Checking Boxes

Progressing, actually progressing, toward adoption.

So we are progressing in the many Things we Must Do to legally qualify to adopt. Most of these things involve paperwork.

We are actually pretty decent at this.

We were not always decent at this.

paperwork by anomalous4
{image by anomalous4 on Flickr}

We used to be pretty terrible at it, actually. Not only did we have trouble identifying or maintaining key pieces of paperwork, but we also used to get really irritated with each other if one or the other had dropped the ball on whatever documents we were looking for.

You do that for five or ten years and you start to develop a system for maintaining documents, and a lot of patience for each other when dealing with document-heavy requirements.

Right now, specifically, we are collecting things like date of birth of every family member under the sun. Medical clearances – basically doctors’ statements that we are fit to care for children. Addresses for the last ten years (more challenging than you would think…). And lots of financial info.

The financial verification stuff will be doubly useful to us as we are also about to begin the process of getting a personal loan. Adoption is expensive (in the range of a luxury car) but it’s not really the amount itself that’s the kicker, it’s more that it’s all due at once, and generic financing options don’t really exist. Most who adopt either do huge amounts of fundraising ahead of time or go into debt to cover the cost.

We are not fundraisers. Also, we have the income to handle the debt. In fact, we have saved quite a bit towards our budget already. Turns out we ARE able to save money when properly motivated.

All this means that the timeline toward having a child in our home is actually… there. It’s not a dream anymore, we are steadily working our way toward a finite reality.

THAT is kind of bizarre, especially after almost 10 years of pipe-dreams. Takes some getting used to. In a good way.

The Adoption Has Officially Begun

I feel like The Adoption needs to be in all caps. We are really truly officially off the ground and, if not running, at least moving along at a decent clip.

Strange to suddenly be IN this, instead of studying it and soaking up a lot of information. For those who kinda’ know the buzzwords, we’re at the front end of our home study. Home studies can take months; we expect ours to take maybe two, max. Thankfully, we found a home study provider who is local and *not* three months behind, as can sometimes be the case.

If it takes six months, though, that’s how long it takes. We know the end of all this will mean our family includes a child, so we’re not married to a specific timeline.

1977134004_fcbe79ff1d_oThere’s a LOT of gathering of paperwork involved in this part of the process. All the documentation that proves we are who we say we are – birth certs, marriage certs, proof of residency, income, etc… Most of it has to go back ten years and some of it we’ll have to get from family members. Mom, Dad, expect a call.

We had the profound good fortune of being recommended an adoption “coordinator” who has already been an incredible help in organizing our process and directing us as to best practices and possible road blocks. This whole thing felt huge and un-manageable in December and now it feels huge and totally manageable.

Guys. This time next year we could have a kid. That. Is. CRAZY.

Borderline Morbidly Obese

Doctors, man. I rarely leave a meeting with a doctor (especially one related to my reproductive parts) without at least one incredibly painful line that will follow me around for years to come.

We had a truly banner day, recently. We “met” with our adoption  consultant (over the phone) and are now officially “started” on the adoption journey.

We also met with a local fertility specialist for the first time. We are in a new area and about 8-9 hours from the last one we worked with. There’s one frozen embryo (hereafter referred to as Frosty) left from our IVF cycle last year and we both feel like we have a moral obligation to give it a shot. It’s a life.

That being said, we are now officially eight years into infertility. By that I mean we’ve been “trying” for eight years. During that time we’ve had three chemical pregnancies and an ectopic pregnancy. And about six years of zilch. Apparently that one fallopian tube I lost was the good one.

So you’ll understand why we are less than optimistic about Frosty’s chances. We have had multiple pregnancies and not one has made it past 10 weeks. Would it be delightful and miraculous if Frosty was the one that made it? For sure.

Do we expect Frosty to make it? Not remotely.

That being said, we’ve spent years wishing and hoping and praying for a kid, watching others raise theirs, and turning off news stations where folks mistreat or abuse kids. Life is precious. We have a life that we created and we are not going to let it go. We are going to fight for it. Even if it’s a losing battle from the start, it’s still worth fighting for.

SO.

We met the local fertility doc. And it was generally pleasant. He knows what he’s doing. He’s friendly. He’s positive. He’s even slightly pushy about the whole “don’t give up” thing, which we expect from a doctor whose specialty is making babies. But dude.

Apparently I’m borderline morbidly obese.

This comes as a surprise to me. It’s been increasingly obvious that I’m overweight. It’s been on my mind. I’m mildly active. I know the activity could use an uptick, but truly it’s the diet that needs to change. I’ve been crossing my fingers that the metabolism of my 20s reappears so I can keep eating delicious restaurant food four nights of the week and drinking a beer with dinner. Every time I look in the mirror I’m like “just a few more years with sweet potato fries and craft beer! Please!”

All that came crashing to the ground, though, with the proclamation of “borderline morbidly obese.”

So what did I end up with from that banner day? Hope and joy that we will soon be parents through the sociological miracle that is adoption? The faintest glimmer of possibility that I might actually be able to give birth once in my life? No. No. Nope.

Look, I know that guy was off. I understand the unreliability of BMI as any kind of accurate gauge of health or weight. I know it’s actually a small spread with a lot of grey area and room for interpretation. Even within those broad parameters, “morbid” obesity is so much further down the road than where I am. I can look at myself in the mirror and see that his words are a gross overstatement.

But still.

It’s a doctor. It’s an “expert.”

I’m so tired of medical people. I 100% can not wait to be done with them in relation to my reproductive parts. They are THE WORST.

On the slightly brighter side, now I have the appropriate level of self-disgust to give up sweet potato fries and craft beer. Bravo, doc.

Dr. Cox exercise program | sundriedtomatoe.wordpress.com

Overwhelmed by money, mostly in a good way.

Part of the front-end adoption process is establishing a budget. It’s not a set-in-stone thing but it is a ballpark thing. Agencies want to know, up front, if we can cover the fees associated with a particular situation.

Private domestic adoption fees range from $30,000 to $50,000. There’s a lot involved in that number: homestudy filing fees, background check fees, fees to cover a social worker’s time in completing a homestudy, attorney fees, court fees, agency fees, expenses for the expectant mom, and lots of other stuff.

We don’t have a spare $50,000. (We also don’t have a spare $30,000, either, in case you were wondering.)

We don’t have a ton of money saved. We have more now than a year ago, especially with me back at a full time job and us with two good incomes. However, we have debt, and our focus has been on paying that down – not on establishing an impressive savings account. That was part of why we never really pursued private adoption where we used to live. We didn’t have the income to even come close, not even for paying off any loans we took out.

Thankfully, our current situation is much different. We are used to living on one salary, so now that we have two we are moving quickly on paying things off. We’re also in a better position to pay off any loans we might take out.

We will be taking out loans. This will not be a debt-free adoption.

We’ve talked a lot about fundraising. That seems to be a thing potential adopters do. It’s not something we’re 100% comfortable with, though. Even writing about it makes me squirm. However, we’ve had a lot of friends and family ask what we’re doing, how they can help. Over the years, they just keep asking. And now we are at a point where we actually could use their support. So we did a shirt and posted “we’re adopting!” along with a link to the shirt.

The response was amazing. It wasn’t just people getting shirts; but it was the incredible notes of support, the “sharing” to their own accounts, the offers of further resources and support down the road. We were totally blown away. Suddenly, we feel hopeful. This is possible; this is doable. We have people behind us.

We probably won’t do much more “fundraising.” I can’t make any real claims about what will happen down the road. I just know where our comfort level is on asking for help and it’s already been surpassed.

But then, so have our expectations.

Kind of overwhelming. In a good way.

We’re Adopting

Yup, big changes here in our neck of the woods. I’m hesitant to announce “we’re adopting” on my social media channels until we get through the first round of paperwork and have some real, solid (legal) stuff going. But we’re spending money, so it’s official enough for a blog post.

If you’ve been around for a while you’ll recall we went through an attempt at the foster care system. It did not go well. In fact, it was miserable for both of us. We walked away from that experience seriously reevaluating our decision to become parents, especially through the state system.

I’m going to pause here and agree with everyone who thinks this is a huge shame, and an awful state of affairs, and you-would-think-they-would-etc-etc-etc. Yes to all of that. The world is a crappy place sometimes, and we hit on a crappy version of it in our Parenthood Quest. Neither of us are well-suited for dealing with the State of Texas, nor for depending upon it for our first child.

Thankfully, we are in a different place now, geographically, mentally, and financially. So we did some soul-searching, lots of talking, a bit of crying, and we have a new game plan. It involves – IN THEORY – private domestic adoption, a consultancy, lots of money, and a relatively quick placement. We’ll see how that all plays out in practice.

Right now we are at the super-very-extreme front end of a real honest-to-goodness adoption journey. It’s the very start, we have a lot in front of us. And we are indescribably excited and relieved and a ton of other feelings about shifting gears from “talking about it” to “doing it.” We’re finally in first gear; the car is moving.

Woo!

I Call Bulls**t – Monica & Chandler Adopt

I didn’t watch Friends when it was on the air – we didn’t really do TV in my house growing up and we definitely didn’t do “20 somethings having sex” TV.

Now, though, I have Netflix and a lot of crafting/making time on my hands, so I’ve been working my way through the series. Mostly I’ve been enjoying it, although I’m still not over my strong distaste for Rachel Green. I’ve just never understood the cultural fascination with Jennifer Aniston. Did it start with this character? WHY? She’s the WORST.

rachel green
Ugh. Rachel Green.

Moving on.

In the last (tenth) season of the show, Monica and Chandler go through infertility and then adoption. I have ambivalent feelings as I watch. On the one hand, I’m kind of delighted to see that real and present decision-making process represented on a major TV show. It’s not something you see on TV much, certainly not in proportion to how many people deal with it in real life. I feel personally gratified that it’s all on there, because so much of what I see as I watch is a “hey, us too!” thing.

deep emotion
“I’m feeling all the feels about our inability to be human beings, Chandler. Can you tell from the deep sorrow that is playing across my flat, emotionless face?”

On the other hand, though, it’s a twee representation. Friends is not a deep show. There’s no one grappling with a drug or alcohol addiction. Eating disorders are funny. Multiple divorces are funny. Suicide and homelessness are funny. So when infertility comes up and they try to be serious about it (and kudos for trying) it rings false. Or, at least, it falls flat.

paperwork
“Oh my GAWD, Monica, look at these SEVEN PAGES we have to fill out in this ONE EPISODE.”

I never see the couple losing it over the inability to have kids. Neither of them question their basic biological function – their wholeness as people. No one ever cries (!??!?) over the situation. They have a clear, meaningful result to their first round of infertility tests. They move through alt-family options with swiftness and ease. They don’t agonize over what kind of adoption, or funding, or the paperwork/waiting process. They don’t feel a horrifying mixture of resentment and guilt over their friends having kids easily.

twins
Ooopsie! TWINS! Two for the price of one! And, by the way, let’s never actually address the tens of thousands of dollars we had to shell out to get here!

In the span of a few weeks they go from “trying” to have kids to having twins.

At one point, they LIE to the birth mother about their file. They eventually correct the mistake but then Chandler does this super-pathetic “we are desperate for a child” plea that apparently wins the birth mother back over. WTF?! Lying and coercion to get a kid?!

lying to the birth mother
Lying to the Birth Mother is a great way to get a baby!

It’s weird because the whole time I’m watching I’m so glad and relieved to see SOMETHING about our lives represented on a popular show. But at the same exact time I’m so angry and offended by how lightly it’s treated, and how easily it’s resolved.

Be ye warned, actual, real-life friends: the Friends version of this devastating life event is just the tip of the iceberg. If you have someone in your life dealing with this kind of thing, don’t use Friends as a source of information or understanding.

But do watch the show for other stuff, though. It’s pretty good.

—-

LATimes article responding to the “we’ll just adopt” episode, 2003

Blog post on Rachel vs. Monica

Choose Joy – Some Thoughts About Faith

The faith-based infertility and adoption conference I attended this past weekend was such a positive experience. I’ve already posted about how wonderful it was to feel a sense of community and have an ability to share more openly about infertility and our first steps into adoption.

I honestly expected to struggle more with the whole faith-based thing during the event. Instead, I had a peaceful weekend. There was lots of food for thought, but nothing particularly challenging or agonizing.

I want to explain why.

Six years ago, two years into infertility, I hit a wall with the whole notion of God and my faith of 20+ years. I could not reconcile the things that were happening to us with the God I was so familiar with. I was also beginning to recognize that I was in the throes of a significant grieving process. The loss of my faith wasn’t something that I had the ability to grapple with right then. So I “put a pin in it” with the understanding that I’d come back to it later.

Some people hit rock bottom and their faith in God is deepened. I hit rock bottom and God was not there. I couldn’t deal with both rock bottom and the absence of God. So I triaged. I told myself, “Deal with rock bottom first, the God thing will still be there when you are ready.”

And it was.

Strong at the broken places... | SundriedTomatoe.Wordpress.com

Two to three years ago I started to unpack “the God thing.” I gave it a lot of thought, I read, I studied, I analyzed. I was open (kind of hopeful, actually) to a different, better understanding of the Christian God I had grown up with. I was actively searching for a place to plant my feet, the “solid foundation” I spent most of my life hearing about.

What I eventually came to was that the things I “knew” about God, and had learned about God, and continued to hear about God – these things are incompatible with what we have been through.

It’s a 1+3=2 situation.

There are so many ways to talk about unexplained loss. But no matter how Christians conceptualize it, it’s still a 1+3=2 equation. I’ve heard it said that this is the foundation of belief – trusting that one plus three really does equal two because God – and I can allow for that. I think that a God of Everything can probably handle that kind of math. But whether God can handle it is not enough for me to accept the dogma of Christianity and live my life according to a Christian framework.

What I’ve been through and what I knew about the Christian God – those things don’t jive. They just don’t. I grappled with the whole framework: the dogma, the tenets, the teachings, the practice of Christianity. What I hit on, about a year ago, is that I have serious questions about the basics. I simply cannot get over the 1+3=2 problem. And the answers of the Christian Church are not sufficient for me.

I realized that if God exists I’ve had it wrong for a long time.

Initially, I really didn’t like this. For several years I sort of hoped for some divine revelation that would make the 1+3=2 thing work. I like having something to believe in. I like the idea of a Plan, of something controlling or orchestrating the events of my life. I took comfort in the notion that our pain was not a wasted thing – that it meant something. But no matter how I looked at it, thought about it, prayed about it… the equation just did not work.

If I can't change a situation, I am challenged to change myself. | SundriedTomatoe.Wordpress.com

At this point I am a lot less sure about anything than I ever was. I believe that any God that might exist is way bigger and more complex than how we conceptualize It. What I believe these days is pretty much a rejection of Christian dogma as a whole. I believe in the possibility of God… and that’s about it.

What’s interesting is that, for the very first time in my life, I have peace about my “walk” with God. I don’t feel like I’m missing something. I don’t feel like I should be doing something I’m not. I don’t agonize over it, I don’t feel gypped or wronged, I don’t feel like an idiot, and I don’t feel guilty. I just have peace. It seems ironic – Peace is something Christians talk about a lot in relation to God.

Back to the reason all of this was not much of a struggle this past weekend – I had fixed on some things after much work. And I had fixed on them well before my trip to the faith-based conference. I didn’t have a hard time because I believe that each person’s understanding of God is fundamentally limited. They were speaking what they know, just like I speak what I know.

This is not Facts; this is Belief. I can extend graciousness and possibility to anyone in terms of their Beliefs.

Here’s what I believe:

I doubt God exists. If God does exist, God is very different from the way Christians talk about God.

God will not punish me for thinking this way.

I’m the master of my fate – God is not a conductor orchestrating my every moment toward some grand, yet unknown crescendo.

Infertility is a biological event, not a consequence of Original Sin or a side effect of Free Will.

Adoption is not a calling, a ministry, or a way to “do your duty” or “glorify” God.

Suffering is not divine.

I believe that if any God exists, it’s a big God, a huge God, a God way past my ability to understand, comprehend, correct, or even argue with. I don’t have to get it right, because the kind of God I believe in is fully aware of how tiny and limited I am in relation to It and just how ridiculously difficult something like 1+3=2 is for something like me.

And what if I’m wrong?

God can handle it.

I hit rock bottom and God was not there. | SundriedTomatoe.Wordpress.com