Wednesday, April 29, 2009

In which I stir up some controversy

It's National Infertility Awareness Week.

I don't believe infertility happens for a reason. I don't believe that G-d made me infertile so that we would adopt. I don't believe that G-d wants a family to adopt a specific child. And I have very good reasons for these things, but I know how they sound when I just say them like that.

So here we go:

1. Infertility is a medical condition, like any other medical condition. It affects a person physically, mentally, emotionally. Ever talked to a woman with endometriosis to see how she feels? How about a man with varicoceles who's been through surgery to try to correct them? What about an infertile couple with no diagnosis? There have been repeated studies that show the depression of infertility is on par with the depression experienced by cancer patients.

Have you ever really wanted something? I mean REALLY wanted something? A dream job, a dream college, a dream person. You allowed yourself to hope. You prayed. You maybe even got superstitious about it. And then you didn't get it--you were probably pretty devastated. It takes time to get over the disappointment and figure out the next step, because you were counting on that one.

Now imagine that happens every month. Imagine the emotional and mental toll of having a dream destroyed every month. Imagine knowing that you don't really have time to get over it because you've got to hop right back into dreaming and hoping, while simultaneously dealing with the crushing disappointment. And imagine that you can't even walk down the sidewalk without seeing someone else who has your dream in their grasp. You can't watch TV without being reminded that others have what you so desperately desire.

Infertility is its own living hell. Does that happen for a reason? I can't believe that G-d wanted me to go through all of that. Seriously, for what purpose?

2. Oh right, because we chose to adopt when we were infertile. Except that we were planning to adopt before I got pregnant with Patrick. Now granted, I was already infertile and we knew that. But we planned on adopting AFTER I got pregnant with Patrick also, when we thought that our fertility issues had a pretty quick fix--I got pregnant very soon after being diagnosed and put on medication for PCOS. During that time, we didn't know that we would ever have trouble again and we STILL wanted to adopt. So the years of recurring infertility after he was born? Not "necessary". We'd figured on giving birth to the second and adopting the other two. So there wasn't a reason there.

But it did speed up the timeline (maybe--if I'd gotten pregnant right away, we probably would have been ready to pursue adoption at about the same time), which MUST mean that we were MEANT to adopt Melkamu, that G-d chose him to be in our family. And this is really the one I have the biggest problem with.

3. If we were meant to adopt Melkamu, that means his first family was meant to relinquish him. Did G-d really make his first mom just a temporary caretaker for him so that he could join our family? Did G-d make her create and love this child, care for him, hug him, kiss him, just while we were waiting to figure out the next step to the plan? Did G-d want her to watch him starving to death, suffering through painful untreated ear infections? Did G-d want her to suffer the intense agony of saying goodbye to her firstborn child and possibly never seeing him again?

And that doesn't address Melkamu's pain. Did G-d want him to suffer from lack of food and ear infections? Did G-d want him to suffer the confusion and anguish of being left in a strange place, watching his firstmom walk away and not come back? Did G-d want him to lose everything he'd known? Did G-d want him to suffer the fear and confusion of having strange white people come and take him away from yet another place that he'd become comfortable? Does G-d want him to suffer the confusion and identity issues that will undoubtedly come along as a transracial and international adoptee?

Is G-d really that cruel, to put them both through that so that Melkamu could be in our family? I can't believe that.

It's easy to justify saying "everything happens for a reason" if you just look at our family superficially. On the outside, we're the luckiest people in the world: almost 10 years married, two great sons. Infertility didn't break us, so it's easy to say that "infertility happened for a reason".

But our great happiness has come with huge costs, and we aren't the ones who bear most of those costs. In reality, the cost of infertility (and I'm not talking money here) was huge but temporary. It doesn't ever go away but the cost decreases over time. After all, I'm mostly OK with surprise pregnancy announcements now, while those would have led to a spiral of depression lasting for days while we were going through infertility treatments. Compared to the cost of relinquishing your child, of having to say goodbye to everything you've ever known--our cost doesn't matter. It doesn't even count.

We don't live our lives mired in the sadness of what Melkamu and his first mom have experienced, but we don't forget it either. Saying that "everything happens for a reason" is saying that there is a reason that they went through that--almost saying that they deserved it. I can't fathom a G-d that cruel, to put a family through something like that just so that we could have another child in ours. It's like saying that our suffering was more "worthy" and therefore we "deserved" a child while she "deserved" to have to say goodbye to hers.

There is not a day that goes by that I am not grateful for Melkamu, for how could someone fail to love this child beyond reason? And I am glad that there are families who have opened their hearts to children who need families, whatever the circumstances. But I cannot believe that G-d is out there saying, "Hmm, THIS is the child which belongs to that family. I just need to break up the first family so that this other one can have that child."


Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Parenting from afar

When you hear your youngest child say "Pizza? Haaaaat?" from the dining room, in which you have just served him a piece of pizza, it is perfectly acceptable to say "Melkamu, take the pizza off your head" without ever seeing it on there.

I have Patrick mostly convinced that I really can see through walls.

Friday, April 17, 2009

It's been a month, you say?

There are some excuses reasons.

1. You know what I really don't recommend? Having your whole family get sick with strep throat. At one time. Really awful strep, that leaves the parents of the family with fevers of over 102 and feeling like they'd be in less pain if they'd been hit by Mack trucks.

2. Having the whole family getting strep throat over Passover. I would really strongly suggest that if you don't take part in recommendation #1, you make note of recommendation #2 and avoid having the whole family get strep throat when most of the family's favorite comfort foods no longer reside in your home. Trust me, matzah ball soup will not get you very far when your children refuse to eat matzah ball soup.

3. Exposing very small babies to said strep throat. For this, I humbly beg the forgiveness of every single person (especially the new parents) that I know. The person who gave us strep throat had been on antibiotics for over 24 hours before we were exposed, so we thought it was safe. And we had a longer incubation period--it was a good 4 days before I got sick, when the normal incubation period is 1-3 days.* Therefore, we didn't take any precautions and managed to inadvertently expose 3 babies under 2 months old (one under 2 days old) to strep throat. I really do feel awful about this, and am trying to avoid several more very new babies until I'm sure that we're all completely healthy.

4. On a completely different note, I think it took me...well, until now to get caught up from the week off for spring break. Work has been insanely busy lately with teaching two new classes this semester. Preparing lectures and going over labs takes a really freaking long time! I'm looking forward to next semester when I don't have any new classes to teach (!!!!). It will be only the 2nd time in 7 semesters that has happened.

5. Did I mention that I have Tuesdays off next semester? No classes on Thursday or Friday mornings? And that next semester will be the heavier of my two course loads for the 2009-2010 academic year? Not yet? Huh.

Right, back to reasons I haven't been here...

6. We have a Wii Fit now. I have fallen in love with many aspects of this board that insults me and makes me feel guilty when I don't use it. On April Fool's Day, I got on for my daily body test and it said "Balance...board...broken! Ha ha, just kidding!" How could you not love it? But it is a demanding lover and takes up a lot of my time. On the other hand, I have lost 4 pounds in a month and my blood pressure is back down to 108/70 from 120/80. Go me!

7. I've decided that I'm expanding my gardening this year. While we're on water restrictions already, vegetable gardens are exempt--so I'm planting a lot more in the ground. I missed gardening last year. Other than jogging, it's my primary form of outdoor exercise; even more, I love watching them grow. I'll still have my containers of tomatoes and peppers and 2 varieties of beans. I'll have either basil or oregano growing on top of the upside-down tomatoes. In-ground, however, I'll have peas, Swiss chard, a mesclun mix, baby spinach, strawberries, corn, and onions. I'm also interspersing some perennial flower seeds with them--they'll get watered well since I'll water my veggies, but I don't expect them to flower this year.

This has meant a lot of extra work. I spent all day last Sunday outside in the garden, pulling up ugly little bushes, pulling out roots, and all sorts of soil things. (In retrospect, since I started getting sick with strep on Monday, this might not have been the most brilliant idea.) There's more to do, particularly for my corn patch, but I have the strawberries in the ground and have planted my annuals for the year. I also started seeds for my tomatoes, beans, peppers, and Swiss chard. Assuming I feel OK this weekend, I'd like to get part of the corn patch prepared.

8. Ummm...I think I'm out of excuses.

I'm going to commit to posting at least once a week for the next two months!

*Perhaps we were exposed to it by someone else in that time? I don't know who it would have been, as both kids were home from school and weren't around many kids, but it seems like it could be possible.