Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Thumbs Down

A big thumbs down to the following commercials:

1. The new VW mini van commercial with Brooke Shields- if you haven't seen it... basically it says people are having babies just so they can buy the car. (And, she is supposed to be super sensitive about pregnancy)

2. The Lowe's commercial where the woman calls her mom and says they need to pick out two more names because they are having triplets.

Do you have any thumbs up or thumbs down ads or articles, etc. about infertility and/or adoption?
Those are the latest for me....

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Why Don't You Just Adopt?

I was never very secretive about the fact that I couldn't get pregnant. What was the point? Everyone always asks you when you're going to have kids?, why don't you have any kids?, how many kids do you want to have? At first I would give the lame excuse- "oh, I'm waiting for my older brother to have first crack at it, then I can get all the great handy-me-downs. Then when that excuse became over used, I would say, soon. Finally out of pure anger for all the probing questions, my husband and I would say, well, actually we've been trying for two years. We probably can't conceive a child without medical intervention. After a few of those comments and the questions stopped coming. Thankfully.
However, then there was an entire new line of questions and commenting.
My favorite is, "Why don't you just adopt?"
"Well, geeze Aunt Iris do you have two hours?" First of all, I am not over the fact that I will never be pregnant in my lifetime. I am dealing with the never ending grief of almost a dozen failed attempts at getting pregnant using medication and invasive procedures that have controlled my life for two years. I am dealing with the aftermath of an ectopic pregnancy. I am scared to death of where to begin to adopt a child. Oh, and that little problem of coming up with thirty thousand dollars when we had already spent over $20K to get pregnant.

Adoption is a great alternative for families that cannot have a biological child. But, this resolution does not come quickly, nor should it. There is so much to research and learn about. Which country, agency, age of child? The list goes on and on. And, then come the anxieties. Will we bond with the child? What kind of challenges will the child face after being in an orphanage or foster care for x months or years? I could go on an on.

I understand that people want to say something positive when confronted with a couple's reality. But, dismissing a decision to adopt as an easy alternative just proves that you really can't sympathize with their situation.

If someone mentions to you that they are having trouble conceiving and have gone through x-y-z with no luck, they obviously feel comfortable talking about their situation with you. Think before you speak and try to be comforting instead of offering solutions to the problem. Just know they want an open mind and heart to convey their feelings of sadness and frustration, not advice on what to do. If they do want advice because you know someone who has adopted or gone through IVF, either they will ask, or find a tactful way to work it into the conversation.

You could be someone who could ease some of the burden of a devastating predicament.
If you never had problems conceiving, think of how gut wrenching it must be to lose the ability to plan your own family. The dream of having a baby becomes a long lost vision for many couples. How would that make you feel?

Walk in someone elses shoes for a minute and your perspective will change; it will open your eyes.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Passion=Not for Profit

I am not that different from many people out there who feel strongly about a cause that has affected about their lives. The challenges we face in life are what define us. Some families have experience taking care of a child with cancer; they create a foundation in the name of their child and raise money for cancer research. In my community a woman saw the need to help families who had fallen below the poverty line and could not feed or clothe their families. It started with a clothing drive and ended up being a community venture that hosts 59 families- providing them meals, personal items not covered by food stamps, gifts, household item, etc.

Sometimes these ventures just fall in our laps. That is how I feel. All the pain, grief, and anger I experienced while trying to get pregnant shaped my life forever. Infertility is a part of who I am and will always be. I am an adoptive mom. And, I never thought I would be able to say that.

When I was 26 years old and told that I would need medical intervention to conceive because I had a condition called Poly Cystic Ovarian Syndrome or PCOS (and shipped off to an infertility clinic), I had no one to relate to. The first problem was that my husband and I went into this experience with little guidance from my physicians. Because of my age, I was neglected in a way. They saw me as a very young woman of child bearing age. They said that if they gave me the right drugs, I would ovulate, and get pregnant- simple as that.

Well, as you can probably guess, it wasn't as simple as that. It was horrible and heart wrenching; it became an every day struggle that consumed my life for four years. My story is like so many others. I went to an infertility clinic where they may as well have stamped my forehead with a number. It was like a mill, 5 women out the door and 10 in.

I saw such a need for women in their twenties to have a place to turn to. When I visited the bookstore, I found only a few books on infertility and they were either geared towards women near 40 who got married later in life and had trouble conceiving, or there were books about infertility and conceiving through "natural" means (no drugs, exercise, acupuncture).

Where were the books by young women who could not get pregnant? Was I really the only one? Judging by the waiting room at the infertility clinic, I was an anomaly. For the most part, I was at least ten years younger than the patients sharing the seats in the reception area.

Things are different for me now. I am not in my twenties and I am not undergoing infertility treatments any longer. But, I am an adoptive mother who lives with the fact that I cannot get pregnant (well, never say never). Ugh, that's the clincher; talk about leaving things open ended. No one has ever said to me that I will never become pregnant naturally. I know that anything can happen, blah blah. But, the reality is that my husband and I cannot just decide to have a baby and expand our family. Our ability to family plan consists of deciding when and if we want to adopt again.

There are so many people who need help with the life crisis of infertility. If I can contribute in some way, I will feel like my challenges had purpose. I want to offer help to people so that the tremendously profound feelings of solitude I experienced while trying to get pregnant will be put to good use. While my friends were planning their weddings and then planning their baby showers I was living a daily of struggle of humiliating experiences in the doctors office- probing and testing, getting hormone shots, undergoing IVF, living the hell of an ectopic pregnancy- almost losing a body part and going through the devastation of terminating my one and only pregnancy.

Empathy can go a long way. Empathy can change people's lives.

Survey Results

Thank you to all who participated in our first survey. The were approximately 100 participants.
Here are the results of the survey.

Q: Do you know of someone who needs financial assistance for adoption or infertility

Votes- 102 YES- 82% NO- 17%

Q: Do you have experience with infertility and assisted reproductive technology?

Votes- 103 YES- 77% NO- 23%

Q: Are you experiencing infertility right now?

Votes- 105 YES, for a year - 18% YES, for more than 2 yrs- 56% NO- 28%

Q:Are you undergoing infertility treatments right now?
Votes-104 YES- 27% NO- 77%

Q: Does your insurance cover infertility treatments?
Votes- 97 YES, but there are limitations- 31% YES, but only certain treatments- 17%
NO- 55%

Q: Have you paid out of pocket for infertility treatments?
Votes- 97 YES- 68% NO- 31%

Q: Do you think there is a need for financial support to help with the cost of infertility treatments and adoption?
Votes- 101 YES-83% NO- 5% UNSURE- 11%

Q: Are you thinking of adopting or going through adoption right now?
Votes- 95 YES, thinking about it- 31% YES, going through it right now-25% UNSURE- 13% NO- 29%

Q: If yes, do you have plans to pay for your adoption?
Votes-65 YES- 40% PARTIALLY-24% NOT YET- 35%

Q: Do you know of other organizations that offers financial assistance for adoption and/or infertility treatments?
Votes- 92 YES, one- 19% YES, more than one- 18% NO-60%

Q: Do you think this is a worthy cause for donation?
Votes- 39 YES, very- 58% YES, moderately- 10% UNSURE- 25% NO- 5%

Monday, November 10, 2008

Unintentional Stupid Remarks

For those of us infertiles the "stupid remark" category is probably long and somewhat (after a long while) comical.

If you want to analyze the human experience, it is safe to say that fertile people will never understand what it is like to have problems conceiving. But, it is also fair to say that many of them have the best of intentions. Sometimes no matter what is said people just can't win.

Even after stating all of that, I must point out that some comments are just so ridiculous that you want to bop people on the head like they do in those new V8 commercials. "Shoulda had a V8. "
"Shoulda thought before you opened your mouth."

Insensitive comments made to those who cannot conceive make me angry. Infertile couples should not feel like they have to make other peole feel more comfortable. Friends and family need to antyup and ask what they can say or do to help. Yeah, it may be uncomfortable and you may feel like you shouldn't ask questions, but its better than:
A: Saying the wrong thing or
B: Not saying anything at all

What I am trying to say is that we need to face some pretty uncomfortable situations in order to help console loved ones. Life is messy. Grave illness, death, divorce, a sick child, infertility are just some examples of very stressful and difficult challenges we may face in life. Helping someone who is grieving is actually a very simple thing; we just tend to mess it up by over-thinking things.
Simply put, be there, hold a hand, give a hug, say how sorry you are that they are grieving and sad. You don't need to try and "fix" it with words or actions because, guess what, you can't.

If you have no idea how awful it feels not to be able to conceive a child, acknowledge it.
If you have no idea what it is like to miscarry a baby, just be there with a shoulder to cry on and acknowledge the pain.

Acknowledgement is what so many infertile couples need- their feelings of sorrow and grief are valid, their absence from birthday parties and baby showers is not selfish but a way of coping.

For those of you who have experienced one or more of these "stupid remarks" know that you are not alone. My advice is to SPEAK UP. If we don't educate people about their insensitivity, they will never know. And, remember you can do it tactfully.

Aunt Iris twice removed saying "My husband just looked at me and I would get pregnant" might conjure a different reaction than the nosy old lady at the grocery store saying "How much was your kid?" But, ultimately the anger and sadness that develop from these remarks is yours to deal with, so it is up to you to find a way to let it go.
What do they know anyway?

P.S. You may be really curious about a personal example of mine...

When I told someone I was adopting from Korea, their reaction was "You better take that 'Made in Korea' sticker off right away.

Reaction: Chuckles from other people in the room and my quick exit

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Facts About Infertility

The definition of infertility: A couple who has been trying to conceive unsuccessfully for at least one year.
Infertility affects 1 in 6 Americans.

Infertility is a complex and often misunderstood condition. My husband and I were very open with our problems conceiving, using this experience as a means to educate others. However, many couples choose to keep their situation more private. This was our way of coping our struggle to conceive. We learned a lot about infertility, the medical care system, doctors and hospitals in our area, misconceptions by the public and the overall inability for people to understand how infertility affects couples and individuals.

Infertility is a life crisis. Having children is a normal next step for couples after they get married. And, often times loved ones and friends begin asking questions about having a baby soon after the couple return from their honeymoon. When a couple cannot conceive a child and are constantly being bombarded with questions about having a baby, it makes the situation all the more unbearable. When friends and family members start their own families, there is a huge void and one often feels extremely alone and out of the loop. The inability to plan your life is overwhelming and having to consider not having a child is in itself extremely painful. Infertility is not something we plan for. For most people it is a complete surprise.Someone onced described infertility as a "bruise on the soul." I agree with that statement. Years of unsuccessful, invasive and expensive treatments exhausts couples and creates a huge sense of loss. The grief is unbearable at times- the thought of never conceiving a child of your own.If people understood more about what it feels like to go through infertility, it could impact the couple's ability to cope. Maybe there would be less insensitive remarks , less "advice" on how to conceive.

There are many myths about infertility that I would like to combat.

Myth 1: It's easy for most women to get pregnant.While it's true that many woman conceive without difficulty, more than five million people of childbearing age in the United States -- or one in every 10 couples -- have problems with infertility. Certain health conditions and factors, such as age, can affect a woman's ability to conceive. For instance, a healthy 30-year-old woman has about a 20 percent chance of getting pregnant each month; while by age 40, her chances drop to about 5 percent a month. But infertility can affect women of any age, and from any background.

Myth 2: Men don't have infertility problems.About 35 percent of all infertility cases treated in the United States are due to a female problem. But 35 percent (an equal number!) can be traced to a male problem, 20 percent to a problem in both partners, and 10 percent to unknown causes. Also, 1% of the male population is sterile.

Myth 3: Infertility is a psychological -- not physical -- problem.Well-meaning friends and relatives may suggest "infertility is all in your head" or "if you'd stop worrying so much, you'd get pregnant." But in reality, infertility is a disease or condition of the reproductive system and not a psychological disorder. In fact, one or more physical causes are identified in the vast number of infertile couples. So while relaxing, going on vacation, or finding positive ways to de-stress can improve your overall well-being, these lifestyle changes won't solve your infertility problems.

Myth 4: Couples who "work" hard enough at having a baby will eventually get pregnant.New methods of diagnosing and treating infertility have improved many couples' chances of having a baby. According to the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM), more than half of all couples who pursue treatment will achieve a successful pregnancy (what about the other half?). It's important to remember that infertility is a medical disease and that problems sometimes remain untreatable no matter how hard a couple "works" at solving them.
Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART) includes simpler, less invasive procedures and those that are much more complex and costly. The statistics for these procedures are getting better but for a woman under 35 years of age, there is still less than a 50% chance of conception with ART. Every woman and man's situation is different, but simply going to an infertility specialist will not necessarily solve the problem.

Myth 5: Once a couple adopts a child, the woman will become pregnant.This particular myth is not only painful for infertile couples to hear, but it's also untrue. First of all, it suggests that adoption is simply a means to an end (a pregnancy), and not, in and of itself, a valid and wonderful way to form a family.
Secondly, only about 5 percent of couples who do adopt later become pregnant. This success rate is the same for couples who don't adopt and become pregnant without further treatment.
It is easy for us to remember the stories we hear about the couples are could not conceive for years, adopt and then get pregnant. But, what is not mentioned are the millions of couples who never have a biological child, after adopting or otherwise.

Myth 6: Husbands often leave their wives if they're infertile.As stated earlier, infertility is a medical condition that affects both men and women equally. In fact, about 40 percent of the time, the male partner is either the sole or contributing cause of infertility, according to ASRM. While many couples do find the process of infertility testing and treatment rigorous, stressful, and intrusive (not to mention costly), they do get through it -- together. Many partners also find new and deeper ways of relating to each other and discover that their marriage has become even stronger.

Myth 7: Infertile couples will never be happy or fulfilled.Being unable to conceive a much-wanted child (or carry a pregnancy to term) can fill a couple with sadness, grief, anger, despair, and even a sense of personal failure. While it's normal for infertile couples to experience a range of powerful emotions, most people do move through this life crisis successfully and gradually put it into better perspective. For some couples, "moving on" means letting go of their initial dreams of having a baby. Other couples decide to adopt. But in either case, couples do learn that there is life after infertility and find myriad ways to fulfill themselves -- with or without children.

Open your minds and your hearts to this life altering condition. Once someone has experienced infertility, they are changed forever.

The Realities of Adoption

Adoption is a wonderful thing but its origins often stem from hard ship. It is a complex situation of life changing circumstances Most times everyone involved including the birth parents, the adoptive parents, and the children have suffered some sort of loss. That is a reality of adoption.

The birth parent(s) had to make an excruciating decision to give their child a better life. It should be considered a very courageous choice that did not come easily. Birth parents do not forget about the child they gave up for adoption. Many people cannot fathom how a parent can give up their child- there are many reasons that we may not understand in our culture. For example there is still a strong social stigma for unwed mothers in many countries, poverty, ill parents that cannot provide for their children.

The adoptive parents (about 80% of the time) have infertility problems and many times have undergone years of hoping and waiting and paying for expensive infertility treatments all to no avail. The choice to adopt does not come lightly. It is not easy to give up on the hope that a couple can conceive their own child, biologically.

The child has to come to terms with being given up for adoption. They will question why and how and who are their parents. They will struggle in school when told to make a "family tree" for a project. Adopted children usually always appreciate and love the adoptive parents as their own, but they have their own identity crisis' and endless thoughts about the life they would have lived with their biological parents.
There are also those couples who have a biological child but cannot conceive again (this is more common than many people think) and wish to expand their family. Or, they suffered the loss of a child and cannot perceive another pregnancy but choose to adopt a child in need who will in-turn fulfill their lives.

Adoption brings all of these different people together. The terrible loss of giving up your child unfolds into a couple who dream of being a parent more than anything.
However, adoption is not for every couple. Many choose to live child-less lives, happy to be known as "aunt" and "uncle" or some continue infertility treatments or just leave it to fate. But, there are those couples who just want to be a family and love has no boundaries for them.
They come to terms with the idea that they can be a family without a pregnancy.
The adopted child has found a home where his mom and dad fought long and hard to find him or her. And, both the child and the parents are grateful to have found one another.

Adoption and Society

Language and phrases are used in our culture when it comes to adoption. There are many well meaning people who say things that are not only hurtful but insulting. You have to think about adoption in a different frame of mind. Those who have adopted or who have experience with adoption are much more attuned to the etiquette that comes with adoptive families.And, it is important to keep in mind that families with adopted children do not feel any different than those families with all biological children. They don't see themselves as being different because simply put, they are parents. How they became parents doesn't mean a thing.Here are some examples of scenarios that have been know to happen:

1.A woman has both biological children and adoptive children. An acquaintance or even a complete stranger asks," Which ones are yours?" The mother responds to this questions,"Well they're all mine. What do you mean?" People are curious. Adoption is a curious topic for most. The woman simply wanted to know which children were biological and which were adopted. And, there is nothing wrong with asking that question. It is all in how you phrase it.

2. An adoptive family, most likely bi-racial, is grocery shopping and a complete stranger comes up and asks,"How much was your kid?" You can see how this statement can be construed as not only completely rude but very insensitive. The correct answer to this stranger's blatant curiosity is, "Do you mean how much does it cost to adopt a child?"

3. Often times people feel uncomfortable when told that a couple is adopting. They don't know if they are supposed to have the same reaction as if they heard an expectant parent of a pregnancy. There may be light hearted comments about the child's ethnic and national origins. This however, is very hurtful to the adoptive parents. People need to understand that expectant adoptive parents are just as excited and nervous as those waiting to give birth. There is the same joy and exhilaration that goes with waiting to become a parent.

4.Strangers can be very nosy and curious in general when it comes to rearing children. Friends of ours have told us stories about being in public with their biological children and being stared at and given unsolicited advice. When a family is bi-racial and it is obvious that the child is adopted, people can be even more nosy and judgemental by saying some very hurtful and alarming things. For example,"If you were that baby's real mother/father, you could get them to stop crying, fall asleep, etc." I am not making these things up. These are experiences we have heard from other adoptive parents. It is a fact of life. The general public who has no personal experience with adoption (or infertility or many other situations) can be insensitive and uneducated.

The worst part to think about is in the future when the baby becomes a toddler and interacts with other children or understands from adults that they are different. Kids can be very hurtful and as parents we can and will do everything to be open with our child about being adopted and hopefully give them some useful answers to kids curious questions or even nasty remarks. Let's face it, all kids have hardships in school with fitting in or feeling wanted. But, this is something we can actually begin preparing for right now.
How will we answer our child's questions about adoption? How will we react to people when they say rude things? We will educate, we will try to help people understand more about adoption.
It is not rude to ask questions about adoption. People are innately curious. It is important to think twice before posing your question. A different choice of words can make all the difference.


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