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There is an article in the NY Times today:

New Policy Permits Asylum for Battered Women

So in a somewhat tragic turn of affairs, I did not know about this case, nor did I follow it as it was coming down the line for a decision. I used to follow these issues, closely. It’s kind of a mini-sign of how much my life has changed in the last 5-6 years that I had to read about this – and *not* known about the W administration’s stance on it – until I read the NYT.

Anyway, the article made me think about something that DB and I talk about all the time.

There are *so* *many* people who want to come to this country.

I mean, I am not pro-Bush by any stretch, but I can’t imagine that after reading her case, anyone in the Bush administration was untouched by this woman’s story. Her story is sickening. It is every woman’s nightmare in a country where everyone else turned a deaf ear and blind eye – and she, unlike countless other women, actually tried to get help…and was turned down. By everyone.

No, the reason this is a major departure from the Bush Administration – the reason that the Bush Administration denied classifying this woman as needing political asylum – is that it might open the floodgates, so to speak, of millions (yes, probably millions) of women in similar situations.

And now we’ve done it.

Hallelujah!

So I got to thinking: I’ve been trying to figure out how best to say this, and I haven’t really had the ability to frame this message in anything other than a straight-up “This is bad because…” or “This is good because…” in quite some time; I’ve been busy. But I have been very involved in adoption issues for a while, despite not having adopted (we seem to be on the long-ass time horizon for that one) and recently, I’ve gotten more involved. So here is my message:

Yes, there are people lining up to come into America.

Yes, there are people who came here, who *are* here, who maybe came to these shores not-so-legally.

But just because *they* want to come here, doesn’t mean that *everyone* wants to come here.

That is an important point. Think about it. I assume Tahiti (I know nothing about Tahiti) is a fabulous paradise place, but WHAT IF you don’t want to go to Tahiti? Should we just assume that because TAHITI *might be* great for you, you should move there? Immediately? Become a Tahitian?

No.

And if you ended up in Tahiti, and really, you were more of a snow-bunny-type, or something (go with me here, people), would you want to lose every aspect of your identity as an American in your move to Tahiti? If you *moved* to Tahiti, would you want documents saying that you were born a Tahitian, not an American?

Probably not.

And more than that, it would be a lie. You were born an American, on U.S. soil, whether you liked it here or not. And you moved to Tahiti, and became a naturalized Tahitian, because *that* is what happened.

That is the truth.

There are two adoption-related bills proposed in Congress. I believe – and I know others believe – that they more harm international adoption than they help. They are a threat to transparent, ethical adoption.

They assume that *every* kid wants to be a Tahitian. Or an American.

So to speak.

The first bill is the FACE Act, or HR 3110/S 1359. This act conveys citizenship to children adopted overseas retroactive to birth. It eliminates the visa process, so there is very little investigative clout to investigate whether a child referred for adoption is actually legally freed for adoption. By the time this investigation takes place, it is potentially already too late: the child is adopted, the legal child of American citizens, and there is considerable political will to approve such a petition – and this time, it is not for a visa, but for a passport.

Citizenship conferred retroactive to birth means that adoptees might not be able to seek dual citizenship when they are older. As infants or toddlers – they will relinquish the right to own land in their birth country.

Actually, that right will be relinquished for them. By this bill.

It is cutting off ties to birth culture and country which are meaningful, and important, and possibly the only thing the adoptee has in leaving his/her birth country.

(Remember: Tahiti. Leaving America for Tahiti. You are from Alaska. And now we’re saying that you can’t even go back and own property in Alaska when you are old enough to decide that for yourself.)

And really, the truth is that the FACE Act, if enacted, will slow down the process of adoption for prospective parents: I think I can speak to this in a very personal way. DB works for the federal government. To change pieces of paper around, and move staff around from one office to the other (moving people from one government body to the other, to meet the requirements of this law) (don’t ask me how I know this) – but to CHANGE PIECES OF PAPER, do you know how long it takes?

MONTHS, people. MONTHS.

The process will take MONTHS to sort out.

The government is *not* *slick*.

Bill 2: The Families for Orphans Act (HR 3070; I don’t know what the bill number is in the Senate yet)

(I really should have thought more about which tropical island I used in this analogy. Is Tahiti a nice place? If it’s not, take this to mean: I meant that Tahiti was a glorious, paradise-like place. 365/24/7. OK?)

This bill *sounds* good. I’ll give it that. It really does *sound* phenomenal.

But it isn’t.

It stipulates that foreign countries can have American debt relief and foreign aid IF THEY ACQUIESCE to having an international adoption program.

(There is already significant aid that accompanies any international adoption program. Do we really need to provide incentives to sending countries?)

In fact, it mirrors another existing bill (PL-109-95) whose mandate *is* finding permanent placements for kids in need of them. PL 109-95 is required to provide yearly report to Congress on the state of USG children’s programs.

PL 109-95 is unfunded.

PL 109-95 does not explicitly delineate inter-country adoption as an option for kids in need of homes.

FFOA does.

And although FFOA proponents will say that this is *not* an adoption bill, really?

Since it mirrors the PL 109-95 so nicely, save for the requirement that countries open up for adoption?

It is.

And it should not be. America should not be the child welfare police of the world. In fact, what status do WE have in telling other countries how to treat their children?!?

We haven’t even ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child!

Who on EARTH would want to listen to us? And why should they?!?

And why can’t we work with other countries in formulating a culturally relevant, child welfare plan…a la PL 109-95?

So here, I leave you with this thought:

Tahiti may be fabulous, and you may never ever want to leave.

America may really suck, and you might want to get the hell out of Dodge to escape it.

But *you*, my friends, are old enough to speak up. Ditto the women seeking asylum trying to come into this country: old enough to make decisions about where to live, when to move, and how to do it (or at least old enough to verbalize the choice).

Young adoptees: not so much.

Don’t we owe it to them to not assume one country is *better* than the other? To assume that they are here, we are going to do the very best for them, and we are going to advocate, advocate, advocate to retain *all* of their rights? To say, “We are going to work our butts off to ensure that you are considered an American citizen the moment you touch American soil, but we are still going to celebrate your first heritage. Your first national allegiance. We want to celebrate the culture and the family from which you emerged”?

To ensure that their birth culture is appreciated and respected? Ie, acknowledge that America might have some challenges, but Tahiti has other challenges, too? Neither is one “better” or “worse”, necessarily, but different.

Yes, I thought so.

For more information, you can go to Ethica.

And if you agree with me, please, please speak up. Join the Facebook group (linked on the Ethica website). Write your congressional representatives. Share your concerns with them.

Talk to them about Tahiti.

Listen up!

Heather is an adoptive mom who is trying to raise $1750 to build a home for a family in Vietnam.  She has been trying to raise this money for a long time, and her deadline is the end of May (which is COMING UP) and she still needs people to donate.

She is also giving away a double stroller in exchange for a $10 donation.  Not many people have donated so far, so the chance of actually winning the stroller is HUGE. HOWEVER, if you do not want to win the stroller, you can still donate without entering the giveaway.  I am ashamed to admit that I did not donate until recently because I did not want to win the stroller!  I know, that’s pathetic, especially because we *have* seen desperate poverty and *have* felt called to help in some way.

BUT!  It’s better late than never.  So just go to Heather’s blog and donate!

Anyway, from Kelly‘s blog, because she explains it better and Laura already copied her, and although I don’t have many readers, they are, for the most part, different readers because you aren’t adoptive parents, so please think about contributing to Heather’s efforts:


From Kelly’s Blog:

For the past month or so, I’ve seen a fellow adoptive mom Heather trying to raise $1750 to build a home for a family in need in Vietnam through the group Giving It Back to Kids.   Her deadline is the end of this month and she is still not half-way to her goal, yet.

Unless you have been exposed to families in extreme poverty, unless you have seen how many live in third world countries, it is hard to understand the term “shack.”  A “shack” here in our country is not a “shack” in my son’s homeland.  A shack there is a 5 foot by 5 foot area built out of scrap that could house a family with several kids.

Imagine what we could do if everyone gave $10 to Heather’s project?  Even if ten of you do that, and then post this on your blogs, and then ten of your readers do the same, and on and on, we can get her to her goal.

If you have a blog, won’t you help us get the word out?  If you have food on your table, won’t you consider contributing $10 or $20 to a family who you will never meet, but whose world will be forever transformed by your generosity?

It may seem that a few people giving a few dollars can never make a difference, but that is just not true.  If you put a bucket under a dripping faucet, it may seem like it would never fill, but leave the bucket for a few days and that bucket will overflow with countless “insignificant” drops.

Go to Heather’s Blog and CHIP IN!

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Adapted for my own selfish uses, 1 Samuel 27.

Recently it has come to my attention that in the midst of the complaints and funny stories about vomiting, and hot dogs, and late-night peeing, I’ve perhaps misrepresented the journey to parenthood for us – how we’ve gotten here, how it wasn’t a walk in the park, and how, above all, we feel truly, deeply, and completely undeservedly, blessed.

(This is a really, really long post.  It gets really personal.  If you only read one thing on this blog, you should understand this.)

There is simply no easy way to become a parent.  There are harder ways, and more expensive ways, and faster ways, and slower ways, and there are ways that are marked with more trials than others, but at the end, with *any* method of growing a family, there is loss, there is pain, there is suffering, and there is expense.  If children could simply fall out of the sky, there could be a painless way to grow a family.  But there simply, simply, is not.

I think about this literally all of the time.  Literally.  I think about how incredibly blessed we are, that we are able to start this process with a natural conception (because it is, perhaps, the easiest of the three routes here – not easy) – because we surely did not expect it.  We feel very blessed.  We feel very fortunate.  And we are very, very, very acutely aware that there are thousands – millions – of families that are not so fortunate. Perhaps we will not be so fortunate to have a living child at the end – we are not so foolish to think that the next 6 months will be smooth sailing – but we feel very, very, very blessed to have gotten this far.

For us, adoption and natural conception were two equally acceptable ways of growing a family.  We were very open to either option.  For us, and I want this to be clear – for OUR situation, for US – assisted reproduction techniques were never an option.

That doesn’t mean I see children who are added to our family through biology and through adoption as exactly the same.  I don’t.  I used to, and perhaps this is part of my own growth that I have come to see them as different, but the two – adopted and biological – are simply not the same.  With a biological child, I will need to answer to them why Mommy and Daddy risked what we knew about our genes to create them – and I will have the (uncomfortable, perhaps) answers.  I will know every step of this child’s existence intimately.  The child will have the experience – I do not know if this is a gift – of not being questioned every day we are in public.  And when we announced that we were pregnant to our families, this child will have had the benefit – and of this, I am very sure – the benefit of everyone knowing *just* how to react.  “OH, how wonderful!” – they have said.

For our adopted child, we will not have the gift of information.  For sure, we will need to be able to look him or her (sticking with him from here out for brevity) in the eye and be able to say, without a flicker of hesitation, that we did *everything* we could to ensure that his biological mother and father wanted him to live with us, Rachel and DB, here, in America.  Perhaps we will have an open adoption – that we hope very much – so that we can help with those answers.  But I am cautious, even now, about how this child will be received in our family, and how we can maintain birth order when we want to adopt so close together.  I am cautious because we started with adoption, and when we announced that, there was excitement, but there was not the same excitement.  I am cautious because I’ve read an email from one of our family members to a friend of mine who is an adoptive parent, and it was something that I shuddered with horror reading.

How can I protect my child from *those* attitudes?  How can I ensure that my children see themselves as siblings, as equal in our love and equally protected by their parents?

So no, they are not equivalent.  As I said, we see these options as equally palatable (bad word, sorry) in growing our family, but I see them each as presenting their own challenges.  Perhaps as we actually become parents, my anxieties about all of it will dissipate.

Perhaps.  Although knowing myself, it is doubtful.

No, what I really wanted to write about was that we truly – truly, truly – feel deeply blessed.  This is something I wrote in a protected post, but I am not sure who actually read it.  So here it is, in an unprotected (for the next few weeks) post:

For most of my life, I did not think it was possible for me to bear biological children.

In college, I was told that I had some antibodies that recognized my own tissue as hostile, and created cardiac problems in an unborn infant (this is still true).

In graduate school, I was told – by a student health radiologist, no less – that my uterus was heart-shaped, possibly had a septum, and was not capable of supporting a conceived life, without invasive reconstructive surgery (this turned out not to be true).

Following that, my student health OB/GYN told me that there is no way she would recommend a conception, given the risks of any potential pregnancy (this turned out to be questionably valuable advice).

The summer after I graduated from graduate school, I went to Vietnam, and as part of my work with the UN, visited an orphanage outside of Da Nang.

I fell in love with a child there.  He was a child that had a father who couldn’t afford to keep him at home, but visited him often, so he was not freed for international adoption – but he stole my heart. I think he was 8.  Or 10.

He definitely wasn’t an infant.  And he definitely, definitely, definitely needed a mommy or a daddy that lived with him all the time.  He was 8, or 10, but he was young.

Did I mention how he stole my heart?

A few months later, I moved to this city.  That fall, when I was hemorrhaging so heavily that we considered going to the ER, even without adequate health insurance to cover it – I was advised – ON THE PHONE, no less – to get a hysterectomy.  By a male GYN.

About a year later, I found out that I had adenomyosis, which are tumor-like growths in the lining of my uterus.  (Similar to endometriosis, but the growths stay in the lining of the uterus.)  The only proven treatment for this is a hysterectomy, and finally, finally, finally, I cried.

And cried.

And cried.

Because it wasn’t that I wanted so much to become pregnant.  I had already started the process of researching adoption agencies.  (It was also in this period that we realized our significant autism risk, which simply compounded our belief that we were called to adopt.)

It wasn’t even that I planned to become pregnant.  When we started dating, I told DB about my antibodies, and my apparently defective uterus, and he simply said, “I don’t love you for your uterus.  I love you for YOU”.

I do really love my husband.

But for some reason, the latest nail in the coffin – the adenomyosis, plus the antibodies that had only increased in strength (and therefore clinical relevance) – crushed me.  Perhaps it was the growing realization that I was a graduate student, in growing amounts of student debt, and my husband worked for the government, and there was no possible way for us to reasonably afford an adoption and successfully raise the child.

I felt like there was really no way out.  That we would remain childless forever.  Perhaps I was overly dramatic (and obviously, hindsight is showing that I was) but that was how I felt at that time.

I struggled.  Friends (upon friends, upon friends) became pregnant, easily, and gave birth to healthy babies.  Other friends had friends who “just adopted from [fill in the blank rogue country – Guatemala, whatever], and *they* are so happy – why don’t YOU do that?!?” – and I just wanted to avoid everyone.  I was tired of the questions, “When are YOU having kids?!?”

Healthy?  No.  But with every cute baby face, and every cute baby belly, I was sinking.  And sinking. It became really hard for me to celebrate other people’s joy.

I had a friend whose pregnancy was accidental, and she was devastated.  Up until the birth of her child, she was trying to figure out how she could possibly love this child.

It took everything I had to be able to relate.  I really couldn’t relate.  I really wanted to say, “Hey!  Wake UP!  There are lots of us that would KILL for a baby! Any baby!  Pick yourself up!  Get happy!  What the hell is your problem?!?!?”  (I didn’t.  Don’t worry.  And she is now very bonded to her child after a tough road.)

It was during this time that we started our bid to adopt from Vietnam, and then realized that what had happened in the last shutdown was still happening, and we took a step back.  That part has been amply documented on this blog.

We had a doctor who suggested that a Mirena IUD would thin the lining of my uterus, strip the adenomyosis, and hopefully staunch the excessive flow of blood (that was causing me to be extremely anemic and need blood transfusions and iron infusions that I turned out to be allergic to).  We never intended to use this as a way to be able to conceive – really, the goal was simply to avoid the need for iron infusions and prevent severe anemia and blood loss – but when adoption looked like we could not stomach moving forward, we reconsidered conceiving.

Right when we made that decision, I had a stroke-like incident, and a follow-up MRI in the ER revealed a brain lesion.

This fall was horrendous.  We were devastated.  On one hand, if it was lupus, the end-game would be psychosis and death.  Pregnancy could hasten that, and I did not think *any* agency – international or domestic – would be eager to allow us to adopt a child.

On the other hand, if it was multiple sclerosis, we might have been able to conceive, but the doors would be slammed shut to adopt.  (And I didn’t think conception was really the greatest option, given the exigent circumstances.)

After six months of intense anxiety, it turned out to be…nothing.

We removed the IUD.

We started trying to conceive immediately.

We had about a window of three months before my iron levels got too low and I would no longer be able to support a pregnancy.

If we failed after three months, I was going to have another IUD implanted – so that I could keep my iron levels as high as possible, to stay healthy to be an actual parent.  Of something other than a pet.

This entire time, I had been praying to God, fervently.  My prayer varied, but it was essentially something along the lines of, “Please, God, we want to be good parents.  Please open the doors that You want opened and close the doors that You’re going to close and comfort us through this process – please, please, please, please”.

The night we conceived Little Squirt, we prayed, again.  And this is really personal, but we did.  We prayed, fervently, “Please, God, we are open to any route you want to make us parents, but please, if you want us to be biological parents, please please grant us this child and protect him/her.”

Two weeks later, I peed on a stick and found out that I am not, actually, the type of person whose hCG fails to make that second pee stick line.

We have no idea what to make of this.  We know that the Bible says “Ask, and you shall receive”, and we both fervently believe that this is one of the most warped (by people, for their own purposes) phrases in the Bible.  We believe that we do not know what makes some prayers obviously answered and some prayers answered “later” and some, seemingly, not answered.  We do believe that God is all-knowing, all-seeing, and He uses all things for His good….but that sounds cheap, really, or just too easy – in some situations.  I know that.  It does.

We know that countless, countless couples have prayed more fervent prayers, are better Christians*, for certain better witnesses**, will be better parents*** – who have prayed these prayers, and come up with nothing – no child, no options. Who struggle, and cry, and wait, and who put money down with rogue adoption agencies or pay fees to adopt, only to have foreign governments inexplicably shut its doors to international adoption.  Who have babies make it to term, and are born still.

As I said, we have no idea about the outcome of this pregnancy and we try very hard to assume nothing, although we are hopeful.  We continue to pray and we continue to rejoice, but we continue to petition God on behalf of the thousands of other parents struggling to expand their families, too.

We feel so unworthy.

We feel like it is a miracle, and we celebrate every. single. minute. that I continue to be pregnant.

No, it is not glamorous.  Yes, I’ve puked more than some others, and yes, I’ve puked in every appliance in our house and several buckets.  But as I said, not one way of becoming a parent is devoid of pain, heartache, or loss.  And not one way of becoming a parent is any less blessed, or miraculous.

We choose to celebrate our every single minute, and we will continue to choose that path with our next child (who will be adopted) and we hope that everyone – our friends, family, and those close to us – will join us.

In celebrating, as responsibly and ethically and thoughtfully as we can.

Because there is so, so, so, so much to celebrate and wonder.

*I hate that phrase

**This phrase is better

***Of this, I have no doubt

It’s been a long time coming, but today I finally did it.

I am, like, an uber-Internet stalker.  Maybe not the WORST internet stalker out there, but I seem to really like spying on people.  Until recently, I read people’s blogs without commenting on them (ok, I realize a lot of people do that), but then I went on Operation Comment and it seemed to do the trick.

And…I am a member of umpteen Yahoo! groups.

These are not nearly so bad in the stalker category, because they require you to introduce yourself, but STILL.  I literally receive roughly 400 emails a day from these groups.  (Don’t ask why I don’t switch to digest.  I don’t know.  I like to be able to search and find a whole conversation of messages all at once, and with digest it is impossible to follow along…ok, weak excuse, but it’s the truth.)

I am a member of a Giant Schnauzer group, TWO (yes, TWO!) Vietnam adoption groups, a Kygyzstan adoption group, the Adoption Agency Research group, and some other various groups that do not really add up to my total, so I won’t even bother mentioning them.

The GS group is INSANELY active.  Oh my goodness.  Hello there, if you’re from that group, and it is a very, VERY friendly group (I used to be on another MEAN Giant Schnauzer group, and they made the adoption groups look like panzies) (Is that even a word?  Pansies?  Panzies?  Like flowers, right?) – but they respond. to. every. email.

Which was just getting out of control for me.

Then the Vietnam lists.  Now, you will notice something, right?  Do we HAVE an adopted child from Vietnam?  No, no, no, we do not.  Does it appear that we WILL have an adopted child from Vietnam?  No, not exactly.  Not my choice, but there are things beyond our control that have yielded that outcome.

Does the Vietnam list add something to my parenting knowledge?  Well, yes, and I am sorely in need of *actual* parenting advice, although I would be a rockstar of parenting a doll at this point.  But the latest blow up was over cosleeping and whether the AAP is the end-all and be-all of parenting practices, and frankly it drove me…well, it drove me insane.  Inconceivably, it drove me MORE insane than I was before.

And then the email came on the other list about “when” Vietnam will open up again for adoption…because this person might “age out” soon.

AS IF that is the important question in the whole thick of it. (!!)

And now, my readers, I present to you…

The new, improved, Internet Rachel.

Who has unsubscribed* from not only APV, LVC, AND FOGS, BUT has restrained herself from a response to the woman who asked about VN reopening.  (I have, in the past, sent maybe one email to someone who was bashing someone else.  I try to take the high ground.  Really, I do.  And whenever I have sent that one email – it has maybe been two emails – I always get a bajillion emails back.  “Go you!”  “You suck!” – really, it is not healthy!)

I stuck with AAR.  Because I need to know what is going on in the adoption world and it covers a lot of issues pretty well.

*******

In other news…

I have become obsessed with Teflon.  Seriously?  Pregnancy has made me IN.SANE.  And our pots – they are nice, but our stupid pots – are all COATED in nice, nonstick, TEFLON.  The spawn of the devil, this Teflon.

In a fit of tears, I told DB last night that I was so STRESSED OUT because I was sipping (sipping, people, not gulping – I think I had a total of 5 sips, because I read it would help my gurgling stomach) Coca-Cola, with its evil High Fructose Corn Syrup (commercials be damned, I have not avoided ALL MERCURY for a stupid sip of COKE!), and TO TOP IT OFF, we are using TEFLON!!!!!!!!!!

He comforted me, told me that it was probably OK in moderation**, and we skipped off on our merry way.

Then, this morning, guess what I found?!?

Last night’s dinner, STORED IN OUR TEFLON PAN, in the fridge. (He did the clean up last night.  I went to bed at 8:30ish.  I felt like CRAPPOLA.)

Woman possessed much?

I wonder how many FBI agents get a message on their work VM that goes, “HONEY?!?  What part of “I am scared of Teflon” means you store the food in the TEFLON-COATED PAN?!?”

.

Edited:  OMG I am going INSANE.  I was looking up some information for a friend, and found:

http://www.truehealth.org/amother.html

And seriously?  Seriously?!?

Another day, I will write a thoughtful blog post about the role of guilt in the first 100 days of pregnancy, and how it is a sinking reality that “guilt” will be around for the next 55 years of my life, God willing.  But right now, I am just going to crawl into my hole with a glass bottle of leafy green organic vegetables.  Grown in  a bubble, because Lord knows that my urban garden is probably filled with…something.

Not to mention that we have ONLY plastic cutting boards.

I’m sorry, kiddo.  Mom and Dad are trying.

*

*OK, not really unsubscribed, but on “special notices” – which means I can still read online.

**I know this is true.  However, I have become Insane Rachel in the last 5 weeks.

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This just in:

If you abstain from caffeine for four weeks and drink a cup (even a cup of half-caf) of coffee at 9:00 pm, you will not be sleepy at 2:00 am, EVEN IF you thought you were immune to the effects of caffeine.

Who knew?!?

So my days of chaos are over for now.  Only one more paper, and I will be done with the school of public health for a very long time – as long as I pass this class (I believe it is impossible not to), I will graduate in a few months with an (unintentional) second master’s degree.  Only one more lab report, and I will be done with my undergraduate science classes until the new year (when I have to take finals, and then start the spring semester).

So much has happened in the last few weeks.

I don’t know where to begin.

I would like to write about all of my thoughts and feelings around this time:  this master’s degree, although unintentional, is bringing up all sorts of unexpected struggles for me.  It is the culmination of almost five years of grief with this program, and although I do have incredible JOY when I think about my alternative – sticking with the doctoral program – I am still dealing with the occasional pang of “what did I do?” and “should I have done this?”  I look around at the students in my research class who are eager to be attending THIS school THIS year and I realize that my attitude is poisonous here – it was the wrong decision for me to come back to matriculate full-time in the program last year, and I am unsure of where to go next.  There are so many thoughts swirling around in my head about this decision – thoughts I really didn’t anticipate I would have – and because a lot of them are tied to my program and the actual school itself, my subsequent posts will be protected on the subject.  I hope you understand.  I realize that many of these posts have nothing to do with the chief reason most people read my blog (although frankly, I do not know why ANYone reads this blog – ha! – so perhaps you actually ARE interested in my career paths, although I find that hard to believe), but it helps me to process things by writing about them, and I seem to like the feedback from other people, too.  🙂

We have made a lot of decisions in the last few weeks in the baby journey (I can see you start to get more interested now 🙂 ).  Those decisions, coupled with some recent developments in the adoption world, have really occupied a lot of my brain space (which was in high demand, given the whole studying thing that needed to happen this last week).  I would like to share my thoughts on that but I am debating the best way to do it.  I share a lot of my adoption opinions in the open and I love the feedback; I share a lot of my health and genetics concerns out in the open and I have serious concerns about continuing that, to protect my current family (DB) and anyone who might join us in the future.  Although I feel strongly that some of what I write is important to disseminate to the world (even though I do not have a huge readership, the fact that I still get 50 hits/day for the phi symbol shows that I can totally capture some small sliver of an audience!), I am realizing that protecting my family needs to be paramount to anything else.  I am not sure how to proceed, although one thing I *do* know is that I will be writing about those things, too.

We are debating starting a second blog that eliminates any mention of the FBI so I can talk about these other things freely:  my career, our future children, my health, our plans and our lives, our LOCATION (which is integral to who I am and what I do).  I am debating starting a second blog anonymously so that I can write freely about these things without my neighbors and friends and family reading about my personal thoughts, but I love the community from blogging and I seem to be incapable of very much anonymity.  (DB once told me to apply for the CIA because I would find it interesting.  I think we can see why that would be a poor match for me.)  I am debating shutting this blog down entirely and migrating the FBI stuff to a new one and starting fresh with  another one.  I am debating continuing my current path, where I can post whatever I want and change the password every three months for the posts I want to protect.  However, I am conflicted.  I love writing, although I am not necessarily very good and I never actually edit what I write here (what you read here is the Very Rough Draft).  I love having an audience – is that bad?  I love having people read and comment and I love making new friends.  But I also want to share freely and not have people feel uncomfortable asking for passwords – that is really not my goal.

I am open to suggestions.  I know a lot of you are seasoned bloggers and might have some opinions about this.

Also, all of the above might become completely moot in the morning, when I have had an epiphany about what to do.  Just to warn you.

In the meantime, you will see some new protected posts.  I am going to start to share some of what is going on in my head and it will be less about mean girls and more about my faith, my pride, my career, and my struggles in finding my role as a wife, a mother, and as a contributor to society (like what on Earth am I doing here?!?).  I mean, don’t get me wrong – if something funny happens, I’ll be happy to share it.  But I think it will help me figure out where I’m going if I can share the other parts freely, too.  As always, reach out if you are interested in continuing to follow this blog.  I will try to gather a list of names of those I *know* read the blog and will pass along the password to those people.  If you don’t receive an email in the next week or so, please reach out to me.

Blessings to all of you this holiday season.

When DB and I were dating, we did not live near each other, so our entire relationship was weekend visits and long phone calls through the week. I seemed to have a knack for bringing up huge debatable issues right before we would hang up (think doorknob confessions in therapy), and now we have this joke – “so hey, what about infant baptism?” – which is what we say when someone brings up a massive topic that people will debate and debate and debate and there really isn’t time for it, but someone brought it up anyway.

That was an entry to my current point of procrastination. (See? You get to be inside my head for a day. How does it feel?) Let’s talk about…spanking! And let’s throw in…adoption! while we’re at it.

What do you think about spanking kids? What about spanking adopted kids?

I’ll start: I have (surprise!) Really Strong Opinions about this! Like I think, hey, let’s take a kid away from everything s/he has ever known, give him new food, new clothes, a new life, take away everything familiar, and expect him to know the rules, and hey – if he doesn’t get it, I’ll hit him!

Does that make any sense?

Last year, DB and I went to an informational meeting given by an adoption agency (AWAA*) at our church, and there was a panel there of adoptive parents (who had adopted with different agencies, not just AWAA). During the Q&A portion of the presentation, one PAP asked, “How do you handle the spanking issue?”

Now, the spanking ISSUE. I was a little mystified. I did not grow up in a primarily Christian home, and I did not grow up in a spanking home, and I didn’t really get the so-called issue.

But the panel person did. The panel respondent said, laughing, “Oh, that spanking issue. [Shucks, gosh darnit.] Well, *they* don’t understand *us*. We just basically lied when the social worker asked us about discipline” – as if we all would think that was just perfectly acceptable.

And that just about killed me. I certainly vomited in my mouth a little. LIED?!? Is THAT Biblical? And since when is spanking a Biblical/moral imperative?!?

But I realize there are others who feel just as strongly the other way. Perhaps my exuberance killed any possibility for a real discussion, but as my little sidebar over there <– says, I really do want to hear from lots of perspectives. So lay it on me. What’s the skinny on spanking? What do you think? If you don’t have kids yet, what do you think you’ll do? And is there ever a place for spanking adopted kids?

Diversion! Diversion! C’mon, help a girl out with a good study break!

*And here is the inevitable postscript. I have heard nothing but good things about AWAA and was impressed by their presentation. The appalling aspects of the evening came from adoptive parents not necessarily affiliated with AWAA. So consider this post as having absolutely nothing to do with that agency whatsoever.

I have 17 minutes to write, and the topic I’m going to try to cover is a lot bigger than that.

So I am getting more and more ballsy about commenting on people’s blogs, which I think is a Good Thing because then I am less like a stalker and more like a normal Internet geek, and I think the Internet geek label, while TOTALLY nerdy, is a healthier option. As long as I can maintain NORMAL social interactions (ha!) I figure it’s okay, right?

Right.

Anyway.

Today I commented on a blog post on a blog that I recently found – or, actually, someone “found” for me and suggested it – through a comment on a blog owned by a friend of the friend who “found” the new blog for me? Confusing? Yeah. So anyway, the post on the blog that my friend found was a fascinating, yeah, YOU! post about how Christians don’t have to vote for Republicans, and needless to say, I was giddy with excitement and, after clicking through her blog on some other topics, immediately linked that blog to my Reader. Which means that, voila, I became a total stalker. It’s that freakin’ easy.

(It is my new resolution to not stalk. If I have nothing to say, take the person off of Google Reader. I am telling all of you this so that you can ask me about it later, k? This morning I got the nerve up to comment on someone’s blog and I realized it became INVITED PEOPLE ONLY and because I haven’t commented, she has no clue who I am, but I WANT TO KNOW HOW SHE IS DOING! So moron me, huh? Note to self: COMMENT!)

Back to my point. If you are following me on this one, congratulations. Please keep going because it’s something I’ve been wondering about.

So this person also has adopted several children (I cannot figure out how many – several) through potentially international adoption and definitely foster-to-adopt, and some of her kids have RAD, which terrifies me to no end, but alas, knowing several people who are getting through it means that it is less scary to me, except that when I am not thinking about it my mind immediately reverts back to the images in my head of my teenage sex offender clients who also had RAD. (Note to self, again: anecdotal experience makes for TERRIBLE RESEARCH.) Basically, what I’m saying is, this person is a blogger I can learn a lot from, which is really why we follow blogs anyway, right? (or because we’re voyeurs. I can admit it. There is something alluring to learning about other people’s lives, right…it’s INTERESTING! But I will say that my Reader is filled with blogs from people who have something in common with me, although maybe they don’t know it.)

Anywhoo. I am getting to the point.

She wrote a post about adoption. It was an interesting, well-written post (much unlike this one). (The blog is linked above, but I don’t want to link to the post because I don’t want it to track back and I don’t know how to turn that off! Can we say INCOMPETENT much?)

So let’s talk about what it said, and what I said.

It said, very eloquently, “Ask God seriously if He wants you to adopt. Be honest. There are lots of children in the world who need you to adopt.”

And about a year ago, I would have been, like, “Oh, yeah!”

And now, Jaded Me says, “Oh, NO.”

So I wrote a comment. It says, “well, I think we need parents to complete ETHICAL adoptions. But not simply adoptions.” And I gave the Brandeis website, because it is really eye-opening and although I know for a fact that one of the statements on the website for VN is totally false, it is still generally well-supported and therefore a good starting point for learning about the world of international adoption.

But here is my question, or my thought. It’s taken me a while to get here because I just don’t know how to say this.

As a wannabe PAP, who has not had the stomach to move into the world of adoption and feel comfortable with it yet (ethical considerations, not parenting/financial/space ones), am I allowed to have opinions about adoption, or the ethics of adoption? Recently I’ve begun to think that if we adopt from ANYwhere we are fueling a world economy for orphans that simply shouldn’t exist. If we adopt from an ethical program, we are still contributing to a rising demand for children. One of my biggest problems is balancing the sheer volume of money (breathtaking) to adopt with the notion that, if given to a family who is relinquishing a child for purely economic reasons, could keep that family together. That is heartwrenching to me.

I hesitate to write this because I don’t want to sound like I am judging. I’m really not. I am grappling with this, and I know it’s not a new topic at all.

(I also have issues with Christians who see adoption as an answer to the problem of orphans. (The above-mentioned blogger is not someone like that at ALL. But there are others out there.) It’s not, and it’s frankly insulting. I kind of see kids as an inherently selfish pursuit, at least at the outset (not exactly the parenting part, though. Then it becomes selfless). But I feel like we get into a danger zone when we start to say that we’re “saving” kids.)

The issue I’m having now is that we haven’t adopted and we don’t even have a dossier ready. Someone from one of the Vietnam lists I’m on once told me I don’t know what the hell I’m talking about because I’ve never been in an orphanage (I think I’ve posted to that list a total of 4 times; this was in response to ONE of those posts); I hotly replied that actually, yes, yes, yes, I have, and I’ve played with the kids and hung out with the kids and seen the meals prepared for the foreigners (orphanage volunteers) and the meals prepared for the kids (different meals. No kidding). I’ve seen an orphanage in Cambodia, which actually was quite nice (although there was a lot of drama surrounding that trip, so perhaps that was the super nice orphanage for us. I’m not sure). So I *get* it.

But do I?

The problem is that perhaps I/we don’t really get it, because we don’t have a child from there. Or that we DO get it, because we aren’t blinded by desire and are simply looking at the facts of the situation: I/we don’t have the money on the line (yet) and we aren’t standing, faced with an incredible decision about ethics vs. the insane desire to parent (which I am experiencing now and will NEVER IN A MILLION YEARS question. Holy hell, this urge to parent is insane). But I’m not really talking about the conditions in orphanages, or the conditions of the children once they depart, and proponents of not talking about ethics say that THAT is what I’m missing: it’s about the children, they say. Kids should never suffer.

But do the ends (getting kids out of orphanages) justify the means (overlooking greed, corruption, and a ramped-up market economy for humans)?

Our friends walked away from an adoption in Vietnam prior to the first shutdown, when faced with an unethical prospect. I hope and pray that we’d have the strength to do the same, if necessary.

At the same time, I totally believe that there CAN be ethical adoptions, and I know there are kids who need homes – but then I begin to wonder: does that simply drive the unethical ones, too?

And do I have any right to have an opinion on these things?

And do people without money on the line really have a voice?

Or maybe I do. But I don’t.

I am so conflicted again.

A few weeks ago, Foreign Policy published a paper on international adoption. I believe you can read the full text of the article on Cindy LaJoy’s blog here. (She has a very thoughtful discussion on it afterward, as well.)  It was also posted in its entirety on AAR, against copyright protection. Alas. I think FP makes good money on its other articles that do not generate such vigorous discussion.

She asked some good questions on the Kyrgyzstan adoption yahoo! group. (Yes, I am a member of that group.) Unlike many of the other country-specific yahoo! groups, the Kyrg list is uncontrolled and anyone (agencies, anyone) has access to it. I haven’t talked about this much before, but as far as I can see, this has a huge impact on the character and tone of the list: on one hand, everyone can read the things that are published, so *no one* challenges, disputes, or offers any negative reports of agency or program practices on the list. This is not a good thing – people should have access to full information on an agency before signing on with it (simply look at Project Oz, Commonwealth Adoptions, or Mai-Ly LaTrace for google-able terms to see how rogue agencies can be).

On the other hand, people are REALLY CIVIL! Seriously! Everyone is so nice to each other! After spending so much time on the VN and Thai adopt lists, this is just so, so, so refreshing. I originally thought that it was because the people who adopt from Kyrg are just nicer people :), which may actually be the case, but I also think, to some extent, it is because it is a much more public forum – and the people on the list actually do meet each other face to face. Hey – I’ll take it. It made me really psyched to adopt from Kyrg – although that is *not* a good reason to pick a country, it *was*/*is* a good reason to stay – having a tight, supportive community is priceless (OK, at least, I think it is. APs? Correct me?).

I sound like I have actually adopted a child. How sad that I haven’t.

It is because I haven’t that I have these opinions – and because I have these opinions, we haven’t adopted. Yes, a catch-22. If anyone has a good solution, let me know. Even U.S. domestic open adoption isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

When I first started calling agencies to ask about a Kyrg adoption, my very first concern was how on Earth they could possibly have so many very young babies available. Let’s be honest: the younger the baby, the less likely it is that the birth parent had the chance to change her mind, and the availability of MANY very young babies might potentially signal corrupt practices. Kyrg had the youngest babies in the world available – by the director’s own admission. So I asked if he was familiar with the cases of other country’s program meltdowns.

He said “no, we don’t operate there – so why should I?”

And that made me nervous. Because even if you DON’T operate there, you should know which structural components of the failed program caused it to fail. The MOU did not just crumple between the U.S. and Viet Nam. Specific, structural things created a situation where it could not succeed.

So when the FP article came out, with its charges that not all babies available for adoption are orphans and there are situations where adoption amounts to trafficking, I expected that people would get upset – but I hoped that people would investigate the claims themselves. I felt that the ensuing discussion on AAR (whose membership is very controlled) was productive. There were certainly those who did not support the article and questioned its claims – that is the prerogative of every reader, of course.

But I am now a little shocked at those on the Kyrg group who wholesale shut down the article as poor research, poor writing, and claimed not to finish reading it.

Because there are people – real, live, people – on all three sides of this triad. There are adoptive parents who are caught in the Guatemala and VN adoption process who lose money, time, and for whom this adoption process causes considerable heartache.

There are birthparents who lose children to a sometimes-poorly controlled system. Who are sometimes illiterate and do not realize they are relinquishing their child for international adoption.

And there are children who do not choose to be moved from one country to another. Who lose a culture as they gain another. Who might lose the only thing they have at birth: their identity. Who are trusting us – their birthparents, adoptive parents, placing agencies, governments – because they do not have any power in this relationship.

I’ve said it once, and I will say it one more time. Adopted children do not come out of a vacuum. They do not appear out of thin air. They have biological parents, and if we had a system to ensure that all children available for adoption were there because their parents chose to place them, that is one thing.

But we do not have that system.

And therefore it is ESSENTIAL be sure that P/APs do everything in their power to complete an ethical adoption. To stay apprised of developing stories. To read things that we might not even want to read. That we might think are horse$hit. If you think an article is stupid, baseless, worthless, fine – read it, evaluate it, and store it in your brain in the category of “things I’ve heard, considered, and do not believe are worth my time” – but do not simply NOT read it.

I think we owe it to our children.

P.S. Yes, aware of possible lambasting. Keep it civil, please, although you are ENCOURAGED to disagree with me (civilly).

PPS. No, I don’t think reading that woman’s book is necessary, though. Readers of VVAI know what I am talking about. Perhaps her book is good, but her approach is not.

PPPS – Domestic open adoption? I read lots of birthmother blogs.

I am completely stymied by something in this election.

Quoted here:

It was a great victory,” said the Rev. James Garlow, senior pastor of Skyline Church in San Diego County and a leader of the campaign to pass the California measure, Proposition 8. “We saw the people just rise up.”

I’m not even going to get into the presumed “Christianity” of it all – as a Christian, and a believer in the gospel, the fact that this statement was uttered by a pastor makes me puke a little in my mouth, and I believe that it offends God, as well. If you would really like to see my views on the subject, you can go here, where I was not exactly shy about sharing my opinions. (I will write more about that later.)

So, on to my point.

What the hell is it that we, as people – I’m not even going to go into a party affiliation here – *must* always have a little guy to push down? A second class and a first class? What is it about supremacy that we crave?

Like, how is it that a state that votes for Obama 61% to 37% – a fairly decisive margin by any imagination – rejects gay marriage so decisively? That was the most striking state, but it happened in Florida, too.

Or a state that gave rise to Bill Clinton pass a law that prevents gay couples from adopting children?

If you look across the ballot measures across the country, there is a universal theme that jumps out: hatred. Bigotry, and I’m not just talking about the implicit association test. Discrimination.

It’s almost as if, in the new world order where a man of color is in the White House, we must find a new group of citizens to hate. To whom we can deny civil liberties.

In fact, looking down the results, it would appear that it’s not just “as if” – it is a reality.

I don’t get it, and here is where I am going to get a little bit more personal. For me – and for a lot of other people out there, I’m sure – I did not vote for Barack Obama BECAUSE of the color of his skin, although it certainly wasn’t something that took away from the experience, either. I voted for him because, in my mind, he was the best person for the job. There are lots of people out in cyberspace that will wax poetic about all of the ways Barack Obama will be a better president than John McCain might have been, or certainly, how he will be a better president than George W. Bush EVER was; the point I’m trying to make is that it wasn’t about race for me. It wasn’t about race for a lot of people. For me, it was about getting the Republican Party as far away from any decision-making roles so that we could get back to the business of being a normal, respectable, ethical, honorable, country again.

But I teared up watching his acceptance speech – and I certainly wasn’t the only one. I saw a man that had managed to conquer seemingly improbable odds. I was SO PROUD of my country. I was SO PROUD of the millions of Americans that voted for Obama, that CONSIDERED voting for Obama, and I was SO PROUD of the fact that in a country that looked the other way when Brown v. Board was essentially overturned last year, a Black man could become President.

And it started to become a little bit about race.

I have shared on this blog – over and over and over – that we are hoping to adopt a child (or more than one child) to grow our family. That it’s always been our primary plan, and if we are so blessed to have both biological and adopted children, we will be thrilled – but our vision for our family includes both biological and adopted children. And although we may put adoption on hold for ethical and financial reasons, we will make it happen eventually.

If you are very new to our story, you may or may not notice that we started this process last fall with Viet Nam. And you may or may not know the story of Vietnam adoptions, but for the purposes of this discussion, just know that we do not believe that it will be an option for our family in the near or distant future without some dramatic policy changes.

Consider that to be a huge cultural loss for us; I had worked in Viet Nam, learned some of the language, and we went there on vacation to grow our understanding of the country and the culture prior to taking the huge leap to adopt a child. So although we realized that Viet Nam was not going to be an option fairly early on – probably by January or February 2008 – we dragged our feet looking for additional country options.

Here were our options (or, at least the ones we considered seriously): Thailand, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Colombia. Marshall Islands. Liberia, Ghana, Haiti.

And those last three – those last three were ones that really caused us pause for thought.

Not because we’re racist.

Because we’re HONEST.

Because this country is not a country of tolerance, love, or acceptance. Because we’re not in the minority population, and we wanted to think very, very, very, very hard about how we’d feel knowing that we moved our child of color away from one country and into another where such intolerance exists.

Because DB works for the FBI, which could force us to move…anywhere. And how does it feel to be a child of color in the Deep South? We don’t know firsthand, but we can imagine that it isn’t awesome. Or maybe it is, and please feel free to enlighten me in the comments.

Because we want to move overseas, and other countries are just as intolerant as we are – perhaps, in some countries, they are moreso.

And although I know that it is a Good Thing for us to be recognizing this now, at the same time, we wanted to be Very Sure that we did as MUCH as we could to ensure that we, as parents, were prepared for parenting a child of color. I spend a lot of time reading things like this site. I listen and watch and read and we try, very hard, to understand what it is like to be a minority in majority culture. How can we affirm and celebrate diversity – in its myriad of manifestations – without becoming obsessed with race?

So sure, watching Barack Obama last night? I thought about race. I thought about what it meant for my country to have a president who had dealt with racism; a president whose children will deal with racism; a president who is showing the world that at least 52% of Americans see past his color to see his skills, qualifications, and gifts. And it made me so, so, so proud.

But what is this, this hate-based legislation? It sickens me.

And it makes me really wonder what on Earth is going on in our country. Can’t we just stop to celebrate ALL human life, without digging around for the next new group to trounce?

Is the feeling of sick superiority really worth it?

While I am on this mission to be all honest on this blog (and really, the only person who benefits from that is me, so I am not sure why I am so committed to honesty), let’s take it for a spin.

I am green with envy.

Everyone – and seriously, people, I mean everyone – that I know is pregnant right now (or just gave birth like, last week).  We have stacks of baby gifts in our closet and we just kind of throw them out like we’re at a parade throwing favors.  EV-ERY-ONE.  Which makes a girl who wants to be pregnant, or adopting, or anything that would result in a small child residing in our closet*, feel pretty awful.

The latest addition to the pregnancy files is my downstairs neighbors (yes, those neighbors).  Before that, my cousin; before that, like every single dog owner we know, before that, another cousin, before that, any other dog owners…you get the picture.  All of our friends at church have multiple small children.  We are having to find younger and younger friends so that we can feel normal.  OK, that might be a slight exaggeration, but…

I actually was being okay with it until we FINALLY made a decision about whether to TTC or find an adoption program we felt comfortable with, when we found out – the same day!!! – that some new medical issues erupted that would both prevent us from conceiving AND from succeeding at a home study.  Last week, however, we found out that I am healthy.  I’m cleared!  Bring on the fellow social workers!  Bring on the prenatal pills!  We are ready to roll!

Except that, you know, there is the whole waiting thing.  And the whole not-snapping-fingers-and-having-child-appear thing.  Oh, and money!  Yes, money thing.

So I am having a tough time.  I think part of it, too, is that we have been waiting SO LONG.  Like this month marks the 1-year point where we decided to adopt from Vietnam, starting doing a lot of research on the ethical situation in the program, and balked (thank GOD we did).  And waited to see where it was going.  I know a lot of families have been waiting a lot longer than that – with a lot more cash outlay – but I am just saying where we’ve been.  We are risking a lot to have a biological child, but if it means that we can be sure we know that child was meant to be with us – there is no question.

Anyway, so my point was not to wax about the ethics of kids.  My point was that I am going to start making a list:

Things I am so happy to be able to do in the absence of kids

(to be clear:  these are things I would gladly throw away if someone offered us a child today – but this is me being positive here.)

1a.  SLEEP!  I LOVE SLEEP!  I don’t know why I forgot this one initially – but I am giving it its own number ahead of #1!

1.  Watch a whole TV program uninterrupted

2.  Shower/pee in privacy

3.  Go out to see a movie/get dinner spontaneously

4.  Eat crap.  (Yes, people, sometimes we – gasp – eat cookie dough for dinner.  Still.  Or we’ll eat pasta 5 days in a row.  I know that is gross, but hey – it’s very very cheap.)

5.  Be minorly inconvenienced when the electricity goes out like it did last week, versus being majorly freaked out with a screaming child.

OK, I’m out.  Anyone?  Most of you are either pregnant or have multiple children and I will admit:  I am a teeny tiny hugely bit jealous.

OK, honesty time is over, now that you know I am bigoted about Republicans and jealous of people who have kids!

*Our closet is a very large room converted to a closet, painted a nursery color, which can be converted back to a half-nursery half-closet.  We have a guest room, but it’s way more convenient to have our kid live in our closet.  I think it sounds funnier if we talk about the closet.

So I am totally going to overshare here. I thought about it last night, and I actually know most of you IRL, so I don’t really care. Plus I REALLY don’t care if some random person reads this, because HI RANDOM PERSON 🙂 feel free to delurk.

Let’s talk about babies.

Actually, I was going to publish this other talk about babies – the accidental kind – and how we go about processing these accidents in our society, and how I think that this conversation is totally inappropriate and that really, if the conservatives in our country wanted to fix the abortion rate in our country, they could at least start to deal with the very Real and Pressing issues of things like, oh, I don’t know, FEEDING the hungry kids in our country (because did you know? Poor women disproportionately seek abortions in this country – and there is evidence to indicate that this is due to a lack of instrumental support), or the very real double standard that exists between manipulation of life that we intentionally create (IVF) and the manipulation of life we didn’t intend to create (abortion).

I really hate double standards. I feel like this is the King Double Standard.

And…here is the kicker…I believe that God probably agrees with me. (Do I sound like George Bush yet? Hee hee.)

All of this to say that I am ardently pro-choice, but if we get pregnant, we aren’t even going to have a test for Trisomy 21 (Down’s syndrome), because WHY. Our kid is pretty screwed anyway. We are only testing (and oh, boy, are we testing) for the things we can fix with surgery or medication. But termination, as they say? Not an option.

For us.

But no, I wanted to overshare about our situation. (I’ll get back to that other argument in a coming post. It’s partially written. I just wanted to say something relevant to what I’ve been mentioning recently, but now I’m MOVING ON!)

HERE IS A NOTE: IF YOU ARE MY FAMILY OR YOU ARE UNCOMFORTABLE DISCUSSING OUR SEX LIFE, STOP HERE!

(The adoption stuff is at the bottom.)

If any of you have read my blog, you might remember the crazy story that I overshared (here) where I had a severe anaphylactic reaction to intravenous iron. It was very scary, blah blah blah, and I started this campaign to improve my apparently intransigent anemia by eating red meat. For a vegetarian, I will say, it was a LOT of red meat. And because I am really, really, really sensitive to food textures, it was only the pre-digested (ground) version, only very pretentious quality (because I cannot STAND having fat or grizzle or whatever those hard things are in my soft meat…eww eww ewwwwww) and because I am a little bit obsessed with exposures that haven’t been evaluated in the study of what causes autism, meat with no hormones or antibiotics added. And every time I got a bite of meat with fat in it, I would gag (as quietly as possible) and then stop eating.

(And then it would take me a few weeks to get back on the wagon.)

This last year or so of meat-eating has been quite a challenge, we’ll say. Although DB thinks it’s funny that we eat bar food as a nutritious meal.

Oh, and also, I don’t interact with it. DB has to handle all meat (mostly because I am scary. Fifteen years of vegetarianism leaves one rather stupid about meat safety – although now I am smarter, but just repulsed). So this whole meat thing is not the most awesome lifestyle, except…

TODAY…

FOR THE FIRST TIME EVER IN MY ENTIRE LIFE…

I…AM…NOT…ANEMIC!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

In fact, my IRON STORES ARE HIGH!!!!!!!!! (HIGH! Like higher than expected! This is unheard-of for me!)

I can’t quite emphasize the amount of joy here enough.

You know how a lot of women are anemic?

OK, I was not that kind of anemic. I was need-blood-transfusion, schedule-iron-infusion-even-though-we-know-you’re-deathly-allergic-to-it, anemic. Totally idiopathic-although-maybe-it’s-related-to-your-extraordinary-ability-to-manufacture
-autoantibodies anemic.

So I. am. PSYCHED.

My rheumatologist, who also demonstrated an uncharacteristic amount of happiness when we met (she was absolutely thrilled, and I must say, she is not the most emotive person in the world), said that if there is ever a time for us to consider conceiving, now would be it. So we have a fairly short window of time that my body will be in a position to support a pregnancy (my iron stores will plummet shortly…although I will keep on my bar-food-diet to hopefully prevent that). So now…we have some decisions to make!!

YIPPEE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Now some of you are my male friends (and my brothers! and father!) and if you are horrified by this post, all I can say is..the heading is “oversharing”.

Enough said. 🙂

Some of you are undoubtedly wondering about adoption, and even though this post is totally long, I want to say…we are still adopting. Adoption has always been our Plan A, and attempting to conceive a biological child was our Plan B. However, I am obsessed with ethics, and there is a lot of tumult occurring in the international adoption world. We really wanted to adopt from Vietnam, which is obviously not going to happen, and it was quite an adjustment to mourn the loss of that opportunity. We moved on to Kyrgyzstan, and I have to say, so much about the Kyrgyzstan program made me so incredibly excited to adopt from there. The program was small (when we started looking at it) with only four agencies working there (now I think there are 12 or so). The community of adopting parents is unbelievably supportive, which is, frankly, a breath of fresh air compared with the Vietnam group. We could see ourselves supporting/being very involved with the country in the long term, which was important to us. But with China tightening up, Vietnam closing, and Guatemala closing, families searching for a program found Kyrgyzstan, and there are now waitlists a mile long (for some agencies, the waitlist to APPLY is 1 year!). The one agency that does not have a waitlist has another program that DB and I feel uncomfortable supporting (because our adoption fees do go to support all of the programs in the agency), so we refuse to use that agency.

All of that to say: although IA is always a gamble, and we know that, we are going to wait a few months (more) to see how things shake out with Vietnam closing, because there are a lot of families who lost a lot in this process scrambling for ways to recoup their losses and locate their children.

And…we are still adopting. Stay tuned as to where. We’re exploring a lot of possibilities, all of which we’re really excited about.

I know you’ve all been waiting with baited breath. All…three of you.

I have made a decision (that link is in case you want to refresh yourself on the oh-so-important topic in question. Although there really aren’t all that many of you, I keep opening my big mouth about this election all over the internet, so maybe there are new people reading out there. Hi!)

FYI: This is a really, really, really, REALLY LONG post. I should break it up, and maybe I will do that later, but I’m just going to publish it like this. Feel free to skip it if you want. I’m not going to be offended. I just wanted to document it here in one place so that when I re-think the decision, I will be able to return to my thinking here.

I actually made the decision last Wednesday, but I wanted to sleep on it. A lot. And then yesterday morning, I got majorly cold feet. I sweated. I almost puked. I basically had a panic attack, which I have pretty much never had, and maybe I will regret posting this on the internet when we want to adopt internationally but you know what? It is situation-specific, so not pathological. Moving on…

After months and months and months and months of talking about all of the reasons I did not like my program – months of coming up with very rational, solid reasons for moving away from the program – I suddenly couldn’t bring myself to go to the school to declare my plans. I sat, frozen on the couch, wracking my brain to think of one good reason to leave the program. I couldn’t. Considering that I have bitched my way to this point, I found that amazing (I could remember complaining. I just couldn’t remember why I complained).

I’m not sure what inspired this temporary period of amnesia. Maybe it was because I unintentionally declared my plans by failing to show up for a Very Critical Seminar where it was painfully apparent that I was absent. We arrived back home at 2:00 am, the cat had peed all over the floor (not because of you, L), I cleaned it up, collapsed into bed, and then when I checked the class schedule at 9:00 am, I realized that the class started on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 8:30am. And THAT, folks, was not how I was going to make my exit. I am not a passive-aggressive person, and that is about the most passive aggressive way to depart – by blowing off the course taught by the faculty in charge of the doctoral program.

So I sat.

And sat.

And sat.

(And watched CNN, because as I said, man, watching Palin news is like crack for me.)

After a few hours, I dragged myself out the door, drove to school, parked a ways away, and walked…slowly to the building, trying to think of what I would tell my (truly awesome and rock star of an) advisor. And then I went to the hospital next door to get some blood work done, because I just could not bring myself to walk into that building.

I went to class today, and then I talked to my (awesome) advisor. And when it was done, and I signed some forms and talked to some more people, I felt more excited and secure about my decision than at any point in the last 3 months. And that, my friends, is peace that can only come from God.

So here are the reasons that I am leaving the doctoral program:

1) It is NOT FUNDED. It is the only doctoral program that I know of that is NOT FUNDED. My school thinks it is so awesome that it does not need to fund students to have them come rushing through its doors. And, unfortunately, it is right. It makes me feel sick to my stomach to think that I have fueled their self-perceptions by paying them tuition myself, too.

My history with this program is long, and I will try to make this short.

I applied to this program straight out of my master’s degree. I worked with a faculty member at Michigan (there you go – a place name!) who really encouraged me to pursue a Ph.D., and I chose public health because I wanted to prevent things. I loved the notion of public health as a field designed to protect and promote population health, and so I applied to doctoral programs all over the country.

When I applied to these programs, DB and I were just friends.

When I got into these programs, DB was on his way to the Academy.

When I learned about the funding at these programs, DB and I were engaged.

And so it goes.

I was offered full funding plus a sizeable stipend at some very competitive schools across the nation. I am not bragging – I am very self-deprecating – but I was pleasantly surprised at the response I received from all of these different schools, save one (that I will call Majorly Sucky School, or MSS for short).

At the same time, DB found out that he would be assigned to the city that we currently live in, aka the location of MSS. So I accepted their offer with the prayer that they would at least ATTEMPT to match the other offers financially and went off to work in Vietnam for the summer. When I returned, the financial situation had no more changed than I had grown another foot, so I took one class (to secure health insurance, since I was also unemployed at that time and had health concerns that required group health insurance – I can’t just buy a health insurance plan on the internet). Then I took a few (sequential) leave of absences. Then I took another class. In the meantime, I worked full-time in various research positions, and when one of them lost its funding for a full-time position, and DB was making enough money that I could work part-time and we wouldn’t starve, I decided that maybe I could stomach the thought of the doctorate. I was getting older, I wanted to start a family, and the timing was pretty good.

There was a lot of drama that surrounded my return to the program, but the upshot of it was that I changed advisors to my awesome current advisor, and I started the program last fall with a fairly awesome cohort of people…but no funding. And I thought I was okay with the no funding, until I wasn’t…because seriously. What does it say about my program that everyone there is getting a degree because they are sitting on a trust fund or have a spouse that can pay their way for them? This is a RESEARCH DEGREE, not a law or medicine degree that has the potential to be profitable at the end.

And I realized: for the rest of my life, I will always be chasing money. That’s what research means. Chasing money.

And I also realized: I should not be chasing money to fund my doctoral coursework, before my qualifying exam. Students often chase money (apply for grants) to fund their research for their dissertations – that’s why so many grants stipulate that they are for “ABD students [all but dissertation]”, or “post-coursework” students. Basically: no grant program wants to pay for classes.

So my school thinks it can just charge tuition. No big deal.

Except it is a Very Big Deal.

And I also realized: this program – solely because of the funding – makes me feel very, very, very, very, very unintelligent.

Some students are (partially) funded, and some are not. Some students are rich because they married rich lawyers, and some are destitute and working three+ jobs (I have two, and I picked up the second mid-term when I realized we needed more money. But I make more than a research assistant because of the autism gig, which was a saving grace, because I need more than the 2-3 hours of sleep I’d be getting with multiple jobs that pay $10/hour). I don’t know anyone who hasn’t taken on at least SOME debt in this process.

Compare that to a program of similar caliber that offered me full tuition and a $25,000 stipend.

And then I was talking to a friend who is on faculty at a nearby university, and he was complaining because HIS doctoral students were bartending (bartending! How could they not be working in HIS lab 24/7?!?) and I said, “you mean most students DON’T rely on bartending?”

It’s only money, but it’s money. And it’s money we could be spending on adoption. It’s money I don’t want to pay in the future. It’s tuition money for a degree I’m not sure I want.

And if I want that degree in the future, we’ll be living somewhere else, and I will go to another university and obtain that degree and be perfectly happy because it will be funded. Because THAT is the way a research degree is supposed to be.

2) Career. This ties into money.

I have said many, many times on this blog that I am not interested in a life solely devoted to research. I appreciate research. I actually love reading research. I reserve the right to engage in research.

But in our classes, do you know who comes to talk to us about their research?

Do you know the qualifications of 4 out of my last 5 supervisors?

All MDs. Not Ph.Ds, who arguably are better-qualified to direct research, but MDs. Clinicians who have an interest in a particular topic.

Ph.Ds, with many exceptions, engage in research with no clinical work. MDs engage in clinical work that directs their research, and they do both.

And I am a strong, strong, staunch supporter of practice-directed research. What good is research if it is not practical and based in reality? What effect will it have on policy? It is great that we find out things like this or this, and it is totally fascinating, but there are other research findings that are incorporated into policy initiatives, and these are the kind of studies that we need to promote as practice-oriented and grounded in reality.

There are other degrees that offer more flexibility (and, I will submit, more pain and agony) than the path I am on, and they will offer very similar options when I am done. AND, more importantly, I believe I’ll be more effective at doing whatever I’m doing at the end of an alternative path.

3) Career. Where can I work?

My husband could be ordered to work anywhere in the country, including places that I might not choose to live (aka the Deep South, or the Middle of Nowhere, or…). While I do not have anything against these places, per se, I have to say that they are not places I look forward to potentially living.

We want to move overseas. In the FBI, if we move overseas, we must start with a place that is less desirable (think hazard pay and one of us – maybe even me – must learn how to actually cook from non-frozen foods. Actually, there are a lot of other things we’d be more concerned with thinking about, but those are the effects I’m comfortable sharing on this blog. Email me directly for more information) and work up the global ladder of desirable locations that way. No one starts out by moving to Paris.

I’m okay with that (actually, I am really psyched about it) but I want to have a job wherever we live. I want a career that is instantly useful wherever we go – not a career where the local expat community feels it has to create a job for me somewhere. A doctorate is not that kind of useful.

I cannot wait to grow my career in ways that will serve others and glorify God. And while I have no doubt that there are a TON OF RESEARCHERS out there that do EXACTLY that, and that my pursuit of a doctorate in no way precludes that from happening, I feel at this point in time that the best thing I can do is my current plan. That’s just the right decision for ME, right now.

4) Kids.

Our goals right now are to be the best potential parents we can be. We don’t have a kid yet, but we are working on it, and frankly, I have done more research on adoption, child development, attachment, and parenting than anyone I know in real life (and, from reading lots of adoption blogs, more than a lot of adoptive parents. I tend to only read the ones that candidly share their experiences and have clearly done a lot of research, but like anything, there are quite a range of parenting practices out there.)

I care deeply about our future children. I pray for them. I pray for the biological mother of our adopted children, should we be fortunate to have them. I pray for the health of our biological children, should we be fortunate to have them.

I have spent a really, really, really long time thinking about how I want to raise our kids and what my role will be in this process.

I think that’s why I’m so shocked by Sarah Palin (and in this I am talking about her parenting practices, not her policy platforms, which are laughable and scary and are beyond the scope of this post): I’ve always said that it doesn’t matter what kind of job I have or if I’m presented with the job of my dreams. If my kids or my husband need me, I will drop that job – that path – in a heartbeat. Jobs are jobs. Family, on the other hand: we are covenant-bound by God to care for each other. DB feels the same way. We do our best to manage concomittent family and career identities, but if life presents us with something we did not plan for, we alter our plans.

We have a significant risk, as I’ve stated umpteen times before, of having a child with special needs. That’s not complaining; that’s just fact. And I’ve said to DB several times in this process – way, way, way before Sarah Palin’s name ever became a household word – that the moment we learn that our child has a special need, I will quit my job or put my academic career on hold. I have the background to help our child at home, and I will never forgive myself if my child did not realize his true God-given potential because his mother was too busy working.

Of COURSE DB could play that role. But my background is in working with kids with special needs. His isn’t. And his job is a career without the option to take a leave of absence, and once he leaves, that’s it – no returning. So which one of us is going to be the primary caregiver? It sure isn’t going to be someone NOT us unless we decide that’s what’s best for our CHILD.

All of that to say that I haven’t decided fully about medical school. What I have decided, however, is that a research degree – THIS research degree – is not for me. I am taking one more class to fulfill the master’s degree requirements and leaving the program skipping and jumping. I am going to fulfill the prereq requirements for medical school and for a genetic counselor program, because really, my passions and heart are in that field, too. But right now, my efforts are going to be in doing well in school and pursuing the expansion of our family, cause WOW are we in need of a little human.

And bashing the GOP, which is a role I so very much love. (And I used to WORK FOR THE GOP, albeit in high school, but I was one of those little people wearing blue suits and I did it for a whole year, so I think that gives me a little bit more credibility. Does it?)

**My next post will be shorter and will be about scripture and my views on reproductive health. I am sure it will be foreign to 98% of you. However, I think it might help to understand Christianity a little bit, and I’m sorry it wasn’t what I wrote or published tonight. I’d encourage you to read it, if only to realize where you can critique the Christian Right using something other than science or emotion.

And if you’re part of the Christian Right, I’d also encourage you to read it, only because you can comment and tell me how I’m wrong! 🙂 (Nicely, of course!)

I mentioned that I read a lot of random blogs on a previous post. I don’t know what it is about blogs, but I find them absolutely fascinating. And I don’t know if I should be thankful or annoyed with Go0gle Reader, but it certainly makes it very, very easy to keep up with a whole heck of a lot of blogs, and to add insult to injury, it *suggests* additional blogs to follow!! As if I have not located enough blogs on my very very own.

So one blog that I read (a pregnancy loss blog – I do not know why my friend Mr. Reader suggests so many pregnancy loss blogs to me. This particular one, however, is filled with phenomenal writing and I get really excited every time she updates her blog) gets a ton of hits every week (something like 100K/week!) and I never read the comments, but tonight I did quickly, and one comment in particular stood out to me.

A woman asked for prayers for a decision she and her husband had to make – their close friend was dying of a metastatic brain tumor (I think that’s what it said) and she had a very young baby, and she (the friend) wanted this woman and her husband to be the godparents. To care for the child when something happened to her. And this woman and her husband were taking the decision very seriously, as they wanted to do the right thing for this child and their friend, they had just started trying to conceive, and they had step children from a previous marriage.

DB always says that I have more thoughts going through my head in 10 seconds than he has in an hour. That might be true. In that instant, I thought: Wow, “that’s like Beaches”, “the woman in Beaches didn’t want to raise her friend’s daughter but didn’t she end up to be a great mom?”, “did we ever see what kind of mom that woman was in Beaches?”, “it doesn’t matter”, (I am a little embarrassed by this one) – “wow, how could she even think twice?” – then “what would DB and I do if someone asked us this?” – then “well, I guess maybe that did happen once”*- and then “what an amazing honor to be asked to raise someone’s child” – and then I actually got teary thinking about what an amazing gift it would be for someone to ask someone else to raise their child (let me be clear – I was thinking about the gift of love from the parent gone to the parent caring for the child – I feel like I need to be clear given the post from Laura yesterday). And I thought, “wow, what difficult conversations to have with a child. ‘I knew your mom very well, and she would have loved to be here with you today. I love you very, very, very much, and I am so blessed to raise you'” – through every major life event – starting school, doing a book report, playing sports, graduating from various school grades, getting married, having children.

(I am not kidding when all of that – and a lot more that I couldn’t articulate here – passed through my head in about 2 seconds.)

Three seconds post-glance, I thought, “well, how much different is that from adoption?”

And the answer – for me – is, “Not much.” Or is it?

I think the difference is in the fact that in international adoption, we don’t know the woman who birthed our child, and we don’t know the man who fertilized the egg that created the child that the woman carried. And although in an open, domestic adoption, we may know the mother and include her in our child’s lives, she will still not be there for every minor development. Nor am I trying to say that she should be – as parents, adoptive or biological, we *are* the parents. Our children should look to us for cuts, scrapes, celebrations, and encouragement. That’s the point. But the point also is this – in adoption, as well as in godparenting, a parent looks at her child and says, “I won’t be able to raise you, so I am going to ask someone else to do so.”

This isn’t all that deep or different from what I’ve said before – I think it is only different in the way it’s framed. I think of raising my best friend’s baby and I think of Beaches. I think of adopting a child, and I think of that child as born in my heart – not excepting the fact that there is a woman with an absolute connection to my child – a woman that with whom we will encourage a relationship but cannot exactly speak to her identity, character, or situation beyond what is on a piece of paper. But I would like to think of the two as the same in terms of how we refer to the child’s first mother – is that possible?

Does that make sense?

*Friend of friend of friend of friend had daughter who got pregnant at 16 and was trying to find a family to adopt the baby. Friend of F of F of F thought of us, because she knew we were adopting, and we had just gotten married (or maybe weren’t yet married) and we just did not feel that we were the appropriate match for this family, so we asked other friends who were struggling with infertility if they would be interested in speaking to the family. That was before I developed my Strong Views on a lot of things. Friends said no, not interested in adoption;  we said yes, if the girl said she wanted a couple from outside her family to adopt the child, please contact us, but the baby was ultimately adopted within the family. And yes, that also pretty much went through my head in a split second.

FYI

This blog represents my personal views of a wide variety of topics. Aside from my connection through marriage, I am absolutely in no way affiliated with, informed by, or directed by the FBI, and, as such, the FBI bears no responsibility or affiliation with this blog.

Because I am not affiliated with the FBI, all information in this blog is second-hand information, and is therefore subject to inaccuracies. (Of course, I would never publish something that I believed to be a lie; however, there is always a chance that I will inadvertently misrepresent something.)

Finally, despite what you might expect given my husband's occupation, I am what most people would call a "(flaming, or insert other word) liberal". I gleefully mock the policies and practices of the USG that I consider worthy of mocking. In doing so, I am exercising a fundamental Constitutional freedom. Of course, you are always welcome to disagree (and exercise your Constitutional rights).

I welcome comments and emails.

Thanks!

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