Guest Blog: Sam's Story. "Just Adopt"? It Isn't That Easy.

A lot of people wonder why Jim and I don't "just adopt", especially after 4 years of trying to have a baby through infertility treatments and 2 losses.

We have explored adoption in our quest to have a child. Adoption is a beautiful, and it is ALSO not nearly as easy as a lot people think it is. There is no "just adopt".

My friend Samantha (Sam) Blanco shared her story with me recently and it brought me heartache and chills. Please read, consider, learn and share. 

It’s been five years since my husband and I first started trying to have a child. We had a plan from the beginning: we’d have three children, the first two would be biological children, and then we’d adopt a third. But if we didn’t get pregnant within a year, we would go ahead and start the adoption process. What’s laughable now is not that we had this clear plan and thought it would work, but that we thought any plan we made would be easy.

After two years of trying to conceive, we finally started the adoption process.  (At this point, we hadn’t even looked into fertility treatments; it wasn’t until later that we would learn we would not be able to conceive without significant, expensive medical intervention). We carefully selected an adoption agency, went to a two-day training for adoptive parents, and became part of a network of other people trying to adopt. We were optimistic and excited. We waited for two more years. In that time period, our lives were busy while my husband worked on a huge project for work and I pursued my PhD. I imagined that I would graduate and our lives would slow down, then magically a birth mother would call us at the perfect time.  Then on January 31 of this year, we got a mass e-mail from our agency that stated they were declaring Chapter 7 bankruptcy and were closing effective immediately. With that e-mail, thousands of dollars, two years of our time, and our hope disappeared into thin air. People often ask us if we’ll ever get our money back (which is highly unlikely), but the loss of time and trust has been far more devastating.

My husband and I made some immediate decisions. I took a semester off of school. We spent more time together, focusing on helping each other get through each day. We were fortunate to have a family member who works in adoption who told us, “You need to mourn this.” So we mourned. Slowly life has returned to normal, except now we’re back to square one.

Suddenly, we’re in a place we never expected to be. We’re both 35. We’re both uncertain what path we want to pursue to parenthood. We’re uncertain if the decisions we made a few years ago are still the right decisions. And we’re processing the emotions and experiences of the past five years while still trying to move forward.

In recent weeks, I’ve found myself reflecting a lot on our experience. I have a greater understanding of the impact of infertility than I ever could have had as the woman making decisions about parenthood several years ago. Here are a few of the things I’ve learned:

Your family and friends may not be ready for your decision. Once we decided to adopt, we spent a lot of time explaining the process to our families and friends. Some of our loved ones were very excited. One of my favorite memories is telling my husband’s cousin, and seeing her immediate joy. Others asked many questions, which we were happy to answer. And while I understood it came from a place of love, some of our loved ones frequently questioned our decision. Don’t you want to at least try IVF? What if you change your mind and want to try it but you’re too old? Are you sure you’ve made this a priority, what if you took some time off work and reduced your stress? Often, these comments were expressions of their own fears, not responses to our excitement about starting a family. These questions also made me feel as if choosing to adopt was somehow equivalent to giving up.

You and your spouse will likely have very different experiences with infertility. There was a point in time where I felt anger and envy towards my husband because our friends and family focused so much of their attention on me when it came to infertility, as if it were something only I was experiencing. Often, we would walk into a party and infertility would be the first thing I was asked about, and I’d look over to see my husband cracking up with friends about the latest episode of whatever show they were watching.  My husband, on the other hand, was feeling his own levels of insecurity about infertility that often he would keep from me.  

When you can’t get pregnant, every option available to you is expensive and invasive. This seems to be the one thing that very few people understand about infertility. Fertility treatments are expensive. Adoption is expensive. Fertility treatments are physically invasive. Adoption and foster care are personally invasive, with requirements to provide great amounts of financial and health information, along with several home visits. Any path a person chooses toward parenthood is complex and carefully thought out. There is not “Why don’t you just do IVF or adopt?” There is no “just.” It’s a long and difficult path.

Feelings of loss related to infertility aren’t what I expected. Not being able to have a biological child was difficult emotionally, but it was not a tragedy in my life. I had always envisioned myself adopting a child, so it was not a big shift for me. I was completely blindsided by the adoption agency declaring bankruptcy. After years of feeling confident in my decisions about becoming a parent, I was suddenly plunged into a depression.  There is no script for explaining to people the loss I was feeling as a result of the agency going bankrupt: a loss of money, time, and most importantly, my trust in systems built for adoption. When you have a baby biologically, you don’t have to second-guess the way you have a child. But with the agency bankruptcy, my husband and I were second-guessing every single decision we had made in our quest to be parents.  

We haven’t decided what we’ll do next. We know so much more than we did when we started this process, but that knowledge hasn’t necessarily better prepared us for making a decision. We’ve been very open about this with our friends and families from the beginning, and value that openness. But one of the negative aspects of that openness is that we are getting a ton of unasked for advice, advice that comes from a place of love and concern, but assumes that they have an answer for us. And perhaps that’s the biggest lesson I’ve learned, that there simply is no right answer. My husband and I will be parents one day, but there’s no one right way for us to get there.

Sam Blanco lives in Brooklyn with her husband and two dogs.

Guest Blog: Read Darla's Story if You Think You Would Never End a Pregnancy

It's been nearly 7 months since we said goodbye to Grace Pearl, and in that time we have met so many other people that have been through similar situations to our own - far more than you'd ever think, which tells you a lot about the stigma around this that a lot of people have to make these sorts of choices, but are afraid to share because of how condemning society can be. And I get it... there are people out there that 100% are against abortion, even in our situation, and yes, I do encounter them.

How I feel about that is another post for another time, but I always want to ask what people that say we made the wrong choice and shouldn't be able to do so would do in my amazing friend Darla's situation. And I don't mean this in an antagonistic way: I truly wonder what people would do in Darla's impossible situation. If her family's case isn't one that compels for the need for smarter, more inclusive laws and increased awareness and compassion, I don't know what is. 

Thank you so much, Darla, for sharing so bravely. 

I Tell Their Story

One year ago, we learned some of the most devastating news parents can learn. My husband, Peter, and I sat in the doctor’s office after our routine 20-week anatomy scan discussing our dinner plans. The twin girls I was carrying were craving Mexican food, I claimed. So we planned on going to famed local Austin eatery, Chuy’s. After over an hour and a half of waiting for our doctor to come in after the ultrasound – a rarity for our doctor – he walked in somberly and asked me to move from the examination table and sit next to Peter. I knew we were in for bad news.

The rest of that appointment is a bit of a blur.

“I’m surprised she’s still alive.”

“Encephalocele… might be open… very small head… possible missing digits… large cleft lip and palate…”

“Other baby is healthy.”

“Referral to a specialist… only one doctor in town who will perform the procedure if there’s no hope…”

“I’m so sorry.”

He called the specialist’s cell phone from his own cell phone while we sat across from him bawling. It kicked off a wave of appointments, including a trip out of town on a Saturday for a four-hour ultrasound to make certain what we were told was actually going on. It was.

Our baby B, Catherine Sophia, had essentially a terminal diagnosis. Microcephaly, an open encephalocele that was allowing brain matter to leak out and was causing ventriculomegaly, an underdeveloped cerebellum and prefrontal cortex, and a large cleft lip and palate were her major issues. That she had survived this long was unbelievable, but she would not survive to make it home with us if she lived through delivery. And she posed too big of a risk to her completely healthy twin sister.

On June 22, 2016, we said goodbye to her. I clutched the panda bear we had purchased for her at the Vienna zoo the day after we learned of her conception (the girls were donor egg babies from the Czech Republic – a story for another time, one I love telling). I cried, not from any physical pain, but from the grief that had already settled in 12 days before when we received her diagnosis.

Darla and Peter with Olivia

Darla and Peter with Olivia

I walked around in a cloud of depression, grief for months. I delivered the girls in September and lost myself in the role of mother to a newborn. My beautiful Olivia Adele brought me such joy, but still, as I looked at her, I found myself torn between delighting in her and missing what should have been.

When Olivia was five months old, I realized what I needed to do. While Catherine may not have been meant for my arms or for this world, her story was. She was meant to help bring her sister into this world, and she was meant to open eyes.

So I took it upon myself to tell her story. I shared it in a large, almost exclusively cause-friendly Facebook group first, and then got up the courage to write an article that I guess you could say went viral. To see people sharing my words, commenting on my life, was surreal. Comforting and angering at the same time (never read the comments, right?).

But my daughter, the one who was never going to have a chance to make her own mark on the world on her own terms, was making a difference. People who were pro-life were saying they’d never thought of situations like ours, they’d never thought of gray areas before, and that my children had made them think. Because I had told her story, people’s eyes were opened.

Cate and Olivia

Cate and Olivia

Along the way, my sweet girls have helped me find myself. Olivia has helped me truly see the mother’s soul in myself, the soul I always thought I had but had become afraid I’d never get to express. And Catherine has helped me dig deep and find the survivor and the fighter within myself. Having only been the child in the parent/child relationship up until this point, I never knew that a parent could be changed by the relationship. But they can.

I told a reporter once, after she apologized for making me relive our trauma, that I would tell my daughters’ story every single day for the rest of my life if it opened even a few eyes. And I will. I will continue to tell their story because as long as I live, I will make sure that they do, too. Both of them.

Cate's footprints

Cate's footprints

What would you do in Darla's situation, if you think you would never support pregnancy termination, even in Grace's situation? What if you were pregnant with twins, and learned one would never live, and was taking energy, resources and space from the other one, thus endangering her? It's hard for me to even think about, but I can't just stop there and think about something else. The laws in our country very much effect people like Darla and myself and our options in these situations. Apathy or avoidance isn't a choice for us. 

You can find Darla's Facebook page (and link to her blog) here, and if you'd like to make a donation to NARAL Pro-Choice Texas (a state in great need of support for reproductive rights, and where Darla has been holding a fundraiser on behalf of Catherine Sophia) you can do so here


Guest Blog: Celeste's Heartbreaking Experience

As I explained in my last post, Jim and I don't currently know what to do. Do we try IVF again? Explore adoptions more? Try donor eggs? Do we not try to have children anymore?

It all sounds simple summarized there, but we need a break while we sort all of this out. I will still be around for any questions and comments but for a bit I'll be sharing some guest blogs by wonderful men and women that have offered to share a glimpse into some of their most painful experiences in the hopes of sharing helping others. 

Let me introduce you to Celeste, a dear friend of mine through the infertility community, who unbelievably lost both of her twins after conceiving via IVF. She had already suffered years of disappointment before this happened. 

After losing the first twin at 8 weeks, Celeste's second twin, a girl named Rosa Kimberly, was diagnosed with multiple congenital anomalies. Because there was a chance Rosa might make it, Celeste and her husband decided to carry the pregnancy and planned for her to have multiple surgeries after her birth. Unfortunately, Rosa died in the womb at 30 weeks and 3 days, and was stillborn the next day. 

I talk a lot about how important it is that Jim and I had the choice to terminate our pregnancy when we did to save Grace pain, and it's just as important to me that Celeste and her husband had, and continue to have the choice to do what they did. Every family should be able to do what is best for them and I 100% support Celeste and her husband's decision and am so touched by her sharing her experience.

Here is Celeste's account of that experience, which is as beautiful as it is heartbreaking:


I Gave Birth to an Angel

I have been thinking about this moment & experience nonstop since it happened. But I haven't been able to find the words to adequately express the power and love within. I'm going to try now to tell the story. I hope I do it justice.

Friday, May 29, 2015 will forever be a sad, dark day. It is the day that we found out about Rosa Kimberly's fetal demise. Once Dr. Moldenhauer confirmed that Rosa's heart had stopped, she was silent for a long while. I knew what she was going to say, but waited for her words. Finally, she said, "I'm so sorry..." 

I turned on the exam table to face my husband, and curled up in a ball. The tears streamed down my face and my voice was trapped in my throat. Then the wailing started and John and I wept as the doctor and nurse excused themselves from the room to give us some privacy. 

When the doctor came back in, she spoke gently to us about our options. I had to deliver the baby. The safest, healthiest way for me was a vaginal birth rather than a C-section. I flashed back in my mind to the appointment two weeks ago with Dr. Martinez. He confirmed that Rosa's birth would be a certain C-section with the only exception being if she were to pass away in the womb. I remember thinking, 'God forbid that ever become an option,' and then stuffing the fear and horrible scenario away in my mind. How could this be happening? 

As the doctor spoke to me, I kept thinking of the scene in "Divergent" when Tris is in the simulation. She's trapped in the glass case, and it is quickly filling with water. She snaps out of her panic and the world seems to float along in slow motion as she looks at her reflection in the watery glass. Her reflection looks back at her and says, "This isn't real." She taps the glass with her finger and it cracks. Calmly and peacefully, she taps on the glass until suddenly, the glass shatters and gives way to the weight of the water. 

We settled very quickly on a vaginal birth, and now the question was when to start the induction. I had taken my prescription of Lovenox about six hours earlier, so the doctors wanted to wait for the medication to clear from my system. I told the medical team that I didn't want an epidural or any pain medications, but they insisted that we wait just in case I changed my mind. We were offered the chance to go home and gather our things, or to stay at the hospital. The thought of walking around with my daughter's lifeless body inside of me... I just couldn't bear the thought of the world going on like nothing had happened when in actuality our world would never be the same. We decided to stay at the hospital until it was time.

We were taken from the triage room to a delivery room at the end of the hallway. Dr. Ntoso told me to eat a good meal. I would need my strength. But food turned my stomach, I was too upset to eat. I managed to eat chicken noodle soup and part of a soft pretzel.

John called his parents to tell them the awful news... I called mine. I could hardly say a sentence without sobbing into the phone. My mother cried back on the other end of the line as she made sense of what I was saying. She said they'd be there soon.

We spoke to Dr. Cole and went over the plan we made just two days before. The "palliative care plan" just incase the unthinkable happened. Did we want to take pictures? Did we want to make momentos? Hand prints, cut locks of her hair... When we made the plan, I had hoped to never see it again. Then Dr. Moldenhauer called to tell me that we would plan to meet Rosa on June 24th. But now that wouldn't be happening...

My parents & sister arrived while we were talking to Dr. Cole. They said hello, and then we told them we'd get them when we were done. Honestly, I can't remember much of what was said. I felt like I was in a fog.

My brother came up and brought me a picture that my nephew made. Dr. Ntoso came in at 8:00pm to give me the first dose of misoprostol. I felt mild contractions within ten minutes. My family left around 9:00 or 9:30. I was sleeping by 10:00pm. The nurse and doctor came back in at midnight to put in the next dose. I couldn't fall back to sleep, so around 2:00am I asked for an Ambien. The plan was to get two more doses of the misoprostol at 4:00am and 8:00am, but I woke up at 6:00am and the nurse told me that they decided to wait because my contractions were too close together.

At 9:15am on Saturday, the doctor put in the next dose. Again, I felt mild contractions within 10 minutes. At this point, my cervix was 70% effaced and 2 cm dilated. My parents, sisters and brother all came back to be with us. I called Father Bruce to tell him what was happening, and he said he'd come around 1:30pm. My best friend, Kim, drove up from Virginia. My best friend, Kristen, came too.

The next dose of misoprostol was put in at 1:15pm. The contractions started to become much more painful, but I was able to manage them by breathing through them. I sat on the birthing ball, and held onto the side of the bed. I started feeling nauseous and as I mentioned this to the nurse I said that I should probably have a puke bucket nearby. Actually, I need one RIGHT NOW. The second it was handed to me, I got sick. I told the nurse that I wanted some anti-nausea medication. I could deal with most physical pain, but nausea and vomiting bring out the wimp in me. I got some zofran and as it was dissolving under my tongue, I felt the nausea creep back.

Kim took a deep breath and said, "So what mile are we on?" She was referencing a marathon because she knows how meaningful that is to me. I mumbled, "I don't know," while reaching for the puke bucket and vomited again. So much for the zofran! Kristen went to tell the nurse, and they gave me an intravenous version of the medication. The nausea went away almost instantly.

Father Bruce arrived around 2:00pm, and everyone cleared out of the room so John & I could talk to him privately. I told him that I might not be able to participate in the conversation too well because the contractions were getting intense. It wasn't long before I think I scared him! He said that he was present for his wife's three C-sections, but this was the first time that he was ever in the room with a laboring woman. I'm sure it wasn't pretty to witness! He & John eventually left the room, and the nurse stayed with me.

I went back and forth between the birthing ball and the rocking chair. At some point, I think my water broke. That was a surprise to me because there was no amniotic fluid detectable over the past six weeks. The contractions were so intensely painful. I started to wonder if I could do this without medications. I had no idea that I was in active labor at this point. I just knew that it was extremely painful.

The midwife checked on me at some point within all this. I was 80% effaced and 4 cm dilated. She apologized saying, "I know you probably hoped to be farther along." I hadn't really hoped for anything... I had no expectations for this experience. The only thing I had invested my hope in for the past three years was already gone.

Father Bruce came back in the room and said a blessing over me and the baby. The contractions made it very hard to focus, but I'm glad he was there to do that for us.

John & I stayed in the room alone from this point with the nurse & midwife coming in every now and then to check. John tried to comfort me, but nothing made me feel better. He asked me questions. I couldn't answer except in one word responses. "Water." He came running to my side with the water mug. I got up from the birthing ball and walked towards the bathroom. He came running over to move my IV pole. He was trying so hard to take care of me, and find out what I needed and wanted. I couldn't respond to him. I was so focused and concentrated on each contraction.

I felt like I had to push, but I wasn't able to verbalize it. I thought it might help to use the bathroom, and that's when John realized that he had to get the nurse. The midwife came in and said that she would check me. She said very calmly, "You are about ready to go." There was a lot of commotion around me as the nurse assembled the instrument table and the doctor came into the room. Jessi, the midwife, told me to try to breathe through the next two contractions to allow my cervix to get completely ready. I wanted to push very much, but tried to breathe it out.

Finally, Jessi said to push. She was so calm and serene. Pushing felt like a relief. The contractions almost seemed to disappear. Now the pain was entirely focused on the baby trying to come out. The time in between contractions and pushing seemed to stretch on for a long time. I winced from the pain, and Jessi assured me that it was ok, that it was just stretching. I sat with the pain and accepted it for what it was. It was uncomfortable and peaceful at the same time.

The room was so quiet. The nurse held one leg back and taught John how to hold the other. I looked to Jessi for direction. She quietly told me what to do. The look in her eyes was serene and sympathetic.

Rosa was breech, so her butt came out first. John decided not to look, but was asking what it looked like. Jessi explained that it looked like the baby was crowning, but instead of her head, her butt was poking out. I said, "She's butting." John misheard me and thought I said, "She's budding." That way was much better <3

After about four pushes, her butt, legs, and body were out. Just a few more pushes to get her head out. On the next push, I felt a woosh as she slipped out. It was the most incredible, indescribable feeling. John cut the cord, and the doctor and midwife explained to him that the placenta still had to come out. They said it could take 30-45 minutes more. But with the next contraction and push, it came out. All of the pain stopped. The nurse handed Rosa to me, and I just marveled at her beauty. She was beautiful.

It was such a peaceful moment. I couldn't believe how sweet her face was. Her skin was so soft. I wrapped her little hand around my thumb and stroked her cheeks with my finger. She was so perfect.

The world kept whizzing on, I'm sure, but for me, it's like the world stopped in that moment. I am still stuck there. I think I will be for the rest of my life. I gave birth to an angel. I can't wait until the day comes when I can join her in heaven. I love her so much.