Monday, December 20, 2010

The Match

Writing this post is kind of like writing about my first kiss. What I'm about to share is so wonderful that I'd like everyone to be able to feel what I felt, but at the same time it's so personal and intimate that I just feel kind of exposed and hopeless trying to communicate what it was like. I wonder if I should even put something so intimate out there, or instead just Emily Dickinson it away in my personal chest of unpublished posts, away from the prying eyes of those whom I don't know will ever possibly understand.

We received a packet of information and pictures from the couple who was hoping to donate their embryos to us. It contained pictures of their children, a written medical history of their family, a worksheet about their personal lives and decisions they've made in regards to the freezer babies, and a packet of information from their clinic about the egg donor they had used. These words are already completely inadequate. It was a packet of distilled hope for their children from them to us, threadbare in its facts, but swollen with unspoken importance behind every fact and picture.

The first thing I saw was a picture of the most adorable little boy with wide eyes and rosy cheeks, that his mother must have been so proud to show off. I had to keep mentally reminding myself that I wasn't trying to adopt him, and that his siblings would be just as precious. After having spent so long aching for a child of my own though, holding that picture almost felt like he was mine in some cathartic sense. This feeling escalated as we showed family and friends who had been praying with us for this match, and they oohed and ahed over him and his brother. They all commented how they thought the baby in the picture could easily be mistaken for "ours" in the biological sense.

Sam and I had decided a long time before this that we weren't going to reject any embryos offered to us based on family history or physical characteristics. Our goal was never eugenics in any sense, and we knew there were no guarantees anyway, so the medical information included was really just that: information. There was cancer mentioned. There was deafness and diabetes and lung disease. I wonder what it was like, writing those things down, wondering if anything would cause a potential adoptive family to say that the babies weren't good enough, might not be healthy enough. I hope that this thought never crossed their minds, because all we saw was data that our children would use to complete forms- important to know, but not scary or worrisome. 

Then there was the personal information. We learned about a few of the interests, occupations, and physical characteristics of this family. It struck me that although they had used an egg donor, the donating mom still included her own information, that she wanted us to know her, not just put down "genetic" info, including her husband only, and I am profoundly grateful. I want to know her, because without her, our babies wouldn't exist. I suspect that without her, my family wouldn't have been picked. And without her, I wouldn't feel this connection to another mother who had also longed for a baby and knew exactly what I was feeling as I waited for a miracle that only another woman could give me. 

As I read, I found myself drawn in spirit to this woman who shared my faith, who stated that "Life is sacred, and if God gives us a gift, He calls us to nurture and value it." She went on to ask directly, knowing that I would be reading it, if their embryos might be ours to nurture? As I read, I wept. At that moment, I was committed, body and soul, to following through with doing everything I could do to accept the charge of motherhood for the babies that this family had waiting. It was less of a hope and more of a reality, now that I had the words of this precious mother ringing in my head as permission and commission to love her children and make them my own. 

 The unique nature of embryo adoption, among other things, is this: the donating couple and the adopting couple are almost always joined by the bond of infertility. This is a fear on everyone's part, I am sure. The adopting couple wonders if the embryos might not be viable since their parents couldn't conceive naturally, and the donating couple wonders if the embryos might not survive since the adoptive mother hasn't successfully carried her own children in her womb. Our donating family took this fact as an opportunity to minister to us, not knowing if this match would result in living children. They said, and I echo to everyone I know who is waiting:

"May God bless you with children! But, if He does not, I pray that His generous hand will more than fill your lives with joy, purpose, and peace." 

Amen, and Amen.

Monday, December 13, 2010

The Call

It's funny what makes us remember certain things. I'll remember this date forever, but not because I'm good with dates. Rather, I remember that The Year of Waiting was bounded, largely, by my little sister's pregnancy. I got her phone call telling me she was pregnant as we were on our way to visit friends and ask them if they would write us a recommendation for our homestudy. While I love my sister, and I truly enjoyed our homestudy process, that particular weekend was marked with tears, self-pity, and lots of cake as it really hit home to me how simple becoming a parent is supposed to be, as opposed to having to get referrals and affidavits just to have the chance to try.

Our friends took pictures for us to put into our profile to send to donating families. I had been so excited about it, but I remember forcing the smiles for the camera as it flashed through my head over and over again that we shouldn't "have" to be doing this. I completely understand the need for adoptive parents to go through a screening process, and I agree with it, but there are times when a couple who is adopting after infertility especially feels awkward about selling themselves as good potential parents. Of course, I didn't include these captions on our real profile, but I was thinking something along these lines.

Look! We're happy, healthy, and we love each other! Pick us!
Plus, we may or may not actually live on this beautiful beach!

We have a clean kitchen, and Mr. Myth even washes dishes!  What a great guy!
Why no, this picture wasn't staged at all!!

Aaaaaand, we have books! Lots of books! Books in every subject and category!
 More books than a potential child could ever read in a lifetime! We will educate said theoretical children very well!

That was April. By late autumn, as our "should have been matched by now" date had come and gone, I was trying my very best to hold it together emotionally, but I was on thin ice. I missed my sister's baby shower because I didn't trust myself to be any kind of good company for her. I started running to lose the pity-cake-eating induced weight I'd gained that year, and to get myself out of the house after work. I hate running.... I did it anyway. I figured if I couldn't have kids yet, I could at least be healthy and thin- I don't know if that's a good reason to run, but I do know that the running did help my mood!

Finally, December 12th 2010, my sister delivered. Sam and I had gone to the drive-in with friends, and ended up texting back and forth with my dad the whole evening about her progress (we live 6 hours away). She and my new niece did beautifully, and I don't think I cried, but I definitely felt numb. Infertility does that- it takes away your normal emotions and filters everything through a meat grinder, before spitting it out mangled and ruined into your consciousness. I don't honestly even remember if I called my sister directly to congratulate her. I really hope I did.

The next day was Monday. At 9:45 a.m., right after first period let out and my students had left the classroom, I drew in a sharp breath, and burst into gasping tears. Sam, who taught in the next class over and could hear everything, came running faster than I have ever seen him, convinced that something terrible had happened to me. I couldn't even speak. All I could do was turn my computer screen towards him and show him where I had opened my e-mail, and was reading the subject line that said:

We have a family that is excited about you! Congratulations!!

On December 13, 2010, we were introduced to a family who wanted us to consider giving their embryos a chance to continue their lives. Our wait to be matched was over, and our dreams were beginning to take shape in reality.