Friday, October 26, 2007

Me... a mother?

The last couple years, I've been part of a project called A Mother's Story, initiated by a local actress. She was asking other actresses to write the stories of their mums, living or deceased. It came at a really good time for me, as I was growing into the role of guardian for my mum. And as I wrote the story, I realized that there was a lot about her that I didn't know. We never really talked about her personal history. My mum was of the West Indian ilk who instructed and complained to her children. We didn't really have a "friendship". She was the parent, I was the child, the end.

So I concentrated on how our relationship is at present. Another actress suggested we "collage" our stories and that turned in to a staged reading with about 25 of us, reading parts of our collectives stories. Then this spring,we put on A Mother's Story at a stage downtown for Mother's Day. We served tea and cakes before the show to everyone. The show was sold out 3 weeks before we did it. Then another performance this fall at a Unity church as a fundraiser. It's always emotional, funny, touching and serves as a reminder for us all that motherhood is extremely powerful. My mum has been in the audience on two occasions. I can't look at her though or I lose it. She told me she's proud of me.

After the show, I usually get asked by an audience member if I have children. I always smile and say no, and change the subject. Strangely enough, I never get questioned as to why I don't. Maybe it's the look in my eye or something, I don't know.

Next spring, I may answer yes to that question. Sometimes, in the midst of all the concern about money, social worker visits, books to read and courses to take, I forget that I will be a mother one day. I've never really felt like a mother to be, my lovely dog not withstanding. The closest I've ever come to that was I was swollen up like a beach ball after egg retrieval.

What if a birth mother chooses us and we find out it's a boy? I kinda want a girl. We both do actually. What do I do? Say, "No thanks" like someone is offering me a stick of gum? What's the etiquette for this? I have no idea.

What if I can't produce enough breastmilk? Oh, don't even get me started on adoptive breastfeeding. I went to a site that had so much friggin' hardware to go along with it, I freaked out! And you don't want to know what my hubby thinks of it. I told him my boobies were going south whether he liked it or not. I think he's terrified because he's seen my mother naked (not intentionally of course, but sometimes dementia patients don't feel like wearing clothes, heh, heh).

What if I don't know how to make it stop crying during teething? I don't think they approve of brandy on the pacifier like my mum did. I don't think my mum can help me out anymore.

I don't know what's in the baby aisle in the drugstore. I've always avoided it. Unless I need Q-tips.

Jeepers, I've got a lot to learn. That means I'm going to have to go in a baby store and actually look around. I'm kinda freaking out about that, too.

I wonder what story my little kid will tell about me? Or the birth mother? Oh, man.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Mum's the word

My back is much better thank you. I'm just out of shape. My core is pretty weak. Ack, sometimes I feel so old. I've already seen my first grey hair on my head. You don't want to know where I found the other grey one. I felt like Samantha in Sex and the City when she found a grey hair in her nether regions. I was absolutely horrified and went into denial, sure that the electrolytes in my pee was responsible or whatever. And no, I won't be dyeing my powder puff brilliant red or going Brazilian any time soon.

But the grey hairs are catching up on all of us, I guess. Not much other than hair dye will keep it away. Well, I guess I better make a plan to get back into shape, cause I'll need all the energy I can get when I have a wee one who doesn't sleep as much as I do. I used to be in pretty good physical shape until my mum moved here. I promised a couple months ago to tell you a bit about my mum so I'll do that now.

Just before trying to conceive consumed our every waking thought, my mum finally retired and sold her house and went to spend some time with my sister and her new baby in Atlanta. We went to visit and it soon became obvious that there was something definitely off a bit with mum. She was paranoid and had found a new dislike for my sister's husband. She was also overly possessive with the baby, but at the same time clearly not capable of taking care of him as my sister had hoped. So, it was agreed that she was should relocate to Vancouver. Six weeks after she moved here, as I was taking her to do extra work in a movie, she had a massive stroke.

I'll never forget that day. I was so sure that it had something to do with her diabetes. I was not familiar with signs of a stroke, it wasn't obvious, it was just like she was sleepy. I drove her to emergency, they told me to go get a coffee and when I came back, she was lying unconscious in a dimmed room and the doctor sat me down and told me that he was sorry, she had had a massive bleed and there was nothing he could do for her. I was dumbfounded. I bent my head down on her chest and all I could do was chant softly and I had no idea whether to chant that she survive or that she went quickly. I just chanted. He said there was a small chance that maybe the surgeons at the other hospital could do something as they had no neurosurgeons there, he would check. I just chanted. I didn't want to lose her. But I didn't want her to be comatose either. She was transferred to the other hospital, had brain surgery right away and she lived.

Once she physically recovered, a team of therapists said she had to be in intermediate care, a home in other words, a locked ward for dementia patients. It would be too difficult to care for her at home. At the time, we lived in a one bedroom apartment with our dog. She would need 24/7 care. She stayed several weeks in hospital until a space came up for her in a care home. I was told it could take months and I wouldn't have a choice for the first placement. I chanted. 6 weeks later, a large room became available in one of the better homes downtown close to where I lived.

So for 4 years, my husband and I have cared for her as much as we could. She cannot keep track of the days, she cannot bath or toilet herself properly, she doesn't remember what she had for lunch, but she does have long term memory. She doesn't always get things straight and sometimes she can't find the right words or the right memories. She has a nasty habit of blowing her nose in her hand and wiping it on whatever is handy. She knows who I am and all of her family. She remembers names, and can do simple addition and subtraction. In the past her condition has gone up and down. Now she's stable and doing well. Her doctor had told me that she was going to get worse. I never believed him. And you know what, she's doing much better, she's stable. She has her sense of humour and she can still sing. She still likes her beer and she has a fondness for sushi. She still knows she's my mum.

It was tough. Really tough when the elevator doors to her floor closed. I cried every time I left her. I did my best. We ate out a lot, we were both exhausted from constantly attending to her especially in the early days. I gained a lot of weight. No more time for working out and going shopping with friends. I had to become her legal guardian as she had no power of attorney agreement when she got sick. The paperwork was overwhelming. I suffered from nosebleeds and didn't sleep properly for 2 years. My eldest sister from Toronto and my uncle from England came once. My youngest sister once a year. I chanted to keep my stress down, to continue working. I even thought I had a huge break in my career until I got replaced( i.e. fired) from the role. My husband took great care of me. He went through 2 layoffs and a career change.

During this time was when we went through all the IVF treatments. Yeah. No kidding. There was a lot of hope, though. The first time, I had hired a personal trainer for the days I didn't visit mum, and as I've said before, acupuncture, Chinese medicine, blah, blah, blah. I was in great shape and I felt completely confident. We cracked a lot of jokes. From my mother's disability, I learned to really treasure our time together. In many ways, I had gained a relationship that we never had before. For most of my life, she drove me crazy and I found it hard to be in the same room with her. I knew she always loved me, but she never listened to me. I couldn't really talk to her. Now, we hang out at Starbucks and people watch. I miss her when I don't see her. We hold hands when we walk down the street. She listens to me. I can't tell her my problems, but she always senses my mood. She continues to encourage me. I have learned patience, how to slow down my pace to match hers and focus on her needs. I get short tempered with her every now and then, but now I recognize that I need to take time out to take care of myself and not get overextended. I have to say no to her every now and then.

That's why it still hurts that I cannot give her a grandchild of her blood. I am proud of her. She's a survivor. She just loves watching little kids and I wanted her to hold my baby and see herself in there somewhere. I told her recently that I cannot have my own, but will be adopting. She said she was okay with that. I hope that she will "forget" that the child is adopted but be a part of her. I think she will be happy to be a grandma again.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

3rd Homestudy Visit

We had #3 visit couple nights ago. I did share some of my comments about the questionnaire and she did explain why they were there. For example, the query about sexual difficulties could be a sign that the marriage is in trouble. Really, I'm sure there aren't too many couples checking that one off. Mind you,between my bad back, and my husband's cold sore, we're not getting any, but we kept that to ourselves. (Maybe that's why my subconscious picked up on that one? Mmmm.)

It went pretty well until we talked about the time we had separated briefly 2 years before we were married. When I say briefly, I mean a few days. Then we went for couples counselling which ended up with me continuing solo with counselling for depression. Now she had made it clear that she thought it was good to seek help when you need it, but still I felt, well, a little less than perfect. She asked about what would be things we wouldn't tolerate in our relationship. My husband's was infidelity, mine was disrespect. Disrespect covers a lot of ground, from not valuing who I am to being belittling and mean. I saw a lot of that when I was growing up and I'm sensitive to that. I don't think I would divorce him over infidelity, I'd want to stay married and make him suffer for a while. I'm such a nice Buddhist, eh?

All in all, it went well, we're meeting again in a couple of weeks. This time she gave us questions about child rearing to think about. However, I guess we can have our ideas about something but it's something that we'll have to experience to truly know.

I felt pretty drained after the visit. I was pretty quiet on the way home. Why, why, why? I started analyzing everything. The questions, our responses. Did I look upset, I think I got pretty quiet after a certain point which is a dead giveaway that I'm upset or concerned. I didn't like talking about the time I was being treated for depression. It reminded me of my vulnerabilities, the whole feeling of not being good enough, at a time when I am sitting in front of a social worker whose job it is to satisfy the powers that be that I am good enough to adopt a child. Cripes, even as an actress auditioning, at least I have a script! I've got time to prepare.

You know, there's a lesson in all this for me. When you're auditioning, there's this thing we call a "stink" on you when you really want the part. It's called desperation and they can smell it. It's not an attractive thing. And you never get the part. Darn it, I should have chanted an hour before the meeting. That would have chilled me out and connected me to a place of calm. Okay, next time.

Ah, so that's why I feel so drained!!! I am auditioning! I'm "improv"-ing for an hour and a half. But it's real life, it's our life. I want the role of being a parent. Remember Sally Field when she won an Oscar for Norma Rae ("you like me, you really like me!")? That's what it's like.

Ohmigod, I just had a thought, maybe they should make homestudies more like Donald Trump's The Apprentice.

It's a 12 week interview. We get judged along with other potential adoptive parents. The parents could be split into teams. Team Open Adoption and Team International Adoption.

One of the tasks is that we get a "baby" doll that cries at all hours of the night and poops at will. We can tell it stories about the time it was adopted and came into our lives on "gotcha" days. The judges could be Brad & Angelina and Madonna & Guy. We would be judged on our nighttime adoption stories and Life Books. Extra points could go to the couple who does adoptive breastfeeding. How will they handle issues of attachment and grief and loss? Stay tuned for next week's exciting episode.

Will Team Open Adoption raise enough money for their adoption or will they be forced to cash in their RRSPs, or take out (duh, duh, duh) a bank loan? Will Team International Adoption have to face the fact that their country of choice is now closed under shady accusations of a child sex slave ring, be bogged down permanently in a sea of bureaucratic immigration red tape or fall victim to infighting due to the indecision of which country is cheaper?

It's Must See TV!

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Linking Around

So as I'm linking around, I'm noticing that a lot of the infertility blogs are now posted with baby pictures which just goes to show that IVF does indeed work for a lot of people. When I first started lurking through the blogosphere, I realized that a lot of women in their early 30s were struggling with prolonged infertility. I was quite surprised. I had a lot of doctor appointments where I gritted my teeth through the "a woman your age" crap. I had just turned 41 when the syringes started their siren call.

Needless to say I'm happy that they finally became pregnant and delivered safely. They're on the other side of the fence, so to speak, but forever changed by their struggle. I don't want to look at those creepy floating baby icons though. It' s bad enough to go for an ultrasound with my bloated waistline and see the "baby ultrasound" brochures and a floating fetus on the TV. Umm, can I get a pic of my gigantic fibroids? I'd love to put that on my fridge. Imagine what my guests would say? Oooh, wow, 6 cm, that's impressive. I was wondering why you looked pregnant! Can I touch your tummy?

Anyways, here some blogs that you should visit.

Frank humorously notes that you don't hear from RE's and you get the feeling you'll show up at an empty office while they're off spending your money.

Great post that includes the following:

"Somebody said "Just adopt; you'll get pregnant." This somebody doesn't know how it feels to try to figure out where to get the money for an adoption. This somebody doesn't know how it feels to try to figure out where to get the money for an adoption." Please read on.

Love the post about still waiting for the rain. Beautiful. Heartbreaking. I wake up a lot of mornings with just the feeling.

A new blog. Just cause it reminded me of when I was in I'll try anything under the sun time of ttc. Hopeful.

Monday, October 8, 2007

A lot to be grateful for

You know that shower I was talking about, well, the mother to be could not be in attendance because she was in labour! So as of today, our district welcomes a bouncing baby boy! Talk about timing! Welcome little one, you are loved!

Maybe I should have gone, because after I had put our Thanksgiving turkey in the oven and was cleaning up a bit, I bent over to plug the vacuum in and threw out my back! Great. It took me about 15 minutes to get off the floor and to the phone to call my dh to get back home to help me out. So after half a back pill, thermal wrap and a glass of wine, the dh and I put on a lovely feast.

So I'm grateful for these things:

1) the good fortune to have lots of good food to eat
2) my family
3) a special thanks to my hubby who always makes me laugh and pampers me when I'm not well
4) my health (as painful as it is right now)
5) good friends (that includes you all out there in blogosphere; I saved a place at the table for you all)
6) on-line Scrabble
7) the ability to pick up things with my toes

I've got to be better in 2 days, because I'm on set on Thursday and I have to be able to move without being in pain or hunched over. And of course, hubby leaves tomorrow for a business trip.

I love it when the universe just pushes you to grow.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

The Club that Dares not Speak its Name

Got mine a couple days ago, and I put it on. My infertility bracelet. Thanks, dmarie.

Oooooh, wow, I'm in a special club that no one wants to be in. You know what we drink? Pomegranate martinis, of course! It contains 2 shots of vodka (cause we can drink as much as we want now) and 2 parts pomegranate juice (cause we care about antioxidants) and a spritz of sparkling water (or soda) just to liven things up, and a squeeze of lime. When we really feel crazy, we dip the rim in lime juice and brown sugar. Yum! The Infertility Martini!

How can you tell us apart from the others? Well, we are usually absent at baby showers, though if we do go, we're the ones who grit our teeth and stuff our faces at the the buffet table while the others discuss the agonies of delivery and breastfeeding. We don't come running with unbridled congratulations over pregnancy and birth announcements. We never ask to touch a pregnant tummy.

We hang our heads or look in the other direction when we pass those cute maternity clothing and baby stores that are springing up everywhere. We head straight to Starbucks and order a latte - because we can now.

We carry small purses. We have long phone conversations without interruptions. We buy our dogs ridiculously expensive items. Those are doggy treats in my pockets, not Cheerios.

We have no idea what the latest educational toy craze is. We didn't know that 4 year olds still need child car seats. We don't know Barney songs and have no tolerance for Bob the Builder or Telebubbies or Baby Einstein.

We do know our way around the business end of a syringe. We have an inordinate amount of information about ovulation charts, hormone drugs and suppositories. We don't flinch in the face of HSGs, laparascopies or nurses who tell you to go home and demand sex from your husband 3 times in 48 hours. And what's a little ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome between friends?

And often, we feel very, very alone. We feel shame. We cry a lot. We transcend the pain and find a mission that is unique to ourselves.

And if we get to leave the club, the other members applaud but also envy you.

Now that's the club for me!

The Votes are In

I was reading an old post from So Close and Tertia gives some great advice to surviving infertility. In regards to the baby shower thing, I think I'm going to just drop off those meatballs and gift and excuse myself. It's Thanksgiving weekend here anyway and I'll be busy making a turkey dinner for dh and my mum. I'll be happy to visit my friend when she comes home from the hospital and gush over the baby, but I'll spare myself the character building afternoon. I'm not really NEEDED there and they will understand. The event isn't about me, after all. See, I wasn't even there yet and I was stressing myself out.

Thank you for your support and votes!

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Forecast for the showers

I have another shower coming up this weekend. As much as I've progressed, I still don't like attending showers. I really like this girl, too, but my Buddhist district is organizing it and of course, it hasn't occurred to the co-ordinator (despite sharing my experience last week) that I may not be entirely comfortable going to one. I said I'd bring meatballs. Oh, brother, there are going to be decorations.

Help! Do I go and make a brief appearance, do I drop the meatballs over early and then make an excuse? Maybe it won't be so bad. Maybe I'm just having a knee-jerk reaction. It's not about me, right? It's about a really wonderful, sensitive, intelligent, young couple bringing in a much wanted baby into their lives. And who knows,maybe we can hang out one day with both our babies......AAAGHHH, I don't know.

I'm going to digress here a bit. I went to have my hairs pulled out of my snatch yesterday, oh, sorry, I mean have a bikini wax, and we were chatting about my family visit and my esthetician asks if I'd like to have children. I say, I'd love to but I can't - insert uncomfortable pause - but I'm adopting. To which she enthusiastically replies that it's so much better to give a home to a needy child. You ever notice that when you say that, people always seem to feel better? You can almost hear the audible sigh of relief.

This made me think of those who will remain childless. There's no "happy ending" to the "I'd love to but I can't" line. I can think ahead to a time when I can invite people over to see the new baby (albeit it will have to be after the 30 day waiting period where the birth mother can change her mind). I can plan a nursery, buy stuffed animals, baby clothes. But I still feel ... a way. Not sure what the feeling is yet.

Anyhow.... any advice, tips, suggestions?

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Questions, questions, questions

I know they have to ask, but these family assessment questionnaires are a little, well, stupid. We have to fill out another one before our next meeting with the social worker.

For example:

Have you ever been the victim of an unwanted sexual advance?

Huh? As a woman living in this world, the answer to that question would be a yes. Somebody grabbed my ass on a crowded New York subway. Some drunken idiot grinded his erection into me while dancing. Occasionally, I've been asked if I would like to fuck to which I replied, no thank you, not if you were the last man on earth. I think I know what they're getting at, but I'm left to make an assumption.


Have you experienced any of the following during the past two years?

none, marital reconciliation, separation from spouse/partner, loss of child, family member or close friend, financial problems, personal inury or illness, infertility treatment, divorce, change in health of a family member, pregnancy, sexual difficulties, change to a different line of work, fired from job.

What is "sexual difficulties" doing in there? Just curious how that would figure into the business of the Ministry of Children and Family Development. "Oh, we noticed that you have difficulty achieving orgasm, we have a problem with you adopting a child." What I'm wondering is why they don't ask you how many one night stands you had.

The rest of the questionnaire deals with issues of alcohol and substance abuse in the entire family tree. Just reading down the list of drugs they ask if you have every taken had me strolling down memory lane. Ah, those crazy times when I had no responsibilities, no worries, no sense of my own mortality. When I was single, I had nights when drinking and doing lines in the club bathroom seemed like a good idea at the time. I don't regret any of it. I just have better things to do with my time these days. Luckily I don't have an addictive personality (do cherry Twizzlerators count?) and cessation of either alcohol or drugs was never a problem for me. It occurs to me that if I were a European woman who drinks a glass of red wine several times a week with her meals, I might raise a red flag. As one gets older, drinking gets you a hangover and you waste an entire day feeling like hell, and frankly I can't afford cocaine, I'm all tapped out after buying Gonal F. Now that's an expensive mood bender! Does taking Dexatrim for 2 weeks count as a stimulating substance? I think so, since over the counter diet pills is on the list. Is nothing sacred anymore? Is salivating over new shoes a bad thing?

Aw come on, what if they're on sale?

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Birthmother Panel

Okay, so we went to a birth mother panel sponsored by my adoption agency. Quite a lot of people there, but we were the only biracial couple there. And the best looking I might add. It felt terribly awkward to sit in a circle of strangers cautiously eyeing each other. Wow, I wonder what their story is? Are they infertile like us?

There were 2 birth mothers there and they shared their experiences. They were both eloquent, heartfelt and touching. I learned a lot.

One of the things I learned was there needs to be open and clear communication between both parties. It's predicated on one couple's desire for a child and the other's desire for a continued relationship with that child. As much I as deeply want to parent a child, I can't get past the fact that a birth mother can change her mind. That happened to another blogger out there and though she understood, she was devastated.

Boundaries need to be established and respected on both sides. Both of the girls didn't necessarily set out wanting to have a relationship with the child, but they changed their perspective within the first few months after giving birth. They said that they were both deeply affected by hormones after birth and weren't thinking very clearly and weren't really sure of their emotions. Good to know about that now.

Another thing I learned was that as an adoptive parent, I should not just make assumptions about how she feels. That in trying to protect her feelings, I might inadvertently make things worse for her. For example, one girl gave birth and was promptly discharged within hours and no acknowledgement that she even gave birth. No flowers, no cards, no kind words from anyone including her family, adoptive parents or hospital staff. That's too cold.

One of the young women actually had sleepovers with her little girl who looked in the mirror and noticed that she shared the same nose. And had spent a week with her. Not sure I could do that. Given that the adoptive parents hadn't told the little girl she was adopted yet, I found it admirable that the birth mother trusted them implicitly that the adoptive parents would deal with that.

We can name the child, though. Wasn't sure about that. One of the things I used to day dream about was the name of my future child. I had one picked out for a girl. But if I get a girl, I'm not sure I will use it. Can you understand why? Somehow it doesn't seem fair.

One of the young women mentioned that she was looking for financially stable adoptive parents. I felt a little like a fraud, knowing full well that we'd most likely have to borrow or cash in our RRSPs (so we don't go further into debt) to complete the process. Now I understand why people hold fundraisers. We're not celebrities, we're just regular people trying to have a regular life. We have bills. We go to Starbucks (but not every day). We have a dog who sleeps in a bed better than most of the world has. We use coupons and if it's not on sale, we don't get it. If we had conceived on our own, we'd probably own our little overpriced townhouse furnished by Ikea. We'd be living on one salary and anything I earn would go to the baby's education fund.

But we didn't, IVF didn't work for us the way it worked for others. Somewhere in the universe, that makes perfect sense. Having said that, I determine to make as much money as I possibly can. I've already booked a gig for this month on a TV show, now I just need it to keep it rolling. We are also considering looking at Ontario for a prospective birth mother.

There will be an adoptive parent panel next week that we'll be attending. I'll let you know what happens.

Monday, October 1, 2007

2nd homestudy visit

I had a good feeling that our visit was going to go well. Yes we cleaned, and yes, she actually looked around. As I mentioned I had my family visiting, but they went out to visit my mum. After sitting down with some tea, she sent hubby to the office with a lengthy questionnaire to fill out and then she started asking me questions about how I saw myself as a person. Well, that's a favourite subject of mine but luckily I forced myself to be brief and somewhat modest. Then 3 words to describe my hubby and again, I tried to be brief and concise. When it got around to discussing my spirituality, it got a little sticky. So many of the profiles I've seen mention Christian, church going people. And in some international adoptions, you won't be considered unless you're a Christian. And I'm not even sure if they mean church going or does one just mention the denomination of a baptismal certificate. Is this someone you mention in an adoption profile for birth mothers to see or if they choose you, you tell them.

Not that many people know about Buddhism. There are many sects and beliefs, myths and assumptions. And what they do know consists mainly of images of a golden Buddha or saffron robed monks. I just explained her to my practice and what it means to me. It turned out to be more lengthy than I intended, as sometimes when you explain one thing, you have to explain something else. My community involvement extends mainly in that area as we've done cultural exhibits open to the public.

Frankly, I was raised a Christian, went to Sunday school and all that. Was forced to sit through some scary Pentecostal service as well. But as a Buddhist a consistent daily practice takes discipline, not something you can force a child to do. Usually at our meetings, the kids are watching a video or playing or something. I'd like my child to know that kindness, compassion and respect for all beings isn't just the domain of one philosophy or religion.

In due course, it my turn to go to the office and fill out the questionnaire. Mmm. Not sure I like multiple answer reports. Some of the choices weren't really applicable, or even realistic. I mean, really, what family isn't dysfunctional on some level? It asked how our respective families would feel about our future adopted child. Neither of us give rat's ass what they think really. They're not doing the work nor are they paying for any of the process. If they love us, they'll love our child and if they don't, too bad for them.

All in all, the visit was fairly intense because it really wasn't a conversation, it was more like here's the question, what's the answer kind of thing. Still, we shared a laugh at the end and set another appointment at her place. She told us to expect questions about our marriage. I asked her about her marital status and she admitted she'd been divorced twice. I said great, she either would be commiserating or taking notes.

Keep reminding me this is better than sticking myself with hormones.