"...suffering is one of the universal conditions of being alive. We all suffer. We have become terribly vulnerable, not because we suffer, but because we have separated ourselves from each other." -- Rachel Naoimi Remen

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Men in the Arena (Humanity: Adoption Love Link-Up)

The Adoption Love Link-up is a neat blog I found through the community of wonderful people adopting.  She asks a question each month and other bloggers can answer it and she links those blogs to her page.  The question this month is how did our experience with adoption affect our view of humanity?  This dovetails nicely with what I have been wanting to write about for a while - how I feel about birthmothers - and so here's my take...

So, how has our adoption story affected my view of the human race?  Well, let me give some history.  I have actually considered adoption since I was a teenager.  It began when I realized how strongly I felt that life began at conception.  But I also knew that our society needs real alternatives that work for women in crisis.  I believe adoption is one such answer.  I wanted to be part of the solution, and so, I imagined a future where I might adopt.  This was further nurtured when I visited Africa and met so many orphans.  I wasn't ready yet, but I really wanted to take a child home and give him a better life. 
Of course, infertility and recurrent miscarriage were never part of that dream.  When my husband and I met, we talked quite a lot about adoption and he was on board with the idea... after we were done having biological children.  It would be at a comfortable time of our lives, when we were in charge of our destiny.  It would be on our terms.  We just never expected it any other way. 

Five years later, my story of adoption and recurrent miscarriage are now inextricably linked in a beautifully complicated way that I never anticipated.  Our choice to adopt is a lot less to save the world or help the helpless, than it is to grow our family in the best possible way.  After five consecutive miscarriages, adoption was the obvious choice for us.  

I think most people agree that adoption is a loving option from the vantage point of the adoptive parents.  We're opening our hearts, home and families to someone without one.  It's one thing to say that adoption is a beautiful choice but it's another thing entirely to actually do the hard work of a home study, spend thousands of dollars, wait months or years, and to make all the other sacrifices that adoption entails.  The parents who I've met, whether in person or via the internet, who are on an adoption journey are kind, enthusiastic and brave, in an inspiring way.  

Furthermore, the support that my husband and I have received through our own adoption journey has been overwhelming.  Friends and family, coworkers and acquaintances have all been joyful when they've heard our news.  In most instances, they've been empathic and supportive in all the right ways.  It's been a wonderful blessing to my husband and I.  

But the most impressive part of humanity, by far, are the birthmothers.  It's interesting, when you're first starting off on your adoption journey one of the first things you have to do is write a letter to a prospective birthmother.  In that letter, the agency encourages you to tell her how brave you think she is.  And so our letter talks about just that.  And when we wrote it, we meant every word of it.  Of course we did.... we meant it honestly from our perspective; in the lustful dreamy way a teen tells her first boyfriend that she loves him.  Now, as we have actually met a birthmother who's chosen us to raise her baby, we mean it when we honor her courage in a much bigger way.  We mean it like a woman married for ten or twenty or maybe even fifty years means it when she says she loves her husband.  That love embodies a complex person and process, for all that's beautiful and all that's ugly in it.  That love knows it's worth and cherishes it, in a way that the giver of the love never even knew was humanly possible before.

The woman who shares her child through adoption is truly one of the most courageous women out there.  Could you or I do what she has done?  I am not sure I would be that brave.  In a crisis pregnancy, adoption is surely the toughest choice.  And yet, she makes a selfless decision for the best interest of others; her baby and her adoptive parents.  She deals with a great crisis in the most brave and beautiful way there is.  She is admirable.  

She reminds me, actually all the parties in adoption remind me, of the Man in the Arena, which you may be familiar with. 

Man in the Arena by Teddy Roosevelt, quoted here by Brene Brown:
It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.

By being there, in the arena, marred by dust and sweat and blood, birthmothers are vulnerable and generous at the same time.  Adoptive parents, who've often suffered through miscarriage and infertility, open themselves up again in a risky way ultimately have the privileged of knowing "great enthusiasms".

The men and women in the arena that I've met through adoption inspire me. 

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Stomach flop

There isn't much that "gets me" anymore.  I feel as though I have healed up from the hurt of recurrent miscarriage, and am so thankful for that.  (Of course, I am forever changed; but healthy again.) Furthermore, I'm a big believer in the power of positive thinking.  I am not a fan of those bloggers, writers on social media, or even just people in plain old conversation, who have a complaint about everything.  Like many of you, I'm getting tired of hearing about the latest thing that's offensive to someone else.  Sometimes, it seems like we have to constantly walk on eggshells.  

On the other side of the coin, however, sometimes I know the complainers are doing a public service.  I know from my experience with blogging, that sometimes I have been able to speak for others who aren't able to speak for themselves.  Most of the time they are just still too hurt to articulate themselves (or sometimes they are just too polite).  

So what's my point?  

Nothing continues to upset me like "gender reveal" announcements.  
Not that these parties, or social media announcements are in and of themselves evil.  But, I'm being honest here, they make my stomach flop. 

Maybe it is just me... let me give you the background here - just after I miscarried the first time (I was 16.5 weeks that time and my baby had Trisomy 18) - I was at work and a friend of mine was excited to see me. She immediately shared her story and pictures of her gender reveal party with her pregnancy.  (There was a bunch of family and friends and PINK everywhere!  Pink icing, Pink balloons... I think Pink balloons may have come out of a Pink cake?)  If I had still been pregnant, I would have been further along than she was, and throughout the whole conversation, I just held back the tears.  She didn't know I had recently suffered one of the biggest devastation's of my life, and she didn't recognize I was saddened by her story, because she was just so excited and enamored with her big news.  It really wasn't her fault, she didn't do anything wrong, but my heart sank nonetheless and I felt sick to my stomach.  Certainly it is less dramatic now, but that sensation has truly stuck with me. 

So, maybe it's just me. 

Interestingly, when I was pregnant the first time (just four short years ago) the typical timing to find out the gender of one's baby was at the 20 week (5 months) ultrasound.  Now, there are genetic tests that are widely available at 12 weeks (still first trimester where miscarriage rates are 1/3 - 1/5!) which can give this information.  In addition, highly sensitive ultrasounds are being done earlier and more often in pregnancies here in the US and parents are finding out sooner the gender of their precious cargo.  

Keep in mind, I'm speaking as a person who has never actually attended one of these parties.  My suppositions and judgements (yes, I'm being judge-y here) are from my broken (and potentially jealous) perspective based on my view of social media posts and stories alone. 

Mostly, the topic of gender reveal parties bothers me because I feel like it's the epitomy of our aggrandized first world society.  Often times, it doesn't look to me like it's the miracle of human life being celebrated.  I feel like it's a modern creation of one more reason to throw a party and check out pinterest.  Which, again, is not inherently evil.  In fact, I'm all for celebrating the small victories.  I just think we should focus on what's truly important, which is our growing family and the miracle of pregnancy, not pink onesies or tiaras.  Furthermore, I am not sure a gender reveal party is best shared with the whole (social media) world.  And, I wonder how wise it is to broadcast your celebration in this way when the baby isn't viable yet.  When the baby has four, five (or even six!) more months to grow inside you.  I understand wanting to know the gender and sharing it with family and friends.  I've done that too.  I recall everyone asking if "it" is a boy or a girl.  I know the desire to call him or her by name, even when he or she is not fully developed.  And, I absolutely believe in the child's person-hood even when previable.  But, I think we should each be part of a world and part of a society where we appreciate how complicated the miracle of life is.  We shouldn't take it for granted; and the very nature of the gender reveal party feels to me like it's taking for granted.  It looks like a boastful luxury, to me.  

In many parts of the world, a woman has NO access to ultrasound technology.  I once diagnosed twins on a woman in Costa Rica via doppler.  (Of course she was devastated, wondering how she would afford to take care of one, let alone two, babies.)  

Even in our part of the world, many parents lose their children even after they know the baby's gender.  Some of our friends never even get the luxury of seeing two pink lines.  The layers of loss for these women and men are deep.  On the surface it may seem trivial, but the joys that many take for granted are sources of heartache for some others.  Creating even more potential layers for loss for families with infertility just seems unfair.  

Now, I'm a firm believer that everyone who's pregnant deserves to enjoy the celebration of a baby shower, gifts from friends, and parties in her honor.  That's also a first world creation, but I understand and support those celebrations, because babies are indeed worth celebrating over!  We are fortunate to live in abundance and I absolutely love showering others with generosity during the exciting time of family growth!  I just think that these advertizements are one of the many ways in which social media does more harm than good, and I think gender reveal parties, and especially pictures of said parties, would be better left off the world wide web. 

In summary, healed though I may be, seeing pictures of gender reveal parties on social media hurts me.  

And, I doubt it's just me. 

[Consider this your public service announcement of the day ;)]