Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Why choose IVF over adoption

This is a long post.  I’m sorry, but today, I have a lot to say.

I read a post on a website today, where this question (along with potential answers) was explored: 

Why are some people seemingly obsessed with having a biological child? They will spend literally thousands of dollars, be willing to endure miscarriages, be poked and prodded, etc in the name of having a baby that has their own DNA.As an adoptee, I have to tell you, IT HURTS. It hurts to see that people are literally willing to move mountains, go into huge debt, risk their health…..and some won’t even consider adoption. … or to them, it’s a “last resort”… I’ve just always wondered why for some, adoption is no biggie and for others, it feels like they’d rather be childless than ever adopt.

Here is my answer and it is one that we have wept over, cried out in exasperation over, and, if we were violent people, would probably have punched a wall or two over (as in, the frustration that has built up over this and has festered has evoked such a strong emotional response likely similar to the ones that make violent people "lose it").

We always knew we would not likely be able to conceive.  My Dr told me that very early in my PCOS diagnosis.  If it was to happen, it would not be easy.

From a young age, I had wanted to adopt.  My husband and I never dreamed of having a mini-us.  Adoption was chosen as an option (by no means a “last resort”) as it made sense to us.  We wanted children.  There are millions of children in the world needing families.  To us it was just one of those "everything in the world balances out" types of things.

We tried some hormone therapy, but not to any great extent, as we knew the possibilities were slim.  It was with easy acceptance of this that we decided that adoption was the direction in which we wished to head.

In 2002, we were approached by a colleague who was also an adoption agent.  He had been approached by a birth mother, and, having just started his adoption agency practice, did not yet have a large clientele base, and knew that this was something we had started looking into.  He proposed us and 2 other couples to the birth family, and they chose to meet with us. After an in person meeting, they chose us.  We had to rush to complete our homestudy and all of the other required documents, and embraced every moment of it, as this was us, finally building our family. Several months later, the baby was born, and the agent advised us.  We had a son.  We named him.  We announced the birth to all of our friends and family because the birth mother was unwavering right from the start.  With everything in place to bring our new son home (diaper bag packed, formula in fridge, carrier in the car etc. etc), we waited.  Then the call came: The birth father was having second thoughts.   Over the course of the next few weeks, the birthparents went back and forth on their decision, eventually choosing to parent the child.  We were heartbroken but supported their decision.  It was their decision to make and we trusted that they had not made it lightly.  We grieved.  A lot.  We felt this was our son (who was even born on my deceased's mother's birthday).  It was the hardest thing we've ever gone through. 

Many months later, we felt that we were ready to start a new adoption process.  We decided to go through public adoptions.  Our private homestudy was used by the new social worker, but she needed to update it as the requirements for public adoptions are different.  Although we were considered perfect for a private adoption, the "requirements" made us less appropriate for a public one. Firstly, the social worker felt we did not properly grieve the child that would ever grow in my belly.  The fact is that that child never existed.  I did not feel a sense of loss in terms of this fictitious child.  I had, however, felt grief over the failed adoption.   I had lost my mother less than a year before, with whom I was extremely close. Didn't any of that count? No.  Apparently, that was not real grief, and I would never be able to identify with my child's sense of grief over losing their birthparents.  Ok.

But there was more.  Our home was a story and a half, with a master bedroom upstairs and the second bedroom downstairs (although no further than 25 feet from each other).  Not appropriate.  “What if the child has night terrors?”  Apparently, we would not be able to be there quickly enough (which, since now understanding night terrors and having dealt with a child with night terrors, seems like a ridiculous argument).

We then turned our mind to adopting from China, thereby returning to our private social worker.  While we were in the homestudy process, we sold our house and moved into an apartment, waiting for our new home to be built.  While we were in that process, I decided to quit a job in a very toxic work environment, and start my own law practice.  So there were big changes in our lives, because we were in the process of developing a more stable and flexible life for ourselves and for our eventual child.  Bad move.  Change in residence and employment=lack of stability.  Apparently, it doesn’t matter if you are working towards something better.  So, our file was put on hold.

By 2005, we were finally able to restart the process. In our province, all international adoptions have to go though the provincial Family services authority.  So we needed to seek the approval of the very people who had denied us for a public adoption.  This approval did not come easily (although at this point, they did try to convince us to adopt a newly available sibling group they were having difficulty placing, while trying to discourage us from adopting internationally because people adopting internationally “are just trying to avoid the red tape”.  Uhm-what???).  We decided to carry on with our international adoption, and held our breath while they made their decision.  Their decision came half-heartedly (“we still don’t feel this is appropriate but we won’t go against the advice of your private social worker”).  Talk about a bittersweet feeling.  When we should have been celebrating, we had to do so while swallowing the insulting pill that had just been dealt.

In time, we got over the nastiness and started jubilating about the wonderful addition to come in our family.  By 2008, we finally had a referral for a beautiful 10 month old girl.  Our life changed.  We were so elated at the thought that we had a daughter!  But this came with its emotional challenges as well.  Remember 2002?  We were so close.  But then it got ripped away from us.  What if this did too?

We prepared for travel, being nervous at every little glitch.  And plenty of them came (I'm sure those will be the subject of another blog at some point).

On our adoption day, I remember standing in the room at the location where we were meeting the kids, and thinking: this is as far as we’ve ever gotten.  But until she is in our arms, it can all be taken away (what if they give us the wrong kid, what if she is ill, what if they say there’s been a mistake, what if they decide our file is incomplete? What if, what if, what if….)

Then, our daughter was placed in our arms.  And we cried.  And she cried. Then she yelled.  Then she kicked and shouted and pushed us away.  But I knew she was ours and we were hers.  No matter what she did, she was our daughter and we would go through whatever was necessary to make sure that she was as healthy, happy and comfortable as possible.  The road ahead wouldn’t be easy, but this was what we had signed up for.  100%.

Once our daughter reached the age of about  2, we decided we wanted to adopt again.  At this point, we didn’t have the same financial resources as we did when we started our first adoption process. We had additional debt, a mortgage, a business which suffered along with the crash in the property market.  We lived frugally, but our daughter never wanted for anything.  We couldn’t buy the most expensive gadgets, clothes and diapers, but our daughter had everything she needed, diapers on her bum and clean clothes that fit at all times.  We couldn’t afford big Christmas presents, but we showed her the importance of family and traditions around the holidays.  We bought our clothes and hers in thrift shops, and we saved up to do cool things as a family.  We couldn’t afford the filet mignon, but we could do wonders with ground or stewing beef and discovered the benefits of finding a good butcher, growing our own vegetables and buying in bulk.  We budgeted and made a game out of seeing how much we could save on our grocery bills each week while still getting everything we needed. We ate at home more instead of eating out.  We turned the heat down and wore big sweaters, and flannels to bed.  We played cards or games instead of watching tv, and used 2 for 1 coupons to go to the movies.

Then we decided to move back to our (much larger) hometown, to make a better life for ourselves and our family.  Our hometown was much more culturally diverse than where we’d been living, and that was really important to us in raising our daughter.  I got a well paying job, so we packed up and moved, before our daughter started school, so that she could start in her new city.   Less than a year and a half later, I got laid off.   So I had to start over.  We struggled but got ourselves back on top.  I got a better job, my husband did too.  We moved about every 2 years within the city, to try to move up to bigger places gradually.

Here we are today.  I am in a secure job that I love.  My husband has found the job of his dreams.  Our daughter is happy, healthy, well-adjusted, awesome kid.  We have an incredible connection to the Chinese community here, and our daughter attends Chinese School every Saturday in addition to participating in two different Chinese dance programs.  We are a strong family.  But we have a lot of debt. We make a fair amount, but still live frugally, because we’d rather pay off our debt than go bankrupt, if at all possible.  And there is a light at the end of the tunnel.

So now, ask me why parents choose to go through IVF instead of adoption.

My answer is this.  Look at our background and history.  We have had to fight for every single part of our 1st adoption process, and now, we’re having to fight for our second.  We are still considered  “unstable” because of changes in employment and another recent move (from a 2 to a 3 bedroom, to accommodate a future child).  We have a lot of debt.  My inlaws, who adore our daughter, were difficult to convince that an international or domestic private adoption was the right option for us.  How challenging is it going to be to convince them that we are making the right decision about a public adoption? 

When the social worker comes over to start her new homestudy, will she notice that the dog smell left by the former tenants in our house?  Will she feel that our house is too small to bring in another child?  She will question whether we have the means to raise this child.   She will wonder which one of us will be taking parental leave.  She will pry into our personal lives, our relationship.  The questions we’ve already had to answer on the questionnaire were so invasive.   But we’ve done it before and accept that it is what it is.

But we worry.  We worry that we won’t be good enough.  We worry that we won’t be strong enough, healthy enough, financially stable enough.

We embark on this process, knowing what we might expect.  We also know that even though we have hundreds of hours of education already under our belt (including excellent parenting experience), we still have to attend a total of another 40 or so hours of training (most of which we’ve already done in another province.  But that, apparently, doesn’t count.)

And when our new province’s family services are going through their screening process, they’ll be calling our former province’s family services branch.  You  know, the ones who tried to stop us from parenting the first time?

So if I knew that there was a chance IVF might work, I would be doing it in a heartbeat.  I would do it to avoid having to justify my parenting skills, financial situation, residence, choices, relationship, etc.

It frustrates me when I see parents who are blessed with children and who mistreat them, neglect them, or make them feel like a burden.  I cringe when I see kids with soaking wet diapers, dirty clothes, hungry mouths and resolvable but unresolved health issues, in the care of their biological parents, with no consideration of whether they are good parents or not. 

As a family law mediator, I see parents using their kids as pawns.  I see parents who put their own needs ahead of their kids and are more concerned with getting even with the other parent than providing what’s in their kids’ best interest.   They never had to justify to anyone why they should be able to parent their kids.

I have friends who receive social assistance.  They have been welfare recipients for as long as I have known them.  They have 3 children.  They didn’t have to ask anyone’s permission to get pregnant.  They didn’t have to think about what to say to person x or person y to make sure their pregnancy could continue advancing.    They didn’t have to worry and be careful to not say the wrong thing to so and so at the risk of that person saying that they would have to wait before having their baby.  I have no problem, at all with my friends having this luxury.  As a matter of fact, I am thrilled that they don’t have to go through what we’d have to go though, as they could lose their right to become parent, and that wouldn’t be fair.

I see ads all the time on posting websites, by single moms who are pregnant and are having to “start over”.  They are asking for everything, from pots and pans to beds and clothes.  No one tells them that maybe this isn’t the right time for them to be starting a family (or at least, no one who can impose this on them).

Yet, even with an excellent track record (our kid is pretty awesome, and if we could use her as a reference, we would!) of positive parenting, of beating the odds and not falling into a depression when most people would have, of not going bankrupt and choosing instead to cut our expenses so that we could repay our creditors, of allllll of these things, we still need to justify our ability to parent before we are able to be matched to another child.   

Parenting is seen as a right.  You can only have your right to parent taken away from you 1) if you abuse it; 2) if you are severely unwell; or  3) if you choose to give that right up. Well, if you are a biological parent (including a parent by IVF), that is.

If you are not a biological parent, let's be clear-you do not have a right to be a parent.  Someone has to allow you to do it.  You have to justify that you’re financially stable. You have to justify that you are mentally capable.  You have to justify that you live in the right kind of accommodations (often determined by a very subjective or blindly objective set of criteria). You have to justify that you are willing to do whatever it takes to make sure your child will be safe, happy, and healthy.  You have to plead your case to people who are not impartial by any stretch of the imagination, and you have to be prepared to be evaluated, watched, assessed, checked up on and researched even though you have never, ever, ever done anything in your life to hurt so much of a hair on a child (in other words, if CAS has been called on you in the past, I can understand why they may need to do these things, but where there is no such history, and, actually a strong indication that everything is peachy, it sucks to be on the receiving end of this scrutiny).

To be fair, I get it. I understand why it is so important to make sure that adoptive families are appropriate.  So many horror stories have happened before (and I’m sure even a few since) these measures were put in place.  Same goes for the training. I get it.

But when someone asks why families would choose IVF over adoption, my story is all I can offer.  For me, it has nothing to do with wanting a child who is my flesh and blood.  It has nothing to do with having a child who is half me and half my husband (as a matter of fact, our choice would be to do IVF with both sperm and donor eggs of people of chinese descent but apparently, that’s frowned upon because we’re caucasian).  I know that these are factors for other families, but our family’s reality is very different. 

So to a child (or adult adoptee) who feels unwanted because parents have chosen to have a baby grow in their belly instead of adopting them, you don’t need to tell us how much it hurts you to feel unwanted or less desirable than a birthchild.  We know.  In an obviously very different way, we feel it.  We feel it everytime we’re told that we are less desirable.  Not less desirable than couple A or couple B.  Less desirable than any other couple (there’s a difference between birthparents choosing another couple to parent their child because they have a different life than you do, and a social worker telling you that you can’t be chosen by anyone because you don’t even make the list).  Less desirable than birthparents, who obviously are the best option if at all possible.  Less desirable than a parent who has alcohol or drug dependancies, but is getting the help they need.  Less desirable than a parent who beat the crap out of their child but is taking Anger Management classes.  Less desirable than a parent who spent all their money on cigarettes and ipods for themselves, but accepts the help of food vouchers and food banks.  No one would want US as parents because we’ve moved more than once in the last 5 years. It stings for us too. And when you question why YOU would be less desirable, I weep.  Because you would be my first choice, and it saddens me that you can’t even know that.

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