Adoption Awareness Month (8)

Adoption Awareness Month (8)

In between the awesome DIY version of getting pregnant, and the also awesome decision to commit to an adoption agency, there was a year or so at a fertility clinic.  It was not so awesome.  It was one of the  darkest and most hopeless years of my life, and I was close to crazy with fear and grief, a lot of the time.

For some people, a fertility clinic is the key that opens the door for creating a family – the wonder of science meets the miracle of life!  That is not the way it worked out for me, but it works out well for lots of people.  So my experience should not be taken as a slam against fertility clinics in general.  But as part of the story about how I decided to adopt, the bad experiences at the fertility clinic were a key plot point.  It certainly made me think more clearly about what I really wanted and whether sharing a biological link with my child was important to me.

 Sent: Wednesday, December 02, 2009, to Amy

Subject: general misery

Today my life is terrible.  I am not pregnant. I am profoundly bored at work.  And it is raining.  Right now I’m not sure which of the three is bothering me more.  Bleah!  This morning I was thinking about just falling over dead from misery but then I figured I should probably make a doctors’ appointment instead.  Since that usually makes things worse, right?  It sort of makes sense.  I wasn’t sure which doctors to call….  but I figured I’d start with the midwives at the Birth Center , since I don’t hate them, and  – hooray – they were funny and nice and gave me good advice and we have an appointment for “next time.”  

She suggested that if I’m having a hard time telling exactly when I’m ovulating (which is the problem – I’m collecting 5 kinds of data every stupid morning and I still can’t tell) that I could also buy a speculum, learn to use it, and then I’d know.  Why the heck not?  So I said,

“Where do I buy one?”

“Probably online.  But they’re kind of hard to learn to use by yourself.  Is there a partner who could…”


“Or a friend, even, who could…”

“No.  Not unless I can train my cat to make itself useful.”

Truth to tell, I think this might be a little more science experiment-y than I can handle, even leaving the cat out of it.  Not sure if I want to post this conversation on my blog or not.  I probably shouldn’t but I think I might anyway.

Sent:  Dec 23, 2009, to Amy

I had no emails in my work inbox!  A Christmas miracle.  I spent the whole morning at the doctor’s office – getting official confirmation that I’m not pregnant, which I know, but my period just won’t start, and I thought it might help get my hormones back on track if I had to pay $15 to hear it from someone with more authority.  She suggested that I have a “thorough examination” with a specialist before I spend any more money on this, just in case.  (Like it won’t cost money to have the exam!)  But I suppose she’s right.  After 6 months of weird science experiments I still have hopes for this little project.  


Sent: February 02, 2010, to Christi

Yeah, I had the midwife do it this time – but I don’t think I’ve actually ovulated yet, so technically still pre-pregnant.  Hopefully, the (ahem) minor medical assistance will make a difference.  More expensive than I thought, but whatever.  I have hopes but I’ve also tried plenty of times before, so, having the intra-uterine injection should definitely help, and doing it a little too early instead of a little too late should also help (duh) but it’s still pretty wide-open chances.  Anyhow, I went to the birth center to have it done, and they were really really nice.  I am dead positive that working with them is the way to go when it comes to actually having a baby (if I ever get there….)

That damn groundhog says 6 more weeks of winter!  Sheesh…  How’s your cold?  Did you eat soup!?!?!

Didn’t work that time either.  I just couldn’t get the hang of my ovulation cycle, and everyone agreed there was no point trying to get pregnant if you didn’t have the timing right, especially not at $800 a pop.  So I did end up going back to the fertility clinic.   Just to ask for advice.  Just questions and information, not drugs, not pills or shots in the ass every day, not surgery, not test tubes.  Just advice.  Their first advice was to have some testing done, “just to make sure” there was nothing physically preventing me from getting pregnant.  That made sense.  And so on down the slippery slope, like a deal with the devil:  to do the tests, I had to take hormones.  The tests showed problems – low egg count –  so we did more tests, which meant more drugs.  Every step was a matter of me giving in to something I had just said I would never do, but if I really wanted to have a baby, of course I had to do it.


From Christi, in April 2010:

So not that I want to invade in your private life <ahem> but speaking of a future yard sale…should I be saving baby things for you?  ;)  I wasn’t sure if this was a “Somehow, some way, I’m having a baby someday?!”   I just know how costly it is to get started and would love to pass some things on to you if you could use it someday!  

Just in general…what are you feelings on a surrogate?

Me:  Oh lord.  Well, I’m on a zillion different drugs, and in a couple of weeks I switch to different drugs, and then we try again…   I don’t know about the surrogate thing, since there’s really a lot of legal hassle.  I think I’d probably look into regular adoption first – it’s just a question of which lawyers cost more.  Surrogate stuff is really really complicated, legally and medically.  

Christi:  What if (and I’m TOTALLY serious if it comes to it) *I* was your surrogate??

Me:   Well, if it was anybody it would be you!!! xoxo   But still, for surrogates, usually it means I donate the egg, and you carry the baby, and that’s basically backwards.  The whole problem is I don’t really have many eggs left.    Now, on the other hand, I could have an egg donated (from you or from an anonymous donor) and then get sperm donated, and try to have the whole business implanted so *I* could get pregnant, but that wouldn’t really make sense to me.  I mean, that’s again a lot of expensive surgery and lot of lawyers, and it doesn’t really make sense.  I mean, if I’m not having any biological connection to the baby anyway, why not just adopt?

Of course, I don’t actually know if I *can* adopt – it’s not easy for single people to afford it or to get “approved.”

Basically, the whole thing completely sucks.  I haven’t given up, but it’s all pretty miserable and exhausting.  I’m just trying to concentrate on one thing at a time right now.  I think I can basically deal with *either* doctors *or* lawyers, but if I have to deal with both I’ll need a therapist too!  :)

Again, for some people, fertility clinics make dreams come true.  If you are planning to work with a fertility clinic, here is my best advice, without (I hope) too much left-over bitterness.

1.  During important conversations, everyone must wear equal pants.  Do not let your doctor try to tell you important stuff while your butt is hanging naked between the stirrups.

2.  Figure out what’s ok with you and what’s not.  Does giving yourself a daily shot make you dizzy to think of?  Will a radioactive beeping dildo be unwelcome during your period?  If you go all the way to IVF treatments, what will become of the leftover embryos, and does it matter to you?  Make some space for these questions, because to the doctors, it’s just a regular day, but there’s weird shit coming down the line, here.

3.  Never go alone.  Bring an ally-advocate.  If you are single, choose a friend or family member to be your partner in this.

4.  Remember – and I will truly try to say this without rancor – they are in the business of selling you your own infertility.  You think you’re in charge of your body, of your pregnancy, of your choices in starting a family.  They don’t:  they see themselves as the expert and you are a piece of meat that doesn’t work right.

5.  Did that sound bitter?  Ok, I’ll stop.  Because in the end, if you want to be pregnant, they’re the only ones who can tell you if something’s wrong, and if something’s wrong, they’re the only ones who can help you work around it.  So you might have to deal with it.

You are about to be a mother, no matter how long it takes.  You will be the one to protect and advocate for your child, so you’d better get used to doing it for yourself.  If you don’t like the way they treat you, don’t put up with it.  If you don’t understand the medical explanations, make them explain it again.  If they get pissy and impatient, insist on respect.  (Never yell at a nurse, though.  Nurses don’t make enough money to have to deal with your crazy ass.)

Sent: April 28, 2010, to Catherine:

Meanwhile, back on the ranch, I had another appointment at [unnamed famous fertility clinic] and totally lost my cool.  I had stayed up late writing a letter about how much I don’t like this and how very not-ok everything is, and then I made the insane decision to actually give them the letter.  I kind of realized that even if I hadn’t burned that bridge, it was certainly on fire, so I went ahead and had a hysterical hissy fit.  Amazingly, this actually helped.  Now all of a sudden the therapist who was “booked” is available tomorrow, and the only doctor I like, who “doesn’t do those procedures,” would be perfectly happy to do them, and although they can only be scheduled on Tuesday and Thursday between 8 and noon, and she’s not available until the 17th of May, she can do it pretty much any day this week at 3.  What fucking ever.  The nice doctor has one last chance to tell me if any of this has done any good at all, and then the therapist gets exactly one hour to tell me what plan B looks like.  I’m not ready to give up yet, but I’m kind of feeling like [unnamed famous clinic] is perhaps not  a good match for me.  

My pals at the journal and I have decided we want Life Editors.  It’s too hard to proofread your own life.  We want someone with a really powerful blue pen to come along and say “This relationship is redundant.  This ambition should move over here.  Add these details.  This decision is no good; take it out.  Add a comma here and pause, and this bit is great only you spelled it wrong.”   If only.

Why am I telling this whole stupid story again?!  Augh, forget it.  If you want to know how bad a fertility clinic can be, you can read the letter.

I did find a different clinic, and it was much better.  They were kinder and more respectful, less bossy and cold.  They did some different tests, and some of the same ones again.  They confirmed the low egg count (lower than any woman my age they’d ever seen!  That made me feel very special…)  And some other things seemed to be wrong, too.  My fallopian tubes were closed, and they didn’t know why.  We did that test again a month later again to confirm, and they asked me to please bring a friend to drive me home.  At first I was puzzled – after all, it’s not like they were going to dilate my eyes!  But Paul came with me.  And I remember the branchy-pattern of the fallopian tubes sort of breaking off like a dead tree in the winter, and I remember when I checked out, the nurse asked me if I needed a glass of water, but it was raining, so why would I want water?  And I don’t remember when I started crying and I don’t remember when I stopped.  Every memory of that whole week is grey like static on an old tv, with moments of red:  a flower Paul gave me, the nurse’s pen, the broken-tree pattern on the doctor’s screen.

I never actually did any of the fertility treatments – no progesterone shots, no IVF.

When I first knew that I was ready to be a mother, I was SO READY.  I was more confident, more in control, more powerful than I’d ever felt in my life before.   By the time I was done at the fertility clinics, I was a miserable mess, anxious, depressed, ashamed of my failed and worthless body, furious at myself for putting up with so much crap, guilty for not being willing to put up with more, consumed by my own drama, compelled by random superstition.  Everything seemed like a fairytale test, and I just knew, I knew! that if only I could be more brave, more faithful, more true, somehow I would win, and be rewarded.  But no virtue, no vow would make me any more likely to get pregnant.  The most important piece of my life had gone completely out of my hands. Nothing felt right.  I was never, ever giving up on having a child, but I needed to change direction.

Did I want to be pregnant, or did I want to be a mother?  For me, that answer was always obvious.  I only thought being pregnant was the way to do it because I thought it would be easier.

Sent: July 22, 2010, to my grief-and-stress therapist, who was very kind and looked like an anime kitten:

Hello – you’d suggested I might email you to find out what kinds of orientation sessions for adoption might be coming up.  If you have any ideas about resources I could look into, I’d be glad to know about it.  I’ve been putting off getting in touch with you about it, because I still have really mixed feelings about the idea, but I can see that the information would be useful to have, and we can talk about it more next time.  Thanks!

I started looking at three adoption agencies, just to see what kind of possibility they might hold.  Some places wouldn’t work with a single person.  Some places wouldn’t work with gay families, and I didn’t want to be part of their kind of business.   And I was again baffled by the sheer impossibility of the costs.  How in the world could any normal person afford this?  Most places wouldn’t even tell you what the costs were until you signed a contract, which is insane.  But as far as I could see, everything started at 10K and went up from there.  Who the hell has 10 thousand dollars lying around?

IAC was the only agency I found that was really upfront about the actual costs, and the only agency to be specific enough about financial planning to shed the light on the missing piece: clients had the option of making payments by check or by credit card.  It doesn’t sound earth shattering, I know, but in that instant I saw a glimmer of hope again. Credit cards.  How do normal people pay for important things that are expensive?  They don’t!  They take on a DEBT.  I hadn’t had a credit card, or any debt but my mortgage, for over a decade.  I’d just plain forgotten that you could borrow vast sums of money.  I went straight to the bank. And in case you are thinking about adopting, note!  A chunk of that money comes trickling back over the years as a special tax credit.  More on that another time.

Sent: October 13, 2010, to IAC 

Thank you for the follow-up  note.  I really appreciate it!  I’m definitely interested in working with IAC.  Obviously, I’m concerned about the finances, and I think I need to talk with my bank before I go any further.  Also, I remember you said that one of the things I’ll be asked is whether I’m “done” dealing with fertility issues, and I’m not.  (Almost done, but not quite…)   Could you please remind me of the dates for upcoming weekend sessions?  Basically, I just need to figure out how much time I should give myself to change gears, so to speak.  

How long did it take to change gears?  One more Christmas with no child, that’s how long.

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