Saturday, February 16, 2013

Loss is Loss

Maybe I’m just coming to a less selfish point in my life, and realizing that not everything is about me or directed at me in some way.  What a shocking revelation that is….  It has occurred to me lately that we all need to take a step back and see things for what they are—nothing more and nothing less.  In all the adoption classes we’ve taken, and the difficult experiences we’ve had over the years with failed fertility treatments, a failed adoption and everything in between, I have found it interesting that we all compare our grief.  I’ve heard it from both ends, too.  I’ve had people who feel that the things they have experienced have been worse than what I have experienced and they say something in the form of “well, at least you didn’t have to _____________”.  And I’ve had people who were amazed at what we have been through say something like “Wow, I’ve had ____________ happen, but that was nothing compared to what you’ve dealt with”.  It’s as if all the painful experiences in life can be measured on a line, with one standing behind the other in some grand descending order.  So, how does it go?  Does having to give my soon-to-be-adopted son back to his father trump your miscarriage?  Is losing a parent farther down the grief line than losing a child?  What if it was a more tragic death? And what about dissimilar experiences?  Does your ongoing chronic health problem match up to my losing a job?  Does my frustration with my weight win our over your depression?  We even do it with children.  My three-year-old can experience some pretty big grief over losing a monster truck—a seemingly insignificant thing, so should I just tell him, hey, I’ve lost a child, so suck it up?

What I have come to understand is that loss is just loss.  It is the same emotion though perhaps driven by different experiences.  I’ve had many, many friends over the years who were afraid to tell me they were pregnant, especially if it was unplanned, and especially if they were not wanting to get pregnant at that time or ever again.  So, does the stress and grief of a mother overwhelmed with several little children, who just found out she was pregnant again when she had hoped to wait until things had maybe settled down—does her grief go in front of or behind my grief at not being able to get pregnant at all?  What about when my grief is magnified by years of failed fertility treatments, including two very difficult rounds of invitro, neither of which worked?  Now do I win?

Loss is loss.  It is still grief.  There may be degrees, but it is the same sadness and pain and depression.  We would do well to stop comparing our emotions in an effort to either justify our level of sadness, or to make ourselves or a friend or loved one “snap out of it and be grateful for what you have.”  The truth is, most of us are very grateful for what we have.  But, sometimes we are just sad and hurt over something we have lost.  Maybe it was a loved one.  Maybe it was the dream of having that loved one.  Maybe it was the dream of a stable income or a good retirement or a healthy life or a home or a particular friendship.  During our adoption/foster care classes, we got a little refresher course on the stages of grief, and we learned how we have to move through each stage before we can progress to the next one.  No matter what the loss is, our feet must touch each step. Some may be quicker than others.  We might breeze through denial and then wallow a lot longer in anger before moving on, but they all have to happen.  It is something we all have in common, so, in essence, we would do better to stop worrying about whose grief is greater and whose deserves more sympathy, and just mourn with those who mourn.  Because, even though the driving force may differ, we are sharing in the same experience.  I’ve often told stressed mothers with several children who felt like they couldn’t break down in front of me, that it is okay for them to be sad and upset and stressed, and it's okay if I know about it.  I always say that they are learning the lessons of patience and compassion through the difficult journey of caring for their children, and I am learning the same lessons through the difficult journey of trying to have children.  Same lessons.  Because patience is patience and compassion is compassion and loss is just loss.  No grand sequential lineup.  It just is.  So cry on my shoulder because you’ve changed 3000 diapers today and soothed 26 temper tantrums and done 16 loads of laundry, cooked 3 meals and 12 snacks, all with your husband deployed.  And I will cry on your shoulder because the cysts in my ovaries are extra painful today and I still have health complications left over from the hormone manipulation that is invitro and my aging parents are experiencing health problems and I don’t have two shiny nickels to my name and my family is so far away and my long, long-awaited son keeps asking for a baby brother and I can’t give him one, though it is my greatest wish.  And, then, soon enough, we will eat some chocolate and laugh about our breakdowns and suck it up and be grateful for what we have.  But, for now, let’s let ourselves grieve together.  We just might learn something from each other that will make our lives a little bit better.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Top 10 Cool Things About Adoption (But Only I Can Point Them Out....)

It occurs to me that a lot of my posts are about the challenges of the adoption process, whether emotionally, psychologically or logistically.  A few conversations lately have led me to compile a list of the cool things about adoption.  However, a warning.  These are things only adoptive parents can point out!  If you have been able to birth your children, trust me when I say, these will not be welcomed comments coming from you.  I know.  It’s not fair.  But experience (and my parents) have constantly reminded me that life isn’t fair.  So, if you feel the need to make one of these comments to a friend of yours who is adopting or has adopted in the form of “Well, at least you get to…..”, for the love of all that is good in this world….DON’T!  Maybe just casually introduce them to this blog instead.    I’m just trying to preserve your friendship….maybe even your life.

Here goes, in no particular order.
  1.  No stretch marks!  I MIGHT have them from years of weight fluctuation and whatnot, but not from being pregnant!
  2. No gaining fifty pounds and being so uncomfortable.  Especially those unfortunate enough to have been nine months pregnant in August.  I feel for you!  It’s a bonus to not have to deal with that.  (I have certainly gained weight before, but due to lack of self-control and laziness, not pregnancy…)
  3. No physical recovery after delivery.  No C-section.  No surgeries.  No stitches.  No drugs.  No hours and hours of labor.  No being away from home and being woken up every thirty minutes to feed or eat or take my vital signs.  Don’t get me wrong.  I would love to be able to get pregnant and have a baby.  But this post is about the silver lining of adoption, and if I’m looking for awesome things about it, this is one of them!  I am healthy and strong and feel amazing when I go pick up my baby.  I don’t need days to recover.  I am ready to hit the ground running.
  4. When I take my newborn baby to the store, etc., everyone tells me how great I look for just having had a baby!  Yes, I may be vain, but being complimented is awesome.  Sometimes I tell them the truth.  Sometimes I just act like I’m a total rock star and dropped fifty pounds in 2 weeks and say “thank you!”  Sometimes I know exactly what they mean when they look at me and look at my baby and say “how old is he?”  I admit…I like to toy with them.  However, I will say that if another new mom asks me, and I can see the frustration on her face, I absolutely tell her the truth.  She has enough on her plate to be feeling any worse about her body.
  5. The flurry surrounding bringing the baby home.  This may not be a plus for everyone, but I personally enjoyed getting the call and then having a baby within a week.  There were no months of planning and anticipation.  When you don’t know what age you will be bringing home, it’s really hard to prepare.  But, I kind of enjoyed the complete rush of suddenly getting that child.  A fast and furious week of preparing and it’s done!  Truth be told, that was one of the most fun weeks of my life.  I describe the adoption process as “hurry up and wait”.  But actually adopting is a lot of “wait and then hurry up!”
  6. The phone call.  This is one of my favorite parts.  We only have one child, but we took home two, and we took calls on many more.  I LOVE when the social worker calls and says “you’ve been matched with a child” and proceeds to give you all the details of this little person you know nothing about.  She gives you all the background information, what he or she looks like and all the challenges that may come up, at least as far as they know.  It’s such a fascinating phone call.  It’s so exciting and scary, but mostly exciting.  I loved hearing D’s physical description and I yearned to hear more and to finally see a picture.
  7. The ability to brag about your baby.  There is something about not being connected through DNA with a child that allows you to be more open to bragging about how cute or smart he or she is.  I don’t have to worry that people will think that I think this baby is so awesome because I had something to do with his creation.  I can be an obnoxious, bragging parent, all the while giving credit to someone else.
  8. No saggy breast-feeding boobs.  Okay, there is an amount of sagging that comes with age, but it’s not exacerbated by months/years of breast-feeding!  Gotta take the perks (so to speak) where you can get them!  Sorry breastfeeders, but you know it’s true!  Worth it, but true.
  9. Bottle feeding.  Yes, I KNOW that breastfeeding is best.  But if I can’t do it, then I will enjoy the great things about bottle feeding.  One of them is that my husband and I were much more equal in the amount of time up at night with our baby, because he could feed him, too.  We traded off nights, so I knew every other night I wouldn’t have to get up at all.  And that made for a less tired mom, which was a happier, more vibrant mom.  Don’t get me wrong.  I loved my nights feeding my baby.  But, I also loved my sleep.
  10. All the excitement.  Everyone is always excited for a new baby.  But the cool thing is that when all of your friends know you have been waiting so long, and then suddenly you have this baby, they are so excited, too.  My mom said today that if you want a life with peaks, you have to have valleys, too. As we waited years in the valley, it made the peak that much more glorious, and not just for us, but those who have patiently waited with us.  I so loved how everyone stopped by bringing gifts and wanting to see the new baby and hear the story.  I know they do this with births, too, but sometimes you’re not always in the mood for all the visitors after a pregnancy and delivery.  But, I was so ready and it was so much fun, and I didn’t care that I retold the story a hundred times.  I could have retold it a hundred more and never been tired of it.
Adoption ain’t for the faint of heart.  It is a long journey.  But, if you look at the fun things about it, it can make you excited to get on the path again, or maybe for the first time.  My journey has taken us through our local foster care, so these ten things may not be accurate for everybody’s adoption experience.  And, though perhaps a little tongue-in-cheek, they are all true.