives -- I go back and forth on that pretty much daily, maybe hourly.

But I know that I almost had it.  I almost had the story.  It didn't work out that way, did it?

I got a better story.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Ask Me Why

In one of my favorite books, one of the main characters (who is about to embark on a perfectly terrifying quest) is asked by another why she feels the pull to go on said quest.  The answer is one that has always struck me:

"..I have always believed that problems should be solved by those who see them -- that when a difficulty presents itself the person who becomes aware of it should answer it instead of trying to pass it to someone else"
-- Stephen R. Donaldson

And that just about sums it up.  If Jay and I had been able to have children, I doubt we ever would have considered adoption -- the fates of orphans around the world and in our own country seems very far away to families who have a warm roof over their head and Thanksgiving dinner.  But circumstances have not allowed us to sit at home with blindfolds on.  And so when we saw the HIV+ children -- who could live perfectly normal lives with the right medical care -- I couldn't look away.  I couldn't unsee these children, whether I wanted to or not.

And so there you go.  This is something that I won't ever pass to someone else.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Dear Mr. Frost

I had all sorts of ideas of how to start this blog out, of course, but this morning I was thinking about how strange it is that I am in this place and thinking about the road that I have taken to get here, and my mind sort-of just threw up the inevitable at me.

Robert Frost.  You know the poem, I know you do.

You probably even have some portion of the last couple lines memorized (probably incorrectly, like I do).

A bit cliched, I know, but like I said, inevitable.  But what strikes me -- what has always struck me -- is that there was no poor choice in that yellow wood.  Two paths, equally fresh, laid down with untrodden autumn leaves.  A classic way to think about life, choice and individualism.

Or not.

My own paths were a bit different.

 First of all, my woods are full of paths -- all criss-crossing and tangled.

I didn't know that at the beginning, of course.  Who does?  Who imagines on their wedding day that children are not on the horizon?  I can't help but wonder what it is like for the rest of the fertile world.  I think I might always wonder what it is like -- the potential for surprise, the attempt to share the good news with your husband in some sweet way, the secret awe of, "Hey -- look what we made!"

But for me, that path had (has?) a huge fallen tree lying across the way -- too tall to walk around and too wide to climb over.  Frost's poem never mentions roadblocks!  So, what now?

Chanisaw, anyone?

 IVF treatments are like taking a an uzi to a fistfight.  Or a chainsaw to a stubborn tree in the road.  Take your pick.  I'm not kidding.  Infertility treatments are no picnic.  The shots, the 6am daily clinic appointments, those tense days of maybe, maybe, maybe...and the heartache that follows. But it works for most people, and a baby is a baby no matter where mom and dad's bits and pieces finally get together.  Hard, but straightforward.  

It's just that some trees/roadblocks/infertility issues are remarkably stubborn -- so much so that even while you're trying to hack it apart you keep looking around, saying, "Hmm, remember that path over there?  It didn't look so bad did it?"  So you dip your  toe into the ocean of adoption and realize that this path makes IVF look like a walk in the park.  Years of waiting for a birthmother to chose you, the addition of total strangers to your life (that would be your child's birthfamily in the modern world of open adoptions), and all the complications for a child whose identity is just a bit more complicated than everyone else's.  Still hard, but less straightforward by far.

So you stay on the first path, and hack away at the tree.  Your hands get blistered.  The chainsaw is dull.  Years go by -- one, then two...then seven.  More and more often your husband points to the other path, wondering why you  insist on carving through this particular section of the forest.  A baby is a baby, right?

And he's right of course.

We leave the tree where it lies, with the chainsaw still embedded in it.

We backtrack to the other path.  Adoption comes in many forms.  You can wait in line for healthy domestic babies, you can find children who need homes in the foster system, you can wait in line overseas to be matched with a (hopefully) healthy child to bring to the US. So many divergent paths -- a whole maze of them.  We wait in line for healthy newborn for awhile, we attend meetings and consider adopting from Korea.  Somehow, somewhere, we are going to put this family together.  And nothing quite fits. The paths are a bit brambly and shadowed, and I am never quite comfortable on any of them.

A new path opens up.  This one is scary -- like Snow White scary.  Truthfully, it's not a new road, but it is one that we haven't seriously considered.  Special needs?  Who on earth would ever do this?  Talk about the road less traveled!  These children are sick.  They have lived in orphanages for years.  They are no longer trusting, helpless infants.  Of course it's awful to think about them -- but is it really so selfish of me to just want a healthy baby like everyone else?

I can't stop looking at that new path.  It haunts me and aggravates me.

So finally I step onto it.  And when I do, everything else disappears, all other paths get swallowed into the wood.  Somewhere out there is a big tree in the road, somewhere closer by are bramble-filled paths, but they no longer matter so much.  

This road is still scary -- but it's my road.  Completely mine.  So now we're mired in the paperwork of international adoption -- getting notarizations and apostilles (ten points if you know what that is!) so that we can bring home the rest of our family.  HIV+ children, living in an orphanage halfway across the world -- who would have guessed that Jay and I take such a roundabout way to find them?  And would we have ever found them it at all without the fallen trees and and the brambles?  What a strange, strange road we are on now.

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I--
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

Well maybe you had it right all along, Mr. Frost. Huh.