Don’t walk away, in silence
See the danger
Don’t walk away
Don’t turn away, in silence
Confronts and then dies
Don’t walk away
Naked to see
Walking on air
Hunting by the rivers, through the streets, every corner
Set down with due care
Don’t walk away in silence
Don’t walk away
Needless to say, we’ve been living in the Upside Down world since the woman we thought was the mother of our child disappeared. We’re trying to just remember how to breathe. The diaper bag and carrier still hanging by the front door. The changing table I built still piled high with cloth diapers and homemade wipes I’d cut from old flannel shirts and below the suitcase with newborn basics and the secondhand baby wrap that I’d been trying on when she’d called to invite us to drive down to what would we now know would have been an empty waiting room. The wind up toy we got in Paris four years ago after our first IVF fail that plays ‘Over the Rainbow’ and the one new onesie I got just for my husband to celebrate his very first father’s day later this month. And of course, the I Love You that I painted on the wall next to the map of Australia to remind our little one how much (s)he means to us. And did I mention the nursery is the room we have been sleeping in for 11 months during our world’s-longest-remodel, so this is what we see every morning…and right now, try not to see. Everything has gone from vivid color into a muted black and white.
So I’ve been doing a lot of listening this week. Listening to podcasts as a non-podcast-person (except when I was doing face-down recovery for my vitrectomy in 2017) has been the primary focus this week as going out into public has proven to be beyond anything I can comprehend right now. We tried to go to sushi the day after and after getting a nice quiet booth away from the other tables, they seated a pregnant woman and her kids behind my husband and while it was hard enough listening to her bitch at her kids the whole time, when ANOTHER pregnant friend of hers walked in and stood exactly in my sightline as I ate, and they cooed and giggled over each other’s bellies, it became an epic panic attack. Like closing my eyes, covering my ears with my hands and rocking in a near-Rainman fashion. My husband, thank goodness for him, instantly got it and paid the bill and we left within seconds, me shaking and falling into tears shortly thereafter. Yesterday I went to Fred Meyer, one of my only places in this area I go because retail is shit in this area of the state, and only because it reminds me of my childhood (because beyond that, a good percentage of the employees are complete fucking imbeciles or apathetic fucks), and I had this sudden recollection that the last time I was there, it was the day Danielle (the C U Next Tuesday who tried to scam us) had called to tell me the baby had dropped and that she was headed to the hospital that morning…when she wasn’t even in that area of the state…and I was rushing to Freddy’s to grab a window shade for the 13 hour round trip drive and texting our neighbor about getting her goat’s milk to us in time to make formula and another to come over ASAP and show us how the fuck to actually use these cloth diapers that a mom had donated to us last year. How all of that was just a giant waste of time, money, and worst of all…hope.
So I’m listening.
I have listened to a few podcasts from IVFML, including a really good one on miscarriage and another discussing the grotesque recommendation to ‘JUST adopt’, and with that discovered the awesomeness of Erik & Melissa, whose interview with the IVFML folks talking about how, after the emotional and physical devastations of years of failed infertility treatments, have made the gut-wrenching decision to change their thinking from Childless to Childfree. Meaning, in their words, “learning to embrace the childfree life” and intentionally, mindfully focusing on this new chapter of their lives where all efforts to become parents have been retired and moving forward while finding community in those who, like them, never did get that child at the end.
We have not made a decision, but the interesting thing is after this that with the agency who did our home study now out of business and aforementioned home study expiring in August, some decisions are unavoidable. Pay a new social worker to do a new home study (thousands$$) and keep waiting? Or close the door and try to repay our retirement savings accounts back with the money we’d watch go down the toilet…including the early withdrawal penalty I just paid 2 weeks ago for emptying the last bits of my only surviving retirement account in order to cover the legal and birth mother expenses that I didn’t realize were NOT included in the second five-figure payment that I would be paying the agency as soon as we got those (never-to-be-received) ultrasound results. Sure, the money has been transferred into a savings account for the time being, but it’s many thousands lost to taxes and penalties that I can’t get back. And hey, without the buffer of retirement savings or health insurance from my husband’s employer who could care less about providing benefits to spouses & dependents or any type of paid time off as he only has 2.5 days accrued? Where is the magical “oh we’re child-free, let’s go travel the world” alternative that we had said we would do if this all went to hell for us? Do we keep this ridiculously large house in this home we have rebuilt from the inside out for the child that never came? WHAT THE FUCK DO WE DO?
And so I kept listening. This morning, to Nora McInerny’s TED Talk about grief (see below video embedded here in the blog), and it rang true from our losses as a couple due to infertility and failed adoption and miscarriage to our losses of our fathers over the past 10 years. Today I saw a picture of my dad and I just lost it. Me, standing there grinning in my early 20’s with my dad in his Powell’s shirt, clearly too small for him but he’s wearing it anyhow, with his arm proudly around me, his “number one girl” as he referred to me, his firstborn. Ten and a half years since you left and you are still here with me. Hell, if our baby was a boy we were going to name him after you.
Nora talked about how with loss, “your friends and your family are just going to look around through friends of friends of friends of friends until they find someone who’s gone through something similar, and then they’ll push you towards each other so you can talk amongst yourselves and not get your sad on other people.” Damn, so true. We have these people who we thought we were becoming friends with and yet every time they invited us over, the wife would cancel at the last minute because something else came up, or poor planning, or whatever. This same person was also trying to do this at the last minute with our adoption request to please come over and show us before we leave town how to do this diaper thing, and then after the fraud we’ve not heard a peep from her. But during it, it was ‘I have a friend who is adopting who I’ll introduce you to’ – because it’s easier to do that than to actually be present for someone. Did this friend battle infertility or was this her first child? Nope, she had multiple, biological children. We’ve never actually hung out with them after all of these invites and frankly, I don’t have the energy to be around people who are all talk and no action. I don’t have the energy to be around any person who says “let me know what I can do to help”. Because you know what, I DON’T FUCKING KNOW WHAT TO DO. I DON’T FUCKING KNOW WHAT TO ASK FOR. I DON’T FUCKING KNOW WHAT WILL HELP.
Actually, I know what would help. A baby. Duh. But whether Danielle was actually pregnant and is keeping the baby or if the baby never even existed, it doesn’t matter, because she clearly just wanted to fuck us over. She wanted to emotionally devastate two people who she knew had lost a child, who she knew were infertile, who she knew had been waiting for 4 years to become parents and were packing up and ready to come be with her at the birth, who were committed to helping her get where she supposedly wanted to be in her life – back on her feet so she could take care of herself and her 3 existing kids. But now reports are filed with the sheriff’s office and who knows what will happen to her, or her kids. And if there’s a baby? We do not know. I almost hope there is no baby just because for a baby to be grow up with someone who has such inhuman behavior is child abuse in itself. While my husband has taken on the role of wishing bad things upon her, I don’t think about revenge. I hope that her children aren’t eternally fucked up by this woman. I hope that she grows the fuck up and learns and heals from whatever has brought her to commit such incredible acts of cruelty.
But right now, I can only focus on my own healing. That’s going to be a long, long road.
For those who have inquired over the years, please know that in Oregon, there is no ‘foster to adopt’ system. To adopt a newborn, it’s $33,000+. To adopt a child other than a newborn, you must make a 5 year commitment, and know that it’s going to be a minimum of two years after you do yet another home study and another set of background checks and another set of references and 24 hours of classes that are only held 90 miles away on weekends (when your husband works). And as one of the podcasters said perfectly, DHS is NOT an adoption agency. Fostering a child is NOT the same as parenting. It is, as one said, “providing a calm place in the storm” for a child, with the ultimate goal almost ALWAYS being of reunification with the birth parents. Social workers aren’t there to help you become parents. And while there are indeed so many kids in foster care, there are not enough social workers to handle all the case loads and so, ironically, couples (and individuals) go through all the pre-work and training and then sit on their hands and…wait. The social worker in my county admitted that it’s a very long wait for non-relatives because she has so many relatives of foster kids that she needs to process. And in countless cases, kids are not being taken care of by DHS workers (not dissing DHS workers as a whole as anyone who knows the system know social workers themselves are massively overworked and incredibly underpaid), are slipping through the cracks or aging out of the system, and some even being housed in mental health, detention &/or prison facilities…then they put ads on TV to try to get more people to sign up to be foster parents.
“The state’s foster care system and its child protective services are a mess, a state of affairs that was highlighted in a Secretary of State’s audit in early January. So far, it appears, attempts to correct problems haven’t done the job. Lawmakers made one such attempt in 2017, when they passed Senate Bill 819, a measure that requires an investigation into every death of a child who’d had contact with child protective services within the past year…Neither of those things has happened in the last 18 months, according to a report in The Oregonian. The state missed the federal standard for beginning such studies by a mile. Under the standard, reports must be completed on time in 90 percent of cases; that happened in only 11 percent of Oregon cases.”
My husband and I briefly talked about fostering in a new light, in a way where, after we’ve had time to heal, to possibly be that shelter in the storm, when we’re no longer looking at it from a parenting perspective. But as you can see, even if you want it, it’s a clusterfuck to get there. And damn it all to hell, I’m tired of clusterfucks.