Tuesday, June 21, 2011

An awful adoption situation, still hoping for a happy ending

In 2008, 65 children were about to be adopted from Kyrgystan by U.S. and Canadian families when the unexpected suspension of all adoptions ended their chances to be united with their adoptive parents. My longtime dear IRL friend Suzanne is one of the adoptive parents affected. That year, she was matched with a beautiful baby girl named Diana. Suzanne traveled to Kyrgystan and bonded with her. She waited for the chance to bring her home, expecting that her court date would occur six to eight weeks after the referral.
There were multiple delays. And then, devastating news that Kyrgystan had halted all international adoptions.
That was two years ago. In the meantime, the government has determined that all 65 children are legal orphans and two sets of new laws have been drafted but not implemented. But two of the children have already died due to inadequate medical care. The others remain in orphanages, far from the families who are eager to love them. Suzanne has made numerous trips overseas to visit Diana, but heartbreakingly has had to leave her behind each time. I wrote about her nightmare situation back in April, 2010, hoping that things would soon improve. But unfortunately, her little girl still isn't home. 
Suzanne with Diana, age 22 months in this photo (now age 3)
Suzanne has actively lobbied congress and the parliament in Kyrgyzstan, meeting with officials in both countries four times. She also produced this video, which was translated into Russian and widely distributed within the Kyrgyz and U.S. governments (makes me cry every time I watch it). Even CNN recently picked up the story. 

The families’ advocacy efforts have been led by Joint Council on International Children’s Services. This organization has now created a targeted advocacy program on behalf of the waiting children and parents, called the Kyrgyz 65 campaign.
This past year, the Kyrgyz 65 were awarded
the 2010 Outstanding Child Advocate Award at Joint Council’s annual conference in New York.
 They are working now – through the Joint Council  to raise funds to step up efforts to bring these children home. To give them what all children deserve: a safe, loving, permanent family. 
If you'd be willing to help Suzanne and the Kyrg 65 in their efforts, please stop by their fundraising page. Will and I have. Hopefully, my friend Suzanne - and the other waiting families - can turn a corner and bring their children home. Three years in an orphanage instead of with a loving family is three years way, way too long.  


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Sunday, June 19, 2011

Two third-party reproduction articles on the occasion of Father's Day

I saw both of these pieces today in the New York Times and found them really moving and thought-provoking, each in their own way.

The first, A Father's Day Plea to Sperm Donors, is an essay written by an 18-year-old young man conceived by his single mom and an anonymous sperm donor on what it's been like for him identity-wise and how he's handled the big question mark that is one side of his genetics. His essay calls for donor gamete children to be able to contact their donors and know about their origins. And his yearning is palpable: "I am sometimes at such a petrifying loss for words or emotions that make sense that I can only feel astonished by the fact that [my father] could be anyone."

The second, Baby Makes Four, and Complications, is a long piece about an unconventional family made up of a single mom and her very young son, and on a part-time basis by the boy's biological father, who is a gay male friend in a relationship, and who views the child not particularly as his son but sort of as a nephew. It's a somewhat self-indulgent psychological portrait of what it means to be a family - and how the concept of family is evolving and changing beyond traditional definitions. The plan is for this child to know at some point that his "uncle" is actually his father. Who knows what his reaction will be to this head scratcher. ("...Wait you're my biological father but you decided to take a role more like my uncle?!")

I liked both articles because they caused me to reflect on the choices Will and I are considering that might lead us to have a child who is not genetically linked to one or both of us. A child who might or might not know of their origins. It strengthens my already fairly firmly held belief that it would be psychologically easier for our child(ren) - if they come to us through third-party reproduction - to know as much about their donor origins as possible, including, potentially, the chance to meet their donors. It makes me think of the potential ramifications of using the donor embryos we have been offered. In that scenario, our child would be related genetically to neither Will or me, but would on the plus side be able to meet their genetic father and sibling (but on the downside never meet or know much about their genetic mother, since she would be an anonymous egg donor). And it drives home that if we go the donor egg route in the future that we would probably want to use an agency and specify an open donation arrangement so that our child could answer any identity-related questions they had when they get to an age (adolescence?) that those might come up.

I had a long and fascinating conversation last week with a bioethicist on my medical school faculty whose area of specialization is reprogenetics. Among many other things, we spoke about why people feel such a strong pull to have a genetic connection to their children - and where such a drive comes from. And she gave me a reading list (which I will share in a future post) of books discussing the ethics of reproduction and human genetics (PGD, microarray, etc).

Reading these articles today also reminded me of something. I tend to view my difficulty with giving up on a genetic child as a personal shortcoming. A limitation that is some sort of character flaw. (We've recently realized it is also the very real existence of our five chromosomally normal embryos. If they weren't out there, I think we'd be ready to leap off of the genetic track pretty rapidly. But they ARE there.) But it is not just my own comfort level with giving up on a genetic link that needs to be considered. It is also about our future offspring's potential feelings about that loss of genetic connection and what that might mean to him or her as they grow up. I don't want our children to ever suffer any pain or difficulty. And I hope that if we use third-party reproduction down the line that we won't be inadvertently causing our child some future strife or additional difficulties. I hope instead that they would take away the main message: that they were so, so wanted that we were willing to go to great lengths to bring them into our lives. That they are cherished and that we are just over the moon thrilled to be able to parent them.

Tell me what you think. How did these articles strike you? For those who have used third-party reproduction, how do you imagine any donor issues might affect your children down the line? Or am I the only one who thinks about these things?

Finally, Happy Father's Day - to now and future fathers.


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Wednesday, June 15, 2011

And now for some good news

Thanks for all of your thoughts and support for our last two posts. Nice to know that you guys are still reading, even after our extended absence. It helped to read your words about the validity of the different choices we are faced with. So thank you for your comments. And also for your comments about others' difficult comments. It really helped.

So then...let's move on from these fraught topics to some good news, shall we?

Remember how I posted a while back that I'd passed my licensing exam to be able to practice independently in psychology?

Well...I have some more good news on the professional front. I've been offered (and have accepted) a junior faculty position at the medical college where I've been doing my postdoctoral training! Official start date will be in the fall, when my post doc ends (otherwise known as when my grant funding runs out), but I'm already doing the new job on top of my duties now - which means I am a very, very busy girl, but busy in a good way.

My new job will be a mix of clinical work, clinical research (mostly writing grants and working on intervention studies to try to develop and improve treatments in my specialty area), clinical supervision of advanced doctoral students, some med student teaching, along with the typical academic stuff of writing articles and presenting at conferences. Should be fun!

It is great to finally be at the conclusion of all of this training. I entered my PhD program as a full-time student in the Fall of 2003. What a long journey it has been. Here's wishing we can have some resolution to our fertility journey soon as well.


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Saturday, June 11, 2011

To Molly and Caroline

We wanted to take a moment to respond here to your comments on Mo's last post, as you left no way to reply to you directly. We are not sure where you come away with the impression that we see adoption as “inferior” or “second best” to any other family building option. (Although clearly you see some choices as superior to others.)  

We are fortunate to come from large extended families that are multicultural and multi-ethnic.  Like many families today, these families have been built in numerous, creative ways. Many of our nephews and cousins came into this world the traditional way. Others came through alternative pathways: several through IUIs and meds, four by IVF, two through surrogacy, and two through adoption.  Luckily, all of the children are loved individually and it makes no difference how or when they came into our lives.  And we do not judge their parents as less than for whatever choices they have made to be able to have children.

Adoption isn’t a lesser choice. But we would also like to point out that surrogacy and egg donation aren't lesser choices either. And adoption, while a wonderful choice, is by no means an easy or certain path; we would strongly argue that it is not "easier" than medical interventions - just different. (Those who have pursued both, please feel free to chime in.) To clarify, we have not been considering combining egg donation with a gestational carrier – those are two separate pathways we have contemplated. But we know two couples who have used an egg donor combined with a carrier and we would never presume to judge them for this decision.

Mo's posts, we believe, reflect the fact that we are conscientious and careful in all of our choices.  It may not be evident to some, but for many reasons that have nothing to do with love, adoption is not the best option or may not be an option at all for a given couple.  It is a complex process for sure and one that we have thoroughly investigated. Some details are private.  

We appreciate everyone's support. It hurts to be misunderstood and even more so to have others jump to conclusions regarding our intentions in loving a child.  

Mo and Will

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Friday, June 10, 2011

Where did the time go?

I've been quiet a lot longer than I intended to be. And I hope I haven't worried anyone.

It's just been hard, so so hard over here. I've been kind of shut down around this whole infertility situation, honestly, because things just feel overwhelming in that department. Every time I think of our situation, I just feel hopeless and I want to go back to bed, avoid, and give up, which is such a change from the hard-driving person I've been around all of this for the past four years. We've been trying faithfully on our own every month, but well...I guess I must really be infertile (!) because this timed intercourse doesn't really seem to be doing the trick.

This Spring, we came close to trying another transfer into my body with our remaining frozen embryos. Because logically that seemed to make the most sense.

And then I did the math again:
7 IVFs
110 eggs retrieved
17 embryos transferred
6 pregnancies
0 living children

And I just sort of lost it. This enormous sense of NO! NO! I CAN'T DO THIS AGAIN! came up in me. It seems likely that we know what the outcome will be. And it won't likely be a good one. I don't think I or Will or our marriage can take it. So we called it off.

We are still considering using the donated embryos that have been offered to us. We've found a couple of egg donors through agencies that we would be fairly happy with. And we've been talking to some folks about surrogacy of our frozen embryos. Adoption is not something that we're considering at this time.

But we haven't landed anywhere yet.

One relative said to me: What would you do if all the options were free? If you took money out of the equation? Good question, I thought (along with - easy for you to say!). But it got me thinking...

If money were no object, this varies, but today I would choose to use a gestational carrier for the remaining Mo and Will frozen five. Just to see...We've got 'em. We nearly killed ourselves to get them. And they are chromosomally normal so there should* be at least one kiddo in there.

*But of course that may not be true. That would be true for other people. For us, though, nobody knows what is going wrong.

So here we sit. But I at least wanted to pop up and say hi. I feel kind of sheepish for posting another post that I still don't know what direction to take, am still struggling, am still stuck. But I guess it's better than posting nothing? Hope so.

We're hoping to make a decision on what direction to take in the next month or two. Because time, it is a'ticking and we are beginning to feel strong enough to take another step. Stay tuned.


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