Saturday, March 31, 2012

Lessons from a night runner

Five days of the week, my alarm goes off at 3:50 am. I am usually out the door by 4:05 am running.

I remember those first few runs where it felt awkward to be running in pitch darkness. I wear a headlamp around my waist but even still, it was disconcerting to only see a few feet around me.

But now.

Now I love that intense darkness. The solitude. The stillness. The fact that most of the world around me is still sleeping but I am running.

Night running reminds me of our journey to parenthood.

During our infertility struggles and treatment I could only see the immediate ground in front of me: get pregnant. Get pregnant get pregnant get pregnant. Just keep putting one foot in front of the other even though you feel like you're blind and don't know what lurks in the darkness, keep going. Keep focused on the goal. Stumble. Fall down. Skin your knees, bruise your shins, but by God get back up and keep going. One foot in front of the other no matter what.

I ran a million miles in the darkness, sometimes it felt like I didn't have a headlamp. Sometimes I was gasping for air. Sometimes I could only walk. Sometimes I could barely crawl. The darkness of infertility threatened to bring me down. But I was determined to keep going on that path, looking down down down at the ground, at the few feet in front of me, focused on the very next step always.


One day I decided to look up.

And I saw the stars.

The brilliant stars--millions and millions of them--across the dark sky.

Where we live there no streetlights. Obviously there is no traffic during my night/early morning runs. It is me and sky and God.

And the occasional deer.

It took me a few weeks of running in the dark to get comfortable enough to look up and notice the stars. And now I see them constantly; now I run with my eyes turned upward, sure-footed and confident.

And nearly every time I go I see a shooting star.

Ah, my babies are my shooting stars.

I was so focused on looking at the ground for so many years I nearly missed them.

Sometimes you have to look up and see the stars guys.

I know there are many reasons people give for staying on the most common path to parenthood, for not considering adoption, but having been through it I will say that barring simply no interest in adoption or perhaps a criminal background, there really are pathways for most to adoption if your heart is ready. The adoption tax credit makes financing an adoption far easier than financing fertility treatments. It's not an easy journey and it most definitely doesn't end when the adoption paperwork is complete ( do not want oversimplify this incredibly complex emotional journey for all parties involved, most importantly, the adoptees who had no say in their adoption), it's an unconventional journey, but in the proper cirumstances, it can build a family.

I can't change my infertility road. But one day, I anticipate some painful conversations when I might have to explain why it took me so long to see my stars. Because I never want them to think they weren't the best choice I could have ever made, because they are.

My beautiful shooting stars. H&H.

I'm so, so glad I looked up.

EDITED: I re-read this post after it published and don't want to sound like I'm pushing adoption. I'm not. Of course I think it is under-considered because it stings to be told to consider adoption when you're not ready. I get that. I was there. But I want to be a light for anyone seeking this option, and maybe even open some hearts to it. That is all. Motives pure. Promise.

Also edited to sadly add: We were lucky with the adoption tax credit. With current legislation it won't be as good for adoptions completed in 2012 and 2013. At all. I need to figure out what is being done to extend it. Man, were we lucky.

Friday, March 23, 2012

On March 23, 2011 we stood in a waiting room of an Ethiopian court.

It was crowded. There was no room to sit. It was hot; no air conditioning.

There was no specific appointed time, just a time that the court opened that we were told to arrive.

We rode over in the back of an old Toyota, through streets crowded with cars and livestock and people, over horrible roads that jangled us about in our seatbeltless back seat. The air was full of smog and burned our lungs as the windows were down. When we first arrived our car was immediately surrounded by school aged boys who weren't in school because instead, they begged for the chance to polish our shoes for money to feed their families. Women approached with babies on their backs who looked at us with malnourished and hollow eyes as they signed hunger, bringing their tiny hands to their open mouths.

We went before the judge as she sternly asked us questions. We were nervous. It was over quickly.

Today, exactly one year later, we went before a judge again.

We rode over in our comfortable car, on a super highway, with food in our bellies and clean air in our lungs. As we got out we were met by my sister and mother in the parking lot. No one was begging. No one was hungry. We went into a comfortable building, air conditioned to the point of being uncomfortably cold, and waited our turn. We carried our well fed twenty-six pound toddlers in front of the judge and sought her approval of our adoption.

I am happy.
I am sad.
I have so many mixed emotions as our so many of our 'moments' have been literally presided over by a stranger.

But that's minor. It's just part of the nature of adoption.

We have full bellies. We have access to health care. My children have the chance to frolic in the bluebonnets versus begging someone for a few coins for polishing their shoes.

Some days it all hurts so much, the reality of the direction our lives have taken. Because once you know, you cannot un-know.

Tonight I have a grateful heart. I want my heart to always be bursting with gratitude.

Today the State of Texas recognized my children as my children. But they are the world's children, and there are literally millions more who do not have any luxuries in life, not a single one. And we can't forget them.

I don't want to end on a sad note, so I'll share some photos of the day.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Earlier this week I saw a patient that I have been seeing for six years. I only see her yearly and I must admit, I don't immediately recall details of patients by a name on my schedule alone. But her face.

The second I saw her face I remembered.

She's a sister in this fight.
Only she never won.

She's 50 now.

I had to go through her electronic chart trying to find some information and as I clicked entry after entry the 'chief complaints' zipped by. I went back to the beginning, when she was 40.

I felt sick as I watched those years go by, literally clicking through them with my simple mouse clicks.

"A 40 year old female presents for..."
"A 41 year old female presents for..."
"A 42 year old female presents for..."

and so on and so on until now.

"Are those your babies?" she asked, gesturing towards my two small photos of the babies on my bookshelf in my office. I will not plaster the place with baby photos. I would hope I am more sensitive than that.


She knows I know her history. We've discussed it as it has related to the reason she sees me.

But she doesn't know mine.

She might have an inkling now, seeing the faces of my two adopted babies, but she might not.

Oh but my heart broke.
Her social history will always say: Number of children: zero.

I worked hard. I fought through so much. Year after year I hurt, a pain so raw and ragged there were days it threatened to take me right under. And she waged a war, too. For reasons unknown to me she stopped at medical treatment. I have no idea if she had any interest in adoption. If her mind wasn't open to it I wished it had been. But I"ll never know.

Life is not fair.
It will never be fair.
Everyone has pain.

"A 44 year old woman presents for..."
"A 45 year old woman present for..."
"A 46 year old woman presents for..."

Damn the years just keep ticking by and some are no closer to their dreams of being a parent.

It is a simple dream. A simple dream. The simplest, when you think about it, to be a parent. Most people take it for granted.

And I will never understand why it is denied to so many good souls out there.

Keep fighting ladies. Do not give up. Remember there are many paths to parenthood, and each one of them is beautiful and unique and none is better than the other.

Different--sure. But not better.

Hugs to you all, my fellow ladies in the battle. I haven't forgotten, even though I don't hurt so much anymore. For what it's worth, I promise I haven't forgotten.