Monday, June 30, 2008

Mama Bear

I think I've had my first Mama Bear instincts this week. This post will probably be very rambling, so be warned! =)

It started last week with some google alerts and yahoo group posts termed "Embryo Adoption." The links and discussions took me to various places around the web, where various discussions about embryos and their placement were taking place. But in all of the cases, what was being discussed was embryo donation or worse, embryo sale! It made me so frustrated. It made me realize how protective I am over true Embryo Adoption and our little babies.

It made me angry that they were lumped in to the same category as black market body parts for sale, and anonymous bank donations. We made the choice to do an actual adoption and make the sacrifices required therein, because of our love for our children and our desire to do right by them. In our world view, this way was the only way to go. I understand that others make different choices, but it should be discussed and named differently because it is different.

I am part of a self-enrolled blog roll of IF women. I had been categorized as "Donor Egg/Sperm/Embryo." I wrote to the list owner and asked to be moved to the Adoption roll and she wouldn't place me there. But in every functional sense, this IS an adoption. I won't apologize for or downplay that.

Now both of these things are pretty minor. But I feel like it takes away from the honor we're trying to give our children when we're lumped in to some anonymous process. I want our children to know that they were wanted and loved and sacrificed for before we ever knew them. I want the dignity of this process protected by refusing to mingle it with anonymous donation and with people who sell their children, both of whom I've seen claim the same term of "adoption." I want to insist that they call their processes by their own names. Better--I wish that this was the only way to transfer embryos but I digress.

Then I finally got up the nerve to listen to my Pastor's Mother's Day Message. I'm so glad I didn't stay in the service that day. His message was on Moses. He came to a point in the message where he said that because of Moses' first 5 years with his birth mother, he knew he was a Hebrew. He praised Moses' mother for risking her life to keep Moses safe.

Then he said "Moms, we just stand in awe of you, what God has done and is doing in you and through you for the purpose of giving children a powerful powerful excellent foundation in their life."

Then he transitioned to a story about his own daughter, pregnant with twins and he related this: (transcribed word for word)

"[Daughter's name] there's nobody else in the world, no one in the world, who can do what you have been called to do. No one else in the world can take these babies and give them what you're giving them. And that's true of every mother, every mother who conceives a child--there's no one else the world who can replace you in that process."

That really hit me. I love my pastor dearly. I know him to be a sincere, godly man who has expressed his support for what we're doing. But I almost felt like his words betrayed a certain bias and it struck me that the bias is probably fairly common and our children will probably encounter that their whole lives. And it made me mad for them.

True. I am not involved in the children's conception. So in the very technical sense, I cannot be that person. But I will be their mother. DH will be their father. We will be the ones who provide that "powerful powerful excellent foundation in their life." Meaning no disrespect to genetic and birth parents everywhere, we will be the ones they spend their days with, who tuck them in to bed at night, who take them to school and soccer practice, who provide those "first 5 years" (and more!) and who teach them the ways of the Lord. The same can be said of adoptive families everywhere. I don't really see what biology has to do with any of the true elements of parenting. To be clear-I don't trivialize the roll of birth or genetic parents at all. But I do wish that ours wasn't minimized simply because we lack a certain biological component and it's my fear that general populous bias DOES participate in that, at least subconsciously.

The mama-bear in me was animated as I pictured people pitying our children. Thinking they missed out on something. Thinking they have a second-best existence and second-best parents, and that they are our second-best children. I want to scream that we're doing everything we can to give them the best of everything! And they should feel loved because of that-not ashamed or as though or offerings were mere concessions to make up for shortcomings of biology. I never want them to feel like they're missing out on something. I want everything for them and I want them to KNOW that we want everything for them.

Thoughts like these always make me try to remember what I though in my pre-adoption days. I honestly can't remember (another testament to God--He has filled our hearts so full of this that it's hard to remember a time when they weren't), but it does make me want to get inside people's heads and learn what they're really thinking. It impassions me for adoption advocacy. And that's good, I think.

Speaking of (how's that for a transition?), I really want to become more active in infertility, adoption and embryo adoption awareness and advocacy. I'd love to read and speak, presuming of course that anyone wanted to hear what I have to say. But I don't really know where to start. Am I totally out in left field with this idea? It's a little nerve wracking and feels a little egotistical to think that what you have to say is novel and important enough that others should listen. And it's not even that I think that about me. I just know that I have a heart for these issues and I want, for the issues' sakes, to see their messages furthered and I think that I am willing to do it and at least have a modest talent for it. Any thoughts?

This week is important in terms of checklist steps. Theoretically, our homestudy is being sent in to the court today. I really really hope it goes in this week and I really hope the court's calendar moves quickly! Tomorrow we go to the doctor to talk about all those tests and hopefully he can do them at the same time. On Wednesday, we meet the genetic parents. On Thursday, I go to my OB for a few more tests. So it will be a busy week!

Gotta scoot for now! I hope you all are well!


  1. Comments about conceiving and biological "real" (eek) parents make me cringe and I am pregnant. I take every opportunity to tell people that biology doesn't make a a parent and that my husband and his wonderful parents are the perfect example of this. I think you need to call your pastor on this one. And good for you for wanting to get into the world of advocacy! May you be blessed.

  2. First off: selling children's pretty despicable. Ick, how awful.

    Second: I don't see how any Christian could denigrate adoption, when it's such a prime, consistant metaphor for God's relationship with us. We're adopted into his family. If adoptive children aren't real children, well, boy are we in trouble!

    But - and I hesitate to say this, because I may say it badly - adoption's necessary because we live in a fallen world. We live in a world where our bodies don't work right (I think of all the medical intervention my girls and I had to go through this past year - in a perfect world it wouldn't have been needed, right?) and where parents sometimes abandon their children. That's what makes adoption necessary. So, maybe some of the bias you fear isn't so much bias, as it is acknowledgement of an imperfect world. That adoption exists due to some very real flaws in this fallen world.

    I guess you could compare it to a lesser case: c-sections vs. vaginal births. There are some people who argue that the former aren't "real" births. Well, they are. My twins (born via c-section) are just as much my kids as my older two (born vaginallY). But people have a real point when they say that c-sections aren't ideal. They aren't. They're harder on the baby, harder on the mom. In a perfect world, you wouldn't need them.

    But am I glad they exist? Yes! Because my girls wouldn't have gotten here without that particular operation! Their true-knotted cords would have pulled tight and killed them (which makes me sick just to type).

    And your kids wouldn't get here without adoption. We go through what we have to in order to get our kids safely here. That's just what parents do.

    Anyway, to get back to my way-too-extended metaphor, is a world where c-sections and adoptions are necessary to get our kids safely here ideal? No! But - in either case - that lack of idealness matters very little once the kids are safely here. My scar twinges now and then, and I bet yours (those remarks you hear here and there) will too.

    But your kids will be YOUR kids, just like mine are mine - and the ones who arrived here via surgery just as much as the ones who arrived here naturally. God redeems this fallen world, and he lets us help.

  3. Jess-that's the same discussion Todd and I had last night. In a perfect world, there wouldn't be a need for adoption. Children would always be loved, wanted and cared for by their biological parents and none of those parents would die until all of their children were adults. I recognize adoption is a necessary "evil" (and it kills me to type that!) But now that it does exist and our kids are here and in real need, I can't think of them or us for them as a second best. It's almost a confusing sort of double standard--acknowledging God's perfection and original plan, but also respecting the now existing results of deviation from that plan. It is quite the conundrum to be in and part of our discussion last night was how to balance that...

  4. I'm confused, because why would people pity your kids, unless you upfront mention to everyone you meet that they were adopted? Most people will assume that you just gave birth to them. And who feels bad for adopted kids, anymore? Adopted kids are lucky, because their parents CHOSE them.

  5. Would you be brave enough to talk to your pastor about what he said? He might not even be aware of how his words are skewed and how much he's hurting those who are struggling to conceive.

  6. I probably won't talk to my pastor because he's on sabbatical and won't be back until seems a little silly at that point. It didn't offend me so much as it led me down a trail of thinking about biases in general.

    Amanda--no, we don't intend to "advertise" our adoption and we certainly will never say "hi, this is our adopted daughter _______." But our entire church does know about our adoption journey, and our child will know so I imagine he or she will share it from time to time. We don't plan to advertise the adoption but we don't plan to conceal it either. We imagine it will just be one of the many things that make up our child.

  7. you WILL be the mother...conception or not! my husband was adopted and i often forget b/c he loves his parents so much as they do him. adoption is such an important thing, and it takes very special people!

  8. Hi Mama Bear -

    Your thoughts here just made me think of my Birth Day post-- I hope it didn't contribute to your frustration.

    I heard a similar message on Mother's Day that made me look over at my own mom and cringe. Maybe my mom couldn't conceive me and carry me in her belly, but no one else could have been up at 3 am with me, cleaned up my vomit, or shuttled me around to every practice and lesson a girl could sign up for. The actual birth (while amazing and a true miracle!) is just the beginning. And I couldn't have asked for better parents, biological or not.

    Jen, you ARE a Mama Bear. You've been a mother for as long as I've known you. You just don't have children yet. And when you DO have them, they won't be second-best. They are YOUR children, selected by God to be raised by you-- they just happen to not share your biology. Don't let anyone think differently.

    Which actually reminds me: My parents told EVERYONE about their adoption journey before I was born, but I can remember elders in the church coming up to me in high school and saying, "I remember when your mom was pregnant with you" and "You look just like your dad". I used to think that meant all those people had memory problems; now I realize that they just identify me as being my parents' child-- they didn't remember how I got there.

    I'm so glad that Embryo Adoption has someone like you as an advocate! You've done a great job explaining it on your site, and I think sharing your experiences will make you a great resource for other couples out there. Have you thought about writing an article (or series of articles) for a magazine? I bet Christian family magazines would be interested; there's got to be hundreds of Christians who have done IVF and aren't sure about what to do with their embryos. And I bet Biola magazine would love to publish your story.

    Sorry for the long comment! I'll be thinking about you Wednesday, hoping the meeting with the genetic parents goes well!

  9. Hi Jen,

    I am sorry that things seem so frustrating for you. I think your post was very well written, and I encourage you to be an advocate for anything that you are concerned about. You should really give yourselves more credit--you will certainly be a huge part of this conception process, a very important part. Without you, this embryo may never know life.

    I skipped out on our Mother's Day service at church. I commend you for taking the time to listen to the sermon. I think next year, you should address these concerns with your pastor. No disrespect intended--but he may just be another person who is uneducated on living with IF or childlessness. If he has never been touched by this heartache, he could never possibly understand the array of emotions one feels. It's up to us---women who have been there and traveled that dreadful road to enlighten those of our journey. Not for their sympathy, but for their education.

  10. I think you read too deeply into what your pastor was saying...anyone in public speaking is bound to offend someone at some point. I understand what you are going thru I have been there...looking back prior to becoming a parent I was always worried about what people thought of me and how I became a parent! If I could go back I would not be so petty and live my calm it will happen for you!

  11. Good thoughts, Jen! There are some definite ethical problems running through the world of embryo sale and purchase. We're so impressed with you guys for doing it the hard way when the easy way is so quick and available.

  12. I definitely think you should look into being an advocate/speaker on issues related to infertility and adoption. If you are half as good at speaking as you are at writing, you'll be great! And I don't think it's egotistical. Some people have experiences that others want to hear about, and God may even be calling you to raise awareness.

    My husband and I have felt for a long time that we will do the same thing one day. We're not sure how, but we kind of envision ourselves giving talks about infertility and the role that God played in our journey. But that probably won't happen for some time. We need to find out how the story ends first (maybe not ends, but at least what direction we'll be going).