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Archive for the ‘Adoption’ Category

For awhile I was one of those superstitious types who believed if you start planning for a baby, it’ll never happen. You have to pretend like it’s not gonna happen, then the world will surprise you. But after a few sessions of counseling and some other efforts to change my attitude toward the whole want-to-be-parents struggle, I decided it was ok to start operating like it was going to happen. Because it is. One way or another I’ll be a mother and Mike will be a father, and why not start doing some fun things to plan for it.

My first big move in that direction was to start thinking about a baby’s room. We’re not into a big Nursery Makeover thing, but we would like to provide a nice space for a future child. I wasn’t really going for a theme (I hate the question, “what’s the theme?” in regards to nurseries. Theme? The theme is sleep/cry/poop I guess.), but we do sort of have a thing with elephants and giraffes. My favorite animal has always been the elephant, and Mike has been called “my giraffe” since I met him. So that has unofficially moved it’s way into baby world. For instance, after discovering my first pregnancy (the ectopic, if you’re just joining us), Mike bought a set of bibs with giraffes on them and I bought a pair of baby pjs with elephants.

So anyway, recently my great grandmother moved into a new home and had to downsize her belongings. Among the knick knacks, I snagged an old clothes hamper covered in roses.

Everyone else passed it over, and I nearly did too. But then I had an inspiration. Recover it in cool fabric for a baby’s room! And my first nursery project was born. I looked around online and selected this fabric:

I decided if we were going to do elephants and giraffes, they had to be kind of classy. I call it classic whimsy. And this fabric fit the bill. It’s whimsical with the flowers and mushrooms and elephants helping them to grow with their trunks. But it’s classic in that it doesn’t look too childish nor too mature. Plus it had dark colors that would show the old pattern through.

First I removed the hamper lid with a screw driver, making sure to keep all the hardware nearby.

Then I wrapped the new fabric around the front of the hamper to the back. It wasn’t long enough to wrap all the way around, but luckily there was a board in the back I could easily staple into.

I didn’t bother making it look pretty in the back since it’ll be against a wall. But I just pulled the fabric taut and stapled all the way down on both sides. Then I flipped it on its head so the part that is normally on the floor was in the air. And I pulled the fabric taut and stapled all the way around, making sure to staple over creases and folds at the corners.

Once it was all stapled, I cut off the excess fabric. Then I laid it back down and got ready to staple the fabric at the top. I had a little help from Lennie on that one.

I also had to recruit Mike at this point. Because of the awkward angles, I couldn’t hold the fabric in place and also use the staple gun. So I held and he stapled. We just stapled to the inner rim of the top of the hamper. It was plastic instead of wood, which made it more difficult, but we figured it out.

Next I tackled the hamper lid. This part was tres easy. I just measured the fabric, place the lid in the center and pulled up from the middle on each side. I placed a staple on each side, then worked my way around, being careful to pull taut and staple down any pleats at the corners.

Once I finished the whole thing, I had to reattach the lip to the hamper with hardware I had kept handy.

And here is the finished product, open for business.

And for comparison:

  

I absolutely LOVE how it turned out. I love the fabric and the colors. It’s the perfect start to a future baby’s room. Right now it just sits in our spare bedroom, which will be the baby’s room if we have/get one while we’re still living here.

In the meantime, I’ve been scoping out and pinning other classic whimsy fabrics for when I get inspired to do my next someday-we’ll-have-a-baby project. Curtains? A pillow? Maybe even a blanket?

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While we’ve been dealing with this arduous process of trying to become parents, I’ve become incredibly sensitive to other people’s good fortune in the kid department. I’ve had a really hard time expressing why that is, and I think a lot of people misunderstand where I’m coming from. I tried to write about this elsewhere once, and I don’t think I did a very good job.

But a friend just pointed me to this infertility forum called Clomid and Cabernet (how apt), and the first thing I read was very appropriate for how I was feeling. It’s called Sensitivity Matters, and if you know anyone who is or may be struggling with infertility, or even if you don’t (because you probably do know someone, you just don’t know it), you should check it out.

I admit, I was pretty oblivious to all of this before I had my own struggles, so there’s no judgment or reprimanding here. Just education.

“While I don’t want to make unequal comparisons, there are some things in life that you just don’t joke about.  There are some topics that can only be taken seriously.  We all know what those are. I think that it’s time to increase our collective awareness about infertility, and take note of the fact that people around us are struggling.

While some of you will argue that those struggling with infertility should simply avoid things like Facebook, Twitter, and Google+, I believe that that mentality leaves these infertility warriors feeling even more isolated than they already are. “

(It should be noted that Mike and I are simultaneously pursuing conception, adoption and foster-to-adopt options. We are very open to how we become parents. But there seems to be more frequent disappointments with conception, and there seems to be more misunderstanding and insensitivity around that struggle than the others. Hence my sharing this.)

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Quick update. We’re not intentionally being silent, we’ve just been busy and stressed and therefore haven’t gotten around to writing here. I’m still not pregnant. Last month was a tough blow to the psyche because it was the first attempt after the ectopic pregnancy and miscarriage. But we’re rallying and trying again, this month with the help of Clomid* which we used in December, the month I got pregnant. We are hopeful but cautious. Nothing seems to work out easily for us, so for Clomid to work twice in a row would be asking a lot of the universe. We’re doing everything we can to make this happen, but mostly we can only wait.

We finally heard something from the adoption agency we applied through. After a month of hearing nothing, I reached out again and got word that they are going to “check it out.” So, we wait.

We also were invited to participate in a training to become certified foster care providers. We are working with an agency that generally doesn’t place many young children through foster care, but has a specialized program that places young children whose parents have lost their rights. There is a waiting list to join this program and to be on the list of people they call when these types of situations arise. We got on that waiting list in October, and because we hadn’t heard anything, I recently followed up to just to remind them of our interest. Turns out they sent us an invitation letter for the training back in January. Which we never received. So we’re instead invited to participate in May. Until then, we wait.

In addition to the many attempts to become parents, we are also looking into buying a house. It started as a half-hearted idea to maybe purchase the home we’re currently renting, and it has quickly spiraled into a full-on house hunt. We’re only at the very beginning of this process, but if you’ve ever bought a house, you know the loads of fun we’re having.**

On top of all of that — Yes there’s more! — we’re also trying to make some extra money. Mike is currently working a second job as a line cook three nights a week. And I’m doing a hodge podge of random things (proofreading, transcription, home listings for a realtor, etc).

We’re busy and stressed and tired. I hope someday we can look back at this time and be thankful we’re past it. I hope someday we have a child (or two or three or whatever), we own a home, and we don’t have to work four jobs. But for now we’re just trucking along, waiting for that to working our asses off to make that happen.

*Clomid helps stimulate ovulation, an essential part of conception. A thing my body doesn’t seem to want to do on its own.

**That’s sarcasm, but apparently some people actually do think it’s fun…

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We’ve been a little quiet around here. That’s because big things were happening that we weren’t sure how to write about in this venue, so we just didn’t write anything. I think there is enough distance now that I can at least share what’s going on.

Most of you probably know that Mike and I have been looking into adoption for quite some time. We’ve been researching and learning and saving our pennies, and earlier this month we finally applied!

But along with adoption, we decided to open our hearts and minds to the possibility of conception. I get frustrated when couples practically kill themselves to get pregnant and won’t even consider adoption as an option, but a little over a year ago I realized we were doing the same thing in reverse. We were so focused on adoption that we failed to even consider other options. So last February (2011) I went off birth control. We spent nearly a year not getting pregnant and also making very little progress with adoption, and it was incredibly frustrating.

Then, finally, in January, this happened:

A positive pregnancy test! We were very excited, but very cautious. Too many people close to me had experienced miscarriages and other misfortunes recently to not be nervous. And sure enough, a mere three days after that test I started spotting. A week after that test my doctor confirmed it was a miscarriage.

We were devastated. After so many months of negative tests, it was such a relief to see a positive, and it was all gone in a flash. We had hardly processed the idea of being pregnant before it was over.

But it gets worse.

I went in for regular blood tests to make sure my hcg levels were decreasing as they should, but turns out they weren’t. They were also nowhere near the levels they should be for a normal, healthy pregnancy. Which means a pregnancy had taken hold somewhere in my body, just not where it was supposed to. It’s called an ectopic pregnancy.

I endured many blood tests, many uncomfortable ultrasounds, and finally a couple shots of methotrexate to dissolve whatever was left. From start to finish, from positive pregnancy test to hcg levels back to normal, it took nearly two months.

It has been exhausting, and while we try to remain positive about the future, we are sad and frustrated by how difficult it has been for us to become parents when so many others have no trouble at all. We like to think we are wide open to the possibilities — we don’t care how our child comes to us, we just want to be a mom and a dad. But the universe is really making us work for it.

As I said, we have officially applied for adoption. And we are officially trying again to get pregnant. I hope we have some good news really soon.

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It was this time last year that Mike and I were going to adoption orientation after adoption orientation, gathering information and contemplating our options. After several updates, we kind of stopped talking about it, so those of you who were following along may have been left wondering what the heck happened.

Basically, we thought a lot about what kind of adoption experience we wanted to have. Being two people who have no previous parenting experience, we became less and less confident about our ability to parent, right out of the gate, an older child from the foster care system. We began to see a future for us where our first child is an infant or young child, and once we have some parenting chops under our belts, welcoming an older child or two into our family. But see, that first step, that infant or child, that’s not an easy thing to accomplish.

Immediately we began saving, in a separate account from the one that paid for our Europe trip. But with all the ups and downs of life, after a year, we have not made it very far at all. We’ve saved very little. Every time we get ahead, we fall behind again, and it has been very discouraging. Then when November rolled around and I realized it had been a year, I got even more discouraged and decided it was time to take some initial steps. I needed forward motion – just saving money wasn’t active enough to feel like we were making progress.

So first I got in touch with an organization called DA Blodgett. They specialize in foster care placement of older children, but they have a small foster to adopt program for younger children. Unfortunately you have to get on a waiting list to even join the program, to even get on the list of people they call when a child is available. So we’re on the waiting list to be on the other waiting list.

The next thing I did was contact Greater Hopes, the organization that we were incredibly eager to work with. I wanted a refresher on the process, to know what the first step was and how much it cost. We don’t need to save ALL the money we’ll need for an adoption before we start, we just need enough to get started. Unfortunately I chose to contact them right when the holidays hit, so I haven’t heard anything yet. Hopefully soon after everyone gets back into the swing of things we’ll hear back and maybe soon we’ll be able to apply to get started.

Forward momentum!

And then, who knows. We cross our fingers and hope we can become parents as quickly as possible.

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Circumnavigation

“Would you want to have our son(s) circumcised?”

When Shannon asked me this recently, I froze. I had no idea. My instinct was to say ‘yes,’ but I think it was only because it’s what I know. I’d always heard that uncircumcised penises are unsanitary, they look weird, etc. But I’d never really thought about it, and had certainly not researched it.

After some brief research on a reasonably trusted website, I’ve discovered some information.

First, the sanitation argument. It is harder to keep the head of the penis clean in an uncircumcised boy. This is true, but ultimately not a factor. It comes down to simply teaching the boy how to keep it clean. We are a civilization with easy access to soap, water, and personal hygiene products. So, not that big of a deal.

However, it also seems that circumcision leads to a decreased risk of urinary tract infections, HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases, penile cancer, cervical cancer in female sexual partners, and some inflammatory diseases. Although, risk of a lot of these issues can also be reduced by hygiene and medical knowledge, so it’s kind of a wash.

There are medical institutions studying the myth that circumcision leads to increased sexual sensitivity. According to the department of urology at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York, it’s about even. There are apparently lots of factors that affect sensitivity (and circumcision may be one of them), but most of the factors are negligible. So, that’s not much of a factor…but it is weird to think about the sexual satisfaction of our unborn, hypothetical son.

So then there’s the risks of circumcision. It supposedly can be complicated. According to the CDC, two thirds of males in the US are circumcised at birth. So, after actual birth, it sounds like the most common pediatric procedure in medicine. The biggest risk is infection, which is usually non-existent and sometimes minor and local. About 1 in 200 circumcisions result in minor infection, inflammation, etc. However, the risks become greater as the child gets older. So, not too risky, unless we wait.

Finally, the pain. This one is pretty one-sided. It definitely hurts. A lot. So, the biggest decision is whether or not we want to subject our 1-day-old infant son to excruciating pain and a wound that takes up to a week to heal. It’s kind of funny, because that argument seems to make the decision, and yet 2/3 of parents get past it, so it must not be that bad, right?

Besides physical pain, there’s the emotional aspects. A friend, upon discussion of uncircumcised men, admitted that her reaction might be “what the hell is that?” She told us that friends of hers kept their son’s foreskin, and our friend’s husband referred to it as “the ant-eater.” A commenter on a website I read admitted that, as an uncircumcised high-school student, his locker-room nickname was “flappy.” So, there’s definitely a social side to the issue that we have to consider. I might hate my parents if they did not circumcise me and it lead to a nickname like that.

Of course, this whole discussion may end up being moot, since an adopted son might already be circumcised. So, we may have the decision taken from us. Although, since circumcision is much less common in other parts of the world, it we adopt internationally, it might become a bigger decision, since he might (probably will)  be older than 1 day old.

So, no decisions yet.  Obviously we don’t need a decision yet, so that’s ok.

Thoughts?

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Big spenders

Lest anyone think we’re rich, I should explain how we can afford to book a European tour and buy a new vehicle at essentially the same time. Not that we need to justify anything, but I get the impression some people think we’re rather well off*, and that’s just not the case. In fact, we both work in the nonprofit sector, which, as I’m sure you know, is not know for its high salaries. So how did we do it?

Well, first we put the money we got as wedding gifts in the bank. Which, as far as weddings go, wasn’t huge. We were thankful for and humbled by every penny since all we did to earn it was get married, but we had a small and inexpensive wedding, so we didn’t get (nor expect) the THOUSANDS that many other couples receive.

Anyway, we opened an account with that money and then added whatever we could, including, most recently, our meager tax return. Eventually we determined exactly how much we needed to save for Europe and began putting away about $400 a month to reach that goal. That was not easy. Our budget didn’t exactly allow for $400 a month in extraneous savings, so we had to really scrimp on some things. Eventually the money started adding up and we had enough to book the trip, but we continued the super saving in order to accumulate enough for “spending money” while we’re traveling. We’re actually still working on that part. It’s not easy to save $7000 in less than a year, but we think 9 whirlwind days in Europe will be worth it.

And then there’s the minivan. How, in the middle of saving and scrimping for this trip, did we purchase a vehicle? First, we both called our lenders for our student loans. Combined, Mike and I were paying over $700 a month on our education debt, and we figured that was a good place to find some wiggle room. We both switched to graduated plans, which aren’t as bad as I thought. In my mind, graduated meant one year you’re paying $100 a month and the next you’re paying $300, and so on. There’s no way our income increases would keep up with something like that. However, turns out the payments only increase by about $15-30 every two years. So even by the last step in the graduation, I’ll only be paying about the same amount that I was paying monthly before I switched.

That was confusing. So basically for the last couple years I was paying $295 a month. Now that I switched I’ll pay $165/month to start. And every few years my payments will increase. But even at the end, right before I pay off the loan, I’ll only be paying about $350 (and only for about 9 months). Mike has as similar situation. So for the time being, we decreased our monthly student loan payments by about $300 combined, which allowed us to build into our budget a $300 car loan payment. Magic!

In order to buy the type of van we wanted and keep our payments at $300/month though, we had to come up with a $4,000 down payment. That part was hard. We had to dip into our savings. Not our Europe savings, but the money we had both been putting away since long before we met. Which hurt. Oh how that hurt my heart. Our savings were meager, so $4,000 was a pretty big blow. Maybe it wasn’t the most fiscally responsible decision, but we’re confident it was the right choice. We have a reliable vehicle, we can afford the payments, and we’ll build back up our savings as quickly as possible.

So I say all this not to complain about being “poor” because we’re really not. I’ve seen poor and we are not that, thank god. But it has not been easy to make these two recent purchases, and I felt compelled to clear that up. This trend will not continue, that’s for sure. We decided on our priorities and we adjusted everything else accordingly. After Europe I’m sure we’ll reassess and readjust again. This time, it’ll probably be to save for a child (see the Adoption category if you don’t know what I mean).

*Mike’s dad even said, “Well I guess you turned out to be the wealthy Morris.**”
**Morris is Mike’s fake last name.

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