Category Archives: Adoption

Our adoption journey.

Where To … Part 9: Appreciation and Sharp Reminders

I’m married to the most remarkable man I know. You’re probably thinking “Duh … that’s why you married him!” … and yes whilst that’s true, at the time we got married, I can honestly say that I had absolutely no idea just how remarkable he was and would turn out to be. Lets not kid ourselves our relationship has been put to the test many times in the 3.5 years we’ve been married, with our journey to hopefully having a family of our own. On this note, I’d like to congratulate LH for making it to the summit of Kilimanjaro last month! Proud of you Babe!

As part of my voluntary work in animal welfare, a little 7 day old kitten (Johnny Bravo) entered our home last week Thu – rescued as an orphan from Khaylitsha (a poverty stricken township near Cape Town International airport). The last time I bottle fed and cared for an orphan this young was in November 2010 with our ‘twins’ who remained with us as “failed fosters” and are turning 3 in October. It was during those dark and desperate weeks and months following the loss of our beautiful daughter Stella that the ‘twins’ came into my life and literally saved me by giving me purpose – that of saving their lives.

Having Johnny Bravo in the house, is a reminder of how we would dearly love to have a family of our own, of how prepared we have been to take this next step in our lives for some time now and the anguish we feel of not being able to do so. LH generally tends to steer clear of the fosters that come and go, because he gets too emotionally invested and has difficulty letting go when they leave for their adoptive homes at 9 weeks of age or older. As the caretaker of our fosters, I’ve learnt to cope emotionally with saying goodbye, with the knowledge that we are able to help the next lot coming through our door. Recently I’ve been asked a number of times how many we’ve fostered up until now … I’ve yet to count, but I think it’s quite a number. So it was unusual to be able to photograph LH tenderly holding little Johnny Bravo whilst I was sorting out a hot water bottle for the little guy over the weekend. Little did I know the emotions that this photo would evoke within me … If LH, as a 6ft2inch man, can be so tender and loving with a tiny kitten that’s barely bigger than a mouse in his hands, just imagine how amazing he would be with a baby of our own. Knowing that I can never give LH the son or daughter he so desires really tears at my soul and is nothing short of excruciating. Being at the mercy of strangers in the hopes that one day we may have a baby is simply soul destroying, but we continue to live in hope.

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Where To … Part 3: We Love It When A Plan Starts Coming Together!

Firstly a belated Happy New Year to everyone following the blog!! I hope that all your dreams for 2013 come true.

Wow! So much has happened since my last entry. LH and I went on a much needed 2 week holiday to the Maldives. The trip was a surprise ‘gift’ from LH for our 3rd anniversary and it couldn’t have come at a better time. We were both emotionally drained and needing ‘time out’ for just the two of us and what a better place to have ‘time out’! In true LH style, when we boarded the plane to Dubai, I had no idea where we were headed! Our days were spent diving the crystal clear warm waters with a myriad of different schools of colourful fish, odd looking ocean creatures and coral, cycling around the island, lazing around our private pool, sipping on cocktails, massages at the spa and dining on delectable Asian cuisine.

Feeling energised on our return, I threw myself into finishing off our adoption profile. Reviewing what I’d done thus far with ‘fresh’ eyes, I scrapped it and started again! I was surprised by the range of emotions I felt whilst putting it together.
* Frustration – what to include / exclude;
* Hope – our baby could arrive any moment once our profile is submitted;
* Anger – why is it so easy for others to become parents and yet we have to ‘promote’ ourselves to a complete stranger;
* Empathy and sadness – if selected by a birth mother, we gain a family of our own, whilst she loses a child;
* Self doubt – will the prospective birth mothers like and connect with our profile … choose us as the couple to raise their child?
I was pleased with the final result of our profile and looked forward to receiving the printed copy in the post at the end of December. On the 4th January we delivered our profile to the social workers, along with all the other original copies of documentation and were registered on the central national database of prospective adoptive parents. The ‘wait’ has officially begun …

Since that fateful day 14th October 2010 when we lost our daughter 5 months into my pregnancy, then again 29th August 2012 when we lost our son 13 weeks into our surrogate mother’s pregnancy and the graveyard of little embryos in between, I’ve not cared much for Christmas and New Year. It’s a really difficult time for me, especially this past festive season where everything seemed to be hanging in the air – so much uncertainty. Waiting for our adoption profile to arrive, worrying about our trusty doc who was gravely ill, wondering whether we’d ever be able to find another surrogate mother, wondering whether the fading hope I hang onto every day is just a foolish dream. It was therefore such a lovely surprise when I received a phone call from our trusty doc just last week with news that he is well, back at work and has a potential surrogate mother for us!

With hope restored, perhaps 2013 will be our year after all! With conservative excitement and some trepidation, we’re pressing forward and making the necessary arrangements / appointments with psychologists, attorneys etc … And so our surrogacy journey begins anew …

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Where To … Part 2: The Way Forward

My mind has been in a million places since I last wrote in the blog. At one point I was just about ready to give up, feeling exasperated, frustrated and totally hopeless. The brain however should not be underestimated (even mine!) as it is a wonderful organ, which finds a way to heal and seeks clarity, restoring our hope and our dreams. So although the frustration of our helplessness seems insurmountably great, our loss unbelievably painful, we are not defeated and remain determined to succeed in our journey to parenthood.

In the past weeks we’ve started walking the avenue of adoption, have had our adoption screening and are patiently waiting for the feedback whilst preparing our adoption profile. Simultaneously we’ve decided not to give up hope on the surrogacy front and are actively looking for a surrogate, exploring options available to us both locally and internationally. One thing I have come to terms with is that I will never have a biological child of my own – a full sibling to Stella, but it’s a reality I’ve now made peace with (finally), so we’ll be going straight to donor egg. Up until a couple of weeks ago, I thought I had 3 options for a surrogate mother, but sadly all fell through:
1. Surro Mom 1 – considered too risky taking our history into account as she’s had 4 caesars, which compromises her uterus
2. Surro Mom 2 – the commissioning parents became parents through adoption, but then decided to also do IVF starting January 2013.
3. Surro Mom 3 – has medical complication and we felt was doing it for the wrong reasons as her decision was purely financially motivated despite the changes to the SA law.

As we’ve come to learn the hard way, this journey is one that we cannot map out step by step. There are so many unknowns, so many hurdles and unexpected obstacles. I’ve adopted a saying “What will be … will be” … whilst it doesn’t wipe away the tears, the anguish, the loss, the pain of what has happened in the past, it makes the inability to control what happens in the future more bearable. All I can do in the meantime is try to set the wheels in motion as best I can.

For now I’m focussing on two tasks – that of finding a surrogate mother and putting our adoption profile together. We’re hoping that someone out there may find it in their hearts to give us the greatest gift we could wish for.

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Where To: I’m a Good Enough Person … Aren’t I?

With the forces of nature seemingly determined to stand in my way, blocking my path and intent on sweeping a cruel hand of devastation to destroy any progress towards my wish for a family, I’m finding it pretty darn hard not to start second guessing myself. Perhaps I’m not meant to be a mother? Maybe I don’t deserve to have a family? What am I doing that is so wrong?

Whenever these thoughts have clouded my judgement, I’ve desperately tried to push them away by screaming at the world:
I AM worthy!
I DO deserve a family!
I WILL make a great mother!
WTF??

Yesterday I read with disbelief a news article about a mother (is she a mother?) who is on trial for murdering her 5 children. She stabbed 4 of them with a steak knife and drowned her youngest in a basin who was just 2 years old. She blamed it on her abusive relationship with the children’s father and financial problems. WTF????? What kind of a pathetic excuse is that?? Here I am – solid marriage with LH – financially secure – would never lay a vicious hand on a child of mine and yet … I can’t even have ONE???? What’s up with that?????????

As you’ve probably guessed the last week has been a cycle of:
- Complete disbelief / numbness
How can this happen to us – yet again?? Have I run out of tears?
- Irrational blood boiling anger / fury
The effing doctors that didn’t figure out there was a problem before embryo transfer, the effing egg donor who didn’t know she had a bad gene, LH & just EFFING EVERYONE!
- Guilt
Our SM had to go through the trauma of miscarriage. Our egg donor now going to find out she has a major genetic issue.
- Helplessness
Nothing in this process has been in my control … and it still remains out of my control … I can’t change anything
- Devastating sadness and gut wrenching tears
I’ve lost two babies. Our precious Stella who was 100% healthy but was encased in my patched up uterus that ruptured and now our son, who although encased in the perfect uterus of our SM, had severe congenital heart failure due to a partially formed heart amongst other problems, making survival an impossibility.

What does the future hold for us? I really don’t know. For now LH and I want to take a bit of a break, pull ourselves together, build up our emotional strength, before we think about how best to move forward. In all honesty I’d be really happy with a vacation from reality right now, but unless someone has some kind of gizmo to port us into another happier dimension where things are constantly in our control and just always work out, that’s unlikely to happen any time soon. So for now, I’ll put on a brave face and muddle through everything until it all starts getting a bit clearer.

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The Pregnancy – Part 5: Shattered Dreams & Fading Hope

I write this entry with an extremely heavy heart, which is why it’s taken me 4 days to pluck up the courage to write it. After 5 years of trying for a family and almost 2 years into our surrogacy journey, it all came to an abrupt end on Wednesday when we went for our 13 week scan at the Foetal Assessment Centre. Our hopes and dreams were completely shattered. We were so incredibly excited to receive a positive pregnancy result for a singleton, even though we had hoped for twins. With sadness we mourned the loss of our one embryo but we still had a baby! All 3 scans leading up to the 13 week scan showed a healthy, growing baby. The only thing we were mentally preparing ourselves for, from an emotional point of view, was finding out if our singleton was the embryo from my egg (female) or the embryo from our donor egg (male).

The results we received at our 13 week scan completely shocked and confused us – I thought I was living a nightmare. The scan showed our baby boy, whose heart was partially formed and failing along with other abnormalities that hadn’t been picked up during PGD nor during previous scans. The prognosis was that our baby was dying before our very eyes (he was barely moving and his heart rate incredibly slow for his stage of development). It was only a matter of time before the inevitable happened. The only decision we had to make was whether to terminate or whether to wait for him to die and the miscarriage which would follow. Together with our Surrogate Mother (SM) we decided to terminate, for the sake of our son who was clearly in distress, for our SM so that she didn’t have to endure the wait and for our sanity, knowing that it was a matter of time – hours, days … maybe a week at most all during which our son was battling along, waiting to die. I cannot explain how I’m feeling right now. After being given some tablets to take on Wednesday evening and into Thursday, our SM went in for a D&C on Friday and our baby is no more. An autopsy was conducted and the results will be made available to the egg donor as she needs to know that she is the carrier of a congenital abnormality.

LH and I are completely wiped out emotionally and don’t think we have the emotional strength to go through another attempt with a surrogate. Our SM indicated to us a while ago that she was only going to do this one time and now that time has come to an end. Finding a suitable surrogate is not easy and nor is finding a suitably matched egg donor, let alone the emotional toll of going through the whole process again will take on us. Perhaps in a few month’s time we may view it differently, but for now we’re not pursuing that option, unless it miraculously lands in our laps. The way things have worked out for us thus far, it’s unlikely we’ll be seeing any miracles any time soon. For the moment we would rather focus on the possibility of adopting a baby. Having tried and just about exhausted all other avenues to the point where I’m feeling emotionally destroyed, LH has finally come full circle, to a discussion I had with him almost 5 years ago.

Who knows where this journey will take us. RIP my tiny little son. Your struggle is over, but you will always live in my heart.

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IVF VI Part 3 – Embracing the bitter-sweet

Wow … what a week thus far.

Monday:
Kicked off Monday with our wedding anniversary, donor egg / embryo update and my eggs being harvested all on the same day. My total egg count was 5, which for me is not bad going at all, so I wasn’t displeased and it was a good start to the week. As I am completely drugged up and quite frankly brain dead useless for 2 days when egg retrieval is done, we haven’t had a chance to celebrate our anniversary as yet.

The update on our donor’s eggs / embryos however wasn’t very good at all, but is apparently not totally unexpected. Of the 9 embryos, 7 tested abnormal, 1 tested 100% normal, which they froze and they couldn’t get a complete reading on the last one. The incomplete reading was the result of the single cell on which the tests are done being damaged in the process. How this happens is that PGD tests 5 chromosomes – namely 13, 18, 21, the X and Y chromosomes. The test is done in two stages (13 and 21 first, followed by next three) with a special dye being applied in each stage and the cell being ‘washed’ in between the stages. The lab managed to complete the first test of 13 and 21, but the cell was damaged during the ‘washing’ phase resulting in no result for 18, X and Y. In this instance there’s a 50/50 chance that the embryo could be normal, but we simply don’t know and now its impossible to find out. The decision lay with us as to whether we wanted to freeze the second embryo or destroy it. Our decision was to freeze – separately – so that we didn’t have to make a rushed / pressurised decision. Ultimately of the 9 embryos, only 1 is guaranteed 100% … and these are eggs from a 22 year old youngster. Just goes to show that we’re all remarkably infertile??!! … and it only gets worse as we age. In a twisted and strange kind of way I was disappointed on the one hand, but also happy to learn that I’m not a complete anomaly – the news was bitter-sweet.

Tuesday:
Of my eggs 4 out of the 5 fertilised. Of the four, 3 fertilized normally and 1 fertilized abnormally. So essentially there were 3 in the running. Whilst I was getting news on my embryos, I also received the news that a close friend of mine received her much awaited adopted daughter, a sister to her biological daughter, who I am looking forward to meeting on Thursday.

Wednesday (today):
Bit of a surprise! We are back to 4 embryos (the one that didn’t fertilize normally is still developing – normally?!), which is something we’ve never had before? Of the 4 embryos:
- 3 are a 2 cell with a score of 4 out of 5
- 1 is a 2 cell with a score of 3 out of 5
I’m being cautiously optimistic with this news and whilst I’m not sure what tomorrow will bring, I’m trying to remain positive and hopeful that we are at least able to get 1 viable embryo. There are some differences from the previous times, which may or may not work in our favour:
- all of the eggs, except 1, came from my right ovary this time, whereas normally there’s been nothing forthcoming from the right ovary
- previously eggs that had fertilised “abnormally” had simply not developed at all, yet now we have one that is continuing on in the race

All I know is that I need to maintain a positive state of mind, which has admittedly been very challenging for me in the last month with all the emotions of Stella’s anniversary/birthday (I’m still not sure what to call it), finding an egg donor, getting my head around the idea of an egg donor, all whilst bombarded with daily hormone injections that make me completely and utterly f***ed up loopy. I can honestly sympathise with those folk who suffer from bipolar, as I’m sure what I’ve been feeling is not far off that … I can SO relate! Oh well, nothing a pair of super-sized big girl panties and a glass of wine, which I can now enjoy that I’m between cycles, won’t sort out …

On that note, I’m off to pour myself that glass of wine, feed furkids and start thinking about what to slap together for supper so that my husband doesn’t feel completely neglected and unloved. Until tomorrow ….

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IVF VI Part 2 – Gathering Inspiration & Fighting Demons

There are two quotes that I came across last week. The one is from Louise Smith “You can’t reach for anything new if your hands are still full of yesterday’s junk.” The other quote is by Christie Williams that says, “If you allow people to make more withdrawls than deposits in your life, you will be left out of balance and in the negative! Know when to close the account.” Whilst I’m familiar with these quotes, they’ve never really resonated with me, that is until now … well really they jumped out at me and gave me a good old smack.

After months of hormones being pumped into my body, I’ve become a somewhat emotional rollercoaster that’s careering out of control. For someone who’s used to being in control of every facet of her life and has systematically lost control of every aspect of her life over the last year and a half, I’m not in a very comfortable place. Yet in my very weary, uncomfortable and somewhat hormonally induced bipolar state I suddenly now realise that in order for me to survive this process and not lose complete faith in myself, humanity and the order of things I need to desperately embrace these quotes and apply them to my life, for my own well being and quite frankly … for my sanity. The one good thing that has come out of this, is that I’ve been able to sort out the wood from the chaff in terms of friends and family with some sad and painful surprises along the way .. however I cannot allow myself to dwell / wallow in self pity and be dragged down in the process. On the flipside however there have been some remarkable women and even some old school chums who’ve surprisingly come back into my life after many years of absence, to walk this road beside me and become my proponents … my firm anchors … the ones who instinctively know when I need propping back up.

As I suspected our egg donor is super fertile and rendered no less than 12 eggs on Wednesday. On receiving the news, I know that I should have been happy … in fact overjoyed … ecstatic … but instead I felt resentful and more inadequate and useless than ever. Of the 12 eggs, 1 was ‘immature’ and 2 didn’t fertilize … HA! So she’s not that fertile *wicked, green victory dance* … or probably not enough swimmers for so many eggs – LOL! So we’re left with 9 that are developing well much to LH’s delight … The score thus far: LH-9 / Barrenness-0.

So my scan on Friday didn’t look as promising as I’d hoped … but then again with my history, no surprises there. The Doc was out of town, so his colleague did the scan … which I think brings the total to about 1,999 strangers that have inspected and / or grovelled around in my cookie jar in the past almost 5 years … well that’s what it feels like anyway. So it seems as if my 6 follicles have potentially dwindled down to 3, with the right ovary still breaking records by leading for a change … but I guess I will really only find out on Monday when the eggs are retrieved what my yield will be. The harsh reality is that yes … I am over the hill and my dream of having a biological child – Stella’s brother or sister – seemingly far away … actually more like a fading light on the horizon. There are times when I feel I should have stuck to my guns and gone ahead with adopting a baby as I had originally intended years ago … instead I caved, in order to please others and am now the one soley paying the ultimate emotional and physical price. Often I lie awake, unable to sleep, sometimes sobbing quietly into my pillow and other times grinding me teeth in anger and frustration, whilst everyone else snores soundly around me, both near and far, without a care in the world … All I want to do is scream in their ear so loudly that perhaps they too will feel, for just those few seconds, an inkling of the anguish I feel every day. LH often asks me when I’m visibly withdrawn what’s wrong … Where do I start? Mourning the loss of my daughter who no one acknowledges and for whom I gladly sacrificed everything (also not noticed) – desperately wishing her back. Mourning the loss of my womanhood, my career, my independence, my identity, my IVF babies. Having zero sense of achievement, no purpose, no sense of self worth and LH who is noticeably unable to openly communicate with me any more for fear of my reaction.

So let’s see what tomorrow brings … and in the meantime, I’ve got to find the strength to let go of yesterday’s junk and with it the people who make more withdrawals than deposits in my life … without any sense of guilt.

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IVF IV Part 0.4… In response to the comment from “me”

In answer to the comment to my previous blog post which read:
“You know, adoption is cheaper and a lot less selfish as it helps a homeless child. Why can’t people that claim to be sooo desperate for a child see that?”

Forgive me if I’m not very well equipped to handle your flippant remarks, but I will do my best. I will start by saying please think before you speak and consider that we are going through a very tough time. Perhaps your opinion may be a luxury and actually not worth much at all, because your children are biological and were easy to conceive. Your tone indicates to me that you have not personally experienced losing a pregnancy, a child or lost the ability to conceive, as anyone that has been through such experience could not possibly be so brash and inconsiderate. Until you have personally known what it is like to lose your uterus, almost lose your life, be left in ICU holding your tiny dead baby in your arms following an emergency Caesar, trying to commit to memory every detail of her face … her hands … her feet … you could not possibly know or relate to the subject. I’m guessing you probably tell your friends who’ve experienced a miscarriage, “well you can always have other babies”. Well, it’s not other babies they want! It’s the one that they have lost!

You speak of adoption as if it’s like popping down to your local shelter and simply selecting one from a myriad of cribs and saving a little soul in the process. If you took the time to research the topic of adoption before callously commenting, you would understand this is not the case at all. For your benefit and for others who have the misfortune to come across your sadly uninformed wrath, let me briefly educate you by firstly addressing your comment in the hopes of introducing some compassion into your communication style:

1. “You know” … having been down this avenue and researched the topic, yes I do know – only too well. What differentiates me from you however, is that I also understand.
2. “… adoption is cheaper …” – Whilst this isn’t about ecomonics, adoption isn’t necessarily cheaper and has its own merits and pitfalls. There is an extensive screening process that normally involves orientation meetings, interviews with social workers, full medicals, marriage and psychological assessments, home visits, police clearance and references. Once the screening process is complete, which can take anything from 6 months to a year to complete, applicants are placed on a waiting list for a child. The official placement of the child with the adoptive parents is a legal process, carried out through the Children’s Court. All of this, not surprisingly, costs money.
3. “ … a lot less selfish …” – Adoption and IVF both carry financial, medical, and family dynamic risks. Neither could therefore be considered a more selfish or selfless act than the other. Don’t get me wrong, adoption is an awesome and fantastic choice for couples and their extended families who reach that decision together. Then again, so is having a child that is genetically linked to you.
4. “ … as it helps a homeless child …” – I have to ask how many homeless children you have helped in the last 3 months or in your lifetime … and I don’t mean sticking your hand out of your car window at a traffic light with a few coins. Or better yet, how many homeless children you have adopted? I would guess that it’s probably none. I won’t bore you with the details of how many homeless, abandoned and abused children we have helped over the years and continue to help through a haven for abused and abandoned children that we are closely linked to.
5. “Why can’t people that claim to be sooo desperate for a child see that?” – Adoption is a beautiful path to parenthood for those who chose that route. Adoption however is not an easy fix and not a cure for the pain and hurt that comes with infertility and the loss of a child. Adoption is also not an easy fix for the children who have been put into the system through no choice of their own. Adoption has its own share of heartbreaks and hurdles, with some couples waiting years to receive a placement. Adoption is a journey that in itself requires preparation, not just for the adoptive parents, but for the extended family as well. In short, adoption is a lot harder, expensive and time oppressive than it seems.

Additional factors to take into consideration when adopting are:
- There is a cooling off period of 60 days in adoption in South Africa, during which the birth mother may change her mind and reclaim the baby.
- It takes a long time, anything from 2 to 5 or more years for a placement to happen.
- The deficit of genetic markers and possibility of not being able to ‘relate’ or connect.
- Adopted children often experience issues relating to abandonment, loss, rejection, trust, intimacy, guilt and shame, mastery and control, and identity.
- The role of genetics in potential disorders and future issues of the adopted child. We know and understand what our genetic make up and history is, however that of an adopted child remains a mystery.

Ultimately it’s all about personal choice and respecting that choice. For now LH and I are yearning for a baby that is biologically and genetically ours. We have discussed and are in agreement that we will consider the option of using donor eggs, should we get to that point. Whilst these are choices that we have made, adoption will always be an option, but one that we will need to carefully consider, taking our personal circumstances and family dynamics into consideration.

So in the meantime … shhhhhh … reserve your harsh and uninformed comments. Just a hug will be fine thanks.

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