The Bullet Point Blog Post

I read an interesting article recently about how the art of prosaic communication is giving way to the trendy juggernaut of list making. The author writes,

In the not too distant future, all human interactions, written or otherwise, might well be conducted in the form of lists—for ease of assimilation, for catchiness, for optimal snap. I imagined myself, some decades from now, nervously perched on the papered leatherette of an examination bed, and my doctor directing her sad, humane eyes at me a moment before clearing her throat and saying, “Top Five Signs You Probably Have Pancreatic Cancer.”

Today, friends, all I have for you is a list. We are scrambling to finish unpacking and nesting, clamoring to make new friends in a new city, and scouring the city for fancy restaurants, crowded shops with precious, breakable things, and other quiet spaces we won’t inhabit for the considerable future. And in so doing, your plucky correspondent has gone silent and needs to fill you in on a few details.

1. Bean is growing like a champ. We had an ultrasound a few weeks ago, and she measured 4 days ahead. She’s a very active baby, especially in the early morning and late evening.  She loves the accordion. She is a fan of Patty Griffin, Beirut, Andrew Bird, and not too keen on My Morning Jacket. She likes ice cream and brownies. She is neutral on brussels sprouts and cauliflower.

2. R is the cutest prego ever. Hands down. Here is a  glimpse of her magnificent form.

Belly shot

3. We were given another lovely baby shower. I will post photos soon. Sadly, I took only two! I was so busy talking with folks that I forgot to take pictures. I’ll try to paint a picture with words. R’s aunts and cousins hosted along with a family friend. The party was at our cousin’s house, a large, brightly painted Victorian with a wrap around porch. We walked up to the house and found white paper lanterns strung over long wooden tables topped with flowers. It was so festive and sweet. There was a ton of wonderful food, enjoyed by dozens of wonderful people. Our friends and family were so generous and thoughtful. We opened gifts for an hour and a half.  We were honored and humbled to have so many loving people there to celebrate our baby girl.

4. We have a new doctor, for the fourth time in this pregnancy. We are fast becoming OB/GYN connoisseurs. We really liked Dr. K, but getting to her office and finding parking was stressful, and we weren’t able to preregister and tour the labor and delivery unit at the hospital where she delivers because it was consistently overbooked and understaffed, which really didn’t bode well. So, we decided to change providers at 35 weeks. It was a small ordeal but on Friday we met our new doctor and she was great. Parking, scheduling, preregistering were a cinch and we all feel a lot better.

5. I am still grappling with grief over our Peanut, and thinking of ways to bring a little resolution to it. I don’t expect it to go away, but I hope to gain some closure after the delivery. We are planning to bring  Peanut’s body and both placentas home from the hospital, and bury them together at my mother in law’s place, where there is a lot of land and plenty of room for a new tree to grow. My cousin sent a list of native trees we could choose, and it’s nice to think about the type of tree that suits Peanut.

6. The nursery is coming together. It’s been so fun to put it all together, and to add in hand-me-downs and homemade gifts. It makes me so happy to look in her room and imagine her playing there.

7. We met with our new Indiana attorney and were pretty bummed to learn we won’t be able to claim the $13,000 adoption tax credit we’d been counting on. Note to gayby makers everywhere: if you live in a state that allows second-parent adoptions and you plan to petition for it, you might want to delay getting legally married until after the adoption is finalized. If you get legally married before the adoption, the IRS will treat it as a step-parent adoption (which are ineligible for the adoption tax credit) because the IRS recognizes same-sex marriages from any state even if it’s not the parents’ current state of residence. I’m thinking about visiting the IRS taxpayer advocate service…will let you know how that shakes out.

That’s all the news that’s fit to print in list form. Next on the docket: pictures of my favorite baby things!

Advertisements

Here I go, Here I go, Here I go again!

Yesterday when R left for work she sang a little Salt-n-Pepa ditty. You know the one.

Here I go

Here I go

Here I go, again…

Dutifully, I replied

What’s my weakness?!

My enthusiastic reply was met with silence.

I shouted,

‘Hey, I said, What’s my weakness!’

More silence. The sound of R’s bike slamming against the garage door. She shouted back

Uh, I don’t have any weaknesses!

Oh…except fertility!!!

Love you, bye!

And if infertility can work its way into our white ladies’ early morning rendition of Shoop, I think it’s fair to say it’s penetrated every layer of our lives. Sigh.

So, after many discussions with friends, family, the Midwest adoption agency, and our friendly social worker, we’ve decided the stress of trying to adopt as a single female is just too much for one of us to endure mostly alone. We don’t want to disentangle our bank accounts, stage our home, prepare evasive answers to questions about dating and marriage prospects, or pose as roommates. We are uncertain about what would happen if we were still trying to finalize an adoption in 12 months when our domestic partnership automatically converts to a state-recognized marriage–something we fought for, but now realize would prevent us from adopting internationally.

In the next few days we’ll begin the protocol for our first IVF cycle. We were lucky to qualify for a shared risk plan, which allows us up to three fresh and three frozen cycles of IVF for roughly the cost of two fresh cycles. If we decided to cease and desist, or if all the treatment fails, we will get 70% of our initial payment back.

I won’t lie to you (why start now?!). It was hard for me to settle into the idea of IVF. I’m exhausted already, and the idea of R taking eight medications over six weeks is terrifying. We’re nervous about it not working. We’re nervous about it working. I guess we are just nervous. Our financial and emotional reserves are spent, and I know we’ll struggle to keep our heads above water during the coming weeks of injections and blood draws and doctor visits and pills and powders. Thankfully we have wonderful friends and family to keep us afloat.

We wrote to KD and let him know about our plan, and he was genuinely excited for us. It was sweet, and affirming.

So…here I go, here I go, here I go again.

About that crystal ball…

So we called a psychic. Not the 1.800.PSYCHIC type, but an astrologer and psychic counselor who came highly recommended by a good friend. I would quite possibly be expelled from the PhD program (and The Academe, to boot) if I said that opening line aloud, which is precisely why I write anonymously.

At first I felt silly for even considering this option, but then I realized the psychic counselor isn’t really so different from the three reproductive endocrinologists we’ve seen – each uses her set of tools to predict the best way forward. And let’s be honest, folks, the REs have been about 0 for 20, so perhaps it’s time for a game changer! R talked to the counselor first, and then tearfully handed me the phone about 25 minutes later. I don’t want to divulge the details of the conversation, because in spite of appearances, I do consider some things private. But a fair summary is that the counselor was eerily insightful and gently suggested that adoption is the better path for us. I could hear the reluctance in her voice, even as she tried to convince herself that we could be successful with IVF. But she kept circling back to adoption.

We were both quite sad after the phone call, and unsure how to weigh it against our desires and the advice of our doctors and the statistics for ART and the risks involved with any choice we make. I can’t say we’ve arrived at anything close to a decision, but a somewhat serendipitous series of events occurred over the weekend.

On Friday I stumbled upon the website of an adoption agency in the midwest and noticed that they accept applications from single females for one of their international adoption programs that interested us. I worked up the nerve to email them, admitting we are a same sex couple, but legally single and not keen on lying to prospective adoption agencies. (Side note: my aversion to lying is not some sort of moral high ground – I actually have great difficulty lying, and it causes me a lot of stress.) I expected the usual polite rejection email in return, but surprisingly the agency wrote back and asked me to call to discuss how they’ve handled “our situation” in the past. Of course the agency was already closed by the time I called, so we had to wait all weekend to hear if this really might be feasible.

In the meantime, I remembered that years ago my good friend C told me that she had two friends who adopted from central Africa and those friends live in the same state where the agency operates. I reached out to C, and she called me immediately (i.e. within seconds) and injected a huge ray of sunshine into my chilly Sunday morning. She connected me to her friends, and when I saw their names I realized that one of them is the executive director of the adoption agency. Isn’t it strange how all these seemingly unrelated pieces of information float around us and then when we reach for them, at the right time and place, they begin to fit together?

I called the adoption agency yesterday, and indeed they have worked with GLBT couples who’ve successfully adopted from central Africa. It would not be easy. And it would not be cheap. It would actually cost more than one cycle of IVF, but there’s a (theoretical) 100% chance of success. Of course there are a thousand ways the whole thing could go wrong. We’d have to present ourselves to everyone but the agency (i.e. a social worker who does our home study, and everyone else we meet along the way) as a single female with a single female roommate. I’m not whooped about that part of it, but I bet there are lots of aspects of this whole parenting gig that I won’t be whooped about, either.

We spent a lot of time this weekend talking and crying and being intermittently hopeful, angry, frustrated, and then hopeful again. We have no idea what the best next move is. I can think of a dozen reasons to adopt and a dozen reasons not to. I struggle with the ghosts of colonialism, racism, ethnocentrism when I think about adopting internationally. I think about how the tens of thousands of dollars we’d spend to bring home one child could be used to support an entire family for years-maybe even our child’s own family. So is it right  to extract her from her culture, her extended family (if she has any) to bring her here to live in a mostly white family in the crunchy granola Pacific Northwest? On the other hand, is it right to pay the same amount of money for the chance to create our own child, whose prenatal environment will be nurturing, whose birth will be attended, whose every need will be met from her very first day on Earth when we know we can adopt a child from an orphanage with 200 children and one pot of rice between them?

I know that when I stew in these juices I’m just preemptively answering the people I think will judge us for adopting internationally. I hear them shouting, “Self-indulgent American imperialists!” Or the people who will judge us for pursuing IVF. “Couldn’t you just adopt for crying out loud?”  Perhaps the best answer is that wise old saying Hatas gonna hate.

Those same critics probably have children of their own, and the time, money, and energy they’ve poured into their own progeny also could have been used to support a family or a small village in central Africa. Parenting is always selfish to some extent. It makes us less productive members of society while simultaneously draining the planet of resources. So I’m unconvinced the hatas hold the truth card. But I’m nonetheless thankful for the opportunity to pause and think about our motives for parenting and the ethics of our procreative choices. (For more on the importance of treating procreation as an ethical dilemma, see this article.)

So in this time of indecision (which makes me extremely uncomfortable, as you well know), I find myself googling IVF vs. adoption, as though Google (my own version of a crystal ball) will provide the sort of immediate clarification I’ve come to expect from it. No such luck.

Blessing for Waiting

My mom posted this poem on her blog, and I loved it so much I’m sharing it with you. Blessings to you, whatever you are waiting for.

Blessing for Waiting

Who wait
for the night
to end

bless them.

Who wait
for the night
to begin

bless them.

Who wait
in the hospital room
who wait
in the cell
who wait
in prayer

bless them.

Who wait
for news
who wait
for the phone call
who wait
for a word

who wait
for a job
a house
a child

bless them.

Who wait
for one who
will come home

who wait
for one who
will not come home

bless them.

Who wait with fear
who wait with joy
who wait with peace
who wait with rage

who wait for the end
who wait for the beginning
who wait alone
who wait together

bless them.

Who wait
without knowing
what they wait for
or why

bless them.

Who wait
when they
should not wait
who wait
when they should be
in motion
who wait
when they need
to rise
who wait
when they need
to set out

bless them.

Who wait
for the end
of waiting
who wait
for the fullness
of time
who wait
emptied and
open and
ready

who wait
for you

o bless.

-Jan Richardson

New Life for Babies (or, not…)

And today’s news? Another polite rejection.

When I’m working in Kenya I pass by New Life Home for Babies every day on my way to the office. New Life tries to find homes for many of the children who come into its care, but the most medically needy ones are never placed with families. Many of the children are HIV-infected, or thought to be. I suspect that these children are the most difficult to place with adoptive families, and we feel capable of managing a chronic illness.  Without access to anti-retrovirals, HIV-infected children will die before age 5. I wrote a nice letter to New Life more than three months ago, and never heard back. Initially, I thought no news was bad news, but this week I decided to try again. I was wrong. My letter and their reply is pasted here.

Image

Image

Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me

Not sure if you heard the news, but Waity Katie is pregnant. Yes, that’s right, the Duchess of Cambridge is about 12 weeks pregnant and I heard about it yesterday, between calls to adoption agencies and adoption attorneys, from the bane of my current existence-Facebook. One of my FB friends actually embedded her own pregnancy announcement in the Duchess’s – double whammy! I can’t tell if the daily onslaught of pregnancy announcements, ultrasound photos, babygrams, and birth notices is a function of age, or acute awareness, or both? Either way, I am really looking forward to the day that it doesn’t inspire dizziness and tachycardia. But for now, I’m taking a break from the most conspicuous (and mutable) source.

I thought about deleting my Facebook account, and asked R if that was a rash move. She said yes. More specifically, she said Facebook has more than 1 billion active users (a theoretical 1/7 of the world’s entire population) and it’s likely to be a fixture of my social life for the foreseeable future. If I can’t delete it, I can at least ignore it. For now.

In other news, Amara 2.0 was kind of like a sudden and unexpected descent during flight. In a nutshell, the state has intensified its efforts to keep children out of the foster care system, which means fewer young children are available. Therefore, “it’s very competitive” (the word “market” is silent here), and more risky for would-be adoptive parents who must prepare for and accept referrals while understanding that the probability of reunification is increasing. Hopefully this is a win-win for the children, but it smacks of lose-lose for us.

So, we revisited the idea of adopting internationally as “single” women.  I tried approaching WACAP, the mothership of adoption in these parts; this time I reframed my question to make it clear that R or I would adopt as a single female, rather than as an unmarried gay couple. I got more or less the same response back, from the same social worker (NB: emphasis mine):

Thank you for contacting WACAP (World Association for Children and Parents) about adoption! Please let me know if you are interested in receiving a packet of information in the mail.

At WACAP, we often work with unmarried couples. WACAP also accepts homestudies of single applications; however we require that the information in the homestudy reflects you and your relationship, and of course we need to know the second person is fully committed to parenting.  Therefore, WACAP couldn’t send your homestudy to a foreign country because it will have information about your same sex partner.

Our US Kids Program is open for couples who are in a committed same-sex relationship. I have attached our US Kids Program Overview, which will provide you detailed information about the adoption process, wait times and fees.

The issue with the US Kids program is, in our experience, most same-sex couples are matched with slightly older children (usually 5+ years old.) The reason for this is, state social workers usually have quite a few married couples looking for young healthy children. This means singles and same-sex couples often need to be open to a wide age range.  It is great you are open to siblings because there are many sibling sets available in the foster care system.

All of the kids who are placed through this program have come into foster care because of abuse or neglect of some kind as that is the reason the state is involved. With the youngest children, this is generally some kind of substance abuse, drugs and or alcohol, so any families considering these young children need to be educated about the potential risks and impacts and ready to accept these issues.

This underlying message of this email is pretty similar to the message we heard at Amara, although at Amara there were no restrictions about the age of child we could request or hope for. But the theme of all correspondence from the adoption agencies that will even consider our application is that we cannot expect (or hope for) a healthy infant. And the subtext is that we shouldn’t. I hadn’t really processed that until yesterday when I talked with Anne, a local social worker with years of experience  helping families place or adopt children. I sent her a short summary of our story  along with a list of the sort of infant/child health issues we feel capable of dealing with (Deafness, cleft palate, missing limb, HIV) to let her know that we are open to a child of any race and either sex who has mild or manageable health problems. Anne replied quickly,  suggesting we speak via phone.  When we did, the first question she asked me was

“What kind of child do you hope for?”

Awkward silence.

“A, I mean, ideally, what sort of child to you hope to bring home?”

Pause.

Draw breath.

Exhale.

Answer: “Ideally, we’d love a healthy newborn.”

“Okay! That’s perfectly normal. It’s what every family hopes for, whether they give birth or adopt. It’s a reasonable, normal, healthy expectation.”

Now please imagine my hypothetical airliner leveling out. I stopped walking and listened. Anne asked some more questions and I answered them honestly. She suggested that we consider an independent adoption, forgoing the traditional “middle man” (an adoption agency like WACAP or Amara) and finding a birth mother/birth parents on our own by leveraging our social networks and using the interwebs to market ourselves as prospective parents. As I explained this to a friend last night, he said (with a dash of irony) “Like Juno, right?” Yes! Like Juno.  We could put an ad in the Penny Saver and see how it goes?