Archive for the ‘Peace to Parenthood’ Category
October 24, 2014 | By: Liz
I’m back (after a blogging break) and I’m mad. Very mad. I am mad at doctors, mad at the media, mad at the reproductive community, mad, mad, mad! Why am I mad you ask?
It took me awhile to figure it out, which makes me even . . . madder! Okay I know that’s not a real word but you get my point . . . I think it’s been building up inside me for . . . oh about 15 years. Because 15 years ago (give or take a few years) I was officially LABELLED as INFERTILE. It is not a nice label. It is not a label anyone ever wants. And yet there it is. A LABEL in my medical chart.
It’s like having a huge tattoo on my forehead that screams to doctors and the world:
INFERTILE: WILL NEED HIGH-TECH EXPENSIVE MEDICAL TREATMENT TO EVER HAVE A CHANCE TO CONCEIVE AND CARRY A CHILD.
This is a label which makes your doctor look at you differently. A label which makes YOU look at YOU differently. A label which makes you look at your partner differently, and makes your partner look at you differently.
The LABEL stuck with me for over 15 years. And indeed, after years of IVF those labels became so convincing to everyone, and I mean everyone, that no one believed there was any hope for me. It was like getting put into a closed box which doctors didn’t even want to try to open.
I listened to doctors, and nurses, and even friends, as they recounted the statistical UNlikelihood that I would conceive and carry a baby, as the statistics of the likelihood of what I wanted more than anything, became smaller and smaller, and smaller. I let them convince me it was impossible.
The list of reasons they gave me was huge. Insurmountably huge. And so I believed them when they told me I wouldn’t conceive. I believed them when they gave me diagnosis after diagnosis. I didn’t question their opinions or their conclusions. I didn’t challenge my own belief in the power of my mind, the power of my body, the power of ME!
I BOUGHT IT ALL HOOK LINE AND SINKER!
And that’s why I am mad.
I let them compartmentalize me.
I let them put me in a box with a label and give up on me.
I let ME give up on ME.
Today there are countless ways to build a family. IUI, IVF, IVF with donor egg, IVF with donor sperm, IVF with egg and sperm donor, embryo donation, gestational surrogacy (with any of the aforementioned IVF combinations), traditional surrogacy, domestic newborn adoption, foster-care adoption, international adoption; and there are more options than what I have mentioned. It is a colorful and beautiful world filled with reproductive and family building options. I live and breathe it every day as I help others move toward their dream of building a family. But I couldn’t see any of it for myself. All I could see was that tattoo staring back at me in my bathroom mirror every morning.
I read when magazines and newspapers attributed the label to countless celebrities, the media’s whispered words of shame and failure . . . [insert celebrity name here] can’t get pregnant] . . . she’s INFERTILE. But I didn’t believe it for them. I believed they would (or will) prove the label was wrong. Prove the media was wrong. I believed that others could defy that label which defined me.
God I hate that word. I hate the feelings it brings out in me. Feelings of failure, sadness, desperation, and now anger. But I am not angry that I am infertile. I am angry that I gave up on myself. But then something happened. Something that wasn’t supposed to happen . . . not to me, not to someone with all those LABELS. Something extraordinary happened that caused me to challenge my doctors’ assumptions, that caused me to look at the LABEL tattooed on my forehead and ask:
IS IT REALLY TRUE?
AM I REALLY INFERTILE?
And then I realized it isn’t impossible. Nothing is impossible. In fact everything is POSSIBLE. And with that realization my entire world changed. My longheld beliefs about myself and my infertility CHANGED. Everything I feel and believe about what I have lived through for well over 15 years, what I tell my clients, how I look at the community and industry in which I work, has shifted. I suffered for over 15 years for no reason. There was always hope. I just wouldn’t let myself see it. But I see it now. I see HOPE everywhere, for everyone, even for ME. No one really knows who is infertile. Not even your doctor. Nothing anyone tells you has to be true. Not unless you believe it’s true.
My point is this:
Do NOT let your doctor get you down.
Do NOT let your doctor dismiss you.
Do NOT buy into the label(s).
Do NOT believe statistics.
PLEASE DO NOT BELIEVE STATISTICS.
I have finally realized that everything and anything is possible. Because it is.
ANYTHING AND EVERYTHING IS POSSIBLE!
It will happen to you in the perfect time, and in the perfect way. But you do not have to suffer while you wait. Do not do what I did. Do not buy into the labels. Do not give up or give in.
Instead of choosing the mindset of infertility, choose the mindset of belief. Choose the mindset of knowing that your time will come. Accept, believe, and KNOW that everything and anything . . . and I mean ANYTHING . . . is POSSIBLE.
Because it IS.
And I know this because after 15 years of living with the label, and living with the tattoo on my forehead, something happened which proved everyone wrong about everything. I now know that
I AM NOT INFERTILE
My body is
and so is
Filed under: adoption, Age and Infertility, Deadly Silence, Egg Donation, Faith and Infertility, Gestational Carrier, infertility in the media, Infertility In The Movies etc., Infertility on Television, IVF, Peace to Parenthood, Personal Musings, Recurrent Pregnancy Loss, Surrogacy, The Infertility Survival Handbook, The Journey to Parenthood, Thinking Out Loud, Third-Party Assisted Reproduction, Treatment, Uncategorized, visualization
Adoption friendliness at its best. How one nurse blew me away and changed how I think about adoption placements.
October 18, 2013 | By: Liz
Adoption is a complex world. As anyone who is going through the process, or who has gone through the process knows, the legal issues are complicated, the emotional issues are highly charged — about as charged as a scene from the Wile E. Coyote cartoon, where he gets blown-up by accident from the mega tons of TNT he has left to detonate in the path of the Road Runner — and everyone is walking on pins and needles. And my description does not begin to adequately address the thoughts, feelings, and experiences of birth parents. I am NOT comparing birth parents or adoptive parents to the Road Runner or Wile E. Coyote, I am just pointing out that there is a lot of powerful emotional stuff going on in the midst of an adoption, most especially the time around the baby is placed in the arms of the adoptive parents, and the fact that the tension and emotionally charged nature of many adoption situations remind me (on an emotional level) of this cartoon.
Due the highly charged nature of this particular time in the adoption process, many adoptive parents emotionally hold themselves at arm’s length from their new baby until they are told that the legal process is complete and/or that birth parents’ parental rights are terminated. The time at which birth parent rights get terminated varies from state to state and varies whether you are working with an agency or an attorney. Indeed the adoptive parents involvement at or around the time of the baby’s birth often varies tremendously based on whether you are working with an agency or an attorney, and even more so among agencies. Every attorney and agency has their own way of trying to protect everyone’s emotions during what I am going to call the Wile E. Coyote Phase of the adoption process, the period of time after the baby is born and before birth parents’ rights have been terminated and when the baby is “placed” with its** forever family. It doesn’t mean that I think this time period often results in the detonation of emotional TNT, indeed it is my experience that the vast, vast majority of situations work out after a baby is born. Some don’t, as I can personally attest to, but most and I repeat MOST do work out and a new [adoptive] family is born.
As an adoptive mother I have always felt that the Wile E. Coyote Phase is perhaps the hardest part of the adoption process. Not so much because a birth mother can choose to parent during this last and final phase of the adoption process (just as we think we are getting to the proverbial finish line) but because so many of our hopes and dreams have to give way to legal procedures, agency procedures, hospital procedures, adoptive triad dynamics, and it’s just not how we envisioned what it would be like to become a parent. We have faced this reality for a long time before Wile E. Coyote comes along, but those feelings and dreams tend to creep more to the surface when you are surrendering everything to a process that is almost wholly outside your control. The only thing in your control is how you react and respond to what is going on around you, and how you choose to feel about it. However, both from personal and professional experience it is my practice to advise my clients that this is a difficult time period and to try and walk into the placement phase, or Wile E. Coyote Phase, with an open but guarded heart. And more importantly to let go of all of your expectations of how you think becoming a parent “should” be and do your best to surrender to the process, to Wile E. Coyote.
Yet, a recent experience has set my opinions, thoughts, feelings and my future advice to clients, on it’s HEAD. I have learned that I have been looking at it the wrong way and thus depriving not only myself of certain experiences, but those of people who look to me for advice and counsel. One person has totally shifted my perspective of the Wile E. Coyote Phase.
What happened? Great question.
Approaching the end of the Wile E. Coyote Phase, an adoptive couple** was getting ready for their baby to be discharged from the hospital. The birth parents had signed all of their legal consents to the adoption and although they were not yet legally binding under the laws of this particular state, as the birth parents still needed to appear before a Judge and agree to the adoption and the termination of their parental rights, it was time for the adoptive parents** to take the baby “home” to their hotel to wait out the remainder of the Road Runner’s race and the Wile E. Coyote Phase. After carefully dressing the baby and getting it** settled into its car seat, the adoptive dad** was sent to the parking lot to get the car. Adoptive mom**, after finishing packing up their belongings, reached to get the baby and the car seat, preparing to walk out of the hospital and get in the car to go to the hotel. As she scooped up the car seat the nurse came in and asked adoptive mom what she was doing. Of course adoptive mom’s heart stopped; she immediately began worrying that Wile E. Coyote had just detonated some or all of his TNT. With her heart in her throat, adoptive mom calmly turned to the nurse and said she had been instructed be her attorney and the pediatrician that they could go to their hotel with the baby, she believed she had signed all the necessary paperwork, and inquired if there was some kind of a problem. Indeed there was said this nurse, at which point the nurse asked the adoptive mom what gave her the right to walk out of the hospital with the baby? Confused, the adoptive mom asked the nurse what she meant.
The nurse — being extremely emotionally intelligent and adoption friendly, and my current heroine — explained that: “NO NEW MOTHER WALKS out of this hospital. Please wait while I get you a wheelchair.”
Now I don’t know about any of you other infertile ladies or adoptive moms but one of my personal dreams has always involved being wheeled out of the hospital holding my baby in my arms. I still cry at scenes like the one in the movie “Marley and Me” where Jennifer Aniston’s character is holding their new baby girl in her arms in a wheelchair while Owen Wilson’s character video tapes the scene. I never got that experience and while I wouldn’t change a thing in my life, you know I am honest about this stuff and it makes me sad that there are certain dreams that I have had to let go of along my journey to parenthood. Heck, I was jealous when I walked along side our birth mother after we were discharged from the hospital as she was the one in the wheelchair holding the baby in the car seat, not me. Never mind the fact that she was holding my hand so that we were walking together. I wanted to be the one in the wheelchair and I had to accept that I wasn’t, and I probably was never going to experience that particular dream. I don’t think I am alone in harboring this little secret that one of the things I had dreamed about while growing up was that wheelchair ride. And that wheelchair ride is not something adoptive mothers get to experience. Or so I previously thought, believed and experienced.
Back to the hospital, adoptive mom argues with the nurse that she didn’t give birth to the baby and didn’t need the wheelchair; she was “only” the adoptive mother, certainly the hospital must need the wheelchair for someone else? But the nurse wouldn’t relent. She didn’t care a wit about adoptive mom’s “labor experience”, or lack thereof. The nurse was very clear with adoptive mom that regardless of the circumstances by which she was becoming a mother adoptive mom was THE MOM, and as a MOM, a NEW MOM, she was to be discharged just like any other new mother; ALL NEW MOTHERS get discharged in a wheelchair. They continued to discuss this issue until the nurse brought everything to a head and asked adoptive mom: “don’t you want to be discharged in a wheelchair like any other mother would be? Don’t you want that experience for yourself?” Crying, adoptive mom admitted she would love to be discharged in a wheelchair. At which point the nurse instructed that MOM had better get a hold of DAD so he could video record their exiting the hospital with MOM holding the baby in its car seat in the wheelchair.
The point was not lost on me nor was it lost on adoptive mom. We are all new mothers no matter how our babies come to us and we are entitled to have our dreams come true regardless of the manner in which we become parents. The fact that this nurse understood the grieving process adoptive mother’s often go through, and the importance of our dreams, is a testament to her education and experience. Perhaps she herself adopted, or she knows someone who has, or even more to her credit perhaps she just understands how important are some of the images women hold of the milestones of our lives and recognize that without that wheelchair ride we may be reminded — even if it’s on some small level in comparison to the joy and gratitude in our hearts — that our path didn’t take the turns we expected. Whatever the reason, this nurse got me thinking about how important moments like that are, especially during the Wile E. Coyote Phase, and how much of a celebration we are missing by giving so much power to that cartoon of a coyote.
That wheelchair ride brought profound joy and a sense of celebration to adoptive mom and adoptive dad, and may well provide something even larger than that to the baby. As that baby grows up and asks to hear its adoption story, that baby will get to see an image that all of its “bio-baby” friends probably get/got to see. But I am not just talking about mom and dad leaving the hospital in the wheelchair carefully holding that car seat, I am talking about the utter joy, bliss and excitement on mom’s and dad’s faces as they left the hospital. To be able to see that excitement — which existed long before the baby’s birth — and the pure joy the baby’s parents were experiencing as they brought their new baby home, helps that baby/child understand how much it was wanted and how much love its parents’ hold in their hearts. Other aspects of our children’s adoption story will express those emotions, but a picture truly says a thousand words, and videos even more so. In this case I think that video probably is one of the most valued and treasured pieces of their journey to parenthood.
There are so many levels on which that wheelchair ride takes my breath away. I long to meet this nurse and thank her, not only for what she did for these adoptive parents but for what she has done for their family, for me, and for the new approach I am beginning to take to the Wile E. Coyote Phase of the adoption process.
I am curious to know how many other adoptive parents have been given this wheelchair ride. If you have, please post something in reply to this blog or email me privately (Liz@storklawyer.com). If you wish you had that wheelchair ride, and are as moved as I am by what this nurse did, please let me know that too. And if you want to have that wheelchair ride ASK FOR IT. Because as that nurse said, every new mother deserves to leave the hospital in a wheelchair (assuming that is what the new mother wants). I recognize that not all adoptions are going to provide circumstances that enable an adoptive mom to have that wheelchair ride, but in those circumstances that do permit it, this nurse has taught me even more about all the nuances involved in the fact that biology alone doesn’t make a family, and a new understanding that we are not as powerless as we may feel, that we don’t have to give up all of our dreams, all of the time.
My final thought or comment of this blog is to all of the nurses in all of the maternity wards who are involved with or helping an adoptive family, if you don’t or can’t offer that wheelchair ride, please consider the thoughts and feelings identified in this blog and consider changing or working to change things so that more of us new moms get that wheelchair ride.
Because we deserve to have that experience.
** general terms have been used in this blog on purpose to help identify roles in the adoption process and emotions related thereto, but without any intent to devalue or belittle the roles of the people who enter into adoption plans every day.
The painful silence of recurrent pregnancy loss and stillbirth. A first hand perspective and perhaps finally, a voice.
February 15, 2013 | By: Liz
The shrowd of silence around stillbirth and pregnancy loss finally is being lifted. Someone is making a documentary about miscarriage, recurrent pregnancy loss, and stillbirth. This morning I watched the trailer of “Still” a documentary devoted to raising awareness of the pain of the loss of a pregnancy, a child born too soon, or a stillbirth. I think “Still” may focus more on stillbirth or pre-term delivery, but some of the articles I read as I researched its production indicated that the documentary intends to address recurrent pregnancy loss and/or miscarriage more than is touched upon in this trailer.
As I watched the trailer I was reminded of a long call I had with a new client this week. It is rare that I have a client who has a similar background to my own experience with infertility. Like me she has experienced 12 unexplained pregnancy losses (although I sort of stopped counting about a year ago when I went through it again . . . something about hitting the number 13 and I really decided it didn’t matter how many I had, I have had enough, one is enough). Only in addition to experiencing a number of first term (non-chemical) pregnancy losses, my new client also lost pregnancies in the second trimester and near the beginning of the third trimester. We had a lengthy conversation about how isolating it is, how lonely it is, how there is no person other than your partner or spouse who “gets it” (and even then sometimes perhaps they don’t totally get it because it isn’t their body), and how the silence that surrounds pregnancy loss can engulf one’s life, one’s existence. Our call also reminded me of a blog I posted about a gravestone I once saw that marked the death of fetus. As I commented in that blog, it wasn’t a pro-life stunt. It was a family who had been given permission not only to mark the death of their baby while in utero (or loss of their pregnancy) but to recognize all those other families that have suffered the same pain. In silence.
Reproductive medicine has provided so many advances to assist infertile couples in achieving their dreamed of family but recurrent pregnancy loss remains largely unexplained. While theories abound, there are far too many of us who don’t know why this happens to us, repeatedly. Reproductive medicine and reproductive law now give us the option of having our biological child carried by someone who is likely to deliver that child when we can’t. Indeed, the option to use a surrogate after experiencing pregnancy loss is perhaps the driving force behind at least half of my clients who come to me to assist them with legal agreements as they begin their journey using a surrogate. As is the case with the call and the client I just mentioned.
As many of you know, in the absence of an explanation of why my babies die, I was too frightened that a surrogate might lose my child. I couldn’t ask another woman to risk experiencing the pain I have dealt with so many times. Adoption was always something my husband and I had wanted to pursue so when we were faced with the [dreaded] conversation where our doctor told us we were out of options other than surrogacy or adoption, it was a no-brainer for us. It was going to be adoption. And as one of the women in the trailer for “Still” points out, I wouldn’t turn back the clock or make different decisions; because without those pregnancy losses I wouldn’t be parenting the two beautiful children I have now. I cannot imagine a life without these particular little souls in it. It seems like a heartbreaking price to pay but as I told my new client, one day when this is all over and you are holding your baby in your arms, it will make sense and you will know that but for all that came before (all 12 of those horrendously difficult pregnancy losses) this little baby wouldn’t be yours.
But as she journeys toward that day where she hopefully does feel that sense of peace and gratitude for the child in her arms, she is left with a huge void. She has no one to talk to. I had no one to talk to. Even my best IVF friends didn’t understand how I felt. Excuse me: how I FEEL. I still feel pain on a day that one of my longtime friend’s celebrates, the day she heard the heartbeat of each of the babies she was carrying. I don’t begrudge her that joy. I celebrate with her. But for me, inside, it always is a reminder of the miscarriage that I experienced just a few days earlier. My client and I share a special bond, one of knowing what each carries inside her and the thoughts that creep into our mind throughout the day. Thoughts that largely go un-shared with anyone.
Will “Still” do justice to this topic, to this diagnosis, to the countless women and men who have endured the loss of a life growing inside them or one that came into the world far too early to survive? I think so. I hope so. Because I would like nothing more than for women like me who are going through what I went through, women like my new client, to have a voice in the reproductive community. To have doctors pay attention to our kind of infertility. To have better resources and support groups. To just plain have a voice to express their pain. Amazing options for family building notwithstanding, the pain associated with recurrent pregnancy loss, miscarriage, and stillbirth shouldn’t continue to be shrouded in silence.
And so today I thank the people behind this documentary entitled “Still”. THANK YOU for initiating a dialogue that is long overdue.
And one final note, to all those physicians who have dedicated their careers to exploring the mystery of recurrent pregnancy loss . . . THANK YOU.
If you would like to watch the trailer click here
Filed under: Current Affairs, Deadly Silence, Faith and Infertility, infertility in the media, Infertility In The Movies etc., Infertility on Television, IVF, Miscarriage, Peace to Parenthood, Personal Musings, Recurrent Pregnancy Loss, Stillbirth, The Journey to Parenthood, Thinking Out Loud, Third-Party Assisted Reproduction